A.I. and The Writer’s Doom (wow, clickbait much?)

So, this topic has been all the rage in some circles. Artificial Intelligence is threatening to put writers as well as artists out of business! Doom! Doom I say!

Well, not really. Not yet. But it is going to be a problem.

In the here and now, the problem is scammers trying to flood the short fiction publishing market with rubbish, no doubt taking a shotgun approach that if only 1% of their crap gets through, that is still a win for the 0.001% effort they put into making the stuff.

The big example is Clarkesworld Magazine shutting down its submissions department because it was hit with over 500 of these stories. Other magazines like Asimov’s Science Fiction have had similar floods, and at least one other magazine has followed Clarkesworld’s example, by stopping unsolicited submissions.

That’s bad for people trying to get a start in writing.

Of course, it’s also not a new problem. Before this, plagiarism was a problem, with people copy-pasting existing works and trying to resell them elsewhere, sometimes not even bother to tweak it. Also outright theft, with people taking eBooks and selling them online without a penny going to the author.

And it’s not that these stories are hard to spot, they’re not. The problem is that magazines don’t have the staff to deal with it all. Again, it’s the shotgun approach, much like spam in your email. They don’t expect it to fool everyone, they just need it to fool someone.

Point is, much like a talented sex worker, assholes learn new tricks.

Right now, there isn’t any danger of these AI stories actually replacing, well, anyone. It can make passable short form copy, and has been used to generate content for websites and marketers.

But what about the future? Sadly, AI can only get better, right?

Yes, but there is a limit. I mean, it can only work with the data it’s given.

So even if you perfected this tech, and I mean perfected, then pumped in all of Stephen King’s work (and, let’s say every author that’s been compared to Stephen King, for more data to mine) and ask it to create a Stephen King novel, the best it’s going to do is come up with something… passable. You’ll probably enjoy it, but I doubt it will make your top 5 King novel list.

Because this tech, as it currently is, can’t innovate. Not really. So it can’t actually do better than what’s come before, take chances, go in new directions, only take you where you’ve been before with different window dressing.

The problem is, people like to make money—and to many that means taking as much as they can from the general public, and giving as little as they can to people who work for them.

The other problem is, many readers are fine with… fine. Not everyone is looking for The Grapes of Wrath when they curl up with a book for the evening or a show on TV or a movie in the theatre. They just want to enjoy themselves.

So, most people are fine with fine, and AI will produce fine content someday… and now you see the dollar signs popping up in certain people’s eyes. Of course, those people are short sighted too because eventually they won’t be needed, either.

It won’t be long after that before the programs themselves become the product, and the consumer simply asks for what they want.

“I’d like a space adventure. Something with a grumpy pilot of a small cargo ship who deep down wants to be better than he is. Set it in a universe filled with aliens, but, you know, still humanoid for the most part. Let’s have a mystery set in it, one that is paid off in the end. Oh, and the villains shouldn’t be cardboard cutouts, either. Make it funny, too.”

Beep Boop Beep Boop – Here you go!

(Couldn’t resist. Seriously, go buy it while I’m still relevant)

Where do I see things going? A lot of ways. A few things I think will happen:

  • Struggling writers (i.e. most of us) will end up working for companies pumping out AI books in order to edit and polish them (especially while the kinks in tech are worked out) to give it that fresh human smell.
  • Writers still making a go of it will, more than ever, have to sell themselves, not their books. Get out there, find their niche, make their presence known, and try to establish themselves as someone who “gets it” and, hey, I just so happen to write the kind of books you like! This has always been part of the process, mind you, but in the future it might be the only part that matters.
  • Adapt. Writers will end up using AI to help them with their stories in order to get their product out faster (no more waiting 6 months to a year for the next instalment) and justify it by giving the program highly detailed synopsis of the whole story for the AI to work with, then edit it. In other words, it’s still their story. They’re just letting the bot do the grunt work. Some will try to hide the fact they do this, while others will be open about it.
  • The public will eventually be okay with all this, as they become okay with everything given enough time.
  • Drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.

As for me? Well, I’m getting ahead of the curve by rebranding myself. From now on, I’m an Organic Artisanal Storyteller, until I tire of the joke, or my predictions become a reality.

3 comments on “A.I. and The Writer’s Doom (wow, clickbait much?)Add yours →

  1. I’m thinking of selling a service.

    One that will allow authors (qualified, of course) to place

    “Certified Human-Derived Content”

    on their covers.

    Of course, in order to serve the market properly, there will need to be a variety of different certifications:

    A Sturgeon-level “More Than Human” content

    A truly retro level “Originally Composed in Long Hand and Transcribed on a Typewriter”

    An ambiguous one for hedging bets “No AIs Were Harmed During the Writing of This Project”

    and an Asimovian one: “I can not allow you to read this book. First Law.”

  2. I think the scammers are a temporary problem–currently exacerbated by meta-scammers selling get-rich-quick to these morons–because the decently paying markets have already shut them out, the lower paying ones aren’t profitable: $10 once every hundred submissions isn’t enough to pay for typing 100 email addresses. Most of the literary markets don’t pay anything (maybe contributor copies which these scammers won’t care about) so the current tidal wave will pass.
    The future problem that AI will be good enough to generate ‘fine’ stories for the masses…okay, sure, but who cares. The writers trying to write for that commercial market are essentially the same as the Chatbot crowd, just slower. Bestseller is its own genre, and there are lots of writers trying to churn out bestseller processed cheese according to the formulas taught them in “how to write a bestseller” workshops, sold to them by the essentially the same meta-scammers. Why should I support those people any more than chatbots? Let them drown.
    Those of us writing our books for ourselves (and whomever else might like them) rather than as a get-rich-quick scheme are basically in the same position we always were. There’s no money in writing anymore, any more than there has been for poetry over the last 80 yrs. There are half a dozen poets who make a living at poetry (poet laureates, six other Canadians I could name), the rest of the poetry community writes because they want to write poetry. So, that’s the situation now with novelists. One could make a living in the pulp era, but movies, then TV, then video games, then the internet, then social media, eroded and now essentially eliminated that pulp audience. Now there are half a dozen brand-name authors [Patterson & his factory of ‘coauthors’) Rowling (who clearly sold her soul for that deal and turned evil), Stephen King (human chatbot), a few others who service the monopolistic multinational corporations’ need for sales-predictable market share. You and I were never going to be Stephen King.
    Your books (and mine if I could ever finish the damn thing) might pay off indirectly because as editors, it might present an extra element on our CVs. Or word of mouth might eventually sell a thousand copies…which in my case would work out to a pay rate of 11 cents an hour. You know? Not about the money.
    Before I sold my first short story and started focusing on writing fiction, I produced 150 issues of fanzines, some of which were well received in fandom–and wrote hundreds of locs. Mundane friends would ask how much I earned from that and I would have to explain that hobby, far from making money, took most of my disposable income. They would shake their heads in confusion, because in capitalist society nothing has worth unless it pays. Well F that.
    I really enjoyed reading Lost Souls. I trust that you enjoyed writing it. I’m looking forward to more in the series. But making money from it–not unless you connect with a recent graduate from film school and you both hit it incredibly lucky. 🙂

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