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Lo-Fi Sci-Fi: Alexandro Segade's 'The Holo Library'

In Partnership with UCR ARTSblock to provide a cultural presence, educational resource, community center and intellectual meeting ground for the university and the community.

Alexandro Segade's "The Holo Library" is between performance art and theater. It is a play, but its staging is deliberately minimal. Segade stands in front of a microphone and reads text from a screen that the audience can also see. A chorus of people who seem to have been pulled from the audience stands with him, each reading specific parts. The story, set in a future fascist California, is imaginative and deeply engaging. We follow the adventures of "Ace," "a detective who becomes embroiled in a political intrigue when he is seduced in an online chat with a teen-age terrorist boy-band singer." It's gripping, funny and strangely tender. It's queer sci-fi, practiced as lo-fi performance. This Thursday, Queer Lab (an initiative supporting queer studies at UC Riverside) is sponsoring a performance of "The Holo Library" at The Culver Arts Center as a part of the Eaton Conference.

UC Riverside is home to the Eaton Collection, the world's largest publicly accessible archive of science fiction material. This material includes everything from a 1517 edition of Thomas Moore's "Utopia" to fanzines, comic books, television scripts and a "Vulcan Salute" cookie jar. Every two years our campus hosts the Eaton Conference -- this is an impressive gathering of science fiction scholars and writers. We are proud to have Alexandro Segade performing at The Culver Center as a part of this conference, the program for which includes awarding Ursula K. Le Guin a Lifetime Achievement Award. I caught up with Segade recently to chat about his work.

Jennifer Doyle: Can you tell me a little about your interest in science fiction? What made you take on the challenge of imagining a future and writing that?

Alexandro Segade: When Malik and I got married in 2008 it seemed like the future.

JD: It was the future. Are you -- have you been -- a science fiction reader? A fan of sci-fi film, etc.? What does that archive look like for you?

AS: Yes, I am a fan of science fiction. I like sci-fi movies, books, comics, role playing games and especially TV. Some of the aforementioned that had an impact on me include Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, H.P. Lovecraft, "X-Men "in all forms, "Bladerunner," "Sapphire & Steele," "Dr. Who," "Quatermass," Fritz Leiber's short stories, "Solar Babies," "Solaris," "Alphas," "Misfits" Seasons 1-3, "World on a Wire," Kate Bush videos, "Omega Factor," "X-Files," "Close Encounters," "E.T.," "A Clockwork Orange," "Stepford Wives," "Heavy Metal" magazine and the movie, and a million other examples, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. I'm invested in nerdiness and it's cultural manifestations.

JD: Now that's a recommendation list. I'm a huge Octavia Butler fan. And I love that you drop Kate Bush in there. Makes sense to me -- Babooshka, for example. I love the tone, the texture of your writing in The Holo Library. I'd love to know more about your biography as a writer and how writing figures into your performance practice, your work with My Barbarian...

AS: Thanks. I have been writing since I was teen editor of the high school literary publication at San Diego High, English major in undergrad. I was lead writer for most of the scripts for My Barbarian since we started in 2000, I can't say how many off/hand. And recently I wrote a script for a short film Wu Tsang directed that's up at the Whitney right now in the Blues for Smoke Show. In all my writing, there's a relationship of some kind to genre, theater, and performance.

JD: Wu Tsang showed "Mishima in Mexico" (2012) at UCR in January. It's about writing & making a film, a lost weekend -- a remake of Mishima's novel "Thirst for Love." It has strong Pasolini and Fassbiner notes in it. It's incredibly sexy. I was thinking, one of the reasons why I love "The Holo Library:" It gets at the way sex/gender can feel so strange, alien, supernatural but also programmed, robotic, artificial.

AS: All sex politics are engaged in "The Holo Library" -- my own particularly.

JD: That makes sense. It's really holistic, as a queer text. There is a lot in "The Holo Library" that feels plugged into the past, and also very contemporary.

AS: I'm writing speculative genre fiction. It uses tropes of the past to fashion a future. Kind of sad.

JD: "The Holo Library" is so smart in its staging. I was wondering if you can tell me something about what made you work with reading -- with having people read text that is projected onto screens that the audience can also read. I am curious about the work you do with screens in the story and the staging.

AS: Screens are the primary interface for human interaction within a certain class of people right now I.R.L., so staging a reading of screens seemed the best way to engage that situation, and find a means of making it communal, which is what theater provides. A reading also means that the text can resemble something other than theater, like fiction. Additionally, the actors need not be memorized, nor even know the piece at all.

JD: This makes it so easy to produce! Relative, that is, to more traditional theater. Tell us about the series of which "The Holo Library" is a part.

AS: "The Holo Library" is part three of the Rep Sep series, which includes "Replicant VS Separatist," and "The Other Boys and Other Stories." They all describe an alternate universe in which human cloning leads to a gay male post-political oligarchy in California.

JD: What's next for you as a writer? Where can people go to learn more about your work?

AS: I'm working right now on a new play for My Barbarian, an adaptation of Brecht's learning play, The Mother. We'll be having a reading if that soon here in New York, with performances at Suzanne Vielmetter in the summer. I'm also working on a new series of horror stories, called "The." The first of which is called "The Cum." I did a reading of that piece to an audience of white lesbians and they were horrified.

JD: LOL. Sounds great. Count me in for that! "The Holo Library" feels to me like a California text. California is a character. That's an observation not a question -- but am curious as to what California is in this future...

AS: California is the future. Moving to New York convinced me of that.

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