Alan Turing

Judging the Loebner Prize

I’m delighted to say that I’ll be attend­ing the Loebner Prize in Bletchley Park (home of WWII cryp­to­graphic efforts) as a judge. The prize is based on the fam­ous ‘Imitation Game’ sug­ges­ted by Alan Turing as an object­ive test of machine intel­li­gence. The idea is that a com­puter pro­gram com­mu­nic­ates with human judges via a text inter­face. The job of the pro­gram is to make its responses dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from those of a human. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tasty

It’s Proper Job All Over Again

Proper Job is a book what I wrote based, indir­ectly, on my exper­i­ences of sur­viv­ing (more or less) my stu­dent days when I was an ice-cream man. The book was great fun to write. Finishing it, I thought I’d dis­covered my nat­ural genre–comedy–and I was prob­ably cor­rect, though most of my pub­lished out­put since then has been sci­ence fic­tion. The book didn’t get unfair treat­ment from pub­lish­ers; sev­eral said they’d love to pub­lish it but there was no chance of it selling because of the small humour mar­ket. To shift suf­fi­cient quant­it­ies, I’d need to be a fam­ous stand up comedian and, given that my pub­lic speak­ing focuses on cog­ni­tion, this is not the case.

I have made vali­ant attempts to start follow-up com­edy books, but writ­ing (and some­times re-writing) the Saskia Brandt series is slow going at the best of times. Comedy has taken a back seat.

Audiobooks! I’ve always loved audiobooks. Ever since get­ting an iPod Touch back in the day, I’ve thought it a priv­ilege to have someone read to me while doing the dishes, run­ning, or cyc­ling to work. Audiobooks also turned me on to poetry, which, with a few excep­tions, I’d never really appre­ci­ated; turns out poetry is a phon­o­lo­gical business.

Having been down the Kindle self-publishing route with Déjà Vu and gained so much sat­is­fac­tion from it, I was excited to read a couple of years back that Audible were launch­ing some­thing called ACX, or the Audiobook Creation Exchange, where self-publishers and audiobook pro­du­cers can get together to make audiobooks. I was frus­trated to see that it was US-only, and kept check­ing month after month to see when it would be launched in the UK. I chanced across ACX again a few weeks back, hunted around once more for the ‘US only’ text, and couldn’t find it.

Bingo, my droogies.

I signed up and pos­ted a descrip­tion of Proper Job. I had about ten audtions–all of which were very good, though some American efforts at the British accent didn’t quite do it for me–and whittled them down to one.

Once again, my mem­ber­ship of the Society of Authors came in very handy. They checked over the con­tract and trans­lated some of the more arcane bits into plain English.

This week­end, I fin­ished ‘audio-ising’ the Proper Job manu­script to make it clearer to a listener when the nar­rator is think­ing, speak­ing, and so on, and I hope to have the fin­ished audiobook by January. The plan is for the book to come out exclus­ively on Audible, which is really only game in town as far as audiobooks go.

Very, very excited.

This Writing Life