Why A.I. Will Take Over Fiction Writing

The Decade of the 2020’s might be seen in the future as the beginning of the end for “human-written-from-start-to-finish” fiction novels. With all the causes thereof rooted in the events of this decade, the 2010’s.

I myself had a front row seat to witness the declines of unique “outside the box” novels, diversity of shelf content in local bookstores, and the fortunes of small presses; all in the face of relentless homogenization to hew to the Big Five New York Publishers’ risk-averse formulae. A brief ray of hope that expanding numbers of video streaming channels would open up the doors for more “outside the box” television projects has now also been dashed in the face of relentless reboots and remakes to reduce risk. 😐

Humans’ greatest asset in a world where Artificial Intelligence improves almost daily is the ability to think outside of the (A.I.) box.
The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.

Top 10 Skills in 2020

These are the exact skills you would think would be important to create a novel worthy of major publishers’ and Hollywood’s attention.

How did my work fare in these respects? (Review quotes for a previous edition published in 2014, now out of print.)

Jack Wendell is a character unique to modern fiction.”
Welcome, “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome.” I promise, you have never read a vampire book like this one.”

I wrote a novel, for which its creation was the very exemplification of complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

A Vampire with Down Syndrome, not coming off as a caricature?

“…not once did I feel the author or his story pandered. This is a compelling work.”
“…in lit(erary) circles fully drawn characters with Down Syndrome have been rare.
Surely, this genre is well-worn; what can possibly be done to rejuvenate it? … Somehow, Daven Anderson makes it all work.”
The conflicts inherent therein make for the best of fiction. This is one of my very favorite novels that I’ve read all year.”

Problem is, due to risk aversion and narrowing formulae, “This is a compelling, unique work” and a dollar won’t buy me a Starbucks in New York or Hollywood… 😉
But that dollar plus tax will buy me a McDonald’s coffee in Denver, so back to the working life I went, where my complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity skills are ironically more valued than they are in the publishing or television worlds.

And as for the plans I had to write as a hobby, after retiring from full-time work: 538 + 296 = Zero
Not making money off of books is one thing. But no reviews is quite another. Without even a minimal dialogue with others in any way, shape or form, there is no reason to publish a work. 😐
Naturally, that drop-kicks the “muse” to the curb, meaning that “muse” might well become one of the most endangered occupations of the 2020’s… 😈

So, in a world where “complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity skills” are increasingly important in everyday life, yet these same qualities can become liabilities to the New York Publishing (and Hollywood financing) sectors, where will that lead New York Publishing to?

To A.I., of course.

Since, after all, The First Novel Written by A.I. Is Here…

Not only is A.I. writing here, “predictive text” is already starting to improve in line with human interaction.

In the next decade or two, New York Publishing could well evolve into “Best-Selling Authors” entering outlines and synopses into A.I. predictive text programs, then proof-reading and editing the resultant text into book form.

Think that’s impossible? James Patterson and other best-selling names are already working this way, with hired human authors acting as the “predictive text generators”.
James Patterson How

In another ten to twenty years, A.I. predictive text should be refined enough to do this sort of “grunt work.” And fill out a whole bunch more Marvel story arcs, to give just one Hollywood example.

Then the Big Five (or Four, or Three; by then?) Dream will come true. There will be even more tight hewing to formulae, as previous work defining that criteria is incorporated into the A.I.’s databases, and the apps can “predict” what the Big Five will want from the text, formula-wise. As in this Harry Potter fan fiction example, “signature” stylistic examples from the human authors’ previous work will also be rolled into the databases.

And the basic modus operandi is already in place for all this.

Publishers Weekly: Is Publishing Too Top-Heavy?

(A literary agent at a major firm) Citing the fact that major authors of today publish at an increased “velocity and frequency,”, he feels that this rarified group now gets an outsize amount of the limited spoils: bigger advances, more of retailers’ limited space, and more of publishers’ time and attention. “The more big authors a house publishes, the more they take away from all of the other authors,” he added.

Rise Of The Machines“, indeed.

Rise Of The Machines

“Rise Of The Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb (Amazon Kindle)

Kristen Lamb’s “cyborg author” on the cover is so prophetic, even she doesn’t know how on point this will be. Problem is, the sequel for the 2020’s would have to be subtitled “Digital Authors in a Human World”… 😈

And, as with “James Patterson” books today, very few of the readers will suspect 95%+ of the actual text in their shiny New York Times Bestseller copy was not generated by the name on the dust jacket. 😈

Maybe there’s hope for my retirement hobby yet. If all “writing books” will take in the next decade of two is an outline or a synopsis, then we can all create 100,000 word novels in just a couple of days, and lack of money or reviews won’t matter so much when it only takes a few days to generate the work. 😎😈

No, wait, that’s too easy. 😝 There has to be a catch. 😈 And here it is:

If you think Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is crowded now, with over a million books a year being added to K.D.P. even at the present time, just wait a decade or two for when no one even has to do the “grunt work” of typing the majority text. Everyone’s “idea” for a novel will suddenly become a novel. Even now, there are at least a hundred people with “ideas for a novel” (for every person who has finished a novel) who have not finished their novels due to the grunt work required to create the text. What happens when all those “ideas” can become novels in a day or two, without all the “heavy lifting” of typing out text? Predictive text A.I. programming fed by human ideas will bring its own version of the “infinite monkey theorem” to life.

Think “discoverability” is a big problem for new works now?
Just wait until there are over 500 million e-books floating around in cyberspace. Maybe even over a billion, who knows? 😈

Winning the Powerball jackpot or being struck by lightning will seem like quite reasonable odds by comparison.

With all this on the horizon, what authors will really need are A.I. generated reviews. Then, A.I. can review its own predictive text output, and we humans need not even be in the loop… 😈

Instead of being an asset, thinking outside of the box was a liability for me in the publishing and Hollywood development financing Worlds in the 2010’s decade. But this also enables me to see how things can get worse in these worlds, in ways that few are even imagining right now.

Yes, the one activity most people associate as being the most creative and uniquely human of pursuits, fiction writing, will be taken over by the bots, the programs and the apps.

It is a given that the first generations of A.I. text completion programs/apps will require more human input than later, more advanced versions. “A.I. Fiction App 1.0”, for example, might require humans to write a synopsis, chapter outlines and opening sentences. By generation 4.0 or 5.0, the App may be able to construct an entire novel from a “back cover blurb” style outline consisting of several paragraphs.

One constant will remain true as the programs/apps evolve:
The more human input received, the more “human” the end results will seem. More ambitious writers will still human-create chapter outlines/synopses, add and delete sentences, edit the A.I.-created sentences, etc.
And the A.I. will learn from all this! 😈

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars Episode II):
Well if droids could think, there’d be none of us here, would there?
Dex and Obi-Wan in diner

The “droids” in the Star Wars universe or ours might not be able to “think” (creatively), but as we all know, creative thinking is not in itself a prerequisite to writing. 😈😄😈😝
And even E.L. James-style tripe embodies a uniqueness future generations will likely never see; pure unfettered every-single-word human output unfiltered by any concerns of “taste” or decorum. The upcoming A.I. will write “better” than her in technical terms, but it will never match the best (or worst, in her case) of human prose.

The next Shakespeares, the next Hemingways and even the next E.L. James-es will all be at their day jobs; never to entrance, entertain us or even repulse us with their words, because it won’t be “their words”…

Welcome to the future.

The Rejection Window Part III: Toxic Positivity

One of the big reasons why I stayed in fiction writing as long as I did was the encouragement from my fellow creatives. Little did I know back in the early 2010’s that enthusiasm for my creations amongst fellow authors would not necessarily correlate to same-level enthusiasm among general public readers. If it had, “Vampire Syndrome” would have made it to the multiplexes, or at least Netflix.

From beginning to end, I had always received strong encouragement from my fellow creatives to keep writing. Even if I never made a dime from the books, and failed to get any reviews ever from general public “non-author” readers for years on end, there was a uniform, unwavering chorus of “keep writing”.
And I was asking myself why they keep doing this.

I found the answer on my Facebook wall. An author friend of mine complained that she had tallied up over six hundred rejections, and wanted to quit.
Of course, she received several hundred comments all following the standard “creatives’ party line” to the effect of “keep on querying, don’t give up.”
Why? So she can hit the lofty “thousand rejections” milestone? Or press on even further for an eventual Guinness book world record? 😈

(Highly relevant blockquote from my previous post):

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

Naturally, I had to step in and give my two cents:
Obviously, the Big Five do not want what you’re writing. This in no way impunes you or the quality of your work, this is just the reality that your work does not meet the Big Five’s narrow formulae for what books they think will be “successful”. Keep on self-publishing and don’t waste any more time with further querying, or you will soon literally run out of people to reject your work. The phrase ‘beating a dead horse’ entered the cultural lexicon for a reason, and it’s fitting here.”

People who actually care about you will not give you sugar-coated advice when they know better otherwise. They will tell the truth as they see it, even when it seems blunt and/or harsh, because their wishes for you to be your best, and do your best, are sincere.

So why would a couple hundred other authors keep encouraging her to query, even after six hundred rejections, when I’m certain they’re all aware of the harsh realities of the publishing industry?

Toxic Positivity.

Also known as “avoidance coping”.

Relentless focus on positivity isn’t just ineffective.
Research has shown that it’s actually harmful.

Such as encouraging someone already frustrated over six hundred rejections to accumulate a few hundred more rejections “for her collection.”

Encouragement is normally a wonderful thing, but there are times when we all better off when we buckle down, ask the difficult questions, deal with the difficult answers, and let the deceased horses rest in peace.

Scary Musings on the Future

Ah, the 2010’s, the decade where it all fell apart. 😈

As this nightmare decade draws to a close, I sit back on the sidelines and contemplate where the creative world is now, how it became that way, and what will be in the future.
We all know damn well that “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” would not get published now, in fact they almost weren’t published back in the day.
Twilight Was Rejected Fourteen Times Before Being Accepted

How Many Times Was Harry Potter Rejected By Publishers?
The Answer:

Twelve times or twenty-two times, but this doesn’t help you understand the present-day publishing climate.

The internet and the self-publishing industry have changed since the mid-1990s when Harry Potter was published. Rowling sent her submissions in as hardcopy and you would need to multiply twenty-two by at least a factor of four to get a reasonable comparison.

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

“The Hunger Games” might still make it to print today, but it sure as hell would not be a movie trilogy in this Marvel day and age.

So now that the “movie-from-book” Golden Goose is cooked, what happens when the Marvel movie arcs runs their course, as is eventually inevitable?

Not my circus, not my white elephants… 😈

Skeleton Writer

How Indie Bookstores are killing Indie Books

The last sacred cow of the book world is planting the seeds of its own irrelevance. The untouchable, most holy of institutions, hailed as the prime literary taste-maker and engine of new discoveries, no longer holds its touted powers, yet none dare voice out loud that the ‘Emperor’ is no longer wearing their clothes.

Until now.

Once upon a time, in the blissful days of the pre-Internet literary world, local independent bookstores played a crucial role in discovering and publicizing new books. Great books on small presses could win the attention of literary agents and major publishers, and the then-Big-Six’s ‘hidden gems’ could find the accolades they deserved.

For the last fifteen years, the Web has been usurping the indie bookstores’ ‘power of influence’. Countless literary review sites and blogs, and book retailers’ online reviews, have, for the most part, taken over the role of “taste-maker and engine of discovery”. Yet, everyone in the literary world still treats the local indie stores as the most sacred of cows.

They shouldn’t.

indie-bookstore-meme

Yes, one of their biggest issues can be summed up nicely in a meme. Yet, the problems here go much deeper than that. Indies are backing away en-masse from “local author” programs and even stocking any books released by small presses. With the Big Five’s ever-increasing risk aversion, and honing of commercial formulas, how much “literary discovery” can the local indie stores really do, when they restrict themselves to carrying only major-publisher books?

Soon, the indie bookstores will be forced to recommend books by “James Patterson” his hired writers, because they’ll be the only titles left on their shelves.

james-patterson

A slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

Due to the aforementioned risk aversion, increasing numbers of excellent books will never be published by the Big Five. And those books have to go somewhere.

Over the last five years, many have headed for self-publishing. The preponderance of best-selling self-published books has long since proven that the Big Five’s commercial formulae are missing many #1 New York Times (e-book) best-sellers, and even “The Martian”, a novel that served as the genesis of a hit movie. No indie bookstore could have discovered or championed “The Martian”, because it was never on their shelves in the first place.

And the indies’ lack of shelf diversity is creating an even bigger problem for themselves.

Given the relative ease of self-publishing, it is safe to say that any author who signed to an independent publisher after, say, the year 2010, was an author who was committed to having print versions of their books available for sale at bookstores.

With the local stores turning a blind eye to small press books, in the process they also shelf-block the authors who committed themselves to the more difficult path of traditional publishing, just to have print versions of their books, that the typical indie bookstore will now no longer stock. In other words, the indies won’t stock the books by the authors who gave up full creative control and self-publishing’s higher royalty rates, just to get print editions for stores that will no longer carry them.

Not a great way to make friends of those authors. Or, for that matter, their independent publishers.

In the face of this trend, some great small presses have had to shut down (R.I.P. Booktrope). Others, like my own publisher PDMI Publishing, LLC, have moved on to targeting large book retailers. For the last several years, PDMI has been holding its author signings at major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, which have proven to be more receptive to the small press, its authors and its books than the typical local indie bookstore.

Other small presses still vainly holding out hope for the indie shelves will probably go the way of Booktrope, sad to say. And once all of their authors realize the “local indie Emperor” is no longer wearing their shiny book-championing armor, they’ll be free to move on.

Once again, their books will have to go somewhere.

“Yes, self-publishing,” you say, “but what about print? Print isn’t dead.”

Which is precisely why Amazon is venturing into brick-and-mortar book retailing. If the indie bookstores thought CreateSpace was bad, “they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Once Amazon’s brick-and-mortar infrastructure is in place, any “Kindle” that catches fire can be on Amazon’s bookshelves in a couple of weeks. Are the Big Five and their self-appointed ‘indie’ taste-makers ready for a world where books that bypass them entirely can become #1 New York Times PRINT best-sellers?

Another hypothetical question: What would happen if more independent publishers followed the path of PDMI and focused on large retailers? Unlike the Big Five, smaller publishers could sign exclusive deals with large retailers, in return for print book shelf space. A “Barnes & Noble Exclusive” title could easily reach #1 NYT best-seller status, if carried in enough stores.

And, given the local stores’ current exclusionary climate, would any of the publisher’s authors really object if their publisher went “Barnes & Noble Exclusive”, especially if it meant their book got shelf space at B&N’s across the U.S.?

One thing is sure to continue. Once Amazon entries are regularly populating several places of the Top Ten New York Times print best-seller list, the indie stores will whine and complain about it. Yet much of the ‘blame’ will rest with themselves, for turning a blind eye to the smaller publishers and their authors, all parties involved who had dedicated themselves to the difficult task of producing print books, only to be rebuffed at virtually every turn. Killing off some of the geese that laid the golden eggs, but those eggs have to go somewhere.

Straight to Amazon’s waiting nest. 😈

UPDATE 9/08/16: A quote from this excellent Observer article The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists :

“(For the N.Y.T. list) a hardcover copy of your book purchased on Amazon.com is counted differently than the same hardcover book purchased at indie bookstore X.”
Here may be a more valid reason why people are still treating indie stores like sacred cows.
Yet, if you could sell a million books at Wal-Mart alone, you may not make the N.Y.T. list, and you definitely wouldn’t make the W.S.J. list, as Wall Street Journal doesn’t even tally Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club sales, which is a ‘hole’ big enough to drive literal semi-trailers full of books through….

UPDATE Aug. 2017: Alas, PDMI Publishing, LLC also fell victim to the realities of the book-retailing climate, but their later focus on major retailers was the correct thing to at least attempt to do, even if it didn’t save the company.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hi everyone, I just wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year!
Onward and upward for 2016 we go 🙂98_062712

Different, Not Weaker – Guest Post by Cindy Koepp

One of the main points I make in my Vampire Syndrome Saga is that ‘different’ does not equate to ‘weaker’. My friend and fellow PDMI Author Cindy Koepp shows us the same piece of wisdom in her upcoming novel, “Like Herding The Wind”. 🙂

“Different, Not Weaker” by Cindy Koepp

Too often, we perceive things that are different from our idea of “normal” as weaker or deficient. Sometimes, that is the case, but more often, different is just different. The things that make us unique are not weaknesses but can become our greatest strengths. The perception of strength and weakness is.

In “Like Herding the Wind: An Urushalon Novel,” soon to be released by PDMI Publishing, an Eshuvani generation ship crash-landed in a farmer’s field in Germany. Unable to find the resources on Earth to fix their ship, the Eshuvani built enclaves and tried to let the humans develop without interference. Three hundred fifty years later, Eshuvani criminals start a crime wave in the Texas coastal town of Las Palomas. With police officers being injured and killed in the efforts to stop them, Sergeant Ed Osborn attempts to use his ties to the Eshuvani community to get help for his men, but the local leadership wants nothing to do with humans. Ed contacts his urushalon, Amaya Ulonya, the Eshuvani mother he adopted when he was a boy, and seeks her help.

After the death of her partner, Amaya, the captain of a police and rescue team, finds more grief than joy in her current assignment. Amidst controversy, she arranges to spearhead the new Buffer Zone station between Las Palomas and the nearby Eshuvani enclave of Woran Oldue. She hopes the opportunity to help Ed train his people will help her bury the past. The indifference of the local administration leaves her with Ill-functioning equipment and inexperienced staff. It only gets worse when the attacks of an Eshuvani criminal grow personal. Amaya must get control of her grief to help Las Palomas or risk losing someone even more dear to her than her last partner.

As far as humans are concerned, Eshuvani are superhuman. They’re fast, seeming to react at blur speeds; and they’re strong enough to pick up an adult human male and throw him against the wall with considerable force. That strength and speed make the Eshuvani criminal element such a hazard among the human police. Without proper training, the humans don’t know how to overcome their attackers.

From the perspective of the Eshuvani, humans have incredible endurance and a remarkable resilience particularly in the face of psychological trauma. Eshuvani admire the humans’ ability to keep going both physically and mentally even after the most persistent of their own people has run out of steam.

At the same time, members of each race find the other intolerable in some ways. Eshuvani find humans too aloof and detached, while humans consider Eshuvani emotionally unstable and secretive.

Into this quagmire of misunderstanding, Amaya arrives to help her urushalon train his people to use their differences to overcome the threat.

***

“Like Herding the Wind”, releasing January 15, 2016, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Cindy Like Herding The Wind Cover Small

Five-Star Review from TV/Film Producer Joel Eisenberg

“Vampire Syndrome” just received a five-star review from Hollywood TV/Film producer Joel Eisenberg. 😀


After Reading “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome,” I Felt As Though I Had Never Read a Vampire Novel Before.
By Joel Eisenberg, Author of The Chronicles of Ara on October 17, 2015

Really, how many variations of the vampire theme can there possibly be? Surely, this genre is well-worn; what can possibly be done to rejuvenate it?

Welcome, “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome.” I promise, you have never read a vampire book like this one.

Let’s begin this way: Jack Wendell, a Special Olympics champion with Down Syndrome, is turned into a vampire (hence the Vampire Syndrome in the title). That enough? Then how’s this: Jack strives for acceptance within his new community and is immediately ordered to be killed. Read Daven’s synopsis on this site. It’s all there. He’s not joking about “space alien Pure vampires” either.

Somehow, Daven Anderson makes it all work. The story is metaphoric for sure, but man is this work compelling. There’s a good deal of tongue in cheek here but not once did I feel the author or his story pandered. This is a compelling work.

Jack Wendell is a character unique to modern fiction. Characters with Down Syndrome have been used frequently in media, see the television shows “Life Goes On” or “American Horror Story.” Autistic protagonists too have been used widely in literature over the past 25 years, but in lit circles fully drawn characters with Down Syndrome have been rare.

Here though is something different and I hope I express this as I mean to: Jack is ‘cool.’ Do I feel sorry for him as he runs from his death sentence? Of course. Am I curious about his budding friendship with Lilith, who will attempt to save him? Yes. But more than this, I lose track of any disabilities on the part of the main character, and root for him as I would for anyone. And then it comes back to me that I’m reading a tale about a boy – a vampire – with Down Syndrome and I’m compelled to credit the author all the more.

This is a special novel and certain to be a special series. Daven is clearly a unique author. He is also a special educator and knows this world well. Jack is a real person to me, in an extraordinary circumstance.

The conflicts inherent therein make for the best of fiction. This is one of my very favorite novels that I’ve read all year.

Kudos Mr. Anderson. A remarkable, fun work.

Joel Amazon Review - Screengrab