Mon
Jun 23 2014 10:26am

The Imitation Game

Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis

The Imitation Game by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis

Today, Alan Turing is considered the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. The mathematician, born on June 23, 1912, was a brilliant World War II codebreaker and parlayed that insight into theorizing and creating the first stored-memory computers. Unfortunately, this Officer of the British Empire was persecuted by the British government of the time for his homosexuality and suffered through chemical castration before ending his life.

The Imitation Game by Feynman author Jim Ottaviani and Resistance illustrator Leland Purvis chronicles the life of Turing in a full-size graphic novel. Check back every day this week as Tor.com releases the entire graphic novel in four parts.

Update: Tuesday June 24: The next installment has been posted! In the box below type in “60” to jump right to it.

Update: Wednesday June 25: The next installment has been posted! In the box below type in “117” to jump right to it.

Update: Thursday June 26: The final installment has been posted! In the box below type in “168” to jump right to it.

29 comments
¡ACHTUNG!
1. ¡ACHTUNG!
This is spectacular! Looking forward to the next installment.
¡ACHTUNG!
2. greytfriend
This is a fun change from the usual short stories. Does anyone know how to add it to Goodreads?
¡ACHTUNG!
3. TheMadLibrarian
What a brilliant man -- what a tragic end.
Is this going to be released as a book?
¡ACHTUNG!
5. SamanthaH
I added it to Goodreads! This was excellent and I hope more people read it.
¡ACHTUNG!
6. Rainbyrd
Fantsitic, though sad. I knew the ending, of course, but so good to read it all. Can't wait to purchase the book.
¡ACHTUNG!
7. BopPunkGreg
Why the spelling "imput" on p.41, especially when it's "input" on the next page? Hmmm.

Really enjoying the book!
Mig Archey
8. Quilld
Thank you for this; it was outstanding.
¡ACHTUNG!
9. Gorgeous Gary
Talk about timing...we're planning on going up to Bletchley Park while we're across the pond for Loncon.
¡ACHTUNG!
11. BopPunkGreg
Also, isn't p.40, panel 2 incorrect? Group C "doesn't stop"??
Jim Ottaviani
12. JimOttaviani
Thanks for the comments and kind words, everyone! A few specifics...
greytfriend and SamanthaH: Thanks for getting this on to Goodreads.
BopPunkGreg: You caught two typos. (I knew about the "imput" one earlier...but not early enough. Argh.) Thanks...we'll correct those. If people find more, please let us know. Gorgeous Gary: I hope you do make it out to Bletchley Park. It's worth the trip. And all who've asked about a print edition: We're working on that right now, and when there's news to share we will do so! Again, thanks everybody.
¡ACHTUNG!
13. J. Holder Bennett
Messrs. Ottaviani and Purvis,

First, thank you for writing an excellent and personable history of one of the twentieth century's most misunderstood people. As a gay man and a historian, I thoroughly enjoyed your work up to the final pages. Though no official revision of the coroner's report has been issued, there is ample evidence that Turing did not die by suicide; rather, it was an accidental inhalation of aerosolized cyanide from the electroplating apparatus. I understand that, for dramatic reasons, a suicide provides greater pathos, but such an ending is dissonant with your obvious efforts elsewhere to get the details right. So, I must ask, why did you go with this version of events?

Respectfully submitted,
J. Holder Bennett
Associate Professor of History, Collin College
Jim Ottaviani
14. JimOttaviani
Prof. Bennett,

Thank you for the note, and I'm glad you enjoyed the book, at least for the most part.

I wrote the script between 2007 and 2009, with some additional reshaping done through 2011. At the time, B. Jack Copeland's book TURING, the documentation he uncovered, and his conclusions about the cause of Turing's death -- that "[t]he exact circumstances...may always remain unclear" -- had not appeared. So, like most before me, I took the coroner's report as a given.

I'll note that an earlier draft of our story, though not so early that Leland didn't draw it, was much more ambiguous. Page 193 originally left what Turing did (or didn't do) to the apple open to interpretation. That may be more appropriate in light of Copeland's reasoning, but I haven't decided whether returning to that more ambiguous depiction is best. I still prefer that earlier version, which is why I wrote it that way, but in addition to being confusing it muted both the injustice Turing suffered at the hands of the state and his own agency. (As you noted.) And to the limited extent that I was able to get inside Turing's head in the course of writing the book, I still find the notion of a decisive act by Turing himself as plausible as accidental inhalation.

Regardless, your point is a good one, and I'm including a discussion about this in the notes and reference section that will appear in any future presentations of the book. So thank you again for pointing it out, and thank you again for your compliments and comments.
¡ACHTUNG!
15. J. Holder Bennett
Mr. Ottaviani,

Thank you for your response. In light of this, I now understand your decision. I agree that a definitive action on Turing's part makes for a better story in the Western tragic mode. The accidental death would make more sense if you were aiming for a more Japanese understanding along the lines of mono no aware, a concern possibly foreign to most Western readers.

Given the above, I vigorously approve of your choices.

Sincerely,
J. Holder Bennett
Associate Professor of History, Collin College
¡ACHTUNG!
16. Dondo
Dear Messrs. Ottaviani & Purvis,

being both, an afficionado of graphic novels and a trained computer scientist, I enjoyed your work immensely! Thank you very much indeed for this! :))

Since I'm also German, I couldn't help but notice a slight anachronism on p. 25: At the time of Alan Turing's trip to Germany (in 1937?), the price for a mug of beer could not have been stated in DM, this being the post-war currency ;-)

Kind regards,
-Dondo
Jim Ottaviani
17. JimOttaviani
Prof. Bennett: Thank you for that additional comment, and you're right that we envisioned the story in the Western tragic mode. In fact, my original proposal for the story had "Tragedy" in the subtitle. And as I mentioned, I was originally leaning towards the Japanese expression of this as well -- though I wasn't aware of that phrase, so thank you for sending me right to Wikipedia to learn more!

Dondo: Eagle-eyed catch there. I'll confess that we didn't give that much thought...and my wife, who is German, didn't spot the mistake either. I'll change it to RM for future versions. Thanks!
¡ACHTUNG!
18. Dondo
Dear Mr. Ottaviani,

Glad to be have been of help :)

Also, I'm afraid I've spotted another couple of typos that may have gone unnoticed (and since you asked for them to be reported ... ;) ):

- on p. 40, top row, right panel: "... and a '1' if it's in group C and doesn't stop." - I think that should read "... [...] and does stop."?

- on p. 42, 2nd row, left panel: "... quod erat demonstratum" - that should read "demonstrandum" instead (if only my Latin teacher could see this...)


Thanks again for this very enjoyable read!!

-Dondo
¡ACHTUNG!
19. Dondo
... and without meaning to be nitpicking: While you're changing DM to RM, here's a nice reference regarding the development of beer prices in Germany (0.5 litre) http://www.was-war-wann.de/historische_werte/bierpreise.html :-)))

Regards,
-Dondo
Jim Ottaviani
20. JimOttaviani
Hi Dondo! Thanks for these.

Additional typo noted and will be fixed (the one on page 40 is already taken care of, thanks to BopPunkGreg's earlier comment).

As for the price of beer, I should have guessed that there were good records for this. Germans and beer, after all. I don't think I specified a price in the script, and it never occured to me to check what Leland chose. So, noted... But!...I think I may leave that as-is, since our sign could be read to indicate that the quoted 1RM is for three steins, in which case they're getting a discount. Or, conversely, it's not hard to imagine that Turing and his friends got the special (read: inflated) tourist price! :)
¡ACHTUNG!
21. Dondo
Thanks very much indeed, JimOttaviani, for giving that beer price topic so much of your thought and precious time :) After a good night's rest, though, I must admit I seem to have ventured onto the wrong side of that fine line between meticulousness and negligibility, as some of us comp. scientists are prone to do :-)) Anyway... Yes, I do agree with you on all points ;-)

Thanks again & regards
-Dondo
Jason Boissiere
22. alwayslurking
Page 20 has a typo "Chrisopher" for Christopher.
Catherine F
23. Catherine F
Dear Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis,

I am very much enjoying your illustrated history of Alan Turing.

However, having visited Bletchley Park, and heard about this very point, I must pass along the information that the incident illustrated on page 67 is most likely false. The room with the Bombe was very hot, but a lady guiding that bit of the tour in time present assured us that the women in attendance in the day merely "turned up their cuffs" [she gently demonstrated] against the heat.

Rumours did abound about the undressing. But it was only to keep things interesting. The folks at Bletchely were isolated, as you point out.

Best wishes,

Catherine F
Jim Ottaviani
25. JimOttaviani
Catherine F: Thanks for this. I imagine the tours at Bletchley are different now than they were when I was there in Fall of 2007, especially (perhaps?) after the Turing centenary! My notes from the visit include references to the undressing being more than just a rumor. It's possible I misunderstood, but I've seen it described in books written about Bletchley Park and Turing as well: For instance, Gwendoline Page -- herself a Wren at BP -- mentions Wrens doing so while working on the Colossus computer in her book "We Kept the Secret." I'll make an addition to the footnote!

alwayslurking: Thanks for spotting these. I've fixed them.
¡ACHTUNG!
26. J. Holder Bennett
Mr. Ottaviani,

One final comment, if I may. As a historian, it warms my heart that you are taking reader critiques so closely to heart. Keep up the good work and I hope to see your future endeavors in yeears to come.
Catherine F
27. Catherine F
Hello, Jim,

Perhaps the thinking changed re revelations about the clothing code in the Bombe - Colossus rooms at BP over the years.

You were there later than I. I was at BP in May 2003 and May 2004. I absolutely remember the lady guide modestly turning up her shirt cuff, at one visit, to show what was acceptable.

I run hot. So had I been in a blazingly hot hut, I probably would have been the first Wren down to my skivvies! It makes for a great story. Wish we knew for certain.

Separately, I want to say I loved the entire illustrated history that you and Leland did. I only wish this story had been among my treasured Gold Key comics when I was little. (I had one about Joan of Arc and another about the discovery of the living coelacanth.)

Do you get the same deep frustration that I do about how wronged Alan Turing was? It just bubbles up and I find I am clenching my left fist.

Best,

Catherine
Jim Ottaviani
28. JimOttaviani
J. Holder: You're welcome, and thank you, in return. It's always good to learn new stuff, and I'm grateful that people care enough about the story to take the time to comment and share their knowledge! Also, thank you for your review at Sequart Organization, which I was just alerted to: http://sequart.org/magazine/46882/alan-turing-in-context/ . Regarding it, I confess that I wasn't aware that beginning with the mother's version is a cliche in gay narrative, as I'm not well-versed in that literature. I chose to open the story the way you see it because Turing's mother wrote a book that paints an excellent portrait of her son in many ways. (The book is titled "Alan M. Turing", and was long out of print when I wrote the story and difficult to find outside of academic libraries; I'm lucky to work in a good one! It's now available again in a centenary edition, and well worth reading both for the original text and the newly available essay by Turing's older brother.) Again, it's an excellent portrait...except it says nothing at all about her son's sexuality or the arrest, and doesn't even begin to scratch the surface about his work at Bletchley Park. The latter is understandable, but the former makes her the perfect first participant in the Imitation Game that is the framework for our story. She's no better than the rest of the people he questions at answering the question "Who is Alan Turing?"

Catherine: Thanks for the kind words, and your description of the cuff-turning is wonderful. I can picture the guide doing that, and it's a great bit of theater. I've added a note about this to the footnotes that will appear in the -- fingers crossed! -- print edition. That's where all the other corrections people have helped out with will appear, by the way. (Asking the folks at Tor to swap out pages as I fix them would be too much of an imposition, so Leland and I will have to live with our typos being there for all to see for now.)

As to frustration at the wrong done to Turing, where to begin... With Turing himself, and the years lost from a life well-lived and enjoyed? With his family and friends, who lost a loved one? Or with the world, which lost the new insights his amazing intellect would have produced? Like another of my heroes, Richard Feynman, Turing was "no ordinary genius", so we can't even guess what he might have done with five, ten, twenty, or more years. All I'm sure of is that we'd be better off if he...and we...could have lived them.
Catherine F
29. Catherine F
Jim,

Please keep us updated about the print edition!

Catherine

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