Yesterday a picture of a Harry Potter book, opened to a page of writing about wands, Death Eaters, and Voldemort, had a brief moment in the social media sun.
On closer inspection, the “chapter” is entirely gibberish, cooked up by Botnik, a company that makes writing prompts using predictive keyboards, and generated to perfectly mimic the style of JK Rowling’s fictional wizarding world. The satirical slice, the creation of 12 writers based on text from the seven books, seemed to delight both deep Harry Potter fans and haters. The tweet has been shared 36,000 times at time of writing.
Jamie Brew, who co-founded Botnik with Bob Mankoff, the former cartoon editor of the New Yorker, wrote the predictive algorithm two years ago. The former Clickhole writer has been feeding it since then with source materials including erotica, Amy Winehouse lyrics, pancake recipes, and dialog from Scrubs. Brew has created a predictive keyboard interface that allows people to write in the voice and style of pop culture stars, with funding from Amazon’s Alexa accelerator program, among others.
Botnik is not a vehicle for AI-generated fiction, says Michael Frederickson, a Botnik editor and one of the collaborators on the Harry Potter text. “This isn’t just taking a bot or AI and letting it go free to generate a full page text, that we then sit back and chuckle at, ‘Oh look how funny this technology is,'” he explains.
What it is, he says, is a creativity prompt for writers. And indeed, for professionals or dabblers, the experience of writing like Bruno Mars or Carl Sagan is worth trying. You begin with no text, and once you start typing, options come up for words you’re likely to use next, like the predictive keyboard on your phone. Soon enough you find you’ve written new dialogue that would work perfectly in season 8 of The Bachelorette.
Here’s a few we made:
You really messed up everything but it’s magpie how much did it rain. It’s the best you can fight for the birds.
I need no help, that’s all the things that we made. I’m going home just sayin. Yo fly shit forever.
Jerry on Seinfeld
What is this the whole premise? She is there having the guy too. He goes every movie!
Her wild arms dart forth thy hair / She dwells here, thy heat heart aches.
We need to take these colonies. I’m everybody when you were still the limit! Ya right they’ll like my shot.
Harry Potter narration
Hermione and ron stared as professor mcgonagall had risen. They looked at each other for a while thinking of parchment. Harry muttered.
You want a piece of me. Mr. Ooh. Our very own flight tonight with nothin’ that you will see. Ooh