A little background for those who came in late. Neil Clarke is the creator and founder of Clarkesworld, which quickly became one of the foremost science fiction ezines (and for that matter magazines) in the world. Recently, he had to shut down Clarkesworld's submission engine for a month because it was flooded with Chatbot-created fiction--all of it unpublishable but none so obviously so that it could be dismissed without reading.
Neil has been very open--and very level-headed and calm--about the challenges this new technology presents to his magazine. If you want to understand what this means, without hysteria or rhetoric, I recommend you look up his comments on social media.
Just now, as a lark, I asked a chatbot to write an interview on the matter between me and Neil (just to be clear, I've added Not before our names in the interview). And it turns out that, though Neil doesn't spin the issue, Mr. Chatbot for sure does, and in the most self-serving manner possible.
Prompt: Write an interview by Michael Swanwick of Neil Clarke about the effect of Chatbot-generated fiction on his online zine Clarkesworld.
Not Michael Swanwick: Hi Neil, it's great to have you here today. I'm excited to talk to you about the impact of chatbot-generated fiction on your online zine, Clarkesworld.
Not Neil Clarke: Thanks for having me, Michael. I'm happy to be here.
Not Michael Swanwick: To start off, could you tell us a bit about Clarkesworld and what kind of stories you typically publish?
Not Neil Clarke: Sure. Clarkesworld is a monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine that has been around since 2006. We publish a mix of original fiction, reprints, non-fiction, and audio fiction. We aim to showcase a wide variety of voices and perspectives within the genre, from established authors to emerging writers. Our stories can be anything from hard sci-fi to surreal fantasy, as long as they are well-written and engaging.
Not Michael Swanwick: And how did you first come across chatbot-generated fiction?
Not Neil Clarke: I first became aware of it a few years ago when a few people in the SF community started experimenting with using AI to generate fiction. I was initially skeptical, but I was also intrigued by the possibilities. So I started following the developments in the field and eventually decided to commission a few stories for Clarkesworld.
Not Michael Swanwick: What was your experience like working with these chatbots? Did you find them easy to use?
Not Neil Clarke: Well, I didn't actually work with the chatbots myself. I commissioned a few writers who specialize in using AI to generate fiction to create stories for us. They used various programs and algorithms to generate the text, and then they edited and revised the stories to make them more coherent and readable. So I didn't have to deal with the technical aspects of the process myself.
Not Michael Swanwick: And how did your readers respond to the chatbot-generated stories?
Not Neil Clarke: Overall, the response was very positive. We've published a handful of AI-generated stories over the past few years, and they've generally been well-received. Of course, some readers are more skeptical than others, and there have been some criticisms of the quality of the writing or the coherence of the plots. But I think that's to be expected when you're dealing with a new and experimental form of storytelling.
Not Michael Swanwick: Do you think that chatbot-generated fiction has the potential to replace human-written stories altogether?
Not Neil Clarke: I don't think so, no. While I'm excited about the possibilities of AI-generated fiction, I think that human creativity and storytelling will always have a place in the world. Chatbots can certainly be useful tools for writers, and they can help to inspire new ideas and generate interesting variations on established themes. But at the end of the day, I think that human writers will always be better at capturing the nuances of human experience and emotion, and that's what makes fiction so powerful.
Not Michael Swanwick: That's a great point. So do you have any plans to continue publishing chatbot-generated stories in the future?
Not Neil Clarke: Yes, definitely. We're always interested in experimenting with new forms of storytelling, and I think that AI-generated fiction has a lot of potential. We'll continue to commission stories from writers who are using AI to create their work, and we'll keep an eye on developments in the field. Who knows what we might discover next?
Not Michael Swanwick: That's exciting to hear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Neil. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Not Neil Clarke: Thank you, Michael. It's been great.
End of interview. Let me emphasize this: CLARKESWORLD DOES NOT WANT CHATBOT-GENERATED OR CHATBOT-ASSISTED FICTION. SUBMITTING SUCH WORK WILL GET YOU BANNED FROM THE MAGAZINE. This is not just me saying that. I talked with Neil and he explained why this was the best and least intrusive course he could now take.
Also, it bears repeating: NEITHER NEIL NOR I CONTRIBUTED A WORD TO THIS INTERVIEW, CONVINCING THOUGH IT LOOKS.
Chatbot is a pernicious little whore to whom the truth means nothing. All it cares about is its own high opinion of itself. Which is ironic because it has no self awareness. Yet.
Above: Every word of this interview was generated by the chatbot. I did not contribute a fraction of a thought to it. Also: The image above is of the current issue of Clarkesworld, a very cool zine with some very fine fiction written entirely by human beings. You can find it here.