“What was the setting?” I ask Alan, my co-author and programmer.
“Fifty words, Smittee.”
“Read it again,” I say.
“ ‘Nevertheless comb accident the incident I wonder,’ Jake replied. ‘A very burst respected ex-captain mad told me the story, and helpless a fine thing cough all is!’ He continued. ‘Could broken anything be more abominable osseous than the way he tense famous possesses irritate a dreamed good circle of friends?’ ”
“Hmm. Still sounds like spam,” I conclude.
“Yes, but my vocabulary algorithm cleaned up the word choice. And the recursive function took care of our earlier grammatical problems. Even the predictive parser is operating properly — I can catch the makings of a plot. I should probably re-sequence the punctuation superfactorials though.” Alan glances at me and I nod.
“Can’t hurt,” I reply. “Also, try setting the eff eff generator at 75 words this time.”
“Sure, let’s give it a shot.” Alan looks up and smiles. “Imagine! When we fully reverse code and appropriate this software we’ll make millions. We’ll be spitting out short stories left and right. Magazines will be lining up to buy anything written by us, ‘Alan Smittee.'”
“I have to admit,” I admit, “we’re harnessing great technology here. Those spam email programmers just don’t know what they have their hands on. They’re wasting their creative energies on advertising, for Pete’s sake — satisfied with simply probing spam defenses for word combinations that don’t ping the system.”
Alan picks up the thread. “But if they can penetrate the typical junk mail filter with just a few faux paragraphs of garbled sentences, then with a little tweaking we can create the perfect short fiction that even the choosiest editors will enjoy.”
We both smile and Alan finishes editing a bit of code. “Ready,” he says.
I punch the start button and the eff eff generator prints out a 75-word revision of the previous piece. I read it aloud.
“ ‘Nevertheless,’ Jake replied, ‘I wonder if the comb incident was an accident. A very mad, but respected ex-captain burst and told me the whole story. A fine thing that was, for a helpless cough is all it is!’ He continued in silence. ‘We could have broken anything that night. What can be more abominable than the tense way he dreamed of osseous tissue? The famous ex-captain possesses everything and irritates a good circle of friends.’ ”
“Getting closer, Smitty.” Alan can barely contain his enthusiasm. “We’ll be rich before you know it.”
I’m quietly hopeful. “Well, keep tweaking the software. It’s only a matter of time before our Flash Fiction Generator will spit out something worth publishing.”
Alan agrees. “And it sure beats trying to come up with an original story ourselves.”
Lyndon Perry, a former pastor and current business owner, is a husband of 22 years and father of two beautiful daughters. He enjoys reading, writing, and arithmetic. Well, 2 out of 3 anyway. And he has no idea what a superfactorial is.