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March 8, 2003

The page of generators
Posted by Teresa at 01:17 PM *

Steven Savage has the turn of mind that plays with permutations, and has come up with an entire page of generators. Mostly they’re just for fun, or as an aid to imagination for gamers; but a couple of them generated material that would catch my eye in a slush ms. One is the Academic SF Generator (inexplicably filed under character-related generators), which generates fields of study:

Alien Pharmacology Business Artificial Intelligence
Ethical Industrial Computing
Theoretical Communications
Inter-System Statistics
Modern Interdimensional Zoology
Remedial Terraforming
Nanotechnological Economics
Common Computing
Relativistic Computing
Clinical Robotics
Virtual Science
Even better is the Action Film Trailer Generator. It’s meant to generate parodic action-movie trailer voiceovers. I looked at the first one it generated:
In a city of fear, four actors and a bounty hunter oppose crime.
Sounded interesting.
In a galaxy of computerization, an astronomer tries to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history.
Cool. (Later on, I also got In a dark universe, two supercomputers hope to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history. I liked that one, too.)
In a corrupt world, in a time of conspiracy and illusions, a grave robber and a conjurer seek vengance.
That had possibilities.
In a forgotten world of magic, in a time of confusion and prophecy, three computer programmers search for a mystic artifact.
So did that one.
In a hellish empire, two colonists and a prospector battle crime.

On a planet of enchantment, a gigolo searches for a mysterious treasure and battles evil.

In a terrifying city of monsters, four botanists search for fame.

In an empire of blood and warfare, in an era of lies, three queens battle an evil corporation.

In a land of barbarism, a swordsman and an artificial intelligence fight evil.

In a city of demons and wonder, a nun and a gambler attempt to solve the ultimate crime and prevent the apocalypse.

In an empire of dreams and illusion, four psychologists and an exorcist fight a syndicate of aliens.

In a mysterious land of technology, an assassin searches for the ultimate weapon and fights evil.

In a universe of fear and sorcery, seven priests search for love and battle crime.
There’ve been days when I’ve killed slush for hours without running into anything that interesting.

You can configure the generator to give you a bunch of results at once, so I set it for 25 per click and kept reading. Within half a dozen clicks it came up with summaries of the plots of John Brunner’s The Traveller in Black and Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows, and did a near-miss on Jim Macdonald’s The Apocalypse Door. You could be in worse company.

A summary isn’t a plot, a plot isn’t a novel, and having the ingredients isn’t the same thing as knowing how to write fiction; but if that’s what you’re trying to do, you might want to have a look at that generator and see if it shakes anything loose inside your head.

Comments on The page of generators:
#1 ::: jJohn M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 04:17 PM:

Okay, I ran the synopses through LEADLINE 0.2 (an early alpha, don't ask) and got the following titles. Watch for these at your multiplex.

In a city of fear, four actors and a bounty hunter oppose crime.

MONEY SHOTS


In a galaxy of computerization, an astronomer tries to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history.

THE TYCHO ALGORITHM


In a dark universe, two supercomputers hope to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history.

ROCK 91EM SOCK 91EM ROBOTS: THE NEXT GENERATION


In a corrupt world, in a time of conspiracy and illusions, a grave robber and a conjurer seek vengance.

SPADE AND ARCHER: THE BEGINNING


In a forgotten world of magic, in a time of confusion and prophecy, three computer programmers search for a mystic artifact.

THE WAY OF THE CODE MONKEY


In a hellish empire, two colonists and a prospector battle crime.

CLAIM JUMPERS


On a planet of enchantment, a gigolo searches for a mysterious treasure and battles evil.

SAM ENCHANTED92S EVENINGS


In a terrifying city of monsters, four botanists search for fame.

BURBANK92S ANGELS


In an empire of blood and warfare, in an era of lies, three queens battle an evil corporation.

RICHARD III, LLC


In a land of barbarism, a swordsman and an artificial intelligence fight evil.

ELIZA AND THE DESTROYER


In a city of demons and wonder, a nun and a gambler attempt to solve the ultimate crime and prevent the apocalypse.

HARD 666 {from an idea by Anthony Boucher}


In an empire of dreams and illusion, four psychologists and an exorcist fight a syndicate of aliens.

EIGHTY MINUTES TO ZERO


In a mysterious land of technology, an assassin searches for the ultimate weapon and fights evil.

KILLER APP


In a universe of fear and sorcery, seven priests search for love and battle crime.

THE ORDER OF ST. ABELARD

#2 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 04:36 PM:

Re: >>In a land of barbarism, a swordsman and an artificial intelligence fight evil.

I've read this one! It was by S.M. Stirling!

#3 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 05:30 PM:

As someone who has produced trailers (see my web site, he said modestly), I was disappointed the Action Film Trailer Generator didn't lead with In a World Where... which seems to me the more common opening.

Still, it's pretty cool.

:)

#4 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 10:03 PM:

John: for the ultimate expression of the 'in a world phenomenon,' check out the trailer for Comedian (if you haven't already):

http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/comedian.html

#5 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 12:35 AM:

All you pros out there should print the URL for Savage's generator page on a business card, and sell it to folks who ask you where you get your ideas from.

(Give half the take to the Neilson Haydens, in compensation for the horrors that would soon start appearing in their slush pile.)

"In a mysterious galaxy of sin, a terraformer and a **novelist** try to find revenge and battle evil."

Mary Sue in space!

#6 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:27 AM:

Stephanie,

What a gem! I can't believe I missed that one, because I visit the Apple trailer site regularly (I'll have to be more regular, I guess).

#7 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 09:51 PM:

It's interesting Teresa came up with a Brunner plot; somewhere in the thin space between her plot summaries and Mike's titles for same I remembered Brunner's contention (from The Shockwave Rider) that Chinese villagers were called on to shuffle and deal word cards so as to come up with unfiltered concepts they could discuss and report on. (I certainly don't believe the discussion was "free and unfettered" as Brunner suggests -- looking back on this, I'm reminded of a local disbeliever-in-everything's apologia for the Khmer Rouge -- but I'm amused that he claimed this depended on unique characteristics of Chinese (he didn't say whether he meant Mandarin, Cantonese, ..., or all) when a few decades of Moore's Law puts it in the hands of any fule kno.)

Should we take up a collection to buy Patrick and Teresa a huge rubber stamp with the Tor book-proposal requirements (synopsis and two chapters, IIRC) for self-defense?

#8 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:25 PM:

I generated a page of plotlines, and three of them had the same goal: "save the last living fertile woman."

The protagonists were: three heros and a duchess, two peasants and an acrobat, and a virtual reality engineer.

Which just goes to show: If you're the last living fertile woman, you'll be VERY popular.

#9 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 01:37 AM:

>I generated a page of plotlines, and three of them
>had the same goal: "save the last living fertile
>woman."

>The protagonists were: three heros and a duchess, >two peasants and an acrobat, and a virtual reality
>engineer.

Titled, respectively, FULL HOUSE, PYRAMID SCHEME, and A SCANNER DARKLY.

#10 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 08:37 AM:

How did it give you jack of shadows?

In a world half-night, half-day the only man capable of moving between its divisions makes out like a bandit?

#11 ::: Emmet ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 10:30 AM:

As academic SF generators go, I'm still working on the setting that can plausibly contain a Department of Applied Eschatology.

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 01:05 AM:

"... to save the world's last fertile woman."

That's real close to the plot of Hell Comes to Frogtown. A ex-soldier (the world's last fertile male) and a dancer-turned-FBI-agent infiltrate a pool of alien frogs to save (among other things) the world's last fertile women. Yee-hah!

#13 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 02:31 AM:

Watching Mike Ford makes me realize that we've got a consuite game here -- print out fifty or so of these buggers, read 'em aloud, and throw chocolate at whoever shouts out the best title.

And I'm laying 50 on Mike Ford.

#14 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 06:22 AM:

Regarding esoteric academic titles, the rollcall of Blog U over at AKMA's takes some beating.

In fact the faculty are planning a convocation.

#15 ::: Caryn Cameron ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 05:29 PM:

> In a terrifying city of monsters, four botanists search for fame.

Wasn't this the plot for the beautiful but ridiculously plotted Final Fantasy film?

#16 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 11:58 PM:

http://britishspin.blogspot.com: "In a time of despondancy, mayhem and tension, a lone blogger seeks distraction and finds the action film trailer generator."

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