The New AI Consumer

Some tech geek out there wannabe startup tech bro is actually selling an AI pen. That’s what he’s advertising it as anyway. I guess it’ll do your handwriting for you, on those rare occasions you need to write anything by hand.

photo of an actual tech geek

Next up: An AI prompter. Having to think about what your AI botbook novel will be about is too mentally stressful. I mean, if the chatbot does all of the writing and most of the thinking for your literary masterpiece, why can’t it do all of it? Makes sense, right? I mean, what are you paying for, or not paying for? You’re using it, aren’t you? Should be enough.

Soon they’ll have AI shopping, done by algorithms. No shopping list required. The bots will know what you need and want. Transport will be provided by AI cars– autonomous, they’re called– which you won’t really need, because everything will be delivered to you by autonomous trucks, manned, I guess, by robots. I’m not making this up. Automakers and tech companies have invested billions in the premise. It’s coming soon. I promise.

When the groceries are delivered, there will be AI stoves to do the cooking for you. And AI dishwashers. Then AI laundry, and AI robots to make your bed and vacuum the carpeting. Modern conveniences, for your own good. So you’ll have more leisure time for, you know. Something. Sitting on the sofa watching television, or smoking pot. Vegging out. Or sleeping. It’s always pleasant to close the blinds on the world and go to sleep. Then in the morning the AI alarm clock will wake you and your coffee will be ready and you’ll be ready for– I don’t know. Another day.

It’s all in the works, believe me.


“Peeve” by John Zedolik

a poem

(We’ll be running three other poems by John upcoming soon as a feature at the New Pop Lit site.)

Pull that hangnail rising like a flag

flapping in a breeze of non-concern

though catching my eye like a barbed

hook replete with rankling hairs so not

letting my attention go, but racking it

with the thought of tear and blood

—the anxiety in anticipating when it will rip—

and pain the owner—who might then regret

his indolence and indifference when more

raw flesh breathes the new air in crimson

exposure as the finger-end resembles more rag

than bone I silently urged him to not leave alone.


(We’ll give John’s bio when we run his other three poems. This is a Sneak Preview. We can tell you that John appears in our print zeen, Extreme Zeen Two, still available at the POP SHOP.)

Stop the Tech Zombies!

photo c/o

WHILE we’ve hit our goal of 1,000 with the “Save the Writer!” petition (our initial goal was actually 100), we urge writers, readers, actors, artists, everybody in creative fields– or anyone who simply appreciates human talent– who has not already signed the petition to please do so. All noise made to slow down the tech zombies is good, because they’re appearing everywhere– from gullible wannabe writers and artists to would-be scam artists eager to grab their share of the venture capital big-money pie.

CAN they be slowed down? Or possibly stopped?

I’m not sure. But we need to at least try.


Sam Altman’s Actual Message to Congress

Getty Images

Remember: when tech hustlers make their pitch for their products, they’re operating on several levels. There’s what their words say, and then there’s the actual meaning conveyed between the lines.

In his May 16, 2023 testimony to a Senate committee, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was sending a message to the senators, when he said AI technology “can go quite wrong.” What he was actually saying: “This technology is dangerous!”

Altman knew they’d be thrilled hearing that. Why? Because of the military-industrial complex, which sustains the nation’s– and by extension, their— power in the world. Thoughts registering in their heads: New weapons with which to stay ahead of the Chinese!

Our politicians are egoistic, narcissistic individuals filled with vanity, on the emotional and mental level of a ten year-old. “Gollee!” they were thinking, wetting their pants with excitement, as Musk-like thoughts of space rockets, killer robots, and other new toys raced across their limited brains.

Sam Altman was taking a page from the Elon Musk playbook and giving the senators science fiction and gadgets. Closing the deal with them, to ensure he has a free hand to keep growing his pyramid scheme business while getting every available sucker– in Washington D.C. and those watching on television– on board.

Making the sale.


Did Sarah J Maas Betray Human Artists?

Promo photo of Sarah J. Maas “scraped” from Bloomsbury’s website. Not AI-generated. We don’t think.

Many questions are being raised among all kinds of artists and fans of art– including writers and readers– over this article which appeared online in The Verge. It definitely does appear that the cover art used for the novel House of Earth and Blood was AI-generated. If so, this would be a betrayal of many of Maas’ fans, but also a betrayal of the pronounced ideals of her publisher, Bloomsbury. After all, Bloomsbury even has a “Modern Slavery Statement” on its website, in which they endorse “high ethical standards” which require “that the management implements proportionate risk based procedures that protect the reputation” of Bloomsbury and its subsidiary companies.

Does that protection of their reputation extend to not using cut-rate stock images that were AI-generated in order to save a few dollars, or pounds, whichever the case may be? Instead of– gasp!– employing an actual human artist?

Dare we call the esteemed Bloomsbury Publishing Group cheap?

And Sarah J. Maas is their most successful, most profitable author, by far. She alone may be keeping the entire enterprise going. You’d think Bloomsbury would reward her devoted readership by spending a minimal amount of funds on a real artist.

Sarah J Maas has, by one account sold 26 million of her novels, and is worth $40 million. One would think she’d demand something more as presentation of her work than a cover which could be done by any twelve year-old with a chatbot. As it is, her novel looks like something which might be bought at the nearest Dollar store.

Yes, we’re living in sad cultural times, we really are.


Taylor Swift: Shock of the Ordinary

Many commentators are making much of Taylor Swift concerts drawing massive crowds– likening it to past phenomena such as the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

Can we put Taylor Swift in that category?

What Elvis and the Beatles both presented when they broke on the scene was the Robert Hughes term, “Shock of the New.” The entire aesthetic package they hit audiences with was unlike anything before seen.

Elvis Presley looked like a Greek god dressed as a combination pimp, carnival barker, and clown. His high-energy musical style was a synthesis of everyone from Ike Turner, Roy Brown, and Arthur Crudup, to Mario Lanza and Dean Martin.

The Beatles at the start were nothing so much as a male girl group in close-fitting suits, whose look surprised people as much as their sound.

Taylor Swift? She’s pretty enough, with a nice-enough voice. I’d classify her with Karen Carpenter and Olivia Newton-John. In presentation and music she breaks no new ground. Her safe familiarity, if anything, accounts for her appeal. Compare her with past iconic female singers– Tina Turner (Ike’s ex); Janis Joplin and Grace Slick with their megaphone-sized voices; Blondie’s quirky focal point Deborah Harry; sexy Janet Jackson (whose brother Michael was also a huge phenomenon); ultra-aggressive hyper-edgy Courtney Love; among others, and Taylor Swift underwhelms.

Which may say much about where we are as a culture now.


“What Happened At Drake’s”

by Lukas Tallent

—Now, my dear, tell me what you saw.

—There were fireworks in their eyes, and smoke from their mouths hovered visibly in the room. They both had drinks, brightly-colored and in tall fizzy glasses. He was talking to her, and she was leaning forward, her arms on the table, taken it seemed. The others in the bar were lost in their own dramas and excuses and relaxers and sports games and chicken wings and sliders and sushi and—

—That’s enough about the food. Tell me, my dear, what did you hear?

—Moans and sighs and laughter, but from their table:

“Would you like something…more expensive?”

“Or alcoholic, you mean?”

“Yes, that’s typically the case.”

She paused and looked to the ceiling.

“I’m trying to not do something stupid.”


“Like tell you about my last boyfriend, or go home with you.”

—Oh, my dear, what did you think?

—It wasn’t stupid. I thought about Greg and Amanda, about how he jumpstarted my car that night at McDonald’s and how she said I could do so much better, how everyone thought we would get together someday, then I thought about where we all are now and how far that is from what we wanted, and I thought I might ought to order something expensive.

—Poor dear, what did you smell?

—Smoke and sauces and lingering antiperspirant, the bartender, his glossy red hair and beard, matted with sweat, had damp stains under his arms as he shoveled ice into more of the tall glasses and poured from the silver shaker over the ice and slid the result in front of me.

“Try that.”

—And what about the taste, my dear?

—Bitter and sweet and cold and fruity and fizzy and warm and . . . suddenly, the bartender was no longer six foot tall, but knee-height and wearing a green coat and raspberry beret. We weren’t in the bar but standing on the edge of a cliff, so high we couldn’t see the bottom for the clouds. He said, “I am the Beave, if you can believe, and you are nothing more than a sieve.”

—My dear, what did you feel?

—The condensation on my glass, still cold, and . . . on the precipice. “You must choose,” the Beave said, “no one is going to ask you to go further, no one is here to push you,” and with that, he checked his watch and wrinkled his nose, and once again we were in the bar, and my drink was gone, and the bartender came over to ask if I was ready close out.

I nodded. He went to find my card.

The couple were long gone. I imagined that he helped her into her coat, and maybe she let him hold her hand as they left, but really, from there, it was whatever you wanted to make of them.


Lukas Tallent lives in New York City. His work has recently appeared in Door is A Jar, Maudlin HouseBright Flash Literary Review, and many other places. You can find more of him at

The Tech Hustlers

It’s interesting to me how tech hustlers like Sam Altman have conned several hapless literary figures of some repute into being their patsies.

For instance, esteemed author Stephen Marche, who was recruited by Pushkin Industries owners Jacob Weisberg and Malcolm Gladwell into being a spokesperson for AI chatbot capabilities. I really don’t think Marche knew all he was getting into when he was enlisted to construct, via chatbots, an AI novel, aka bot book. Or the company he would keep. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been a seat-of-the-pants player since he dropped out of Stanford University at age 19. I’ve known people like him– one a fast-talking character running a boiler room calling operation outside Philadelphia in a temporary office. Very temporary. The kind of place the crew could pack up and leave with phones and equipment within a day. The goal of the operation: to get the credit card number, the money, no matter what was said to obtain it. The promise was to get people out of their time shares. Orientation: “These people are easy marks– or they wouldn’t have bought the time shares to begin with.” (I left after two days, though I badly needed employment. Of course I was never paid.)

Anyway, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is that guy, but on a much larger scale. He wants disruption alright: power and money. A lot of it.

Chatbot purveyors are going to be hit with a lot of lawsuits, because the basis of their operations is stolen material. (See our post “Literary Pirates.”) Now, a billionaire like Altman couldn’t care less about lawsuits, nor about unfavorable news articles. He’s a big-money gambler. Blowback is part of the game. But for patsies like Stephen Marche who thrive on their respectability– or at least the appearance of same– it could turn out to be a very different story.


The Writer-Editor Dynamic

If a person were to believe everything they read on Twitter, writers are dissatisfied with editors– and it may also be that editors are sometimes frustrated with writers. I’ve been on both sides of the divide. Back in the day, when I was being published in a few prestigious publications, I was upset at editors for hacking apart my cherished writing. Later, after a hiatus of sorts, I found myself on the other side of the fence. My perspective changed.

(Insert Rodney King voice: “Why can’t we just all get along?”)


The question is whether writers see the literary world completely in terms of themselves: islands of “one”– simultaneously believing the writing community (which will soon include more and more chatbot writers) are all on the same side. United, I guess, against publishers large and small– and also, of course, against editors. But if you the writer are submitting to any journal, or a host of journals, you are in fact competing against other writers.


We all need to be aware of context. Namely, that literature is a marginalized art, with real opportunities few, obstacles many– for everybody– and odds against any fledgling outfit or unconnected writer are enormous. The only way any group of writers and editors stand a chance is via collaboration. Understanding that fences between us are counterproductive: we stand a better chance if united against a common enemy: an indifferent world.

(It also makes sense to unite against A.I.)