WSW Chat – Progress Report and A.I. : Threat or Menace?

The latest WSW chat is up! We discuss progress on our latest projects, as well as our thoughts on what AI means for writers.

(Apologies for some technical issues. Edited most audio-related issues out, but the result is that Lucinda moves around the screen a bit.)

WSW Chat: Book Fairs, Writer Conventions, and other Introvert Nightmares

-Berthold Gambrel

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the limits of social media. While it’s an absolutely great way for writers to connect (it’s how I met everyone here, so, I mean, duh) it’s still not a perfect substitute for in-person interaction.

Social media is a fragile thing. Things happen. Technology breaks. Management changes. Connections formed here are frighteningly easy to sever.

And yet… as we discuss in the chat, we writers aren’t exactly keen to go out and <shudder> network. The great paradox: we want to be writers because we are introverts, but to succeed as writers, we need to meet people, build relationships. :/

What does ChatGPT mean for writers?

–Berthold Gambrel

You probably know about the new AI chatbot, ChatGPT. If you somehow don’t, Kevin Brennan wrote a blog post about it here.

There is a lot of concern in the community that it will mean the end of writing as we know it. And, understandably so. After all, AI destroying everything is an age-old science fiction trope. Everyone knows it, and yet people build it anyway. Welcome to the Torment Nexus, ladies and gentlemen!

However, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. The optimistic view on this is that, as the traditional publishing industry turns towards churning out mediocre by-the-numbers writing, people will start to long for that hand-crafted touch that only a human writer can provide. Enter indie authors, who can produce unique, offbeat, and interesting stories that traditional publishers wouldn’t touch.

So, basically, the same as now, only more so. 🙂

Of course, there is a possibility the AI will get so powerful it can produce truly human-like writing. However, if that happens, we’ll probably have much bigger problems to worry about than just our future careers as writers. Survival of the species, for example.

I say, don’t worry about what you can’t control, and in the meantime make the best of things. You can’t compete with the machine, so don’t. Instead, produce things so original and creative that you’re in a completely different market than the computer-generated pablum.

How Much Depth?

Section MMX, paragraph a, clause ii, of the Rules For Writers specifies that a story shall have a depth of not less than….

Just kidding. Here at WSW, we don’t think much of so-called “rules for writers.” This is purely an exploration of a question Chuck Litka brought up in response to my post on my writerly dream. Namely, how much depth should a book have?

By “depth,” I mean both things like re-readability as well as how many subtle nuances it has.

There are some stories that are fun, but don’t really bear multiple readings. There are other stories that are so incredibly dense you can’t even tell what they’re about without consulting reference books.

In my opinion, it’s better to write the former than the latter. But best of all is to write something that works as a story, but can also be re-analyzed over again and reveal new facets.

One example of a book like this is Dune. The main plot of Dune is actually very simple. (In the broadest terms, it’s the same basic plot as The Lion King.) But everything else about Dune is not very simple. The world of Dune is full of complex political ideas, Islamic influences, environmentalist themes, abstract philosophical concepts, and some really trippy things that are probably best chalked up to being written in the 1960s. Herbert himself said the book had many different layers.

If you like Dune, you can re-read it multiple times to follow all these different threads. But if not, you can still think of it as a book about a guy on a quest to avenge his father and claim the throne and leave it at that.

Note that I’m not saying a story needs to have this level of depth to be great. Right Ho, Jeeves is one of my favorite books ever, but I wouldn’t call it multifaceted. It’s just fun, plain and simple.

But say you want to write a fantasy epic of immense depth and complexity. It needs some serious of world-building. Or what about literary fiction? Should you work to fill it with layers of meaning and symbolism?

And maybe the most critical question of all: how much “depth” in fiction is in the eye of the writer, and how much the reader? Hemingway said of The Old Man and the Sea: “The sea is the sea. The old man is the old man.” This hasn’t stopped many people from saying otherwise. So maybe every book is as deep or as shallow as the reader wants it to be.

My Dream

–Berthold Gambrel

This is in response to Mark’s post about his dream as a writer. Mine is somewhat similar to his. After all, who wouldn’t want to write something that people go back and re-read?

But as I thought about it; there’s a bit more to it than that for me. Bear with me; it takes a little while to explain.

First, if you read my personal blog, you may know I write lots of book reviews. And I have an idiosyncratic style of reviewing. I like to ponder the story behind the story, even try to find allusions, references and subtle things in the text. I don’t feel like I’ve done my job as a reviewer unless I can say I’ve figured out something about a book that isn’t obvious. (I think I only succeed at this about 10% of the time.)

For this reason, I like a good, meaty book that has layers to it. A lot of things to analyze. Something that someone could write a whole essay about. It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to have something really compelling in it.

And, by extension, this is the kind of book I want to write, too. I want to write a book that a reviewer could sit down with, take apart, analyze, critique, and maybe find a few subtle points that add some depth to it. And even when they’ve finished doing all that, they still feel like they haven’t said everything there is to say.

Basically, I want to craft the sort of book I enjoy reviewing. A book that has something in it that makes you feel you could just go on and on and on about it…

What’s your dream?