I’m not sure how I landed in that part of the latent space anymore – because when you get into a flow state with Midjourney, it can be like falling into a dream, or some pocket universe where different rules work in unexpected ways – but somehow or other I landed on some images of ornately decorated quasi-religious seeming ‘Octopus Lords’ for lack of a better term. It was a side quest from some other exploration to be sure, but I bookmarked it and came back to it.
Once I connected the visual elements to a bit of lore – this idea that for some reason IRL some people claim cephalopods have potentially extraterrestrial features – the rest just flowed like water. Shades of Lovecraft in some of these I suppose, but I didn’t originally set out for that. It’s a convergence.
Here’s a copy of the art preview I uploaded to Gumroad for the book (click here for a bigger view). I really think of these foremost as art books:
Speaking of convergences, I’ve noticed in my image-making in Midjourney (and I’ve landed on “image-making” as my preferred term I think over the more academic sounding synthography) that some forms tend to converge on similar other forms. In this case, certain images of octopus tentacles combined with humans just ended up looking like snakes. In others, if you see representations of an octopus from a certain angle, you end up with a form that pretty strongly resembles an elephant’s face, trunk, and tusks. I saw it with some celebrity sets I was working with too, where certain views of certain figures generated by MJ seemed to bear resemblance to other well-known figures. I think this is just an artifact of there not being “that many things” ultimately in the universe, and shapes being reused consistently because they get the job done.
Anyway, I had fun with this one, because I figured out a way to kind of tell a somewhat sort of coherent story in a very lorecore way with these in ChatGPT v4. Kind of alternating between invented encyclopedia entries of pure exposition, and very short flash fiction segments of generally around 200 words set in that universe. So the workflow being something like:
- Input some basic details about your ‘pocket universe’ of your narrative
- Ask for a fictional encyclopedia on same
- Then ask for 20 or so story ideas for flash fiction in that world
- Give it a target word count, any directions, and tell it which items you want to flesh out into a flash fiction piece
- I tend to tell it to not try to close or explain the story, because it’s sort of stuck on a ‘clean wrap-up’ which I really don’t want in this kind of open-ended story-telling, but ymmv.
- Then alternate in new bits of encyclopedia entries that move the overall narrative in a given direction with new details
- Then more flash fiction that progresses onwards in that world but doesn’t necessarily linearly complete anything that came before. It’s a way of mixing heavy lore via encyclopedia stuff, but giving a bit more space to digest it all by having dramatic incidents and scenarios… things that are evocative, vibey, and less spelled-out (though ChatGPT tends to do a good job of incorporating lots of contextual world-building into its flash fictions too.
After that, I had plenty of material to go back to MJ and flesh out specific aspects of the world I’d built, and once I found some winning formulas, just re-roll them a bunch of time to generate a bunch of image stock, with variations and “side quest” visual tangents.
I think this is one of the faster books I’ve produced at higher quality than some of the other fast ones I did with my own EncycGen app I wrote using ChatGPT. Probably a total of three hours for text generation (of high coherence, and very readable, I think), images made in Midjourney, image set reduction in Lightroom, editing & arrangement in Vellum, and uploading finished ebooks and collateral assets to Gumroad… maybe a total of 3 hours?
I know Midjourney doesn’t have an API yet (I don’t care about Stable Diffusion or Dall-E anymore – they’re dead to me), and GPT-4 isn’t public API yet either, but once I can get both of those hooked up to Github Copilot X (or brute forcing it through ChatGPT w/ v4), into my own custom book maker suited to my workflow – and which could export directly into Vellum for quick finishing touches all arranged properly… I don’t see any reason you couldn’t have a high quality lore-heavy book with interesting dramatic interludes & awesome images in about an hour, or possibly significantly less.
And if the quality matches the needs and desires of both author/publisher/producer and audience, it seems like a win to me all around?