This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Ernest Hogan! (Also, check out Ernest’s Guest Post.)
SF SIGNAL: Hi, Ernest! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?
Ernest Hogan: One of the most exciting things in life is discovering something new: new ideas, new kinds of thinking. It’s what I like about science fiction. Have a character face something different from his or her everyday reality, and you’ve got a story. To me that’s what this genre should be all about, encountering the alien, which of course starts with the strange things lurking in the human brain, and ends with the far edges of the universe. Also, imagining aliens helps us to deal with the incredible diversity of our species, and realize that the strangest, most bizarre human beings you can meet are still human.
SFS: What was the first “alien contact” story you read that made a lasting impression?
EH: My earliest encounters with alien contact stories were with the Atomic Age monster movie genre. Invaders from Mars left a big impression. At first I was scared to death, then I became obsessed. Eventually, I started to think of myself as an alien. As for reading, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels blew my adolescent mind. Suddenly, there was not just alien creatures, but a whole alien world setting my imagination on fire. They may seem simple by today’s standards, but there was something about Burroughs imagination that went beyond anything I had encountered before, and nobody else has matched it. It’s the kind of magic I strive for when I write.
SFS: Where did the character Pablo Cortez come from?
EH: My experience as a young Chicano art student with big dreams that were in conflict with the society that I was living in. Funny, all these years later, as a gray-haired, fifty-something, I still agree with the outrageous statements that Pablo makes in both “Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song” and Cortez on Jupiter. But I am not Pablo. He’s me without the restraints that allow me to survive in the civilized world – like a lot of my characters.
SFS: Setting aside outright conquest, what might be the worst outcome of a genuine meeting between our civilization and another, nonhuman nonterrestrial civilization?
EH: Wouldn’t it be awful if they decided that we were something unique that needed to be preserved? They could seal off our part of the galaxy, make sure we don’t wander off the reservation, and observe our wars and self-destruction, taking careful notes. If it looks like we’re actually going to succeed in destroying ourselves, they would intervene with revealing themselves. Wouldn’t it be awful if that was happening right now?
SFS: What projects are you currently working on?
EH: I’m juggling all kinds of things like any writer trying to survive in these times of shifting paradigms. I’m working to get my books, Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues, plus Obsidian Harvest, a novella I co-wrote with Rick Cook, out as ebooks. I’m blogging at Mondo Ernesto, and my Chicanonautica posts at La Bloga fight those rumors that I’m dead or have otherwise left the planet, and am struggling to finish a poststeampunk story with Pancho Villa, Nikola Tesla, an airship, and death rays. Meanwhile, I can’t seem to regain consciousness for any amount of time without coming up ideas.