New game. Here’s how you play. You and a friend agree on two writers who are totally unalike — Chuck Palahniuk and Danielle Steel, for instance. Agree on which one is the starting point and which the finish line. Then go to the Amazon author page, and to the “Customers Also Bought Items By” section. Pick an author carefully, click that author’s name and, by repeating this process, try to get to the end point in as few links as possible. Keep track of your clicks. Here’s my attempt at Palahniuk to Steel:
Big surprise — if you buy Palahniuk, you buy a lot of stuff by boys. So I went for Monica Drake, whose work I know nothing about. Turns out her big seller right now is The Stud Book. No comment on the Palahniuk connection. Here goes Drake:
So next I figure Toni Morrison. Just about everybody’s read one or two, right? I might have been overlooking an obvious connection here, though. I mean, Stephen King must be the only person I’m going to find who’s had more bestsellers than Danielle Steele. But the first rule of Six Degrees of Amazon is that you don’t go back. Make mistakes? Wear ‘em. Let’s see Morrison:
Once I’m at Toni Morrison, however, where do I go next? She’s too deep. I want to get into the shallows of melodrama. Frankly, the Morrison readers’ taste is too good. Furthermore, whoever I click on here, I’m going to be pretty insulting. But I have an instinct for Louise Erdrich. She’s got a little bit of genre appeal. Let’s see where that takes me. Okay, show me Erdrich:
Well… nowhere. I’m really beginning to regret not going for Stephen King. Nothing for it but a trip to the past. Let’s try Faulkner:
Well, that didn’t help. Does anybody who reads books that I love read Danielle Steele? At this point, I’m tempted to cheat. But the second rule of Six Degrees of Amazon is that you can’t launch a new tab and check out the “Customer Also Bought Items By” (hereafter called the CABIB) of your target. Okay, let’s get back to the present day. Cormac McArthy. Anybody read The Road? I cried. I admit it. Give me McCarthy:
Now maybe I’m getting somewhere. I’ve got Margaret Atwood. Maybe I can make up for not clicking Stephen King earlier. Surely everything goes through … Atwood:
Nope. Atwood readers go for Huxley and Orwell. I have to keep it contemporary. William Gibson? I must admit I haven’t read anything of his more recent than an article explaining how big eBay was going to be about ten years ago in Wired. But I keep meaning to, so maybe he can help me out… Let’s have Gibson:
Okay, this is the worst game I’ve ever played. How about Dan Simmons? I loved those Hyperion books, and a lot of his early short stories. Give me Simmons:
I suck. I know nothing. I’m going for Stephen King:
Okay. That didn’t solve all my problems the way I’ve been thinking. What about Suzanne Collins? She’s wrong by about two generations, but maybe she’ll get me in the neighbourhood.
She did not get me in the neighbourhood. Unless… what about Stephanie Meyer? I found Twilight execrable. Maybe she could help me with Danielle Steel.
Yes. Do you see what I see? Love lost. Melodrama. Odd coincidences. I’m betting that where there’s Sparks, there will be Steel. Here goes.
Yes. So I kind of suck at my own game. But that’s the way it goes anyway, though the notation should be simpler than all these screen captures. Something Like this: Chuck Palahniuk==>Monica Drake==>Toni Morrison==>William Faulkner==>Cormac McCarthy==>Margaret Atwood==>William Gibson==>Dan Simmons==>Stephen King==>Suzanne Collins==>Stephanie Meyer==>Nicholas Sparks==>Danielle Steel
Twelve jumps from Palahniuk to Steel. Now your turn. Can anyone do Maeve Binchy to Kathy Acker in fewer CABIBs than this? Anyone else got another challenge?