Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Who is the real Dice Man? The elusive writer behind a cult novel (theguardian.com)
82 points by robin_reala 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

It's interesting to compare "Dice Man"[0] with "Yes Man"[1] (the book, not the Jim Carrey film adaptation).

Both books are about people putting their decision making to an external force (Dice man with a die, Yes Man by accepting any offer or invitation that he was given). Dice Man embraces randomness which ultimately leads to Chaos and self destruction. Yes Man embraces positivity and most of the outcomes are positive and constrictive.

One of the main issues I had with Dice Man when I read it was that you were kind of limited in a way because you were making a discreet set of decisions and it seems like the book was encouraging you to always include destructive options, which would occur (intrinsically) with a probability of some multiple of 1/6. To abuse the gamblers ruin, this basically means that if you're including destructive options, then you're almost certain to do damage to yourself eventually.

To that end, it didn't really seem that useful to me as a philosophy or as a tool. Not in any meaningful way. Yes Man, on the other hand, feels like it has greatly changed my life for the better. Your flatmate comes home from work and says to you "I've just had someone pull out of a gig. Want to come? I'm leaving in half an hour". You go, putting aside the fact that you're tired and were looking forward to some quiet TV. You meet someone who you end up dating for a few years. Or how a friend at college invited me to a talk given by local companies in the area offering industrial placements (year long internships taken as part of the degree). It was in 5 minutes time and I wasn't on the 4 year course that the placement was a part of. I had a free period so I went. Off the back of that I changed my course to the 4 year, applied to one of the companies that presented. I got the placement and off the back of that learned basically all the technical skills that got me my first job out of college. So on and etc.

I can't see the dice really allowing for that kind of flow, unless you use a d20 and heavily stack all of the options with positive, enriching and life affirming options. Which, really, isn't what the Dice Man book encourages at all.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dice_Man

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Man_(book)

I hadn't heard of "Yes Man" and I had not done it consciously, but I've been doing this clown routine for years.

A girlfriend that's into theatre took a course for being a clown and explained to me that one of the traits of the clown, as defining as the red nose, is accepting any challenge, saying that she knows how to do it perfectly with the ensuing disastrous results.

I realized that I'd been doing that all my life. So you can call me a clown but, as you say, results are often wonderful. Actually I start dating her with a couple of such daring decisions.

The clown seems to be some kind of metaphor for children's behaviour. So, nice.

I'm not sure I'd say "The Dice Man" encourages anyone to do what the Rhinehart character does in the book.

Maybe not, but it is pretty clear about what the author means by "dice living". I.E a somewhat zen-like destruction of self (or ego as the book puts it). This is also explored in the sequel (Search for the dice man, also the name of the article).

Yes man also outlines its philosophy pretty explicitly (the "yes manifesto"). As such, it's easy to contrast and compare the two philosophies on pretty like-for-like terms.

Dice man does approach it kind of nihilistically though, but also shows the consequences of that approach.

Counterpoint. The gig turns into a night out, which you don't really enjoy but heck you had to say 'yes'. Now you're tired, and you are snappy at a work friend, who takes offense and you miss out on an invite to some other thing you would have actually got value from...

Basically saying _yes_ to everything isn't going to magically make you only have great experiences. It will just mean having different ones.

Counter lemma: saying "yes" to more opportunities [than one would normally say "yes" to] increases the surface area for happy coincidences (such as meeting the person at the gig) to happen which overall will outweigh the negative effects (annoying the friend and not getting the second invite) in absolute terms.

I.e. I think it's more likely you'll end up in a better place if you say yes more (saying yes to absolutely everything is impractical) rather than just ending up somewhere "different" but equal

Every yes has an opportunity cost. I have had plenty of evenings where more than anything I wished I had just said no and chilled at home with housemates.

I am a big proponent of infinite universes branched at every decision point, and I've no doubt that saying yes every time doesn't result in the happiest outcome possible.

> You go, putting aside the fact that you're tired and were looking forward to some quiet TV. You meet someone who you end up dating for a few years.

This is literally how I met my wife. Mutual friends were going to a Billy Joel concert and one couldn't make the show, so I was invited. I was tired, had a long commute home, didn't particularly feel strongly about Billy Joel, and generally didn't really want to go. For some reason, I said yes and ended up sitting next to a nice young lady who laughed at my jokes and was fun to be around.

I always reflect on that when I'm feeling like saying "no" to things.

As Woody Allen put it, "the first part of success is showing up"

Would be interesting to try both! As for the self destructive aspect, I think that says more about ones subconscious desires. The dice can be corrupting... or perhaps revelatory.

I found this book at the back of my parents shelf when I was much younger and found it fascinating. I still think of it sometimes even today, and flip coins rather than roll a dice when I'm indecisive. I'm surprised that the author is so wholesome.

Brilliant book, and it's a shame the film adaptation has fallen through. I guess it's a bit hard to adapt as a lot of it's exposition is inside the main characters head?

That didn't stop Fight Club. You're right it's a shame it hasn't happened, though.

Fight Club is a little more "interesting" though, split personalties, plot twists and of course fighting is always more adaptable to screen than a man rolling a dice.

I think if they did it it may be pretty different from the book.

there's also quite a bit of violent sex and rapey thoughts

Having never heard of this, what other true "cult novels" are out there?

They mentioned Castaneda (The Teachings of Don Juan) in the article, I also thought of The Magus by John Fowles, The Glass Bead Game by Hesse and of course Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

What others are out there?

Illuminatus! by Robert Anton Wilson comes to mind.

Yeah that and The Dice Man are the two big ones that stand out to me.

I heard of them both years back from everything2: https://everything2.com/title/Books+that+will+induce+a+mindf...

Whoa, someone replying about E2 on my post feels like a Dice Man-style event!

I was the lead developer there for a few years, after Jay Bonci split.

Hail Eris!

All hail Discordia!

In addition to coldtea's excellent list, there's a handful of modern novels that have always stood out for me over the past 30-40 years of reading:

The Testament of Gideon Mack: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/014102335X

Hard Boiled Wonderland: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0099448785

Walking on Glass: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B002TXZTE8

The Ginger Man: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0349108757

Perhaps not true cult classics, but they're often titles I've recommended or just buy for friends many times, and go back and re-read periodically.

I read DM when I was into Intermittent Fasting (IF). I was fasting one day per week (Mondays) and I found I would cheat on Sundays by eating big meals, etc.

So I changed it up and let the die decide if any given day was a fast day. I used 1d8 and 1s meant no eating that day (24h).

Did it fora few months and it kicked my weight loss up a notch. And yes: I had a few consecutive 1 days... So fasting was extended to 48h. No triples though, thank Zeus.

It cured the cheating ... And I found myself praying before rolls for "no 1s".

I called it stochastic IF (or SIF).

This is what I imagined cave dudes faced. SIF.

I had not heard about this, but the title reminded me of a 90s UK travel show based on a similar concept, "The Dice Man" [0]. The host asks strangers for alternatives and throws the dice to decide what to do / where to go

[0] https://diceman.co.uk/

Sounds cool, but finding six things to do sounds at least as hard as finding one!

Finding six things is obviously easier, since it's the choice of "what's the specific thing I should do" that's usually difficult, not the enumeration of different choices.

The dice method lets you remove yourself from this difficult final decision -- and since the decision you're now reluctant to take is now just 1 in 6 or 2 in 6 or such, and you include safe options too (e.g. "do nothing"), it's easier to write them down (you still feel like you have a way out through the dice when you're writing the difficult option down, as it might not come up).

Nice thing about a die is that you don't need six different things. Lots of ways to map a 1-6 number range to limited choices.

Based on the same novel as specifically stated on the site.

Do I know you?

I had to stop reading dice man. I just found it to be very depressing because of all the negative actions he takes.

I cant say I've ever read the novel, but I do know there was a song based on it created by legendary post-punk group The Fall:


It also inspired one of Talk Talk's hits, Such a shame.

I vaguely knew the book/concept, but this is very well written piece.

I thoroughly recommend the book. When I first read it, it only took me two sittings over a weekend to complete.

I like to make random or impulsive (where available) choices to escape Fredkin's paradox, but to leave all options on the table for the dice to decide does not look very wise to me.

So is this better or worse than a more guided type randomness such as the ancient 'throwing coins' routine? As with all scrivining, its more bout how you approach it.

> … a dice … a dice … a dice

It’s a die! I guess I shouldn't be stunned that the Grauniad makes this sort of error, but … sheesh.

Singular "dice" is common in UK English. This article discusses it, and refers to a 2006 article, coincidentally about this book, also in The Guardian:


It’s a dice, and data is singular, language evolves, it’s not so important, artists can use it how they see fit.

To be fair, the title of the novel in question gets it wrong as well.

How's that? It's plural in the title, isn't it?

I haven’t read the book but it seems like the protagonist just has the one die.

He uses multiple dice a few times, but its more that he refers to "the dice" as some kind of god of chance, like "I shall let the dice decide my fate".

"Die Man" sounds like a horrible title tho.

No one who speaks German can be an evil man.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact