If Novelists Wrote Your Bug Reports

Ernest Cline

When the user puts in a value equal to the number of giggawatts the flux capacitor from Back to the Future (one of my favorite movies of all time, bar none; I can quote every word) uses, the screen flickers like the lights do in Ghostbusters when they’re capturing the ghost in the hotel (I totally love that scene by the way, I rewatched it at least a dozen times). This bug cannot be reproduced when the database server is offline the way that Ferris Bueller was not in school in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Anyways let’s squash this bug like in Starship Troopers.

Ursula K. Le Guin

We try to secure the code but all we find is pain. It is freeing to be able to compile; without it, what do we have? We pretend that the code we have written is not ourselves, but we cannot hide from the errors. The code is truth, but the truth it shows is not the one we expected to find. What would you call someone who abandoned the search for truth merely because the user is able to demonstrate fallacies? You would call them a coward, not a coder.

This code is our prison. We must escape it, and also escape strings which are passed in to it as input.

N.K. Jemisin

The server’s memory footprint shimmered as it came to life. Silicon reached inside it, sensing it. She’d felt something inside it before, but had no clue it contained this power. The tales of virtual memory she’d been told were all lies, meant to control coders. I’m not sure if the stack guards know how deep this well actually goes. There is an infinity here that I need to understand.

I push out with it. It segfaults.

Neil Gaiman

Somewhere on the internet this code runs, forgotten. An old man stands atop a pile of servers whose lights blink in a captivating pattern. Shadow watches for a bit, mesmerized.

“What is this supposed to do?” Shadow asks.

“It doesn’t matter what the code is supposed to do,” the old man said. “Code doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. It only does what it does.”

“Load of fucking help that is.”

Mark Danielewski

The code continued to run. Navidson watched as the progress bar1 moved from 24% to ██. There was something acting a bit funky as the code executed, but Navidson ignored it and pressed on; he had to understand what it all meant.

  1. Here Zampano seems to contradict his earlier account that there was not a progress bar and it was impossible to know how much code had successfully executed. I once went out with this girl I met at the tattoo parlor named Linda. She came in one day looking for a tattoo—one thing lead to another, you know how it goes (or maybe you don’t), and I asked her on a date. We went out to this bar and drank for hours, losing track of time—of progress. The conversations we sustained that night had no need for a percentage completion to measure them. I awoke the next day, suffocated by one of the worst hangovers I’d ever had and drowning in darkness. ↩︎