student attending a theater conference! And American credit cards were no good! And
there were no ATMs! I wanted to learn about gay life and socialist utopias and they
wanted me to pay their neighbors and brothers and friends to go to bed. Talk about
bursting my bubble… The rest of the stories are mostly set in NY/NJ and in Puerto Rico,
which were my usual haunts back then, before I moved to Michigan
I first started going online in 1995. At first it was just e-mail, and then my friend Marcial
taught me how to use the IRC (Internet Relay Chat). We would make up different crazy
drag queen names every time we went on! I don’t really think about the Internet too
much, conceptually, that is—it just became a very integral part of my life, and that’s how
it made it into the book. I think that, more than about the Internet, my writing is about
latching onto an uncensored flow of consciousness. It’s about free-associations and
about tapping into my unconscious and letting it all come out, unfiltered, sort of as if I
were in a trance
or altered state. That’s where all the connections get made. That’s why the writing can
be a little hard to understand and might seem experimental. Editing helps me calm the
wildest impulses and make it more accessible.
CV | Your stories are fearlessly queer. You bring up everything from extreme sexual
fetishes to very visual lesbian pornography. Do you think general readers are in a more
accepting position to explore this kind of literature nowadays, or do you think that the
people who would buy your books are already tempered for such subjects?
LLFS | That’s funny! I think I’m crazy. This book was rejected by thirty presses before
Bilingual picked it up. I was pretty convinced it was never going to come out. And
remember—I wrote most of the stories in Spanish! The English translations came later.
I wrote the stories for myself and for the few friends I would share them with. Most of my
friends don’t like what I write. But you know what, that’s OK! You can still be my friend
even if you don’t like my crazy stories! I think if I had worried about readers (or about my
professional aspirations) I would have never written them, and certainly not published
them! But yeah, definitely, I think there
so zany, well-written and bizarre are these stories. It’s refreshing to read literature that
reflects our animalistic fantasies and darkest obsessions, as if they’re immune to
condemnation. In these stories queerness is the standard, not the exception—at last!
This stock of fearless fiction carries on in the queer warlord tradition of Baldwin, Rechy,
Genet, Burroughs and Lorca. Mister La Fountain is an assistant professor of Queer
Caribbean, Latino/a Studies and Latin American Literary and Cultural Studies—at the
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor—and took time out of his busy schedule to answer a
few questions about his new book(s). He will also be a guest reader at the upcoming
HISPANIC PANIC! II reading on Wednesday, May 27th at Nowhere in New York City.
CV | So tell us a little about how these unusual stories came to be—they’re very different
from one another and capture different moods, locations, obsessions, etc. Some, such
as “Love is Intergalactic”, flirt with science-fiction and fantasy while others, such as “De
un pájaro las dos alas” read as documentaries on personal experience. There is also
LLFS | Yeah, they’re all over the place! They’re basically about me, or characters that
sort of seem like me—gay, Puerto Rican, sex-crazed, lonely, idealist, mostly in New
York City and New Jersey but also in other parts, with painted blue fingernails! They’re
also about my gay and lesbian friends, and about the authors I like to read. I started
writing them sporadically throughout the nineties, and they became a book after I took a
creative writing class with Diamela Eltit at Columbia University in 1997. Angel Lozada
was also in that workshop, and we became comrades in arms. Angel then went on to
publish La patografía and
www.ambiente.us MAY | MAYO 2009
Gay Puerto Rican Scholar Larry La Fountain and his Blue
By Charlie Vázquez
I first met Puerto Rican writer, scholar and performer Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes (a.
k.a. Larry La Fountain) last summer, at the New York City reading for Los Otros
Cuerpos, the first ever anthology of queer Puerto Rican literature, published by Editorial
Tiempo Nuevo in 2007. About five years ago, I came across one of Larry’s stories, “My
Name, Multitudinous Mass”, in Bésame Mucho (Painted Leaf Press, 1999), a
groundbreaking collection of gay male fiction edited by Jaime Manrique with Jesse
Doris. “My Name, Multitudinous Mass” also appears in Larry’s newest fiction collection,
Blue Fingernails/Uñas pintadas de azul, which was just published by Bilingual Press.
Blue Fingernails is a crazy amusement park ride through Santerian house parties,
grimy bedrooms, gothic theater productions and The Museum of Natural History and
features vampires, horny lesbians, neo-Dominicans, well-endowed Cubans and a
rather loveable character named Demonio María Cienfuegos (Demon Mary Hundred
Fires). Larry was in New York recently as part of a panel assembled by the Audre
Lorde Project in Brooklyn, which focused on queer Caribbean politics and activism. He
gave me a copy of Blue Fingernails/Uñas pintadas de azul and I tore through it,
No quiero quedarme sola y vacía, two landmark queer Puerto Rican novels.
I had been showing my stories over the years to Mayra Santos-Febres, a wonderful
Puerto Rican author, and she was very supportive; she’s the one who kept insisting that
I had to publish them. Basically, the stories were a different way for me to process my
life—different, say, than what I write in my diaries. And the most amazing part was
realizing that I did not have to limit myself to my experiences, that I could break through
the straightjacket of autobiography and take a free flight of the imagination! That was
really transformative. That’s how all the crazy cyborgs and vampires started to appear.
CV | What’s up with the vampires? Does it have anything to do with growing up in Puerto
Rico where bats are plentiful? Or are vampires the ultimate archetype for dark
sensuality and tribal taboo in your work? Are you reinterpreting classic Hollywood
imagery and pop culture?
LLFS | Yes! Those are all good interpretations. We had fruit trees growing outside—
nísperos and mangoes, especially—and the bats just loved them! And my mom kept
insisting that they were pigeons! They only flew at dusk and you couldn’t really make
them out. I think my mom was afraid they would get caught in our hair. But you know
what, bats eat mosquitoes! Which is really good—there’s too many mosquitoes in
You’re also right that it has to do with sexuality and desire. I am really fascinated by
winged, flying creatures: angels, demons, vampires. I thought, “What would happen if
you had a lonely, horny drag queen who was also an angel and a vampire and a
demon, all four things at the same time, making a gay porn film with Chi Chi LaRue?”
That’s how “Rites of Devotion to the Cult” came about. Or rather, that’s how a boring
story of going to sex clubs in the meatpacking district of Manhattan became something
more interesting… (laughs)
CV | You noted in the introduction that the stories were written in New York and New
Jersey during the 1990s, yet they’re set all over the world and shift locations
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with the speed of Web-pages. Do you write when you travel or take notes and how does
traveling and the internet factor into your prose?
LLFS | I tend to keep diaries when I travel, or to write right after I get back. In the case of
“A Black Cat Called Malícia,” it’s actually a science-fiction story based on the time I
spent in Brazil in the late eighties. I left my diary there by mistake and my former
housemates never sent it to me, which was quite traumatic. Brazil was pretty intense—
São Paulo is a city of 20 million, and I was 20 years old and had just come out of the
closet a year before, and the university I was going to went on strike for three months!
And the cops were beating the students! And there was hyperinflation, and there were
homeless children everywhere, and everyone was obsessed with Blade Runner and
kept talking about cyborgs! Writing fiction became a way to recreate (and distort) what I
had lived before I forgot.
“De un pájaro las dos alas,” on the other hand, was my reaction to a trip to Cuba in May
of 1998. I came back pretty shell-shocked—Cuba was nothing like what I expected.
Everyone thought I was there for sex tourism. I was a broke grad
are some people who like stuff like this! That’s why I have a “disclaimer” of sorts on the
back cover. I don’t want people buying the book by mistake and then freaking out when
they start to read it!
CV: You have another book coming out this summer, which I’m really looking forward to
reading also. Will you tell us a little about that?
LLFS: Sure! It’s called Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora, and it’s
about Puerto Rican queer migration and culture. It’s being published by the University of
Minnesota Press. I focus on how artists and writers and filmmakers such as Manuel
Ramos Otero, Luz María Umpierre, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Rose Troche and Erika
López have discussed their experiences as queer Puerto Ricans in the United States in
their short stories, poetry, cartoons, and films. I also have a chapter on Arthur Avilés and
Elizabeth Marrero in the Bronx, and how they take classic stories like Cinderella and
The Wizard of Oz and turn them into queer Nuyorican and New York-Rican stories in
their performances, for example in Arturella and in Maéva de Oz. Basically, the central
premise of the book is that LGBT people have been migrating from Puerto Rico to the U.
S. for several decades because of their sexuality, and that once they arrive here (or are
born here, if they are the children of immigrants), their sexuality is a factor that affects
their lives. It’s going to be the first book of its kind. I’m really excited to see it come out!
CLICK HERE for more by Charlie Vázquez
Copyright 2009| Ambiente. Do not reproduce without prior authorization.