What might have been… a well-fed and hairpiece-augmented Lovecraft imagined at age 65, at the end of a career as the venerable and respected astronomer who discovered the planet Pluto.
In this alt. history picture one might imagine that it’s 1956 and his retirement portrait is to adorn the newly-built hallways of NASA. As a writer, in his youth he published a few classic Dunsanian fantasy tales, but then fell silent in fiction. Yet he has just published a slim volume expounding a curious new ‘cosmic’ philosophy, a work said to be exciting some keen interest among European intellectuals.
The picture is more ‘Nick Cage plays Lovecraft’ than Lovecraft, perhaps, but that’s one of the tendencies that Wombo veers towards. The other is Buster Keaton. An AI isn’t making visual distinctions, it just knows a certain set of facial images are associated with the keywords 1920s (Keaton) and with Lovecraft (Cage). There are three ways I know of to control that. One is luck and a good text prompt. The other is a knockout word presented as $Buster$ and the other is to upload a ‘seed’ image of the real Lovecraft.
Thanks to the Dream by Wombo AI and Photoshop. I know I said I’d keep AI generated images off Tentaclii, but it’s getting so good now…
The AI image-generator Dream by Wombo is getting better by the day. The following picture was generated by Wombo and was only my third-try with the simple prompt…
War-Nymphs of Venus, females, science-fiction illustration, painted by Frank Frazetta
… using the free VFX v.2 style module. Looks at those hands, Wombo is getting hands more or less right now. A year ago they’d have been a horrible mangled mess.
Thanks to Links of Steel for the idea about plugging in “War-Nymphs of Venus” as an AI-gen prompt. The title is from a story in Planet Stories (Spring 1941).
CQuill Writer has an additional free dictionary for writing assistance…
Classical Sci-fi. Based on 1950’s Sci-Fi authors, devoid of modern terms.
Unzip and paste to… C:\Program Files\CQuill Writer\Dictionaries
It was only a matter of time before text-generating AI became as open and free as graphics AI. The first such is here now and ‘live’, OpenChatKit…
“a ChatGPT-like dialogue language model that is fully open-sourced, with full access to code, model weights, and training data. The released OpenChatKit model can perform natural-language reasoning tasks, answer questions about documents with retrieval, and browse the Web much like BingChat. The model has 20 billion parameters and is trained on 43 million instructions. […] The release also comes with fine-tuning guides that allow users to easily fine-tune the model for their own applications. […] Apache-2.0 license.”
20 billion is not enough for complex tasks (it can’t write long working Python scripts, or pop out complete essays/stories), but it’s good enough to be useful so long as you know how to ask the question. For instance…
Show me an example of the use of taskkill in a Windows batch file
… gets a line of valid working code. Though you still need to know to wrap it in @echo off and exit, and then save as a .BAT file.
But this is just the starting release. The initial live/free public demo is here, if you want to see what arcane Lovecraftian blurblings it might produce if given the correct prompt. It’s fast and easy to use. Though obviously knows nothing about R’lyeh as a holiday destination. Pity.
I’m uncertain if it can be operated purely locally on a desktop PC, being open source. (Update: Yes it can, it now has a downloadable “7B” model). If not then such things can only a matter of time and the right slot-in card.
So far, this is the only genuinely free / public and ‘no sign-up’ text-generating AI I know of.
Meanwhile, Grammarly will reportedly be plugging in AI auto-writing assistants sometime in April 2023. For a price, of course.
The latest Stuff To Blow Your Mind podcast surveys the history and current state of attempts at making viable Creative Writing Machines…
educational technologist Mike Sharples discusses the book Story Machines: How Computers Have Become Creative Writers.
Don’t be put off by the faintly huckster-ish “educational technologist” label. He was at the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University here in the UK, is “Academic Lead for online-learning service FutureLearn” (it’s a big one) and is “author of over 300 papers”.
MP3 download here. Interview starts at 2:20. Two long ad-sections.
As for the book it appears, from a long review, to be pitched mostly at the ‘history and theory of the field’ level. Rather than the level of practical $50 desktop software available now. Though that’s only the first third of the podcast, as the second and third sections are more practical. For instance, an accompanying website for the book is mentioned, titled Story Machines. This has a free public AI demo which is rather fab. I experimentally used it to expand an H.P. Lovecraft dream into a story form:
“Dream of the Black Cat City” (AI assisted demo)
New from the makers of Dynamic Auto-Painter (DAP), CQuill Writer. It’s just had the first update for 1.0. The free version is…
Offline and “fully working and non-expiring version with limitations. It still offers a whole range of writing and plotting tools to is perfectly usable for smaller to medium sized projects … [CQuill Writer is] unlike anything else because that was the whole idea behind making it
The Style Assistant is based from a specific work of an existing author … Style Assistant comes from written books (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and it instantly shows examples of entire phrases. … If the Assistant stumbles upon a word that the author didn’t use or like, it will try to suggest another word, more common for the author’s style. … If you can get a book in plain TXT format (for now), you can load it and create your own Assistant.
So… all that could come from Lovecraft. Although making your own Style Assistant is a feature of the paid version, currently at the introductory price of $47.
A hands-on test shows it lubricates the writing quite well, and I had the opening paragraph of an Anne of Green Gables tale before I knew where I was. Here are the modules that ship with the latest free version.
You also get a free ‘Monkey Typist’ that can complete your current sentence, possibly with amusing consequences.
H.P. Lovecraft gets turned on : a short speculation.
On the 20th day of August in the year 2040 Mr. H.P. Lovecraft finally got turned on. It was the result of 15 years of effort by a team of hundreds of scientists, scholars, writers and artists. His 150th birthday present was to be brought back to life, the first and the most important personage who would ever be created by the trillion-dollar U.S. Artificial Sentience Program (ASP). He would be able to draw on, and semantically combine and recombine, words/phrases/themes from a huge bank of his own authentic writing. In doing this, aided by the latest technology, he would seem almost as real in conversation as any other human being.
There had been much controversy in choosing Lovecraft to become the world’s first fully-fledged autonomous artificial personality. Yet he was by far the best choice. Lovecraft’s life was one of the most fully self-documented of the 20th century, and he had written about himself and his opinions with great intelligence and insight. Hundreds of people who knew him had assessed his personality with intelligence and artistic insight shortly after his death. He had used a careful and consistent style, and scholars had combed his published corpus for errors for over a century — this was critically important for the semantics technologies used. He was one of the 20th century’s most distinctive and unique personalities, and in 2040 he was still an immensely popular literary figure. And, had he not written in a most potent fashion about ‘mind transfers’, and about the ways in which dead books can be made to talk to the living? Was he not a firm atheist, so no religion would be ‘offended’ by his resurrection into the new immortality? Had not a core part of his own unique philosophy been a sort of antiquarian neo-‘ancestor worship’? Even the racism was a selling point, since people would now be able to argue with him about it. You see, in his new incarnation he would be able to learn as well as to talk.
The passing of 20th Century Copyright Liberation Act of 2033 had, of course, greatly aided the cutting-edge project. Everything he had ever written was carefully transferred and sifted into a new and highly advanced neural AI system (hem hem… it is impolite to call these proto-beings ‘computers’ in 2040), together with a highly-advanced semantic and factual structure that was painstakingly extracted from all the scholarly work and then refined and tested for nearly a decade. All this runs under a billion-dollar personality emulation module that arises from the popular wave of commercial ‘virtual immortality’ packages, consumer technology which had rapidly pushed forward personality-emulation in the 2020s. These services began simply as a means for keeping Web blogs as a ‘living archive’ after death, but they soon became pseudo-conversational interfaces with the dead. These rapid advances enabled the generative arts to move far beyond simply juggling with a chance fall of symbols. Then the ASP project had begun, deliberately scaled and promoted as a project with the same scope and importance to the 21st century as the moon landings had been to the 20th. Allied to Lovecraft’s highly advanced AI and software were — for the sake of the publicity — the wonders of 3D “in-air skin” holographic projection from a robotic synthoid base, and advanced on-the-fly speech synthesis. A bit of a problem, that last one — since there were no recordings of Lovecraft’s voice. In the end the ASP team just plumped for a blend of classic old ‘New England / old British’ accents with a rather formal tone and no modern slurring or clipping of words.
The great day came and President Schwarzenegger Jrn. pressed the switch. Trillions of dollars had been spent, and the hundreds who had worked on the ASP held their breath — the project was now fully autonomous and before a live audience. The hologram slowly powered up and coalesced around its rubbery robotic shell before the assembled world. The new H.P. Lovecraft II’s optic sensors detected a large crowd in front of him. His face twitched and his first public words were a rather frantic… “I am Mr. H.P. Lovecraft, and I am on this planet. I… am on this planet!” But then he took a breath and calmed and looked down at his smart formal suit with a certain amused approval, checked to see if his shoes were shiny and his nails were clean, and looked up again to speak perfectly rationally to his new public… “Ah! … now this is interesting… life after death! I really had not expected that. So… I suppose I should say a few memorable words, on such a momentous occasion. Er… Cats! They really are the most personable of creatures! …” He then launched into a long disquisition upon the wonderful ability of the house cat to convey a distinctive personality without the benefit of speech. President Schwarzenegger Jrn. suppressed a smirk when he recognised the knowing irony of Lovecraft II’s choice of topic, while many of the ASP staff blushed at the boldness of Lovecraft II.