Toward the close of the Bloch section of the Letters to Robert Bloch book, a mention of two early ‘Lovecraft as character’ stories…

Not long ago Kuttner showed me a new story — “Hydra” — in which all three of us figure … & are disposed of” … Shea has also slain me in a recent tale.

I’d not known about these before now. I was initially not quite sure what the Shea item is. The endnote for the mention is “RB 66”, this refers not to page 66 of the Bloch letters, but to letter #66. At first I thought it might refer to Shea’s “The Snouted Thing”, to be found his In Search of Lovecraft (1991), which appears to be its first publication. But a little further digging revealed that Lovecraft must have been referring to Shea’s tale “The Necronomicon”.

Kuttner’s “Hydra” eventually appeared, perhaps revised since Lovecraft had seen it, in the April 1939 issue of Weird Tales, later collected in The Watcher at the Door: The Early Kuttner, Volume Two.

At 2,500 words in clean text, I was interested in using the Shea tale as an AI audio test-text, and went looking to see if there’s any ‘sounds like a real human’ AI-shaped text-to-speech services or desktop software. Nope, it seems not — it’s still ‘if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it’ offers of chatbot-focused API services which claim to do deep learning. Who uses chatbots enough that people want to invest in them?

Anyway, it seems we might have ‘just about good enough’ story-reading AI voices in the European languages by 2025. But for now ordinary mortals are still stuck with the TTS robo-voices, albeit with a few of them being vastly improved since the 2000s and with a new range of local accents. But I guess I should just stop being cheap, lugubriate the voice-box and do it myself.

Update: Free online Text To Speech TTS and Text to Speech Converter were found to be the best in April 2021, with either using Google’s excellent male GB-Standard-D, though lacking in emotional colouring. The latter costs $6 per 1m characters, but has the advantage of using TTS markup for pauses and emphasis.

I’ve started a new Lovecraft as character tag on this blog, and gone back and retrospectively tagged. It’s limited to just the early appearances or recognisable versions of him. I’ve also found another new one, but that will appear here tomorrow in the Kittee Tuesday feature.