SF noir

The Mysterious Case of ‘Iterating Grace,’ Part II

There are some new developments and plausible theories in the Mysterious Case of Iterating Grace, a strange little book that began showing up on various tech and media figures’ doorsteps last week. The 2,001-word story and hand-drawn tweets inside the volume are hilarious and crackling with intelligence. But the author is anonymous and his/her/their motives are obscure. (For those just joining us, you can get a rundown—and the full text of the story—in this post.)

Since I wrote it up Monday, some intriguing analyses have come into my mailbox. Maria Popova, proprietor of Brain Pickings, offered up this thought on the design of the object:

“Despite the intentional handcrafted feel – also a point of parody, IMO – this book is extremely intelligently typeset. I first looked at the type and thought it had Craig Mod written all over it. But then, looking at the cover and – especially! – the “Editors note,” it struck me that this is someone with experience in editorial design from the magazine world. In fact, between the aesthetic of these two design elements, the intimate familiarity with the tech world the text belies, and the list of people who got the book, I’m fairly certain this is a Wired expat, from the design side of the magazine. So you might want to look there – people who have left sometime in the past 18 months or so (hence time on their hands for elaborate things like this), who had been with the magazine for a fairly long time before that.”

Interesting! There are a few people who would fit this description, like, say, Tim Leong. Put him on the list of suspects.

Writer Edith Zimmerman offers this ominous bit of information about the anemone that came packaged with my book.

“You know anemones traditionally mean being FORSAKEN?? Or other death-related things. Mourning, etc. They are also sometimes though of as BAD LUCK. But also sometimes hope and anticipation. Depending on who’s interpreting. Also my personal fave flower!”

Let’s bank on hope, not on death-related things.

Two different people at the writer-hangout, the Grotto—Hunter Oatman-Stanford and Jason Roberts—have fingered the other literary gang in town, the McSweeney’s crew. Others have mentioned to me that it was clearly within their powers, too. Roberts pointed out that one of the stamps on the envelope bears a striking resemblance to the McSweeney’s logo. Which it does. But I wouldn’t exactly call that a smoking gun.

Among individual writers, there are two possible authors who have come up several times.

The most convincing case has been made for Joshua Cohen, who has a new book about the technology world coming out this week. (I think Matt Zeitlin was the first to point the finger at him.)

And sure, that would make sense. The guy’s got something to promote and he’s a talented wordsmith. But leafing through Cohen’s book, there’s a sense of literary weightiness that is completely absent from Iterating Grace. For me, at least, the restraint of the tone of Iterating Grace points away from Cohen.

Writer (and Grotto co-founder) Po Bronson was another popular pick as the author of the story. He did report on Silicon Valley in the 90s, but that hasn’t been within his purview for quite some time.

And finally, writer Tate Williams suggested to me, “You wrote this in a fugue state, duh.” Which: you never know. I’m very tired these days.

OK, I do have one new hard clue. When I checked the mail today, I saw a nearly identical envelope to the one that contained my first book. And I rejoiced! Here is the next missive from the mysterious author, I thought. But, no. It was just another copy of the book. This one was sent through the mail and postmarked like any normal USPS delivery. The nominal sender was “The Institute for Iterating Grace.” What’s really weird, though, is that means two books were sent to me and three to my household. Why would someone who obviously took such care with this project do that?

Here’s my theory. There is a code embedded in names of the people who received the book. Remember: there are supposedly 140 books out there. So, perhaps, if you put our first initials (or last initials?) together, it would form the tweet that cracks the case?

I’m trying to put together a list of the editions. Maybe something will turn up. Wish me luck.