Why ChatGPT won’t replace fiction writers any time soon

ChatGPT might be impressive, but I’m not convinced it will replace fiction writers any time soon. Here it pretends to know me, then makes a hash of imitating me.

An artistic rendition of a futuristic city that's all technology and swirly lights, also known as the world ChatGPT wants us to live in

If you read the news, or talk to people who read the news, I’m sure you’ve heard of ChatGPT and all its little AI friends.

There’s been a lot of excitement about the possibilities, and a lot of angst about the possible destruction of human civilisation. Recently some writers sued the company behind one of these models for using their work to train the model without compensating them.

But I’m not going to talk about any of that.

What I want to know is whether ChatGPT can replace me.

Does ChatGPT know me?

ChatGPT is trained on a range of data, including some things that were publicly available by 2021. That could include my blog!

So I logged in to ChatGPT and asked it.

Alecia: Who is A.S. Akkalon?

ChatGPT*: I apologize, but I couldn’t find any specific information about an individual named A.S. Akkalon. It’s possible that this person may be a private individual, a relatively unknown figure, or a fictional character.

* ChatGPT can be verbose, so I’ve edited its replies for brevity.

Well that was insulting.

But ChatGPT can be a bit stupid, like a person trying to remember too many dates in dragon history, so let’s give it some help.

Alecia: A.S. Akkalon is a blogger.

I decided not to tell it about the writer part to see if it could figure that out.

ChatGPT: A.S. Akkalon is indeed a blogger and author. A.S. Akkalon is the pen name of an Australian author known for her fantasy and science fiction writing. She has written a series called “The Elementi Chronicles” which consists of several books, including “Branwen’s Garden” and “Nightfall Gardens.” A.S. Akkalon also maintains a blog where she shares her thoughts on writing, book reviews, and other related topics.

Aha! It does know me. Now who’s a “relatively unknown figure”?

It also picked up on the author part. Point to ChatGPT!

But Australian?! I’m a Kiwi, you evil Skynet sympathiser.

(If you’re not from this part of the world, you may not realise Australia is to New Zealand as the US is to Canada.)

Fantasy and scifi’s basically correct, if you include my rather lame forays into short stories.

What are these Elementi Chronicles?

Hold on. I’ve written a series called The Elementi Chronicles? Is there another A.S. Akkalon?

(goes to Google herself)

I went down some weird warthog holes, but didn’t find another me. I’m relieved, if a little disappointed. We could have dressed as twins for a party.

Then I looked up the “Elementi Chronicles”. It seems ChatGPT just thought “Elementi” was a nice fantasy kind of word, because they don’t exist.

What do exist are the Elementia Chronicles by Sean Fay-Wolfe, which are–of all things–Minecraft fan adventure books.

I don’t even…

(walks around in circles, bangs her shin on the coffee table)

A quick skim of their Amazon page reveals Sean wrote them when he was 16, and the first book has 540 reviews on Amazon.

I’m not jealous. I’m not jealous. I’m not jealous.

“Branwen’s Garden” exists too, though it wasn’t written by me. It also wasn’t written by Sean. A quick look at its cover convinces me the less I say about it the better.

Similarly, “Nightfall Gardens” exists and it looks like a decent book, though written by Allen Houston, not A.S. Akkalon.

Too bad, ChatGPT. You can’t catch every leprechaun.

Magical-looking butterflies and toadstools, much too pretty to have been thought up by ChatGPT.

And finally ChatGPT thinks my blog shares my “thoughts on writing, book reviews, and other related topics”. I mean… I’ll give that three out of five. My blog doesn’t share anyone else’s thoughts, and I do talk about books and writing.

But no mention of cats or dragons? Fail.

Can ChatGPT write a blog post like me?

If it can, maybe the world doesn’t need me.

Let’s find out.

Alecia: Write a 300 word blog post in the tone of A.S. Akkalon with the title “Why you should become a unicorn herder”.

ChatGPT: Title: Why You Should Become a Unicorn Herder

Do you find yourself yearning for a life less ordinary? Are you tired of the mundane and the commonplace? If so, then let me introduce you to a vocation that will ignite your imagination and set your spirit soaring. It’s time to consider the enchanting profession of a unicorn herder.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Unicorns? Mythical creatures of legends? How could one possibly embark on such an extraordinary career? But let me assure you, dear readers, that being a unicorn herder is not only possible but also one of the most exhilarating paths one can choose.

It went on for a while like this, but I think you get the idea: corny, inane, entirely uninspired, and in nothing like my voice. (Perhaps ChatGPT was lying about knowing me.)

Also, it sounds like marketing copy.

No, I don’t feel threatened.

Can ChatGPT write my book?

You may be aware I’m currently in the throes of editing a book I love so much I can’t let die, but that I also can’t seem to finish.

But maybe I don’t need to finish it. Maybe ChatGPT can write the whole thing better than I can and finish it in the next hour.

Let’s find out.

It’s called Rain on Dragon Scales.

Alecia: A.S. Akkalon is writing a fantasy novel called “Rain on Dragon Scales”. Draft the first two paragraphs of this book.

ChatGPT: In the realm of Ethralis, where kingdoms rose and fell like the ebb and flow of tides, a prophecy whispered through the winds, promising the dawn of an age brimming with both peril and marvel. It spoke of a time when the heavens would weep tears upon the world, and dragons, with their scales gleaming like liquid silver, would rise to reclaim their dominion over the skies. It was within this tumultuous backdrop that the tale of “Rain on Dragon Scales” was born.

As twilight cast its ethereal glow upon the land, a lone figure stood atop the craggy cliffs of Fyrelight Point, overlooking the vast expanse of the Dragon’s Reach. Clad in a cloak woven from shadows, Seraphina Frostbane, a young sorceress with a spirit as fierce as the fires that raged beneath her, gazed into the horizon with eyes that held both determination and uncertainty. She could sense the gathering storm, hear the faint whispers carried by the winds, and knew that her fate was intricately entwined with the prophesied tempest about to unleash its fury upon the world she held dear.

I’m glad I only asked for two paragraphs. Dare I ask what fantasy books ChatGPT was trained on? Bad fan fiction written by twelve-year-olds?

Three wolves, one of which seems to be laughing. The other two are looking at him, like, what the h***, dude?
I laugh at your fan fiction.

But I shouldn’t mock if I can’t do better, so here are the first two paragraphs of my draft as they currently stand. (I’m shy about sharing, so please be nice.)

CalystΓ© strode into the arena, her bare toes digging into the sand. The stands buzzed as runners collected the last bets on her fight and streamed to the betting box like ants to their nest. This was her kingdom, the unyielding circle where years of training focussed into a single fight and the winner emerged clarified like a diamond. She threw back her head and basked in the regard of men and gods.

She knew what the audience saw, a slight girl of fourteen, her hair tightly bound in twin braids snaking back from her temples. Strangers in town might think they saw fragility, but those who knew her reputation bet high on her skill. Like the opponent she barely glanced at, she wore the garb of a doiskus fighter: a hardened leather jerkin over a sleeveless shirt, leather bracers on her forearms, and trousers tied below the knee. In the sheath at her hip hung two hardwood doiskuses, short fighting sticks, the characteristic weapons of doiskus fighters and her one true love.

I’ll leave you to decide if you prefer my version.

In conclusion…

Right now it doesn’t sound like ChatGPT can do a good job of being me. Maybe if its creators trained it on my draft and all the content of my website that would change.

But I like to think some people would still come to read what I wrote because there was a real person behind it.

And because however hard AI laughs at a dragon joke, you’ll know it doesn’t actually get it.

How about you? Are you more worried about getting replaced by AI, or excited by the idea of living in a world run by robots? I mean, the robots might be better leaders than a lot of humans who have been in charge.

Follow my blog by email, and help protect my job against the advance of Skynet.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

6 thoughts on “Why ChatGPT won’t replace fiction writers any time soon”

  1. As fiercely as the fires that raged in my heart, I gazed at the chatbot’s version of your story with eyes that held contempt and utter certainty that I too am deeply grateful you only asked it for two paragraphs.

  2. Wow, I agree Chat GPT writes such intensely purple prose it’s probably been feeding on pre-teen fanfiction. 0_o I haven’t tried it myself so I had no idea what cringe-fests it produces.

    Thanks for sharing your first paragraphs! Ooh, I sense an action scene coming and I love it. I’m officially excited to read the book. πŸ˜€

    1. So purple! I wonder if I can make it less cringe-worthy by giving it instructions like “avoid purple prose”.

      Aw, thank you! You’re right, it’s an action scene coming up, though I think my favourite part is the moral choice involved.

  3. Your paragraphs are 10/10 πŸ˜€

    ChatGPT’s are very much like bad fanfiction, very skim readable and not much to catch my attention!

    I don’t fear the robot writers if this is the best they can do, but if they, like some fanfiction writers, evolve, who knows what might happen!

    1. Thank you. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      I probably didn’t give ChatGPT a real chance here to show its best work, but in testing its capabilities I have generally been underwhelmed. I imagine if you fed it all the work of a prolific author (obviously which I’m not recommending they do without a contract and paying the author a mountain of money) it could make a good effort at imitating that writer at the paragraph level, but I can’t see it writing a complete novel that held together in any way that would make it readable.

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