Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

research * the future * culture

What can serial killers tell us about artificial intelligence?

I first wondered this while watching the second series of The Fall, a challenging and unapolegetically feminist take on the now-standard serial killer drama. In it, a handsome and fit man by the name of Paul Spector routinely stalks and murders women — in between making appointments as a certified bereavement counselor, going on date nights with his wife, and looking after his two children, ages eight and six. His foe is Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, an empowered take on Alfred Hitchcock’s blonde archetype from the London Metropolitan police called to Belfast first to participate in a departmental review, and then to oversee the investigation into Spector’s killings. It’s Gibson who links Spector’s murders together, spotting similarities in both victim profile and killing methodology. From then on, the drama unfolds as a story of two very brilliant people slowly discovering more about each other from a great distance. With every murder, Spector reveals more of himself. And at every crime scene, we learn what makes Gibson the ideal investigator to see straight through Spector’s self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual bullshit to the grimy engine of misogyny that drives him deeper down his inevitable spiral.

In other words, it’s a Chinese Room story.

In philosopher John Searle’s Chinese Room argument, intended to refute arguments for strong AI, Searle argues that an appropriate contextual response to stimuli is not evidence of genuine consciousness. This acceptance of consciousness as biologically naturalistic has since been called into question by neuroscientists. We are often unconscious of behaviours, leading biologists to wonder what the point of consciousness is, or even if it’s literally just a side-effect of developing vision.

Now imagine that instead of consciousness, we were debating the existence of empathy.

Read the full article »

About LICENCE EXPIRED, the unauthorized Bond anthology I’m co-editing with David Nickle

It’s true! Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and short stories are now public domain in Canada. When I heard this, I immediately asked my Twitter followers if I should write a James Bond novel. (Response was enthusiastic.) The thing is, I’ve already sort of written one — my second novel, iD: The Second Machine Dynasty, drew a great deal of inspiration from Fleming’s work. It’s a fast, brutal, pulpy adventure story about an Hispanic self-replicating humanoid trying to find a rare diamond. There’s a casino. There’s a cruise ship. There are false identities and fight on rooftops. “You’re writing a Bond novel,” David said to me one day as I detailed some plot points. And he should know. He’s read all of them. Multiple times. And the short stories. Sometimes when we’re watching the films, I’ll comment on something and he’ll say: “Oh, the novel is way more racist.”

Read the full article »

About that new Ghost in the Shell movie

As you may have heard, actress Scarlett Johansson recently signed a deal to star in DreamWorks’ upcoming adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, a Japanese transmedia franchise that began as a cyberpunk manga by Masamune Shirow (the author’s pen name) in 1989.

There’s a Ghost in the Shell poster hanging above my desk, in my office. (It hangs next to the Nine Inch Nails poster and the Hollow Ichigo mask from Bleach.) I’m a nerd, and I’m first and foremost an anime nerd. This is why my novels are peppered with anime jokes. I got into anime in high school, when a friend of mine used the story of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune to come out to me. She got me hooked on fansubs, and suddenly I was that annoying person who was comparing Cowboy Bebop to The Great Gatsby. (A totally justifiable comparison, by the way. Look it up.) Some of my favourite memories of high school and college involve late nights, fansubs, and popcorn.  I was even the VP of my university’s anime club. (I got laid less in university than I did in high school.)

Read the full article »

On the Sony hack, and the future of film

The Sony hack is interesting to me on a lot of levels. One, because mine was a Sony family. My dad kept our Betamax alive until I was in university. In fact, we still have two at home — my boyfriend at the time bought us another so dad could complete his editorial projects, like mashing together a perfect cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind that included both the Gobi Desert sequence and both endings.

Yeah. We were that family.

Read the full article »

Fruitcake: not as scary as you think

B5E3HdyIUAAhnmA.jpg_large

Yesterday, I made fruitcake. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. And it made my house smell amazing. You should try it, too.

Read the full article »

Sugoi! The Japanese vN cover is here!

vN

Aren’t they gorgeous? I’m not sure who the cover artist is, but I’m working on finding out. I really love this cover, and someday I’ll get a poster of it for my half of the office. (And one of the Company Town cover, once it has a Tor logo. Note to self.) What I like most about it is how it absolutely nails the relationships between Amy, Charlotte, and Portia. (The women on the cover could be Amy and Charlotte, or Charlotte and Portia, or Amy and Portia, depending on how you think of them.) That mingled affection and menace is such fun to write, and I’m really pleased with this visualization of it. Also, if you look hard, the Museum of the City of Seattle is in the background. At least, I think that’s what it is. It definitely looks like the Pacific Northwest, what with all the gloom.

Gah, it’s so pretty, I can’t stop staring at it.

Christmas Episodes, ranked

Last week was terrible. This week isn’t looking much better. Here are some things to watch on Netflix in case you need to re-charge your batteries.

Read the full article »

Big news: Company Town will be published by Tor!

Yes, it’s true. Company Town has been acquired by Tor Books. Angry Robot will no longer be publishing it. I explain how this happened at io9:

Ashby tells io9 that her editor had left Angry Robot before editing Company Town, and meanwhile the book was delayed — so she informed the authors who were blurbing it that there was no rush, after all. One of those would-be blurbers offered to show the book to his editor at Tor instead, and Tor had a spin on the book that Ashby liked.

I’m really excited about this, but I know you might have questions. If you have any more that I didn’t think of here, then I’ll try to answer them in the comments.

When will the book be out?

I’m not sure. We’re working on a date, but it looks like Fall 2015 might work.

Will my pre-order still work?

Doubtful. I will provide a pre-order link as soon as Tor generates one.

What will your next book from Tor be about?

I have some ideas! (I have too many ideas, actually. The trouble is sorting through them and finding the right one.) First I have to finish Rev, for Angry Robot, and a bunch of stories for various anthologies. But odds are it will be a standalone novel, probably set in the nearish future.

Will Rev: The Third Machine Dynasty be end of the Machine Dynasty series?

Yes. I have no plans to continue the series, either with Angry Robot or with anyone else.

Will it be your final book with Angry Robot?

Yes.

 

 

Fun exercise: translating Lovecraft into Hemingway

One dreary afternoon last October, David and I started playing a game. (Not that kind of game.) He would read aloud a passage from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I would try to communicate the exact same thing, in the style of Hemingway. For example:

Lovecraft:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Hemingway:

Some things, man wasn’t meant to know.

Read the full article »

My new column at the Ottawa Citizen

I’m very proud to announce my new beat at the Ottawa Citizen. So far I’ve written about Jian Ghomeshi, Rob Ford, and Bill C-36.

This looks like it’ll be a regular thing, so long as I can keep up the pace. (Wish me luck.) If you want to follow along, you can follow me on Twitter or follow my editor, Kate Heartfield, or the Ottawa Citizen. Enjoy!

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and IAM Sports & Entertainment. You can buy her novels here. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, and Tor.com.
  • Books

    Madeline Ashby's books on Goodreads
    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
    reviews: 18
    ratings: 27 (avg rating 3.56)

    Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF
    reviews: 18
    ratings: 44 (avg rating 3.45)

    Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction
    reviews: 6
    ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.50)

  • Profiles

  • Twitter

  • Madeline 's bookshelf: read

    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

    More of Madeline 's books »
    Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
  • Photos

  • Tags

  • Categories

  • Calendar

    February 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Jan    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    232425262728  
  • Archives