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I am not a robot

Guess I picked the wrong time to try to be a writer.

There’s a lot going on in the book world these days. Not only did the pandemic totally screw up the publishing world (Vagabonder was supposed to launch in August 2020!), but the emergence of large language models (otherwise known as AI, which is not really AI, but that’s a conversation for another day…) has put writers on edge, for good reason.

They took our jobs!

To be clear, no writers I know are truly scared that AI will write better stories. Storytelling is a uniquely human endeavor that relies on much more than a command of language and unfettered access to the entirety of human knowledge. It’s a sort of magic, or sorcery, to create entire worlds, characters, and situations out of thin air, fueled solely by the writer’s imagination and their desire to figure their shit out.

AI doesn’t have shit to figure out. Good storytelling, in my opinion, needs trauma, confusion, and self-reflection borne out of a lifetime of being misunderstood and underestimated.

AI ain’t it.

However, capitalism ruins everything, and storytelling is no exception. I'm more concerned about the people who hold the purse strings in publishing. Because any time people with money see an opportunity to extract MORE money while also decreasing their own expenses, they’ll do it. That’s what the writer’s strike is about.

Corporations don’t care if their product is shitty; they just want to make sure that we don’t have a choice but to buy their shitty product by undercutting the people who actually do the work. Like writers.

When I envision a robot world, I see robots doing the grunt work so that the rest of us can do what we feel like we were born to do, whether that’s painting, carpentry, gardening, writing, or whatever else makes your heart sing. I don’t care about the stories robots want to tell, at least not until they’ve experienced a few bad breakups, a horrible boss or two, and a painful medical condition.

In writing news…

It’s been a gorgeous week here on the farm, and I’ve been hard at work on the sequel to Vagabonder. I don’t have a title yet, so for now the working title is Vagabonder II: Electric Boogaloo. I’m a slow writer, and for that I apologize. I read slowly, too. I like to think that I’m savoring each and every word.

Vagabonder paperback beside a laptop computer, vase of flowers, on top of outdoor table
Not a bad view for writing

Which leads me to my latest book review…

I just finished Gareth L. Powell’s Descendant Machine, and I can’t recommend this one enough. Fast-paced, engaging, and wildly entertaining, Descendant Machine takes us through an incredibly fun concept that hearkens back to Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series, which I LOVED! (See my earlier review of this series here.)

Powell’s cast of characters includes sentient scout ship Frontier Chic, the Chic’s navigator Nicola Mafalda, and ambassador/scientist Orlando Walden, who narrate different aspects of Powell’s tale. After a tragic accident that ended in the Frontier Chic saving Mafalda’s life in a most unconventional and rather traumatizing way, the two are reunited to come to the aid of Mafalda’s former lover, a Jzat spy named Kona. Certain Jzat factions are attempting to reactivate the Grand Mechanism, a mysterious object in Jzat space that could potentially lead to vast resources and power…or destroy the entire galaxy.

No one knows, but if there’s potential for wealth, hey, let’s open this thing and see what happens.

Sounds kind of like what we’re doing with LLMs. But I digress.

Descendant Machine was a joy to read. If you’re looking for a fun summer read, of course you should read Vagabonder first.

But then you should get Descendant Machine and bask in one of the weirdest and most entertaining books I’ve read so far this year.

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