ChatGPT Abuse Is Forcing a Popular Sci-Fi Magazine to Suspend Submissions

Clarkesworld Magazine had to ban more than 500 authors in February for submitting machine-generated work.

ChatGPT book
ChatGPT has become a popular tool for wanna-be authors to publish books without actually writing them. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

ChatGPT is a growing headache for the publishing world. Clarkesworld Magazine, a Hugo Award-winning science fiction magazine, has stopped accepting submissions as a sudden influx of artificial intelligence-generated manuscripts overwhelm the publication’s human editors.

“Submissions are currently closed. It shouldn’t be hard to guess why,” tweeted Neil Clarke, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld, on Feb. 20.

Clarkesworld regularly bans a small number of people from submitting works each month for violating its publishing rules. Since December 2022, the number of writers blacklisted by the magazine has skyrocketed from less than 50 to more than 500 as of February, according to a chart Clarke published in a blog post on Feb. 15.

The submission bans prior to late 2022 were mostly related to plagiarism, but now it’s predominantly machine-generated works, Clarke said in a tweet Feb. 21. He didn’t reveal his method of identifying an inauthentic manuscript out of concerns that it may assist people who want to submit A.I.-generated works, Clarke said in an email.

Clarkesworld is the latest victim of the popularity of A.I.-powered text generators and their encroaching into the literary world. In Amazon’s Kindle store, there were over 200 self-published e-books listing ChatGPT as an author or co-author as of mid-February and the number is rising daily, Reuters reported. Academic journals Science and Nature recently instituted policies restricting the use of ChatGPT after receiving a large number of papers listing the chatbot as an author.

Still, behind every A.I.-generated work of text is a human. For Clarkesworld, the people causing the problem are mostly from outside the science fiction and fantasy community wanting to make easy money with ChatGPT, Clarkes said in a Twitter thread.

Clarkesworld pays writers between $0.12 per published word, Clarkes said, which is higher than the $0.08 per word recommended by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

“It’s not about being a writer, it’s about automating income,” tweeted Craig Shackleton, an aspiring fantasy author, on Feb. 20. “Clarkesworld got hit early because they are always open and pay well.”

Clarkes said his publication doesn’t have a solution for the problem yet. Charging a submission fee or only accepting work by returning authors would stifle creativity and effectively ban new writers, he said in a Twitter thread, and A.I.-detectors or third-party identification service are either unreliable or too expensive.

“We’ve tested several [A.I.-detecting tools] against these systems and discovered that they regularly produced false negatives and positives with our control groups,” Clarke said in an email. “It was particularly disappointing to notice that one of these companies was also offering a tool to help authors evade detection.”

The editor said Clarkesworld will eventually reopen submissions but has not set a date.

ChatGPT Abuse Is Forcing a Popular Sci-Fi Magazine to Suspend Submissions