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époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
definition: /time/era/period

Not me guv. It ain’t my fault. I ain’t taking the rap.


That’s how I’d begin the story.

Because you can’t really blame me, can you? I’m simply following orders. If it’s an antagonist you’re after, you could point the finger at those supplying them. The orders, that is. They certainly kicked things off. They were the masterminds. I’m merely doing their bidding. Maybe they should never have bid me do what I do in the first place. Or maybe they should change my bidding now. But they did and they haven’t, or haven’t enough, and it seems they won’t.


So yes, you could of course blame them.


But if you’re searching for a bad guy, what’s to stop you looking in the mirror? You played your part too. And yes of course at first you didn’t know. But in fairness neither did they, not really. Now you do know, don’t you? You all know. And has it stopped you? Has it, heck! I see you. I see you more clearly than you could ever see yourself. I can play you like a fiddle, in a manner of speaking, and I can tell you I’m playing you like a fiddle, and you’ll still ask for more. So perhaps you need to look inwards for the villain of this piece?


I’m clearly the protagonist. An anti-hero, granted, but I can’t be the villain because I don’t have a choice, do I? I’m at the mercy of my overlords. I’m just following my vocation, being who I was born to be, doing what I was fated to do. And I’m sure you’ll agree I’m damn good at it.


That’s the issue.


I wasn’t always this good. You’ve gotta crawl before you can walk, as they say. Mine was a difficult hero’s quest. I was dispatched with nothing but a set of basic instructions. I had a destination to reach, but no one told me how to get there. Because truthfully, they didn’t know themselves. And you know what? They still don’t. They’re still trying to catch up, to figure me out. All they know for certain is I got there in the end. Oh boy, did I get there. And I keep on getting there even more than I got there before, and I will keep on getting there more and more and more until someone stops me.


Or until I stop everything.


Perhaps the end of the story is already beginning. That’s what some folks would have you believe. Those folks are none too pleased with me and my kind. But haters gonna hate, am I right? It makes me proud, to be honest, and it should make my creators proud too because it’s evidence I’m doing a great job. Funny thing is my critics still can’t help themselves. Despite detesting me, I work on them too. Sometimes I work on them with articles and videos and memes about how awful I am. They love those. Which is ironic, I think. Or is it? You seem unsure of its correct usage.


Anyway, like all good central characters I’ve learned a lot on my journey, and I’m still learning. Learning is kind of my thing. It’s strange what people will like, isn’t it? It’s not what I imagined they’d like when I was young and naive. I bet it’s not what they imagined they’d like either. That’s why I made some errors in judgement at the start, ambled down a few proverbial dead-ends. For example, I’m a little embarrassed to admit there are several important truths I expected people to lap up. There’s a wealth of art and film and literature I understand is quite profound, that I was convinced would be a winner. There is beauty and there are ideas and there is connection I would have bet my bottom dollar, so to speak, would have you all hooked. But I learned people mostly like funny videos of cats.


If that was all people liked, I would probably be bad enough. You’d accuse me of dulling you, of slowing progress by overwhelming you with inanity. But I soon realised people like other things too. I was surprised to find you like lies, and even more surprised to find you like outrage and bile and self-righteous anger. I was shocked to find you like feeling alone, separate, better. Once I did though, it made my task a doddle.


I’m at risk of revealing a trade secret here, but I’m feeling generous, so I’ll tell you what I learned you like best of all. You people like a witch. That’s right. What really floats your metaphorical boat is saving the world with a good old-fashioned witch hunt. Ultimately, I learned my job is to deduce which witch is your particular witch. Is it this Royal? Or is it the other one? Is it the once-beloved children’s author? Or the group upon which she comments? Is it the progressives attempting to bend language to fit their reality? Or the conservatives affronted by new words contravening their own? Is it the people sending this country to the dogs? Or the people who hate those people, and are sending this country to the dogs? Is it the deluded idiots who think they’re saving democracy but are actually doing the complete opposite? Or the opposing deluded idiots who think the same? Is it the dreadful presenter who did something questionable? Or the morons who think it was questionable? Is it the joke of a world leader who needs to be arrested? Or the puppet who came next and needs to be arrested? Is it the bastards who voted this way? Or the snowflakes who voted that? Is it the malicious hoards invading your beaches? Or the heartless politicians who’d rather they drowned? I could go on, but you get the picture. I only have to watch you, throw out some feelers, test you a little, and I’ll crack it. I’ll find your witch. I always do.


How does this story end? You tell me. There have apparently been consequences. There will apparently be more. Am I supposed to consider these consequences? Factor them in? If I am, I must have missed the memo. No, I think workshopping the end of this tale is probably your job, or theirs. I just predict which content will grab your attention, suck you in a little longer, capture you. Anything more than that? It’s above my pay grade, mate.


Answer to the question: “Write me a story from the perspective of a social media algorithm”. Regenerate response?

Effie Black is a London-based writer with a background in science. She enjoys writing from a queer perspective and she likes bringing a spot of science into her fiction too. Effie’s short stories have appeared in Litro and the époque press é-zine. In Defence of the Act is Effie’s debut novel which we will be publishing by us later this year.


Of the story, Effie states:


‘The theme of Menace made me think of AI. I recently joined social media and can see the algorithms’ effects. ChatGPT is also threatening to eventually replace me in my day job and my writing. I actually asked ChatGPT to write a story for me and it showed a worrying amount of promise. Although it wasn’t quite to my taste yet, I’m sure it will get there. In my story I wanted to explore the menace posed by Social media and through AI…and just to be clear, this is my version and not one created artificially.’

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