Where "The Difference" came from

Well, my good friend Jon "Ngamer" Barber of the-elite.net fame contacted me today and forwarded a chat log to me which I think you guys might find interesting. It's from October 2006, and you can see here the actual origin of the original idea behind my recent story The Difference, as well as the story Gorge.

This is slightly edited for context.

* Stickmansam 1024 has entered the room.

Im Ngamer: morning Sam

Stickmansam 1024: heya
Stickmansam 1024: so anyway, I'm trying to write a scary story
Stickmansam 1024: and I realise this may be the worst possible place to start looking
Stickmansam 1024: but I need ideas

Im Ngamer: scary? you only write science fiction!

Stickmansam 1024: exactly
Stickmansam 1024: but there are big XP rewards here

Im Ngamer: will this story be both?

Stickmansam 1024: well, possibly
Stickmansam 1024: my current idea involves scifi
Stickmansam 1024: but I'm open to ideas

Im Ngamer: XP? how so?

Stickmansam 1024: http://www.everything2.com/?node_id=1835956
Stickmansam 1024: Experience Points on Everything2

Im Ngamer: how did you do on Wordmonger's Masque?

Stickmansam 1024: didn't enter
Stickmansam 1024: couldn't think of anything to write

BloodE of Sorrow: for shame sam

Im Ngamer: are you a Level 7 user?

Stickmansam 1024: no
Stickmansam 1024: L5
Stickmansam 1024: L6 I get a homenode pickature!
Stickmansam 1024: so, no ideas anyone?

BloodE of Sorrow: ideas for what sam?

Stickmansam 1024: scary stories

BloodE of Sorrow: hm
BloodE of Sorrow: I wrote this one AGES ago
BloodE of Sorrow: where this guy turned off the light and then the lightbulb floated away down stairs into the oven
BloodE of Sorrow: then he tried to turn the light on but the bulb wasn't there
BloodE of Sorrow: then he went to put something in the oven and it was full of lightbulb
BloodE of Sorrow: it was very scary
BloodE of Sorrow: it was during an english period in the back of my jotter

Stickmansam 1024: that's quite strange.
Stickmansam 1024: Hey here's an idea I just had
Stickmansam 1024: this guy gets chained to a computer and forced to talk to people online
Stickmansam 1024: he has to convince them he's a real person
Stickmansam 1024: and nobody believes him
Stickmansam 1024: they think he's a bot
Stickmansam 1024: because they've all been told he's a bot
Stickmansam 1024: eventually he gets brainwashed to believe he IS a bot
Stickmansam 1024: hah, that would be horrible

BloodE of Sorrow: Smarterchild

Stickmansam 1024: EXACTLY
Stickmansam 1024: some site is set up
Stickmansam 1024: it gives the AIM name of this guy
Stickmansam 1024: says "He's a really smart bot!"
Stickmansam 1024: "Can YOU outwit him?"

BloodE of Sorrow: Uh, why doesn't he just close his list?
BloodE of Sorrow: then he can only talk to peopel he wants to

Stickmansam 1024: because he's chained to it or something
Stickmansam 1024: until he manages to convince the world he's a real person

BloodE of Sorrow: how is he supposed to type if he's chained

Stickmansam 1024: it's a loose chain.

BloodE of Sorrow: if he can type he'll be able to close his list

Stickmansam 1024: ahh, SHUT UP
Stickmansam 1024: use your brain
Stickmansam 1024: obviously it'd be set up so he couldn't do that

BloodE of Sorrow: hey it's just a very flawed idea that's all
BloodE of Sorrow: to anyone who uses AIM
BloodE of Sorrow: who'd be the target audience

Stickmansam 1024: well, maybe a customised AIM client or something
Stickmansam 1024: I'd cover all these obvious, easy issues
Stickmansam 1024: it's the core concept I think

WouterJ007: I can hax it to make it work
WouterJ007: doh

BloodE of Sorrow: then it'd be less interessent

WouterJ007: interesting*

BloodE of Sorrow: I typed it like that on purpose wouter
BloodE of Sorrow: anyway

WouterJ007: if your last e was an a it was the dutch word

BloodE of Sorrow: "The customized AIM client meant that he had to talk to EVERYBODY"

WouterJ007: but everybody doesnt talk

BloodE of Sorrow: "The customized AIM client mean that had to have instant messaging conversation with EVERYBODY"

Stickmansam 1024: all right, let me set it up all rigorously
Stickmansam 1024: he is in a locked room with a computer

Stickmansam 1024: the computer is encased in steel
Stickmansam 1024: the screen is bulletproof
Stickmansam 1024: he can't destroy it, all he can do is use the keyboard and mouse
Stickmansam 1024: the comp is a custom OS set to run nothing but AOLIM

BloodE of Sorrow: with a keyboard and mouse he could close his list

Stickmansam 1024: he can't adjust his settings and he is always online
Stickmansam 1024: all he can do, essentially, is hold conversations with people

BloodE of Sorrow: with a keyboard and mouse he could hackz the client

Stickmansam 1024: no, because he doesn't know how
Stickmansam 1024: that's part of the fun:)

BloodE of Sorrow: what if someone tells him?

Stickmansam 1024: but they wouldn't
Stickmansam 1024: because they don't believe he's real

BloodE of Sorrow: but what if they did?

Stickmansam 1024: it wouldn't work
Stickmansam 1024: hack-proof client
Stickmansam 1024: specially set up

BloodE of Sorrow: no client is hack proof

Stickmansam 1024: this one is
Stickmansam 1024: work with me here

BloodE of Sorrow: you're living in a fantasy world mr hughes

Stickmansam 1024: of course there will be some ELEMENT OF FANTASY involved
Stickmansam 1024: *slaps you*

BloodE of Sorrow: Slap me?
BloodE of Sorrow: Pah

WouterJ007: *kicks*

BloodE of Sorrow: I'm writing a short story called "The man who wrote stories about people who were forced to use hack-proof customized AIM clients who slaps people, and the other guy who kicks"

Stickmansam 1024: man
Stickmansam 1024: that sounds both imaginative and interesting to read

BloodE of Sorrow: "It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times..."

Im Ngamer: he doesn't get to leave the room until he convinces people he's not a bot?

Stickmansam 1024: yeah
Stickmansam 1024: or failing that

BloodE of Sorrow: Jon, late as per usual

Stickmansam 1024: he has to convince them that he is trapped in this room and needs rescuing

Im Ngamer: it's interesting as a concept, but I'm afraid I don't see the horror there

Stickmansam 1024: but nobody believes him!

Stickmansam 1024: and even if they do, they can't help him

BloodE of Sorrow: Sam I could see this having an ending similar ot that of Brazil

Stickmansam 1024: he's stuck there forever, because nobody believes he's real
Stickmansam 1024: it challenges notions of identity

BloodE of Sorrow: but instead of being the middle of a gigantic empty room, labotomized

Stickmansam 1024: I haven't seen Brazil.

BloodE of Sorrow: he is in the middle of a gigantic empty room, convinced he is a bot

Im Ngamer: but the horror of the story is just that he believes himself to be a bot by the end?

Stickmansam 1024: yeah

Im Ngamer: so it's a terrifying loss of identity?

Stickmansam 1024: he starts to doubt his own humanity
Stickmansam 1024: something like that

BloodE of Sorrow: as opposed to a fun happy go lucky loss of identity?

Stickmansam 1024: he decides he's not human

Im Ngamer: like I said, the concept is very interesting

BloodE of Sorrow: Jon you've seen Brazil yes?

Im Ngamer: I just have trouble thinking of it as a Halloween story

Stickmansam 1024: I know, like I say
Stickmansam 1024: I'm better at scifi than horror
Stickmansam 1024: mainly as I have more practice
Stickmansam 1024: here's the other idea I had

BloodE of Sorrow: The Halloween Lightbulb

Im Ngamer: yes Blood I have

BloodE of Sorrow: so you know what I'm talking about

Stickmansam 1024: these space guys (like Star Trek) find a planet which is completely flat and grey
Stickmansam 1024: this planet once had sentient life

BloodE of Sorrow: I thought that said flat and gay

Stickmansam 1024: but they had a nanotech problem
Stickmansam 1024: and the grey goo just ate their whole planet
Stickmansam 1024: it was programmed to propagate forever, and that's what it's done
Stickmansam 1024: it's been sitting like this for thousands of years or something

Im Ngamer: the goo must be very thick!

Stickmansam 1024: yes it is
Stickmansam 1024: goes all the way down to the core
Stickmansam 1024: or near as possible
Stickmansam 1024: anyway they scan this planet, drop a probe or 2 etc.
Stickmansam 1024: the probe crashes and gets eaten

BloodE of Sorrow: in the end of my story the guy gets burned alive by the intense wattage of the lightbulbs

BloodE of Sorrow: there is a happy ending where they are energy saving bulbs

Stickmansam 1024: so they figure out what happened and decide to place a warning and leave

BloodE of Sorrow: therefore he just gets a light tan

Stickmansam 1024: but then they realise the planet is starting to ripple
Stickmansam 1024: stuff flies into the air, then lands again
Stickmansam 1024: because it used to think it had swallowed everything there was to swallow

Stickmansam 1024: but now it knows what space travel is!

BloodE of Sorrow: and it flies around
BloodE of Sorrow: eating everything in the universe

Stickmansam 1024: so it takes off into space and engulfs the ship and heads back towards inhabited space
Stickmansam 1024: and eats the universe
Stickmansam 1024: yes
Stickmansam 1024: thing is, summarising the points here isn't as scary as it could be
Stickmansam 1024: writing it in story form is scarier

Im Ngamer: hmm

Stickmansam 1024: that's what I'm working on right now

Im Ngamer: all because they let their nanotech get corrupted, eh?

Stickmansam 1024: not really

BloodE of Sorrow: I think my story is better

Stickmansam 1024: just some guy made a single nanobot
Stickmansam 1024: with the command

BloodE of Sorrow: about the lightbulb

Stickmansam 1024: while(1) { propagate(); }
Stickmansam 1024: like an idiot, he didn't include any kind of shutdown command
Stickmansam 1024: and it ate their whole civilisation

BloodE of Sorrow: yeah, what an idiot

Im Ngamer: wouldn't it take a very long time to eat the universe though?

Stickmansam 1024: sure

Im Ngamer: how will you maintain the suspense

Stickmansam 1024: but it has FTL travel now

Im Ngamer: over those millenia

Stickmansam 1024: it just follows the original ship's trail
Stickmansam 1024: back to the human-inhabited worlds
Stickmansam 1024: and eats them all
Stickmansam 1024: just drops one bot on each planet

Im Ngamer: so it's like Kirby? it can use anything it swallows?

Stickmansam 1024: very easy
Stickmansam 1024: yeah

BloodE of Sorrow: Kirby isn't scary though

Im Ngamer: he could be

Stickmansam 1024: Kirby is pink.
Stickmansam 1024: this planet's grey.
Stickmansam 1024: and not cute either.

Im Ngamer: maybe if you gave it a smiling face

Stickmansam 1024: well those are my ideas

Im Ngamer: ok, well, I'm more interested in I, Aim Bot

Stickmansam 1024: hah
Stickmansam 1024: very good

Im Ngamer: but I think Technology: One, Universe: Nano has more potential to win this prize

Stickmansam 1024: well I can write both
Stickmansam 1024: it's not a problem
Stickmansam 1024: what should I call this planet?
Stickmansam 1024: never mind, it's not a major issue

Im Ngamer: I think it is!

BloodE of Sorrow: the planet should be called Kirby
BloodE of Sorrow: <><>

Im Ngamer: ah, not a bad idea
Im Ngamer: some reference to Kirby

Stickmansam 1024: (>")>
Stickmansam 1024: no, it makes it less scary

BloodE of Sorrow: wait wait

Stickmansam 1024: I'll just call it Grey Planet

BloodE of Sorrow: gimme a minute
BloodE of Sorrow: you could call it Dreamland

Stickmansam 1024: hah
Stickmansam 1024: that would be silly

BloodE of Sorrow: Nightmareland
BloodE of Sorrow: Greay Planet is a little
BloodE of Sorrow: ...
BloodE of Sorrow: what's the word?

Stickmansam 1024: awesome?

BloodE of Sorrow: no
BloodE of Sorrow: Like when something doesn't have oomf
BloodE of Sorrow: Did godzilla eat alot?
BloodE of Sorrow: you could call it Godzilla if he did

Stickmansam 1024: I guess

Im Ngamer: birds eat twice their weight in food everyday!

BloodE of Sorrow: if jupiter was bigger wouldn't it eat everything?

Im Ngamer: name it after a bird

Stickmansam 1024: I'll just give it a random name
Stickmansam 1024: like Vontus
Stickmansam 1024: or Ireeax

BloodE of Sorrow: Jupiter II

Stickmansam 1024: anyway, all these ideas suck

BloodE of Sorrow: give it a name that will give a subtle hint to how it will eat everything

Stickmansam 1024: "Gorge"

BloodE of Sorrow: so people will be like "o i c wat u did thar"

* Stickmansam 1024 has left the room.

Strangely enough, I completely forgot about this conversation after this. I wrote Gorge in November, but couldn't get the words straight for the other story and dropped the idea. Much later, I posted in this thread on reddit.com (my username there is sam512) and it was so well-received that I picked the idea up again and finished what eventually became The Difference. It's only recently that this was sent back to me.

I think "I, Aimbot" is a great title, although I'd probably go for the variant "I, Chatbot" instead so as not to favour one IM system over others.

Anyway, I was interested to read this again 8+ months later so I thought some people might be interested too (this is, after all, the philosophy behind this site). Of course, note that this should NOT be taken as confirmation that the character "Z" in The Difference is a human, by the way...

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