Silvia Moreno-Garcia explains the origins of “Biting the Snake’s Tail”

Paul Raven @ 02-02-2010

Mexico City skylineSo, did you read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest Futurismic story, “Biting the Snake’s Tail”, published here yesterday? Well, you should – go do it now.

One of the great joys of author blogs, for me at least, is getting an insight into how stories came to be – to find out what inspired them, how they progressed from initial idea to finished work. Silvia has written a post that opens a door on “Biting the Snake’s Tail”, which takes place in a near-future iteration of Mexico City:

It was two years in the making. I wrote the first half of it after dreaming two parts of it: the detective walking through the rainy streets with the dog and the murder. In the original, the murder took place at a public bath house and the victim was a gay man.

When I was a kid and there was no water (yep, this was a problem in Mexico City even years ago) for the day, we sometimes went to the public bath house in Santa Julia. This meant paying a few pesos and you got a bit of soap, some shampoo and access to a shower area. I remember we took our own towels, but towels might have been supplied at a cost. Last year, when I was in Mexico City, water issues were pretty bad. About 5 million people (a quarter of the city) was suffering from a drought and predictions for 2010 were that even the ritzy neighbourhoods would be affected. Think a third of the city without water this year, taps running dry for many days at times.

Having been lucky enough to visit Mexico City, I know it’s the sort of place where stories wait for you around every street corner. Ludicrous wealth and grinding poverty live cheek by jowl, and history howls hungrily from beneath layered and crumbling facades of modernity… much like any big city, I suppose, but they don’t come much bigger than El D. F., and that history is marbled with conflict and the struggle to survive for as long as records have been kept. [image by alex-s]

For a privileged Euro like myself, Mexico City was a real eye-opener; I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled a fair amount in my life, but few places have affected me quite so deeply. Travel is fatal to prejudice, as Mark Twain once said… I wonder if visiting new places in fiction can have the same effect? I certainly hope so – after all, as energy costs continue to increase, it’s going to be the only form of long-distance travel available to the vast majority of us… and there’s more than enough prejudice to go round.

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