Visual from ’s Speculative : 1993-2008


Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate School of The Ohio State University


Stephen Christopher Tobin

Graduate Program in Spanish and Portuguese

The Ohio State University


Dissertation Committee:

Laura Podalsky, Advisor

Ana del Sarto

Juan Ulises Zevallos-Aguilar

Copyright by

Stephen Christopher Tobin



There exists a corpus comprised of texts written and published from the early 1990s until the 2008 that express an urgency regarding the way vision and visuality function in Mexico. Among other notable elements, these texts feature a male who repairs his lost eye by gaining an ocular prosthesis that becomes a signal of his masculinity, a female cyborg whose lost eye becomes an emblem of her lack, ocular reporters whose vision is coopted by corporations, cyborg rejects owned by corporations whose lives becomes a -show segment, and a cancer- riddled president whose multiple operations are made into media spectacles. Aside from a recurrent interest in the interface between human and machine, these also appear particularly concerned with television as a device that contains enough gravitational force that sucks the viewer into it in the privacy of his own home, and a public sphere-turned- virtualized reality that visual manipulates the Mexican masses. The that recurs in these expresses a kind of deep suspicion of vision, a profound deception in new media visual technologies and the forces that make them possible. Often, the loses his or her eye, frequently having it replaced with some kind of technology that ostensibly enhances the loss of visual perception. But in all of these cases, the enhancement ultimately carries with it an unanticipated form of subjectification to or control by some larger force. These forces trace back to either power embodied in

ii the form of political figures or transnational corporations. These dystopian, allegorical literary expressions are responding to larger, complex changes occurring in the social, political, economic and technological realms within Mexico under neoliberal economic policies instituted by the state, all of which can be read in the construction of these imagined subjects. These narratives express a profound distrust in the contemporary situation of Mexico, the political figures that run it and the mediascape that dis-orders their lives. These narratives register how Mexico may be undergoing a larger transformation within its current (micro-)scopic regime, shifting from a modern visuality of photography and film toward a more postmodern one of the electronic/televisual and the cybernetic/digital. They also suggest how subjectivity in Mexico is coming to be affected and altered by these visual technologies, seeing them as invasive of the culture as they are as penetrating to the body.


To Milo(vich): the being whose presence is always already there



This dissertation would not be in its current cohesive form without the help of my advisor, Dr. Laura Podalsky. Without her invaluable guidance and constructive suggestions during the development of this research work, this project would simply not exist. I would also like to thank Dr. Ana Del Sarto and Dr. Ulises Juan Zevallos-Aguilar for being on my committee.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to Patricia Arroyo Calderón, whose reassuring presence has proven time and again to encourage me to keep moving forward and to keep me grounded. Finally, I wish to thank my parents for their support and encouragement throughout my study.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the Department of Spanish and

Portuguese for their financial support during my time at The Ohio State University.



1991...... Northmont High School

1995...... B.A. English, Otterbein College

2009...... M.A. Spanish, Middlebury College

2010 to present ...... Graduate Teaching Associate, Department

of Spanish and Portuguese, The Ohio State


Fields of Study

Major Field: Spanish and Portuguese


Table of Contents

Abstract ...... ii

Dedication ...... iv

Acknowledgments ...... v

Vita ...... vi

Table of Contents ...... vii

List of Figures ...... viii

Introduction ...... 1

Chapter 1: The Right to Fight, to Look, to Lack: The Hypermasculine Technologized Gaze

and Female Cyborg as (Visual) Lack in Two Mexican Texts from Gerardo Porcayo ...... 59

Chapter 2:Televisual Subjectivities in Pepe Rojo’s Speculative Fiction ...... 97

Chapter 3: Writing to Fight the Visual Manipulation of the Masses: the Seductive, Empty State

and the Ventriloquist that Controls It in Eve Gil’s Virtus ...... 160

Conclusion ...... 203

Appendix of Figures ...... 217

Bibliography ...... 223


List of Figures

Figure 1. Stairs made of televisions in ...... 217

Figure 2. Tijuana artist Fernando Miranda in front of his installation ...... 218

Figure 3. Side view of Fernando Miranda’s art installation ...... 219

Figure 4. View from inside art installation, with Pepe Rojo looking in ...... 219

Figure 5. One of the first “Tú no existes” urban intervention stickers ...... 220

Figure 6. “Tú no existes” stickers placed atop a Mcdonald’s ad at a bustop ...... 221

Figure 7. A “Tú no existes” sticker placed alongside other advertisements ...... 221

Figure 8. “Tú no existes” billboard-sized posters at UNAM, ...... 222



"During long periods of , the of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by but by historical circumstances.” Walter Benjamin

“For the problem of the observer in the field on which vision in history can be said to materialize, to become itself visible. Vision and its effects are always inseparable from the possibilities of an observing subject who is both the historical product and the site of certain practices, techniques, institutions, and procedures of subjectification.” Jonathan Crary

"There is now no longer any distinction between the medium and what is represented. Subject and object are fused, the illusion of direct apprehension made palpable, the boundaries between event and spectator, performer and , abolished through the instantaneous nature of the electronically produced message." Max Silverman

Ten short years separate the publication of the following two Mexican fiction short stories, yet what they articulate about the visual technologies and how such technologies have affected subjectivity could not be more divergent. Mauricio-José

Schwarz’s “La pequeña guerra,” published in 1984, and Francisco José Amparán’s “Ex machina,” published in 1994, both utilize the television screen within their structures—but to very different ends. Not only does this difference illustrate a larger shift occurring in the thematics of Mexican production from the 1980s to the 1990s, but it also signals other transformative socio-historical changes resulting from a complex interplay between the neoliberalism unleashed by the North American Free

Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Mexican media industries and the proliferation of new media technologies, in particular that of television. While television has been in Mexico

1 since the 1950s, the qualitative and quantitative shifts that occur from the 1980s to the

1990s pierces through the second story to show how the visual technologies of television along with the appearance of the video cassette recorder become a focal point of transformation. What we witness in comparing the two stories is that in the former story, the discreet distinction between the subject-object binary is collapsed in the latter. Now, the (human) subject has been fused into the (television) object.

In the 1984 story “La pequeña guerra,” television is used within the narrative as a minor and innocuous device within the confines of the home. Its sole purpose resides in how a live sports broadcast functions: connecting the people in their houses with the live event in the . The story interrogates the (fictional) State’s radical solution to the social problem: in order to curb the exploding urban population of a city-turned- megalopolis and all its accompanying consequences (e.g. fewer resources like food and water), the State mandates these gladiator games for all ten-year-old children as way to maintain population control.1 It relies upon the media of television to effectively interpellate the public. The protagonist, Arianne, looks up from the fighting floor to see her father, Akira, who wonders early on if the training he gave her would be enough for her to survive; her mother Guinnivere exasperatingly gasps at the thought of what is coming: her first battle. Back at home, Arianne’s eight-year old brother Jünge is being cared for by his aunt and uncle at their house, where they sit around the television watching the event together. “Jünge había deseado ir con Guinnivere y Akira a ver a su

1 The city is never mentioned by nae, but Schwarz, born, raised and living in Ciudad de México since the 1950s, had seen the immense problems brought forth by massive internal migration of millions of the country’s poor such that by the 1980s, the environmental effects were not only visible but breathable. Mexico City in the 1980s was considered one of the most polluted cities in the world with dangerous ozone levels (Pastor 294).

2 hermana, pero no se lo habían permitido. Ahora, sin embargo, en casa de sus tíos, la veía mejor que sus padres…En la pantalla, Arianne frunció el ceño y apretó las manos” (128)

[“Jünge had wanted to go with Guinnivere and Akira to see his sister, but they did not let him go. Now, however, at home with his aunt and uncle, he could see better than his parents…On the screen, Arianne ruffled her brow and squeezed her hands.”2]. The television provides a means through which to experience the games remotely, and as is often commented by sports fans, watching the event on television allows for much greater visual detail and proximity than does witnessing it live in the stadium. The television screen appears repeatedly throughout the story, always to shift from the stadium back to the home, and always with Jürge and/or his extended family surrounding it. “Jürge, fascinado ante la pantalla de televisión, miraba orgulloso la triunfante y tierna figura de su hermana […]” (130) [“Jürge, fascinated before the televisión screen, looked on proudly at the triumphant and tender figure of his sister…”]. After her second win, Jürge is eating dinner when suddenly “sin despegar los ojos del televisor, empezó a gritar triunfalmente ante la imagen de su hermana” (132) [“without taking his eyes off the screen, he started to scream triumphantly before the image of his sister”]. The function of the television in this story remains minor within the ; it becomes a linking device between separate spaces and through which the travels to and fro. In short, the purpose it serves here reflects the social function of the time in the 1980s: it sits in the living room, an important, central place in the house where people sit around to watch it, but it does not dominate the space any more than it does the narrative. At most, the story comments upon the television’s ability to constitute a public, but this is far and away a

2 The translation is my own. Throughout the , all translations are my own unless parenthetical references indicate otherwise.

3 minor point. In terms of its narrative function, television is secondary, largely harmless, and just there.

Fast forwarding 10 years to the publication of “Ex machina” by Francisco José

Amparán reveals the radically central position that the assemblage of television (now including video) has taken on in Mexico by the 1990s. Rather than being secondary and undisruptive within the narrative, it is primary and pivotal. Quite simply, the story narrates the changes that occur in the household of a hard-working family when a new

Samsung VCR is purchased on sale and brought home. The first line of the story links the commodified of looking with a kind of enchanted anticipation: “Al momento de verla, se prendó de ella…” (15) [“Upon seeing it for the first time, it captured her …”]. Milagros, the housewife protagonist, sees a new Samsung VCR while shopping, and her captivation with the object is so strong that she feels she has to have it.

She arrives home and waits impatiently for her husband Roberto to return from work from the in order to tell him of her find. Once he arrives home tired from a long shift at work, she immediately announces to him the urgent need to have another, newer, videocassette machine, and after a slightly agitated discussion with Roberto over the lack of functionality of their current Panasonic VCR, she concludes her point that

“Nos merecemos cosas mejores, los chavos y yo. Y esa videocasetera nada más ya no”

(16) [“We deserve better things, the kids and I. And that videocassete—doesn’t do it anymore”]. She wins the argument, and within two days the new VCR occupies the most privileged spot in the living room, just below the television. As the family quickly adapts to the new machine in the house, watching an average of 2.4 films on videocassette per day, a peculiar event happens: a man in a white suit with a hat and a mustache enters into

4 the films being watched. First, the kids report it, then the father, and soon, the neighbors also report having seen the same man in their own respective—and different—rented films. Milagros finally goes to complain to the videoclub owner, who readily dismisses her as if she was crazy. She eventually has a chance to watch a film on her own one

Saturday afternoon while her family is away, and the film she chooses stars Tom Cruise, her favorite actor.3 During one scene around half way through, the man dressed in white appears wearing his impeccable Panamanian hat and mustache that gives him an of

Pedro Infante. She suddenly realizes who he is: Rico, a lover of hers from 12 years ago before she met Roberto and had children. He has come to speak with her, he says, and offers to take her away—this time for good. Milagros hesitates, arguing that she cannot just leave her family and house and life in Chihuahua, and Rico looks around from the screen into her living room, stating: “Tu casa no es simple ni bonita sino ordinaria. Tu familia no es normal, es corriente. Y tú…tú no eres sencilla, sino aburrida: una aburrida ama de una casa ordinaria” (24) [“Your house is not simple nor pretty but ordinary. Your family is not normal, it’s average. And you, you are not simple, but boring: a boring housewife in an ordinary house”]. With these words, Milagros realizes he is right, and he offers to take her away, beckoning her forth to the screen. “Milagros se acercó a la pantalla y sin titubear, extendiendo los brazos anhelantes, se introdujo en ella” (25)

[“Milagros approached the screen and without hesitating, extending her eager arms, she introduced herself into it”]. The television image returns to Tom Cruise in his scene in the film, proceeding its otherwise normal as the story ends.

In “Ex machina,” the place of television could not be more instrumental in the

3 Never explicitly mentioned, it appears to reference the state of Oklahoma, which was a film by the same name that starred Cruise and then wife Nicole Kidman in 1992.

5 narrative. The attraction to the commodity from the first line carries with it a certain momentum that rolls forth toward the unexpected, end: the screen becomes endowed with powers that not only fascinate and captivate but ultimately consumes the subject into it, the story’s of the title. But unlike the literary usage that refers to that easily solves difficult storyline scenarios by introducing a facile exit through some sort of unexpected and often fantastic intervention, in this Mexican sci- fi it symbolizes something greater than an easy plot gimmick. And unlike “La pequeña guerra” from 10 years before, television has become a forceful active agent within the narrative, which is not merely coincidental. I claim this registers the impact that these technologies have upon visual practices occurring at home in the living room and with a VCR. The forcefulness with which these technologies move center stage in the narratives from this era is a result of a complex interplay of political, economic and social forces occurring in Mexico at this time. “Ex machina” reflects neoliberal changes upon the social and economic milieu of its characters, the rise of the multinational electronics company and the predominance of the visual technologies of the small screen and the

VCR within private spaces. This trifecta of effects, actually occurring in Mexico around this time, also allegorically suggests the ways in which this has come to effect subjectivity in Mexico.

This phenomenon of incorporating new visual technologies into literary works has a longer tradition within Latin American letters. In Valeria de los Ríos’s 2011 book

Espectros de luz, she identifies the inclusion of photographic and cinematic cameras that entered into the fictional worlds created by many canonical Latin American writers of the

6 late 19th and early 20th centuries.4 Their inclusion of the visual within their at rhetorical and thematic levels served multiple functions and revealed both a longing and anxiousness that these devices provoked at the time. As De los Ríos argues, “Podría decirse que son, al mismo tiempo, fragmentos de la modernidad, espectáculos populares, medios para establecer conexión con el más allá, y prueba fehacientes del fetichismo de la mercancía” (16) [“It could be said that they are, at the same time, fragments of modernity, popular spectacles, mediums to establish connection with the beyond, and the irrefutable proof of commodity fetishism”]. These devices and their related processes in which they are imbricated—from the photographic image’s indexical correspondence to reality to the revealing of the optical unconscious, or the formation and cohering of national identities on the big screen that helped foment and sustain the star system of the cinema and the theatre space in which their films were projected—have become integral components upon which a modern visuality in has come to be framed and understood. De los Ríos’s corpus focuses mainly on short stories, many of them fantastic, written by authors from around the modernismo movement such as Rubén Darío, José

Martí, Horacio Quiroga, Leopoldo Lugones, to those that came after, like Julio Cortázar,

Salvador Elizondo, as well as several contemporary writers such as Edmundo Paz-Soldán and Roberto Bolaño. Throughout the book, she argues that these works register unique and critical articulations of larger themes like cultural identity, modernization, desire, appropriation, as well as center-periphery relations.

My own inquiry here benefits from aspects of De los Ríos’s study for several

4 For other work on the link between the visual and literature that focuses upon this relationship in more Anglo-Saxon literary traditions, see Visual Literature Criticism (Kostelanetz 1979 ), Sensibility and Criticism (Hester 1983), Writing and Seeing: Essays on Word and Image (Homen et al 2005) and Literature and the Visual Media (Seed 2005)

7 reasons. For one, her work confirms the existence of such a corpus of literature that has registered the introduction of new visual technologies into the region, revealing a tendentious preoccupation among different writers from distinct countries throughout the

20th century. Her selected corpus provides substantial proof that this avenue of scholarly pursuit is not only an historical trend but also a compelling and legitimate one. Secondly, the very fact that these representations of the visual are being articulated within a literary practice helps to transmit the force and magnitude of how the “pictorial turn”5 has and continues to affect Latin America. That is to say, when these technological devices become sources of thematic and rhetorical inspiration and begin surfacing within literature, their indelible mark upon a society and its subjects become visible within the symbolic register. As De los Ríos notes, literature offers a unique space through which to bear witness, understand and articulate changing visual practices on a conscious or unconscious level, in effect integrating into it the influences of new media. Finally, her work sets the stage for further scholarship examining literary texts preoccupied with the visual turn, which is where this dissertation enters the picture. I see my work as dialoguing with the unique niche that De los Ríos has created, complementing it by extending and expanding the terms and types of visual technologies represented in the texts of my corpus. Instead of inquiring about photographic and cinematic cameras as the main object of focus, my work looks at the complex assemblages involved in and around the screens of the television and the computer whose introduction and circulation into

5 W.J.T. Mitchell defines the pictorial turn as a modern phenomenon that has resulted from “a qualitative shift in the importance of images driven by their quantitative proliferation” (“Image” 37). This phenomenon, driven by the technologies of photography, cinema, television and the , has generally resulted in a state of “image saturation” (Ibid.) which could not have been possible in an earlier time. This is sometimes also termed the “visual turn.”


Mexico begins to change around this time. In the corpus selected for this study, indeed literature remains a significant space in which to absorb the impact and rearticulate the effects of these visual technologies into Mexico. The very existence of such a corpus over a variety of texts and authors all within a fifteen-year span attests to the conscious as well as unconscious workings of these technologies upon subjectivity, both in terms of the ones presented in their texts and the authors themselves.

One immediate question arises when considering in this corpus: Why is studying the literary representation of the visual important? Why not look to film, painting, photography or any other aesthetic expression that is inherently visual in order to “see” what is being said about the visual? Well, it is precisely because the verbal is very distinct and separate from the visual that it becomes a worthy archive through which to think through some of the dynamics of the pictorial turn. Since we are reaching a point in history where it is possible to think of the visual sphere as one that is saturated with images, many of them mediated through technological screens and apparatuses, the consideration of the socio-cultural effects of this qualitative change almost requires the distance provided by literature. Another related reason for exploring the visual within the literary results from what the literary medium does in the face of the visual medium: in an attempt to compete with its surrounding environ, it absorbs the new media that emerge.

According to Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and his study of the 19th century , the literary form attempts to “describe more, if not everything, in a far more ‘life-like’, complex and detailed way…[in order to] incorporate, mimic or co-opt the achievements of competing electric media” (124). Like the novel of the 19th century that competed with the photographic apparatus in the last half of the century, the literature of today continues

9 to “bear the scars” (Ibid.) of the new media of its contemporaneous era. If it is true what

Marshall McLuhan said when he stated that we live in a post-literate society (meaning not that people cannot read but that generally they do not read), it is also true that we do not live in a post-writing society. People still write, possibly more today than before.

As such, it is thus precisely the symbolic expression of writing and literature, now produced in a social sphere drenched with the hegemonic presence of the audiovisual screen6, that these words become urgent. In an era of unprecedented image saturation, we need to understand how literature also changes because of alterations in the visual sphere.

Corpus, Definitions, Questions and Thesis

The corpus studied in this dissertation is located in a unique and often neglected position in Mexican letters. Indeed, almost all the works belong to science fiction (or as I prefer regarding this particular strand of sci-fi, “speculative fiction”, discussed below), which sits quite apart from the literary establishment of Mexico. Authors pertaining to the contemporary literary cannon of the country around this time include those from the

Crack generation, such as Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla, Ricardo Chávez Castañeda, etc., whose 1996 manifesto emphasized the importance of breaking from the then post-boom aesthetic trends, announcing the need for more formal and stylistic complexity, more dislocations and detemporalized fragmented narrative experiments as well as linguistic innovation. Other young writers not associated with the Crack generation movement but have been producing well-received, challenging works such as Juan Villoro, Guillermo

6 I am conflating two terms here to make my own: Jean Baudrillard says we live within the “hegemonic presence of the screen” (“The Violence…” 171) and Jesús Martín-Barbero and German Rey state that one of the first moves in need of being recognized is that “la hegemonía audiovisual” (“the audiovisual hegemony”) produces a cultural dis-ordering (Los ejercicios del ver 10-11).


Fadanelli, Vivian Abenshushan, Cristina Rivera-Garza, Daniel Sada, et al, have come to be seen as key authors that form the nucleus of Mexico’s established literary institutions.

While there is no definitive list that defines what the center is7, these writers often have weekly or monthly columns in the print mass media’s cultural magazines, such as Letras

Libres, Proceso, Diagonales, et al, or its weekly newspaper supplements, like Laberinto

(of Milenio), Confabulario (of El Universal) etc., or they get published in anthologies like Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction (2009), or obtain key teaching positions in the US (as is the case with Castañeda, Abenshushan, Rivera-Garza above). Outside this center sits the periphery, where the production of science fiction in Mexico resides. This position also describes its perceived value from within the literary center. Their publication runs of such work are often limited to less than 500 (often only 100-200), and their circles of distribution are often very intimate (as in, those that write it are often the publishers, promoters, deliverers, etc.). In general, writers from this are largely ignored altogether (i.e., their and compilations are overlooked by cultural supplements and literary magazines), and thus they are disallowed entry into the establishment through various mechanisms.8

7 Ignacio Sánchez Prado calls this Mexico’s “proverbially complex institutional system of literature” (112). 8 However, Ignacio Sánchez Prado has pointed out that science fiction in Mexico still has all the characteristics that make it an institution, however marginalized it may be perceived to be. It is indeed a literature that appears forcefully, by its own accord (through fanzines and alternative distribution circuits) at a time when notions of nation are crumbling in the face of its impending erasure via NAFTA in the 1990s. This literature embodies two other paradigms pertinent to cultural studies, youth culture that came about in the wake of the turbulent 1960s and its counter-culture in the US (and in Mexico and Latin America), and it is very much a literature that articulates new urban subjectivities that are produced under neoliberalism in Mexico. Sánchez Prado rightfully chooses Bernardo Fernandez (a.k.a. “BEF”) as the shining example from the SF-cyberpunk movement that has gone on to become part of the national literary establishment, and escaping the pigeonholing that can come with writing . But, of the approximately dozen writers that were part of the cyberpunk movement, BEF is very much a singular case. He always worked outside the SF genre, writing works that fit into quite marketable . If we look to other writers from his test case of the highly profiled cyberpunk SF in Mexico from the 1990s, we find a disparate bunch that publish with irregularity, a number of whom stopped producing when the movement in effect died in the early 2000s, and none of whom have gone on to become part of the established center.


Seven literary texts have been selected for this dissertation: three novels and four short stories. Together, they all articulate in different ways how the introduction of new visual technologies into Mexico is affecting vision and visual practices. Gerardo

Porcayo’s novel La primera calle de la soledad (PCS) was published in 1993 and is widely considered by scholars and writers alike to have birthed the cyberpunk movement in the country that rose quickly and peaked around four years later. The 1997 anthology

Silicio en la memoria, compiled and edited by Porcayo himself, includes the short story

“Esferas de visión” that is a companion piece to PCS in terms of its themes, one as well and temporal . Both narratives posit of different genders that offer a fruitful comparison of the organic versus the technological via their representations of natural and prosthetic vision. The ocular prosthesis, who has access to it and to what ends is it utilized, accentuates the gendered gaze at in both technologies and masculinities. Less a pioneer than Porcayo, Pepe Rojo entered the cyberpunk movement forcefully in 1996 with “Ruido gris,” which won one of the country’s two science fiction prizes, el Premio Kalpa that same year. His work overflows with what might be called

“visual disturbances,” an expression taken from medical terminology to denote anything that interferes or impedes with normal visual function. I borrow the term for Rojo because his writing, even beyond the texts selected here, is overwhelmingly preoccupied with distorted vision, subjectivity and mass media. The visual disturbances in his stories articulate subjectivities heavily dependent upon and decentered by them. His short stories where this reaches a kind of fever pitch are “Ruido gris,” “Conversaciones con


Yoni Rei” (1998) and “El presidente sin órganos” (2009)9, as well as his only novel

Punto cero (2000). Finally, in 2008 appears Eve Gil’s foray into science fictional territory with Virtus, a novel that vividly imagines a Mexican society of the spectacle rendered real via a highly hypnotic cybernetic-television hybrid that entrances the masses while the country’s political leader and economic elites ransack the country of all its wealth—making it one of the most direct and thinly disguised of all the neoliberal of this corpus. All of these texts group together to form my corpus because they all imagine in different ways how the vision in the body is changing in a globalized world within a neoliberalized country.

Given the corpus, some preliminary genre definitions of both science fiction and the fantastic are in order. To define what constitutes and comprises “science fiction” would be a herculean task, requiring a lengthy study of its own outside the scope of this work.10 But we need at least some referential term before moving forth, and for this we turn to the Marxist-structuralist Darko Suvin. His definition, arguably the most useful, cited and discussed scholarly definition in to date, states that it is

“a whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment” (375). So, SF provides cognition, meaning its speculative extrapolations are logically apprehensible and believed to be scientifically conceivable in hypothetical terms, while at the same time

9 This story was included in his collection i nte rrupciones from 2009, although it was likely written several years before in the mid-2000s since the book is an eclectic compilation of stories, a poem and what he terms “article-essays” that were collected after his novel Punto cero in 2000 until the publication date. 10 As Bo Fowler points out, the 1979 Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has over 20 definitions of “science fiction,” and the 1993 version had it down to 11. The Science Fiction Reference Book cites 68 definitions (“The Science of Fiction” n.p.)

13 providing estrangement, or a sense that this world is clearly not ours in significant measure. By focusing on these two components—cognition and estrangement—Suvin avoids falling into the limiting traps of restricting the category to those fictional works that depict a world that explicitly engages with techno-scientific themes (because not all science fiction does) or that are necessarily set in the (because some texts offer alternate or stories set in a simultaneous-yet-alternative historical moment from the contemporaneous one in which it was conceived). This definition allows for broad applicability to science fiction over long periods of its production throughout history.

Also, to treat the “the fantastic” as a genre or mode would also merit an extensive review here, given that there is also significant disagreement among scholars as to what defines it. Similar to Suvin’s definition of sci-fi, Tvetzen Todorov’s structuralist definition that he gave in the 1970s for the fantastic continues to be one of the most useful. What it indicated is that the fantastic somehow achieves the effect of an inexplicable and unsettling event (or events) that spill over in some way to the reader, making the reader doubt the very text they are reading and, in some way, the very reality they inhabit while reading the text. One paradigmatic example from the Latin American literary cannon is

Julio Cortazar’s “Continuidad de los parques” (1964). The story is about a man who sits down to read a suspenseful novel about a love triangle of betrayal, and he gets so lost in the atmosphere and plot of the text that, by the end of it, the character in the story who is about to be killed by the lover is sitting in a room intently reading a book: he realizes that it is he who is about to be killed by a character in the story. The reader of this story will no doubt identify with the reader within the story, and some of my students (i.e., the actual readers of the story) have commented that upon finishing “Continuidad de los

14 parques”, they looked over their shoulders to make sure no one was behind them—thus questioning their own lived reality as a result of reading this fantastic story. Between the two genres discussed here, there are indeed science fiction stories that have fantastic elements and fantastic stories that engage with strong elements of cognitive estrangement in the world they . This seems to point out that the limits of genre, themselves a critical and tool, are not always complete, and that there are no hard and fast definitions without quickly running into works that are anomalous to the rule and stretch the limits of the definition.

But the title of this dissertation, Visual Dystopias from Mexico’s Speculative

Fiction: 1993-2008, consciously employs the term “speculative fiction” in place of

“science fiction” for two main reasons. Most importantly, the etymological roots of

“speculative” much about what has been lost in its current meaning. The origin of the adjective "speculative" varies from "speculation," and has its roots in two Latin terms: speculari, which means "to observe," and specere, which means "to look at" or "view."

These evolved into Old French's speculacion, meaning careful observation with intense attention, and then into one of its current meanings based on the notion of “intelligent contemplation; act of looking” (Harper n.p.). These two signifieds11 accentuate the relevance of the use of the term for this study. Speculative as contemplative highlights the focus on the reflective nature that these texts suggest regarding how visuality operates

11 There is a third meaning of speculation that developed later and is tangentially relevant to this discussion but also outside the boundaries of this project, that of “buying and selling in search of profit from rise and fall of market value” (OED 2698). It was recorded first in 1774 and clearly foregrounds the nature of speculating value in the commodity form. The title of Alessandro Fornazzari’s book, Speculative Fictions (2013), intentionally utilizes this term to denote the shift that occurred in Chile in starting with Pinochet’s embrace of Milton Friedman’s neoliberal reforms that shifted capital accumulation away from the more traditional modes of production such as industrialization and toward more “speculative sites” such as financialization and investments (2).

15 in contemporary Mexico. Speculative as observing or looking at strongly emphasizes how these texts register and articulate the state of the visual within contemporary Mexico.

In other words, speculative fiction, as it is used in this thesis, carries with it a meta-visual connotation that underscores the verbal reflection upon (or contemplation of) the state of how vision (the ability to look at or to view) is functioning within the country. One of these meanings of speculative was in the mind of American SF writer Robert H. Heinlein when he consciously chose to call certain works “speculative fiction.” He coined the term in late 1950s as a more descriptive marker than science fiction in that it places its focus on the future in contemplating what the world might be (“Science Fiction: Its Nature…” n.p.). Like Heinlein also stated, both these terms tend to get used interchangeably without much thinking through their differences, although it is also true that speculative fiction sometimes carries a connotation that attempts to distance itself from science fiction. it is used in situations where an author or critic of a work wants to shun the literarily-stigmatized label that goes along with science fiction as a minor literature. Eve

Gil, in speaking in an interview of her own work Virtus (see Chapter Three), states that many people think SF is about , and clones, but her work belongs to the

SF subgenre of speculative fiction, which is not a literary genre that is often cultivated among writers in Mexico (“Novela Futurista…” n.p.). Gil’s attempt to distance herself from her own (very narrow) definition of SF is clear here. J. Andrew Brown also employs the term in his introduction to Cyborgs in Latin America to specify a corpus of texts that is not specifically labelled as science fiction (3), meaning that they belong to the more literary circles of the establishment culture. While I acknowledge the usage of the term in these ways, it is my intent in this dissertation to point out how speculative fiction can

16 have another more visually reflexive definition, which is that these works reveal that certain kinds of science fiction can be a unique collection of ideas and ruminations of the nature of vision and visuality in a country at the time of their creation.

This brings me to some larger questions that this dissertation asks of these texts of speculative fiction. What specifically do these works articulate regarding the nature of vision, visuality and visual technologies within Mexico at this time? What do these themes suggest about the nature of power relations between Mexican citizens and its media institutions, and more globally, about the nature of power relations with the US?

What do these stories suggest regarding modernization/globalization in Mexico? What role does gender play in relations of technology and the gaze? How do these categories of vision, visuality and visual technologies affect, alter or register the transformation of the subject and subjectivity more generally? What is the connection between the lived reality in Mexico and the fantastically imagined one? How do the social, political and economic contexts inform and help structure the ones imagined in these works?

With all of these questions postulated, this brings me to my overarching thesis: the texts in the speculative fiction corpus chosen here offer a critique of the contemporary visual sphere in Mexico as contributing social atomization; they offer a diagnosis that locates the underlying problem in the expansion of networks (and, most particularly, televisual forms as enabled (and necessary for) neoliberal reforms; these texts question the social and psychic costs of that transformation through narratives exploring the breakdown of communities and the interface between human and machine

(the organic and the inorganic); in the process, some of these texts position literature as a more adequate medium for social critique in the face of a social sphere that is becoming

17 inundated with techno-visual mediations.

Finally, the question of gender emerges as an important underlying social antagonism in all of these texts, although some treat this more overtly than others. This becomes most perceptible in Porcayo’s stories (Chapter One) and, to a lesser extent, in all of Rojo’s writings (Chapter Two) and Gil’s novel (Chapter Three). In Porcayo’s novel and short story, both of which belong to the same narrative , the link between his constructions of gender, the gaze and visual technologies converge to consider the ways in which technologies and vision are strongly gendered. Porcayo’s interrogation of the gendered implications of visual technologies is particularly marked in his story “Esferas de vision”, which appeared four years after his novel La primera calle de la soledad

(1993). Eve Gil, the only female author’s work treated in this analysis, publishes her novel Virtus in 2008. Her utilization of a female protagonist to narrate the visual manipulation of the masses reveals the patriarchal power structure that is operated by both transnational media corporations and the puppet male president that keeps the order intact and perpetuating. In all of Rojo’s writings (Chapter Two), gender never surfaces as a central narrative preoccupation as it does in Porcayo and Gil, but it remains implicitly present insofar as all his are male and represent a vantage point that is inescapably male. The inclusive “I” and “We” of his stories refer back to more traditionally conceived heterosexual masculinity. In all, these texts imagine and express a deeply dichotomized gender structure that become more thoroughly entrenched by the constant presence and utilization of visual technologies.



Even as my thesis intervenes in scholarly debates about contemporary , it also draws on and dialogues with visual culture studies (VCS). In this subsection there will be a brief review of what visual culture studies is and define some key terms this dissertation will use that have become frequently employed within the field. VCS (sometimes also called just visual studies or visual culture) has grown rapidly over the past 20 years, and has resulted in a substantial corpus of theoretical and critical writings that has retroactively appropriated numerous texts from the past to become part of their own canon (for example, selected texts from Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord,

Michel Foulcault and Laura Mulvey are key examples). The number of anthologies on the topic is itself impressive, with three carrying the general heading: Visual

Culture: An Introduction (1997) by John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplin; Visual Culture:

The Reader (1999), edited by Stuart Hall and Jessica Evans; and Nicolas Mirzoeff’s The

Visual Culture Reader (1998) has had two significant edition updates in 15 years, the last one in 2013. What is more, the wide-ranging amount of field-specific variants of visual culture studies shows just how much momentum of field of academic inquiry has gained in twenty years.12 The appearance of The Handbook of Visual Culture in 2012 is an impressive achievement, totaling 30 articles in five wide-ranging sections that offer the latest, most comprehensive research on the topic. As Michael Gardiner states in his article in the book, “the very existence of the present Handbook of Visual Culture

12 This list just scratches the surface: Diaspora and Visual Culture (Mirzoeff 1999), Feminist Visual Culture (Carson et al 2001), The Visual Culture of American Religions (Morgan et al 2001), The Visual in Social Theory (Woodiwiss 2001), Practices of Looking (Sturken et al 2001), Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (McCarthy 2001), Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader (Edwards et al 2009), The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader (Jones 2nd edition in 2010), A General Theory of Visual Culture (Davis 2011), Art and Visual Culture (Lymberopoulou et al 2013), Diaspora Literature and Visual Culture (Ma 2014), The Visual Culture of the News (Hill et al 2015), etc.

19 confirms the widespread impression that the explosion of scholarly interest in vision and visuality over the last twenty-odd years shows no signs of slowing down” (115).

Since this is an investigation into contemporary visuality as articulated through speculative literature in Mexico, some terminological designations are in order. The visual denotes the vast, multifarious whole of visual experience, and serves as a kind of shorthand for the far-reaching collective assemblage that involves all conceivable aspects and modes of seeing. In this sense, it includes the eyes and all its related neurological organs and functions, the material surfaces upon which images appear, disappear and reappear (such as canvases, mirrors, windows, billboards, screens of cinema and television, etc.), and the technological apparatuses (the photographic, cinematic and video camera, an x-ray device, etc.) that facilitate the existence of image-mediated processes.

Field of vision is all that is possible to be seen by a human subject from a particular vantage point, and similarly, the visual sphere brings to mind all that is possible to be seen in a society; in other words a vast, cumulative potential inventory of what is visible.

Vision, according to Anne Friedberg, is the “perceptual experience of sight” (The Virtual

Window 249), which, it should be pointed out, is a definition that does not necessarily privilege the human sense of vision over that of other entities capable of seeing, such as animals or even machines. Given that the field of VCS tends to stress the dynamics of human vision, it most often refers to the human perceptual experience of sight. However, in the cases of the stories of this corpus that deal with extra-human vision, a qualifier will be used to denote this—such as a cyborg or machine vision (to borrow a term inspired by

Paul Virilio). Visuality is the “presence and workings of image-mediated phenomenon operating in the organization of human experience” (Sandywell and Haywood 12).


Martin Jay’s definition of visuality—“the distinct historical manifestations of visual experience in all possible modes” (Downcast Eyes 8)—highlights the ability of visuality to change through epochs that is contingent upon all conceivable modes of seeing and the mediations involved therein. These two definitions seem most consistent with how visuality has been used in academic literature and how it will be used in this dissertation.

However, there will be one exception when it comes to invoking Nicolas Mirzoeff’s usage of the term in his 2011 work, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality.

Here his definition changes to roughly mean that visuality is a result of what existing power structures throughout history have allowed, have become naturalized and eventually are accepted as aesthetic. Visuality for Mirzoeff is intimately bound up with historical processes of power and domination such that “what is seen” is actually “what is allowed to be seen.” This theory has been useful for me in terms of tracing the origins of the term “visuality” to its roots, which were intimately linked with leadership, heroism and masculinity; this has been particularly helpful in Chapter One where the narratives analyzed deal with gender, resistance to oppressive social orders and visual technologies.

It is important to point out that vision and visuality are not necessarily discreet concepts, as much as they may seem to be. From a Western-centric scientific vantage, the normal-functioning vision as a physio-neurological process does not vary excessively from person to person or culture to culture; the general mechanics at work involved in how vision functions have been understood at least since the time of Johannes Kepler in the early 1600s (Ing 174). This seems to imply that there is little physiological variety between, say, a normally functioning American’s eyes focusing his gaze on an object compared to the eyes of someone from the Amazon looking at a similarly-sized object. In

21 this sense, to the medical and scientific world, vision as a process is essentially universal.

But when it comes to reflecting on visual experience, this matter gets more complicated.

As Jay points out, our experience of sight, if it is to be communicated, then it must be mediated through the symbolic system of language. Since the world is populated by a multitude of languages, then “the universality of visual experience cannot be automatically assumed, if that experience is in part experienced linguistically” (Downcast

Eyes 9). This assertion allows for the variability across cultures as to how human subjects process and reflect upon their visual experience, a contention that is particularly pertinent to this study given that I am claiming that a certain grouping of Mexican texts are articulating a uniquely visual experience of their culture through the language of speculative fiction. If this assumption is correct, then looking toward literature for descriptions of visual experience is indeed a worthwhile pursuit. To reiterate what

Winthrop-Young said in the aforementioned quotation, writing can become a valuable resource—incorporating, imitating, and coopting new media technologies—in order to give voice to the changing contours of visual experience as experienced by human subjects. These speculative texts prove as much. Also, as Hal Foster has also pointed out regarding this, vision and visuality are not synonymous with nature and culture, because vision, while a physiological process, is also social (i.e., shared and communicated through language) and historical (i.e., the processes and mediations by which this occurs change through time), and visuality becomes inseparably linked with the body and psychic processes (e.g., the way staring into a computer screen can atrophy muscles quicker and lessen visual acuity, or the impact of certain kinds of image-mediated artifacts like photographs upon subjectivity) (Vision and Visuality ix).


Several other terms deserve mention here. Visual technologies are either media that have been created for the purposes of being seen or they are media that have the potential to enhance, extend, strengthen or intensify visual capabilities. Examples of this are the oil painting, photograph, film, television, the Internet (computers/laptops, tablets, ), etc. Barry Sandwell and Ian Heywood have extended this definition by stating that visual technologies are "the apparatuses and mechanisms that provide the conditions of the possibility of visibilization/s" (16), where visibilization signifies “the social and material conditions, machineries and processes that make different modalities of visuality possible” (Ibid.. 15). What these terms mean is that the former does not occur without the latter, or that visual technologies do not appear neutrally but are always the product of larger forces going on the social, political, economic and cultural milieu from which they appear.13

Mexican Visualities under Globalization

Taking into account the above definitions, we can say that for several now the changing visibilization within Mexico has provoked significant transformations in visual practices. This is seen most prominently in the proliferation of new visual technologies of television and computer screens as well as the way in which the media industries have operated.

Research on this topic has been plentiful and is able to offer a rather detailed

13 The differences between visibilization and Mirzoeff’s recent conception of visuality are subtle. If visibilization are the social and material conditions that underlie modalities of visuality, for Mirzoeff, visuality would be a certain kind of visibilization that creates and sustains the socio-material conditions that allow its authority to continue.

23 description of in what ways the visual sphere has been changing. One of the first studies that reveals this is Impacto del video en el espacio audiovisual Latinoamericano (1990), edited by Octavio Getino. He and a group of researchers from Mexico, Cuba, Argentina,

Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela set out to study the extent to which visual technologies like video had impacted habits of seeing in cinema and television. What they found was that the impact of video cassette technologies, along with other communication technologies such as satellite communications and , had changed the audio-visual sphere in these countries more in the 1980s than in all the previous decades since the advent of film and television combined. The traditional practice of film, in Mexico since the beginning of the 20th century with its silent era, the golden age (30s-50s) and the reliance upon proven formula films such as comedias rancheras, churros and melodramas of the 1960s-70s, declined precipitously in the

1980s, by more than 50%, and as a result, numerous theaters closed their doors.

Television, which has been in Mexico since the 1950s and had its golden age in the

1970s-1980s (Sinclair: 1999 39), also began experiencing changes in the way it functioned industrially and what images were displayed across its screen. Some of the major conclusions of Getino’s study foresaw a growing influence of diverse audiovisual media as well as a tightened inter-relation between the local cultural industries of the countries researched and those of the advanced industrial world (12), both of which turned out to be true. A few years later, Nestor García Canclini and a group of researchers set out to map the contours of some of these changes by focusing on the cities of D.F.,

Mérida, and Tijuana. Published in 1994, Los nuevos espectadores’s objective was to go beyond the simple explanation that the introduction of video into the

24 market was the cause for the decline in film-going by getting a demographically clearer picture of these changes. One surprising revelation through all this was that more films were being consumed by Mexican spectators than ever before, just not in theatrical venues (14). This change in visual practices signals a monumental shift away from how films were traditionally received. This study belongs to the discipline of the social in the area of urban anthropology and/or media studies, focusing on the consumption habits of citizens in relation to film. By conducting interviews of the viewing habits of many different kinds of urban citizens from different age groups and socio-economic backgrounds throughout multiple cities, they were able to get a more granular look at how cultural markets had been reconfigured and who were these “new” spectators of the study’s title. What both Getino’s and García Canclini’s studies showed is that by the early 1990s the traditional spectator of Mexico, who would go to the local movie theater with some frequency, was giving way to a kind of spectator who more and more watched films on video and on open-air broadcast through the television set at home. Just as the sci-fi story “Ex Machina” demonstrates quite clearly, the rise of video and television as a central visual practice was eclipsing movie theaters and becoming the focal point of private spaces, the majority of Mexican citizens and the media industries.

Outside the scope of those studies, however, are the dynamics at play in the political and economic configuration of the country with regard to culture industries in

Mexico, which have been instrumental in affecting the visual. Put in the terms of visual studies, changes in visibilization have occasioned alterations in the visual sphere (in visual technologies, the viewing habits of the people and by extension, in processes of subjectification). This area, too, has been significantly studied and worth reviewing in

25 some detail here. We can think of three areas in which these changes have occurred: the restructuring of the television industries within Mexico, an increase in the proliferation of images via an increase in programming, and the growth of the television market, which has resulted in an increase in the television set becoming so central as the main visual practice of Mexico and as key components of the visual dystopias presented by the speculative literature treated here.

The restructuring of the television industry is the combined result of multiple factors, the major ones being political legislation and privatization, reacting to the expansion of foreign oligarchic media companies (mostly from the US) that crossed

Mexican borders through multiple avenues, internal administration and management changes, debt, the national peso crisis and the appearance of new technologies. The space here does not allow me to review all these aspects in detail, but rather the ones most pertinent to the changes in the images that crossed the screen in Mexico.14 As such, any study of television must start with in 1973,15 the monopolistic behemoth whose presence and growth went unchecked in the country and led to its being called “el quinto poder” (“the fifth power”) by the outspoken, critical journalist Manuel Buendía in 1984, and subsequently became the title of a book of critical articles about Televisa in 1985.

Unlike the US’s creation of the Federal Communication Comission (FCC), an autonomous, non-governmental agency whose purpose was to police the industries and ensure no monopolies occurred, Mexico has lacked such an agency and, in spite of

14 For a comprehensive summary of both the US and Mexican culture industries, see Televisión sin fronteras (1998) by Florence Toussaint. 15 However, it is useful to note that Televisa’s origins go back to 1955 when Telesistema Mexico was founded by the linking of three television open-air stations, and if one links it to its origins in , then that date must go back to the 1930s when Emilio Azcarrága Milmo opened a commercial radio station in Mexico City (Sinclair 1999 34).

26 writing into its constitution that radio and television open-air channels be considered a public good and regulated as such, in practice this has largely been overlooked (Toussaint

175). As a result of this and other factors,16 Televisa was able to grow into the largest media company in Latin America.

The years between 1991-1993 saw a massive sea change in the television industry in the transnational globalized era. Florence Toussaint has characterized the transnationalization of Mexican television as being constituted by a double move, one outward (exemplified by Televisa’s corporate strategies starting in the 1990s) and one inward (led by foreign companies interested in staking a claim in that national market).

First, Televisa’s expansion outward to other national markets began in 1991 and ended several years later. In total, they had purchased ownership shares in a television (or related) companies in Chile, Venezuela and Peru, as well as a programming partnership deal with several stations in the Southern Cone and control of PanAmSat, a satellite it had help launch in the 1980s (Sinclair 1999 43). This move outward resulted in Mexico’s being one of the most sold and viewed in Spanish America, as well as having success in exporting it in and China. This strategy, whether related to NAFTA in spirit or not, is one of a geo-linguistic conception of the region that led Televisa to view its potential market as all of Spanish-speaking America, around 350 million people, and not just the population of Mexico (Sinclair 1996 26). The second move Mexico undergoes is a penetration inward to the country from foreign media conglomerates,

16 Toussaint lists a number of factors as to how it grow so large within Mexico, such as i) the cinematic industry was never strong enough to establish conglomerate links into other industries (like in the US), ii) in spite of the occasional invention, like color television, the industry within Mexico was never large enough to establish a strong pattern of patenting, and was therefore forced to import technologies from the US, iii) Televisa has had strong political ties to Mexico’s post-revolutionary ruling party PRI and benefitted greatly from this relationship (Toussaint 173-175).

27 especially from the US. From the beginning, the culture industry grew separately as each media appeared, allowing room for each one to distinctly exist until they grew large enough for certain industries to begin merging, such as cinema with television, cable with cinema, television with the press, cable with satellite, etc. The 1980s saw these previous strategies of horizontal integration give way to vertical integration, resulting in the creation of oligarchic corporations that came to exist through mergers in order to create multinational multimedia conglomerations: These are ABC-Capital Cities-Walt Disney,

Time-Warner-Turner, RCA-NBC-GE and Fox-News Corp (Toussaint 45). These massive multinational multimedia corporations sought to continue expansion into other markets throughout the world and, of course, in the US’s southern neighbor, Mexico.

It is absolutely essential, however, to state that the larger shifts that occurred in the culture industries within Mexico would not have been possible without the active participation of the Mexican state government that set up the legal framework that allowed the changes to occur. While NAFTA was made official on January 1st, 1994, the movement toward neoliberalization in Mexico had begun as far as back as De la Madrid’s administration in the mid-1980s.17 Carlos Salinas de Gortari announced in 1990 that the government would privatize Imevisión, the state-owned open-air television station, which operated channels 13 and 7. This led to the purchase of the station which became TV

Azteca, by . Finally, Televisa had a competitor, but the monopoly that existed in Mexico before was now only a , as the only companies that could

17 In the first two years of De la Madrid’s administration, in an attempt to help restructure its growing debt and from mounting pressure from the International Monetary Fund, the Baker Plan was put into place which allowed US investment in 101 Mexican industries, such as the production of automobiles, medicine, textiles, soaps, electronic devices, detergents, tobacco, hotels, etc. American companies such as Anderson Clayton, Purina, Celanese made from 80 to 500% profit, the majority of which went back to the US (Agustín 83). So, neoliberal policy was well underway a decade before it became official.

28 compete and survive in such an environment are oligarchies with transnational ties. TV

Azteca’s initial strategy was to begin importing programs rather than produce them, and

Fox’s “” and “The Nanny” were imported, broadcast and big hits in the country. It also partnered first with and then directly with NBC, as well as its cable news network, CNBC (although the deal eventually soured). It was the first time a national open-air channel in Mexico had such connections with one of the largest multimedia companies in the US (Toussaint 143).

Along with a reconfiguration within the industry to have two large media companies competing, technological advances also helped changed the visual sphere— particularly in terms of expansion of available programming through the emergence of cable television and videocassette technology. Cablevision, the cable subscription-based television company owned by Televisa as early as 1966, began to see competition from

Multivision, a company founded in 1989 in D.F. and came to combat and even surpass

Cablevision in audience share. Rather than a singular cable station, it was more of a re- broadcast of other channels’ contents, eventually having up to 18 channels, the majority of which were from the US and came to re-transmit some of the shows from the networks of Fox, HBO, ESPN, Cartoon Network, Cinemax, MTV, CNN, TNT and the three big open-air networks ABC, NBC and CBS (Toussaint 156). The point to keep in mind here is that none of these were available before 1990, and as the 1990s pressed on, more options like these became available. The other technology that affected the tele-visuality at this time was videocassette technology. Toussaint points out that in 1989 there were only 400 videoclubs in all of Mexico, and by 1991 that numbered had exploded to 10,500


(90). This number peaked around that year, along with the entry of Blockbuster Video, the then-dominant videoclub from the US.

This shift from public to privatized television has meant an increased dependence on imported programming, the majority of it coming from the US (Gorton 467), and the expected outcome that sees a very strong culture industry whose base is entertainment.

Several commentators on the subject have used the term “media imperialism” or called it the globalization of media in neo-colonial terms (Sinclair 1996 6; Toussaint 13). Indeed, there seems to be a significant degree of shifts going on at all levels in the industry that by 1997, TV Azteca had reached up to 36% audience share with its only two channels compared to Televisa’s four. It seems reasonably safe to conclude that the country’s visual sphere had undergone some drastic changes in the way it operates, the kinds of programs it produces, imports and broadcasts, along with the wide array of other

(foreign) media companies with which it partners. In addition, what is also clear is that the televisual sphere that is Mexico of this era comes to be based on entertainment above all. Touissant concludes that what the culture industries in both Mexico and the US share in common is the tendency to “convertir el entretenimiento y la información para las masas en negocio. Maximizar las ganancias todo lo posible y reducir poco a poco las opciones que el público tiene de disfrutar programas relamente diferenciados. El resultado es una industria concentrada, oligopólica y de alcance internacional” (173) [“to turn entertainment and information into a business. Maximize profits as much as possible and reduce the options that the public has to enjoy truly varied programming. The result is a concentrated industry, oligarchic and of international reach"].


Beyond the intricate industry shifts that initiate a qualitative change in the programming, there is also an increase in the presence of television sets in Mexico around this time. This is another way of saying that the human sensorium of Mexican subjects experienced a heightening of audio-visual exposure in the 1990s. The Instituto

Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) has been tracking television presence in

Mexico since 2000, which is unfortunate for this study because it focuses on the 1990s.

But in spite of it not being available in 1990, I believe we can extrapolate the approximate percentage of television sets available in homes throughout Mexico. The census reported that in 2000, approximately 86% of the population had a television set in their homes (82 million of a total of 95 million); in 2005, this had grown to 91% (91 million of 100 million), and by 2010, 94% (103 million of 110 million) of those who took the census reported having television in their homes. With this average increase of television ownership of 3-4% every five years, we should be able to retroactively estimate that in 1990, approximately 78-80% of the population owned televisions.18 As such, with increases of television ownership from 80% to 86% to 94% shows a steady, significant increase with each decade until it reaches near ubiquity throughout Mexico.

Numeralia, from the statistics department in UNAM in Mexico City, detailed a report in 2005 that offers a bit more granularity to the aforementioned statistics. Of the 31 states of Mexico, the ones with the higher concentration of urban areas had the highest incidence of homes with television (e.g. D.F. 97.7%, 96%, 95%, etc.) and as they begin to decrease in urban population, the numbers notably descend (e.g.

Yucatan 90%, 87%, 84.4%) until reaching the rural, largely indigenous

18 I am substracting 6-8% less from 2000’s rate of 86% to get this number.

31 populations where the decline is marked (e.g. 79%, 69.6%,

69.1%). Clearly, television’s omnipresence is concomitant with urban density. With these numbers, it is clear why television, and all its related activities that affect it, like video, cable, satellite, has become such a focal point for the media industries of Mexico.

Beyond this, there is another factor that adds a deeper, material layer to the presence of televisions in the country: the production of them. Television assembly plants began moving to Mexico in 1985 after the yen fell sharply, making the country an attractive spot for cheap electronics manufacturing labor. By the end of 1987, Sony,

Samsung, Matsushita, Hitachi and Sanyo had moved to Tijuana. By 1993, they had produced a total of 4,940,908 million televisions, and in 1995 this figure reached 7 million (Aguilar Benítez 218). By 1996 up to 16% of all maquiladora labor in Tijuana was dedicated to making televisions, reaching a production capacity of more televisions than any other city/country worldwide (Parfit 107). In the words of the report by the San

Diego Manufacturing in the , Asian multinational television producers have “changed the face of Tijuana over the last decade [the 1990s]. These television companies have moved Tijuana’s manufacturing economy beyond the old twin-plant maquiladora model by creating integrated complexes of assemblers and parts/component suppliers. Tijuana’s manufacturing economy is likely to continue to grow for the foreseeable future” (2000). And it has continued to grow such that by 2009 it manufactured 16 million televisions, and then in 2010 over 27 million. All these data support why Tijuana has earned it the label “la capital mundial del televisor” (“Television

Capital of the World”; Cervantes n.p.). This has relevance when it comes to the writing of

Pepe Rojo (see Chapter Two), who currently lives in Tijuana with his wife and children.


Even though he lived in D.F. before this when he wrote the majority of his creative work, he visited Tijuana with high frequency and for long periods of time while he was writing.

As several photos that he showed me demonstrate, in a literal sense, televisions have become a part of Tijuana’s material foundation, creating a makeshift layer of steps that seem to have become solidified into the landscape (Figure 1 on page 227), as well does it make for artistic material (Figures 2-4 starting page 228). These latter photos, one of which shows Rojo looking inside the constructed art installation that is partially comprised of found-television screens by his friend Fernando Miranda, bring to mind the rasquache aesthetic (roughly translated as “making do with what is at hand”). In Tijuana, at least in the case artist Fernando Miranda, constructing his art object involved a lot of scraping together that which is part of his surroundings, and television screens inevitably became part of that process.

Beyond the increased presence of television screens in Mexico, the other visual technology that begins to come forth around this time is that of the computer screen, an emerging visual practice that needs to be contextualized in order to understand the local situation in Mexico as well as lay the groundwork for Chapter Three in this study. When polled by INEGI, the results showed that those who acknowledge having access to a computer at home were markedly different than television: 2000: 9%; 2005: 19%; 2010:

29.5%.19 As with television, there is no data for 1990, making the only knowledge of presence of computer screens20 around that time an educated guess, likely around 5% or less. The reasons behind not having statistical data in 1990 directly relate to Mexico’s

19 2000: 8.5 million of 95 million; 2005: 19.3 million of 100 million; 2010: 32.6 million of 110 million. 20 Bear in mind that having a computer in early-to-mid 1990s does not equate to being connected to the internet.

33 then restructuring of science and technology under neoliberalism. Under the administrations of Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) and

Vincente Fox (2000-2006), we begin to see an incremental political attention paid to the status, organization and development of science and technology in Mexico (Thirión and

Espinosa 198), although it is not until Fox’s announcement of his “e-Mexico” plan in

200021, and its implementation in 2002, that the seeds of trying to convert the semi- industrial country into one whose economic and social formation came to be based on information.

Unlike with the television that became privatized, e-Mexico was an initiative catalyzed by the state. Its primary purpose was to provide internet connectivity within the country by utilizing several related strategies, such as increasing citizen connectivity to the internet and providing online content and social programs that are relevant to the citizens, such as e-Salud, e-Economía, e-Aprendizaje and e-Gobierno (López Dávila 2).

The larger purpose of this was to decrease the digital divide22 in order to not fall behind other developed societies whose dominant economic and social organization was coming to be based on a proficiency with technologies of information.23 In other words, its purpose was to make Mexico a viable player of the new rules established in the

21 Vincente Fox announced: "Doy instrucciones al Secretario de Comunicaciones, a Pedro Cerisola, de iniciar a la brevedad el proyecto e-México, a fin de que la revolución de la información y las comunicaciones tenga un carácter verdaderamente nacional y se reduzca la brecha digital entre los gobiernos, las empresas, los hogares y los individuos, con un alcance hasta el último rincón de nuestro país” (“El Sistema Nacional e-México n.p.) [“I have given instructions to the Secretary of Communication, Pedro Cerisola, to quickly commence the project e-México in order to ensure that the and its businesses have a truly national carácter, and they reduce the digital breach between the government, companies, home and individuals, with a reach that extends to every corner of our country”]. 22 This term was first introducted via The US Department of Commerce that indicated the level of a nation’s overall ability to have access to and with knowledge as to how to utilize information technologies. 23 Manuel Castells’s authoritative of The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, comprised of The Rise of the Network Society (1996), The Power of Identity (1997), and End of Millenium (1998), was clearly influential in policy making in many advanced countries.

34 information society. Consequently, it is not until the mid-2000s when some significant data about the connectedness of Mexico begins to filter in. Irak López Dávila’s

“Information Society and e-Government: The Mexican Experience” aggregates a number of different data collection sets24 that help put into the view the reach of some of the government’s efforts in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

As of 2006, Mexico was ranked 66 of 181 countries worldwide, and it was 15 in Latin

America. To give this some perspective, the comparison between Brazil and Mexico can provide some clarity. According to the World Information Society Report, “In Latin

America, Brazil and Mexico had the same household computer penetration of 18 per cent in 2005, yet in Brazil, 74 per cent of computers were connected to the Internet. In

Mexico, only 9.4 per cent of homes had Internet access” (50). The rate of growth in which homes had internet in Mexico grew very slowly from 2002-2006, and most new users of the Internet accessed from outside the house (Ibid.).

While some strides have been taken and advancements made, it is clear that the computer screen, connected to the internet or not, has yet to reach even a level near a third of television’s reach—as recently as of 2010. Back within the 1990s, this figure was undoubtedly much less. This fact becomes significant in the context of the works analyzed in this thesis, particularly Pepe Rojo (Chapter Two) and Eve Gil (Chapter

Three). Among all the sci-fi writers producing in the 1990s, it is Rojo whose screen returns time and again to that of television—not the computer—and becomes the hard kernel around which his stories revolve. I contend this is not merely accidental but rather

24 These include INEGI, the United Nations, the World Information Society Report, Network Information Center México (NIC-Mexico), Asociación Mexicana de la Industria Publicitaria y Comercial en Internet (AMIPCI), and the Mexican Internet Society.

35 that he is unconsciously responding to the omnipresence of television screens that occurs in the 1990s. With Gil’s Virtus, written in 2007, we begin to see the fusion of television and the computer screen in what is called a DAVID (Digital Audio Video Interactive

Decoder). Following the statistics provided above, writing in 2007 in Mexico would see a noticeable increase in the presence computer screens and a public connected to the internet, which gets allegorized in the novel while maintaining its solid roots to television. While not all science fiction articulates changes in visuality, it is still necessary to consider some of the previously and pertinent works regarding the publishing of science fiction in Mexico, to which we now turn.

Science Fiction Literature Review

Having just outlined the transformation of Mexico’s visual sphere as the backdrop influencing the depiction of visual technologies in my corpus, I now want to place my study in relation to Science Fiction Studies (SFS). In spite of the fact that I am using

“speculative fiction” in a unique and innovative way to denote the corpus analyzed here, I recognize that nearly all of these texts belong to the genre of “science fiction”, and as such, a literature review is in order. SFS as an academic inquiry in Latin America is a field that has only recently come into perceptible view. Compared to the US, which has seen the emergence of journals and programs in universities since the 1970s, Hispanic

SFS have only just begun. It has only been in the past 10 years that we have witnessed an interest in serious scholarship into this area, although there do exist some antecedents in

36 the preceding years.25 Yolanda Molina-Gavilán’s Ciencia ficción en español: Una mitología moderna ante el cambio (2002) remains an important, pioneering work in this field, and includes all literature written in the Spanish language. Written largely with a focus to introduce SF written in Spanish to the Spanish-reading academic circuit, its inclusion of Spain makes it transatlantic in scope, thus broader and more exploratory than my focus. 2003 and 2004 saw the publication of Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of

Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain and Latin American Science Fiction

Writers: An A-Z Guide respectively, both of which served to be more as surveys of the field, which, again, helped to cohere into a semblance of a cannon the vast production from such a heterogeneous grouping of countries. The former is an anthology that offers

27 stories translated into English, and is considered the first anthology of its kind. Each story has a very brief analytical introduction written by either Andrea Bell or Yolanda

Molina-Gavilán.26 The second guide, also in English, has very short biographies on 70 significant as well as neglected SF writers from countries throughout Latin America. The countries with the largest volume of SF literary production are Argentina, Brazil,

Colombia and Mexico. According to it, some of the classic SF writers from the region include Leopoldo Lugones, Horacio Quiroga, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Angélica

Gorodischer from the Southern Cone, as well as Amado Nervo and Juan José Arreola from Mexico. In terms of contemporary writers whose work has elements of speculative

25 Indeed, there do in fact exist anthologies and the occasional critical article or thesis chapter dedicated to the topic within the last 30 years of the 20th century, but it is really only since 2000 that we see a noticeable increase in the volume of scholarly interest in Latin American SF altogether. 26 This book contains “Grey Noise” (“Ruido gris”), which is the story by Pepe Rojo that really hooked me into wanting to know more about science fiction in Mexico, and whether or not the strong visual component within it indicative of a wider, perceptible trend either in Mexico or Latin America. The result of that query is this very dissertation.

37 fiction, there are entries from Gerardo Horacio Porcayo and Pepe Rojo (in this dissertation, Chapter One and Two respectively).

Several other works of academic criticism deserve mention here before moving on to those works that specifically deal with the cyberpunk cannon. In the past 10 years, the survey explorations of Latin America gave way to more focused studies. Exploring the Latin American SF canon begins to take noteworthy specialized directions, as evidenced in Revista Iberoamericana’s 2007 issue, edited by J. Andrew Brown, and its follow-up double-issue in 2012 edited by Silvia Kurlat Ares. The 2007 issue focused on technology and writing, including a number of studies of SF texts, such as the classic

Argentine SF comic El Eternauta from the late 1950s, Brazilian cyborgs and the role of photography in Lugones’s stories.27 If this issue had only 11 articles, the 2012 issue had more than double at 24, and was solely focused on science fiction. As is the tendency, the majority of the studies are centered in Mexico and Argentina, with specialized articles on cultural production from Argentina, such as SF literature written by women, SF written after the 2001 crisis, rock music lyrics that offer SF narratives. It also includes a number of works that focus on Mexican writers like Juan José Arreola, Gabriel Trujillo and

Bernardo Fernández.28 Several articles go beyond the Mexico-Argentina focus, as the articles that studies the SF texts of different authors from Peru, Cuba and Guatemala.

Several years later, J. Andrew Brown and M. Elizabeth Ginway edit Latin American

Science Fiction: Theory and Practice (2014), which treads similar ground as the Revista

27 This article, “Llévese la cámara a la tumba: deseo fotográfico en cuatro cuentos de Lugones,” was written by Valeria de los Ríos’s and later appears as a chapter in her book 2011 Espectro de luz (mentioned above). 28 This issue also includes a key scholar for this particular study, Hernán Manuel García. His article “Tecnociencia y cibercultura en México: hackers en el cuento cyberpunk mexicano,” is a condensed version of a chapter from his 2011 PhD thesis “La globalización desfigurada o la post-globalización imaginada.”


Iberoamericana isues by continuing to delve deeper into SF production from the region.

The main difference in this book is that the articles are all published in English. The field of Latin American SFS is definitely coming into clearer view, although it is too premature to say if it is a subfield or will be one anytime soon.

If we focus on research that has been done on science fiction from Mexico only, two generally distinct categories emerge: articles, essays and anthologies that were written within the country from Mexican SF writers or (the occasional) academic, and more scholarly studies of contemporary Mexican SF written from North American academy. The former category is quite large, and consists of an array of anthologies of

Mexican SF, which portends the interest from the North American academy by about a decade. Over a dozen story compilations were published in the 1990s and early 2000s,29 which also retrospectively should be considered the decade where Mexican SF becomes aware of itself, as the list of anthologies below indicates; it is also the decade of the rise of the subgenre cyberpunk.30 In spite of the fact that this dissertation does not directly

29 Some of the more notable ones are: Antología de cuentos: primer certamena de cuentos de ciencia ficción (Instituto Politécnico Nacional 1990); Más allá de lo imaginado I: antología de la ciencia ficción mexicana (Schaffler Gonzalez 1991); Principios de : Premio Puebla de Ciencia Ficción 1984-1991 (Armenta et al 1992); Más allá de lo imaginado II: antología de la ciencia ficción mexicana (Schaffler Gonzalez 1993); Más allá de lo imaginado III: antología de la ciencia ficción mexicana (Schaffler Gonzalez 1994); El futuro en llamas: cuentos clásicos de la ciencia ficción mexicana (Trujillo Muñoz 1997); Los mapas del caos: breve antología de la ciencia ficción mexicana (Porcayo 1997); Visiones periféricas: antología de la ciencia ficción Mexicana (Fernández Delgado 2001); Ciencia ficción mexicana: siglo XIX (2002); El hombre en las dos puertas: un tributo de la ciencia ficción a Phillip K. Dick [sic] (Porcayo 2002). 30 Cyberpunk originated in the US in the 1980s, and is most commonly considered to have begun with ’s in 1984. The neologistic term fused the cyber- or cybernetic networks with the punk of the rebellious music from the 1970s in the U.K. and the US. It is sometimes described as high technology with low culture or as technology brought to the streets, meaning there is a mixture of advanced electronic technology with a crumbling social order seen in the lives of the marginalized subjects who live in the streets and who also often become protagonists or key characters. By 1986, some of the writers who were considered part of the movement declared the movment dead, but the term, its use and the academic study of the genre continued strongly throughout the 1990s, and has come to be retroactively applied to any film that represents a social sphere charged with high technology and low (marginalized) life, ranging from (Scott 1982) to The Matrix (Wachowski Brothers1999).

39 take the movement as its object of study, it is necessary to briefly delve into its history, given that two of the three chapters here are from writers who were associated with the

Mexican cyberpunk movement.

In 1997 Silicio en la memoria: antología cyberpunk and Cuentos compactos,

Cyberpunk were published, together symbolizing the moment when Mexican cyberpunk reached its apogee. The writers themselves became fully aware of their participation of the movement as a movement, meaning that a number of authors were writing cyberpunk tales before it became labelled as such. José Luis Ramírez, a writer and commentator of

Mexican sci-fi, cites the first story of the cyberpunk movement as “La red” by Isidro

Ávila in 1991. Next, Gerardo Porcayo’s virtual fanzine La langosta se ha posado31 from

1992 published a number of articles on the subgenre, as well as some cyberpunk short stories that were translated from English. The following year Porcayo published La primera calle de la soledad, cyberpunk’s first novel in Mexico, which was lauded by many critics and readers of the time as a significant accomplishment of the genre, and has subsequently been treated by numerous scholars in recent years (see below). The fanzine

Umbrales dedicated a special issue to it (number 10) in 1994, publishing various authors, among which is Porcayo’s “Imágenes rotas, sueños de herrumbre”, which also won a SF short story prize. 1995 is year when cyberpunk as a movement hits its stride: the fanzine fractal is created and specializes in publishing cyberpunk,32 and Rodrigo Pardo wins the

Puebla with a hybrid cyberpunk-wolf story (Luis Ramírez n.p.). Between 1995 and 1997, it seemed that all SF published in Mexico has at least some link to the subgenre, with the

31 The title here is taken from a fictitious book central to Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle. However, the title in Spanish is considerably different than its original title in English: The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. 32 See “Una publicación que se especializa en el cyberpunk: fractal” by José Sánchez Cabo.

40 following authors winning numerous story prizes either from Puebla, Kalpa or the virtual prize from the online fanzine La langosta se ha posado: José Luis Zarate, Juan

Hernández Luna, Rodrigo Pardo, Bernardo Fernández, Jorge Chípuli and Pepe Rojo.

Mexican critic Ramón López Castro claims that by 1998 the movement starts to erode significantly due to the maturation of many of its key authors, either moving into different literary directions, such as the short-lived and ribopunk,33 or moving away from writing altogether (177). Hernán Manuel García cites the different directions that some of its key authors took, like Poracyo’s neogothic turn in Dolorosa (1999), Pepe

Rojo’s “realismo mediático”34 with Punto cero (2000), Gerardo Luis Zárate’s avant-pop novel Pilotes infernales (2001) or Bernardo Fernández’s 2005 detective novel Tiempo de alacranes (“Carne eres…” 22). Pepe Rojo told me in an interview that the movement’s cohesiveness naturally dissipated by the fact that the Premio Puebla ended in 1998, which was a particularly important prize in that it became the yearly event when SF writers would convene in Puebla. Upon its dissolution, so too ended the movement.35

The second group (i.e. academic studies published within the North American university circuits) take a multitude of approaches toward their object of study. Hernán

Manuel García’s work on cyberpunk must be considered the most comprehensive given its focus on texts by several key writers of the sub-genre like Gerardo Porcayo, Pepe Rojo

33 Cyberpunk had many spin-offs, two of which were steampunk and ribopunk. Steampunk refers to the stories that reimagine the era of the steam-powered engine of the industrial 19th century; ribopunk is a neologism created by Paul D. Filippo in 1996 that to refer to SF stories about the possibilities of biotechnology. 34 This is a self-created generic description by Rojo himself and will be discussed later. 35 However, in a move very similar to the cyberpunk movement in the US, its so-called death or dissolution has not stopped others from continuing to self-apply the label cyberpunk to their writing. Clarimonda Drunk Ediciones, a small independent publisher in Mexico City, released an anthology called Antología Cyberpunk Mexicano in 2013 that included a mixture of newer unpublished SF writers as well as a half dozen invited authors from the original Mexican cyberpunk movement.

41 and Bernardo Fernández, the texts’ circuits of distribution and the political, economic and social milieu of the country in the 1990s. His article “Tecnociencia y cibercultura en

México: hackers en el cuento cyberpunk mexicano” (2012) achieves an accomplished exploration of writers and works in the short story form, locating the hacker as the recurring protagonist throughout 31 stories he identifies comprising the canon (331).

After grouping these stories into a useful taxonomy and then differentiating between two generations of cyberpunk authors in Mexico, he centers his study upon BEF’s story “El trozo más grande” as a particularly exemplary contribution to the hacker-centric focus of many cyberpunk stories. His other article, “Carne eres y en máquina te convertirás: El cuerpo post-humano en La primera calle de la soledad de Gerardo Porcayo” (2014) offers an astute reading of Porcayo’s novel as articulating technology as an oppressive force that does not liberate but rather enslaves its post-human protagonist without his having knowledge of it. Juan Muñoz Zapata also centers upon Porcayo’s novel in

“Narrative and Dystopian Forms of Life in Mexican Cyberpunk Novel La primera calle de la soledad” (2010), but shifts his critical focus to explaining the complex narrative strategies at work in the novel, particularly its own self-reflexivity, as well as does he argue strongly for classifying the novel as a critical dystopia36 rather than simply an anti- , the latter of which often generally articulates a hopeless despair. Curiously though, it is likely that Hernán García would disagree with this reading, given that he concludes his article stating that “la narrativa cyberpunk Mexicana escrita a finales de

36 If utopia is a “non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporarneous reader to view as considerably better that the society in which the reader lived” (Sargent 9) and is the negative or anti utopia, or one in which the society described is intended to viewed as considerably worse than the one in which the writer writes, a critical dystopia offers a less negatively extreme representation of the desperation associated with dystopias. It is “more open to complexities and ambiguities, and more encouraging of new riffs of personal and political maneuvers” (Moylan 189).

42 siglo XX es apocaplíptica y no ofrece alternativas o soluciones ante las problemáticas o soluciones que aborda y desarrolla” (21) [“the Mexican cyberpunk narrative written at the end of the 20th century is apocalyptic and does not offer alternatives or solutions to the problematics that it engages and develops”].

Two other scholars deserve mention here. Antonio Córdoba Cornejo’s Extranjero en tierra extraña: El género de la ciencia ficción en América Latina (2011) purports to treat the larger context of Latin American SF but in reality concentrates rather narrowly on Mexico and Argentina, as if these two countries represent all of the SF produced in the region. He dedicates a chapter each to selected works by Argentines Angélica

Gorodischer and Carlos Gardini and then one chapter to Mexican Hugo Hiriart’s La destrucción de todas las cosas37 (1992) and another to Mexican cyberpunk, including an analysis of a Bernardo Fernández short story and Pepe Rojo’s Punto Cero (2000) (part of

Chapter Two here). Finally, Ignacio Sánchez Prado’s “Ending the World with Words:

Bernardo Fernández (BEF) and the Institutionalization of Science Fiction in Mexico”

(2012) takes a different approach by focusing less on the subgenre cyberpunk and more on how the larger genre of SF, conventionally perceived as peripheral, works within the larger field of national literature. It is valuable study of the institutionalization of the SF in Mexico via the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT), the short story prizes and BEF as the key figure of a SF writer who has now become part of the established literary system.

37 Indeed, this is a work of the postapocalyptic vein of science fiction, but the bulk of this Hiriart’s work is as a dramaturgist. This novel, like Carlos Fuentes’s Cristobal Nonáto (1987) or Eve Gil’s Virtus (see Chapter Three), is his only foray into writing science fiction.


In all, the previous syntheses of these scholars’ treatments of contemporary

Mexican SF more generally attest to the impact this corpus has had in academia in the

US, as well as to the articulation of new urban subjectivities in neoliberal Mexico. While

I recognize their contributions, none of their research has ventured into the deep reach and impression that visual technologies have had upon the speculative fiction authors’ work. Science fiction can provide a viable corpus through which to think through changes in the visual sphere, especially when it comes from writers living through significant changes occurring in this space.

Posthumanism/Cyborg Theory

No inquiry into science fiction of our contemporary era is adequate without an understanding of posthumanism and cyborg theory. All the speculative fiction texts in this corpus coincide in that they imagine some kind of posthuman or cyborg body whose fundamental techno-human alterations deal primarily with the faculty of sight. Much has been theorized in this area within North American intellectual publishing since as far back as Donna Haraway’ seminal article “A Cyborg Manifesto” in 1985 and then

Katherine Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman (1999). These two have been the most cited and most useful conceptualizations regarding how the posthuman/cyborg is thought to work, although they are not the only ones.38 With regard to Spanish America, J.

38 Some other theories that are less useful for this particular project are Judith Halberstam and Ira Livingston’s conception of the posthuman not as a chronological marker but rather as a non-identity categorical marker that is able to take on an ample spectrum of potential meanings that connote difference and perversity (10). Other theorists include Bruce Mazlish The Fourth Discontinuity: the co-evolution of humans and machines (1993), Neil Badmington Posthumanism (2000), Chris Gray’s Cyborg Citizen (2001), Elaine L Graham Representations of the Post/Human: , aliens and others in popular culture (2002) and Steven Best and Douglas Kellner The Postmodern Adventurer: science, technology and cultural studies at the third millenium (2001).


Andrew Brown’s Cyborgs in Latin America (2010) is one of the first book-length studies of the representations of the technologized body in the neoliberal, post-dictatorial era of the region in the 1990s and 2000s. More than Córdoba Cornejo’s work above, Brown succeeds in representing a wider range of texts from the region, although the corpus he covers primarily comes from the Southern Cone (Argentina, Uruguay and Chile), and includes only two other countries present, Mexico and Bolivia. This means all of Central

America and the Caribbean are absent from his analysis. The writers on whose work he focuses, such as Alberto Fuguet, Edmundo Paz Soldán and Rafael Courtoisie, are often associated with the McOndo generation and are writers whose literary output does normally get coded as science fiction. Indeed, he states that he is “interested in exploring how science fiction and fiction specifically coded as not science fiction run together in their consideration of human being as it appears in an increasingly technological world

(3). The sole writer from Mexico that reaches Brown’s analysis is Carmen Boullosa’s novel Cielos de (1997), whose depiction of a posthuman in the character Lear focuses on human creation outside the traditional family structure of a mother and father family unit. Rather, she gestated in a laboratory, therefore skipping altogether the process of a traditional origin story. According to Brown’s assessments, the cyborgs represented in Latin American literary works both challenge and extend its conceptualizations from the US. Like Brown, my own project’s narratives have cyborgs that do not easily fit the theories that come from a different techno-social milieu. They, too, in some ways extend these concepts as well as confound them, making cyborgs that are uniquely Mexican.

Nonetheless, before detailing those differences, it will be useful to offer a short summary of Katherine Hayles’s understanding of posthumanism since her investigation

45 into the idea is by far the most informative as to what are the posthuman’s origins, as well does it raise some provocative questions for this dissertation. How We Became

Posthuman is a comprehensive historic inquiry that traces the evolution of cybernetic and information theory from the 1940s until the 1980s. Her own argument shows how key thinkers in the fields of cybernetics, comprised of radically interdisciplinary groupings from neurophysiology, electrical engineering, philosophy, mathematics, semantics, literature, and , all contributed during these conferences and after to revolutionizing the concept of what it means to be human. This paradigm shift of

“human”—which she and many others understand as coming from the liberal humanist subject that arose from Enlightenment—has given way to a conceptualization of the human as something significantly different, one that is primarily seen as an information- processing entity. This complex history involved many moves, but follows a more-or-less linear path that arose from the Macy Conferences that went from 1943-1954, which began to conceive of humans as entities that process information and are basically similar to intelligent machines (7) while also viewing information systems in human terms

(homeostasis), introducing the idea of feedback loops to enhance stability and system regulation. Norbert Weiner, the cosmic visionary of the group, intended for this new theory of cybernetics to see a complementary symbiosis of human and machine, one that followed in the Enlightenment tradition that trusted humans to establish self-sufficient, rational social organizations. In other words, Weiner saw this initial merger between human and machine as one that extended the liberal human subject, not threatened its autonomy. By the 1960s, homeostasis gave way to the more subversive concept of reflexivity. Hayles defines reflexivity as “that which has been used to generate a system

46 is made, through a changed perspective, to become part of the system it generates” (8). If objectivitism in science attempts to neutrally observe a system from outside it, after feedback loops were introduced that permitted humans to interact with cybernetic machines, it suddenly became apparent that loops also fed back through the humans that controlled them. The clear distinction between where the observer ends and the machine that s/he operates became less clear. The observer of the system became absorbed into the system observed, thus complicating rigid, definitional boundaries of where the subject/observer ends and the system begins. In other words, the liberal human subject was in danger of losing its privileged dominance in terms of how Western subjectivity was being understood.

As reflexivity gave way to the next wave of virtuality in the 1980s, “the cultural perception that material objects are interpenetrated by information patterns” (13) began to predominate. The state of virtuality creates and maintains the impression that pattern reigns over presence, or information comes to be valued over presence. As such, there exists a short step to believe that information patterns are “more mobile, more important, and more essential than material forms” (emphasis in original 19). It is in this way that scientist Hans Moravec seriously suggested in his 1988 book Mind Children: The Future of and that in the near future it will be possible for humans to upload their to a computer, thus completely freeing the human subject’s previously required corporeal embodiment for survival. Virtuality, a prerequisite to posthumanism, is a complex cultural perception based on certain fundamental techno- scientific ideas that developed over this 40-year period from the Macy Conferences until the 1980s. But this idea did not come from science alone, but rather was very much

47 informed by science fiction texts written in the same period. They essentially became dialogistic with the scientific theories, with some writers reading the science and some scientists reading the science fiction.39

This digression was necessary to point out the simple yet crucial fact: Hayles’s locus of enunciation is writing from the , and her inquiry constantly invokes an inclusive “we” that does not translate easily to the “nosotros” of many hybrid subjects living in Mexico or other Latin American countries. It must be emphasized, as Hayles reminds us, that a permeating cultural condition where virtuality exists “is most pervasive and advanced where the centers of power are most concentrated” (20). Where, then, does that leave Mexico in relation to virtuality? If Hayles contends that techno-scientific milieu and the science fiction cultural production written from the 1940s-1980s participated in a kind of symbiotic feedback loop, then what kind of posthumans appear in a Mexico where the science fiction exists but largely lacks the scientific and technological counterpart? Where, then, do the science fiction writers draw their inspiration if not from the science, as in Hayles’s narrative? While this dissertation does not answer that question completely (as that would be the work of a different

39 Hayles discusses many science fiction writers and works, but spends the bulk of her time focused on one from each era: Bernard Wolf’s Limbo (1951), Phillip K. Dick’s novels from the 1960s and William Gibson’s cyberpunk trilogy from the 1980s that included Neuromancer, the key cyberpunk novel that helped birth the SF subgenre. She cites Dick’s reading of cybernetic literature from the Macy Conferences as being very influential in his writing, although it is clear in his work that the inner-workings of cybernetic theory is of little interest to him but rather merely the fact that these things were considered possible that was important and influential. This can be seen in how Dick avoids any lengthy discussions or explanations as to how things function, but rather that they function that way becomes a central theme in his work. Take Do Androids of Electric Sheep? (1968) (made in Ridley Scott’s film adaptation Blade Runner in 1982), where the posthuman replicants are so human-like that Deckard, the agent in charge of killing (retiring) them, finds it impossible to distinguish them from humans. Also, as we find toward the end of the novel, he too is a replicant but feels so human that he believes himself to be human as well. The reason this story has come to be seen as a major reflection of the human subject’s condition (from Frederic Jameson, David Harvey, Vivian Sobchak, Scott Bukatman, et al) is because it has pierced the issue in the heart of what defines human in this era.

48 dissertation), it certainly does offer a partial explanation of a certain kind of posthuman that emerges from their cultural production: ones that are fraught repeatedly with issues central to vision. Moreover, one central component to Hayles theory is that the posthuman sees the body as the original prosthesis whose parts can be replaced (3). What, then, might it mean to have an array of different posthuman creations whose eyes become the site of prosthetic extension? The contention of this dissertation is that it speaks to underlying changes in the visual sphere occurring in the country under neoliberal reforms. These cyborgs, then, are particularly and inescapably Mexican in their articulations.

(Micro- and Macro-)Scopic Regimes, Theoretical Frameworks of Visual Culture Studies and Detemporalized Subjectivities

If the fictional Mexican posthumans exhibit a symptom reflective of larger changes occurring in its socio-visual sphere, then is there an identifiable “visual regime” under which the country lives? A comprehensive answer to this question is too premature to articulate due largely to the heterogeneous geographical and racial mixture of the country, but I believe that by looking to their speculative fiction we can begin to glean some contours to the kind of visuality going on in the country around this time. However, before doing so it is necessary to further contextualize Mexico within this idea of a visual regime, as well as the various facets to some of the visuality that it contains.

Much has been spilled over what are the constituent parts that comprise a visuality (or visualities) proper to modernity—Western or occidental visualities. Martin

Jay’s seminal article “Scopic Regimes of Modernity” (1988) challenged the notion of a

49 single regime, which at that time was considered by some his art historian contemporaries to be “Cartesian perspectivalism”.40 Jay considers the likelihood that different aesthetic tendencies of the Renaissance exist—Northern art (Dutch) and tendentious works from the baroque period. Both of these carry other qualities and show the existence of other dominant visualities in the era, which contests the possibility of a single visual regime. “It may be more useful to acknowledge the plurality of scopic regimes41 now available to use” (20). In Jay’s follow-up article, “Scopic Regimes of Modernity Revisted,” published almost 25 years later in The Handbook of Visual Culture, he reviews the misuses as well as creative academic applications of the terms since the article’s original publication, in studies ranging of diverse topics ranging from postcolonial photography in Mali, Africa to the erotic of early Japanese prints to subaltern novels in Bolivia. He considers the possibility of both micro- as well as macro-scopic regimes (Cartesian perspectivalism would fall under this latter category), and he insists that these theoretical terms “should be understood…as heuristic devices or ideal types, which allow many exceptions to whatever rules or patterns they claim to discern. […] Attempts to provide large-scale generalizations about the visual cultures of a period, however imprecisely defined, provide at least benchmarks against which deviations and variations can be measured”

(107). Jay’s original critique in the original “Scopic regimes…” of 1988 helped move the boundaries of the specific disciplines of art history and film studies and, along with other thinkers, gradually established visual culture studies as a discipline by the end of the

40 He understands this as a rough grouping together of several key aspects seen in Renaissance painting as well as its accompanying theory: a linear perspective that utilizes mathematical precision that aligns with the harmony seen in nature; a three dimensional space rendered on a two-dimensional canvas attributed to Leon Battista Alberti’s conceptualizations of visual pyramids and a vanishing point; the image supposes a disembodied, singular point of view subject position of the viewing spectator, et al. 41 Jay recognizes that this was originally coined by Christian Metz in Cashiers du Cinéma in the process of describing apparatus theory, the very function of which was an ideological critique of filmic practice.


1990s that has since splintered into various schools.42 Of the multiple directions that VCS took, the most useful tendency for thinking through some of the changes going in Mexico around this time is the branch that focuses upon less-traditional media technologies of television and , since they are most useful in thinking through some of the changes going on in Mexico at this time

Jay’s defense of the use of the term merits mention because I claim that the speculative fiction corpus in this dissertation speaks to a particular kind of scopic regime going on in Mexico. To be clear, I am not claiming to have located a macro-scopic regime within the country, because this kind of grouping, especially contemporaneous ones, require significant time to pass to be able to begin to perceive and understand something akin to the totality of such an immense, multifaceted episteme. In foucaultian terms, the discursive archive grows with time, becoming clearer as the present moves farther into the past. But, however, I believe that this speculative literature does in fact articulate a particular kind of micro-visual regime going on in Mexico, one which pronounces the domination of a society anchored in a tele-visuality.

Under the larger umbrella-term of visual regimes reside similar concepts of visualities to correspond to the similar notion of modern and postmodern visualities. That is, visual modalities undergirded by the epoch-specific technologies that mediate images

42 From the vantage of 2012 in The Handbook of Visual Culture, Margaret Dikovitskaya delineated six major currents within the field (69-89): i) new conceptual approaches to art history (Michael A. Holly and Keith Moxey); ii) an expansion of art studies to include artifacts from all historical periods and cultures (James D. Herbert); iii) an emphasis on the process of seeing (W.J.T. Mitchell); iv) a focus on the process of seeing across different eras (Herbert); v) foregrounding nontraditional media within the visual cultures of television and digital media (Mirzoeff); vi) visual culture found within science, medicine and law (Lisa Cartwright). These are essentially equivalent to visual regimes, or epistemological groupings of the way visual culture studies views its object(s).

51 in the realm of human sensorial experience. For modernity, the two most prominent visual technologies must be the photographic and cinematic apparatuses. So much has been written, theorized and debated on each technology that entire fields and area studies have emerged (i.e., Photography Studies, Film Studies). While an extensive review of modern visualities is outside the focus of this project, a brief synthesis of several key theoretical components to these visualities underlie what is happening in Mexico. Like modernity and postmodernity, there is not a clearly or cleanly divided epistemological rupture between the two, and, as the term “postmodernity” indicates, buried within the post- lies modernity; in other words, postmodern visualities exist on top of or overlap in ways with modern ones. So, if modern visuality of Mexico is founded upon the photograph and cinema, then postmodern visualities,43 in Mirzoeff’s terms, would be associated with television and the digital. These visualities are often associated with several tendencies, such as the potential for the non-linear apprehension of linked images, the potential to have multiple screens, and the unmooring of truth claims linked to the indexical, etc. With this in mind, it is necessary to return to my thesis: the changes occasioned in the national political structures that adopted neoliberal economic policies of NAFTA have provoked significant alterations in the functioning of the media industries and visual technologies that have, in turn, substantially transformed the field of vision such that it has produced a particular brand of speculative fiction that has emerged in Mexico in critical response to these changes. The three main elements, neoliberal economics, visual technologies and subjectivity, have been present within an earlier configuration of capitalism—monopoly—with other thinkers. For one, Walter Benjamin

43 While a review of photography and cinema is outside the scope of this project, needless to say it has had a long history in the country, and both of them still form part of the visual practices there to this day.

52 reflected upon many changes wrought by dint of the mechanical reproduction of art, specifically in relation to film and the masses. One of the shifts that he speaks of in relation to the reproducibility occasioned by advances in visual technologies of photography and film is the desire that it instills in the contemporary masses to “bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly.” As he writes, “Every day the urge goes stronger to get a hold of an object at very close range by way of its image, or, rather, its copy” (669).

He speaks of a reproduced image here—in comparison to the unique aura of, say, the mountains which the camera took the picture of. Benjamin does not explicitly refer to subjectivity, but this is implied in the way that the reproduced image instills in the subject an instinctual desire to bring the image closer; in so doing, the subject and object gap tightens and gets closer to one another. Is this shift in the mode of perception—one that initiates the ever-shrinking gap between the viewing subject and observed object—the beginnings of what is articulated later on in Mexican speculative fiction?

Anne Friedberg, writing over 50 years after Benjamin, takes a different approach regarding how cinema affects subjectivity. In Window Shopping (1993) she asserts that cinematic and televisual forms as something more than mere symptoms of the postmodern era; rather, according to her, they also actively co-contribute to these producing “detemporalized subjectivities” (2). Their ubiquity in the social sphere in the latter half of the 20th century has contributed to a “derealized sense of ‘presence’ and identity” that Frederic Jameson locates in the postmodern subject. “Seen in this context,” she states, “descriptions of a decentered, derealized, and detemporalized postmodern subject form a striking parallel to the subjective consequences of televisual and cinematic spectatorship. Where, then, does the ‘postmodern condition’ begin?” (Ibid. 2). Her own

53 approach discusses the practices that predate television and cinema located in what she defines as “the mobile virtualized gaze,” an elaborate, contemporary visual-corporeal subject position enabled by a multitude of visual and social practices whose origins can be traced as far back as the appearance of the flâneur in the mid-19th century of an incipient market capitalism. This mobilized aspect of subjectivity became something of the hallmark of everyday living toward the end of the 19th century with the introduction the circulation of commodities in modern society, which she traces as part of the origin of a commodified visual experience, or “form of looking” (Ibid. 7). Friedberg is very clear in her argument: the types of spectatorship inherent within cinematic and televisual forms have actively catalyzed and continue to produce a particular subjectivity proper to postmodernity, one where cinema (and for her, to a lesser extent, television) are instrumental in producing subjects whose sense of subjective temporal experience is fundamentally scrambled.

What interests my project here is extending Friedberg’s notion of detemporalized subjectivities to the realm of television, since a strong part of the ocular regime articulated here seems to be televisual in nature. How does televisual spectatorship different from the cinematic kind? She enumerates the basic precepts of cinematic spectatorship44 that qualitatively change in significant ways with the televisual. For example, television is a source, not a projection; there is at least some mobility allowed for the spectator; to some degree the gaze of the spectator tends toward distracted from the goings-on events within the house. Television also affords repeated, multiple

44 These include i) a dark room with projected luminous images, ii) an immobile spectator, iii) single viewing, iv) a complete non-interactive relation between viewer and image, v) a framed image, and iv) a flat-screen surface (133-134).

54 viewing. Beyond the possibility of watching program re-runs and seeing repeated commercials (as they are often sold in packages where the same commercial will be broadcast multiple times within a viewing timeslot), the visual technology of the VCR strongly alters the televisual spectator’s sense of time even further than film (132).

Furthermore, television involves a degree of interactivity with the offer of multiple channels and zapping, or frequently changing channels. Finally, the image scale is significantly different.45 All these alterations in spectatorship, in a country like Mexico whose primary form of spectatorship has massively shifted to that television, hit the subject in full force. The result is a number of narratives that bear witness to these changes by, among other things, removing or replacing the eyes or subsuming the subject, body and all, into the television screen (to be discussed later). These speculative narratives imagine these new urban tele-visual and cybernetic subjectivities as unwitting recipients to a suddenly imposing visual sphere which offers very little hope or escape or resistance. It is in this way that these works criticize the crumbling social order to which they belong.

Chapter Order

Chapter one compares two works by Gerardo Porcayo. La primera calle de la soledad, written in 1992, is the Mexico’s first cyberpunk novel, mixing together elements of a detective novel, spy , and (sci-fi that occurs in space), and has a fragmented temporality within the narrative as well as such a complex level of self-

45 Film theorist and documentarian Chris Marker observes that “Cinema is that which is bigger than we are, what you have to look up at. When a movie is shown small and you have to look down at it, it loses its essence…What you see on TV is the shadow of a film, nostalgia for a film, the echo of a film, never a real film (quoted in Watts 143).

55 reflexivity within it that it becomes a “a of a metaphor,” or a meta-metaphor

(Muñoz Zapata 192). Zorro’s left eye gets destroyed in an extensive hack of the multinational company Trip Corp., which subsequently recruits the protagonist for spy work of their own. They forcefully install an ocular prosthesis in him to give him back functionality in the eye and allow him to see while immersed in the virtual reality of his hacking. His sight thus becomes the site of struggle for much of the first half of the novel, between the ability to see the reality of the social order around him and the capacity to visually apprehend the dangerous and deceptive cybernetic virtual world. In this sense, he possesses a double vision. He also possesses a strong male gaze and embodies a warrior masculinity that utilizes his surrounding female characters as pawns in his mythic, violent hero journey. The gendered expression here of the male cyborg is perhaps unsurprising, given that all Mexican cyberpunk was written by young males. But its juxtaposition next to Porcayo’s short story “Esferas de visión,” suggests some provocative comparisons, especially given that it was published five years later after the mass media industry underwent enormous transformation under neoliberalism. Set in the same universe as the novel, the protagonist this time is a cyborg woman who also lacks her left eye. The sole focus of her energies in the story is to recover her lost eye, which she is unable to do. In the end, both stories, taken together, suggest that Mexican cyborgs do not transcend their biological sexes but are rather bound by them. It also intimates that technologies affect genders differently, endowing the male while incarnating the female as lack.

Chapter two looks at four texts written by Pepe Rojo that express, more than any other writer in either the cyberpunk movement or in contemporary Mexican science

56 fiction more generally, a visual sphere that is dominated almost exclusively through the television. Cyberpunk is most often linked with the cybernetic screen and virtual reality, but, as this corpus of his texts shows, Rojo returns time and again to the television, making it the inspiration for his thematic and rhetorical literary devices used within them.

It also reflects most accurately the changes that are occurring on the ground in Mexico at this time, since these stories appear in 1996 (“Ruido gris”), 1997 (“Conversaciones con

Yoni Rei”), 2000 (Punto cero) and the early 2000s (“El presidente sin órganos” 46). While these stories are allegories, there are some aspects within them that link them inevitably to this time frame, such as the rise of reality shows, nota roja and the extreme importance in ratings in “Ruido gris,” or the virtual kidnappings and significant influx of consumer culture in Punto cero, or the textual adaption of his narratives that appear and act as scripts in “Conversaciones…” and “El presidente…” These stories strongly express different incarnations of a nightmarish televisual subjectivity.

Finally, in chapter three we move forward to 2008 with Eve Gil’s novel Virtus, which represents the author’s only attempt at writing science fiction. The novel takes the form of an penned from a surviving member of Mexico’s devastating

“virtualization” that ends up almost all the population. The text covers the time of this traumatic event from around 2020 to the 2060s and involves a visual sphere that is overrun with a cybernetic-television fusion (called DAVID) that requires Mexican subjects to have microchips installed in their bodies in order to experience the projected images and interact with the holograms from the DAVIDs that are placed throughout

Mexican society. This text registers, more than the others, a significant rise in computer

46 This story was included in an eclectic compilation of unpublished stories and articles in 2009 called i nte rrupciones, but was written much earlier, likely in the early-to-mid 2000s.

57 screens of the time, as well as how politics in Mexico has been transformed by adapting to the logic inherent in how politics functions in the era of a ubiquitous television penetration.


Chapter One

The Right to Fight, to Look, to Lack: The Hypermasculine Technologized Gaze and Female Cyborg as (Visual) Lack in Two Mexican Cyberpunk Texts from Gerardo Porcayo

“In our time, it is technology and the media which are the true bearers of the epistemological function: whence a mutation in cultural production in which traditional forms give way to mixed-media experiments, and photography, film and television all begin to seep into the visual work of art (and other as well) and colonize it, generating high-tech hybrids of all kinds.” Frederic Jameson

The introductory chapter explored key aspects of the political, economic and social dimensions of Mexico’s contemporary media and culture industries of the past 30 years that have affected their changing visual practices, finally situating Mexican science fiction within the larger framework of Latin American Cultural Studies in the previous 10 years. In this chapter I begin to explore an historical evolution of speculative fiction that registers some particular alterations in the visual field. Responding to this massive media influx and particularly that of visual media, these not only express anxieties about a loss of the human/organic in the face of technological intrusion but also imagine how Mexican subjectivities, riddled with an imposing technological and highly visual sphere can be conceived of as agents of resistance. While advanced technology more generally abounds in these stories, the focus remains fixed on visual technologies as they specifically relate to digital or cybernetic apparatuses.

I will now shift to two literary works of a founding cyberpunk Mexican author,

Gerardo Porcayo, whose production begins registering key aspects of this shifting visuality under neoliberalism by imagining how genders have been impacted by visual technologies in different and differentiated ways. Taken together, the novel La primera

59 calle de la soledad (PCS) and its accompanying short story “Esferas de visión” become exemplary speculative fictions in that they concentrate upon visual technologies coupled with locus of visual perception in the body—the eyes—as a site of struggle between the subject, gendered identity, and institutional power. These narratives express, on one hand, an imposing, institutional and re-colonizing technological force that sparks the human subject’s desire to return to a purer, less technologically dominant era; on the other hand, they showcase the allure and dependency upon these technologies as legitimate vehicles for resistance against such an oppressive social order.

When they are juxtaposed, these two stories highlight a glaring disparity between their constructions of their respective male and female cyborgs: in the novel, the hero protagonist hacker (and cyber-spy) struggles to subvert the hegemonic powers put in place by a multinational capitalist order by leveraging the power and access that his ocular prosthesis provides; in the short story, the female protagonist, also a cyborg but not a hacker, is marked by the very lack of her eye, which she futilely spends the duration of the story seeking. Unlike her male cyborg counterpart in the novel, instead of a protruding visual enhancement over her left eye, she wears a black patch over it, marking her by lack. These potent posthuman allegories, written under a neoliberalizing Mexico in in the 1990s, rightfully signals the technological divide and how it affects gender differently—at least as articulated from a male author’s perspective.

Gerardo Porcayo’s profile has been well covered in the multiple biographical accounts that collected important SF writers from Mexico, and both his writing and his service contribution to the Mexican SF scene make him a wholly emblematic figure of the movement. He is broadly considered one of founders of the country’s cyberpunk

60 movement of the 1990s, although his writing pre-dates the sub-genre, appearing in the mid-to-late 1980s along with other key establishing members such as Isidro Ávila and

José Luis Zarate. According to Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz, Porcayo is “el escritor nacional más representativo del cyberpunk que aquí se escribe” (“the most representative writer of cyberpunk in the nation”; Biografías… 283) and that he was well ahead of his time, saying “con él comienza la ciencia ficción del nuevo milenio” (“With him the science fiction of the new millennium begins”; Ibid.. 288). Along with his extensive corpus of literary production that includes numerous short stories and several novels, Porcayo was instrumental as an arduous promoter of SF production within Mexico in multiple ways.

First, he, along with Zarate, created the Premio Puebla de Ciencia Ficción in 1984, which instantly became a cohering national event for science fiction writers on an annual basis, giving them an official literary space within which to meet and discuss their works and recognize outstanding works from the year. Ignacio Sánchez Prado has cited the importance of this event in institutionalizing science fiction as a visible literary movement within Mexico: it provided the springboard that launched most major SF writers born in the 1960s, as well as spurred the creation of the Fondo Editorial Tierra

Adentra, a government-funded publishing company through CONACULTA that aimed at publishing writers under 35 years old. It became “the first institutional vehicle for the publication of SF within the larger frame of Mexican literature” (115). As this intermingling between writers became a yearly event, it helped generate another venue central to the cyberpunk movement and of which Porcayo was an important figure: fanzines. In the 1990s, these became the main thought which SF in the country was distributed and circulated among its authors and readers. The first of these was


Prolepsis in 1991, created by Porcayo and Celine Armenta, and consisted of a two-page zine with six-point font that attempted to cram as much writing as it could fit on an 8 ½ x

11” sheet, equivalent to the fine print in legal documentation (Zarate n.p.). Porcayo also created the second electronic fanzine La langosta se ha posado in 1992, which is still in existence to this day. Other print fanzines included Azoth, Fractal’zine, Umbrales and

Sub, et al. Sub arrived in the late-1990s and became one of the most high-quality ‘zines within the movement, due in large part to the lower costs in printing and know-how of many tech-savvy SF writers and designers, such as Bernardo Fernandez (“BEF”), along with Pepe Rojo, Joselo Rangel, Ricardo Mejía Malacara, Rodrigo Cruz, et al. Sub stands for “Subgéneros de Subliteratura Subterranea,” touting the self-described marginal nature of SF production and consumption in Mexico. According to Zarate, it resembled a professional magazine with “textos excelentes, magníficos dibujos, una imaginativa diagramación, un diseño que…da envidia” (“excellent texts, magnificent drawings, an imaginative layout, a design-worthy of envy” n.p.). As detailed in the introduction, cyberpunk in Mexico began to cohere by the mid-1990s, and in 1997 two compilations were released that attested to this and cemented the subgenre: Cuentos compactos:

Cyberpunk and Silicio en la memoria, both of which were compiled by Porcayo himself.

From all the above, it is clear that Porcayo was not merely a fundamentally important creator and producer of cyberpunk SF in the country, but an absolutely key figure in the maintenance and promotion of the genre.

Porcayo’s novel La primera calle de la soledad (PCS), published in 1993, is the first cyberpunk novel known to appear both in Mexico and Latin America.47 The

47 However, the author did state that the idea began in 1988 (Trujillo 286).

62 enduring impact of the novel can be seen in the significant interest that the North

American academy has taken in it in the last five years. Within Mexican science fiction circles in Mexico, however, it has been legendary for some time. Trujillo Muñoz, writing in 2000, called it

La primera visión global, desde lo mexicano, de las expectativas computacionales del futuro y su impacto en las condiciones de vida de la humanidad en su conjunto, en las formas de poder y en la condición social que, desde estas nuevas tecnologías, evoluciona y se transforma en cada ser humano que toma contacto con y las vive como propias. (286)

[The first global vision, from a Mexican perspective, of the computational expectations of the future and the living conditions of humanity in its totality, in the forms of power and in the social condition that, from these new technologies, evolves and transforms each human being that comes into contact with them and lives them as their own.]

This novel embodies the ethos of science fiction production in the country within a globalizing Mexico under NAFTA by creating a narrative dystopia comprised of a severely eroded social order whose central figure, El Zorro, becomes its cyborg hacker protagonist. Juan Ignacio Muñoz Zapata has read the story as a prime example of a critical dystopia,48 and argues that it contains such narrative complexness in that the novel involves a self-reflexivity so extreme that the story becomes “a metaphor of a metaphor” (192). Hernan Manuel García centers upon the representation of the cyborg in the novel’s protagonist El Zorro, focusing on how cybernetic technology and the posthuman body are presented as a form of social control rather than as having a liberating role or potential, which is how they are often marketed.49 These two

48 The turn from late 19th-century dystopias toward a critical dystopia was more nuanced than its originator of the simpler dystopia. It tends “to be less driven by celebration or despair, more open to complexities and ambiguities, and more encouraging of new riffs of personal and political maneuvers” (Moylan 182). 49 He uses HP’s 2006 ad campaign whose slogan “The Computer is Personal Again” to frame the device as being in some way friendly and helpful rather than cold, complex object.

63 investigations signal the importance and complexity of the work, as it relates to both the literary movement of SF within the country, as well as its links with the larger, socio- economic and cultural changes under neoliberalism. Neither of these scholars, however, has looked at how genders are represented in the novel, particularly as they relate to visual technologies and the gaze. In addition, Muñoz Zapata and Manuel García have read the novel as a standalone work, not taking into consideration its related companion story, “Esferas de visión” that appeared in the Porcayo-edited cyberpunk anthology

Silicio en la memoria (1997) and merits being juxtaposed to it.50 These two works, separated by four years of being published, exist in the same : they share several continuities in terms of character depiction, the attention to institutional powers, thematic concerns, and spatio-temporal setting. “Esferas de visión” follows the novel by four years but expresses much more potently the anxiety caused by an imposing visual media sphere that necessarily involves a receding organic vision being replaced by visual technologies. That is, the processes by which people see in Mexico at this time is changing insofar as the presence of screens, primarily those of television and the computer, begin to increase. The human sensorium is shifting, and these two works appear at key moments of these changes occurring in the visual sphere. While both narratives highlight the appearance of gendered posthuman subjects, it is only by the appearance of the short story that the first one comes into a clearer view, meriting a comparison of their constructions of gendered cyborgs. The female cyborg’s absence of

50 Two other Porcayo short stories also pertain to the same science fictional universe of PCS and “Esferas de visión”: “Antenas sin marte” (2002) and “Colinas del viejo ser,” (n.a.) the existence of which underscores the enduring popularity of the original novel that spawned a total of three short story addendums. They will not be treated here in that they do not focus upon issues central to vision and visuality nor is the gender-technology link very present, making them unfit to be considered in this thesis’s defintion of speculative fiction.

64 an ocular prosthesis and the solid narrative focus on the loss of her left eye may be reflective of an increase of the number of screens present in the country in 1997 when the story was written and published, three years after NAFTA had put into law and four years after the novel appeared in 1993. While the male cyborg in PCS also lacks a left eye, his vision becomes enhanced with an ocular prosthesis, endowed with what can be read as a technological protuberation or phallus that symbolizes power; the focalization upon his eye is important to the narrative but not its central preoccupation; in the short story, the loss of the eye becomes urgent from the first line to the last, becoming its narrative framing device and sole thematic concern. Taken together, these stories suggest that gendered subjects may be affected differently from the proliferation of visual technology.

Before delving into the particulars of the novel and the short story, it will be useful to re-take discussion of the posthuman and cyborg (as explored in introduction) in order to contextualize Porcayo’s cyborgs as they relate to previous discussions of this mythic figure of fiction and reality. In doing so, we will foreground the gendered implications in Porcayo’s two cyborgs, as well as set up the importance of the particular

Mexican interface between the subject and technology. As was mentioned in that section,

J. Andrew Brown has studied the figure of the cyborg in the post-dictatorial Latin

American narrative, and his conclusions have both challenged and extended the theories that have originated from the global north. In his book Cyborgs in Latin America (2010), he looks at only one case from Mexico, Carmen Boullosa’s Cielos de la tierra (1997). In so doing, he discovers that, contrary to other critics such as Jerry Hoeg and Clair Taylor

(51), he finds that the posthuman character named Lear who has no parents and no origin story becomes nostalgic for such a story, and that her attitude toward the technological

65 reality of her surroundings is not one of acceptance nor embrace (49). In this particular case, the rejection is of Haraway’s cyborg who considers that cyborgs are “exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential” (316-317). This runs counter to the way Brown reads Lear in Boullosa’s novel. In a similar way, Porcayo’s cyborgs will reject Haraway’s liberatory notion the technology but with some key differences to Brown’s finding: they were not created in laboratory and raised without parents, as was Lear. Porcayo’s cyborgs are posthumans who are doggedly entrenched in normative conceptions of gender, whose fields of vision are populated by an immensely potent, highly technologized male gaze, and whose lived experiences of their genders are radically differentiated through interfacing with technology.

The Cyborg Handbook, published in the US in 1995, provides a helpful taxonomy of cyborg types that shed light upon Porcayo’s cyborgs. In its introductory chapter, the cyborg is divided into a series of subcategories. For example, there is not just one generic cyborg but rather a panoply of flavors: neo-, proto-, multi-, semi-, hyper-, retro-, omni-, pseudo-, mega- and meta-; with this assortment, all of them possess different possible configurations of how cybernetic machine and human organism meld together. Seeing where Porcayo’s cyborgs fit into this categorization is revealing, particularly when considering their gender-technology coupling. In PCS, since the protagonist El Zorro loses his eye in an explosion that occurs while hacking, he would be considered a retro- cyborg, or “one whose prosthetic-cybernetic transformation was designed to restore some lost form” (Hables Gray et al 14). Already then, the Mexican cyborg here implies not just any random part of his body but an organic eye, or natural vision. Given that the ocular prosthesis that El Zorro wears becomes a central site in the novel for the struggle over

66 this binary created between a natural vision (in his right eye) and a mediated one (in his left – with the ocular prosthesis), how are we to read these two distinct modes of vision in the novel? As I detail later on (and following Muñoz Zapata), these two modes of vision offer an allegorical reading for Mexico in the larger shift from film-to-video that occurs in the 1980s and 1990s. The switch to video, catalyzed by multinational globalization processes started largely in the US in the 1980s, begins to permeate the visual sphere of

Mexico by the 1990s, and become fundamental components of the industrial and economic workings of the changing visual regime within Mexico today.

Porcayo’s overlooked short story “Esferas de visión” becomes a complementary work to PCS, and offers a thought-provoking female cyborg counterpart to PCS’s hypermasculine protagonist. Returning again to The Cyborg Handbook, we find that the female protagonist of this story would not classify in the same sub-category as the male retro-cyborg in PCS. In the story, she has her eye stolen or lost (it is never definitively explained how it happened to her) and spends the duration of the narrative seeking out a replacement. She does, however, possess a socket interface at the crest of her mostly shaved head, allowing her to connect to the network of the submarine she lives within, and thus be able to navigate the waters with her electronically-mediated vision when she wants to surface. But when she disconnects, she acts psychologically unstable. In this way, the story suggests that she lacks complete integration with the prosthesis that would make her a fully operating cyborg in homeostatic relation with the cybernetic machine. In this sense, she would be a neo-cyborg, one who is unable to incorporate the technology fully into her system. This “neo-“ prefix connotes that she is new to the technology game, so to speak, maybe even late to the game—enough that she has missed being able to be

67 seamlessly integrated into it. The other category she fits into would be a “pseudo-retro- cyborg”, whose definition extends the retro-cyborg’s, whose prosthetic-cybernetic alteration was designed to replace some “lost form that never was” (Hables Gray Ibid.).

The lost form, or her lost eye, was in fact stolen from her, but the story never explains where, when or how this happened. And since this act of loss predates the narrative and becomes inaccessible knowledge to the reader, it may be understood as something that she has never possessed, at least in terms of the duration of the narrative. Also, given that she never acquires it during the narratives nor after, it can be read as something of a form that was lost and was never recovered. Whether a neo-cyborg or a pseudo-retro-cyborg or some mixture of both, the female protagonist represents a lacking or deficient subject who is unable to actively assimilate technology. Compared to the male retro-cyborg of

PCS whose vision is endowed with an ocular prosthesis, extending and enhancing his perception and ultimately empowering his vision and observing body as a weapon to struggle against the multinational power structures of each story, the female does not seem to garner access to the same ocular technology that extends her ability to see. And what we are left with are two cyborgs who are very much bound by normal and normative gender roles in Mexico. The male cyborg can not only assimilate the technology but comes to effectively master how to use it, whereas the female cyborg seems damned in that her search for eye—her natural, organic visual perception—is possibly lost forever, and nor does gain the prosthesis that her male cyborg counterpart has. Her lack of the visual technology and lack of organic vision marks her with lack as an emblem of her being. This ultimately lends itself to a Lacanian reading as to how gender is constructed in relation to cybernetic technology, a topic I will later take up.


La primera calle de la soledad

The novel follows the hacker Oscar Martínez, nickname “El Zorro”, who gets unwittingly recruited by Trip Corporation to help break the network of its rival competitor, Laboratorios Mariano. Both of these cyber-tech multinational corporations manufacture “sueños eléctricos” (“electric ”), which are artificial drugs that keep individuals distant and alienated within their natural environment. El Zorro gets caught hacking on more than one occasion, resulting in being turned over to the corporation, at which time that one will force Zorro to break into the network of the other. To complicate matters, Laboratorios Mariano has a religion that it helps maintain,

Cristorrecepcionismo, that has designed a program called Asfódelo (“the Asphodel”) that has gained its own autonomy by realizing its basic function: to grant the wishes of the

“electric dreams” users. The novel’s setting occurs in , Mexico City and the

Moon, where colonial penitentiaries have been set up and a rebellion breaks out toward the end of the novel.

The setting is a futuristic time never specified in the text but rather intimated in various ways, such as the trip to “Tycho’s City” (title originally in English) on the moon that occurs in the second section of the novel, or in the various references to the previous century that carries strong resemblances to the 1900s. Some examples include the following: the video game salon where “El visor de espacio virtual está mostrando un nutrido grupo de robots primitivos, historia argumental salida de los viejos pulps del siglo pasado” (83) [“The virtual space viewer is showing a large group of primitive robots, a storyline taken from the old pulps of the last century”]; the appearance of “una bala

69 calibre 45, salida de un rústico revólver del siglo pasado” (109) [“a forty-five caliber bullet, shot from a rustic revolver from the previous century”]; numerous references to

20th century figures both real and fictional, such as H.P. Lovecraft (116),

(135) and (189).

The first moments of the narrative introduce the ocular prosthesis of El Zorro imbued with confusion and obfuscation. In the first chapter, “Arribo” [“Arrival”], the third person omniscient narrator introduces his arrival to the metropolis as a return after having lived elsewhere for over five years. He carries with him and assortment of gear, among which are mentioned his signature weapon, a dagger, his “lapbody” (a laptop), a

CD full of terabytes of programs and data useful for purposes of hacking networks, false credentials and a “modificador retinal” (14) [“retinal modifier”]. Immediately after, the narrator states: “Extrae una tarjeta de crédito—que lo identifica como Ernesto García, un nombre más, un eslabón de su larga cadena—y la rasga contra el de la entrada”

(14) [“He pulls out a credit card—which identifies him as Ernesto García, just another name, a link in a larger chain—and smashes it against the sensor of the entrance]. Here we are introduced to the protagonist as armed with information technology, weapons and his visual prosthesis, and then immediately after, his identity is given and admitted to be false. So the character, from the very first moments of being introduced within the narrative, is presented as one with an uncertain identity. This not only lends an air of mystery to the protagonist but also intimates the possibility of doubt and unreliability in this character. As he travels along in the silent metro wagon, he enters into the city late around midnight and becomes swallowed up by the night and its electric lights, exemplified in the following passage. “Mañana empezará la acción. Ahora solo se deja

70 engullir por las automatizadas mandíbulas del vagón. Avance sin ruido. Neones que acuden a su encuentro. Subliminales en enormes pantallas sobre los edificios” (14)

[“Tomorrow the starts. For now he lets himself be gobbled up by the train car’s jaws. It advances silently. Neon lights come into view. Subliminal advertising in enormous screens covering buildings”]. The dense description of omnipresent lights and screens here commences potently, wrapping the protagonist in a swirl of visual technologies that both enhance the natural body’s functioning via his retinal modifier and engulfs the subject’s body drenched within its urban setting. This character is narratively flanked in visual obfuscation that suppresses his true identity. The city he enters into as well as the novel he inhabits is first and foremost a metropolis overrun with electric visual stimulation.

This theme continues when he returns to the bar “El sueño de la gaviota,” that he used to frequent years ago when he lived there. He recognizes the bartender but not viceversa. El Zorro claims that if it were not for “la nueva cicatriz que se abre paso desde el superciliar izquierdo hasta el pómulo del mismo lado y por lo rojizo del objetivo de su prótesis,” (15) [“the new scar that goes from his left eyebrow to his cheek on the same side and for the reddish color of his ocular prosthesis”] then the bartender might have recognized him. As in the first chapter, the visual technology that he uses to modify and enhance his own unmediated vision causes such a change in his own outward appearance that others are incapable of recognizing him. This suggests that these particular visual technologies with a cybernetic base insert themselves within social relations in such a strong mediating capacity that they can distort and deceive intersubjective familiarity and

71 recognition. That is, they can make recognizing one another a difficult task, wedging between them an added distance.

Just as El Zorro’s identity is initially shrouded in obfuscation, so too is the narrated of his acquiring of the ocular prosthesis veiled in an ambiguous mixture of contrasting sentiments and uncertainties. In a , the narrator recalls how El Zorro came to acquire his prosthesis device. Faced with using his hacking skills for the benefit of corporate bureaucracy, he feels he has no other choice but to turn to the black market to make money—an event that most certainly echoes the vibrant informal economy provoked by neoliberal reforms that have attracted many into as a reaction (Biles 542; Freije n.p.). Once inside the black market world, he begins plagiarizing “sueños eléctricos” [“electric dreams”] transformed into masterpiece works of art from a company named Artdream, and soon he becomes obsessed with creating these artificial dreams in large measure because of their high profitability and lack of being taxed. At the same time Trip Corporation began designing a competing product which were the culmination of electric dreams and a highly developed virtual space, or virtual . Despite advice to the contrary, El Zorro locks himself in a networked room in the Micros de La Universidad del Tercer Milenio where he spends over 55 hours attempting to hack Trip Corporation’s corporate network in order to access, through their network, their electric dreams “product”. While copying all the data necessary to aid him in his venture, an explosion rips through the room where he was hacking. “La ausencia del dolor, el ojo izquierdo que ha dejado de captar imágenes, el derecho registrando una hemorragia tremenda, un operativo militar extraordinario, su deck destruido y el cable conector roto a medias…” (23) [“The absence of pain, the left eye that ceased capturing

72 images, the right one registering a tremendous hemmorage, an extraordinary military operative, his deck destroyed and the connector cable broken in two…” emphasis added].

Waking up four days later in complete darkness, he spends another four in a holding cell being tortured before a Trip Corporation committee. They recruit him for a special group of hacker specialists in a group called “CTP” (Circuito Tecnodelectivo Profesional, or

Professional Technodelinquent Circuit), and he feels he has no choice but to join them. In doing so, they repair his injuries from the blast by replacing his eye and part of his cranium “con lo más avanzado en biomecánica. Agregaron una interfase experimental”

(23), therefore making his conversion to a cyborg a reality. This visual technology is forced upon him (or forced into him) without his consent and he is effectively recruited into a world he did not choose to be a part of and that does so explicitly for the exploitation of his skilled labor (a clear parallel to many Mexicans in this era of neoliberal transformation).

Once the prosthesis has been installed, it becomes the site of ambiguous meaning both for El Zorro who possesses it and the vigorous struggle he finds himself within against the competing corporations. It overloads and/or explodes a total of four times due to electrical surges or the electric dreams or viruses attacking it, and it therefore requires four operations to be fixed throughout the first half of the novel. Both Muñoz Zapata and

Manuel García have read the story as having a clear message regarding technology—that

Zorro laments the tech-laden society in which lives and ardently desires to return to a more organic life. While indeed the novel is clearly dystopian and strongly criticizes the neoliberal Mexico in which it is written, and I do agree that El Zorro ultimately signifies the wishes to live surrounded by less technology, it is also clear that to some degree he

73 not only adapts to it but also begins to enjoy some of the advantages of the device. In the scenes that follow, at the behest of CTP, he infiltrates the network of Laboratorios

Mariano along with another character Naranjo who is a priest used to distract Luca

Mariano while El Zorro attempts to surreptitiously extract the complete archive that explains Laboratorios Mariano’s recent radical change as well as all the information available regarding the new religion Cristorrecepcionismo. In the process, the narrator pauses slightly to state: “Para cualquier otro que no fuera el Zorro (tan acostumbrado a esas dos visiones disímiles que le dan su prótesis y su ojo natural al mismo tiempo), sería difícil monitorear ambas cosas” (29) [“For anyone who wasn’t Zorro so accustomed to those two slightly dissimilar visions that his ocular prosthesis and natural eye give him at the same time, it would be difficult to monitor both things”]. The job ends with a sudden overload in the virtual network he is hacking into, and as a result, the ocular prosthesis also overloads, both breaking the equipment but at the same time saving El Zorro’s life via this short circuit. He is left one-eyed, with the natural one only. “Una vez más está tuerto. Y aún más que antes, se ha acostumbrado demasiado a las ventajas de su prótesis”

(31) [“Once again he is one-eyed. And now more than before, he has become too accustomed to the advantages of the prosthesis”]. So here he has become “too accustomed,” with the narrator suggesting that he has not only gotten used to its presence, but that he has become dependent upon the device to be able to see. At another point, the narrator states: “Se adaptó a una nueva y diferente forma de vida. El mercado negro, los soportores Hi-Tech de la CTP, las operaciones para calmar la soledad” (48) [“He adapted to a new and different way of life. The black market, the high tech supports of the CTP, the operations to calm his loneliness”]. Through his prosthesis, he is able to manipulate

74 the visualization of things and people to his advantage: “El Zorro ve más. Con los ojos de su mente, cada uno de los androides adquiere la cara de Rioja, para luego transformarse en explosión, fragmentos, nada” (83) [“Zorro sees more. With the eyes of his mind, every one of the androids acquires Rioja’s face, and then later transform into an explosion, fragments, nothing”]. Finally, the narrator reflects on another benefit of the prosthesis:

“Alguna vez solo fue diestro. Las ventajas de la prótesis lo hicieron zurdo también” (78)

[“At one time he was right-handed. The advantages of the prosthesis made him left- handed as well”]. From these examples, the text does not frame him as a reluctant techno- subject that abhors the device he is using; to the contrary, they indicate a degree of acceptance and possibly even enjoyment of it. It is also clear throughout the text that El

Zorro could not perform the hacks without it, and while it may help to keep him alive, it also aids him in his fight against Laboratorios Mariano.51 So, they express both an anxiety for the loss of organic vision as well as the beginning of a mediated vision through visual technological interfaces; at the same time, it is through this struggle for the ability to see in the high-tech virtual world, for the right to sight, that resistance to transnational power surfaces, possibly suggesting an agency within practices of looking that counterpose dominant visual modes imposed by existing power structures.

Given the antagonism between the novel’s protagonist El Zorro (the hero subject from Mexico) and the transnational capitalistic forces against which he struggles, I would like to bring forth several components of a useful theoretical concept conceived of by

Nicholas Mirzoeff in his most recent work The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of

Visuality (2011). By doing so I hope to foreground some ways in which this hostility

51 Trip Corporation, for whom he at first begins hacking, ends up largely dropping from the plot, and it is Laboratorios Mariano that becomes the main corporation.

75 present in the novel between protagonist and larger structural antagonistic forces can be placed within a much larger historical context of visuality. In this book, Mirzoeff recovers the original meaning of “visuality” by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840s when he employed the term as it relates to heroic leadership.52 Vision, synonymous with this leadership, came to mean how history was visualized in order to affirm and maintain autocratic authority. “In this form, visualizing is the production of visuality, meaning the making of the processes of history perceptible to authority” (475). In this sense, visuality proper is a process related to the victors in historical struggles that create (or visualize) and re-create (sustain visuality) their authority, which ultimately is considered to be deemed right, good, natural and thus, finally, aesthetic.53 Visuality has thus historically aligned with authority and its continual process to assert itself as being invested with power within the higher social order. The reaction to the force of visuality is a countervisuality, or right to look, which constantly attempts to assert its own right to be visible—or recognized by authority. He states: “The autonomy claimed by the right to look has thus been, and continues to be, opposed by the authority of visuality” (474).

The binary he puts forth—visuality versus the right to look/countervisuality— conceptualizes the visual not strictly as a sensorial perception but a mode of discursive practice that is “formed by a set of relations combining information, imagination, and insight into a rendition of physical and psychic space” (476). The origins of this term, perhaps unsurprisingly, were attributed to the hero alone and thus associated with

52 It is in this sense that the term differs from what has become standard academic usage within visual culture studies to mean roughly the entire wide-ranging experience of visual experience in all possible modes. In this section its meaning is understood in Mirzoeff’s historical account of the term. 53 Each of his tripartite division of “complexes of visuality” involves classifying, separating and finally aestheticizing. He writes: “[Visuality] makes this separated classification seem right and hence aesthetic” (Mirzoeff 2010 476) The classifying action is, Mirzoeff acknowledges, attributable to Foucault’s notion of the “nomination of the visible” (Ibid.).

76 masculinity, whereas its counterpoint, the right to look, was primarily held to be that which was denominated as non-masculine categorical markers, or feminine, lesbian, queer, etc. Countervisuality is, then, very much aligned with the feminist project (478).

When considering how el Zorro in the novel consistently enacts the right to look—both as a sensorial perception through his ocular prosthesis and as a psycho-social subject position of resistance to structural powers—he thus becomes an agent for countervisuality. He attempts to assert his own autonomy in the face of the structural forces of Trip Corp. and Laboratorios Mariano that continually attempt to compete with each other and maintain their control over both El Zorro and the ocular prosthesis that he sees through. But, in doing so, he makes two moves that problematize it fitting under

Mirzoeff’s framework. First, he utilizes the few female characters for his own benefit

(engaging in, among other activities, a strong male gaze); second, he proposes to reassert himself—a warrior masculinity—as a model substitute, thus re-marginalizing the already marginalized feminine characters in the novel. In other words, he attempts to assert the right to fight (against the transnationals) and thus also the right to look, or assert his own autonomy in the face of being oppressed. There is also the more literal right to look when it comes to his increasing dependence upon his ocular prosthesis as the device through which he is able to resist. If El Zorro can be viewed as an agent of countervisuality in

PCS, then he does so at the price of excluding others, particularly women, and thus seemingly denies the possibility for women to share the space in which he seeks out its own autonomy. This point indeed reveals Mirzoeff’s theory’s limitations by exposing this contradiction inherent in Porcayo’s cyberpunk story.


Returning to the two distinct modes of vision proposed in the first half of the novel for a moment, it is useful to consider how this has been read by several other scholars. Scott Bukatman has linked the contemporary sci-fi that represents cyborg vision more largely to a mediated vision brought on by television. In Robocop, for example, the scan lines that are superimposed on the screen come from the point of view of the cyborg protagonist signify “a technologized, cyborg vision” (254). Bukatman asserts that “a switch from film to video signals the onset of a mediated vision or even a mediated subjectivity” (Ibid.). Juan Ignacio Muñoz Zapata has suggested that the shift from film to video in Latin America has resulted in a similar kind of double vision that El

Zorro’s enhanced vision represents: “If ocular prosthesis is a new device of informatics and post-modern and late-capitalist mythology, the naked eye can observe the problem of adequacy [sic54] and incompletion of the Modernity project in the subcontinent” (196).

While indeed this reading of PCS is astute and worth considering the effects of in more detail and in other texts—sci-fi or otherwise—Muñoz’s overall interpretation that PCS expresses an ardent desire for organic life (193) rather than celebrating the power of the prosthesis quite typical in cyberpunk texts is worth questioning. As has already been suggested, both El Zorro’s identity and entanglement with this technology is wrought with ambiguity from the beginning. It becomes the only way through which he is able to survive and the tool through which he battles the societal powers—both religious and economic—that embody the social order of the novel’s setting. It is also possible to read

54 I have copied Muñoz Zapata’s words directly from his text to faithfully preserve his argument, but given its apparent thrust, his choice of the term “adequacy” placed alongside “incompletion” seems to me to be a typographical error. I interpret the intended meaning to be the opposite, “inadequacy.” Suffice it to say, Latin America as a region has never contended with the “problem of adequacy” or sufficiency in the modern/postmodern debate, as evidenced quite clearly and extensively in the essays of The Postmodern Debate in Latin America (1995).

78 in El Zorro not only the acceptance of his use and mastery of his cybernetic environ, but his enjoyment of it. If there is a Porcayo story that achingly expresses the desire for both organic life via organic vision, it is the PCS accompanying story “Esferas de visión,” (as detailed toward the end of this chapter), which also thrusts PCS itself into a more complicated, gendered light.

Before examining more concretely the gender representations in the novel, it will be useful to briefly explore and consider the presence of the gaze.55 Porcayo’s writing carries such an aggressively masculine quality that it spills over into many aspects of the novel itself, aiding in the way it structures the gender relations between characters as well as delimiting the novel’s internal focalization to privilege El Zorro’s point of view. Even the omniscient narrator seems quite heterosexually masculine, positing his desire to possess the female body as represented in Nataly, the central female character whose physical features are longingly described at several points. The relations between the representation of visual technologies, the gaze, cyborg subjects and gender immediately invoke parallels with previous comparable scholarship. For example, we are reminded of

Laura Mulvey’s seminal “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975), which fused a psychoanalytic reading of the visual perspectives provided in much classic Hollywood cinema, unveiling what Mulvey conceived to be unconscious nature of the gaze as masculine. Her larger aim in her analysis was to dismantle the key structuring component in these classic films, and to deconstruct and dislodge its seemingly natural visual nature in order to uncover the mechanism by which the camera lens becomes a complicit

55 There exists a number of other modern Mexican texts where the presence of the gaze a central feature: Salvador Elizondo’s Farabeuf (1965), Juan García Ponce’s novel El gato (1974) and the related short story “El gato” (1984), Juan Villoro’s El disparo de argón (1991).

79 mediator in the objectification of women and their representation. Porcayo’s own influential work of Mexican cyberpunk sci-fi very much reproduces a similar male scopophilic gaze located by Mulvey.56 I believe Porcayo’s production, because it has been repeatedly cited as one of the most representative of the cyberpunk movement, merits inquiry as to what comprises the science fictional/cyberpunk gaze in his highly typical examples of this symbolic literature of the time. Are they similar to Mulvey’s conclusions or do they differ? More generally, what does it mean to actively represent the gaze, a fundamentally social and visual construction, within its verbal and linguistic counterpart, literature? As we shall see, PCS foregrounds the to-be-looked-at-ness of the female characters and results in fortifying traditional gender binaries. By doing so, it posits female characters whose function becomes relegated to pawns in the chess game played by the male characters. In PCS’s sister story, “Esferas de visión”, the female protagonist, who is both posthuman and female, is simultaneously disallowed to be able to look through an ocular prosthesis while the narrative foregrounds her vision and gaze as fundamentally lacking. It is in this sense that in Mexico visual practices under neoliberalism as articulated in its cyberpunk production appear to reassert more traditional categories of gender.

In PCS, the three women that appear in the novel are either silenced, abused or used for the pleasure, scopic or otherwise, of the male characters who overwhelmingly populate the narrative. Even the omniscient narrator’s account wanders into descriptions

56 One major deviation here is that this film scholar is evaluating cinema, a collaboratively assembled industrial art that is requires significant capital investment for its creation and collective viewing by audience spectators for its consumption. Porcayo is an individual writer producing a singular written work that is individually read, often by males. Indeed, the impact that Porcayo has here is likely minimal in comparison to the effects that Hollywood cinema has had on the subjective identifications that have aligned spectators—of both biological sexes—with the male gaze.

80 that resemble a kind of entranced and lustful staring at the few women who inhabit the story. In the following quote, we are introduced to Nataly Deneux, El Zorro’s main romantic interest during the action of the novel, as well as a site locater for the

Cristorrecepcionismo religious group strategically planning their entry into the Moon:

Su nombre es Nataly. […] Sus ojos azules, su cabello artificialmente naranja en un corte del siglo pasado: pequeño alrededor, largo en la cúspide. Viste un ajustado mono de material stretch color plata que, en una ventana triangular, permite observer nacimiento y curva de los senos. Dos aberturas ovaladas, más abajo, muestran una buena porción de las caderas. --Tengo preparados cuatro emplazamientos para el operativo—gesto torcido, retador; una mujer en la extension de la palabra, segura de sí misma, de su potencialidad sexual—… (63)

[Her name is Nataly. […] Her blue eyes, her hair a dyed orange in a cut style from last century: a short bowl cut, long on top. Dressed in an adjusted one-piece of silver stretch material that, in a triangular window, allows the beginning and curve of the breasts to be seen. Two oval openings, lower, show a sizable portion of her hips. “I have prepared four locations for the operation,” with a twisted, challenging gesture; a woman in the full meaning of the word, sure of herself, of her sexual potentiality…]

Here the narrator plainly intermingles Nataly’s purpose within the plot of the story while restricting the internal focalization upon her body, a verbal act which conflates the two meanings to make the latter equally part of her purpose. A woman “in the full meaning of the word” implies that to be a complete or full expression of femininity is to be aware and in control of her sexuality, and that she possesses an agency within her own choices, unconstrained by traditional societal mores. The next chapter makes clear this is a heterosexuality linked to and lustful for El Zorro. Here, Nataly helps nurse him back to consciousness after he passes out. She is described with her “labios generosos” (“full lips”) and her “pechos turgentes contra su coraza de supervivencia” [“turgid breasts against her upper body armor”] and finally, as their bodies meet, “los senos danzan el rito

81 del encuentro. Cálidos, firmes, extraños y, por lo mismo, mortalmente eficaces” (69)

[“the breasts dance the rhythm of the encounter. Warm, firm, strange and, so, mortally efficient”]. This description soon devolves into all-embracing clichés as they lustfully tear into one another with wild abandon in what becomes the only significant detailed description of sexual coupling in the novel, hetero- or otherwise. Nataly’s initial usefulness in the narrative is to give sexual satisfaction to El Zorro, although shortly after she becomes something of a replacement for Clara, Zorro’s first love (see below).

Furthermore, Nataly is French, noted by the narrator’s describing her slight accent (63) and the multiple occasions throughout the novel when she utters “chéri” to Zorro as a term of endearment, a point which further contributes to her exoticization.

As the story progresses, Nataly’s presence becomes rivaled by Clara’s absence.

Clara is Zorro’s first, ardent love who represents an idyllic past that he met around the same time when he was beginning to become entrenched in hacking and electric dreams.

She interrupts the narrative quite frequently as an entire paragraph break written elliptically “Clara…” when Zorro is feeling particularly alone or nostalgic (18, 19, 25,

45, 48, 61, 62, 97, 99, 151). As a character, she is wholly silenced and relegated to

Zorro’s pre-cyborg past, surfacing as hallucinations and dreams within two of Zorro’s narrated experience. The first and most horrifying occasion comes after El Zorro gets captured by Rioja “Bata Blanca,” a mastermind of Laboratorios Mariano, who injects an undescribed fluid into his neck. In the following chapter, El Zorro awakes sweating in an unknown desert area, causing some disorientation in him as a character (as well as for the reader), since the place has hitherto been undiscovered. He eventually comes across a house that he enters where he immediately is struck by a fetid odor. He finds Clara,

82 whose body is severely and actively decomposing yet is still conscious, despite the worms crawling in and out of her cheeks and ants marching in and around her eyes. He realizes he is hallucinating due to whatever chemical Rioja injected into him, but this does not stop the scene from unfolding. Rioja himself appears with a massive erection and begins to taunt Zorro by grabbing Clara away from him and ripping off her face’s lips and her nipples, framing Clara in tortuous and unspeakably horrific acts, signifying woman as object-turned-abject. He begins to rape the decomposing Clara while Zorro screams in uncontrollable jealously.

Bata Blanca hace caso omiso de sus reclamos. Poco a poco la voz de Clara ha cesado. Bata Blanca fornica con un esqueleto con sexo. Ha engullido toda la carne. Los gritos del Zorro dejan de ser entendibles. La locura lo posee. Ahora, incluso, el esqueleto de Clara ha desaparecido, solo queda un órgano que se mueve arriba y abajo del sexo de Bata Blanca. (41)

[White Robe ignores his screams. Little by little Clara’s voice has ceased. White Robe fornicates with a skeleton with genitals. He has wolfed down all her flesh. Zorro’s screams stop being comprehendible. Insanity possesses him. Now, even, Clara’s skeleton has disappeared, leaving behind only her sexual organ that moves up and down on Bata Blanca’s genitals.]

Here Clara is presented as abject throughout the hallucination/dream and ultimately reduced to her sexual organ. Even as abject, she remains metonymically reduced to her sexual difference as object. It should be emphasized that the raping of her in this section is imaginary and thus not diegetically real within the story (although El Zorro discovers later on that she was in fact gang-raped by Rioja’s men in another place and time that precedes the story). While the purpose of this sequence seems to be to provoke extreme rage in El Zorro (and provoke identification in the reader), it nevertheless reduces woman to the abject and then, simply and solely, as object. Clara signifies an idyllic, distant and

83 unattainable past. She represents the moment before Zorro’s immersion into the cybertechnological world, and is the innocent, lost organic life Zorro regrets and yearns to return to.

The only other woman in the story is Wanda, a female prostitute. Her role is brief and largely inconsequential to the story but also telling in its brevity. As soon as she appears in the narrative she is described solely by her hair color, a brunette, and ends up being used by El Zorro to be put in contact with a Scotsman who attempts to repair

Zorro’s ocular prosthesis when damaged. She is killed off shortly after, reduced to “una informe de huesos, sangre y carne chamuscada” (90) [“a formless mass of bones, blood and burnt flesh”] after being discovered by Steve Carter during the operation.

The female characters that populate this novel symbolize i) an idyllic absence

(Clara) ii) an abject sexually-differentiated object (Clara), iii) sculpted, sexualized to-be- looked-at bodies (Nataly, Wanda), or iv) a sexualized and expendable prostitute (Wanda).

Taken together, they very clearly function narratively as mere markers of the masculine protagonist in his mythic, cyber-hacking journey. Following Linda Wright’s inquiry into different variations of masculinities present in science fiction, several key models include the warrior, civil and scientific masculinities. Of these, El Zorro’s traits most clearly reflect the warrior, “one of the oldest and most persistent hegemonic ideals…of masculinity” (Wright 5). This model teaches other men and boys that the use of violence is justified when engaged in the fight between good and evil, and that the victor of what the story considers “good” will always triumph. Along the journey, their dedication to the fight by the use of violence will be rewarded with “the love of, and sexual access to, women” (Ibid.). Indeed, El Zorro’s warrior masculinity is confirmed by the narration just

84 after Zorro awakes from the horrific electric dream that brought him the decomposed

Clara and Bata Blanca. In a discussion about the surge of mysticism and religious fanaticism taking root all around him, the narrator describes him thus:

Las creencias místicas jamás anidaron en el Zorro. No se lo permitió. En la marea inhumana y desorganizada que siempre llenó su vida, no tiempo para detenerse en esos vanos islotes que siempre surgen de la esperanza de una vida eterna. El había elegido otro camino. El del guerrero. (48)

[Mystic beliefs had never taken hold in Zorro. He didn’t allow it. In the inhumane and disorganized tide that had always filled his life, there was no time to stop and rest on those vain small islands that surface in the hope of eternal life. He had chosen a different path. That of warrior.]

This description explicitly declares El Zorro as embodying the warrior masculinity, further describing Zorro’s not even having time enough to stop for love—even that which

Clara offered. In the face of the opportunity to love, Zorro simply turned away and fled.

Later, in the present time of the novel’s story, he very much regrets not having chosen

Clara, as he thinks about her often, reads the letters he wrote her the initial phase of their separating, but he eventually became accustomed to a new, distinct form of life: “el mercado negro, los soportes Hi-Tech de la CTP, las opciones para calmar la soledad…”

(Ibid.) [“the black market, the hi-tech supports of the CTP, options to calm the loneliness”; Ibid.]. Thus, the warrior masculinity becomes aligned and imbued with high technological support as a way to offset the loneliness implicit in being a combatant loner, a point which brings us to the role that cybernetic technology plays in the construction of this particular masculine representation.

The field of gender studies has largely overlooked the role of the construction of gender identities as they relate to technology. The 2004 journal Men and Masculinities dedicated an issue to the interrelatedness of gender and technology where they stressed

85 the understudied nature of this important aspect in the field. It acknowledges that technologies have traditionally been strongly gendered, with men often occupying positions of power that are frequently undergirded by intimate links with technology.

Taking a strong stance in social constructivist studies, they acknowledge that technology is never a neutral, passive mechanism or process within society, nor does it exclusively determine social change—that technological determinism is insufficient to explain the complex function and role of technology in society—but rather these forces work together in a seamless meshing.57 “Technology is shaped as a result of complex social processes in which, typically, diverse groups do battle over what the artifact should do, look like, and so forth” (322). As such, technologies are thus strongly gendered.58

Feminist technology studies have shown not only how gender is able to influence the invention and creation of certain technologies but also how technologies help to articulate gender identities. So, just as technology and society can be mutually constituting, so too are gender and technologies mutually shaping (Ibid.). Taking this particular stance as their conceptual framework, social constructivist studies understand that the constructed nature of society, technology and gender ultimately means that these are not immoveable force fields; they have been forged in complex dynamics that are always within a continual process of being reformed, however slowly this may be. More importantly, it is by revealing the constructed and mutually shaping nature of technology of gender that

57 Useful here for them is Thomas Hughes’s neologism of the “technosocial” that recognizes that the “technology is never just technical or social. Rather, the relationship [between them] is densely interactive” (Lohan and Faulkner 322). 58 Two clear examples they cite involve studies done of the industrial age that have shown how key labor roles marked heavy machinery as masculine whereas the tools and knowledge to use kitchen technologies were marked feminine (Ibid.).

86 they illuminate how both of these spheres can be re-constructed. They can change and actively be forged in different ways.

This digression on the relation between masculinities and technology is pertinent because PCS and “Esferas de visión” (discussed below) provide a stimulating test case within Mexican cyberpunk science fiction as a site with which to interrogate the representation of genders as they relate to visual technologies of this era. By taking a social constructivist approach to the interrelation between these two topics, some stimulating questions arise. If gender and technology mutually shape each other, then what kind of society is imagined in Porcayo’s world with regard to these two areas? How does the technology present in PCS align with certain gender identities and/or favor gender relations? Conversely, which genders are allowed to utilize technology? What kinds of technology are given to the characters in his stories and which ones are deprived of it? How does the gaze enter into this dynamic? Is the gaze too, here in Mexican cyberpunk science fiction, aligned with technological endowment? These questions that arise from considering Porcayo’s cyberpunk novel will become clearer after a discussion of its sister story, “Esferas de visión”.

“Esferas de visión”

This short story appeared in Silicio en la memoria, the first cyberpunk anthology from Mexico in 1997, which was also compiled by Porcayo himself. It included other important cyberpunk authors such as Pepe Rojo (see Chapter 2), Bernardo Fernández

“BEF”, José Luis Ramírez, Gerardo Sifuentes and José Luis Zárate, et al. This compilation surfaced four years after Porcayo’s novel La primera calle de la soledad in

1997, and shows just how much momentum the tendency gained within Mexican sci-fi in

87 such a short period of time. In retrospect it can be seen as a cyberpunk movement in full flex.

“Esferas de visión” must be read as a companion piece to Porcayo’s novel La primera calle de la soledad for a variety of reasons. As indicated at the beginning of the chapter, narrative voice, time and general setting align with the novel, evidenced by the reappearance of the Cristorreceptor, the emblematic icon of the new religion presented in the novel; the drug “electric dreams” designed by Trip Corporation is also present. Most importantly, the story urgently decries the loss of organic vision in a potent, condensed delivery of under six pages. Its essential expression is that of a startled female cyborg whose very psychological instability stems from the loss of an eye—from a fundamental deficiency—that she goes in search of; the event catalyzes the story’s in the form of the protagonist’s monomaniacal search for a way to return to her natural vision.

The exclamation “¡Mi ojo, mi otro ojo!” begins and closes the story, making it a fierce framing device that fundamentally laments the loss of organic vision. The protagonist, who remains nameless throughout the story, awakes from an hibernatory, induced sleep on board a small submarine, shouting these words. She awakes alone and, in the end, returns alone. The expression “¡Mi ojo, mi otro ojo!” recurs verbatim another eight times throughout the text (for a total of 10), along with other extensive references to eyes, vision more generally, images, mirrors and screens. This titular “sphere” of title references most prominently the organic ocular object that she has lost or had stolen from her, a point which is unclear from the story’s outset. “’¡Mi ojo, mi otro ojo!’ Así suelen empezar todos sus sueños y pesadillas. Toda su realidad. Una carencia que se ha transformado en emblema de su ser” (n.p.) [“My eye! My other eye! So begin her dreams

88 and nightmares. All her reality. A lack that has transformed into an emblem of her being”]. The trauma of having lost an eye continues to plague her such that it has permeates her entire sense of self as it is presented in the story. She wears a patch over her eyeless socket in order to cover it; as if to lament and never forget its loss, she has an eye tattooed in the gap between and just above her breasts.59 This image of an eye is distinct from her natural eye in that it is “gris y frío, de una objetividad que ya no posee en su visión” [“grey and cold, with an objectivity that she no longer possesses in her own vision”], “en ninguna de sus visiones” (Ibid.) [“in none of her visions”]. Here the narrator plays on two signifieds of “visión” in the title, one being her perceptual loss of sight that lacks an eye and the other referring to her recurring hallucinations that pervade her psychological state of mind. The loss of her eye causes a literal deprivation of vision as well as a trauma that invokes visions in her psyche that upset any semblance of stability.

The tattoo symbolizing lack that is placed just between her breasts or her bosom corresponds to the area of her heart, the very locus of feelings and emotion. She exhibits psychological instability throughout the story as she searches for her lost eye. The narration goes so far as to describe in this way: “-Mi ojo, mi otro ojo- gruñe dentro de su esquizofrenia inducida” (n.p.) [“’My eye, my other eye,’ she grunts in her induced state of schizophrenia”], associating her state of mind as a state of schizophrenia brought on by the loss of vision. By beginning the story as “’¡Mi ojo, mi otro ojo!’ Así suelen empezar todos sus sueños y pesadillas. Toda su realidad,” (Ibid.) [“My eye! My other eye! All her dreams and nightmares usually begin this way. All her reality”], there is a deliberate confusion of the boundary between her diegetic voice within the narration that screams

59 See Fig. 1 in the appendix after the conclusion. This drawing, inspired by the story, was included in the issue of the fanzine Sub it was published in 1999.

89 this aloud in the space of the submarine she is sleeping within or whether or not this occurs in her dreams or nightmares. Since it is “all her reality,” one can assume that this distinction does not matter, since her entire life, whether or asleep or conscious, is somehow affected by the loss of her eye. If her dreams and nightmares and her entire reality begins with this exclamation, then how does her unconscious state differ from her reality? Is her reality just one surreal dream or nightmare? The ambiguity here succeeds in disorienting the reader, as s/he is immersed within this world in media res and at several points in its brief six pages, the conscious-unconscious or reality-dream binary gets invoked again, aiding in reinforcing the uncertainty

In spite of this ambiguity, the story’s plot remains deceptively simple: awaking into consciousness and remembering the loss of her eye provokes an extensive, obsessive search for it. She connects to the controls of the submarine via the socket in her head, and in so doing, it facilitates her ability to command the vessel and bring it to surface. It also provides her with cybernetic visual enhancements:

Un submarino biplaza de tonos amarillos y múltiples brazos robot. Visión insecta. Mira atrás, adelante, a un costado, al otro, arriba, abajo. No hay extrañeza en la transición, sus ojos cámara registran óxido, tuberías inservibles, la línea de flotación, inclinada y demasiado hundida en esa particular latitud. Sus ojos sonar, sus ojos radar, exploran océano y tierra en busca de peligro, roedores, patrullas y parias. (n.p.)

[A two-seater, yellow-toned submarine with multiple robot arms. Insect vision. She looks back, forward, to a side, then the other, above and below. There is no strangeness in the transition, her camera eyes register rust, unusable tubes, the flotation line, inclined and too sunken in at that particular latitude. Her sonar eyes, her sonar eyes, radar eyes, explore the ocean and land in search of danger, rodents, patrols and outcasts.]

Here she is a cyborg fully integrated into the electronic circuits of the submarine, and her sensory perception, most particularly her vision, functions normally—so much so that the

90 narrator describes her visual function in the plural “ojos cámera…ojos sonar, ojos radar”

(n.p.) [camera eyes…sonar eyes, radar eyes]. It is as if she never lost her eye while connected to the submarine and in addition has extra-sensory perception by being able to perceive beyond her normal visual function by using the submarine’s computer. She surfaces in the submarine to find that she has been circling a city-island surrounded by water, and it is here where she disconnects from the cybernetic system and its enhancements: “Después, vuelve a tener un solo ojo. No hayn. Es real lo que mira”

(Ibid.) [“After, she goes back to having only one eye. There is no confusion. It is real what she sees”]. The city has been devastated by Cristoreceptor invaders, the same high- tech transnational religious institution from the novel PCS. This reinforces the harsh duality created by a mediated vision, one that literalizes Muñoz Zapata’s assessment of

PCS: when she sees without the prosthetic enhancements that connects her to the submarine’s controls, she sees organically and is thus able to veridically see the destruction of her home. The mediation of the cybernetic enhancement, or the mediated subjectivity, causes confusion, whereas the seeing naturally allows the “truth” to be seen.

And that truth is the reality of the state of the city upon which she sees when ascending to its surface.

After docking the submarine, she walks among the ruins, remembering the place as her home with friends whom she spent time with in her youth. She carries multiple guns, monomaniacal in her search of revenge from whomever took her eye. It becomes clear that it is in the devastated city where she lost her eye. The day after her first night there, she comes across a group of emaciated outcasts among the ruins, and asks: “Mi ojo. ¿Dónde está mi otro ojo?” (n.p.) [“My eye. Where is my eye?] and upon receiving no

91 reply, “sus armas [vomitan] muerte,” (Ibid.) [“her guns vomited death”] laying waste to them all. She returns to her submarine and along the way stumbles upon an alarm for the city, which she activates, inciting three jets and two submarines to come to investigate, with the jets launching further attacks. She watches with a rabid interest, and the aftermath eventually locating a weak survivor from the attack of the jets who appears to be a pilot who ejected from his plane before it crashed. After a brief discussion where he attempts to convince her to convert to Cristorreceptor, the Christ figure of the new religion, she rips out his eye with her “gerber de combate.”60 She returns to the submarine and attempts to replace her eye with his: “Maniobra con sus dedos la esfera visual, trata de adaptarla a su cuenca. Insiste. Hasta que el ojo se pudre, se vuelve líquido pestilente”

(n.p.) [“she handles the visual sphere with her fingers, trying to adapt it in the socket. She keeps at it. Until the eye decomposes, turning into a pestilent liquid”]. With this, she sets the submarine on auto-pilot to around the city and sinks back into her profound hibernation.

What most prominently stands out in this story is the intersection of a female cyborg who, even when endowed with cutting-edge technology, comes to embody pure lack. She carries with her multiple guns, her “gerber de combate,” and is even integrated with cybernetic technology via the socket in her cranium that allows her to control the submarine and makes “su cuerpo […] más,” (Ibid.) [“her body … more”] but she ends the story the same as it began: a being whose subjectivity is founded by the loss of her eye. She may be endowed with technology as a means to extend her human capacities

60 A neologism whose origin is difficult to locate, although some forums online refer to it as a massive, military knife similar to the one used by the character Rambo in his films.

92 when part of the submarine, but she is ultimately unable to assimilate the technology to help either repair her lost vision or find a suitable substitute.

If we compare her to El Zorro in PCS, one finds a stark difference in how

Porcayo’s texts imagine the interface between gender and technology. El Zorro loses his eye but has an ocular prosthesis installed; the female cyborg in “Esferas de visión” loses an eye and is fraught with traumatic loss throughout the story. At no point in the story is she even offered a technological replacement to help facilitate her ability to see again through her eye, which seems to suggest that she is ultimately denied access to technology. Zorro uses his enhancement to enact his own agency in order to resist; she is ultimately denied the possibility of any such agency in that she is disallowed the same visual technology that Zorro benefited from. This short story registers this loss more pointedly than the accompanying novel, and its being published four years later may be read as a further diminishing of this natural vision that occurs at the helm of the transnational expansive media and the subsequent changes the country experienced. That is to say, if at first PCS acknowledges a loss of organic vision, then “Esferas de visión,” by emphasizing the loss of vision so severely throughout it, seems to suggest that these changes deepened and continued to reverberate far into the national psyche.

By way of conclusion of this chapter, I want to highlight the peculiar cybernetic- specular object that aids in asserting the story’s futuristic nature while at the same time hybridizing two objects that have become the site of widespread contemplation: the mirror and the screen. This occurs on the first page of the story as she awakes from hibernation and looks at herself. She appears in front of a mirror and repeats her lamentation, “¡Mi ojo, mi otro ojo!,” while looking at her returned image. But oddly, the

93 mirror that returns her reflection is not a simple inversion of her image. She touches her fingers to the mirror “buscando tocar los electrones que pululan más abajo y se ordenan, devolviéndole una imagen fiel y corregida, no inversa…” (Ibid.) [“looking for electrons that swarm beneath and reorder themselves, returning to her a faithful and corrected image, not an inverse one”]. The mirror here is some other object than the modern one which commonly returns an inverted image of ourselves. Porcayo’s mirror is alive with an active display that simultaneously returns an image that is both somehow accurate and corrected. The following paragraph clarifies that this is indeed a “pantalla-espejo”

(“screen-mirror”; Ibid.), which immediately evokes a fusion of these two objects as a key site for subject construction. No longer does it merely reflect the object or person placed in front of it, rather it actively captures and displays them while adjusting and improving their image in real-time. This screen-mirror proposes an image-device that is capable of modifying its image on-the-fly, a kind of instantaneous digital rendering via Photoshop that is capable of being accurate enough to be considered “faithful” to allow for self- recognition while at the same time making instantaneous corrections that enhance or

“correct” how the subject sees him or herself. This fascinating idea melds the mirror into the digital screen into a hybrid mediating device where the subject’s sense of self is literally altered via visual technologies.61 It is a Lacanian mirror made real by being

61 In an interesting fiction-meets-reality , in 2013 some researchers at the University of Tokyo created just this, a mirror that alters one’s facial expression. The device is called an “incendiary reflection” that tracks a person’s facial expressions and then alters them just slightly but upturning the corners of their mouth and crinkling the area around their eyes to make them appear happier than actually are when they look at themselves in the mirror. The point of this is to ultimately make them feel happier so that they will consume more items while shopping (Waldman, n.p.). This is actually based upon a “facial feedback theory” that essentially claims that how a face appears may come to bear greatly upon their subjective experience of life, i.e. the more one forces themselves to , the more happy one actually becomes.

94 filtered through Baudrillard’s simulacra, an object that underscores the pervasiveness and importance of the digital screen in constructing identities.

This creative notion of a screen-mirror here along with the female cyborg being presented fundamentally as lack would seem to consciously invoke Lacan. By presenting the female cyborg here as lack, he highlights her sexual difference from her male counterpart, which in the realm of Porcayo’s literary cyborgs would have to be El Zorro.

He becomes endowed with the ocular prosthesis, thus enhancing his vision and allowing him to struggle and fight back against the transnational institutional powers present in the story, which he ultimately succeeds in destroying. Taken together, this would be classic

Lacan on a number of levels. At its most basic, Porcayo’s work suggests that men, who biologically possess the ocular prosthesis (a penis), symbolize presence and thus order; women, as lack (without a penis), represent absence and therefore disorder. The protagonist of “Esferas de visión” is a completely disordered subject whose fundamental lack undermines her own stability, and all she desires is to return to wholeness, to a state of whole union with her being, in the Real. This is impossible, of course, and as she returns to the submarine at the end of the story, she still lacks her eye—she is still lack, unable to return to a state of plenitude. She returns to her submarine that is set on auto- pilot, and programmed to circle the island as she sinks back into an induced hibernatory state. The story closes with her exclaiming, “Mi ojo, mi otro ojo! –musita ajena a los devaneos de la realidad, hundida en fantasías electrónicas que tampoco conocen la paz”

(n.p.) [“’My eye, my other eye!’ She whispers, far from the flirtations of reality, submerged in electronic fantasies that also do not know peace”].


The dystopia presented here, as for the neoliberal present of Mexico in the 1990s, expresses an extreme anxiety toward the technological condition into which their protagonists are forced into. Unlike some critical theories of how the cyborg may present the possibility of liberating the subject from their patriarchal past, the cyborgs here are unable to transcend these more traditional categories of gender. Porcayo has unconsciously structured his narratives along a rigid, biologically-grounded gender dichotomy of difference that lends itself to a psychoanalytical reading of the subject formations in these two works. Even more telling in their constructions as fictional characters is their divisive use and access to visual technologies that seem to only further entrench their sexual difference, with the male subject allowed access to the ocular prosthesis to help fight the evil institutional forces of the novel, whereas the female subject lacks this access.


Chapter Two

Televisual Subjectivity in Pepe Rojo’s Speculative Fiction

“We are getting closer and closer to the point where the social world is primarily described—and in a sense prescribed—by television.” Pierre Bourdieu

“Dentro de la pupila de Ray, un cuadrado deforme. Adentro del cuadrado, la imagen de la televisión. En la imagen de la televisión, la cara de Ray. En la cara de Ray, sus pupilas. Dentro de las pupilas, un cuadro deforme.”

(“Inside Ray’s pupil, a deformed square. Inside the square, the image of the television. In the television’s image, Ray’s face. On Ray’s face, his pupils. Inside his pupils, a deformed square.”) Pepe Rojo

Pepe Rojo has been profoundly affected by the visuality within contemporary

Mexico. His writing expresses an urgency regarding the country’s visual practices and point to a greater transformation occurring in his nation’s vision and visuality within the globalized era. Even when the overarching themes in his fiction do not directly engage it, the subject matter surfaces noticeably, as if exhibiting instances of a minor symptom to a larger underlying cause. His compositions abound in jarring visual motifs, instances where eyes are removed, altered, replaced or operated upon, where mirrors are frequently the site of elusive or deceptive identifications, or where electronic screens—almost always television—become charged narrative forces with gravitational pull. In the quote

97 above taken from Rojo’s only novel, Punto cero, the omniscient narrator describes the main character as he sits in his apartment watching television. The description here interweaves his eyes with television recursively in a mise-en-abyme where the focalization of narrative description makes it difficult to discern where the locus of visual perception, the eye, is separate from its focus, the television screen. The quote foregrounds not only the role that this medium plays in the field of vision of Mexico but it also emphasizes the eye-television coupling as a key component in the formation of subject constitution. Writing at the same time as Rojo but in reference to her own postmodern Argentina, Beatriz Sarlo has pointed out that “society is now televisual; we live in a ‘state of television’” (70), meaning, I believe, that much of contemporary life is becoming increasingly filtered and experienced through this audio-visual technology so prevalent and influential in popular thinking and visual practices. Similarly, Rojo’s literarily imagined Mexico also shows a prominent and urgent preoccupation regarding tele-visuality such that it seeps into nearly all areas of his work.

In the chapter that follows, I contend that Rojo’s speculative foregrounds vision as a central site for the constitution of a subjectivity highly mediated by television, what I am provisionally dubbing a “televisual subjectivity.” In the corpus selected here, Rojo’s writing posits that the practice of watching television contains the powerful potential to deceive or distort one’s sense of self while at the same time critiquing Mexico’s being thrust into a neoliberal economic framework that has resulted in, among other things, a social plane that has become overrun with visual mediations and spectacles. One key function of this chapter will be to demonstrate how the role of vision is overwhelmingly linked to the televisual—not the cybernetic, as the case usually with

98 the Mexican . What are the suggested consequences for subjectivity more generally? In Rojo’s sci-fi writings exemplified in “Ruido gris” (1996) and

“Conversaciones con Yoni Rei” (1998), he establishes his conception of a cyborg body that is connected not to an informational network but rather functions as bridge between the viewing public and the unidirectional televisual broadcast source that, in one case, consumes the viewer into its screen. This imposing televisuality is what creates anxiety and alienation within the subjects of his stories. Far removed from any rational, autonomous, self-directing, liberal humanist subject, the protagonists in his stories become the specific site of domination by this visual practice. Moving into other generic registers such as the fantastic (Punto cero in 2000) and slipstream (“El presidente sin

órganos” in 2002), Rojo again returns to television as the anchoring practice of looking in his imagined Mexico. In these instances, television becomes the cardinal site of

(mis)identifications and commodification, as well as a means by which to parody contemporary politics as a pure surface of depthless representation wholly lacking substance.62 While his creative work is sometimes informed by Western thinkers such as

Jacques Lacan and Paul Virilio, his literary representations retain strong undercurrents of contemporary events and social coming from his local environment. This makes his work not merely one that copies contemporary Western theories circulating at the time and overlaying them on top of a Latin American context, but rather his writing is imbued with core elements of Mexican social realities of the 1990s. This chapter will also delve into some very key stylistic aspects to his writing: oftentimes his narratives attempt to double as a kind of televisual script, and the rhythm and pace of change in his

62 This also becomes one of the central thematic concerns of Eve Gil’s Virtus in chapter three.

99 narratives are abruptly changed—as if a television channel is being changed. All of these have strongly informed the strategic usage of televisuality so pervasive in Rojo’s narratives, and how they in fact reflect the most common mass media social practice in

Mexico at the time: watching television. Finally, I argue that Rojo represents a unique articulation of visuality within contemporary Mexico, one that is anomalous within the larger science fiction cyberpunk movement of which he was an instrumental part. But before delving into the aforementioned larger thematic and theoretical concerns regarding subjectivity in his writing, I would like to start by positioning him in the sci-fi context from which he emerged and show how he articulates this unique visuality.

The Mexican cyberpunk writers took as their mythic trope the hacker immersed within a dystopian cybernetic setting where the screen was almost always that of a computer monitor and the social space imagined was often that of a deceptive virtual reality63. These are powerful and recurring symbols of the early days of the internet.

Hernán Manuel García’s extensive exploration of the cyberpunk movement details these motifs, situating their times in a near future where a “post-global” environment represents the place.

Las representaciones más recurrentes de lo “pos-global” que los cuentos [cyberpunk] presentan son: imágenes de tribus “pos-urbanas”, drogas tecnificadas, edificios abandonados y vandalizados, territorios dominados por bandas, discotecas de ambiente negro enclavadas en un más oscuro barrio, mercenarios con prótesis letales, descomunales fiestas de hackers,

63 This is also what characterized US cyberpunk in the mid-1980s. Following up the brief mention of the subgenre in the introduction, it appeared in William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) as a literary movement and by the time cyberpunk story compilation Mirrorshades came out in 1986, some of its writers were already speaking of its death as a movement. Curiously, some of the Mexican cyberpunk authors have stated that they had no knowledge of US cyberpunk at the time it was circulating or after, and that they had never read any work on it as very little of it had been translated into Spanish. While some of the roots of Mexican cyberpunk have been said to be traceable as far back as Porcayo’s short story “Sueño eléctrico” (1984) and José Luís Zárate’s “Análogos y therbligs” (1986), Mexican cyberpunk sci-fi was not an officially recognized movment until the mid-1990s, as discussed in the introduction.


prostitutas de carnes flácidas que compiten contra irresistibles virtual girls, y el entorno de la realidad virtual como vía de perdición. (334)

[The most recurrent “post-global” representations of [cyberpunk] stories present: images of “pos-urban” subculture social groups, technified drugs, abandoned and vandalized buildings, territories dominated by gangs, discotechs as dark enclaves in an even darker neighborhood, mercenaries with lethal prosthesis, enormous hacker parties, flaccidly-fleshed prostitutes competing againsts irrestible virtual girls, and a general environment of virtual reality as a road to perdition.]

The cybernetic signified so commonly associated with the movement certainly had a connection most visibly in the media as early as 1994 when the Ejército Zapatista de

Liberación Nacional (EZLN) leveraged the global communicative capabilities of the internet via its web page to broadcast its message of resistance against the Mexican federal government and the transnational forces behind neoliberalism put into practice via

NAFTA, which helped garner it the oft-touted label as the first postmodern revolution or rebellion (Carrigan 417). There also existed through small pockets of hacktivism present throughout the country that gained notoriety and momentum as a result of the EZLN’s utilization of the web as a tool of resistance and social justice; hackitivismo in Mexico used the web to serve to help emphasize the demands of the political left by using subversion tactics such as defacing other political parties’ or corporations’ web pages with messages that run counter to their own and providing servers to host alternative sources of information in order to provide a different viewpoint to the traditional media outlets (Alberto Lizama n.p.). Manuel García’s research into this area has brought to light the importance of this diffuse, often overlooked, literary cyberpunk movement in its critique of the social, economic and political effects of NAFTA and neoliberal dogma on the country, especially from the vantage of the youth within this register of sci-fi. His

101 contribution to the field of cultural studies that focuses on science fiction cannot be understated.

However, what Manuel García’s work fails to acknowledge is the projective nature of such works—i.e. their lack of correspondence to actual conditions within the country. By this I mean that a cybernetically-connected Mexico on any significant scale in the 1990s and into the 2000s remains difficult to envision. As reviewed in the introduction, Mexico’s efforts to transform itself into an information society has been sluggish at best. In 2006, the World Information Society Report, which rates 166 participatory countries via different benchmarks64 for their being able to be considered an information society, ranked Mexico as 66 in the World Ranking and, in the Americas, it reached only 15 (out of the potential 18 Hispanic countries) despite having the largest

Spanish-speaking population of any of those nations, around 107 million. Between 2003 and 2006, 12 and 18% of the population nationwide were Internet users (López Dávila 1), which likely means that even fewer regularly used the internet during the peak period of

Mexican cyberpunk literary production, the mid- to late-1990s. All of this signals the fact that, no matter the cyber-thematic within the cyberpunk sci-fi movement, the country was—and still is—far from achieving any significant informatization of society. Miriam

Herrera Aguilar’s 1998 assessment concludes that Mexico can increase its industrialization but has a long way to go to becoming post-industrial, or one whose major economic basic is based on knowledge production and information: “México no

64 These were determined by various indicators that equal the Digital Opportunity Index (DOI), and is comprised by factors such as percentage of population that use a mobile , mobile telephone tariff rates, internet access tariff rates, proportion of households with a computer, proportion of households with access to Internet at home, proportion of individuals that use the Internet, ratio of fixed broadband consumers, etc. (It and Unca 23)

102 tiene grandes posibilidades de ser una sociedad postindustrial, ya que tiene problemas prioritarios por resolver en los planos económico y educativo que son los principales factores a desarrollar para pasar a este estadio” (“Mexico does possess great chances of becoming a postindustrial society, since it is more pressing problems to resolve in the economic and education sectors, which are the principal factors it needs to develop in order to move on to this next stage”; 73). So, at its most developed, the cyberpunk movement, with its recurring mythic figures of rebellious hackers and lethal cyborg mercenaries armed with prosthetics who were all immersed in a deceptive virtual reality was strongly notional rather than reflecting their social reality. And rarely throughout the cyberpunk corpus is television as formative and determining as a rhetorical or thematic device, except in Rojo’s work; I claim that in many ways this reflects the larger social reality occurring within visual practices. As also mentioned in the introduction,

Numeralia, a statistical journal published by UNAM, placed television in around 96-97% of the urban homes throughout the country in the mid-2000s, making it the most widely- utilized audio-visual technology and very possibly the most influential throughout the country (“Televisión en México” 7).

Of all the cyberpunk writers, then, Rojo’s work remains unique as the singular expression of the heightened and hypnotic televisuality that characterize contemporary

Mexico. Televisuality, understood here broadly as the subject’s psychological encounter as mediated through the audio-visual experience of television and all its related phenomenon65, persists as the hard kernel of his production while also reflecting the larger transformation happening in the media sphere within the country at this time: the

65 This is not to be confused with John Caldwell’s appropriation of the term in his 1995 book (also called Televisuality) to describe a characteristic excess of style proper to US television starting in the 1980s.

103 neoliberalization of the television industry and all the subsequent consequences: an increase in multinational partnerships in the industry which resulted in an increase of foreign—mostly US—programming, a heightened reliance upon ratings as a measure of gauging audience viewership and by extension the cost of commercial advertising, an increase in reality-style television programs, an increase in the material production of television screens in the (particularly Tijuana) and an increase in commodity circulation brought on by NAFTA. All of this impacted most potently the visuality of Mexico throughout the 1990s. It is these aspects—and more—that are critically reflected in Rojo’s work and what make his writing worth considering more closely.

I have chosen to analyze Rojo’s corpus selected for this dissertation in terms of their thematic content rather than in their chronological appearance as published works.

The reason for this stems from wanting to foreground up front his most works that most prominently posit their speculative nature, “Ruido gris” and Punto cero. Afterward, I will move on to two stories that attempt to mimic television shows in the literary style and register in which they are written.

“Ruido gris”

“Ruido gris” begins with a buzzing in the protagonist’s head that cannot let him fall asleep. It is a residue of the traumatic event that precedes as well as pervades the entire narrative: the protagonist’s raw, unmediated vision has been altered and partially

104 taken over by an unnamed media company via a surgical operation. A camera is attached to his right eye’s retina and a microphone to his vocal chords to allow his eyes and mouth to transmit his subjective visual and auditory experience back to the media company; he has become an “ocular reporter.” The view and sound from his eyes and mouth are either recorded for later editing and compiling within various programs, such as the reality- news “Rojo digital,” or, if the report has enough interest for the media company, what he sees will be broadcast live directly out to thousands of viewers. Thus, his vision is no longer an organic functioning of his body, nor is it his own; it has been converted into a televisual cyborg. His previously sensorial functions of seeing and listening have been converted into a form of labor in the service of a mass media corporation that contractually obligates his services six hours per day, seven days per week. One clear reference here is to Marx’s overall theory of how capital subjugates humans in a totalizing way,66 in particular, how the protagonist’s private life, even when not working, gets interrupted or intruded upon by the voice of the station director, leaving the moments when he is supposed to be relaxing as ones that become presided over by the presence of his (invisible) boss. In terms of the story’s narrative strategy, the first- person narration thrusts we, the readers, immediately into the subjective point of view of a protagonist whose observing body has antecedently become a bridge between the mass media broadcast and the protagonist’s audio-visual sensorial experience. The body and, most acutely, the eyes have become the site of the exercise of power at the helm of the

66 I am thinking here more generally of many of Marx’s critiques of capitalism, such as that capital deprives laborers of the profits reaped through surplus value; it deprives them of their time insofar as a wage labor’s time becomes what he contributes to the system; it produces an alienating subjectivity in way that it divides the relationship between the product and the work spent on that product; it imposes a consumeristic fetishism of the commodity on a global scale, further ensnaring the worker within the capitalist system.

105 media company whose ultimate aim is for profit (in the form of ratings and increased viewership). This causes, among other factors, a profound alienation in the protagonist.

The media corporation’s narrative presence is powerful and constant yet unseen.

Its existence predates and survives the protagonist within the story’s timeline, making it a profound, lasting entity within the character’s life that rivals and even surpasses the impact of the lack of parental presence. It is omnipresent yet somehow elusive, a kind of dark matter that controls his daily life’s direction in multiple ways but manages to escape being seen as a physical institution by the protagonist (and thus also the reader). It is sensed only peripherally, i.e. through the red, green or yellow light that illuminates within his right eye and is connected to the camera, indicating that his vision is being recorded, on standby or is being broadcast direct/live. The company’s presence can also be sensed non-visually by the protagonist, i.e. heard in the grey noise that buzzes between his eyes signaling the operating of the transmitting device, as well as the occasional voice of a program director that communicates with him from the station. The contract with the telecommunications company controls his days, as he is required to seek out newsworthy events for recording or live transmission. Thus, the story’s central narrative driving force rests on an anonymous—yet pervasive—media corporation that not only overtakes the visual capacities of the individual subject but exploits him. Of note here is the namelessness of all characters in the story, including the protagonist, his (absent) parents, the program director or the media corporation that employs him, lending a certain universality in the identity of these actants.

Indeed, this invisible and anonymous pervasiveness to the company paints a bleak picture—an ominous urban space of a future time that is distinctly dystopian. This offers

106 a provocative if not horrific extension of Foucault’s panopticism in Mexico, depicting televisual media as one more key “space” of disciplinary society that provides not just spectacle but surveillance. This institution’s imposing and authoritative presence contrasts with the relative absence of other stable institutions in society, namely the family unit. Upon the protagonist’s 18th birthday, he receives an email67 from his father stating that his final gift was money that he could use however he sees fit (and with which he decides to use to pay for half the prosthesis operation), but after that, further communication was prohibited. This paternal rejection recurs through narrated memories several times in the story, along with the mention of his mother’s early death (which the narrative leaves unexplained throughout).68 This lack of enduring authority figures combined with its replacement by the media company and the ocular reporting work he performs evokes in the protagonist feelings ranging from anxiety to alienation to depression.

Vivo en un mundo sin oscuridad. Todo el día hay un indicador en mi retina que indica mi estatus de transmisión. Puedo bajar la intensidad del indicador, pero aun cuando duermo me hace compañía. Un foco amarillo y un zumbido, un murmullo. Con ellos duermo. Son mi familia cercana. Pero mis ojos pertenecen al mundo. Mi familia lejana abarca toda una ciudad. (96)

[I live in a world without darkness. All day there’s an indicator in my retina that indicates my transmission status. I can lower the intensity of the indicator, but even when I sleep it keeps me company. A yellow light and a buzz, a murmur. With them I sleep. They are my close family. But my eyes belong to the world. My distant family covers the entire city.]

67 This email, remarked as having been stored on his hard drive for future reference, represents the only direct mention of a digital or cybernetic world. 68 The narrator never details much of the familial breakdown, such as when he last spoke to his father or what were the contributing factors that led to his father abandoning him on his 18th birthday. The only further reference comes when the narrator speaks of being placed in an orphanage after his mother’s death and his father promising to come and visit him there but never actually doing so.


Many jarring descriptions like this occur throughout, although this one epitomizes the rupture between the electronic machinery that now lives within his body and eyes, and no longer abides by more traditional boundaries of self and subject. In a later sequence where an explosion sends him flying through the air, he narrates the action as such: “No soy un cuerpo, soy una máquina que vuela por los aires, cuya única finalidad es grabar y grabar y grabar para que todo el mundo pueda ver lo que no les gustaría vivir” (111) [“I am not a body, I am a machine that flies through the air, whose only function is to record and record and record so that everyone can see what they would not like to live through”]. Here he describes his body as some sort of alien object whose purpose is to only to see and record. As the story opens and the protagonist describes the buzzing sound within his head that emanates from the camera and equipment, he assures us that he has gotten used to this once foreign, electric murmur. “El cuerpo es una máquina insensata” (95) [“The body is an absurd machine”], he says. However, at the same time that he reflects upon his dehumanized posthumanization (i.e. his own corporeal experience as having been co-opted and partially owned by the media company), the very fact that he is reflecting upon his sense of self implies there still exists a significant residue leftover of an autonomous subjectivity. What is clear from these moments in the story is that the protagonist’s individual body has been partially converted into a viewing machine at the service of the larger telecommunications industry, and what becomes clearer as the story progresses is the way in which this body becomes synonymous with the social body of the story’s fictional place and time, itself greatly penetrated and overtaken by a heavily mediatized social space. This becomes one of the key critiques of

108 this story: televisual media imposes itself upon the social realm, blanketing, puncturing and nestling itself into the subject’s psyche, hijacking the body and its visual perception.

It is here where juxtaposing Donna Haraway’s conception of a cyborg in her classic essay “The Cyborg Manifesto” (1985) to the one conceived by Rojo becomes fruitful in showing how sci-fi texts from Mexico can contest key aspects to this theory.

As briefly discussed in Chapter One, Haraway hopes to appropriate the symbol of a cyborg as a potent theoretical figure endowed with power. She writes this manifesto to theorize the cyborg figure as a nodal point in resisting the dominant power structures as embodied by the hegemonic father-figure of a white, male, oedipal (heteronormative), patriarchal capitalism that gave birth to it. While this essay may be oriented toward radical feminists of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it has since become a call for a profound transformation in consciousness for everyone living in the late 20th century, and has been used time and again as a reference point for studies where technology and identity/subjectivity intersect. She defines the cyborg as such: “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (315). The cyborg is thus real, present in medicine and biological reproduction et al, as well as has it become a mythic, potent figure in and literature. Haraway argues for using “the cyborg as a fiction [to map] our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource [to suggest] some very fruitful couplings”

(Ibid.). Her cyborg can be used to create and maintain a post-gender world where “it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, un-alienated labor, or other seductions to organize wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity” (316). Haraway admits this symbol combines key aspects of a fully

109 constructed non-essentialist postmodern subject with a long-standing utopian tradition that conceives of a modern world without the inequalities of gender. The cyborg, for her, helps to recharge the feminist (resi-)stance that contests centuries of oppression and domination by their male counterparts. She views the cyborg as a potentially hopeful and resistant subject that is endowed with an agency to do so69.

Rojo’s cyborg, both here and in “Conversaciones con Yoni Rei,” presents a starkly different figure, one that is uniquely and inescapably Mexican from this period when he is writing in the 1990s. To begin with, the protagonist of “Ruido gris” is still markedly male. While not a masculinity that actively subjugates women, neither are male representations here particularly helpful in promoting a more egalitarian society. Women are almost wholly absent in the story, given his mother’s untimely death and the lack of any other significant feminine figure. If anything, the gender focus is on broken father- son relations, severed actively by the father and subsequently substituted by the anonymous media corporation. This would seem to suggest that the cyborg comes into being in part because of a father’s inability to love and disinterest in continuing to perform his role as caretaker. But more importantly, whereas Haraway sees the cyborg as a way to resist and potentially defeat the patriarchal militaristic capitalism that birthed it, in Rojo the cyborg becomes wholly subjugated to the economic forces of neoliberal

69 I would very much like to be able to easily exemplify Haraway’s female cyborg here, but after having attempted to look into this, it occurs to me that there has been a significant lack in this kind of articulation of female cyborgs, even in US production since Harway’s manifesto. The most accessible reference might be the character Rachel in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), but when delving further into her character’s function, it becomes clear that she is not a cyborg but rather a replicant, and even if she is a “” (anything that appears to possess the female form, often robots), her representation does not actually back up Haraway’s idea of a cyborg, since she becomes the focus of Deckard’s love interest, ultimately falling in love with him and succumbing to traditional heteronormative structures. The place where this likely resides would be in the gender-bending stories that have been published via the James A. Tiptree award and WisCon, a feminist-oriented sci-fi convention that has been held since 1991. Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with writing of this site, only that it exists as a space (in English) for SF that tends to challenge gender norms.

110 capitalism as incarnated in the television company. Per the introduction, the telecommunications industry in Mexico, and particularly television, became significant transformative changes that ushered in transnational partnerships and with them an influx of foreign influence (mostly in programming and technologies) considerably altering the media landscape. These changes include the creation of TV Azteca in 1993, the subsequent international partnerships of the now competitive television market (Azteca-

NBC, Televisa-News Corp.) and a significant increase in foreign programming (see the introduction’s subsection “Mexican Visualities under Globalization” on this). All of this points to a noticeable upsurge in the centrality and presence of at this time, and makes Rojo’s televisual cyborg a particularly representative figure of these shifts. It is as if his cyborg, the bridge between the transnational and the individual

Mexican subject, bears the brunt of these penetrating forces that enter the country from outside. And its position as a small laborer within this larger international industrial matrix reminds us of the exploitation of workers in Mexico as a result of NAFTA.

This greatly mediatized society has direct and indirect consequences for Rojo’s televisual cyborg subject and the world he lives in. Directly and personally, the protagonist sees so much violence such that on his free days he tries not to see anything interesting at all. Often throughout the story, he is driven to the brink of depression and a deep sense of meaninglessness because his job requires him to seek out these spectacular

“newsworthy” events for seeing/recording. His first visual capture for the media company occurs after he trails a man who ends up on a roof. His suicide initially shocks the ocular reporter, but what likely shocks the reader is the how a few sentences later the mention of these suicides’ commonality in the city have made them less desirable to seek out and

111 film. “Los suicidios no están muy bien pagados. Hay tantos al día…que si pasas un día viendo la televisión puedes ver por lo menos 10 suicidios, y ninguno es muy spectacular”

(96) [“Suicides are not very well paid. There are so many per day…that if you spend a day watching television you can see at least 10 suicides, and none of them are very espectacular”]. This paints a picture of the enormity of the social crisis that has gone from understanding suicide as a singular and tragic phenomenon to one that has become banal and less interesting as mediatic spectacle. This takes on further significance as the story advances and the narrator comments upon his own lack of sense of meaning in his life and his continued contemplation of ending it, an act which would simply make him part of the growing banality. In the second ocular report, he meticulously narrates his arrival on the scene of a reported baby-kidnapping and an ensuing skirmish between the kidnappers and police. Upon interviewing a police officer about the recent events, he notices a closet door moving, which opens just in time to reveal a concealed kidnapper pulling out a gun: “lo siguiente que registro, y supongo que va a ser bastante spectacular, puesto que mi toma era un close up de su rostro, es un destello y su rostro estallando en pedazos de sangre y carne” (98) [“the next thing I register, and I guess it’s going to be pretty spectacular, given that my shot was a close up of his face, is a flash and his face exploding in pieces of blood and flesh”]. The narrative description does not shy away from describing the headless body that thrusts itself into his arms, the shove of this body back toward the closet that topples onto the shooter, and the protagonist’s decisive stepping on his hand with the gun to prevent more shooting. This narrated sequence clearly demonstrates the level of extreme violence that he is involved in viewing, recording and within which he is becoming increasingly embroiled. Furthermore, the

112 story itself is narrated in the , which strongly links the heightened presence of violence to the contemporary moment of mid-1990s Mexico, especially that of massive urban spaces like D.F.70 In the final scene he visually captures, his own involvement as a distant reporter simply trying get the story objectively loses any shred of neutrality. Called to respond to a reported terrorist bomb threat in a shopping mall, he enters to find the place being looted by various shoppers and passers-by. He makes his way to the third floor, and when he hears a buzzing, he finds a box to his right with a ticking sound. The bomb has less than a minute in its countdown, and as he scrambles to leave, he paths with security guards who unwittingly walk towards the bomb. Just as he is about to yell a warning for them not to go in there, he hears the program director’s voice telling him to straighten the shot so they can have something to transmit.

The reporter follows the direction, establishes the shot, and performs a slow pan of the floor just in time to see the security guards walk into the exploding bomb. The ensuing evoked guilt brings the protagonist to question his role as an ocular reporter. “Hoy crucé una línea. No sé y no me importa si yo maté a los agentes de seguridad. Una cosa es hacer reportajes de cosas que pasan y otra es provocar que lo que pase sea un poco más espectacular” (112) [“Today I crossed a line. I don’t know and it doesn’t bother me if I killed security agents. On thing is to do a report about things that happen and another is to cause what happens to be more spectacular”]. This brings to mind the ethical judgment that reflects upon his own actions, which is yet another residue of the autonomous subject that still exists within him despite his posthuman conversion. Also, this final scene

70 However, this story, like its most closely related cyberpunk cousin “Conversaciones con Yoni Rei”, does not explicitly tie the urban space to D.F. or even the country to Mexico.

113 strongly suggests that the epitome of a televisual cyborg subjectivity carries with it a large degree of dehumanization.

What “Ruido gris” evokes here is not just that this urban space is violent but that televisual mass media actively augments societal violence. In this dystopian universe, the impetus to seek out and report on more and more sensational events (the “spectacular” bizarre visual payload) is justified by the company (if not by the protagonist) by its increase in audience viewership and thus in ratings. This clearly parallels a larger shift in how television began to function in the 1990s, succumbing to the logic of the market as the prime mover of value. Here, higher viewership equals higher ratings which ultimately result in higher commercial advertisement revenues—the key source of television capital revenue. The term—“ratings” in English—surfaces in five separate instances throughout the story, all of which signal this factor as the key arbiter of value in this business. In the second report described above, after the policeman is shot in the head from behind during the interview, the protagonist comments that “’Al parecer’, comento al aire, ‘todavía quedaba un individuo escondido en el clóset y este descuido de la policía ha provocado que otro oficial pierda la vida.’ Siempre es bueno criticar a las instituciones. Aumenta los ratings” (“It seems,” I comment on air, “that there was still one person hiding in the closet, and this carelessness by the police has cost yet another officer his life.’ It's always good to criticize institutions. It raises the ratings”; 99). Moments later, the protagonist finds that the tenant of the apartment is a mother holding her child, who is apparently bleeding. The child had been kidnapped by one of the perpetrators and, upon finding the baby, the mother, crying, also begins to criticize the police for letting him get shot in the altercation. A paramedic attempts to take the baby from the mother, but she refuses.


Suddenly, the program director tells the protagonist through his earpiece: “no lo pudimos planear mejor, esto es , espérate a recoger tu cheque, los ratings le pondrían varios ceros” (99) [“we couldn’t plan it better, this is drama, wait till you get your check, the ratings will add several zeros to it”]. The more dramatic the spectacle, this scene emphasizes, the more viewers and, in turn, the more money made—both for the company and for worker. By the end of the story, we see the ways in which the call to broadcast increasingly levels of violence has left physical marks on the protagonist’s own body.

This last example references the aforementioned bombing in the department store that killed the two security agents and subsequently sent him flying through the air. The following day the reporter suddenly hears a voice that tells him in his earpiece connected to the station: “Yo que tú iba inmediatamente a un doctor. Ese tinte rojo en tu orina no se ve nada saludable” (114) [“If I were you, I would immediately go see a doctor. That red color in your piss doesn’t look healthy in the least”]. Late in the story this becomes a final reminder that not only is his body a seeing machine, but his private life has ceased to be wholly his own. When the protagonist tells him he wants to be left alone, the program director tells him to not be ungrateful, “quizá cuando ves tu saldo te pongas de mejor humor. Los ratings fueron realmente espectaculares” (114) [“maybe when you see your paycheck you’ll be in a better . The ratings were really spectacular”]. Other moments in the narration when the ratings have become synonymous with bizarre and violent spectacle not only corroborate this link but show to what extent this logic becomes internalized in the seeing subject. He himself begins to imagine what the program director would say regarding ratings or how what he is recording will be received (104, 113, 116). The market, i.e. the viewers, become the consumers in this new

115 visual economy; this reflected change mirrors those occurring on the ground in Mexico around this time.

This measuring of audience ratings was by no means a new invention at the time, given that the Nielsen ratings system began measuring audience viewership as early as the 1950s in the US. Nevertheless, in the case of Mexico, there exists a unique confluence of various factors that made the importance of ratings more noticeable and a key standardized measurement to viewing habits. First, The Nielsen Company entered

Mexico in 1991 and has since become the leading means of measuring viewership in television and radio. This service directly relates to the success or failure of programs that run on a particular channel; this is due almost exclusively to the relationship that this has in to setting advertising costs. It is, in effect, what sets the exchange value in monetary terms for publicity in television. The higher the ratings, the higher the ad revenue.

Second, in 1993 under new ownership TV Azteca began competing more successfully against Televisa, making such a ratings system of unprecedented importance—given the previously uncontested monopoly of the latter. After purchasing the company, TV

Azteca’s owner Ricardo Salinas Pliego set an ambitious goal to reach 24% of the ad market within four years of operation. By 1997, it was able to surpass that and achieve

31% (Sutter 24), which is quite an astounding figure given that Televisa had gone virtually uncontested since its inception as a company in 1955 (under the name

Telesistema Mexicano). The rating system came to be the key measurement in this era of heightened competition caused by the privatization of public channels and the subsequent rise of TV Azteca that resulted. “The point to keep in mind,” declare media scholars

Omar Hernandez and Emile McAnany, “is that market forces can have unforeseen

116 political and cultural consequences. Thus, the new playing field in Mexican open television was made possible in the first place by the privatization efforts of the Salinas de Gortari administration, and the commercial interests of the market have been the main factors in shaping it to this day” (393). Pierre Bourdieu would also agree in his native

France where his lecture-turned-book On Television (1996) becomes a scathing yet measured sociological criticism of television in the free-market age. He writes: “Pushed by competition for marketshare, television networks have greater and greater recourse to the tried and true formulas of tabloid journalism…” (51), which is an observation that clearly happens in Mexico with the nota roja at this particular time. Bourdieu takes the pressure a step farther, asserting that an increased reliance upon ratings in television has a far-reaching effect that goes beyond its own mediatic boundaries of broadcast television:

Through pressure from audience ratings, economic forces weigh on television, and through its effect on journalism, television weighs on newspapers and magazines, even the “purest” among them. The weight then falls on individual journalists, who little by little let themselves be drawn into television’s orbit. In this way through the weight exerted by the journalistic field, the economy weighs on all fields of cultural production. (56)

Bourdieu asserts that television has come to affect nearly every sphere of journalism by its own increased pressure to garner, above all, higher ratings. Similarly, Rojo’s writing most notably bears the imprint of television on his own literary production. In the case of

Mexico in “Ruido gris,” competitive ratings tied to news programming that actively looks to broadcast the extremely violent events and images become not only central features of this new visuality but active agents of the violence within society, as detailed below.

Violence and ratings can also be linked to the new kinds of programming that resulted from the creation of TV Azteca. These factors have been brought about from

117 larger changes covered in the introduction regarding neoliberal policy that reduced government expenditures and privatized national industries, as was the case with the then state-run television company, Imevisión, in 1993. The selling of this company included two open-air channels, 13 and 7, 169 stations and theatre chains (Hernandez and

McAnany 394), and eventually paved the way for Televisión Azteca to be formed.71 What this television channel brought was a challenge to the monopolistic practices that

Televisa had enjoyed during 40 years of uncontested reign. In its first two years TV

Azteca was unafraid to challenge the status quo and way the industry had hitherto functioned, distributing lower-cost programming and selling very low-rate advertisement

(Ibid. 398). As Hernandez and McAnany mention, the ideological atmosphere in Mexico at the time created the perfect opportunity for TV Azteca to challenge and gain market share. For one, it provided news that was deemed credible insofar as it was simply an alternative to Televisa, whose ties to the government have notoriously been strong. It has often been seen as the main propaganda source for the State going back years. This tie between the company and the State was in no way secretive, given that Televisa’s president Emilio Azcárraga once stated publicly that “yo soy un soldado del PRI”

(Toussaint 113). Given the government’s engagement with the Zapatista uprising in

1994, the coverage on behalf of Televisa was considered “one-sided in its pro- government stance that it shocked an audience already accustomed to biased reporting into buying record numbers of newspapers and magazines” (Hernandez and McAnany

397). Despite public distrust of Televisa’s news reports, TV Azteca’s own show Hechos

71 This occurred after a suspicious bidding process that later implicated the owner of TV Azteca Ricardo Salinas Pliego of being gifted with favoritism, given the connection of his brother to the ex-president Raúl Salinas de Gortari at the time (Touissant 133-134).

118 still garnered low ratings from the moment of its purchase for two years, due in large measure to the fact that channels 13 and 7 were once government owned and operated and consequently the stigma attached to them had not yet changed. It was not until

August of 1995 that TV Azteca launched a reality news program that for the first time offered something different to the viewing public: Ciudad desnuda. It “so unabashedly set out to report the everyday violence found in Mexico City that its producers claimed that ‘blood would drip from the TV sets.' The show caught on quickly and in little over a year it was pulling ratings consistently in the high teens” (Ibid. 398).

Ciudad desnuda bears a striking resemblance to Rojo Digital, the reality news program to which the protagonist in “Ruido gris” often contributes. In describing the opening sequence of the program’s intro, the protagonist relates in layered detail the scenes that comprise it:

Hay una toma con mucho movimiento de un tiroteo en el centro de la ciudad, hasta que uno de los que están disparando voltea a ver a la cámara y aprieta el gatillo, la toma se sacude y parece que va cayendo al suelo. Todo empieza a inundarse de un líquido rojo que va llenando el lente. El ritmo empieza a acelerarse. Una toma desde el punto de vista de un conductor que choca contra un camión escolar. Una contrapicada de un sujeto que se avienta desde un edificio…El sacrificio de una vaca en un rastro. El asesinato de un político. Un accidente industrial donde un tipo pierde un brazo. Tomas de explosiones en las que incluso el reportero sale volando. Un secuestro en un avión, donde el terrorista dispara en la cabeza de un pasajero. Y así sucesivamente. (109)

[There's an action sequence of a shootout downtown, till one of the people firing turns and sees the camera and presses the trigger; the camera shot jolts and seems to fall to the ground. Everything starts to flood, a red liquid's filling up the lens. The pace starts to pick up. A shot from the point of view of a driver who crashes into a school bus. A worm's-eye view of a guy throwing himself off a building... The sacrifice of a cow in a slaughterhouse. The assassination of a politician. An industrial accident where some guy loses an arm. Shots of explosions where even the reporter gets blown up. A skyjacking where the terrorist shoots a passenger in the head. And so on.]


These images of extreme violence continue to appear in such rapid succession they begin to blur altogether in lines of red, yellow and grey colors that spin into a ball like fireworks until the explosion that converts the ball into the shows logo Rojo Digital. The comparison between the Ciudad Desnuda’s programming in which “blood would drip off the TV sets” and the opening scene to Rojo Digital, where violent images culminate into the diegetic blood slowly covering and then filling the screen, seem to share this uncanny similarity.72 Ciudad desnuda was not the only show of this kind, but the one that had the largest impact in terms of ratings. It also should be understood as the first of many, since it spawned a number of spin-offs, both within Azteca and its competitor Televisa. These violently sensationalist reality-news programs became popular enough that by the first week of July in 1996, 31 hours were broadcast over 17 different shows throughout the open-air broadcast spectrum, all following in the shoes of the reigning champion Ciudad desnuda (María Fadul n.p.). This included programs like Historias de la calle, Rescate

911, Expediente 13/22:30: Cámara y delito, edición nocturna, Fuera de ley (Hallín 36). Televisa produced its own show A sangre fría to directly compete with

TV Azteca. In all, between 1995-1997 the audience for these shows grew an astonishing

50%, reaching a fever pitch of popularity, equating to high ratings for both Televisa and

Azteca. By late 1997, president Zedillo called upon TV executives to moderate the

72 However, the opening sequence to Ciudad desnuda is not at all like the fictionally narrated Rojo digital. Youtube has several clips from the program that show the opening sequence, and it is very tame in comparison, although it definitely succeeds in transmitting a sense of an alarming urban space. It begins with an extra-diegetic tense, slightly distorted electronic-rock music that visually backgrounds an animated city skyline whose sky above is filled with red and blackish clouds moving rapidly, lending the sense that the city’s sky is on fire. The logo of Ciudad desnuda is embedded in what looks like a gun’s crosshair. As the music plays, an ambulance’s siren tears through and takes over for a few seconds, only to have the electronic-rock kick back in. The screen becomes a montage of various images, such as a woman running her fingers through her hair and looking toward but beyond the camera lens, then a close-up of a tattoo of a wrinkled face overtop a man’s left arm, and then a final cut to a young boy blowing into a plastic bottle.

120 violence of these programs, which resulted in the termination of both Ciudad desnuda and A sangre fría shortly after. Although, it is noteworthy that by no means did this terminate all nota roja broadcasts, as they continue to be part of the media landscape to this day, particularly as narco-related violence has surged in the past 10 years.

While the story comments on televised nota roja programs and an apparent increase in mediatic violence, Rojo’s work also referenced contemporaneous events in more pointed ways. For example, the “asesinato de un político” very likely references the political assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio on March 23rd, 1994 in Tijuana Mexico.

Colosio was the chosen successor to Carlos Salinas and was campaigning for the following election in July when he was shot in a crowd in the neighborhood of Lomos

Taurina. Apart from the grand scandal this caused at the time in a JFK-like investigation that sought to ascertain the identity of the killer and accompanying conspiracy theories as to who did it, part of the allure of this historical event is its having been recorded on video and broadcast and repeated countless numbers of times.

Volvían las imágenes amedrentadoras de ese asesinato sobre las que tantas veces había insistido…la televisión. La nebulosa de la muchedumbre en Tijuana—en el acto comicial y es ésa la última sonrisa de Colosio—, un brazo se extiende y apunta la pistola, el candidato del PRI cae. Fuera de foco, la falta de nitidez se combinaba con las flechas punteadas sobre la pantalla provocando una certeza extraña, pero que nadie discutía. Las secuencias del videoclip reconstituían el trayecto de la bala hasta incrustarse dentro de la cabeza. (Vernik 158)

[The menacing images of that assassination which television had insisted upon were repeated. The nebulousness of the multitudes in Tijuana—an arm extends and points the pistol, the PRI candidate falls. Out of focus, the lack of definition combines with pointed arrows on the screen, causing a certain strangeness, but one which no one disputed. The sequences of the video clip reconstituted the trajectory of the bullet until it lodged itself in one’s ]


It is a quick, unassuming act of hyper-violence caught on camera whose repetition, as

Esteban Vernik’s observation reminds us, becomes one of its prominent features. Due to this repetition, it is as if the video image itself has lodged itself in collective memory like a bullet, just as certain images the ocular reporter sees and records repeat thousands of times in his memory in Rojo’s story. After his first recorded suicide, he comments: “Yo regresé a mi casa y esa noche observé varias veces la grabación personal que había hecho. Cada acción sucedió miles de veces en mi monitor” (97) [“I returned home and that night observed several times the personal recording I had made. Each action occurred thousands of times in my monitor”]. Later, while describing the Toynbee case (detailed in the next section), he narrates the live broadcast of Toynbee at the helm of his kidnappers:

“Inmovilizaron su cabeza y conectaron su retina al monitor. He visto miles de veces esas imágenes” (107) [“They immobilized his head and connected his retina to the monitor.

I’ve seen those images thousands of times”]. The link between the representation of a real-life assassination and the imagined violent acts in “Ruido gris” is in their repetition.

These images become lodged in the brain because “television had insisted upon repeating” them, effectively making these already-violent images even more impactful— and thus seemingly even more violent—by dint of their repetition. Rojo’s story gives voice to a critique of televisual violence that was not made by Mexican reporters or consumers in the mid-1990s.

“Ruido gris” also offers a number of other critiques of contemporary visual practices in Mexico by, among other things, including references to a rumored civilization of mutants living under the city whose eyelids cover their eyes indefinitely.

The story suggests that these beings have evolved in response to the hyper-visual society

122 in which the protagonist lives. They are “una sociedad que no utiliza los ojos. Que no se tiene que ver para reconocerse. Sus expectativas de comportamiento deben ser más extrañas. Se tiene que tocar, se tiene que escuchar. No tiene que parecerse a nada ni a nadie. Otro mundo, otros seres” (115 ) [“a society that does not use its eyes. That does not have to see itself to recognize itself. Their behavioral expectations must be strange.

They have to touch, they have to listen. They need not come off seeming like something to anyone. Another world, other beings”]. This race of people that live under the city are never actually seen in spite of the protagonist’s descending down there to find them—and have a respite from the hyper-visual world in which he lives. They symbolize, then, a possible binary opposite to the urban world of “Ruido gris,” and one which serves as its potent imaginary antidote to the electronic ocularcentrism in which the protagonist inhabits.

While the mutants are a symbolic alternative, other bodily manifestations are entirely complicit in the hyper-visual economy: plastic surgery has become omnipresent.

The poor and the adolescents are the only ones unable to have it, the former for lack of money and the latter for lack of sufficient physical maturation necessary to allow for surgical modification. Its purpose indicates a general heightened aestheticization of subjects throughout society that are responding to a highly present media that constantly construct and reinforce a certain standard of physical beauty. “Hoy en día, la fealdad es un problema que la humanidad parece haber dejado atrás,” the protagonist narrates, “Hoy en día, como siempre, los problemas de la humanidad se solucionan con un buen crédito”

(106) [“Nowadays, ugliness is a problem that humanity seems to have left behind.

Nowadays, as always, humanity’s problems are solved with good credit”]. The economic

123 position of someone is thus denoted by simply looking at their face. Cheaper surgeries, like cheaper paint jobs, are noticeable at a distance. Plastic surgery in “Ruido gris” is conceived as one way in which a social sphere inundated with electronic image culture has seeped into the cultural psyche and dominated it, influencing the materiality and behavior of individual subjects.

The story’s most pointed critique of the material/physical and psychic consequences of the hypervisual society is SECLE (Síndrome de Exposición Contínua a

La Electricidad, or Continual Exposure to Electricity Syndrome), a new pathology that is to the story’s contemporaneous century what cancer was to its own.73 As the name indicates, it is caused by constant or increased exposure to electricity, particularly to those endowed with electrical implants in this time. Given the nature of its analogous description to cancer, one can assume this futuristic world to be numerously inhabited by cyborgs. The SECLE “hook” occurs when an ocular reporter who is transmitting comes into contact with a television monitor and then records what is on its screen, causing the reporter to get caught in an electric feedback loop that produces minor effects like a loss of balance and a piercing headache (103) but also can lead to disastrous consequences, as in the well-known and widely-seen Toynbee case. The SECLE event occurs several times in the story, twice to the protagonist and once to Toynbee, another ocular reporter who gets kidnapped by a radical, quasi-terrorist, anti-media group who decided to use him as an example of how media is the root cause of corrosiveness

73 No temporal specificities are given in the text. The only part which references chronological time is this: “Hay quienes dicen que lo que fue el cáncer para el siglo pasado, el SECLE será para el nuestro” (“There are those who say that what cáncer was for the last century, the SECLE will be for ours”; 102). Given the other electronic technological references in the story, like email and hard drives, that are utilized to signify part of this futuristic world, it stands to reason that cancer would most likely pertain to the 20th century whereas SECLE is likely that of the 21st. It is possible, though, that cancer is of the 21st and the story is set in the 22nd.

124 and other evils in this society, i.e. the increasing degradation of individuality, the creation of a nation of viewers further alienated from themselves, the increased circulation of dis- and mis-information, etc. (104). The group immobilizes Toynbee’s head and connects his retina to a monitor, which provokes an infinite feedback loop where the only thing the ocular journalist’s eyes sees are a monitor within a monitor within a monitor ad infinitum.

This causes a high degree of electric pain within the ocular journalist –and, of course, is broadcast to be seen by the viewing public. The Toynbee case ends rather gruesomely and spectacularly for Toynbee– as well as the viewing public. Rojo’s commentary on a hypervisual sphere here avoids a pitfall inherent in living within one. That is, with all these fantastic elements within the universe of “Ruido gris,” Rojo seems to propose that literature offers an important means of critique, one which inherently and necessarily distances itself from the immediacy of the visual experience.74

In all, “Ruido gris” manifests an array of social preoccupations around the time it is written, such as capital subjugation, mediatic violence and its repetitions in nota roja programs, an increase in the importance of ratings, a cyborg body that incarnates a technological domination of the eyes, and a heightened visual sphere.

Punto cero

If "Ruido gris" proposes a multitude of critiques of a hyper-visual sphere and spends most of its narration outside in the public spaces of the social, his novel Punto cero shifts its space toward the private, interior place of home. In so doing, it explores

74 This implicit critique within Rojo’s writing becomes explicit in Eve Gil’s Virtus, the focus of Chapter Three.

125 some of the more psychological facets to televisuality. Published in 2000 and republished in 2012, Punto cero remains Rojo’s only novel written to date. According to the author, one significant reason it found enough audience to be republished was that the key narrative event, a “virtual kidnapping,” presaged actual virtual kidnappings that are believed to have begun in Mexico around 2001, a year after Punto cero was originally published. These events, made possible with , have increased dramatically toward the end of the 2000 decade, affecting thousands families and individuals throughout Mexico.75 Beyond this fact, Punto cero continues to bear witness to the importance of television in 1990s Mexico by foregrounding televisuality in the narrative, making it at once its central thematic preoccupation and a source of its rhetorical innovation. Delving deeper into the articulations made within the novel, we see several specific critiques: that television creates—rather than reports—social reality, that consumer society has attained a new level of pervasiveness in Mexico, that the body and subjectivity have become dis-located by the presence of television, and that television is strongly helping to produce what Anne Friedberg has described as “detemporalized subjectivities” (1993 3), all of which will be the focus of this subsection.

The novel has been largely overlooked in academic analysis, either by the circles of Mexican science fiction writers or the North American academy. The only exception

75 A virtual kidnapping, also called telephonic extortion, consists of the criminal dialing a telephone number, often at random, and the person who picks up the phone hears a voice, usually a minor, screaming for help. The victim in a panic usually says the name of his or her son or daughter out loud, and the extortion begins, after the victim believes that their son or daughter has been kidnapped when in reality they have never even met the kidnappers. The ransom amount requested varies from as low as 500 pesos up to 20,000 dollars. The turnaround time is usually quick and minimizes the risk on the behalf of the criminal. In the year 2001, only 10 cases were reported, but in 2007 that figure reached as many as 10,000 (Amescua Chávez 116). The “virtual” aspect to this event is facilitated by leveraging the anonymity of a telephone call to make the victim believe a loved one has been kidnapped and demands ransom to be saved. However, this is not the case of Punto cero, where the virtuality of the kidnapping occurs on television and not in the subjective experience of the protagonist who supposedly kidnapped.

126 to this is Antonio Córdoba Cornejo’s Extranjero en tierra extraña: El género de la ciencia ficción en América Latina (2011), the only academic work searchable and available at the time of this writing. As mentioned in the introduction, Córdoba dedicates a chapter to Mexican cyberpunk, where he analyzes a short story by Bernardo Fernández and this novel. He calls Punto cero “la obra más destacable de esta escuela” (41) [“the most prominent work of this school”], which I contend is arguable on several fronts.

First, many authors within Mexican SF point to PCS as the most enduring, complex and noteworthy novels of the cyberpunk movement, to which I offer up Manuel García’s and

Muñoz Zapata’s readings as indication of this. Second, one could make a compelling case that Punto cero is not even part of the cyberpunk movement in spite of the fact that Rojo the writer was. Even Manuel García, whose doctoral thesis is mostly dedicated to the cyberpunk movement, only briefly mentions Rojo’s novel, placing it outside the boundaries of the official, self-aware cyberpunk movement of the mid-1990s. According to Manuel Garcia, Rojo’s novel belongs to a sub-genre all by itself that called “realismo mediático” 76 (22) [“mediatic ”], which is a neologistic term that Rojo himself invented and can be found in interviews on the internet. Córdoba’s overall analysis of

Rojo’s novel should be considered a worthwhile critical treatment, and he spends much of his analysis reading Punto cero in its relation to the larger SF tradition within Latin

76 In an interview in 2010 Rojo originally described his own writing as “realismo mediático mash-up.” (“Pepe Rojo…” n.p). This clearly references the realismo mágico genre so popular in the Boom of the 1960s in that it denotes some aspect or manifestation of irreality or fantastic event(s) within an otherwise consistent framework of realism, only here the magical component becomes embodied in some effect or experience of media. The “mash-up” portion of the term refers to musical hybridization practice of taking two or more separate songs and combining elements of each one in order to transform them into a merged whole (e.g. “Rapture Riders,” which combines different aspects of The Doors “Riders on the Storm” and Blondie’s “Rapture” to create a new, hybrid song).


America, well does he center upon the relationship between the megalopolis of Mexico

City in the narrative.

Before moving on to the analysis, a quick plot summary is in order. The story centers on Ray Domínguez, a young twenty-something in a huge city who just moved out of his affluent parents’ house for the first time. He moves into his new apartment only find out that, according to a television news program, he had been kidnapped earlier that morning at the bank. He and a small group of his friends come to categorically deny the images and messages broadcast on television because they visit him in the flesh in his new apartment. As the captors demand ransom and his father denies to pay it, Ray rather inexplicably decides not to tell the authorities nor even leave his apartment. Shortly after, his lived body experience in the apartment undergoes a serious (yet invisible) beating while in his bathroom. This traumatic event further confounds the situation, seeming to corroborate what the television reports—despite the fact that Ray is still living in his apartment and he believes he has not been kidnapped. Several weeks after the event, the television news reports the kidnapper’s setting a deadline for the ransom; if it is not reached, the kidnapper’s assert it would result in the killing of Ray. The story’s culminates with a countdown that eventually “disappears” Ray into the television screen—and out of his apartment.77

Television pervades, influences and even determines the narrative such that we might even say that televisuality inhabits the entire book. From beginning to end, televisual signs appear throughout, as in video remote control symbols for fast-forward

“>>” or pause “||”, et al, which precede and interpolate larger sub-sections in the story.

77 This narrative’s ending is essentially the same as that of “Ex machina,” which was discussed in the introduction.


Dialogues from commercials or television shows very frequently intrude into the narrative, becoming part of it, as well at times, dialogue coming from the television becomes indistinguishable from the narrations’ third-person omniscient descriptions of the protagonist’s thoughts. There are a number of sections that attempt to mimic the experience of watching television and or, on occasion, zapping (rapidly changing channels very frequently), which results in a seemingly incoherent pastiche of dialogue and description, separated only by the word “Click.” Most importantly, television is the anchor of narrative tension throughout: the plot’s forward arc culminates into a kind of vortex that inexorably pulls the protagonist towards it, eventually and climactically sucking him wholly into the television screen and thus televisual space itself; he becomes literally consumed by the screen within the narrative. This brings to mind the concept of televisual space as articulated by Anne Friedberg and Raiford Guns. They propose that

“Televisual space is both the space of the televisual and the changes produced by the televisual to space itself,” (131) thus extending the definition of simply locating where television is watched to the ways in which the space becomes transformed by the actions, uses and meanings that it brings to those spaces, which for Raiford and Friedberg can include screens other than television. In the case of Rojo’s Punto cero, however, televisual space pertains almost exclusively in the register of a television screen.78

Televisual space becomes an all-consuming actant in Punto cero, a point which

78 The prefix “tele-” denotes at a distance, while visual is related to the perception of sight; it literally means seeing at a distance. The notion of space refers to “the ‘space’ that is constructed, effaced, traversed, contained on, through, in, at and around a variety of screens” (131). They state that televisual space has a multitude of potential definitions and uses and does not refer explicitly to television as the electronic device that receives broadcast signals and displays them on a monitor but could also include the screen spaces where other types of images cross the television screen, such as the video games and video art installations.

129 foregrounds the transformational power of television to subjectivity. Consistent with the other works analyzed in this chapter, the subjectivity put forth by this novel remains steadfastly one that is powerfully mediated by televisuality, maintaining certain parallels that respond to larger transformations occurring in the country at the time.

From the novel’s opening narrated scenes to the plot's culminating fantastic end, the televisual as experienced by Ray becomes, above all else, the site of a severe mis- identification that seemingly negates his own individually-lived reality. In other words, what he sees upon the television screen ultimately reflects a truer reality than the one he lives out in his own apartment. This is most clearly articulated by the story’s description of his kidnapping early on, just after he moves into his apartment and his friend Mauricio calls him to tell him to quickly turn on the TV and watch the news.

Ray se siente como un títere, quiere gritarle a la pantalla. Se ve a sí mismo, y no recuerda nada. Su réplica sale de la toma. Se descubre torpe, indefenso. Ajeno. El nombre de la víctima es Raymundo Domínguez, la foto de Ray llena la pantalla, hijo del conocido empresario industrial Arturo Domínguez. Ray se frota los ojos. A él no le pasó eso, y sin embargo, sería el primero en hacer una identificación positiva de sí mismo. (9)

[Ray feels like a puppet, wants to scream at the screen. He sees himself and does not remember anything. His replica leaves the screen shot. He feels himself to be torpid, defenseless. Alien. The name of the victim is Raymundo Domínguez, the photo of Ray fills the screen, son of the well-known industrial businessman Arturo Domínguez. Ray rubs his eyes. That did not happen to him, and yet, he would be the first to make a positive identification of himself.]

As the narration reveals forthright here, Ray feels so distanced from the person that the television news displays upon the screen that he describes it as alien. It is an identification in that he recognizes himself and, at the same time, it is a mis-identification in that sees the television image of himself as a replica, an other. We should remember that this odd, seemingly fantastic proposition is exactly what Jacques Lacan posits when he states that “the self is an other” (Ecrits 9), implying that the very notion of identity that

130 a subject feels comes not from some innate, indissoluble sense of unique individual-ness but rather is a complex matrix of language and imagery that is fundamentally exterior to the psychic interior of the subject. In this sense, Ray’s identification and simultaneous mis-identification of his screenic image reflects a common process that the human subject experiences on a constant basis (according to Lacan), and one which Rojo links strongly to the image identifications on television.

This image of himself as kidnapped quickly disseminates throughout other mass media news outlets of radio and newspapers, and soon Ray’s mis-identification of the screen’s image manifests itself in the dis-location of his own lived body within his own apartment. This occurs when this core group of friends consisting of Mauricio, Andrea and Lucy finally all converge in his apartment: Ray goes into the bathroom and suddenly, mysteriously, begins to feel like he is being assaulted: first, a searing pain like an electric shock sears into his hand, then a hard punch to his back, and finally, the sensation that his hand was placed between two bricks and stepped on, crushing the bones within. It appears that he is physically feeling the effects of being tortured by his kidnappers, yet still remains physically present in his own apartment—without seeing who the kidnappers are or even ever having been kidnapped in the first place. This “virtual” beating leaves real scars on Ray’s body, and it becomes a painful reminder of the reality of his mis-identified other on the television news is happening to his body and subjectivity within his apartment. The disconnection between what is lived within his body of his apartment and what he sees with his own eyes on television is radically disjoined, and the novel’s plot thrust forward hinges upon this inexplicable and illogical fantastic narrative event. After this first attack, Ray’s friends see him and become

131 immediately shocked and confused as to what happened, discussing what step to take next—whether they should call a doctor, the police, the media or a lawyer. Their ensuing conversation about what he should do becomes heightened to the level almost of an argument when Ray becomes flustered and kicks them all out of his apartment. Thus, he resolves, in effect, to do nothing,79 and throughout the remainder of the novel, he does very little other than watch television to see what is supposedly occurring to him according to the televised news reports. He remains willingly immobile in his own apartment, not contacting any institutional and familial social support to tell them that he is not in fact perfectly free and not kidnapped in his own apartment, but that it is the media that is incorrectly reporting his kidnapping on the screen. His life unfolds on his

Samsung 20” screen, and he watches it, mesmerized. In this sense, the story effectively splits Ray into two characters: the actual Ray who was kidnapped at the bank in the morning and the spectator Ray who watches as his life unfolds on the television screen.

The moments of physical abuse return several times, such as later when he’s in the kitchen and he feels that suddenly his left hand has been ripped off: “Y entonces su mano izquierda le hizo dar un grito. Sentía como si la hubieran arrancado de tajo. El dolor era insoportable” (83) [“And then his left hand made him scream. He felt as if someone had ripped it clean off. The pain was unbearable”]. But his hand is still there attached to his arm; it is only that he cannot move it (Ibid.). He becomes utterly confounded regarding

79 This particular plot point becomes the most difficult to suspend disbelief on, given the many suggestions of his friends and extreme ease with which he could make a phone call or just take a walk out of his apartment to anywhere to see how or if he is “seen” by others. The narrative gives no substantial justification as to Ray’s motivations, only that the television seems to take away his desire to do anything other than watch it: “Ray piensa en llamar a la policía para dar cuenta de su situación con tal de poder utilizar de nuevo su tarjeta de crédito y comprar todas las cosas que se le antojan. Lo olvida tan pronto como cambia de canal” (“Ray thinks of calling the pólice in order to account for his situation in order not to use his credit card to buy all the things that he wants. He forgets as soon as he changes the channel”; 114).

132 why this is happening to him in a supposedly rational world with its laws of cause and effect, order and reason—the one in which he thought he lived. In order to have definitive proof that the irrational is occurring to him, he decides to stab his left hand with a knife to see if he experiences pain. The knife goes in and out of his hand; he hears the sound of a bone cracking; he finally begins sawing away between his fingers, but no sensation comes, nor does blood spill forth. His hand appears bloodless, and in frustration he begins stabbing it repeatedly. But alas, he feels no pain, and the narrator concludes the section by observing “…pero Newton, Descartes, la teoría de la evolución, la biología, la anatomía y la medicina, le dieron la espalda” (92) [“…but Newton, Descartes, the theory of evolution, biology, anatomy and medicine, all turned their back on him”]. It becomes even clearer, then, by dint of the his own inexplicable corporeal experience that does not correspond to the basic governing laws of physiology, that we are in the realm of a world without rational explanation, one which, as Todorov says, would correspond to different laws than the one which science describes. We are in the realm of the fantastic.

This dis-location between the body’s lived experience and the projected televised image remains the plot thread upon which the novel carries out its own discordant logic until the very end. Two months after he has been kidnapped, his perpetrators finally offer the public ultimatum announced on the television screen: his family must deliver the ransom within 24 hours or Ray Domínguez will be killed. Thus, one potential meaning in the novel’s title, the zero point, is suggested in its retrogressive countdown of those hours until the final zero when Ray, his body transforming into the static black, white and grey colors like those of an un-tuned channel, finally disappears into the television.



Todo impedía que Ray llegara a la puerta. No había salida…. dos Como de golpe, todo cayó. La opinión de los comentaristas de la televisión. Los consejos de belleza. La necesidad de un trabajo. La cárcel de recuerdos e imágenes que eran sus amigos…. Dejó de correr. Se sentó sobre una caja y esperó a que todo pasara. Tocó el monitor. Su brazo atravesó la pantalla. Afuera, su cuerpo adquirió consistencia. La luces disminuyeron su intensidad mientras Ray miraba su reflecto en el cristal del monitor. Había algo en la mano, dentro de la pantalla. Era el control remote. Ray lo volteó hacia sí mismo y apretó varios botones a la vez. Cero. (166)

[five Everything stopped Ray from getting to the door. There was no exit… two Suddenly, everything fell. The opinion of the television commentators. The beauty advice. The necessity of a job. The prison of memories and images that were his Friends… He stopped running. He sat on a box and waited for it all to happen. He touched the monitor. His arm went through the screen. Outside, his body acquired consistency. The lights lessened their intensity while Ray looked at his reflection in the cristal of the monitor. There was something in his hand, inside the screen. It was the remote control. Ray turned around toward himself and pushed several buttons at the same time. Zero.]

It is worth pointing out that in these, his final moments, Ray does something that indeed shows his executing some minimal level of agency: he pushes several buttons on the remote control just before the zero point occurs. Rather than being wholly subsumed into the screen altogether without a fight of any kind, Ray does what most television spectators also do—he pushes some buttons in the hopes of changing the channel and thus the televisual experience being projected upon the screen. This sudden, subtle and

134 decisive action appears to have had some effect, because the denouement reveals that he may have survived the whole ordeal. He leaves a message on his friend Lucy’s answering machine stating that he is okay, living in a rented room, his wounds are healing and for the moment he has no plans to return to the city (170). A funeral was held for him, however, which he hopes to hear more about when he and Lucy manage to connect. The novel ends with this twist, which further positions the text in a fantastic realm because the split he experienced throughout the novel becomes literalized at the end. The Ray that was kidnapped and whose life was made a news spectacle died, whereas the spectator

Ray who watched in disbelief managed to escape his seemingly inexorable death, possibly by virtue of using the remote control on the television in the final seconds.

Through a multiplicity of articulations, the novel poses a Lacanian split subject.

Later in this chapter I discuss the explicit influence of Lacan in Rojo’s life, but for now that will be left aside to look more closely at what the text itself expresses about the subjectivities in the novel. Ray, as previously discussed, manifests a split subjectivity in his mis-identification of the projected imago on the television screen and his dis-located body; he is a split televisual subjectivity, and numerous other instances in the novel attest to this. After Ray forces his friends out of his apartment and he resolves to do nothing, he turns on the television to watch a news segment about his kidnapping where he, his father, a kidnapper’s voice, some old friends and coworkers that knew him make up a news piece that is narrated by a reporter. When he turns off the television, the novel’s narrator reveals Ray’s reaction as looks at the empty screen: “Su primera reacción había sido desconfiar. Pero la certeza del reconocimiento, esa trampa lógica que provoca la identificación en el espejo, en cualquier reflejo, se había arrastrado entre sus

135 pensamientos y no había poder humano que lograra exiliarla” (62) [“His first reaction was to mistrust. But the certainty of the recognition, that logical trap the causes the identification with the mirror, with whatever reflecting surface, had lodged itself in his brain and there was no way humanly possible to get it out”]. Here, Rojo references the so-called mirror stage as described by Lacan whereby a baby sees his/her image returned in a mirror and identifies his/her self positively as that image. This has a litany of effects in subject formation, such as it “situates the agency of the ego…in a fictional direction

[…]” (“The mirror stage…” 1). It is fictional because the baby—and later on, adult—is never simply that reflected image whole (Gestalt), that specular I that is seen exterior to the baby early on, but rather much more fragmented and partial within his/her psychic experience. Thus, recognition of one’s self as one’s image is also, simultaneously, a mis- recognition. In doing so the subject undergoes a continual process of a double move that asserts the “mental permanence of the I” as well as does “it prefigure its alienating destination” (Ibid. 2). This double move, then, produces a double: the person who looks into the mirror and identifies his or her imago (the specular I) with being who they think they are (the social I), an event that reasserted and maintained as the baby grows and enters the symbolic (i.e., learns language) and is told how he is and who he is by his parents as well as others. In spite of this fictional direction that the subject’s ego identity takes, for Lacan there is a fundamental discordance within the core of the human subject’s psychic experience such that it can never be or feel whole. This alteration at the core of the organism is caused by “dehiscence” (Ibid. 505), a medical term Lacan borrows to refer to a gaping, a rupture or a splitting open, as in a surgical wound, that occurs in the subject. This is the Lacanian real erupting and breaking through. In terms of

136 the character Ray, after he “falls into that logical trap the causes the identification with the mirror” during the news segment about his kidnapping, he then reflects upon his parents and the spectacle that is being made of his life:

Las heridas en su mano todavía no cicatrizaban, y de hecho parecía sangrar un poco más. La mención de su nombre o la aparición de su rostro en la televisión parecía excitarlas, y se abrían un poco más para mostrar, orgullosas, la carne viva que pulsaba bajo la epidermis. Alguien estaba sufriendo y Ray no sabía quién. No había límite que mostrar dónde acababa él y dónde empezaba lo que decían de él en la televisión. Sólo estaban las heridas en su mano, sangrando lentamente, el golpe en la mandíbula y en la espalda punzando como recordatorio de lo frágil de su posición, su identidad y valor. (63)

[The wounds in his hand had not yet scarred, and in fact it seemed that his hand bleed a little bit more. The mention of his name or the appearance of his face on television seemed to excite the wounds, and they opened up a little bit more to show, proudly, the live flesh that palpitated under the epidermis. Someone was suffering and Ray did not know who. There was no limit to show where he ended and where began what they said of him on television. There were only the wounds in his hand, slowly bleeding, the pain in his jaw and the stinging back as a reminder of the fragility of his position, his identity and worth.]

What the spectator Ray then experiences here is a radical and literal splitting of his subjectivity such that the specular I, or the reflective image of his whole body that he sees and recognizes on the screen, becomes so associated with the social I the news report collects and broadcasts of him that it becomes difficult for him to deny that it is him on the screen. His body after the beating experiences an intense dehiscence with regard to his wounds, that seem to respond to the psychic experience of Ray watching the news broadcast of himself. The wounds of his flesh, or the real in Lacanian terms, seem to come alive, announce themselves and split further open. There are other traces of

Lacan in the text that support position, such as later when the narrator describes Ray in his apartment, alone with the rapidly changing images that cross the television screen,

137 that the only constant is the lack: “Ese vacío que llamamos individuo. Ahí estás tú, Ray”

(69) [“That lack that we call individual. There you are, Ray”]. Ray is a blank subject that is constituted by and composed of images that come from the television. Nowhere is this more apparent when he falls asleep at night watching television, and the narrator describes the image broadcast of the grey static-effect screen that occurs when it no longer receives a signal.

La luz encuentra forma en la silueta de Ray, lo construye y define sus límites, inventa un cuerpo que parece emerger de unas cajas, le da forma a sus ojos, sombra a sus labios y una expresión de tranquilidad a su rostro sin cesar de moverse un segundo. La luz del monitor inventa a Ray. Su piel es estática; él es la pantalla. (Ibid.)

[The light takes form in the silhouette of Ray, it constructs him and defines his limits, it invents his body that seems to emerge from some boxes, it gives form to his eyes, darkens his lips and an expression of tranquility on his face without stopping to move a second. The light of the monitor invents Ray. His skin is static; he is the screen.]

This particular description underscores one chief difference between filmic and televisual spectatorship: the source of light. As mentioned in the introduction with regard to a point that Friedberg has made, unlike in the cinema where the screen receives the light from the projector, in television, the screen itself is a source of light. Punto cero literalizes this key component of contemporary spectatorship occurring in Mexico to signal the importance of the televisual image at this time. In taking stock of these changing practices of spectorship to the realm of how they affect the subject, Rojo constructs in Ray a Lacanian subject whose split becomes manifest in the screen of the television that broadcasts his life. The novel repeatedly stresses throughout the ineluctable draw of the television image—that the images it displays hold more truth than the subject’s lived experience.


Another quality that the novel exemplifies regarding ways in which subjectivity has been affected by television is its representation of a scrambled sense of temporality.

While the novel can be said to have an overall chronological arc that begins with Ray’s kidnapping and ends with his death/escape, there are enough moments throughout the story of repetition, rewindings and temporal slippages that it attempts to emulate the subjective experience of time spent watching television. Early in the novel this is accomplished at first very subtly on pages 8 and page 12, both of which have repeated dialogues verbatim between Ray and his friend Mauricio. The first time occurs while Ray is sleeping in his house and the phone rings, which takes him seven rings to locate the phone amidst the chaos of his boxes lying about in his new apartment. The dialogue is brief:

-Bueno. -¿Ray? -Sí, ¿quién habla? -Soy Mauricio, ¿qué haces ahí? -Aquí vivo. -¿Estás bien? -¿Para eso hablas a estas horas? -¿Ya conectaste la TV? -Sí. -Pues bueno, busca un noticiero, como vas. Te hablo en cinco minutos. (8)

[“Hello.” “Ray?” “Yeah, who’s calling?” “This is Mauricio. What are you doing there?” “I live here.” “Are you okay?” “You’re calling me this late to ask me that?” “Have you set up your TV?” “Yes.” “Well listen, look for a new channel. I will call you back in give minutes.”]


Mauricio tells Ray to turn on a television news program and that he will call back in five minutes. The return call never materializes in the narrative, but this exact conversation repeats itself three pages later, only this time after introducing expository information about his friend Mauricio, a pharmacist, who works the late shift. He is introduced as a character immediately lost amidst the bio-tech brand name medicine that he is shelving:

Daflon, Daktarin, Dalcin, Desuric, Dipasin, Diprospan, Ditopax, Dolac, Dolotor,

Dopergigin, Dramamine, etc. The television is on while he restocks the drugs, and on it he sees the news announcing Ray’s kidnapping earlier in the day; this in turn sparks him the call to Ray in his new apartment, and the dialogue repeats itself. This particular scene, rewound slightly by several minutes, shifts the temporal layout of the narrative just briefly, creating an overlap in time. Under Mieke Bal’s understanding of sequential ordering within a story, this falls under internal retroversion. She describes this kind of narrative event thus: “The repetition of a previously described event usually serves to change, or add to, the emphasis on the meaning of that event. The same event is presented as more, or less, pleasant, innocent, or important than we had previously believed it to be. It is thus both identical and different: the facts are the same, but their meaning has changed. The past receives a different significance” (61). Indeed, the past receives a different meaning within the context of the story, shifting the focus of the originator of the phone call, Mauricio. But it also adds an additional significance in the novel: this internal retroversion early on reflects certain modes of repetition inherent in watching television, such as its commercials often recur several times within a specific time block, how a breaking news story is repeated often word for word several times throughout a broadcast, or rewinding a videocassette brings about an exact recurrence of

140 dialogue. It also serves to set the model for chunks of the rest of the narrative, which become speckled with various, subtle forms of repetitions, rewindings and asynchronies.

The narrative seems to have internalized these forms of time-shifting. Temporally, one effect this has in Punto cero is to transmit a detemporalized world, or one where linear, cause-and-effect chronology has been shuffled just slightly. Dialogues do repeat themselves verbatim, but only with mechanical and electronic reproduction. And here, right at the beginning of the novel, there is a kink in the story’s own sequential ordering, an inadvertent rewind that replays a portion of what has just occurred but shifts the focalization.

This effect touches upon Anne Friedberg’s notion of “detemporalized subjectivities,” from Window Shopping (1993). She inserts herself into the then lively postmodern debate by asserting that it is in fact cinematic and televisual apparatuses and their effects produced upon subjects that are constitutive of the postmodern condition, not merely a symptom of it. Her position takes as its starting point Frederic Jameson’s assertion that one fundamental aspect of postmodern subjectivity is the loss of historicity, or our inability to access and retain the past, condemning us to a live in a perpetual present (2). But, she notes, this critique goes farther back to Baudelaire’s reflections upon the introduction of the photographic camera and its effects: not only does the ability to capture images that perfectly reflect reality aid in retaining memory and help preserve history, but they also begin to supplant memory. For Friedberg, Baudelaire’s fear was that the photographic image and its social effects upon memory and history was also that it could efface history altogether. So, where memory and history become precarious aspects of this modernity (for Baudelaire) and postmodernity (for Jameson), the principal

141 cause for Western society’s inability to access history is due in large part to the changes brought about by the modes of spectatorship occasioned by cinema and television.

“Cinema and television—mechanical and electronic extensions of photography’s capacity to transform our access to history and memory—have produced increasingly detemporalized subjectivities” (2). She notes that the increase of these two visual forms has engendered an “increasingly derealized sense of ‘presence’ and identity” (Ibid.).

This detemporalization is very present in both of Rojo’s stories treated here, but in different ways. For “Ruido gris,” the protagonist bemoans a digital world brimming with electronic reproduction:

El futuro es una repetición constante de lo que ya has vivido, quizás algunos detalles puedan cambiar, quizá los actores sean diferentes, pero es lo mismo. Y cuando no lo has vivido, seguramente ya viste algo parecido en alguna película, en algún programa de TV o escuchaste algo parecido en una canción.

The future is a constant repetition of what you’ve already lived, maybe some of the details have changed, maybe the actors are different, but it’s the same. And when you haven’t lived it, surely you saw something like it in a film, on a TV show or you listened to something like it in a song. (102)

Indeed, when the future becomes a repetition of the present, or full of mediatic experiences that you have already seen and thus “lived” in some vicarious audio-visually reproduced way, you have a subjectivity whose sense of time has been reconfigured. The connection here between the ocular journalist and Friedberg’s theory point to very similar preoccupations regarding lived subjective time. In terms of Punto cero, this detemporalization becomes, from the very beginning, part and parcel of its literary structure with its temporal slippages, rewind-and-replay, and other repetitions that occur throughout.


There also exists a connection between a detemporalized world brought on in part by televisual spectatorship and living in a world of strong with constant and repeated appearances of the commodity. The character who most personifies the commodity is

Ray’s friend Andrea, whose own subjectivity becomes inescapable ensnared in the image world of the commodity. She works at an advertising agency in the creative department, inventing ideas, slogans and images, most often for 30-second television commercial spots. In one of her first appearances in the novel, the narration describes the editing process for a Kas soft-drink commercial that she was in charge of making.80 The description from pages 17-20 involve an unusual amount of repetition, this time due solely to the narrative's attempt to objectively describe the editing process—as if looking at the screen. Take by take, each edited cut is described in the most economical of terms, interpolated by a quick line of dialogue, which soon becomes apparent to be between

Andrea and the editor. There exists in this exchange a kind of collapse between the narrative’s own textual description, which usually remains a distant third person omniscience, and its descent upon the editing screen—remaining tight upon each take described, breaking it down into its most essential events. This culminates on page 20 with a narration of the commercial in its finally edited form:

Chavos, camiseta, shorts. Subir mueble, azul verde. Sudor. Músculos. Piernas de chava. Falda corta, ligera y un top. Delgada, estilizada. Curvas.

80 Kas is a soft-drink manufactured and sold by Pepsi-Co that was originally released in the Spanish market before entering Latin America in the 1990s. Predominantly sold in the largest markets in the region, Argentina and Brazil, it was not until it entered Mexico in 1994 did it reach a moderate degree of success. Leveraging the power of cross-marketing, the drink was sold with the promotional help of the song “Dame más,” played by the Argentine group The Sacados, itself a full-length, four-minute musical video cum Kas commercial located on a beach with many surfing shots, the singer belting out verses while the choruses involves ample takes takes of young, attractive people swilling Kas and smiling. Also, other advertisements were known for employing highly stereotyped gendered depictions, often with a beautiful head-turning young woman whose body becomes the object of young male gazers who look onward. This last one clearly influences Rojo’s introduction of Andrea, as the description parallels the stereotyped model just described. (“Kas” n.p.)


Chavo, quejándose: ¿cuánto falta? Contrapicada: Dos pisos. Uno, dos, toma impulso y la chava camina hacia el elevador. Escote, senos. Elevador. Fuera de servicio. Brazos en caderas, sudor. Preferiría estar en otro lado. Empujan. Jadear. Sube, muestra ropa interior. Quisiera algo para este calor. Saca un Kas, tira bolsas. Dejan de empujar. Voltean. Mueble. Desliza Maceta rota. Chava, sonrojada: ¿quién me puede ayudar? Logo. Kas, el remedio para todos tus males. Los tres toman Kas: ¿cómo te llamas? (28)

[Guys, shirts, short. Moving a piece of furniture, blue green. Muscles. Legs of a girl. Short skirt, light and a top. Slender, styled. Curves. Guy, complaining, how much farther? Low angle: Two floors. One, two, quick take and the girl walks toward the elevator. Cleavage, breasts. Elevator. Out of service. Arms on hips, sweat. I would prefer to be somewhere else. They push, pant. She goes up the stairs, shows underwear. Maybe something for this heat. She pulls out a Kas, throws her bags aside. They stop pushing. Turn around. Furniture. Slides. Plant pot breaks. Girl, smiling ¿who can help me? Logo. Kas, the cure for all your maladies. The three drink a Kas. What’s your name?]

Here, the televisual linguistic markers are incorporated into the narrative description in an attempt to emulate the jargon and brevity and impact of creating commercials. The text becomes focused solely upon what cross the editing screen. The linguistic register here, attempting to emulate the brief, visual images in a commercial, reinforces the way in which literature tries to absorb and emulate its competitive visual medium. Later, Andrea, upon arriving at Ray’s house, finds herself in a situation that eerily repeats the commercial she conceived of and created: Two strapping young men are moving a piece of furniture up the stairs, and since there is no elevator in Ray’s building, she must wait for them to finish moving the furniture. As she does, they ask, “¿Cómo te llamas?” just like in the commercial. Andrea gets lightheaded as a result of the mirroring of commercial and her real-life situation. She looks in her purse for a Kas but finds nothing. Again, the text is repeating commercials in real life, only this time without internal reconversions of exact dialogue. This becomes part of a motif in the novel, as


Andrea creates or imagines other commercials, only to find herself caught up within a similar—but real—situation later on. The difference is in their endings: in all three of these sequences, where the commercial draws back to show the logo superimposed on top of the characters in their happy ending, in Andrea’s life the non-happy ending occurs.

Clearly the commentary is how real life misses the commercial sheen of marketing, which is required by its own time restrictions and ideological practice of selling a commodity through a short burst of constructed audio-visual imagery. But it also reinforces the detemporalized nature of the characters, especially one who works in the world of commercial marketing.

Furthermore, Andrea ultimately becomes incapable of thinking in any terms other than the language of product commercials, in effect getting trapped within them. When her sister Lucy greets her at Ray’s by surprise, she immediately feels she is greeted by a mirror. Upon reflecting about the differences between her and identical twin, the narration express how she is immediately struck with an image: “Por un momento, se imagina una fotografía en una revista de modas. En letras pequeñas, junto a Lucy, está el precio total de su guardarropa; multiplicado por cinco, en la página contraria, está el de

Andrea que, además, parece cincuenta años mayor” (21) [“For a moment, she imagines a photograph in a fashion magazine. In small letters, next to Lucy, is the total price of the clothes she is wearing; multiplied by give, on the opposite page, is that of Andrea who, moreover, appears fifty years older”]. Through much of the story, Andrea gets caught in a kind of loop where she becomes unable to approach aspects of her life without visualizing them as commercials.


Beyond the internal retroversion and repetitions of commodities in the narrative,

Punto cero’s language contains many ephemeral, economic descriptions and even symbols that most attempt to emulate its televisual referent. Parts of the novel often read like a script—not only because of the inclusion of short extra-textual markers of “Fade

In,” “La escena es así,” and “corte a,” to name three—but also in its own sparing prose throughout, as in the Kas commercial narration above, or other places where the text tries to capture the syntactic experience of watching/listening to Ray’s television. Whether depicting characters, narrating events or imitating the narrations of television

(commercials, live news broadcast, talk shows, or zapping, the novel’s expressive style remains frugal. Despite the fact that many of Rojo’s stories seem preoccupied with media to one degree or another, Punto cero remains the one that attempts the widest and deepest criticism through a multiplicity of strategies of internal retroversions, repetitions, an inundation of commercial marketing—all of the phenomena which are integral aspects to televisuality. Literarily, it does not make for the most sophisticated of descriptions, nor does it immediately engage with other prime examples of classic lettered works of ekphrasis where the literary description attempts to paint its likened picture. But it does reflect to a large degree a key aspect to the moment in which this is written: fleeting, ephemeral images that appear and disappear upon the screen with increasing rapidity that contribute to, as Rojo suggests, split subjectivities. The television becomes central throughout the narrative and in its fantastic all-consuming end, a point which underscores its rise in presence and centrality in Mexico in the 1990s.

“Conversaciones con Yoni Rei” and “El presidente sin órganos”


The short stories “Conversaciones con Yoni Rei” and, to a lesser extent,

“Presidente sin órganos,” continue exhibiting how Rojo’s prose is primarily influenced by televisual discourse and structure.81 Both of these intermingle narration that doubles as either a television program or news script, and have a format that lies between a reality show and a more traditional personal interview segment. The following will briefly describe these structural elements.

“Conversaciones con Yoni Rei…” stands as a kind of companion piece to “Ruido gris” by combining the cyborg body, transnational media corporations and televisuality into one biting, cyberpunk articulation. The story immediately attempts to emulate a mediatic structure by framing the story within the context of a television script. The text both commences and closes with a framing device that employs textual markers: “Fade in,” written in English, begins the text while a "Fade out" closes it (this device is also used in Punto cero, his only novel). This is followed by the interrogatives “¿Quién puede culpar a Yoni Rei? ¿Hay alguien aquí que esté haciendo un mejor trabajo que él?” (61)

[“Who can blame Yoni Rei? Is there anyone here that is doing a better job than he?”] and accompanied by a parenthetical “(Aplausos)” (Ibid.). It is clear from this that the ideal reader is likely positioned as a televisual spectator, given the applauses and spatial marker of “here”, and as one enters into the body of the story, the narrative voice also appears to be that of a voiceover. Television becomes the framing device through which the reader reads the story or imaginatively watches the program about Yoni Rei.

Compared to “Ruido gris” where the reader is encouraged to identify with being the

81 I have intentionally left out his two short stories that most notably feature cybernetics and/or computers, “Para-Skim” (1998) and “El nodo,” (2002) as neither contain practices related to the visual as key components to their narrative thematics, structures or rhetorical innovation.

147 ocular reporter protagonist and situated inside his head and behind his eyes, here the narrative focalization promotes the reader’s gaze upon the cyborg body in a televisual frame and thus at a distance removed.

Yoni Rei is the protagonist as well as the interviewee and subject of the program in which his life gets made into televised spectacle. His existence results from two conjoining forces: firstly, some studies determined that the family unit was the central cause in producing wicked individuals in society (such as serial killers and perverts) and as such the family as a stable, functioning unit in society has greatly declined in status and importance; secondly, the rise and spread of the multinational corporation as reliable substitutes for the family unit with "sus gigantescos edificios revestidos de espejos, siempre limpios, con sus metas claras, sus miembros bien vestidos..." (61) [“their gigantic buildings dressed with mirrors, always clean, with their clear goals, their well-dressed members”]. In an attempt to curb the societal blight of abortion, corporations now offer to compensate their unwilling and often young mothers all the associated costs with pregnancy and birth in order avoid their termination. In exchange for credit, money or coupons that are accepted at any participating store in shopping malls, the non-aborted babies, upon birth, are handed over to the corporation to be used for genetic experimentation. This clearly becomes the main criticism of the story—how the transnational corporation is coming to have a central role in Mexican society, even usurping the family.

But it is the constructed nature of the story that is written as if it were a script to a television segment becomes one of its essential and most striking features. The story/segment is comprised of four narrated interviews of Yoni Rei that are intermixed

148 with sequences an overlayed montage of photographs in which the narrator of the program describes several key moments in Rei's life; it also contains two sections labeled

“paranoia attacks” that describe fits of his radical behavior, as well as several “Corte a comerciales” (“Cut to commercials”) which are elliptically omitted from the story.

Throughout the story, the reader is guided by script markers, such as "(Aplausos),"

"(Sollozos)," and "(Risas)" that signal to the reader what the supposed audience reaction is to the narrated event.82 From this, television becomes the framing device through which the reader reads the story or imaginatively watches the program about Yoni Rei.

Rendering his life into a televised spectacle foregrounds the tabloid nature of television around this time.

The final short story analyzed here as part of Rojo’s speculative fiction is “El presidente sin órganos,” which contains similarities to “Conversaciones…” in its televisual literary style, although it diverges in its thematics. In this story, television news language, a mutant eye and political spectacle all converge to comprise this odd short narrative. This story, Rojo’s only attempt to date at explicit commentary on contemporary politics, straddles the generic boundaries between a loose political of a generic, unnamed Mexican president, and a loosely SF register somewhere between slipstream83 and . The strangeness evoked in this story results from the peculiar mixture of the president’s unfortunate rectal cancer diagnosis that eventually spreads

82 It is unclear from this as to whether or not these sounds derive from a live audience or these are canned, stock sounds inserted into the program to give the appearance of a live audience. Given the structural similarities of the story to a script, itself revealing the constructed, edited, nature of the television program, these likely refer to pre-recorded reactions inserted into the story for effect, although it is possible that this program is being watched upon a screen and viewed by a live studio audience. 83 American cyberpunk darling Bruce Sterling coined the term, stating that slipstream “is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility” (SF Eye 78).

149 throughout much of his body and the way this becomes transformed into a mass media spectacle, such as by broadcasting the intestinal surgery throughout the nation and other unsavory events. The story succinctly narrates these events in page-long sections each prefaced by a date that is succeeded by another one month later. In total, seven months pass from the time of diagnosis, the decline in the president’s health and finally his death, where the story ends.

What distinguishes “El presidente sin órganos” from “Conversaciones con Yoni

Rei” or Punto cero is the approach in which the narration assimilates or mimics televisual signposting. It is often unclear who exactly the narrator is—a third person omniscient voice or a third person limited omniscient voiceover from a news broadcaster—since the story begins with the former and repeatedly gets interrupted by the latter. This importance of this becomes evident particularly toward the end when the narrative becomes overtaken by the news broadcast. The story ends with voice-over narration of a news broadcast, leaving the story—and the reader—in a televisual space, once again.

The story begins with a date, Miércoles 13 de marzo, as follows: “Me siento muy halagado”, dijo el Presidente cuando recibió la noticia de que el mejor equipo de cirujanos se encargaría de extirpar el absceso de grasa que se ha formado en su recto y que ha provocado su extraño comportamiento en los últimos meses” (9) [“I’m very flattered,” said the president when he got the news that the best surgical team was put in charge with removing the abscess of fat that had formed in his rectum and had caused his strange behavior in recent months”]. Although journalistic in , this voice remains in the neutral third person omniscient narration in this first section. It is followed, like all the dated sections, with one-off characters who have something happen to them that is in

150 some way related to the reported events of the president. In this first section, for example,

Fernando Guerra realizes that he has been feeling sick lately and it could be related to his own intestines.

The first verifiable mention of news occurs on the next date, “Jueves 14 de abril.”


PRESIDENT NO LONGER HAS FUR ON HIS TONGUE”] which, being in all capital letters, seems to indicate this may actually be a headline to a newspaper story. It continues: “La Presidencia comunicó ayer que el tumor que había invadido la boca del

Presidente fue extirpado exitosamente. ‘Como era un cirugía de alto riesgo’, continuó el vocero, ‘decidimos no televisarla’” (Ibid.) [“The presidency communicated yesterday that the tumor that had invaded the mouth of the president was successfully removed.

‘Because it was a high-risk operation,’ continued the newscaster, ‘we decided not to televise it’”]. Here the narration jumps from reading the rapid flash of a headline to the third person focalization of the narrator describing the announcement to, finally, the speech of a newscaster, which places the narration in front of a news broadcast. It then switches back to the third person register that began the story, revealing that the tumor found on his tongue was a bezoar worm, an abscess growth normally located in the stomach. Clearly, these news reports also deliver a dose of humor by implying that the president’s rectal abscess causes him to be literally “full of shit” and that to not have

“pelos en la lengua” (Ibid.) [“fur on his tongue”] means that he is able to speak straightforwardly—for once a long time. The criticism of these remarks reside in exposing the presidential office as one that has become increasingly vacuous until it empties out of any meaning. On the following month, the narration is interrupted again

151 with an urgent story: “NOTA DE ÚLTIMO MOMENTO: El Presidente tuvo un colapso nervioso hace cinco minutos. Se desconocen las causas. No cambie de canal y lo mantrendremos informados” (11) [“BREAKING NEWS: The president had a nervous breakdown five minutes ago. The causes are unknown. Don’t change the channel and we’ll keep you informed”]. These interruptions occur a total of five times in the story, and ultimately overtake the narrative by ending upon the news broadcast that announces the president’s demise.

El país está de luto. El Presidente ha muerto. Viva el Presidente. En la próxima hora tendremos entrevistas, comentarios y una semblanza de la vida de nuestro fallecido Presidente….Los especialistas se preparan para realizar la autopsia. Se buscarán causas de deceso místico-religiosas, sicológicas, extraterrestres y fisiológicas. Todos los especialistas firmaron contratos de exclusividad con esta emisora para la transmisión en vivo de las operaciones. Sólo sintonizándonos tendrá usted la información completa. El Presidente ha muerto. Viva el Presidente. (15-16)

[The nation is in mourning. The president has died. Long live the president. In the next hour we will have interviews, commentaries and a profile of the life of our deceased president….The specialists are preparing to conduct the autopsy. They seek mystic-religious, psychological, extraterrestrial and physiological causes of death. All the specialists has signed exclusive contracts with this station for the live broadcast of the operations. You’ll only have the complete information if you stay tuned. The president has died. Long live the president.]

The story ends with not simply with the president’s death but its mediatic broadcast, which cements its virtual nature. What at first was a traditionally told story with vague narrative interruptions from a television broadcast ultimately becomes completely overcome by the televisual voiceovers. The reader remains, as in “Conversaciones con

Yoni Rei” and Punto cero, in a televisual space whose physical coordinates are nowhere in particular in Mexico and yet everywhere where a television there might reside.

Before concluding, I would like to briefly look at the ways in which French

152 psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan has impacted Pepe Rojo's life and work. While I touched upon several ways in which Punto cero articulates a Lacanian split subject, I believe returning to this topic here towards the end becomes useful in contextualizing Rojo a bit more clearly, especially given the extent to which he is influenced by the French psychoanalyst. I will detail here the way in which Lacan has helped shape Rojo’s life personally and then move on to discuss the meaning of various quotes in Punto cero, the novel most explicitly under Lacan’s sway. As I detail in the conclusion, however, his essays mention numerous of other scholars, theorists and thinkers from the US and

Europe; but it is Lacan that remains his largest visible influence. In his personal life, there is the collaboration with his wife, Deyanira, who works as a Lacanian psychologist in

Tijuana (according to her, she is the only one in the city). Together, they began the “Tú no existes” urban intervention in 1999, which eventually expanded to include other sci-fi writers and friends, such as Bernardo Fernández, Ruben Bonet, Gerardo Porcayo, et al.

This began modestly in Tijuana but over the course of the seven years of its duration spread to six other cities, including D.F., Puebla, Torreón, Coatepec, Xalapa, among others. The objective was to place small posters throughout the public sphere: on public mailboxes, bus stop surfaces, the then-border wall between Tijuana and San Ysidro, the fence surrounding Tijuana’s bullfighting stadium, on the metro doors of the subway in

D.F., on massive circular highway supports, taped underneath the written description to a statue of in Torreón, next to an ATM machine, on front doors to businesses that allowed it, etc. These posters ranged from the size of bumper stickers at the beginning and eventually led to massive billboard-like posters toward the end. All contained the quote "Tú no existes" mixed with an image, the latter of which changed

153 greatly over time until the project ended in 2006 (see Figures 7 – 9). One of the earliest pair of posters contains the stick figure symbols of the generic bathroom gender signs, one male and one female, both overlaid with the “no” or “prohibition” emblem

(comprised as a circle with a slash cutting through it) superimposed, negating it; below it reads: “TU NO EXISTES.” (See Figure 5 on page 230). The image and its accompanying message are striking, jarring even. “What do you mean I do not exist?” might be a question this sign provokes in the average passerby. “I am here, looking at this message in front of me, reading it silently,” they might say. “I am a body with a name, biological sex, history that includes two parents that came together to conceive me at one point in time, and I am driven by my some inner agency that is able to read this sign, to question its absurd logic and to deduce that I do in fact exist in space and in time. I, my existence, is provable, able to be confirmed by another person. So no, dear sign, you are wrong—I do exist.” This would be a very plausible reaction to these signs by any modern, rational human being, and indeed, this is precisely this kind of response that the urban intervention hopes to garner, especially in light of the fact that many people still fully operate under the belief in a Cartesian subject as its basic ontological starting point, one who bases his/her existence upon, above all else, rationality, autonomy, individuality, self-direction, etc.

The point of these messages, however, is just that: to strike into them this jarring realization that Lacan asserts. Indeed, Lacan’s radical reworking of subjectivity leaves little room for discussion of the rational in the subject, and privileges unsatisfiable desire as its ontology. He even states in his seminar on the mirror stage that “the formation of the I as we experience it in psychoanalysis…leads us to oppose any philosophy directly

154 issuing from the Cogito” (502), thus explicitly denying rationality as a fundamental basis for subjectivity. Throughout his writing he poses that one’s sense of self comes from an other, implying that the very notion of identity that a subject feels comes not from some innate, indissoluble sense of unique individual-ness but rather is a complex matrix of language and imagery that has fundamentally exterior to the psychic interior of the subject. And part of that exterior language and imagery—a very significant part—resides on the images that these “Tú no existes” posters sit next to (or on top of, as clearly illustrated in Figure 6-8 starting on page 231). That is, these messages sit aside a seemingly endless array of eye-catching commercial advertisements that attempt to interpellate and position the subject as a consumer. In some of the pictures taken of this urban intervention show a banner of these posters placed alongside advertisements whose language and imagery retain an interpellative capacity whose ultimate function is to sell an item, often manipulating the desires related to identity formation of the subjects who pass by them. The “Tú no existes” urban intervention attempted to be a counterpoint to the onslaught of late-capital publicity messages that inundate urban spaces, and to provoke people’s questioning of what discourses help construct their identities.

On a second level, the French psychoanalyst’s influence also becomes perceptible through Rojo’s writing—which ranges from the subtle, implicit and metaphorical, as we saw in the previous analysis of his novel Punto cero, to the overt, explicit and literal.

Most directly in the primary corpus with which I am working, Lacan surfaces as the referenced source in several epigraphs in the novel Punto cero when Rojo cites a key quote regarding Lacan’s notion of specularity in the formation of the subject: “En el fondo, sin duda, se pinta el cuadro. El cuadro, es cierto, está en mi ojo. Pero yo estoy en

155 el cuadro” (2) [“No doubt, in the depths of my eye, the picture is painted. The picture, certainly, is in my eye. But I am in the picture].84 To further complement this information,

Rojo adds a paraphrased quote on the opposite page: “El punto cero, según Jacques

Lacan, es el punto entre nuestros ojos donde se sitúa la función de borde y el corte que hace que nuestra mirada sea nuestra. Así se mira hacia afuera mirando hacia adentro. Es siempre un punto ciego donde no se sabe quién está viendo” (Punto cero n.p.) [“The zero point, according to Jacques Lacan, is the point between our eyes where the function of the border/limit is situated that makes our gaze ours. In this way one looks outward looking back within. It is always a blind spot where it is not known who is seeing”]. The first quote comes directly from Lacan’s The Four Fundamental Concepts of

Psychoanalysis, Book XI, Section 8’s “The Line and the Light” where he maps out the position of the subject in the dialectic of human visual perception. Through a series of diagrams and in his typical non-linear expressive style, Lacan positions the act of visual perception as something that is fundamentally structured by a process exterior to the seeing subject—the gaze. “This is the function that is found at the heart of the institution of the subject in the visible. What determines me, at the most profound level, in the visible, is the gaze that is outside. I see only from one point, but in my existence, I am looked at from all sides” (106). The gaze that is outside, then, is embodied in the look from others—but it is also powerfully and fundamentally attached to the value placed on the look from others by the subject. He states elsewhere using these words “the gaze I

84 In the original English translation of The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, there is a negation included in the last sentence that completely inverts its meaning. “But I am not in the picture,” it reads. This would seem to be a very unfortunate editing error, giving the radical change of meaning for the sentence. For consistency’s sake, I have chosen to include the corrected version, rather than contend with confusion in the body of the text.

156 encounter…is not a seen gaze but a gaze imagined by me in the field of the Other” (84).

In other words, the fact that I believe someone is looking at me is far more important than whether or not they actually are looking at me. This implies that the gaze exists in multiple forms: it can initiate and emanate from another person’s face and eyes that train themselves intently upon me; it can also, however, be felt in a more mysterious, enigmatic quality that somehow exceeds any individual gaze that descends upon me. In the latter, it is the subject-being-looked-at who assigns the value of the gaze in this inter- subjective relationship. Kaja Silverman has pointed out that “The gaze is the

‘unapprehensible’ (Threshold… 83) agency through which we are socially ratified or negated as spectacle. It is Lacan’s way of stressing that we depend upon the Other not only for our meaning and our desires, but also for our very confirmation of self. To ‘be’ is in effect to ‘be seen’” (Ibid. 133). Descartes’s “I think therefore I am” becomes “I desire to be seen by the other therefore I am” in Lacan.

Filtering this through Rojo’s novel Punto cero, then, it is the television that becomes one of many possible placeholders that stand-in for the gaze that is outside the subject, or the outside-gaze that constitutes the subject-as-spectacle. While it is true that we gaze at television, Rojo seems to suggest that our gazing at television is similar to the subjective processes that comprise a sense of identity regarding the other. Put another way, when television is gazed at by the subject, “él es la pantalla” (69) [“he is the screen”], since it is the source and projection of light. Rojo seems to be suggesting that television is the dominant medium that projects light and fills up the empty screen that is the human subject. Whether or not one agrees with his conclusion, what is most interesting and useful for this thesis is the fact that it is not just any other object that

157 functions as a stand-in for the gaze, it is television in particular. Here Rojo is articulating a specifically Mexican experience of the place and time in which he lives. While many of the other cyberpunk writers relied upon tropes of cyberspace and virtual reality, the hard kernel of Rojo’s writing feels nearly incapable of leaving this register in his fiction. He returns to the television screen time and again as the central site of visual practices in his work. Regardless of the conscious use of employing Lacan theoretically here, the television screen becomes his unconsciously chosen trope, given his environment in the

1990s in Mexico.

While Pepe Rojo may wear his theoretical influences on his sleeve, his writing is drenched in the most common visual practice of this era, television, and this is not merely coincidence. No matter how much he may conceive of Mexico through a Lacanian-tinted lens, he is nevertheless unable to escape the time and place from where and when he is writing. The bulk of his own writing occurred in the last half of the 1990s, and as such, it reflects the rise of television in Mexico of this time. His major works depict a heightened visual sphere with a pervasive televisuality that causes anxiety, displacement, dis-location in its subjects, and he even appropriates formats in order to emulate the media he represents. His texts also absorb and rearticulate some key movements going on in Mexican society and industry at this time, such as a declining social fabric, the rise of ratings and the sense that, because of televisual spectactorship, aids in reconfiguring one’s sense of time.


Chapter Three

Writing to Fight the Visual Manipulation of the Masses: the Seductive, Vacuous State and the Ventriloquist that Controls It in Eve Gil’s Virtus

“With the videosphere, we can begin to see the end of the ‘society of the spectacle’ … We were in the presence of the image, we are in the visual.” Regis Debray

“Antes las televisiones estaban al servicio del presidente, pero ahora el presidente está al servicio de las televisiones.” Alejandro Alfonzo, Communication Consultant for UNESCO

In the previous chapter we explored different aspects to some of the speculative fiction of Pepe Rojo, one of the key members from the cyberpunk movement. Of all the writers from this subgenre, I claim that Rojo’s writing most accurately reflects changes occurring in the visual sphere in Mexico at this time. Regardless of the “cyber-“ prefix, it is actually Rojo’s writing that would be more accurately described by calling it

“telepunk,” given his central thematic preoccupations with televisuality. In this chapter, we move forward into the mid-2000s to consider the work of someone outside the cyberpunk genre entirely, Eve Gil. Her 2008 novel Virtus: El espectáculo más grande del mundo remains her only foray into the world of science fiction, and she does so in order to “criticar, justificar, entender y explicar sin tener que escribir ‘otro-libro-más-de-

Política’” (121-122) [“criticize, justify, understand and explain without having to write

‘one-more-book-about-Politics’”], as she writes in the epilogue. She, like Rojo, also captures the zeitgeist of the moment, particularly in how politics undergoes a qualitative

159 change in leveraging the power of the television media to frame and maintain a meticulously procured image.

Eve Gil is a young (born in 1968), prolific author from Hermosillo, , and is considered to be a member of the NAFTA generation of writers. She has written extensively in multiple formats, including , short stories, narrative and journalism.

She began writing and publishing at a young age, winning national prizes in the early

1990s, in journalism, poetry, the novel and short story.85 In total, she has published nine novels in the past 20 years, as well as other compilations of short stories. Virtus is unique in her bibliography because it is her only foray into writing science fiction. In the novel’s epilogue, she asks for understanding from any SF fans that happen upon her book, because it is not a genre she feels comfortable within, but rather chose this format as way to help her narrate, criticize, justify, understand and explain what was going on in her country without writing another book on politics (132-133). She openly admits to paying homage to four classic SF writers and filmmakers in the novel: Aldous Huxley,

Orwell, and Fritz Lang.

Eve Gil’s Virtus: El espectáculo más grande del mundo (2008) is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic Mexico that recounts the manipulation of the masses by political and business elites. Like much science fiction written during this period, this novel of the future allegorizes the neoliberal present. But what makes this particular text an ideal candidate for being considered part of the other speculative fictions in this thesis is its

85 These include Honorable Mention in the Anita Pompa de Trujillo in 1993, a national poetry competition; the Premio Nacional de Periodismo Fernando Benítez (“National Prize of Journalism Fernando Benítez”) in 1994 for journlism; the Gran Novela Sonorense (“Best Novel Prize of Sonora”) in 1993 the novel Hombres necios; the Premio Nacional de Cuento Efraín Hernández (“the National Short Story Prize”) in 2006 for the short story “Sueños de Lot.”

160 focus on the visual technologies of television and cybernetics, as well as the institutional and economic forces that utilize their power to strongly shape the way in which these technologies are applied and to what end. In this chapter, the focus of this critical analysis of Virtus will limit itself to the ways in which the novel comments upon visuality in

Mexico of the early-to-mid- 2000s in which it was written. The novel’s most biting critique is levelled at the relationship of power between the televisual and politics, signaling a qualitative change in how political power operates within a country where the dominant means of mass media communication is overwhelmingly led by television. The novel posits that the political institution of Mexico has become a kind of pure projected image that is essentially void of substance and whose and discourse is largely vacant of meaning. Behind the powerful political representation transmitted through media is an enormous, unseen and even more powerful entity linked to the media and telecommunications industries with its multinational alliances and endless reservoirs of capital. In the novel, the political has ultimately become subordinated to the wishes, whims and demands of the telecommunications and media industries. The real power, the novel suggests, resides in the economic forces that support, influence and control the president, although the face of power is and must be incarnated in the president. In addition, the novel’s structure positions the narrator as doubly removed from the immersive virtualización in both spatial and temporal terms, i.e., the narrator writes the story after the event happened as well as positions herself outside the virtualized space when it was happening. This has the effect of attempting to provide a verbal testament to the truth of what actually happened within a visual sphere so rife with manipulation and

161 deceit. Thus, writing is seen as a counter-hegemonic practice against a social sphere so dominated by the visual as distraction, deception and manipulation.

But before moving onto the analysis, the following details a brief summary of

Virtus’s plot. The story is told by the narrator-protagonist Juana Inés, who opens the preface of her manuscript by speaking of the Third War that is still in progress and was initiated by The Ventriloquist, whom she compares to totalitarian dictators like Hitler and

Stalin. The forthcoming text, she says, is an essay, not an autobiography, in which her objective is above all to denounce what has come to be known as a domestic Apocalypse

(9-10). The story she proceeds to narrate begins in a flashback during the blackout, or desvirtualización, that occurred while she was at school and only eight years old. The entire first chapter achieves a disorienting effect placing the reader in the first moments of this blackout in media res, thrown into an utter darkness and lacking all context that expositions often provide. This narration here is first-person with a limited point of view, which curtails the reader’s knowledge of what is happening in this strange, suddenly somber and perplexing place. From there, the story then backs up in time in order to provide the context of how this came to be possible, narrating how the technology, people and institutions came together to create such a world of virtualización (a.k.a. Proyecto

V.). The key figure, discovered slowly by the reader throughout the subsequent chapters, include Jesús Martín Wagner who rose to power during the sexenio 2018-2024 (“six-year term”), and whose presidency coincided with the introduction of Proyecto V. into

Mexican society. His image goes from being simply an image in the media during political campaigns to an accessible if not ubiquitous presence throughout the virtualized society to ultimately becoming a talking hologram which appears to be continuously

162 present to people. Behind Wagner resides the mysterious, multi-person and largely anonymous Ventriloquist, a puppeteer that makes all the decisions for Wagner and is comprised of at least several figures in Mexico's television media and industries, several of which refer to actual industry leaders from the late 20th and early

21st century. As the novel intersperses how Juana Inés came to survive the blackout with the history of virtualization, this achieves a significant narrative fragmentation by intermixing two distinct narrative voices (first person limited and third person omniscient) from two different time periods. We learn that Juana Inés’s mother died, along with the rest of the population that disconnected from the virtualización at the urgent governmental decree issued by the president. Anyone who had a lectochip installed in their bodies had the inadvertent result of initiating an automatic corporeal decomposition of the body 72 hours after. Juana Inés survives by being rescued by Dr.

Linos Pound, a physicist who never succumbed to the virtualization, and who helped her de-virtualize properly, thus avoiding death. The end of the text reveals that in the aftermath, they found 413 survivors in all Mexico, or .02% of the entire population, and

Juana Inés was put in charge of the Project to Restore Reality. She dates her written essay, or the novel that we are reading, in October of 2068, which temporally places the story’s events from approximately 2020-2060s.

In order to lay the groundwork as to how the novel critiques politics and television in Mexico, it is necessary to sketch out its visual field as described in the novel, particularly as it relates to visual technologies. While the specifics of how Virtus imagines visual technologies functioning in the future is neither overly interesting nor the story’s central focus, it is unavoidably essential to understand the way in which the

163 political and economic is able to carry out the highly distracting and deceptive virtualización and its subsequently tragic consequences. Proyecto V. was made possible via the evolution of a trifecta of technologies that worked in conjunction: a nano- technology, an interactive cybernetic-television hybrid technology called DAVID and a centralized broadcast technology called the Planta Virtualizadora. The development of the nanotechnology produced what was commonly known as the lectochip,86 a device no larger than the size of a sunflower seed that was provided for free from the government and touted as being painless in its installation and instantaneous in its functioning (79).

Once inserted into the human body,87 it facilitates a number of augmentations in the human subject’s sensorial and intellectual capacity. Most importantly, it offers the ability to see and hear what the DAVID broadcasts or projects in space, effectively removing any need for other external devices (that extend the human senses via earplugs, a headset, and contact lenses/glasses, as in the virtual reality environments popularized in the late

1990s). The lectochip essentially replaces all of this cumbersome techno-baggage in one very small chip, making it fully internalized into the body such that it cannot be detected from outside. It considerably enhances the subject’s perception of the projected images and holograms by up to 200 times that of analogue photography. In addition, the chip offers an artificial memory extension that endows any user with a highly advanced level of lectoescritura, or the ability to understand five languages, immediately upon insertion.

Its necessary counterpart, the interactive television technology DAVID, evolved from its

86 Its technical name is EEPROM-CCD-, or “Electrically Erasable Programable read-only memory-charge- couple-device” (Ibid.). 87 It is never explicitly explained where this goes into the body, although one must asume it to be in the head or the neck because of the manner in which it enhances visual and audio perception and intellectual function.

164 earlier prototype of the tele-TV that was a device that evolved from a combination of flat- screen televisions as well as the interactive television systems that emerged in the mid-

1990s.88 DAVIDs were placed throughout Mexico similar to how network routers are today: in homes, allowing a continual, connected access point to the broadcast source.

Unlike today’s routers, however, these DAVIDs were also placed out throughout public spaces to provide broader, more constant access points when people were not at home.

The original source of the projection comes from the Planta Virtualizadora (“Virtualized

Plant”) in Bridge City (formerly known as Tijuana). With these technologies—the lectochip, DAVID and the broadcast source of the Planta Virtualizadora—there was a smooth, uninterrupted functioning of Proyecto V. throughout Mexico until the time of the blackout89. This unique visual sphere in Virtus makes Mexico “the biggest spectacle in the world” (the novel’s subtitle).

Once DAVID and the Planta are fully functioning and the population is equipped with the lectochip, this socio-visual landscape is created where Mexicans are immersed in virtualización that extends well beyond a body positioned in front of a screen (either or a television or computer). The screen, if we are to still able to speak in terms of such an object in Virtus, has become amorphous and immersive, enveloping the observing body in its projections and display. Rather than being rectangular and square and positioned in front of an observing body from viewable distance (such as with the viewing experiences

88 Interactive television began a year after NAFTA was made into law, and it is seen as one of the first major implementations of media that has come to be so fundamental in the shifting paradigm of cybernetic possibilities. As of this writing, interactive television includes interacting with the television set by manipulating the moving image of the content being watched (by recording, re-playing, pausing, rewinding, etc.) or interacting in real time with the program’s content (such as with voting on a favorite contestant in a competition program). 89 In the vague timeline given in the novel, I calculate this lasted for approximately 40 to 45 years before the massive blackout hit somewhere in the early 2060s.

165 required by cinema, television or computer), virtualization imagines a hybrid television and cybernetic visual experience for all users, spectators and citizens (in the novel these terms are highly synonymous). What virtualization provides for subjects is not described in explicit detail in the novel, but it does offer some brief suggestive verbal accounts that help to convey how this lifeworld functions for the Mexican subjects that have become absorbed into it. To begin with, Mexico receives at least two apt monikers that attempt to capture the essence of visual experience at this time: “el Parque de Diversiones Más

Grande del Mundo” (“the Biggest Amusement Park in the World”; 23) and “el Parque

Virtual Más Grande del Mundo” (“the Biggest Virtual Park in the World”; 119). As a reminder, this applies to the entire country of Mexico in the future and not just some cordoned-off space where amusement parks usually are located. This virtualized world exists equally throughout the private spaces of homes (the intimate spaces of individuals), the public spaces of schools, work and the street—practically anywhere a person inhabits in everyday life now. The environment described here resembles more of a virtualized reality than the virtual reality (VR) so extensively theorized, imagined and developed in the 1990s and early 2000s.90 That is, in the novel the three-dimensional social and private spaces of everyday life that subject moves in and through are overlaid with moving images and interactive holograms in which they are constantly accompanied and around

90 In the VR of the 1990s, the subject would be replete with numerous sensorial enhancements like clunky goggles, earphones and gloves endowed with sensors that made it possible for the subject to “go nowhere, and be transported anywhere” (Schnipper n.p.). But the fad that this was in the late 1980s and early 1990s had essentially fizzled and ended by the mid-1990s. VR was essentially dead until recently in 2014 when Oculus Rift, bought by Facebook for two billion dollars, was finally able to leverage the technology’s speed and capability to combine “stereoscopic 3-D, 360-degree visuals and a wide field of view.... [that] hacks your visual cortex” (Rubin 96), thus overcoming the previous technological and financial limitations inherent in other VR attempts. In its June 2014 issue, Wire magazine has touted Oculus Rift as, once again, being able to change pretty much everything: gaming, movies, TV, music, design, sex, sports, art, education, etc.

166 which they are always surrounded. Juana Inés describes how the man who rescued her,

Dr. Linos Pound, viewed this virtualized world, since he was one of the few who had never chosen to have the lectochip inserted and thus was never immersed in the Proyecto

V. He saw “una multitud de locos asiéndose a objetos invisibles, conversando y besándose con seres ficticios, asombrados a perpetuidad ante apariciones maravillosas que un ojo en bruto no era capaz de captar ni remotamente” (95) [“a multitude of crazy people grabbing onto invisible objects, talking and kissing fictitious beings, perpetually astonished before marvelous apparitions that an raw eye was not able to capture not even remotely”]. The lectochips enabled people to be, at every moment of every day, engulfed in an endless stream of interactive images and holograms that, according to this description, had some degree of substance, since they were able to be kissed. How this was possible is never explained. One side effect of virtualization is that when they sleep, they no longer dream, since all of their waking life they are immersed within an oneiric visual sphere. Another example depicts that in the streets and over their heads was a

DAVID that “disparaba anuncios que proyectaba bellísimos fenómenos celestes y fabulosas escenas del Olimpo. Y hasta nos hacía creer que el sol y la luna estaban mucho más próximos a la tierra de lo que habían creído nuestros antepasados, casi al alcance de nuestras manos” (48) [“shot into the air announcements that projected beautiful celestial phenomena and fabulous scenes of the Olympus. And it even made us believe that the sun and the moon were much closer to earth than what our ancestors believed, almost within reach of our hands”]. Greece’s Olympus, coupled with the moon and sun, show the extent to which fantastic imagery decorated the landscapes and made possible a world of infinitely mesmerizing visual experiences. This world of the 2020s-2060s in Mexico

167 constantly contains a “plétora de imágenes y diversiones que el simple hecho de salir a la calle prometía” (86) [“plethora of images and diversions that the simple act of walking out to the street promised”]. The visual, as described here, becomes synonymous with recreation and distraction.91

Curiously, the novel actually provides equally if not more of a sense of what virtualization was like through its contrast—through the blackout described in the disorienting first chapter. Many of the descriptions of what life was like being plunged into desvirtualización significantly aid in picturing what virtualization was like. Juana

Inés recalls that “No había nada. Nada. Una ciudad bombardeada hubiera sido preferible a Nada. Por lo menos quedarían trozos de vida, of historia, de realidad y de Verdad. Sólo veía los rascacielos espejeantes trastocados en sombras mustias, siniestras, opacas. Ni jardines ni bancos, ni arco iris, ni merolicos, ni ángeles ni dioses, ni unicornios ni publicidad” (14) [“There was nothing. Nothing. A bombarded city would have been preferable to Nothing. At least there would still be bits of life, of history, of reality and of

Truth. I only saw gleaming skyscrapers disrupted in gloomy , sinister, opaque.

No gardens, no benches, no rainbows, no street salesmen, no angels no gods, no unicorns no publicity”]. It is clear here that Mexican social spaces, its substructure and infrastructure, has essentially been left unattended and undeveloped for decades, and it feels completely absent without the vibrant audio-visual overlay. The space is reduced to its most base form, and through this description of absence we can see that this de-

91 It is never explained how this world functions while people are at work. If virtualización offers a constant display of images that keep the people content and amazed, how, then, does work successfully get performed? How can people be constantly entertained and absorbed by their favorite actors or interact (such as kissing) with other holograms when performing work? As Juana Inés points out, around 35% of the population worked at maquiladoras (25), and they also had lectochips. This question remains: How do they perform factory work while being living within virtualization? This never receives an answer in the text, and one which seems to be an overlooked narrative possibility.

168 virtualized society is an empty shell devoid of color, imagination, bustling life, spirit and the quotidian experience of business. All this was replaced by the overlayed virtualization made possible by the DAVIDs, lectochips and Planta Virtualizadora. In terms of subjectivity, these descriptions also point to a clear sense of dependency upon technology to provide the appearance of social spaces. On one hand, the removal of this dependence has disorienting effects, because the absence of images and everyone’s dependency upon living the world made up with them caused profound sensations of isolation and fear when all of it was suddenly taken away; on the other hand, the removal of this dependence also brings with it a revelatory potential, as symbolized by Juana Inés and

Dr. Linos Pound. Their being outside Proyecto V.’s deceptive visual sphere brings with it the ability to see the truth of what is happening to those immersed within it.

Finally, the link between the virualized images within Proyecto V. and political power become clear early on when Juana Inés details the experience of daily life for many early on the second chapter:

Íbamos, como cualquier ser humano normal, a la escuela, al parque, a la oficina, a la fábrica…a donde fuéramos, seguidos por los amorosos ojos azules de nuestro Dios omnipotente, el Presidente Wagner, quien complacido vigilaba a sus polluelos desde el éter. Es cierto: nadie padecía ni se preocupaba por nada. Mientras en otros países sufrían violencia, matanzas, hambrunas y desastres naturales, nosotros interactuábamos con avatars de nuestros actores y actrices preferidos, o de los dioses del Olimpo, con la cara de alguno de ésto, y alimentábamos nuestros ojos con las más exquisitas visiones de los más deliciosos platillos del , sin percatarnos de que languidecíamos por desnutrición. (24)

[We went, like other normal human beings, to school, to the park, to the office, to the factory…to wherever, followed by the loving blue eyes of our omnipotent God, President Wagner, who complacently watched over his little chicks from the ether. It is true: Nobody suffered nor worried about anything. While in other countries they suffered violence, killings, hunger and natural disasters, we interacted with avatars of our favorite actors and actresses, or of gods of Olympus, with the face of one of these,


and feasted our eyes on the most exquisite visions of the most fabulous dishes of the universe, without realizing that we were wilting away from malnutrition.]

This extensive description adds several key components to virtualization. It reinforces the sense that people were unceasingly engaged within a visual sphere populated by projected and immersive images regardless of their spatial positioning, as previously mentioned. This last passage points to the way in which the novel is using the future to comment on the present; this description seems eerily similar to the way in which some communications scholars have characterized the influence of television on contemporary

Latin American societies. As Jesús Martín-Barbero and German Rey pointed out, the act of watching television in Latin America provides “la continua explosion de imágenes con el empobrecimiento de la experienca, la multiplicación infinita de los signos en una sociedad que padece el más grande deficit simbólico” (22) [“the continual explosion of images with the impoverishing of experience, the infinite multiplication of signs in a society that suffers from the biggest symbolic deficit”]. As the passage from the novel states, there is the double move of seeing and desiring the fantasies put forth in the stream of virtualization (or television) while at the same time being excluded from actual access to the opulent visual displays. Furthermore, the added focus upon the president as a kind of whose eyes constantly watch over his people below is followed by the presence of actors and actresses, in large part because it is revealed later in the novel that

President Wagner may actually be an actor paid to play the role of president (an important point that will be treated later). This combination juxtaposes a surveillance state with the spectacle of diversion and celebrity. It also highlights the importance of how the people have become accustomed to interacting with avatars within virtualization.


But, we should remember, they have not created their own avatars within it, such as how it works in Second Life or many videogames. Rather, those with lectochips remain in their bodies and interact with avatars provided from the projections, which can range from their favorite actors to Greek gods. As such, it essentially replaced real intersubjective relations between people. One of the objectives of Proyecto V. was “crear fuertes lazos emotivos entre humanos y avatares, de tal suerte que no experimentáramos necesidad de relacionarnos afectivamente entre nosotros, seres de carne y hueso pero sosos y aburridos en comparación con las maravillosas imágenes que se nos procuraban a toda hora” (13) [“to create strong emotional links between humans and avatars so that we did not experience the need to affectively relate between each other, beings of flesh and bone but dull and boring compared to the marvelous images that were provided to us”].

Part of the social design of Proyecto V., then, purposefully separates people from each other, with the only permitted exception being procreation (13). This is taken to such extremes that in the early moments of the blackout, Juana’s mom leans over and gives her a kiss to comfort her; at eight years old—Juana had never been kissed by anyone, not even her mother.92 Given the dire circumstances of the moment—of a frightened schoolgirl and her mother submerged into the utmost darkness—Juana Inés does not describe this as strange, only that it had never happened before. Avatars of actors and other fictitious figures become powerful substitutions for actual people. Virtualization, then, is a place of enticing visual wonder, an impressive and colorful marvel that exists

92 Her mother does this because she suggested that they both disconnect from virtualization, and it becomes in effect a departing kiss forever, since her mother dies along with the rest of the population. Juana Inés survives by not disconnecting, wandering around and eventually being discovered and saved by Dr. Linos Pound, who successfully de-virtualized, and extracted her lectochip and re-acclimated to a world devoid of virtualization.

171 throughout the material structures of the social sphere, existing overlaid upon the colorless fundament that lies beneath, giving the appearance of life to the lifeless base. It creates another world out of the existing world, one that is so enticing that people lose all desire to create strong links with other actual people and choose instead to submit themselves to the “compulsive fantasy” that is virtualization. As much as Martín-Barbero and Rey critique the contemporary televisual moment of the 1990s in which they write, their analysis did not imagine the true dystopian nature of the society of spectacle, as it is conceived of here in Virtus.

While indeed Virtus’s representation of the mass of people who succumb to

Proyecto V. and the visual technologies that make it possible is unfavorable, the most acerbic critique it delivers arrives in the way it portrays how political power functions within Proyecto V. The novel proposes that the mode in which the state operates qualitatively changes when in a world where the dominant media is television, and as a result, the political discourse projected, embodied in the president, is rendered largely devoid of substance. It is, then, his mediatic presence that becomes paramount and more required than ever; therefore, in Virtus the primacy of image (of political power being projected and seen by all) supersedes the primacy of the word (of political discourse being heard and understood by all). Of course, in reality, these are often inseparable, and political speeches in Mexico (and around the world) are not devoid of meaning. But the novel asserts, by lambasting the (lack of) content in his speeches, the impotence of his decision-making ability and finally, by erasing his corporeal substantiality altogether, that the political figure who becomes president may be endowed with democratically elected power, but he is barren of actual agency—an elaborately constructed, attractive puppet

172 controlled by others. And the puppet master in this case is in the hands of private capital

(a point to be covered after a discussion of the politics of the novel).

The political figure is embodied in the character of Jesús Martín Wagner, whose initial presidential sexenio from 2018-2024 benefitted from bringing about the first phases of virtualization. Juana Inés speculates as to Wagner’s veridical history, stating that no one knows for sure where he came from, in spite of his official biography maintaining that he went to Mexican primary and secondary schools, attended higher education in San José, California but graduated with a degree in economics from the

University of Manchester around the age of 26; shortly after, he was elected to the

Senate. As a Senator, he accomplished lowering the age of being able to be elected president to 30, which in turn permitted him to be able to run and win. Once president, he also managed to have the Constitution amended to lift term limits on presidents, paving the way for his sexenio to extend into decades. These moves ultimately resulted in the full-fledged phase of virtualización as described above where the citizens, with lectochips installed, go about their quotidian lives being watched from above by the eyes of

President Wagner.

While the text imagines Wagner’s eyes serving the function to gaze upon the people below from a projected image above, his eyes have another, possibly more important use: their aesthetic beauty and magnetism have the ability to enrapture an entire nation, making them one of his most striking and hypnotic traits. Even when it becomes apparent that the content of his speeches are full of trite, vacuous rhetoric, his pleasing visual appearance remains his biggest value that he brings to his party (called

“El Partido Celeste” “The Celestial Party”). Juana Inés speculates that his good looks

173 could be the result of the fact that he was an actor who was picked for this, the biggest role of his life (26). “Por lo que a mí respecta, insisto, el brave new Seductor de la Patria, era en realidad un Actor de ” (28) [“As far as I’m concerned, I insist, the brave new Seductor of the country was in fact a telenovela actor”]. At one point, she refers to him in superlative terms, “[el] ser más espectacularmente bello del mundo: el

último Presidente de México” (29) [“the most spectacularly beautiful being in the world: the latest ”]. This is mentioned without a discernable sense of sarcasm, given that she refers here and on other occasions to the possibility that his looks are so perfect that he might have been genetically created in a laboratory in order to assure this aesthetic outcome, and he was voted the sexiest man of the year in Beau

People magazine (57). His enormous blue eyes shined so brightly that a mere gaze into the television camera could make the entire nation fall to their knees (35); the description of him as such underscores that he comes from a racialized elite, possibly connected to the US, as well as like some characters frequently portrayed by protagonists in telenovelas. When asked why he had not yet married so far in his life, he dons a wide, resplendent smile to the cameras and says: “El amor puede esperar…el Pueblo es mi sacerdocio…” (36) [“Love can wait…the People are my devotion”], to which were heard the effect of gasps and screams of ecstasy. The more Wagner ascends the political power ladder, the more his image precedes him; consequently, the more he starts to become an image. “…la imagen del joven mandatario proyectada en los nuevos rascacielos reflectantes, cuya señal alcanzaba a divisarse con claridad hasta los barrios más remotos y olvidados” (52) [“…the image of the young head of state projected in the new reflective skyscrapers, whose signal reached far enough to be made out with clarity in the more

174 remote and forgotten neighborhoods”].93 It is at these moments where the novel begins to make clear commentaries on the nature of politics in a neoliberal Mexico—specifically as they relate to a qualitative change in the status and function of the image. And it is to this that we now turn.

In order to help understand the novel’s representation of President Wagner’s image as taking on an utterly central role in the narrative, Eve Gil, through the protagonist Juana Inés,94 utilizes some cultural theory as a basic structure through which to think through the relationship between politics and media in contemporary Mexico.

Given this imagined society is immersed in virtualization, what may surprise is that this theory does not pass through the thought of one of the most notorious theorists of the virtual, Jean Baudrillard and his provocative Simulacra and Simulations (1983). But the reason the French provocateur’s thought did not inspire Gil for Virtus is something about which I can only speculate. Given the particular dynamic in which the mediatic image interrelates with political power in Virtus, one possible reason might be that Baudrillard’s theory does not seem capable of adequately accounting for the particularities of politics-

93 Suffice it to say, from this quote it is clear that virtualization that ends up encompassing 99.98% of the country’s future seems hard to envision, particularly when the non-urban/rural population of Mexico is still very high—around 20%, or 25 million. The only logical way this would be possible would be for there to be another mass internal migration to the cities, similar to the one in the first half of the 20th century, where essentially all Mexico’s population becomes contained within the urban space. 94 It would not make sense to conflate the protagonist and the author in this sense if it were not for one fundamental inconsistency in Virtus. The citation of a considerable number of contemporary authors in Mexico, France and the US are speckled throughout the text, and if Juana Inés is writing the essay that is Virtus in the year 2068, then her citing other published works in the early 2000s would seem, at best, improbably influenced by a narrow, seven-year window of texts (2001-2007) and thus asynchronous; or what is much more likely, Eve Gil’s writing the book in 2006-2007 and under the influence of these very contemporary texts to her. Thus Juana Inés/Eve Gil cites the following texts throughout Virtus: Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit from 2006 (39), Vivian Abenshushan’s Una habitación desordenada from 2007 (40), La Real Academia Española from 2006 (105-106) and Sandra Lorenzano “Contrabando de la memoria” from 2001 (106). She attempts to maintain the timeline by overtly mentioning her literary contemporary, Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza (currently alive) as having already deceased into the future, from 1964-2049 (97), but this particular anomaly does not cover up the very strong temporal unlikelihood that in the novel someone in the year 2068 would choose to heavily quote writers from 2001- 2007, right around the time when Eve Gil is writing Virtus.

175 cum-image seen in the story95. For Baudrillard, if we are to take him seriously, the hard reality that has long since existed has essentially disappeared into the hyperreality created by simulations. His extreme technological determinism attributes to the screen and image a kind of autonomous power that consumes society and subsumes the subject and its experience of reality into it. As David Harvey has said of Baudrillard, he hyperbolizes the image, attributing to it an excessive, all-encompassing power that ultimately overlooks the material underpinnings that allow for it to exist (The Condition… 291).96 Most importantly, Baudrillard’s line of thinking does little for us regarding politics and the image, since all sense of value is lost in the proliferation of images. Rather, the theorist that Gil uses in Virtus involves the late-era thought of a lesser-known French media and cultural theorist Regis Debray. She does this explicitly in the text, by indicating Juana

Inés’s affinity for the thinker when she ruminates on the possibilities of how President

Martín Wagner came to power:

Todo él parecía reproducir la fórmula del gran pensador y visionario Régis Debray, que ya al finales del siglo XX veía venir algo como esto: “Todos conocemos el cuerpo legítimo en la videoesfera: gym-tonic, telefoneado, telegénico, bronceado pero no quemado, bioenergético pero controlado, esbelto sin flacura, sexy sin provocación, en una palabra: a la vez lúdico y contenido.” (29)

[Everything about him seemed to reproduce the formula of the great thinker and visionary Régis Debray, who toward the end of the 20th

95 One worthwhile comparison in this case is to look at how The Wachowski Brothers used Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulations as inspiration for The Matrix trilogy, and it was explicitly given mention early on in the first film when Neo, going to get some contraband software that he is about to hand over to some buyers at his door, retrieves the disc out of a copy of Simulacra and Simulations. 96 All is image, virtual and a simulation such that all contact with the real has been lost. If we can agree that one of Baudrillard’s important contributions was thinking through how the switch from use value to exchange value had a monolithic impact in the history of modernity such that people no longer consume commodities but rather signs and images (The Consumer Society), when he arrives to Simulacra and Simulations (1983), one finds that he has taken this ever-increasing image consumption logic to such extremes that the real object is irrevocably lost and has been replaced by its sign (or the virtual). All access to the real is hopeless. While this may bring about an important awareness of the centrality of moving image culture in contemporary postmodern subjectivity, it simply goes too far to be theoretical useful, at least as far as Virtus is concerned. It is also inescapably nihilistic.


century saw something like this forthcoming: “We all know the legitimate body of the videosphere: gym-tonic, telephoned, telegenic, bronzed but not burnt, bioenergetics but controlled, svelte without skinniness, sexy without provocation, in a word: ludic and contained at the same time.”]

The quote foregrounds the presidential image that has come to reign over the content of his speech. The body of the president when presented on television must be perfectly balanced, never appearing too extreme (neither skinny nor fat, tanned but not red, attractive but not salacious, etc.) in order to solicit and maintain the gaze of the onlooker.

Debray’s employment here of the term “videosphere” is not simply a voguish academic word used to refer a social plane where video technologies proliferate, but rather denotes a complex if not exhaustive taxonomy of how social formations come to be shaped by their corresponding media technologies (Reader 57). As such, it is worth briefly delving into Debray’s basic theory of mediology, as it becomes significant in order to understand

Virtus and the apparition of a figure like President Wagner in the novel.97 However, it should go without saying that condensing the totality of a half dozen books98 that make up Debray's approach to mediation studies in such a short space as this is bound to fall short of doing his thought justice, especially when his work in this area is considered highly interdisciplinary, at the multi-intersection of anthropology, archaeology, history, sociology, political science, aesthetics, semiotics, media and cultural studies, ecology, philosophy and theology (Vandenberghe 25). What I hope to do here is briefly describe what the mediological approach is, how it basically functions, and then where the videosphere fits within the framework of this thought. Frederic Vandenberghe's work in

97 However, as far as I can tell, Gil quoted Debray’s text El estado seductor (1995) once (with the quote above) and then references Debray and a thought from this text in a chapter title. 98 Several key texts belonging to this wave of his thought La Pouvoir intellectual en France (1979), Cours de médiologie générerale (1991), Vie et mort de l’image (1992) and Manifestes médiologiques (1994) and Transmettre (1997).

177 this area has been particularly helpful in clarifying the wide-ranging scope of Debray's work,99 given the scant attention to his writing published in English.100 He gives mediology an initial definition of "the study of the material and social conditions of the transmission of culture and, thus, of the production and reproduction of society" (26).

Modifying similar questions put forth by Marx (“How does an idea become a material force?”) and Althusser (“What are the material conditions of force that an idea has to satisfy to become itself a material force?”), Debray places emphasis on the intermediary material components by posing his question: "What are the material and institutional conditions of the symbolic transmission of culture and the reproduction of society?"

(Ibid.). Debray, according to Vandenberghe, is arguing against the idealism and

“ideocentrism…of the history of ideas” which tends to neglect the centrality of the technical and material mode of transmission and diffusion of ideas (28). He uses the term

"vector of transmission" to convey the image of technical and institutional mediums that have both a directional force and significant momentum. Vandenberghe asserts that epistemological vectors are roughly transmitted from a text or symbolic corpus (ideas, ideologies, , religions) to individual and collective social formations (organizations, institutions) and finally end up in the material objects of the media of communication

99 It is also worth noting that in Critical Terms for Media Studies (2010), edited by W.J.T. Mitchell and Mark B. N. Hansen, Debray’s name is not mentioned once even tangentially via a quote within the texts. This certainly highlights either the lack of attraction of Debray in very recent contemporary thinking on media or contemporary thinking’s oversight of the importance of Debray’s work, a topic which is outside the scope of this dissertation to ascertain. It is also telling that Critical Terms for Media Studies lacks any significant treatment to the relationship between media and politics, a point which Debray’s theory purports to offer. 100 Much of Debray’s work has been published in Spanish, such as the El estado seductor from which Gil quotes Debray in the novel. Also, there are several videos on from Mexicans that analyze Debray’s thought, such as “El estudio de la imagen en México desde la perspectiva de la mediología de Regis Debray” by Dra. Catlina Martínez and Adris Díaz Fernández, as well as “Reflexión de la videoesfera – Regis Debray” by Jersaín González, a doctoral student. These two videos point to the lasting influence and contemporaneous applicability of Debray in academia, at least in Mexico.


(writing instruments, paper, television, radio, etc.). But mediology reverses the order of this "epistemological vector" by stating that it is "the changes in the material conditions that first condition the technical aspects of the transmission of ideas" (Vandenberghe 30).

So, the materiality that constitutes the media of communication shape the texts and symbolic corpus that eventually give way to socio-political changes in society. While the key point here is that the technical materiality of the media of communication initiates changes that are felt throughout different social and technical realms, it should be clear that to initiate change does not over-determine it, and the level of complexity Debray’s mediological approach is far from linear or simple. He sees technical media and social formations as co-determining components to every era of humankind. His own tripartite division of history interprets three different epochs as strongly influenced by particular media: the logosphere (writing: the axial age from around until the

Gutenberg Press), graphosphere (printing: the Gutenberg Press until the late 1960s) and videosphere (audiovisual: the late 1960s until the time of Debray’s writing in the 1990s).

The graphosphere is dominated by the logic brought forth from the moveable type of the

Gutenberg printing press of the 15th century, and along with it came the mechanical production of texts, increased circulation of ideas in the public sphere where people who read books came to discuss them, the Enlightenment, rationalist philosophy, nationalism, the lettered city, and modern society more generally. All of this was made possible by the transformations initiated by the medium of the printed word. The switch from the graphosphere to the videosphere signals a massive epistemological shift where printing’s associated logics of meaning, explanation and interpretation gives way to the electronic image’s system of expression, information and communication (Silverman 1999 109).


Debray leverages Charles S. Pierce’s three semiological categorizations (icon, symbol and index) as representative of each social formation dominated by a certain media. The logosphere is iconic, the graphosphere is symbolic and, in the videosphere, civilization now becomes based on the image’s indexical relationship with its corresponding object(s). With the invention of photography in the 1830s began a seismic revolution in the media of representation that he terms the “indexical fissure” (El estado… 28).

Society’s main mode of mediatic representation begins to shift from a civilization based on the symbol to one based on index101. Since the invention of photography, the techniques of reproduction have continued to improve considerably with each subsequent invention, making their traces to their referent increasingly more accurate in their indexical correspondence to the referent (Ibid. 41). While the index involves all the senses, it is in the visual this becomes most noticeable, particularly for our purposes here.

From the photograph to the cinema and then to television with its potential for live and immediate transmission and reception, each technical reproduction is, according to

Debray, more indexical than the previous. “Lo indexical es una dinámica que conquista todos los dominios de una sociedad” (42) [“the indexical is a dynamic that conquers all domains of society”], and it is the symbolic that has been withering away in the face of the indexical. Debray ties the indexical to the videosphere as follows:

En la sociedad indicial, un testimonio es más contundente que un análisis. El primero es físico, el segundo intelectual. El testimonio, enunciación en primera persona, atrapado en lo vivo, en directo, es caliente; el análisis, enunciado impersonal, en diferido, fuera de contexto, es frío. En la ‘videoesfera’, la relación prevalece sobre el contenido y la enunciación cuenta más que el enunciado. Lo importante es el contacto, no el discurso. (El estado seductor 127)

101 The index is a sign that is materially affected by its corresponding object (Ibid. 29).


[In the indexical society, experience is more important than analysis. The first is physical, the second intellectual. Experience and first-person enunciation is immediate, live, ‘hot’; analysis and impersonal statement are pre-recorded, removed from context, ‘cold’. In the ‘videosphere’, the act of communication is more important than content, and the act of enunciation counts for more than the statement enounced. What is fundamental is contact not discourse.]

If contact, enunciation and connection have primacy over discourse, analysis and reason, then in Virtus communication subverts content at an absurd level in order to launch a biting critique of the contemporary political situation. The incarnation of this change becomes symbolized in the figure of President Wagner whose speeches tend to ramble on in fixed sound-bytes that repeat time and again platitudes that comfort and reassure the populace while at the same time conveying little to no actual information: “El nuevo

Presidente se extendía en intrincados y poéticos informes de los que casi nadie entendía un pito, pero la mayoría contemplaba embelesada y con lágrimas en los ojos” (52) [“The new President elaborated on intricate and poetic reports of which almost no one understood a word, but the majority contemplated spellbound and with tears in their eyes”]. “Su discurso, que podía dejarse escuchar en cualquier momento del día y en cualquier rincón virtualizado, estaba hecho de pregones al bienestar, la hermandad y el orgullo de pertenecer a la sociedad (o Proyecto de sociedad) más avanzada de la tierra”

(30) [“His speeches, which could be heard at any moment of the day in any virtualized corner, was comprised of proclamations of well-being, the brotherhood and pride of belonging to the most advanced society (or Project of society) on Earth”]. There is also a continued reassertion of the President’s constitutional legitimacy: “¡Éste es un mensaje del President Legítimo y Constitucional quien democráticamente les ordena prestar atención a este comunicado legítimo…” and repeated mentions of similar terms, either by

181 the President himself or Juana Inés describing his speech (29-30, 31, 47, 49, 65, 78).

These become hallmarks of President Wagner’s continually projected image, both literal and figurative, and they foreground the importance of, above all else, the audio-visual image over the discursive or symbolic content of his pronounced words. When choosing the ideal wife for the President, it is suggested that what is most important to remember one thing: “Imagen ante todo” (57) [“Image before all else”]. The momentum of this videospheric logic enters the terrain of the absurd toward the end when President Wagner dies of a heart attack but, through the virtualization process in which he has been projected as a hologram in the audio-visual experience of all those with lectochips, he lives on—as a holographic image. The title of the final chapter seven is “‘... LA




EPIGRAPH, MONSIEUR DEBRAY…)”] and is taken directly from Debray’s El estado seductor (40). Given the expanse of his image, no one notices the president’s physical death except for his wife and El Ventrilocuo (“The Ventriloquist”), the “they” behind the

President that truly make the decisions. His conversion into pure image toward the end underscores just how much a president in an era of late capitalism and television relies upon the need for an extreme and constant attention given to the visual. This is so crucial that the body it refers to ultimately needs not continue to survive for the image to have meaning.

Mexico's famous telenovela appears in several sections of the novel in order to draw a link between politics and television, as well as to signal how globalization has

182 transformed the creation of this long-standing genre, Mexico's biggest televisual export.

The novel situates the telenovela in relation to the politics by invoking a number of explicit relations between the Full Service Network (FSN - a media monopoly that occurs after the two largest television networks merge) and President Wagner, the face of state government. In so doing, it offers insight as to how politics functions in the videosphere of Mexico, how politics becomes inevitably linked to entertainment and how the popular telenovela helps contribute to the dumbing down of the populace. These observations in the novel run from biting and incisive to the banal and trite.102 However their appearance and narrative may be interpreted, they underscore the enduring and contemporaneous importance of the telenovela in the functioning of everyday life for Mexicans. What may be one of the novel’s most absurd turns also ends up being one of its oddly predictive virtues. That is, Peña Nieto’s rise to power as the current president, four years after the novel was published, involved a number of parallels that became prognostic in ways it had not been with any other presidents before.

The telenovela’s presence in Virtus takes on a number of narrative purposes. In all, there exists a tight relation between the constructed, public image of the presidency and the production of telenovelas. When campaigning for president, he obtains advisors of telenovela actors as image consultants that recommend he maintain a neat and silky beard (36). Later, a famed telenovela director recorded and edited the announcements that

Wagner broadcast throughout the nation in virtualización. After Wagner is elected and

102 In particular, portraying the Mexican population as being addicted to telenovelas and reduced stupid masses as a result has become something of a hackneyed criticism. It has also been the subject of a fruitful debate, among which Jesús Martín-Barbero and Carlos Monsiváis, among other, have demonstrated the cultural and psychological significance of telenovelas, arguing fervently and convincingly of their important social function.

183 before he is married, Wagner becomes struck by a star actress of the trendy telenovela

Pícaras y licenciosas (52), Desdemona Tort, who is described as “la pequeña diosa, de compacta y espléndida anatomía” (“the little goddess, with a compact and splendid anatomy”; 53). The Venriloquist, or rather the part of the Ventriloquist referred to as “La

Verga” (“The Penis”), acknowledged the good taste of the President while simultaneously strongly disapproving of her as a candidate for Primera Dama and eventually intervening to prevent the possibility of their marrying. She ends up having to remain content to be part of the luxuriously produced telenovela Epifanía sin pudor, which is set in the “sulfurosos principios del siglo XXI” (74) [“sulfurous beginnings of the the 21st century”] and is conceived of being a virtualized telenovela, i.e. Desdemona, who plays a central character in the production, will act and sing along with other virtualized actors who will be replaced once the telenovela is distributed in other countries, allowing those countries to have their own stars play the parts.103 As previously mentioned, Juana Inés even suggests that the President himself may in fact be a telenovela actor who was secretly trained for the biggest role of his life, the presidency of

Mexico (26). But, she also discards this as a realistic possibility right after. Even though his biographical origins are revealed in an official biography, Juana Inés questions the veracity of these claims, lending to his character an air of fictional mystery, placing his identity into doubt upfront, and most importantly, tying his public figure to the familiar, beautiful faces of those actors that grace the screens of telenovela. He is, above all,

103 This appears to be a clever nod to a trend in globalized film-making where many movies are co- produced with funding from multiple countries, thus writing into the script a foriegn actor or two, opening up the potential markets for the film to distributed in.

184 telegenic, as Debray would say, because the medium in which he appears requires him to be so.

The telenovela also comments upon a key feature of globalization. Before the establishment of FSN, both competing television networks produced their own telenovelas, but, they end up being essentially one and same product, making it difficult to differentiate between them. Colegialas maliciosas is on channel six while La malicia de ser colegiala is on the competing channel, both of them populated with actresses that are roughly the same: young, pretty and half-naked (39). The appearance of these two imagined-yet-nearly-identical shows reflect the telenovela situation in Mexico where they are produced. This particular commentary by Juana Inés also illustrates a contradictory pattern that Martín-Barbero and German Rey point out regarding this phenemonon: while the audiovisual hegemony that dominates the contemporary era is driven by a technology that increases and augments expansion and diversification of formats, at the same time there exists a profound erosion of genre and story (89). The television market has always required a certain degree of standardization by offering rigid and immediately discernible stereotypes, but this trend reaches new levels in the 1990s when the demands of globalization required the culture industries of each country to produce, sell and circulate products that must be more neutral, and more universally recognizable vis-à-vis these strong stereotypes.

What Virtus achieves by imagining a fictional world of intimate relations between politics and telenovelas has more to do with what happened outside the pages of the novel and after shortly after its publication than what the story itself conveys. Virtus’s first (and only) edition was in March, 2008, and one month later in April the then State of


Mexico’s governor Enrique Peña Nieto met his future wife, Angélica Rivera, a former telenovela actress. They met in his PRI offices where they discussed her role in participating in the ’s “300 Compromisos Cumplidos,” (“300 Fulfilled

Promises”) a political public relations campaign that quickly lent her easily recognizable face as a representative image of the State of Mexico. Their relationship quickly became romantic, and within five months, he asked for her hand in marriage. Their wedding occurred in late November of 2010, replete with an admiring public lining the streets, paparazzi and numerous photographic and video cameras, a real-life mediatic spectacle within the life of a real Mexican politician who was then running for the office of

President, which he won in 2011 and took office in early 2012. The significance and meaning of these events have since been interpreted as an unprecedented fusion between politics and telenovela, which underscores the critical and prognostic value that Virtus brings to bear. Six months after the wedding, Spain’s internet portal network Terra broadcast the show Tejemaneje in which several journalists and academics discussed the intelligence of Peña Nieto. During the hour-long program, one topic surfaced around the question of constructing the image that he put forth in the time he entered politics up until he won the presidency. According to political analyst Dr. Sergio Aguayo, it was the channel Televisa that made an extraordinary telenovela story of Peña Nieto’s life.

Es una historia de telenovela, porque tiene todos los contenidos que le permite identificarse con grandes segmentos de la población. Su noviazgo con la Gaviota, una actriz de Televisa, guapa, exitosa, divorciada y él, viudo, que buscan la felicidad en contra de enormes obstáculos. Y no hay que olvidar que el 20% de las familias en México son encabezadas por madres solteras o padres solos. Y el desenlace de esa telenovela en diciembre de 2009 es extraordinario. Imagínense como setting El Vaticano, y frente al Benedicto XVI Enrique Peña Nieto anunciándole a su santidad, ‘le presento a quien va a ser mi mujer.' Y de casualidad está un


micrófono y una cámara grabando en el momento en el cual se difunde. (“La inteligencia…” n.p.)

[It is a telenovela story, because it has all the elements that encourage identification with big segments of the population. His engagement with la Gaviota, a Televisa actress, pretty, successful, divorced, and him, widowed, looking for happiness against enormous obstacles. And we cannot forget that 20% of Mexican families are headed by single mothers or fathers. And the denouement of that telenovela in December of 2009 is extraordinary. Imagine as a setting the Vatican, and Peña Nieto presenting himself to his holiness Benedict XVI by saing, ‘I present to you the woman who will be my wife.’ And coincidentally there happens to be a microphone and camera recording at that very moment, broadcasting.]

What Sergio Aguayo is pointing out is what he refers to a Peña Nieto’s “mediatic intelligence,” or the way in which the he uses mass media—and in particular television through a strong alliance with Televisa—in order to construct a very familiar and compelling narrative with which many Mexican are able to easily connect. Although

Aguayo cites the outcome of this telenovela as this meeting between the Pope, the then- governor and his future wife, Sergio seems to overlook the climax of the wedding, which was cited to be one of the televised weddings with the biggest viewership in Mexico

(Caliz n.p.). The parallel with the fictional president in Gil’s novel is clear. Chapter six’s title (“AHORA SÍ, LA BODA DEL SIGLO”) and content are primarliy dedicated to describing how President Wagner’s wedding was turned into a massive spectcacle throughout virtualization which was in fact named “The Wedding of the Century” and formatted in two distinct versions: one traditional and able to watched when outside

Mexico, and one virtualized for within the country, packaged in silver and sold in the

Charlie Boy’s chains throughout the country (a reference to Carlos Slim to be explained shortly). In this sense, a kind of telenovelazation of the lives of the real Peña Nieto and

187 fictional Martín Wagner show the image of personal life spectacularized for social recognition and finally, political gain.

A brief look into the relationship between the projected political image (literalized by the novel) and the importance of what media the people are watching and listening to

(virtualization in novel) reveals that Peña Nieto is not the first in Mexico to leverage political image consultants, although he may be the first to really perfect it as in the example above. It is difficult to pinpoint with certainty when this suddenly became of crucial importance, but political scientist specializing in media José Rúas Araújo has studied this and suggests some important moments. According to him, this urgency to tightly control the projected mediatic image begins to the aftermath of the 1988 elections when the PRI suffered some major losses and the politicians realized that leveraging media was a neglected strategy that needed to be remedied (48). While Mexican politicians in the 1980s and 1990s began to use political consultants more and more, it was not until the 2000 election in the late 1990s that the two presidential candidates hired two major political consultants from the US: Vincente Fox hired Dick Morris, and his

PRI opponent Francisco Labistida hired James Carville, both of whom had worked on

Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns (Ibid. 49). As this indicates, the trend here clearly shows that the political consultants hired in Mexico were overwhelmingly foreign and the majority hailed from the United States (although those from Spain are visible). Juan de la Cosa points out in his article “El imperio de los consultores políticos” published in La Crónica before Peña Nieto’s presidential win that these relatively new figures bring a new meaning to the campaigns in that their strategies

188 result in the “guerra sucia” (“dirty war”) equivalent of public relations,104 which brought a new level a significance placed on negative campaigning that was as yet unseen or unheard before this time (n.p.). This boom in political consultants has led to the situation where they earn exorbitant amounts of money themselves, often more than the candidates they consult for. Javier González Rodríguez, who consulted for Partido de la Revolución

Democrática (PRD) earned 548,408 pesos (roughly $35,000) in the month of October

2012 alone, whereas Peña Nieto made 204,825 pesos (roughly $13,146), just under 2.5 times that of his consultant. Considered over the span of years, these numbers come to be quite surprising. In the years ranging from 2006-2013, the newspaper La Vanguardia named seven more political advisers that have earned between six and eight million pesos from consulting ($385,000-$513,000) (Vanguardia Editorial n.p.), a fact which unambiguously indicates the lucrative profession that has become a political image consultant in the 2000s.

It is also big business for television, and with good reason. In a survey done in

2003, 84% of Mexican citizens were informed about political issues through television and radio, with 10% through the printed press (Araújo Rúas 44).This demand has attracted the supply of candidates such that 60-70% of their campaign budgets have gone solely to television. Vincente Fox spent up to 4/5 of his budget on this particular medium, and was considered by some to be the most dynamic in photo opportunities of all the previous candidates combined. The television industry also benefitted greatly from supplying the demand: in the 2006 election year alone, Televisa brought in $65,000,000 and TV Azteca $50,000,000, around 80% of the total spent on television campaign

104 Given the extensive, traumatic history with dirty wars in the Latin America, this moniker seems poorly chosen.

189 adverts (Ibid. 47). This link takes on some special significance with Peña Nieto, since for his 2012 campaign he hired an unprecedented multi-million peso agreement with TV

Promo and Radar Servicios Especializados, both of which are linked to Alejandro

Quintero, the vice president of Business Development at Televisa (Villamil n.p.). The connection between PRI and Televisa has long been recognized and even admitted by

Televisa’s Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, who once famously said, “Yo soy un soldado del

PRI y del presidente” (“I am a soldier of the PRI and the president”) in 1990, so it is doubtful that the marriage, both literal and figurative, to Angélica Rivera and Televisa respectively, should be met with any surprise. One of the overall effects of the creation and maintenance of this electoral spectacle, according to Rúa Araújo, is that the images and attributes of candidates takes on such great importance that the political party they are affiliated with becomes marginalized or even obsolete in the process (44). The focus on the singular candidate alone, essentially ignoring his affiliation with his party, requires that his visual and thematic image be meticulously detailed and procured, often based on the ephimeral and the sensational. Perhaps no quote better summarizes the strength and import of this audio-visual media than that of Mexican communication theorist Alejandro

Alfonso who stated that when “los consorcios televisivos han sustituido al Estado en su papel regulador, los verdaderos secretarios de Estado son los dueños de los medios; los jueces, los comentaristas; los generales, los directores de información, y la verdadera legitimidad (del país), la rige el poder mediático” (Lourdes Pallais n.p.) [“when the television consortiums have substituted the State in its regulatory role, the true secretaries of State are the owners of the media; the judges, the commentators, the generals, the directors of information, and the true legitimacy (of the country), is governed by mediatic

190 power]. Régis Debray would undoubtedly agree, as he attributes to television media an enormous role in the contemporary functioning of State governments. Of course, on one hand it would also probably delight Eve Gil in corroborating what becomes the central message and criticism of Virtus and, on the other, horrify her for taking a step in the dystopic direction that her novel portrays. It is worth remembering that she wrote and published the novel four years before there was a President Peña Nieto, just as the rise of the empire of the political consultant was beginning to earn obscene amounts of money.

It is, in fact, capital, that drives this whole machinery of political consultation, and it is to capital and back to Virtus that we now turn.

El Ventrílocuo is neither a female nor male but rather a mysterious multi-person entity whose descriptions never get explicitly linked to the names of persons, historical or imagined, but rather to an ambiguous group of anonymous elites. For example, the

Ventriloquist is described not as a person but “un Concepto tras el que se parapeta un colectivo de canallas” (26) [“a Concept behind which a collective of contemptible people hides”], or “un cuerpo montado a partir de ubérrimas cabezas” (8) [“a body made up of exceptionally fertile heads”]; or “el conglomerado que conformaba un solo Cuerpo…”

(53) [“The conglomerate that made up only one body”]. If this body begins in these vague referential terms, through the course of the narrative the figures become only slightly more defined. Juana Inés introduces los Ojos, one of the Ventriloquist’s parts, thus literalizing, at least by name, the claim that this unified collective is made of constituent parts: “Los Ojos del Ventrílocuo que, no olvidemos, era un Cuerpo compuesto de órganos tomados de otros cuerpos, reían y hasta festinaban el buen gusto del Primer Mandatario…” (53) [“The Eyes of the Ventriloquist that, let us not forget, was

191 a body made up of organs taken from other bodies, laughed and even pressured the good taste of the First Term President”]. The following body parts surface: los Ojos (the Eyes), el Cerebro (the Brain), el Corazón (the Heart), los Riñones (the Kidneys), las Vísceras

(the Entrails), la Vejiga (the Bladder), el Recto (the Rectum), el Escroto (the Scrotum) y la Verga (the Penis). As is clear from these last two, this body’s sex is biologically male, indicating that the secret power behind the male President himself is comprised of a powerful patriarchal order. Beyond this, however, very little is known about the identities of these characters, given that there are no physical traits and only rarely do “they” have dialogue which is exclusively concerned with the decisions related to the President. With the exception of los Ojos, who speaks English with an accent from Illinois (Ibid.)

(indicating that this body is either international in its nature or at least having had influence by having lived in the US), they are simply names of separate parts that make up a single body which is in control of the President of Mexico. In the prologue Juana

Inés adamantaly disagrees with the claim that the Ventriloquist “era ‘sólo’ un colectivo de capitalistas desenfrenados” (9) [“was ‘only’ a collective of out-of-control capitalists”], meaning that they were much more than that. But, of course at the same time this suggests that it is comprised of excessive capitalists—but are just much more beyond this mere verbal description. Juana Inés also states very early in the book that her objective is to denounce (9), but yet these mostly undefined of the entity most responsible for virtualización and the blackout make it difficult to pinpoint the identity of the Ventriloquist. As such, her criticism winds up being vaguely ideological, widely aimed at a general structure rather than a group comprised of specific people who are

192 much more than insatiable capitalists. There are, however, several exceptions to this suspect anonymity.

In the third chapter, we are given the only instance where the names of three people are revealed, that are, presumably, part of el Ventrílocuo. As the title of the chapter indicates (“III. KARRAZ & LAWRENZ NO HAN MUERTO PD: CHARLIE

BOY TAMPOCO”), these characters have not yet died, making it an apt reference to the real men they are actually modelled after in the historical moment in which the novel was written. In the novel, Milo Karraz and Cayo Lawrenz are presented together as first cousins who come to inherit the two main television channels in Mexico, both of which eventually merged into the biggest monopoly in history, the Full Service Network (FSN).

If Juana Inés’s first-person unlimited narration is reliable, and for the most part it is, these two magnates correspond to the owners of the two largest, private television channels in

Mexico: Televisa and TV Azteca (although these names are never mentioned). Milo

Karraz is some future offspring of one of the Acárraga clan, likely a child of the current owner Emilio Acárraga Jean; Cayo Lawrenz must then be the spawn of Ricardo Salinas, owner of TV Azteca as of 1993105. They are together described in various pejorative ways: as the cuasi-adolescent little beasts (40), little nerds (Ibid.) and little semi-autistic children that loved images above all things (41). In any case, before the merger that becomes FSN occurs, both Milo and Cayo attended “una reunión en la que empezó a

105 However, unlike Milo Karraz, it is possible that Cayo Lawrenz does not match an actual historical person in Mexico, given the disimilarity in the appearance of names, as well as how at one point Juana Inés says that this “par de bestezuelas cuasi adolescentes que habían aprendido de sus respectivos padres, que pudo ser el mismo, a darle al Pueblo pan virtual y circo real” (40) [“pair of quasi-adolescent little beasts that had learned from their respective fathers, which could be the same one, to give the people virtual bread and a real circus to distract them from their problems]. Shortly after she states that, after looking at a picture of them, their friend Charlie Boy thought they seemed to be “un solo cuerpo con dos cabezas” (42) [“only one body with two heads”].

193 discutirse la posibilidad de una sociedad concertada y secreta entre gobiernos y empresas de ambas naciones que redundaría en inconmensurables ganancias para sus respectivos clanes” (40) [“a meeting in which was discussed the possibility of connected and secret society between governments and businesses of both nations that would result in vast profits for their respective clans”]. This particular passage becomes one of the only direct references as to the impetus behind creating virtualización, and it is also a clear acknowledgement of the new neoliberal Mexico where a small number of business players amassed enormous amounts of wealth. The merger between their two television stations becomes the economic component of necessity in the era of globalization—either expand in size and geography in an increasingly (some would say savagely) competetive marketplace or merge in order to survive. This move becomes a central catalyst to making the virtual society possible by partnering with the other magnate referred to by name in the story, Charlie Boy. He is described as the richest man in the world who inherited of the biggest multi-videophone company in Latin America, Telrex, in addition to a vast multinational enterprise that included chain stores, banks, real estate, mines, paper factories, marketing companies, hotels under the brand “Virtuality Inn” with the first holographic museum in the world (40). The clear reference here is Carlos Slim Helú, owner of the largest telecommunications provider in Latin America, , as well as of América Móvil, along with a host of related businesses in media, technology, real estate, etc. Slim was voted the richest man in the world by Forbes magazine in 2007 (and on and off again since that time, most recently in 2014). In the novel, Charlie Boy, in spite of being the richest man in the world, has not been able to stay ahead of the rapidly changing technology of the industry, and is offered by Milo and Cayo to form a fruitful

194 alliance combining the largest television network, FSN, with the largest video- communications infrastructure in Latin America. Thus, the material foundation is laid out for the interactive television to be broadcast throughout Mexico. The question remains, however, as to whether or not these three make up important parts of the Ventriloquist.

At the outset of the fourth chapter, Juan Inés mentions that it would take up too much space to list out the names of the puppeteers that pull the strings of the President,

“además, ustedes ya saben a quiénes me refiero, parcialmente al menos” (51)

[“furthermore, you already know to whom I am referring to, partially at least”]. This presumably links to Charlie Boy, Milo Karraz and Cayo Lawrenz, given that they are the only ones she has plainly mentioned up until this point in the novel and spent the previous chapter dedicated to describing how they came together to create the virtualized society. Thus, it is simultaneously one of the strongest and least defined critiques levelled by Virtus. It includes not just the qualitative change in how the political functions in the videosphere but also upon this small group of mostly unnamed late capitalists whose businesses are tied to the television media and telecommunications industries of the

1990s and 2000s.

If the novel’s central criticism consists of exposing the powerful union between political and economic powers in Mexico that leverage visual technologies in order to create a virtualized society which acts as a visual and entrancing opiate for the mass populace, one of its accompanying criticisms is how this affects society as a whole and individuals as subjects. The Mexican multitude get treated as an easily-deceived, witless mass, subjected to a hugely deceptive social experiment. Virtualization made it nearly impossible to be bored in Proyecto V. such that achieving the state of boredom was

195 perceived as equivalent to being ill. And in retrospect while writing what she describes as a reflective essay about her experience, Juana Inés realizes that she was “gravely ill” (11) within this society, thus also implying that all others who were part of virtualización were also ill. In other words, all of Mexican society fell prey to the illness that the virtualización became. Dr. Linos Pound, the doctor who rescues Juana Inés after the

Fadeout and becomes like a father figure to her (her father is wholly absent throughout the novel), managed to never install a lectochip in his head and thus never submitted to the virtualización. He wrote a treatise on experiencing it from within the country but outside the subjective experience of virtualización where he described it as “la manipulación visual de las masas mientras a su alrededor el mundo se entregaba a una fantasía compulsiva” (10) [“the visual manipulation of the masses while around him the world gave themselves over to a compulsive fantasy”]. Similarly, once the blackout hit,

Juana Inés was able to clearly see outside the virtualized reality—to see it for what it really is—and in so doing, she observed that: “Toda esa gente enloquecida ante su discapacidad para entender y aceptar que nada de lo que conformaba su cotidianidad había existido y cuyo mínimo razonamiento los hacía adjudicar el despojo a un castigo divino y no a un engaño” (17) [“All those mad people in their inability to understand and accept that nothing that made up their everyday lives had existed and whose minimal rationality made them attribute their dispossession to a divine punishment and not to a deception”]. Juana Inés sees her fellow citizens as “all those mad people” who are incapable of discerning the duplicitous world they are immersed within. The words spoken and ceaselessly repeated by el Presidente and la Primera Dama (“First Lady”) throughout the country’s media came to constitute “el arma más peligrosa en manos de

196 un manipulador de masas, sobre todo si esas masas están idiotizadas” (24) [“the most dangerous weapon in the hands of a manipulator of the masses, especially if those masses are bewildered/made stupid”]. The claim Juana Inés makes here in these examples and as well as repeatedly throughout the novel equates to lumping all of Mexico into a massive group of automatons that are addicted to the screen and essentially devoid of rational choice and agency in their own lives. They are incapable of understanding the level of manipulation that they are immersed within, and are thus led blindly toward their own demise. This criticism is by no means new, and one which we have seen the countours of in numerous iterations before. The origins of this kind of critique go back at least as far as

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s polemic essay “The Culture Industry as Mass

Deception” (1944). Using the culture industry as evidenced in the Hollywood sound film in the 1940s as their prime example, Adorno and Horkheimer take aim at how the modes of production under monopoly capitalism achieve a standarization and a systemic unity such that “all mass culture is identical” (406). Serial production has come to demand the production of needs for commodities, and the film industry serves as an extension of the logic of economic production, producing fantasies that people also watch and consume in order to achieve a full-fledged obedience of the social hierarchy. “All the other films and products of the entertainment industry which they have seen have taught them what to expect; they react automatically. The might of industrial society is lodged in men’s minds” (409). This critique undoubtedly brings an awareness to the significant ideological underpinnings at work in film, an industrial art that demands significant capital investment, but it has been criticized, by Jesús Martín-Barbero (De los medios…

49-63) among others, for going too far in totalizing the effects of film on the subject’s

197 ability to exercisize some minimal level of critical thinking and thus achieve an intellectually willed resistence to the ideological messages delivered by films.106 Adorno and Horkheimer’s assert that technology’s function in their contemporary moment, driven by the inherent economic logic that maintains its operations, succeeds in getting

“control of the individual consciousness” (407). With all this, it is key to remember that

Adorno and Horkheimer do not speak of the visual in their discourse, but rather of culture industries, which include magazines, radio and newspapers as part of a system of unity.

Their focus on film and the industrial apparatus that its commercialization requires limits their attention to the visual sphere.

Virtus, however, both extends and challenges the German critical theorists’ thought. The novel’s critique of collective subjectivity in Mexico, of a gravely ill, idiotized masses hooked on the offer of telenovelas and continually submitting themselves to a compulsive fantasy of their highly mediatized visual sphere would seem to mirror the essence of the culture industries argument in relation to the subject. On the surface, then, both works conclude that, as Adorno and Horkheimer said, “none may escape” (408) this system. One main difference lies in Virtus’s emphasizing the visual component. One of the novel’s fundamental presumptions is that visual deception goes beyond film and, for that matter, even the screen of television, by offering the visualization of a society hooked on the hybrid cybernetic-televisual sphere that has penetrated the private spaces of homes and has become, as far as systems of unity go, immersive and totalizing. The novel literalizes this assessment in its fictional construction

106 It is also worth remembering the context in which Adorno and Horkheimer were writing in: exiled in the US from Germany where mass media was instrumental in mobilizing an entire country to support a dictator. This no doubt played some role in shaping their critique of mass media in a country of democratic- capitalism.

198 of an immensely saturated mediatized space. For Gil, following Debray, it is in fact the videosphere, or the visual sphere that is conditioned by the media of television, that disciplines the way political power functions and ultimately permits them—through the mass media industries—to seize control of the masses. And beyond this, the omnipresent visual permits a penetration of the embodied subjectivity that was likely not foreseen by

Adorno and Horkheimer.

But if the calamity caused by this mass visual deception turns grim, it is not entirely hopeless. Unlike Adorno and Horkheimer’s positing that [in the culture industry of Hollywood film] there is something for everyone so that no body is allowed to escape

[the system of unity that the culture industry as exemplified by film portrays, sells, and delivers as an ideology], in Virtus some people do actually escape. 413 people may not be many, but it offers an positive anticipation in the face of widespread deceit. It says that many people may succumb to the fraudent maneuvers of the government and the big business that pulls its strings, but not all do. The .02% of the population picks up where the genocide left off, initiating a reconstruction of Mexican society which Juana Inés helps to head as director of “Proyecto para Restaurar la Realidad” (“Project to Restore


The other underlying reproach in Virtus lies in the distinction between the visual and the verbal, between seeing and writing, the image and the text. Juana Inés establishes early on in the preface that she is using a primitive wooden pencil through which to reflect upon the events of virtualización that she lived through and is about to narrate.

She considers it the most appropriate medium of communication due to the immediate connection that is established between her hand and the left hemisphere of her brain (9).


This move, which consciously sets up rational thought via the brain and the act of physically writing with a pencil, intentionally circumvents the digital embodied in a computer’s keyboard or even mechanized writing of the typewriter. In Debray’s terms, she is within the graphosphere (if not, possibly, even in the logosphere due to the lack of mechanization of writing). If the videosphere asserts that truth is perceived in the broadcast image, she reverts back to the logosphere’s truth of the printed word as being superior and more aligned with truth, with being able to properly and more fully apprehend and interpret the deception caused by the visual. In the realm of virtualization, the meanings of words themselves have undergone significant modifications, a concept similar to “doublethink” in George Orwell’s 1984 where newspeak organizations (the media) that are tightly controlled by the government initiates altering of meaning for key words. One example in Virtus is “democracia,” where rather than its currently understood definition that involves a political sovereignty that resides in the people who elect representatives to stand for them and their interests in government, it has been changed to

“Facultad del gobierno para persuadir/disuadir al pueblo de tomar la decisión más conveniente para La Nación” (32-33) [“Ability of the government to persuade/dissuade the people in taking a decision most convenient for The Nation”]. A number of other words have become dispossesed of their current, original meanings and replaced with other, more situationally convenient definitions: values, intellectual, truth, official. Juan

Inés does not want to be a word vacated of meaning, and she ties the notion of truth to the verbal in strong, explicit ways.

Quiero como Linos empuñar el lápiz y escribir algo que sacuda a las conciencias del futuro, si tal futuro fuera posible; que les haga ver que valor es una Palabra por brutalmente despojada de sentido y a la que


es menester recargar de significado metiéndonos de lleno en la cabeza y el corazón de ella, si: de la Palabra. (106)

[Like Linos I want to grab the pencil and write something that shakes the consciences of the future, if such a future is possible; that it makes them see the the word value is today brutally deprived of its sense, and to that which it deserves to be recharged of meaning by in the head and heart with her, yes: the Word.]

Under the deceptive visual regime of virtualization, the strongest, most urgent antidote that Juana Inés can conceive of is testifying with the word, with writing, because writing establishes truth and maintains reason. She closes the novel stating that she is armed to the teeth with the most dangerous weapon of all: a pencil (122). And it is not coincidental, then, that she gets put in charge of the “Proyecto Para Restaurar la

Realidad” (“Project to Restore Reality”), because her first act is to narrate the events of virtualization of the past 40 years—through the “essay” that is the text of Virtus. By merit of her actions, she very clearly positions writing as a counter-hegemonic act of resistance to the dominance of the visual in all its diversions and distractions from the truth, as well as from the manipulations of it. This may not be altogether a surprising suggested solution coming from a writer who specializes in the craft of narrative creation, nor is it devoid of a kind of nostalgia that is highly unlikely as time moves forward. Nonetheless, through this futuristic sci-fi metaphor, it offers a barbed criticism of the power of politics in the era of televisual media, specifically as an extended arm to the demands of transnational capital. It is a neoliberal allegory that finds fault in the absolute power of economic interests that mold the political powers through the audio-visual media of television.



“Ya no somos lo que pensábamos, ni lo que éramos.” (“We are no longer what we thought we were, nor what we were.”) Pepe Rojo

Arriving at the end of this inquiry about the origin behind and meaning of these speculative fictions from Mexico, it is apparent that the body has been largely left out of this analysis. That is to say, vision, visuality, visual practices and the various technologies involved therein have been the primary object of study with only glancing consideration of how the body is portrayed and treated in this corpus. It has not been my intention to avoid this topic so much as to focus on the visual aspects in the texts in order to delineate and better understand the ways in which they correspond to what was happening in Mexico at the time. However much I view vision as the primary topos in all these narratives, the body’s presence persists, encasing the experience of vision. It is the body that has had extensive treatment in cultural studies for some years now, and the discussion over its meaning has rendered it a polyvalent sign in Western culture. For

Michel Foucault, the preeminent social theorist of the body, it has been viewed as the sum total product of state political power, a map upon which modernity’s regimes of knowledge-power is inscribed into history. For him the body is a discursive object constructed in the so-called disciplinary societies of European modernity of the 19th century; this regime of power “produces subjected and practiced bodies, ‘docile’ bodies”


(138). But what are the discursively constructed bodies in this speculative fiction corpus?

As briefly discussed in the introduction, these bodies are posthuman insofar as they attempt to go beyond the rigid boundaries of the liberal human subject, often taking the form of a cyborg. And since they are posthuman bodies, then do they produce a kind

“posthuman vision”? With these questions in mind, I will commence this conclusion with a quick review of how certain bodies are constructed in these texts, how vision functions within them and what are some potential directions that this project is likely to take in the future.

In nearly all of the texts of this corpus, the body has evolved beyond the autonomous humanist subject to become a malleable object whose boundaries are no longer clearly defined because its organic parts are capable of being changed or replaced in order to continue to operate. With little variation, these tales contain corporeal structures that combine with high-tech prosthetics that symbiotically integrate with organic matter to restore functionality to what had been lost. The vision supported by these posthuman bodies are undergirded by cybernetics (Porcayo), the televisual (Rojo) and the hybrid cybernetic-televisual (Gil). Vision is mediated technologically within the body in different manifestations that begin as a perceptible, protruding prosthesis in

Porcayo and end up as invisible, micro-chips in Gil. Rojo’s mediated vision returns time and again to the televisual as the site for the construction of a dominant subjectivity that is constituted and dominated by the changing industry and its increasing ubiquity. The posthuman body in these stories, to continue using the Foucauldian language, becomes the site upon which both national and transnational media power inscribes itself.


In the work of the first author analyzed in this thesis, Porcayo situates his male protagonist as a cyborg whose technological “enhancements” are the product of a system of control rather than an individual choice. Technology is installed in 20% of Zorro’s body, his leg, cranium and left eye, thus converting him into a cyborg. He does not seek out a technological substitute for his eye, it is forced upon him by the multinational Trip

Corp. Contrastingly, in the short story “Esferas de visión,” the body of the female protagonist has also been made into a cyborg—but she remains lacking an eye throughout. She does not seek out a technological replacement, only the organic original, which ends up depicting her as an emblem of lack. The cyborg bodies here, unlike

Haraway’s utopian conception of the potentiality of cyborg bodies to resist patriarchal systems of oppression, are unable to transcend the limits of their gendered constructions.

Furthermore, the cyberpunk gaze that is on display in these two stories is male in a number of different ways. All the male characters energize their looks upon the female characters’ bodies, and even the narrator’s third-person omniscient perspective appears to hungrily project a male gaze upon the few female characters in the novel, particularly

Nataly. As if this were not enough gazing, there is the literalization of phallic power incarnated within the ocular prosthesis. The male’s eye is endowed with this ocular prosthesis, which protrudes from his face. It, as much as the dagger he carries or guns he manages to acquire and use, becomes a weapon that he employs to violent ends. In

“Esferas…” the body of the female protagonist, while undoubtedly marked as female “ha tatuado otra cosa en su piel, en la profunda y amplia cañada que sus senos dejan al descubierto” (N.p.) [“she tattooed something else on her skin, in the deep and wide gap between her breasts that expose it”], is also quite masculinized in other aspects. For

204 example, her head is shaved (with an interface in order to connect to the submarine), and, in a moment of desperation of not being able to locate her lost eye, she resorts to unrestrained violence several times, once by killing everyone she sees with the automatic gun she is carrying, and again when she tears out man’s eye in desperation to find a replacement of her own. In this comparison, the female seems unable to accept the loss of her eye, an objet petit a that instills in her a trauma that lasts throughout the narrative and likely beyond; for Zorro, the loss of his eye actually occasions his being forcefully recruited into cyber-espionage, and permits his access and rise into the male-centric world. If Porcayo’s writing is exemplary of Mexican cyberpunk, as critics and writers such as Hernán García and Trujillo Muñoz have stated, then we can conclude with certainty that cyberpunk’s style is aggressively and hegemonically masculine in its treatment of genders. However much these narratives critique the multinational corporations’ power over people by acquiring their bodies and vision, it is a warrior masculinity whose body and gaze reassert themselves as key symbols of resistance to the transnationals.

The literarily constructed body in Pepe Rojo’s texts embody posthumanism in a variety of ways: it is malleable, ignored and forgotten, all of which could not occur were it not for the role of technology in these alterations. The commentary in “Ruido gris” does not stop at its protagonist, whose conversion to an ocular reporter turns his body into the partially-owned property of the unnamed mass media company (the focus of chapter two here). One remarkable example of the posthuman body in “Ruido gris” is the case of

Grayx, another ocular journalist involved in what the protagonist calls one of the most important moments in the entire century (113). Grayx, in an attempt to make a strong

205 social critique regarding this era’s depersonalization of the body, decided to submit himself to an operation that would physically disconnect his head from his body while keeping his consciousness sustained via wires and cables between the two parts—all while broadcasting the operation from his point of view. Our own anonymous protagonist narrates Grayx’s televised event from his own perspective:

Cuando acaba la operación uno puede ver en una toma subjetiva el cuerpo sobre el quirófano y cómo Grayx le ordena que se pare. El cuerpo se para y empieza a tropezarse, porque la cabeza que está mandando las instrucciones tiene una perspectiva extraña. El cuerpo avanza lentamente hasta la cabeza y la recoge, la voltea para que los ojos (y la cámara) observen hacia la dirección en la que va caminando, y en estos momentos el espectador ya no sabe quién da las instrucciones, si el cuerpo o la cabeza. La toma en sus brazos como un bebé y se para enfrente de un espejo, donde se puede ver un cuerpo degollado sosteniendo la cabeza en sus brazos. (113)

[When the operation’s over you can see a subjective shot of the body on the operating table as Grayx tells it to stand up. The body gets up and begins to stumble, because the head that's sending it instructions sees things from a strange perspective. The body slowly approaches the head, picks it up and turns around so that the eyes (and the camera) can look in the direction it's walking in, and at that point the viewer no longer knows who's giving the instructions, the body or the head. The body takes the head in its arms like a baby and stands in front of a mirror where you can see a decapitated body holding its head in its arms.]

The disorienting nature of this passage is no doubt intentional. As a reader, one is not sure who is where in the subject’s experience, given the complete head/body break that has just occurred, which is then further confused by the fact that it is being narrated through a memory of watching this event on television and that this visual event involves a mirror. What is immediately suggested here seems to be the literalization of the

Cartesian subject that emphasizes the importance of the mind (rational thinking) over the body. Not only is the mind conceptually distinct, but it can also be separated literally.

This implies that the mind can exist separately from the body, and that the flesh is an

206 unnecessary organic substrate. Shortly after, however, the narrator tells us of Grayx’s interment in an asylum because he lost contact with reality, and that it seems that the body needs to be united in order to maintain sanity (114). This twist seems to dethrone, as it were, the foundation of Cartesianism, that the mind cannot be distinct from the body, however much this is believed to be so.

A similar idea is also found in “Conversaciones con Yoni Rei,” where the protagonist becomes a corporeal hodgepodge, an abject and rejected body. He cuts off his own left hand and replaces it with a different right hand, having two right hands; he has an electrical terminal in his head that go directly to the pleasure centers in his brain; he removed an eye with one of his right hands, only to have it later replaced with a mechanical substitute by his owner and parental figure, the corporation Telcor, which also installed in him a mechanical leg; his ears have been replaced by electronic devices; he lacks both pinky fingers, and he has an external liver that is attached to his body. Yoni

Rei is the portrait of a rejected posthuman body, owned by a corporation, forced to be experimented upon, addicted to the drug Fribidol from a young age and whose very lack of love or care for himself is exhibited in the mutilations that he inflicts upon his body.

His body is also turned into spectacle for the reader/viewer’s audio-visual consumption, as the story’s format resembles a script for a posthuman reality show. While the critique here clearly points to the rise and dominance in the importance of the multinational corporation, it does so by being able to construct and reconstruct Yoni Rei’s body.

In Rojo’s novel Punto cero, the text that is less science fiction and more fantastic than the previous two, our protagonist Ray possesses a body that slowly stops responding to his willed actions to control it. He slowly loses control of his own body: first he feels

207 beat up by an invisible presence, his left hand gets crushed and then cut off, and he lives out his kidnapping in his apartment while the reality displayed of by the television news begins to incorporate his body into its reality. Eventually, Ray (and his body) enter into the television screen, disappearing from his apartment. The televised reality, then, is more real than the lived reality of the bodies that look upon its screen.

Rojo has written a number of non-fiction works, one of which helps to contextualize and clarify his view put forth on the body in his fictional works. His essay

“Tócame, estoy enfermo” (written in 2002, updated in 2009), serves several purposes for this conclusion: it demonstrates what, exactly, is his position regarding the body, and it also helps illuminate some of the sources from where he draws inspiration regarding his creative writing. Rojo's general argumentative thread is essentially that, due to pervasive cybernetic and electronic technology, the body is undergoing a process of radical change and is well on its way to becoming obsolete. He claims the following: the body is disappearing (1); technology allows us to externalize our mental faculties like memory

(3); technology has made the flesh able to be molded by plastic surgery (4); the body can literally be controlled by others via electric impulses (5); the body, an extremely heterogeneous composition, is being reduced into the homogeneity of data's zeros and ones (6); the increased miniaturization of technology seen through contact lenses, iPods, laptops, etc., results in the endocolonization of the body, meaning that we--i.e. all

Westerners or Westernized subjects that have any contact with technology—are all cyborgs107 (9); psychopharmacology now alters the psychic chemistry of the body with

107 The examples he includes in this are iPods, laptops, cell phones and contact lenses. I understand the technological examples and how they help characterize under the notion of cyborg, but contact lenses?

208 drugs (9-10); technology is changing the subject-object binary by making objects that are becoming increasingly alive and/or subjective (12).

The thrust of Rojo's contention puts him solidly in the posthumanist camp, where he sees the body as becoming subordinated to technology’s ability to extend, repair, enhance and augment it. This essay, it should be mentioned, carries with it 80 different cited works in only 14 pages,108 ranging from philosophy and theory to science fiction and horror novels and films, from which he compiles many examples in order to help lend support to his overall claim that the body (as understood in liberal humanist terms) is becoming superseded by a new, posthuman conception of it. For example, he cites performance artist Stelarc's pioneering show in the 1990s when he connected his body to electric terminals and had software developed that allowed internet users the ability to connect and control his body remotely from afar. He observes: "El control del cuerpo ya no depende del individuo que reside en él y la voluntad pasa a ser un recuerdo nostálgico" (5) ["The control of the body no longer depends on the individual that resides in it, and will has become a nostalgic memory"]. 109 Another example in this essay are claims such as this: “Nuestros cuerpos físicos se desvanecen para poder vivir en la nueva dimensión de la telecomunicación (Virilio, 1997), escuchamos, observamos y actuamos a distancia, sin necesidad de mover el cuerpo (o por lo menos moviendo un dedo para activar el control remote o el mouse) (Virilio, 1997)” (2) [“Our physical bodies disappear

108 It does contain, however, numerous “apéndices parasitarios” (“parasitic appendices”) that act as footnotes in giving further examples to the claims that are made in the main text. 109 I must admit that some of his conclusions seem overly reductive, as in this case. Here he seems to exaggerate (that will of the body is no longer valid because it is now possible for the body to be controlled remotely via technology), but he also universalizes the result of this performance art piece to all contemporaneous bodily practices more generally. Just because something is possible does not mean that many or even just a few people do it. By this I mean that the fact that Stelarc did this, and that it could be done, does not logically follow that it has been done on any significant scale.

209 in order to be able to live in the new dimension of telecommunication we listen, observer and act at a distance, without the need to move the body (or at least move a finger to activate the remote control or mouse) (Virilio, 1997)].110 It is clear from this example that a) Rojo asserts a posthuman body by seeing its immobility in the presence of electronic telecommunication as tantamount to its disappearance, and b) Rojo is under the sway of yet another French theorist here, Paul Virilio. Throughout his essay he employs numerous examples of characters and bodies represented in fiction and films from J.G. Ballard,

David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, et al., which reveals how deep his influence goes by writers and thinkers from the North America and


For Eve Gil, the body has not disappeared in the future into television but rather television (and virtual reality) has immersed the body within it. One interesting difference to note is the increased miniaturization of the technology has made such advances that in

Virtus, the lectochip is undetectable to the naked eye. El Zorro’s prosthesis seems enormous and aesthetically unappealing, provoking in the people who see him a

110 This quote also exemplifies a frustrating aspect of his essay: he makes a number of radical statements like this, such as our bodies vanish while watching TV or surfing the internet, and then attributes his paraphrased quote to an entire book that someone else wrote, such as Virilio here. While I am familiar with Virilio and these kinds of claims of his which are also provocative and definitely open to scrutiny, Rojo’s ambiguous citation of Virilio does not further his case. 111 Given the extent of his influences outside Mexico, I emailed him the following question after reading “Tócame, estoy enfermo”: “¿dónde queda México en el ensayo?” He expressed surprise at receiving the question because he had gotten it for his fiction, but never his non-fiction. His answer stated several possible underlying motivations as to why, but the most pertinent here: “la clase social en la que fui educado (desde mi adolescencia) estaba a kilómetros de distancia de la pobreza que he visto, y en ese sentido mi propia vocación anglófona me saca de contexto constantemente” (“the social class in which I was educated (since adolescence) was miles away from the that I had seen, and in that sense my own Anglophone vocations take me out of that context constantly”; Rojo).


“desconfianza pueril” (20) [“puerile distrust”]; the protagonist of “Ruido gris” has a button on his leg to contact the station director and when he is broadcasting, there is a red light that blinks in his eye that is visible to someone looking at him. But in Virtus, the lectochip, once inserted into the body, is now fully absorbed into it, leaving no traces behind. The body has assimilated the technology into it in a seamless evolution of integration. The technology has become much lighter and wholly inconspicuous. In the way that it serves to visually manipulate the masses by reaching into nearly every corner of the country in both public and private spaces suggests that the televisual and cybernetic technologies, the accompanying industries that create and sustain them and the political apparatus that stays in power to help permit the industries to flourish are lodging themselves further into the minds of Mexico’s subjects. Gil’s literal imagining of this scenario underscores the real political and economic power that has been exerted in

Mexico in the neoliberalism of the 2000s.

In all, these texts collectively articulate a dislodging of vision from within the human body due to a multitude of factors. Vision has been an embodied act that is, of course, located in the body, and these texts articulate its dislocation in numerous ways, often through the visual technologies of cybernetic and television and under the direction of larger visibilization forces that control and influence them, namely through neoliberal economic policy that changed the configuration of the media industry and allowed a significantly foreign (mostly American) influx of media. This speculative literature denounces the rise of a hyper-visual sphere; through the reflective act of writing upon these changes in the visual sphere, these narratives offer a critical and reasoned voice to changes in the visual that can also be nostalgic. We see traces of this in Rojo’s “Ruido

211 gris,” where the verbal reflections of what living in a world where we might have camera-eyes and the widespread syndrome of SECLE as a result, seem to poise writing as a critical act in the face of a heightened visual sphere. In Gil’s Virtus, written over 10 years later, this stance becomes explicit by asserting that writing—by hand and with a pencil no less—offers a critical distance necessary to be able to see and reveal the truth inherent within the deceptive visual manipulation of the masses that was Proyecto V.

Moving forward with this project brings to mind several different potential directions for future research. One possibility would be to mine the “speculative cinema” in this arena. My original intention was to include in this dissertation three films set in

Mexico, two shorts, Salvador Ricalde’s Sector T (2000) and Aaron Soto’s Shell

(2000) and one full-length, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008). For various reasons, incorporating them here did not materialize; given this, their inclusion becomes the next logical step in this larger project. A central impetus for this would be to choose a fundamentally visual medium and see what it has to say about the future of vision and visuality. In this sense, any films that reflect upon vision would be meta-visual. One significant obstacle is whether or not science fiction film from Mexico can be considered an ideal source through which to interrogate similar changes occurring the visual sphere.

From my cursory probes into the production of this time, there certainly seems to be some potential, in spite of the fact that the cinema of science fiction in Mexico in the era of globalization has not experienced a strong production.112 The total number of films within this genre that have been released in the past 10 years attests to this: only five

112 This is understandable, since SF film has for some time now been linked to blockbuster, special effects- driven productions. This is, of course, by no means a prerequisite to SF film, but it has certainly become a trend since (1977) ushered in the era of the blockbuster SF as well as the franchising and sequelization.

212 feature films have been made in that time range.113 Of the half of these that I have seen, only Sleep Dealer seems to be an ideal candidate to be considered speculative as the term has been used in this dissertation. The degree to which visual technologies are used and imagined in this film is ample, and bring to mind several aspects worth considering further. The movie’s own representation of and position toward visual technologies does not appear to be as critical as that of the literary texts in this thesis. In spite of the film’s rather negative framing of the digital/visual technologies that facilitate exporting “all the work without the worker”114 There are numerous instances where these technologies and the subjectivities paired together do not equate to a total condemnation. The clearest example occurs over halfway through the film when Memo goes to Luz’s apartment after a shift at the sleep dealer. He tells her that, in spite of the fact that he is connected and working all day, the only moment he feels connected is when he is with her. This prompts

Luz to explain how she came to get nodes installed, and how she came to be a writer.

What follows is the only intimate love scene in the film. Luz caresses the nodes on

Memos’ arms and says, “Odio que haya tanta distancia entre la gente. Si los nodos sirven para algo es para romper con esa distancia...para conectarnos...para podernos ver." The shot shifts to a dark room, her bedroom, and becomes illuminated by faintly back-lit blue silhouettes of Luz and Memo together. There is a closeup of a Luz's hand connecting a cable into her , the sound of a click, indicating that she has plugged him into her nodes, and then another closeup of their faces as they kiss. As Luz says, "Quiero que me

113 The others include: De día y de noche (Alejandro Molina 2011), Seres genesis (Ángel Mario Huerta 2010), 2033 (Francisco Laresgoiti 2010), Depositarios (Rodrigo Ordoñez 2010) 114 When Memo’s boss is first showing him around the sleep dealer work space, he says, “Este es el sueño americano, le damos lo que siempre han querido: todo el trabajo sin los trabajadores” (“This is the American dream, we give them what they have always wanted: all the work without the workers”)

213 veas…adentro," a very brief montage shows: a mid-shot of her as a little child, a close-up of a diary held in someone’s hands, and then a medium shot of her from behind as she is connected to her computer. A subsequent close-up of Memo, who asks, "Me puedes ver?" is then followed by another montage: a photo of him when he was younger, a brief travelling shot on a road, a tree from his hometown. The overlaid soft white electric zaps on the screen and the soundtrack seem to indicate that these images being seen by the spectator are what Luz is seeing by being connected to Memo. Shifting back to the real- time of their physical connection, Luz's naked back gets caressed by Memo's hands, before the film returns to a medium close-up of them kissing, partially wrapped in the wires that connect them to each other’s past. This scene demonstrates an acceptance—if not embrace—of technological ubiquity and mediation that is not present in any of the literary texts discussed here, and it does so by explicitly referencing the way in which digital technologies can seemingly collapse distances and allow intersubjective access to each other’s past. But what is so surprising about this scene is that they are physically together, naked and touching one another, and yet still use the cables and nodes to be able to actually see each other “more deeply” or “fully.” “Quiero que me veas…adentro” and

“¿Me puedes ver?” come only at moments when they are connected. It is, then, only through the visual technologies that they can truly see one another, having access to memories of them when they were younger. This scene suggests that the rise of the visual turn, as seen from at least this particular filmmaker’s point of view, is not nearly as threatening as the authors of this corpus assert in their works. This may have to do with the fact that the director works in creating films that are first and foremost visual works of art, indicating that the visual turn is, for film directors, not a concern. Further mining

214 the filmic archive for speculative works would help corroborate some of these initial observations and may help to bring out a brighter contrast between the verbal and the visual.

Another possible avenue of further research would be to widen the cultural frame of this time period to include another country’s cultural production from the neoliberal era. In particular, Argentina would seem to be the most apt comparison, both for the fact that it had a similar pattern of neoliberalization in the 1990s under Carlos Menem’s administration, as well as the fact that the country has had a very strong production of science fiction—likely the strongest in all of Latin America when one considers its rich history that includes literary stalwarts like Quiroga, Lugones, Borges, Bioy Casares and

Cortázar. Also similar to Mexico, there are some SF films from this period. La sonámbula (Fernando Spiner 1998) is a film that boasts an immense amount of visual mediations and technologies along with some clear parallels to what is occurring

Argentina. Moving into the next decade, there are a number of SF films, such as

Filmatron (Pablo Parés 2007) and La antena (Esteban Sapir 2007). The first was a low- budget, full-length film school project about a dictatorial regime that censors all cinema and only broadcasts bizarre television programs with the sole purpose to entertain and instruct viewers. Those who choose to resist this dominance take upon themselves to make and broadcast a film whose mythic hero, “filmatron”, who becomes the film’s protagonist. La antena has a similar structure featuring a power-hungry dictator named

Mr. TV who literally steals the voices from all the citizens, and a black-and-white set design that superimposes cartoon backgrounds atop a cold and angular urban space reminiscent of German expressionist films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). With

215 regard to the literary production of the neoliberal era, I have not been able to research it too in-depth, but from what I have been able to glean, there was no corresponding, coherent and self-aware cyberpunk movement as in Mexico of the 1990s. SF literary production has undoubtedly continued, but to what extent it may contain speculative fictions whose focus remains strongly reflective of the changing state of the visual in

Argentina is yet to be uncovered. Depending upon how the expansion of the media industries have occurred in Argentina under their experience of neoliberalism, a comparison study between Mexico and Argentina’s speculative cultural production could illuminate and strengthen some of the preliminary conclusions in this thesis.


Appendix for Figures

Figure 1. Stairs made of televisions in Tijuana


Figure 2. Tijuana artist Fernando Miranda in front of his art installation


Figure 3. Side view of Fernando Miranda’s art installation

Figure 4. View from inside art installation, with Pepe Rojo looking in


Figure 5. One of the first “Tú no existes” urban intervention stickers


Figure 6. “Tú no existes” stickers placed atop a Mcdonald’s advertisement at a bus top

Figure 7. A “Tú no existes” sticker placed alongside other advertisements


Figure 8. “Tú no existes” billboard-sized posters at UNAM, Mexico City



Primary Corpus

Gil, Eve. Virtus: El espectáculo más grande del mundo. México, D.F: Editorial Jus, 2008. Print.

Porcayo Villalobos, Gerardo. La Primera Calle De La Soledad. Chimalistac, D.F: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993. Print.

----. "Esferas de visión." Sub (fanzine), Eds. Rojo, Pepe, Joselo Rangel, Ricardo Mejía Malacara, Rodrigo Cruz and Bernardo Fernández ‘Bef’. 1996. 8-12. Print.

Rojo, Pepe. Punto cero. México, D.F: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2000. Print.

---. Ruido gris. México, D.F: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 1996. Print.

---. “Conversaciones con Yoni Rei.” Yonke. México: Times, 1998. 69-84. Print.

---. “Y de pronto.” Yonke. México: Times, 1998. 31-38. Print.

---. “apariciones.”Interrupciones. Tijuana, B.C: Nortestación, 2009. 28-39. Print.

---. “datos preliminares.” Interrupciones. Tijuana, B.C: Nortestación, 2009. 118-125. Print.

---. “El presidente sin órganos.” Interrupciones. Tijuana, B.C: Nortestación, 2009. 9-17. Print.

---. “¡Tócame! estoy enfermo.” Interrupciones. Tijuana, B.C: Nortestación, 2009. 100- 107. Print.


Secondary Corpus

Adorno, Theodor, and Max Horkheimer. "The Culture Industry as Mass Deception". Ed. Simon During. The Cultural Studies Reader. London: Routledge, 2007. 405-415. Print. Aguilar, Benitez I. "La flexibilidad como estrategia frente a la rotacion de personal en la industria maquiladora del televisor." Estudios Sociológicos (méxico). 17.49 (1999): 215-237. Print. Agustín, José. Tragicomedia Mexicana: 3. La vida en México de 1982 a 1994. México, D.F: Planeta, 1990. Print. Althusser, Louis. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (notes Towards an Investigation). , 1971. Print. Amescua Chávez, Cristina. “El secuestro virtual en el continuum de la violencia: Visibilizar lo que se oscurece." Trace. 57 (2010): 111-127. Print. Amparán, Francisco. “Ex machina.” Más allá de lo imaginado III: antología de ciencia ficción mexicana. Ed. Frederico Schaffler. San Angel, D.F.: Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes. 14-25. 1994. Print. Antología de cuentos: Primer certamen de cuentos de ciencia ficción. México: Instituto Politécnico Nacional, 1990. Print. “Asesores políticos, ¿con sueldo mayor al de Peña Nieto?” Editorial. Vanguardia. 27 Jan. 2014: N.p. Badmington, Neil. Posthumanism. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2000. Print. Bal, Mieke. : Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: U of Toronto, 1985. Print. Barquera, Fernando Mejía, and Raúl Trejo Delarbre. Televisa: El Quinto Poder. México, D.F.: Claves Latinoamericanas, 1985. Print. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Print. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print. ---.The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. London [etc.: Sage, 1998. Print.


---. “The Violence of the Image and the Violence done to the Image.” The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. Oxford: BERG, 2005. Print. 171-181. ---. Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. Print. Bell, Andrea L, and Yolanda Molina-Gavilán. Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Print. Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Eds., Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 665-685. Print. Best, Steven, and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium. New York: Guilford, 2001. Print. Biles, James J. "Informal Work and Livelihoods in Mexico: Getting by or Getting Ahead?." The Professional Geographer. 60.4 (2008): 541-555. Print. Bould, Mark, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint. The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. London: Routledge, 2009. Boullosa, Carmen. Cielos De La Tierra. México, D.F.: Aguilar, Altea, Taurus, Alfaguara, 1997. Print. Bourdieu, Pierre. On Television. New York: New Press, 1998. Print. Braham, C.A. "La ciencia ficción peruana." Revista Iberoamericana. 78 (2012): 407-423. Print. Brenda Castro, Libia. “Las herederas estalares de la pequeña Lulú.” Ciencia Ficción Mexicana (CFMx). N.p. n.d. Web. 29 October 2014. Brooksbank, Jones A. Visual Culture in Spain and Mexico. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007. Print.

Brown, J. Andrew. Cyborgs in Latin America. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.

---. Test Tube Envy: Science and Power in Argentine Narrative. Lewisburg, Pa: Bucknell University Press, 2005. Print.

Brown, Lesley, Angus Stevenson, and William R. Trumble. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary Volume 1: A-M Thumb Index. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.


---. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary Volume 2: N-Z Thumb Index. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

Brunner, José Joaquín. “Notes on Modernity and Postmodernity in Latin America.” Eds. John Beverly, Michael Aronna, and José Oviedo. The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. 44-54. Print.

Calderón, Fernando. “Latin American Identity and Mixed Temporalities; or, How to Be Postmodern and Indian at the Same Time.” Eds. John Beverly, Michael Aronna, and José Oviedo. The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. 55-64. Print.

Caldwell, John T. Televisuality: Style, Crisis, and Authority in American Television. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1995. Print.

Caliz, David. "Angélica Rivera y Enrique Peña Nieto festejan cuatro años de matrimonio." Cosas. Principal. N.p., 27 Nov. 2014. Web. 02 May 2015.

Carrigan, A. Chiapas: The First Postmodern Revolution. Our Word is Our Weapon. J. Ponce de Léon. Toronto, Seven Stories Press. Print.

Carson, Fiona, and Claire Pajaczkowska. Feminist Visual Culture. New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Castells, Manuel. End of Millennium. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000. Print. ---. The Power of Identity. Malden, Mass: Blackwell, 1997. Print.

---. The Rise of the Network Society. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. Print. Cervantes, Sandra. "Tijuana apantalla como capital de la TV." El N.p., 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. Print.

Cockcroft, James D. La esperanza de México: Un encuentro con la política y la historia. México: Siglo XXI, 2001.


Córdoba, Cornejo Antonio. Extranjero en tierra extraña?:El género de la ciencia ficción en América Latina. Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla, 2011. Print.

Comolli, Jean Louis. "Machines of the Visible." in Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation, ed. Timothy Druckrey. Aperture Press (1996 [1971]). 108- 117.

Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1990. Print.

Davis, Whitney. A General Theory of Visual Culture. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2011. Print.

De La Cosa, Juan. "El Imperio De Los Consultores Políticos." La Crónica: Ciudad de México. 6 Jan. 2013: N.p.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1994. Print.

Debray, Regis. Le pouvoir intellectuel en France. Paris: Ramsay. 1979. Print.

---. Cours de médiologie générale. Paris: Gallimard. 1991. Print.

---. El Estado Seductor: Las revoluciones mediológicas del poder. Buenos Aires: Manantial, 1995. Print.

---. Vie et mort de l’image. Une histoire du regard en Occident. Paris:

Gallimard. 1992. Print.

---. L’Etat séducteur. Les révolutions médiologiques du pouvoir. Paris: Gallimard. 1993. Print.

---. Manifestes médiologiques. Paris: Gallimard. 1994. Print.

---. Transmettre. Paris: Odile Jacob. 1997. Print.

De los Ríos, Valeria. Espectros De Luz. Providencia, Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2011. Print.


Dias Fernandez, Adris, and Catalina Martínez. “El estudio de la imagen en México desde la perspectiva de la mediología de Regis Debray.” Online video clip. YouTube. 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 May 2015.

Dick, Philip R. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep! London: Rapp & Whiting, 1968. Print.

Dikovitskaya, Margaret. "Major Theoretical Frameworks in Visual Culture." The Handbook of Visual Culture. Eds. Heywood, Ian, Barry Sandywell, Michael Gardiner, Nadarajan Gunalan, and Catherine M. Soussloff. London: Berg, 2012. 68-89 Print.

Edwards, Elizabeth, and Kaushik Bhaumik. Visual Sense: A Cultural Reader. Oxford: Berg, 2008. Print.

“El Sistema Nacional e-México.” Portal SCT. Sistema Nacional E-México, 27 Aug. 2010. Web. 09 May 2015.

Fadul, Maria Ligia. “La pantalla televisa se pinta de rojo.” Nexos. August 1, 1996.

Fernández, Delgado M. A. Visiones periféricas: antología de la ciencia ficción mexicana. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Lumen, 2001. Print.

---. Ciencia ficción Mexicana: Siglo XIX. Mexico City: Goliardos, 2002. Print.

Flor, Fernando R. Giro visual: Primacía de la imagen y ee la lecto-escritura en la cultura postmoderna. Salamanca: Delirio, 2009. Print.

Folsom, Ralph Haughwout., and Ralph Haughwout. Folsom. NAFTA and Free Trade in the Americas in a Nutshell. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/West, 2004. Print.

Fornazzari, Alessandro. Speculative Fictions: Chilean Culture, Economics, and the Neoliberal Transition. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh, 2013. Print.

Freije, S. 2001. Informal employment in Latin America and the Caribbean: Causes, consequences and policy recommendations. Washington, DC:Inter-American Development Bank. (last


accessed 8 February 2008).

Friedberg, Anne. The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2009. Print.

---. Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Print.

Fuentes, Carlos. Cristóbal Nonato. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1987. Print. Gagnier, Regenia. Subjectivities: A History of Self-representation in Britain, 1832-1920. New York U.a.: Oxford U, 1991. Print. García Canclini, Nestor. Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Print. ---.La globalización imaginada. Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1999. Print. ---. Lectores, espectadores e internautas. Barcelona: Editorial Gedisa, 2007. Print. García, Canclini N, and Déborah Holtz. Los nuevos espectadores: cine, televisión, y video en México. México, D.F: IMCINE, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Dirección General de Publicaciones, 1994. Print.

García, Hernán Manuel. “Carne eres y en máquina te convertirás: El cuerpo post-humano en La primera calle de la soledad de Gerardo Porcayo.” Polifonía: Revista Académica De Estudios Hispánicos. Clarksville, TN: Austin Peay State University, 2014. 4-23. Print.

---. "Tecnociencia y cibercultura en México: Hackers en el cuento cyberpunk mexicano." Revista Iberoamericana. 78 (2012): 329-348. Print.

Getino, Octavio. Impacto del video en el espacio audiovisual Latinoamericano. Lima, Perú: Instituto Para América Latina, 1990. Print.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. West Bloomfield, Mich: Phantasia Press, 1986. Print.

Ginway, M E, and Andrew Brown. Latin American Science Fiction: Theory and Practice. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

González-Brambila, Claudia, Jose Lever, and Francisco Veloso. "Mexico’s Innovation


Cha-cha." Global Tour of Innovation Policy. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

González, Jersaín. “Reflexión de la videoesfera – Regis Debray.” Online video clip. YouTube. 31 Jane. 2014. Web. 30 May 2015.

Gorton, Kirstin. "Television as a Global Visual Medium." The Handbook of Visual Culture. Eds. Heywood, Ian, Barry Sandywell, Michael Gardiner, Nadarajan Gunalan, and Catherine M. Soussloff. London: Berg, 2012. 464-479. Print.

Graham, Elaine L. Representations of the Post/human: Monsters, Aliens, and Others in Popular Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2002. Print.

Gray, Chris Hables. Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age. New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Evans, Jessica, and Stuart Hall. Visual Culture: The Reader. London: SAGE Publications in association with the Open University, 1999. Print.

Halberstam, Judith, and Ira Livingston. Posthuman Bodies. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. Print.

Hallin, Daniel C. "La nota roja: periodismo popular y transicion a la democracia en México." América Latina Hoy : Revista De Ciencias Sociales (salamanca). (2000): 35-43. Print.

Hand, Martin. "Images and Information in Cultures of Consumption." The Handbook of Visual Culture. Eds. Heywood, Ian, Barry Sandywell, Michael Gardiner, Nadarajan Gunalan, and Catherine M. Soussloff. London: Berg, 2012. 516-534. Print.

Haraway, Donna J. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-181. Print.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.


Harper, Douglas. "Online Etymology Dictionary." Online Etymology Dictionary. 01 Jan. 2001. Web. 06 May 2015.

Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Oxford, : Blackwell, 1989. Print.

---. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Haugen, David M, and Susan Musser. Mexico. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. Print. Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print. Haywood, Ferreira R. The Emergence of Latin American Science Fiction. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 2011. Print. Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” Basic Writings: From Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964). New York: Harper & Row, 1977. 283-317. Print. Heinlein, Robert. “Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults and Virtues.” The Library of America online. 11 December, 2014. Hernández, Omar and Emile McAnany. “Cultural industries in the Free Trade Age: a look at Mexican television.” Fragments of a Golden Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico Since 1940. Eds. Joseph, G M, Anne Rubenstein, and Zolov. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. 389-414. Print. Herrera Aguilar, Miriam. “Detérminismo tecnológico o no.” Espacios De Comunicación. Ed. Madrid, Javier Esteinou. México, D.F.: Universidad Iberoamericana, 1998. 69-78. Print. Hester, Marcus B. Sensibility and Criticism: A Study of the Interrelation of Verbal Acts and Visual Acts. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983. Print. Hill, Jason E, and Vanessa R. Schwartz. Getting the Picture: The Visual Culture of the News. 2015. Print. Hiriart, Hugo. La destrucción de todas las cosas. México, D.F: Ediciones Era, 1992. Print.


Hoeg, Jerry. Science, Technology, and Latin American Narrative in the Twentieth Century and Beyond. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2000. Print. Homem, Rui M. G. C, and Maria F. Lambert. Writing and Seeing: Essays on Word and Image. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. Print. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). Instituto Nacional De Estadística Y Geografía (INEGI). N.p., 08 May 2015. Web. 08 May 2015. It, U. and D. Uncta. “World Information Society Report.” Beyond WSIS. 3. Web. 2007. 9 May 2015. Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. New York: Verso, 2005. Print. ---. Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. Print. ---. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998. London: Verso, 1998. Print. Jay, Martin. Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Print. ---.. “Scopic Regimes of Modernity.” Vision and Visuality. Ed. Hal Foster. Seattle: Bay Press, 1988. 3-23. Print. Jones, Amelia. The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. London: Routledge, 2010. Print. Kantaris, Geoffrey. "Cyborgs, Cities, and Celluloid Memory Machines in Two Latin American Cyborg Films"" Latin American Cyberculture and Cyberliterature. Eds. Taylor, Claire, and Thea Pitman. : Liverpool UP, 2007. N. pag. Print. 50-69. “Kas.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. December 2009. Web. May 15 2015. Kay, Luciano, and Philip Shapira. "Developing Nanotechnology in Latin America." Journal of Nanoparticle Research : an Interdisciplinary Forum for Nanoscale Science and Technology. 11.2 (2009): 259-278. Print. Kostelanetz, Richard. Visual Literature Criticism: A New Collection. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979. Print.


"La inteligencia del Presidente/2a parte." Tejemaneje. 2 July 2013. Television program broadcast via their web . Web. Lacan, Jacques. Anxiety: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book X. Trans. Jacques-Alain Miller. Cambridge: Polity, 2014. Print. ---. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Print. ---. “The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience.” Écrits: A Selection. New York: Norton, 1977. 1-7. Print. Landon, Brooks. The Aesthetics of Ambivalence: Rethinking Science Fiction Film in the Age of Electronic (re)production. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992. Print. Lilly, N.E. “What is speculative fiction?” n.p. September 9, 2010. Web. May 30, 2015. Lizma, Jorge Alberto. “Hackers México, del Hack-Zapatismo a Raza Mexicana.” Comunicación cybermedios: Promoción y Difusión de la Cibercultura, el Cyberpunk y el Hacktivismo. October 5, 2006. Web. May 15, 2015. Lockhart, Darrell B. Latin American Science Fiction Writers: An A-to-Z Guide. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print. Lohan, Maria, and Wendy Faulkner. "Masculinities and Technologies: Some Introductory Remarks." Men and Masculinities. 6.4 (2004): 319-329. Print. López Castro, Ramón. Expedición a la ciencia ficción mexicana. México: Lectorum, 2001. López Dávila, Irak. “Information Society and e-Government The Mexican experience.” INFOTEC, Federal Government of Mexico. D.F., Mexico. Web. Sept. 2014. Lymberopoulou, Angeliki, Pamela Bracewell-Homer, and Joel D. Robinson. Art & Visual Culture: A Reader. London: Tate Pub, 2012. Print. Ma, Sheng-mei. Diaspora Literature and Visual Culture: Asia in Flight. Oxon: Routledge, 2011. Print. Martín-Barbero, Jesús, and Germán Rey. Los ejercicios del ver: Hegemonía audiovisual y ficción televisiva. Barcelona: Gedisa Ed, 1999. Print. Marx, Karl. Das Kapital: A Critique of Political Economy. Washington, D.C: Regnery Pub, 2009. Print. "Fetishism of the Commodity"


Mazlish, Bruce. The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-evolution of Humans and Machines. New Haven: Yale UP, 1993. Print. McAnany, Emile G., and Kenton T. Wilkinson. Mass Media and Free Trade: NAFTA and the Cultural Industries. Austin: U of Texas, 1996. Print. McCarthy, Anna. Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. Print. Mirzoeff, Nicholas. Diaspora and Visual Culture: Representing Africans and Jews. London: Routledge, 2000. Print. ---. "The Subject of Visual Culture." The Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. London: Routledge, 2002. 3-23. Print. ---. The Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. London: Routledge, 2002. Print. Mitchell, W. J. T. "Image." Critical Terms for Media Studies. Eds. Mitchell, W. J. T. and Mark B. N. Hansen. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2010. 35-48. Print. ---. The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT Press, 1994. Print. ---. What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Print. ---. “There are no Visual Media.” Ed. Mirzoeff, Nicholas. The Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. London: Routledge, 2013. 395-405. Print. Molina-Gavilán, Yolanda. Ciencia ficción en español: Una mitología moderna ante el cambio. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. Print. Moravec, Hans P. Mind Children; the Future of Robot and Human Intelligence. Place of Publication Not Identified: Harvard Univ Pr, 1988. Print. Morgan, David, and Sally M. Promey. The Visual Culture of American Religions. Berkeley: U of California, 2001. Print. Moxey, Keith. "Visual Studies and the Iconic Turn." Journal of Visual Culture. 7.2 (2008): 131-146. Print. Moylan, Tom. Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 2000. Internet resource. Mraz, John. Looking for Mexico: Modern Visual Culture and National Identity. Durham [N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009. Print.


"Novela Futurista De Eve Gil." El Informador. N.p., 7 Dec. 2008. Web. 4 May 2015. Nuéz, Rogelio. . This is Tijuana! Eds. Montezemolo, Fiamma, Rene Peralta and Heriberto Yépez. London: Black Dog Pub, 2006. Print. Pallais, María Lourdes. "Antes, la TV estaba al servicio del Presidente, ahora es al revés.” La Crónica. N.p., 22 Sept. 2004. Web. 1 May 2015. “Pepe Rojo, creador del realismo mediático mash-up, entre los derroteros de la ciencia ficción mexicana” n.p. March 2002. Web. December 1, 2014. Pestarini, L. "El boom de la ciencia ficción argentina en la década del ochenta." Revista Iberoamericana. 78 (2012): 425-439. Print. Porcayo, Gerardo H. El hombre en las dos puertas: un tributo de la ciencia ficción mexicana a Philip K. Dick. Mexico, D.F: Lectorum, 2002. Print. ---. Los mapas del caos: breve antología de ciencia ficción mexicana. de Xicohténcatl, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala, 1997. Print. Reader, Keith. Regis Debray: A Critical Introduction. London: Pluto Press, 1995. Print. Richard, Nelly. “Cultural Peripheries: Latin America and Postmodernist Decentering.” The Postmodernism Debate in Latin America. Eds. John Beverly, Michael Aronna, and José Oviedo. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. 217-222. Print. Rojo, Pepe. "Asunto: pregunta/s sobre su obra (y CF mexicano en General)." Message to the author. 17 Jan. 2013. E-mail. Roth, Nancy. "Visual Conciousness: The Impact of New Media on Literate Culture." The Handbook of Visual Culture. Eds. Heywood, Ian, Barry Sandywell, Michael Gardiner, Nadarajan Gunalan, and Catherine M. Soussloff. London: Berg, 2012. 326-341. Print. Rúas Araújo, José. “Escena política y mediática en México: Las elecciones presidenciales.” Revista de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociologas. 11. 2: 2011. Universidade de Santiago de Compostela. 43-58. Print. “/Tijuana Manufacturing in the Information Age: Charts.” San Diego Dialogue. 2004. San Diego Dialogue.


Sánchez Cabo, José. “Una publicación que se especializa en el cyberpunk: fractal.” Ciencia Ficción Mexicana. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2015. Sánchez Prado, Ignacio M. “Ending the World with Words: Bernardo Fernández (BEF) and the Institutionalization of Science Fiction in Mexico”. Latin American Science Fiction: Theory and Practice. Eds. Ginway, M E, and Andrew Brown. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 111-132. Print. Sargent, Lyman T. "The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited." Utopian Studies. 5.1 (1994). Print. Schaffler González, Federico. Más allá de lo imaginado I: antología de ciencia ficción mexicana. San Angel, D.F.: Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes, 1991. Print. ---. Más allá de lo imaginado II: antología de ciencia ficción mexicana. San Angel, D.F.: Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes, 1993. Print. ---. Más allá de lo imaginado III: antología de ciencia ficción mexicana. San Angel, D.F.: Consejo Nacional Para La Cultura Y Las Artes, 1994. Print. Schwarz, Mauricio-José. Escenas ee la realidad virtual. México: Claves Latinoamericanas, 1991. 127-136. Print. Scott, Ridley, Blade Runner. Burbank, CA: Distributed by Warner Home Video, 2007. Seed, David. Literature and the Visual Media. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2005. Print. Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam. "Narrativizing Visual Culture: Towards a Polycentric Aesthetics." The Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff. London: Routledge, 2002. Print. 37-59. Silverman, Kaja. The Threshold of the Visible World. New York: Routledge, 1996. Print. Silverman, Maxim. Facing Postmodernity: Contemporary French Thought on Culture and Society. London: Routledge, 1999. Print. Spicer, Andrew. "Film and Visual Culture". The Handbook of Visual Culture. Eds. Heywood, Ian, Barry Sandywell, Michael Gardiner, Nadarajan Gunalan, and Catherine M. Soussloff. London: Berg, 2012. 480-498. Print.


Stafford, Andy. “Transmission versus communication: Règis Debray’s mediology.” Modern French Visual Theory: A Critical Reader. Eds. Nigel Saint and Andy Stafford. 2013. Print. 179-197. Print. Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print. Summers, Fiona. "Photography and Visual Culture." The Handbook of Visual Culture. Eds. Heywood, Ian, Barry Sandywell, Michael Gardiner, Nadarajan Gunalan, and Catherine M. Soussloff. London: Berg, 2012. 445-463. Print. Sutter, Mary. "Mexican acquisition executves are looking in part to Mipcom" Variety. 22 September 1997. Print. Suvin, Darko. "On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre." College English. 34.3 (1972): 372-382. Print. "Televisión in México." Bien Común, Numeralia (Portal de estatística universitaria de UNAM). Número 170, Febrero 2009. 7-10. Web. 20 November 2014. Thirión, Jordy Micheli, y Rubén O. Espinoza. “Changing Patterns in Mexican Society and Technology Policy (1990-2003): Still Far From Economic Development”. Changing Structure of Mexico: Political, Social, and Economic Prospects. Ed. Laura Randall. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2006. 197-210. Trujillo, Muñoz G. El futuro en llamas: Cuentos clásicos de la ciencia ficción mexicana. México: Grupo Editorial Vid, 1997. Print. ---. Laberinto (as Time Goes By). Mexicali: Instituto de Cultura de Baja California, 1995. Print. Tymn, Marshall B. The Science Fiction Reference Book: A Comprehensive Handbook and Guide to the History, Literature, Scholarship, and Related Activities of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Fields. Mercer Island, Wash: Starmont House, 1981. Print. Vandenberghe, Frédéric. "Régis Debray and Mediation Studies, or How Does an Idea Become a Material Force?" Thesis Eleven. 89.1 (2007): 23-42. Print. Villamil, Jenaro. "Los asesores mercadológicos de Peña Nieto." Homozapping. N.p., 10 Aug. 2011. Web. 1 May 2015. Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994. Print.


---. Open Sky. London: Verso, 1997. Print. Wachowski, Andy, Lana Wachowski. The Matrix. Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2007. Waldman, Katy. "Fake Mirrors May Soon Ensnare Shoppers in Web of Lies." Slate. Aug. 2013. Web. 2 March 2015. Walker, John A, and Sarah Chaplin. Visual Culture: An Introduction. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1997. Print. Watts, Carol. “On Conversation.” Literature and the Visual Media. Ed. David Seed. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2005. 142.162. Print. Weiner, Norbert. “Cybernetics in History.” Systems Research for Behavioral Science: A Sourcebook. Ed. Walter Buckley. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction, 2009. 31- 36. Print. Winters, Dan. "Inside the Oculus Rift." Wired. June 2014: 78-88. Print. Winthrop-Young, Geoffrey. “Undead networks: information processing and media boundary conflicts in Dracula.” Literature and Science. Eds. Bruce, Donald, and Anthony G. Purdy. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994. 105-125. Print. Wolfe, Bernard. Limbo. New York: Random House, 1952. Print. Wright, Linda. "Talking About Men: Conversations About Men and Masculinities in Recent Gender-Bending Science Fiction." PhD diss. University of Ballarat, 2010. Zaráte, José Luis. Interview by Miguel Pérez. “Entrevista a José Luis Zaráte.” June 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014 ---. “Fanzinerosos.” Ciencia Ficción Mexicana (CFMx). N.p. n.d. Web. 29 October 2014. Žižek, Slavoj. “From virtual reality to the virtualization of reality”. Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation. Ed. Timothy Druckrey. New York: Aperture, 1996. 290-295. Print. ---. The Plague of Fantasies. London: Verso, 1997. Print. ---. The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso, 1989. Print.