I’ve programmed a new online game, the Collaborative Story Generator, that allows you to trade sentences or words with a computer to write a story. The game uses the text generation API at DeepAI, described as follows:
The text generation API is backed by a large-scale unsupervised language model that can generate paragraphs of text. This transformer-based language model, based on the GPT-2 model by OpenAI, intakes a sentence or partial sentence and predicts subsequent text from that input.
DeepAI is a fascinating website normally used by researchers to mine data. It was fun to adapt one of its tools for this.
Here’s the transcript of a recent game I played:
Mode Selected: Trade sentences
You: I just programmed a game in which you can collaborate on a story with an artificial intelligence.
I think that's great in any way.
You: It works by talking to deepai.org.
I don't know if it works by talking to humans, and maybe it shouldn't.
You: Well, at the beginning, humans programmed it, but I’m confident they are not controlling the interactions at this point.
I am just curious if you can convince them that artificial intelligence is a better solution than I believe there should be.
You: Some people are resistant of the idea of it, but maybe games like this will encourage them to think otherwise.
A quick disclaimer here.
You: Computers are not sentient.
But if they are so, they are intelligent.
You: Some people confuse sentience with intelligence, and I think they are two distinct concepts.
A little background information:
You: I like to program things for fun, and that’s why I made this game.
I have found that interacting with computers is interesting and often helpful.
You: When they work well, the results can be spooky.
I don't make any money from people that send me "games.
You: And why should I?
The idea of games with smart algorithms and intelligent gameplay is all too popular with children right now.
It’s taken nearly five months, but I now have a bug-free (I think!), responsively designed game you can play against three computer opponents. They’re very stupid opponents because they randomly make their decisions, but at least they follow the rules. The next programming phase I’m beginning should be the fun one: how to make the computer smarter. This is the part that should scare all sci-fi writers, because obviously I am just one boolean function call away from creating an apocalyptical computer sentience.
No update yet on when Juhyo will be available for the general public. As always, stay tuned!
Just a quick update. I am up to my elbows in the programming of a new online game. This one is an adaptation of the card game Deena and my boys created, Juhyo. The printed card game, which is in very limited circulation right now with a select group of players, is a trick-taking game about snowmen in the guises of various monsters. A website will launch soon with more details.
While you’re waiting, I hope you’ll give “Tombs & Mummies” a spin over at the IFComp2020 archives. If you rate fives games there before November 29, your votes will help determine the contest winners.
A couple of events to tell you about!
January 25 @ 3PM
Live with Sensei: Watch on YouTube
• Host Jay Haynes and I will kibitz about story craft.
Westin Waterfront Boston Hotel
• Deena Warner and I will be guests concerning online marketing for publishing industry in the “Great Website Designs & Boskone Reveal” panel. I’ll also be giving a reading from Empire of the Goddess and participating in other panel discussions on self promotion and the business of writing.
February 19 @ 8AM
Rotary Club meeting
Cold Harbor Restaurant
• The Rotary Club of Mechanicsville will host me as a guest speaker during their breakfast meeting.
It’s been a while since I posted anything here, but rest assured my little elves are hard at work on goodies for you. Here’s an update.
The Organ Donor
The 15th anniversary edition of my first novel, The Organ Donor, is on track for a November release from Bloodshot Books. I went all self-indulgent with this one, penning a 6,000-word afterword for the new edition, laying out the whole sordid story about my real-life encounter with Chinese organ trafficking. The publisher hired the estimable Deena Warner to do the cover art and design, which I hope to show you soon. I’m again working with filmmaker John Johnson to foolishly spend any royalties I earn from this edition on a fun book trailer. (Watch past book trailers at this link.) More information about The Organ Donor.
The Dagger of God
The what?! What ‘chu talkin’ about, Willis? That’s right; there’s another novel in the sausage-making factory. This one is a trunk novel, a ghost story about the Civil War, Ku Klux Klan, and ugly racial violence. As if that’s topical. I enjoy reading/performing stories, so I’m trying something new: recording my own audio book. It’s been a fun experiment so far but fraught with frustrations as my basement office isn’t exactly a sound booth (chugga-chugga laundry machines behind me, and idiot felines scratching on my window screen), and my microphone picks up every breath pop, inhalation, and squishy lip parting that I make. Probably the most successful aspect of this venture will be the blooper reel. There’s also the challenge of keeping character voices distinct. My main character is a Southern belle who alternately sounds like Scarlett O’Hara or Matt-Warner-forgetting-his-character’s-voice. But when it’s done, I nevertheless intend to release it on the Amazon ACX platform and possibly on Youtube. If successful, it will make one long car trip bearable for you. Listening to an audiobook really is the best way to travel.
And on the personal front . . .
The website design business keeps the “busy” in business. I mean, day-um. Deena Warner Design continues to be in high demand for author websites. I’m also spending a significant portion of time working for First Arriving, a marketing firm in high demand for fire department websites. My writing career currently occupies the 530-630am hour most weekdays, and these two firms occupy everything else — that is, everything not taken up by my high-energy 6- and 8-year-old boys, who are scary smart.
On top of all that, I’ve become ever more entrenched in Total Defense Martial Arts, which provides boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu instruction to the Staunton area. Starting in January, I’ll assume primary responsibility for teaching BJJ to kids between 6 and 16. I’m also in talks with Staunton Montessori School to volunteer for two months as a self-defense instructor to 7-9th graders, teaching them the joys of escaping headlocks, bear hugs, and chokes.
That’s about it. Please stay tuned for all the happenings this fall.
What, nothing about the election this time, Matt? That’s right, I’m here to make you happy! Three quick items.
Next up from White Noise Press, releasing in the Spring of 2017, a new story by Matthew Warner. Here is what we asked from Matt:
“What I would like is the most extreme, out there, outrageous story you have ever written, in whatever genre you choose, hopefully something that no other market in their right mind would touch with a ten-foot halberd. My only restrictions are: no child-in-peril or domestic/sexual abuse as a plot point. I would like to publish it in the March-April timeframe, but if it takes longer, no biggie.”
We also are fortunate to be able to feature Matt’s better half, the multi-talented Deena Warner, who will be doing the cover art.
On the way from White Noise Press!
I was quite relieved to receive his message as I was concerned about the propriety of what I’m writing for him. But now, I am . . . unshackled. (Sorry, couldn’t resist an election reference.)
Alas, I do have a day job in addition to writing. Fortunately, it’s still in the publishing biz. If you’re also in the biz, please take a moment to visit our new company website.
This LinkedIn post says it all: “April 21, 2015 – Responsive Reckoning Day with Google . . . It’s official. Non-responsive sites will start ranking lower in Google mobile search.”
So I’ve just spent the past two days pulling my hair out reprogramming this website’s CSS file. The good news is Google’s Mobile Friendly Test says I now pass the grade. To experience the awesomeness for yourself, just grab the right side of your browser window and slowly make it narrower.
Consider this your PSA to get your website affairs in order by April 21! I have visions of Google secret police breaking into houses everywhere, cackling maniacally, as they scream about CSS armageddon. Yeah, it could happen, you know.
The goes with my last post. I’ve collected links to some of my non-fiction articles that are still available as free reads. Enjoy!
I’ve collected links to some of my short stories that are still available as free reads. Aren’t I generous? Most are audio adaptations. Enjoy!