Misplaced Fools Preview


This is a short preview of Misplaced Fools, a prelude to the upcoming novel The Futility of Esoterica. It is a comediac story about time travel, tenure, and, well, the foolishness of the wizards of the University of Esoterica. I might also take a few jabs at string theory, sorry, “squiggle theory.” I could not help myself.

The Story

Welcome to the University of Esoterica, where promising students worldwide gather to become wizards and study esoteric magical subjects.

At first, wizards devoted their studies to practical topics such as falling apples, planets, and atoms. They used this to create a vast body of magical knowledge and to become masters of magic.

Over time, they became more interested in numbers, mathematical structures, and imaginary shapes. As they did so, their emphasis shifted from the practical to a focus on useless esoterica. Over time, they lost their grasp of and interest in magic. It became secondary to the esoteric lore.

Because they cared only for the bizarre and incomprehensible, they had no generalized degrees in subjects like physics, chemistry, or mathematics. The wizards focused on hyper-specialized topics like hypergeometric number theory, interdimensional banking, and multi-temporal phase accounting.

Wizards loved to master nonsensical subjects. If they could recite it, they pretended they could understand it. If they understood it, that made them intelligent! The wizards liked to pretend to understand incoherent topics—the more so, the better. The more incoherent the topic they could pretend to understand, the more intelligent they appeared.

Like any university, it needed funding. Why did its donors fund this? Prestige. They liked to put their money behind intelligent people. It didn’t matter to them whether those smart people were saying sensible things, doing anything useful, or saying anything sane.

The wizards would gather and argue over topics beyond their comprehension. This debate allowed them to impress each other with their supposed intelligence. The donors loved hearing about these arguments and the papers they generated. They loved watching the rivalries between the wizards.

The donors loved it when the more famous wizards argued in public. They enjoyed debating the number of dimensions in the universe. What flavor were the squiggles that composed the universe? It was more unpredictable than the horses. Some preferred it for that reason. People placed bets, and some people made sizable sums of money.

The donors didn’t understand any of it. But it made them feel good to see their favored nonsense in print. Besides, one did not question science. The wizards were engaged in science. How did they know it was science? The wizards said so; therefore, it was. They could never hope to understand it. Especially the latest squiggle theory stuff. Who were they to question it?

The donors didn’t want to seem unreasonable. None of the donors wanted to appear unscientific. They did not want to seem unsupportive of science. Who could be against science? No. It was their place to support science and to support scientific progress. Despite the lack of scientific progress lately.

The university received ample funding. That kept wizards off the streets. Most of the wizards were unemployable and would have starved anywhere else (call it academic welfare). Our story begins with one of those unemployable people.

Albie Easelstein grinned triumphantly and looked up from the mathematical mess scribbled on the pages piled before. It was worth every damn moment of pain! It was worth slogging through all ninety difficult pages of abstract and complex mathematical concepts. He had shown the possibility of time travel!

Advanced mathematics comprises a lot of algebra and geometry. Albie’s approach to mathematical physics took this to insane extremes. A layperson might mistake it for the scribbling of chicken high on hallucinogens.

Among the equations were neat sketches in nine dimensions. It was abstract enough to liquify the brains of the most surreal artists. Only the most educated wizards with multiple post-graduate degrees in magical physics could understand the math behind the diagrams. It required the peculiar genius who drilled right to the heart of an issue. And which is often so brittle that it shatters.

“Time travel is possible!” said Albie. He was a hunched-stick insect, thin and wiry. It looked as if someone had used a charged comb in his hair. A mustache adorned his long nose. It aged him, although he thought it looked sophisticated.

Esmer Hamilton looked across the room. She was a short woman with wavy black hair. Her intensely intelligent and captivating gaze made her impossible to ignore. She flicked a tanned hand through her curly black hair as she gave Albie a curious look.

“Oh, is that so? Can we test it?” Esmer asked.

“I don’t see why you insist on practical results. I have mathematics. Isn’t that enough?” Albie asked. He was of the school of thought that believed mathematics proved everything. Some donors liked the wizards to perform experiments. They were obsessed with seeing practical results. Albie did not understand it.

“How do you know that is true?” Esmer asked. She looked critically at him.

He blinked. That was a rather strange question. He waved the ninety pages of mathematics at Esmer.” I suppose we cannot know one hundred percent,” he shrugged. He waved the papers at her as a priest might wave his holy book at his congregation.

“Yes, it is merely mathematics. It is not observing atoms through a powerful microscope. We know nothing. Shut up and calculate. Why don’t you shut up and calculate? You are bothering me.” Esmer smirked. Albie suspected she was mocking him.

“What is your problem?” Albie frowned at her. He could not understand her hostility. Why was she so hostile to him? What was her problem? He did not understand her.

“You assert this is a model. What is the point?” She asked with an arched brow.

“Predictions, for one! But it is hard to make predictions with the supersquiggle theory. It is the theory of everything we are dealing with here. You know this!” he said.

“Can you test it?” she asked.

“It is very difficult. We have not found a practical method.”

“Why bother? If you can’t test it, it is useless.”

“No. But that does not mean it is real!” Albie blustered as he waved the paper at Esmer.

“That is what the Holy Nine-Sided Book of Ager says. Why trust science over religion? We do tests. Right?” she asked.

“Yes. It is too difficult to test,”

“I forgot. You devised a technique to estimate a supersquiggle’s mass. It would take eight trillion times the energy in the entire universe!” she said.

She referred to a paper in the Supersquiggle Theory Gazette where authors speculated on finding a supersquiggle’s mass. It required unbundling hidden dimensions. That would “require a rather large burst of energy; likely eight trillion times the energy present in the universe.”

The authors casually suggested several methods by which one might try such a thing. Only someone like a wizard or a crazed god would propose that. Fortunately, the chances of anyone trying those methods were incredibly close to zero. Wizards were very lazy and loathed to engage in practical exercises.

“Roughly speaking, a few orders of magnitude.”

“A few orders of magnitude? A very large margin of error. It does not matter. It will not happen.”

“I suppose not,” Albie said. He wished Esmer would take his work more seriously. He was a serious academic with three post-graduate degrees.

Albert looked at the wall behind him and studied his master’s degree in dubious geometry, his doctorate in supoptimal field squiggles, and his post-doctorate in hyper-special squiggle topology.

“I am sure we can do it!” Albie grinned confidently. It was obvious! He doubted Esmer would approve of his plan. Esmer was highly critical of such theories.

“Oh?” She arched her brow and peered curiously at him. “You seem sure. Alright, why not? I don’t have that much energy on me,” she said.

“Of course not. But you remember how the University Board had their meeting last night?”

“Oh? Interesting…” she mused. It was rare that the management board gathered to decide about anything. One could generously describe their management style as “enforcing the status quo.” She wondered why they were doing anything now. Had something exploded? Not as far as she knew.

“I have contacts on the Board. They say that the Board is considering taking away tenure!”

“Canceling tenure? Why would they do that? I cannot imagine why now. Has someone gotten into legal trouble?”

“Awful, isn’t it? I’m unsure about their motives for such extreme measures. Nobody has gotten into any serious trouble that I am aware of. No more so than usual, anyway. If I might get to my point?”

“No more trouble than usual? Well, I suppose that is good. Most wizards are too busy crunching numbers to get up to any serious harm,“ she smirked. Gone were the days when wizards regularly blew things up or accidentally transmuted their neighbors into badgers—or worse.

“So, anyway…” Albert attempted to continue. However, her countenance of deep contemplation caused him to sigh and shuffle his papers around while muttering under his breath about younger wizards.

She angrily slammed her pencil and stormed out. “I know what this is about! I hate it when the damn University Board gets strange ideas in its head? It is always trying to cut costs!” She said it with a heavy sigh.

Albie scoffed. He would show her. He believed he could get a time-travel spell working soon enough. His math checked out!

He would help the wizards with their tenure. Yes, that was the main thing, he tried to convince himself. It was not vindictiveness! Academics would never stoop so low.



If you enjoyed this excrept, I hope you will read The Futility of Esoterica when it comes out! You will find out more about adventures/misdventures of Albie and Esmer. And we will meet more crazy wizards from the University of Esoterica. You should also stay tuned for when the rest of this story comes out.

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