Jorge Luis Borges And The Infinite Library

borges-library

You may know if you’ve been here before how we feel at Grailrunner about blowing out walls in your imagination, squeezing some light into the cracks and crevices where amazing things can happen…if you think differently.

That’s the whole reason for this site, in fact. I mean, read our manifesto.

So just go to Amazon and buy this now if you don’t have it. Then come back. It’s the collected fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. Looks like this below – Start with ‘The Garden Of Forking Paths’ section.

borges-cover

Borges was Argentinian and an earth-shaking writer of fantasy.  In his autobiographical notes, he said, “If I were asked to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father’s library.” You’ll find in this tome a story called ‘The Library Of Babel’ where he carries the idea of a large library to its logical extreme: all possible books in an infinite space.

Here’s wikipedia’s summary:

“Borges’ narrator describes how his universe consists of an enormous expanse of adjacent hexagonal rooms, each of which contains the bare necessities for human survival—and four walls of bookshelves. Though the order and content of the books are random and apparently completely meaningless, the inhabitants believe that the books contain every possible ordering of just 25 basic characters (22 letters, the period, the comma, and space). Though the vast majority of the books in this universe are pure gibberish, the library also must contain, somewhere, every coherent book ever written, or that might ever be written, and every possible permutation or slightly erroneous version of every one of those books. The narrator notes that the library must contain all useful information, including predictions of the future, biographies of any person, and translations of every book in all languages. Conversely, for many of the texts, some language could be devised that would make it readable with any of a vast number of different contents.” (wikipedia article ‘The Library Of Babel’)

Honestly, friend, that’s everything great about Borges right there. He takes a concept, stretches it in every direction to make of it something fascinating, then sneaks around to look at it from the other side. I wish I could drink coffee with him.

He reveled in smacking you with a twist concept at the end, often with his final sentence. Read ‘The Circular Ruins’ to see what I mean. It’s super short, you’ll love it. Also, try ‘The Approach To Al-mu’tasim’ – in that one, the blow comes in the extreme last sentence, in a footnote even! I’m sorry, I just find that kind of cerebral twist fascinating.

In ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, the conceit is that of a random quote from a friend. The narrator asks where it came from, triggering a surreal search for the mysterious (maybe fictional?) geographic origin of the guy that said it in the first place. A flip occurs at the end that turns the whole thing on its side. This is why you read Borges.

I won’t go on, because you should be reading him now, not me. The idea, as always for writers, is study him. Read his method, his approach. See how he leads you along with the framework, then pay close attention to how he stretches everything to an extreme or turns it around at the very end. It’s high-minded and a thinking person’s game.

And Borges gets in your head. He’ll stick with you long after.

Let us know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black Ruins Massacre: conclusion

temple_ruins_by_jonasdero-d5ej8nc

Yeah, we’re at part 4 and the conclusion of an experiment in immersive storytelling. Scroll down or click as appropriate for the previous editions, or just catch up quickly in the recap page.

Part 1          Part 2           Part 3

The idea was this: construct a fantasy story based solely on what happens on a wargame table. Let the architecture of the tabletop terrain be the mystery arc; and the let the game mechanics (dice rolls, the rules of play, positioning of miniatures, strategies and tactics) drive the narrative. I went in cold, assembling the foundations of a ruined black temple on the tabletop and deploying the two armies on either side. I posed the mystery, not knowing its resolution:

“A mysterious black temple in the forest is said to hold powerful singing runes. It’s in ruins; but its two courtyards are separated by a door-less and featureless central wall. Why would a temple be split into two equal halves with no access between them?”

Two armies arrived at the same time, a force of electrical knights known as Cygnar, and an undead and sorcery-driven army called Cryx.

Read on to see what happened. Click on this link if you prefer a pdf.

Black Ruins Massacre pt 4.

The recap so far…

page 1

Cryx’s Bane Witch was in a bad place and outnumbered at the end of part 3. She did the only things she could do to try and turn the momentum in her favor…

page 2

page 3

So Agathia’s sorcery and ferocious boldness granted her more of Major Maddox’s blood; but none of it has been enough. Cygnar’s return blows will be terrible.

page 4

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The Bane Witch is powerful, yes…even deadly in close combat. But she is overwhelmingly outnumbered and outflanked. Cygnar is closing in for what will apparently devolve into a war of attrition and running, relying on long range sorcery.

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Unbelievably, Agathia bets it all on another suicide run! She races to the central wall, vanishes like a shadow, and appears in the very heart of Cygnar’s strongest forces. Yet, she’s in range of Major Maddox, who was already wounded by the Deathripper’s previous sneak attack and the gang attack by the Satyxis Raiders.

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Sorcery wins the day! Unaided by her two remaining troops, the Bane Witch’s sneak attack and mad dash worked. But the temple wasn’t done with her…

page 8

And that’s a wrap!

I honestly had no idea going in why that temple was split. It’s just how the foam pieces fit together into a pattern on the table. Looked cool. Also didn’t know who would win the fight or what tactics would be necessary. Each turn, I just hit the other side as hard as I could with everything I had. Maybe there was no surprise element; but there was definitely ferocity.

This was intriguing. And it was a fun diversion through the holidays downtime. The game mechanics made the story line a bit frustrating at times, when I got hooked on an idea I wanted to see play out and couldn’t quite make that happen. But no cheating, man. No cheating. I just let it roll.

Actually, I was happy to see the Bane Witch win this one. That very much fleshed out the resolution nicely when I dreamed up the answer for the mysterious two halves of the temple. Not sure what the answer would have been had Major Maddox won.

I really appreciate the kind feedback and suggestions. Thanks for all the interest. We probably won’t do any more of these unless you guys really push since it was just an experiment. Glad you had fun, though.

Happy New Year!

Black Ruins Massacre Part 3

temple_ruins

You’ve found part 3 of an experiment in immersive storytelling where we’re letting the mechanics of a popular tabletop steampunk wargame drive the narrative within a given framework. Part 1 and part 2 are available; but you can catch up by just reading on as well.

If you prefer the pdf, just click here. Black Ruins Massacre part 3

But so far in the Black Ruins…

pic 1

Last time when Cryx’s cackling and maniac Satyxis Raiders stormed like ghosts through the central wall in a diagonal blitz, surprising the Stormguard, it seemed enough to seize momentum and clear the western courtyard and pave the way for a rear attack against Cygnar’s Major Maddox. However…

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Actually, the Raiders had split their forces last time, sending several of their number directly through the central wall to help the lone Slayer in the eastern courtyard. They couldn’t reach him in time though…

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The Raiders in the eastern courtyard finally reached mighty Ironclad…

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Meanwhile, Agathia makes a bold and sinister move drawing first blood against Major Maddox in a genius stroke of sorcery…

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But it isn’t enough…

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Despite Agathia’s bold strike, the momentum of the slaughter has turned to Cygnar…

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And poor Reaper, who had gleefully perched on the central wall so eager to hook and snag a hapless victim found himself a prominent and helpless target with Gun Mages racing towards him…

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And that’s where we are. I’ve allowed the battle to play out, just following the game mechanics and trying to stay as objective as possible each turn, playing out the most ruthless tactics and strategies available at the time. When I’m playing a side, there is no mercy or hedging. It’s ruthless, till I step the other side of the table and have to switch sides again.

Soon, I’ll have to return to the mystery of the black ruins and that weird central wall, the mysterious statues that appeared from the fog. (I actually needed the time to make the terrain piece that will drive that part of the story). It’s not interesting to me to have something relating to the story arc affect the battle though, so we’ll have to see how that fits back in as things progress.

I appreciate the feedback and interest from so many of you, thanks for that! Glad you’re enjoying it.

See you next time!

 

The Black Ruins Massacre: Part Two

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Click and read part 1, dude. You’ve come across an experiment in immersive storytelling, relying on the game mechanics of a popular tabletop wargame to frame a steampunk and fantasy story. Not fan fiction, just a different mechanism for deciding what happens as the general plot unfolds.

This is part 2, where the mystery of the black ruins deepens and first blood is drawn. Read the pdf for part 2 if you prefer that to the images below. Warmachine game 4 – pt 2

Before the fateful clash at the central wall, mysterious and terrifying statues suddenly appear…

Page 1

Unfazed by the mystery and unable to investigate when slaughter awaits them, Cygnar entrenches for the Cryx assault, poised in a defensive cluster on the west and protected from Raider charges on the east.

page 2

Gun Mages advance and draw first blood!

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Undead Bane Warriors pass like ghosts through the wall and attack. Satyxis Raiders, magically enabled to do the same ghostly maneuver, make a surprise move and split their forces, four of whom attack the Stormguard from behind.

page 4

Another clash brews on the east side of the temple, with six Raiders and a Slayer only steps away from Cygnar’s most dangerous weaponry, and a rushing Reaper with its harpoon raised high atop the wall.

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Honestly, I didn’t see the diagonal maneuver by the Raiders coming until it came. At this point, I’m excited to see that Reaper blast somebody from the top of that wall and haul them up for a beating. And maybe those Raiders have a chance to gang up and do some damage on the warjacks. We’ll see about that.

And what’s going on with those statues, by the way? A ruined temple split into two parts suddenly overseen by statues of hideous entities that appears from thin air? Crazy.

See you next time.

 

 

Storytelling Through Warmachine: The Black Ruins Massacre

The idea of tabletop wargaming as a storytelling mechanism fascinates me. Stick with me on this, I’m trying something new here.

I don’t dig Chess; but I definitely get the attraction of having a gorgeous mahogany table in my living room where a long-running game of wits and strategy runs its course. Accordingly, as suited to a nerd such as myself, there will be steampunk killer robot miniatures and spellcasters instead of marble pawns and knights, all clashing around on grassy hills and ruins instead of placidly sitting on checkerboards. Cool, yeah?

Anyway, so Warmachine. Go look this one up. I’m not going to get into the details on it because I’ve sort of done that already here. What I wanted to share with you today is another experiment in immersive storytelling. I’ll play out the wargame over the next few weeks, hitting each side as hard as I can with all available options in turn. Dice and the game mechanics decide battle outcomes, while limitations and opportunities within the terrain influence the course of events. Dice rolls rule, no matter what I want to happen.

Here’s what’s happened so far…

Warmachine game 4 (here’s the pdf if you prefer that to the images below)

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Mysterious ruins of a long abandoned temple were discovered in a forest, its black masonry in rubble but for an inexplicable set of walls and four stairways. The stairs all led to the outer wall; but the central wall forms a barrier splitting the temple in two. But why would a temple be split in two?

The undead and sorcerous Cryx army, led by Bane Witch Agathia arrived first:

Agathea-horz

But the lightning-bearing Cygnar army appeared in the opposite arch of the temple soon after, led by the courageous and battle-hardened Major Beth Maddox.

beth-maddox-cygnar-horz

Cygnar deployed first, readying for a charge from the Bane Warriors…

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Cryx responds with an aggressive deployment…

Page 4

Cygnar advances and sets defensive positions…

Page 5

Cryx rushes again to look for first blood…only the central wall separates the two main forces.

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The rampaging Satyxis Raiders with barbed metal whips are at the wall, ready to receive a ghostly spell enabling them to rush through the masonry, while a Reaper races along the outer wall…

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And that’s where we are because I have work to do and have killed an entire morning doing this on a day off. Something’s going on with the wall that separates the two halves of this temple. That’s also where this big clash is about to happen. Crazy stuff, yeah?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this. Let me know what you think.

See you next time.

 

Sometimes Ideas Are Born Whole

for the card2

Hey, did you ever have an idea come to you fully formed with very little clue where it came from? An idea that you thought was amazing, but it just showed up uninvited as a very welcome guest?

It happened to me a long time ago in a London hotel room one morning. My eyes popped open for no reason; and I could see a drawing on a white card: the side view of a futuristic vehicle that could ride up the side of vertical walls. It had ridged tires with flights on them at the ends of articulated arms like you’d see on an excavator. All of this, I assumed, made it easier for this vehicle to traverse uneven surfaces like a mountainside cliff or the outside ledges of a building. The vehicle had a name; and it even said so on the bottom of the imaginary card: mog.

The name came from a dream I had when I was 12 or 13 of a green horse named ‘Mog’ that rode me around my neighborhood. Was awesome, but I hadn’t thought of that dream in forever. Still don’t know what my head was doing that night to connect all this together and dream up this vehicle. However, I loved it. I sketched it as best I could (I’m no artist, unfortunately); and there it sat for years.

Flash forward – I bought my son a Christmas present one year of an ‘Air Hogs’ toy with a remote control car that had vaccum action to stick to the walls. Honestly, not a great toy; but it reminded me of that concept. The mog.

So when I finally got serious about my first book, ‘Tearing Down The Statues‘ I of course had all kinds of people riding these things. I made it central to the book because that’s the whole reason you write things, yeah? To bring these things into the world! In fact, there’s a battle scene on the sides of buildings that made me chuckle out loud as I was writing it because it was so much fun. For the big scenes at the end of the book, I added a mad and desperate dash of a small squad of mogs on a suicide mission. I mean, how could I not?

I’ve always wanted to visualize this thing somehow; and recently I had the opportunity in an unexpected way. Mainly because I’m a horrible procrastinator when it comes to writing. Seriously, I love doing it. I love having done it. Yet I chase shiny things in the tiny bit of free time I’m allowed.

Photoshop, Poser, and Zbrush are three pieces of software that go together pretty well if you have patience, a ridiculously restless imagination, and inadequate artistic skills. I took my first shot at a full visualization of the mog; and that’s the image included on this post. Be kind, I’m learning.

I built the cockpit and body of the mog in Zbrush by pulling in a ready made spaceship body from Poser’s content library as an ‘obj’ file. I tweaked the shape a bit, then started adding the legs as subtools based on deformed cubes. Still in Zbrush, I built the wheels by monkeying around with an extruded gear shape. Maybe not exactly what I saw in that flash of inspiration, but close!

That done, I imported (via the ‘Goz’ plugin) the file into Photoshop, combining it with a stock photo of the side of a mirrored building. It looked gray and fake and flat. Not cool.

The machinery texture on the front of the mog was also a stock image, warped in Photoshop to fit the space. I painted the headlight, side lights, and red stripe on a layer by themselves, then added a ‘layer style’ outer glow to make them pop. If I was a better artist, I’d have worked more on that stripe; but we’ll let that pass because I was digging what I was seeing by this point.

Mirrors everywhere, so I knew that had to be sorted out with reflections and shadows. The shadow was just another ‘layer style’ – drop shadows adjusted for their direction and opacity. I made the reflections by copying the mog layers, reversing them on a separate canvas, jacking down their opacity, and bringing them back in upside down. Had to layer mask to clear out the reflection from the lines between mirrors. Again, not Da Vinci; but serviceable.

I built the little guy in Poser based on some face and body morphs of the stock ‘James’ character in the software, moving the camera down to look up at him so it would seem like you’re staring up the side of that building.

I’m curious what you think, although this is all just for the sake of learning new skills and seeing something I believe I brought into the world come to life in a new way. And honestly, looking at this picture now, I wish I could have more fully formed ideas pop up on their own like this one did. It was an amazing experience.

And I’m a little jealous of that dude riding that thing!

 

Harlan Ellison’s ‘Blood’s A Rover’

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The genius piece of fiction titled “A Boy And His Dog” and I go WAY back. In fact, I was probably 12 or 13, on a rainy day in Chattanooga at the library and trolling the science fiction section for something to pass the time. I’d asked my mom to just drop me off, so I was feeling particularly independent.

Buried in a hardback anthology was this story by a guy I’d never heard of, Harlan Ellison. It was post-apocalypse, a kid and a telepathic dog. I loved the idea because my older brother and I were very much into the ‘Logan’s Run’ movie. Had a bit of a crush on Jessica and embarrassingly, wanted to be a Sandman. Forgive me, seems a bit cruel now to aspire to executing dandies who were just looking to escape certain death by thinking outside the ‘box’. (There’s a pun there; but you’d have to be as much of a nerd as I am to catch it, so I’ll just let it lay there.)

So this story though: ‘A Boy And His Dog’. It was naughty. The hero wasn’t heroic, and was doing things you weren’t supposed to do. I was caught off-guard because I usually read Arthur Clarke and Larry Niven, where everything was sanitized and shiny and clean. And mostly about machines and whatnot. This Ellison guy was a potty mouth and had a dirty mind. But when you’re 12, that’s all very…very cool.  I read it. Then I read it again, right then.

In fact, I’ve read that story more times than I could tell you. Also embarrassingly, that summer (and likely other summers), when I was riding my bike down to the gas station to play ‘Car Wars’ and buy a Mountain Dew or coasting down my parent’s sloping front yard, I’d pretend post-WWIII mutants were chasing me and my telepathic dog. Yeah, I did that. Point being, that story was incredibly influential to me.

I’ve followed Ellison ever since, of course. Like a lot of people, I never wanted to meet the guy in person because he was scary and uptight and temperamental. Yet the dude was among the finest speculative fiction writers who’ve ever put their minds to the task. I’ve got a substantial portion of his work on my shelves because you have to mine that kind of genius when it’s out in the world. He’s one of the voices I hear in my head when I’m writing (metaphorically, don’t judge me). He says to write about people, because that’s the only thing worth writing about. He says to stop being boring, stop explaining. He says to do something shocking, something different from the garbage on the bestseller lists.

So a very long time ago, some say as far back as 1970, Harlan said he planned to expand ‘A Boy And His Dog’ into a novel. He was coy for years about that. At one point, he got fed up with people asking and wrote a follow-on story where he killed the hero to put an end to it. In fact, a few years ago when I checked some interviews to gauge what was up with that, I read where he claimed to have written the bulk of the story and was waiting on the right price. It was maddening how long I waited for the rest of this particular story.

And now the best we’re going to get is on Amazon now.  Mr. Ellison has sadly passed away; and his health was failing in recent years. Ironically, he had a stroke only a few pages in to what was going to be his first return to new and related material (a story to be called ‘Lying Doggo’.  I really don’t want to hear from anybody reading this about how he groped Connie Willis at WorldCon because I won’t apologize for the guy. He was an ass. He was just a genius ass. And he’s a part of me.

Do yourself a favor and buy this and read it clean through. It isn’t perfect. Part of it’s in screenplay form, which annoys. But it’s the story…an incredibly powerful and resonant story that has shaped the way many people think in a lot of ways. After all this guy did for science fiction, as hard as he worked to put new things into the world to shatter crappy and retreaded ideas, he deserves that.

And somebody get a kickstarter rolling to have this thing filmed, for goodness’ sake!

Coming soon: ‘They’re At The Window’

revised window with window box at bottom

Yes, it took me seven years to write my first book. Don’t mock me. I plotted it in fine detail, then promptly let it take a different course because I didn’t know any better. Then I began writing my second novel, thinking how cool it would be to move quicker…

because of how smart I was now.

I figured one year was enough to capture what was to be a linear, straightforward fantasy thriller. I suppose now that it’s two and a half years later, I’m learning that just isn’t how my mind works. It’s a much more exciting story now, peopled with characters I want to hang out with (or smack in the face), that twists in sizzling ways I’d not originally considered. Tough love, I suppose.

To the folks who’ve been asking – look, I’m sharpening this badboy up for you so that you’ll get stung by it. I promise. Just hang with me a little longer.

You might remember seeing Christians in orange jump suits getting beheaded on a beach a few years ago by Isis.  It blindsided me, the notion of everyday people trying to stand up to terrible evil with precious little hope of winning. Around the same time, I was watching the anime series, ‘Attack On Titan’. Hajime Isayama is the guy who wrote and illustrated the manga that series was based on; and he makes a very twisty, turning story with holy-crap moments on every other page. I knew I wanted that too, to have every chapter end on a cliffhanger. I decided on 3,000 word chapters to keep it tight and moving quickly.

Somewhere in the gargantuan Time-Life book on World War Two in my study is a picture of marines on a landing craft in foaming waters headed for the hail of gunfire on the beach. The couple of faces you can see aren’t panicking or crying. In fact, one guy is half-smiling. I knew I wanted that.

Same book, different page, is the picture of Neville Chamberlain holding up the peace treaty signed by Hitler promising no more aggression. That was the other side of dealing with bullies. I wanted that too.

I dug for a long time to find a pair of representative quotes with which to open the novel. I needed two that resonated together, and said something important about facing blood-chilling fear, about what history demands of you when you’re staring down something merciless and wicked and hungry. I hope you like them.

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See you soon.

Traffic jam with rows of cars

 

 

 

Constructing The Puzzle Box

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It was a bit of a bummer to me to learn a couple of years ago that book cover artists don’t actually read your book. Those folks who’ve been grailrunning with us a while know how we feel about inspiring imaginations – especially visionaries who build incredible imagery. I tried running an art campaign at the first book’s launch, hoping to draw in excited digital and traditional painters who’d put form to the concepts and key scenes from the book. I got some entries; but none related to much in the book at all. It got me thinking – just how can you draw those talented folks into your world?

When I stumbled across the dude who wound up making the cover to TEARING DOWN THE STATUES, I was fairly pumped about it. He’s easy to work with and very good. Drop me a note if you want a referral. I sent him a few juvenile pieces I’d put together in Photoshop, the text for the back cover, a bulleted list of major scenes and characters in the book I thought would be iconic for a cover, and tried to relax and let his process happen. I hoped he’d read the book, so I sent him the pdf. He did a fantastic job; and a lot of you have commented on that cover. But he didn’t read the book.

So it’s part of my process now to try and forge my own concept art when the book is taking shape. It helps with the cover artists; and it honestly helps me as well – just to see how the book might be best positioned when it hits the shelves. Maybe one day, I’ll be a Photoshop artisan whose work can just go right on the cover. You can have a free copy of the first hardback art book. I can dream, right?

Above is my first shot at a promotional teaser for the upcoming flash fiction collection. No way is that going to be the cover because I don’t know what I’m doing visually. But it’s the kind of thing that’s in my mind to try and visually narrate what the collection is going to be, based on the stories and the framework.

I know, there’s supposed to be a dark fantasy thriller…urban horror…kind of thingie coming out this summer! Why am I not writing that?!

Patience, please. Life happened, and keeps happening. I’m 60k words in and have all mysteries solved in my mind, major plot points hedged out, and know how it ends.  All the characters are popping, and the dialogue sounds real. It’s getting there, just not as close as the story collection. If you’d like to beta read a few chapters and see some of the concept art, just drop me a note or comment here. 

Have a great start to your summer!

 

 

Wheels Within Wheels: The Embedded Philosophy of The Salt Mystic Series

LensLook at the diagram. Let’s chat about people.

The ones who enjoy change and excitement, say they’re far along the upper arrow. The people who more appreciate stability and equilibrium, say they’re farther along the lower arrow. The ones who burn, they like different faces and different streets, to shake things up for the sake of doing so. Their counterparts farther on the lower arrow do what they have to in order to keep the waters calm – sometimes changes even make them physically ill.

The horizontal arrow describes how these two very different types of people will approach their preferences. On the right-hand side, some of us prefer to think about people and can recall names of wives and children. Those along that arrow have spent their lives filing away personal details so they can use them. Alternately, the people farther along the left-hand arrow focus their attention on tangible things like tasks and goals and machines. Emotions and relationships are among the last things those along the left-hand arrow would think of.

Okay so far? Let’s go around the diagram and see what shakes out.

FIRE/BONE – Inspiring change in their surroundings by focusing on tasks and goals. They’re bold and dominant, often misunderstood as unreasonable.

FIRE/FLESH – Inspiring change in their surroundings, by focusing on people and relationships. This is the guy who puts a smile on your face as soon as he walks in the room. If he wants you happy, you’re happy. If he wants you upset, he can do that too.

FLESH/ICE – Seeking to keep things the same, but by focusing on people and relationships. This is the lady who pats you on the back and tells you everything will be okay, that you can get through this. “This too shall pass”.

ICE/BONE – Seeking equilibrium, by focusing on tasks and goals. These folks like spreadsheets and accounting and math, things that are predictable and controllable. They like solving puzzles.

Nothing earth-shattering yet, right? Maybe you’ve even seen this before. But none of these people are on an island alone. Forces arise when you put them together. For example, the dominant FIRE/BONE person will grow quickly impatient with the ICE/BONE guy when he starts going into the details and assumptions behind his calculations. ‘Get to the point’, right?

Spend enough time thinking this through, applying the axis to circumstances, you find at least ten key types:

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If you scale that up, what are the implications?  Place these character types in specific circumstances; and dynamics arise. 

I can place a Libertine in a position of high authority and prestige and make predictions about what he will do, because we’ve seen that power corrupts. Alternately, I can place a Tinker at the head of a brewing and suffering crowd and spark a revolution. I can see a Strongman blindly forging his empire but being stabbed in the corridor by the group of Whisperers he was unaware were plotting. Do you see how the patterns are the familiar?

We can in fact recognize at least two pairs of forces arising from circumstances:

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That’s for each type; but if you place different types alongside each other in a set of events, the dynamics get more complicated. We can say a type is in one of three orientations to these forces:

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And all of this leads to the biggest influencer of human events there is. MOMENTUM. All fortunes, good and bad, have momentum. If you start winning, you’re often going to keep up the streak. If you start losing, it seems to happen in clusters. You can see it in sports when a team gets ‘psyched out’ or ‘freezes up’. You can see it in life. And you can see it on a large scale in human events with major cultural zeitgeist shifts such as the ever-predictable shifts from EXCITEMENT and OPTIMISM to ENNUI and FATIGUE. Go ahead and examine the last 2,000 years to see the obvious pattern of EXPANSION and CONTRACTION like waves on the shore.

The first book of the Salt Mystic series is titled ‘TEARING DOWN THE STATUES‘. In it, a mystic stumbled out of the salt flats two millennia prior to events and said something like this:

“I thought of the momentum of history as a fast ship on the sea, the wake of decisions rippling through the future as inset circles fluttering on an island pond…the awesome, secret structure of coincidence tying designs from behind the hanging tapestry, and pulling back…like standing to appraise a chalk drawing, the whole of it falling into wheels within wheels…a clockwork of events the scale of mountains and yet also the fuzz of an insect stumbling drunk from the flower. And suddenly I saw the shape of history in all its wonder.”

She saw the patterns and the types, the forces and players, and wanted to steer events towards better futures than she imagined were coming. Very much unlike Hari Seldon in Isaac Asimov’s fantastic ‘Foundation’ series, the Salt Mystic knew that people and events are chaotically sensitive to initial conditions and quite unpredictable. So she provided a set of symbols and rules for simulating a given set of types and circumstances – an event reading – that will clearly show how those sorts of patterns almost always resolve given the patterns of history. Characters in the book attend an event reading to discover a major twist in the story – it’s in Chapter 5.

More importantly, the Salt Mystic engineered a safety mechanism should things veer far enough in the wrong direction throughout history. She spread carefully engineered myths and fables, precisely suited to particular patterns of types and forces, that carried enough embedded details to inspire a guardian to arise. The guardian could be anyone, even you or me. The fables were ones everyone knew; but in the right time and place and with the right person, miracles would happen.

While it took two years to finally happen, I’m happy to say people are at last asking about the philosophy behind the book. That’s why I wrote this article, in fact – thanks to a children’s book writer who sat next to me on a plane trip from Dallas to Kansas City. It’s based loosely on DISC and Meyers-Briggs personality profiling as well as Belbin types – although the expansion into circumstances and human events is original.

The bit about engineering guardians into fables, I’m working on making that real. Will keep you posted on how that’s going.