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A Brief History of Automatic Fiction

by Rudi Dornemann

Buenos Aires, dawn; streets quiet. A little cafe on the Calle Magdalena. Languages he doesn't know -- Spanish, English, Russian -- conspire at other tables. At his: oversweet frothy coffee and a stained notepad.

He lets the notepad jot.

Automatic Fiction is the most useless of the arts; that's part of its charm. A cloud of words on the page, caravan of sentences that almost seem to be getting somewhere, then don't. Paragraph after paragraph absorbs the mind like music on edge of hearing. Forgotten as soon as read, leaving behind only a vague afterimage. Emotional pentimento.

AutoFictioneers rig algorithms to discourse, and they go. Plots unspool and branch. Characters multiply, recombine scene by scene. Detail and dialogue are elaborated by automata run on simple rules over vast numbers of iterations. The machine generates a new tale for every reader, every reading.

Words follow words while he watches pedestrians, trees, traffic.

Student loan venture funds want dividends. He wants to make useless words. In rising economies, the newly comfortable see individuality as status, and want to be and to have what's unique. Each their own story. In fading economies, midling classes want to stay ahead by keeping up, and want their own stories, too. Demand.

Vulture funds want to commodify his elusive and unrepeatable words. They've bet he'll profit them, so he's gone and will go -- Niigata, Des Moines, Buenos Aires, Kinshasa, Adelaide, Urumchi, anywhere that's somewhere else. Where he can do his work and be useless.

Fund managers, or their subcontractors, approach -- his preprogrammed proximity agents sing warning -- he snaps the notebook shut and stands to go -- and the words are gone.

And so is he.

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