My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Matthew David Goodwin to talk about how the power of passionate social justice relates to Latino/a Rising.
If I had to be a superhero, it would be the Batman kind of superhero. When thrown against a wall, I would break. When cut, I would bleed. Hopelessly human. But I’m much more sympathetic to the 1960’s campy version of Batman than the Batman of late. I wouldn’t erase the dark undertones, just splash them with color.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what Batman’s superpowers actually are. One is hidden (his passion) and the other is disguised as an accessory (the weirdly enormous bright yellow utility belt). But together, his passion and utility belt make up for his lack of superhuman strength.
Like Batman, I’m drawn into my work with a passion for social justice. I worked many years in the Latino/a community in various non-profit organizations dealing with migration, domestic violence, and worker rights. When I went to study for my doctorate in literature, I wanted to find a way to discuss the complex experiences of Latinos/as in the United States. And I found that science fiction and fantasy is a potent way to express issues of race, gender, and migration. And it is the best way for my daughter to imagine herself as part of the future.
The Kickstarter project I’m working on is Latino/a Rising: An Anthology of U.S. Latino/a Speculative Fiction, the first book to bring together U.S. Latinos/as who are working in science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative genres. The book will support the growing movement of writers and fans who are interested in expanding the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy.
And by the way, if you dig into science fiction and fantasy, you’ll find a secret history of Latino/a influence. The actor who played the Joker in the 1960’s Batman was none other than the Cuban-American Cesar Romero, rolling his R’s between maniacal laughter.
The virtue of Batman’s utility belt is its versatility. He can Batarang or Batclaw his way out of any situation. The Latino/s Rising project certainly calls on me to implement a variety of different skills. Here are a couple of the tools I’m using in this project:
Sometimes academics get caught up in criticizing or over-interpreting literature. It is important for me, in both teaching and writing, to respect the integrity of the artworks I study and the artists who create them. Sometimes this means communicating with artists about my writing, sometimes just reminding myself to be honest in my analysis. It’s easier said than done.
Literary studies is for me not only analysis, it is also promotion. I want everyone to see the wonderful works of art and literature that I encounter. I want to tell people about the Latino/a writers who have turned to science fiction and fantasy. And my experience has been that those people who are interested in Latino/a literature and those interested in science fiction and fantasy are both equally excited to learn about these writers.
I am often drawn to working with a variety of media, and so when I began the Latino/a Rising project, I knew that I wanted to include photography and art images. Latino/a Rising is not the usual sort of anthology with art as illustrations. Trying to take in all the art forms is sometimes difficult, but it is an ultimately rewarding endeavor, and in the end, I can’t hold back from the challenge of crossing boundaries and forming new dialogues.
Unlike Batman, I am not a millionaire, and so we are also running a Kickstarter to make sure the writers and artists get a professional wage. Your continued support is needed to reach our $10,000 goal by the November 1st deadline.
The 1960’s Batman, walking down the street in broad daylight is kind of goofy and ineffective. But a thousand people in bat costume, all fighting for the future of Latino/a science fiction and fantasy is not funny — it’s a riot!
About the editor:
Matthew recently finished his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is at work on his book: Latino/a Science Fiction and the Future of Solidarity. He has published a number of essays on Latino/a speculative fiction for journals such as MELUS and for two collections of essays: Black and Brown Planets and Alien Imaginations. With interests in literature, philosophy, and social justice, he has worked in both the academy and in non-profit Latino/a organizations. He can be found on Twitter and on the Latino/a Rising website and Facebook page.