Before we begin, a few words about the origin of this "tale".
I was browsing a local subreddit, reading a conversation about broken windows in the downtown core of Victoria, BC, Canada. This has been an ongoing problem — it was the sixth time in two weeks that the local library had suffered a broken window — and it is thought to be related to the problematic trifecta of homelessness, drug addiction, and outrageous housing costs.
In the comments of this conversation, a poster by the name of
u/CaptHowdy___ had a seemingly tangential post. It started with a sentence that struck a chord with me:
There’s a war on every public bathroom in this city.
It had a particular ring to it, like the narrator in a noir film lamenting a particularly disastrous Taco Tuesday misadventure. Having just recently signed up for the ChatGPT generative text tool, I thought, sure, why not use this as a prompt and see what comes out?
Well, dear readers, this one-page story was generated in mere seconds and fit the bill to a tee. I don't know which pieces of it are cribbed from other sources, nor which sources those might be, but everything about it feels like a tiramisu of clichés. Which, being that it is noir-themed, isn't very far off the mark at all.
Here is the full prompt:
Write the first page of a noir-style dystopian cyberpunk thriller set in Victoria City, in the Cascadia region, where homeless people are fighting with ransomware hackers for control of the city's public toilets & their accompanying internet connections. The first sentence should be "There’s a war on every public bathroom in this city."
What follows is what ChatGPT generated under the title 'Toilet War' (which I've jazzed up by giving the title a year).
TOILET WAR 2083
There’s a war on every public bathroom in this city. It’s a war between the homeless and the hackers, fought in the shadows of the alleys and the backstreets. It’s a war for control of the only reliable sources of water, electricity, and internet left in Victoria City. And it’s a war that no one is winning.
The homeless, led by a grizzled veteran of the Cascadia Wars named Jack, have taken over the public toilets and turned them into makeshift homes. They’ve rigged up generators and filtration systems, and they’ve even managed to tap into the city’s fiber optic network, using the toilets as hubs for their own private internet. For them, the toilets are a lifeline, a way to survive in a city that has left them behind.
But the hackers are fighting back. They’re a shadowy group, known only by their online handles and their cryptic messages on the dark web. They’ve launched a series of ransomware attacks against the toilets, locking down the doors and demanding payment in exchange for access. They’ve even managed to take over some of the toilets completely, turning them into nodes in their own private network.
Caught in the middle of this war is a young hacker named Lily. She’s new to the city, having fled here from the wastelands of the east, and she’s trying to make a name for herself in the hacking underground. She sees the toilets as a challenge, a way to prove herself to the other hackers and to make some quick cash on the side. But as she delves deeper into the war, she realizes that there’s more at stake than just money and reputation. The homeless are fighting for their very survival, and the hackers are playing a dangerous game with the city’s infrastructure. And if Lily isn’t careful, she could end up being the one who tips the balance of power, for better or for worse.
Tagline for the TV adaptation (my inbox is waiting, AppleTV+):
IN 2083, T.S.H.T.F.