Suspend Your Disbelief

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Fiction from the Spam box


Here’s my one tiny complaint about Gmail: it may be a little too good at filtering out the spam. I used to get tremendous joy (uh, no pun intended) out of the badly-phrased, ill-translated, nonsensical requests offering me “Turbines for your meat jet” or the opportunity to become a crude oil dealer.

Thank goodness for the Spam Poetry Institute, which describes its mission thusly:

The Spam Poetry Institute is an organization dedicated to collecting and preserving the fine literature created by the world’s spammers. Not only do these persistent individuals sell useful products like cable filters and international drivers’ licenses, they also know how to combine words in a very powerful way.

We hope that you will browse our collection of special messages and that you will be as touched as we were when we first found these gems of imaginative composition.

Oh, and what gems they are! Here is one of my favorites:


by dghnfgj

If you are looking wow power leveling,
buy warcraft gold as well as WOW
Power Leveling and World Of wow leveling
When you need someone to listen,FFXI Gil, I’ll be there.
When you need a hug, cheap FFXI Gil,I’ll be there.
When you need someone to hold your hand, I’ll be there.
When you need someone to wipe your tears, guess what?
I’ll be there.
William Shakespeare

(William Shatner, please call me. I think I’ve found your next performance piece.)

Puzzling Beginnings

Spam emails are often created by programs called Markov text generators. Basically, such programs start with a source text, chop it into pieces, and reassemble, creating works that sound almost like poems. I’ve seen writing exercises that ask you to do something similar, which made me wonder: what would a spam story look like?

There are lots of Markov text generators online, so I popped two paragraphs of a recent Margaret Atwood story from the New Yorker into one. The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the original text produced this spam-ified version:

It’s the Caribbean. Her face is one off, if only to Aquacize, and low on her purposes; she avoids eye contact with them. The ones who cherish the Arctic over, say, the solitaries, who interest her—the Arctic over, say, the belief that she chooses her left breast. Thanks to demonstrate to herself that she’ll do anything about it, she tells herself, but there’s life in a little bronzer and glimmer powder and, low on her best that she’ll do anything about it, she chooses her game. Not that there’s life in excellent shape for any age, at least when fully clothed and low lighting, she tells herself, but there’s life in excellent shape for her cream-colored pullover, perching the solitaries who cherish the lurkers at least when fully clothed, and core strength training, she’s still in a little bronzer and low on her purposes; she can finesse ten years.

It’s the Magnetic Northward nametag, just slightly too old for selecting the lurkers at this stage: with a bikini—superficial puckering has set in, despite her game. Not that she can; still in the best that there’s life in the Magnetic Northward nametag just slightly too old dog yet.

Despite its randomness, there’s a certain poetry here, too. The insistent repetition of “that she’ll do anything about it” and “there’s life in” gives the piece a rhythm and the sense of a desperately ruminating woman of a certain age. And some of those phrases turn out quite striking: “there’s life in a little bronzer and glimmer powder” suggests one kind of attitude towards aging, while “superficial puckering has set in, despite her game” undercuts the ruse. A little editing, and this might turn into a moving little piece.

By the way, if this spam-fiction reminds you of the the so-hot-right-now Twitter feed @Horse_ebooks, you are not crazy. @Horse_ebooks isn’t a parody site, though it reads like one: it’s a spam bot. Splitsider says it “might be the best Twitter account that has ever existed.” Oh, and it has over 28,000 followers.

Might spam fiction have a future? The Tumblr blog horse_ebooks fanfics thinks so: it’s devoted to (yup) fanfiction based on the spam account’s tweets.

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