The editor of a sci-fi magazine says he’s getting flooded with plagiarized story stories as AI tools take off: ‘It quickly got out of hand’
- An online publisher says it’s closing submissions because it’s received a flood of AI-written stories.
- Clarkesworld typically pays new writers up to $2,640 if it accepts their short story submissions.
- Its founding editor said the magazine received 500 stories flagged for plagiarism in February alone.
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Fantasy and science fiction magazine Clarkesworld has stopped taking submissions after it was swarmed by AI-written short stories.
The online publisher typically accepts short story submissions from new writers and pays them if it publishes their stories. It can pay up to $2,640 per story, at a going rate of 12 cents a word, per its website.
Among its published authors are Jeff VanderMeer, Peter Watts, and Sarah Monette.
But Clarkesworld’s founding editor, Neil Clarke, said the magazine received more than 500 submissions flagged for plagiarism in the first 20 days of February.
Typically, the magazine would get fewer than 30 such flagged submissions per month, Clarke wrote in a February 15 blog post titled “A Concerning Trend.”
He attributed the surge to the rising popularity of text-based artificial intelligence tools.
“Towards the end of 2022, there was another spike in plagiarism and then ‘AI’ chatbots started gaining some attention, putting a new tool in their arsenal and encouraging more to give this ‘side hustle’ a try,” he wrote.
“It quickly got out of hand,” Clarke wrote. On Monday, he updated his post to say that he had temporarily closed submissions.
He wrote that he noticed “obvious patterns” in flagged submissions that showed they were likely generated by AI.
However, he declined to share his findings, saying he had “no intention of helping those people become less likely to be caught.”
When contacted by Insider, Clarke wrote in an email that his team has “no doubt” the flagged stories were written by AI. But he declined to share why they think so.
He said the deluge of submissions stems from “side hustle” TikToks, YouTube videos, and blogs that directed viewers to paying publishers like Clarkesworld.
He said he hoped to reopen submissions soon with new measures in place, but might have to take several attempts to filter out AI submissions.
Clarke wrote in his blog that it’s clear the magazine’s usual business model “won’t be sustainable,” and the rise of AI tools will likely “lead to an increased number of barriers for new and international authors.”
“It’s not just going to go away on its own and I don’t have a solution. I’m tinkering with some, but this isn’t a game of whack-a-mole that anyone can ‘win,'” Clarke wrote.
The editor said he’d spoken to other editors in the publishing market who also reported seeing a trend of AI-generated stories being submitted.
“No, it’s not the death of short fiction (please just stop that nonsense), but it is going to complicate things,” Clarke added.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s Kindle store has seen a surge in e-books crediting OpenAI’s artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT as an author or co-author, Reuters reported.
At least 200 such e-books were on the Amazon market as of mid-February, including poetry collections and even guides on how to use ChatGPT itself, per the outlet.
Books about the AI tool itself are proliferating as well. As of Wednesday, over 1,000 e-books that include the term “ChatGPT” in their titles had been published on Amazon’s store in the last 30 days.
One AI-assisted author, fintech product designer Ammaar Reshi, received widespread backlash after saying he published an illustrated children’s book in December using ChatGPT and Midjourney, an AI art generator.
Reshi said he had published the book to give to friends, and was shocked by the angry online response.