Sunday, February 4, 2024

How AI inspired my new Andreas Kaldis novel, At Any Cost: Guest Post by Jeffrey Siger

Attention fellow Luddite mystery authors, I’ve come to realize there is no need to fear the Metaverse or what it portends. We just need learn to write around it…not employ it. As one who bases his stories in the present rather than the past, it will be hard for me to ignore the implications of AI any more than I can ignore the existence of cellphones, computers, and DNA testing capabilities. But whether AI will be front and center to a plotline or just tangential, depends on what sort of story I intend to tell. 
To state the obvious, storytelling is about the story, not ancillary matters that detract from its telling. If AI doesn’t further the plot or interferes with my fast-paced style, it’s out.  I’ve come to accept that what my future plotlines might be shall continue to depend upon what the mystery writing gods have in store for me, not AI.
As you may know, I write the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series of Greece-based mystery thrillers that play out against serious societal issues confronting far more than just Greece. That niche has me continually on the lookout for what’s percolating on the edge of societal change.  A little over two years ago, as I was tinkering with using the history and intrigues surrounding Greece’s horrid wildfires for the backdrop to what is now my just released 13th novel in the series (At Any Cost), I noticed a surge in internet and corporate interest over what some labelled the “metaverse.”
With my interest now piqued, and no clear explanation offered for what constituted this metaverse, I delved into it.  In what I can only describe as an epiphany, the very real threats posed by the bright and shiny lure of this digital metaverse jumped out at me as a solid foundation for the story I wanted to tell.  But for those threats to come to pass, one needed (a) extraordinary electrical power, (b) virtually unlimited financial capabilities, (c) world-class digital savvy, and (d) a ruthless unchecked autocratic nature. 
Lo and behold, my research revealed that all four elements already existed in abundance in Greece.  Greek forests destroyed by wildfires had been approved by the government for hosting wind and solar power generating facilities, and a trio of autocratic world powers possessing vast financial resources, top notch technical skills, and ruthless histories were and continued to be deeply involved in Greece. 
I sensed that once the trio’s goal of becoming masters of the metaverse attracted media attention, public panic and a new form of “arms race” would undoubtedly ensue.
I finished that book over a year and a half ago, well before wide-spread concern broke out over Artificial Intelligence/ChatGPT, more horrific wildfires, and the visible banding together in common cause of a trio of the world’s most autocratic powers.
As for why I had that epiphany, I wish I had an answer. I just seemed to end up there.  Writing by the seat of one’s pants can be like that. In the past, I’ve been called a “prognosticator,” a writer whose “finger is always on the pulse of modern-day upheavals,” and even “Cassandra” by some.  That’s all flattering to hear, though I never forget that things did not end well for Cassandra.
Hmm, perhaps ChatGPT can rework Cassandra from an inevitable axe murder victim, into more of a thoughtful Spock-type character rummaging around the Starship Enterprise predicting things. Just a thought.
And for the record, AI played absolutely no part in the writing of AT ANY COST … or Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

A former Wall Street lawyer, Jeff Siger fled his career as a name partner in his own NYC law firm to live on the Greek island of Mykonos, free dive for fish, and write mystery thrillers—13 published as of February 6, 2024. It was the best decision he ever made…other than proposing to his wife, Barbara.

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