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The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:

by apl (Monsignor)
on Jul 01, 2010 at 11:40 UTC ( [id://847494]=poll: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Vote on this poll

Robert Heinlein (for writing The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail)
[bar] 74/20%
Charlie Stross (for being a Perl programmer)
[bar] 47/13%
Vernor Vinge (computer scientist, who shows us TIMTOWTDI)
[bar] 23/6%
Douglas Adams (The universe is the result of some (perl) obfuscation contest ;-)
[bar] 148/40%
Stanislaw Lem for writing The Cyberiad
[bar] 24/7%
Roger Zelazny for writing Jack of Shadows
[bar] 6/2%
Larry Niven for a central premise in his Known Space universe, that aliens secretly bred humans for 'luckiness'
[bar] 20/5%
[bar] 24/7%
366 total votes
  • Comment on The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
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Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by Ratazong (Monsignor) on Jul 01, 2010 at 12:20 UTC

    I nominate Neal Stephenson, for showing that Perl has its uses even in literacy. E.g. in his book Cryptonomicon, which contains a Perl script. It starts with

    #!/usr/bin/perl -s Sf=Sd?-1 1,SD=pack('C*',33 86),Sp=shift; $p=--y/a-z +/A-Z/,SU='SD=--s/(.*)US/US1/, SD=-s/U(.)/S1U/;',(SV ...
    .. and according to wikipedia it is a precise description of (and indeed a Perl script for) the Solitaire cipher (called Pontifex in the book).

    Rata (relying on 2nd-hand-information)
      Read the book...while out-of-reach of the net.

      Typed in the code.

      Didn't get a t-shirt; didn't even get the code to pass -c but didn't get any useful info by adding strict, warnings, diagnostics, etc. ad nauseum.

      Proofread... repeatedly. To no avail. (Remember: the one-eyed man is king in a world of the blind)

      Lo and behold: your wiki ref led me eventually to a Stevenson site where I found this:

      13. Hey, the perl script doesn't work! What's the deal?

      The production people at the publisher tried valiantly to get the perl script typeset without any errors, but one error did slip in. It is located on the eighth line. Where the book says
      and so on, it SHOULD say
      and so on.

      And following a few links further, and


      Update 20100704: added link to Stevenson's errata in para beginning "Lo and...."

      Are all those S supposed to be dollar signs?

        No, "s" is correct; there's a very obscurely implied ellipsis ("and so on"); previous node's blockquote is verbatim from site. We're looking at a substitution:
        $o =~ s/./chr((ord($&)-13+$f*&e)%26+65)/eg;
        See Bruce Schneier's Counterpane site, referenced by author's errata.

      I second (or third or forth or whatever) this nomination. Between Cryptonomicon and "In the begining there was the command line" Stephenson in my mind personifies perl, and the open source software movement in SciFi.

      They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

      —Andy Warhol

Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by mirod (Canon) on Jul 01, 2010 at 12:10 UTC

    It's not Sci-fi, but for me it would be Terry Pratchett. The DiscWorld is messy, flawed, anarchic, but in the end a bunch of semi-random characters make it work nevertheless, by understanding its true nature (and the law of Narrative Causality of course). A bit like Perl indeed.

      Yep, definetly Terry Pratchett. The only author making me laugh out loudly while reading in a train ... The Disc World is also funny and with a lot of analogies. Doesn't NodeReaper look like Pratchetts DEATH ?!
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by BioLion (Curate) on Jul 01, 2010 at 16:42 UTC

    Philip K Dick - For always finding an alternate interpretation / way of thinking. Very TIMTOWTDI.

    Just a something something...
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by Xiong (Hermit) on Jul 01, 2010 at 14:23 UTC

    The Good Doctor, of course. I can think of three reasons immediately.


    It would be most un-Asenion to meet your challenge openly without first giving the Gentle Reader an opportunity to exercise his mind. Perhaps a hint is in order.

    One association I make between Dr. Asimov and Perl is blatant and obvious; one is personal and subjective; one is sublime and esoteric.

    I shall reveal my associations after giving fellow Perlers and Trufans a little time to think.


    Now that another poll has opened, here is my reply to ambrus' demands. This poll is a little like "Which politician reminds you of a banana"; a little subjective. Let's roll up our sleeves and look for objective grounds.

    The Three Laws of Robotics

    The Laws have had a great effect on engineers of my generation, those of us who read SF and went into fields in which we hoped to build mechanical men. I commonly tacked up the Laws over my desk or workbench, next to the other Three Laws (of Thermodynamics). One list was a reminder of a higher purpose in my work; the other was a reminder of the inflexible nature of certain limits.

    Prior to Asimov, robots were viewed as monsters; as late as the 1960's, computers were seen by the public as threatening; offensively ruthless, rigid, and stupid. Jokes about utility customers being spindled, folded, and mutilated had the air of graveyard whistling. I maintain that the entire Information Age, with small, decentralized, personalized and 'friendly' computing, has, to a large part, been a grandchild of Asimov's vision, with ourselves, the metathinking engineers, its parents.

    Specifically Perlish implementations of the Laws include such things as taint mode, Do What I Mean, and automatic garbage collection. The direct connections may be tenuous but are obvious. The common link is the philosophy of machine serving man; not man fearing machine, machine out of control, or useless machine with burning wiring and smoking oil.

    Character of the Man and his Works

    Asimov was well known for his hacker-like work habits: long hours at the anachronistic typewriter. He exemplified laziness, impatience, and hubris: He strove to produce perfect works, so he would not need to fix them later; he imagined worlds of the future instead of waiting for someone to build them; he was famously immodest.

    The Good Doctor was a legitimate Ph.D.; he was no mere spinner of tales but a professor at the chalkboard. Besides his SF, he wrote authoritative science fact and quite a few mysteries. He had the sort of broadness of interest I see in CB or other gatherings of computer professionals, where no topic is off-topic. I believe he would have held his own in any heated YAPC gathering.

    Asimov's writing style is technical. He's been described as a humanist -- described himself that way -- but his actual work is a bit dry. Bradbury is humanist; he wrote a whole story around the smell of a new pair of kid's sneakers. Heinlein is political; each book seems to enlarge his Utopia. Niven gets the science right but is essentially a comedian. (No offense; I love his stuff.) Clarke and Herbert are mystics. Asimov, despite his pun-filled limericks, wrote the hardest of hard SF and always got the science right.

    The works themselves are often quite short (connect to Perl golf) and have complex, even recursive narrative structures (connect to Perl poetry).

    The Key

    Anyone who has read much of Asimov's short fiction can think of a dozen similar illustrations. This is my favorite.

    In The Key, Asimov's Sherlock, Dr. Wendell Urth cracks a mystery that only begins with a cryptic message, found on the Moon near a man's dead body, partially decoded as Go to Earth. The rest of the (critically important) message is a confusing jumble of puns and possible clues. Dr. Urth explains:

    I think it is hardly necessary to point out that Perl Hackers are not only lovers of puns. Who else would go to such extreme lengths for a simple joke?

    If anyone is entitled to honorary Perlish Sainthood, let it be Dr. Isaac Asimov.

    - the lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne -
      Yeah, I was surprised Asimov wasn't on the list. To me it's Asimov as a serious answer and Douglas Adams as a fun answer.

      Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks

      List them please.

      Update. We've established in the chatterbox that one could consider the laws of robotics as perlish, so that must be one connection. The blatant and obvious reason must be hubris.

      Update 2010-08-08: ah, nice clear explanations, thanks.

        I would consider the robotic laws, and Asimov's extensive biography exploring those laws, to be far more Python-like than Perl-like. Would Asimov have used Perl as an inspiration for the laws, there would be 4327 of them (251 of them failing if 'strict' is enabled), half of them working differently on weekends, on full moons, or in countries having red in its flag. Oh, and in each new book, there'll be new laws. And in the new series Asimov has been working on for a decade (with an army of co-authors), 3287 laws have either been changed or removed, and 28439 new ones will be added.
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by ChuckularOne (Prior) on Jul 01, 2010 at 16:49 UTC
    I almost voted for Larry Niven. I love the concept of the "Luck of Teela Brown" Had to give it to Douglas Adams though!
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by andye (Curate) on Jul 02, 2010 at 17:01 UTC
    I've just realised that my code was talking to Charlie Stross's code (when he was at datacash).

    My code knows someone famous's code! Claim to fame!

Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 01, 2010 at 13:57 UTC
    F. Paul Wilson, for his Repairman Jack series. A battle of Good vs Evil, and Jack is truely "outside the system". You don't even realize that it's sci-fi until well into the series.
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by mertserger (Curate) on Jul 08, 2010 at 12:55 UTC
    If it is true that TIMTOWTDI surely the correct answer to this poll is that all these SF writers personify PERL?
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by Xilman (Hermit) on Jul 03, 2010 at 11:42 UTC

    John Sladek?

    Most often a collection of small works which tend to hang together in an anarchic sort of way. The style is frequently obtuse and it's difficult to work out just what the hell is going on but repays close attention nonetheless.

Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by gregor42 (Parson) on Jul 06, 2010 at 12:19 UTC

    I voted for Bop Ad for the obvious reasons, but I am wondering if, in general, the author's date of being published should be before or after that of perl itself.

    I am personally going with 'before'.

    Wait! This isn't a Parachute, this is a Backpack!
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by TedPride (Priest) on Jul 15, 2010 at 07:44 UTC
    Going to vote Heinlein just because I enjoy reading his work and I'm a Perl programmer.
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by petecm99 (Pilgrim) on Jul 20, 2010 at 17:46 UTC
    Clive Barker may be considered in the horror genre, but I'd nominate him. He comes up with the most bizarre s**t, and somehow makes it appear completely plausible. Sounds like Perl to me!
      Pata nahi... Apnay yahan toh har ek fiction stories chori kee hoti hai... :)

        I think this is in Hindi, isn't it? Any chance you could provide a translation - I tried some online translators but they didn't help

Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by ProfP (Initiate) on Jul 22, 2010 at 18:22 UTC
    It has to be Adams ... no! Stephenson! No! Philip K Dick! Nooo. Can't make my mind up now ...
Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by Illuminatus (Curate) on Jul 30, 2010 at 13:35 UTC
    *caveat* I suggested the last 3 authors on the list (however my full explanations did not make the poll :( ).

    Given this, however, I think I did a grave disservice by not adding PK Dick to the list. I can't think of another SF author who's short stories inspired more movies (many of which were summer headliners in their day). At least for me, whenever I am confronted with a computational problem, I am almost always inspired most easily when I think about 'the perl way' to solve it. I think Dick best embodies the inspiration of creativity, and therefore best embodies perl.


Re: The science fiction writer who most personifies Perl is:
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 01, 2010 at 17:42 UTC
    I saw the movie based on Douglas Adams book .... worst poll ever :p
      Umm....this is poll based on which writer most personifies Perl and you are criticizing it based on having seen a movie. Have I missed something?
        Back in those days most movies were based on a written story, unlike today's movies which seem to be mostly based on what the marketroids and CGI artists think would look good on the big screen :-/

        -- Time flies when you don't know what you're doing
      Douglas Adams did have a hand in the movie before he died, but its not a patch on either the books or the radio series.

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