Sunday, September 3, 2017

Q&A: The "Stranger and Better" Numbering System

Most sections of your novel, "Stranger and Better," are numbered. Can you explain the system?

 At one point, I thought the book would unfold as a mystery, following a librarian character who unlocks a numeric code and uses that to locate and piece together all the entries. That eventually proved to be unworkable, partly because I couldn't come up with a good enough mystery code, and also because I didn't want to make the book 20,000 words longer, just for the sake of a mystery.

The final implementation of the code was supposed to reinforce the "fractal" theme - repetitions and iterations, mostly, more easily depicted and understood with short numbers than in the text. There are a couple of sections that mirror each other, either with an opening and closing, or a reversal, and their section numbers are mirror images (427 and 724, 421 and 124, 26 and 62).

Many of the remaining section numbers serve as a shorthand for the content of that scene. You definitely don't need to know the code to appreciate the text, but I hoped if someone was following along they'd pick up little hints and enjoy it on a second level. It's not particularly deep, just a sort of paint-by-numbers style (3 is Ish, 4 is happiness, etc. - it's more or less spelled out in some "editor's notes" inside the text).

Finally, we have the jokes. 101, 201, and 301 apply to sections with introductory, intermediate, and advanced philosophy. The 39 section mentions Rolling Rock, 151 involves rum, we've got "???" in a section on forgetfulness, 420 in a marijuana scene, and so on. Occasionally the number on the heading just matches a number inside the scene (Camel 99s), and on the really subtle side we've got section 413 which is code for the letters D (4th) and M (13th) in a scene that talks about the initials DM.

Then there's 42. At this point it's a cliche more than a joke (for those who know Douglas Adams) so I didn't want to play it up too much, but it appears twice in the book. Once as a header to a section about the meaning of life. The second is more subtle, but a book about the meaning of life also needed to have 42 chapters. 

Stranger and Better is available in digital format from Amazon ( ) and in print from most major online retailers.

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