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Sitdown Sunday: How indie authors are using AI to overcome writers block

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. The Pennsylvania abortion surge

Following the overturning of Roe V Wade, abortion clinics in Ohio were almost immediately shuttered with a statewide abortion ban. This longread examines the impact of the availability of abortions in other neighboring states in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision.

(The New Yorker, approx 13 minutes reading time)

Abortion-rights advocates in Ohio believed that the state’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which banned abortions after about six weeks, and had been blocked by a federal judge in 2019, would soon be reinstated, but they expected the process to take up to a month. Instead, Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, almost immediately filed a motion to have the injunction lifted, and the judge agreed. Within a few hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, Ohio clinics were prohibited from seeing most of their scheduled patients.

2. Abuse and suicide in Inuit Canada

An anthropologist details how sexual abuse by one man has lead to a suicide crisis within the Inuit community in Arctic Canada.

(The Guardian, approx 15 minutes reading time)

 Revelations about sexual abuse of Inuit and First Nations children would come to dominate thinking about the north (and the rest of Canada) in the 1990s and ever after, but at that time had not yet come to light. The cases against Newfoundland priests, whose crimes against children were the first to come to the Canadian courts, took place in the 1980s. In the early 70s people were less likely to think of priests or schoolteachers as possible sexual predators. It seems naive to have failed to recognise that possibility, and perplexing: many of us were intensely sceptical about missionary activity, but our scepticism did not include paedophilia. We lacked the knowledge, and perhaps even the language, with which to raise the appropriate suspicions about Horne.

3. London’s latest post-punk stars

Black Midi, one of the latest post-punk bands to emerge from the UK’s underground scene, detail their newest album and their thoughts on the repellent nature of Ed Sheeran, Green Day and Muse.

(Pitchfork, approx 8 minutes reading time)

Above the thrashing river, a rubbery noise gasps from someone’s life jacket. The stern woman leading the outing whips around and takes stock. Before her are frontman Geordie Greep, a riff wizard who sings like a haywire auctioneer; Morgan Simpson, who would have revolutionized alternative rock by now, if other drummers could keep up with him; and bassist Cameron Picton, who occasionally takes the mic for songs that pivot between fingerpicked folk and post-hardcore—and whose shoulder flaps are inflated to his cheeks. 

4. An authors favourite AI

The Verge detail how indie authors, who are turning around novels incredibly quickly, are turning to an AI storyteller for assistance in breaking through writers block.

(The Verge, approx 18 minutes reading time)

The tool was called Sudowrite. Designed by developers turned sci-fi authors Amit Gupta and James Yu, it’s one of many AI writing programs built on OpenAI’s language model GPT-3 that have launched since it was opened to developers last year. But where most of these tools are meant to write company emails and marketing copy, Sudowrite is designed for fiction writers. Authors paste what they’ve written into a soothing sunset-colored interface, select some words, and have the AI rewrite them in an ominous tone, or with more inner conflict, or propose a plot twist, or generate descriptions in every sense plus metaphor. 

5. Cargo sailboats

A look at one man’s plan to transform the shipping industry making sailboats transport cargo

(The Guardian, approx 18 minutes reading time)

Still, the idea of a cargo sailing boat stirred something deep in Olivier. He and his brother’s childhood had been shaped by sea and wind. They had grown up in Brittany, and there were several generations of seafarers in the family. As a child, Olivier loved paragliding, windsurfing and kitesurfing. “It wasn’t a rational feeling,” he told me of the moment he stepped aboard the boat. “It brought together many things that were familiar to me: the sea, sailing, ecology, the use of a different kind of energy, the use of wind.”

6. Bison and UK rewilding

A rewilding project in the UK are seeking to introduce bison into the ecosystem to help improve biodiversity, but questions about how wild introduced animals are are asked.

(WIRED, approx 18 minutes reading time)

Although the European Bison belongs to the same family as the domestic cow, you’d never mistake one for the other. Weighing in at up to a tonne, the bison is one beefy bovine. It has its own mannerisms, too: It scratches against tree trunks, rolls on the ground to take dust baths, and wraps its tongue around almost any vegetation—grass, leaves, branches—to feed.

…AND ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES…

In 2019, a man attacked and killed two people in a stabbing incident on London Bridge over five minutes. This BBC longread delves into the second-by-second account of the attack, which lasted just 300 seconds.

(BBC, approx 12 minutes reading time)

It was only 300 seconds between the police receiving the first report of a stabbing at Fishmongers’ Hall, at 13:58 GMT, and the attacker being shot by armed officers who confronted him at 14:03. If you pace the distance between the hall and the site of where Khan’s life ended it’s only a matter of seconds.

Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

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About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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