Florida Girl Causes Global Ice Cream Crisis
I was asked by to moderate “The ArmadilloCon Story Game” as part of ArmadilloCon 2023, a spec-fic literary convention in which at least two panels were concerned with AI, so I decided to employ AI to facilitate the Mad Lib style brainstorming of this classic con game:
First, I asked ChatGPT for a selection of Mad Lib-style prompts suitable for the game and a science fictional story. Then I asked the audience for an Adjective, a superpower, a weakness, and the name of a planet.
Patrice Sarath and Michelle Muenzler brainstormed with input from the audience, while I moderated, transcribed, and interacted with the AI “Sudowrite” which works by accepting starting text, then suggesting two prose alternatives, one of which was chosen before inserting more prose and requesting more generates ideas and so on until the story is done. Here is what we came up with AI inspiration and human brainstorming and editorial clean up in the span of about 40 minutes…
Beginning prompt: Stupid aliens from the planet Garbanzo have invaded Earth. They possess incredible invisibility abilities that challenge humanity’s dog allergies. Jennifer and her dog, Nefertiti discover the evidence of the alien’s interference when Jennifer starts sneezing and some unseen someone says “bless you.”
1982, January 5th:
Jennifer rubbed her nose, trying to stifle another sneeze. “Nefertiti, did you hear that?” she whispered to her dog. “Someone said bless you, but I don’t see anyone here.”
Nefertiti’s ears perked up, and she began to sniff the air. Jennifer watched as her dog’s nose twitched, trying to pick up any scent of the invisible interloper.
Suddenly, Jennifer felt a tickle in her throat, and she let out a series of violent sneezes. “Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!”
As she wiped her nose with a tissue, Jennifer noticed a small, shimmering object floating in the air. The object seemed to be reflecting the light in the room, making it slightly visible to the naked eye.
Jennifer pointed to the object. Nefertiti barked, alerting Jennifer to the fact that the alien was nearby.
The shimmering object flew out the window with Nefertiti in hot pursuit. Jennifer turned to follow but hesitated to break the rules and leave the house at night. Just then, the alien smacked into the streetlight, falling to the ground, globules of Jennifer’s snot pulsing in the darkness.
Its invisibility compromised, Nefertiti leaped onto the alien, snarling and barking, piercing its sickly green flesh with sharp teeth, tearing bits from the alien’s bulbous body and spindly limbs. Blood and foul-smelling fluid sprayed over the yard and splattered Jennifer’s face–
[WELL, THIS STORY’S TAKEN RATHER A DARK TURN. LET’S TRY OPTION TWO, SHALL WE?]
Jennifer’s eyes widened as she watched the alien struggle to get up. It seemed to be covered in her own mucus, and its invisibility was now completely compromised. She couldn’t believe it – her own sneezes had defeated the alien’s advanced abilities.
Nefertiti barked triumphantly as Jennifer approached the alien, her eyes now adjusting to the dark. It was about the size of a small child, with long, spindly limbs and a bulbous head. Its skin was a sickly green color, and its eyes were wide with fear.
Jennifer couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the creature. It must have been terrified after traveling across the galaxy to a strange planet only to be foiled by a common human ailment.
But at the same time, she knew she had to protect her planet. She reached down and picked up a nearby stick, [UH OH, HERE WE GO AGAIN] brandishing it like a weapon. The alien let out a high-pitched screech, but when Jennifer extended her stick, it was only to offer a handkerchief.
The alien hesitated for a moment, its eyes darting between Jennifer and the proffered tissue. But then it seemed to understand, and it tentatively reached out a spindly arm to take the handkerchief. Jennifer watched as it wiped the mucus off of its skin, its body trembling with relief.
“Are you okay?” Jennifer asked, feeling a sudden wave of compassion for the alien.
The alien nodded, its bulbous head bobbing up and down. “Thank you,” it said in a high-pitched voice. “I mean your species no harm. We were simply studying your planet.”
Jennifer lowered the stick, her mind racing. She had never thought about the possibility of peaceful aliens visiting Earth. Maybe there was more to this situation than she had initially assumed.
“What do you want to study?” she asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
The alien’s eyes widened with surprise and it seemed to be taken aback by her question. “We‘re writing a cookbook.” Jennifer, a fan of classic Twilight Zone episodes, recoils in fear. The alien quickly corrected itself, “Oh, not a cookbook exactly, more a guide to galactic cuisine.” Jennifer smiled. She led the alien back inside and into the kitchen, where she served it her favorite cuisine, an ice cream sandwich with the edges rolled in sprinkles.
As they sat at the kitchen table, Jennifer and the alien chatted about food and culture, discovering that they had more in common than they originally thought.
After they finished eating, Jennifer accompanied the alien back to its ship, where she was given a tour of its advanced technology and shown the wonders of the galaxy. In return, she shared her knowledge of Earth and introduced the alien to her favorite books and movies.
As the night wore on, Jennifer realized that her encounter with the alien had opened her eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. She had always been a skeptic when it came to extraterrestrial life, but now she saw that there was so much out there to discover.
As she said goodbye to the alien, Jennifer promised to keep an open mind and to continue exploring the mysteries of the universe. And with that, she watched as the alien’s ship disappeared into the night sky, leaving behind only a sense of wonder and possibility.
The next morning, when Nefertiti brought the newspaper in from the sidewalk, Jennifer read the headline in shock and horror: “Authorities: World in crisis! Ice cream and sprinkles missing!”