Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Sisters of the Desert

It is done. I just finished writing my latest book, a 1000+ page monstrosity titled The Sisters of the Desert that has been my secret labor for literally years. I am bone-tired and brain-drained, but so unbelievably happy that it is done (even if the finishing made April Break exhausting).

Do not ask about publication. It is a rough-rough draft that needs me to take a serious vacation before editing it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold

Sometimes one just has to post good music. Particularly music written by J.R.R. Tolkien and sung so well here.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

AI and its impact on Art, Writing, and the Creative Process

As is known, I try to avoid discussing real-world issues here on my not always entirely humble blog. However, given the concern Artificial Intelligence is causing amongst authors and artists, I thought it only right to share my findings in a deep-dive experiment I made regarding AI's potential and lack thereof, its strengths and weaknesses.

 

As AI takes the world by storm the prime debates regarding it revolve around it replacing human agency. A personal motto of mine has always been "one should use whatever tools are available to you so long as they are used honestly and honorably" and this includes AI. As Andrew Bauld says in his School Library Journal article Librarians Can Play a Key Role Implementing Artificial Intelligence in Schools: "In New York City, Department of Education chancellor David C. Banks wrote that the city’s initial response 'overlooked the potential of generative AI to support students and teachers'...[and] Overcoming fear starts with understanding, and there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to artificial intelligence." All true, for he also quite accurately states that "AI is certainly complicated. It’s a powerful tool that is seemingly advancing by the day, and while some teachers and librarians might fear it, there’s no hiding from the impact it will have on learning." More than anything else, this second quote is, I think, why educators should immediately work to not just understand, but master the intricacies of AI – because, for better or worse, it is here to stay and we had better learn all we can about something set to have so colossal an impact not just in education but across society.

The key is that every AI program, even the seemingly semi-sentient ChatGPT, has its strengths and weaknesses. Hence I think we must learn both by challenging AI to do the very things we fear students doing so as to ascertain how pertinent our fears are. We shall begin with AI-generated art.

AI Art

Do not get me wrong, AI can and does generate absolutely beautiful pieces of art in less time than it takes to say it; that is its strength. The weakness? AI might as well stand for Artificial Inaccuracy unless you are willing to spend many hours upon hours trying to get the image to at least look approximately what you envisioned. Knowing these things and experimenting with AI does, I think, better prepare us for the challenges it presents as well as its usefulness as a tool. On that note, here is a message a fellow school librarian posted in an online class we took together:

Hi Everyone,

Okay, I hate to "spit in the soup" here but I still have lots of reservations about AI in the library so I need some encouragement! Reading these articles, I'm astounded by the amount of resources and tools. I DO see the benefits. For example, in the Bauld article - the idea of having "tools can also make the lives of teachers and librarians a lot easier... programs to write lesson plans... generates questions... creates multiple versions of a test for student retakes." All of this sounds amazing and I want to use all of the beneficial tools.

BUT! My reservations are around sparking novel thought, creative thinking and critical thinking in our students when they have AI to compare their work to. For example, in the same Bauld article, he sites a program called Stable Diffusion that generates images from a description. Doesn't this remove the creative element from our student's thinking? ie. "Why would I need to make something when AI can do it better?"

I'm in my second year as an elementary school librarian and I'm SO concerned about how reliant students are on machines, ie. spell check, google for all answers, not knowing how to use a dictionary because you can just ask Siri, not being able to come up with an idea without browsing the internet, etc.

SO - what say you? Am I being too quick to dislike incorporating AI? Is there a balance? Don't get me wrong, I WANT to dive in to AI. But like social media - I'm wary of diving in head first. Thanks for your considerations.

My response was as follows:

I can help with that since I am a veteran Stable Diffusion user (via Nightcafe.). To start, and as you said, it needs a description to generate an image. Meaning the students – and people in general – need to exercise creative thinking to come up with that description. Sure you can type in "Medieval Princess" or some such thing and it will create an excellent image, but unimaginative. Below is the proof, as I used "Medieval Princess" as a prompt at got the following four images:

Cz1XezVoeplQ7LSZcpJ6--grid.jpg

Mostly good images insofar as quality goes (though you will notice that the top left princess' thumb is as long as her pointer-finger), but imaginative? I could have plucked these from a fairy tale or medieval ballad; they are cloyingly stereotypical. AI has no imagination, so users have to force theirs upon it. The written description must be human-provided, hence students need to write detailed physical descriptions of their imagined characters if it is to work. Trust me on this, as I spend much of my AI time trying to create images of characters from my books. Here is an example:

Emrys and Sakura.jpg

The prompt is "An eleven-year-old boy wizard with brown eyes and wearing brown robes, and a green-eyed girl warrior with long black hair wearing leather armor with olive skin". These are Emrys and Sakura, two of the five main characters from my book The Last War. Please note that, even with this detailed description from my own imagination, AI mangled their hands and gave Emrys a green robe instead of a brown one. It really could stand for Artificial Inaccuracy.

Yet it could also stand for Artificial Inspiration, as its mistakes can be absolutely stunning and spark new ideas. Indeed, one of the reasons I daily toy around with Nightcafe is to experiment with different written prompts set to varying artistic styles so as to get ideas for new book characters and places based off the images it spits out.

For example, the below image was created via the prompts "The Gates to Fairyland"-"sensual, art nouveau style"-"Epic cinematic brilliant stunning intricate meticulously detailed dramatic atmospheric maximalist digital matte painting".

https://images.nightcafe.studio/jobs/TVeFUnls21rcCIOuaGGJ/TVeFUnls21rcCIOuaGGJ--1--ogib0.jpg?tr=w-1600,c-at_max

Now the idea of Gates to Fairyland is as old as hills and myths, spawning countless iterations: the wardrobe into Narnia, Alice falling down a rabbit hole, crossing a stream you've never seen before and ending up in an Enchanted Forest, the lists goes on and I have thought of several myself. However, I never would have imagined a gate such as in this image – one seemingly made of glass and gossamer, designed to invoke spring flowers and fairy wings. It was AI generated, yet can fire the imagination. I can easily see using it in a creative writing class, the prompt being the teacher asking the students to write about what lays beyond the gate.

In school the other day I on a whim showed two students a personal AI art experiment I was working on: making Elvish Libraries.

https://images.nightcafe.studio/jobs/sAkN0HVsceI56XZTJzAc/sAkN0HVsceI56XZTJzAc--grid_2.9762x.jpg?tr=w-1600,c-at_max

Their reaction? Enchanted. They were utterly enchanted and at their insistence we spent the next fifteen minutes going through other versions I had made. They loved them and kept talking, with true yearning in their voices, how much they wished they could visit an Elvish Library, how they wished they could hope into the picture. The next day they came back wanting more, only this time one of them revealed they had started an art project about Elvish Libraries.

A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, and AI's pictures can inspire thousands of ideas in us that perhaps become words if we choose to write a story from those ideas. Below is an image I am not going to tell you the prompt for, only that it was an attempt to create a picture of a character from the book I am currently writing. 

It got several things wrong (Artificial Inaccuracy again) but that does not make the image less nice, nor does not limit its potential. So now ask yourselves the questions: Who is she? Where is she? Is she a princess, a noblewoman, or the daughter of a wealthy merchant? Do the colors of her dress have cultural significance, are they family colors, or just her favorite colors? Is she happy with her life, or does she desire a change? What is her story? Making images and knowing they will fail is fun, because Artificial Inaccuracy can lead to inspiration and ideas one might not have had otherwise.

Now then, moving on, it is time to address...

AI Writing

It is a common fear that AI will negate, or at least markedly lessen, the need to be imaginative and/or even a good writer in order to produce quality, imaginative writing. Reservations regarding sparking novel thought, creative thinking and critical thinking in our students when they have AI to compare their work to. So, let us test it. I will challenge ChatGPT to do just that – write something unique and creative – and see how pertinent these fears are.

Me: Create a Fantasy Asian-style desert civilization

ChatGPT:

Name: Qarim Oasis Dominion

Geography: The Qarim Oasis Dominion is nestled within the vast and arid expanse of the Searing Sands. This desert civilization is defined by a colossal oasis, the lifeblood of the people, surrounded by towering dunes and rocky plateaus. The oasis, named Azura Spring, is a shimmering jewel in the heart of the desert, its waters guarded by ancient stone structures that channel and distribute water throughout the dominion.

Culture: The people of Qarim are known for their deep connection with the elements and the mystical energies that flow through the desert. They revere the spirits of sand, wind, and water, believing that each element plays a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of their oasis. The desert dwellers are skilled in harnessing these elemental forces through unique forms of magic and rituals.

Architecture: The architecture of the Qarim Oasis Dominion reflects a harmonious blend of natural elements and practical design. Buildings are crafted from sun-baked clay, adorned with intricate carvings depicting desert scenes and mythical creatures. Towering minarets rise above the city, capturing the wind to cool the interiors, while underground tunnels and chambers provide shelter from the scorching heat.

Clothing: The inhabitants of Qarim wear flowing, lightweight garments adorned with vibrant patterns and embroidery inspired by the colors of the desert flora. Headscarves and turbans protect against the sun, and nomadic tribes often wear lightweight, hooded robes to shield themselves from the ever-shifting sands.

Trade and Economy: Qarim is a hub of trade, with caravans traversing the desert to exchange rare gems, spices, and enchanted artifacts. The oasis produces bountiful harvests of date palms, citrus fruits, and unique desert herbs, sustaining the dominion and allowing for the creation of exotic perfumes and potions. Skilled artisans craft intricate jewelry and textiles, utilizing the rich colors of desert flowers and minerals.

Government: The Qarim Oasis Dominion is led by a council of elders known as the Sable Tribunal. The tribunal consists of representatives from various clans and is responsible for maintaining harmony within the dominion. The Sable Tribunal also consults with seers and elemental mystics to make decisions that align with the will of the desert spirits.

Religion: The people of Qarim follow a polytheistic belief system, venerating a pantheon of desert deities. The Great Sand Serpent is considered the guardian of the oasis, while the Wind Dancer is believed to bring cool breezes and gentle rains. Rituals and festivals are held to honor these deities and seek their favor for a bountiful harvest.

Conflict and Defense: The desert civilization faces constant challenges from nomadic raiders and territorial disputes with neighboring city-states. The Qarim warriors, known as Sandstalkers, are skilled in desert warfare and employ both conventional weaponry and elemental magic in their defense. The dominion's borders are marked by mystical wards and sand traps to deter intruders.

Notable Figures:

  • Zahra Sandwhisper: High Priestess and Elemental Mystic, Zahra is a revered spiritual leader known for her ability to commune with the desert spirits.
  • Kavian Swiftwind: Commander of the Sandstalkers, Kavian is a skilled warrior and strategist, leading the dominion's defense against external threats.
  • Nuriel Flamebloom: Master Enchanter, Nuriel is renowned for crafting powerful artifacts infused with the essence of the desert elements.

The Qarim Oasis Dominion stands as a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of a civilization thriving in the heart of the unforgiving desert, guided by a deep connection with the elemental forces that shape their world.

Me: Describe the pantheon

ChatGPT:

The pantheon worshipped by the people of the Qarim Oasis Dominion is a diverse assembly of deities, each associated with different aspects of the desert, nature, and the elements. The pantheon reflects the inhabitants' deep connection with the natural world and their dependence on the delicate balance of the oasis. Here are some key deities in the Qarim pantheon:

  1. Azaar, the Great Sand Serpent:
    • Domain: Guardian of the Oasis
    • Representation: A colossal serpent made of shifting sands.
    • Role: Azaar is the primary deity revered for safeguarding Azura Spring, the life-giving oasis. Worshipped as a protector and provider of water, the Great Sand Serpent is invoked during droughts and revered in rituals for bountiful harvests.
  2. Zephyra, the Wind Dancer:
    • Domain: Mistress of Breezes
    • Representation: A graceful figure with flowing robes, surrounded by swirling winds.
    • Role: Zephyra is worshipped for bringing cool breezes and gentle rains to the desert. Her favor is sought to prevent stifling heatwaves and to ensure a temperate climate that allows the oasis to flourish.
  3. Ishara, the Earthshaper:
    • Domain: Mistress of the Land
    • Representation: A stoic figure with hands outstretched, shaping the desert terrain.
    • Role: Ishara is venerated for her role in shaping the landscape and providing fertile soil for crops. Farmers and artisans invoke her to ensure the prosperity of their lands and to shape the clay used in construction.
  4. Solara, the Sunfire Phoenix:
    • Domain: Bringer of Light and Heat
    • Representation: A radiant phoenix soaring across the sunlit sky.
    • Role: Solara is both revered and feared for her role in providing light and warmth to the desert. Her blessing is sought for abundant sunlight, but her wrath is feared during scorching heatwaves.
  5. Lunara, the Moonshadow Huntress:
    • Domain: Protector of Night and Shadows
    • Representation: A lithe figure with a crescent moon as a crown, surrounded by stars.
    • Role: Lunara is worshipped during the night, and her guidance is sought for safe journeys through the desert after sunset. She is also invoked by hunters and travelers who navigate the desert under the cool embrace of the moonlight.
  6. Thalos, the Oasis Alchemist:
    • Domain: Master of Potions and Mysteries
    • Representation: A hooded figure surrounded by vials and mystical symbols.
    • Role: Thalos is the deity associated with alchemy and the secrets of the oasis. Worshipped by healers, alchemists, and those seeking magical protection, Thalos is believed to hold the key to unlocking the hidden powers of the desert.

The people of the Qarim Oasis Dominion engage in rituals, festivals, and offerings to honor and seek the favor of these deities. Each deity is believed to play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of the desert ecosystem and ensuring the well-being of the civilization.

Me: Describe the mythology

ChatGPT:

The mythology of the Qarim Oasis Dominion is a tapestry of ancient tales, epic narratives, and spiritual allegories that explain the origins of the desert, the creation of the oasis, and the relationships between the deities in their pantheon. These myths are passed down through generations, woven into the fabric of daily life, rituals, and celebrations. Here are some key elements of the Qarim mythology:

  1. The Birth of Azura Spring:
    • The central myth recounts the birth of Azura Spring, the oasis that sustains the Qarim Oasis Dominion. Legend has it that Azaar, the Great Sand Serpent, slumbered beneath the vast desert until awakened by Zephyra, the Wind Dancer, who stirred the sands to reveal the hidden waters. Azaar's awakening brought forth the life-giving oasis, symbolizing the delicate balance between earth and sky.
  2. The Dance of Zephyra and Solara:
    • The dance between Zephyra and Solara is a recurring theme in Qarim mythology, representing the eternal cycle of day and night, light and darkness. Solara, the Sunfire Phoenix, pursues Zephyra, the Wind Dancer, across the sky, creating the transitions from day to night and back again. The balance of their dance ensures the rhythm of life in the desert.
  3. The Shaping of the Desert by Ishara:
    • Ishara, the Earthshaper, plays a pivotal role in shaping the desert landscape. According to myth, Ishara molded the dunes and plateaus, carved the valleys, and infused the earth with vitality. The people believe that the contours of the desert are a reflection of Ishara's artistic touch and that the sands themselves carry the imprint of her hands.
  4. The Trials of Lunara:
    • Lunara, the Moonshadow Huntress, is the subject of tales recounting her nightly journeys across the desert. Mythical beasts and spirits roam the sands under the moonlight, and Lunara is revered for her role as the protector of those who travel or hunt during the night. Her trials and adventures are told to impart lessons of courage, resourcefulness, and the importance of balance in all things.
  5. Thalos and the Elixir of Eternity:
    • Thalos, the Oasis Alchemist, is associated with the mystical properties of the oasis waters. According to legend, Thalos discovered the Elixir of Eternity, a potion that granted immortality. The tale explores themes of temptation, wisdom, and the consequences of meddling with the natural order. Thalos is often portrayed as both a wise guide and a cautionary figure.

These myths serve not only as entertaining stories but also as a means of transmitting cultural values, ethical principles, and a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between the people of the Qarim Oasis Dominion and the desert environment that sustains them. Rituals and ceremonies are often grounded in these myths, reinforcing the spiritual connection between the inhabitants and their pantheon.

Not bad. It DID create, in seconds, a Fantasy civilization one could easily write about. But can IT write about it? Let us find out:

Me: Create a set of characters from the Qarim

ChatGPT:

Certainly! Here's a diverse set of characters from the Qarim Oasis Dominion:

  1. Zafira Sandwhisper:
    • Role: High Priestess and Elemental Mystic
    • Description: Zafira is a wise and venerable figure, known for her deep connection with the desert spirits. As the High Priestess, she serves as a spiritual guide to the people of Qarim, interpreting omens, conducting rituals, and offering counsel to the Sable Tribunal.
  2. Jamil Swiftblade:
    • Role: Captain of the Sandstalkers
    • Description: Jamil is a seasoned warrior and respected leader among the Sandstalkers. He commands respect through his strategic prowess, unwavering loyalty to the dominion, and dedication to training the next generation of defenders. His leadership on the battlefield is matched only by his compassion for his fellow warriors.
  3. Nasira Sunfire:
    • Role: Master Enchanter
    • Description: Nasira is a talented enchanter renowned for her skill in infusing weapons and artifacts with the essence of the elements. Her mastery of elemental magic is unmatched, and her creations are sought after by warriors and adventurers alike. Despite her formidable abilities, Nasira remains humble and deeply connected to the natural world.
  4. Khalid Sandstrider:
    • Role: Nomadic Chieftain
    • Description: Khalid is the charismatic leader of a nomadic tribe that roams the desert. He is a skilled hunter, navigator, and diplomat, guiding his people through the harsh terrain and fostering alliances with other tribes. Khalid's wisdom, resourcefulness, and fierce loyalty to his clan make him a respected figure among the nomads.
  5. Soraya Moonshadow:
    • Role: Ranger and Guardian of the Borderlands
    • Description: Soraya is a skilled ranger who patrols the desert borders, safeguarding the dominion from external threats. Her mastery of archery, stealth, and survival skills is matched only by her unwavering commitment to protecting her homeland. Soraya's connection to the land and the spirits of the desert makes her a formidable defender.
  6. Rashid Sandstorm:
    • Role: Merchant and Trader
    • Description: Rashid is a savvy merchant who travels along the Silk Road trade routes, trading goods and forging alliances with distant lands. He possesses a keen eye for opportunity, a talent for negotiation, and a deep understanding of the desert's rhythms. Rashid's wealth of knowledge and experience makes him a valuable asset to the dominion's economy.
  7. Leila Desertbloom:
    • Role: Herbalist and Healer
    • Description: Leila is a skilled herbalist who tends to the medicinal plants that thrive in the oasis. Her knowledge of desert herbs and their healing properties is unmatched, and her remedies are sought after by those in need. Leila's compassion, empathy, and deep connection to the natural world make her a beloved figure among the people of Qarim.
  8. Amin Sandwalker:
    • Role: Young Apprentice Elemental Mystic
    • Description: Amin is a curious and eager apprentice studying under the guidance of the elemental mystics. His affinity for magic and his thirst for knowledge make him a promising student, though he still has much to learn about harnessing the powers of the elements. Amin's adventurous spirit and determination drive him to explore the mysteries of the desert and uncover the secrets of his heritage.

These characters embody the diversity, resilience, and spirituality of the Qarim Oasis Dominion, each playing a unique role in shaping the destiny of their civilization.

Me: Write a scene from a middle-grades novel featuring them

ChatGPT:

Title: Sands of Destiny

Scene:

The sun hung low in the sky, casting long shadows across the dunes as Zafira Sandwhisper stood atop the ancient stone platform overlooking Azura Spring. The oasis shimmered below, its waters reflecting the fading light like a precious jewel. Behind her, a group of young apprentices gathered, their faces illuminated by the warm glow of torches.

"Welcome, young ones," Zafira began, her voice carrying with the wisdom of ages. "Tonight, we gather to honor the spirits of the desert and seek their guidance for the trials that lie ahead."

Jamil Swiftblade, Captain of the Sandstalkers, stood beside Zafira, his gaze scanning the horizon for any sign of danger. Nasira Sunfire, her hands adorned with swirling patterns of elemental magic, nodded in agreement, her eyes alight with anticipation.

Khalid Sandstrider, the nomadic chieftain, stepped forward, his cloak billowing in the evening breeze. "The winds whisper of a coming storm," he said, his voice grave. "We must prepare ourselves for the challenges that await."

Soraya Moonshadow, her bow slung across her back, nodded in agreement. "The borderlands have been restless of late," she added, her senses attuned to the subtle shifts in the desert's rhythms.

Rashid Sandstorm, his caravan of goods parked nearby, spoke up next. "The Silk Road trade routes are fraught with peril," he warned, his eyes flashing with concern. "We must remain vigilant in our travels."

Leila Desertbloom, her hands clasped around a bundle of healing herbs, stepped forward with a reassuring smile. "Fear not, my friends," she said, her voice gentle yet resolute. "With the spirits by our side, we shall overcome any obstacle that stands in our path."

Amin Sandwalker, the young apprentice, listened intently to the words of his elders, his heart filled with both excitement and trepidation. Tonight marked the beginning of his journey into the heart of the desert, where he would uncover the secrets of his heritage and discover his true destiny.

As the torches flickered and the stars began to emerge in the night sky, the group joined hands in a circle around the ancient stone platform. Together, they closed their eyes and offered their prayers to the spirits of the desert, their voices rising in harmony with the winds that swept across the sands.

For in the Qarim Oasis Dominion, where the elements and the people were bound as one, destiny awaited those who dared to seek it. And with the guidance of their ancestors and the blessings of the spirits, they would forge a path toward a future filled with hope, courage, and boundless possibility.

Me: Write another scene

ChatGPT:

Title: The Oasis' Guardian

Scene:

The scorching sun beat down upon the dunes of the Qarim Oasis Dominion, casting rippling waves of heat across the golden sands. In the heart of the oasis, Azura Spring glimmered like a sapphire jewel, its waters a sanctuary amidst the arid desert.

Zafira Sandwhisper, the High Priestess, stood at the water's edge, her eyes closed in silent communion with the spirits of the oasis. Around her, the Sandstalkers, led by Captain Jamil Swiftblade, patrolled the perimeter, their keen eyes scanning the horizon for any sign of danger.

Suddenly, a low rumble echoed through the air, followed by the unmistakable sound of grinding stone. A section of the ancient stone wall surrounding the oasis began to crumble, sending clouds of dust billowing into the air.

"Prepare yourselves!" Jamil shouted, drawing his sword as he took a defensive stance. The Sandstalkers, their weapons at the ready, formed a protective circle around Zafira and the oasis.

From the swirling dust emerged a towering figure, clad in robes of shimmering blue and adorned with jewels that glinted in the sunlight. It was none other than Azaar, the Great Sand Serpent, guardian of Azura Spring.

Zafira stepped forward, her hands raised in a gesture of reverence. "Great Azaar," she called out, her voice echoing across the oasis. "What brings you to our doorstep on this day?"

The serpent's eyes, glowing with ancient wisdom, fixed upon Zafira. "The balance of the desert is in peril," Azaar rumbled, his voice like the shifting sands. "Dark forces gather beyond our borders, threatening to unleash chaos upon the dominion."

Jamil tightened his grip on his sword, his brow furrowed with concern. "What must we do, Great Azaar?" he asked, his voice steady despite the rising tension.

Azaar's gaze swept over the assembled warriors, his expression grave yet resolute. "You must stand united," he declared, his voice carrying the weight of centuries. "Protect the oasis with all your strength, for it is the heart of our civilization. Let no enemy breach its sacred waters."

With a final nod to Zafira, Azaar turned and slithered back into the swirling sands, leaving behind a sense of determination in his wake.

Zafira turned to the Sandstalkers, her eyes shining with determination. "We stand as guardians of the oasis," she declared, her voice ringing with authority. "Together, we will defend our home against any who seek to harm it. For the spirits of the desert are with us, and their strength is our own."

With renewed resolve, the Sandstalkers tightened their formation, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead. For in the Qarim Oasis Dominion, the bond between its people and the spirits of the desert was unbreakable, and together, they would overcome any obstacle in their path.

Me: Write a scene with the characters arguing

ChatGPT:

Title: Echoes of Discord

Scene:

The oasis lay bathed in the soft glow of twilight, a tranquil haven amidst the unforgiving desert. Yet beneath the serene surface, tensions simmered among the diverse group of characters who called the Qarim Oasis Dominion home.

Zafira Sandwhisper stood at the edge of Azura Spring, her brow furrowed in concern as she observed the heated exchange unfolding before her. Jamil Swiftblade, his gaze hard and unyielding, squared off against Khalid Sandstrider, their voices rising in a clash of wills.

"I will not risk the lives of my people on a fool's errand!" Khalid declared, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. "To venture into the heart of the desert is madness, and you know it!"

Jamil's jaw tightened, his grip tightening on the hilt of his sword. "We cannot afford to ignore the omens," he retorted, his voice tinged with frustration. "The spirits have spoken, and we must heed their call. The fate of the dominion hangs in the balance."

Nasira Sunfire stepped forward, her expression caught between concern and determination. "Enough!" she interjected, her voice cutting through the rising tension. "Bickering like children will solve nothing. We must find a solution that honors both the safety of our people and the will of the spirits."

Soraya Moonshadow, her bow resting against her shoulder, nodded in agreement. "She speaks the truth," she said, her tone firm yet measured. "We must approach this with caution, weighing the risks against the potential rewards."

Rashid Sandstorm, ever the voice of reason, stepped forward with a calming presence. "Perhaps there is a middle ground," he suggested, his eyes scanning the gathered group. "A compromise that allows us to address the omens without putting our people in undue danger."

Leila Desertbloom, her hands clasped together in silent prayer, offered a soft spoken plea. "Let us remember why we stand here today," she urged, her voice gentle yet firm. "We are united by our love for the dominion and our desire to protect it. Let that guide our actions."

Amin Sandwalker, the young apprentice, listened intently to the exchange, his heart heavy with the weight of their decision. In the end, he knew that unity would be their greatest strength against the trials that lay ahead.

As the echoes of their argument faded into the night, the group stood in silent contemplation, their differences set aside in favor of a shared purpose. For in the Qarim Oasis Dominion, where the elements and the spirits held sway, harmony was the key to survival. And together, they would face whatever challenges the desert chose to throw their way.

Not bad, all told. It created solid characters and could write about them. The stories were even tolerably good. Tolerably. The writing style is stilted and formulaic, so while a person could pass this off as their own writing and maybe get marks for creativity, no reader of any experience would judge it good writing. One also notices how the final paragraph of each story is notably similar.

Which begs the question: Can AI write a sequentional story? Only one way to find out:

Me: Write the first part of a short realistic story

ChatGPT:

Title: The Coffee Shop Encounter

Rain drizzled against the windowpanes of the cozy coffee shop, casting a soothing ambiance within. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingled with the faint scent of damp earth, creating an atmosphere of comfort and warmth. Amidst the gentle hum of conversation and the occasional clinking of mugs, two strangers found themselves drawn into an unexpected encounter.

Seated at a corner table, Emily absently stirred her latte, her mind lost in the swirls of foam atop her cup. She had sought refuge from the relentless downpour outside, seeking solace in the familiar embrace of her favorite coffee spot. The events of the day weighed heavily on her thoughts, each sip of coffee failing to dispel the lingering sense of unease.

Across the room, Daniel sat hunched over his laptop, his brow furrowed in concentration. He had sought sanctuary from the chaos of the outside world, hoping to find inspiration amidst the comforting ambiance of the café. Yet, try as he might, the words eluded him, lost in a maze of writer's block and self-doubt.

Their eyes met by chance, a fleeting moment of connection amidst the sea of strangers. Emily offered a hesitant smile, her lips curving upwards in a silent greeting. Daniel returned the gesture, a faint spark of recognition igniting within his gaze.

Curiosity piqued, Emily found herself drawn towards Daniel's table, her steps hesitant yet determined. With a nervous smile, she cleared her throat, the sound echoing softly in the quiet space.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Daniel looked up from his screen, surprise flickering across his features before melting into a warm smile. Gesturing towards the empty chair opposite him, he replied, "Please, be my guest."

As Emily settled into the seat, a sense of anticipation filled the air, bridging the gap between their worlds. In that fleeting moment, amidst the aroma of coffee and the patter of rain outside, two strangers embarked on a journey of unexpected connection, their stories waiting to unfold.

Me: Write the second part

ChatGPT:

As Emily settled into the chair opposite Daniel, she couldn't help but feel a surge of nervous energy coursing through her veins. This impromptu decision to join him felt simultaneously daring and reckless, yet something deep within urged her to take the leap.

"So, what brings you to this cozy corner of the world on such a rainy day?" Daniel asked, breaking the silence that had settled between them.

Emily hesitated for a moment, her thoughts jumbling as she searched for the right words. "I suppose you could say I needed a refuge from the storm, both figuratively and literally," she admitted with a wry smile.

Daniel nodded understandingly, a hint of empathy shining in his eyes. "I know the feeling," he replied, his voice tinged with a hint of vulnerability. "Sometimes, it feels like the world outside is just too much to bear."

Their conversation flowed effortlessly from there, weaving through tales of past adventures, shared passions, and dreams for the future. With each word exchanged, the distance between them seemed to shrink, replaced by a sense of kinship that transcended the barriers of time and space.

Hours slipped by unnoticed, the world outside fading into obscurity as they lost themselves in each other's company. It was a rare and precious moment of connection, a reminder of the beauty that could blossom from the most unexpected of encounters.

As the rain outside gradually subsided and the last remnants of daylight faded into dusk, Emily and Daniel found themselves reluctantly parting ways, promising to meet again soon.

As Emily stepped out into the cool evening air, a sense of warmth filled her heart, a gentle reminder that sometimes, amidst the chaos of life, all it takes is a chance encounter in a cozy coffee shop to remind us of the beauty of human connection.

Me: Write the third

ChatGPT:

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, yet Emily couldn't shake the memory of her encounter with Daniel that rainy afternoon in the coffee shop. His presence lingered in her thoughts, a constant reminder of the fleeting connection they had shared.

Despite the demands of her busy life, Emily found herself drawn back to the same coffee shop, hoping against hope for another chance encounter. Each visit was tinged with a sense of anticipation, a silent prayer that fate would once again bring them together.

Then, one crisp autumn morning, as she stood in line waiting to place her order, Emily felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around, her heart leaping in her chest as she found herself face to face with Daniel.

"Emily, fancy meeting you here," he said with a grin, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

A rush of warmth flooded through Emily as she returned his smile, feeling a sense of serendipity wash over her. "Daniel, it's so good to see you again," she replied, unable to hide the delight in her voice.

They fell into an easy conversation, picking up right where they had left off as if no time had passed at all. The coffee shop buzzed with activity around them, yet in that moment, they were the only two people in the world.

As they sipped their coffee and shared stories, Emily couldn't shake the feeling that this was where she was meant to be, with Daniel by her side. It was as if the universe had conspired to bring them together once more, reaffirming the bond that had begun to blossom between them.

As they said their goodbyes and parted ways, Emily felt a sense of contentment settle over her. She didn't know what the future held, but she knew that no matter what happened, she would always cherish the memories of that rainy day in the coffee shop and the unexpected connection it had brought into her life.

Me: Write the fourth

ChatGPT:

In the weeks that followed their second encounter, Emily and Daniel found themselves drawn to each other like magnets. They met at the coffee shop regularly, each meeting deepening their connection and understanding of one another.

Their conversations flowed effortlessly, spanning from the mundane to the profound, from lighthearted banter to shared dreams and aspirations. With each passing day, Emily found herself opening up to Daniel in ways she hadn't with anyone else, and in return, he shared pieces of himself that he had kept hidden from the world.

Their relationship blossomed organically, like a delicate flower unfolding its petals in the warmth of the sun. They laughed together, shared moments of vulnerability, and supported each other through the trials and tribulations of life.

But as their bond grew stronger, so too did the realization that their time together was limited. Emily's career was poised to take her to a different city, miles away from the familiar streets of their beloved coffee shop. And Daniel's commitments tethered him to his current location, unable to follow her wherever her path may lead.

The looming prospect of separation hung heavy in the air, casting a shadow over their newfound happiness. Yet, despite the uncertainty of what lay ahead, Emily and Daniel refused to let go of the precious moments they shared together.

They made the most of every stolen moment, cherishing each laugh, each touch, each shared glance as if it were their last. And as the day of Emily's departure drew near, they made a silent vow to carry a piece of each other with them wherever they went.

On the morning of her departure, Emily stood outside the coffee shop, her heart heavy with the weight of impending goodbyes. Daniel stood beside her, his hand intertwined with hers, offering silent comfort in the face of uncertainty.

As they shared one final embrace, Emily felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. "I'll miss you," she whispered, her voice barely above a whisper.

"I'll miss you too," Daniel replied, his voice thick with emotion.

And as Emily boarded the train bound for her new life, she carried with her the memories of rainy afternoons and cozy coffee shop encounters, knowing that no matter where life took her, a part of her would always belong to Daniel.

Me: Write the next part

ChatGPT:

Weeks turned into months, and Emily settled into her new life in the bustling city. Despite the excitement of new opportunities and experiences, a part of her heart remained tethered to the memories of her time with Daniel.

Their daily conversations had dwindled to sporadic messages, the distance between them amplifying the ache of their separation. Yet, amidst the chaos of their respective lives, they found solace in the knowledge that their connection remained unbroken.

One crisp autumn evening, Emily found herself wandering the unfamiliar streets, her thoughts consumed by memories of the cozy coffee shop and the warmth of Daniel's presence. As if guided by instinct, she found herself standing outside a quaint café, the soft glow of light spilling onto the sidewalk.

Without hesitation, Emily stepped inside, the familiar aroma of freshly brewed coffee washing over her like a comforting embrace. As she scanned the room, her heart skipped a beat when she spotted Daniel sitting at a corner table, his gaze fixed intently on a book.

A rush of excitement surged through Emily as she made her way towards him, her footsteps faltering slightly with each step. When she reached his table, Daniel looked up, his eyes widening in surprise before breaking into a warm smile.

"Emily, what a pleasant surprise," he exclaimed, his voice filled with genuine delight.

Unable to contain her joy, Emily sank into the seat opposite him, a sense of familiarity washing over her like a wave. "I couldn't resist stopping by," she admitted, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

For hours, they lost themselves in conversation, their words weaving a tapestry of shared memories and unspoken longing. It was as if no time had passed at all, the distance between them fading into insignificance in the warmth of their reunion.

As the evening drew to a close, Emily and Daniel lingered outside the café, reluctant to part ways once more. Yet, amidst the uncertainty of what the future held, they found comfort in the knowledge that no matter where life took them, their connection would endure.

With a lingering embrace and promises of future meetings, they said their goodbyes, each step carrying them further along their separate paths. But as Emily walked away, a sense of peace settled over her, knowing that no matter how far apart they may be, she would always carry a piece of Daniel with her, just as he would always hold a piece of her heart.

A repetitive story without real conflict or stakes, and each part reads like it could be a short story despite AI being told each was part of a longer tale.

The verdict being: AI can create solid characters and creative worlds, but only a human author can actually use them properly to write a good, quality story out of them. Take it from me, Fantasy world-building is the easy part. A person can draw a map and name every patch of land, creating a complex history, mythology, and even languages to populate their world. Characters too. When it comes right down to it creating characters with potential is simple enough. But it all comes to little if one cannot bring the world and characters to life on the printed page. So while AI may threaten a bit of the creative process since now everything need not come from the author's mind or be inspired from other books, only human creativity can weld it into a story worth reading. In short, and to use a metalcraft analogy, a poor smith will make a poor blade regardless of the quality of steel provided them; it takes a master blacksmith to truly forge it into sword worthy of royalty. Hence, using this analogy, AI can provide cheap yet high quality creative steel, but it takes a master wordsmith to make true literature out of it.