Writers tend to get the same presents every year for holidays, birthdays, and other occasions. Those presents include notebooks, pens, lap desks, and coffee mugs. (Anything that’s in the impulse-buy section of a chain bookstore, really.) And those are good things! But you may have already gifted them last year. If you want to avoid repetition, try picking up things that writers (and the people who live with them) might actually need. These are all things that I already have and use, have used and enjoyed in the past. I’m not getting paid to shill any of this; I’m writing this list because I’ve already recommended these things to friends in passing, and thought I might share more widely as sales emerge.
It’s here! It’s finally here! If you’re in Canada, you can now buy LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND.
Why only in Canada? Well, copyright is a funny thing. This year, Ian Fleming’s Bond novels entered Canadian public domain, because in Canada, and until the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ratified, copyright is death-plus-fifty years. In the US and the UK, copyright is death-plus-seventy years, because those countries have powerful media empires with the money to pay very good lobbyists to convince legislators of the importance of an author’s work after her death. (Note: this one reason why it’s important that you make a will, as an artist. Your intellectual property is just as much a part of your estate as your other property, and if you want to bequeath it, you should specify as much. Similarly, you can appoint a literary executor to handle the posthumous publication of your work. So if you want your work to be completely commons-licensed after your death, you can do that!)
So, now that we’re all feeling appropriately morbid, you probably have some questions.
If you didn’t grow up on the Internet, or you have some sort of Real Job (TM) that keeps you away from the Internet for vast stretches of time during which you actually interact with your fellow human beings, you may be unfamiliar with Godwin’s Law, which states “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” It’s closely related to Reductio ad Hitlerum, also known as “playing the Hitler card.” (It’s so common that you can actually buy Hitler cards to throw down when a conversation gets heated. I’d Google them for you, except that searching for “Hitler card” actually leads you to a bunch of racist bullshit.)
There’s a time and place to invoke Godwin’s Law. Or at least, there used to be. But lately, I’ve been thinking we should repeal it.
As a result of my family’s long history of cancer, I’m part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program. That means I’m eligible to receive mammograms and breast MRIs on a regular basis starting at an earlier age than most other women in Canada. It also means I’ve just had my first mammogram at the age of thirty-two.
If you’re in your early thirties, and you’re curious about mammograms, I want to tell you that they’re not scary. They don’t even hurt that much. They might, if you’re about to menstruate or just naturally have very sore, tender breasts. But generally, you’ve probably had either an inconsiderate lover who’s inadvertently done worse, or a very considerate lover who’s done exactly as requested, with similar amounts of pain either way. Like your inconsiderate lover, it also only takes about four minutes.
Of course, the pain is not what’s scary. Mostly. What’s scary is what they might find.
Read the full article »
Oh, hello. Were you curious about what your psychotic grandmother the distributed AI was doing? Well, wonder no longer! Portia is happily causing havoc in America’s airports, using widely-available, mostly-insecure data from wearable technologies, purchasing records, and surveillance networks. You can read more of Portia’s exploits later, especially if you pre-order.
In this scene, Portia is trying to create a news story that she can use as marketing material for her anonymous pro-robot SuperPAC. Which is tough, when you don’t have a body.
A note: I wrote these remarks after having watched the reception to my interview in The Atlantic about the need for women in futurism. A relevant snippet:
Ashby says that any time she speaks in front of a crowd, and offers a grim view of the future, someone (almost always a man) invariably asks why she can’t be more positive. “Why is this so depressing, why is this so dystopian,” they ask. “Because when you talk about the future you don’t get rape threats, that’s why,” she says. “For a long time the future has belonged to people who have not had to struggle, and I think that will still be true. But as more and more systems collapse, currency, energy, the ability to get water, the ability to work, the future will increasingly belong to those who know how to hustle, and those people are not the people who are producing those purely optimistic futures.”
The Table of Contents for my anthology with David Nickle, Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond is now available. (You can pre-order it here.) I’m extremely proud of all the stories we included. It’s my first anthology, and there are stories by Charles Stross, Robert Wiersema, Kelly Robson, EL Chen, Jacqueline Baker, and others. These writers bit into the Bond mythos with sharp teeth, and they drew blood. Public domain — such as Ian Fleming’s Bond books and stories are, in Canada — grants great freedom in the arts, and that freedom can be intimidating. But you wouldn’t know it, reading these stories.
With that said, we wish this TOC were more diverse. We wish we’d heard from more people from more types of backgrounds, with more interpretations of Bond and his world. And because including more voices in publishing is an ongoing process with an ongoing conversation surrounding it, I thought I’d share what we learned from this particular experiment.
A while ago, I tweeted something based on this piece in VICE UK, called “Things You Only Know When You’ve Worked in Retail.” I don’t really care for the clickbaity title, but the content of the piece isn’t wrong. Here’s what I said:
People ask me how I do gritty, lived-in SF and futures work and I basically always answer: “I used to work retail.” https://t.co/P2ugdAlf8m
— Madeline Ashby (@MadelineAshby) July 3, 2015
That got retweeted around, and I heard a lot of agreement from people who had worked front-line service jobs. From baristas to booksellers, they agreed with Bertie Brandes’ core thesis, which was that “until you’ve repeatedly thrown up from acid reflux in the Covent Garden American Apparel changing rooms as you pathetically spritz the mirrors with window cleaner, you can’t really say you know what real life is.”