3 May 2023
This week on the FutureX Podcast, you’ll meet Matt Gemmell, a writer of thriller, horror, and suspense novels. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with his wife Lauren, their son Calum, and a labradoodle named Whisky. Matt first tried his hand at writing stories when he was in his early teens. Writing had to wait for a while as he got a degree in Computing Science and then had a successful career as a software engineer for Apple and other companies. He also released software of his own.
When it was time to try novel-writing again, Matt started with techno thrillers, and has since developed a large body of work. We talk about building a community for Matt’s writing online.
Every week in his newsletter, Matt includes an original short story. We talk about how he’s developed the material for those stories and how they allow him to experiment with different genres.
The Writers Guild of America is on strike. I support this strike. It’s time for writers to get paid fairly, have steady employment, and not get their work ripped off.
I experienced my first strike in 1988. I had just come to California to write screenplays, and, as an active member of the Guild, all my work went on hold, including freezing an active contract with Disney. I became a temp typist. I would go for temp jobs, and they would ask me, surprised that I was a man, “how fast can you type?”
“Ninety words a minute,” I would say. “Including the numbers.”
“No, you can’t,” they’d say.
Then I would prove them wrong. I did a lot of temp typing that summer.
The next time the writers went on strike, in 2007-2008, studios and producers replaced their work with unscripted shows. It was the rise of reality tv.
This time, streaming services (Netflix, etc.) are producing lots of scripted material, but they’re not paying the writers enough, nor are they offering writers job security. Writers deserve a piece of the big streaming profits. Also at issue is the use of AI to write scripts, instead of hiring human writers. AI chatbots like ChatGPT are trained on existing script material, books, everything in print and visual that is out there on the Internet. It’s plausible that an AI could write a decent sitcom script, since it can reference all the sitcom scripts already posted online.
This doesn’t mean that an AI script would be good. It likely would just be a collection of lines that actors would have to read. The pessimist in me says that tv slipped down a peg when the last writer’s strike enabled reality tv, and will go down another peg when this strike enables AI-driven shows. Will the viewers who think that reality tv is real know the difference between a script written by a human and one written by a machine?
The optimist in me says, I think so. The Guild is right to draw the line against using AI in the writers’ room.
Next week on the podcast, you’ll hear my interview with Lexi B. She founded Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech, a community that supports Black women in tech companies and tech related professions. We talk about building communities, checking privilege around race, gender, and knowledge, and why social change requires inner work. It’s an inspiring conversation.
Thanks for listening,
(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.