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Jocelyn Paine

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Earth Falls Toward The Sun And Everybody Dies - A science-fiction plot-generator in Excel

April 28, 2008

Here's a little bit of fun from that never-never land between AI and spreadsheets. It's an Excel spreadsheet I constructed that produces science-fiction story plots. To run it, click this link — www.j-paine.org/excelsior/repository/spin/spin.xls — and read the plot from cells A4 downwards. To generate a new plot, select "Recalculate" in cell B4.

The spreadsheet was generated using a program I call Excelsior, and you can see the code, with commentary, at www.j-paine.org/excelsior/repository/spin/spin.html. It works by finding a random path through a transition graph of plot events.

This is stored in rows 210 downwards, column B being the nodes, and columns C:N the out-edges. When you press "Recalculate", the path-finder assembles a new random sequence of nodes in cells A107:A206, and then plants the corresponding text in cells A4:A103.

I should credit Gahan Wilson with a lot of the plot elements — it originated with his The Science Fiction Horror Movie Pocket Computer from Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss's The Year's Best Science Fiction No. 5. I've added a few, though, including Damon Knight's alien visitors who insist that all they wish is to serve man. Indeed they do — fried.

 

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