For years, expert systems--programs that mimic human experts--have helped solve tech-nical problems such as designing microchips. Now, a budding fiction writer has used one to meet a greater challenge: to create a novel along the lines of Jaqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls.
With a little help from software company Neuron Data in Palo Alto, Calif., Scott French designed a program that imitates Susann's plots and style. The result: Just This Once, a 350-page novel that French claims Susann might have written--had she not died in 1974. But don't run to your bookstore just yet. French claims the manuscript is an original work by an original team--him and his computer. But his agent, the Lois de la Haba Agency, is reluctant to market the manuscript to publishers until certain issues, such as promotional use of Susann's name, are resolved. Also, legal questions, such as copyright infringement, may arise.