Three Messages and a Warning presents a diverse collection of stories of the strange and fantastical by new and established Mexican writers, edited by critic and translator Eduardo Jiménez Mayo and author and critic Chris N. Brown.

Whose idea was this?

Brown: In 2009 I returned from an annual festival showcasing Mexico City’s old downtown as a venue for avant-garde arts and letters determined to expose American readers and writers to these 21st-century Mexican writers of fantastic literature. The first publisher I thought to approach was Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press.

Mayo: I may have jumped off one of the many bridges spanning the gorges on the Cornell campus out of sheer boredom with the law school curriculum had it not been for Gavin. I wanted to translate excellent but obscure living Mexican authors specializing in the fantastic. Publishers expressed interest but reminded me that translations of foreign contemporary literature do not sell well; all except Gavin.

What’s your take on the relationship between Mexican and American literature?

Brown: Bolaño considered Anglo-American science fiction writers like J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick essential food for his literary imagination... you can disregard the boundaries between consensus reality and the fantastic without sacrificing literary seriousness. This book showcases a... uniquely Mexican voice, but maybe not the one you expected.

Mayo: Mexicans love to criticize the U.S., but they love to criticize themselves even more. Beatriz Escalante’s “Luck Has Its Limits,” set in Vegas, teaches us more about Mexican superficiality than American superficiality. A great tale of the fantastic should be a priceless sketch on the theme of the uncanny, which applies well to our anthology.

How did you find the writers?

Brown: In my travels to Mexico for events where science fiction was featured as an instrument of high culture. Writers like Mauricio Montiel, Bernardo Fernández, who just won a major Mexican literary prize, Pepe Rojo, and Alberto Chimal, the brilliant fabulist from Toluca. Through them, I was able to find up-and-comers like Esther Garcia, whose work straddles children’s literature and the peculiarly Mexican genre of gothic horror by women, and older writers like Amparo Dávila, whose work has never received the international recognition it deserves. We made special efforts to ensure that we had a real diversity of voices, so diverse that several of the authors have told me that this book could never happen in Mexico.

Mayo: This is an anthology of superstars and rising stars.

What were you looking for in the writing?

Mayo: Tales of the fantastic come in three basic forms: those in which the characters inhabit a universe where miracles are taken for granted; those in which miracles force themselves upon the uninitiated or incredulous; and those in which certain characters occupy privileged spaces, enabling them to experience miracles, whereas others do not share such abilities. Great writers in this genre must have the capacity to play with these basic forms in new and exciting ways. Most flunk the test. Some pass it. Our writers surpass it.

Brown: I was looking for voices that were both authentically Mexican and totally globalized, that convey a 21st-century sensibility that confounds our expectations of magic realism and the Mexican fantastic. Stories that recognize the influence of contemporary technologies on the narrative structures of our lives. Stories that channel the postapocalyptic through the ennui and dark humor of life in contemporary Mexico City. Stories that use the fantastic as a lens to more authentically express the feeling of being alive in a surreal world.