Pasiones de la Luz: Una historia imaginada de Francine y René Descartes (Novela)

Comparto con ustedes la introducción y primer capítulo de Las Pasiones de la Luz: Una vida imaginada de Francine y René Descartes, una novela basada en el mito de que el filósofo construyó una replica autómata de su hija, muerta a los cinco años por escarlatina.

La novela se ambienta en el barroco y recurre a la imagen del teatro como su metáfora principal. Detrás de las escenas, nuestros maestros de ceremonia son el automaton Francine y el demonio maligno de las Meditaciones, un experto en las artes de la mecánica.

Estoy ahora tratando de publicarla. Que lo disfruten.


Smoky: Un relato de muerte, exilio y terror (Novela) – Introducción

Les ofrezco aquí la introducción a Smoky: Un relato de muerte, exilio y terror. Empecé a escribir esta novela en inglés con una beca del Australian Council for the Arts, en Melbourne, en el 2005. Luego la reescribí en castellano cuando volví a Argentina. Se vuelcan aquí mis experiencias como inmigrante latino en Australia, a través del lente de una mezcla de géneros: la novela de terror, el noir, la novela existencialista,  “the coming of age story” e incluso la ciencia ficción.

El personaje central es un perro… ¿pero es un perro?

Estoy circulando la novela, viendo dónde y cómo la publico. Que lo disfruten.


Starting off again / Empezando de nuevo

(ENGLISH) My previous website has been lost to the vagaries of the information ecology and I’m trying to rebuild it. Since I’ve returned to Argentina a few years ago I have switched to writing in Spanish, so this new site will be bilingual.

Also, bear in mind that all my academic stuff has moved here.

Anyway, enjoy!

(ESPAÑOL) Mi sitio web ha sido destruido por las vicisitudes de la ecología informática. También, desde que volví a Argentina unos años atrás comencé a escribir de nuevo en castellano, lo que significa que este nuevo sitio será bilingϋe.

Tengan en cuenta que toda mi actividad y publicaciones académicas se han mudado aquí.

Que lo disfruten.

American Djinn

American Djinn” (short story) published in Overland (Issue 210, Autumn 2013).

“Day 1: Aljazhab.

“The oldest city in the world seems a likely place to find ghosts. The cab plunges into a hot, dusty turmoil of traffic, crowds and distorted calls to midday prayer. After the sensory deficit of the five-hour flight (barely diminished by Raangela and flirting with the Swedish air hostess) the city wakens me with a slap in the face. The smells stream inside: rose tobacco, rank sewage, spicy charred lamb from the street stands. The light has a peculiar quality in this part of the world; it crystallises in the torpid mist of exhaust vapours and sand, making the world at once dream-like and more real.

“The outskirts of Aljazhab conserve that drabness that would have been called modern in the late 1970s, but the beauty of the city is gradually unveiled as we enter. The town is an incongruent palimpsest of materials and styles in which asphalt mixes with glazed mosaic, plaster with stone, stucco with plastic. The advertising signs appear to have been time-tunnelled from another era – and so, it seems, have I. It’s been twelve years since I was last here and the place remains as I remember it, or as I believe I remember it. There is an initial sense of displacement, as though I had just been dumped into an elaborate reconstruction of one of my memories. …”

Review of Robotomy by Paul Di Filippo

(This awesome, positive review of Robotomy appeard in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine on June, 1999)

Aside from actual comics and graphic novels, how often in SF have inventive visuals and wild fonts been integrated with mature text? The stories that have utilized typographical ingenuity and pictorial embellishments can be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956) of course, and Ellison’s “The Region Between” (reprinted with cuts in 1970 in the anthology Five Fates, but most definitively seen in the March 1970 issue of Galaxy). In 1972’s Again, Dangerous Visions, Gahan Wilson’s icon-titled story about an alien blot comically fulfilled part of the promise implicit in the marriage of text and visuals. But aside from the currently trendy trick of denoting telepathy or cyberspace communications with weird brackets, SF has generally neglected any kind of experimental blending of words and images. And in this age of easy access to Pagemaker and Photoshop, such timidity seems downright shameful and horizon-bound.

Now comes a small-press book that seeks to remedy this lack. Andres Vaccari’s Robotomy intersperses a fairly standard yet affecting cyberpunk narrative with gritty yet evocative low-res B&W illustrations and with meaningfully variant fonts to achieve a unique impact. Designed, decorated and written with admirable intelligence, Robotomy conveys the sensation of being trapped in a shadowy, melancholy alternate reality much more effectively than mere text alone ever could.

Vaccari’s book opens with the image of an Op-Art, shard-framed sphincter like a black hole, obviously meant to suck the reader in. Next comes a human eye accompanied by text recalling a memory of a woman. On the next page, the eye distorts, and the focus of text accordingly narrows. Then italics indicate a shift of consciousness, as the entity doing the recall is distracted, jolted out of its nostalgia. A bold-faced “ABORT” is followed by a page of visual white-noise. Subsequently, assorted nebulosities cohere into the picture of a room, and more textual memories. By now, the reader has the definite impression of a disembodied intelligence sorting through its files. And this proves to be the case.

Drake Ullmann, “deck cowboy,” and his lover, Fabiana, have ripped off a corporation named Sogushi, proprietor of “a virgin nonlinear liquid microprocessor cell, capable of transcribing functional neural-tissue maps”. This key to downloading one’s personality into machine-space is eventually employed by Drake as a means of escape from his pursuers. Now existing only in digital form, Drake is the shaping consciousness whose viewpoint we share as he rummages through the debris of his life, seeking answers to why his life went so wrong.

But Drake is not alone in his space. Various Ghosts beyond his control share the realm, most disturbingly the recurrent Ghost 34. Startlingly, Drake begins to lose control of his domain. Chased into a virtual corner, Drake’s consciousness seems on the point of extinction. The Ghostly taunt, “Goodbye, sucker,” is followed by two and a half pages of solid black, which in turn is followed by – well, you really should take this interior journey yourself to learn that.

By arraying his visual tropes in complex patterns – “the moth, the rat, the room, the pillow, they orbit with no center” – Vaccari achieves a consistent and impactful symbology. Similar in its conceptual daring and challenging disruptions of convention to Darick Chamberlin’s Cigarette Boy(1991), Robotomy takes several steps forward into the tantalizing literary future where the eye of the reader will feast on both words and images marching in a common cause.

You and me and the continuum

(Published in Crash Test, 2005)

As night follows day, so will nothingness finally eclipse everything that is, that ever was. Many scenarios have been suggested for the end of all things—futile to enumerate them all. These epics are of an unimaginable scale, an imaginary universe inside our universe, crowded with black holes, heat deaths, whimpers, dark matters, big crunches. One thing everyone seems to agree on. We will all be dead by then. By we I mean you and me. And him and her. And you two as well. And all the animals and the plants, you get the point. But does the wind make a sound if there’s nobody to hear it? Why is the end of the universe of any concern, except maybe as poetic or mythical device for confronting mortality?

Get to the point.

Yes. Hungry. Get over and done.

Hush. You’re always hungry. Listen. The end of the world—our world, for who gives a fuck about the universe, as I was saying before, or was it you?—will have a humble beginning. It is announced on page 42 of the newspaper…

Will you give me a tin after?

Which newspaper?

—are you done pestering me? That is not for you to know. They’re mere details. I continue. Look, there’s even a blurred picture of a portion of galaxy as scanned by the Hubble. The article attempts to explain the phenomenon in layman terms. And—look at him now—his brow undergoes an intriguing transformation as he squints to read this. It folds and swells. It’s as if his whole face wants to implode into itself, a bit like the universe. Except the final dark whimper will be a display of grace and beauty, not to mention great pathos.

Or is it bathos?


His face is definitely ugly. But let us leave the subject of his appearance for a later stage. Maybe, if there is time. In detail, if possible. But you can tell, despite the ugliness, that something has caught his attention. So he is reading the newspaper in the living room, after the morning exercises, in the couch, next to the lamp, with the television on, or maybe off, I forget. Definitely before lunch, though, possibly after the morning walk, before the morning exercise, although most of the time nowadays is spent cleaning, scrubbing the house clean of memories. On the newspaper, the end of the world is not yet labelled as such. But it has struck a ring of alarm in his head, judging by his expression, despite the ugliness. From his head it quickly spreads to his pancreas and bladder, judging etc., as before. More about his pains later—too many and too futile. Some smart journalist, we forget who, has called it ‘The Ghosts of the Milky Way’.

Imagine a bidimensional creature walking in a straight line across the surface of a giant sphere. We know that the creature will eventually return to its point of origin, very much the same way Columbus thought he would reach India by circling the Earth. But the concept of a sphere will be beyond the creature’s comprehension. A similar blah blah blah blah into a ‘hypersphere’ or maybe a sphere of nth dimensions that bleh bleh bleh bleh which means the universe does no extend indefinitely. Last uhmf night scientists at yap yap yap yap yap stark confirmation uhmf umhf series of routinary tests crap crap unusual amounts of radiation leading to a groundbreaking and puzzling discovery. It seems that the light emitted or reflected by every object in the universe will one day travel the whole breadth of this hyper-sphere and return, as it were, in what can be described as a ghostly negative image of the universe. Crap crap stark confirmation blah bleh routine tests bleh bleh yap yap return to haunt us. What is startling is that the universe was formerly thought to be so vast that such a possibility was not seriously considered—the universe would end before umfh umfh crap unbelievable conclusion that the universe is much smaller than previously thought, or that maybe light behaves in a way scientists have not even suspected blah blah blah possibly that the same physical laws do not apply crap crap corners of the cosmos.

You see, he thought the end would be sudden, a flash of pain blinding all things, releasing them. This talk of return and reoccurrence has a bitter ring to it, this unexpected revenge of the universe upon itself.

Hurts. It hurts.

Of course, you fools. He doesn’t want to be reminded.

Are you done? It is night now, doesn’t matter which. In the empty house the screams have again begun. They have never ceased. He sits at the table like this, night after night in the tiny kitchen, the smallest room of the house, amidst the stove, the Mexican mirror, the two rotting chipboard cupboards, sits on the old creaking chair, the same night night after night. He sits thus, with his head covered, like a mummy. A long, tattered scarf has been wrapped—by him, I presume—around the large mass of his head. From a slit in the mask the staring eyes refuse to close.

The eyes, the main organ of knowledge—who said that?

One organ? two?

Don’t interrupt. I continue: In the house the screams have begun, never ceased. He sits thus, head wrapped, hands on the table, eyes vacant. The light outside is never still. It moves through an infinite palette of hues, glows, incessantly changing everything it touches. The screen-door is a comforting barrier between him and it. On the fine mosquito mesh, the accumulated soot of decades grows like grey moss, rendering the outlines hard to make out—small mercy. Not even at night can the world enjoy a rest from this dreadful visibility, this confining presence. While this damned messenger—this moonlight and starlight and man-made glares—meanders gleefully, setting light feet on everything, mocking the living and the dead. As if the presence of things themselves was not enough, we must endure their traces, doublings, reflections, their memories. And the traces of their doublings and the reflections of their traces, and the memories of these.

We get the message. Very Platonic.

You were on the subject of his head.

His head? More about that later. I can’t see any head, only the eyes feeding on the light. And the body down below, suspended from the hook of his neck. On second thoughts, the body is not there at all, really. It is more like a wisp, a hurried afterthought. The below has wasted away while the attics of his brain have grown, the rooms multiplied and filled with the young silence. But there are old rooms, suppressed rooms crammed with old burdens. The mind is the most unreliable of narrators.

So much for the poor wreck.

More. Tell more about the light. About night.

Not much more to tell. We may praise the resilience of photons, hurled onto this undistinguished backyard. They die taking to the grave the memories of their ancient origins. Yes, brave, stubborn things, these ghostly photons.  It could be added that sometimes leaves fall, when—I suppose—autumn comes, which means, logically, empirically—not sure which—that the trees come to life with the arrival of spring, it is presumed. The same leaves returned. And it rains sometimes, but this is not often, not as far as memory can stretch, not for some time anyway by the look of the dead grass and the trees out there bowing down as if to drink from the soil.

Now, though? Is it raining? spring?

That is unclear, for reasons that shall become clear shortly. These include dirty screen-door, bad eyesight, overall lack of interest in the affairs of the outside world. Whatever the case, we are finished with the night, the light and his head.

The screams? Tell about the screams.

Little can be said about the screams. The gagged shrieks, the subterranean supplications have become part of the silence now, a thread in the fabric of the everyday, harmless as the faraway traffic, the dogs barking, the occasional plane. Part of the family now, really.

But even these things are unendurable. Otherwise, explain these desperate attempts at avoidance.

Don’t rush it. It would be easier if you would shut up. And you. And you. Here’s your tin now. Easy, easy.

No tuna?

No, I’ve told why. Eat it. Meanwhile, having no choice, I continue. Wrapping his head in this manner serves to turn his hearing inwards, to the roaring beating of his own blood. It is a soothing sound, like the waves in the sea.That summer, in Jarvis Bay. Not a soul in sight. The log cabin amidst the sand-dunes. The seagulls scavenging the coast, glowing white, as emitting their own light. But enough of these fantasies. A few questions remain about the screams. Do they begin at the same time every night? Which days are the worst? And is it the moon that awakes her in this way? Or is it some internal mechanism, perhaps, some involuntary wrenching of the guts, lungs, throat, liver?

She can’t be hungry again, of that there’s no doubt. Does she love him? And what’s the good of questions without answers?

No more, then. No more about the screams.

No more.

The dark waters licking the grey shore.

Stop! The eyes are moving. The gaze wanders to the mirror now. He stares at his gaze staring at itself staring into itself until his head begins to swim terrifyingly (like that time…). He looks at the door instead, at the night described in the previous paragraph (description abandoned). Entire nights may be spent in this manner. They are kind, peaceful nights, with no other thoughts than those of what is immediately at hand. The gaze slides from the mirror to the door, jumps to the stove, crawls to the mirror, mirror-door, door-mirror, door-mirror-stove, mirror-door-stove, stove-door-stove- mirror.

I resume. We continue: The end will come soon, he hopes, he can only hope. In the meantime, he must keep to the appointed tasks. A hand comes to life on the table. It searches for the end of the scarf, which is secured behind his right ear, two human ears, two human eyes. The scarf unwinds, falling in a lengthening arc. Those who happen to see the face for the first time and are not deterred immediately by its lamentable disrepair, may notice the bulbous nose seemingly attached by accident, as if someone had cast it out in disgust. The size of the nose is no indication of its functionality, for the nose is useless, it can’t even pick up his own farts. It has been stripped of sensory capabilities, and demoted to an appendage of the breathing apparatus. Looking at this nose, you can see why primeval cosmologists imagined humans made of clay, shit and sperm. Let us remain on this face a while longer, since the body is not worthy of discussion. Handfuls of ashen weed perch on a long, wide skull. Alone, in the absence of observers, the face is not ugly. Beauty is a social business. But it is not beautiful either. It is a face with mouth and eyes and other faulty organs of knowledge, human enough to fool the casual passer-by.

When have the screams stopped?

Provided they have stopped.

Tomorrow, extra treat. He feels kind all of the sudden. He will go down there in the morning, yes, extra biscuits, yes.

They are in a tin on the lower shelf, to the left, in the cupboard next to the broken oven.