Grimes’ Fairy Tales: A 1960s Story Generator

  • James RyanEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10690)


We provide the first extensive account of an unknown story generator that was developed by linguist Joseph E. Grimes in the early 1960s. A pioneering system, it was the first to take a grammar-based approach and the first to operationalize Propp’s famous model. This is the opening paper in a series that will aim to reformulate the prevailing history of story generation in light of new findings we have made pertaining to several forgotten early projects. Our study here has been made possible by personal communication with the system’s creator, Grimes, and excavation of three obscure contemporaneous sources. While the accepted knowledge in our field is that the earliest story generator was Sheldon Klein’s automatic novel writer, first reported in 1971, we show that Grimes’s system and two others preceded it. In doing this, we reveal a new earliest known system. With this paper, and follow-ups to it that are in progress, we aim to provide a new account of the area of story generation that lends our community insight as to where it came from and where it should go next. We hope others will join us in this mission.


Story generation History of the field Computational narrative 



We are deeply indebted to Joseph E. Grimes, who, over the span of two months, graciously answered numerous questions about his project. Likewise, we thank Robert I. Binnick for taking the time to respond to inquiries regarding his own pioneering system. Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera pitched in to translate Grimes’s Spanish-language account of his system—this translation proved to be a critical source. L.J. Strumpf, of the IBM Corporate Archives, furnished another major source, the Business Machines article. He also provided high-quality scans of the archival images included in this paper—these have not been seen since the photographs were taken in 1963. Finally, we would like to thank Cliff Hight, archivist at Kansas State University, who also provided assistance on the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Expressive Intelligence Studio, University of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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