Sci-fi magazines battle a deluge of stories generated by chatbots

Sci-fi magazines battle a deluge of stories generated by chatbots

Sci-fi magazines battle a deluge of stories generated by chatbots

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It could be a science fiction tale itself: a machine that uses artificial intelligence to try to supplant authors working in the genre, churning out story after story without ever touching writer’s block. And now it looks like it’s happening in real life.


The editors of three science fiction magazines – Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov’s Science Fiction – said this week that they had been inundated with submissions of works of fiction generated by AI chatbots.

“I knew it was coming on the pike, but not at the rate it was hitting us,” said Sheree Renée Thomas, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949.

The deluge became so unmanageable that Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld, said he had stopped accepting submissions until he could better get the problem under control.

In an interview on Wednesday, Clarke said Clarkesworld, which published its first issue in 2006 and pays 12 cents a word, typically receives around 1,100 submissions a month.

But in a few weeks this month, the magazine sent out 700 legitimate submissions and 500 typewritten submissions, he said. He said he was able to spot the stories generated by the chatbot by looking at certain “traits” in the documents, writing and submission process.

Mr Clarke declined to be more specific, saying he didn’t want to give any advantage to those submitting the stories. The writing is also “spectacularly bad,” Mr. Clarke said. “They just ask, dump, paste and submit to a magazine.”

He wrote on Twitter that the submissions were largely “driven by ‘side hustle’ experts making easy money claims with ChatGPT.”

“It’s not just going to go away on its own, and I don’t have a solution,” Clarke wrote on his blog. “I’m tinkering with some, but it’s not a mole game that anyone can ‘win’. The best we can hope for is to scoop up enough water to stay afloat. (As if we needed one more thing to bail out.)”

The conundrum facing publishers underscores the challenges posed by increasingly sophisticated AI chatbots like ChatGTP, which have shown they can write college jokes and essays and attempt medical diagnoses.

Some writers fear that technology will one day disrupt the literary world, dethroning the author as the ultimate source of creativity.

But the stories that flood these magazines are more like spam, easily distinguishable, at least for now, from science fiction crafted by writers working alone.

Sheila Williams, editor-in-chief of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, said several of the chatbot-generated stories she received all had the same title: “The Last Hope.”

“People doing this by and large have no real idea of ​​how to tell a story, and no kind of AI either,” Ms. Williams said Wednesday. “You don’t have to finish the first sentence to know it won’t be a readable story.”

Ms Thomas said people submitting stories generated by chatbots appeared to be spam magazines paying for fiction. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction pays up to 12 cents per word, up to 25,000 words.

AI-generated works can be eliminated, Ms Thomas said, although “it’s just sad that we even have to waste time on them.”

“It doesn’t feel like natural storytelling,” she said. “There are some very weird issues and things that make it obvious that it’s robotic.”

Ms Thomas said she has permanently banned anyone who submits work generated by a chatbot.

“I don’t want to read robot stories,” she said. “I want to read stories that come out of the imagination and real experiences, and their own impulses.”

Mr. Clarke, whose magazine typically publishes six to eight original works of fiction per issue, described his frustrations with stories generated by chatbots in a blog post titled “A Concerning Trend” and in a Twitter feed.

Elaborating on his concerns during the interview, Mr Clarke said that chatbot-generated fiction could raise ethical and legal questions, if it ever goes the literary way. He said he didn’t want to pay “for work done by the algorithm” on stories generated by someone who entered prompts into an algorithm.

“Who owns it, technically? said Mr. Clarke. “At the moment, we are still in the early days of this technology, and there are a lot of unanswered questions.”

Ms Williams said submissions to Asimov had risen from an average of around 750 a month to more than 1,000 this month – almost entirely due to stories generated by chatbots. She said it took a while to open, read and delete the stories, which are “super pedestrian”.

Ms Williams said it was possible for writers to use chatbots as a “playful” part of their fiction, but “right now it’s not being used that way”.

“It’s not like young writers have to worry about being supplanted now,” Ms Williams said. “It’s a concern. But there is a long way to go, at least. They have not yet become our overlords.


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