Tinting Fiction

“Only one place to go — back to the South Bronze … the university of the streets! Get a good schoolin’ there — if you’re into learnin’ about dope, numbers, rats and poverty!” —El Tigre Blanco

Here are the first couple of paragraphs of what I’ll be talking about at the National Council of Teachers of English this weekend. I’ll be on the panel “We’re On the Case: Latino Writers of YA Mysteries,” featuring Sarah Cortez, Rene Saldaña, Sergio Troncoso, and Ray Villareal.

Tinting Fiction: Writing Genre Fiction Geared Toward Age and Ethnicity

When I was a boy there was a superhero called the White Tiger, who was created by Marvel Comics in 1975. The White Tiger was distinguished among the ranks of Marvel’s heroes in that he was their first Puerto Rican superhero. His secret identity was Hector Ayala, and he found the amulets that gave him his martial arts powers in a trashcan (Mantlo). He used Spanish phrases on every pulpy page, a “¡Madre de dios!” here, a “¡Carajo!” there, to remind us that he was Latino, lest we forget. In time, Ayala becomes psychologically and physically addicted to the amulets. He retires, but years later, in a botched attempt to prevent a robbery, he is caught holding a stolen TV and standing over the body of murdered police officer. At his trial, Daredevil is his lawyer, but after Ayala loses his temper when questioned about his marriage (oh, that fierce Latino temper!), he is found guilty. Distraught, he grabs a gun and is subsequently shot and killed (Bendis). Thus ends the tale of the first mainstream Puerto Rican superhero, a poor guy who searches the trash and ends up shot by cops.

The White Tiger is an example of how writing an ethnic character for a genre market can go horribly wrong. Rather than embodying the thrills of adolescent fantasy, for example, the Tiger is stuck in a stereotypical world of urban ills such as poverty, drug dealers, and gang violence. While the Tiger was meant to diversify comic books and broaden the audience, the result seemed naïve at best and patronizing at worst. This is one of the problems of writing ethnic characters for any market, but it produces particular challenges for the YA audience when you consider that the images and characters young people read can form the basis of their lifelong beliefs.

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Another Silly October

Yet another year goes by — with another special Halloween edition of Asinine Poetry.

poems
Dirtnap by J.R. McCarthy
Henry Rollins by Richard Tyrone Jones
The Kiss of the Rubber-Lipped Elephant by Andrew H. Oerke
Proximity and Elapsion by Adam Vatterott
Morning Constitutional by Ook, Warrior Poet
Where the Old Winding Road Twists by J.C.

prose
A Clean, Well-Lighted Crypt by The Bare-Fanged Contessa*
A Staff Letter from the Headmaster of Nobblesnuff’s Academy of Wizardry by Amy Vansant
House on Haunted House by Gordon Stanley*

classic asinine
How Little Red Riding Hood Came to Be Eaten by Guy Wetmore Carryl

podcasts
Episode 94: Rise of the Planet of the Asinine. Including “How Little Red Riding Hood Came to Be Eaten” by Guy Wetmore Carryl (read by Stoney Emshwiller).

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The Story of the Hurricane

I guest-post at the charming Patti Nase Abbott’s blog today, a “How I Came to Write This Story” feature about my short story “Juracán,” which was published in Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books, 2010). Here is an excerpt:

MY KOOKY, BAWDY, college-educated Aunt Terry and I had often discussed our family’s Taíno roots. My family comes from Puerto Rico, and the Taínos were the Native Americans who inhabited the Greater Antilles and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean at the time when Christopher Columbus arrived to gentrify the ‘hood. Some say every trace of Taíno blood was erased by the Spanish and by time. But, according to the study funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, 61 percent of all Puerto Ricans have Amerindian mitochondrial DNA. Indeed, Taíno showed on the faces of all the women in my family, especially Terry, high cheek-boned and reddish skinned.

Read the rest here.

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Falling for Asinine

The September issue is out.

poems
Self-Portrait of the Artist by Vernon Waring
Painting by Graham Everett
Nancy Grace Bitchslaps My Muse by Figgie Creamcheese
Choy’s Religion by Ann Steiner
This is My Mind, This is My House by William Wesley Ankrum
Lust by Jekwu Anyaegbuna
Describing the Ideal Art Film about Equality by Dustin Michael

prose
Book Review: Ship of Fool, William Trowbridge by Adam Vatterott
Broke Bert Mountain by Richard Cairo*
Germline by Richard Tyrone Jones

classic asinine
A Pretty Girl by J. Gordon Coogler

podcast
Episode 93: Asinine Night 3D

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Hollow, Hollow

I guest-wrote an episode of Friday’s Forgotten Books at the lovely Patti Nase Abbott’s blog. Thank you, Patti! Here is an excerpt:

THE HOLLOW MAN, John Dickson Carr

The Hollow Man would make Raymond Chandler kick a hole in a stained glass window. The book’s protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, is one of those idiosyncratic, overly clever characters who exist only in cozy mysteries, someone you would never want to know socially in real life — because wherever he goes someone dies. He is also exactly the kind of fellow Chandler decries in his essay “The Simple Art of Murder”: “The hero’s tie may be a little off the mode and the good gray inspector may arrive in a dogcart instead of a streamlined sedan . . . but what he does when he gets there is the same old futzing around with timetables and bits of charred paper and who trampled the jolly old flowering arbutus under the library window.”

But in trying to write my own crime fiction, I have been intrigued by the idea of clues, of leaving evidence around to engage and perplex the reader. TV’s Columbo is one of those types of clue-strewn mysteries. After Columbo, ahem, I mean Peter Falk died, I read an interview with one of the shows co-creators, William Link. Link mentioned that his writing partner Richard Levinson and he were influenced by Carr, someone I’d never heard of. Curious, I Googled Carr and found that he was quite popular in his the 1930s and ’40s and that one of his best known works was The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins) . . . I had to read it.

Read the rest here.

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Asinine in August

poems
Budget Meeting by Doug Draime
Jumper by Marc Carver
Mr. Lazarus Is Sick of Cleaning Up After Lady Lazarus’s Failed Suicide Attempts by Matt Medina
The Litany of Seven by Jekwu Anyaegbuna
Jeez, My Legs Still Hurt by Carson Dyle
Trailer Park Dog by Daniel Sciarra

prose
Dark Noir: The Tax Man Always Rings At Least The One Time by Richie Narvaez*
The Jig Is Up, a Travelogue of Ireland by Eileen Budd
Lunch with Imaginary Gary by Adam Vatterott

classic asinine
If They Meant All They Said by Alice Duer Miller

podcast
Episode 92: Captain Asinine

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Black Hearted

Joan Jett, eat yer heart out

I’ve a new story in Black Heart Magazine’s Noir issue, edited by Jailbreakin’ Jimmy Callaway and featuring Daniel B. O’Shea, Cameron Ashley, AJ Hayes, Jonathan Woods, Nik Korpon, Chris Deal, Alexander Kraft, Chris Benton, Kieran, Garnett, Keith Rawson, among many others. And it’s only $2.99! Download it already. Here is a teaser from my story:

Monkey in a Barrel
By R. Narvaez

A NAKED WOMAN with a gun can be a lot less interesting than you’d think. When the gun is pointed at you. And when the lady in question — as lovely as she is with high, pointed breasts, razor-sharp hipbones, and knee dimples cuter than Minnie Mouse — has killed twice before, without pause, without guilt.

“I like you, Kempe,” she said, not getting any closer, but getting slightly colder, it seemed.

“This is sad to me.”

“I’m not exactly doing cartwheels about it myself.”

“You’re a waste of good material.”

“Sure. Like an ugly blonde.”

For more, go here.

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