The constellation Orion—or, possibly, among some Mayan peoples, a turtle—rising over the temple of Kukulkan in the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. The orange star on the left is Betelgeuse and the brightest blue one is Rigel, corrupted English versions of the original names given them by medieval Arab Muslim astronomers.
Okay brace yourself I’m going to have myself a Chel moment (because every moment in my life is a Chel moment)
We can all agree that El Dorado is a colonialist shitfest in a number of ways, but man, do I love the idea of Chel, and also the actuality of Chel. The sum total of what we know about her pre-Tulio & Miguel is that she hates living in El Dorado and wants to get out of there for Reasons, and she stole an idol for cash and split. The quote is, “You’ve got your reasons and I’ve got mine,” and we never find out any of them— I mean, besides wealth and freedom and adventure, which they’re all on board with, but we never find out why ANY of the trio got started conning people—for shits? they grew up disadvantaged? (you will pry my Tulio Is A Morisco canon out of my cold dead hands.) they’re the little mermaid and they just want MORE? (this one is true.) We don’t get to know.
We do know that Chel is growing up in what looks hells of impressive to us, the average movie-goer, but which was not actually that cool a town. Chel is in the age of Tenochtitlan and Cusco and potentially Z — there were a SHIT TON of major urban centers in South and Mesoamerica which Chel would have known about due to the fact that their city is obviously too large to support itself without extensive farming and road connections and trade, despite its Secret Hidden Waterfall Secrets or whatever, so Chel’s a smart girl growing up in a somewhat-to-extremely-sexist society in a town which is basically the South American equivalent of, I don’t know, Austin? Pasadena? She’s obviously run cons before, she knows exactly what a pair of trained conmen need, and she’s also obviously exhausted the patience of the legal system in the city; there are a hell of a lot of reasons she might want and need to get the fuck out of there and they’re all the backstory to The Sting. And she’s still alive! And running and making the best of things and seducing hot Spanish dudes and then she gets to have everything she wants + Miguel. Get it, Chel. Get it.
Portrait of Jorge Luis Borges, Palermo, Sicily, Italy, 1984.
Photo.: Ferdinando Scianna
An almost ghostly image of Borges seen through a reflection of a balcony and a landscape of palm trees. Actually it is not quite clear which is the reflection. A sharp white line—the border between two panes of glass—cuts across the nearest palm tree, reminding the viewer that the palm tree is only a reflection and this is only an image. It draws attention to its own artificiality. It perfectly captures the idea of meta (mirrors, stories about stories, reviews of nonexistent books, books within books) that’s one of Borges’ central themes.
In Rio, Diogo has an accident with his helicopter and dies. Both [his twin] Lucas and [his father] Leônidas are devastated by the news and Lucas’ plans of running away with Jade get ruined. But who is most devastated with Diogo’s death is Albieri, his godparent. He and Diogo were so close that he decided to (with a cell of Lucas) make the very first human clone.
(Perhaps using one twin to clone another is an implicit acknowledgement that we already have clones—they’re just called identical twins—and the real breakthrough is artificial cloning. :P)
Sci Fi Recs: Contemporary science fiction comprises a plethora of subgenres, national traditions, and fan cultures—and its roots are equally diverse. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just plain wrong to talk about the origin of sf and mention Mary Shelley and Hugo Gernsback but not Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian proto-postmodernist.
Borges didn’t do robots or rocket ships or any of the other superficial trappings of sf. Those are weird subjects; Borges weirded the story itself, and the teller — metafiction, the unreliable narrator, dreams and labyrinths and libraries and memory and time. There’s echoes of his stuff in many writers who write what I think of as “honorary science fiction”, like Eco, Calvino and Saramago, but a good many honest-to-goodness genre-ghetto sf writers count Borges as an influence as well: Jeff VanderMeer, Stanislaw Lem, Lucius Shepard, and (one of my favourite authors) Gene Wolfe, who once said “magic realism is fantasy written by people who speak Spanish”. Personally, I agree that when it comes to speculative fiction we should throw the net as wide as we can—which is why I think of Borges’ stories as sci-fi, plain and simple.