SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid

Adam Hammond and Julian Brooke have developed software that analyzes literary databases. Their program can identify dozens of structural and stylistic details in huge chunks of text, and if you give them a collection of great stories—stories that maybe you wished you had written—they are able to identify all the details that those great stories have in common.

Writer Stephen Marche had some questions;

Where’s the technology that can make me better at my job? Where’s the computational system that will optimize my prose? Hammond and Brooke agreed to collaborate with me on a simple experiment: Can an algorithm help me write a better story? I began by giving them a collection of my 50 favorite sci-fi stories—a mix of golden-age classics and some more recent stuff.

Hammond and Brooke created a web-based interface through which their algorithm, called SciFiQ, could tell me, on the textual equivalent of the atomic level, how closely every single detail of my writing matched the details in my 50 favorite works. (I’m talking “nouns per 100 words” level.) When I typed in a word or phrase and it was more than a little different than what SciFiQ had in mind, the interface would light up red or purple. When I fixed the offending word or phrase, the interface would turn green.

Readers may recall the novel-writing machine from George Orwell's 1984, which eliminated the middle man and just did the whole job.

Julia was twenty-six years old... and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly in running and servicing a powerful but tricky electric motor... She could describe the whole process of composing a novel, from the general directive issued by the Planning Committee down to the final touching-up by the Rewrite Squad. But she was not interested in the final product. She "didn't much care for reading," she said. Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.

You can read the results of using SciFiQ at Wired. Learn about other such programs, as well as additional science-fictional references, in Scheherazade, An Open Story Generator.

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