Writing with the “Mageframe” #GPT2 #MachineLearning #ArtificialIntelligence #Fantasy #Fiction @robinsloan

From desert.glass/mageframe/ by Robin Sloan.


The Roguelike Celebration happened earlier this month at GitHub in San Francisco. Fiction writer Robin Sloan gave a talk, “Writing with the machine: GPT-2 and text generation” at the conference. In this project, Sloan utilized OpenAI’s GPT-2 algorithm to write short fantasy stories with help from the general public. To keep things literary, Sloan created a backstory for these stories. In a nutshell, a group of wizards is simulating quests to defeat the dark lord of the land.  Their simulations keep failing so they reach out to their wizard ‘apprentices’ for help granting them access to the ‘Mageframe’.

Participants in the project took a survey to pick attributes for their ‘simulation’ (the leader of the quest, the object of the quest and who they encounter on the way). These attributes are fed into GPT-2 tuned on high fantasy fiction and given a general literary framework (written by Sloan). The algorithm comes up with 1-3 sentences following the seeds to generate a short story. These short stories were then mailed (with a map unique to each story) to the participants!

Sloan walks through an example story about Fenris Tusk’s quest against the Dark Lord. In the story, Fenris meets a fearsome (but friendly?) winged Elk and is ‘permanently wounded’ by the Dark Lord. Here is a blurb (the capitalized portion is the seed text):

…THEN, ON THE ROAD TOWARD NINGVAG, THEY ENCOUNTERED AN ELK. IT was a a majestic beast, with a massive horned head and wings like the night sky. It moved with such power that it was almost a joy to behold. These were, in truth, the most dangerous and fearsome creatures in all the realms.

Although there was a good amount of filtering to create cohesive stories, Sloan’s take-home is the results are ‘beautiful and surprising’. If you’d like to learn more about Mageframe, take a look a the project page or newsletter. If you’d like to learn more about Sloan’s work, check out  Sloan’s website or the newsletter archive. For more Roguelike Celebration talks check out their YouTube playlist.

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