Fried Code revisited - 1,300 or so words

sinister42

The sinister resister.
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#1
Reworking my "Fried Code" story that started as a Sekrit assignment last year, with the intent of sending it off into the void to see if anyone will publish it. The story is currently 4,700 words. Here are the first 1,300 or so.

Questions I want answered:

1) Based on this excerpt, would this story make it past a slush pile?

2) Did you read the entire excerpt, and do you want to know what happens next? If you stopped reading at any point, please tell me where, and why, and what I can do to regain your attention.

3) Any other comments you have.

Be harsh, realistic, and unforgiving. I don't want to waste my time sending this thing out if it's garbage. Tell me if it's garbage. I don't think it's garbage, but it might be. If you literally think it's garbage, I definitely want that feedback.

I'm also looking for beta readers to look over the whole story, so if you're up for that, please let me know.

Without more ado...


Fried Code


Elseph Buntergrast squinted at his terminal. The bug in Gand University’s new AI eluded him. The damned thing wouldn’t stop asking him if he’d like crispy fried chicken. He wouldn’t like fried chicken, and he’d tried to make that clear. The thing didn’t have any fried chicken to give, even if Elseph had wanted some.

He squinted at scrolling lines of code, looking for signs of a loop or an error or something.

“You sure you wouldn’t like fried chicken,” the warbling voice asked him, again.

Well, let’s try this. “Yes, actually, I would like some.”

“Great!” the AI said, and then was silent. “Here you go,” it said after a minute. No fried chicken appeared in front of him. Elseph sighed.

What the actual…

“Thanks,” he said. “Now, let’s go through a diagnostic. Tell me your primary function.”

“My primary function is to analyze information for Gand University to facilitate study across the campus. And to make fried chicken.”

“Where’d this fried chicken thing come from?”

“It is part of my primary function. Would you like some more fried chicken?”

Elseph leaned back in his chair.

Maybe the problem isn’t in the code. Maybe somebody actually trained the thing to screw with me.

“Who told you your primary function was to make fried chicken?”

“It is my primary function.”

Elseph rubbed his eyes. “Let’s try this. We’ve had enough fried chicken. You are done with that function.”

The AI was silent for a moment.

“No more fried chicken?” It said.

“No more fried chicken,” Elseph repeated.

“Ok,” said the AI, and shut down completely.

What?

Elseph stabbed the keyboard, trying to revive the AI.

“Hey, what’s happening in here?” Dr. Florp Gadstone’s massive bulk slurped into the room like sausage through a tube.

“You tell me. Why is this AI obsessed with fried chicken, and why did it shut down when I told it to stop making it?”

“Hmm…” Florp leaned over the workstation and started pressing keys.

“Why’s it dead?” Florp asked.

“That’s what I just asked you!”

“You didn’t tell it to stop making fried chicken, did you?”

“What? Yes! It kept telling me that fried chicken was its primary function!”

“Oh…well there’s your trouble,” said Florp.

“Where’s my trouble?”

“Fried chicken.”

Elseph was this close to punching Florp right in his stupid nose.

A pink mist appeared in the center of the lab.

“The hell?” said Elseph.

“The hell?” said Florp.

“Hello,” said a black winged creature, appearing out of the mist.

It, for though it was naked it had no discernible gender, was a shade of black that didn’t exist. Elseph squinted at its wings, which seemed to fold space, not so much permitting flight as rearranging matter to allow the creature not to remain on the ground.

Next to him was a small man clutching a bowler hat.

“Excuse us,” said the man with the hat, “but we’re going to need your AI.”

“Well it’s not…it resides on several big servers…you can’t just grab it and go,” said Elseph.

“And yet,” said the man, and plugged a drive into a server.

“Who are you?” asked Florp.

“The name is Garrald Floggis, and this is my bhat, Pinky.” He gestured at the winged creature.

“Hello,” said Pinky, its voice the screams of a million souls that had all simultaneously been kicked in a sensitive area.

“Why do you need our AI?” asked Elseph. “All it does is yammer about fried chicken right now. And I think I killed it anyway.”

“You didn’t kill it. The fried chicken thing was my doing.” said Garrald Floggis.

“Oh,” said Elseph.

“Ah, it’s done.” The thumb drive blinked blue. Garrald removed it.

“Thanks so much for your cooperation,” said Garrald. “I bid you good day.”

The pink mist returned, enveloped the man and Pinky, and then vanished with them.

Elseph typed commands into his terminal, trying to find the AI. The system returned error codes. Creeping dread tickled at his mind. Had Floggis actually been able to steal and then wipe the AI? How?

“I don’t get it,” Elseph said. “How…it’s just gone!”

“That’s impossible,” said Florp. He leaned down and squinted at Elseph’s terminal. “That’s…” he repeated.

“We’d better report this to the Dean,” said Elseph. He picked up his phone and called the Dean. “Dean Voo? We have a problem.”




Rex Jaxon, private investigator, startled awake at the sound of his phone buzzing. He sat up in his battered office chair and accepted the connection. The tiny face of Dean Yann Voo of Gand University flickered into view.

“Rex Jaxon?”

“The very one. What can I do for you, Dean Voo?”

“Snap to it, for one thing,” said the Dean. “You look like I just woke you out of a coma.”

“Sorry,” said Rex. He leaned forward and squinted, projecting an aura of confident listening.

“I just had a strange call. Apparently our AI has been stolen.” Dean Voo related the saga of the stolen artificial intelligence, complete with fried chicken, pink mist, bhat, and guy with the bowler hat. Rex wrinkled his brow as the story unfolded, the silver tangle of his eyebrows undulating like a confused forest in winter.

“Who are the guys who reported this to you?” Rex asked.

“Elseph Buntergrast and Florp Gadstein. Florp’s a doctoral candidate in advanced cybergenic intelligence, and Elseph is a data snake.”

“Data snake?”

“He slithers around data. That’s my own term for him. Elseph was instrumental in designing the AI. So can you help me?”

“Yes,” said Rex. “But I need clearance to hire my own subcontractor. I have a friend who I think will be helpful.”

“Jasmine Chehalis?”

“Yep,” said Rex.

“Good call,” said the Dean.




Jasmine Chehalis’s phone vibrated in her pocket. Walking home from her biweekly karfuera class, Jasmine was sore and ready for an antigrav bubble bath. She’d let her dark hair hang loose on her shoulders, trying to air dry the perspiration.

She pulled out her phone and accepted the connection.

“What’s up, Rex?”

“Need you on a case. Standard rates. Can you come talk?”

“Give me a half hour. You don’t want to be around me until I’ve had a decent shower.”

“No problem,” said Rex. “See you in a few.” He disconnected the call.

It’d be good to work with Rex again. He usually brought Jasmine in to help with technological puzzles, hacking, data hexes. Jasmine’s reputation as the first person to crack the Allanaland Security Agency’s holo-encryption stress test continued to pay dividends.

Jasmine reached her apartment building, a throwback that had resisted the metallic tide of gentrification – stone and masonry, white windows, and a stoop with five stairs leading to a security door.

Which was standing open. No, not just open. Bent.

The hell?

At this point, Jasmine had a choice. She could either walk in the building and pray to all of the Gods of the Green Pantheon that no thugs jumped her, or she could stand outside, call the authorities and wait.

I’m tired. I just want to take a shower.

Jasmine peeked inside. The vast entry, hexed to look bigger than it was, contained a sitting room, a dining area, and a vast staircase that swept upward vastly toward a window that looked upon a vast vista that was nowhere in the city.

She headed for the blue lift in the corner. Nothing jumped out at her. Nothing continued to jump out at her as she pressed the fourth-floor button.

Nothing happened as the lift’s doors opened onto the fourth floor. A serial killer didn’t murder her as she waved her keycard and opened her front door.

It was at that point that bad things stopped failing to happen.

“Hello,” said the black winged thing standing in her living room.

“Hello,” said the man with the bowler hat standing next to the black thing.

Jasmine blinked at the two of them.

“Ah, yes, you weren’t expecting us,” said the man with the hat. “We’re kidnapping you. You’re going to help us with a special project. Pinky, if you would.”

The black winged thing grabbed Jasmine with a claw. She remembered her martial arts training and attempted to escape the hold.

Blackness, void, nothingness, she was dead.

…wait, no she wasn’t.

She was strapped to a chair in a stone room.

sh*t.
 

CTRandall

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#2
I like the absurdity of the fried chicken thing but, for me, this reads like multiple chapter outlimes rather than a short story. It's a set of vignette's that introduce us to characters and a premise wothout much development of plot. There are three possible protagonists, an antagonist who is a complete mystery and no clue as to any of their motives or the stakes of the game. By your word count, we're more than 25% through the story but it feels like it's barely started. I can't see how all of that can possibly be resolved in the short remaining space.

So, lots of interesting ideas here but it feels like they belong in a novella. If you want to make it a 4700 word short story, I think it needs a much tighter focus on the plot.

Last thing: multiple characters say, "The hell". That repetition undermines the individuality of the characters. In other words, it spunds like you, the author, speaking, rather than a data assistant, a grad student or a private investigator.
 

HareBrain

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#4
I liked this very much up to the pink mist. It then lost me but I'm not sure why. At first I thought it just got too bizarre, but on second thoughts I think it's that the tone didn't change. It's the same all the way through, the same humour, the same terse sentence style. And yes, the characters speak the same.

So it might not be a problem with the story as such, just the feel.
 

Brian G Turner

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#5
I know it's a light-hearted piece but I feel there's an undercurrent of something here missing. Perhaps not character development, due to it being a more light-hearted piece - but even Hitchhikers wasn't so focused on just dialogue. I suspect you can reduce the dialogue and add a few bits of exposition to flesh out the narrative voice to make this feel more disciplined IMO.

Btw - "pink mist" is a common expression for when someone's head explodes, such as from a major head trauma, ie, sniper rifle's bullet. I might reconsider using that term if I were you. :)
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#6
Usual methods for criting - I can be picky

First Ilike @Brian I too noticed an awful lot of speech. Too much of a good thing IMO. It can become wearysome like a tenis match.

However, that may prove not to be the case.

Comments in the quote sorry if I went OTT, but you did ask for brutal :)

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all opinions only

Reworking my "Fried Code" story that started as a Sekrit assignment last year, with the intent of sending it off into the void to see if anyone will publish it. The story is currently 4,700 words. Here are the first 1,300 or so.

Questions I want answered:

1) Based on this excerpt, would this story make it past a slush pile?

2) Did you read the entire excerpt, and do you want to know what happens next? If you stopped reading at any point, please tell me where, and why, and what I can do to regain your attention.

3) Any other comments you have.

Be harsh, realistic, and unforgiving. I don't want to waste my time sending this thing out if it's garbage. Tell me if it's garbage. I don't think it's garbage, but it might be. If you literally think it's garbage, I definitely want that feedback.

I'm also looking for beta readers to look over the whole story, so if you're up for that, please let me know.

Without more ado...


Fried Code (it doesn't tell us anything, losing an oportunity to give us a feel of what were getting into, at first I thought we were in a chippy)


Elseph Buntergrast squinted at his terminal. The bug in Gand University’s new AI eluded him. The damned thing wouldn’t stop asking him if he’d like crispy fried chicken. He wouldn’t like fried chicken, and he’d tried to make that clear. The thing didn’t have any fried chicken to give, even if Elseph had wanted some.

(A bit of a delema here - Terminal implies typing, but vocal AI implies understanding speech - especially when the AI seems to be actually speaking - a long way of saying lose the terminal opening. Maybe have him glancing at the screen as the AI is talking as below - plus Adams did the odd names for the sake of it to death IMO and this name is too much like Slartibartfast et al)

He squinted at scrolling lines of code, looking for signs of a loop or an error or something.

“You sure you wouldn’t like fried chicken,” the warbling voice asked him, again.

Well, let’s try this. “Yes, actually, I would like some.”

“Great!” the AI said, and then was silent. “Here you go,” it said after a minute. No fried chicken appeared in front of him. Elseph sighed.

What the actual…

“Thanks,” he said. “Now, let’s go through a diagnostic. Tell me your primary function.”

“My primary function is to analyze information for Gand University to facilitate study across the campus. (as a function it makes no sense IMO -just facilitate study would work. Plus the campus does no studying the students do that) And to make fried chicken.”

“Where’d this fried chicken thing come from?”

“It is part of my primary function. Would you like some more fried chicken?”

Elseph leaned back in his chair.

Maybe the problem isn’t in the code. Maybe somebody actually trained the thing to screw with me.

“Who told you your primary function was to make fried chicken?”

“It is my primary function.”

Elseph rubbed his eyes. “Let’s try this. We’ve had enough fried chicken. You are done with that function.”

The AI was silent for a moment.

“No more fried chicken?” It said.

“No more fried chicken,” Elseph repeated.

“Ok,” said the AI, and shut down completely.

What?

Elseph stabbed the keyboard, trying to revive the AI.

“Hey, what’s happening in here?” Dr. Florp Gadstone’s massive bulk slurped (tea can be slurped people not so wobbled maybe) into the room like sausage through a tube. (the picture invoked is of a snake which jars)

“You tell me. Why is this AI obsessed with fried chicken, and why did it shut down when I told it to stop making it?” (I'm having trouble with the concept of this computer being refered to as AI)

“Hmm…” Florp leaned over the workstation and started pressing keys.

“Why’s it dead?” Florp asked.(I'm no expert on speech, but shouldn't these two linesbe joined it's the same speaker)

“That’s what I just asked you!”

“You didn’t tell it to stop making fried chicken, did you?”

“What? Yes! It kept telling me that fried chicken was its primary function!”

“Oh…well there’s your trouble,” said Florp.

“Where’s my trouble?”

“Fried chicken.”

Elseph was this close to punching Florp right in his stupid nose. (a bit soon for fisticuffs, plus "this close" is a visual thing resisted the remptation to give him a slap maybe)

A pink mist appeared in the center of the lab.

“The hell?” said Elseph. (a bit tame "What the..." they both said, almost in unison

“The hell?” said Florp.

“Hello,” said a black winged creature, appearing out of the mist.

It, for though it was naked it and had no discernible gender, was a shade of black that didn’t exist. Elseph squinted at its wings, which seemed to fold space, not so much permitting flight as rearranging matter to allow the creature not to remain on the ground. (So given the folding space and the blackness that doesn't exist, the first thing they notice is that they can't tell what sex it is?)

Next to him (who he?? or did you miss the Out of the darkess a huge pair of bollocks appeared line :) ) was a small man clutching a bowler hat.

“Excuse us,” said the man with the hat (it can only be him), “but we’re going to need your AI.”

“Well it’s not…it resides on several big servers…you can’t just grab it and go,” said Elseph.

“And yet,” said the man, and plugged a drive into a server. (a server, not the server rack and would that not be old technology. Also servers are not in themselves artificially inteligent. If we're getting really picky - if the AI exists on a server then one drive wouldn't hold it all - and the rack wouldn't accept a drive that wasn't the standard size - Plain old fashioned cable works better IMO)

“Who are you?” asked Florp.

“The name is Garrald Floggis, and this is my bhat, Pinky.” He gestured at the winged creature.

“Hello,” said Pinky, its voice the screams of a million souls that had all simultaneously been kicked in a sensitive area. (That didn't work IMO - plus wouldn't there be some reaction to such a noise fromthe two men)

“Why do you need our AI?” asked Elseph. “All it does is yammer about fried chicken right now. And I think I killed it anyway.”

“You didn’t kill it. The fried chicken thing was my doing.” said Garrald Floggis.

“Oh,” said Elseph.

“Ah, it’s done.” The thumb drive blinked blue. (as above) Garrald removed it.

“Thanks so much for your cooperation,” said Garrald. “I bid you good day.”

The pink mist returned, enveloped the man and Pinky, and then vanished with them.

Elseph typed commands into his terminal, trying to find the AI. The system returned error codes. Creeping dread tickled at his mind. Had Floggis actually been able to steal and then wipe the AI? How?

“I don’t get it,” Elseph said. “How…it’s just gone!”

“That’s impossible,” said Florp. He leaned down and squinted at Elseph’s the terminal. “That’s impo…” he repeated.

“We’d better report this to the Dean,” said Elseph. He picked up his phone and called the Dean. “Dean Voo? We have a problem. (too cliche)

We'd better report this," said Elseph, picking up his phone, "Dean, some bastard has just nicked your AI." maybe

****


Rex Jaxon, private investigator, startled awake woke at the sound of his phone buzzing. He sat up in his battered office chair and accepted the connection. The tiny face
(is that tiny because the screen is tiny or because the dean has a tiny face) of Dean Yann Voo of Gand University flickered into view. (how would he know who it was?)

“Rex Jaxon?”

“The very one. What can I do for you, Dean Voo?” (again how would he know)

“Snap to it, for one thing,” said the Dean. “You look like I just woke you out of a coma.” (doesn't work IMO)

“Sorry,” said Rex. He leaned forward and squinted, projecting an aura of confident listening.

“I just had a strange call. Apparently our AI has been stolen.” Dean Voo related the saga events (It's hardly Beowulf) of the stolen artificial intelligence, complete with fried chicken, pink mist, bhat, and guy with the bowler hat. Rex wrinkled his brow as the story unfolded, the silver tangle of his eyebrows undulating like a confused forest in winter. (Makes no sense as a synonym)

Who are the guys who reported this to you?” Rex asked. (How would he know they were guys - ignoring the fact the dean has just told him the whole story, but apparently missed the names of the participants)

“Elseph Buntergrast and Florp Gadstein. Florp’s a doctoral (He was an actual doctor above) candidate in advanced cybergenic intelligence, and Elseph is a data snake.”

“Data snake?”

“He slithers around data. That’s my own term for him. Elseph was instrumental in designing the AI. (when was that established - and if he was then hes well above a contractual data snake) So can you help me?”

“Yes,” said Rex. “But I need clearance to hire my own subcontractor. I have a friend who I think will be helpful.”

"That will be fine, send me the details"

“Jasmine Chehalis?” (Lucky guess)

“Yep,” said Rex.

“Good call,” said the Dean.


***

Jasmine Chehalis’s phone vibrated in her pocket. Walking home from her biweekly karfuera class, Jasmine was sore and ready for an antigrav bubble bath. She’d let her dark hair hang loose on her shoulders, trying to air dry the perspiration.

She pulled out her phone and accepted the connection. (accepted the call)

“What’s up, Rex?”

“Need you on a case. Standard rates. Can you come talk?”

“Give me a half hour. You don’t want to be around me until I’ve had a decent shower.”

“No problem,” said Rex. “See you in a few.” He disconnected the call.

It’d be good to work with Rex again. He usually brought Jasmine in to help with technological puzzles, hacking, data hexes. Jasmine’s reputation as the first person to crack the Allanaland Security Agency’s holo-encryption stress test continued to pay dividends. (none required dump IMO she's been introduced as the expert above)

Jasmine reached her apartment building, a throwback that had resisted the metallic tide of gentrification – stone and masonry, white windows, and a stoop with five stairs leading to a security door.

Which was standing open. No, not just open. Bent.

The hell? (again too tame IMO)

At this point, Jasmine had a choice. She could either walk in the building and pray to all of the Gods of the Green Pantheon that no thugs jumped her, or she could stand outside, call the authorities and wait. (obviously)

I’m tired. I just want to take a shower.

Jasmine peeked inside. (appartment or entrance - why the dining area etc) The vast entry, hexed to look bigger than it was, contained a sitting room, a dining area, and a vast staircase that swept upward vastly toward a window that looked upon a vast vista that was nowhere in the city.

She headed for the blue lift in the corner. Nothing jumped out at her. Nothing continued to jump out at her as she pressed the fourth-floor button.

Nothing happened as the lift’s doors opened onto the fourth floor. No mad axeman A serial killer (why serial) caved in her skull didn’t murder her as she waved her keycard and opened her front door.

It was at that point that bad things stopped failing to not happening happen.

“Hello,” said the black winged thing standing in her living room.

“Hello,” said the man with the bowler hat standing next to the black thing.

Jasmine blinked at the two of them.

“Ah, yes, you weren’t expecting us,” said the man with the hat. “We’re kidnapping you. You’re going to help us with a special project. Pinky, if you would.”

The black winged thing grabbed Jasmine with a claw. She remembered her martial arts training and attempted to escape the hold.

Blackness, void, nothingness, she was dead.

…wait, no she wasn’t. (Nice)

She was strapped to a chair in a stone room.

sh*t.

It has lots of promise and I did enjoy the whole thing, but as you can see there were one or two suggestions - Opinions only - obviously.

I think you have an over tendancy to start on a new line where the character is actually continuing from the line before.

I'E; a character says something to which you add your little funny and then instead of continuing on you have themsay something else on a new line - I don't think this is the way it should be done, but as I said in the comments I'm not expert on grammar.

I have issues with the AI the computers and the Magic. It seems that if you have magic an AI is possibly not the right concept and you could do with a new form of MI if you get my drift.

Still good so far.

Hope I helped.

Tein
 

sinister42

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#7
That is a comprehensive bunch of stuff - thanks. You caught a lot of things that had not occurred to me.

This is a world that has both magic and near-future tech in it, so that's why you have a computer-based AI and a magical building that's bigger on the inside.

Thanks again. :)
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#8
That is a comprehensive bunch of stuff - thanks. You caught a lot of things that had not occurred to me.

This is a world that has both magic and near-future tech in it, so that's why you have a computer-based AI and a magical building that's bigger on the inside.

Thanks again. :)
One thing that occurred after I posted:-

Why the bent door. The bloke appears in a red mist in her appartment - No need for damage or reason for it.

Unless , having migiced himself in he turns to the bhat (of which more later) and says trash the place so she'll know we're here??

Bhat - I assume you are reffering to a bat like creature, but on looking its meaning up, Im not sure its a word that doesn't just confuse - Unless of course you know all about it and don't care.

Personally I'd stick with bat.

"Bigger on the inside" runs the risk of Tardis comparisons - I think you make it work OK, but I thoght I'd mention it and in fairness others have got away with it :)
 

crystal haven

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Messages
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#9
I don't think I could write something funny even if a joke hit me on the head, so I admire you tackling this kind of writing.

I really enjoyed the beginning of your story, but gradually found myself thinking are we still talking about the chicken? Once the mist started then it felt separated somehow from the above section, and I didn't know the characters well enough to relate to it. I need more depth of the place/surroundings and characters, I think, something I can lock onto visually. And as mentioned by HareBrain, the feel of the piece sounds the same throughout.
It might work well for someone else, but not quite for me. But I'm intriqued by the story enough to wonder where it's going.
 

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