When one of my favorite podcasts, Welcome to Night Vale, goes on hiatus, it doesn’t really go on hiatus. They take January off every year to catch up, refill their backlog, etc. Even so, they still release remastered old episodes, live show excerpts, or other interesting content– things that didn’t take them long to put together that will keep everyone happy while they’re catching up.
And, as someone with some catching up to do– someone who just came off of a real hiatus that didn’t go as well as expected– I can really get behind that idea.
Thus, this post is here to introduce a new series taking over the blog across the next few weeks so I can take a not-hiatus!
As a teaser, it includes getting robots to write Casters’ Court for me.
That’s right. Robots.
A couple of months ago, a good friend introduced me to a fun AI project called Talk to Transformer. It’s a modern neural network that has been fed gobs and gobs of text so it can learn the basic patterns of the English language and of different kinds of writing. I don’t know much beyond that, because I don’t know much about machine learning, but it’s a pretty nifty tool.
You can put in any short sample of text, from a few words to a couple of paragraphs. Transformer will ‘read’ it and decide what should come next. It will then spit back a bit of output text that it thinks will finish the story. My friends and I have put some funny stuff in there, and we’ve certainly gotten some funny stuff back.
Therefore, in order to see if my writing passion would be replaced by a robot any time soon, I wanted to see if it could take a crack at writing Casters’ Court.
I’ve taken the opening paragraph or two of each of the first five chapters of Casters’ Court and fed them into Transformer. For each chapter, I then fed the output text back in, three or four times, until it gave me a complete-sounding snippet. And I’ll be sharing these crazily off-course snippets with you over the course of the next five weeks.
As a teaser example, here’s what happens when I try to make it write some reviews for Casters’ Court (the bold is what I inputted):
Casters’ Court is the best story I’ve read in my entire life, and I’m not ready to give it up. (Well, OK, that’s how I feel. But not yet.) This is some s*** I just read.
You could say this might be too much but you’re also trying way too hard to read too much.
The world itself works better than we thought it was supposed to. The main characters have a complex and engaging story that is far beyond our understanding. The world feels different as well. It has a story line that you simply have to understand.
I know the original novel didn’t sell well (a couple things) but I’m not sure we need another in order to continue. What does the sequel do right now that we haven’t done before? What’s the key difference between the two books? Why am I not seeing any signs of another volume coming out? And why hasn’t ANYONE mentioned an upcoming sequel before? I’ve been writing this for years (and for other people) so why hasn’t someone done something about it yet? Also, does anybody know where I can purchase more of these amazing books of mine? Is it just me? If they were available, I probably would buy them now.
Casters’ Court is the most terrible excuse for a superhero story I’ve ever read. It’s an awful, repulsive story about heroes, but it’s also very entertaining and fun because of all the action/thriller/heroics mixed in. It has some great supporting cast like Kevin Hart, Christopher Lee, Johnny Storm, and even Tom Hiddleston. Then there’s a supporting cast of some really talented people like Will Ferrell and Amy Schumer and the whole world loves them in this one.”
Casters’ Court is an okay story, but it’s not as interesting as the “Chronicles” or the “Twisted” or the “Warriors” or the “Deadliest Beast” or the “Diary of a Warlord.” The “Twisted” is about an insane, insane, crazy genius whose powers allow him to communicate with a god that is in possession of a journal of all his terrible deeds. But it’s only in a footnote in the novel, in the last sentence that we learn to identify what a journal is and how it can be translated. You can’t do anything with a journal except listen to its voice over a telephone line.
I think of the book as a kind of a history, and like the story told by the bookkeeper in the story of the book about the birth of the book, the bookkeeper is a sort of great mystery writer with a lot of wisdom behind his sentences. I wanted the story to be the sort of narrative like a history. It was not meant to be a science-fiction one. It was meant to be a story about the human mind and the way we are guided by books. When you think of the book of the book as a book, some of the stories in the book would be less interesting, like the ones about how humans become gods and are brought into a relationship with a god.