Imagine that you find a comfortable sitting position in front of a medium-sized waterfall, set a timer on your phone and force yourself to stare for the duration at the water’s turbulence. You will discover that you can neither predict the precise pattern of eddies nor impose any control over them with your will. The chaotic turbulence you observe is the product of the interactions among an unfathomably large number of water molecules. Each individual molecule-to-molecule collision is comfortingly intuitive, but aggregated over ten-to-the-Nth collisions, the results are utterly humbling.
Now imagine that you have been hired to manage the interactions of a few thousand water molecules in the midst of the waterfall. This is the situation of a hacker editing a few lines of code within an unstoppable electro-linguistic universe accreted over decades. This is why hackers are uniformly superstitious and fatalistic.
Aircraft engines by the 1930′s had grown sufficiently complex to give rise to a sincere belief among mechanics and pilots in “gremlins,” which were malevolent and destructive but lacking in individuation and personality. Computer networks by the late 1970′s had already grown sufficiently complex to demand a richer target for superstition than “gremlins.” William Gibson (who in those years had a rather oblique and inaccurate impression of techology and technologists) nevertheless provided his Sprawl Trilogy characters with a useful set of metaphorical tools for channeling the psychological consequences of exploding complexity: Orishas (the West African gods who may be most familiar to you from blues songs or Santeria).
Polytheism is well-suited to human (let alone hacker) nature in any case, and is resistant to the irritating paradoxes that plague monotheism (“How can evil exist if She is both all-benign and all-powerful?”) You can seek out the god that best suits your immediate difficulties. Among god-gangs, the Orishas have already shown themselves able to sink deep into the roots of at least two continents and to co-opt/subvert the Catholic church. I’d back them in a street-fight against those dudes from Olympus any day. If I had deals to do (and who doesn’t?), they’d be a good bunch of gods to approach.
In today’s case:
So: In the hacker spirit of “an ironic joke that is intended to contain possibly disquieting amount of truth”*, here is a practical example in which I ask Oshun (extremely creative and extremely generous) to help me write a bit of flash fiction. If you are able to distinguish which parts of the example spring from my mind and which from the Net, then you are way ahead of me. It pleases me to ascribe the result to Oshun, and to offer her some honey from my bees.
* See the Jargon File entry for “Ha Ha Only Serious.”
I consult Random Location on Earth. I receive 37.631107 N, 27.185305 E: Söke, Turkey.
The first paragraph of Wikipedia entry on Söke says: “Söke is Turkey’s only exporter of culinary snails.”
A cursory googling suggests snails are regarded as haram by most commentators.
From the Wikipedia entry on helix lucorum, the Turkish Snail: “This species of snail makes and uses love darts.”
From the entry on love darts: “Prior to copulation, each of the two snails attempt to ‘shoot’ one or more darts into the other snail. There is no organ to receive the dart; this action is more analogous to a stabbing, or to being shot with an arrow.”
Wikipedia’s “List of Most Popular Given Names” entry claims Can is the most popular Turkish name for males, and Yasemin for females.
I consult the I Ching, as a source of ambiguous and evocative randomness.http://www.ichingonline.net and get Hexagram 59, “Dissolution,”
Walls meant to protect have instead separated and isolated.
Your defenses have kept you apart from those whom you most need to touch.
Whatever the reason for discord between you, it is time to lay down your arms.
Dispel the inflexible demands and fears of the Mind so that you may reunite in the Heart.
If you have begrudged, forgive.
If you have torn down, repair.
If you have injured, heal.
If you have judged, pardon.
If you have grasped, let go.
changing to Hexagram 6, “Conflict”:
Conflict is a necessary part of life.
Tension upon the strings of a violin can make majestic music.
The critical mass of two hydrogen atoms trying to occupy the same space fuel the sun that nourishes our solar system.
Most conflicts you face in life are the result of your Path converging with another’s.
Your Path is not his, and one Path is not necessarily more right than the other.
Can you work together to remove the blockage?
I conclude that I am writing a story set near Söke, in which Can and Yasemin fight and make up, all for the sake of forbidden snails.
Yasemin’s knife sliced deep into my ass.
“Son of a whore,” she shouted. “Donkey fucker!”
I dropped the shotgun and fell to my knees.
“I’m not sorry,” I said.
“What am I supposed to do now?” she screamed. “How am I supposed to live?”
“They robbed me blind,” I said. “They deserved it.” I folded my handkerchief and held it to my ass.
“They were exterminating pests!” she said. “You should be paying me!”
“Consider the pests exterminated,” I said, nodding at the scattered corpses.
“My hens are not pests!” she said.
“Were,” I corrected. I stood up, right into the force of her slap.
“Snails!” she said. “Snail farmer! What kind of a man becomes a snail farmer?”
“A successful man,” I said. The handkerchief was soaked.
“Selling insects to Greeks?” she said. “To you this is success?”
“Molluscs,” I said. “Money is money.”
“Was,” she corrected. “That’s all over now.”
“Agreed,” I said. “Now we will starve together. But first we have to disinfect me.”
“I have half a bottle of raki,” she said. “But I’m not pouring it on your ass.”
“We’ll take it internally,” I said. “After we get the buckshot out of these chickens.”
“I’ll build a fire,” she said. “Here’s a knife for the hens.”
Fritz Bogott (fritzbogott.com, @fritzbogott) was born in Berkeley, California and grew up reading novels and writing code in Minnesota. After studying math, German and Chinese at a weirdly long list of American and Taiwanese colleges and universities (he met illustrator Mozhidian in Taipei in 1990), he worked as an engineer in Scotland, Ethiopia, Singapore and Chile and helped start the company GovDelivery. He is the author of the CC-licensed novels BOGGLE AND SNEAK (Paper copies in bookstores, electronic copies at http://fritzbogott.com/boggleandsneak) and PISMO (Electronic copies at http://fritzbogott.com/pismo). His stories have been published in Kek-W Quarterly, Startling Adventures and Weaponizer. He builds giant flaming things in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife and daughters.