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AI Doesn't Swear Right

The emphasis on all the wrong words.

By Stephanie Van OrmanPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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AI Doesn't Swear Right
Photo by Jackson Sophat on Unsplash

Like many authors, I have been getting notices that I should transform my novels into AI-read audiobooks on GooglePlay Books. Lately, I got an email explaining to me that the service is free right now and I should take advantage of it.

Yes. I should take advantage of it.

I don't know much about making audiobooks. I know I am a novelist and I have been blessed with a good clear voice. In the past, I have done projects for school and work involving audio files. I also know that those files were a few minutes at the least to two hours at the most. I also know that it takes approximately an hour to read ten thousand words out loud. That means that to make an audiobook myself will require over eight hours of speech.

This is the part where I crack my neck.

It is also the part where I give up and give the Google AI audiobook a try.

Truthfully, it takes under an hour to prepare a manuscript. I'm impressed.

However, my creativity gets chopped down a notch as I listen to the AI voices. They're not very imaginative or rich. My own voice is both imaginative and rich. Not only that, but I'm the author. I know how the book is supposed to be read.

Specifically, I put on the AI voice and listened as it read the first six words of a new section.

"Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!"

That's what the character says. He's experiencing a moment of justifiable tension. He's in the middle of a car chase.

The voice says "Damn it!" with the same tone as it reads the copyright page. Monotonous. It's a dead voice that is so dead, it's not even screaming from the grave for vengeance. In all, it's less passionate than an old radio recording of someone who has been dead for sixty years. Though it is a notch nicer than the voice that gives me directions over my GPS.

It's just so disheartening... in a completely different way than it's disheartening to put my mouth to a microphone and somehow manage to screw up reading of the opening paragraph of my book six times in a row.

It's a difficult day to pick my poison.

I know that if I make my own recording, it's going to suck. It's going to suck BAD. It will also take a lot longer to record eight hours worth of audiobook. It could take WEEKS. Maybe even MONTHS. And even when I finish, it might still have so much background noise that a person listening to the book in their car will think something is wrong with their engine.

Now, I should point out that there is a third option. As an author, you have the option to hire a voice actor to read the book for you. I am loath to do this. What if the actor doesn't cloak my book in their credibility? I fear that it will cost an arm and a leg and when I hear the recording, I'll realize everything that is wrong with me, my writing, and every decision I've made up until that moment. What if I hear it and my book sounds stupid because the actor thinks my book is stupid? Or worse?

What if I suddenly understand everything about myself that is worthy of ridicule? A novel is already practically apocalyptic in its revelatory nature. The novel we write tells things about us in a sideways way we could never piece together ourselves. I mean, most of the time, we hide the things we don't like about ourselves. We hide it just out of our vision. Sometimes we spot a glimpse of it, but even if we turn our heads to see what's wrong, some helpful part of our brain hides it again just as quickly... like there's a sign on the back of our heads we can't see. We know there are things wrong with us, but we have to let it slip through the cracks without an examination. If we don't like our very essence, there isn't much we can do, so the helpful part of our brain hides the problems.

So, I let my books be read by AI. The bonuses are that the voice is always at the same pitch and volume. There's no judgement passed on the author or the reader by the AI. No voice actor did a shoddy job, rushing to do the next job. The fake voice rocks a little like a boat and if I were on a really long car drive, I think I'd appreciate the steadiness of it all. I think it would give me the feeling like I'm still alone with the book and allowed to make decisions on what I think of the content without the voice actor coming between me and the words with intonation, pitch, and expression.

Still, I think the AI could say 'Damn it' better.

Damn it.

opinioncomedyartificial intelligence
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About the Creator

Stephanie Van Orman

I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.

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Comments (1)

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  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Well, fuck me. This damn thing sure as shit better be a frigging Top Story soon. I have been thinking about the audiobook idea, too, and I do not think I have the patience for it. Good luck!

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