Cristina Jurado is as talented as bold. Today, facing unspekable dangers of madness and - even worse - mystical enlightenment, she interviews Chilean author Jorge Baradit. This interview was previously published in the miNatura magazine and you can read it in Spanish on Cristina's wonderful blog Más Ficción Que Ciencia. We thank miNatura and Cristina for letting us reproduce it here. Hope you enjoy it!
Interview with Chilean Jorge Baradit:
In Chile lives, works and writes a guy called Jorge Baradit. In 2005, chance drove his first novel Ygdrasil to the hands of Ediciones B Chile. Its prequel, titled Trinidad, won the first UPC Award for the best science fiction novella the next year, and was published in Spain in 2007. This is how the Chilean author’s literary carrier rose. Since then, he has published Synco (2008), the YA novel Kalfukura (2009), CHIL3: Relación del Reyno (2010), the graphic novel La policía del Karma (2011), and Lluscuma (2012).
This graphic designer, who works in advertising and communication and was a former member of a punk rock band, understands language as an orally transmitted disease, which posses him and transforms him into a pure creative energy force. This way, he builds alternative worlds, as a cosmopolitan architect, programed by an old oral tradition, embedded in the marrow of the continent that witness his nativity, and regurgitated at the heat of our modern, contradictory and dizzy times. Deeply compromised with the social reality of the country which gave birth to him, Baradit is a hyperactive being, a witty anomaly, a freelance demiurge, a terabyte soul, a jongleur of life who never stops creating and telling about his creations, because there is nothing more sublime than producing something from nothing. As the Argentinian Isidoro Blastein said, “Maybe writing is nothing more than a way of organizing madness”.
“I’m a monster in resistance mode”
Cristina Jurado: What hooked you to science fiction, fantasy and horror?
Jorge Baradit: I’m not interested in quotidian stuff. There are other worlds. My eyes look inwards. Why trying to replicate what I can see already if there are other worlds, supernova explosions, and entire civilizations trying to come out everywhere? There are entire universes waiting to be discovered or simply created. I’m not interested in this decaffeinated reality of lambs that our mind- that fascist- tries to convince us to live in. I’m a monster in resistance mode.
CJ: In your blog you say: “I’ve been waiting for a long time for people to understand the definition of what I try to do: the retrieval of our roots in the light of technology, the reinvention, not the parricide. Think of technology like another kind of magic, coming to us effortless from other worlds, feeling sometimes as far away as Jupiter. We cannot disregard Macondo because we are in Macondo, the difference being that we have Wi-Fi and optic fiber. Feels like a lot of acid mushrooms in the air, a lot of iPods. An entire contingent in an altered state of consciousness.” What is magic realism 2.0?
JB: In Chile there are continuous attempts to break free from “the Latin American” stereotypes and caricatures: the dirty Mexican sitting in the floor of train stations, the ineffectiveness of services, and the instability of politics. There was even a literary movement at the end of the 90s called “McOndo”, which aimed to turn around the topic and declare us liberated from the stereotype. We liked ourselves more urban, closer to New York, less indigenous, less lefties, liberal but avoiding Latin American popular imagery. All that is simply shit because we are no Yankees, and Santiago de Chile is not Manhattan, and we cannot hide our natives under the carpet. Then I wanted to say that we haven’t got over our crossbreeding, not even in a very recommended transition phase. In reality, we haven’t got over anything. Everything remains the same and we haven’t left Macondo. Maybe we’ve added optic fiber and improved the roads, we have now ATM machines and our services are up to the task, compared to the ones of the developed countries, but the ayahuasca, the unexplored fields, and the natives are still here, bringing us richness into our mental and physical territory.
CJ: If language is a virus, as William Burroughs said, are all writers inveterate vicious?
JB: I prefer the definition of language as an oral transmitted illness. It’s a strange one because it allows you to heal. Language is a type of surgery. The possibility of visualizing word intervention in our mental body is atrocious. The mental damage we can generate with a badly located sentence, the daily inoculation of germs though what we say, cry and whisper. The complete irresponsibility with which we manage grammar, the radioactivity we suffer when we open and read certain infectious books. An author is somebody who fabricates Molotov cocktails of 300 hundred pages that people swallow, synaptic torture machines and bacteria infested organs we manipulate without responsibility. We don’t see the damage, the fever, the hemorrhage. We inject ourselves with venom that deforms our souls and minds, that happily detonates our liver, drugged and delusional… we see a god. I image how we will see each other if we had the appropriate tools. Me, at least, I think in tentacles and dead heads hanging from my lower back.
JB: Yes, a lot and in the two aspects in which I manage my work: the production and its dissemination. I conduct myself like the classic designing pair: the piercings and the tie, the creator and the administrator. They are connected sections without leakages. The creator explodes and leaves the walls stained with blood, and then the administrator comes in and thinks about what can be done with it… there is no exchange between them. My education in design and architecture allows me to visualize and help others visualize the environment and what is happening. I’m interested in the object, its light, texture, and glow. I find pleasure in the consistency of the type of metal that goes trough a certain organ, the way the bone structure keeps up with the area where events happen. Because I’m a writer, I like to project in grammar the thickness of reality, making matter flow towards poetry, where it gets lost and become incomprehensible. My education in Communication also has become essential to acquire a responsibility towards the reader, helping him to see, feel and smell specifically what I want to communicate, nothing more, nothing less, with all the detail and precision that I want to transmit to the reading audience.
On the other hand, my education in visual arts makes me feel literature is only one aspect of the narration. There are many more platforms from which we can enrich the story: video clips, music, illustrations, comic, trans-media, social media, gaming… The big narration can emerge from the interaction of all those elements, and the book can work as a part of a universe, complemented by different stimuli, but not in the same way that cinema and gaming do it nowadays, where there is a central powerful element and satellites that bring just color. I’m interested in the formation of, not just a solar system, but a molecule in which all added parts generate the “object”, hanged on the iNet and with legs in the physical world (in the soft world and in the hard world).
The last question has to do with the dissemination. As a communications worker, I want to make my work known to as many people as possible. To me, interaction with the reader is part of the work. Beyond advertising, the creation of active communities around invented worlds is what it appeals to me: the collaborative intelligence. Most of my works have been born from the collaboration with musicians, cinema artists, illustrators, engineers, programmers, video artists and people without any artist craft who bring inspiration. In the community surrounding my work I like to talk about fantasy but also politics, because I care about citizenship participation. Science fiction is the most political genre of all. The creation of a societal model to set up our stories requires the author to practice his political muscle with or without conscious participation. It’s been said many times that science fiction is the best reflection of a society through its History. Books are only an aspect of the work as a whole.
“My work is to gather radioactive fragments, singularities, and to build a golem with them”
CJ: How do you face the development of a story? Tell us about the process of creation, growth and birth of your work.
JB: During the day, my brain produces many garbage-like images. My mind generates millions of random approximations, rejected or exploited by the consciousness as a lever for other ideas or “more useful” tools. There is a level in which the consciousness works to establish a bridge with the world, where fitted forms are fast chosen, like a shooter who shoots millions of puzzle pieces through holes and only the ones that make it through are tested and used to build the structure for the future idea. Below that bridge runs a river of untouched raw material, of deformed embryos, of non-viable fetuses, of machine pieces, cables and fragments of ideas with no sense. I work with that low level of the mind. I like to collect bits of splinters, failed experiments, ugly prototypes. When we live, we try to maintain in a blind spot all that is happening, which is what our internal censor prefers to ignore so we don’t end up mad. It’s like knowing that, in a few years, many of our readers will be six feet under, their mind disperse in the nothingness, our planet traveling at 107.000 km/h in the middle of the solar system, turning like the drain of a bathtub, and traveling towards a black hole in the center of our galaxy. We live hanging onto one splinter of a great forever-expanding explosion, and we have assassin virus and bacteria colonies in our bodies, venoms and toxins that don’t destroy us thanks to a delicate balance. In my country, just in one week, there was an earthquake, one city moved 8 cm, one woman cut open her husband and cooked him in a casserole, and lighting killed forty cows. Those are reality peaks, throbbing beats.
It’s our responsibility to work in a low reality level to ignore those events, or to rise our perception level and work with those phenomena. We need to search for their place, structure and connections, so we can tell a new form of reality, a hyper-reality, which will not extract every bizarre wonder to make us feel safer. My job is to gather those radioactive fragments, those singularities, and to build a golem with them. I handwrite them, I cut them and paste them in pages with Scotch tape. Later I enter them in my laptop, and they get printed as fragments in Times 12 points. I recut and glue them in paper sheets up off my wall. There is something getting formed in the darkness and, sometimes, one needs to have balls to walk through that forest. It becomes a painful process, you don’t know if you are ever going to arrive to port, if there is something there, but the archetype always appears, Ariadne, the golden threat. Contents soak in my head, I dream about them, and they look for one another. Links start to form and contents begin to talk. I cut and paste, I organize and I cut again. There are paper scrubs up off my walls, and sometimes I continue writing outside. I admire books by Roberto Matta, Bosco, and Doré. Days pass. Unicellular organisms start to swim in the walls, they mate and gather, and multicellular beings appear, sometimes a crustacean. After a while, I have an organized reptile list of events. I go back to type an outline in my laptop. In the meantime I develop a story to ride that reptile. The outline must be something very clear, precise and defined, so the novel must be written before I type the first word. Afterwards I can ignore the order and move like a dancer among the different outlines. The skeleton is there, but we don’t know if it will be like a Scarlet Johansson or a John Merrick, or the son of both of them. That comes later.
CJ: Ygdrasil, Trinidad and Lluscuma form a three-part work about an alternative reality in Chile, told backwards. How did you come up with the idea for this story? Why telling it backwards? What does this project have to do with Ucroníachile?
JB: "Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just... *do* things. " The Joker (Dark Knight, 2008).
The growth of what I do is rhizomatic. There are days in which I discover what a certain character is going to do, while I suspect that another one is trying to sabotage the story. Walls are fragile and, sometimes, a dream or another story’s character or a memory, simply burst into it. I have to find them a place, like interpreting a Tarot casting. Things simply happen in life, and only looking back, one can be a Historian and invent connections, realizing the silver threat that converts 20 random events in a story, by the power of a paranoid intuition.
The writer must be a paranoid with faith, an entrails reader, a psychic able to connect heaven and earth symbols at the same time it’s been fired at. To discover fragments of a corpse and to believe, because an author is a believer, that there is an elegant form of relating each part, and to build up a beautiful structure with those fragments. Not with the ones I want to use, but the ones they are already there. Because, if you manage all the variables, the product ends up being ugly, predictable and common. It’s essential the self-sabotage, the guerrillas, the lacking and the assault of external unmanageable factors. I’m a medium that doesn’t control what he says. I simply articulate beautiful forms, giving them the space dictated by things, putting my craft at the service of my venom. I’m a fortune-teller thrown out of a plane, who reads landscapes as a Tarot casting before crashing.
UcroníaChile was sabotage against a country sick with realism. It was the demand to break the dam containing the urges of our collective consciousness. We needed to vindicate History and our myths as something that belongs to the people, to the authors, not to the Ministry of Education. It was a daily exercise to rebuild our mythic History to revitalize the myths, which are the dreams of people in need to be updated because, otherwise, they rot in the corners of museums. They need to be broken, twisted and attacked. Anything we do will be all right because we are the dreamers of those dreams and, whatever we do, would be what we ought to do; no less, no more. Those materials must behave like they wish. Who am I to force them into acting as I want? All that come to me from architecture. Visual arts still express before knowing where they are going and, only like that, they open new ways. Territory expresses itself through Art. And walking in a tightrope, balancing with weak structures in the hands, being deaf and blind, being attacked and attacking, is how one enters splendid cities. It’s important to thrown you to the bottom of yourself, without knowing if there are stones or water, so far down that, whatever surfaces would be something unique, not because it’s new but because it’s its own thing; the rest is commodities, devices, commerce and juggling.
CJ: In the promotional trailer for Lluscuma you say: “Chile is a snake with nightmares”. What do you think that Chile dreams about?
JB: The first shield of Chile was a volcano. Chileans are like that; quiet and calm, until pressure becomes something unsustainable and we explode. Unfortunately we don not know intermediate states. The Alpes mountain chain is the spinal column of a snake made out of volcanoes. A fire snake lay down over the most explosive Earth crevice. We live at the verge of earthquakes, tsunamis, as a water and fire snake. The snake dreams about us, we still don’t exist as a country, it is planning us.
CJ: What is SYNCO? Why did you decide to publish it as a graphic novel? What brings the graphic part to the story?
JB: I believe this matter must be thought the opposite way: one word is worth a thousand images. When somebody shows a picture of a tree, we all see the same. When we read “tree”, we all imagine a different one. It’s just simple fun to give birth to what literature allows living in vagueness. To work in graphic novels also permits to collaborate in a process that opens the mind, the interactions, and the efforts. It’s another kind of exercise, using other type of muscles, and I’m not interested in having a tennis player’s arm. I really think that a graphic novel limits the Universe of any story, sets it up, defines it through the eyes of a specific somebody, and pre-digests it. In that sense, an egocentric one, it does not share a decoding process with the reader but rather imposes more than the written language, a humble tool that must do wonders to create wonder. But, in the other hand, graphic novels are an amazing art exercise.
CJ: La Policía del Karma talks about a service that punishes in the present time crimes committed in past lives. Why did you choose again the graphic novel format? Which is for you the difference between comics and graphic novels?
JB: Labels are always flexible. They are not wire fences, just blurred signs. A graphic novel tends to search for its own language (for me, that is more or less art), a milestone, a thesis and not an endless trail, like comics. It´’s a self-conclusive object, autonomous, a work of art without calculations, a gesture abandoned to look for something else. “Abandoning the finished work, that is the way to the Heavens”, says Tao Te King.
CJ: Do you consider yourself an experimental writer?
JB: I consider myself an artist that does everything possible to explode, so I can search among the fragments for something, which will help me resolve the enigma. I’m a terrorist, a liberating army of something caught in the basement of my basement, and that I need to comprehend. It’s not experimentation for the sake of it. Looking for the Holy Grail, as tradition suggests, the knights entered the Logres forest through unknown places, never through marked trails. Why doing something already done? Why repeating formulae? How can one resist burning all vessels together? Is there any glory in something like that?
CJ: What do you think about the new publishing formulas, such as crowdfunding, self-publishing or co-publishing?
JB: All types of combat are valid, sister. I’m interested in the collaborative intelligence of crowdfunding, the possibility of turning it into a social process, a participative experiment, sort of a hive-mind, a poetic act made by a mind built through many connected ones, the way shoals or flocks work. It’s that meditative question behind the gesture, transforming us into one, like when dancing or when we were young and used to smooch in the woods. Get lost and become oceans again. One day I would love for our minds to travel through a kind of cyberspace, melting together in two, three or five thousand liquid minds, getting lost in crowds, going back to be one or two or something else.
CJ: Which artists (and not only authors) inspire you?
Jorge Baradit: Roberto Matta, Jorge Luis Borges, Gottfried Helnwein, C.G. Jung, Trent Reznor, Emmanuelle Swedenborg, Coré, Gunther Brüs, David Cronenberg, Antonin Artaud and a thousand more monsters that live and hit my head from within. They are shadows; they are me -struggling to copulate with each other-, tearing themselves with their own teeth to get a bit of light, a line of a story. They are hungry.
“Latin America is pure confusion, the wild sketch of a new world yet to be known”
CJ: What can the current South American speculative fiction add to the genre?
JB: America is a forming continent. I don’t think we are able to make science fiction in the way the Europeans understand it. It was in that continent where it took place the dichotomy between religion and “iluminismo”, it was in England and France where the Industrial Revolution generated the faith in the technology as a developer of the human well-being, the idea of the endless progress and the radiant future of the free societies, without illness or constrains. In fantastic literature, there were two sides, one with ghosts and wizards, and another with aliens and spaceships. They tried to create a realistic literature based on hard science fiction. In America, science was brought in by the Church, there was no confrontation. In America, there are Christian guerrillas, superstitions are strong, and the magic works socially and politically. We are still cults cargo, technology is not produced here, and it comes in boxes inside big metal birds. My grandmother gave me a state of the art pill, but prayed afterwards. Nothing is discarded, everything is gathered, nothing is destroyed, we are the backyard where the West throws away its garbage, obsolete products, non-tested drugs, and ideological experiments and everything piles up. Our native people is still alive, its ancestral religions, Neolithic’s ways of life getting along with cutting edge high tech, megabytes and ayahuasca, santería and snake sushi. In the main square of Mexico is the colonial cathedral: the Aztec temple and the crystal buildings are all together. Ages collide, all fails: the search for El Dorado failed, Almagro and Pizarro failed, Fidel Castro failed, Salvador Allende failed, the FARCS failed. America tries utopias every decade, sends an absurd dream to the future and smashes it again and again, like Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, like Lope de Aguirre, like Ponce de León, like Che Guevara, dead in Bolivia.
America lives a Golden Age where Gods, Heroes and Marvels live among humans, and time is suspended in an eternal present, nothing improves, everything is piled up. In Europe they have to dig up cities built up of one another, you need to go to the museum to see the natives; outdated technology is in the archives. Here, a 10 base T network of state of the art Apple computers is connected with bad quality Chinese routers with a firewall PC, with an illegal OS and a 286 backup PC lost between various generations of wires, mixed with unused fax and telex still connected to power but nothing else. Invisible telephonic wires live under years of paintings, and like there is stratum after stratum of technology that sees the mind of America, amazed, with peyote, looking at Mother Earth, and its gods converted into Christians by grace of the GPS.
America is a boiling dissonance whirlpool in space and time, Latin America is confusion. What can we offer? Pure confusion, the wild sketch of a new world yet to be known. A twister of races, religions, sects, ideologies and doubts. Pure chaos, blurring of limits, disrespectful forms, a whole young continent, messy and full of libido looking for God in the code lines.
CJ: You are a relentless observer of the social and political reality of your country, and of the continent you live in. Your interest in social unbalances, governmental corruption and big corporations hungry for power is reflected in your work. How can science fiction and fantasy talk about this? Do you think the speculative genre is a way of complaint?
JB: I don’t believe in artistic agendas. I think you must go into what you are, so the personal and social implications come along. The only possible criterion in art nowadays is honesty, in all its twisted ways. When I talk about my situation, that is an act of coherence, nothing more. I come from a middle-low class family, I thrown stones against Pinochet, I live and witness the oppression and inequality in which Latin America is immersed; I feed on the resentment against the elites (who seem to live in Switzerland) who throw everyday from their full tables to the rest of the country (seeming to live in Ruanda). Our societies are pressure cookers, what I do is to use the vapor they release to move coherent mental machines, nothing less. There is no ethic-aesthetic discussion in true art, I think, just the coherent result (even the word honest is of use here. Honesty is the result of agreement, education and will; I talk about being coherent as it would be a shark in its oceanic environment).
CJ: Tell us your future plans. What are you going to publish next?
JB: I don’t know. In 2014 a short story is coming out in the Terra Nova III anthology (Random House, Spain). It is an honor to have been chosen for such a prestigious project. In addition to that, I’m finishing a physic and mental cycle that has broken me down.
And now, we only have time for a quick quiz:
CJ: Star Wars or Star Trek?
JB: Star Wars. Star Trek is taken too seriously.
CJ: Fast food or home made food?
JB: Homemade, in my house we pay attention to what we allow to enter into our bodies.
CJ: If you had to choose to be a character from a movie, which one would it be?
JB: Bowman, the astronaut of 2001 who enters the wormhole.
CJ: Can you tell as the worst book you’ve ever read?
JB: El Mío Cid comes to my mind, which believe it or not, is mandatory school reading in Chile. It’s a crime forcing children to read it. It’s something completely out of code, a torture.
JB: Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges. I could read it a thousand times.
CJ: Which type of music do you like to listen?
JB: Between Bach sonatas, NIN and the harsh electronica, the noise of the am radio.
CJ: 3D cinema, yes or not?
JB: Cinema is a moving page. Until 3D doesn’t disappear as a show in itself and finds its original expression, I will prefer 2D, a more mature art.
CJ: If you had to choose to have a super-power, which one would it be?
JB: To cook well, because I’m a disaster in the kitchen.
About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012. Some of her short stories are forthcoming in a number of anthologies to be published later this year.