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Since George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished The Winds of Winter, a neural network did

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Aug 30, 2017

For a diehard book nerd like me who read A Song of Ice and Fire before Game of Thrones reigned over legions of fans through prime-time TV, and is still impatiently waiting for The Winds of Winter after the explosive Season 7 finale six years after Martin still insisted he was working on the fantasy epic, there is one thing that burns more than the cold. The wait.

Martin has spent so much time touring since A Dance With Dragons flew off bookshelves that at the 2014 Emmys, Weird Al Yankovic performed a parody of the title theme with the chorus Write them faster, write them faster! When Martin asked King he how writes “so many books, so fast” in an interview, there was nothing supernatural about it. King’s disciplined method of just writing everything regardless of whether it gets cut in the future totally owned Martin’s meandering way of writing a few words, agonizing over them for an absurdly long time and then trashing it all to go get another cup of magic coffee in his Game of Thrones mug.

This is why software engineer Zack Thoutt has lost his patience like most of us, but unlike most of us, he’s training a recurrent neural network (RNN) to predict events that will actually unfold in the book. Martin has hinted that the story has been playing somewhat differently in his mind no matter how many characters keep dropping dead on the show.

Thoutt is working with a “long short-term memory” RNN that better remembers what happened hundreds of pages ago, which writes a continuation of the plot rather than some fan fiction altverse where Littlefinger luxuriates on the Iron Throne instead of his brothel and the White Walkers drop their weapons when Sansa sings at them to let it go. This program is actually trying to write a true sequel that doesn’t alter past events or bring them back from the grave 18 chapters later. Memory is everything when it comes to preventing repeat events from happening, which would probably result in even more deaths.  

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This is what is now writing A Song of Ice and Fire.

“The model is striving to be a new book and to take everything into account,” said Thoutt, “but it makes a lot of mistakes because the technology to train a perfect text generator that can remember complex plots over millions of words doesn't exist yet." In other words, you know nothing, Jon Snow.

Lord Commander Thoutt uses a prime word to start each chapter and uses his authority to tell the program how many words it can generate after that. Unlike any disobedient or traitorous member of the Night’s Watch, at least it wasn’t executed for this nonsensical first sentence:

"I feared Master Sansa, Ser," Ser Jaime reminded her. "She Baratheon is one of the crossing. The second sons of your onion concubine."

Onion concubine? As in “Onion Knight” Ser Davos? Hasn’t she been through enough with Ramsay Bolton?

The program even conjured Greenbeard, who may or may not have anything to do with the Children of the Forest. Whoever he is, his brains are dehydrated.

"Aye, Pate." the tall man raised a sword and beckoned him back and pushed the big steel throne to where the girl came forward. Greenbeard was waiting toward the gates, big blind bearded pimple with his fallen body scraped his finger from a ring of white apple. It was half-buried mad on honey of a dried brain, of two rangers, a heavy frey.

While Thoutt admitted the program is far from perfect, it’s echoed fan theories and been eerily dead-on with some more recent events in the show that I’ll keep from spoiling for all you who haven’t yet gone through all seven seasons of blood, sex, power, poison, and more blood. Until the show returns for its eighth and final season in 2019 and The Winds of Winter is released … we don’t know when, the RNN version may be all we have for our fix of suspense. Read the first chapter here and the rest here to keep stoking the fires of speculation.

Raven to Mr. Martin: Write them faster.

(via Motherboard)