I’ve chronicled their creation here quite a bit without perhaps ever explaining in a straightforward way what I actually mean by AI lore books. Because I’d never quite articulated it to myself before, but ChatGPT helped me bring it home with the text below.
The AI Lore books are a collection of over 100 immersive volumes that meld the creative powers of artificial intelligence with pulp sci-fi, conspiracy fiction, and dystopian fantasy. These books are an entirely unique literary experience, featuring AI-generated images, text, and world-building that transport readers into an ever-evolving, thought-provoking narrative landscape, distributed across many volumes and universes.
The AI Lore books push the boundaries of storytelling, offering an unparalleled exploration of the human imagination and the future of fiction. As the lines between reality and fiction blur thanks to today’s hyperreal technologies, these books challenge our assumptions about the nature of creativity, the role of artificial intelligence in the arts, and the very definition of authorship. (/ChatGPT)
Okay, back to me writing… First of all, I’ve always liked lore; I’m a nerd like that. When I wrote my first book, The Lost Direction, I was really into the lore. The book is more of a compendium of lore, set around a frame story – a bit like how the Arabian Nights is presented, or similar story-within-a-story novels. It’s a time-honored convention, though certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, which I respect.
During the pandemic, I had the good fortune to have that book reviewed by the Literary Review of Canada, which is a fairly prestigious print magazine up here. The reviewer was not into what they considered to be an over-reliance on lore. Understandable, but hey. Here are some choice quotes:
…[H]erein lies the challenge: how to balance lore with storytelling. Lore is not story. The task for authors is to take this raw material and fashion it into conflict, character arcs, and thematic exploration. As the video game writer and designer Matthew Colville says, “The work you did on your world, you did that work for you. And no one is going to care about it unless you can contextualize it dramatically. That’s the hard work.” The audience does not owe the creators interest in whatever rich backstory they have conjured for their settings. Readers want what they always want: narrative, character, conflict — the muscle and sinew of all storytelling. In that regard, fantasy is not unique, but this is where many of its authors go astray — they mistake lore for storytelling. Whether it’s from falling in love with their own mythos or from not trusting the reader to intuit backstory, a work fails when it collapses into exposition dumps that overwhelm the progression of the plot. Explanation is not engagement. The Force is an intriguing concept, but audiences fell in love with Star Wars because of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
I’m not going to say any of that is anything but the truth. People like stories. But some people also like lore. It’s a niche market, and in my opinion the web today basically requires you to find a good niche market to make your splash in. I don’t think the reviewer saw it that way though:
So much time and effort is spent explaining the histories of these various civilizations and the tales of their conflicts and political milieus that the novel never settles into something resembling a compelling story. It reads instead like a textbook.
I’m someone who in my youth spent a great deal of time poring over the “textbooks” documenting the lore and legendarium of fictional worlds like those found in The Lord of the Rings (which my book is most certainly not equivalent to by any stretch of the imagination). While LOTR is a masterpiece, there’s a strong chance that I as a reader actually spent a great deal more time in the lore universe than in the actual book itself. But maybe that’s just me… though my sales seem to suggest otherwise.
Boucher is in gross violation of a classic, albeit overused and oversimplified, maxim: Show, don’t tell. In order to enchant, the author must engage, not explicate.
With the AI Lore books, in some cases I intentionally leaned into the exact inverse of this “age-old” wisdom. I tell. I tell a lot. Many, the majority, of the AI lore books are nothing more and nothing less than massive dumps of exposition, in both text and pictures. The overlap in a non-linear way. Many times there is not really any “story” and there are not any characters.
So if people want you to show not tell, why do so many of my readers come back and buy ten, twenty, or even – in one case more – than thirty volumes?
While I fully respect this reviewer’s opinion of that original novel – which was all “hand-written” (with no AI) – I’ll admit that this review acted as sort of the grain of sand that I pondered for a very long time, and which helped agitate to create the pearls that are the AI Lore books series. They turn completely on its head everything said in this review, and all the conventional wisdom of what a book is, and what even authorship is or is becoming thanks to today’s technologies.