Benny the Blue Whale: A Descent into Story, Language and the Madness of ChatGPT (Hardcover)

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Benny the Blue Whale: A Descent into Story, Language and the Madness of ChatGPT By Andy Stanton Cover Image
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I’ve spent the better part of a week ardently trying to describe Benny the Blue Whale to friends, family, and anyone who happens to look in my direction. I’m desperate to talk about it, but when I try, I’m left floundering for the right words. How do I tell people that this book on literary theory is outlandishly funny? How can you take me seriously when I talk about storycraft in the same sentence as Colonel Sanders’ evil plot to destroy the multiverse? Or, how can you not scoff when I use “creative writing” and “ChatGPT” together in a sentence? What I can say is that Andy Stanton has created an electrifying book that defies categorization.  

Maybe I’ll use Stanton’s method and work with ChatGPT for an A+ book review:

Title: "Benny the Blue Whale" - A Riotous Romp into Absurdity and Literary Escapades

"Benny the Blue Whale" by Andy Stanton is a comedic gem. Stanton, inspired by greats like Douglas Adams and Roald Dahl, concocts a whimsical tale in collaboration with ChatGPT. The story revolves around Benny, a lovable blue whale with a unique charm.

Stanton skillfully blends humor, critiques, and playful musings on storytelling, with asides in the margins detailing his writing escapades. "Benny the Blue Whale" propels readers into a delightful whirlwind of absurdity as Stanton's storytelling meets ChatGPT's unpredictable twists. This fusion of Stanton's mastery and AI's contributions results in an entertaining experience, a must-read for those who relish humor that transcends storytelling norms.

Just as AI became a tool widely used by the public, Stanton set out to test its storytelling abilities. Sure, it can come up with text like the boring word-vomit above, but he wondered if he could coax a cohesive narrative structure out of the bot. What follows is the whole back and forth between human and robot as they workshop a story about a blue whale with a tiny penis.

Working with such a nonsense jumping off point, Stanton is able to test the bot’s use of language and intuition within a storytelling lens. He becomes an amature prompt engineer as we see how he learns to tailor his prompts to get the results he’s looking for. What truly makes this book sing is his running critique of his process and exactly what he is trying to achieve with each lunatic prompt. I woke up my cat on several occasions from laughing so hard. It’s an interesting spiral into how stories work and what goes into creating one that is even close to readable. Will Stanton be able to use this pocket Vonnegut to tease out the novel of the century, or is this an art that still belongs wholly rooted in the human experience? Riding a perfectly-timed wave of technological development, Benny the Blue Whale captures our discourse between humans, AI, and art like no other.

— Claire Margetts

Description


AI is changing the world at frightening speed. A bestselling author decides to find out more…

‘Something profound and utterly brilliant is going on… hilarious.’ THE TIMES

Is ChatGPT the end of creative industries as we know them? An ethical quagmire from which there is no return? A threat to all our jobs, as we keep hearing on the news?

Bestselling children’s author Andy Stanton has made a career out of writing differently – from the unconventional ‘hero’ of his bestselling Mr Gum series to his penchant for absurdist plots, his children’s books are anything but formulaic.

When a friend introduces him to ChatGPT, the new large language chatbot, Andy is as sceptical as he is curious. Can this jumble of algorithms really mimic the spontaneity of human thought? Could it one day replace human authors like him for good? And are we soon to be ruled over by despotic robot overlords?

He decides there’s only one thing for it – he must test this bot’s capabilities. Eventually, he settles on a prompt that will push the algorithm to its creative limits: ‘tell me a story about a blue whale with a tiny penis.’

Chaos ensues.

What follows is a surprising and illuminating battle between Andy and ChatGPT that maybe, just maybe, might help us all understand AI a little bit better. Join Andy and his beleaguered AI lackey on a rollicking metafictional journey through the art of storytelling. Presenting his prompts and the AI-generated narrative alongside extensive commentary, Stanton provides a startling paean to the art of a good story and boundless human creativity. Hopeful and hilarious, Benny the Blue Whale provides a joyfully anarchic meditation on AI, literature and why we write.

***

A WATERSTONES AND NEW SCIENTIST BEST BOOK OF 2023

‘There’s no book like it. Scholarly, childish, fascinating and hilarious – one of our funniest writers dissects what it takes to build a story and what that tells us about being human. It’ll really make you think, if you can stop laughing.’ —Chris Addison, co-creator of BREEDERS

Entertaining and alarmingly relevant, provocative and philosophically satisfying, it’s ultimately a profoundly human text.’ OBSERVER

A magnificent experiment by a perfect fool – deep and shallow and stupid and clever – the perfect use of AI (Andy Intelligence).’ —Robin Ince, author of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING INTERESTED

Benny the Blue Whale is many things. It’s a fascinating discourse on the nature of language and storytelling. It’s a philosophical treatise on the possibilities of artificial intelligence. It’s a receptacle for obscenely hilarious jokes... A brilliant and beautiful cyborg: part human brain, part computational muscle. It’s a post-post-modern work of genius.’ —Anthony McGowan, Carnegie Medal-winning author of LARK

About the Author


Andy Stanton is the author of the bestselling Mr Gum series. He studied English at Oxford but they kicked him out. He lives in North London and has been a film script reader, a cartoonist, an NHS lackey and lots of other things.

Praise For…


‘There’s no book like it. Scholarly, childish, fascinating and hilarious – one of our funniest writers dissects what it takes to build a story and what that tells us about being human. It’ll really make you think, if you can stop laughing.’ —Chris Addison, co-creator of Breeders

'Entertaining and alarmingly relevant, provocative and philosophically satisfying, it’s ultimately a profoundly human text.'—Observer

A magnificent experiment by a perfect fool – deep and shallow and stupid and clever – the perfect use of AI (Andy Intelligence).’ —Robin Ince, author of The Importance of Being Interested

‘In detailing his hysterical efforts to get ChatGPT to write a masterpiece, Stanton offers real insight into how it works or, well, doesn’t.’ —New Scientist

'It's sometimes hard not to feel sorry for the priggish chatbot as Stanton deploys all his impish (some might say puerile) irreverence to goad the programme... Ultimately, however it is there, in Stanton's footnotes that the real genius of the book is found. For all the hilarity and absurdity, it asks profound questions about the relationship between humans and machines... you'll be hooked on the conundrum that is AI. There really is no turning back.' —Perspective

'Benny the Blue Whale is many things. It’s a fascinating discourse on the nature of language and storytelling. It’s a philosophical treatise on the possibilities of artificial intelligence. It’s a receptacle for obscenely hilarious jokes, and the abstruse and arcane learning that fills Stanton’s brain... A brilliant and beautiful cyborg: part human brain, part computational muscle. It’s a post-post-modern work of genius.' —Anthony McGowan, Carnegie Medal-winning author of Lark

‘A funny and surprising creative battle between man and machine.’ —The Bookseller

‘The real draw, though, is Stanton’s breakdown of ChatGPT’s craft… The irreverent tone buoys a surprisingly thoughtful exploration of how AI might aid artists, and the ways in which it comes up short against its human competitors. This fascinates.’ —Publishers Weekly


Product Details
ISBN: 9780861547401
ISBN-10: 0861547403
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Publication Date: January 16th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English