Saturday, January 7, 2023

AI "Authors"


In 1984, I was a college student working on my BS in secondary education. The education department brought in a speaker – whose name I can’t recall – to talk to us about the future of education. One of his main points was that education should be focused on the current needs of people. He postulated that in the future, such core skills as writing and mathematics might no longer be necessary. After the talk, several of my friends were skeptical (and more than a little pissed off) at the idea that what they considered vital subjects might not be taught in the future.

“Most of us don’t know how to hunt, or ride a horse, or make butter, or thousands of other skills that used to be important,” I told them. “Why is it so hard to imagine future education might focus on the skills needed by future people?”

(I didn’t say it that well, I’m sure, but that was gist.)

Well, it’s 2023, and that future is now, or almost-now.

I’ve been aware of the discussion of artificial intelligence programs that can generate art or writing based on a prompt in only a few seconds. While the art programs draw on established images (in other words, plagiarize), the writing ones draw on so many different samples, it’s more like they’re influenced by them than directly plagiarizing them. CHATrpg is the writing AI I’ve heard the most about, and today I ran across the following article on the web:

“CHATgpt, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of Writing” by Glenn Geher, Psychology Today:

Here’s a link to CHATgpt so you can check it out if want.


I’ve seen warnings that these AI programs will sound the death knell for original art produced by humans – and maybe sooner than we think.

Curious, I set up an account at Openai and entered a couple prompts into CHATgpt. Following are the two samples that resulted, one fiction, one nonfiction. It took only seconds for each sample to be generated. Because Glenn Geher’s fiancé asked CHATrpt to write an article in his writing style as a test of the program, I thought I’d try the same.


As the sun set on the small town of Millfield, a sense of unease settled over the streets. The usually bustling main street was empty, save for a few brave souls hurrying home before darkness fell. No one wanted to be caught outside after what had happened the previous night.

It had started with the usual things - strange noises in the night, shadows moving in the corners of the eye. But then people began disappearing. At first, it was just a few homeless people and drifters passing through. But as the days went on, even long-time residents of Millfield began to vanish.

The town council held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. Some suggested hiring a group of mercenaries to hunt down whatever was responsible, while others proposed calling in the national guard. In the end, they decided to bring in a lone investigator - a man by the name of Jack.

Jack arrived in Millfield the next day, a tall, broad-shouldered man with piercing green eyes and a no-nonsense attitude. He listened patiently as the town council told him about the disappearances, and then set off to begin his investigation.

As he walked the streets of Millfield, Jack couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. He could feel eyes on him, even when he turned to confront them, there was nothing there. It was as if the very air was alive with malevolent intent.

He spent the next few days talking to the remaining residents, trying to piece together what had happened. Most of them were too terrified to be of much help, but one old man told him a story that sent a shiver down his spine.

The old man claimed that a group of people had stumbled upon an ancient burial ground on the outskirts of town. They had disturbed the graves, waking something ancient and terrible. It was a creature of the night, with glowing red eyes and teeth like knives. It had taken the grave-robbers and anyone else who had gotten too close.

Jack knew he had to see this burial ground for himself. He set out that night, his gun loaded and at the ready. As he approached the graveyard, he could feel the presence of something ancient and powerful. He could hear the faint sound of chanting in the distance, as if a group of people were performing some sort of ritual.

He cautiously made his way through the graves, trying to stay as quiet as possible. He could see the glow of firelight up ahead, and he knew he was getting close. As he approached the source of the light, he saw a group of people standing around a large stone slab.

On the slab was a body, its skin drained of blood and its eyes staring blankly at the sky. The people were chanting in some ancient language, their faces twisted with malice. Jack realized with horror that they were performing some kind of dark ritual to bring the creature back to life.

He didn't hesitate. He raised his gun and fired, taking out as many of the cultists as he could. The rest scattered, running off into the night. Jack approached the stone slab, his heart racing. He knew he had to destroy the creature before it could be resurrected.

As he reached out to touch the body, he was suddenly grabbed from behind. He struggled and fought, but it was no use - he was no match for the strength of the creature. It dragged him away, into the darkness.

The last thing Jack saw before everything went black was the creature's glowing red eyes, and the triumphant smile on its face.

The town of Millfield was never the same after that night. People whispered of the creature that walked the streets, taking


This is where the program stopped generating text, but the story is almost finished.

I sincerely hope this sample wasn’t written in my style! It’s simple summary with no dialogue, character interaction, vivid description, or emotional core. Its plot is a bland adventure that could’ve appeared in the pulps of the early twentieth century. The sample does employ some basic techniques of horror fiction, though, and as I said earlier, it was generated in only a few seconds, so that was impressive. I wouldn’t accept this from one of my creative writing students, however.


Writing horror fiction can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, especially when done in the style of Tim Waggoner. Waggoner is known for his ability to blend elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction into his stories, creating a unique and unsettling atmosphere that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. If you're interested in writing horror fiction in the style of Tim Waggoner, here are a few tips to get you started:

1)      Start with an unsettling premise: One of the key elements of a successful horror story is the ability to set a creepy and unsettling tone from the very beginning. Waggoner is particularly skilled at this, often starting his stories with a premise that is already unsettling or unusual. For example, in his story "The Night Marchers," Waggoner begins by introducing a group of people who are being hunted by ghostly figures that only appear at night. This immediately sets a tense and eerie mood that continues throughout the story.

2)      Use descriptive language to create a sense of fear: Waggoner is known for his use of vivid and descriptive language, which he uses to great effect in his horror fiction. By using descriptive language to paint a picture of the creepy and unsettling events taking place in your story, you can create a sense of fear and tension that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

3)      Use the supernatural to create a sense of the unknown: Another key element of Waggoner's horror fiction is the use of the supernatural. By introducing elements of the supernatural into your story, you can create a sense of the unknown that is both scary and intriguing. In Waggoner's story "The Night Marchers," for example, the ghostly figures that are haunting the characters are both frightening and mysterious, adding to the overall sense of horror.

4)      Don't be afraid to go dark: Waggoner is known for his willingness to go to dark and disturbing places in his horror fiction, and this is something that can really set your story apart. Don't be afraid to explore the darker corners of your imagination and push the boundaries of what is considered "normal" in horror fiction.

5)      Remember to balance horror with other elements: While horror is the main focus of Waggoner's stories, he also incorporates elements of fantasy and science fiction into his work. By including these other elements, Waggoner is able to create a more well-rounded and interesting story that keeps readers engaged. Consider incorporating elements of other genres into your horror fiction to add depth and complexity to your story.

Overall, writing horror fiction in the style of Tim Waggoner requires a blend of unsettling premises, descriptive language, the supernatural, and a willingness to go to dark places. By following these tips and focusing on crafting a well-rounded and engaging story, you can create horror fiction that is as thrilling and unsettling as the works of Tim Waggoner.

I meant for the program to write an article IN my writing style, not use my writing as an extended example of how to write horror. I almost deleted the sample and tried again, but I decided to leave it since it shows how important entering the right prompt into the program is. I’ve never written a story called “The Night Marchers,” so I don’t know where the hell that came from, but if this was a paper for a lit class – or a short article someone posted on the web – a teacher or reader might think this was a good article/essay.

On one hand, the information is generic horror how-to advice, but a number of the phrases are reminiscent of language reviewers have use to describe my work, which was unsettling to see – especially since, as I said earlier, this sample took only seconds to generate.

So will these AI programs spell doom for human writers and artists? I sure hope not (but as a human writer, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). I do know these programs will only continue to become more sophisticated as time passes, which means the writing and art they produce will continue to improve. Maybe creative artists will go the way of buggy-whip makers when the automobile was invented. Or maybe we’ll do what painters of realism did when photography was invented and develop new styles of painting.

Will writers use AI to create books for them? Sure. It’s already happened:,began%20selling%20it%20on%20Amazon.

I know one thing: I’ve made my stories by hand my entire life, with word processing programs and the Internet (for research) my only technological aids. And I’m going to continue writing my own words my own way until I die. So what can we do to compete with AI “artists”? My suggestion right now is to develop your own individual style as much as possible, to make art you feel passionate about, and to invest your work with as much humanity as you can. Your vision, your voice is what will make your work stand out from the rest, whether that other work is created by humans or AI’s. People who use AI to generate their art will produce bland, generic work, the equivalent of bad fast food. Hopefully, there will be at least some people in the future who will prefer a more substantial meal, one that feeds both mind and soul.

Hey, an old writer can dream, can’t he?




Scarelastic Book Fair. Scarlet Lane Brewing. McCordsville, Indiana: February 28.


Authorcon 2. Williamsburg, Virgina: March 31-April 2.


Stokercon. Pittsburgh: June 15-18.




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