Nov 262022

My first full length prose novel in almost two decades is available now as a uniquely published hardcover.

We Are Raccoons is about six game designer friends who get a non-player character to work in each of their very different games—and accidentally create the first superintelligence in the process.

Since it’s about AI, I used the Midjourney AI to generate art from quotes in the novel so each of the 165 copies has a one-of-a-kind cover, never to be repeated.

Find out about how to get it in time for the holidays, pick your own cover, and more! I also reflect a little about AI art generation as it relates to my practice, below.

A big part of my artistic practice has been about playing with new forms. In 2003, I made a silly short video about My Trip to Liberty City, where I walked around the world of Grand Theft Auto 3 trying to stay out of trouble as a good Canadian tourist would. I did it to subvert the violent directives on one level, but on another level I just wanted to show friends unfamiliar with open-world games how beautiful it could be to watch a fake sunset from a fake rooftop.

I’ve been similarly fascinated by the AI image generation we suddenly have at our fingertips. As someone who’s never been able to draw, it’s wonderful — and slightly disorienting — to be able to conjure up images with mere words. But at the same time, many illustrators are fearing for their hard-won livelihoods.

While I empathize with this fear, photographic technology didn’t replace realist painting; databases of stock photos haven’t replaced photography. Kevin Kelly’s article in Wired places us at level 3 of the Tech Panic Cycle, and that feels about right to me.

In the past, some of my favourite collaborations have been with illustrators. I’ve written multiple graphic novels and felt honoured that these talented friends have been willing to work with me. But these collaborations have been complicated in some respect, because there’s so much more work placed on the illustrator: on one project, the artist did 80% of the work. To address this I’ve tried experiments where I’ve spent an hour and an illustrator has spent an hour to make a tiny little projects, mostly because I want to play with other artists, not manage or exploit them.

Beyond livelihood or labour issues, there’s an underlying distaste of quality of the “sludge” produced by the generators, and to me that gets into the tension around “the right way to art” that’s existed for a long while. With Sword of My Mouth, Shannon Gerard’s process was to take my script, stage and take photographs, then trace the photos to create the illustrations. At TCAF 2010, the two of us ran a panel about that with David Malki, Ryan North, Emily Horne, and Sonja Ahlers called “Tracers, Photoshoppers, Cut & Pasters: Cheaters or Revolutionaries?”:

Comic artistry has traditionally valued drawing things with nothing but a pen and raw illustrative talent. But people working from photoreferences, using digital tools and collaging techniques are producing some of the most innovative and beautiful work in the comic world. Does this diversify comic expression and represent an unshackling from the draftstable? Or is it just cheating?

Another tension is the fact that every piece of art has been influenced by other creators it doesn’t compensate, whereas the capitalist system only rewards individuals, while art and culture are intrinsically a collective effort. Tackling that bigger issue, ideally through something systemic like Universal Basic Income or collective unions and guilds rather than a patch-job like microtransactions, would be amazing. 

Especially if it could happen before the AIs come to steal my job, too.

  2 Responses to “Raccoons Released”

  1. I searched today for this book and your name. I did not find a simple clean way to purchase a physical copy, which is too bad. I did however find a news story titled, “Raccoon identified as intruder at Munroe Falls Historical Society museum intruder.” Not too bad. The internet can still be fun sometimes.

    But how do I buy your book?

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>