May 29, 2023

It could be a story for science fiction itself: a machine using artificial intelligence to try to replace the writers working on the genre, writing story after story without hitting writer’s block. Now, it appears to be happening in real life.

The editors of three science fiction magazines — Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov’s Science Fiction — said this week that they have received a flood of fiction works generated by AI chatbots.

“I knew it was coming, just not at the rate it hit us,” said Sheree Renée Thomas, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which started in 1949.

The flooding has become so unmanageable that Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke said he had stopped accepting submissions until he could get a better handle on the problem.

Clarkesworld, which published its first issue in 2006, charges 12 cents a word and typically receives about 1,100 submissions a month, Mr. Clarkes said in an interview Wednesday.

But in just a few weeks this month, the journal received 700 legal submissions and 500 machine submissions, he said. He said he has been able to spot chatbot-generated stories by examining certain “characteristics” of the document, writing and submission process.

Clark declined to go into further detail, saying he didn’t want to give those who submitted stories any advantage. Mr Clarke said the writing was also “terrible in an alarming way”. “They’re just tipping, dumping, pasting and submitting to magazines.”

he wrote on twitter The submissions were mostly “propelled by ‘side hustle’ experts who claim to make easy money using ChatGPT.”

“It’s not going to go away on its own, and I don’t have a solution,” Mr Clarke said in a statement his blog“I’m tinkering with some, but this isn’t a game of whack-a-mole that anyone can ‘win’.” The best we can hope for is to scoop out enough water to stay afloat. (Like we need one more thing to bail on.)”

The conundrum facing editors highlights the challenges posed by increasingly sophisticated AI chatbots such as ChatGTP, which have shown they can write jokes and college essays and attempt medical diagnoses.

Some writers worry that the technology could one day upend the literary world, displacing the author as the ultimate source of creativity.

But the stories that flood these magazines seem more like spam, easily distinguishable, at least for now, from the sci-fi that writers alone create.

Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, said she received several chatbot-generated stories with the same title: “The Last Hope.”

“The people who do it generally don’t have any real concept of how to tell a story, or any kind of artificial intelligence,” Ms Williams said on Wednesday. “You don’t have to read the first sentence to know it’s not a readable story.”

Ms Thomas said people who submitted chatbot-generated stories appeared to be spamming junk magazines that paid for fiction. Fantasy & Science Fiction pays up to 12 cents per word for up to 25,000 words.

AI-generated work can be eliminated, Ms Thomas said, although “it’s a shame we have to waste time on it.”

“It doesn’t sound like natural storytelling,” she said. “There were some really weird glitches and things that made it obvious that it was a robot.”

Ms Thomas said she has been permanently banning anyone from submitting chatbot-generated work.

“I don’t want to read robot stories,” she said. “I want to read stories that come from real imaginations and experiences, as well as their own impulses.”

Mr. Clarke, whose magazine typically publishes six to eight original novels per issue, writes in an article titled “A worrying trendand in twitter thread.

Mr Clarke laid out his concerns in the interview, saying chatbot-generated fiction could raise ethical and legal questions if it passed literary censorship. He said he didn’t want to pay for “the work that the algorithm did” for stories generated by people who fed their prompts into the algorithm.

“Technically, who owns it?” Mr Clarke said. “Right now, we’re still in the early stages of this technology, and there are a lot of open questions.”

Ms. Williams said submissions to Asimov jumped from an average of 750 a month to more than 1,000 this month — almost entirely because of chatbot-generated stories. Opening, reading and deleting these “super tedious” stories is time-consuming, she said.

Ms Williams said it was possible for writers to use chatbots as an “interesting” part of their novels, but “right now, it’s not being used that way”.

“Young writers don’t need to worry about being replaced right now,” Ms Williams said. “It’s a concern. But at least there’s a way to go. They haven’t become our overlords yet.”

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