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Magic Realism Bot

As a teenager, I was enchanted by the magic realist stories of Jorge Luis Borges. One day, I realised that, 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 goal or purpose, 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.

So together with my sister Ali, who wrote the code, we made this Magic Realism Bot. It was originally called BorgesBot, but the particular flavour of dry, scholarly magic that Borges weaves was a bit restrictive (also, the metafictive element was hard to pull off in 140 characters).

So it now covers more colourful terrain – glass cathedrals, swimming pools filled with clocks, a tsarina who falls in love with time.

In the end, it became a blend of Borges with Calvino, Eco, García Márquez and Allende, together with a little bit of Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, Philip Pullman and (a childhood favourite of mine) Richard Hughes.

Follow Magic Realism Bot.

Thanks to Leonardo Flores, Bruce Rodley, Frances Rodley, Travis Korte.

Image: Sebastian Münster’s sea monster chart (1544)



Post a comment
  1. Anonymous #
    January 6, 2016

    So do you write them all yourself?! Or is a bot generating them?

    • April 17, 2016

      Sorry, missed this! A bot is generating them. I’ll add in a bit more explanation of how the sentences are constructed programmatically.

      • xyzzy #
        June 26, 2016

        Would be great to hear about the inputs and algorithms.

  2. Ross #
    April 17, 2016

    You feed base content and the rest is “one from column A and one from column B” at random?

    Is output also edited? curated?

  3. Malcolm McClintock #
    January 17, 2017

    I have so many questions! What text did the AI pull from? Is it structured with placeholders and generic sentence structures, or does it formulate the entire thing? Was there an SDK the code was built on?

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