As you might know, I am a technologist by day, and a historical fiction author by night. One of my favorite subscriptions is to the Economist, and last week’s US Edition featured a magazine cover that was “drawn” by an AI Algorithm. That got my technical interest piqued, and I really enjoyed the magazine’s coverage of the theme.
Because the cover was so intriguing, I decided to explore my own, historical fiction based theme. While these images are not what I would pick for a cover of my upcoming novel Sic Parvis Magna, they are quite interesting as modern abstract art in their own right.
The header image above is prompted by the key phrase “Galleons and Carracks in a Storm” and is rendered in the style of a pencil sketch. While I think I can see the storm part, the galleons are a little bit of a stretch to me however.
Here are some results of my experimentation for you to enjoy.
Book Covers Historical Galleon Sailing Ships in a Battle
Book covers for historical fiction should clearly evoke the sense of the period the book is portraying and the theme it wants to carry. My historical fiction novel Sic Parvis Magna is set in the 16th century and is a coming-of-age sea adventure story of Francis Drake. The prompt for this image was to understand what the AI algorithm “knows” about history of sailing ships and ship types, as well as some of the actions that these ships were involved in. I have done an article on Francis Drake’s ship Tiger which in my research I decided to base on a galleon (the name of the actual ship was lost to history, and it is considered to have been a bark, or a square-rigged ship). Here is the image that was created by this prompt:
The image is recognizable – the ship above the cannon does appear like a sailing ship (well… perhaps the infamous pirate ship the Flying Dutchman… but a sailing ship nonetheless). I would not say there is enough detail to call it a galleon.
The cannon is something else, isn’t it? I’m sure that Francis Drake, or any of the privateer captains, would probably sell parts of themselves to have such a piece of weaponry – and what it appears to be doing to the “galleon” to the left side of the image. I think that if I were to be writing more of a fantasy rather than historical fiction, it might be something useable as a start.
Historical Fiction Illustration: Pirates in a Battle
This prompt was meant to explore what the AI Algorithm thought pirates looked like, and how they fought. It is interesting that the model did seem to zero in on the historical definition of a pirate. At least, they look like pirates with drawn cutlasses.
Several of the characters appear to be wearing the “Captain Jack Sparrow” tricorn hats, and if one stares long enough at the picture, I am sure a parrot can be seen as well. There is also something that looks like a rapier (although I am not sure that pirates actually used those types of swords much. Cutlasses are much more practical in close-quarters combat on a pitching ship).
So the AI algorithm is somewhat on the right track. I am not sure how to interpret the tree in the center of the image that appears to be floating in mid air. It does not look like a crows nest – but I do like it visually!
Historical Fiction Book Cover: What an AI Algorithm thinks Sir Francis Drake Looks Like
My historical fiction series is about the life of Sir Francis Drake, exploring his adventures, his inner thoughts and motivations. The initial idea was how a farm boy in Tavistock, England is able to grow up and achieve what Drake has.
I have already done a sketch of my historical fiction version of the young Francis Drake, and this would be an interesting comparison. That sketch is used as the basis of his character in Sic Parvis Magna, exploring his formative experiences as an apprentice on a ship at the age of 12 or 13. The subsequent historical fiction series will explore how those experiences produced the first-rate mariner that circumnavigated the world, a legendary naval commander, and a privateer / pirate that had a price on his head set by not less an adversary than the King of Spain.
Therefore, the last prompt that I gave the AI algorithm was to draw Francis Drake. Here is that image:
The images are recognizably human albeit with weird features such as pointed ears and odd nose/ eye structure. The interesting thing is what the computer “got right.”
Drake was known to be red-haired, and in portraits that he sat for we can see that his hair was curly. The two men in the fore of the picture seem to have beards (although not quite the fashionable spades worn at the time).
I think that the figure in the center has some kind of an embroidered, or perhaps slashed jerkin… although the ruff does not really look right. If you look behind the two front characters, there are images that resemble ship masts and sails, and the background is what (to me) appears to be the sea. Fascinating, isn’t it?
AI-Drawn Historical Fiction Book Covers: Final Thoughts
It will be interesting to see how this AI Art technology develops. But, I think that for now, I will stick to the traditionally hand-drawn, period correct book covers for my historical fiction work. I welcome your comments on my Facebook page for the Historical Fiction Series Adventures of Francis Drake.