Sci-fi publishers are gearing up for the AI battle
It starts with One tweet of a bar chart describe the dramatic rise in February: Neil Clarke, publisher and editor-in-chief of science fiction and fantasy magazines clarks world, has exposed the publication’s past few years of spamming and plagiarism. Until the end of 2022, these bars were barely visible, but over the past few months—and especially this month—the numbers have increased dramatically, mainly due to artificial intelligencecontent-generated. Clarke wrote a case study titled “A related trend.” Five days and a large number of online chats after that, clarks world that announcement is End of submission Now.
Clarke says they’ve seen this issue on the rise for some time, but they took the time to analyze the data before talking about it publicly. “The reason we get these is because so many communities work on the sidelines,” he said. “’Make money with ChatGPT.’ They’re not science fiction writers – most of them aren’t even writers. They’re just people trying to monetize some of this and they’re stalking people who act like they know what they’re doing.” He added that after watching some of the video tutorials mentioned, “There’s no way what they’re selling will work.”
clarks world has been published for nearly two decades, and while many science fiction and fantasy (SFF) journals have specific submission deadlines, this publication is generally open year-round. As with its peers — and unlike some publications in the literary fiction space — there is no fee to submit work. Clarke cites the SFF community’s dedication to Yog Law, a maxim coined by the writer James D. Macdonald says, “The money should go to the author.” This openness is very important to clarks world: “We’re a huge market,” says Clarke. “We want to attract from all over the world and all kinds of voices.” But a commitment to receptivity also means fighting AI spam doesn’t just mean putting additional barriers to entry.
“We will reopen—we have no choice,” Clarke said. “But we take the stance that it will be trial and error.” As a trained computer scientist and website developer, Clarke emphasizes that he won’t explain the exact specifications of those tests—why give submitters spam instructions step-by-step?—but the changes will be small and targeted to the trends they have observed in their data collection. “As far as I know, what we’re dealing with is a scenario that’s no different from the fight against malware, credit card fraud, denial-of-service attacks,” he said. “It’s all the same kind of thing. You have to find a way to manage things in a world where these things exist.”
The clarks world Situation has become a hot topic outside of SFF: Clarke jokes about robots in their logo and the irony of a sci-fi magazine falling victim to AI. But among many writers – both in the SFF and more broadly – there is a sense of despair, that the inevitability of Create AI-dominated art is finally coming to fruition. Although the US Copyright Office recently refuse the claim of an AI-generated comic book, one can clearly see anxiety about what AI means for an already financially precarious industry.
Clarke thinks writers are right to worry, but right now it’s about the volume of trash clogging up an already oversaturated space. “This is not a matter of quality but a matter of quantity,” he said. “We are drowning; they are being yelled at. And for a new writer right now, I really feel bad for them because this is going to be a problem. The number of markets that will take shortcuts to avoid this problem is not unheard of, and every one of those things that happen is harmful to them. So they have reason to be distraught.”