When I first heard about the AI program, ChatGPT, I didn’t think too much of it. You type in a question, and it gives you an answer. You give it commands and it responds in kind. I assumed it would be a hyped-up program that would be trendy for a bit then fizzle out, like the AI profile pics I had been seeing. I was wrong, as I often have been about these kind of things (I didn’t think Facebook or Netflix would last very long). Then I saw people posting whole essays written by the program. During a conversation with my brother-in-law, I suddenly saw the potential for writers to use this as a creative new tool. I could write a book much faster. I put that thought on the backburner. Maybe it would be a project for a rainy day. But I knew that this program wasn’t going to fizzle out. Then shortly before the start of the new year, Mallory Smart tweeted that she would be releasing a human/AI collaboration book on New Year’s Eve. My first thought was that the literary world is about to change. My second thought was, I need to talk to Mallory about this.
There’s a point early on in Robert Freeman Wexler‘s novel The Silverberg Business where you might have an idea of where things are heading. Protagonist Shannon is on the trail of a man who disappeared with money intended to benefit Jewish refugees in 1880s Texas. A detective, hot on the trail of an elusive target — it’s the stuff of classic private detective fiction, right? And then a group of skull-headed people show up and, as the saying goes, things get weird. After reading the novel, I was immediately intrigued and sought out Wexler to learn more about the book’s origins — and the music and art that helped inspire it.
BRIAN ALAN ELLIS runs House of Vlad Press, and is the author of several books, including Sad Laughter (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2018) and Hobbies You Enjoy (serialized daily on Instagram: @hobbiesyouenjoy). His writing has appeared at Juked, Hobart, Fanzine, Monkeybicycle, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, X-R-A-Y, Heavy Feather Review, and Yes Poetry, among other places. He lives in Florida.
The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
JILLIAN LUFT is a Florida native currently residing in Brooklyn. Her writing has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Hobart, Expat Press, Rejection Letters, Booth and other publications. She’s currently working on a novel about Florida dirtbag romance. You can find her on Twitter @JillianLuft.
A lot of writers were in bands when they were young, but what about making music after you’ve published a few novels and are old enough for the romance of late night shows in dive bars to have dimmed? Is it something most people outgrow for a reason? A compulsion related to arrested development or midlife crisis? Or is performance intimately related to the act of writing in ways that are slow to reveal themselves?
Some books about online communities venture into the science fictional to appropriately describe the goings-on there. Others, from Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts to Elle Nash’s Gag Reflex, adopt the styles and formats of certain online spaces. Cat Fitzpatrick’s novel The Call-Out also wrangles with questions of online discourse, but is likely the only novel to do so while also being written in verse. I spoke with Fitzpatrick on an autumn morning to discuss her novel, art forms, and the excellence of New Jersey.
AMY LONG is the author of Codependence (2019), selected by Brian Blanchfield as the winner of CSU Poetry Center’s Essay Collection Prize. Her work has appeared in Diagram, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review and elsewhere, including as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2019. She also runs the popular Instagram account Taylor Swift as Books.