Arts & Culture

Yoss discusses ‘A Planet for Rent’ in lecture

Famed Cuban science fiction writer compares ‘tourist invasion’ with history of colonization

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, November 3, 2016

During Cuban science fiction author Yoss’ lecture, students and faculty members alike got a taste of Cuban government, history and life through the lens of science fiction.

Yoss, né José Miguel Sánchez Gómez, is “one of Cuba’s most celebrated science fiction authors,” said Jennifer Lambe, assistant professor of history and the organizer of the lecture. Yoss has won several awards, including Cuba’s prestigious David Award in science fiction.

Wednesday afternoon, Yoss read from his novel “A Planet for Rent,” which describes a future of alien colonization while subtextually analyzing Cuba’s colonial past and likely neoliberal future.

“In my novel, ‘A Planet for Rent,’ I tried to write an allegory related to the 21st century where Cuba is colonized with a tourist invasion. They have a lot of money and a lot of technology,” Yoss said. “It’s comparable to this decade with what happened in Cuba.”

One of the stories in the novel focuses on a character named Buca, who chooses to live her life as a prostitute. Buca does so happily for roughly 20 years until one day insectoid eggs incubating in her womb hatch and kill her.

Yoss said he was drawn to the genre of science fiction as a viable means to express his critiques of the Cuban government. “For many years in Cuba, science fiction has been a very smart way of avoiding censorship (and) talking about (the) 21st century and dictatorship by Fidel” Castro, Yoss said. “No one can say ‘oh, I know what you are thinking,’ because I can say, ‘you have the problem, not me.’”

Though “A Planet for Rent” has been published in several countries including the United States, the novel has not yet been published in Cuba. But recently, a Cuban organization reached out to Yoss about publication. “Only 23 years after I’ve finished this book, maybe in 2018 the book will arrive to readers in Cuba,” Yoss said.

Yoss writes science fiction not only to critique Cuban society but also to challenge and influence power hierarchies. “If I write about human or natural disaster, the people who are in power will read (these) novels and avoid that future becoming real,” Yoss said. “Life has no filters. You are the only fighter.”