Year
of·the
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This is an archived newsletter from Robin Sloan. You, too, can receive these! They go out every Sunday.

Week 23, spinning along one path and not another

Manuscript Leaf with Coat of Arms

Manuscript Leaf with Coat of Arms, from a Book of Hours, ca. 1500, Netherlandish

It was a fine day in the olive grove yesterday, doing mulch-centric tasks as afternoon faded into evening. Helping us was my friend Dan Bouk, who is not only a capable mulch-mover but also a great historian of, as he says, “bureaucracies, quantification, and other modern things shrouded in cloaks of boringness.”

Dan maintains a terrific blog about his current work on the 1940 U.S. Census. One post opens with this line:

Historians believe in contingency—we insist that the past did not have to turn out the way that it did, that chance occurrences and human choices send the world spinning along one path and not another.

Dan’s work on contingency introduced me to one of the strangest, most wonderful artifacts I’ve ever encountered: Alfred Lotka’s spinning wheels of fate. (If you have ever expressed any level of interest in “data visualization,” you are honor-bound to follow that link.)


There’s a small studio called Weather Factory that makes video games grounded in text, rich with story and (most of all) ~vibe~. Its previous game, called Cultist Simulator, is frankly too difficult for me, but/and it uses text to conjure a world with terrific economy and style.

Just this week, the studio announced their next game, to be called Book of Hours: “an elegant, melancholy, combat-free RPG set in an occult library.”

Book of Hours

You will be able to do things like

ACQUIRE occult books, by purchase or more underhand means, and STUDY them to solve the setting’s mysteries. RESTORE books to address the ravages of time, or PURIFY them to remove their curses and shadowy taints. Enjoy the sweet peace of indexing and cataloguing books to the order you desire, building a library to be proud of, while you defend it against storm, fire, theft and the occasional theoplasmic assault.

As I understand it, part of the idea is to deliver the ~vibe~ and captivation of Cultist Simulator in a game that’s significantly easier to play. Which sounds perfect to me!

There’s a special slot in the creative mind reserved for books (or movies, games, crossword puzzles—whatever) that are so laser-targeted at your preoccupations, so close to your heart, that you wish you’d come up with them yourself, but/and you know you wouldn’t have, not ever. The combination establishes a light tension, in which eagerness is spiced with just a pinch of jealousy. Personally I don’t think it’s an unpleasant feeling at all!

I have signed up for email updates and I encourage you to do the same.


A while back, the Mercury News interview me along with several other Bay Area authors, and I hadn’t seen the print artifact until yesterday. Hey look at that!

Hirsute

It’s funny that the day of this picture was probably my most hirsute in a decade. I hadn’t grown a beard in years, and the beard depicted has since been hacked back significantly. I’m glad the moment was captured, but/and I also think this looks like a portrait of Mirror Universe Sloan.

By far the most important thing about this feature is these recommendations, which you must heed:

Recs


A reminder: I have two big projects this year; if I fail to complete one (or both??) it will be a big bummer; thus, I will complete both.

One is code-named TWO-HEARTED, the manuscript for a sequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (and therefore also a companion novel to Sourdough; they all take place in the same universe). A period of intense work on that will begin next week.

The other is PENTWATER, a digital project. If my essay/app/thing called Fish was a gesture in a particular direction, PENTWATER packs a bag, tightens its laces, and strikes off for the horizon. It will be fiction—a kind of interactive fiction? I wrote the code at the end of last year, and it’s been waiting patiently for me to fill it up with a story.

(Project-wise, a few subscribers will remember CHOCOLAY, a novella draft. I got about halfway through it, at which point I decided I didn’t like it enough to continue. Maybe one day! Not this year.)


Manuscript Leaf with Betrayal

Manuscript Leaf with Betrayal, from a Book of Hours, ca. 1500, Netherlandish

A couple weeks ago, I shared a survey about devices, which was intended to inform PENTWATER. I’ll share a few highlights.

First, to calibrate: this newsletter currently has about 4500 subscribers, and about 1000 of you completed the survey. This sample was of course totally self-selected. With that in mind:

56% use macOS / 32% use Windows

63% use iOS / 33% use Android

68% have ever purchased a video game

I will probably, probably make PENTWATER available on both macOS and Windows, available through the Mac App Store, Itch (where I currently offer Fish), and Steam. All in all, that’s a more complex kind of software publishing than I’ve ever done before, but I think it’s doable.


Friend of the Meteor Craig Mod recently completed a six-week walk across Japan.

If you passed over that sentence as if it was normal, I encourage you to pause and dwell on the idea of SIX WEEKS spent doing nothing but walking.

Craig writes:

A continuous walk is powerful because every day you can choose to be a new person. You flit between towns. You don’t really exist. And so this is who I decided to be: a fully present, disgustingly kind hello machine.

His piece for Wired, linked above, is just one way that Craig documented his long walk. He also sent weekly dispatches in his meditative Ridgeline newsletter and lightweight pings via plain old SMS, an approach he explained here.

Earlier this week, I jotted a reminder to include Craig’s walk in this email. At the end, I tapped this:

AND ALSO something about how it’s laudable that Craig is always making new tools, trying new things, like the SMS experiment. Like he is really TRYING. What if 10X more people were TRYING?


Manuscript Leaf with Resurrection

Manuscript Leaf with Resurrection, from a Book of Hours, ca. 1500, Netherlandish

Thanks to everyone who purchased May’s print offering. Over a thousand stories, each different, each with their own map (THEIR OWN MAP!), will go out tomorrow.

☄️R

June 2019, Oakland

Here, at the bottom of the page, I shall say again: the newsletter is the best way to keep up with new offerings.

This website uses the typeface Albertus Nova, an update by Toshi Omagari of Berthold Wolpe’s classic, and GT America, designed by Noël Leu with Seb McLauchlan.

Have a question? Spot a typo? Your story didn’t arrive? Email robin@robinsloan.com

hony soyt qui mal pence