Beware the robots … writing robots, that is.

"The Representative" by Nemo Gould

As if it isn’t hard enough to stay profitable in the writing biz while competing against smart people, it might not be that far in the future when we have to defend against the “rise of the machines.” You know, robots that write fiction. Yes, seriously.

In an article for The New Stack, David Cassel writes about computers generating novels of at least 50,000-word length. From the article:

Last month nearly 200 entries turned up in a strange event on GitHub challenging programmers to write computer code that can generate 50,000-word novels. “The only rule is that you share at least one novel and also your source code at the end,” posted the event’s organizer, Darius Kazemi, who’s been staging “National Novel-Generating Month” every November since 2013.

The full rules of this psychotic event are posted at GitHub.

At this point, don’t look for Pulitzer-winning entries. For example, one novel was based on converting the cover of THE SUN ALSO RISES, then analyzed each pixel and listed the colors, which resulted in this snippet:

Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Brass. Drab. Drab. University of California Gold. Brass. Brass. Dark tan. Dark tan. Dark tan. Brass. Raw umber. Raw umber. Coffee. Dark brown.

Granted, that’s way more punctuation than is in the entire novel of COLD MOUNTAIN, but it doesn’t make for good readability.

Readability now, however, isn’t the point. With so much emphasis on how you can crank out successful novels by hammering a predictable formula, and programs that can (supposedly) predict if a novel will be successful, can we be that far from programmers creating code that can make a readable, enjoyable story? And let’s not forget the fixed story structures found in Joseph Campbell’s “monomyth,” examples of which we can see in such moderately successful works such as, oh, I don’t know, STAR WARS, RED RISING, MOBY DICK, THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

If you combine these current grass-roots efforts to create a computer-generated novel with these specific analytical models for creating fiction, do we even need to get near AI-level programs to get machine-generated works that are as enjoyable as human-generated works?