Mytho-Crypto 3.11: AI Returns a 19th Century Author to Life

This week, OpenAI confessed that the sometimes-psychotic Microsoft Bingbot was GPT-4 all along, the much-anticipated successor to GPT-3. At the same time, MidJourney incremented from v4 to v5 and teased v6 by summertime. Both are on track to merge with the Google and Facebook algorithms to create Skynet within the decade. But before the oncoming AI apocalypse, we have a window of time in which to have some fun with these technologies.

As much as possible, I’m writing in the open, building a Web3 press in the open, and conducting mad experiments with Artificial Intelligence in the open, all for the benefit of the Cryptoversal community.

You may have spotted all the MidJourney v5 experiments in the Cryptoversal Discord server. The results were impressive, although I may have brought a late-19th/early-20th Century author back to life in the process.

It’s all your fault, of course. You keep bugging me for that Dracula book, among other classic works, that I owe you from Lucky’s collection of Book Messenger Tokens. To fulfill my promise, I’ll be cobbling together the latest technologies to make something extra special.

But as much as I love Bram Stoker, his epistolary style is a labor-intensive nightmare to format. What font should one use for a telegram? What style for a letter? How does one distinguish a journal kept in shorthand from one recorded on a phonograph?

I’m working through these challenges with an easier book to tame, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, the 1872 vampire novel that served as source material for much of Stoker’s lore. And to solve some of the production issues I encountered with a Cryptoversal Carmilla, I started work on a best-yet version of Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The best available photographs of Gilman, taken near the turn of the 20th Century, can be found in the Library of Congress archives.

In the past, a publisher of Gilman’s book might have included one of these photographs to represent the author and provide readers with a point of connection. An image of this vintage might have been digitally restored, colorized, or otherwise manipulated to bring it up to modern publishing standards.

But in the era of generative AI, it’s become easier to prompt a machine to create a reinterpreted author photo. Living authors are already experimenting with prompts for a fantasy or sci-fi version of themsleves, so it was inevitable that the technology would be used to reanimate the dead.

To bring Gilman back to life, I prompted for a version of her holding a book and standing in front of a background that paid tribute to her short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman virtual photoshoot

MidJourney v5 does realistic and recognizable people better than MidJourney v4. It makes fewer gaffs with hands and faces, although there’s room for a lot of further refinement. It doesn’t seem to know exactly what a book should look like, but it often comes close enough. Luckily, Victorian-era wallpaper seems to be a specialty.

From this virtual photoshoot of poses, props, and wardrobe selections, MidJourney v5 was able to generate a modern interpretation of Gilman that can help bring her back to life for the modern readers of her story.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman final photo and bio

Are you interested in a conversation about how AI can, or whether AI should, be used in creative works? Do you have any AI-assisted work that you’re willing to share? Join us in the Cryptoversal Discord, where we can help each other overcome the challenges of using these fast-evolving tools.

Also This Week

  • I attended the first-ever meeting of the Web3 Publishing Metadata Standard Initial Focus Group, that seeks to create a standard that will help readers find the Web3 books that interest them most while preserving the provenance of Web3 books to protect author’s rights and deter piracy.

  • I’m one step closer to adding Token-Mediated Co-Author Licenses to the last four NIGHTfall collections [1 - 2 - 3 - 4]. These will allow you to help me develop the Wordler world, which includes vampires who tie into the upcoming Cryptoversal vampire books.

  • For those interested in AI-assisted story, there’s a new episode of AI Rider.

  • I hope you grabbed your free Ides of March NFT from the Cent Page.

  • I hope you grabbed some free Mytho-Crypto NFTs from Mirror.

  • Ye Olde Cryptoversal Minting Press, still in beta, has released the only book that could possibly inaugurate a historic minter: the first and only Gutenberg Bible on the Optimism blockchain. 12 Optimistic Gutenberns have been set aside for airdrops to the eventual buyers of the 2021 Gutenberg Bible on Polygon, but there are some extra OP Gutenbergs for sale and they maaaaaaaay have utility going forward. (Shhh…still a secret.)

Anyway, that’s a week, and happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who are wearing the green!

—The Mythoversal Cryptoversal


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