900 Skulls and the Universal Future

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days until the election: 70

If you want to immerse yourself in a future Mexico (and Los Angeles), click on the Luck & Death banner above to order a special edition of the novel at the regular retail price of $5.00. 

Free sample chapters are available, as is an MP3 sample chapter for your iPod or other device, so you can try before you buy.

Death has a longstanding place in the art and religion of Mexico. But it´s relevant here in an over-arching sense because — unless the Transhumanists are right and we start uploading into synthetic bodies — death is the future.

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

It is the fate that lies at the end of the road for each individual, for every culture, and eventually, in five billion years or so when the sun expands to engulf the earth, death will even take the planet.

So given that this page is devoted to the future as seen through the lens of Mexico, and given that I have a special weakness for the arts — I am an admitted gallery junkie who does not even want to be cured of my addiction — it makes sense to take a moment to discuss a new exhibit at the Fundación Sebastian in Mexico City by artist Manuel Marin which consists of nine hundred skulls made of paper, wood and metal.

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

Fox News Latino reports Marin as saying “In popular Mexican culture there is an almost constant reference to death, I’d say it’s an almost everyday sight, and as for me, ever since I was in school I’ve been fascinated by the skull motif,”

FNL describes the exhibit:

The work of installation art entitled “Tzompantli Mayor,” on show at the Sebastian Foundation, is an allusion to the altar made of human heads that the Mexicas customarily built as a means of leading martyrs to their meeting with the gods.

“The ‘Tzompantli’ was an altar where the skulls of sacrificed warriors were placed to honor the gods, and was the most striking evidence of the politico-religious control the Mexicas exercised” over other indigenous peoples, the artist told Efe.

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

Despite their large number, each skull is entirely unique:

To make sure that each piece would be different, the artist created 25 basic structures of different volumes and dimensions, and of each of those fashioned numerous variations.

The exhibition has two basic elements – skulls made of cut-outs or bas-reliefs on the wall impaled on wooden sticks, and others of metal or paper on the floor, which reproduces the platform where the sacrifices were performed.

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

From “Tzompantli Mayor”

You can find a report in español from proceso.com.mx here.

You can also watch a nice little video of the exhibit, which is enitrely silent until the interview with the artist at the end, here.  The embed code wouldn´t work, but you really shouldn´t miss this brief video, so click through.

Manuel Marin being interviewed in the video with a link above.

Manuel Marin being interviewed in the video with a link above.

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Posted in art, death | Leave a comment

The Green in the Mexican Flag Just Got Greener

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days until the election: 73

Hang on! There’s big news in this post, but don’t forget to click on the Luck & Death banner, above.

For a limited time you can order a special edition of the novel at the regular retail price of $5.00. Free sample chapters are available, as is an MP3 sample chapter for your iPod or other device. If you want to immerse yourself in a future Mexico (and Los Angeles), give it a try!

Okay, on to Green Mexico…

Not only did the green in the Mexican flag just get a little greener, so did the coutry’s future, which is what this site is all about.

Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies has passed legislation by a huge margin — 280 for, 10 against — that will have a profound effect on the country’s role in minimizing environmental degradation.  The proposed law now only requires Senate approval.

A session of the Mexican Senate

A session of the Mexican Senate

According to Veronica French, writing on the Ecopreneurist web site:

The law will oversee the creation of the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, a public organism decentralized from the Federal Public Administration. Six social counselors represented by the scientific, academic and technical community with experience in climate change will manage the institute.

The General Climate Change Law’s objective will be to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, and ensure that 35% of Mexico’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources by 2024. Also, the law will ensure the reduction of fossil fuel subsidies in order to make renewable energy more competitive against oil, gas and coal.

The British newspaper The Independent puts the coming law into an international perspective, saying it:

… should go some way to assuaging two of the main concerns of those opposed to the Government taking vigorous action on climate change – that developing countries are failing to curb their own emissions, and that Britain is alone in requiring measures against global warming by law.

The Independent also notes that the size and rapid growth of the Mexican economy — themes that Once and Future Mexico has dealt with here and here — will give the law a  particularly large impact which can only increase with time.

It also notes that Mexico’s move runs counter to the widespread notion that growth in countries with significant poverty must compete with environmentally responsible industrial policies:

It passage would be particularly significant both because Mexico has one of the world’s biggest and fastest growing economies – it is, at present, the 11th largest in the world and is expected to be the fifth by mid-century – and because some 40 per cent of its people are still very poor; its leaders are taking the view that both growth and poverty reduction will take place faster if greenhouse gas emissions are cut and renewable energy increased.

The move toward the law has been encouraged by — and is now hailed by — the Mexican branch of the World Wildlife Foundation, which says that the law makes Mexico a leader on climate issues.

A WWF video celebrating the new law is embedded below.

Posted in economy, environment, law | Leave a comment

Mega-Entrepreneur Says Mexico´s Economy Will Boom

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days until the election: 82

Gary Hoover is an unusual guy.

He´s serial entrepreneur, a wealthy man several times over.  One of his companies, Hoover’s, Inc., is one of the largest business research companies on the internet and was sold to Dun & Bradstreet for $119 million in 2003.

Unlike the stereotype of a mega-entrepreneur, however, he´s a staunch supporter of the liberal arts and loves — no, adores — books.  He started his own book megastore (later sold to Barnes & Noble for $40 million) and his personal collection runs to 50,000 volumes.

He´s a creative man with a restless mind and a proven track record of finding the trend hidden inside the data.  And what he´s saying now is: if you pay attention to anything, pay attention to Mexico.

Like Jim O’Neill, the financial analyst who coined the term BRIC as a label for the booming economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, he sees Mexico as a future economic powerhouse.  (For details on O’Neill´s views, see the post A New Economic Boom in Mexico? The Guy Who Brought You the Term “BRIC” Says Yes.)

Hoover has made his case in an interview to the business publication Inc. Magazine and he´s made it live — at length and in detail — at South by Southwest in 2011.

If you want to understand the economic future of Mexico, don´t miss it.

And who the hell are the Suerte y Muerte?  Click here to find out.

Posted in economy, employment, industry, infrastructure | Leave a comment

Troops from California Overrun Tijuana (Sort Of)

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days until the election: 96

My interest in the future of Mexico comes partly from the fact that I’ve written about that very future in a science fiction novel that is set partly in Los Angeles and partly in Mexico City — Luck and Death at the Edge of the World is just being released — so imagining the future of Mexico was a professional necessity for me.

Before writing Luck and Death I’d spent time in Merida, but as preparation for writing the novel I spent two weeks in the distrito federal in the summer of 2006, doing research, talking to people on all sides of the controversy that was then going on about the last presidential election (which I wrote about in The Future That Happened & The Future That Didn’t), and occasionally going to listen to local bands.

I slept about two hours a night, walked about 20 km a day, learned a lot, met a lot of very cool people, drank way too much with those same people, ate endless street food, and loved every second of it.

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

But this post is about the opening of the book and that doesn’t happen in Merida or Mexico City.  The novel opens with soldiers of the California National Forces (yes, national forces, there is no longer a United States of America in Luck and Death) carrying out a raid — essentially an act of state terrorism — in Tijuana.

The trailer for the book (below) is a reading of the first chapter, in which we first encounter the cross-border raiding party, although we don’t witness the raid itself yet.

Music and effects were added by the awesome folks at TTG Music Lab, who usually create musical scores for feature films and television shows, and a montage of images has been layered on top of that.

Let me know what you think, especially those of you who are checking it out from within Mexico.  I know guys, I borrowed your country for my book and then invaded it, but keep in mind I made the United States collapse so you hardly get the worst of it.

Besides, not to get all grim and realistic, but gringo military intervention in Mexico isn’t exactly something I made up out of thin air.  It’s happened more than once before, it could happen again (see here, here, here, and here), or it may already be happening. At least my intervention is fictional.

I look forward to your impressions, so post a comment or email me at nas@nassauhedron.com.

And don’t forget to visit the Luck and Death IndieGoGo page, where you can download a free ebook of the first three chapters, buy a copy of the novel, or choose from a wide selection of extra goodies that go along with it.

And if you like it, pass it on!

Posted in literature, Luck and Death | Leave a comment

MeXbox Rising: Mexico’s Gaming Industry Turns Into a Monster

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days until the election: 106

I’m used to writing fiction in a traditional format.

I don’t mean on paper, but I do mean in a linear story, like my book Luck and Death at the Edge of the World (details here), a novel set partly in Mexico — it was writing that book that first sparked my interest in the future of Mexico, which led to the creation of this blog.

Recently, though, I was hired to do some writing on several videogames, which is a different form altogether from the traditional linear narrative.

I’m already planning a strategy to get Luck and Death into print in Spanish for Mexican readers, so it was natural for me to wonder about the global, multilingual market for games, and in particular to look at gaming in Mexico and where it’s headed.

As it turns out, the design, production, and use of games are all increasingly international activities — a trend that certainly won’t suffer from the fact that SimCity apparently now ships with every One Laptop Per Child computer — and Mexico appears poised to take a prominent role.

It’s not easy to get precise figures, but all of the various assessments available agree that recent industry growth in Mexico has been prodigious.

The site VGChartz, which tracks game sales, wrote in late 2011:

With 110 million people, a strong university system, a trillion dollar economy, free trade agreements with countries housing major video game companies, and roughly half of all people under the age of 25, we at VGChartz believe that Mexico is currently the fastest growing retail video game market in the world.

Below: early signs of growth, the Electronic Games Show 2003 in Mexico City (in English)

According to VGChartz, the Mexican videogame retailer Gamer’s Paradise claims that in a variation on Moore’s Law the Mexican videogame industry is doubling every four years.

The site ProMexico — whose mandate as the Mexican government institution in charge of strengthening Mexico’s position in the international economy could admittedly make it prone to a little boosterism — claims that:

The Mexican video game industry registered an average annual increase of 18.7% between 2004 and 2010. During 2010, the internal market reached a 757 million usd value, which is why in coming years, besides being the largest buyer in the region, Mexico is expected to be one of the world’s most attractive destinations for video game production.

Below: more recent growth, the Electronic Games Show 2010 in Mexico City (in Spanish)

Still, ProMexico’s views are borne out by more detached observers.

Perhaps the most detailed study of gaming markets has been made by game industry market research and analysis firm Newzoo, whose report on worldwide game use in 2011 — inconveniently priced at $950.00 — has fortunately received fairly detailed coverage by leading game news site Edge.

Edge reported in the fall of 2011 that Newzoo‘s figures showed that Mexico’s gamers actually spend money on games at a higher rate than their counterparts in most other western countries.

The report’s conclusions are worth reproducing in detail:

Newzoo’s reports claim that Mexico’s 16 million active gamers’ preferences and spending behaviour is highly comparable to that found in North America. 57 per cent of players spend money on games, a share higher than most western countries.

69 per cent of the total consumer spend in the region goes to console and PC or Mac games, equating to $825 million last year. Direct downloads, both on PC and console, are popular accounting for $155 million and $60 million of the total spend respectively.

60 per cent of gamers time is spent on online or mobile games and MMOG revenues from the region are expected to reach $115 million this year.

“Time and money spent on games in Mexico is much more in line with western countries than other so-called ’emerging’ markets, such as Brazil and Russia,” says Newzoo CEO and co-founder Peter Warman. “Together with the fast-rising internet penetration, Mexico will certainly show strong growth. Good news for the local Mexican games industry as well as Western and Asian companies seeking expansion.”

Fortunately Newzoo does provide a free, fairly detailed infographic summarizing their conclusions, reproduced below.

Newzoo's infographic on Mexico's gamers

Newzoo's infographic on Mexico's gamers

Of course a boom in gaming has also inevitably meant significant levels of piracy as well.  Edge reports, for instance, on the haul from a 2008 raid in Guadalajara:

A 40-man raid operation by Mexico’s Federal Investigations Agency has led to the recovery of 91,200 illicit copies of video games, 130,000 cover inserts and 3,200 empty game boxes. The items were taken from the bustling San Juan de Dios Market in Guadalajara, capital city of the state of Jalisco.

And another in Mexico City itself:

The ESA said that aside from the nearly 30,000 illegally burned videogames found during the course of four raids, the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) and the Agencia Federal de Investigacion (AFI) seized about 290 DVD/CD burners and over 900,000 game cover inserts. Aside from the four raids on duplication facilities, authorities also raided three separate storage locations.

Below: Video Games Live concert in Mexico City – a Final Fantasy medley gets a rousing round of applause from game fans

With all this growth, isn’t it possible that the Mexican market is tapped out?  Don’t count on it says Gamexpress, long Latin America’s foremost video game distributor.  Only last year its chairman of the the board, Abraham Bautista, said:

“Mexican territories are an untapped market for publishers. Currently, our market estimates reveal that video games sales reach an estimated 40 percent of the total population.  At Gamexpress, we believe that reaching at least 60 percent of the video game Mexican market is more than possible in the immediate future.  Some of our partners who have been the first to invest in this market have enjoyed strong financial results and have built lasting brand awareness within the Latin marketplace.”

What’s next?  As gaming spreads around the world, local players typically start with American-produced games, but this can change over time.

Look for Mexican game developers to start producing games tailored to the country’s market as well as being built for export into the United States, the UK, and other traditional game-producers.

A key player in this process will be Juego de Talento (Talent Game).  As KitGuru Gaming reports:

Juego de Talento (Talent Game) is a company established within the last couple of years, focusing solely on the promotion of entirely Mexican video game production – the “Made in Mexico” video game industry.  The company’s first call for Mexican game developers in 2008 generated a response of 104 projects from developers 30 years old and younger.  Juego de Talento serves as an incubator, honing talented game developers for introduction into the market within a short period of time.  In 2009, the company received projects from over 400 teams in response to a Mexican history themed project for the Mexican Independence Bicentennial.

The future of home-grown games began with “Lucha Libre AAA 2011: Heroes del Ring,” released by Slang.  As reported in AdAge Hispanic in 2010, it was:

… the largest video-game project to be conceived and created entirely in Latin America, and Slang is the first Mexican publisher of video games for the Xbox, PlayStation (PS3, Play Station Portable PSP), Wii and Nintendo DS consoles.

The game opened to mixed reviews, but market forces won’t let the experiment end there.  Expect to see a whole lot more.

Posted in industry, videogames | Leave a comment

Mexican Science Fiction, Part III: Three Messages and a Warning

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

I’ve written before about Mexican science fiction cinema (here and here).  Today it’s the turn of Mexico’s literary science fiction.

Congratulations to Small Beer Press for publishing Three Messages and a Warning, Contemporary Mexican Stories of the Fantastic, a collection of science fiction and fantasy from Mexico.  

Three Messages and a Warning

Three Messages and a Warning

To be clear from the outset, all reports indicate that this collection leans more toward the fantasy end of the spectrum than the hard science fiction end.  Don’t expect Mexican space opera.

Nonetheless, the book is frequently discussed in science fiction terms, which earns it a place on any page dealing with Mexican futurism.  And as a reader, the fact that it’s bent toward the fantastical certainly does nothing to discourage me — I’m stoked to read it and will post some comments on specific stories as I make my way through it.

The volume has received quite a bit of critical acclaim.  The San Antonio Current calls it:

“An ebullient collection of south-of-the-border speculative writing that leaves little doubt that if the 1960′s British New Wave magazine New Worlds were to find a new home it would be in old Mexico.”

That is pretty high praise indeed, at least it is if — like me — you’re a fan of the authors who published in New Worlds, like J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, and Thomas Disch.

Below you will find a video of Alberto Chimal reading his story Variation on a Theme of Coleridge, which opens “I got a call.  It was me, calling from a phone I lost the year before.” (The reading is in Spanish, but the video is subtitled in English.)

“Variation on a Theme of Coleridge” by Alberto Chimal from Chris Brown on Vimeo.

If you want a fun way to enhance your reading of the book, editor Eduardo Jimenez Mayo has created a playlist of suggested listening to accompany it over on the music blog largehearted boy, ranging from Mario Lanza to Laurie Anderson.

And if you didn’t manage to make it to the book signing and party in Austin, Texas in January, you can find an account of it with some photos on Lawrence Person’s Futuramen blog, here.

Finally, you can buy the dead tree version of this book, or the ebook version, from all the usual suspects, but I urge you to support Small Beer by buying it directly from them. Besides, if you’re getting the ebook edition their version is downloaded instantly, just like buying from Amazon, but it’s DRM-free.

Posted in literature, science fiction | Leave a comment

The United Nations Dances to a Mexican Beat

“A great science fiction detective story” – Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine
Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

One of the first things I fell in love with about Mexico was its music.  The addiction started before I ever set foot there, and during my trips there I’ve bought CDs with abandon.

My novel, Luck and Death at the Edge of the World, which will be released this spring, is not only set partly in Mexico, but was written largely on a diet of Mexican music and I recommend that it be read in the same way.  I wrote in the Prologue:

Greater Mexico… is not a geographical place but a set of orientations defined by language, by blood ties, by food, by letters back to su abuela, by one’s state of mind. It incorporates not only the Estados Unidos Mexicanos, but former Mexican territories in Texas, New Mexico, California, and elsewhere. It also includes members of the Mexican diaspora, living in far-flung places like Montreal, Berlin, and Stockholm. It was to the music of this Mexico – distributed, amorphous, and sometimes surreal – that this [novel] was created, and listening to it will enhance your enjoyment…

And I recommended that readers:

…obtain recordings of at least the following: the incomparable Flaco Jimenez, the multifaceted, multitalented, and always cool Plastilina Mosh, and the musical surrealist deluxe, Juan Garcia Esquivel and lay these down over a solid foundation of son, mariachi and ranchera.

I could have easily added the Nortec Collective, Antonio Aguilar, Instituto Mexicano del Sonido, Lila Downs, and many others, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

Well, now the United Nations is dancing to the Mexican beat, having added mariachi music to its list of “intangible cultural heritage” items deserving of special recognition and preservation.

In some non-Mexican popular culture mariachi has been portrayed in a cartoonish stereotype, but this is a rich, deep musical vein that encompasses everything from a rough roots sound to slickly produced pop.

Here is a taste of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, an ensemble founded in 1897 for crying out loud, with a rendition of La Feria De Las Flores.

Meanwhile, from another part of the mariachi universe entirely (and from the Greater Mexico that lives beyond the Estados Unidos Mexicanos) the U.S. punk band The Bronx (founded in 2002) have reinvented themsevles — on the strength of one overtly Hispanic member and a whole lot of chutzpah, as far as I can tell — as of 2007 as Mariachi El Bronx (while continuing their punk gigs under their original name).  They may not be Mexican, but their vibe is strong and their music is good.  (In fact now that I’ve discovered this incarnation of them, I’m definitely going to check out their punk music as well.)  Here is their song, Holy.

And in between the guys from Mexico whose outfit started in 1897 and the mostly white guys from Los Angeles who only started playing mariachi 110 years later in 2007 there is a lot of variety, so take a look around and see what you can find.

Oh, and those guys I mentioned in the Prologue to Luck and Death, here they are.  First, Flaco Jimenez in a live 1992 performance.

Next, Plastilina Mosh — or at least their album cover — with a recording of their song Nino Bomba.

And finally, just to round out this post with something entirely surreal — the man, the god, the mystery: Juan Garcia Esquivel with Whatchamacallit Esquivel!

Posted in music | Leave a comment