Last week, generative fiction tool Sudowrite launched a system for writing whole novels. Called Story Engine, it's another shot in the ongoing culture war between artists and AI developers — one side infuriated by what feels like a devaluation of their craft, the other insisting that it's a tool for unlocking creativity and breaking writer's block. Neither answered the question I was really curious about: does it work? Well, I didn't take on Sudowrite's pitch of a full novel in a few days. But over the weekend, I generated a novella written entirely inside Story Engine — it's called The Electric Sea at the AI's suggestion, and you can read the whole thing on Tumblr . I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm an enthusiastic, if strictly amateur, fiction writer. I wrote somewhere north of 150,000 words of unpublished fiction last year, so Sudowrite's “break writer's block” pitch isn't that compelling to me. Writing, however, is not a task I hold inherently sacred. The field has a long and proud tradition of hastily written profit-driven trash, from Ed Wood's churned-out erotica to the infamous pulp publisher Badger Books, known for handing authors a cover and asking them to write a book around it. I enjoy seeing where large language models' strengths and weaknesses lie, and I've long been fascinated by challenges like NaNoGenMo , which asked writers to create an AI-generated novel in the days before modern generative AI. So on Saturday morning I paid for 90,000 words of Sudowrite text, booted it up, and “wrote” a roughly 22,500-word cyberpunk novella by Sunday afternoon. The Electric Sea was produced with heavy human guidance, but every final line was created by hitting a “Generate” button. The Tumblr chapters include both the AI-written text and the summaries and story beats, which were largely rewritten by me. But technically speaking, though it cribs a lot from those beats, it contains none of my pen-to-paper prose. At most, I regenerated some chapters a couple of times and cut a few paragraphs across the whole story. As my colleague Josh Dzieza has […]
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