Friday GPT-2: 2021 Hugo finalists

I trained GPT-2 on last year’s short fiction Hugo finalists. The result:

I’d like to start with an expansive one. It’ll be as broad as the Universe and as expansive as a rib cage. There can’t be too much to say about that.

And then there’s Mom, the omnipresent centre of the home—the one who’s always at home, making sure that whatever comes my way gets eaten alive by whatever comes not. The one who’s always available.

There’s been a lot of talk about Who? The Beast? The Witness? But the truth is, there’s just too much at stake to be distracted by mere terminology or a single, overarching theme. The mystery of Frodo’s true home is well-known: he’s the only one left, the one who’s always been there, the one who’s always been afraid.

So Who?

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One Green Eye and One Black Eye

What grabbed me the moment I opened Patricia A. McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, her 1975 World Fantasy Award-winning novel, was the sheer evocativeness of the language. Like, just read this opening paragraph:

The wizard Heald coupled with a poor woman once, in the king’s city of Mondor, and she bore a son with one green eye and one black eye. Heald, who had two eyes black as the black marshes of Fyrbolg, came and went like a wind out of the woman’s life, but the child Myk stayed in Mondor until he was fifteen. Big-shouldered and strong, he was apprenticed to a smith, and men who came to have their carts mended or horses shod were inclined to curse his slowness and his sullenness, until something would stir in him, sluggish as a marsh beast waking beneath murk. Then he would turn his head and look at them out of his black eye, and they would fall silent, shift away from him. There was a streak of wizardry in him, like the streak of fire in damp, smoldering wood. He spoke rarely to men with his brief, rough voice, but when he touched a horse, a hungry dog, or a dove in a cage on market days, the fire would surface in his black eye, and his voice would run sweet as a daydreaming voice of the Slinoon River. 

The world of Eldwold feels lived-in and real just on the strength of those similes. We don’t lose focus from what is ultimately a character-focused narrative for lengthy discourses as to the setting; even the titular beasts’ deeds are initially related compactly, by way of introduction. But we get enough from the sheer language of the novel to sense that we’re reading in a world that’s fully copulated and has a deep history even while the first half of the book is set almost entirely on Eld Mountain. We don’t actually visit Fyrbolg, but we have no doubt that it exists.

This is also a novel that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It tells the story of Sybel, the two she loves, and her quest for vengeance; it has no need to sprawl beyond that. I have nothing against the occasional fantasy epic but I certainly wouldn’t mind if the 217-page standalone secondary-world fantasy came back into vogue.

File #63. McKillip, Patricia A. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. San Francisco: Tachyon, [2017].

Friday GPT-2: 2021 Nebula finalists

I trained GPT-2 on this year’s short fiction Nebula finalists. The result:

Do you remember the star person from the beach? He was the smartest kid I ever seen, and I know he and his family are pretty gaunt.

But do you remember the other two people from the movie? They were the only ones who talked to me. They always called me by my birth name, like I was weird. And they always kept me company. Always with me. Over and over. Never away.

I thought about it, my hands on my hips, thinking about the letters t and u on the dollar bill. The star person from the beach was always right next to me, right next to me, like we were one big family.

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Friday GPT-2: 2022 Hugo finalists

I trained GPT-2 on this year’s short fiction Hugo finalists. The result:

It is at this moment that my heart aches, for I so desperately want to take his life but I can’t. I could paint over his grave, lay waste to his great-grandmother, and if I were going to make a difference for the world, I would care less what anyone thinks or what country they come from.

“Let him go,” he says. “He has to go. I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t hear us.”

There’s a quiet fraction of a second in which I want to tell him no, but I know he’s afraid of losing his voice. His eyes are so long they barely can open a single black line. He knows.

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