My friend posted this link to his Facebook wall yesterday along with a badge proclaiming that his writing style is like David Foster Wallace’s. Of course I had to rush off right away and try it for myself, with disappointing results.
I entered sections of text from Tattoo and got Chuck Palaniuk. I did love Fight Club, the film, but I’ve never managed to get more than 30 pages into a Palaniuk story before discarding it. Sniffily, I repeated the experiment with a different passage and got Vladimir Nabokov. Another writer I’ve never “gotten.” Curious to see if the program would generate the same result each time, I entered text from Bleat and She Alone Can Move Me, varying from strictly prose sections to heavy dialogue, and was told that I write like Stephenie Meyer, Ursula LeGuin and Stephen King. With the exception of some of King’s earlier works (I devoured “Carrie” when I was a teen), more authors I haven’t read. I pasted in a few ‘graphs of a recent email to a friend and finally received the laudable “Your write like David Foster Wallace.”
The process left me wondering how many authors were included in the list of comparisons. How many were women vs men? Were there any writers of color? Any international writers? If the test compares your style to modern American authors, ok. The results left me tepid. I’d hoped to be surprised, even rewarded (“You write like Tanith Lee, Dorothy Parker and Anais Nin all rolled into one!”). I suspect that the program is a simple algorithm that analyzes keywords, sentence length and structure, and prose vs dialogue. How can we really write like other authors, even when we try? Though many genres seem homogenized, there’s always a distinct tweak to the style that differentiates it from other writer’s voices, for better or worse.
I suspect that this program was created by one guy–mid 20s-mid 30s, college educated, white, single or married but dreamy/drifty and vaguely unhappy, someone who doesn’t wash his jeans too often and probably sports a subtle affectation of scruffiness because A) he thinks it makes him look cool and hearkens back to some Beatnik ideal and B) it displeases his mother)–and comprises the sum total of his cultural and literary awareness. He has never read bell hooks, Kobo Abe, Jewelle Gomez, Chinua Achebe, Angela Carter or Kathe Koja. Maybe I’m just being snarky. Maybe I’m just creating another character.
By the way, after pasting this post in the analyzer, I’m told I now I write like Jonathan Swift.
Kirsten Imani Kasai
Welcome to The Future: Are You Sure You Want to Stay?-
Speculative fiction authors discuss visions of the future, dystopian and otherwise. Authors include Samuel R. Delany (Dhalgren), Alan Dean Foster (Flinx Transcendent), Cody Goodfellow (Perfect Union), Kirsten Imani Kasai (Ice Song), Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin (The Unincorporated War), Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death), David Weber (Honor Harrington novels), David J. Williams (The Machinery Of Light), and Charles Yu (How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe). Moderated by Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy.
Where: Room 4