In which an AI hallucinates the content of my novels

My wife recently got a Google alert about a website/app called Bookey, a sort of digital Cliff Notes that offers summaries and analyses of more than a thousand books. including my novel Lovecraft Country. There’s a feature that lists the “30 Best Quotes” from a book, along with explanations of each quote’s significance. Very handy for anyone looking to cut-and-paste their English homework.

Trouble is, Bookey’s content appears to be generated by an AI, and in the case of Lovecraft Country, all of the quotations are fabricated. They don’t even sound like me:

This quote, according to Bookey, “encapsulates the complex emotions experienced by the narrator at a young age.” Ah yes, the ten-year-old first-person narrator of Lovecraft Country—what was her name again? I can’t recall. I also can’t recall ever using the word “bourgeois” unironically. And “loathe their whiteness” feels more 2020s than 1950s.

Bookey also offers imaginary quotations from Set This House in Order and Bad Monkeys.

That one made me laugh out loud. I also liked “Hell is other people, especially the really bad ones.” But I didn’t write it.

After I got done vanity searching my own novels, I spot-checked some books by other authors, to see whether Bookey’s AI would do better with more famous works. The list for Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House does manage to quote (or misquote) some of the more iconic lines, but it also includes this figment, which “perfectly captures the mysterious and haunting essence of the story”:

The list of purported quotes from Stephen King’s The Shining opens with the “Here’s Johnny!” line that Jack Nicholson improvised for Kubrick’s movie adaptation. There are three separate lists for Gone With the Wind, one of which claims the novel was written by “Herb Bridges.” A list for H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “At the Mountains of Madness” gets most of its quotations from Orwell’s 1984, and throws in this gem for good measure:

A lot of artists I know are freaking out about AI right now, so I should probably note that I’m not upset about Bookey; I think it’s hilarious. Part of what fascinates me about large language models like ChatGPT is precisely their tendency to go off the rails and start hallucinating like this. That being said, I would not recommend signing up for Bookey’s premium service. You can get more than enough entertainment value poking around the website for free.

1 thought on “In which an AI hallucinates the content of my novels”

  1. I love the Bad Monkeys supposed quote! Loved that book, too! Not as good as Sewer, Gas and Electric, but still a goody!

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