MEXICA: 20 Years — 20 Stories is a book of twenty machine-generated stories plotted by the program MEXICA. These have been rendered into natural language, both in English and in Spanish, by the machine’s designer Rafael Pérez y Pérez.
The stories concern characters of Aztec legend: a jaguar knight, a princess, a warrior, a lady, the god Huitzilopochtli. They fall in love, they get into fights, they pursue or evade one another, they run away to hide beside the volcano Popocatépetl. They experience subtler things, too: lust, jealousy, inner conflict, mingled love and hate, even embarrassment at having been inconsistent.
The stories were produced as plot descriptions by the machine, and their human readable descriptions are both translations of those plots — so the Spanish is not a translation of the English, or vice versa. There are, I’m told, subtle differences between the Spanish and English versions of the stories, though my Spanish is not good enough to appreciate this deeply. But even from the most basic reading Spanish, it is clear that sometimes elements are named differently in the two versions.
At the same time, the versions are narrated in a way that retains the evidence of their machined nature. For instance, here is a passage:
The princess was a proud native of the Great Tenochtitlán City.
The competition between the princess and the eagle knight had reached levels of strong animosity.
Quickly, the princess and the eagle knight were immersed in a fight.
This is perfectly readable English, but it suggests an outline for a longer piece, a short story or even a novel, in which these things we are being told are rendered more fully. Performing that more extensive rendering, though, would have concealed what exactly the machine was doing — and it is extremely interesting to have this clearly evident. Besides, as the afterword indicates, we might consider that writing in this way is simply the style and voice of MEXICA the generator.