I have lost count of the times that the authors I am ghost-writing – or authors I am deep-editing – have told me ‘this is great, this is like free therapy’ or Whatsapped me half an hour after I have left their place telling me how much ‘lighter’ or ‘unburdened’ they feel, how good it is to have ‘someone to share all these difficult things with’. I have had spouses of my authors greet me at the door, cheerfully welcoming me in as ‘respite care’ and an hour after I have left, received Whatsapp messages from them, these ones telling me how ‘amazing’ it is that I have been able to ‘get x to talk about things he hasn’t with anyone else before.’
As so often, Orwell got there first.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith’s girlfriend Julia has “some mechanical job on one of the novel-writing machines”. The Party churns out a whole slew of literature, music, drama and entertainment designed to keep the masses happy, including “sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator.” (Full text is available at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt.)
The idea of machines creating art is not new, but it took Orwell to give it the wonderfully sneering label, ‘prolefeed’. The topic has been back in the news recently. AI technology is being used to put dead actors in modern movies, or finish symphonies by dead composers. There are AI services like Midjourney, which can create any art you like, and – of particular interest to me, as a writer – ChatGPT. Read more “Coming over here, taking our jobs …”
EXT. DESERT. DAY.
That didn’t take long. Scene directions never do. And yet to realise it, the producers will have to fork out thousands of dollars, recruit the film crew, the actors, the people who look after the crew and the actors, and the people who organise getting large groups of people into any location indicated in the script, however remote. And then there’ll be the stunt men and women, the catering corps, the tent people, the props department, the wardrobe department, the people who teach the actors hopefully not to fire live rounds at each other. And so it goes on. Most people have left the cinema by the time the last make-up artist has been credited near the bottom of the scroll of honour.
Has any book ever before so dominated the news agenda on both sides of the Atlantic (and beyond) for what feels like months and months? In the lead up to publication of Spare on 6th January, the Mail, Express and others frothed daily over the possible story lines, prejudged slights, and predicted apocalyptic damage to the reputation of the royal family and even the country.
If you’ve had a book hanging around in your head for a while now, the New Year is a brilliant time to put it into action. Why so? Here are 10 excellent reasons.