How a Literary Magazine and Online Business Helped Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Other Literary Websites to Submit Spam Submissions
Clarke believes the spammy submissions are coming from people looking to make a quick buck and who found Clarkesworld and other publications through “side hustle” influencers and websites. One website, for example, is loaded with SEO bait articles and keywords around marketing, writing, and business and promises to help readers make money quickly. An article on the site lists nearly two dozen literary magazines and websites — including Clarkesworld and Asimov’s, as well as larger outlets like the BBC — with pay rate and submission details. The article encourages readers to use Artificial Intelligence to help them and has links to online businesses that use it.
“It was increasing at such a rate that we figured that by the end of the month, we would have double the number of submissions we normally have. We were worried about how we would stop it because of the rate at which it had been growing.
Clarke said the magazine wasn’t revealing the method it was using to identify the AI-generated stories, because it didn’t want to help people game the system, but he said the quality of the writing was very poor.
Microsoft and Google have since announced their own chatbots, in what is shaping up as an arms race to be the industry leader. And everyone from tech experts worried about misuse to university professors seeing its potential have sought to adapt.
Make a buck with ChatGPT: The problem of side hustle culture in the e-review of science fiction and tech-savvy science fiction
Clarke said magazines like his, which pay contributors for their work, were being targeted by people trying to make a quick buck. He said he had spoken to editors of other magazines that were dealing with the same problem.
He claimed that there was a rise of side hustle culture online. “And some people have followings that say, ‘Hey, you can make some quick money with ChatGPT, and here’s how, and here’s a list of magazines you could submit to.’ Unfortunately, we’re on one of those lists.
Clarke said the magazine didn’t yet have an answer to how it was going to deal with the issue, and part of the motivation to speak out was in the hope of crowdsourcing some solutions.
“I mean, our mascot’s a robot. He said they kind of see the humor. “But the thing is that science fiction is often cautionary and we don’t embrace technology just because it exists.” We need to make sure we are using it correctly.
From bots to science fiction writers: The Last Echo, Last Day of Autumn, and The Last Voyager: A case study in finding the authentic submissions
Since that first submission, Williams has received more than 20 short stories all titled “The Last Hope,” each coming from different author names and email addresses. Over the course of the last few months, many similar submissions have been overwhelming small publishers, and Williams believes they were all generated using artificial intelligence tools.
Using ChatGPT, The Verge was able to replicate some elements of submissions Williams has seen. A prompt to write a short science fiction story — plus copy-and-pasted information from Asimov’s submission guidelines — produced stories with dozens of similar titles in succession, like “The Last Echo,” “The Last Message,” “The Last Day of Autumn,” and “The Last Voyager.”
The influx of submissions has been frustrating for Willams and her team, but they have learned to spot AI-generated works. It can be difficult to find genuine submissions from younger writers due to the amount of time editors and readers have to devote to them. And the problem could only get worse, as the wider availability of writing bots creates a new genre of get-rich-quick schemes, where literary magazines with open submissions have discovered themselves on the receiving end of a new surface for spammy submissions trying to game the system.
Williams says that certain character names are more popular than repeating titles. Sometimes the manuscript will contain a different title than the one indicated in the online form. Author names are often combined with first and last names. In optional cover letters, some authors include instructions on how to wire them money for their story that has not yet been accepted. At times, the submitter hasn’t even bothered to replace “[name]” with their own.
Williams says that she usually goes through them as quickly as she can. It takes the same time to download a submission, open it, and look at it. I would prefer to spend time on legitimate submissions.
A lot of publication pay 8 to 10 cents for a single word, while some charge flat fees of up to a couple hundred dollars for accepted pieces. In his blog, Clarke wrote that a “high percentage of fraudulent submissions” were coming from some regions but declined to name them, concerned that it could paint writers from those countries as scammy.
But the possibility of being paid is a factor: in some cases, Clarke has corresponded with people who’ve been banned for submitting AI-generated work, saying they need the money. An editor told The Verge that they would get submissions and emails fromwriters in countries where the cost of living is less than in the US, if there was a fee for the stories.
People in the science fiction and fantasy community would know that it wouldn’t work. It would be obvious to them that they wouldn’t be able to do this and expect it to work.
Editorial: Submission Rules and Submission Criteria for Flash Fiction Online in the May/Fractional Issue, Vol. III, No. 2 (2001)
Science fiction and fantasy are included in the issue. horror and literary fiction are accepted by flash fiction online. The notice was attached to the submission form and stated that the outlet was committed to publishing stories written and edited by humans. We reserve the right to reject any submission that we suspect to be primarily generated or created by language modeling software, ChatGPT, chat bots, or any other AI apps, bots, or software.”
The updated terms were added around the time that FFO received more than 30 submissions from one source within a few days, says Anna Yeatts, publisher and co-editor-in-chief. Each story hit cliches Yeatts had seen in AI-generated work, and each had a unique cover letter, structured and written unlike what the publication normally sees. But Yeatts and colleagues had had suspicions since January that some work they had been sent had been created using AI tools.
In the past, FFO has published mainstream work that has a more conventional writing style and voice that is accessible to a range of reading levels. For that, Yeatts says stories generated using AI tools could get past baseline requirements.
“It does have all the parts of the story that you try to look for. It has a beginning, middle, and end. It has a resolution, characters. The English language’s code of conduct is good according to Yeatts. The FFO team is working to train staff readers to look for certain story elements as they’re taking a first pass at submissions.
Yeatts isn’t sure what the magazine can do to stop the stories from coming. Upgrading the Submittable plan would be costly for FFO, which runs “on a shoestring budget,” Yeatts says.
“We’ve talked about soliciting stories from other authors, but then that also doesn’t really feel true to who we are as a publication because that’s going to deter new writers,” Yeatts says. We don’t have good solutions.
Others in the community are keeping an eye on the problem that’s inundating other publishers and are thinking through ways to respond before it spreads further. Matthew, the creator of Moksha, an online submission system used by dozens of publications, says he’s heard from clients who have received submissions that look like they were written using artificial intelligence.
“Allowing authors to self-affirm if the work is AI-generated is a good first step,” Kressel told The Verge via email. “It provides more transparency to the whole thing, because right now there’s a lot of uncertainties.”
For Williams, the editor of Asimov’s, being forced to use her time to sift through the AI-generated junk pile is frustrating. But even more concerning is that legitimate new authors might see what’s happening and think editors won’t ever make it to their manuscript.
How to Make Money with ChatGPT? The Side-Hustle Community Helps Against Spam and DDoS Attacks
The problem has been growing for a while, but they took time to analyze the data before talking about it publicly. “The reason we’re getting these is a lot of the side-hustle community,” he says. “‘Make money using ChatGPT.’ They’re not science fiction writers—they’re not even writers, for the most part. People who are trying to make some money on things are following people who know what they are doing. He adds that having seen some of the how-to videos in question, “There’s no way what they’re hawking is going to work.”
“We’re going to reopen—we have no choice,” Clarke says. “But we’re taking the stance that it’s going to be trial and error.” A computer scientist by training and the developer of the site, Clarke stresses that he’s not going to explain the exact technicalities of those trials—why give spammers a step-by-step guide?—but the changes will be small and targeted at the trends they’ve observed in their data collection. “As far as I’m concerned, what we’re dealing with is a scenario not unlike the battle over malware, credit card fraud, denial of service attacks,” he says. “It’s all the same sort of thing. You have to find a way to manage working in a world where these things exist.”
Right now, the worry about the volume of garbage is more important than the quality of the writing. He says the quantity problem is not a quality problem. “We’re being drowned; they’re being shouted out. This is going to be a problem, and I feel bad for the new writer right now. The number of markets that will take the shortcut to avoid this problem is not zero, and every one of those that happens is a harm to them. They have reason to be upset.