A friend of mine gifted me with a year-long subscription to MasterClass, and a section of that wonderful resource is a number of authors that discuss their work: Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell, David Baldacci, and even Dan Brown.
Brown’s series stood out to me because I’ve read more of his work than the others, but also because I can verify the man knows how to write a thriller.
One of the classes he teaches has to do with research, and to make sure your character is smarter than you. This is presumptively counterintuitive because the character must emanate from you. But in reality, even a few days of exhaustive research can result in a few paragraphs that are not only educated in print, but will outlast the half-life of retention that most things carry when we have no desire to pursue the subject extensively.
Same goes for innocence. I can be a jaded and cynical sort. I’ve no default setting to any thinking other than: mankind is nothing but a corrupt, self-serving dung heap that wraps himself in woke sanctimony to conceal his enmity with anything that carries the imago Dei.
Writing about circa-1979 childhood makes the innocence index a bit wider–mainly because of the technological limitations that slowed the overt plundering of childlike wonder.
Today, nine-year olds know things that should have been reserved for many years down the road. Mystery of any kind is a Google-search away. The hormonal idiocy of adolescent boys–one whose clandestine sins required planning, logistics, and a giggling sense of rule-violation to look at some centerfold poster on an uncle’s garage wall–no longer requires any of that. Every possible aberration under the sun is a click away. And sometimes an accidental click is all it takes to ignite a fire that ends in death.
And this–is why I believe we are all drawn to mystery; the idea that there is something around the corner that we don’t know. This is why I also believe that encryptions, codes and ciphers are one of the last holdouts for us–they still require a crucible of sorts. Granted, apps and algorithms have made it easier to parse anagrams, and reverse engineer a Playfair Cipher, a Ceaser Shift, or a simple substitution code. But there is no “Google” for these pursuits–the answers must be gained through traditional acquisition methods. Sometimes requiring one to physically-arrive at the spot in which an answer is to be found.
But there’s plenty of long-term ciphers that are not yet broken. I covered one of them briefly with Byron Priess’ “The Secret” (Nine of the twelve hidden keys have not been found since 1982).
The Dorabella Cipher hasn’t had anyone lay a glove on it:
Although I must admit. The claim that no one has laid a glove on it has been challenged–by a guy in a comments section I can’t relocate. He said he “Googled it.”
The background on this is at the link. I’m too lazy to write my own synopsis. Besides, it may come up in my book, and I don’t want to risk writing a better explanation here.
The world is too revealing. FaceBook has proven that it’s the worst place to post a puzzler. Imagine the modicum of brain cells required to simply obey the following:
RIDDLE: A plane carrying international passengers crashes, and the wreckage perfectly straddles the US/Canadian border. Where should the survivors be buried? DO NOT POST THE ANSWER IN COMMENTS!
Thirty seconds later, some screen-burnt avatar of continence and worldly wisdom posts:
“Nowhere. You don’t bury survivors.” (They then high-five themselves for their immediate equivalence to Marie Curie and Stephen Hawking, and slink away to their MENSA camps).
And this is why the cipher is so beautiful. Because it has a built-in indemnification for idiots. The information is there for those that want to seek it.
Jesus used parables for the same reasons, and really, in the exact same way. A man building his house upon the sand today–on Facebook–will immediately cause a debate as to “whether or not biblical views about the stability of malleable dirt as a foundational starting point are now considered to be myopic and unscientific.”
“But what about the idea that maybe Jesus meant that our physical and spiritual security is based in the integrity of planning–that what happens early van dictate what happens later?” Someone will ask.
‘You obviously hate science,” someone will say. “You probably go to Bethel.”
And on and on. usually, it’s a pile on after that. And they’re right. Mainly because there’s more of them.
And because, you know: