Legacy And Transition

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

By the end of 2023 I’ll have written one book shy of forty books.  That’s the kind of thing to make one think.  Add the covid crisis, a world in the midst of change and turmoil, and a few life milestones, and I’m thinking a lot.

Somewhere in those thoughts is looking at those forty-minus-one books and asking “what’s next?”

I could write more of course, and doubtlessly will.  However I feel myself gripped with a desire to cultivate and consolidate my existing writing to do the most good.  It’s like I suddenly inherited a portfolio of book rights, only I inherited it from my younger self.  So what do I do with it?

It’s a lot of responsibility that I’ve dropped in my own lap.  Here’s what’s gelling in my mind:

Some books, I think, just are out of date and should be retired.  I could just make them free, maybe updated with a message, but there’s no reason to promote them or publish physical copies.  Perhaps I’ll print out 10-20 copies and donate them to close the door.

I just hate the thought of these being gone but past is past.  The responsible thing is to not to have it worry me.

Some books deserve a second or third edition and maybe a new cover.  They’re worth it, especially with some tweaking, updating, and a new look.  Some are even worth a rewrite every five or ten years.

Some of my works address specific needs and can keep evolving.  Updating them seems both responsible and kind of fun!

Finally, I want to take most if not all of my ebook only books to print.  That’ll take effort, especially as I’m looking to explore other ways to publish and get into bookstores.  However it’ll be worth it to create a physical legacy for my work – especially the Way With Worlds minibooks.  Part of me imagines an indie bookstore with a bunch of those minibooks on a shelf waiting for writers . . .

This builds a legacy and increases the reach of my work, and arguably some of my best work.

The above is not a simple effort.  However it feels worth it (or most of it feels worth it).  Maybe the next year or two will involve a larger focus on updating my catalog instead of expanding it.

Thirty-nine books isn’t enough.  But maybe I’ll take some time to do right for most of them – and the books to come.

I look forward to people’s opinions.

Steven Savage

AI Zombies Hide Your Faces

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

If I were to sum up tech news of 2022 it would be “Musk” and “AI Generation.”  Enough has been written about Musk, but the use of AI to generate art and text is still fresh and needs to be discussed.

AI Generation is soulless, and I think that has not been adequately explored.  In fact, its very soullessness explains the revulsion some people rightfully feel.  There’s hatred for the use of work, for non-compensation for artists, the chance of lost jobs, but also we’re disgusted to see creative works called creative when there’s “no one home.”

I’m reminded of the Doctor Who episode “Robots of Death” with the amazing Tom Baker.  Beyond being a murder mystery, it explored “robophobia,” rooted in the idea that surrounded by human-like but not human-emoting mechanical creatures is like facing the living dead.  The Doctor was talking about what we call “the uncanny valley” these days – human-yet-not.

That’s what AI is.  Shambling would-be-people, zombies, robots, no one home.  That’s part of why we’re disgusted – but it’s worse.

Consider work that we feel connected to – some of that intimacy is shared with the creator as well. We know someone is on the other end, with goals, a style, a way of doing things.  In turn, we have a sense of the person on the other end who did their work, or screwed up, or tried.  We need that sense of connection to understand, feel safe around someone, or at least yell at them.

Creative work – from music to a news article – works when there’s a person there.  We humans need to know we can trust (or at least find and criticize) the creator.

Now let’s consider works that are derivative or calculated.  That knock-off work, that engineered political screed, they’re irritating to us because we can feel the manipulation.  Someone is being false with us, there’s an estimation on what will trigger us or appeal to us.  They might not even be who they say they are.

The person creating it is less such works is less reliable to us – unless we want to believe them.  That’s our problem for wanting to believe them, of course.

Then there’s AI work which is all calculation and manipulation.  A bunch of programs running math churns out a request that has “all the right parts,” and we perceive them as having meaning.  There’s no bright idea or inspiration at the center, no human ideas, not even the assurance someone wants to con us.  There’s a pile of words or pixels creating the illusion of value.

AI gives us a shambling zombie writing dead prose, or a robot pushing buttons it was told to, without the honor of having someone to hate directly for it..  It cannibalizes other, meaningful work without caring and gives nothing in return.  It’s a simulation of a person bearing a bright idea or an understandable nightmare.

AI brings no human connection to the experience.  It’s an attempt to create empty content, an illusion of humanity with no one to know or trust or criticize.  It’s void of meaning except that which we accidentally give it because it didn’t mean anything to the creator.  It’s a trick made by an undead set of equations.

These zombies are being used to manipulate us to drive advertising and sales.  That horror you feel in your gut is warranted because people want to flood the internet with soulless crap, and it’s inhuman.

Your disgust is quite human – and warranted.

Steven Savage

Less Time Among The Dead

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Over the last few months, a past project has stayed in my mind. It haunts me – could I reboot it? Transform it? Restart it? I find myself re-envisioning how to redo the project, or change it into something else, yet nothing gets done.

I’m sure that you, my fellow creative, have similar haunts. You have projects long dead, on their way there, or buried hastily in a shallow grave. Yet their ghosts are still around, wandering among your thoughts and distracting you from current, living efforts.

I’ve had to confront my current ghost and decide, “you have to rest. The rest of your descendants may pick up the torch.”  It was quite liberating, if saddening.

We can’t burn time and energy on endlessly mourning dead projects or battling their remnants in our heads. That’s time and energy that we can use to do other stuff. You can’t ignore the living and focus on the dead.

So let me take this morbid metaphor of dead projects as ghosts and suggest some ways we can deal with them from my own experience.

Put Them To Rest: It’s time to let them go; decide you don’t have time for this. Mourn, acknowledge them, and move on. You can even keep a Necropolis of undone projects, you know . . . just in case. Plus, “interring them” may remove any guilt or fear of losing ideas.

Exorcism: Maybe you need to get something out of your head forcefully. Focus on another project, and store your notes elsewhere (or behind a password). 

Resurrection: Sometimes, being haunted means it’s time to return to the project. That’s fine – just do it as part of your planning, be honest about the challenges, and accept you maybe never should have killed the project. Live and learn.

Reincarnation:  Reuse the project, but don’t revive it. Do something else in the setting, transplant your ideas elsewhere, etc. Don’t revive the project – help it find a new and hopefully better life.

Frankenstein: It’s fine to take parts of dead projects and make something new. An incredible amount of creative efforts are like this.

We can’t stay haunted forever.

I would add that as you bury or resurrect back projects, ask yourself why it was hard to get to that choice. Some self-examination will help you understand your limits, help you grow – and maybe keep you from obsessing over dead projects as much.

Spend your time with the living.

Steven Savage