Exclusive Interview: “Sordidez” Author E.G. Condé


While everyone was saddened by the images that came out of Puerto Rico after Hurricane María made landfall in 2017, writer E.G. Condé was among those who felt it personally, since some of those images included ones of his grandmother’s home. But as horrified as he may have been, as he explains in the following email interview, it also oddly inspired him to write an eco, cli-fi, sci-fi, Taínofuturistic novella called Sordidez (paperback, Kindle).

E.G. Condé Sordidez

To begin, what is Sordidez about, and when and where is it set?

In Spanish, “sordidez” is a noun form of the adjective “sordid” in English, so it refers to a state of squalor or abjection. These are the circumstances that the novella’s characters struggle to overcome in the aftermath of climate disaster, war, and colonialism. Set in near-future Puerto Rico and the Yucatán region, Sordidez is a story about rebuilding and metamorphosis — reconnecting to land and recovering indigenous heritage.

Where did you get the idea for Sordidez? What inspired this story?

When Hurricane María made landfall in Puerto Rico, I was horrified by the images of devastation that flooded social media. Brown waters. Blue tarps coiled around wrecked roofs. Dead trees.

What hit me the hardest were the photographs my family in Puerto Rico sent me of my grandmother’s home, the greenest place from my childhood memory. It was unrecognizable and bleak beyond words, as if the jungle had been torched to gray ash. This bizarre sight inspired my imagination, seeding the idea for one of the novella’s defining worldbuilding elements; a chemical blight called the hydrophage. In Sordidez, the hydrophage is wielded by a dictator against his own people and country, desiccating the Yucatán peninsula into a barren desert.

Sordidez takes place in the near-future. Is there a reason you set it then as opposed to the far future?

I enjoy far-future cyberpunk romps and space operas as much as anyone, but worldbuilding for Sordidez demanded something closer to our current reality. A near-future setting is pretty difficult to pull-off for a writer, because it requires careful attention to the present and a lot of research to dispel readers’ inclination toward disbelief. Our current world is so vast and dynamic and complicated that it feels almost impossible to capture it with any faithful resolution.

Those challenges aside, the near-present setting was a conscious choice. I felt it important for readers to imagine a future of indigenous renewal and decolonization in Puerto Rico and beyond as an imminent possibility, not some distant fantasy.

Sordidez sounds like it’s a cli-fi sci-fi story. Is that how you’d describe it, or are there other genres that either describe it better or at work in this story as well?

Like many Stelliform Press titles, Sordidez treats the environment as a character rather than a setting. In this way, it is very much eco fiction but also climate fiction because climate change is a central theme in the novella. The world of Sordidez resembles some of the grim worst-case-scenarios forecasted by scientists at the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Sordidez also contemplates the dangers of quick techno-fixes to the climate crisis like solar reflection and chemical remedies for desertification. In this way it is, as you say, both cli-fi and sci-fi, but also, importantly an indigenous futurist response to climate change.

Where I think it diverges from other cli-fi works, or even solarpunk, is its complication of the narrative that indigenous cosmologies, practices, or traditions, are passively embedded in ecologies and are therefore more sustainable. On the contrary, Sordidez emphasizes how the Maya in particular have always been consciously transforming their environment as active terraformers. Similarly, the Taíno, themselves migrants from the Orinoco basin before settling the Antilles, remade the islands through the introduction of cassava and animals they brought from South America. The answers to climate change the book explores are not about dialing back human intervention in the environment, which has been occurring for millennia, but about reshaping our relationship with nature for sustainability rather than extraction.

You’ve also said Sordidez is a work of Taínofuturism, a subgenre, as I understand it, of your own creation. What defines Taínofuturism, and are there any well-known examples?

What I call Taínofuturism is less my own invention and more of a gathering of artworks, music, and stories that share a similar theme of reimagining Caribbean or Antillean indigeneity under one common banner. Prietopunk, edited by Anibal Hernández Medina, is a Caribbean Afrofuturist anthology that includes stories with indigenous and African (AfroTaíno) elements. Priscilla Bell Lamberty, a Philadelphia-based Afro-Boricua artist, has painted a series of cyberpunkish Afro-Taíno warriors she calls Taínofuturism. Dominican music producer, Adriel.sfx, has produced Invaders II: Anacaona Visions, an EP that imagines an alternate universe where the Taínos of present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic repelled the Spanish invaders from their homeland.

In my own work, Taínofuturism began with a short story I published with Reckoning Magazine, called “Somnambulist.” Inspired by a frightful dream, the story is set in a distant future where machines have colonized the universe and the last remnant of the Taíno, a multispecies creature called the “Somnambulist,” is tasked with rescuing the archipelagos of the cosmos from a mechanical blight. “Somnambulist” also inspired an Abayomi doll-style sculpture I created from organic debris and trash to materialize my vision of a more-than-human indigenous hero. The sculpture was exhibited in Chiapas, Mexico for an art and research initiative on Multispecies Justice.

For me, Taínofuturism is a blueprint for decolonization. It is also an invitation to reimagine boundaries and identities for Caribbean peoples, who have lived under capitalism, slavery, and colonialism for many generations, and whose future remains uncertain as climate change intensifies.

Sordidez is your first novella, though you’ve had stories published in Solarpunk and Sword & Sorcery. Are there any writers who you feel had a particularly big influence on Sordidez but not on anything else you’ve written?

While working on revisions for Sordidez, I revisited James Baldwin’s Another Country, which is a searing, breathtaking masterpiece that continues to haunt and inspire my imagination. Beyond its vivid characterization and unflinching dive into the suffering of black, queer, and women characters in mid 2oth century New York City, what makes the novel so magnificent is its unusual structure. Less than a third of the way through the novel, a tragedy occurs that feels like it should be the ending of the story rather than the inauguration of its second and then third acts. The novel traces how tragedy reverberates in the lives of those affected by loss, those mourning and longing for closure that they may never get. Sordidez began as a conventionally structured story with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Stelliform Press asked me to expand the novelette into a novella, pushing me to consider the storytelling opportunities of the “aftermath” as a literary device. The result is a novella that takes a lot of structural inspiration from James Baldwin’s Another Country.

What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those things have a big influence on Sordidez?

When I wrote the first draft of Sordidez, which was then more in the novelette length, horror was readily on my mind. I binge-watched every season of Black Mirror I could get my hands on, and wrote the entire first draft while listening to Martin Phipp’s soundtrack for the episode titled “Hated In The Nation.”

And them, to flip things around, do you think Sordidez could work as a movie, show, or game?

I think it could work as a film, though you would lose a great deal of the interiority of the characters’ thoughts, memories, and experiences. The screenplay could address that, weaving in flashbacks and expanded dialogue to address what would be lost in adaptation.

Also, there is a lot of the backstory of the characters and the world that didn’t make the cut in the novella because 40,000 words is a tight wordcount budget to work in. I think a video game would be a wonderful way to create an interactive frame for expanded storytelling. I envision the base dynamic involving salvage, invention, repair, and survival of climate change and the murderous robotic arsenals of the novella’s antagonists. Through this process of retrieval and retrofit, more of the world’s tapestry could unfold in fireside chats in the protagonist’s solarpunkish village, the yucayeke.

If someone wanted to adapt Sordidez into a movie, who would you want them to cast as Vero and the other main characters?

This is one of the most difficult questions anyone has ever asked me…but here goes.

Vero Diaz (angsty journalist turned boripunk hero) = Vico Ortiz [Our Flag Means Death].

Why? Because they are a nonbinary Boricua sensation and can make any outfit look amazing.

Anacaona Diaz (sister with anger issues) = Rosario Dawson. Anacaona is named after a fierce Taína queen who died in the pursuit of peace. Dawson can certainly channel that badassery, as we’ve seen in her roles in everything from Sin City to Star Wars.

Yuíza Diaz (geeky genius sister) = Indya Moore. Why? Their performance in Pose is electrifying.

Dagüao (salvage King & engineer extraordinaire) = Carlos Soroa. Deaf characters need to be portrayed by deaf actors. Period. But also, Soroa exhibits that tender quality I imagined for Dagüao in Welcome To Eden.

Alcimar (strapping son of a Carpenter) = Ismael Cruz-Córdova a.k.a. The Boricua Elf. Is further justification necessary?

Loba Roja (Maya revolutionary) = María Mercedes Coroy. There is a subdued brilliance and rage simmering in many of her performances, especially in her portrayal of María in Ixcanul.

Doña Margarita (that selfless loving and giving abuela you know) = Juana Samayoa. This woman is an LGBTQ icon. She hosted Harvey Milk on her show News Talk. But also she is a great listener, which is so Margarita.

Juaco (retired soldier with unfinished business) = Arturo Castro. He can do rough around the edges as the son of a kingpin in Narcos, but there is this hint of gentleness and caring that seeps out here and there in his performances — which mirrors Juaco’s conflicted persona.

Abuelo (old amnesiac with an attitude) = James Edward Olmos. Because, that voice. I know of no other being with such a wonderfully gravelly set of pipes.

And for the soundtrack — I know you didn’t ask this but I couldn’t resist — René G. Boscio. The Daughter Of The Sea soundtrack has every element I love in a composition; ambient electronic sound, sweeping strings, hypnotic percussion and haunting leitmotifs, but most important of all, African beats and elements of Caribbean musical culture threaded throughout.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Sordidez?

Sordidez is filled with Easter eggs and nods to Taíno and Maya mythology. There are images, lines of dialogue, and events that inspired by mythological and historical texts including the Chilam Balam, the Popol Vuh, the journals of Bartolomé de las Casas, and Ramon Pane’s accounts of the Taíno society and religion. Additionally, I reference contemporary Maya and Taíno cultural practices, including the Deer Dance and the white cemí. One line of dialogue is a direct reference to the title of a story by the brilliant Chicanofuturist Ernest Hogan, which appears in Speculative Fiction For Dreamers, a Latinx science fiction anthology edited by Matthew David Goodwin.

E.G. Condé Sordidez

Finally, if someone enjoys Sordidez, what cli-fi sci-fi novella of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?

There are two like-minded cli-fi novellas that come to mind. The first is Sim Kern’s Depart, Depart! also published with Stelliform Press, for its instantly lovable queer cast of characters and the journey of its protagonist Noah, who like Sordidez‘s Vero, must weather climate disaster, an atmosphere of bigotry, and ghosts from an ancestral past yearning to be known.

The second is Premee Mohammed’s The Annual Migration Of Clouds, which asks readers to consider the multispecies transformations that might be necessary to withstand climate ruin.



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