Popular cult sci-fi magazine Clarkesworld has halted submissions of new stories due to the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The sci-fi mag has been forced to turn away hundreds of submissions due to a large number of AI users looking to make a quick buck.
Running since 2006, Clarkesworld has published thousands of science fiction stories. From Peter Watts to Catherynne Valente, the magazine has helped to boost the careers of now-famous authors in the sci-fi genre.
However, due to the release of ChatGPT AI, the magazine has been forced to close submissions. Over the past month, hundreds of AI-written submissions have been sent into the publication, and that’s just the ones that can be detected as AI works.
In a blog post by magazine editor Neil Clarke, it was revealed that spam submissions are not new. In fact, the publication has received numerous attempts at publishing prior authors’ works run through programs that swap out words to make the piece “original”.
Clarke noticed that spammy submissions increased exponentially at the end of 2022, coinciding with the public launch of ChatGPT. The editor believes that many are using the tool as a “side hustle” to make quick cash from publications such as Clarkesworld.
In October 2022, spam submissions started to increase from a few a month up to 25. In the first half of February 2023, over 500 spam submissions were sent in to be published.
“There’s an honest interest in being published, but not in having to do the actual work,” Clarke said. “[In 2022], ‘AI’ chatbots started gaining some attention, putting a new tool in their arsenal and encouraging more to give this “side hustle” a try. It quickly got out of hand.”
Clarke reported that there are numerous tells that content has been AI generated. From weird sentence structures to particular phrases, AI text generation has similar issues to that of AI image generation. (For example, AI image tools keep generating one particularly terrifying image.)
The editor explained that the sheer number of AI generated submissions are insurmountable. Furthermore, there isn’t enough money to pay for detailed plagiarism checkers that can discern AI-written text. Even if there was, software of that ilk isn’t always reliable.
“It’s clear that business as usual won’t be sustainable and I worry that this path will lead to an increased number of barriers for new and international authors,” Clarke said. “Short fiction needs these people.”
The Clarkesworld editor explained that he is currently talking to other short fiction editors to try and find a solution to this problem. For the time being, the magazine will have to rely on the works of trusted, pre-published writers instead of allowing in new creators, the opposite of what short fiction communities are all about.
As of now, there’s not much that can be done that is able to battle AI tools. However, it will not be the death of writing communities. At least not yet.