Skip to content

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.

      • May 10, 2017

        Yes And No MDF.Keep them separate but let the masses elect those elitist, unaccountable demigods sit at the CC, SCA and the HCuÙs.S8rely the judiciary would be made more legitimate if it was elected by the masses, it’s rulings would be the rulings of the people.The people shall govern.

      • May 24, 2017

        one Korean actress (the one married to Jang Dong-gun, Taegukki actor) looks like a Filipina. I felt really insulted. I was thinking why do they think Filipinas are not beautiful? Filipinas look more feminine than Korean women. We have smaller face than they do and that’s one thing they can just always envy us. I can’t imagine how painful the surgery would be to cut off a bone in the jaw just to make their face small. hehehe

  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?

    • April 17, 2016

      Hey! I explain a bit more about the process in this interview:

      The bot uses a series of base templates (well over 100) which provide the basic syntax; these are then populated with randomized words from various categorized lists (people, places, things, concepts). Our output is never edited or curated.

    • May 10, 2017

      I have exactly what info I want. Check, please. Wait, it’s free? Aweosme!

    • July 10, 2017

      Reginald.A. skriver: 2012-03-05 13:29:32Avgifts höjning verkar var rymligt i relation till dagens prissättning. FrÃ¥gan är vad fÃ¥ jag för 130 kr. per Ã¥r. Tidning Veteranen plus en bra webbsite. Bra information om vad är pÃ¥ gÃ¥ng i vÃ¥rt pensionärs värld. MM. Vad…

  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?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The best Twitter bots of 2015 - Quartz
  2. Nerdcore › Insecure Webcam Bot didn’t start a Thinkpiece on Magic Realism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s