Between the Covers with Clarke, Doctorow and Gibson

MarilynDavisatTIERS By MarilynDavisatTIERS, 17th Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Humor

“It's the stupid questions that have some of the most surprising and interesting answers. Most people never think to ask the stupid questions.” ― Cory Doctorow, For the Win

Questions and Random Searches

Some days, I just explore that vast waste-time land of the Internet. While looking for something else, I found this little site, I Write Like. When you insert any of your original writing, the site will analyze it and then give you an author that your work resembles. It looks for similarities in:

Certain keywords
• Vocabulary
• Style


Since I am still a curious child at heart, I pasted several paragraphs into the analyzer. I typically write about addiction, recovery, life lessons and general tips on writing. I was surprised to get the results about my writing.

Stupid Question One: What Does Addiction Have to Do with Science Fiction?

I do not write science fiction or fantasy, yet each of my passages came back in the style of:

Arthur Clarke
Cory Doctorow
William Gibson

While I do not discount the writers that came up in my sampling, I was surprised that all of them wrote in similar genres. Wondering why I was getting these particular authors, I looked for a way to find the criteria for deciding whom I wrote like.

Buried in the information about the site, it listed Russian software programmer, Dmitry Chestnykh, founder of the company, Coding Robots, as the creator of the site.

He used something called a naïve Bayes Classifier to decide which authors the writing resembled. Well, that was informative.

Stupid Question 2: What is a Naïve Bayes Classifier?

I was interested in what this classifier took into consideration to make the determination so I looked up the Bayes Classifier.

From Wikipedia: “In simple terms, a naive Bayes classifier assumes that the value of a particular feature is unrelated to the presence or absence of any other feature, given the class variable. For example, a fruit may be considered an apple if it is red, round, and about 3" in diameter. A naive Bayes classifier considers each of these features to contribute independently to the probability that this fruit is an apple, regardless of the presence or absence of the other features.”

Hmm. Although I have written about some writers being apple writers and some of us writing orange, I always considered myself an orange writer, now here was this mysterious example using an apple. The mission expanded.

Stupid Question 3: Who is Bayes and How Does This Help Me?

Who was this Bayes person – someone prominent in the cyber world, or the quantum physics world, or the dreaded world of math – where I seldom venture? No, Thomas Bayes lived from 1701-1761. He only wrote two papers, one on theology and the other on probabilities. Since his paper on probability was not presented until after his death, his work did not receive attention again until Sir Harold Jeffreys brought the concept back from obscurity.

“Bayes theorem is to probability what Pythagoras’s theorem is to geometry.” Well, even I remember the 2,000 year old Pythagoras equation, probably because it contains letters and doesn't remind me so much of math.

The Scarecrow and I

While I remembered the equation, I am more like the Scarecrow in the film The Wizard of Oz. Even though he gets his brain, he mangles the equation.

Stupid Question 4: How Does William Gibson Think and What Does Sir Harold Jeffreys Know?

Still trying to tie those authors and me together with the various tangents, I thought maybe it is the way we process words or our curiosity. No surprise, I like the way Gibson thinks, “The 'Net is a waste of time, and that's exactly what's right about it.” ― William Gibson

Back on track to see why those writers came up, I thought perhaps a look at Sir Harold Jeffreys might give me clues to the classifier. Looking at his Curriculum vitae, he did have impressive credentials and honors including:

Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1937
Knighted in 1953
Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1960
Royal Statistical Society’s Guy Medal in Gold in 1962

Reading more about him, I discovered that he had developed a general method of approximating solutions to linear, second-order differential equations, including the Schrodinger equation.

Schrodinger – Now We Are Getting Somewhere!

It was making sense, I knew Schrodinger’s Cat, well not necessarily the quantum physics Schrodinger’s Cat, dead or alive, but the Literary Cat as Robert Anton Wilson wrote about in The Universe next Door, The Trick Top Hat, and The Homing Pigeons.

Schrodinger and the Six Degrees

This quest was feeling more like six degrees of separation and I could see some relationships forming with those authors.

Connecting the dots is sometimes the only way to know how we got to a certain place in our lives, so I started retracing some connections to the world of science fiction.

Stupid Question 5: Where Can I Find BIG BOOKS?

Then I remembered the summer of science fiction and fantasy. I am a fast reader and tend to read a particular genre for months until I have satisfied my desire for that type of literature. When the price of reading hard backed books exceeded $45.00 a week, I knew my Starbucks, light bill, or something would have to go. Therefore, I looked at all of the different sections at my favorite book store and discovered that fantasy and science fiction books were BIG, often over 700 pages, or came in the Book One, Two, Three, or Series. These books would keep me entertained all week. There was an added benefit; my granddaughter was beginning to like witches, warlocks, fairies and other worlds, so we could read together.

Kids and Writers Can Go Where Adults Don’t Dare

Besides introducing children to the world within a book, children give us permission to indulge in books that adults ridicule. Next time you want to sneak a look at what some might think of as “silly” fiction, take a child, no one will think twice. An interesting thing happened though when reading with my granddaughter, I found that I liked:

Cosmic Aviators - Book 1 - Flight Edition by G.E.F. Neilson
Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Jupiter Chronicles: The Secret of the Great Red Spot by Leonardo Ramirez
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
• The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Time Quartet, by Madeleine L’Engle
The Trouble Begins: A Box of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Stupid Question 6: What Rubs Off When We Read?

Each of us has genres that we return to for pleasure. Does some of the vernacular, pacing, dialogue, or style rub off on us? Perhaps, however, in further researching Chesnykh, I found this interview with him from The Awl:

What makes you qualified to analyze literature like this?

“Nothing, really. I'm the kind of person who is not qualified in a subject before jumping into it. (Good thing I didn't try to become a medical doctor or a rocket scientist!) This is my way of learning: when I want to do something, I do it, learning along the way.”

Given that I learn by doing, I appreciated this approach. You on the other hand may not, but it might be a fun diversion to compare your writing and see the writers you are compared to on the site. If nothing else, it might be a way to introduce you to a writer that could help you improve your own writing.

Challenge: Who Do You Read and Write Like?

One more heads up though, Chesnykh only had time to upload “a few books by some 50 different authors”, so you won’t be tagged as the next bard, however, it might be fun to see what your writing compares to in this limited exercise on I Write Like.

I felt badly leaving Arthur Clarke out for the readers who may not be familiar with him. I think this quote from his 90th birthday celebration sums up the man as much as his philosophy, “I’m sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer — one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imaginations as well.”

Stupid Question 7: Care to Co-Author?

If you do choose to see whom you compare to, let me know what writers you got. Perhaps there is a book that we can co-author. Just remember my typical topics, but know I apparently can write in the style of fantasy or science fiction as well.

I also do not think I need that Bayes Classifier anymore. Science fiction writers have always been concerned with second chances, redemption, and maybe not so far removed from my writing about addiction and recovery after all.


For additional articles by Marilyn Davis

Each person has a unique voice and Wikinut is a place for you to share your wisdom, humor, insight and knowledge. Join, write and become connected to others who share a passion for writing, supporting one another, and learning on Wikinut.

Credits
I Write Like – Composite of answers: Marilyn Davis
Learning: Pixabay
All other images: Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons

Tags

Addiction And Science Fiction Writing, Arthur C Clarke, Cory Doctorow, I Write Like, Science Fiction And Addiction, The Human Side Of Science Fiction, William Gibson

Meet the author

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
A Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, with 25 years of abstinence-based recovery. I write about addictions, recovery, life lessons and general writing tips.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good evening, Johnny, thank you for moderating. I appreciate it. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Jerry Walch
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Hi Marilyn. Although I have borrowed techniques from many different writers, in the end I write like no other writer other than me. No writer can write exactly like another writer and still be creative and successful as a writer and no writer should even attempt to write like another writer writes. A writer must remain true to him or herself.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good evening, Jerry, I certainly agree, however, it was simply a fun exercise to see what the site thought of the writing. You might surprise yourself and see who you do resemble. Thanks for the comment. And believe me, I do think I write in my own particular, peculiar and unique style. ~Marilyn

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author avatar wonder
18th Apr 2014 (#)

This was interesting to try out.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good morning, Wonder - were you surprised at the results? Glad you had fun and thanks for commenting. ~Marilyn

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author avatar wonder
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Yes, it was HP Lovecraft.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good morning, Wonder. Here is one of the those categories of authors that many people do not read-horror. However, there may be similarities in style or even wording - I'm not sure since I cannot remember reading anything of his since school. Check him out though and see if you can see the reasons for that choice. Let me know. Thanks for the additional comment, Wonder. ~Marilyn

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
18th Apr 2014 (#)

so amazing Marilyn your connection with the concepts of writing words...you go on incredible journeys through your mind and then give us food for thought and action...many thanks and happy Easter...

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good morning, Carolina, thank you. I think I'm just willing to explore some of the connections and then be vulnerable and share them. Blessings....~Marilyn

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
18th Apr 2014 (#)

sharing...

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
18th Apr 2014 (#)

James Joyce and Charles Dickens!!!! wot came up!!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good morning, Carolina, now have fun with the connections in a poem, or read some Joyce or Dickens and see if you can pick out similarities if you have not read much of their works. Glad you could use the reminding, reflecting and rejoicing in a poem. Thanks for the share, also. ~Marilyn

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
18th Apr 2014 (#)

James Joyce and Charles Dickens!!!! wot came up!!

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author avatar Connie McKinney
18th Apr 2014 (#)

How interesting. I wonder who I write like? I've got to think about that one. This was a fun and thoughtful piece, Marilyn.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good morning, Connie, just go to the site and paste some of your writing - it is that simple. It's a fun thing to try. Let me know who you get. Thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
18th Apr 2014 (#)

I have read a lot of people, including two of the writers you mention, but I remember thinking about this whole thing many, many years ago and decided if I was going to become known then there is only one person that I should sound like, myself!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Peter, by all means sound like yourself. I thought it was a fun escape for a rainy day in Georgia. I would be curious who it picks for you if you ever just try it, though. Thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Jerry Walch
18th Apr 2014 (#)

"A Rainy Day in Georgia" that sounds ike a line from a Country and Western song :-))

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
19th Apr 2014 (#)

Good evening, Jerry - that was a Rainy Night in Georgia....~Marilyn

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Another successful and educational post form our own Marilyn!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Fern, thanks, it is meant to be just a fun exercise for all of us, hope you will see what who you write like and let me know. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Jack Goblin
18th Apr 2014 (#)

Nice article! And by Golly, I'd forgotten all about Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint!!! :)

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
19th Apr 2014 (#)

Good evening, Jack - some of those "kid friendly" were a fun read with my grand kids - any excuse to let my inner child have an adventure. Thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
19th Apr 2014 (#)

The two writers I would most like to emulate Marilyn are Jane Austin and John Keats ... both for their mastery of the beautiful English Language ...as for whether I can hold a candle to them I shall never know , but I'll do my best to try ..
Just to be content with my writing before I press Publish is satisfactory to me ...But I know I have room for improvement ..so I press on ..
A.A.Milnes' book, Now We Are Six is one of my special treats with Christopher Robin and his wonderful friends ... I recommend it as essential reading for all ages .
Happy Easter dear Marilyn
Stella ><

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
19th Apr 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Stella, both Austin and Keats were remarkable writers. Pooh and Christopher Robin have made the rounds with my daughters and all four grandchildren. Even knowing the outcome did not prevent me from enjoying a visit to the woods and all of the characters. Thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
19th Apr 2014 (#)

I tried the web site
Item 1: HP Lovelace (last item published)
Item 2: Gertrude Stein (this was my poem)

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
19th Apr 2014 (#)

Good evening, Peter. And your thoughts? Smiling as I ask....Thanks for letting us know. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
19th Apr 2014 (#)

Gertrude Stein is certainly an interesting comparison, don't know enough about Lovelace.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
19th Apr 2014 (#)

Good evening, Peter, I think it was H.P. Lovecraft - that was Linda Lovelace - Lovecraft wrote horror - Lovelace was a porn star :) ~Marilyn

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
19th Apr 2014 (#)

You are right, that was a blooper/Freudian slip

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
26th Apr 2014 (#)

Humorous and lighthearted, enjoyed this post Marilyn. I write like Mario Puzo as per this site! Not bad! I should return to reality fast - siva

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
26th Apr 2014 (#)

Good morning, Siva, no, enjoy the moment for a few, then return to reality. We are in reality enough. Thanks for the comment and for trying and letting us know who. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
28th May 2014 (#)

I remember doing this some time ago and coming up with 20 different writers without a repeat. About par for the course, I guess. The writing circle in my area dismissed the test as fun but hokum, kind of like a lot of those quizzes that show up on FB pages.
On the other hand, if you consistently got 3, perhaps there is something to it for some writers, and the analytic is not just a programming loop. That might be nice to know.
And I have not forgotten about our earlier talks. Miles to go before I sleep, but I have not given up on the idea if you haven't. ;)

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
28th May 2014 (#)

Good morning, Phyl, this was just a fun thing to do for the day, however, I did consistently get these three and so thought more about it; then, as with most things, wondered how it might apply to others. It was meant as Siva pointed out to be lighthearted and a fun exercise for all. Send me a note about the direction of your thoughts...~Marilyn

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