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Why AI is bad for fiction writers
and it's not what you think
I recently read this blog post by Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, about the major change they’ve implemented and how the decision came down to AI and ChatGPT.
I’ve mostly stayed out of the AI conversation, whether I’m for it or against it and why. I think it’s the latest fad and to jump on the bandwagon now would just be pandering to an audience that’s either waiting to cheer or jeer you regardless of your opinion. I still have no opinion on where I stand on its use, but when I saw what an editor of a prominently held magazine in the sci-fi world had to say, I felt it was time for me to speak on at least one aspect of why something like this can have such negative effects that too many of the curious-minded are too blind to see.
Let me start by stating what it is that Mr. Clarke had to say: As of the end of February he closed all submissions to the magazine indefinitely. This might not seem like such a shocker. At first, it wasn’t to me. I’m well aware there are on and off seasons for magazines as to when they will open for submissions. Usually, the reason revolves around having too many to choose from and just not enough bandwidth to read through them all to select the few that will be featured in the next issue. Understandable and acceptable. However…
What I can say is that the number of spam submissions resulting in bans has hit 38% this month. While rejecting and banning these submissions has been simple, it’s growing at a rate that will necessitate changes. To make matters worse, the technology is only going to get better, so detection will become more challenging. (I have no doubt that several rejected stories have already evaded detection or were cases where we simply erred on the side of caution.)
There is a serious problem on our hands here. And I’m not talking about the use of ChatGPT (for now, anyway). The problem is that other magazines, and I predict sooner rather than later, will take a similar stance. It’s just too costly to try and uncover the real from the AI-generated and until there becomes a better way to do this these magazines will be forced to shut down.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR WRITERS?
I’m sure the obvious has occurred to you as it had to me the moment I read this: How will fiction writers (or any for that matter) earn a living if they are no longer able to submit their stories to magazines? What happens to them when the trust between submitter and magazine is severed? What does the vetting process look like now? Will magazines charge a fee to submit in the hopes that those using an AI to write a story are less inclined to pay their way into an industry that typically accepts submissions free of charge and pays out for stories they like.
And what about contests, where we pay to enter them. What will they do now? Shut down all contests if they find the rate of submissions one out of every four AI written?
As amazing as this technology might seem on the surface it isn’t so glamorous when you’re an unknown fiction writer trying to get recognized by some of the more prestigious magazines because that could mean a few extra Amazon sales for your book.
And what about magazines who are trying to stay afloat having to possibly shut down production because they no longer have content to fill their pages.
As fast as AI is moving it’s not too far off to think a magazine like Clarkesworld could cease to exist in a years time because they had to spend that time trying to figure out how to find the real from the copied in their submissions process.
I’m thinking now about the magazines I read on a regular basis like Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and others. Many of them feature fiction sections that could potentially stop. And if you’re not a writer on staff, what will happen with the non-fiction sections of these magazines?
The level of trust between writer and reader will need to drastically change where disclaimers of “I swear I 100% wrote what you’re about to read” will need to be prominently displayed along with whatever we write.
How do you know I even wrote what you’ve just read? That I didn’t just ask ChatGPT to write something up on the implications of AI and magazine submissions in the future?
In times like these I ask myself, what would LeVar Burton say? “But you don’t have to take my word for it…”