The year that was 2022

Watch out! Obligatory summary post incoming.

I haven’t used this site much this year for “reasons”. The most important one was that the wordpress install broke and I couldn’t upload images, but that seems to have fixed itself, so the images that I put on AWS will disappear as soon as Amazon has finally cancelled my account as they’ve been threatening to do (that’s OK, I have no more need for it).

So much has happened since last year, I don’t even know where to begin.

Of course last year we were in self-imposed lockdown. This was where a government that no longer believed in lockdowns finds out that when a lot of people get sick, you end up with a lockdown anyway because either people are sick or they don’t want to get sick, at any rate, they’re not out there in the shops etc.

This was pre-Ukraine war, when many were still blissfully unaware of (or had forgotten since high school geography) just exactly where Ukraine was, and even more fuzzy about the geography within. Except Odessa. I vividly remember learning geographic locations by rote at school and somehow I remembered Odessa.

It was also pre-floods, and while the floods didn’t affect us much personally (our house is at 62m above sea level), the rain was something on another level altogether.

It was pre-Ambassador 12. I published this kind of capstone volume in May. People seemed to enjoy it. Some called it the best volume yet. I’m personally very partial to Ambassador 2, 5 and 11, but eh, tastes differ.

I decided to have a little break from the series for several reasons. The most important one is that I promised to write the Starfire Trilogy, and hadn’t gotten to it in four years, and I realised it would never happen unless I made the time for it. I can write a minor series concurrent with a major series, but not two major series together. So I started on Mist & Dawn (I’m posting it on Patreon right now).

I also published Dragon Soup, a silly cosy fantasy mystery. Whale Mail, the follow-up volume, is also a good way towards completion.

This brings me to another change: last year I hadn’t done anything on Kickstarter yet. I’ve now done two projects, have a third set up. The first involved a special edition for Ambassador 1, the second Dragon Soup and Seven Days. The third is an art project.

Which brings me to another thing that has changed: December 2021 was before Midjourney. It is hard to describe how much sheer fun I’ve had with the AI art engine. This is history-making technology and we’ll see far-reaching changes as a result of AI generated images and text.

After I posted about the joy of creating nice and fun and plenty of ridiculous things, I received one particularly vitriolic response that “all AI is stealing”.

OKaaayyy… so when I do an art course, I am encouraged to grab images off the internet and keep them on the screen while working. Those are references, yeah, but the artist is still likely to copy some of the style. It’s OK when a person does it, but not a machine?

Somewhere there is a line somewhere between “this is a reference” and ‘this is flat out copying” but that line is neither as clear nor as fixed as some people would like.

Humans like to climb on the shoulders of others to produce better work. We need the examples of our predecessors to improve. But when someone attempts to climb on our shoulders, we like to swat them off. It’s a very human response. You only have to poke your nose into writing groups to see make people who worry about “editors stealing my idea” and “that series was copied from my book”.

In honesty, there are no original ideas. There are some distinct styles or themes, but you can’t copyright these. I even believe that any attempt at ringfencing an idea makes you look and act like a dick. Because there really are no original ideas.

Your brand is a combination of your work, your audience and your interaction with them.

Lawyers will no doubt have much discussion about what AI can and can’t do. I’m not a lawyer and I’ll be happy to abide by whatever measures people deem fair.

Midjourney is neither cheap nor easy. Getting the really beautiful results takes time and effort.

Also, the best way to use a stock photo, a DAZ 3d model or a piece of AI art is so that you can’t tell you’ve used it.

There is no need for vitriol on this subject.

I’ve used Midjourney for inspiration. I’m posting images on Patreon. Some I post unaltered purely for fun, others I fix up. It doesn’t take away from my regular art. It adds.

I’ll be doing a Kickstarter based on AI images, which are curated and sometimes quite heavily edited by me. If AI art is stealing, then using predetermined plot structures and studying writing styles in detail is stealing, too.

I don’t like this line of thinking. If we all rush over to write books about magic schools, is that stealing? Or is it somehow not stealing when creating a result takes a lot of time?

I don’t think the “AI is stealing” people understand how much time and effort it takes to create something good. So much that my first interactions with previous AI engines landed on the “life’s too short” side of things.

No AI is (or probably won’t ever be) equal to a live human with a thinking mind.

Aaanyway, with that said, I wish you happy festivities. More about upcoming projects later.

(post image: a random space scene generated by Midjourney)

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