In the second post I ever put up on Making Light, Good search strings for bad writing, 08 June 2001, I said:
It’s like an infallible fishing lure for unreadable fiction: If you go to www.google.com and type in “She loved him. She really loved him.”, you’ll turn up between twelve and twenty specimens of online fiction, not one single piece of which will be good. “He loved her. He really loved her.” works just as well, though the results are a bit steamier. Oddly enough, the same-sex variants, she-loved-her and he-loved-him, aren’t represented at all. I see no reason why gay writers should have denied themselves the use of this cliche in bad online fiction, but there it is. If you’re desperate, you can substitute he knew he loved him or she knew she loved her, though you have to ignore the instances where “her” is being used as a possessive rather than a pronoun.On 06 March 2003, I reported that googling on “She loved him. She really loved him.” would now turn up about forty specimens of online fiction, and that they were all still bad.
I take more than a little pride in the search strings for bad poetry I suggested to my friend Scraps, who collects the stuff: peom and peotry. Scraps says poerty works too.
Yesterday, News You Can Bruise mentioned using my badfic search techniques to find online Powerpoint presentations they could use to play Powerpoint Karaoke. Since they’d mentioned it, I idly typed in The Fateful String to see how many pieces of online fiction it currently summons.
The results were unexpected. It turned up one article about Alan Clark, plus two and a half pieces of fiction: a dreadful RPG-based bitey vampire thing, a chapter of a Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy slash epic, and a snippet by a B.F.A. at Vanderbilt who “exhibits photographs and mixed media objects and installations.” Which is nothing.
Either Google’s latest revision of their algorithms and parameters has somehow made them tetchy about searching for that string, or we’re seeing the near-death of a durable cliche. Both seem unlikely.
At least peom still works.