The Forgotten Origins of Cuban Science Fiction

A Gap in Traditional Historiography

Talking about José Hernández Artigas and his role as a precursor of Cuban science fiction means recovering a history buried under several layers of oblivion. The fact that his name was unknown precisely by those who had the duty of remembering him puzzles us. And this is all the more surprising since we are dealing with a person who, like Hernández Artigas, not only devoted himself to the cultivation of the genre, but also carried out a remarkable work of translation and dissemination of modern science fiction (SF) in Cuba. It is true that Artigas himself contributed to this situation since he always avoided signing his stories (and his translations) with his name. But, in any case, the fact that he had written science fiction stories, besides having been publicly known in the 1960s, was actually never completely forgotten and reached our days, as can be seen in an article published in 2016 by researcher Rosa Marquetti.[1] I have already explained in an essay in Rialta Magazine how Pepe Hernández’s stories[2] were found; I want now to address some unaddressed issues, in particular that of the authorship of the stories with strange pseudonyms that appeared in Carteles magazine in 1958, as well as the question of the true beginnings of modern SF in Cuba.

José Hernández Artigas was born in Havana in 1932. He was a journalist and writer who worked at Carteles magazine, where he was secretary to its director, Antonio Ortega. There he met several authors and journalists of the time and for a while was a friend of Guillermo Cabrera Infante (they would later drift apart). He published short stories, mostly science fiction, reports, reviews, and translations in magazines and newspapers in the late 50s and early 60s. It is also known that he wrote a novel, now lost, which was highly praised by Julio Cortázar. In fact, according to one of the versions that have come down to us, Cortázar, upon arriving in Cuba in 1963, the first thing he did at the airport was to ask for Hernández Artigas, whom he considered “a genius.”[3] He also wrote scripts for television and probably also signed some film scripts in the short time he worked at ICAIC.[4] Cabrera Infante dedicated several pages to José Hernández in his posthumous book Cuerpos divinos, where he always presents him in an unfavorable light and nicknames him “José-Hernández-el-que-nunca-escribirá-el-Martín-Fierro” (“José-Hernández-he-who-will-never-write-Martín-Fierro”). The various sources also attest to the eccentric nature of Hernández’s personality, which earned him the nickname “Pepe el Loco,” and his inclination to alcoholism. According to one anecdote he lived, already in the sixties, in a house without a door, where anyone could enter, even at night.[5] He died tragically in the early seventies, the victim of a traffic accident, according to some, or as the result of a suicidal act, according to others, including the aforementioned Cabrera Infante, who has always defended the second hypothesis.

The search for the lost stories of Pepe Hernández began with a statement found in the prologue written by Rogelio Llopis to Cuentos cubanos de lo fantástico y lo extraordinario, an anthology published in 1968,[6] and an article by Roberto Branly for the 1968 Diccionario de Literatura Cubana (Cuaderno de trabajo. Letra H-K). There the Cuban poet, after referring to his translation work, writes:

[his] artistic work, scattered in magazines, is also centered on science-fiction stories, which appeared around 1957 in Carteles, which is why he can be considered one of the pioneers of the genre in Cuba.

The information provided by Branly in the dictionary constituted a sort of Rosetta stone to decipher the Artigas enigma since it provides several clues to recover at least part of his work: first, it recognizes him as a science fiction author and points out that his stories appeared in Carteles magazine (and then lists other publications in which he collaborated). Second, it identifies him as the author of the numerous science fiction translations published in Carteles itself from 1957 onwards and, more importantly, as the translator of the stories by Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and others that appeared there. This last fact was decisive, as we shall see below.

In the magazine Carteles, between 1957 and 1958, numerous translations of science fiction stories appeared, most of them signed with the initials “H-A,” without periods and separated by a hyphen, which could well correspond to the initials of Hernández Artigas’s surname. These stories were published in a special section of the magazine, entitled “Science-Fiction.” The section began to appear in July 1957 with Ray Bradbury’s story “Zero Hour,” preceded by a brief introductory text, unsigned but evidently written by Guillermo Cabrera Infante:

Zero hour has arrived. Carteles enlists its readers for the voyage to infinity. The ship is before you. It is piloted by Ray Bradbury, explorer of multiple strange worlds. He is assisted, for the benefit of readers who speak Spanish and not the language of space, by H. A., whose mysterious acronym seems to enclose in a literary capsule the explosion and implosion forces of atomic-hydrogen bombs. We are at the start of the journey. The outer space adventure has begun.[7]

Reviewing the collection of La Gaceta de Cuba we find that in May 1963 three short SF stories had been published under the generic title of “Cósmicas. Tres aventuras interplanetarias de finales del siglo XXI.” The text was signed with the initials “H-A,” which, as in the translations of the magazine Carteles, appeared without a period and separated by a hyphen. The presentation by the editor of La Gaceta stated that the author of “Cósmicas” was the same person who years before had translated Bradbury in Carteles. Therefore, it was established, beyond any doubt, that the initials H-A corresponded to the author José Hernández Artigas. “Cósmicas” already exhibits a remarkable mastery of the conventions of SF, and constitutes another argument to question the 1964 date as the starting point for the history of modern SF in Cuba.[8]

“Cósmicas,” by José Hernández Artigas (H-A), in ‘La Gaceta de Cuba’ (1963).

There is another interesting source of data on Hernández Artigas in the article “Bewitched. Looking for Maggie Prior,” by researcher Rosa Marquetti. Maggie Prior was a Cuban jazz singer who was married to Pepe Hernández in the early 1960s. In her article, after noting that he was friends with Oscar Hurtado and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Rosa Marquetti writes:

Hernández Artigas was linked to the young intellectuals who wrote in the weekly Lunes of the newspaper Revolución, who recognized him as a writer of promising talent with interesting and close contributions to a genre with few exponents then and within [what] today we would call science fiction.

Rogelio Llopis, on the other hand, although we have already seen that he places Pepe Hernández among the precursors of SF in Cuba, on an equal footing with Oscar Hurtado, does not tell us anything about the date of publication of his stories. In fact, he seems to affirm that Cuban SF was born after the Revolution: “Before and after the Revolution, almost all, if not all the important Cuban magazines, have been including science fiction stories in their pages. But it has been during the Revolution that science fiction works by Cuban authors have been printed.”[9] This seems to indicate that Llopis was not aware of the (hypothetical) use of pseudonyms by Hernández in Carteles, although he was probably aware of the stories he later published under the signature H-A since he emphasizes that in this author (and in Hurtado) Cuban SF “has its true precursors, both in the popularizing sphere [he knew, then, of his translations for Carteles], and in the creative one” [my italics] (p. 29).[10]

The oblivion of Hernández Artigas’ work constitutes the biggest gap in the research on the history of modern Cuban SF; a void in a history that was supposed to be otherwise well-known.

A Handful of Rare Pseudonyms

There are, then, several testimonies that link Hernández Artigas to SF. But it is only Branly who claims that he published stories in Carteles. Let us, then, examine this important point in more detail.

Roberto Branly was a poet who, for some reason unknown to me, had a certain closeness to Cuban SF. It was he, for example, who wrote the articles on Herrero, Hurtado, and Collazo for the Dictionary of Cuban Literature (1968 edition). He also worked in Carteles and can be seen in a photo of the time with Cabrera Infante and Santiago Cardosa Arias on the roof of the Havana magazine. So, he knew Hernández around that time and his testimony is first-hand and reliable. But at the same time, we must point out that Branly is wrong when he states that Hernández Artigas had started publishing in 1957. I double-checked the Carteles collection for that year and could not find any stories by that author. I think here Branly was appealing to memory and got confused with the start date of the Science-Fiction section (July 1957); either that, or he was using erroneous data. But there is also the possibility that he simply got the year wrong: the stories did appear but in 1958.

Now, in this year of 1958, we find some stories by Pepe Hernández, but no stories signed with his name or initials. There was something, however, that finally caught our attention, namely: the presence of several stories published under unusual pseudonyms such as ‘Mac Tomorrow’ (story “Psyche”), ‘Robert S. Oncemore’ (“The Body”), ‘Mate Hard’ (“The End”) and ‘Charles Yonder (or Yoender)’ (“Mother!”), all in stories in which Hernández Artigas appeared as translator. Note above all that these are not normal pseudonyms, such as an Anglo-American author would use, but rather arbitrary and humorous creations, for “Oncemore” simply means “once more,” a possible allusion to the fact that it was not the first time he had published, while “Mac” and “Mate” are not even English names. These are deliberately atypical pseudonyms that perhaps the author intended to claim as his own in the future. And here I take the opportunity to introduce an important correction to my previous article: the story “Intruder” is indeed by Don Berry, as published in Carteles, although in a substantially abbreviated form (and degrading the intelligibility of the story), since in the original text of the magazine Venture Science Fiction consulted it is a long story and consists of nine chapters numbered from I to IX.[11] A few months later, Pepe Hernández republished it, deleting one more paragraph (the last one) and changing the title to “Dios igual a hombre por velocidad-luz” (a change that is probably explained by the degree of alteration that the original story had undergone by this time).[12] Therefore, this story cannot be counted as by the Cuban writer and translator, as I had suggested in my first essay about this author.

Could the above-mentioned pseudonyms cover up the pen of José Hernández Artigas? Almost the only way to attribute stories with strange pseudonyms nowadays is by the method of elimination.[13] The field of American Golden Age magazines has been so thoroughly examined that it would be surprising if any pseudonyms had been overlooked. The most important reference work for searching bibliographic data on SF is the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB), a vast thematic repertory where thousands of authors and works are registered.[14] Querying this corpus yielded no results for the above-mentioned ‘Mac Tomorrow,’ ‘Robert S. Oncemore,’ ‘Mate Hard,’ and ‘Charles Yonder’ (or Yoender). Therefore, these are the pseudonyms that it can be assumed that José Hernández Artigas may have used in Carteles. To give the reader an idea of how anomalous these results are, I must say that here I was able to find data on authors that were unknown to me, but that do not even appear in Clute and Nicholls’ Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (the most important reference work on the genre), such as Graham Doar, Ann W. Griffith, Mike Curry and R. J. McGregor, which made it possible to rule them out as possible aliases. It was also in an ISFDB query that I discovered that ‘Paul Atorak’ (author published in Carteles) was not a pseudonym, as I had first believed, but a typo for ‘Paul A. Torak.’ So, as far as I am concerned, I consider that database to be reliable to the highest degree: what does not appear there, probably does not exist. (This only concerns English-language authors, I clarify, for other languages the situation is different).

Therefore, it can be assumed that the stories published by Pepe Hernández in Carteles (version supported by Roberto Branly) are precisely those signed with atypical pseudonyms. Could these stories have been written by the Cuban writer? I believe that, in principle, yes, since they are relatively simple stories (although they are not lacking in quality), which were within the reach of the technical skills of a novel storyteller like Hernández. The story “El cuerpo,” for example, signed by Robert S. Oncemore, is written in a humorous tone that we will find again in other stories by the author, especially in the mini-stories of “Cósmicas.” And, on the other hand, it must be taken into account the reluctance the writer always showed to sign his fiction with his name (as opposed to his articles, which were signed J. Hernández). And, if we are to construct hypotheses, it could also have been a way of making his stories known and measuring readers’ reactions by presenting them as those of Anglo-American authors.

Strictly speaking, however, these criteria are insufficient to establish a solid attribution, since some of the foreign stories that appeared in the section only exhibited a superficial assimilation of the conventions of SF, that is, they were not basically difficult to imitate. Examples of this are the stories by Ann Griffith and E. B. White. It should also be taken into account that Hernández used to use many Cuban idioms and words in his translations (“¡embúllate, chico!” he makes a character in a story by Robert Sheckley say, while the word kids is usually translated as “fiñes”), which shortens the distance between his language and that of the translated authors, so that this dimension (language) does not serve as a sure discriminating criterion. And, as if that were not enough, Hernández also interpolated fragments of his own within the text of the stories, as is the case with “La ley Zeritsky,” by the writer Ann Griffith (a procedure which, by the way, already had a precedent in the adapted version of Fredric Brown’s Martian, Go Home!, which had been published in 1954 in Bohemia). In general, the transgression of the limits of the translator’s attributions is perhaps what explains the transformations to which the aforementioned story “Intruder” was subjected, disemboweled and converted by Hernández into a short story.

First page of the story “Psique” in ‘Carteles’, 1958. Hernández always wrote “version” in his credit as translator. Note that in one case a typewriter was used (right column

A case apart and worthy of careful study is that of the story “Psyche,” by Mac Tomorrow. This author does not appear in the encyclopedias consulted, which, as we have already pointed out, is not surprising, since it is a pseudonym that, used by an English-language writer, would sound absurd. A search for “Psyche” in the ISFDB also failed to shed light on the mystery. There are many stories titled “Psyche,” but their authors were neither active in the period under consideration (the era of pulp magazines) nor do their names bear any relation to the author published in Carteles. What is most striking, however, is the story itself, with its avant-garde technique of telling the plot using a collage of news, newspaper fragments, advertisements, reports, memos, etc. These experiments with narrative techniques would not become commonplace in Anglo-American SF until the New Wave of the 1960s. It is unlikely that anyone used them in a pulp magazine in the 1950s, and if so, why isn’t it better known? Why isn’t it cited, referenced, or commented on in encyclopedias and histories of the genre? A story like this could not go unnoticed. All the more so because it is a clear antecedent of the famous novel All About Zanzibar (Hugo Award 1968), by John Brunner, which uses a similar narrative technique (and so commented on at the time, by the way), inspired by the work of John Dos Passos (although Hernández could have also taken as a model Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts, an author he admired).

Note also the extreme complexity of the layout that this edition required, as well as its formal characteristics, to the point that this specific design is part of the story. So much so that, by exception, credit was given to the layout designer or typographer: Santiago Cardosa Arias, a friend of Hernández Artigas who also used to do the layout of G. Caín’s famous Cine section (and always without credit). I ask: why go to so much trouble with this complex text if Hernández had at his disposal an almost inexhaustible wealth of excellent narratives in the American magazines he read? The truth is that this looks more like an author’s work than a translator’s; made possible, moreover, by the convergence of two facts: Cardosa Arias’ skills as a layout artist and the offset printing technology used by Carteles. On the other hand, the format of the story seems to have been conceived (expressly) for a wide-box magazine like Carteles, not for the pulp magazines with their modest digest format (and even in Carteles the layout had to be placed in landscape since the text did not fit in the normal vertical orientation). And what to say about the handwritten page…! It is really hard to imagine such audacity in an adventure magazine for young people, as were the pulp magazines of the time. This was a story that would not have been out of place in Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine (1964 onwards).[15]

Could Hernández Artigas have written “Psique”? I think so: the innovative technique used is congruent with his culture and with his literary ambitions. Let us keep in mind that this is the same author who was celebrated by Cortázar or who in 1963, in an article on cinema, included a reference to William Burroughs: “author of the disturbing science-fiction novel The Naked Lunch.”[16] And, on the other hand, although the conventions of science fiction are used correctly in “Psique,” we are faced with a story of simple content, within the reach of his pen.

Third page (handwritten) of the story “Psique” in ‘Carteles’, 1958.

However, it is precisely the unusual nature of “Psique” that is the main obstacle to its attribution. Because “Psique” is not only an interesting tale: had it been written by Hernández it would be one of the most remarkable works in the whole history of Cuban SF (astonishing, in fact), and even a work to be taken into account in the evolution of Cuban narrative. And we already know that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The method of elimination is correct in principle, but it does not offer a result free of doubt. Probably a little international help would be the solution because, for a true expert in the history of the pulps, this is by no means an impenetrable mystery. I repeat: a story with these characteristics published in the 1950s would not have gone unnoticed under any circumstances. For the time being, I think these stories (especially “Psyche”) should be republished and let the reader come to their own conclusions.

Why should Pepe Hernández have used pseudonyms? We may never know the real reason, but—besides the reasons mentioned above—it should be noted that at that time it was a great privilege for a young Cuban author to publish in Carteles, especially because it was Cabrera Infante who was in charge of the Cuban narrative section. The aliases could also have been the way Hernández found to get around what otherwise would have been an obstacle (although it is hard to believe that “Caín” was fooled by the naïve procedure). In his posthumous book Cuerpos divinos, Cabrera Infante calls him “a failed writer,” although it should be noted that this opinion belongs to a time when relations between the two had cooled considerably. The judgment, however, has a high testimonial value, as it indirectly confirms that Pepe Hernández was already writing fiction around the time he was working on Carteles. (The literary level of a story like “Onomástico” is certainly modest, but his mini-story “Error de Mickey,” from 1963, would be today a classic of humor in Cuban science fiction if it had been remembered at the time).

The First Modern Science Fiction Story in Cuba?

Finally, it should be noted that José Hernández Artigas was probably the author of the first modern SF story written in Cuba. By ‘modern SF’ I mean the new type of SF that emerged in American pulp magazines between the 1920s and 1940s. The story I am referring to is “Onomástico”, published on January 26, 1959, on a literary page of the newspaper Revolución. The other story that can aspire to that title is “El día que Nueva York penetró en el cielo…”, by Ángel Arango. But while this second story has an undecided generic status, that is, it is not written entirely in conformity with the conventions of SF and seems more like a scientific fantasy, Hernández’s story, appearing only a few months later, is already undoubtedly a science fiction tale.[17] The plot even falls within a well-known type: stories of robots rebelling against humans; Arango’s, on the other hand, is unclassifiable. “Onomástico” would be the first confirmed modern SF story in Cuba, since, as we have seen, Hernández may have published only a few months earlier several stories in Carteles using different pseudonyms.

It is interesting to note that Arango’s story appeared precisely in the Science-Fiction section of Carteles, which, as we saw, had been inaugurated by Hernández and Cabrera Infante the previous year. Before publishing this story, Arango had written only “realism” (that is, mimetic fiction), as can be inferred from the introduction Cabrera Infante wrote for his story “El ahorcado” in November 1957:

“El ahorcado,” like many of Arango’s other stories, is an essay on everyday life. In Arango’s stories, hardly anything happens in the spectacular sense, but the incidents are grouped in an everyday sense, which traps the reader in a mesh of truthfully real, gripping incidents. (Carteles, November 1957; italics mine)

This means that Ángel Arango’s interest in writing SF must have come after the launching of the Science-Fiction section of Carteles. Did Pepe Hernández somehow influence this change in Arango’s literary interests? I am inclined to believe so, although nothing can be said for certain. Note also that Hernández and Arango coincided again in “Nueva Generación,” the literary page of the newspaper Revolución, and that they even published in the same issue, as well as the thematic resemblance between the second mini-story of “Cósmicas” (“Caso: D Mirzg”) and Arango’s “El cosmonauta.”

In light of the above, I also believe that the oft-repeated assertion that Cuban SF was born with the Revolution in 1964 should be revised. It is clear that these origins should be sought in the late 1950s, in Carteles magazine and the activity of Pepe Hernández as a translator and author of the genre. And if this is admitted, it is also worth asking: would there have been SF without the existence of the Revolution? The peculiar cultural policy of the 1960s, where different ideological tendencies competed with each other, created some favorable conditions for the development of SF in Cuba, starting with the possibility of publishing books (not just short stories) in newly created publishing houses, such as Ediciones R and Unión. But if one examines the SF map in Latin America, one will immediately see that it coincides with that of the nations with the most developed literature: Argentina, Mexico, and Chile, followed at some distance by Peru and Colombia. Therefore, it is legitimate to assume that the cultivation of SF in Cuba was almost inevitable. It is possible that this SF would have developed mainly in magazines and that it would have had a somewhat precarious status, like SF in Latin American countries without a strong publishing industry, which in the 1960s was almost all of them. The first books would perhaps have been published around the 1980’s. And in the early days this SF would have been quite similar to that cultivated in the 1960’s, but then there would not have appeared, of course, the socialist realism of the 70’s-80’s, nor (I suspect) the tendency to “hard SF.”

“El cuerpo,” by Robert S. Oncemore, another possible story by Hernández Artigas in ‘Carteles’. The illustration, by Manuel Vidal, emphasizes the humorous nature of the story

The role of José Hernández Artigas as a precursor of Cuban SF—already highlighted by Rogelio Llopis—cannot be doubted. In Carteles magazine, between 1957 and 1959, more than forty SF stories appeared, most of them translated by him. There the reader was able to meet many of the classic authors of the Golden Age, such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Sheckley, Richard Matheson, Fredric Brown, Frederick Pohl, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Henry Kuttner, Catherine L. Moore, L. Sprague de Camp, Lester Del Rey, Clifford D. Simak, C. S. Lewis, Judith Merrill, Damon Knight, Alfred Bester, Gordon R. Dickson, Walter M. Miller, Bertram Chandler, Theodore Cogswell, as well as others who are lesser-known (or forgotten) today. This makes Hernández one of the greatest disseminators of science fiction in Cuba, at a time when the genre was beginning to reach the island’s readers. It was thus that the foundations began to be laid for a wide knowledge of this type of literature in Cuba (Carteles around this time published 20,000 copies), which constituted a precedent for the later appearance of SF as a current in Cuban fiction in the 1960s. That is to say, if the question is asked: “How did SF become known in Cuba?”, we must keep in mind the Carteles stories, which allowed the reader to be aware of the most recent evolution of this literary form when publications in Spanish were still relatively scarce (although we are not unaware of efforts such as that of the Argentine magazine Más Allá, which also reached Cuba, by the way). What seems an abrupt beginning in 1964, with three books published the same year and five authors, had a longer preparation. The years between 1957 and 1962 are for Cuban SF the equivalent of what Rachel Haywood Ferreira has called, referring to Latin American SF in general, the “incubation period of the genre” (which she places in the 1950s).[18] The history of modern Cuban SF actually begins in the late 1950s with the appearance of several stories written by Pepe Hernández and a scientific fantasy by Ángel Arango.

Why was Hernández Artigas forgotten within Cuban SF circles? Pepe Hernández, like some other intellectuals of his time, had gone from an attitude of enthusiastic acceptance of the Revolution in its beginnings to increasingly dissenting positions that, as time went by, he did not hesitate to express publicly, according to the testimony of people who knew him around that time. This must have contributed to the erasure of his memory that took place from the 1970s onwards, which also affected other writers, as was the case of Juan Luis Herrero. The latter, who left for exile in 1975, was, up to a point, luckier as his stories were signed, but he remains a little-known author, despite his undoubted relevance (for example, he wrote what is probably the first dystopia in Cuban fiction).[19] Hernández Artigas, on the other hand, systematically refused to sign his fiction with his full name, so the author of “Error de Mickey” did not exactly make things easy for researchers. (An intriguing fact is that Pepe Hernández does not appear in any of the anthologies of the time either, although both Hurtado and Llopis knew him).

One might wonder if it is logical for a writer with such literary ability to give up presenting himself as the author of stories that marked the beginning of a new genre in Cuban literature. But who loses a novel applauded by Julio Cortázar? Or who lives in a house without a door, where one could enter at any time of the day? José Hernández Artigas is, to paraphrase Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”: many years separate us from the times in which he lived, and I suspect that some of our questions will no longer find an answer. Pepe Hernández never claimed his rightful place among the pioneers of science fiction in Cuba, but it is in our hands to rectify what he for a mysterious reason did not want or could not do and perform an act of historical justice. The rescue of the figure of José Hernández Artigas and his stories undoubtedly enriches the panorama of Cuban SF in the 1960s while shedding a new and unexpected light on the beginnings of this genre in Cuba.

References and notes:

[1] Rosa Marquetti: “Bewitched. Looking for Maggie Prior.” Rosa Marquetti writes about Cuban music.

[2]José Hernández Artigas: Pioneer of Cuban Science Fiction”. Rialta Magazine.

[3] There are two versions of this anecdote. The one I quote here was referred to me by Victor Fowler, who in turn knew it through the writer Albis Torres (Wendy Guerra’s mother), who had known Pepe Hernández as a child. The exact term “genius” may or may not have been used, it can no longer be established with certainty, but there is no doubt about the emphatic praise of the author of Rayuela. The other version is the one offered by Rogelio Llopis in the 60s. Carlos Velazco and Elizabeth Mirabal also mentioned the lost novel in their book Buscando a Caín.

[4] Ricardo Hernández Otero suspects that he may have been one of the scriptwriters of the film Historias de la Revolución, although I have not been able to verify this (personal communication).

[5] Personal communication from Victor Fowler.

[6] Llopis, by the way, had already said the same thing in his article “Ojeada crítica al cuento fantástico,” published in 1966 in Bohemia (No. 39, September 30). Rogelio Llopis was the main animator of the important fantastic current in Cuban literature in the 1960s.

[7] It is no coincidence that it was Cabrera Infante who welcomed the new section, taking into account the importance of Carteles in those years in the dissemination of American literature in Cuba, and the SF published in its pages was mainly by American authors.

[8] In 1963 La Gaceta also published most of the poetry notebook La ciudad muerta de Korad, by Oscar Hurtado, which appeared in book form the following year.

[9] Introduction to Cuentos cubanos…, p. 28.

[10] The passage admits, however, another reading: Llopis was making a distinction between “stories” (which were published before and after the Revolution), and “works” (books?), which only began to appear after 1959. But I am not inclined to this variant.

[11] Venture Science Fiction. The Complete Fiction. Jerry eBooks, 2021 (ePub). The story “Intruder” is from March 1958. This edition of Venture was put together by a fan at a very recent date.

[12] I am inclined to rule out the hypothesis of pure and simple plagiarism, for two reasons: first, he did not sign the story with his name, but with an alias he never acknowledged; second (and this is the most important), he had already published the story in Carteles a few months earlier with the correct title and author.

[13] Probably the only person who could shed light on this point was Santiago Cardosa Arias, but he passed away in 2016. Cardosa Arias was the diagrammer of the Cine section of G. Cain and also did the spectacular typesetting of the story “Psyche,” whose probable author was Hernández Artigas. See below.

[14] Funnily enough, after the publication in Rialta of the first article on this author, Hernández Artigas was also included in the ISFDB.

[15] Another possibility is that “Psique” was not published in a pulp magazine, but in a regular one (although the IFDB includes several sources, not only pulp magazines). Against this, it can be argued that the story is unquestionably SF and that, in other cases, Pepe Hernández resorted to popular SF magazines as a source for his translations. Also, this alternative does not explain either the complex layout work, which has all the traces of an author’s work, conceived specifically for the Carteles format, as well as the extravagant pseudonym.

[16] Note that Hernández includes the article in the title, which probably means that he read the first edition of the novel. Later editions dispensed with the article.

[17] In Arango’s story (which I suspect not many have read) the New Yorkers build several versions of New York, one on top of the other, using anti-gravity technology. But in the last version, they arrive in metaphysical heaven, where St. Peter himself welcomes them and hands them the keys to heaven, in a twist that abandons the realm of SF in the strict sense. Nevertheless, this story must be included in the history of the genre in Cuba.

[18] According to Haywood Ferreira: “… the 1950s, the incubation period for genre sf in the region. Despite the tremendous growth in research on genre production in Latin America in recent years, with the 1950s we are once again in somewhat sparsely populated territory, where the process of establishing a corpus of primary texts is particularly challenging and particularly relevant.” Rachel Haywood Ferreira: “How Latin America Saved the World and Other Forgotten Futures,” in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2 (July 2016), p. 207.

[19] See my article “Los futuros en crisis de Juan Luis Herrero.Espacio Laical magazine. Project of the Centro Cultural Padre Felix Varela, Year 17, No. 3-4, 2021, pp. 91-101. Studies published outside Cuba also do not usually include this author, who wrote some of the best SF stories of the 1960s.

Rinaldo Acosta. He is the author of the book Temas de mitología comparada (1997, Pinos Nuevos Award and Critics Award) and of a compilation of essays devoted to science fiction published by Letras Cubanas: Crónicas de lo ajeno y lo lejano. Acerca de la ciencia ficción (2010, Critics Prize). He was in charge (together with Fabricio González Neira) of the selection of narrative and essays Otras tierras, otros soles: Una mirada a la ciencia ficción (Letras Cubanas, 2017).


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“Abakuás are known for their music, dance, rituals, and distinctive symbols, including tattoos,” says photographer Jorge Bonet, interested in how this ancient body art...

Routes of the Political Imagination in Cuba

In totalitarianism, even more than in the different types of authoritarianism, the capacity to imagine is as restricted as the capacity to organize people,...