Easter Eggs for Readers of The Blackguard

Dear Reader,

Have you ever come across a really good scene and wanted to know where the author got the idea? Have you ever gotten the sense that there’s a symbol or reference you’re missing? I certainly have, which is why I’ve always enjoyed footnotes in books and why I’ve included virtual footnotes in your copy of The Blackguard.

Keep your eyes peeled for little numbers within the text of my book. If you click on these links, your e-reader will take you to relevant commentary, trivia, explanation and meta-critique on this page. While you will not need to follow these links at any point, and indeed, you may wish to ignore them until you’ve finished your first read through, I hope they might enhance your enjoyment of my book should you desire a deeper engagement with Marcus, Zitkala-sa and Enclave.

Thanks for choosing The Blackguard,

Ben Garrido

P.S.

If you’d like to see where The Blackguard came from – my personal experience and philosophy – I’d encourage you to click here. 

Chapter 1

“I walked through …” I read a lot of academic papers. In the case of the paragraphs you’ve just read, I profited from those sorts of articles because they allowed me to illustrate the way money influences perception. I wanted to nail all the little details behind the reasons we judge people as smart, attractive or influential. If you’d like to see where Marcus’ trip up the elevators came from, check out this and this.

Chapter 1

Why do you think the board mixes terms associated with imperialism – primitives, savages – with terms more associated with victimized minorities – lynching, for example – when describing their interactions with Enclave?

Chapter 1

“More disposable …” Marcus is referencing a trope called “men are the disposable gender.” Basically, this is the very common assumption that male suffering and death is less important than the female version. This trope is why, when you watch the evening news, they always single out women and children’s deaths and, if the victims are all men, minimize the tragedy. I think, in the light of how we evolved, this is at least partially reasonable. Do you?

Chapter 2

“Okay, time to think about the rustics …” It might be fun to, from this point forward, ask yourself why Marcus is always using meta-cognitive strategies. In other words, why does he think about his thinking so much? What sort of past do you imagine for him? What sorts of experiences taught him these ways to deal with stress?

Chapter 2

“I saw the shotgun shell’s red, plastic sphincter …” It probably isn’t possible to see that much detail down a darkened hole, but I’m too chicken to put my face to the barrel of a loaded shotgun. I expect you can forgive me for this particular research failure.

Chapter 2

“I took the opportunity to sit down in one of the unsteady cottonwood chairs …” Cottonwood is a tree that grows throughout the Great Basin. They grow fast and appear pretty much anywhere there’s water. Cottonwood lumber is very low quality and normally only used for fence posts.

Chapter 2

“… why Chastity had fallen for him in the first place.” Marcus might not understand why, but it could very well be the way so-called “Dark Triad” personality factors work in attraction.

Chapter 2

“ … self-reliance …” You might be interested to learn that self-reliance is “juche” in Korean. 

Chapter 3

“The military did a terrible job …” This idea came from an investigation Frank X. Mullen, one of my journalism school professors, did about a decade ago.

Chapter 3

“Cultural events were pretty thin on the ground …” Why do you think I stole this cultural practice from the Navajo?

Chapter 4

“So I would normally build what’s called a beam bridge …” If you are one of the four people on earth with as much interest in bridge physics as me, this is a fun video.

Chapter 5

“And that, borrowing …” I stole this technique from Benjamin Franklin, who used the exact same trick on a rival politician.

Chapter 6

“Instead Enclave mostly ran on a barter system …” If you are at all interested in economics, I’d recommend you look into this slide show explaining the inefficiencies of barter vs currency. Enclave, you have probably noticed, does a lot of things at less than optimal efficiency in order to stay pure. Are they making good choices?

Chapter 6

“Living in Enclave is special …” Why do you think so many tribes use scarification? How do you think they found enough advantage in marking their skins to overcome the considerable danger of infection?

Chapter 6

“Well, they’ll probably get beaten up …” An interesting way to think of this tradition is to think of it as an affirmation of both “us” and “them” groups in the individual.

Chapter 7

“It’s goddamn sexy …” Beauty, it seems, is almost entirely in the eye of the culture-holder.

Chapter 7

“For all its isolation …” This party – bunny busting, crashes, “sad drunks” and all – is taken almost verbatim from a very rural wedding celebration I attended. Marcus’ drunken dialog is based on that time I stripped down in the middle of the desert and showed everybody that nakedness and inebriation were no great impediments to playing baseball. I am perhaps over-sharing.

Chapter 8

“What they saw horrified them …” One of the things that interests me about Mexican history is just how much civilized the Spanish colonization of Mexico was compared to the Spanish colonization of, say, Cuba. The reason for this, it seems to me, is that the civilizations in Mexico were vastly stronger than the tribes in places like Cuba and Brazil. If you’d like to learn about how the Spanish had to ally themselves with regional rivals to conquer the Aztecs, you might want to start here.

Chapter 8

“They joined with Mother Jones …” I’ve always wondered why the prominent left-wing magazine named itself after an anti-Chinese crusader. Certainly there had to be labor organizers, unlike the epynomous Knights of Labor leader, who didn’t persecute immigrants.

Chapter 8

“… the luxury of segregation …” Segregation is, from a purely economic standpoint, very inefficient. It cuts off potential customers, thins the labor pool and consumes police and legal resources to enforce. How much of the modern trend away from overt discrimination, I wonder, comes down to the fact we live in a much more competitive business environment than the Jim Crow South?

Chapter 8

“… calling themselves the Night Party …” This is a thinly veiled reference to the modern Knights Party, the political arm of the KKK. If you want to see exactly how NOT to run a political party or write your manifestos, I recommend a quick click here for the work of these particular brain surgeons.

Chapter 9

“Nobody in Enclave was a soldier …” Marcus is very correct in this guess.

Chapter 9

“And they cheered …” In-group bias, for all its nastiness, does help people form a sense of community.

Chapter 10

“And then we heard the braying …” This is a pretty obvious Biblical reference, but The Blackguard is absolutely packed with subtler examples. I would go so far as to say that you might read the entire story as a Biblical allegory. Certainly, that’s not the only way to read it, or even the way I intended you to read, but it’s not absurd.

Chapter 11

“I’d read about the Burmese …” I can certainly see why Marcus would wish death on those people.

Chapter 11

“Did you scream …” Here is the death of the notorious drug Lord.

Chapter 11

“Perhaps the worst example of poshlost …” This is a Russian word that can’t really be translated directly into English. If I had to try, I’d say it’s a sort of self-satisfied inferiority. Nabakov was big on poshlost, or posh-lust, as he transliterated it. I encourage you to read his essay on the topic here. 

Chapter 11

“The child’s look …” I think modern Western society massively underestimates how tough and resilient children are, particularly when those children act in the service of authority figures.

Chapter 11

“Don’t bury your head …” I’ve often wondered if there’s a meaningful distinction between squeamishness and cowardice? What is squeamishness, after all, if not a desire to protect that which is believed from what is true?

Chapter 12

“I found myself surprised …” Exploding cars are almost entirely an invention of Hollywood. First, gasoline is a crappy explosive unless you compress it first. Secondly, only the fumes burn. Third, a lot of very smart people who were very afraid of litigation spent a lot of time designing your car specifically so it would not explode. None of this is to imply cars can’t or don’t catch on fire, by the way, but they almost never explode.

Chapter 13

“That said I was nowhere near …” How many tribal or indigenous groups can you think of, from any time or place, that were not wiped out by more powerful neighbors as soon as they became economically inconvenient?

Chapter 14

“What if I die out here …” Marcus is a pretty ballsy guy. Why do you think he picks the relative safety of the open desert to freak out?

Chapter 14

Why do you think the Book-of-the-Bible chapter sub-heads disappeared?

Chapter 14

“I breathed in deeply, consciously …” I’m going to bet Marcus isn’t the only one for whom pain has a calming effect.

Chapter 14

“I can’t think of any place on earth where the hubris of man…” I can think of more hubristic cities. Can you?

Chapter 14

“Garrison wanted me to say something …” What do you think of Marcus’ continual refusal to judge? What do you think the advantages to such an outlook are? How about the disadvantages?

Chapter 14

“I was getting tired of the veiled threats …” Do you read Marcus’ habitual self-discipline as the admirable control of a strong man’s emotions, the barely intact lid holding in seething aggression or a sign of being one cold bastard? Why?

Chapter 14

“I decided to get lost …” I think Pierce might actually be the worst US president. I don’t know of any world leader for whom belief so completely triumphed over truth.

Chapter 14

“I tried to divert the producer …” Marcus has a passing familiarity with the art of spin.

Chapter 15

“It bothered me in the sense …” This is a bit of a contradiction with how Marcus actually treated Chastity and her baby. Do you think Marcus is playing like a hard ass, actually is a hard ass or simply views himself as a bad guy? Or is he simply playing the audience?

Chapter 15

“This is nigger country …” A phrase I heard three separate times on my most recent visit to Las Vegas. I wonder if it has reached the level of a meme?

Chapter 15

“Chastity had all the savvy …” One of the things that living in Korea has taught me is the very, very small reach of “normal” political correctness. Trust me when I say that there are a lot of things people in other countries say completely innocently that, were they speaking on the nightly news in the USA, would cause a massive scandal.

Chapter 15

“What did I want …” You might want to read about Camus’ conception of the absurd.

Chapter 15

“… Nestor Hamilton …” A refugee from my first, very bad, very unpublished novel. Nestor makes an appearance here, if you’d like to meet him in his natural environment.

Chapter 16

“If you ever try to blackmail this company again …” The modern US has such poor social mobility that not many people have first-hand experience on both sides of this poor people justice vs rich people justice dynamic, so let me elucidate. I’ve dealt with the justice system when I was innocent but broke and when I was guilty but well-funded. In the first instance (lapsed car insurance that technically wasn’t lapsed), I had to depend on the judge’s mercy and ended up getting the largest possible fine. In the second instance (genuinely lapsed insurance, unpaid tickets, suspended license), the state suddenly lost interest in prosecuting me when I hired a lawyer. They ended up dropping all charges.

Chapter 16

“I woke up the next morning …” While happiness is the stated goal for most modern Western societies, it has not always been so. Marcus’ attitude here is pretty typical for an ancient Greek, for example.

Chapter 16

“Nobody here is sure we can win …” A mention of faith, here. There will be more such mentions.

Chapter 16

“… vague, patriotic defenses …” Speaking of patriotism.

Chapter 16

“… the Sentinal Islands …” These folks present a very, very interesting problem to the modern world. Do we offer assistance when (if) they suffer a catastrophe like we would for “real” people or do we leave them alone to their isolation?

Chapter 16

“What a lovely …” Frenchman’s Lake is very real, the auditorium, not so much.

Chapter 17

“Sad business …” Here’s what happened before the “sad business.”

Chapter 17

“What Ms. Sa means …” Is Marcus blowing off the idea of “cultural imperialism” too flippantly?

Chapter 17

“I enjoyed my first taste of sadism …” This isn’t a sign of mental illness, believe it or not.

Chapter 17

“I don’t know my ancestry …” Before, Marcus says his parents were both Welsh. Do you think he was lying? Click “Hunyadi” for information on where I got my inspiration for this character.

Chapter 18

“The mighty should never fall …” Do you think that you have equal empathy for all types of people? Research says you almost certainly don’t.

Chapter 19

“I would save us all …” How can you reconcile Marcus freaking out in the desert but being excited about this?

Chapter 19

“General Buildable ceased operations …” I’ve often thought that power, or even just leadership, involves a willingness to sacrifice others for one’s own goals. This sounds nasty, and I guess it is, but I also can’t think of a better way to get things done.

Chapter 19

“She told me to hurry back …” What do you think Marcus is so afraid of?

Chapter 20

And the Bible sub-heads are back.

Chapter 20

“Albatross had deemed it a public relations …” Is Marcus characterizing this process appropriately? Are the Enclavians destroying themselves?

Chapter 20

“When I walked through …” Do you think this trade-off between purity and prosperity takes place in real life as well?

Chapter 20

“I have faith in your benevolence …” And here is the second time a character puts their faith in Marcus.

Chapter 20

“I’ll feed you …” It strikes me that ideological revolution is almost always a product of luxury. If there isn’t enough food, water and shelter, all the pretty words in the world won’t stop a tyrant offering baked goods. On the other hand, pretty words also don’t work very well for the tyrant if he can’t offer baked goods and one of his rivals can.

Chapter 23

“Since when didn’t I value life …” Do you think it’s significant Marcus only says this to himself after he’s worked out the calculus?

Chapter 23

“Each bump …” Imagine sitting in the passenger’s seat of this while suffering from a ruptured liver.

Chapter 23

“I had no time for sympathy …” Is sympathy, like ideology, a luxury?

Chapter 23

“Maybe I could use the nativists …” This all begs the question of how effective INCAN’s plan was to begin with. If you want to setup a cultural zoo, doesn’t that also preclude things like studying the culture or, indeed, protecting them from threats?

Chapter 24

“… humans bonding over food …” There actually is something primal about bonding over food.

Chapter 24

“I interpreted that as a diplomatic rejection of the sort …” Is he interpreting that correctly? If so, what is the drawback to “diplomacy” that Marcus is able to exploit?

Chapter 24

“I smiled and answered with as much gentility …” What does it do to an angry, righteous person when the object of their anger responds magnanimously?

Chapter 24

“Koreans eat dwaeji-galbi …” Here is a picture of the meal he prepared the INCAN members.

Chapter 24

“Pull on your panties …” Why is Marcus behaving so differently to his enemies in INCAN compared to his enemies in the Faithful? Is it just spite, or is Marcus playing the deeper game he thinks he is?

Chapter 25

“I could not possibly be more …” Do you believe this, or has Marcus succumbed to hubris?

Chapter 25

“… I had no problem taking advantage of somebody else’s good intentions …” Aside from Marcus, are there any major characters in The Blackguard who don’t have good intentions?

Chapter 27

“Regard for oneself …” Why do you think people dehumanize others? We are clearly really good at it. Think about dehumanization this way, how much time have you spent feeling bad about the million or so victims of the Congolese Civil War? I’m going to bet zero. Why, then, have we humans evolved such efficient means of defeating empathy? More to the point of this chapter, why is Marcus dehumanizing himself? To what ends is he trivializing his own body?

Chapter 28

“When I clicked on the Hall of Shame …” Marcus has said almost nothing about the rights or wrongs of “imperialism” in the story. He has offered no condemnation or justification for opening Enclave to the world. Why doesn’t he?

Chapter 28

“… corporate puppet Wolf Blitzer.” Poor Wolf Blitzer. Whenever I need a chew-toy journalist in a novel, it’s probably going to be him. He also appears in “The Potency.”

Chapter 28

“How about we meet at the Blue Lagoon …” Why do you think Marcus chooses a strip joint?

Chapter 28

“Everything is expendable at some point …” Why does Zitkala-sa pose such a big threat to Marcus? What is it about her, specifically, that makes her scarier than, for example, Prudence?

Chapter 28

“… I’m not the only one who can stop …” This is a classic case of “diffusion of responsibility.”

Chapter 30

“Long have I waited …” Compare and contrast the Spirit Daddy with Zitkala-sa. Who do you think is more dangerous to Marcus? Why?

Chapter 30

“You did this. You’re the murderer …” Whose fault is the massacre, in your opinion?

Chapter 32

“The American court system …” Most expensive in the world.

Chapter 32

“Those which are still farms …” Modern agriculture is massively more efficient than what the Enclavians would have used.

Chapter 33

“He wore an old white …” Think of the last time you saw a poorly dressed person addressing a well-dressed person as an equal. I’m betting you struggle to do so. Why?

Chapter 33

“Of course they don’t die of cholera anymore …” Is this a good trade? Did Marcus ultimately do good or evil in Enclave?

Chapter 34

“Looking around at what the peoples of the world …” I adapted Zitkala-sa’s interview here from an article arguing for cultural preservation in Jewish communities. Does that source change the way you think about the message? What if the source material had come from Iran? What about China?

Chapter 35

“We’re the motherfucking root …” Don’t succeed too much or might be perceived as a traitor. 

Chapter 35

“The way he flexed …” All the Nietzsche stuff you’ve been seeing in my novel comes from “Thus Spake Zarathustra.” That book is probably most famous for popularizing the idea of the ubermensch. I wonder if it’s a coincidence James Smith gives his interview near the metamorphoses plaque.

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2 comments

  1. OK, completely intrigued now – will have to spend a little longer on this post as one or two of the journal papers are quite interesting – thanks for including the links to them. I try to include links to the work when I write a post to save people have to look it up if they’re interested as I find it annoying to have to search around for where the information/idea was derived from. [when it’s not personal research for my own work that is.]

    1. These little notes are actually links that connect to my e-book (paper version coming soon). They are relevant to plot points, dialog, thematic elements in my novel “The Blackguard.”

      Thanks for you interest. 🙂

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