an azure & emerald tome describing a world made only of plates of beans
November 11, 2015 7:55 AM   Subscribe

If you, too, tend to forget to visit MeFi Projects, possibly due to everything existing everywhere, simultaneously, then you ought to check out MagicRealismBot on Twitter.

The bot tweets little story conceits, drawing from an array of writers from Borges to Pullman.

Some of my favorites:

- A Mongolian woman owns a concertina that plays the music of tomorrow.
- A physician is sent to jail, where he meets a thief who has stolen letters of the alphabet.
- A woman owns a tiny clockwork device which allows you to become a forest.
- The fate of the world depends on one particular kaleidoscope.
- An 18th century Anatolian mathematical treatise describes a world in which there is only a pirate ship, and a sailing ship. Nothing else.
- A professor is writing a history of Japan which describes a war against umbrellas that took place in 4,890 BC. (ED: Coming soon to Funimation.)
- A Spanish novel describes a good deed that is capable of destroying the sun. (ED: p. sure that's just the Spanish translation of a Doctor Who episode though)
- A secret society of popes try to disprove the existence of you. (ED: RUDE, popes. VERY RUDE.)

This bot was co-created by siblings (!) dontjumplarry (writin') and lexie yodel (codin'). dontjumplarry writes:

as brilliant as Borges’ ideas are, they usually follow an identifiable pattern: take a structure or practice (a map, a library, a labyrinth, writing a novel, falling in love, death by firing squad), find its underlying telos, then exaggerate the structure or practice ad absurdum so that it overfulfils it. In a word, Borges’ creations are hyperteleological.

I actually spent lots of time writing down my own ideas using this method (a Borgesian ATM machine, a Borgesian shopping mall, a Borgesian Excel spreadsheet, etc). Then recently, it occurred to me that you could probably automate that process.

(more background here)

[via mefi projects]

h/t jcfa!
posted by wintersweet (20 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I love you, bot!
posted by clavdivs at 8:24 AM on November 11, 2015

I am simultaneously enthralled and horrified at this bot.
posted by dhruva at 8:29 AM on November 11, 2015

YES. This will make my Twitter feed 100% more joyous.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:51 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I approve so much I've undertaken a pilgrimage to a blind hermit living on a mountain made of doomed lovers.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:55 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Japanese war against umbrellas is completely plausible.
A monarch discovers that opposites do not exist, and commits suicide.
He should have read the Mesopotamian book.
posted by Rangi at 9:03 AM on November 11, 2015

Oh man, I am dying to see this code.
posted by the_blizz at 9:14 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

...On an ocean made of treason,
Everyone must be mysterious...
posted by Oyéah at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2015

Magic Realism Bot ‏@MagicRealismBot 9h9 hours ago

A hermit finds a mirror which reflects insanity.

I first read that as "inanity".
posted by nubs at 9:37 AM on November 11, 2015

Oh man, I am dying to see this code.
posted by the_blizz

I'll speak to lexie_yodel -- I think the code would work for other genres of stories too! Glad you like it!

A fun challenge was tuning the "level" of enchantment, which has to be weird enough to be interesting but not ~too~ weird. Sometimes the code would turn up a sentence which is just plain realist (a pharaoh builds a pyramid out of stone). Other times it would go slightly too far though (someone wants to dance with every golden infinity in Beijing, etc).

Another: how many modern things to put in there. Originally we had TVs, iPhones, Facebook, etc. I think we took most of these out but a few silly ones slipped through the net ("chicken nuggets" is in a long list that is otherwise nouns like "emeralds" "centaurs" "butterflies").

Another challenge I didn't expect: all the subtle assumptions you have to teach the bot, like what gender things tend to be (empress takes a female pronoun; is pope ~always~ male?, etc). We initially used gender-neutral they/them for everything but it often sounded a bit clunky for the old-school Borges flavour we wanted.
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:17 AM on November 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

This is amazing, one of the best bots of all time, but I have to say, if it turns out you guys went the horse_ebooks route and secretly wrote these all by hand it will break my heart.
posted by JHarris at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

A nihilistic geisha falls in love with everything.
posted by NMcCoy at 12:34 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just hope that the bots take over Twitter before robots take over all the other workplaces. Because that's one place where automation would vastly improve the product.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:03 PM on November 11, 2015

I like and I followed it BUT: the texts don't really seem Magical Realist to me (as Magical Realism sees magic in the mundane and closely), and I was coming to post that they were more Borgesian (which is closer to Fantasy and about faraway times and places mixed in with mostly Buenos Aires), when I saw that the authors cite Borges as their main influence, so I came in instead to nitpick whether or not Borges is Magical Realist, which he like obviously isn't, so let's you and me fight.
posted by signal at 4:51 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I tried to make the tags broad, because what is/isn't magic realism is pretty contentious, and I'm not into genre fights At All, so I'm just gonna...step out back for a moment...*runs*
posted by wintersweet at 5:12 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is pretty much my favorite twitter bot ever and also my favorite writing prompt generator ever.
posted by threeants at 7:39 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

"A novelist finds a map which shows the location of every skull in Calcutta"
posted by howfar at 5:50 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

It went silent last night. I wonder whether this is to avoid cluttering Twitter up with noise during the Paris massacre, or just a bug/glitch of some sort.
posted by acb at 4:08 PM on November 14, 2015

It's still quiet--I don't know; I suppose we could ask!

I know NoraReed turned off most of her bots yesterday, except for the mental health ones.
posted by wintersweet at 5:23 PM on November 14, 2015

Yes I love this! Could you write or post links to how the technical side of this is done?
posted by newdaddy at 4:53 AM on November 22, 2015

Yes I love this! Could you write or post links to how the technical side of this is done?
posted by newdaddy at 12:53 PM on November 22 [+] [!]

Yep, I'm gonna throw up an FAQ soon and link it from the URL section in the Twitter bio. Planning to put a general version of the code for people to use on GitHub at some point too.
posted by dontjumplarry at 10:39 PM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

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