⚠ Rant alert
What a former story writing judge shared in a group discussion I was in made my jaw drop.
She told of a sci-fi writing contest she worked in not long ago. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners had been chosen out of nearly 100 entries and prizes awarded. Afterwards, she was contacted by the 3rd place winner. Turns out he was a software engineer who’d used the contest as a testing ground to submit a computer-generated story. An AI-written story had made the cut and won a prize. Let that sink in.
The judge went on to swear she never suspected a thing. Nothing, but nothing, in the story hinted it hadn’t been written by a human. Plot, characters, dialogue… all seemed legit.
Makes you wonder how many other stories circulating out there right now had no human author.
I fear this future of story publishing.
One can argue that today’s commercial writing formulas for publishing novels are already blocking human creativity with their prescribed components. Things like recommended chapter/sentence word counts; plot element catalogues; snowflake methods; set readability metrics; seven-point, three-act structures… Let’s not kid ourselves. A computer that can bleep out a full fit-to-formula novel in 5.3 seconds that would have taken even the fastest of human writers weeks to do will appeal to a publisher’s bottom line every time.
And how many readers out there would really care?
Computer-generated stories using pre-programmed elements determined to be most popular and marketable are not a far-fetched possibility. They exist now.
Someday soon, for a modest fee, a person will be able to select the genre of story they desire with the exact kind of characters they want along with plot, ending –everything down to the nitty-gritty details of whether they prefer the hero green-eyed or the setting in their own hometown, for example.
As long as what the consumer likes to read is cheaply available and rapidly produced, so what? The publishing company algorithms will deal directly with the story-generating software ones, eliminating the pesky middleman from the equation; the human writer.
The next novel you read may be written by a computer.
Thoughts anyone? Deus ex machina to the literal extreme? Since many of our readers come from the 3310 fandom, what do you think this spells for fanfiction? FF is so niche and “non-commercial”, it could very well end up one of the last hold-outs for true human creativity given it cannot be “made to order”? Imagine that.
I can easily see the idea of made-to-order stories created by a computer becoming a reality. Life is headed that way already. The existence of writing formulas is the first step. And it would be much more profitable for the publishers which is all they really care about.
It would be a real shame if it ever comes to pass. I believe computer generated stories would be very formulaic and would ultimately lack the creative spark a human author’s imagination can give to the narrative. And how can a computer ever understand the full depths of human emotion properly. Without that understanding the characters would be nothing more than stereotypes and shallow caricatures.
Technology is great when it is used as an aid to help people more easily create and share what they imagine. But if it ever replaces humans in the creative process? That would be a sad day indeed.
Made-to-order stories will come to pass. I have no doubt of it. Stories written by actual human beings may very well become a niche market. It is beyond sad to consider.
This sounds really scary but a distinct possibility. I do think though that an AI produced story will become quite formulaic and would lack the nuances that a human writer would produce. But for commercial purposes and quick profit, it could very well the chosen way forward for publishing companies
I absolutely agree about formulaic and lack of nuance. Sadly, I’m afraid there are many, many readers out there who don’t care about that… as long as stuff is inexpensive and mass-produced
fast. That being said, I do believe there are readers that remain discerning and are looking for depth in stories. I count myself in the latter and will continue to write my complex sentences and descriptive prose as I like. But it’s hard not to get depressed thinking you’re being creative but a computer can come along one day and beat you to it.