Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Prime Meridian (Innsmouth Free Press, 2018, 124pp, £6)
Reviewed by Maia Gil’Adí (University of Massachusetts, Lowell)
Silvia Moreno-García’s self-published novella joins a growing list of Latinx speculative fiction, which includes Carmen Maria Machado and Daniel José Older, which is being published not only in varied geographies but also across literary marketplaces. Set in Mexico City, Prime Meridian centres on Amalia, who dreams of emigrating to Mars, but cannot find the financial means to do so. She saves the money she can by working as a hired friend through an app called ‘Friendrr’, watching movies and feigning friendship with an ex-Mexican cinema star. Moreno-García’s world-building creates a strange yet slightly familiar universe where Mandarin is spoken on Mars and earthlings can relocate to a neocolonial enclave called ‘New Panyu.’ As the name of the Martian colony suggests, Prime Meridian is deeply concerned with questions of coloniality and hierarchies of power even in the otherworldly and extraterrestrial. In effect, the novella underscores the impact of late capitalism in creating a Mexican nation that seems economically and culturally unmoored from the rest of the continent. Indeed, the novella clearly defines social justice as an element outside the realm of public or international policy, but as an extraterrestrial achievement.
The most compelling aspect of Prime Meridian is the absence of Mars itself in the narrative and the novella’s unanswered questions. While Amalia and her lover, Elías, spend time planning and debating their future on Mars, the planet itself is seen only in the façade of movie sets. Although Mars represents for Amalia the possibility of an alternate future, within an already science fictional narrative, the novella concludes without fully answering whether the achievement of independence and futurity is possible for a postcolonial Latinx subject. In effect, Prime Meridian stipulates that social justice is possible yet always out of reach; that it requires the otherworldly and extraterrestrial, the speculative, to even imagine.
Mars is an obsession for Amalia that connects her to explorers of the past and creates an affective tie to the world itself. Mars changes Earth, ‘by translation to the sky’, and offers an imaginative space of escape from the precarious and limited possibilities for a Latinx woman on Earth. Prime Meridian presents Mars as an impossible space of utopia that, in its desire for the future, illuminates our present conditions. As such, if Mexico City is a necropolitical space of social death, then Mars presents what Fredric Jameson, in Archaeologies of the Future (2005), calls ‘not-yet-being of the future with textual existence in the present’. It is here that Moreno-Garcia’s novel is remarkable: Mars supplants the traditional position of the US, Canada and even Europe in Latinx narratives of im/migration, and instead positions the space of possibility for Latinx subjects as completely in the realm of the otherworldly.
As the novella translates Mars into an impossible space of possibility, it also presents the planet as an imaginary landscape for the fulfilment of romantic love. The text creates a landscape through which Amalia can invent a generative future not only for herself but also a community. Speculative tropes in Prime Meridian, then, create what Alain Badiou describes in In Praise of Love (2009) as the utopian possibility of a ‘different way of lasting in life’ that, in a Latinx science fiction novella, has implications for thinking about social justice and community building for peoples of colour.
Prime Meridian asks important questions such as: What does the future look like for Latinx peoples? How do we reconceive of a Mexican-American identity and culture without the overbearing presence the US literary canon has imposed on these discussions within Latinx Studies? As Moreno-Garcia demonstrates in this, and as some scholars are beginning to do in Latinx Studies, we must think beyond the US national border for conceiving new definitions of ‘Latinx’.