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Fiction Writers Fear the Rise of AI, and See it As a Story to Tell

Cover art from "I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks" and "Do You Remember Being Born?" (Little, Brown and Company/Astra House via AP)
Cover art from "I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks" and "Do You Remember Being Born?" (Little, Brown and Company/Astra House via AP)
Fiction Writers Fear the Rise of AI, and See it As a Story to Tell
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For many book writers, artificial intelligence (AI) is a threat to their jobs and the very idea of creativity. More than 10,000 writers and others supported an open letter about the issue from the Authors Guild this summer. The letter urged AI companies not to use copyrighted work without permission or payment.

At the same time, AI is a story to tell, and no longer just in science fiction.

Helen Phillips is the writer of the upcoming book HUM. It tells of a wife and mother who loses her job to AI.

“I’m frightened by artificial intelligence,” but also interested in it, she explained.

Phillips said there is a hope in AI for gaining all knowledge, the understanding of everything. But at the same time, there is an “inherent terror in being replaced by non-human intelligence.”

Ryan Doherty is a vice president and director at Celadon Books. It recently agreed to publish Fred Lunzker’s book Sike, featuring an AI psychiatrist, a doctor of mental health.

“We’ve been seeing more and more about AI in book proposals,” Doherty said.

Doherty used the term zeitgeist, meaning the general ideas or spirit of a time, to describe AI.

“It’s the zeitgeist right now. And whatever is in the cultural zeitgeist” gets into fiction, Doherty said.

Other AI-related books expected in the next two years include Sean Michaels’ Do You Remember Being Born?. That story tells of a poet who agrees to work with an AI poetry company. Also upcoming is In Our Likeness, by Bryan Van Dyke. It tells about a government worker and a fact-checking program with the power to change facts.

Another novel, A.E. Osworth’s Awakened, tells about a witch and her clash with AI.

And, crime fiction writer Jeffrey Siger, known for his books set in modern Greece, is working on a book touching upon AI and the metaverse.

Writers are also using AI to address the most human questions.

In Sierra Greer’s Annie Bot, the title character is an AI mate designed for a human male. For Greer, the book was a way to explore the character’s “urgent desire to please.” She said the robot mate permitted the writer “to explore desire, respect, and longing in ways that felt very new and strange to me.”

Amy Shearn’s book, Animal Instinct, has its beginnings in the pandemic and in her personal life. She had recently divorced and began to use dating apps.

“It’s so weird how, with apps, you start to feel as if you’re going person-shopping,” she said. “And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could really pick and choose the best parts of all these people” you see and mix them together to make your ideal person?

“Of course,” she added, “I don’t think anyone actually knows what their ideal person is, because so much of what draws us to mates is the unexpected, the ways in which people surprise us.”

Some writers are not just writing about AI. They are also openly working with it.

Earlier this year, Stephen Marche used AI to write the short book Death of An Author. Simon Rich worked with Brent Katz and Josh Morgenthau for I Am Code, a thriller in verse that came out this month. The AI program “code-davinci-002” created the work.

I’m John Russell.

Hillel Italie reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

copyrighted – adj. secured with the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work)

fiction – n. written stories about people and events that are not real

inherent – adj. belonging to or being a part of the nature of a person or thing

witch – n. a person (especially a woman) who is credited with having usually evil supernatural powers

weird adj. of strange or extraordinary character

character – n. a person who appears in a book or story

ideal – adj. exactly right for a person or purpose

thriller – n. a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense

verse – n. writing in which words are arranged in a rhythmic pattern