Clarkesworld swamped by AI spam, temporarily stops accepting submissions

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Clarkesworld, the top global science fiction and fantasy magazine by traffic, has temporary stopped accepting new short story submissions because of a flood of AI-generated spam.

According to the Hugo Award-winning magazine’s submission guidelines, AI-generated or AI-assisted writing is not accepted by Clarkesworld, but it apparently hasn’t stopped people from trying to submit it.

The magazine will reopen for submissions again, editor Neil Clarke said in a Tweet earlier today, but haven’t yet set a date.

But the magazine won’t stay closed to submissions indefinitely, because there’s isn’t a large number of stories that have already been submitted — it will need new stories to publish soon.

“We don’t tend to carry a lot of inventory,” Clarke told MetaStellar. “It’s more likely we’ll try to reopen in the next month — after making some changes to our submission software — and see what happens. I fully expect that to end in closing as well, but it will provide a small amount of data that might help us with further modifications.”

He added that he’s going to be talking with some experts in various related fields that have offered to give them some pointers.

To illustrate the scope of the problem, Clarke posted an image showing the number of people he’s had to ban for submitting plagiarized or bot-written content.

This is not the number of submissions — this is just the number of bans.

So far this month, the number has exceeded 500.

“This is a problem for short fiction submissions and it’s not just going to go away,” he wrote.

(Image by Maria Korolov via Midjourney.)

And there’s no easy solution, he added. Detectors are unreliable and asking writers to pay a fee in order to submit a short story would harm many legitimate authors.

Third-party confirmation tools are expensive, and don’t work everywhere.

“Adopting them would be the same as banning entire countries,” Clarke wrote.

Another option is to only allow authors to submit if they’ve submitted work before.

“That would effectively ban new authors, which is not acceptable,” he wrote. “They are an essential part of this ecosystem and our future.”

(Image courtesy Clarkesworld.)

In the short term, the best thing that people can do to help is to subscribe to Clarkesworld magazine, he said. Additional revenues will help the magazine pay for whatever tools will be required to address the problem.

You can watch Clarke talk about international writers in an interview last fall on the MetaStellar YouTube channel:

MetaStellar editor and publisher Maria Korolov is a science fiction novelist, writing stories set in a future virtual world. And, during the day, she is an award-winning freelance technology journalist who covers artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and enterprise virtual reality. See her Amazon author page here and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, and check out her latest videos on the Maria Korolov YouTube channel. Email her at [email protected]. She is also the editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business, one of the top global sites covering virtual reality.

2 thoughts on “Clarkesworld swamped by AI spam, temporarily stops accepting submissions”

  1. I suspect that some SFF magazines will start charging a small, token amount — maybe $1 or 50 cents — per submission.

    This won’t keep out AI-assisted content. (Personally, I don’t think anything will — there are too many ways in which writers can use AI that help them write that banning it is a futile gesture.) But it will keep the mass submissions away.

    The poorest countries in the world have average annual incomes of around $500. Assuming that people submitting to international SFF magazines make at least that — since they can write English and have access to a computer — a dollar there would be equivalent to around $100 for people in the US. I’m less worried about the availability of PayPal — it’s available in more than 200 countries including the poorest, Burundi.

    I’m just spitballing here — we still have to discuss this on the board level so I’m not speaking as the editor-in-chief of MetaStellar right now, but as an individual person — we can waive the submission fee for anyone who’s been published in MetaStellar before.

    And we have several non-paying opportunities for publication, including essays and reprints. (Reprints being anything that’s been published anywhere else before, including on your own website or social media.)

    So if someone from, say, Burundi, wants to get published in MetaStellar, they can submit an essay, book review, or reprint to us, work with our editors on revisions, demonstrate that they’re a real writer whom we can work with, then, once they’re in our system, submit original fiction without paying a fee.

    Our spring submission window opens on March 1, so we’ll see what kind of volumes we’re getting.

    Unlike Clarkesworld, we’re not automatically rejecting AI-assisted writing. We don’t care what tools you use to create your story. We just want your story to be good. You can see our article about it here:

    But we’ll still be rejecting anything that smacks of mass submissions and anything that’s bad. For one thing, the email address you submit the story with must be the same one on your PayPal account. That should eliminate multiple submissions from the same person, since creating a new PayPal account is not a trivial matter.

    Also, when people use bots to generate stories, those stories typically lack nuance — they’re the first thing that pops out of ChatGPT.

    Yes, you can use ChatGPT and other AI writing assistants to write great stories. But if you just take whatever random story it spits out, odds are that it’s going to read like a Wikipedia summary of a children’s story, because that’s ChatGPT’s default writing style.

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