Plausible Sentence Generators

Forthcoming in the September, 2023 issue of Locus Magazine.

Cory Doctorow
6 min readJul 14


A woodcut of a gentleman at a writing table, staring down at a sheaf of papers. His head has been replaced with the menacing eye of HAL9000 from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.” The paper is covered in the green ‘code waterfall’ from the Wachowskis’ ‘The Matrix.’
Cryteria/CC BY 3.0, modified

I was surprised as anyone when I found myself accidentally using a large language model (that is, an “AI” chatbot) to write some prose for me. I was twice as surprised when I found myself impressed by what it wrote.

Last month, an airline stranded me overnight in New York City when my flight to LA was canceled due to a air traffic control snafu. The airline rep at the counter told me to try flying standby the next morning, and promised me that — while he didn’t have any vouchers for me — if I booked a hotel, the airline would reimburse me when I got home.

It wasn’t cheap or easy. Lots of us were stranded in New York that night. Every hotel room in Queens and Manhattan was taken, and the flophouse I found in Brooklyn had raised its prices to over $300/night. Add two $70 taxis and I was into serious money.

So when I (finally) got home and the airline told me that they had a policy of not reimbursing fliers who were stranded by air traffic problems, I was pissed. When the airline rep held that position even after I explained that I’d been promised reimbursement by the airline, I was furious. I decided to so something I’d never done before — I was gonna take the airline to small claims court.

I googled “how do you sue an airline in small claims court” and found myself at a website that laid it out neatly. First, try to resolve the issue with the airline (check). Next, send a “final demand” letter. Finally, sue (more details follow). Did I want any help with that final demand letter?

I did! I wrote a draft letter. Now, I’ve worked for a campaigning law firm for 20 years, and I’ve seen my share of threatening lawyer letters in my day. I’ve even received many of these — from the owner of a cyber-arms dealer, from Gwyneth Paltrow’s lawyer, from lawyers representing the owners of LAX’s private luxury terminal, from Ralph Lauren’s lawyer, from the Sackler opioid family’s lawyers, and more. When you report on corruption among the rich and powerful, legal threats are just part of the job.

My legal threat letter was pretty good, if I do say so myself. Factual, crisp, and very stern. I pasted it into the form and clicked submit, not sure…