Boast in the Shell: Why AI Art is Overhyped – Transcript

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Raquel: Welcome to Rite Gud, the podcast that helps you write good. I’m Raquel Benedict, the most dangerous woman in speculative fiction. In this episode, we are talking about artificial intelligence, not the sympathetic kind, played by Haley Joel Osment. Not the mean but hot kind like SHODAN, but the kind that generates content.

There’s been a lot of hype lately about the power of AI to create writing, visual art, and even [00:01:00] music. Thank you, Harley, for your contributions. In this episode, Wendy Xu joins us once again to talk about the rise of the machines. Now, Wendy, you’re anti AI content, anti AI fiction, anti AI art, and yet you yourself wrote a comic book about a girl falling in love with a hot android.

How do you explain this hypocrisy?

Wendy Xu: Thank you Raquel. That’s, this is amazing.

Thank you for having

Raquel: the hard

Wendy Xu: Oh my gosh, yes. So first of all, thank you for having me. A huge fan of the show. I, it it’s really interesting. I feel like I began this book, when I started writing it in 2018. When I started pitching it, I was maybe a little bit of a techno optimist, cuz I had seen all, you know, the smartphone.

I, I grew up during the mid two thousands with early social media. And I was not really thinking about the, uh, [00:02:00] further conversation this book would be placed in, certainly not the context it will be coming out into like this greater conversation about AI. But what I was really interested in was exploring the idea of the robot as the Other, and the themes of fighting against who, who your creator thought you would become. Which is interesting, this is one of the current themes that we are talking about if we kind of go into the history of Silicon Valley a little bit, and these people who, starting with Leland Stanford, the, the founder whose son Leland Stanford Jr. the university was named after. And Leland Stanford himself, was actually really into breeding the kind of most efficient race horses.

I got this tidbit from a recent book I read called Palo Alto, A History of California Capitalism and the World by Malcolm Harris. So Stanford himself and his [00:03:00] contemporaries, who are all, well, first of all, let’s go back to Stanford. He was really interested in breeding race horses and be breeding the most efficient, quote unquote

horses and how, and he was interested in not just breeding them to be the best, but to shorten the time that someone would have to invest in training the horse to make it a good racer or like, like this rich, the rich people, hobby people like getting really into like horses.

Raquel: right.

Wendy Xu: But Stanford and his contemporaries, including the first president of the university were all, this is kind of Stanford’s obsession with horses is not, obviously not human eugenics, but it’s kind of horse eugenics. And then later on, the president of Stanford was an actual eugenicist. So this idea that we can, that we can engineer humanity to be perfect and efficient and all of these things that is kind of the backbone of Silicon Valley and, that is still very, very pervasive in their culture today.[00:04:00]

Like Elon Musk. Yeah. Like Elon Musk believes it’s like the duty of people of quote unquote, a certain stock to have children to, I don’t know, make the world a better place. Um,

Raquel: Have children and then neglect them horribly,

Wendy Xu: Right. And it’s, but that’s kind of how they see everybody, right? That’s how they see the workers as like, “oh, I am responsible for keeping you employed, but I’m not actually going to do anything to take care of you as, as an employer, as a human being.” Um, so I Oh, you’re


Raquel: dramatic today.

Wendy Xu: he is very,

Raquel: in rare form. He’s a big whiny boy cuz I didn’t let him eat my chicken bone at dinner.

Wendy Xu: Oh, he’s


Raquel: protest. He’s still upset.

Wendy Xu: oppressed. Does he have an off button?

Raquel: He does not. I’m sorry.

Wendy Xu: No, no. It’s okay. But, um, so going back to this [00:05:00] idea of the robot, I feel like in early science fiction, Asimov and his contemporaries, they were not maybe consciously tapping into the idea of eugenics, perhaps, but they were exploring these themes.

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be made versus born? Especially in, uh, Do Android’s dream of Electric Sheep and Blade Runner, which I, I’ve only read do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep Once. But I’ve seen Blade Runner like a bunch of times. I feel like, especially in Blade Runner, we’re talking about how these beings were designed to live for seven years and then just be disposable.

And they were designed to just work. And the whole story of Blade Runner, revolves around, Harrison Ford’s character as kind of the foil to Rutger Howard’s character Roy and how Harrison Ford is maybe not even self-aware [00:06:00] enough to realize that he himself is a robot with implanted memories.

While Roy is very much aware of how much time he has left, of what he wants to do. And in that ending monologue, he gives that tears in the rain monologue, which was, is so beautiful in the film about what he’s seen as like, and it kind of, in that moment he is so human, you know? And so these are all themes that I personally love about robot fiction.

These are all themes that I decided to write about. But to do that, and I knew that this book would be in conversation with the greater, with where we are in tech. So I had to do a lot of research about Silicon Valley and the more I read about Silicon Valley and the more I researched, I realized, oh my God, these people are fucking evil.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: They are. The more I read about Facebook,[00:07:00] I read The Chaos Machine, which I highly recommend. It is, uh, a kind of a overview of what social media has done to the world.

Raquel: Oh God.

Wendy Xu: A non-fiction. But I read a, I read so many non-fiction books. I’m a big fan of the Tech Won’t Save Us podcast because while I was listening to, because in the beginning of my research I found Lex Friedman’s podcast, which like cringe.

He has become increasingly right wing and kind of fascist. It’s quite sad to see his descent into this.

Raquel: Oh no.

Wendy Xu: Yeah. But, so, but to balance out Lex Friedman’s podcast, I wanted to listen to some other perspectives, some tech critical perspectives. And I feel like these tech critical perspectives just really opened my eyes to how much we as a society have been deluded into buying whatever Silicon Valley decides to shovel at us.

And right now we are in the middle of, um, another tech hype cycle

Raquel: [00:08:00] Yeah.

Wendy Xu: stuff. Yeah.

Raquel: Yeah, I, I know you mentioned it and, and a bunch of people have made this observation that AI fiction, AI art is the current hype cycle, but right before this, we had N F T as a hype cycle, and before that we had a, a different, zillion different kinds of cryptocurrencies as a hype cycle. And that the people who were swearing, swearing that NFTs were gonna change everything and that they were legitimately a good investment.

And that it makes a lot of sense to pay $50,000 for like a jpeg of an ugly monkey. A lot of these are the same people who are saying “AI art will replace human artists. Ai art is the future of culture.”

Wendy Xu: As I’m just like, this is so stupid. These people who are so desperate to believe all this tech hype, they are just not living in reality. Have you, have you been outside? Have you spoken to anybody? Like, have you touched grass?

Raquel: Yeah. It, it is especially weird [00:09:00] to think that, “oh, I’m going to make a lot of money by creating art” like I, have you ever talked to an artist? Do you, do you think artists make a lot of money?

Wendy Xu: Sadly, I think these people see the success of like, very few number of authors, like, Stephen King or, gross JK Rowling. And they see that ” oh, she gets to live in a castle or whatever.” but it’s not even about the art, it’s about, it’s just purely about greed.

Because if you really love art, you will know that, part of that, that deep love is in the process of making it. And these people are so oriented, on the product at the quote unquote product. I, I hate saying a book is, is a product because it’s gone through, um, the whole production design and stuff, it is a product, but it is also, a quite affordable [00:10:00] piece of art that you are holding and you can enjoy.

And I don’t think these people see books and comics and, and music as, as art. They see it as like, “oh, this is the product.” I feel like if they could, if they could AI, like, I don’t know, like some kind of beer or, or like a stupid little juice drink. They, they probably would.

Raquel: Right.

Wendy Xu: I, I was listening to, uh, Adam Conover and the guy from, I think his name is Dan, from Folding Ideas, talking about, the tech hype cycle on, uh, Adam Conover’s podcast Yesterday Factually.

And they were talking about how some of these more ludicrous AI headlines, such as like, “AI is going to revolutionize the way we shop for clothes or something.”

Raquel: Huh?

Wendy Xu: it’s like, how? How is it going to do, like, once you start asking them questions, they literally cannot answer you.

Raquel: Yeah, so I [00:11:00] think one issue too is we should probably define what we mean by AI writing and art. I know AI standing for artificial intelligence is kind of inaccurate cuz it, we don’t really have artificial intelligence in a true sense. We don’t really have a machine that can genuinely think.

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: just don’t have it in us to build something that sophisticated just yet.

Wendy Xu: Absolutely. Some really smart folks in tech, such as Emily Bender and Timnit Gebru, who has al have also been interviewed for, like Tech Won’t save us. If folks want to listen to that, they have called this a “stochastic parrot,” which is basically a word calculator or, in the terms of like the quote unquote, the art generator is like a picture calculator. It is generating things based on statistical probability. There’s no real inspiration behind, [00:12:00] there’s no deeper thought, and yet these, these weirdos are, are, are worshiping it like it’s a, I don’t know, like it’s a God or something, but it’s like, it’s like a magic eight ball, but they’re treating it like it’s the oracle of Delphi.

Raquel: So what an AI does say when it’s making a picture, you, you ask an AI for a picture of a woman. What it does, I guess is it scans or processes or whatever the term is, surveys a lot of pictures of women and does a statistical analysis and figures out, okay, the majority of pictures of women have a nose here and hair that goes like this.

And this feature here. Like it’s just just finding out statistically what are the commonalities of this goes here, that goes there, that value goes there. It’s not exactly imagining a woman, which is why a lot of times when you look at the details of these pictures, a lot of the [00:13:00] details get really, really weird.

I, I’ve noticed AI art has a lot of trouble with hair.

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: Hair kind of sprouts randomly or, or turns into something halfway down. A, a ponytail will suddenly turn into loose hair halfway down. Joints, obviously hands are notoriously janky because hands are just really hard to draw. They’re very, very difficult to draw.

Wendy Xu: Again, I think this is, it’s very notable that already we’re seeing this AI quote unquote aesthetic. It’s not so much an aesthetic as they, as these, um, models took a ton of popular art pieces that are painted in this kind of airbrushed, hyper realistic anime ish, um, way.

Well, they oscillate between hyper realism and anime ish, but they’re all very painterly in quality, right? And they kind of just mash these together, these paintings because they, it’s, it’s a quote unquote popular art style, like a commercial art style. And [00:14:00] that’s the kind of quote unquote, the now what we see as the, as AI quote unquote aesthetic. um,


Raquel: Right.

Wendy Xu: It has a very hard time from what I’ve seen with, well, it has a hard time. I know Sarah Anderson, poor Sarah Anderson’s work has been fed into an AI generator and the, the, the way it tries to copy her cartoons is like, truly nightmarish. But it can’t emulate yet a certain style very well, but I mean, even if it could for, uh,

Raquel: I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future it could be better at it. I’m sure eventually someone will work out and teach the computer how to draw hands and hair probably.

Wendy Xu: right. I, I did see an incredibly depressing LinkedIn post where a woman at Google has trained a model on a certain kind of art style. To spit out things that look like, like a flat cartoon in that style. And it [00:15:00] was, I mean, the, the art that came out still looked really janky, like bad finger placement.

The prompt was a tube of toothpaste, like a cartoony tube of toothpaste. I’m like, that does not look like tooth toothpaste. There was a dog with like a weird phantom limb, but it, at a very, very basic level. Yes, it ch could emulate the style. And she was like, oh my God, this is so great, blah, blah, blah.

And I’m just sitting there like, no,

Raquel: No.

Wendy Xu: That’s the thing though, how she was praising it in her shady little LinkedIn post as, as kind of streamlining the process for designers as taking away. These people fundamentally do not understand art. They don’t underst like you ca there are parts of the process that you certainly can streamline for yourself, but everyone’s process is so different and the thought is a huge part of that.

Raquel: The best analogy to it I’ve heard is it’s like building a robot to fuck your wife for you. you’re kind of missing the point. You’ve removed yourself from the [00:16:00] equation, forgetting that no, your participation is sort of the good part. It’s the important part.

Wendy Xu: Oh my God. That just reminds me of that drill tweet that was like, well, I’m gonna AI generate 250 million and a wife who will listen to me. And I feel, I feel like, at the core though, these people are so lonely. The people who really want to do the a, the quote unquote, the AI art and the AI writing.

Raquel: I kind of wonder if half of them resent the fact that the artsy poet kid got more pussy in high school than they did.

” That fucking guy who played the guitar got more girls and I didn’t, this is bullshit. I will have my revenge.”

Wendy Xu: I, and it’s just, and it’s also seeing the way they talk to artists. It’s just this, like,

Raquel: Oh, contempt.

Wendy Xu: and anger and I’m like, okay, I’m sorry that you decided to be a programmer. Or, put yourself in a place where the, the only art you feel, [00:17:00] quote unquote art you feel like you can do is by playing with these, these things instead of sitting down and drawing a stupid little guy on a piece of paper. But I just wonder how hollow and empty one’s life has to be to think that, ” oh my God, like. I typed some words in, and now I’m, I’m a da Vinci. I’m a genius.”

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: it’s so, I don’t, I don’t know. It’s just pathetic, I guess, is the word.

Raquel: Now here, here’s a question. I, I’ve heard these things called plagiarism bots because they scrape from the work of other artists and sort of chew ’em up and puke them back out.

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: What is the difference between an AI doing this to a, a data set of art or literature versus a human artist who– every human artist takes influence from other works and we synthesize it and create it into new work?

What’s the difference there?

Wendy Xu: With human art, because these machines [00:18:00] are not sentient, there’s, there’s intention behind human influence. You read a beautiful piece of writing or you look at a beautiful piece of art and you think, I wanna try to incorporate that into my work. And when it comes to artistic influence. If I really love the way that an artist did their mark making, I’m going to try to emulate that mark making.

I’m going to try to, look at a lot of their compositions and try to bring that into my own, my own composition. You have to be able to experience the art first and foremost as a human being, to, to make these intentional artistic choices. And I feel like a lot of times, once again, these tech people are just fundamentally misunderstanding what it is to make art. They think, oh, there’s no intention. When they see a, a [00:19:00] painting, some, a person has done, they never ask or they never choose to ask like, “what was the choice behind this?” But if you ask someone to talk about their process, there’s always gonna be choices behind whatever they do, right?

Like, whether it’s like, um, certain descriptors in writing or whether it’s certain kinds of lines or colors in art. But if you ask the AI like, why did you choose this palette? It’s not going to be able to tell you that

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: uhhuh.

Raquel: Yeah. Now I’ve heard people say that art, that AI art and AI fiction will democratize art and writing and help people with disabilities express themselves. What is your response to that?

Wendy Xu: Good lord.

Raquel: I know, I know, I know. It’s very, very bad faith. This is always brought up by people who don’t have disabilities and do not

Wendy Xu: it’s

Raquel: seem to be up to date with with software that [00:20:00] actually has been created to help people with disabilities

write and do art because there actually is a lot of adaptive software and a lot of software and a lot of of devices that people with disabilities use to write. Like there’s text to speech or speech to text, which a lot of people who can’t type can use that. There’s stuff you can use if you have trouble with your hands, that will help you hold your hands steady if you’re trying to make visual art.

There are a lot of really wonderful tools for people with significant disabilities to allow them to create art, to allow them to communicate.

Wendy Xu: Absolutely. And I think that, This is just so disrespectful towards disabled people. Right. It’s just incredibly disrespectful like to imply that disabled people don’t make art. I highly doubt disabled people enjoy being used as a gotcha.

Right? And second of all, there are so many disabled artists and writers. That just [00:21:00] tells me that these people have never met like an artist period. Half of us ha like, have disabilities, you know?

Raquel: Yeah. And, and, and I’m gonna point out, I, a lot of these people seem to think that not being very good at writing is itself a disability. Like, no, not having writing talent isn’t a disability. That’s a skill issue.

Wendy Xu: Right. And I think, like I was just thinking of when you were



Raquel: Get good.

Wendy Xu: when you were talking about adaptive software, I helped a friend set up, their iPad at the Apple store one time, because of their visual impairment. Because unfortunately there was no one at the Apple store available who knew how to do this.

Raquel: Oh, no.

Wendy Xu: was just like, like, that’s more of a problem that there is no one at the Apple store who know, who knew at this particular Apple store, who knew how to set up an iPad for accessibility and that we kind of had to sit there and do it. And like, I’m happy to do that. But I was just like, that is, that’s just

[00:22:00] shitty on the part of Apple. I feel like when we’re talking about accessibility, those are the things that need dressing, not like, look at this new technology. It always goes back to an issue of social support. Right?

Raquel: Right.

Wendy Xu: And on certain programs such as Procreate, we can, if you have hand tremors, toggle line stability, when you’re making the line so that even if your hand is shaky, the line will come out smooth if that’s the way you want to draw.

Raquel: Oh, that’s nice.

Wendy Xu: it’s really cool. There’s so many and then there’s, uh, features that let you create kind of perfect geometric tools. There’s lots of brushes that will emulate– because I know not everyone can use physical media. Some people need to be on the screen with the brightness cranked all the way up cuz that’s the only way they can see how to, to make the art.

And then there are, You can invert the colors if you’re colorblind. There’s just a lot of things that people can do

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: to make art if they wish to [00:23:00] make art. And to say that,

that’s just such a Gotcha. Like

Raquel: Yeah. A friend of mine used to be an assistant for a visual artist who was a quadriplegic. She would prepare the paint pallets for him and put the brush in his mouth and he would paint with like the brush in his mouth or attached to a rig on his head because he could still move his head.

Wendy Xu: Right,

Raquel: he legitimately made art that way.

If you are that determined, if you have the heart of an artist, you will find a way to make it because art is an addiction.

Wendy Xu: right. And also it is about, for everyone who actually sits down to make art, the process is so important. Right?

Raquel: Yeah. The process is you. I feel like a lot of the AI people don’t understand that your unique voice and your unique style and your unique process is what makes the art interesting.

Wendy Xu: Right.

Raquel: that can even mean, it can even mean if you’re not a very good artist. I mean, one of the most [00:24:00] popular.

Comic strips online is, I, I don’t know if you’ll like this one. XKCD is literally stick figures.

Wendy Xu: I, yeah,

Raquel: The guy can’t fucking draw for shit, and he, he’s doing fine for himself. It’s a wildly successful comic.

Wendy Xu: I’m like, if you look at some of the art in the beginning of, of Mob Psycho, which is a really popular manga, it’s not great, but it has heart, you

Raquel: He had the One Punch Man

Wendy Xu: Yeah.

Raquel: guy. He, he openly admitted at the beginning, “Yeah. I’m not very good at drawing.”

Wendy Xu: But like, but that doesn’t matter. He doesn’t let that stop him. And I, I think it’s less about the process of making art, it’s less about admitting like, “Hey, I’m kind of bad at drawing, but I love it anyway.” It’s just like, “I wanna be published and I want a gallery show, and I want a million dollars for this.”

And they never stop to ask themselves why. Because they see artists as people with quote unquote, cultural clout or somehow as that they are. I [00:25:00] don’t know. It’s like, have you met an artist? We’re just, we’re just a bunch of weirdos

Raquel: We’re feral, man.

Wendy Xu: yeah, we’re just a bunch of fucking weirdos.

And we would rather, I, we put our stuff on because like half the time when I put my stuff online, I’m like, “here it is now. I’m logging off. Do not perceive me.”

Raquel: Yeah,

Wendy Xu: but it’s not that I am making and sharing art. Even if I did not have a career as an author, I would still be making art, you know?

Raquel: Even before the financial incentive to make art existed, people were making art. I, I remember before we started, you said you were determined to talk about a very old work of visual art. So here is the chance, here’s the time.

Wendy Xu: oh my God. So today I saw an amazing headline, on one of the pre-history accounts that I follow. I am pulling up the headline. I have to read it to you. It is, I just, I was like, [00:26:00] this is so crazy. The headline reads “the Enigma of the Lascaux Birdman, the erection that embodies the mysteries of prehistoric art.”

And I was like the, the, like the, the birdman with an erection? And I will send you the article so you can link it.

Raquel: Absolutely.

Wendy Xu: yeah, it’s a great, but it’s about,

Raquel: rules that someone’s cave boner painting like tens of thousands of years later is being discussed.

Wendy Xu: I know, and I’m just like, wow. He drew a Birdman with a bo, like whoever this was, they drew a birdman with a boner. I’m like, that is the most relatable thing I can think of as I’m scrolling through Twitter and I see all this horny, Spider Verse art of like Miguel O’Hara, I’m like, you know, people have been sickos since the dawn of time.

I think that’s amazing.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: I, I just think it’s really funny because [00:27:00] all these anthropologists are, you know, very understandably trying to be like, “what does this mean? Is it related?” I’ll, I’ll read you, uh, from

the, from from the article, “is it related to shamanism? Is it a scene, recounting a hunt gone wrong?

Is the bird shape stick meant to propel a spear or is it a wizard staff? Does it reflect something imagined or real? Is it a birdman or a dead man with his mouth open and above all” it, it’s like kind of a stick figure drawing.

Raquel: Huh?

Wendy Xu: But it’s so funny this last sentence, “and above all, what does the erect penis mean?” I don’t know, this just tickles me so much. Cuz we don’t know. We simply don’t know. We will probably never know, but we can imagine what the intentionality behind this was. And that’s part of the fun of seeing older pieces of art, right? But yeah, I think I look at a lot of cave art just [00:28:00] because I think that it’s the perfect example of early cartooning, the very first cartoons, right?

Raquel: Yeah, some really terrific line work on it.

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm. And, um, the, the beautiful, the shapes, the light, the shape language is just so perfect. But yeah, I, so when I look at, when I look at this piece of cave art, I feel like I’m, I’m connecting to a shared human experience. Even if the human experience is an ancient furry drew, like a birdman, right? But an AI cannot emulate like an AI is– even if you put, even if you use this piece of cave art as like a, as like a, a, a point of data to train the AI on, there’s never going to be that intentionality. We’re never gonna wonder, ” what was the meaning of this? Who did this?” Because there is no, there is no intentionality to the AI. I agree, Harley.[00:29:00]

Raquel: Yeah. Harley.

Wendy Xu: Yes.

Raquel: Yes, he says. Harley’s intentionality is to disrupt this podcast every time I record.

Wendy Xu: And to destroy everything.

Raquel: He’s, he’s doing a very good job. He’s a naughty boy. I’ll throw the toy for you. I’ll throw the toy for you. You big whiny boy. Yeah. Throw it. You can fetch. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go get it. All right.

Wendy Xu: So here’s the, here’s the article, which is an ama– It is just, it’s just, it’s just so great. I don’t know. I, I saw this today. I’m constantly, I follow these, these pre-history, Twitter accounts and occasionally they will post about old art. And I, I think that’s amazing how

Raquel: rocks.

Wendy Xu: Yeah. It’s such a, but, but that’s the thing.

I’m like, did the person who painted the birdman with the boner on the cave wall, were they thinking about becoming rich and famous or I [00:30:00] don’t know, who were they? Like, we don’t even know who they were. We just know that they left this behind as a very human expression of like, I was here.

At the very least, it says I was here. You know?

Raquel: Yeah, I think it’s really beautiful and, and just wonderful and fun. So let’s talk a little bit about why we’re concerned about AI art other than just snobbishness. I mean, I think it’s okay to be a snob personally. If you, if you love something, you want it to be its best. So if you love art and fiction, you become a bit of a snob.

Not because you hate it, but because you want it to be its best. It’s like how your parents get mad at you for not living up to your potential. Not because they hate you, but because they love you and they think you’re cool and special and they want you to do your best. I mean, at least if you have good parents, hopefully you have good parents who love you.

This does, this does not apply to people with shitty parents, but in general, if you love something, you want it to be the best it can be. You you wanna see it live up to its potential. So [00:31:00] I think something a lot of people don’t realize is that snobbishness doesn’t come from hatred of a medium. It comes from love and respect of a medium.

It comes from looking at a medium and saying, I know you can be amazing and great.

Wendy Xu: Absolutely

Raquel: let me down. Don’t, don’t, you know, don’t put out shit.

Wendy Xu: right, and I mean, we critique things out of love, right? A lot of times we see the potential in a comic or a piece of writing and we see, and I mean sometimes it’s a matter of, of taste, but also sometimes it’s a matter of the person’s skill, and that’s not a condemnation of who they are as a person, right?

It’s just we’re looking at a piece of art, and we are engaging with it, with our own experiences and our own, you know, for, in the case of a lot of us the study of the craft, and I, I think that’s amazing. I think it, it’s, it’s so much more beyond like, oh, this is, this is a, a pretty painting [00:32:00] or, but that’s the thing with these, these specifically these picture generators, but also to an extent with the writing ones. At a, at a surface level, it’s like, oh, this is, this looks good enough, you know?

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: yeah. But then you start zooming in and it’s, it’s completely off in a lot of ways.

Raquel: Yeah, the, the style of prose in these things is really, really bland. It uses the same phrases or similes over and over again. It’s super, super boring. Uh, so let’s talk about what we think the actual threat is. I personally don’t think that AI will completely replace human artists and human writers the way the hype machine says they are.

But I think one thing they might do is they might be used to devalue genuine human labor.

Wendy Xu: Absolutely.

Raquel: You get used to a content machine pumping out content at the speed of a machine for free or for very, very cheap, and you stop considering[00:33:00] how long, the resources it takes for an actual human artist to make this stuff.

And you just sort of expect that kind of pace, that kind of prolificness for pretty much no money. You can kind of see it with people who will sell covers for books now, AI generated covers for self-published authors to use for their books. They’re selling covers for about like 20 bucks, 15 bucks a pop.

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: If you are a real human artist designing an actual cover for a book, $20 a pop for a cover, that’s, you’re making less than a minimum wage, it takes quite a bit of time

Wendy Xu: Right.

Raquel: a cover.

Wendy Xu: For sure. And I think that, the quote unquote the content that these, that these things are fed, these, that these algorithms are given, it’s all ripped off anyway from human artists. So you are stealing the work of human artists without compensating them. And then you are frankensteining it [00:34:00] and into something kind of, I don’t know.

I think it’s illegible. I think they look like shit. To the untrained eye, I suppose they might look good enough, but like, I really think they look like shit. Um,

Raquel: Yeah. For me, I, I don’t have as discerning an eye as you do cuz I’m just not a visual artist. I’ll kind of glance it and be like, “that looks okay.” And then I’ll zoom in and be like, “oh wait, what the fuck?” Her, her forearm isn’t attached to her upper arm. What happened there? Her eyes are real janky or

Wendy Xu: Yeah. I think it also, there’s a danger of, the machine will generate quote unquote like a, a concept and then the designer in-house has to go and fix it like they did with that one Paolini cover.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: very unfortunate.

Raquel: Yeah. And I, I’m sure the person, instead of paying a human artist to design a cover, what they’ll do is they’ll AI generate a cover and then pay a human artist way, way less money than you’d make to do a whole cover. Just pay ’em a crappy pittance to [00:35:00] fix the other one. So there is still a human touch to make it passable, but it’s the touch of a human who’s being paid.

Absolute dog shit wages.

Wendy Xu: Right. And that’s not to mention that half the, actually a lot of these, quote unquote AI are, there is no ai, there are a bunch of underpaid people in the global south, manually inputting this data. That’s not ai. That’s just slave labor.

That’s just exploitation.

And I, read an article recently about a group of tech workers in Kenya who have unionized, which like,

Raquel: Hell yeah.

Wendy Xu: hell yeah. But that’s the thing. These, these Silicon Valley companies want us to believe in the hype when really they are just repeating colonialism,

Raquel: Yeah. A whole lot of technology is, is kind of held afloat by horribly underpaid employees, often in the global south,

Wendy Xu: right? [00:36:00]

Raquel: horrible wages, working under horrible conditions. It’s not really automated.

Wendy Xu: It’s not, and at the heart of it, at the heart of it, is the devaluation of everyone’s labor, right? The devaluation of therapists labor of, “oh, we’re gonna get an AI therapist and, and an AI doctor.” No, you’re not. No you are not. That one startup that rolled out the AI therapist for eating disorder treatment or

Raquel: Oh my God. And they had to shut it down because it said incredibly horrible, harmful shit to their clients.

Wendy Xu: Uhhuh.

Raquel: Oh

Wendy Xu: But that’s what they want you to believe. That’s what, Silicon Valley, these, the people in charge of the marketing people want you to believe, like a lot of this is just marketing.

Raquel: yeah, yeah.

But I am really worried that it can devalue human labor and also sort of lower audience’s standards when you’re used to just this massive flow of content that doesn’t [00:37:00] ask you to look at it closely, and it’s kind of low quality. You get used to that.

Wendy Xu: Yes, absolutely.

Raquel: And, and I think there’s a lot of forces in our culture that have been pushing that toward us too.

Like the way the way books are marketed based on a list of tropes that are kind of taken from, that are just basically product descriptions, product feature descriptions. I feel like it a, it led to this in a little bit of a subtle way.

Wendy Xu: I think so too. I think that in general, media literacy is kind of hitting a big low end. We can all thank George W. Bush and no Child Left Behind for that. Oh my God, I will never forget. There’s a lot of things we won’t ever forgive him for, but as an educator, as an artist, as someone who makes media, I will never forgive him.

There’s so many things contributing to this, right? There’s the loss of the public online square for kids where they can just say their opinions and no [00:38:00] one is quote retweeting them to dunk on them.

Raquel: Mm.

Wendy Xu: Like, I don’t think that teaches you anything, because half the time I see a bad take and it’s a, it’s a kid.

And that is just very unfortunate because I’m like, why are you not on Club Penguin? This idea that, that every form of art simultaneously has to be taken seriously, but also we can’t be too serious about it,

it’s really muddling people’s brains. This whole debate over what is cozy horror

Raquel: Uh,

Wendy Xu: that had me as a person who wrote, I’m sorry, the co-creator of like a children, a Ya for like 13 year olds about a witch and a werewolf, getting placed into cozy horror. I’m like, no, that is a children’s book.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: Please let these kids have something. I don’t [00:39:00] need you as an adult to take it seriously. You are not the target audience. But it’s like they simultaneously want to be the target audience for things that are just not for them. Like Over the Garden Wall, like that’s for children.

Raquel: Oh yeah.

Wendy Xu: I love it.

Raquel: So, so for those of you who are not in the Rite Gud discord, uh, recently, the Mary Sue– yes, that website still exists– put out an essay about, a debate about this, the concept of something called cozy horror. And it’s argued, uh, that cozy horror’s real, horror can and should be cozy. And if you want your horror to be scary, you’re actually a misogynist.

And the reason we got a little obsessed with it is it actually quoted some of the members of our discord and accused them of misogyny, including, like several of the people they quoted were women who, who I guess just hate women a lot because they like it when scary books are scary. And some of the [00:40:00] examples of quote unquote cozy horror they mention, this article mentioned, I believe was your book, Moon Cakes and Over The Garden Wall.

And both of these are literally media for

Wendy Xu: They are literally like,

Raquel: They’re literally for children, and they’re both great. I mean, Moon Cakes is wonderful and Over the Garden Wall is a terrific show, but it’s pretty weird for an adult to be going like, “ah, this is horror for me.” Like it is a, that is a children’s cartoon

Wendy Xu: It is

Raquel: for actual babies.

Wendy Xu: But the thing is this, this flattening of, of media, this, I don’t know, I’m just, I’m just gonna say this. Gentrification of, of genre, right? Having given it a little more thought as we’re having this conversation, a lot of it is, especially with regards to the people cranking out this AI content, the fact that they feel that they are entitled to an audience.

No one is entitled to an audience. I did not put my [00:41:00] work on first like a blog that was just floating out there in the void of the internet. Like I did not put my work onto this, onto my little blog with the expectation that I’m gonna be rich and famous, that I’m gonna have a book deal.

None of these things were in my mind. I was a science major. I had the, the thought that maybe I would go to grad school after college. I never thought I was gonna have a career in the arts. I just really like to draw and I had a blog, and the blog just happened to get an audience, but I was never sitting there with the expectation that I was going to have an audience to begin with.

I’m very glad that people connected to my work. I think every creator, not the, not the people who play with these who, you know, put the schlock out online with these machines and whatever. But I think every creator who enjoys making art and enjoys [00:42:00] writing is always very grateful to have an audience.

I know I’m very grateful to have an audience. Even if they miss, even if a part of them recently misunderstood that the book was for children, it’s like, thank you. I’m glad that you read and enjoyed the book so much. But I feel like a lot of the people who do this AI art and writing who are kind of actively contributing to the schlock of the internet feel that they are entitled to an audience.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: I’m thinking about the fact that sometimes the, a publisher will put just a lot of money into marketing for a book and the book flops anyway,

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: and other times the publisher, but no marketing into marketing money into a book. And the book takes off.

We don’t control that. Those are not things we control. But somehow the people with these, these quote unquote, these, I don’t even wanna say they’re tools, [00:43:00] these plagiarism machines are like, if I take the most popular, if I take Shakespeare and Leigh Bardugo and like, I don’t know, Stephen King, and if I, and I put them all into a machine and it spits out something that’s like, uh, an amalgamation of that, I will surely I will get an audience.

Right, and it’s like, no.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you might not get an audience, but one thing that is, that is happening, I think, is that there is a threat of just the glut of AI content flooding out actual human artists and writers. I know Clarkes World, which is a very prominent, sci-fi fantasy magazine, had to temporarily close their submission portal because they were just flooded with tons and tons and tons of AI submissions.

Just tons and tons and tons of really shitty machine generated stories that w– it takes resources to go [00:44:00] through all that. Your slush readers have to read all that shit, and they just couldn’t keep up, so they had to shut down. And that’s a real shame for actual human writers who might wanna get a story

in Clarkesworld. I, I forget the name of the mag, I know another sci-fi fantasy mag had to shut down to, had to shut down their slush pile and had to go to solicited stories only. Basically, they would only be able to get stories from people, from writers they already knew. So if you’re a newbie writer trying to break in, that really fucking hurts you

Wendy Xu: It

Raquel: the editors don’t know you, they don’t know your name.

It it, it’s going to do another, it, it’s tearing out another rung at the bottom of the ladder up, which is a real problem for starting writers, especially a writer who might not have the money to go to the networking events where you’d meet other writers and editors and form those connections. If you are like a broke person or a person with a very busy schedule, all you can do is [00:45:00] send out your stories.

And if these portals close because they’re overwhelmed by AI submissions, that really hurts you.

Wendy Xu: Absolutely. It is the fault of these grifters. I think Folding Ideas or someone on that section of YouTube did a really deep dive into these book grifters who are like, I make like $2,000 a month and passive income by, well before it was hiring ghost writers and now it’s AI generating stories, and putting them on Amazon. And I, I genuinely hope that the industry, there’s just so many different like threads at play interwoven here. There’s the grifters who are trying to convince people that you are going to make big bucks off of art, which is like the most laughable thing I can ever imagine. It’s so unfortunate. I don’t know how they’re going to [00:46:00] fix the submissions problem. I hope, I sincerely hope they do, because like you said, it is so important to have these open calls. Like, especially in short fiction publishing, there’s not a lot of avenues to begin with.

Raquel: No.

Wendy Xu: So I hope I, I don’t, I, I can’t make any predictions.

I, I do hope that as the hype cycle dies down, this stops being as much of a problem. I’m sure it will

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: I’m sure it will continue to be a problem in some way, but I hope that if anything, this pushes people to be maybe a little bit weirder with the kind of work that they do.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: yeah, that’s, that’s my

Raquel: Get weird with it.

Wendy Xu: Get weird. Make art that is kind of, I don’t wanna say that is like stylistically very different from these, these, these pastel-y painterly generated things. Right?

Raquel: So that’s a [00:47:00] feature of art, of AI art because it’s sort of statistically generated. It makes art that’s kind of bland. And another, I think, under-discussed aspect is that it often really reproduces a lot of the prejudices of our larger culture, like sexism. If you ask an AI to produce a picture of a woman, a lot of the time, it’ll generate a really weirdly hypersexualized image of women because it’s drawing from the dataset of the internet.

And the internet is full of weird pervs. So a lot of the dataset is these hypersexualized picture of women. So if you ask an AI to generate a picture of a man and a woman, the man will be kind of normal looking and the woman will be just like titties a popping.

Wendy Xu: It’s, it’s also, it’s just so unfortunate. That they will then these companies will then hire people to quote unquote clean up the data sets. So you have people who are incredibly underpaid picking through the worst images on the internet in an attempt to quote unquote better the algorithm, which, once [00:48:00] again, that doesn’t make it AI then does it, because the machine is not like, “oh, this is sexist and this is, you know, I should not draw like this.”

The machine is quite, it doesn’t think, it just spits. But yeah, it’s, it also goes back to the idea of, optimizing the process, solving for creativity. And it’s like, this is the one thing that human beings have that tech people,

Raquel: We don’t need to solve creativity.

Wendy Xu: right, and like,

Raquel: a labor we need to eliminate. We’re supposed to eliminate the boring shit so that we can do cool creative stuff.

Wendy Xu: Right.

Raquel: eliminating the fun stuff so we can code more or do boring bullshit and look at spreadsheets. I don’t like that.

Wendy Xu: I, yeah. Right. And it’s also like solved for creativity, for who, you know? Like we, we always gotta ask for who, because for people [00:49:00] who make art and for people who write, the process is so important and it’s,

Raquel: Yeah. While you’re writing the story changes because ideas are almost worthless. I love I AI people cuz they’ll say “finally I ha I have a way to bring my brilliant ideas to fruition.” And their brilliant ideas are always like “anime girl, big titties, holding a sword.” Like, wow, that’s an amazing idea.

Really incredible idea. No one else could have come up with that. But as, as you yourself are drawing the picture or as you yourself are writing the story, it always changes because you realize, wait, this, this idea isn’t quite working, or this story is going in this direction and I’m having a lot of fun with this direction, and I’m going down a place I didn’t plan to go down.

And it, the act of creation is itself a process of discovery. And the idea, your initial idea always, it, it warps massively from what the end result is, and the end result is usually a lot more interesting.

Wendy Xu: It is, and I don’t think these [00:50:00] people understand that every mark you make is deliberate. As an artist, you know, every line I make, that’s a, that’s a choice that I make, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. Because, sometimes you’ll read a story that you’ve written and be like, “oh, these themes were there that I didn’t, I wasn’t really consciously thinking about,” like, maybe you, you, but maybe you were percolating them. And it, it can be like a really fun process of self-discovery that way. But like, what are you gonna get from reading your idea put into a word generator? Like if I put the idea into the word generator, you know, like white man, his girlfriend is dead. He has to like solve a mystery of, I don’t know who killed his girlfriend.

What is that teaching me about myself?

Raquel: I think another weakness is that they only interact with other, it’s only coming from other media. It’s not coming from any kind of personal experience, which is usually you put some of yourself into your art and that’s what makes it kind of special and interesting and a [00:51:00] machine cannot do that.

And then there’s the other side of that. The AI can’t engage with the real world, so it can’t really fact check, which has been a huge problem for students who’ve been trying to use NI– AI generated texts to write essays. There was a famous case in New York State, a lawyer named Steven Schwartz used, uh, Chat G P t, which is a text generating AI to write a legal brief for him.

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: The brief it wrote contained references to legal cases that do not exist,

Wendy Xu: It

Raquel: and that’s really fucking bad. You are not allowed to do that in a court court of law. And as a result, Steven Schwartz is now in like massive fucking legal trouble for doing that.

Wendy Xu: I hope he gets disbarred.

Raquel: It is, it is a really serious offense, and the judge is just tearing him a new asshole in court right now, um, which he should, because that’s shockingly, shockingly unprofessional and shockingly negligent.

Wendy Xu: Even when I worked at [00:52:00] a law firm, writing briefs with the senior partner, because he was very old school, he would really enjoy, dictating things or he would hand write them and have me type them up for him. But he enjoyed the process of writing briefs cuz he got to be funny and weird.

Raquel: Oh, that’s kind of fun.

Wendy Xu: It is fun. He was kind of an asshole in a couple of different ways, but I, I liked that about him. He genuinely enjoyed the, getting to be creative within the confines of like writing these legal briefs.

Raquel: Yeah. You know, it’s really fun to watch someone in who’s good at their work, who really get into it. It’s a, it’s a wonderful thing.

Wendy Xu: Right. And it’s like, Um, that is correct, Harley,

Raquel: Yes, Harley. That’s right. What if I, what if I generated a robot to play fetch with Harley for him?

Wendy Xu: that I think he would like that, right. You would be optimizing the process of, uh,

Raquel: don’t think so, cuz I think a lot of the process is interacting with me and bonding with me and annoying me [00:53:00] specifically. I think he, he gets a lot of pleasure out of driving me crazy and that’s a really important process of the, of, of the act of playing fetch. So if I built a robot to do that, it, it would miss that it, it would miss that.

He can’t annoy a robot the way he annoys me.

Wendy Xu: that’s very true actually. What was I gonna say? There’s also the, the, a very recent article about how these data sets are already kind of eating each other because they are being trained on other AI data.

So it’s like making a photocopy of a photocopy and as you continuously make photocopies, the quality of the thing degrades,

right? One of the studies they cited in this article, which I kind of rolled my eyes at towards the end because it was trying to be a little, a little AI optimistic for my taste by saying there will always be a need for humans because we can, the humans will be generating the data.

And I’m like, no, no. [00:54:00] That’s what an asinine thing to say. But, if the internet is flooded with garbage, then these, the machine training data is also garbage. So, I hope that we’ll render some of these things, absolutely useless.

Raquel: I hope so too. Harley. Calm down. Jesus, buddy.

Wendy Xu: But it’s all to, I think, I think the thing that everybody has to remember is that this ties into Silicon Valley’s kind of long term goal of these tech, specifically tech executives of making us give them a lot of money.

Uh, yeah. Like we are the product. Nothing can work without humans. We are using the internet, we are using the Hateful Dying Bird platform.

We are using Instagram and Meta and the, all of these things that are now becoming increasingly unusable because they cannot wring 3 cents [00:55:00] more out of what they already have because there’s only so far you can go. So I hope that this kind of tech hype cycle is a wake up call for a lot of people into realizing, wait, they tried to do this last year with like crypto and NFTs, um, and the metaverse.

Raquel: And, and I am seeing, I know there are some artists who are, who are taking part of it, and I’m really fucking furious at seeing the number of writers who are using AI generated covers like that. Fucking, if you’re gonna do that, just pay for a stock photo

Wendy Xu: oh my God. Also no labor, solidarity, you

Raquel: yeah, that’s really disappointing cause especially cuz at the beginning you’d see people doing that and, and we’d be like, “Hey, you know, you’re next right?

You know, text AI is next, right?” And now it is. And now those same writers are freaking out. Well I don’t know what you fucking expected buddy.

I don’t know. But, but I am seeing [00:56:00] a, a good number of writers and artists fight like that, I know that some, that when Tor put out that AI generated cover by Paolini, they got a lot of shit for it, which is really, really good.

And I’ve seen publishers announce, “here’s the cover of this new book.” And people notice like, “Ooh, that’s AI generated, don’t you fucking dare. No you don’t. ”

Wendy Xu: Yeah. ‘

Raquel: em shit for it. Which is really, really, really encouraging actually.

Wendy Xu: I absolutely think that we should be, that we as readers, and I, I hate the term consumers as, but as people who experience art that is made by, that is partially produced by companies. We should absolutely be pushing back. We can be as hard on the industry as possible,

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: right? Like

Raquel: Yeah. It, it, I know a lot of people are, some people are afraid of critiquing an artist or a writer, cuz it seems mean, but you’re not gonna hurt a machine’s feelings. It’s okay. You can, you can insult the [00:57:00] AI machine and the company that’s using it cuz they don’t have emotions. They’re not people.

Wendy Xu: they’re not people. I think it is. So I think this, this whole atmosphere also of, in late capitalism and being led to believe that companies are people, that has also led to some of this hesitation to critique or push back. And we absolutely have to push back. If the social media person managing

the account that posted the, the cover , like, they’re not gonna take it personally.

Raquel: yeah.

Wendy Xu: Yeah. But we absolutely, if we want to preserve art, we have to push back on this schlock and we have to make room for people to, I think also, you know, it’s very sad, but I think a lot of people just don’t know how to experience art anymore.

Like a lot of people just like have never gone to a museum. And that’s, that’s, and they don’t know how, or they, or they see like a, an old painting and they get really intimidated and [00:58:00] it’s like, no, you know, we can look at the painting of the birdman with the, with the cave painting of the birdman with a dick.

And, and if, if the way you want to engage is to be like, wow, that’s so relatable. Absolutely. You know? Uh, and I, I see this a lot when I’m working with kids who are kind of hesitant to engage with what we think of as fine art. But when we show them, I like to show, I, I just did a workshop recently, where I showed a bunch of middle schoolers this, this old Chinese bronze pig pot with the, just a cute little guy.

And I showed them and I showed them how that was an inspiration for like a character design. And they thought it was very great. But I think that it’s, I think that looking at art on any level is really good for you and making art is really, is really great for you. I think it’s so wonderful to be able to look at a cave painting, a carving. God [00:59:00] bless, uh, an account called Ancient Furries on Twitter posts

a lot of fine art of human animal people. But like, but I think that’s a really great gateway into, into appreciating art

Raquel: Medieval guys are really fun.

Wendy Xu: yeah, I love weird

Raquel: love the little weird medieval guys. Like here’s a, here’s a weird ass drawing of a little guy from a medieval manuscript. There it is.

Wendy Xu: Yeah, I think all of these accounts and all, also all the museum accounts, that are freely available and will post photos and reproductions from their collection. I think those are really valuable to get like our appreciation to the general public. If there’s a museum in one’s area that has a low cost admission or sometimes you can, your library card sometimes will get you free access to a number of museums.

But yeah, I think if, if people have the time, they should absolutely go to a museum because part of making art and being a human being who does those things is that it is such an embodied process.[01:00:00]

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: As, uh, an artist who does primarily digital work for my books, just because it, it does take a shorter amount of time

there are parts of the process that I have quote unquote streamlined. However, I do a lot of traditional painting and sketching and drawing because there are things that I get from just putting a line on a piece of paper that is very different from putting a line of a similar weight and fluidity onto my tablet screen. And I think that, a lot of people see the cool drawing, but they don’t, they don’t see just how tactile the process is. And I think it’s really important to remember that art making is an embodied process. And the machine cannot, cannot do that because every paint stroke you see is someone with their hand or their mouth or holding the brush between their toes.

[01:01:00] Making that mark deliberately.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: That is just important to remember and they move their body to create this kind of, this kind of this kind of mark. There’s a big conversation right now in comics. About how hard this industry is on your physical body, that a lot of publishers who are, who just are unfamiliar with the process, but also publishers who are familiar with the process, like they just do not understand how much of a toll it takes on your physical body to sit and make that art.

And this is a conversation that we, that I feel like, maybe would not be necessarily so pressing if a lot more of these people in charge at publishers, these executives, these, a lot of our editors who have mostly edited prose, if they sat down themselves to make the art, I feel like even just making one [01:02:00] illustration, they would understand that it is such an embodied process, you know?

Raquel: yeah. Yes, Harley. It’s a very embodied process. I’m picking him up and giving him a squeeze cuz he’s being a whiny baby right now.

Wendy Xu: That’s okay. You can use him as a paintbrush.

Raquel: Yeah.

Wendy Xu: He’s fluffy enough.

Raquel: Good boy. Okay,

Wendy Xu: Oh,

Raquel: so it’s been about an hour. Why don’t we wind down before we go, what are some things you’d like to promote of yours?

Wendy Xu: Well, hilariously in August, I have a young adult sci-fi graphic novel coming out called the Infinity Particle, and it is about a girl who falls in love with a robot. But I think more importantly it is about what it, what does it mean when your parent wants you to be made a certain way or to be born a certain way?

And what does it mean when you come into sentience as a, as a person and decide that that’s not who you wanna be? Like what [01:03:00] happens then? I was very deliberate about all of my artistic choices in this book from the color palette to the way the lines are drawn, and I am so proud of how it turned out.

So I hope that people who love comics will go and pick it up. And I have several other books for children. I have Tide Song, which is a middle grade fantasy, graphic novel about a young witch and a dragon. And I also have moon cakes, which is about a witch and a werewolf.

Raquel: a shocking horror story

Wendy Xu: A horrible, terrifying, I actually, in the future, I would love to do a horror.

I think it’s so fun.

And also if people want to read something that is already out. I just finished Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung. It’s a translation. It’s a work in translation. Bora Chung is a Korean writer. These are all short stories that she had written. It is seriously some of the best speculative fiction I read in a minute.

Also some of the most [01:04:00] disturbing.

The first story is about a woman who is haunted by her own waist and it’s just like so interesting and so disturbing. You have to write it.

Raquel: This sounds really sick. I

Wendy Xu: It is, it’s amazing.

Raquel: What’s it called again? And who’s the writer again?

Wendy Xu: it’s called Cursed Bunny,

Raquel: Cursed Bunny

Wendy Xu: by Bora Chung.

Raquel: by Bora Chung.

Wendy Xu: Yes.

Raquel: That sounds pretty great.

Wendy Xu: it’s amazing. I could not put it down.

She is so good at this, just like tonally, they’re all so different. And she’s pulling from lots. She’s pulling from folklore and f and um, horror and sci-fi. There’s a human centipede robot story that will haunt me forever now.

Raquel: Oh, holy fuck.

Wendy Xu: Yeah,

Raquel: That sounds sick.

Wendy Xu: is so sick. Her brain is so big an AI will never be able to do what she does.

But that’s the thing, right? You say something like a, well this story’s about a woman haunted by her [01:05:00] own waist and you tell an AI to write it and they’re never gonna write what Bora Chung has accomplished here.

Raquel: No,

Wendy Xu: Mm-hmm. So,

Raquel: not.

Wendy Xu: um, thanks so much for having me. This was so fun.

Raquel: Thanks for coming on and thank you for accepting the voice of my cat. Hello. You naughty boy. He’s finally

Wendy Xu: I know.

Raquel: hour of screaming, he’s tired. He’s screamed himself out. Well, thank you all for listening. If you like what you heard, head to and subscribe. Until next time, keep writing good.