Real Artists • 2011 • Near Future SF short story by Ken Liu


Synopsis: Sophia applies for a job at Semaphore Pictures, a studio she is a big fan of, and has even re-edited an important film from them to fit her own style. Her interviewer appraises her but before he passes a job offer, she needs to learn how things are done in the studio.

Semaphore has an AI artificially generating films. The most valuable ingredient is the emotional involvement of the audience, and they’ve set up a method to measure those objectively from a test audience.

Review: A.I. generated videos are a thing these days. On the one hand, there is the topic of deep fakes, putting actors into scenes they never participated in. That’s used obviously in porn, but also in films like Star Wars for princess Leia or Fast&Furious to replace dead actors. On the other hand, those A.I.s generate complete videos by selecting and combining scenes. Currently, those are silly, but in a not so far future, there could be a case of completely generated films.

Mixing in a satirical take on the industry’s desire for audience research, and there is the plot of this enjoyable, but very predictable short story. It’s straight forward, and I liked Sophia’s curiosity and rebellious character.

What I don’t believe in is the question of creativity. I think, some popcorn action movies fitting to some special needs could be very well generated automatically. Also, 90% porn could be automatically generated. But for the more interesting films, human creativity will be needed for a long time. By the way, a short film has been produced based on this short story, and maybe you want to check it out.

The story is not one of Ken Liu’s best, but I enjoyed it and recommend reading it.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Escape Pod. I’ve read it in the collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories.

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5 Responses to Real Artists • 2011 • Near Future SF short story by Ken Liu

  1. proxyfish says:

    Ken Liu is an author I’ve always been desperate to like but haven’t really gelled with at all…

    Liked by 1 person

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