Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, the Magic Realism Bot automatically generates micro-fictions every few hours. “You are convicted of the crime of killing a tropical island” is one such pleasing, if seemingly nonsensical, example. More than a potentially alien mode of thought, AI creativity sits within—and is interpretable through—a long tradition of artistic experimentation. In particular, modernism’s relentless stretching of language into a series of plastic provocations has educated many readers in novel ways of reading. Long traditions of poetry have equally provided a home in which alternative, weird forms of literacy can flourish. A computer-generated haiku (strung out of human suggested word inputs) showcasing the strangeness of AI poetics is a case in point. “Sideways satellite/A synthetic ocean ooze/near the electric” (author/AI-generated, 2021) rings with a familiar resonance once we have heard Whitman proclaim, “I sing the body electric.” Conversely, much can be gained from retroactively reading work from modernism through the emerging lens of AI creativity. For example, Gertrude Stein’s “there is no there there” takes on a computational flavour, with new permutations and possibilities. Similarly, the estrangements enacted by AI creativity offers opportunities for grasping an increasingly strange present. Returning to the Magic Realism Bot after these literary detours, what at first glance was a delightful absurdity, takes on new terms. “You are convinced of the crime of killing a tropical island” rhymes with contemporary policy that seeks to grant geological phenomena, such as rivers and trees, standing within the law. Within the context of escalating ecocide, sentencing for the murder of a tropical island becomes less and less absurd. Arguably, the estrangements of AI creativity here helps us to better encounter these new realities. What are the precepts through which creativity is understood, and how are such precepts culturally configured and contingent? Rather than a source of lack, how can the collaborative basis of AI writing give new insight into how creativity is recognized and valued? This paper will explore the emerging apertures through which we can collectively express and experiment with “this insatiable earth of a planet, Earth.”
RACHEL HILL is an AHRC funded PhD candidate in the Science and Technology department of University College London. She recently completed her MA in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she wrote her dissertation on the contemporary sociotechnical imaginaries of outer space. She is a co-director of the London Science Fiction Research Community (LSFRC) and explores the revolutionary potential of speculative fiction as a member of the feminist research collective Beyond Gender. Rachel is also an affiliate of the Centre for Outer Space Studies.