East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A Christmas Mystery


What is Christmas without a good mystery? Or even better, a ghost story… because what I have here right now does feel a lot like a ghost story, a haunting, in its own way.

I mentioned a while back how my periodic mail from Amazon with suggestions and offers had suddenly become filled with books (and DVDs!) about Mussolini and the Fascist Regime.
I am happy to report that the problem has no longer presented itself, and in the last weeks Amazon’s suggestions have been happily free of Fascist stuff, and limited to my own books (Amazon is always sure to let me know that I “might be interested” in something I actually friggin’ wrote) and books by Italian authors I detest.
But something new came up, and it is intriguing indeed.

As you probably know, Amazon remembers your browsing history, a long gallery of all the books (and music, movies and hardware and what else) you have watched in your latest visits.

Well, books I never checked out myself have started appearing in my Amazon browsing history.

  • A handbook for assault rifles.
  • Lots of romantic novels, some of them in German.
  • A compendium of Italian legal texts.
  • A book about Garibaldi and the Army of the Vosges, in French.
  • A collection of fashion sewing patterns.
  • An illustrated children’s book about Father Christmas, also in French.
  • A book about the work of Venezuelan painter and sculptor Alejandro Otero.

It is weird, uncanny, and slightly disquieting.
When it happens – and it happens every time I go on Amazon, and I go on Amazon almost daily, it feels like someone’s invaded my house.

And that’s just apart of the story. Because of course I am a writer, and all these story ideas start coming to me…

A story about a guy that actually has a split personality, and the only hint at the problem is his double Amazon browsing history – because each of his personalities only remembers some of the books that personality browsed.

Or is this the beginning of a story about the Amazon AI dreaming, as it slowly attains big-data-fueled self-awareness?

And if we can define characters by the books they reads, what can we tell of my mysterious alter-ego, from his (?) book preferences. Who reads romantic novels in German, and needs a book about retro-style sewing patterns and a handbook for assault rifles?

I am quite sure there is a story in here – something I might try and write during the festivities.
But still, it is very strange.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “A Christmas Mystery

  1. That is certainly quite the ‘eclectic’ browsing history/list.

    In any event, Merry Christmas!


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