I asked ChatGPT for a one-paragraph summary of the relevant 518 words from my previous blog post (also reproduced at the end of this post) and got these 150 words. It’s rather sobering to see this rendered in about a second:
As a writer, I am driven by the pursuit of stories that resonate deeply on an emotional and thematic level, evoking a sense of déjà vu or the surreal sensation of living within a novel. Exploring the psychological novel genre, I blend elements of humor and introspection, avoiding the grim and embracing the transformative power of storytelling. Guided by the belief that every experience fuels my art, I observe, participate in, and process the world around me. From science fiction to literary works, my writing delves into the psychic landscape of contemporary existence, unraveling fresh inner territories. Influenced by science fiction films, books, and iconic creators such as Kafka, Heinlein, and Kubrick, my narratives spark curiosity with captivating “What if?” scenarios and draw readers in with laughter. Through my writing and accompanying character illustrations, I share fragments of myself, exploring the depths of human nature through a diverse ensemble cast.
Rather long-winded for the elevator. So I asked for a reduction to one sentence, and got 56 words:
I am an introspective writer who explores the psychological novel genre, crafting stories that evoke deep emotional resonance and a sense of living within a surreal narrative, while blending humor, curiosity, and transformative power to unravel the psychic landscape of contemporary existence and delve into the depths of human nature through diverse characters and accompanying illustrations.
A Sentence Suitable for the Elevator
Still long. I asked ChatGPT to cut the above in half, and got 36 words. Note its definition of “half” doesn’t produce 28 words.
As an introspective writer, I explore the psychological novel genre, crafting stories that evoke deep emotions and a surreal narrative, blending humor, curiosity, and transformative power to delve into human nature through diverse characters and illustrations.
What does all this mean?
Still computing. Can I really talk about myself like that? What is “transformative power”? In this case I gave ChatGPT actual text to chew on. I didn’t ask it to simply make up a marketing pitch from various keywords I might have supplied.
But consider: aren’t the above productions akin to concepts a reader might recall after reading my original 518 words below? What are people actually digesting from what we write? What if they even get some of it wrong?
The Original Human Attempt
Following is the relevant content of the post, a series of my marketing statements from various web interviews, and, so as not to confuse dear ChatGPT, omitting the last couple sentences referencing characters in my novel CommWealth.
What inspires me, as a writer, are plots that make deep emotional and thematic sense, like a dream or déjà vu; or the eerie feeling I sometimes get that I’m in fact living in a novel right now. I’ve always been drawn to the concept of the psychological novel. I’m not sure how well I’ve lived up to that genre, but I keep pushing on it. Somehow “humor” and “psychological novel” flow together for me; I don’t think I’ll be writing grim investigations like Crime and Punishment. Then again, never say never.
I have an odd mantra, dating back to my Rice University days as a shy introvert shrinking from interaction with an energy-sapping exterior world: somehow, in the middle of intense adolescent Sturm und Drang, this statement popped into my head: “There’s a super colossal mess jungle going on. It’s my business to get involved with it, any way I can.” I saw that I needed to observe, participate in, and process everything around me for my writing and visual art. My wife Nancy refined this later when she told me: “Everything you do in this life is for your art.” Whenever I feel oppressed by exterior obstacles, I just have to remember that they’re also fuel.
The world is an art supply.
My science fiction is a mashup of literary and space opera genres. My literary novels in turn are infused with science fiction and absurdist elements. My best writing is a solid investigation of “what’s been psychically going on recently,” and this includes even the fun, fast-paced SF plots. When it’s coming out well it opens up fresh inner territories to explore.
Science fiction films and books, absorbed since childhood, prompted my early writing, but they’ve also influenced the bizarre aspects that are part of almost all my work, including CommWealth, which after all has no spaceships or teleportation systems, just an outrageously crazed social order with hysterical, over-the-top characters. The Twilight Zone TV show, which produced much childhood terror, was a major factor as well. Later inspiration came from Franz Kafka, Robert Heinlein, and Stanley Kubrick, and decades of letters between me and my best friend Sabin, whom I’ve known since I was five, helped hone my writing style.
My best work begins with a good “What if?” For instance, “What if all private property were abolished? How would people live?” A detailed dream can also lend itself to that “What if?” question. Or looking at a flawed older manuscript, finally grasping its “What if?” and seeing exactly how to fix it.
I love it when I see someone reading my work and laughing; I then demand to know exactly where they are in the book. And I very much enjoy drawing the characters, and the drawings often give me feedback on their development.
I try to parcel pieces of myself to all the characters, both male and female. The ensemble cast format of CommWealth, in which half a dozen main characters take equal turns on stage, allowed me to represent my best and worst qualities across a wide range of characters and scenes.
copyright 2023 by Michael D. Smith (though I admit ChatGPT contributions to this post would be a gray area)