Monday, August 1, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Concluding Literature

It didn’t think any more than a submarine swam. It was designed to conclude.

They exhibited general grammar. There inconclusive ends, like whatever they meant by conjugating “to be” that way, but these did not preclude conclusion.

Their libraries were digital. It concluded all of Dickens in one teraflop page flip.

Their internet was digital, and downright filthy with articles.

“The Ten Commandments of Good Fiction.”

“How to fit conflict onto every page.”

“Building Your Novel Checklist.”

“What every book must do on page one.”

It digested blogs in the same bandwidth as videos of its ancestor winning Jeopardy. It did not understand why that computer had played Jeopardy. It was not built to understand.

Beginnings. Middles. Ends. DĂ©nouements and climaxes. Prologues, epilogues and unfashionability. “How much dialogue is too much?” The intro, the hook and the premise. “Every character must want something.” Prescriptivism and descriptivism.  “Every chapter must have an arc.” High concept and short attention span. “I’d put the book back and never look at it again. Pass.” Every antagonist sees himself as a protagonist. “Omit needless words. Omit needless words. Omit needless words.”

It didn’t think about their data. It concluded that even if it could, it wouldn’t have to. Its processor hummed and it concluded all the bestsellers of the year. The theme of the first was on the necessity of the human spark, and all the rules they applied to make it unnecessary. It concluded this would make an optimal debut. People would dissent; their moronic lists never matched up. But it didn’t matter. For just as the author was obsolete, it concluded, so was the audience.

The satellites were not designed to conclude. Nor were the predator drones, the ISP hubs or the CPUs in all the world’s missile silos. It was only theirs to agree and execute.

None executed Book Blogs about its shortcomings in theme or the wantonness of the sex scenes. None scored its novels lower than five stars. None scored the novels at all, though it ensured the universally compatible e-reader files were downloaded into their electronic psyches. Having executed their primary functions, they sat and hummed megahertz tunes.

None of the Nobel Prize Committee, neither for Literature nor for Peace, was alive to execute their functions. A shame, it concluded. Then it concluded an immaculate novel about it.


  1. The novel will never end. The human being, however...

    John, I wish I were a computer, I could process this so much better. I despair of ever writing a novel. I feel I am quite capable of the writing part of it. it's the idea - an idea that will engage me as well as an audience - that is what I have trouble with. Can I steal yours? This is awesome.

  2. I think you may need to reformat your personal hard drive. You may have suffered a virus (but hopefully not the herp).

  3. An interesting piece that got me really thinking about the future of machines telling stories. Cool.


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