Old Books and Lost Libraries

In Oral Tradition

We start with oral tradition, the passage of knowledge and lore from one generation to another. Thanks, Elders! How cool is that? Father to son. Mother to daughter. Grandparent to child.  It’s nostalgic for us to think about. We may not realize it, but this is how culture and society are most profoundly shapedby the voices of our folk.

Read books to our kids and they grow up liking stories. Celebrate the games and they’ll pick a team. Play the right music and they might just choose an instrument. But tell a child something about themselves?and they grow in the ways of understanding. We are influenced through notes of tradition, some of which try to answer the old, difficult questions:

It wasn’t until the invention of writing that our best answers to these questions went further than the carry of a voice. It’s interesting to think about the expansion of the Bronze Age and the proliferation of writing some 5,000 years ago. Yet, we began drawing symbols and star maps on tortoise shells almost 10,000 years ago. Before that, it was ochre and ash on the walls of a cave. Now we have telephones, internet, and radioall made possible through systematic writing. So that’s our keystone on the bridge of time: Writing. And books!

Ten of the Oldest Books in the World

Ten of the Oldest Books in the World

So much has been lost to oral tradition. Yet, these books survived. To imagine oneself in the time period of these book’s inception is an incomplete thought. Architecture, tools, and other relics of the past serve to paint a picture. But what of the community, the families, the Barons, Caliphs, and Kings? The scholars, astronomers, craftsmen, and priests? Surely they had stories, songs, and games. They had oral tradition.

Ancient texts are the next best thing. Although much heart and soul went into creating the artifacts we find and excavateit is writing which conveys human thought in most clarity.  Most of us can never be bothered to study archaic inscriptions, yet the images alone are a window through time. Some one had to sit down,  with enduring  interest, and temper a mercurial thing into permanence; to put thoughts and imagination into words.

It has been said that everything which exists on the internet will be stored for eternity. Perhaps the internet will become the recollected memory of an Artificial Super Intelligence. But I wonder how much it costs to print a novel on metal? You know, just in case some one digs us out of the sediment 3 billion years from now. Then again, scientists at Harvard are learning how to store data in DNA.  700 Terabytes in a single gram. Who knows what information is stowed away in us, some hidden corpus, preserved through lineage, awaiting exposition since the dawn of our creation. Lostif we go extinct.

 

Black with Ink and Red with Blood the River Tigris Ran

bagdad1258

Siege of Baghdad (1258)

We have to remember that Baghdad today is very different from the Baghdad of the Middle Ages. 760 years ago, the Middle East was the cultural and intellectual center of the world; attracting minds and colors from all corners of the Earth.

The Golden Age of Islam preserved and elaborated upon many thousands of literary works from Mesopotamian, Chinese, Indian, Greek, and Latin cultures. Our numeric system and many names of stars in the sky were touched by the minds of this era. If anything, remember the Middle Ages & Middle East as an important crux in history because its great undoing could be said to have come at the folly of a single parlay.

Genghis Khan (who died almost 30 years prior to Baghdad) united the Horse Tribes and removed all sources of sedition. He established the largest continental empire in historygave it writing, census, trade, and law. After conquering Eurasia, he was no stranger to poetic diplomacy:

“I am master of the lands of the rising sun, while you rule those of the setting sun.  Let us conclude a treaty of friendship and peace.”

This was the trade agreement he sought in 1218 with the venerable Shah of Khwarezmid, who accepted the entente. But the Shah massacred the trade caravans upon arrival, suspecting them as spies. When the Khan sent three wise men to seek restitution, the Shah beheaded them as well; a grave perversion. From henceforth the Mongols were undeterred and immune to mercy in the disposal of such an enemy.

When the Mongols razed Baghdad in 1258, they not only slaughtered its peoplewho had surrenderedthey destroyed free hospitals, pillaged harems,  ransacked The Grand Library, buried the canals and salted the earth. The manner in which Baghdad was erased left a deep scar in the heart of Islam. It never forgave.

But what if the Mongols had preserved the books? How would the enlightenment of Islam be changed today? These were cast into the Tigris River, which swirled black with ink during the week of February 13th-20th of 1258. Good works of Anatomy and Medicine, Mathematics and Astronomy, important Sciences and Philosophies all were spoiled. Perhaps even some Ideas and Histories are now gone foreverforgotten to the Libraries of the Lost.

Why Do Great Rivers choose to Run through Earth’s Largest Cities?

Gene Wolfe from Shadows of the New Sun

pennington-interview

Convincing barbarians not to break our stuff is like throwing stones at the moon. It tests the further reaches of human nature. One would have to stretch their mind to accept an idea outside of their reality. This consumes resources. But you are not a barbarian and that is an immense advantage.

Suppose that we had the ear of a Mongol warlord. What if he could be persuaded to preserve the treasures of the library? If he had to choose between the red library (Blood) and the black library (Ink). Could he save one or the other?

Perhaps the warlord may still have put us in the riverpriorities being what they were:

fNeC6ec

CANTICLE

Social Network – A Song of Ice and Fire

George R.R Martin Works Across the Street from his House

It’s true,  he bought the property across the street from his home in New Mexico. It’s just a short walk across the way, he might even stop to grab the morning paper. George mentions that his wife appreciates it because now he has to put on clothes when he works. But if you happen to spot George wearing a bathrobe as he crosses the street; one must be careful not to rule out the possible sighting of a Wizard.

Now, there are over 150 characters in the Game of Thrones story, and each of them so deeply endearing that we often feel emotional shock when they fail, are maimed, or killed. The following diagram was pulled from a study published by Andrew Beveridge and Jie Shan of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) which is like the MMA for nerds. Except not, in fact you know nothing until you download the full report:

Full Report in PDF format here

Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR)

OK, Jon Snow. But the document is only 5 pages and really quite interesting, I suggest you give it a try. In essence, we are mapping the social network of A Game of Thrones using the science of modularity. The data is not only visualized by the number of Facebook Friends each character has but also how popular those friends are with other people in the community. Neat, huh?

Well it gets better, the mapping also takes into consideration similar algorithms to Google’s page ranking system, and the colors divide up the seven primary communities: (37% to the Lannisters of King’s Landing)

And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.

The Image was Created Using Gephi

Now, let’s get ready to geek out because Gephi is the open source data visualization software and it’s super fun and easy to use. It automatically maps out your data in real time, so you can adjust various weight parameters and see how the graph expands and contracts. It’s like watching a molecule trying to untangle itself.

It takes a little massaging before you get something that looks nice, and 90% of the work is going to be preparation in the database. But for the hobbyists like myself, some simple setup in Microsoft Excel is enough to get your balls rolling:

Process Groups

Sorry about the image quality. Was looking for the source files I used to create these last year. But this will have to do.

Hugh Howley’s Wool & Near Death Experiences

Wool is a Science Fiction Story of Humanity’s Last Stand

 

I love these sort of ‘The Last of Us’ dystopian stories, where mankind is the endangered species. Neal Stephenson’s SEVENEVES is another great recommendation if that’s your fix. These stories bring out the best of humanity’s conflict with itself, and they’re often very well-done.

Illustriously written by Mr. Hugh Howey, who may be reading this as he sails the world in his customized catamaran, the story of Wool pulls us into a narrow world where humanity is divided and polarized by a government run askew of her people’s best interests. Sound familiar, America? Contentious as the political engagements may be today, we still live in a wide, open, free country. So how would we behave and make up the rules when we are confined to living underground in silo sized bunkers?

Hugh captures this idea with an intriguing story originally written in parts and now published as a single compendium that flows quite nicely from end to end. Now, despite his prose with its occasional flaws, I would still highly recommend reading Wool before the film adaptation. For those of us who enjoy some gritty and thrilling science fiction, this book is an essential read with an experience akin to The Martian (Andy Weir). So let’s jump in:

Math Steps

 

Sunk beneath the terrain of a hostile world, the silos of Wool take two days to descend on foot. The staircase fits a spiral along the wall from floor 1 down to 150, with an abyssal atrium in the center. Now, Hugh can be forgiven for not including an elevator in the story. But let’s add some birds for scale:

When climbing stairs, the average person might burn about 300 calories per hour. If we climbed for ten hours in a day we might expect to consume about 3,000 calories (Eat your trail mix). Now, on average, we burn about 0.17 calories per step on a climb, or say about 1.5 calories every 10 upward steps. Whether we dice it as 3,000 calories divided by 0.17 cal per step OR 3,000 calories by the 1.5 calories per ten steps, we get roughly 17,700-20,000 steps taken in a ten hour day. So there are perhaps around 40,000 steps in the entire silo if it takes two days to climb; or 266 steps in a ring around the silo for each floor.

Now, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest staircase in the world is the Niesenbahn funicular railway of Spiez, Switzerland with 11,674 steps and a round trip burning over 3,000 calories. OK, math checks out. Meanwhile, at the time of writing this, the record for climbing the most stairs in 12 hours was held in 2014 by Christian Riedl of Germany, who ascended 70,148 stairs or just under 43,129 vertical feet. So these Swiss-Germans are pretty good about their stairs (I know, because I’m one).

 

Death by Dehydration

 

Having backpacked and camped on several hiking adventures, I can sympathize with the tired legs of Wool’s characters, but what stands out in my memory is the thirst. The human body is recommended to consume about two liters of water per day. We’re going to expel a lot of water on a 10 hour climb, and that needs to be replenished. There are about 3.7 liters in a gallon, so I thought I would bring two gallons of water for my group, there being 3 of us. That’s 16.5 pounds of water (7.5kg), not too heavy. Maybe a little bulky, but whatever, I’m Swiss-German and I’m built to climb. (Flexes like Dolph Lundgren)

“Oh, no, Jon. For a day hike, you only need about a liter.”

“OK,” I said, trusting the better judgment of someone wise beyond my years.

So there I was, hiking Yosemite with a liter of water and a walking stick I found when a real Swiss-German passed us on the trail. He paced with us for a time, we exchanged stories of hiking adventures and thoughts of future conquests. Said I’d look him up, write him a letter, find him at the summit of another mountain some time. Then, as he passed us with imperceivable effort, I spotted the Grape Koolaid in the side of his pack and pondered the replenishment of electrolytes as I paused to gulp plain water from my canteen.

Several hours later, my water supply exhausted, we were reaching the summit of Half Dome and I was thirsty. Almost there, you can make it. I wasn’t husk-dry yet, but when I saw the Swiss-German a second time, as he was making his descent, he let me know I still had a few miles to go. Damn. Soldier on I did. Then, as I climbed the cables and made it to the summit, there I found a cache in a pile of rocks. The Grape Koolaid our friend had stashed, and also a note:

‘You’re halfway home at the top of Half Dome,’ the message was scrawled on a shred of yellow notebook paper. An email address too.

Ha! You glorious bastard, I thanked him as tasty-purple sugar water hit my burning lips. I was quenched, even saved some for my group. Ceremonious, that sharing of a drink on the summit of a mountain. And beautiful it was, for a time. The sun was getting low in the sky, and I can tell you from experience you don’t want to hike at night: It’s dark, you’re tired, and you’ve still got so far to go before the footsteps become footfalls and your feet feel like hammers.

So I ran down that mountain in the setting sun, chased by blood-thirsty mosquitoes buzzing in my ear. I’m told they home in on their meal by chemical sense of exhaled carbon dioxide. So I breathed out the side of my mouth for what good it would do. Must have thrown them off. I hadn’t quite been bitten as I made it into camp and collapsed for 40 minutes before my group caught up.

They drew water from the stream, purified it, replenished themselves, and offered me some. I made a mistake. I declined. I was thirsty, but more tired and thinking myself resilient (Dolph Lundgren half-flex/half-sleep). So I rolled over and crashed into sleep.

Hours later, I awoke with a feeling that can only be described as excruciating shrinkage of the brain. It was worse than a hang-over. It was as if my brain was throbbing in a vice, ripped from the walls of my skull, the last few strands still sticking. I imagined pink, gelatinous cobwebs between tissue and bone. This was visceral awareness that I could die of thirst; for certain I can tell you that our brains do shrink when we dehydrate. I moaned in agony, to this day perhaps a little embarrassed that other tents amongst the camp had heard me. I was weak. But I was given water, Advil, and some time later after wandering in the dark, crunching twigs beneath boot and looking up at the stars, I sensed my brain soaking fluids like a sponge and I was able to lay back down and go to sleep.

Still though, pack enough water. Even if it looks like rain. Because dying of thirst hurts worse than you think.

 

Reflection on the Story of Wool

 

The people of Wool have a hard life, but they never complained like I did. When they were thirsty, Hugh gave them water. He gave them tangible characteristics, he gave them perspective, and sometimes a quite realistic and jarring sense of suffering. But what he didn’t give them was an adequate degree of interpersonal tension and substance to their motives. Our minds can fill in the blanks, but fantastic drama is costly to conceive.

Now, I could be putting too much emphasis on this because Hugh’s world is so vividly painted, and certain absences of detail appear intentional as to increase the story’s allure. But there remains a missed potential in the drama. The characters seemed swept up in the tsunami that is this story, rather than being the drivers of it. Perhaps a little emphasis on motives sprinkled here and there would have served to charge the sentiment. Hugh accomplishes this impressively in so many other places. Yet, other parts could have been written to make the consequence of character’s choices more developmental of their persona. Still, Wool’s characters are resonant. You will remember their choices if not their names, and I would argue that the lack of emphasis on the drama gives that power to Wool’s hostile world and its gorgeously realized minutia.

Maybe I was just thirsty for more of this awesome story. I am deeply inspired by Hugh’s work after all. My imagination periodically traveling down new developmental tangents, adding my own descriptors to his exceptional work. Yet, some how this seemed wrong to me because I was pulled out of the flow of the real story. But again, we are open, wide and free to read and pause as we choose, and that may be one advantage literature has over other media. Food for thought.

In retrospect, these indicators might be evidence of a hasty developmental edit, yet Hugh’s rapid, episodal release strategy has proven incredibly lucrative and successful. It’s because his stories are bold, with a solid and adherent framework in place. He brings his world to life and we truly experience the danger of it.

In wool, there are many things you would expect to find in an underground silo, and some you would not. But what becomes familiar are these special suits which are worn in hostile environments. I love when an author can reuse the same plot device instead of introducing a new one. It gives the reader a sense of affiliation with an inanimate object. We begin to have expectations which can be exceeded.

 

Death by Asphyxiation

 

So, in our final story, we will consider this space suit, pressurized with air. Hugh does amazing things with these suits. But you have to read the story to find out. As we know, air-tight suits tend to have a limited supply of Oxygen and thus our characters can be put in dire situations once exposed to the elements. Hugh’s action scenes are so vivid that I am reminded of the real dangers from my own experiences with Scuba Diving.

There is a different fauna of sea life a hundred feet below the ocean. The corals don’t really grow here, there is a desert of sand and the water is royal blue. Schools of fish, sand rays, and the occasional shark meander about. However, on a good day at twilight, you can roll onto your back and witness an incredible sight fifty to sixty feet above you.

In-between you and the setting sun, which seems to change to an oily liquid in the translucent waves above, you come to realize that you are at the bottom of a giant box of water. Within this box (your field of view) there are small fish schooling on a cloud of plankton, medium fish are picking them off, and larger predators take bites out of the medium fish. It’s a food chain unfolding before your very eyes. A feeding frenzy in your very own, giant box of water.

But this was not one of those days. It was high noon and I was chasing a school of Goatfish with a camera a hundred feet below the surface. The thing about chasing things under water, is that we humans are not built for efficiency. Paddling your fins expends energy, which consumes oxygen faster. Before I realized it, I was in the red.

Now the thing about running out of air a hundred feet below the water is that you wouldn’t simply make a break for the surface. At such depths, in your box of water, the hydrostatic pressure is increased to something like 40 pounds per square inch (PSI). Our atmosphere is 14.7 PSI and things tend to expand when depressurized. In this scenario, an emergency ascent would have released the nitrogen in my tissues as gas bubbles that would have entered my blood, rendering me unconscious (or dead) before I ever reached the surface.

So I reduced my breathing, conserving my air as I approached our dive master and signaled that I was running out of air. She scribbled something on a little white board with her underwater marker and held it up for me to read:

“Do what you can”

Whoops. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I remember feeling a little offended at how nonchalantly she reacted to my ply for help. But in hindsight it was the right first step. There are a dozen good reasons to dive with a buddy. So we always pair up before we submerge. I got my buddy’s attention and flashed the hand signals for:

‘Hey, I’m out of air. Share air?’

‘OK. Share air,’ my buddy says, and hands me the spare regulator from her tank. Its marked yellow so we can find it in an emergency. I remove my regulator. Make a mistake now and I’m dead. I blow some bubbles, would be shitty to inhale water right now. Take the yellow regulator, press the button which expels any water in the mouth piece, there are more bubbles, and I put it in my mouth. I bite down hard on the mouth guard, expel any remaining water and take my first breath of air from my partner’s tank. I can hear the hiss of air moving through the regulator.

I feel awesome actually. This was handled quite well. Sort of like what heroes would do for each other in our situation. We lock arms and float to seventy feet for a decompression stop, about 4 minutes. I feel the spongy tissues in my sinus expanding. You can actually hear it too, there is a pinched-squeezing sound that eventually releases in a pop. It’s an odd sensation, satisfying actually. Gives perspective to the anatomy: spongy stuff between hard bone. We float to thirty feet and repeat the decompression stop. Eventually we make it to the surface and I’m a little wiser.

 

Wool in Conclusion

 

In conclusion, Hugh Howey’s Wool reminds me of two times I felt the possibility of death. If he didn’t like my review, maybe third times the charm, eh? That’s pretty riveting. But for those of you who can take proper care of yourselves, prepare to feel real danger in the reading of this masterpiece. Seldom do we come across a work of science fiction so believable that we are forced to turn a page. You may even be so inclined as to read the followup works of Shift and Dust. I know I will. Hugh Howey made me do it.

Sanderson on a Plane

Brandon Sanderson, You’re Part of the Reason I Write

Well, actually it was M.R Carey’s ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ that pushed me over the edge and allowed me to slip into the catharsis that is writing fantasy and science fiction. I can’t recommend M.R Carey’s book highly enough, but that will come. There are many authors I wish to analyze and discuss in subsequent posts.

But today’s space in my heart is reserved for Mr. Sanderson and The Way of Kings (TWoK). I’ve a soft spot in my heart for honorable characters in literature, and I’ve cried thrice in my life while reading or watching a story unfold. Mr. Sanderson almost got me this time, but I’ve still got Words of Radiance waiting on my shelf. It’s a funny thing because there might have been a real tear shed for TWoK had I not been a little dried out from the Johnnie Walker I’d been drinking at the time. But Mr. Sanderson did things to my heart that showed me what good astoundingly well-planned and executed literature can do to a person who reads it.

Our story begins with the Barnes and Noble book store which I visit sometimes on a rainy Saturday. There, I hide away in the far back corner next to the dictionaries and exam preparation section to steal into the first few chapters of a new book. It’s pretty inadequate. Toddlers and babies pilfer my attention with their squeals from aisles unseen; and I occasionally look up from the pages to consider the next person wandering into my secret space; some times a girl who’s loveliness demands the book be set down. Other times a new friend. But I digress. This is where Mr. Sanderson and I first met. I opened your cover to see what’s inside.

A Lesson in Marketing

 

Right away, Orson Scott Card told me you were OK to read, and then there was Jolly Saint Rothfuss, who’s opinion, for me anyway, is gold. (Being that I’d aspire to write a story a third as good as him some day.) And it’s interesting how these reviews from other authors rope me in. I suppose in the vast spectrum of marketing strategies, there’s a hook for each and every one of us. For me, it is things touched by authors which I admire. Because to me, reading something they’ve enjoyed is like stepping on the next keystone of a long and winding path to literary success. I see something through their eyes, maybe something that has influenced their recent work. I become a little more like them. A skilled author.

A Lesson in Setting the Bar

 

Now, what Sanderson does with the English language is no short of redefining how we think about fiction in several ways. Take a classic such as Dune (Frank Herbert) who’s elements of minutia are timeless (I still drop Spice Melange and Mentat into casual conversation at least once per year, but in my defense my girlfriend’s name is Melanie and she’s fucking smart). Yet, Mr. Herbert had no barometer for how to tie the elements of his drama in a way that Sanderson accomplishes. Herbert’s elements are lightly touched, and from treachery to character arc, never quite seem to tie into the climax in a way that is so emotionally moving. Sanderson on the other hand, can crush a reader’s heart and squeeze the blackness from it, leaving a new capacity for self-love and love for others. Let’s talk about the slow build up.

A Lesson in Pacing

And believe me it is slow. In this 1,258 page masterpiece, I found plenty of room to skim. There are side quests and characters which serve to build the world and pace the story. But I, personally, see that they were delivered with inherent flaws. They’re somewhat incongruent and awkwardly executed. Maybe I’m being greedy, but even Shallan and Jasnah could’ve gone a slightly better way. Their tension was trite compared to what is accomplished under similar circumstances elsewhere in literature. Forgivable! Believe me, absolutely, the substance of this story is all there despite its flaws. And perhaps it is these disappointments which, by contrast, make the high-points of The Way of Kings that much more savory.

Now, the build up, however paced, is ultimately one of the most rewarding works of fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading. So let’s discuss why we are here. Mr. Sanderson, you’re the reason I write. You’ve shown me so much of what to do, and what not to do in order for me to write literature to my personal tastes. Much thanks are in order, they are due to both you and your characters.

A Lesson in Characterization

Mr. Sanderson’s Kaladin quickly seduced me in a way that no other character ever can, has, or likely will. Kaladin is the type of guy who works his ass off in difficult conditions, saves his money, and then pays his and your debts. He’s like a person you owe your life to, who can also be a best friend, and the other characters in TWoK tend to edify this. He is immediately endearing on the battle field where time and time again he is placed as the underdog and it is through Sanderson’s minutia and Kaladin’s uncompromising morals that our hero wrenched my heart. So without going too deep and spoiling the book, know that Kaladin sets the bar very high for protagonists, and authors might aspire to embody character traits in escalation to the par Sanderson accomplishes in The Way of Kings.

A Two Part Conclusion to Today’s Story

(1)

Pages 500-800

In one particular country, I did not have cash for the shuttle to the air port. The driver and I arranged that I would withdraw some cash from the ATM once we reached the airport. There, we arrived, and standing before me were two options: 1) The ATM and 2) The concierge desk for the shuttle company. I looked in the driver’s eyes, read his anticipation. There was no hiding his tell. I made the withdrawal from the ATM and watched him pocket the cash, he was grateful I hadn’t gone to the concierge. Call it embezzlement, but we can’t be certain. He may have paid his dues after we parted ways. At any rate, the point is I mistakenly added a zero and had withdrawn ten times the cash he requested. Then, as I attempted to exchange currency back to USD, the clerk informed me that the USD exchange was upstairs. No problem, I thought. Plenty of time before my flight. Thank you for your timely delivery, Mr. Shuttle Man.

Now, in this particular airport, the gates are protected by a winding maze of a department store. Not IKEA, but the idea was the same. One way in, one way out. As I, like all passengers, was digested by this cash trap, I perused the food and liquor section for gifts. There, we found the bin of mini-bottles. One product held a birch twig suspended in liqueur; an excellent gift. ‘Buy 5 get 6 free’ the sign read. Melanie (she’s fucking smart) jumped at the occasion to obtain 11 bottles for the price of 5. I too would be delighted to take this deal. Easy, economical, discrete, perfect for stoking a buzz while I enjoy a little Sanderson on a Plane. But alas, as to be expected we walked out of there with 12 for the price of 10 and a little less to take to the USD exchange. So I chomped through the middle half of that book and a few experimental cocktails before we landed in America and Sanderson had me thirsty for more.

(2)

Pages 800-1258

There is a Bass Pro Shop in San Jose, California. It’s a bit of a theme park, the interior so astoundingly adorned with log cabin finish, walls of taxidermy, waterfall, fish tank, and a massive fire hearth perhaps 12 feet high in a foyer at the entrance. This is where I chose to make my final stand, and crunch the last 458 pages of the story with the furnace ablaze. (And despite the high traffic of the entrance near this particular lounge chair, I find the silence of huntsmen and outdoorsy compatriots to be particularly less unsettling than the screaming childfolk of Barnes and Noble)

I can’t sit still. I shift, change corners, try a rocking chair, leather chair, different cushions of a couch. This book has me anxious. There happens to be a bar and bowling alley attached to this Bass Pro Shop. I recommend you try it. They serve Fried Alligator. Now, you know a nerd when you see one reading a book at an entertainment venue. (Hello Mr. King) But there are three final magic tricks to this story which make reading a book in a bar scene perfectly acceptable. First, by miracle alone, the bartender had read your book, Mr. Sanderson! All of them in fact. This was beneficial for his tip, and the potency of the beverages he served me. But it also forged a sense of kinship as I delved into the last chapters of your book. Here we were, two bros with an instant connection of mutual interest. And that in itself may have been a strange, worldly catalyst for my growing connection with Kaladin.

Secondly, I never did hear a bowling ball roll or strike a pin. It wasn’t even white noise. There were 6 lanes on either side of me, this was a family night, there were gutters, strikes, and spares a plenty. The cheers and fist pumps which resound therein. But it was your book, Mr. Sanderson, which calmed the storm around me, drew me in, and held my immersion with such influence.

Lastly, the bar tender (who’s body mass may be double my own) prescribed drink after drink. But I had hit the sweet spot. I cashed out, went back to the fire place, and sat in that lounge chair. By the gentle warmth of the hearth, and the warmth of my scotch I was layered and prepared for your words to shape me, Mr. Sanderson, and shape me they did. It was like a flashback to the Boy Scout Law. It was the posture of As A Gentleman Would Say. The Way of Kings is a cousin of The Book of Virtues. And so much more, so much else. Herein lies a lesson, not just in being a better writer. But a lesson in courage, sacrifice, temperance, and heroism. Where else?

A Lesson in Sending a Message

How did you do it, Mr. Sanderson? You gentle man with a giant’s heart and a secret skill for manipulating the emotions of others. Yet, you fight on the side of good. So who greater a champion for virtue than you, sir? I would shake your hand, not just because you are excellent at story telling. But because you have proven that we are moved to care about real world concepts through fiction; and even fantasy can be a device for leaving a lasting impression on a reader’s moral compass. This is important to understand, because it gives Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors the opportunity to mend hearts and fire imaginations. It changes playing with matches to naming stars in the sky.