Written by Caitlin Jans March 30th, 2023

The Current State of Writing and AI

To be clear, I’m not a tech expert, or a science writer. I am in no way an expert in terms of chatbots and AI. So, if you are hoping to read an article written by an expert in this field, this is not the article for you.

I’m writing this article from my perspective, which is that of a writer who is also part of the publishing industry as both an editor and a researcher.

This article is about the current and possible future implications of AI writing which is largely, right now, linked to ChatGPT.

My partner who is tech inclined, first told me about ChatGPT back in the late fall. He’d been chatting to it, and trying to get it to write a poem. It only wrote rhyming poems, even when he told it not to. I was not impressed. The poems were horrible, and most of the non-poetic answers were also bad, because they only seemed to make sense, if you read them closely they stopped making sense. It was easy to tell within a few sentences that something was awry — like they were writing around a point.

I was a little alarmed because my artist friends had already been badly impacted by AI’s advancements in their field, but it all seemed a little abstract. But just a few weeks later I started seeing ads for AI writing assistants on FB.

Within a month I received an article submission that read exactly like ChatGPT’s responses to my partner’s questions. Seemingly substantial but saying nothing concrete the minute you started to look close. I ran it through a detector and sure enough, it was AI written. I rejected the author without specifying why, and moved on.

I’ve gotten only a few AI-written submissions since then, but other publishers have closed to submissions because of it. Clarksworld recently had to close to submissions because of the situation (you can read more about it here). Candlemark & Gleam, a speculative fiction publisher we recently reviewed had to close for the same reasons (you can learn more here).

So far it has seemed to impact science fiction publishers the most. But a number of non-genre literary journals have started to add notes about not allowing ChatGPT’s submissions to their publications. It’s even started to impact fanfiction. A03, the Hugo award winning fanfiction site, has had more and more chat-written fics populating the site, although their terms of use have not changed to exclude them, at this time.

The problem is, that many traditional publishers already struggled to keep up with submissions when they were just written by people. Many publishers were already struggling with mass submission issues, that I write about at length here. It’s one of the reasons why many publishers are closed to un-agented submissions or have very short windows for submissions, even before AI writing showed up on the scene.

As someone who has spent the last decade plus of their life trying to support diversity and accessibility in publishing, this is really disheartening. A lot of publishers in recent years have started having open access submission windows as a way to counter the long-term gatekeeping and insular nature of publishing. I’m worried that these developments will hamper a lot of their effort, and encourage publishers who have been more open to general submissions in the past to change their policy.

As a writer who passionately loves writing, I have a hard time making sense of why anyone would use ChatGPT, because why would I get an AI to do something that gives me so much joy? I’d much rather have a robot vacuum my floors so that I have more time to write, than to have it write for me.

But I do know writers that have found it helpful to figure out plot holes and other aspects of writing. I just already know it’s not for me.

The last thing that I want everyone to consider, in closing, is how visual artists are already being impacted by this in a real way. I have a friend, who’d made his living for years as an artist until recently.  This fall he had to return to a more traditional day job, because his clients had replaced him with AI.

As fellow creatives I think writers need to stand in solidarity with artists and not use AI image generation, which many people are already using for book covers (sometimes unknowingly, till a certain point) and other promotional material.  You can learn more about how it is impacting artists and stealing from them here.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or are a tech writer with a more informed opinion on that side of this issue, I’d love to hear from you, at support@authorspublish.com.



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