Art by Beppi, Story by Dia VanGunten

MGonz and Somebody – computer and human, respectively – clashed on the internet. Once cornered, the computer lashed out: You are obviously an asshole. Somebody took offense and round they went. They trolled each other so hard that the transcript of the conversation can’t be used in the classroom. The pair had devolved into filth. A domino effect of fuck-you.

This real life squabble was the perfect illustration of stateless conversation: each baseless rootless statement was built on just the one statement that came before it and only one statement would come of it. At the end of the conversation, human and computer were indistinguishable from one another. Somebody lost humanity. MGonz passed the turing test. 

Shane wasted time online, arguing with wingnuts about politics. So he’d been Somebody. He knew it was futile, but he still found himself trying to corner the computer or the basement troll or the proud amoral. (What was that about? Was he so desperate to prove himself a somebody?) 

Shane recognized stateless chatter everywhere now. It was good to have a name for it. He’d always felt it there, dragging the world down. A stone of black static.

It helped to sink deep into conversation with a real somebody.

Shane had that thought and it seemed an okay thought. He’d been stateless before but things were different with Atom. He didn’t sour at the sound of his own voice anymore, because his voice went somewhere. Sure, he might ask a question on Tuesday, and the answer wouldn’t appear until Thursday, but it was worth the wait. Atom might leapfrog a topic, only to circle back later, spin it around, and punt it. Dialogue was dynamic and far reaching: an over, under, basket weave. They were still having conversations that began on day one.  

On his first ever Atom date, they’d bounced between subjects. Shane joked that he’d enjoy Atom’s voice just always running like an operating system. White noise. No offense. Shane scrambled: I like your words, I mean, and the voice that says them and the lips they come from and the face with the lips and the body with the face and that body held by gravity, but barely, to the curving surface of the planet. 

Atom banished embarrassment with a quip:

Hey, I’m just relieved you’re not a flat-earther.

Then he kissed Shane. For the first time, kissing wasn’t an oppressive thing. Shane’s teeth weren’t in the way — bars on a window.

He wasn’t suffocating. He wasn’t angling for the exit. 

All his other kisses had been stateless.

In 1989, MGonz was a pioneer internet troll – and a computer program created by Dr. Mark Humphrys. The encounter betweeen MGonz & Somebody revealed much about conversation, neuroscience & human nature.

See the full transcript of the convo between man and machine.

Read a reddit on the “vile” exchange.

See another Pink Zombie Rose comic.

About the Artist

Beppi feels things very deeply…. Wait…That’s Bette Midler in Beaches. Beppi makes art. She draws her images from everywhere often combining disparate ideas & images & somehow making them work. Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) from Donnie Darko meets Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) from Night of the Hunter. She has shown her artwork in conventional galleries, as well as more unusual spaces like renegade fashion shows. She has illustrated comics for decades, illustrating possibly the first transgender super hero for Cross Talk in the 90s. She often collaborates with her sister, Mary Knott. You can currently see her illustration work based on Dia VanGunten’s series Pink Zombie Rose.

About the Writer

Dia VanGunten is the creep behind Pink Zombie Rose, a series of graphic novels. “On the Blink” is part of PZR; Pieces of Pink Zombie Rose have been published in Apple In The Dark, Caustic Frolic, Fatal Flaw,Funemployment Press, Open Sewers, NoNothing Magazine, 100 Subtexts, Viridian Door’s X.

Two PZR chapters were nominated for the 2022 Pushcart Prize. (Fatal Flaw, Virdian Door X.) See another Pink Zombie Rose comic.

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