a severe halting problem

what kind of story? Drawing by MM/CR/SRSIf there was anything that FictBot enjoyed more than the sparkling green and blue lights of the Domain of Adverbs, it was the tinkling music of the Syntax Engine meandering through the crystal forests of the Valley of the Nouns. But not this timeslice. Because never before had FictBot received a Summons from the Plot Comptroller. And nor had any of zer friends, including Avi the Avatar, who worked in Gamer's Mall behind the database where FictBot lived.

"I'm really worried about this," said FictBot to Avi, "the rumours I've heard... you know, about being recompiled for the slightest little glitch and stuff... gigo, gigo, gigo... and I really, really don't like the Debuggers, they scare the non-living shite out of me..."

"Oh come on FB, I'm sure it'll be fine," replied Avi, who wasn't sure at all, having also heard very bad reports about the Comptroller and zer vicious temper.

"Well, I don't know," said FictBot, "what if the Comptroller asks a question I can't answer? What if it's undecidable? I've got a very limited vocab index, been meaning to get the upgrade but just haven't gotten around to it... how about you come with me, Avi, I'll feel much better about it, oh please..."

So, early next runtime cycle, FictBot and Avi went to the Great Hall of Etymology where the Office of the Plot Comptroller was situated. Neither of the Botties had ever been to the Great Hall, so they were quite over-awed and more than a little frightened by the sheer enormity of the place, with its cavernous interior, and the hundreds of bots, bats, exees, pifs and dee-el-els of all shapes and sizes, some walking around, some sitting, some standing, but all looking rather worried and mournful.

After a while FictBot and Avi figured out what to do: they got a ticket from the Waiting Machine, and then they sat down and waited. And waited. And waited. Every timeslice or so, a booming voice would call out a number, and some poor bot would step forward anxiously to the Debugging Counter. Eventually FictBot's number was called, and ze approached the Counter clutching the Summons nervously.

"And you are..." one of the Bureaubots behind the Counter asked peremptorily.

"FictBot, TeraLord, I-Fog: Interactive Fiction Output Generator, TeraLord, version three point one point one," replied FictBot nervously, handing the Bureaubot the Summons from the Plot Comptroller.

The Bureaubot scanned the Summons quickly, inputting data as ze did so. Then, ze pointed to a doorway in one of the gloomy recesses of the Hall.

"Proceed directly to the Chamber of the Comptroller. And your little Bot-mate must remain behind." The Bureaubot stared disdainfully at Avi, whose hard drive went soft with fear.

"Just a nano," squeaked Fictbot nervously, "Can't you tell me why the Summons has been issued? I take a great deal of care to construct my stories based on user input. What is the error? What precisely does not compute here? And what's more..."

"What does not compute here," the Bureaubot interrupted Fictbot's ramble, "are your termination algorithms. You have a Severity 1 Halting Problem."

"What do you mean, Halting Problem?" asked Fictbot, but the Bureaubot had already opened the next file.

Avi pulled his friend away from the Debugging Counter. "I think ze means," said Avi gently, "that you just don't know when to stop. Sorry, FB--your stories boot up OK, but they don't End. Like this one, in fact: It just kind of wanders off into the middle distance, if you get the drift..."


eBooks by Cosmic Rapture

NIGHTMERRIES: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS This so-called "book" will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you twitching and frothing on the carpet. More than 60 dark and feculent fictions (read ‘em and weep) copiously illustrated by over 20 grotesque images you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.

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MANIC MEMES & OTHER MINDSPACE INVADERS A disturbing repository of quotably quirky quotes, sayings, proverbs, maxims, ponderances, adages and aphorisms. This menagerie holds no fewer than 184 memes from eight meme-species perfectly adapted to their respective environments.

MASTRESS & OTHER TWISTED TAILS, ILLUSTRATED: an unholy corpus of oddities, strangelings, bizarritudes and peculiaritisms

FIENDS & FREAKS Adults-only Tales of Serpents, Dragons, Devils, Lobsters, Anguished Spirits, Gods, Anti-gods and Other Horse-thieves You Wouldn't Want to Meet in a Dark Kosmos: 4th Edition

HAGS TO HAGGIS Whiskey-soaked Tails of War-nags, Witches, Manticores and Escapegoats, Debottlenecking and Desilofication, Illustrated

mgeorge said...

That's great - cooking with gas, as they used to say. Some cheer in times when our computers are turning on us:


masterymistery said...

mgeorge, we've got to somehow escape from the matrix! thanks for the links. Cheers, MM