7 min read

Astrolabe Digest: 040824

Publisher Angry Robot reveals and then shutters an AI revolution, Commodore 64 finally hits Analogue Pocket, and a whole bunch of retro games sold for a whole bunch of money at auction
Astrolabe Digest: 040824

Hey, hi! Welcome to Astrolabe Digest. This is a new column for paid supporters1 aimed at keeping y’all informed about the best stories in Astrolabe’s orbit. Think of it like a levelled-up version of Quest Markers.

Astrolabe Digest isn’t here to replace main Astrolabe issues (I’ve got a couple cooking and they are doozies!), but to supplement them by bringing you more goodness while the big stories bake.

With freelance games journalism becoming more and more untenable, I’m looking at diverting my time and energy toward providing more value for paid Astrolabe supporters, as a way to keep doing what I’m doing. So, if you appreciate my work here or elsewhere, consider a paid subscription.


Angry Robot launches open submission period with AI... and quickly reverses course due to community blowback

black audio mixer
Photo by Mauro Sbicego / Unsplash
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy publisher Angry Robot has earned a lot of goodwill among early career writers for their open submission periods—where writers can submit to editors directly without needing an agent.
  • (But, seriously, if you ever get an offer on your unagented submission, IMMEDIATELY go get an agent. Tell the agent in your pitch that you have an offer on the table. Don't sign any publishing contracts without an agent.)
  • All that goodwill, however, evaporated in an avoidable flaming wreckage, however, when Angry Robot tried to quietly announce that manuscripts received during their upcoming open submission session would be processed through an AI-powered application called Storywise. According to its website, "[Storywise] analyzes the manuscript and highlights the submissions you should take a second look at, together with a handy report card."
  • The original post has been deleted, but screenshots exist.
  • In the open submission FAQ, Angry Robot clarified that they would not be using the "grading" portion of Storywise, but were intending to use the application to sort submissions based on genre, word length, and point of view, etc. The FAQ attempted to assure writers that this is Good AI™, not Bad AI™.
  • But, the announcement still pissed off a bunch of writers: "Add me to the mob of writers saying fuck AI," responded A Curse of Krakens author Kevin Hearne. Writer Lincoln Michel calls the move a "bad look," while Chuck Wendig, in particular Chuck Wendig fashion, cuts in with satire:
“We are going to feed your story to artificial intelligence but don’t worry it’s not the bad kind of artificial intelligence but just the kind that removes human intervention from art and writing because ha ha humans, am I right? The worst! Oh and PS don’t get an agent, agents are bad too.”
  • Author Jackson Ford had a different take. "This strikes me as a reasonably sensible way to use AI," the A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers author said on Twitter. "Anybody who has ever gone through a slush pile will tell you: most of it is hot garbage. If you can use AI tools to SORT, to sift through stuff that would be auto-rejected anyway, and get it to the right editors...then yes. Use it."
  • "We are a small team reaching a very high limit!" Angry Robot explained in the FAQ. "Our previous system is not sustainable: things get lost, we don’t answer authors in time, it takes too much time, etc. We are trialling this system in an attempt to be much more efficient and communicative with authors trusting their submissions with us."
  • Five hours after the original post, Angry Robot announced in a tweet the decision to rollback the use of Storywise "for this open subs period." Emphasis mine. The language used in the announcement is vague on use of the AI software for future submissions periods.
  • "I may be old and cynical," wrote Mary Sue on Bluesky, "but this reads to me like 'Send them to our old email and we'll upload them to the AI machine ourselves!'"
  • Angry Robot did not respond to my request for comment.

This post is for paying subscribers only