The real origin of the AI Lore books goes back at least to Conspiratopia (in that from one point of view, the books could be viewed as recruiting tools put out by the AIs in that book to swindle the unsuspecting), but actually probably all the way back to “Object O”: The Lost Direction. I have a lot of story to tell here, and it’s not all at all linear, so bear with me.

Flash back if you will to at least April 2022, though this specific urge started significantly earlier, when I was looking through large volumes of old pulp magazines on archive sites.

I wanted to publish something with those kinds of old feels – something that felt like a sort of underground newspaper from an alternate reality.

I won’t go into all the gory details of producing four volumes of this newspaper, with hand-carved and hand-printed linoleum cuts, but suffice it to say it was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.

These newspapers, of which probably no more than 16 or so copies of any hand-printed edition were ever produced, came out of a period of deep questioning I was doing about the nature and worth of technology, and its apparent stranglehold over our lives, its ubiquity, and the impossibility of escaping it.

Like the AI Lore books which would ultimately follow it, The Algorithm resistance newspaper was all about the ‘totalizing effect of technology.’

Here’s a scan of a printed spread (no block prints on this page) that I’m particularly proud of the text content for (shades of EC in here); it describes how to resist against robot AI-controlled dogs. Hopefully you can click on this to enlarge it, idk:

I can say it was a damn lot of work to write 2,000 words per issue, lay it all out in InDesign, and then carve out usually six or seven new linoleum blocks per issue, print it all out onto newsprint, do the block printing, fold and collate everything, do the invisible ink, do any inserts, print out and attach all the labels, and mail them off. I did it because it was fun & I loved it and I sent it to my friends.

Around I think maybe issue 3 or 4, I started trying to lighten the load by playing around with GPT-J and Neo X, via TextSynth website, and found I could get some if not “good” then completely weird and serviceable text to work from, or incorporate warts and all. I also started using outputs from I think early Stable Diffusion in that, maybe some Dall-E’s to cut down on the number of hand-carved blocks I would have to do for each edition.

Eventually, I realized I could use these techniques and cut out all the hand-work and shipping entirely by simply distributing these as ebooks, which could make these kinds of rapid production methods pay off more. It meant putting aside the linoleum block printing adventure I had embarked on for The Algorithm – something I miss doing, and will go back to at some point.

I’ve not really seen a reflowable ebook formatted like a newspaper, so I just used a more straight-ahead chapter style for the ebooks. Thinking it through, this was also the origin of my 2k words baseline for new volumes, supplemented by lots of images – something AI generators allowed me to really increase the volume of in these books, such that they became “art books” above and beyond anything else. Where the text content is really just another layer to sort of interweave everything together, including linking out to other volumes containing other storylines.

Among a lot of things I loved about The Algorithm is that it was ephemeral. Only a few copies exist. Only a few people have them. Printing more is doable, but also a tremendous pain in the ass, so I probably won’t any time soon.

I laugh when I hear the casual commenters on Twitter making pronouncements about me not being a “real author” when I think about all the work I’ve done, all the care and labor and just sheer fun of creation I’ve always reveled in. They’ve seen only a small fraction, and mistaken their own impressions as complete & accurate representations of reality, when it is anything but…

P.S., There are a handful of later AI Lore books with some recycled elements from old original hand-printed editions of The Algorithm. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Tales from the Mechanical Forest. When I think of the others, I’ll drop them into comments below.