Short stories written by a human in an age of artificial copycats.
The ChatGPT scenario is disheartening on many levels, and my heart hurts for these editors tasked with the impossible. It’s a shame.
I don’t blame you for not wanting to submit to speculative outlets anymore. I’m on the fence. 2023 was going to be the year I start submitting stories to other publishers again, but now I’m not so sure. Besides...at this point, Brian, our words may reach an even wider audience here on our personal Substacks! The fiction writing community is ever-evolving. I’m not sure there’s anywhere else I’d rather be.
Thank you for sending this out. It’s an important topic right now and one that should be considered by fiction writers.
“A group can gather on Substack around shared interests and have flawed discussions with emotion, bias and sometimes ethically questionable conversations. Out of that emerges conflict, empathy, relationship and even forgiveness — uniquely human characteristics. ChatGPT won’t allow that. I asked.” - beautifully said, Brian.
I think the advent of AI is a good thing for fiction. It's a wonderful opportunity to rise above and show our humanity, our creativity. The world has seen plenty of artificial work for decades, just from a different factory than where ChatGPT works. This may be a welcome wakeup to explore and realize our actual potential. Publications will need to adapt but they are made up of flexible and evolving human beings who are able to do so much more readily than a million lines of code. Thanks for the article Brian.
Good stuff Brian. I have decided to stay on Substack too and no longer submit pieces to journals. I have been accepted at a few places but once accepted there was no real benefit at least to me. Here on Substack, I get to interact with people like you and get satisfaction from that.
Later this month, I am going to start to publish series of interconnected stories that may be read individually or in sequence. It will be like a TV show with episodes. Each story gradually adds details about the main character’s back stories so regular readers will learn more about them. We will see what happens.
Thank you for this story, Brian. I've been tentatively submitting work to publications and contests over the last few months, and I'm looking ahead to a year of writing queries to agents, who btw are also being inundated with AI generated cover letters and synopses for books that may be all or partly written by AIs. It's so discouraging and it's very hard for me to think that the "traditional" route is even fathomable anymore. I'm already at a disadvantage because my books aren't plot heavy, hook monsters, with massive/automatic commercial appeal. They make you slow down and think, which it seems people don't have the time or desire to do anymore. I get sad in bookstores now. Because I see the physical evidence of people's hard work on display, work that simply doesn't have the same reach it used to. Who buys books anymore? I feel like I'm one of the last ones on earth sometimes.
I love what you said about your work here being, at times, messy, inconsistent, and unpredictable. I'm in that boat, too. I knew my decision to deliver a new piece of fiction every week would mean some of them would be duds. And some of them have been. But others have earned a surprising amount of engagement, which is such an important boost for me. It keeps me going. I don't get that boost when I send a personalized letter along with pages of my novel to a complete stranger who is most likely going to ignore it, or they'll see it and pass after 4-6 months of it collecting dust (perhaps among AI copycats) in their inbox.
I recently changed my one sentence description of my Substack from "Fictional ramblings inspired by stock photography" to "Experimental fiction inspired by..." Because "ramblings" suggests I don't really care about the work. I'm just doodling around for kicks. But I care deeply about what I'm doing. And "experimental" suggests commitment, bravery, ingenuity, and most importantly, the very real possibility of failure. Experiments often fail, and by making that adjustment to my creative statement, I'm hopeful my attitude about failure/success might change for the better. 🤞🏻
I'm glad you're here writing and inspiring us, Brian. There is such a fantastic fiction community here, and I feel so very fortunate to have stumbled upon it. And I fully support your move to original art. It's awesome. Keep at it.
Also, I felt compelled to share this NPR story with you. Because not all Chatbots are on their best behavior. Some of them are being outright dicks. https://www.npr.org/2023/03/02/1159895892/ai-microsoft-bing-chatbot
I’ve spent a lot of time exploring, ChatGPT, and written a couple of pieces about it and and I agree with your conclusions. It is a wave that is upon us. There is no avoiding it and it’s like every other innovation that’s come before it. There is a shadow cast behind the promise of a any game changing advancement.
It does feel overwhelming to think about a world, cluttered with more generative content when we struggle to find an audience for all the wonderful work crafted the old fashioned way. Thanks for continuing to write and share your perspective.
These are exactly my thoughts on AI! It can't replace human connection & I believe this is why there will always be demand for art created by humans. I found this Substack only recently but I'm looking forward to exploring more of your writings.
Thank you for this very raw and honest writing. ChatGPT is something we all need to be more aware of and this was a helpful way to learn more about the realities of how it will affect us. What a fast changing world we are living in.
Right on--I share a lot of these opinions with you.
Good luck on your presentation, Brian!
“This is Future Thief. I am human.” Such a good line for your newsletter in general, as well as a means of summarizing your thoughts. Great post, Brian.
The AI generated stories remind me of Muzak. Good luck on the 31st!