Why you should read Certain to Win (and 5 other books)

Shepherd.com has just published my recommendations for your light summer reading.  The concept is to explain why people should read one of your books, and then to recommend five others, all around a common theme.  I took my inspiration from Boyd, whose basic method was to look for common themes — “invariants” —  across a wide variety of domains and then use these as the building blocks for his syntheses.

Here’s an example from his 1987 briefing, Strategic Game of ? and ?

SG Slide 12

Typical Boyd to begin his presentation on strategy with stuff from mathematical logic and physics. In that spirit, I recommend works from:

  • Statistics
  • Literature
  • Ancient wisdom & philosophy
  • Anatomy and Physiology

And Robert Coram’s Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War.

Just seemed like what every person ought to know. The site limits authors to five books, so I tried to pick subjects that you might have overlooked.

Go check it out: https://shepherd.com/best-books/for-upsetting-your-orientation

A bit of the old ultra-violence

Of the roughly 36,000 words that Boyd left behind, only about a tenth are in the form of a paper, that is, a linear stream of text. What if Boyd had expanded his textual output by 100,000 words and written a sci-fi novel along the lines of Starship Troopers? (Some of you believe that his one paper, “Destruction and Creation,” (1976) is written in an alien tongue but that doesn’t count). One of Scottish author Charles Stross’s characters does use the OODA loop, and quite appropriately, in the The Apocalypse Codex, as I described back in 2016, and so it might be a candidate for a “What if John Boyd …?” novel.

Here’s another. New author Ian Michael is serializing his novel, Ultra-Violence, on Sundays at the Fabius Maximus site. I think you’ll find lots of operating inside the OODA loop, cheng / chi, penetration along multiple thrusts, and even some moral conflict. So far, I haven’t stumbled across an explicit reference to the OODA loop, yet — although there’s plenty of messing with peoples’ orientations — but he’s only on chapter 4.

Check it out.

Here’s an obscure tip — there is a character named “Alex.” If that doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry about it.

Happy Birthday, Alice

Sun Tzu was a great fan of intelligence and spies in particular — check out Chapter 13 if you need a refresher —  because it’s much easier to operate inside opponents’ OODA loops if you already know what they’re going to do. As luck would have it, today is the birthday of Louise de Bettignies, AKA Alice Dubois, one of the greatest intelligence operatives of all time.

To explain why, a little historical perspective might prove useful. Although the German Schlieffen Plan failed to hook around Paris and end World War I in 1914, it left the Germans occupying a fair portion of northeastern France for the next 4 years. From January to September, 1915, this area provided the theater of operations for de Bettignies, whose network alerted the British to German plans and tactical movements  and almost took out the Kaiser himself. Among other feats of derring-do.

There are several bios of her, but historical fiction might be a good place to start. To this end, Kate Quinn has written a most readable — “page turner” wouldn’t be too strong — story of her operation, The Alice Network. I recommend it highly.

Happy Birthday, Louise.

The Casual Vacancy, a casual review

J.K. Rowling’s’ new book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, is positively Faulknerian. No, I’m not talking about the length of her sentences, but in tone and characterization, it reminds me of his classics like Absolom, Absolom! Light in August, and The Sound and the Fury:

  • It takes place in a small town and exploits long-standing relationships among the town’s inhabitants
  • It deals with “the human heart in conflict with itself,” as WCF put it in his Nobel acceptance speech. And so many of them to deal with.
  • There are Snopeses, lots of them.
  • It’s really dark. Few people laugh, and when they do, it’s rarely a good sign.

Fiction is such a personal preference, so I hesitate to recommend specific works to other readers. As for me, I liked it, but then I like Faulkner a lot, too. And such contemporary noiristas as James Lee Burke. Rowling truly lives up to Faulkner’s imperative:

[Man] is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.

Can Pagford be a 21st Century Jefferson and Yarvil the new Yoknapatawpha? She left enough threads hanging that it should be easy, if she wants to do it, to weave a new tale about them.  I, as a former resident of Jefferson, certainly hope she does.

The Casual Vacancy

J. K. Rowling’s new book just came. I ordered it last week from Amazon, the hard copy because it was only a couple more bucks than the Kindle edition. I feel bad, greenwise, but I can loan this to spouse, kids, friends, etc. Would it be too strong to say that publishers are stupid?

Vacancy was just released yesterday. Amazon had promised it by Monday via 2-day shipping — I signed up for Amazon Prime — but it was in today’s mail. A great example of zheng / qi: meet expectations and then some. Amazon is VERY good at this.

This will be my first book by Rowling, although I’ve seen several of the Harry Potter movies. Let you know.

My life in the Third World

Impressed as I am by Pat Lang’s highly successful foray into historical fiction, I have decided to jump in with my own tale of betrayal, deceit, and ultimately redemption. Until I finish that one, however, here’s a short story inspired by something that actually happened to me back in the summer of 1991, when I was in international sales for Lockheed.

God Bless the Whole Third World,”
or in the local dialect, “The Real Palawagi.”

Does it have anything to do with Boyd? Is there a Princess OODA in Around the World in 80 Days?