Blog & Links

Literary Magazines Flooded with “Junk” AI Submissions

Literary magazines are starting to receive AI-generated writing, prompting some editors to put a pause on submissions, which have also increased in number. I’m happy to see that (for now) editors are able to discern the real thing from that which is produced by AI.

It’s creating a frustrating slowdown in the publishing process. However, one magazine, Metastellar (speculative fiction and “beyond”), says “Yes, you can submit AI-assisted stories to us. But they better be good.”

Well, fine. But the automated aspect of these submissions is likely adding more work to the pile, increasing the wait period for a response, and taking up editing time reading submissions that are basically empty of content.

What does this mean for human writers who are putting in the hard work of thinking through an idea, drafting it, writing and revising–instead of relying on AI? What does this mean for the viability of fiction magazines? If you are interested in these issues, you may find this article interesting: “AI-generated fiction is flooding literary magazines–but not fooling anyone” (in The Verge).

Writing As Reflection

This morning I was listening to a CD (remember CDs?) of Juan Martin’s “Painter in Sound.” It is an album with the conceit that each track was written for/inspired by real paintings, including works by Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso. The very first track also features its painting on the cover of the CD case: David Hockney‘s “A Diver” (called “The Diver” on the CD). Hockney is well known for his many variations on the Los Angeles swimming pool and its swimmers. You can both see this particular painting and listen to the track in question here on YouTube.

“A Diver” by David Hockney. Poster for exhibition at the Australian National Gallery 1982.

I noted as I was listening just how much a musician’s personal experience comes into play when composing music intended to reflect a non-musical concept or image. Have a listen to the track if you like, and consider how your own experience with swimming and pools meshes with the music.

By this act of creation and reflection, the composer is saying “this is how this painting affects and inspires me.” The listener may disagree, perhaps intensely. After all, consider the range of possible “swimming pool” experiences there must be. What if you’d nearly drowned as a child in a clear blue pool under a clear blue sky? Your associations with that painting will be in stark contrast to the competitive diver, or the person who had their swim bottoms pulled off by accident or prank before a crowd of peers.

Writers deal with more literal ideas than the musician, of course. Even poets can set the word “terror” somewhere near the phrase “swimming pool” and so cement the association in a more concrete way, relatively speaking.

But a writer is making a blithe (and common) mistake if they assume that a phrase, an object, or an action all mean the same things to all people. The writer must take this reality to heart when attempting to communicate emotion and experience. And, importantly, they must accept that readers will change what the writer has written. Inevitably, the reader will hold their own lives to the mirror the writer creates–and, aside from the strictly technical or literal, all writing is in this way a mirror whether its creator likes it or not.

It is for this reason that I am firmly in the camp that disassociates who a writer is as a person with their writing (or a painter with their painting, and so on). But that is a topic for another essay!

Michael Fink

Reading, Writing, and Bookstores during Covid-19

Old Capitol Books - Monterey

Photo above from website: proprietor Ali Elfaki (upper right) and associates, Old Capitol Books.

So, here we are in the midst of the pandemic; and in this period of “social distancing” (a phrase that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives), many of us are missing that special sense of community that only bookstores and libraries can provide.

You know what I mean: bookstores are not only places to buy books and check out the latest bestsellers. They are also venues for readings and workshops; they are spaces that celebrate new and old books, as well as writers and artists; they cultivate the enjoyment of reading and knowledge.

The same can be said of libraries, which do all that, and mostly for free. In recent years they have been diversifying into community gathering places, providing lectures (check out DIY Science Saturdays), teaching opportunities, storytelling events and readings, annual free tax preparation and information, and even sheltering the homeless during daytime open hours. With pandemic restrictions, libraries have had to adapt.

We know that some of these venues are now struggling, and it’s difficult to watch it from a “distance.” So this site’s blog will be focusing, for awhile, on local bookstores and libraries, as well as writers — what they’re doing to survive and thrive.

Older photo of Old Capitol Books. Photo by JVengua.

One of my favorites is Old Capitol Books in Monterey. Housed in a building that was originally an automotive repair shop in the 1930s, and later a dance and martial arts studio, it became Book Haven in 1999, and later Old Capitol books, which is now owned by former bookstore employees Ali Elfaki and Stephanie Spoto.

They and their staff have made the bookstore into a community space with its own special qualities. As well as the usual promotional book readings, they offer weekly writers’ workshops, theory and philosophy discussions, LGBTQ hangouts, political prisoner support events, a virtual open mic event, live music, and even speed dating nights!

Now they ask for your support by donating to their GoFundMe site to save Old Capitol Books. In the meantime, there are other things you can do to help out, and continue to keep books and bookstores in your life: you can order books, book certificates, and “book care packages.”

Patrice Vecchione, author of My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice.

I suggest that you check out their website regularly for updates, including events such as author and artist Patrice Vecchione‘s upcoming event, My Shouting, Shattered, Whispering Voice: A Writing Workshop. From the $80 fee, 50% will go to Old Capitol Books, and 50% to a writer, who can also use some support!

–J. Vengua

The Invisibility of the Editor

As a freelance editor and copyeditor, I found this essay to be a breath of fresh air. So much of what editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders do is taken for granted. I’m not referring to a lack of “recognition”; I often receive notes of appreciation from writers and really appreciate it! I’m thinking more about the role of the editor in maintaining the romantic notion of the published writer as “glorified . . . lone author” and the publishing company as its only bastion. Article by Alice Grundy in The Conversation.