Correa, Hugo

Tagged: Author

(1926-2008) Leading Chilean sf author of his generation; co-founder of the Club de Ciencia Ficción de Chile [Chilean SF Club]; president of UFO Chile. He is the author of Los altísimos ["The Superior Ones"] (1959; rev 1973), considered by many writers, critics and fans a key novel in Latin America's sf history.

Correa began studying for a degree in law but turned instead to journalism and the civil service. As a young sf writer, his career was given a boost by Ray Bradbury. Correa was one of two Chileans who, in 1961, were awarded grants to participate in writers' workshops at the University of Iowa. Before leaving, Correa sent translations of a few of his stories to Bradbury, whom he had never met. Bradbury responded with enthusiasm and encouragement; what is more, he visited Correa and his wife when they were in Los Angeles and sent Correa's stories on to magazine editors with a note of introduction. With this vote of confidence, Correa soon had three stories published in the North American market: "The Last Element" ["El último elemento"], about an ill-starred voyage in search of the powerful "element Z", came out in the April 1962 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; "Meccano", a space-based environmental protection story featuring an enormous guardian Robot, was published in International Science Fiction in June 1968; and "Alter Ego", one of four Correa narratives involving biomechanical Avatars, appeared three times in English: first in the July 1967 F&SF, next as an example of self-theory in the college textbook Introductory Psychology Through Science Fiction (anth 1974), and finally in The Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction (anth 1986) edited by Brian W Aldiss and Sam J Lundwall. International recognition of his work also came via Spain's {NUEVA DIMENSIÓN} sf magazine, which dedicated issue #33 (1972) to Correa, saying he "spoke that language of Bradbury and Lovecraft, but with a distinctly Latin American accent."

Typically of the times, much of Correa's short sf from the 1950s and 1960s involves space exploration and attempts at colonization, resource exploitation and interspecies contact (see Space Flight; Colonization of Other Worlds). Recurring themes include the mysterious and the unknown; First Contact; the struggle to communicate (see Communications); human Identity and isolation; authoritarianism; and the nature of evil. The land of his youth, rural southern Chile, is represented through the landscape, atmosphere, language and mythology of his horror-tinged sf, for example the novellas Alguien mora en el viento ["Someone Dwells in the Wind"] (1959), El que merodea en la lluvia ["The Prowler in the Rain"] (1962) and "Asterion" (in Cuando Pilato se opuso ["When Pilate Opposed"] coll 1971). The four stories in his collection Los títeres ["The Puppets"] (coll 1969) depict a Near-Future Chile where individuals live out most of their days as biomechanical avatars, which they operate via introjection helmets. The narratives harshly criticize technology's seductive promise of risk-free living and its ultimately dehumanizing effects, while also meditating on questions of intimacy and alienation, political leadership, workplace conditions in the industrial era, and the possibility of Posthuman life forms.

Correa's most widely-known and praised work is his already-cited novel Los altísimos. The accolades and readership it brought its author are emblematic of the increasing quality of, and global interest in, Spanish- and Portuguese-language sf starting in the late 1950s. Los altísimos is a future Dystopia about a world, Cronn, that has been accidentally discovered by a shanghaied Chilean. Cronn is a vast, artificially-constructed hollow planet that travels through the universe at the speed of light; inside it are eight concentric rings that support Cronnian civilization. The planet's inhabitants live out insignificant lives in subordination to intelligent machines (see AI) and to a race of mysterious overlords, the titular Superior Ones, with whom they cannot communicate. The Superior Ones have engineered for Cronn's citizenry an existence free from, among other things, unemployment, love, marriage, private property and individual liberty. Several commentators have remarked on the novel's indictment of totalitarian systems and have noted how Correa's concept of a hollow World Ship resembles Arthur C Clarke's later Rendezvous with Rama (1972).

Although less productive as an sf writer after the late 1980s, Correa remained active in Chile's sf community until shortly before his death, participating in round tables, giving interviews, attending book launches and judging writing competitions. [AB]

see also: International Science Fiction; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Hugo Correa

born Curepto, Chile: 24 May 1926

died Santiago, Chile: 23 March 2008

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