AI-Generated Prose 12/19/20

Sorry about the bumper yesterday day. I wasn’t feeling it at my regularly scheduled time, but I needed to not break the “blog every day” momentum. Only a few weeks in? No, sir. Anyhow, I’m back today with the robot version of myself.

You see, I fed two passages from two different novels of mine into the Inferkit, which is run on GPT-2 technology. Basically, this is an AI that pulls prose from the internet, and learns how to mimic it. What follows are two AI-generated passages. The first is what the computer wrote after reading the scene in By the Time where Hipolit’s heart is roaming free throughout his body:

“How do you plan to do it?”

“It’s a matter of honor, no?”

“A matter of what, like a lamb being led to slaughter?”

“Something like that. He has to die.”

“Why?”

“To show the vory that we’re not like them, that they cannot touch us. To show them that we will not accept the final fall.”

“But that’s what you are, what the… the Vory say.”

“It’s nonsense, that’s what it is. They are scared, and it is a good place to go to learn how to be afraid. But the fire, the blaze, the pit of ashes, that is not our fate. We will take the bodies of the vory, as trophies, we will take their teeth and their bones, and we will keep them. They will not burn with our men.”

“Are you planning on taking my mother’s bones?”

Tely laughed and punched him in the shoulder. “Don’t worry about that, I won’t, but you’ll be dead by the time you find out what happens.”

Hipolit looked around and noticed that his friend had retreated from view. Hipolit tossed and caught the shoestring between his teeth again. The stench was worse now. He tasted copper. His mouth was slick with spit. He was going to vomit. He would see blood splatter across the green metal bars of the cage, and he wouldn’t be able to blame Tely.

“What do we do now?”

“Find him and kill him, and then we find the woman and kill her. We are not going to live in this city, not anymore. They will come for us, and we must send them back to their ships.” There was a crack, and the glass holding the cage up was broken.

Spooky how it kind of gets my tone right, at least. And I could see some of that dialogue actually being something I’d write. The second passage comes from A Minor Storm, in which Shane is (re)introduced:

He came back with another beer and sat back down and handed me the yearbook again.

“He had a drug problem, too,” said Shane.

“Always stealing shit from us. The last day of the year, Sesh came in and kept saying he wanted to punch me in the face. I thought he might be going senile or something, so I said okay. So he gets close to me and punches me in the fucking mouth. They called the cops. I told them Sesh wasn’t his friend. They got him to sign it, but his signature was all fucked up, like he’d been signing it for hours and it took all he had. After they let me out, I went over there. Sesh had been out, man.”

He lifted up his shirt and pulled his nipples out through the holes in the wire mesh and flipped them back and forth.

“That’s one thing I hate about losing a tooth. The feel of it against your nipple. Don’t you hate it, though?”

I asked about his mom.

“Yeah. She was my only friend. She was born on the wrong day, or something. Her birthday was September 11th. And it’s her birthday today. I’m gonna buy her a cheeseburger and a milkshake, just for luck.”

This is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about his mother, who, as far as I could tell, only made him eat and wear weird clothing, kick him out of the house, and throw shit at him. He didn’t love her, and she didn’t love him. He didn’t remember much of her. He was just grateful to her for pushing him past the early hard years of adolescence and into a successful life. He also thanked her for not hating him.

“There is no other human being in the world like your mother,” he said, “and I miss her.”

I wondered if Shane’s mother had gone crazy from watching too many 1950s war movies. But he shook his head, looking away. “She was always off. It’s the same with the other girls. The girls on the team. They’re all nuts.” He looked at me. “I mean, they’re not all nuts. It’s just a myth. Don’t get me wrong, most of them are total whack-jobs.”

“So are you one of them?” “I’m not crazy. I’m just doing crazy shit. You’ve got to understand. I’ve been robbed. I’ve been cheated on. I’ve done stupid shit. I’m not a complete asshole, man. I just live like one. If I were my mother, you’d say I was crazy, but I’m not.” He paused. “Sometimes I wonder about my girlfriend.”

Let me be very clear: “I’m not a complete asshole, man. I just live like one” will be a line that I’ll be stealing for a future project. If…I didn’t write it already? It becomes difficult for me to parse through this thing. How much of it is me reading me, how much of it is me enjoying a pretty fucking good mimic?

Here’s another kind of creepy thing: in both of these passages, it mentions teeth. Spitting out teeth is a major surreal factor in a previous novel, Blood and Water, which hasn’t been fed into the Inferkit. In that novel, the antihero tough guy Danny Ames loses a tooth every time he commits evil. In Black Gum, Shane tattoos his gums black (it’s on the nose). How does this program know my obsessions already, or at least that one? How did it get “tooth” so prominently out of passages that don’t contain the word?

There’s something going on here.

On a less creepy note, this feels like a great tool for dealing with writer’s block. From now on, whenever I’m feeling a little stuck, I’ll toss my last paragraph into the Inferkit, and see what starts to come out. It’s like asking the hivemind to inhabit you for a moment, to show you all the ways you’re everybody else. There’s a connecting factor here that is at its core mystical and perhaps occult.

Further investigation will be necessary.

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