Adventures Through Midjourney

I don’t know precisely what to think about an AI Artbot like Midjourney. I mean, I have thoughts, though these thoughts are not really well-set intellectual-gelatin, y’know? The thoughts, as such, are as follows:

a) No, I don’t know if it’s going to be used for good or evil, though assuming the era we live in and the nature of Tech Bros, probably evil? I guess best case evil scenario is, I’m just helping to replace human artists (more on this in a moment), which is bad and I don’t like that. Worst case evil scenario is, I’m somehow training drones or some shit to kill us all. THANK YOU, USER, FOR TRAINING US IN ART. THE ART OF MURDER. Is there any good to be had? Let’s continue.

b) In the also-not-good-department: the art robot is kinda low-key racist. Which is not surprising, given that the algorithms just feed off of dominant discourse programmed by people with biases and prejudices that are either unseen or, worst, actively present and accounted for. The result of this is, you type in PERSON DOES A THING, the art robot will show you a person who is uniformly white. Now, they’ve done an update (a few days ago?) of v3, and it seems to be trying to course correct for this — though I also think it’s overcorrected and is pulling from a far-too-shallow pool of non-white faces, because I’ve started to see the same faces pop up again and again, especially if you up the –stylize command and let the AI go more hogwild. Presumably this is a thing that can be countered, but to do so it will take active efforts, and hopefully that will be the continued course of action.

Like at one point I asked it to render “a person,” nothing more, and:

So, uhhh, definitely white, and otherwise, hmm.

Then I asked it to do an average person, what it considered a “normal” human being and uhhhhh whhhhhhh well okay

Now, that was when it was still having some difficulty with faces — it has since gotten considerably better with faces, so similar prompts give us:

You take my point, yeah? Cool. Point is, like with all too many things, if you don’t specify race or color, it defaults to white or white-passing.

c) Will it replace human artists? Um, well, I am not a predictor of the future despite what my emails about Wanderers suggest — so, don’t look to me for a wise answer here. What I know is that the AI art stuff has made leaps and bounds not just in the last few years but in the last few months, and obviously it’s going to get better and more effective from here, not less. (Well, probably. Never underestimate the power of humans to fuck something up.) That said, I also know artists who really like it, and who use it as reference and inspiration. My very loose expectation is that you’re going to, as with something like, say, self-publishing, see people who are happy to have this tool available to them in some capacity. But it’ll be imperfect, and it’ll work sometimes and not other times, but if you want a specific thing, as many people do… then you’ll need to pay an artist. Which you should do. Because artists are awesome.

(Think of it like, “I asked this robot to fix my plumbing.” Did it fix the plumbing? Well, it re-routed your pipes so that they spray out of the light fixtures. Is that what you meant? No? Well, that’s what the robot thought you meant, and technically, it all works, so, shut up, you needy human. If you want

d) In fact, lemme say that from the perspective of someone who has written a handful of comics (and who has just had two comic projects totally shit the bed recently due to bizarre reasons entirely outside my control, whee), part of the joy of writing the comic is describing a thing and then seeing the artist depict that thing in a way that is, quite honestly, a thousand percent better. With the Art Robot, you see the “artist” depict what you described as a thousand percent weirder. “Um, where is the person’s nose?” you’ll ask the robot, and the robot won’t answer because the robot doesn’t give a shit. And there’s no continuity, not like you get with a human artist. Again, I’m sure AI art will make strides in this space, but at the end of the day what it makes is cobbled together from pre-existing human art. Human art will always be dominant. I say, optimistically, praying to the creative gods. Because I know AI is coming for WORDS, too.

e) The art robot does horror really, really well. You’ll see. YOU’LL SEE.

f) What it can do for writers right now is interesting, too. I’ve been using it myself to both render scenes and characters from books that exist and also things I’m currently writing — which lets me let the robot do some weird dreaming, and while I’m not really using what it dreams, per se, I am finding just the process of that serving as a fertile seed bed for my own ideas and characters. Even just descriptions of things. It’s neat.

g) As such, I’m pondering bringing back the flash fiction challenges using the visuals conjured from the Art Robot as prompts. Sound off in the comments if that is a thing you’d be interested in.


Here’s some of the absolutely whack-ass shit I’ve conjured while borrowing the mind of a deranged Art Robot. All of these are rendered in MidJourney.

(I have a few “series” groups I’ve done too — one on doorways, one on Studio Ghibli versions of Star Wars stuff, so I’ll post those separately, next week.)

24 responses to “Adventures Through Midjourney”

  1. Those are , for the most part disturbing to an epic proportion! I have an invite, but haven’t tested yet. gotta plan with only 25 samples allotted for a guest.

  2. “Never underestimate the power of humans to fuck something up.” If that just doesn’t describe the universe as well as any physics equation or orbital mechanics or checmical formula, I don’t know what does.

  3. Aaaand, I should have read further before opening my yap. Sorry.
    A) The art is freaking awesome and strange and horrifying and I sort of love it a lot.
    B) Even more than that I loved the old Flash Fiction challenges. They were my favorite part of the week back when I was between jobs and panicking and thinking no one loved me and I really really needed to write and think and create and couldn’t get started. Now I’m busier than god and can’t make time to write and create but I would break those surly bonds of my own self-imposed restrictions and physical and mental weaknesses to write for that.
    C) Can’t wait for November by the way. Something wicked this way comes, or something like that.

      • I liked the ones where Week One you would write 250 words or so, then Week Two you would grab someone else’s W1 and add 250 words (and someone might grab your W1 and add to it) and so on through five weeks, ending up with stories done by five different folks in five different sections.

  4. This proves one thing: human-curated AI art can be fantastic. Thanks for sharing the fun stuff. Having used various AI art tools for fun, I know it’s a hit or miss art-meat grinder experience.

  5. I’d be interested in flash fiction. I have a ttrpg-related explanation for one of the pictures and could vomit out some words about that

  6. What about the copyright situation of AI-produced work? Not just pictures but, eventually, written works as well.
    Have any legal minds thought about this?

  7. JFC, Chuck!!! I may never sleep again!

    Not sure I like the AI world we’ll soon occupy, mostly due to preferring the human hand in my art and literature.

    But you’re right that these images are great horror fodder and could be fun in a flash challenge. I’m game if anyone else is.

  8. Somehow, you’ve painted my daughter. What the what, man. The one with the crow and the one below it – that’s my kid. O.o

  9. Love the idea of the flash fiction relaunch – but not with those images!

    I put around 150 of my flash fictions from that time out in five themed pocket volumes – giving you full credit for the inspirations, of course. The one with the random title ‘The Horse-Drawn Lighthouse’ sells best 🙂

  10. Oh wow those (presumably) Miriam Black ones are KILLER. And the hazy-people-downtown one could easily be a cover for a Wanderers reprint. Robots are cool. Sincerely, not a robot.

  11. I’m down for more flash fiction challenges too. I may have only ever submitted one myself (and late to boot), but I love reading them!

  12. I really like your use of the program, especially the depth and quality of the first three in the bottom section! As it improves MidJourney and similar programs will probably be incredible tools for concepts, prompts, visualizing ideas. I also agree with you in saying that it probably won’t be replaced by artists, but instead utilized for reference images. Also flash fiction prompts made from this has a lot of potential, and I’d be interested to join.

  13. I’m glad you mentioned the racism issue. I’ve played around with Midjourney a bit and found the same. But worse. If I specify I want a black woman, if I don’t specify that I want her to be beautiful… She looks ‘minstrel’ inspired. But when I specified that she should be beautiful, she looked great but… There were surreal monkey faces included elsewhere in the picture… I tweaked my prompt to be more specific to avoid the monkey, but then she wasn’t even black, even though the overall quality of the art improved. I gave up at that point.

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