Hello!

John here. As some of you may know, I’ve been toying around with AI image generation. It’s a fascinating and frankly scary new tool. I originally checked it out because I was afraid of its potential, of its implications. After messing with it for a while, I am still very afraid, but I am also fascinated, fixated, and inspired to make some literature about it.

So here’s what that means:

COLD SiGNAL

will be a new online-only literary magazine inspired by the aesthetic questions raised by artificial intelligence image generation. It will be a greenhouse for experimental fiction grappling with the ever-evolving tools of expression and creation in the 21st century, a home for our paranoia and rage as much as our humor and our sincerity. There is no one way to look at our transformation nor should there be.

In an age when words and images can be designed entirely by machine learning, what is organic and what is not? What is implicated in the bizarre decisions of the machine, arriving at its own solutions from a deeply inhuman process? What role and place does the work of the machine have in our society? How has the Internet’s instant accesses and bizarre juxtapositions changed our aesthetic sensibilities, our morals, our sense of self? Beyond these present questions, there is the past, the Human Narrative to ever reexamine. The lines between illusion and reality, history and fantasy, truth and lie are blurring in this modern age. We are left stranded on barren shores to redefine and reimagine the decaying ruins and the strange new growth in our wake. All of this change and confusion is ripe for fever dreaming, for an open art to explore.

That’s where we come in as a community. Under the banner of Cold Signal, I would love to experiment alongside you with these new tools and ways of thinking. I want to nurture a scene and a venue for you to explore these ideas and all their chaos theory hurricanes. I want to create a space of hybridization between “organic” and “synthetic” art that attempts a collective portrait of our shared humanity amid this metamorphosis.

To accomplish that goal, I’m currently imagining four submission categories:

Fiction (Flash & Longform)

Poetry

Ekphrasis

Newforms

Fiction:

I am currently planning on being open to flash fiction and longer pieces. I imagine the bread and butter of Cold Signal’s fiction will be sci-fi, horror and weird fiction with notable glimmering exceptions. Think schizophrenic, kaleidoscopic, psychedelic but also sincere, emotional, human. The stories may, of course, relate to technology, but don’t let that limit your imagination. My appetites for beauty and horror run wide so long as it rings true. I’ll be open to a lot of different interpretations of style and form here. Anything that explores this aesthetic in a meaningful way will be considered, but I’m also not particularly interested in 7000 words of completely indecipherable prose. I enjoy narratives, characters, dialogue and themes and want to see them twisted and explored rather than wholesale abandoned (that being said, if you reacted to this with “Screw that, I know what’s really good,” I’ll read your stuff anyway and you might win me over and that can be an extra special victory. Just be honest with yourself.)

Every story selected for publication will be accompanied by an artificial intelligence-generated image based on your work. I’ll be in charge of generating these images, but you will have plenty of input and final say as to what image accompanies your story. I expect this part to be very fun for both of us.

Poetry:

Poetry is a pretty open-ended art form to begin with. Surprise me. All I ask is that the work is language-based, addresses the core aesthetic question of Cold Signal according to how you understand it and is something you think sincerely kicks ass. Let’s get conversational about vision, language, metaphor.

Just like the fiction submissions, these poems will be accompanied by an AI generated image. Same rules apply: I make them, you have input and final say. Again, fun!

Ekphrasis:

The Fiction and Poetry categories will be words first, images second, but I wanted to create a category for submitters to submit work based on an image that they themselves AI-generated or created inspired by AI-generated images. Confusing, I know, but I want to leave the field a little broad here. This category will be formatted differently than the other categories to feature images that might not fit the site’s eventual aesthetic but still have compelling value and directly inspired the writing you produced.

When submitting an Ekphrasis, I’ll ask for a copy of the image as well as the submission itself. I’ll ask that you also inform me whether the Ekphrasis is fiction or poetry. I’ll want to make sure you have the rights to the image, as well.

Newforms:

Okay this is me getting a little wild and very [SUBJECT TO CHANGE], but I wanted to toy with a category of submissions that might not fit into the traditional literary magazine forms that still feel kindred to Cold Signal. Whatever the medium, I’m hoping to see submissions of literary and aesthetic value.

Possible ideas:

  • curated AI-generated writing
  • Audiovisual mediums (music, video, collages, gifs, etc.) utilizing artificial intelligence tools or aesthetics
  • Video games (pixel games, hyperlink choose your own adventures)
  • SURPRISE ME

As you can imagine, this will be extremely difficult to implement and likely structurally impossible. I don’t care. If you hand me a submission in this category I am inspired by, I will try to find a way to include it.

Looking ahead:

I’m gonna need to get a website going. Design the website, buy the domain, the whole thing. I’ll also need to buy the unlimited membership of the AI image generator I’m most familiar with. I just started my new job and just moved to this new apartment so my financial situation is still uncertain and precarious. I don’t want to make any hard deadlines for myself or for anyone else just yet.

To start, we won’t be able to pay submitters, but I think it would be nice to get to a point to pay people at least enough for a nice meal. I also don’t anticipate looking for staff for Issue One. I’d like to try and do as much of this early by myself as I can. It will be my first literary magazine and I’d like to try my hand at most aspects of its design and labor. 

I wanted to put this out to share my intent and my vision. I wanted to get your minds thinking about the possibilities, to hear your thoughts about the project. This will be a major undertaking for me, a huge first and a total experiment. To be completely honest, I’m very afraid I will fall short of my obviously lofty dreams for this. 

Thanks for reading, friends. I hope Cold Signal becomes something really unique and meaningful with your help.

Yours, 

John

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