Richard Parks' stories have have appeared in Asimov's SF, Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and numerous anthologies, including several Year's Bests. His first story collection, THE OGRE'S WIFE, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He is the author of the Yamada Monogatari series from Prime Books.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled Friday for a special announcement:
One of my books (The Ghost War) will be featured in a free book promotion this Friday. You can sign up here: hellobooks.com to receive the link, not just to my book but to many others as well.
The special starts today and runs through the weekend. That’s the promotion part. The advantage of signing up at Hello Books is that they do free book promotions all the time. If you want other free books, that’s one good way to get them. If you just want to get a free Kindle copy of The Ghost War, you can follow one of the links below. If you don’t see your region listed, just paste the ASIN number B007JM5HNM into the search on your Amazon page and you’ll find it. Happy Reading!
It was a routine CT scan. I’ve reached the age where certain physicians want to keep an eye on my ascending aorta, which, for the record, was perfectly okay… or at least within acceptable tolerances. No, the problem was further down. The CT scan in checking out the heart area also caught part of the abdomen, and one of them noticed something that shouldn’t be there. Ordered yet another CT scan to verify.
Yep, something that definitely shouldn’t be there.
To cut to the chase, I had a tumor attached to my stomach. Something called a GIST (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor). Last Monday I went into surgery to have it removed. Was informed in advance and great detail about the possible complications, which I will spare you, but at the risk of Too Much Sharing, I was also informed that the tumor was possibly attached to the blood supply to the spleen. If it was, then the spleen would have to go too. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, though they did have to take part of the stomach, just to make sure they got everything that needed to go.
Spent four days in the hospital next to a roommate who would not STFU for three of those days. Glad to be back home now. I am fine if a little sore, and the odds (according to the Mayo Clinic) with this kind of tumor and when it was caught are that I will remain fine.
I’m very fond of the book within that cover. Proud even. But in all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of the cover. Thinking of changing it, but that’s an issue for another day. The real reason for the post is to let everyone know where the final book in the Laws of Power series stands, The Seventh Law of Power, for anyone who might be interested.
This book has been difficult. Probably not a revelation to anyone interested in the saga and knowing how long it’s taking. I have to apologize for that, but there are reasons, and not excluding I’ve not only got to tie up Marta’s story, but Tymon, who didn’t even appear in the second book, is back and I’ve got to get him sorted out too, because this can’t be truly completed until I’ve taken care of both their story arcs. Not to mention other people (“characters” sounds so lame) anyone who has read the series up until now will know and might care about. I want to do it right. I think I’m finally getting there.
Regardless, here’s where I am: The draft is just under 42k words, with (in my best estimation) about 20-30k left to go. Maybe not enough room for what all I think has to happen, but we’ll see. If I’m writing slowly, well, that cannot be avoided right now and that’s all I plan to say on that particular matter. I am working, and short of any disruptions beyond my control, I will get it done.
Today it came to my attention that one of the major online magazines in the field has temporarily closed to all submissions until they figure out a way to deal with the tons of incoming spam slush that, wait for it, was clearly written by AI, probably ChatGPT.
Yes, this is a problem which we all should have seen coming. I’ve written about it before now, but so far as I know this is the first time a magazine actually shut down submissions over it. A certain class of hopefuls and maybes and probably nevers have always existed, and like Merida, want to change their fate, and would try anything and see this as their big chance. Or maybe the clueless just wanting to make a quick (hah) buck? How it’s going to shake out is anyone’s guess, but I do take some small satisfaction knowing that Fritz Leiber was already there in 1961 with his book, The Silver Eggheads. This was a future where all books were written by machine and “authors” were simply the people assigned to tend a particular machine. There was more to it, of course, but a review would say something like “Joe Scribbler writing on a Worderizer 3000 produced…” etc. The end product, if I recall correctly, was referred to as “word wooze.” Part of the problem we have now is, with a decent prompt and some example text, ChatGPT can do a decent job of it, likely more literate than any of the hapless. It’s only a matter of time before a purely AI-written story appears in a major magazine of the field. Maybe it already has. An AI written self-published story/novel? Probably already there or very soon will be.
Yes, I do know there are online “AI detectors” which can take a text and determine with fair accuracy whether or not it was written by a human, but that’s beside the point. So far as most editors are concerned, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” They get a lot of submissions that have to be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. Slush readers are either volunteers/interns or the lowest editor on the totem if there’s more than one, which often is not the case. I don’t pretend to know what the solution might be, but there has to be one. Stopping people from submitting AI written stories probably isn’t going to happen, because “how”? Especially as the AI gets better and I can see a day when such stories are indistinguishable from human created by any objective measure.
Just as Stable Diffusion and Dall-E are shaking up the art world, now it’s our turn. Fair is fair, I guess. Sort of.
I take a very little comfort in knowing that it does still take some skill to get the result out of AI that you intended. As I noted above, a decent prompt is required. I’ll give a personal example. I asked ChatGPT to write a routine in C++ to print the Fibonacci series. Worked perfectly. I asked ChatGPT to write a function where, given an integer, it would produce the previous two numbers in the Fibonacci series.
Total train wreck.
Some of you may have already seen that coming. I asked it to take an integer. I didn’t specify that the integer was actually IN the fibonacci series.
Whoops. Garbage in, garbage out.
So there is still some skill involved, and a human, as in The Silver Eggheads, has to provide that skill. Likely that’s where it will all go wrong. For the cheater, that is.
Is February anyone’s favorite month? It’s certainly not mine, and especially so since we moved to New York state. It gets cold in a normal winter and February is especially bad…most of the time. There are compensations of course, even with the storm that came through early in the month. Beastly cold, down well below zero at night and not much better during the day. But on a 2 degree F morning I came out to find this snow art on the driveway. Thirty mile an hour gusts will do that when the snow’s not too thick.
Now, just over a week later the daytime temps are in the 40’s and rumored to hit 50 before the week’s out. That’s practically a heat wave. No doubt I’ll have to crank up the snow blower again before it’s over, but at least it’s a short month. Still, I have to go with the Bard in regards to February: “I do desire we may be better strangers.”