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What we talk about when we talk about coding language

Interactive fiction that incorporates computer coding language adds a fun and challenging new dimension to writing prose and poetry.

For instance, Trevor Byington noted a “syntax error code” on page 89, and discussed how syntax errors could be analyzed as a commentaries on character speech, or some other aspect of communication in the novel.

In this way, computer coding language can create new, inspiring challenges for the writer, though it’s easy for a reader who is uninitiated in programming jargon to become lost. There must be a balance between accessible narrative and what is hidden, or implied, within coding language.

In an interview recorded at Skylight Books during their Author Reading Series, Mark Z. Danielesky mentioned that he never underestimates his readers, and that he’s been rewarded for not ‘writing-down.’ I believe that without knowing the coding language as it appears throughout the novel, the reader can still walk a way with a fairly complete understanding of the plot. The use of code and computer language is like an Easter egg (one of many) that Danielesky litters throughout the novel, inviting us to revisit the novel from different perspectives, see what new ways it can surprise us.

One aspect of computer coding language that is constant, however, is that the rules of computer language dictate that the form the prose take must provide a mechanism for measuring success. If the piece “executes” without “error,” then it is a “success,” essentially (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

Computer coding language also provides a unique form. The reader (if he is tech-savvy) develops expectation as to where the narrative is going based on his level of familiarization with the coding being employed by the author.

In addition, the double-entendre can be achieved by blending traditional and coded narrative. See: Kernel (as in, computer kernel) vs. colonel, or Sin() vs. sin, as in the sin of man.

How can an understanding of c++, Java, etc. inform our reading of chapters that feature coded language.

There is an interesting article by Sharon Hopkins titled “Camels and Needles: Computer Poetry Meets the Perl Programming Language,” which I used to study this topic further.

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