Prompt: provide a 2000 word first chapter for a Sherlock Holmes mystery set in 2024

From ChatGPT 4:

Chapter 1: The Case of the Digital Phantom

In the heart of London, as the first light of dawn crept over the skyline, the city began to stir. It was a London far different from the one Sherlock Holmes had known in the 19th century, now a metropolis of gleaming skyscrapers and endless streams of data coursing through the air. Yet, some things remained timeless, including 221B Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes, the world-renowned detective, resided. Despite the centuries, Holmes had remained a constant in the city’s lore, a figure as enduring as Big Ben or the Tower Bridge.

I, Dr. John Watson, had been living with Holmes for some years, chronicling his incredible deductions and adventures. It was a chilly morning in April 2024 when our story began. Holmes, who had an uncanny ability to adapt to the times, had embraced modern technology with an enthusiasm that often left me bewildered. His keen mind found new playgrounds in the digital realm, and he often remarked that the Internet was like a vast ocean of information, rife with mysteries waiting to be solved.

As I sipped my morning tea, Holmes was already absorbed in his computer, his fingers tapping rhythmically on the keyboard. The holographic display projected in front of him showed lines of code and swirling data, a sight that had become increasingly familiar in our sitting room.

“Solving a cybercrime before breakfast, Holmes?” I inquired with a smile.

Holmes glanced up, his eyes gleaming with the thrill of the chase. “Merely keeping my skills honed, Watson. The digital world is the new frontier of crime, and I intend to be its foremost detective.”

Before I could respond, our peace was shattered by the sharp ringing of the doorbell. Mrs. Hudson, our ever-reliable landlady, answered the door. Moments later, she ushered in a young woman, probably in her early thirties, with an air of urgency about her. She was elegantly dressed, though her eyes betrayed a sleepless night, shadowed and anxious.

“Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson,” she greeted, her voice tinged with desperation. “My name is Elizabeth Harrow. I need your help.”

Holmes gestured towards the armchair. “Please, Ms. Harrow, take a seat and tell us how we may assist you.”

As she sat, her hands trembled slightly. “It’s my husband, Michael Harrow. He’s disappeared.”

“When did you last see Mr. Harrow?” Holmes inquired, his demeanor instantly shifting to that of the consummate professional.

“Two days ago. He left for work as usual, but he never came home. I’ve contacted the police, but they say there’s no evidence of foul play. They think he may have… left of his own accord.”

“And you do not believe that to be the case?” Holmes asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.

Elizabeth shook her head emphatically. “Absolutely not. We were happy, Mr. Holmes. There was no reason for him to leave.”

“Was there anything unusual leading up to his disappearance? Any change in behavior or routine?” I asked, trying to offer some comfort with my tone.

She pondered for a moment. “Nothing significant. Though, he did seem worried about something at work. He’s a software engineer for Cybervance, a cybersecurity company. He mentioned being onto something big, a breakthrough of some sort, but he wouldn’t elaborate.”

Holmes leaned forward, his interest visibly piqued. “Interesting. And did he take anything with him? Any personal belongings?”

“Just his laptop and phone, which isn’t unusual. But he hasn’t been answering his phone or any messages.”

“I see. And have you noticed any strange occurrences around your home or his workplace? Anything out of the ordinary?”

Elizabeth thought for a moment. “Well, there was a black car I hadn’t seen before parked near our house a few times. I didn’t think much of it until now.”

Holmes stood up, a familiar fire in his eyes. “Very well, Ms. Harrow. Watson and I will take on your case. We shall begin by visiting Mr. Harrow’s workplace. There might be clues there that the police overlooked.”

Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears of relief. “Thank you, Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson. I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

After she left, Holmes turned to me, a spark of excitement in his eyes. “Watson, we are embarking on a mystery that I suspect is more complex than it appears. The digital age has transformed the landscape of crime, and it seems we have a particularly intriguing puzzle on our hands.”

I nodded, feeling the familiar thrill of adventure. “Then let’s not waste any more time, Holmes.”

We set off for Cybervance, located in a sleek glass building in the heart of the city’s tech district. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the head of security, a stern-faced man named Richard Ames.

“Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, I’ve been expecting you,” Ames said, leading us through the high-security corridors. “I must say, it’s an honor to have the famous Sherlock Holmes investigating this case.”

Holmes offered a curt nod. “Thank you, Mr. Ames. Could you take us to Mr. Harrow’s office, please?”

Ames led us to a small, functional office space. The room was sparsely decorated, with a desk covered in papers and a computer. Holmes immediately began examining the room, his eyes darting from object to object with laser precision.

He paused at the computer, his fingers hovering over the keyboard. “Watson, observe,” he said, booting up the machine. “If Mr. Harrow left in a hurry, he may not have had time to cover his tracks.”

As the computer came to life, Holmes navigated through the files with a speed that left me in awe. He stopped at a series of encrypted files, his eyebrows furrowing.

“Ah, what have we here?” Holmes muttered, his fingers flying over the keys as he began to decrypt the files.

Ames watched over Holmes’s shoulder, his expression a mix of admiration and concern. “Is there something I should know about, Mr. Holmes?”

Holmes didn’t look up from the screen. “Potentially. These files appear to be heavily encrypted, suggesting they contain sensitive information. Watson, take note of this.”

I scribbled in my notebook, my mind racing with possibilities. What secrets did these files hold? What had Michael Harrow stumbled upon that could have led to his disappearance?

After several minutes of intense concentration, Holmes cracked the encryption. The files opened, revealing a series of complex code and documents. Holmes’s eyes scanned the contents, a look of realization dawning on his face.

“Remarkable,” he whispered. “Watson, I believe we have just uncovered a conspiracy that goes far deeper than a simple disappearance. This is about more than just Michael Harrow. It’s about the security of the entire digital world.”

Ames looked stunned. “What do you mean, Mr. Holmes?”

Holmes closed the laptop, his expression grave. “I need to analyze this information further. But rest assured, Mr. Ames, we are on the brink of uncovering something monumental. Watson, we have work to do.”

As we left Cybervance, the weight of what we had discovered hung heavy in the air. The digital age had brought with it new kinds of crime, complex and hidden in the shadows of code and data. But with Holmes’s brilliant mind at the helm, I knew we were more than capable of unraveling the mystery.

The game, as Holmes would say, was afoot.

Link to the program at OpenAI

(Note: PG used ChatGPT 4, which is the latest version of its text AI program that OpenAI has released – a subscription may be required)

10 thoughts on “Prompt: provide a 2000 word first chapter for a Sherlock Holmes mystery set in 2024”

  1. Thanks for the comments, all.

    I’m going to try not to overuse various AI creations on TPV because that could get boring in a hurry, given the current stage of AI development.

    I can definitely imagine a lazy high school student using it on a regular basis.

  2. I have to admit, the first couple of paragraphs actually have an intriguing idea in them–that of Holmes and Watson as a kind of undying archetype, part of the mythos of London. You could do some very interesting things with that in an urban fantasy.

    • The same idea was used in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies set during the 1940’s.

      “The change of era for Holmes is explained in the opening titles, with a caption that informs viewers that Holmes is “ageless, invincible and unchanging”, going on to say that he was “solving significant problems of the present day”. – Wikipedia

  3. Using MS Copilot…
    First I asked for academic style, and then asked for Hemingway style

    First Prompt: Write a first chapter for a Sherlock Holmes novel using academic style writing.

    Chapter 1: The Case of the Missing Heirloom

    In the year 1888, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sherlock Holmes for the first time. I was a young medical student at the time, and had recently been introduced to him by a mutual acquaintance. I was immediately struck by his keen intellect and his remarkable powers of observation.

    It was not long before I found myself drawn into one of his cases. A wealthy client had come to him with a most unusual problem. Her family had been in possession of a valuable heirloom for generations, but it had recently gone missing. Despite her best efforts, she had been unable to locate it, and was growing increasingly desperate.

    Mr. Holmes was intrigued by the case, and agreed to take it on. He began by interviewing the members of the family, and examining the scene of the crime. It was clear to him that this was no ordinary theft. The thief had left no trace of his presence, and had apparently vanished into thin air.

    Over the course of the next few days, Mr. Holmes worked tirelessly to unravel the mystery. He pored over maps and documents, and interviewed dozens of witnesses. His powers of deduction were truly remarkable, and he was able to piece together a complex web of clues that led him ever closer to the truth.

    Finally, after several sleepless nights, Mr. Holmes was able to solve the case. He revealed the identity of the thief, and recovered the missing heirloom. The client was overjoyed, and Mr. Holmes was hailed as a hero.

    Write a first chapter in a Sherlock Holmes novel using Hemingway style.

    It was 1888. I met Sherlock Holmes for the first time. He was smart. I was a med student. A rich client had a problem. Her heirloom was gone. Holmes took the case. The thief left no trace. Holmes worked hard. He found clues. He solved the case. The client was happy. Holmes was a hero.

    • And then I couldn’t stop myself.

      Prompt: Write a first chapter for a Sherlock Holmes novel like an illiterate.

      It was a long time ago. I met this guy named Sherlock Holmes. He was smart. He had a client who lost somethin’ valuable. Holmes took the case. He talked to the family and looked around. He found nothin’. But he didn’t give up. He worked hard. He found clues. He solved the case. The client was happy. Holmes was a hero.

  4. Except for the encryption breaking, I am very impressed. I’d say it writes better than 90% of the US population. Maybe more.

    It might be fun to have the thing use “academic style.”

  5. AI is by nature a lowest common denominator content generator. Excellence is about outliers (regardless of what Malcolm Gladwell pretends) so anything that gets its cues from masses of existing data and weighs “value” and “veracity” by frequency will invariably default to the average.

    In some endeavors, average is precisely what is wanted (control systems, for one) but in trying to apply the tech to creative endeavors average is going to be seen as synonymous with mediocre by a lot of the audience. Nonetheless, in some instances average creative output may be perfectly acceptable to a segment of the market. Fanfic is *expected* to be derivative and unoriginal. By design. Instead of “the same but different” fanfic and pastiche aspires to “the same” or “close enough”.

    AI is to a large extent the next evolution of the remix art culture we’ve been seeing since Warhol, the Beastie boys, and in music in general. (That latter is a screed all its own: autotune is AI, BTW. Just sayin’.)

    Consider this:

    This week’s teapost tempest is about the outrageously popular and *intentionally* derivative game PALWORLD. At first glance it appears to be ” Pokemon with guns” but on closer inspection it reveals itself to be a much darker and mature game blending in gameplay elements, principles, and tropes from a half dozen games than the creature art style might suggest.

    More, the game is annoying “purists” from several directions: some claim the monster designs show signs of AI or that the developers (a team of 20, with some being fresh outs from school) couldn’t have possibly created the game without “cheating”; that is, AI and other commercially available tools and assets. Others see the familiar elements and art design as straight plagiarism and IP violation, and any moment we’ll be hearing from PETA (you can eat the monsters, who are sentient), the woke (you don’t just capture and enslave monsters but also the human NPCs), the anti gun lobby (you can have your slaves build and run factories of all sorts of products, including weapons of all kinds from farcical to very real ones), the anti violence, and anti game activists, and who knows who else will choose to be triggered. (You can breed the monsters together, even different races, but not humans who are genderless.)

    Something to annoy everybody…
    …except the gamers who have bought up over 8million copies (at $30) on STEAM alone and are steadily playing it, 2 million concurrently, all week long.

    A mixture of recognizable elements, none exceptional on their own, has delivered to a small japanese studio $200M and counting.

    I’m actually hoping the developer, whose CEO has openly said he sees great uses for AI in game development, will come out and say, “Yes, we used AI to assist our developers. So what?”

    Somebody needs to be the first.
    Probably not them (the usable forms of the tech are too new) but soon, real soon, somebody will be making hundreds of millions, if not billions, off “average” and “derivative”. AI Remixes.

    Might as well get used to it.
    (It won’t be in publishing, though. There isn’t that kind of market–$350B a year–in publshing , and AI is expensive to run: No worthwhile ROI.)

  6. Not impressed.

    And you don’t sit down to decrypt files and expect to get anywhere – that’s why we encrypt them.

    It’s a pet peeve that the difficulty of discovering a password or getting into a file is used by scriptwriters as an adjustable block of time depending on what the REAL plot needs to happen in its timeline. Anything from seconds through short/medium/long number of hours/days, but rarely impossible. We laugh and get dragged out of the willing suspension of disbelief.

    Would probably go over fine with the Sherlock-impersonators who write TV and novel imitations of something they don’t understand. And possibly never actually read. Lazy writing.

    As you can probably tell, I’m a purist – create your own characters, people. Except that they probably can’t.

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