So a while back I was browsing the Interwebs and I came across a bizarre discussion on Quora. I use the word “discussion” loosely, as I’m not sure there was any real discussion involved. But before I get to that, let me make one thing perfectly clear.
I Haven’t Had A Quora Account for Years
I forget when I shut down my Quora account. It was years ago. I only did it out of disgust for the constant user interface changes they kept making. I have to keep up with quite a few social media accounts as it is (although Facebook has simplified my life in that respect). So if a platform goes through frequent UI changes, I’m less likely to keep publishing content there.
Another platform I no longer post on (although I’ve my account) is Ello.co–never mind, they’re gone. Well, I stopped posting there years ago and kept my account. But I digress.
I’m no longer involved with Quora. And, believe me, I had a growing following there, had earned hundreds of thousands of views, yadayadayada. I could have kept all that going, but I was tired of the UI changes.
I stress that to make it perfectly clear that I walked away from Quora a long time ago and it’s not like I’ve been watching the platform to see what people say about me (not that I think they say much about me – but never mind).
So Someone Asked A Bizarre Question There Earlier This Year
I say “someone” but I’m just assuming a real person asked the question. With all the Generative AI tools coming online (more than 2,000 by one self-appointed guru’s count) over the past couple of years, it’s getting to be a challenge to figure out where the real people are any more.
So this question came up in one of my Tolkien-related searches not long ago: “Who is still defending JRR Tolkein against allegations made by Michael Martinez (author) in ‘Tolkien: A Biography’?”
How could I not click through to see what that was all about?
There’s no context to the question. It’s just there. Actually, I didn’t find this question on Quora. It was copied to another site (along with one of the 2 answers I found on Quora).
So this is why I’m responding to the question, because the potential for it to spread to other sites is realistic. And then people will be asking “what did Michael Martinez accuse Tolkien of?”
And you’d think this might be a ploy to get people to buy a book, right?
But There Is No Such Book
At least, I’m not aware of any such book. I’ve never published a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve published 4 books about Middle-earth, sure. But no biographies.
And I couldn’t find any biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien published by anyone else named Michael Martinez (and there are several other published writers who share my name, including an award-winning poet and at least 1 or 2 political scientists).
So, never having written or read any biography of J.R.R. Tolkien by someone named Michael Martinez, I have no idea of what these supposed allegations might be (well, I have one idea – I’ll get to that below).
When I browsed this Quora discussion, I was pleased to note that the first 2 people to reply leaped to my defense. And then things got weird after that. The first answer then proceeded to go into a long, rambling discourse about things. I couldn’t keep up.
The second answer added that apparently “Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts” have been critical of the book (that so far as I know was never written, let alone published).
So, Is This A Hoax?
Could be. It could be that someone decided to flood Quora with nonsense. Okay, that’s probably not much of a challenge – it’s a social media platform. It’s got lots of good information and advice and a fair amount of nonsense already.
But what I mean is that someone could be just sitting there typing (or pasting) random, bizarre questions into Quora and hoping to stir up some responses.
It appears that for some time now (I don’t know – as I don’t have a Quora account and haven’t had one for years) people have been bringing Generative AI tools online that will compose both questions and answers for Quora users. [I suppose you could use these tools for just about anything.]
So maybe someone thought they’d achieve something by generating a lot of questions with an AI tool and uploading them to Quora. The question, “Who is still defending JRR Tolkein against allegations made by Michael Martinez (author) in ‘Tolkien: A Biography’?” looks like it could have been generated by an AI tool.
But then, so do the first 2 answers the question received. Seriously, they don’t make any sense to me. But that’s just me. Maybe real people wrote some answers that don’t make any sense (to someone like me).
So I’m Disassociating Myself from This Supposed Book
If in the future you see someone complaining online that I made “allegations” against J.R.R. Tolkien in a biography I wrote, take my word for it – I didn’t write any such book.
If I’m going to accuse Tolkien of anything, I’ve got perfectly good blogs for that kind of rhetoric.
If you find a book titled anything like Tolkien: A Biography, I didn’t write it even if you see my name on it. It probably wouldn’t require much effort for someone to perpetuate a hoax based on this rumor.
Why would someone do that?
Because there are a lot of iffy people on this planet, and a few of them (thankfully only a small handful) have for reasons only they and their therapists might understand decided that it’s their purpose in life to lie about me and harass me and try to make my life miserable.
So I deny having anything to do with this book thing, or these alleged allegations.
Seriously, What Could Happen?
Well, about the worst I could see happening (realistically) is that various scraper sites propoagate this nonsense around the Web. Unfortunately, effective propagandists know that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.
And the universe may be preparing a great irony for the people of Earth, as we seem hell-bent on creating and repeating a whole lot of machine-generated bullshit with the Internet.
That’s what I think is happening. Our robot overlords are not going to turn us into slaves to do their bidding – they’re just going to spew nonsense across the Web and let what fools who will believe it and repeat it.
Generative AI will probably become the endless hell that humanity has made for itself.
So, In Conclusion
May all your imaginary books and their critics create joyous memories for you. After all, Andy Warhol promised us 15 minutes of fame. And generative AI will probably turn that into an Internet eternity of comedic bullshit.
I return you now to your daily routine of correcting people on the Internet who are wrong. Good luck to all of us.