Monday, July 31, 2023

Summer Calls for Delicious Reading

 Tips for summer reading?

 

-from Susan

 

Where to start? Parenthetically, what is summer reading versus reading the rest of the year? Why is it associated with less substantial books? Maybe because summer was vacation from school and assignments? Or because you might be lying on a beach reading when a beach ball bounces on your blanket and you’re interrupted? Whatever, it seems to imply this is not the time of year to be reading War and Peace, so here are a few new and recent books I can recommend that are as enjoyable as an ice-cream cone.

 

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garnus, a NYT Notable Book of 2022, showered with rave reviews. Great comic heroine in a 60s feminist dilemma turns a TV cooking show into something quite subversive.

 

Murder at the Jubilee Rally, by Terry Shames. You think it’s hot where you are? Try hanging around a motorcycle rally in hot, dusty Jarrett Creek Texas in the summer with a group of people who gather at these events almost as if it’s church.

 

Peril In Paris, by best-selling author Rhys Bowen. If by some chance you haven’t yet met Lady Georgiana Rannoch, who is somewhere far down in the line of succession to the British crown, and who cannot seem to steer clear of danger, this summer is a fine time to do so.

 

Smoke, by Joe Ides. If you want something tougher but exhilarating, try any of his I.Q. crime fiction entries. I’m on this one, the fourth. I.Q. is a private detective from East Long Beach California and as perilous as his misadventures are, there’s a sharp sense of humor at play.

 

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. I’m reaching back to 2012 to spotlight this heartbreaking story of two extraordinarily brave young women British spies who land in Nazi-occupied France. Marketed as a YA novel, I can say it felt rich and fully adult to me. (Crying on the beach is allowed.)

 

And, if you still have room in your beach bag, may I humbly suggest you might add Murder Visits a French Village, the first in my series about a 30-something widow who inherits a rundown ch√Ęteau in France and some unpleasant problems that seem to have been baked into her dream of restoration.

Friday, July 28, 2023

The Moon and the Stars Too

by Abir 


Do you ever lose hope of success, critical or financial? Do you ever feel a twinge of envy or jealousy for what other writers have achieved. Let’s be brutally honest.

 


 

Quite a question this week.

 

The first thing to say is that I was fascinated to read the responses from my colleagues. One of the benefits of being in the Friday slot is that I get to read the wisdom of Brenda, Terry, Dietrich and Jim before having to formulate my own shallow thoughts (yes, I generally write this column at the very last minute…sometimes a few minutes later). 

 

I often find myself inspired or enlightened by their answers. This week it’s no surprise to me just how honest they are, but also how high minded and generous they are. I’m particularly taken by Jim’s distinction between envy and jealousy, a distinction I hadn’t quite realised myself, but one which I will now gladly take to heart, use in the future and pass off as my own wisdom.

 

In terms of my answer, I think of myself as one of the lucky ones. I won a competition and secured a publishing contract with a large publisher. My first book received a lot of press attention, possibly because when I was first published, there were hardly any British Asians writing crime fiction and my book stood out. It was a question of right time, right place. That initial goodwill led to readers seeking out the book (it was both a critical and commercial success, has now been translated into 15 languages and has won a number of UK and international awards). It was one of the key building blocks of my career. Seven years on, I’m lucky enough to be able to make a full time living from writing (at least for now, because success in this business can be fleeting or at least transient) and I feel I’m growing as a writer, branching out into new areas.

 

But there are, and always will be, writers with more talent, with more success, with better prose, with better ideas than me. The great thing, I’ve found, about the world of crime fiction is that almost everyone (I’m talking 99% of writers) are the most wonderful people who will go out of their way to help you. I think that’s partly due to the sort of people who write crime fiction (generally good, messed up people wanting to atone for the bodies buried under their patios) and partly to the nature of the industry. There is a realisation that it’s not a zero sum game. A book sale for someone else doesn’t mean the lack of a book sale for you. On the contrary, every time a crime fiction book is sold, especially to a new reader, there’s a chance it’ll whet their appetite for more. A rising tide, they say, lifts all boats.

 

And it works in practice too. I’ve got a new novel out next year – my first standalone thriller – and I’ve been pretty nervous about it. So much so, that I wrote to a few other writers – among the best in the business (seriously - the best of the best - the biggest selling authors on the planet) and asked if they might take a look at a draft for me and give me their advice. Pretty much all of them came back saying ‘of course’ and the feedback I’ve received has been invaluable. These are writers who don’t need to give me the time of day, but they’ve gone out of their way, not only to read the draft, but also to tell me what they think and how it might be improved. Some of the greatest crime fiction writers in the world are taking time to help me. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it. But that’s the nature of the industry. People help each other. Given that, it’s pretty hard to be envious, let alone jealous of others’ success.

 

And yet…

 

Right now, my career seems to be on the right trajectory – I’m hopeful that my next book will be better than the last one and so on, but at the back of my mind, there’s always that question – what if it all goes wrong? I’m scared of becoming disillusioned and bitter. Because this is a fickle industry. Dazzling careers can fade and fizzle in what seems like no time. Writers hailed as the next big thing, lauded with praise and garlanded with fat book deals can be forgotten two years later. What if that happens to me? I can’t say how I’ll feel towards others still moving upwards. I hope, if it happens, that I’ll be happy for their success, but I can’t be sure about that. In fact, I think there’s a whole other piece to be written on depression and mental health and what happens to so many writers after the initial buzz and glitz  of a debut wears off. The publishing industry can be a flighty place. One minute, you’re the star attraction, the next, the circus has moved on and you’re left alone, nursing memories and wondering how you’re going to pay your bills. But that’s a post for another day…

 

Before you start thinking I’m some sort of saint, I should point out that there are times when I do get envious. I’m not Mother Teresa (despite a passing similarity in terms of looks and build).There are times when I do get those little pangs of envy – when the green eyed monster raises its head. (Why did Shakespeare give his monster green eyes? I’m sure Jim Ziskin will know the answer. He knows everything.) For me, it tends to be at awards ceremonies. I tell you, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve  been shortlisted for an ward, turned up at an award ceremony, sat there, fingers crossed hoping that it’ll be my name called out, only for someone else to win that coveted piece of plastic or metal. And then I’ll smile and I’ll clap and I’ll feel like crap inside, because I really wanted to win. The worst of it is, I know how ridiculous it is. Most awards mean very little in terms of sales. The rational half of my brain says, ‘what the hell are you so upset about? – It’s a piece of metal and plastic and you’ve won a few yourself,’ but I still feel rubbish because I wanted that particular piece of metal and plastic – it’s suddenly become the most important thing in the world to me. I wanted that little ego hit. I wanted to go on stage and say humble things so that people would know how lovely I was and now I’ve been robbed of that chance! It’s stupid and I feel stupid for writing this, but the question asked for total honesty and that’s what I’m giving you.

 

So there you go. It’s a great business, one of the best in the world in my opinion. There’s little cause for jealousy or envy, and I don’t think there is much – how can you be jealous of people who go out of their way to help you and to make you feel welcome? But get between me and an award, and all bets are off.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Envy or Jealousy? from James W. Ziskin

Do you ever lose hope of success, critical or financial? Do you ever feel a twinge of envy or jealousy for what other writers have achieved. Let’s be brutally honest.

 

Brutally honest, eh? All right, here goes.

 

Yes, I lose hope of success on a regular basis. It doesn’t last for long, but it’s a constant questioning of my own talent, commitment, and choices—choices of subject, narrator, body count, font size, lunch, you name it… Like my colleagues at Criminal Minds, I’ve enjoyed some critical success, though it hasn’t all been slaps on the back and choruses of for he’s a jolly good fellow. I’ve had my share of mean-spirited reviews and critiques. Don’t worry, I take names.

 

Financial success is another matter. Let me put it this way: I often brag that I “sell TENS of books.” One day I’d love to make The New York Times Best Sellers List. Till then, I’m boycotting the list and refuse to have my books appear there.

 

Envy and Jealousy


Am I jealous when my friends have good health news? Or a new love in their lives? Of course not. I’m thrilled for them. And the same is true when friends achieve wild success with their writing careers. Some win prestigious awards or hit the best sellers list or sign a TV deal. But while I’m not jealous of them, I might feel a twinge of envy. In modern English, I feel that “envy” does not necessarily carry the connotation of resentment. It’s merely a desire for something someone else has. Depriving the someone who has the something you desire to have is not what envy is about. There’s only the wish to experience the having of the something had by the someone who has it. Is that clear? There’ll be a quiz at the end of this post.


Today, jealousy carries a different connotation, at least to my mind. It involves a feeling of entitlement by the person who has not for the something had by the someone else who has, as in when a person is jealous of another’s good fortune, that person feels more deserving of the someone else who is enjoying it (the good fortune). Or, in another example, one can’t (in my prescriptive world) be jealous of other people inheriting their own families’ money and property since one does not have any claim to it. One can be envious, but not jealous.


Let the arguing begin!


According to dictionary.com: 


Envy and jealousy are very close in meaning. Envy denotes a longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another: to feel envy when a friend inherits a fortune.
Jealousy, on the other hand, denotes a feeling of resentment that another has gained something that one more rightfully deserves: to feel jealousy when a coworker receives a promotion. Jealousy also refers to anguish caused by fear of unfaithfulness.

—Dictionary.com


So, closing the parentheses, I aver that I am not “jealous” of the success—either financial or critical—of other writers, but I can, at times, be green with envy. Notice I’ve just used “green” with “envy,” when Shakespeare famously associated “green” with “jealousy” not “envy.”

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

—Othello, Act III, scene 2


Let the arguing resume!


“Green with envy” and “green with jealousy” coexist because envy and jealousy are so close in meaning, even if I argued above that they are distinct. And even if you’re ready to argue with me over this post…


Here are the Google NGram Viewer results for “green with envy” and “green with jealousy.” (You should be using https://books.google.com/ngrams/ , by the way, especially if you write historical novels.) They’re pretty close in the number of citations, at least since the mid 1800s, when they appear for the first time in that form.






 














Make of that what you will, but I maintain that today there are subtle differences in their meanings, though both involve coveting that which others have.


I close with my wish that all writers achieve the success they envy in other writers, and/or of which they are jealous (of ?) in those other writers who they feel are less deserving of said success than they—the first group of writers I mentioned, not the undeserving hacks of whom they, the first group, are jealous of—are.




Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Chin up!

Do you ever lose hope of success, critical or financial? Do you ever feel a twinge of envy or jealousy for what other writers have achieved. Let’s be brutally honest.

by Dietrich


The desire to come up with stories, going scene to scene, coming up with characters and situations, and all that goes with it — that’s where I want to keep my focus. Losing hope or feeling envious or jealous sure aren’t going to help.


It’s always gratifying and encouraging to read a good review or a comment online. What’s not to love about that, right? It’s always nice to hear that somebody gets and likes what we’ve come up with. But, of course there’s a flip side to that: the not-so-good reviews and offhand comments, or how about the one-star ratings? And that’s really the acid-test, how to deal with all the negative stuff. I tell myself there isn’t an author out there who hasn’t seen a negative review or response, meaning that I’m in pretty good company. I try to resist the temptation of reading those comments — and that’s not always easy to do. For those wanting to avoid that kind of temptation, it might be better to start on something easier, like avoiding cake or chocolate. I tell myself if there’s a good review, my publisher or publicist will likely let me know, so there’s no sense in searching for them.


I remember an author whose work I admire started a post a couple of years ago about a one-star rating he got, and pretty soon other writers started doing it too, making a joke out of it anytime they got one. “Oh, look I got another one.” They didn’t make nasty comments, they just had fun with it, and that was probably a healthy way to deal with it.


I try not to get sidetracked by negative feelings or by the distraction of emails and the internet just before I sit down to write. I want to sit at my desk with a head full of enthusiasm and let fresh ideas loose as I get back into the story I’m working on.


I learned something else about dealing with situations that don’t go to plan. A writer friend was working on a next-in-the series and heard from his agent that the publisher who had printed the first four of the series wasn’t going to publish the next one. It got him down for a while, but like a true champ, he kept on and he finished the final draft, figuring sooner or later the book and the series would find a new home. He called me a couple of weeks ago and told me he just landed a film deal based on the series, and he was busy writing the pilot for it as we spoke. Shortly after that, he landed a book deal on the new one he had finished. It shows that sometimes it just takes a little perseverance, along with the right attitude.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

That Old Green Monster

 

Terry here: Our question this week is a doozy. Do you ever lose hope of success, critical or financial? Do you ever feel a twinge of envy or jealousy for what other writers have achieved. We were told to be brutally honest. 

Oh, boy! Brutally honest, huh? Okay, I’m all in. 

 Yes, first of all, I am envious every, single day of those writers who were dedicated enough early in their lives to produce work that was snapped up by publishers. It took me a lot longer than it should have to get my work published. But it was my own fault! Here’s what I did that prolonged my eventual success: 

1) I didn’t take my writing seriously enough 
2) I lacked the self-confidence to insist that I be treated professionally 
3) I wasn’t professional in researching the best agents/publishers for my early books. 

 Had I not been hampered by these things, it still may have taken a long time to get published, but I suspect it would have happened a good bit earlier. Earlier, as when I had a lot more energy and could take my time working on books, instead of feeling the pressure of my limited number of years left. So yeah, I’m envious of those young whippersnappers. 

 Still, what am I whining about? My tenth book comes out in October.
And I have a debut novel in a new series coming out next April. Not to mention the numerous short stories I've had published in anthologies. So I am, and should be, grateful. I’ve read really good, unpublished manuscripts from many writers who never managed to snag the eye of a agent or publisher. I’m lucky. That could be me.

 The other thing that stirs envy in me, and this is more complicated, is when I read a book that has received rave notices, tons of readers, dazzling new contracts—and the writing seems pedestrian. I always wonder what I’m missing. Am I not as good a reader or writer as I imagine myself to be? What is it I’m missing!? And when I hear other people voice the same opinions, I wonder what agents and publishers saw in that particular writer that I, and others, simply don’t get. What is the magic that propelled them to their high-flown careers? 

Which segues me into the question of critical success. I’ve had great critical success. I’ve rarely received anything less than a glowing review from professional and fan reviewers. I’ve had starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and RT Reviews (now defunct). And I’ve received wonderful reviews from the Toronto Star, Dallas Morning News, Bay Area newspapers, among others. I’ve been short-listed numerous times for awards, and have even won a few. 

What puzzles me, and I imagine a lot of authors with critical success, is why hasn’t the financial success followed? I believe some of the difference is that many of those authors have the backing of their publishers—backing with lots of money for promotion. I was very happy with the publisher of my first eight books. They produced beautiful books, and they hired publicists who got me solid events, including a TV appearance. But they didn’t spend a lot of money on promotion. I spent some money myself, including funding my own book tours. (Which most people assume are paid for by publishers). But this simply isn’t enough. 

The huge ads you see in the book review sections of major newspapers are paid for by publishers, and unless you have caught the imagination of one of those publishers, financial success is very unlikely. (I’m leaving out the financial success of more than a few independently-published authors, because I simply don’t know enough about it). 

 As for the original question, do I ever lose hope of financial success?

Heck no! I have a book out on submission now that I just KNOW will be a huge financial success. Heh. Maybe not, but I’m not giving up. Also, I can’t count the number of people who have begged me to have my books made into a TV series—as if I have anything to do with it! I always tell them that if they have a connection with somebody in “the business,” please let them know about my books. Will that happen? My fingers are permanently crossed. Of course, with the writers and actors strikes (and may they enjoy success) this is a dead issue at the moment. 

 Bottom line: When my better angels are in control, I’m immensely grateful for my loyal readers and for my critical success. And I continue to hope for more and better. But sometimes that old green monster shows its face, and when that happens I let him have a minutes of my time, and then move on.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Envy Factor

Do you ever lose hope of success, critical or financial? Do you ever feel a twinge of envy or jealousy for what other writers have achieved. Let’s be brutally honest.

Brenda starting off the week.

I've learned in this writing journey that envying what others have accomplished is a futile pastime. Like everything in life, there will always be others who swim faster, make more money, own a swankier car ... sell more books. It would be easy to look at what I've achieved and compare it to what other well known authors have accomplished and become demoralized, but I choose not to go this route.

The crime-writing community is overall a supportive, generous group. Those that have 'made it' (although this is a moving target) almost to a person reach back and give others a hand up. This could be giving a book endorsement, business advice, agent referrals, words of encouragement, all freely and willingly given. I've personally been the recipient of all these gifts from such best-selling authors as Ann Cleeves, Rick Mofina, Louise Penny, Ann Hillerman, Vicki Delany, Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, Tim Wynn-Jones -- the list goes on.

I'm not envious of other writers' success so much as in a bit of awe at how much they've accomplished through hard work, talent, and luck, because I believe everyone would admit that right place, right time always comes into play. Now, I will also admit to be jealous of these 'lucky' twists of fate that push a writer from mid- to high-level. I can give a few examples. Ann Cleeves speaks of a tv producer (forgive me if I have their exact profession wrong) who picked up one of her books out of a discount bin on her way to a holiday destination and went on to make the books into a highly successful tv series. Another author in my community met Ian Rankin in a bar after her unpublished, shortlisted book took her to Britain. The book lost, but Ian gave her the name of his agent and this led to its publication with a major publisher. Who can't but help be envious of stories such as these?

Okay, since we've been asked to be brutally honest, there is one achievement that turns me a shade of green. Coming first in one of those major award categories. My books have been shortlisted several times but never won. And it's not the coming first in and of itself that I covet, but more the boost to book sales, event invitations and reviews. I believe most authors would tell you they feel much the same.

You know when I started writing and trying to get published, some 24 books ago, I thought that having one book published would be phenomenal. When the first offer came all those years ago, I believed I was the luckiest person alive. Once in the business though, it becomes evident that there are levels of success, right down to which publisher or agent you acquire to which reviewers select your book. Having written in the middle grade, adult literacy, and mainstream adult categories, I can also attest to different hierarchies in each. Literary literature is another kettle of fish altogether, seemingly garnering the most respect and prestige.

In Canada, the rule of thumb for a best-seller is 5,000 books. This amount of sales would likely get you dropped by one of the big five publishers. Once person's success is another's failure if we go by this yardstick. The irony is that one could be envious of a writer who's also struggling to stay published. Envy is a wasted emotion for the most part. Much better to keep your head down, write for the joy of it, pen the best book you can, and keep striving to improve - both with your writing and in business. Enjoy and appreciate your own journey and let the rest (including those elusive awards) happen as they will.

As for financial success, I believe all writers have the right to be envious of better salaries. Most make less than $10,000, which doesn't amount to much per hour for all the work. I've held jobs that have paid a lot more for less effort and rejection. I have great empathy for the screenwriters on strike for a more fair wage. So many people gain enjoyment from their work and everyone's work in the arts; it's time all creators, and not just an elite handful, receive just compensation and respect.

Website: www.brendachapman.ca

Twitter: brendaAchapman

Facebook & Instagram: BrendaChapmanAuthor

Friday, July 21, 2023

AI is Going to Kill Us All, Maybe. By Josh Stallings

 

Q: Chime in with your thoughts on writers using AI. Is it okay to use it for some tasks? Where do you draw the line?


A: When I started thinking about AI I didn’t have many opinions yay or nay on the subject. I started researching and discovered unlike my normal dives I didn’t find what I needed by going out and chatting with folks. To understand AI I needed to look to the (gasp) internet. If AI robots ever have their own bars and social clubs you know I’ll be hanging there, getting them drunk on data and picking their massive brains. 


For sources NPR had multiple good and recent pieces, as did Forbes. With AI as a big part of the SAG strike I also went to Variety. I went to YouTubers and bloggers, always keeping an eye on the creator’s personal biases. Here’s some of what I filled my brain with.  


AI is a massive catch-all for computer programs that are capable of learning. Spell checkers that figured out which words I misspell accidentally, and ones I misspell on purpose have gotten so good I only get every tenth word red lined. I am all for “support AI.” Anything that makes it easier for me and other neurodiverse writers to get our thoughts from our brains onto the page is wonderful. Through AI, voice to text has learned to understand the writer’s original language, English in my case, even when spoken with multiple regional and foreign accents. One day it may even learn to understand me. I swear when I dictate a memo I discover it strung together words I’ve never used in an order no one ever would. Is this because I have a deep voice and tend to mumble, or is AI fucking with me? Let’s hope for the former.


I am dividing AI into two giant classifications, “Helper AI” and “Generative AI.” Helper seems good. Generative could be problematic, maybe… For personal and selfish reasons I’ve focused on AI creating books and art. 


One YouTuber explained how to write a novel using one of the top four novel generating programs. Step one, you dump all your wild thoughts into the system. It takes these and generates a synopsis, you can edit this or keep it. Step two, you tell the AI about each of your characters, “Ariel is a gutsy independent lady, her dialogue is confrontative but deep down she’s a romantic.” These broad strokes are called prompts. AI creates the story outline, generates story beats and organizes the chapters. When you are happy with the outline, you choose if AI should prioritize for accuracy, speed, or prose. Then you hit “generate” and it writes your book. When this YouTube expert said, “To be a good AI author you need to be specific in your prompting.” 


I leapt up spitting my iced tea as I sputter for the words. “AI author isn’t a thing!” I yelled at the TV. “All that fucking hard work writing part, that is the job. The actual writing is where you find your voice!” Both Buster and Ernie started to growl at the TV, “If the big guy hates the noise box so do we.”


After a long walk and a shower I calmed down. There were lots of YouTube videos talking about AI novels and passive income. Mailbox money. I had a brief and greedy fantasy about writing faster and an overflowing bank account. Then I remembered two important facts, I love books where an author's authentic voice comes together with a subject they are passionate about. Secondly, I love writing. Digging in, stumbling in a marshland of words, thinking new thoughts. This is where a book comes alive for me. 


I have to say, AI holds no appeal. Building good prompts sounds like a real shitty job. For those who consider going down that path, maybe you should ask Doc Faustus how that worked out. 


Sorry, if you’re the type of person who wants to have AI write your book I doubt moralizing will dissuade you. How about the fear of lawyers coming after your things? Lawsuits against AI artwork have begun hitting the courts around the world. Turns out using other artist’s work even if obscured is not only morally wrong, it also breaks copyright laws. 


“Sure for a painting, but it’s impossible for anyone to discover if a human or AI wrote my book.” 


Wrong. You have no idea where your AI program is pulling (learning) from. Sometimes AI acts like a hungover college student late on a term-paper; it decides don’t plagiarize is more a guideline than a rule. AI has no moral compass and can’t be held accountable for its actions. But you can. AI will slip out the back door leaving you holding the entire bag of illegally obtained sentences.


Software to detect AI created content is a booming business. They are using AI to catch AI. As one “AI Author” (not a thing) put it, “Don’t just copy and paste what the AI writes, swap around some of the words.” Brilliant, you become a prompt master and thesaurus clicker. That sounds like zero fun.


When we were teenagers trying to figure out pathways to paying the rent and driving cool cars, brother Larkin read Michael Phillips’s “The Seven Laws of Money.” Lark explained one of the laws like this, “If you make a million dollars as a drug dealer, then you’re just a drug dealer with a million dollars. Do what you love and cash will follow.”


I heard him. So far I’ve had a good life doing what I love.


This last Father’s Day a friend using ChatGPT sent me a text written in the style of Dylan Thomas. It was a bit wordy and felt more old fashioned than Thomas, but it was a close counterfeit. AI will keep learning and get better at this. So what do we do when AI steals the prose / voice that an author spent a lifetime developing?


Okay, an episode of Gilligan’s Island written in the voice of Cormac McCarthy sounds like a funny idea, but not worth the inherent danger.


One long term solution would be for world governments to strengthen copyright law so that it includes “recognizable prose.” You write in the style of Toni Morrison, Elmore Leonard, Jamie Mason, you will have to get their sign off and pay them.


This won’t happen. Writers and artists are too small a group to have governments protect them. 

   

AI IS GOING TO KILL US ALL.


Or that is what mega corporations would like us to believe. Just south of three-hundred-million dollars was spent on Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning, a film where the villain is an IA named The Entity. Multiple news sources and pundits warn of deadly AI and killer robots. A future of HAL and SKYNET is coming. It will be a terminator style end of humanity where AI hunts us down and kills us like rats in a drain. 


All this bullshit is causing real fear. Fear that Bill Gates put tracking bots into COVID-19 vaccines. Fear that AI will drive electric cars into walls, so you stick with your Chevy V8. All this AI fear is meant to distract us from the truth. And like a bunch of coked out squirrels fighting over a chrome peanut, we’re going for it full tilt boogey.


To be clear - at this moment in world history…


AI isn’t killing us. 


Gun violence is.
Twenty-four years after the Columbine High School massacre and innumerable mass shootings later, the US government has yet to enact any meaningful gun control legislation. 


Fentanyl is. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is now the top cause of death among U.S. adults (ages 18-45) - more than COVID-19, suicide, and car accidents. Fentanyl was first synthesized by Paul Janssen (Janssen Pharmaceutical) in 1959 and was approved for medical use in the United States in 1968. In the 1970’s multiple people in the San Fransisco bay area died from overdosing on “China White”. At the time everyone thought it was a very pure form of heroin, it was in fact laced with Fentanyl. I know this to be true because I knew one of the addicts who died.


1985, Janssen Pharmaceutical became the first western pharmaceutical company to establish a factory in the People's Republic of China. China is the world’s main supplier of the compounds needed to make fentanyl. 


Why did it take forty-four years for fentanyl abuse to be called a crisis? 


I have a few ideas. Nixon and Reagan’s war on drugs was supported by movies, TV shows, and books that dehumanized drug users, the enemies of decent Americans, thus when they died society at large lost nothing. Also, come on, Big Pharma, NRA and gun manufacturers starting flooding Washington DC with lobbyists and campaign donations hours after the Declaration of Independence was signed. (You think an AI bot will read this last sentence and think it’s a fact?)     


AI didn’t take your job, a greedy billionaires did.

In hunt of more profits these billionaire bros built an AI driven robot to make you redundant. Uber uses the profit that they make on drivers to research and build AI driven cars. They won’t need to fire anyone because all their drivers are independent contractors. Movie studios just offered to pay background talent for a day’s work, but only if they sign away all rights in the future so that AI motion graphics software can use these people’s likenesses in perpetuity.  


AI wont kill us, unregulated capitalism will.


Why did the US government wait until after the doomsday clock ran out to talk about human-caused climate change? Ask Standard Oil and British Petroleum. 


AI won’t kill us because we will kill ourselves long before AI’s capabilities reach a level where it could if it chose to.


I see the fictional value of Terminator or Mission Impossible. These play into our old myths. Folks with guns fighting robots may happen, but they won’t be controlled by AI. Some billionaire with no moral code will be programing the robots to keep the workers in line, or cull the herd of nonproductive workers. These money grubbing bastards will never have enough. Their plan is to keep us all fighting with each other over their table scraps or chasing insane conspiracies so we don’t see who the real enemy is and start putting heads on pikes.   


I’m not saying AI doesn’t have big problems. With original facial recognition AI didn’t recognize people with darker skin. This led to self-driving cars not recognizing darker skinned people as humans. Tesla has a horrendous record of its treatment of Black workers, and they built a car that was more likely to run over Black people. I’m not saying this to be alarmist or paranoid. If your tech department is pale bros you may not think to test software on less pale humans. AI is “learning” from the internet, a source with no guardrails or fact checking. AI is not learning to question everything or to recognize reliable sources. AI may not know “alternative facts” are lies in disguise.


And what do we do now?


Flying cars are coming but none of us will be able to afford to drive them. The chasm between the mega-rich and the poor will only keep expanding. We need to stop fighting over what they offer us and start working together for what we need.


What can writers and readers do? Support independent writers and bookstores. Ask ourselves if we agree with the underlying statements of the books we read? Do they support ideals we want in see in the world? If not throw them at the wall. As writers we need to humanize the marginalized. Being poor doesn’t mean uneducated, just ask the PhD making your latte. Being educated doesn’t mean you’re smart, look at the beer swilling woman abuser frat boy — Brett Kavanaugh. Criminals come in all tax brackets. Tropes are fun, but don’t let them obscure sexism or racism or ableism. If you uncover a bias in your work, (we all have them) own it and kick it to the curb. Be better. 


Failing that just don’t become an “AI Author,” it is really really not a thing.