a kind of all-purpose novel-killing novel


We now have everything in place to convert two texts into a game of chess: we simply feed the program the two novels, asking it to play one text as “white” and the other as “black”; the program searches through the white text until it finds the first tuple corresponding to a movable piece (in the case of an opening move, either a pawn or a knight), and then, having settled on the piece that will open, continues searching through the text until it encounters a tuple designating a square to which that piece can be moved. When it has done so, the computer executes that move for white, and then goes to the other text to find, in the same way, an opening move for black. And so it goes: white, black, white, black, until—quite by accident, of course, since we must suppose that the novels know nothing of chess strategy (and our program cannot help them, since it knows only the rules of the game)—one king is mated. Such a set up would be close (there turn out to be interesting differences, but put that aside for now) to permitting two monkeys to play chess against each other by giving each a keyboard and permitting them to jump about on them: send the resulting string of letters to our program, and it scans this string of gobbledygook for tuples that constitute legitimate moves, makes them, and voilà, monkey chess.

more from D. Graham Burnett and W. J. Walter at Cabinet here.