The Micro Arts Collection

MA4, "Story Generator – Varieties of Cow Boils Head", ZX Spectrum (1985)

Geoff Davis

“I’d sent my 'Cow Boils Head' short story the Panurge literary magazine but they wanted me to make it ‘more bloody’. The generative program it expanded the text into areas of predation, religion and cookery. The story was inspired by Mad Cow Disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which was a disaster for cows, and farmers, all around the world. This is in Wikipedia as having been first detected in 1986, but it was 1985, as I had read about it in the newspapers (I wasn’t a farmer), and the cassette box is clearly dated 1985.

This used a fictional ‘Cow Boils Head’ news item as the seed for an unlimited number of generated stories (‘fake’ news, from fiction). The code switches around the syntax (in clusters) to create new narratives of about the same length and structure. It was primarily made for artistic purposes rather than to make any political or social points. This piece seems especially prescient now with concerns over truth and falsehood in the public sphere and the potential explosion of AI-generated ‘fake’ texts.”

– Geoff Davis

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