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I have been trying for a very long time to identify a story.

  • Genre: science fiction
  • Duration: short story
  • Topic: Super-Computer (AI) assisted writing
  • Premise: Earth authors are very popular with alien cultures, but their stories are really written by SuperComputers, which range from expensive (produce good stories) to cheap (produce bad stories).
  • Story: A poor author breaks into a wealthy author's house to steal the settings for the man's SuperComputers, but finds it broken.
  • Conclusion: The wealthy author writes his popular stories by himself.
  • Year: Probably 1950s
  • Language: English/USA?

Can you help?

2
  • 1
    Written by an author with issues about his peers ....
    – davidbak
    Apr 1, 2023 at 22:20
  • 2
    So does the protagonist succeed in stealing the settings, as implied by the title? If the posted answer is correct, as seems likely, the protagonist did not succeed. Apr 2, 2023 at 15:25

1 Answer 1

31

This could be "So Bright The Vision" (1956), by Clifford Simak. The super-computers are called "yarners", and as the story starts the protagonist, Kemp Hart, looks at an expensive one:

... One machine in the corner of the showroom was bigger and shinier than the others and had about it a rare glint of competence. It had a massive keyboard for the feeding in of data and it had a hundred slots or so for the working tapes and films. It had a mood control calibrated more sensitively than any he had ever seen and in all probability a lot of other features that were not immediately apparent.

With a machine such as that, Hart told himself, a man could become famous almost automatically and virtually overnight. He could write anything he wished and he would write it well and the doors of the most snooty of the publishers would stand open to him.

Later he talks to his publisher:

"I've got something for you," Irving told him. "We’re starting a new magazine, aimed at the tribes out in the Algol system. They’re a primitive sort of people, but they can read. Lord love them. ...

After some misadventures, he tries to steal fellow writer Jasper Hansen's yarner, but it's broken:

... The door was locked as usual. But he took out of his pocket a thin piece of spring steel he’d picked up in a junkyard and did some judicious prying. In the matter of seconds, the lock clicked back and the door swung open.

The yarner squatted in its corner, a bright and lovely sight.

...

... With fumbling fingers, he lifted the side panel, and peered inside.

The machine’s innards were a mess. Half of the tubes were gone. Others were burned out, and the wiring had been ripped loose in places. The whole relay section was covered with dust. Some of the metal, he saw, was rusty. The entire machine was just a pile of junk.

...

No wonder Jasper had kept his door locked. He lived in mortal fear that someone would find out that he wrote by hand!

Eventually he decides to travel the Universe to look for a symbiotic "life blanket" which he found and then had to relinquish to its former owner, and to also write his stories himself:

"Where are you going, Kemp?”
"I’m hunting for an alien.”

...

"Write? You can’t write! Not without a yarner.”
"I’ll write by hand. Indecent as it may be. I’ll write by hand because I’ll know the things I write about. It’ll be in my blood and at my fingertips. I’ll have the smell of it and the color of it and the taste of it!"

4
  • If you somehow searched for it, would you share how you found it? If you simply knew it, extra cool! Apr 2, 2023 at 23:20
  • 3
    I remembered the story from reading it several years ago, probably in the collection of the same name. Apr 3, 2023 at 5:32
  • 2
    Interesting to see "Half of the tubes were gone" eight years after the invention of the first practical transistor (1948—the impractical ones were decades earlier). And one year after the first computer with no vacuum tubes.
    – WGroleau
    Apr 3, 2023 at 20:01
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    @WGroleau. Published in 1956, not necessarily written then. Apr 3, 2023 at 20:57

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