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September 1, 2013

APSU’s Di Paolo explores sci-fi and detective novels in new book

Di Paolo book cover-001

A couple of years ago, Dr. Osvaldo Di Paolo, Austin Peay State University associate professor of Spanish, started thinking heavily about the end of the world. The apocalypse seemed to be everywhere, with the approaching end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 and Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping proclaiming the world would end in May 2011.

“There was even a pickup truck commercial about the apocalypse,” Di Paolo said.

On his nightstand, the APSU professor keeps several Hispanic detective and science fiction novels, and as he read through those books, he again saw signs of the apocalypse. The academic in him began making connections, and earlier this month, Di Paolo published his second book, “Post-human Apocalyptic Moaning and Explosions: Hispanic Detective Fiction and Science Fiction of the 21st Century.”

“The Black Plague, the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453, all those things were once interpreted as apocalyptic. The apocalypse becomes like an ellipses. I’m looking at new ellipses in hard-boiled fiction. What makes us think we’re coming to an end now?”

The Spanish-language book focuses on seven novels from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and Colombia. The plots may be vastly different, from traditional detective stories to space operas, but events in the authors’ home countries give the works an apocalyptic feel.

“In looking at the social elements, the novel from Colombia is talking about how the drug cartels and drug problems in the 90s were considered apocalyptic,” Di Paolo said. “The Cuban novel talks about how the Cuban Revolution, and how the change of the regime was considered apocalyptic at the time, and how the failure of the Cuban Revolution and present day Cuba also feels apocalyptic. I look at the Argentine dictatorship and how that was seen as apocalyptic from 1976-83. Then the novel in Mexico, there’s the abduction of children for satanic rites, which is a big problem in Mexico as well.”

Through his research, Di Paolo concluded that while Hispanic detective novels specify a political commentary – of the past or of the present – Hispanic science fiction novels are moving away from that.

“It’s a more general way of asking who we are, where do we come from, where are we going?” he said. “And it’s not focusing on a concrete region or city or country. It’s looking for bigger questions.”

For more information on this topic, contact Di Paolo at dipaoloo@apsu.edu.



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