NB All writing herein ©C.G.Allan 2006 to 2020. All ideas remain the Intellectual Property of C.G.Allan.

Playing the Numbers Game...

# "Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there counting crows... One for sorrow, two for joy, three for girls and four for boys, five for silver, six for gold... seven for a secret never to be told # " - Counting Crows

I've never been a fan of playing the lottery, running the gambit of hoping that each week my chosen set of numbers might spring me into a new life of fame and riches - I'm much more cynical that surely all those numbers crunched by a machine MUST somehow be fixed in some way (but then again conspiracy theories are much more fun for a fiction writer to imagine!) But having making this opening blow against games of chance, I still get a little obsessed at times with numbers themselves and how they can be used to effect in a narrative to help maximise the reader's enjoyment.

My favourite number, perhaps predictably as a child was the number 7 (isn't it everyone's at one time or another?) but as I grew up, maybe quirkily or perhaps because of an innate feeling of wanting to go against the grain, that favourite changed to the number 13...  The first house that myself and my wife moved into to begin our married life was number 13 and it's become quite a "lucky" number for us, when for others it's a pariah number to be avoided at all costs...

A few years ago, of course, the TV series Lost used their own set of unique "numbers" to great effect and these moved the plot of the show along, cursing several characters who tried to gamble on them... And it's perhaps no accident that it was J.J. Abrams who was in charge of that TV show, because with his previous show Alias, there began a trend in TV and film to reference another particular number - that of "47". There was an episode in that series called "Page 47" which was used as a sort of MacGuffin to drive the plot along...

A few years later, one of my favourite series of big screen movies National Treasure continued this nod to the humble number "47" with a reference in the second film "Book of Secrets" where the President asks Ben Gates to check out what's on Page 47.  We never see what's on this page, but at the end it's sort of set up as a future "MacGuffin" for a possible third film in the series...  The exploding and ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe of more recent years has even got in on this act of venerating the number 47 with a "One-Shot" short film entitled Object 47... (AND most recently Keanu Reeves's latest film was "47 Ronin" and a forthcoming sequel to the Hitman film called Agent 47 is currently at the scripting stage for the big screen - but maybe because I'm now looking out for more instances of 47 across all media, I'm falling foul of that strange phenomenon of seeing it everywhere simply because I'm searching for it?)  Now, all of these film and TV franchises don't really have much to link their respective universes, but this can perhaps be seen as homages being passed between fellow creatives?

Digging a little deeper though (I admit I can get a little obsessive about these things!) and going back another "generation" in TV writer terms, it turns out that the scriptwriters on the newer Star Trek TV series actually became a little pre-occuppied (nay, obsessed even!) with the number 47 too, peppering certain episodes with instances of the number on computer terminals, in dialogue for planet names and designations of spaceships, to the point where it's fabled that almost EVERY single episode of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise carry some reference to the number 47 in some minor or major way... (so there's a challenge for you, start re-watching and get searching!)

Now, if I was one of those wide-eyed conspiracy theorists (and I kind of am when I'm creating fiction) I'd also cite the fact that even further back in time the now mythic "Roswell Incident" happened in 19... 47(!) and perhaps ever since "that Air Force fiasco back in '47" people "in the know" across the Atlantic are littering references to popular media ever since that time to let the public know it was real...

Maybe I AM letting my imagination run away with me too much, but one thing's for certain - mathematicians have known the power of numbers for a millennia or more, and as writers we're playing a bit of catch-up, but it seems that we're maybe just discovering how they can be harnessed as plot devices in creative writing, so who knows what the future holds... I've probably rabbited on about the number 47, but I could actually go on and on - for instance, about the strange symmetry of the number itself - how depending on how you scribe the numbers (the 7 with a line through it) they look like the mirror image of themselves... Whatever your take on it, I think in the TV and film arena at the very least, the great scribbler Douglas Adams perhaps got it wrong, and the answer to life, the universe and everything is actually 47, not 42?!)


I may even be tempted to jump on this love-the-number-47 bandwagon and insert my own references to 47 and 'retcon' "my space saga"... Speaking of sagas of my own making, a few years ago, I launched my very own numbers game of sorts across on my Official Writing Website - it's called "the Zip Code Challenge" and is still very much a work in progress as I work towards getting my first full novel published (the idea of this 'game' is for readers to solve puzzles across my site and get clues to work out what the real title of that first book will be) but it's going back into development for a little while and I'll bring more news here on its relaunch soon...

To finish off, I'll leave you with a link to an unofficial "47" fan club - it's called the "47 Society" and I guess I may have just unofficially become a member by blogging about this curious profilific number... (Join the hunt and report more sightings today at: http://www.47.net/47society/ and remember, to start counting the value of numbers into your scribble calculations and plots of future stories!)

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