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Rebetez, René

Entry updated 31 August 2018. Tagged: Author.

(1933-1999) Colombian author and cinematographer who began publishing sf and fantasy in Mexico. Thanks to his love of travel, he was able to publish and promote Spanish-language sf around the world, calling himself the first known sf author in that language. Of course research from the last decades contradicts this, but Rebetez and the Chilean Hugo Correa may be considered the first Spanish-language sf authors who seriously tried to extend their national borders. Rebetez is also an important voice of Latin American sf, because in his short stories and articles he used the sf genre as tool to criticize the Latin American situation, with the implied manifesto that Latin American authors – not only of sf – should not make what he called "underdevelopment art" but create art despite underdevelopment.

In 1961, after a long stay in Europe, Rebetez came to Mexico City, where he lived for more than twenty years. In this country he met the Chilean Alejandro Jodorowsky (1929-    ), with whom he founded the Club Mexicano de Ciencia Ficción and published the only two issues of the Semiprozine Crononauta, edited with Alejandro Jodorowsky, which included contributions not only from Mexican and Latin American authors, but also from a few Europeans. Shortly after, Rebetez published his first book of short stories and poems, Los ojos de la clepsidra ["Clepsydra's Eyes"] (coll 1964), which includes his first and many times reprinted sf short story "Rocky Lunario", of a man so bored that he decides to destroy the whole planet. Rebetez then began to publish newspaper articles about sf in the Mexican El Heraldo, and more sf and fantasy short stories. In each subsequent collection he had the custom of repeating the best of his previous choices, along with new stories. La Nueva Prehistoria y otros cuentos ["The New Prehistory and other short stories"] (coll 1967), written in the rebellious style of the 1960s, includes "La Nueva Prehistoria" (28 November 1965 El Heraldo Cultural), about a world where human beings relinquish their individuality in order to incorporate themselves into a kind of macroorganism; this was translated by Damon Knight as "The New Prehistory" (in The World Treasury of Science Fiction, anth 1989, ed David G Hartwell). Also representative of this period is "Convulsión" ["Convulsion"] (17 September 1967 El Heraldo Cultural), depicting a Near Future world governed by teenagers who persecute old people as criminals. From that time he never abandoned certain constant sf themes: criticism of modern-day dehumanization, the end of the human race, and the idea that technological development could actually represent a backing down.

In the middle of the 1960s, the Mexican National Ministry of Education published a series of little books to promote reading, trying to represent all possible aspects of contemporary culture, and asked Rebetez to prepare two of them: La Ciencia Ficción: Cuarta dimensión de la literatura ["SF: Fourth dimension of Literature"] (1966), written with more enthusiasm than precision, an essay whose main argument is that sf is the most faithful mirror of the historical moment; and, as a complement, the anthology La Ciencia Ficción: Breve antología del género ["SF: Brief Anthology of the Genre"] (anth 1966). Both were used as textbooks in Mexican high schools.

In the next decade, Rebetez increased his interest in the study of Latin American preColumbian mythology, Pseudoscience and occultism, becoming convinced that this was knowledge as important as modern science. He then began to publish books explaining his convictions, a system of belief which was also mirrored in his ideas of sf. For this reason, Gabriel Trujillo called him the Latin American Jacques Bergier (1912-1978). Rebetez also shifted his interest from literature to cinematography. His film, La magia ["The Magic"] (1971), was presented as an anthropological fiction-documentary, shot in different Latin American countries, inspired by various passages of the Mayan Popol Vuh. At the beginning of the 1970s, Rebetez participated in a television talk show, Encuentro, conducted by the Colombian author Álvaro Mutis (1923-    ), to debate sf with Theodore Sturgeon, Italo Calvino and Jack Vance. Rebetez took this opportunity to state that for him sf was not merely a literary genre but a philosophical stance and a state of conscience. He expanded these ideas in his essay "La ciencia ficción: Testigo y juez de nuestra era" ["SF: Witness and Judge of Our Age"] (1981 Comunidad CONACYT #130-131), in which he argued that reality was stranger than sf.

In the middle of the 1980s he returned to Colombia, publishing his first new collection in almost three decades. Ellos lo llaman amanecer y otros relatos ["They Call It Daybreak and Other Short Stories"] (coll 1996), shows Rebetez's interest in Zen Buddhism and Gnosticism under the form of Sufism. In its foreword, he talks of what he calls "the myth of sf", presenting the genre as a tool for criticism of the present, offering old myths in a new way through a novel set of images. He also explained that Latin American authors haven't written more sf because they feel the burden of "socially committed literature". As was his practice in Mexico, his first collection published in his native Colombia included previously collected short stories, like "Mateo, dos, dos, guión, cuatro – Un cuento de navidad" ["Matthew, two, two, dash, four – A Christmas Story"] (24 December 1967 El Heraldo Cultural), the tale of some Androids who are eager to celebrate Christmas when humans have disappeared, without understanding its meaning; and "Un cuento para máquinas" ["A Short Story for Machines"] (18 February 1968 El Heraldo Cultural), about an engineer who creates a universe full of Robots which turn their backs on him. "El amor loco" ["The Crazy Love"] is the only notable short story first appearing in this collection: here, a pair of human lovers decide to interchange their body parts with synthetic ones, until they are fully artificial, and able to love each other rationally (see Cyborgs). In his last collection, Cuentos de amor, terror y otros misterios ["Short Stories of Love, Horror and Other Mysteries"] (coll 1998), Rebetez overstressed his interest in Religion at the expense of the stories' literary quality. In his last years, he prepared an anthology of Colombian sf authors, Contemporáneos del Porvenir: Primera antología colombiana de ciencia ficción ["Contemporaneous from the Future: First Colombian Science Fiction Anthology"] (anth 2000), which was published posthumously. [MAFD]

René Rebetez Cortés

born Subachoque, Cundinamarca, Colombia: 1 July 1933

died Isla de Providencia (Old Providence Island), Colombia: 30 December 1999


works as editor

about the author

  • Campo Ricardo Burgos López. "Indagando por el padre: Un balance de la obra de ficción de René Rebetez" in Lo Fantástico en Hispanoamérica (Lima, Peru: Cuerpo de la Metáfora Editores, 2011) edited by Elton Honores [nonfiction: anth: pp171-183: pb/]
  • Miguel Ángel Fernández Delgado. "Crononauta: La propuesta de ciencia ficción pánica de René Rebetez y Alejandro Jodorowsky" in El Futuro: XXXI Coloquio Internacional de Historia del Arte (Mexico City, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2010) edited by Alberto Dallal [nonfiction: anth: pp95-113: pb/]
  • Pilar Mandujano Jacobo. Entry in Diccionario de Escritores Mexicanos Siglo XX ["Dictionary of Mexican Authors Twentieth Century"] (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2004) edited by Aurora M Ocampo [vol VII: pp107-110: hb/]
  • Juan Carlos Moyano Ortiz. "Crononauta insigne, capitán del velero de la vida, viajero de sí mismo" (March/April 2000 Número #25) [pp24-33: mag/]
  • Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz. Entry in Biografías del Futuro: La ciencia ficción mexicana y sus autores ["Biographies from the Future: Mexican Science Fiction and Its Authors"] (Mexicali, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 2000) [nonfiction: anth: pp149-153: pb/]


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