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Will A.I. ever replace authors?

There's increasing concern at the rapid rise in the abilities of artificial intelligence - AI - not least in the field of creative endeavour. The fact that AI can be instructed to make art, write essays, create images - and, critically, write stories - sends shivers up the spines of many people, and particularly authors, whether mainstream or self-published.

I decided to put it to the test. I'm currently writing my second spy thriller, a follow-on from my debut novel Unity. Called The Liscannor Intercept, it's set in 1970 at the start of 'The Troubles' in Ireland, and involves some of the characters from Unity.

Two of these, intelligence operatives Trainor and D'Amelio, are dispatched to the Republic of Ireland to intercept an IRA cell arriving to rescue a secret shipment of weapons from a ship in trouble off the coast.

I am presently writing the chapter where the agents check in to the hotel of a small village on the west coast, but I thought it might be interesting to see how ChatGPT would write it. (No, I'm not cheating! This is purely out of interest!)

I gave it some concise instructions (see below), and within one minute - literally one minute - it spat out a chapter of approximately 1200 words. The AI chapter is presented here for your consideration and discussion. Does it worry you? Are you comfortable and believe AI won't be taking our authoring jobs anytime soon? Or should we all start looking for other work immediately? Over to you...

Here's the instructions I gave ChatGPT:

Write a chapter of about 1200 words in the style of a spy novel, involving two secret agents, an Irish woman called Trainor and a man called D'Amelio. They are staying in a small hotel in County Clare when they spot four IRA suspects.

And here's the chapter:

Chapter Six: Shadows of Suspicion

The wind howled through the narrow streets of Ballymore, a quaint village nestled along the rugged coastline of County Clare. The Irish mist clung to the cobblestone streets, shrouding everything in a veil of secrecy. In the heart of this village stood a modest inn, its windows aglow with a warm, golden light that contrasted sharply with the darkness outside.

Within the inn's dimly lit lounge, two figures sat hunched over a table near the fireplace. The crackling flames cast flickering shadows across their faces as they leaned in, engrossed in conversation. The woman, Siobhan Trainor, exuded an air of confidence that belied her youthful appearance. Her emerald eyes glinted with a steely resolve as she spoke in hushed tones.

"The intel came in just this morning," Siobhan murmured, her Irish lilt adding a touch of music to her words. "Four suspects with ties to the IRA have been spotted in the vicinity. It's as if they've sprouted from the very soil itself."

Across from her sat D'Amelio, a man of Italian descent whose rugged features and piercing gaze marked him as a seasoned operative. His fingers drummed restlessly on the table, betraying his impatience. "So, what's our move, Siobhan? We can't just waltz in there guns blazing."

Siobhan's lips curved into a wry smile. "No, not guns blazing. But we can't sit idle either. Our informants are discreet. They've secured us a room in this inn. From here, we can observe without arousing suspicion."

D'Amelio leaned back, his gaze locked onto Siobhan's. "And what's the cover?"

Siobhan's emerald eyes glinted mischievously. "Honeymooners."

D'Amelio's brows shot up in surprise, and a faint flush colored his cheeks. "Honeymooners? Are you mad?"

Siobhan chuckled softly. "Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friend. We need a cover that explains why we're here, keeps us close, and doesn't invite too many questions. And what better way to blend in than as a newlywed couple?"

D'Amelio ran a hand through his dark hair, a mix of exasperation and amusement playing across his features. "Alright, fine. But if anyone asks, you're the one who insisted on this cover."

As night deepened, the two operatives took residence in a cozy room overlooking the narrow streets of Ballymore. Siobhan gazed out the window, the moonlight casting a silvery glow on her face. "We'll need to establish a routine, something that doesn't arouse suspicion but allows us to keep an eye on the suspects."

D'Amelio nodded, his expression thoughtful. "We'll need to visit the local spots, maybe take a stroll by the cliffs. Anything to appear as typical honeymooners."

Over the next few days, Siobhan and D'Amelio slipped into their roles with surprising ease. They visited the local pubs, chatted with villagers, and explored the scenic coastal trails, all while maintaining a watchful eye for any signs of the four IRA suspects. But the suspects remained elusive, like ghosts lingering just beyond their reach.

One evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon, Siobhan and D'Amelio found themselves perched on a grassy hill overlooking the village. The wind carried the scent of the sea, and the sound of distant waves added a soothing rhythm to the air. Siobhan sighed, her gaze fixed on the village below.

"Do you think they're onto us?" she asked, her voice a mere whisper carried away by the wind.

D'Amelio's eyes narrowed as he scanned the village. "Hard to say. But if they are, they're keeping their distance for now."

As the days turned into a week, tension coiled between the two operatives. Every stranger seemed like a potential threat, every whisper a coded message. But despite the pressure, their charade remained intact, and they continued to play the roles of honeymooners with an uncanny authenticity.

One rainy afternoon, as Siobhan and D'Amelio walked along the cliffs, their hands intertwined, a shadowy figure caught Siobhan's attention. She discreetly nudged D'Amelio and inclined her head toward a small, dilapidated cottage nestled into the cliffs. Through a half-closed curtain, a hushed conversation could be glimpsed.

D'Amelio's eyes narrowed as he squinted, trying to make out the figures within. "Could it be them?"

Siobhan's heart pounded in her chest as she nodded. "It's them, I'm sure of it. We can't approach directly. We need to fall back, observe, and report."

As they retreated to a safe distance, Siobhan and D'Amelio huddled in a secluded spot, binoculars trained on the cottage. They watched as the figures moved about, their gestures animated as they spoke. It was a clandestine meeting, and the tension in the air was palpable.

"We need to get this information back to headquarters," D'Amelio murmured, his jaw clenched in determination.

Siobhan nodded, her gaze never leaving the cottage. "Agreed. But we can't risk being intercepted. Let's wait until they disperse, then make our move."

Hours crawled by like an eternity as they kept their vigil. Finally, as darkness settled in, the figures emerged from the cottage one by one, disappearing into the night like shadows. Siobhan and D'Amelio exchanged a quick, determined glance before slipping away.

Back in their inn room, Siobhan dialed a secure line, her fingers trembling slightly with adrenaline. As the call connected, she recounted the details of the meeting to her superiors, her voice steady despite the rush of emotions.

"We have them," Siobhan declared, her gaze locking with D'Amelio's. "The pieces are falling into place."

D'Amelio's lips curved into a rare smile, his eyes alight with a fierce resolve. "We'll bring them down, Siobhan. Just like we always do."

In the heart of the stormy night, the two operatives stood united, their destinies entwined in a web of danger and intrigue. As the winds howled and the waves crashed against the rocky cliffs, they knew that the shadows of suspicion were just the beginning of a perilous journey that would test their skills, their loyalty, and the depths of their courage.

Paperback front cover with Pinner endorsement Aug 2023 copy.jpg
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