BLIT (short story)

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Author David Langford
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction
Published in Interzone
Publication type magazine
Publication date 1988

"BLIT" (acronym of Berryman Logical Image Technique) is a science fiction short story by British writer David Langford. It features a setting where highly dangerous types of images called "basilisks" have been discovered; these images contain patterns within them that exploit flaws in the structure of the human mind to produce a lethal reaction, effectively "crashing" the mind the way a computer program crashes when given data that it fails to process.

Langford's later short story "comp.basilisk FAQ",[1] first published in Nature in December 1999, mentions William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984), Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud (1957), J. B. Priestley's The Shapes of Sleep (1962), and Piers Anthony's Macroscope (1969) as containing a similar idea. Examples not mentioned include the short story White Cane 7.25 (1985) by Czech writer Ondřej Neff, A. E. van Vogt's War Against the Rull (1959), and John Barnes's Kaleidoscope Century (1996). The idea of a "lethal image" is also proposed as a weapon against the Borg in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "I, Borg". It is also similar to the plot of the 2002 horror film The Ring.

Authors Ken MacLeod and Greg Egan both acknowledge the idea with a specific reference to Langford – "the Langford hack" in The Cassini Division (1998) and "the Langford Mind-Erasing Fractal Basilisk" in Permutation City (1994). Charles Stross also refers to a type of magical ward known as the "Langford Death Parrot" in The Fuller Memorandum (2010) and "Basilisk attacks" with "Langford fractals" in Accelerando (2005).

The story has three sequels, "What Happened at Cambridge IV", "comp.basilisk FAQ", and "Different Kinds of Darkness". The last story imagines a post-apocalyptic world where BLIT images are everywhere, and millions have already been murdered by terrorist attacks utilizing them. Television and the internet have been outlawed due to the proliferation of BLIT images. In order to protect children, special chips have been planted in their brains that creates a subjective and artificial darkness (which the children call "type-two darkness") to obscure any possible BLIT image they may inadvertently look at. The main characters, all school children, form the "Shudder Club", where they take turns looking at a BLIT image to see how long they last, inadvertently vaccinating themselves against them.

See also[edit]

  • Snow Crash, a novel involving an Basilisk-like image which crashes computers and minds, combined with the idea that language is a virus itself
  • "Press Enter", a short story by John Varley, features a Basilisk-type image that causes humans to commit suicide after they see it
  • The Funniest Joke In The World, a Monty Python sketch about a joke that causes people to literally laugh themselves to death
  • Pontypool, Canadian horror film about a zombie-like contagion featuring echolalia and homicidal actions, transmitted using a specific set of spoken English words as a carrier signal via voice or radio


  1. ^ Langford, David. comp.basilisk FAQ. Nature, December 1999. doi:10.1038/44964