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Sep 23

Machines as artists, writers etc

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 in Other

Recently, I have read a number of articles about AI and about how robots/androids etc might one day take over our jobs.

Since I’m a writer and/or proofreader/editor, I was reassured by a rather interesting list I found on the BBC news site. Creative jobs don’t seem to be immediately threatened.

However, that led me to consider what an AI/robot/android might be able to achieve.

I have heard that these days the news reporting isn’t just being oursourced to India or other third world countries, but is actually done by AI:s. Fair enough. I suppose collecting a few snippets coming from a news agency might be easy enough for anyone or anything to manage, though it is a bit unfair on people who want to get in on entry-level jobs.

However, would an AI be able to write a real story? What could be referred to as literature?

In Sweden, some writers of popular music have already let their computers do the writing, for fun, for a special effect (A real bloody schlager). Of course it can be done, if you, as a human, edit out the ins, ats, ons, buts etc and pick the most common words that actually make sentences.

I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to say: No! Not yet. Who knows about the future? When (or if) Google’s Singularity is here, then I guess all bets are off, but today, no way.

The same probably goes for works of art. Sure, I would like to say that elephants and primates (like chimps, gorillas and orangutans) can be artists just like children can be. Why not? They’re real living creatures with a lot more personal idiosyncracies than most people believe. And that goes for other ‘lower’ animals too. It’s just not my opinion, I base this on news articles reporting the latest science results. But a machine? Not yet anyway.

That reminds me of a very funny story written by science fiction author Arthur C Clarke. For a while, he was very fascinated by the idea of genetically enhanced primates (in this case chimps) and he wrote more than one story on this theme. This one was about a woman who fancied herself an artist and was severly annoyed by a neighbor who also fancied herself an artist/art critic etc. So she set out to make a fool of the neighbor, by teaching her own ‘simp’ (I think that’s the word – gm chimp) housekeeper (I’ll ignore my own reservations about exploiting and enslaving other living creatures for the duration of this blog post) to paint works of art.

The joke sort of backfired when it turned out the simp was far more talented than her art school educated employer.

So machines can be a lot of fun, but they won’t replace our creativity any time soon, that’s my best guess.

Sep 21

Getting inspiration

Posted on Monday, September 21, 2015 in My life, Writing

A long time ago, I read some writing tips shared by Agatha Christie. She recommended reading the news.

As it happens, I read a lot of news online, not because I’m really interested, but to stay busy and keep my mind occupied (too much info?). Unfortunately, I have never really felt I had one single good idea for my writing from that source. I suspect it’s because this advice came a very long time ago (a lot longer ago than when I read it) – at a guess, maybe in the 1930’s, which of course would be extremely different in many ways).

Personally, I get my ideas from a mix of my book reading (mostly fiction, but naturally also non-fiction) and real life. It goes something like this: Why is it like that? (Usually feeling bitter and upset about something) Why isn’t it like that instead? And I start writing a story about that. Actually, I have on occasion (just a few times) been inspired by real, actual dreams. And why not? In Swedish we have a saying that goes something like this: All ways (methods etc) are good except the bad ones. Which is true.

In fan fiction though, I have to admit that most of the time I’m just inspired by a handsome face.

Where do you get your inspiration for your writing?

Sep 16

Ramblings about slash and male and female in writing

Posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in Writing

Slash was, apparently, though I had no idea at the time that that was what it was, a relatively early interest for me. I remember thinking up ‘slash’ stories (that were never written) when I was in my early teens. In fact, I had a dream (real night time dream) about two ‘brothers’ in a tv series and at the time, I didn’t even have any idea of what exactly those two had been up to, but it seemed very interesting to me. That continued for a while, until I learned more about gay relations etc. I didn’t know anyone who wrote either slash stories or for that matter fan fiction. Maybe it’s because I’m from a rather ‘provincial’ country or that I’m pretty old by now (I hope my readers are now saying no, you’re not!) but I remember people talking about gay relations as being somehow wrong or sick. Another example: I have a second cousin, who’s quite nice, but maybe a bit simple. Some pop stars came up in conversation (this guy loves pop music) and I mentioned that they were gay, and he said: no way, they seem so well behaved (as in well brought up or civilized, I guess). I didn’t get his meaning – well, in a way I did, but it seemed so totally irrelevant. So clearly in his family (not very surprising, because you really should know a few things about his mother), it’s the way they think about gay people.

From about the same time I began to get my slash ideas, I tried to write (extremely bad) romantic stories about straight couples, but they tended to bore me in the end. Traditional couples don’t interest me. I always like something different, like f/m or the woman being older etc. Not that I even like ‘pure’ romances or will write them. It’s also extremely difficult to write a good straight pairing in fan fiction, because precious few female characters are any good, to be brutally honest. That leaves you to invent an original character, which isn’t very popular, but I have done it in the past (no Mary Sue, more like an anonymous, independent watcher from outside the group the writing is about) or to improve the female character so that I like her, which may not be very popular either, because everyone has a different view of what is a ‘good’ female character.

In original fiction, I’ve been told it’s not really popular to write about female characters (at least in children’s books) because apparently, girls can be expected to read all books, whereas boys can only be expected to read about other boys. Relatively recently (a year or two ago), I remember reading about how critics were lamenting the loss of the most popular children’s books series (due to age I suppose – the writers are no longer up to making up new stories), because they were more or less the last ones who write about boys. Now, I’m not that picky – I also never pay attention to what colour or ethnic background the main character has. All I care about is whether it’s a ‘good’ character (as in one I like).

In fact, I don’t really worry too much about the age of the main character (though I’m getting more than a little tired of what is in Swedish referred to as the ‘middle-aged male mystique’, meaning how you get to dwell in detail on how these men don’t brush their teeth, how they prefer to have a drink instead of eating a proper meal, how they don’t bother to shower, don’t obey their superiors and yet, despite all these drawbacks, are irresistible to significantly younger females.

Sep 15

Writing the future: A timeline of science fiction literature

Posted on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 in Fandomlinks, Links, Literature

Journey to the center of the Earth

From Gulliver’s Travels, through Brave New World and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, this timeline explores the evolution of the science fiction novel.

Read more here.

Sep 14

Ursula Le Guin’s writing guide Steering the Craft, reviewed

Posted on Monday, September 14, 2015 in Fandomlinks, Literature

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin’s guide to the impossible craft of storytelling.

Read more here.

Sep 3

The Mysterious Origins of Punctuation

Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2015 in Links

As readers and writers, we’re intimately familiar with the dots, strokes and dashes that punctuate the written word. The comma, colon, semicolon and their siblings are integral parts of writing, pointing out grammatical structures and helping us transform letters into spoken words or mental images. We would be lost without them (or, at the very least, extremely confused), and yet the earliest readers and writers managed without it for thousands of years. What changed their minds?

Read more here.

Sep 1

A new story and issues with Wattpad

Posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 in Writing

I have written a new story in English and I have posted it on my fan fiction site and will also post it on my new Wattpad account. Unfortunately, Wattpad is having issues related to posting drafts, so that will have to wait.

This is an original story, but inspired by a movie.

Wattpad can be a really great site, but the fact that you have to have a cover image makes it so much more difficult. On my own websites, I post stories all the time, as soon as I’ve finished writing and editing/proofreading them. For me, who isn’t very good with graphics and photos, it’s really something that delays publication. That means I have to ask for help, and that depends on someone else having the time and inspiration to make a cover image for me.

Aug 28

The year of the Amstrad: how writers learned to love the computer

Posted on Friday, August 28, 2015 in Writing links

When Amstrad launched its word processor 30 years ago, writers were initially resistant – processing was for peas, not words. But many soon saw the benefits of life without Tipp-Ex.

Read more here.

Aug 27

TV, Books and Writing

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2015 in My life

The third season of The Bridge (Bron), will soon be on Swedish tv. This time I really should be smart enough not to watch it. I should have learned my lesson from watching the first two seasons. I watched the first season and disliked it, particularly the ending. Despite that I went on to watch season 2, out of boredom and because the first episode was actually very interesting and exciting. The rest weren’t, but I stupidly continued watching until the end, that again, I disliked more than the whole rest of the series. By now, I should really learn from my experience.

At least there are a few other series I can watch instead.

In other news:

Since I wrote the Vera fanfic, I have also written two short original stories. It’s amazing, and I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be able to, only a week or so ago, but unfortunately, I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to finish the three books I’m working on and definitely not get started on the fourth book and two collections of short stories. I’m not really that inspired. It’s just something to do.

Today, I also discovered that I actually can borrow the two Maria Lang/Dagmar Lange mysteries as e-books – as long as I get a library card in a small town not far from here. I could get one right away, the next time I go and I might, but since I also might move there or closer to there, I think I’ll wait until I actually do move (which will be very soon, hopefully) at least if we can find a reasonable good house. We’ve already looked at a few, but none of them were a good fit for us.

In that town there’s also a really great supermarket with lots of locally grown (organic) vegetables and fruit. It’s the best shop I’ve seen anywhere. Finally, there’s also a very nice, but a bit expensive cafe.

Aug 20

How to gain confidence in your writing

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 in Writing links


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