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A sci-fi magazine has cut off submissions after a flood of AI-generated stories

The magazine has been bombarded with AI-generated submissions lately.
Cover art by Julie Dillon
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Clarkesworld
The magazine has been bombarded with AI-generated submissions lately.

The science fiction and fantasy magazine Clarkesworld has been forced to stop accepting any new submissions from writers after it was bombarded with what it says were AI-generated stories.

The magazine officially shut off submissions on February 20 after a surge in stories that publisher and editor-in-chief Neil Clarke says were clearly machine-written.

"By the time we closed on the 20th, around noon, we had received 700 legitimate submissions and 500 machine-written ones," he said.

"It was increasing at such a rate that we figured that by the end of the month, we would have double the number of submissions we normally have. And that the rate it had been growing from previous months, we were concerned that we had to do something to stop it."

Clarke said the magazine wasn't revealing the method it was using to identify the AI-generated stories, because it didn't want to help people game the system, but he said the quality of the writing was very poor.

Artificial intelligence has dominated headlines in recent months, particularly since the launch of ChatGPT in November. The chatbot can answer a broad range of questions, but also create original poems and stories.

Microsoft and Google have since announced their own chatbots, in what is shaping up as an arms race to be the industry leader. And everyone from tech experts worried about misuse to university professors seeing its potential have sought to adapt.

Clarke said magazines like his, which pay contributors for their work, were being targeted by people trying to make a quick buck. He said he had spoken to editors of other magazines that were dealing with the same problem.

"There's a rise of side hustle culture online," he said. "And some people have followings that say, 'Hey, you can make some quick money with ChatGPT, and here's how, and here's a list of magazines you could submit to.' And unfortunately, we're on one of those lists."

Clarke said the magazine didn't yet have an answer to how it was going to deal with the issue, and part of the motivation to speak out was in the hope of crowdsourcing some solutions.

And no, the irony of his sci-fi magazine being targeted by robots is not lost on him.

"I mean, our mascot's a robot. So, you know, we kind of see the the humor," he said. "But the thing is that science fiction is quite often cautionary, and, you know, we don't embrace technology just because it exists. We want to make sure that we're using it right.

"And there's some significant legal and ethical issues around this technology that we're not ready to accept."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Halimah Abdullah