About three weeks ago, my friends at the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to join them at the annual meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing for a “book sprint.” I’ve done similar sprints with them before — in collaboration with the WorldBank’s EVOKE project, I wrote a complete 10-page comic book script on the future of human trafficking. But knowing that my airfare would be paid for, I started to wonder if I could turn this into visit to my parents, who live about four hours away from Vancouver in Twin Peaks country.
And then I started to wonder: could I see more people? Could I finally hang out with some of the collaborators and clients and friends who had invited me out to the West Coast after our various engagements?
The reviews are in! (At least, some of them are.) In addition to blurbs from Charlie Stross, Seanan McGuire, and Chuck Wendig, here are some other reviews for Company Town, which is finally out today! So if you were thinking about picking the book up but wanted to wait for some professional opinions on the matter, here you are:
Company Town comes out next week, (although Chapters Indigo in Canada seems to be shelving it already!), and so I thought it was time for me to put up some of the music I listened to while I was writing it (and re-writing it, and re-writing it yet again).
There are some odd combinations here. Waylon Jennings and Portishead. The Irrepressibles and Lucinda Williams. Nine Inch Nails and Carly Simon. Smatterings of the Manhunter soundtrack. (I watched Manhunter at least once a night for a solid month, during one particular re-write.) Reviewers have been saying that Company Townstraddles a lot of genres, and so does this playlist.
One thing there isn’t: a whole lot of Newfoundland jigs or reels or chanteys, even though the novel takes place there. There also isn’t any K-pop, although one character is a former K-pop idol. (Fun fact: Hwa abhors K-pop, mostly because her mother used to make her learn all her old dance routines.) If you have recommendations for either of those genres, let me know.
The playlist happens in roughly chronological order. If you notice a shift in tone as the set plays out, it’s because the tone of the novel is changing. And if you read quickly, you’ll probably be able to feel these tones shifting both in the air and on the page. There’s over four hours of music, here. And while the book isn’t what I’d call slim, it’s also not exactly a doorstop. You can probably manage some synchronicity if you have a comfy chair, a locked door, and a well-stocked bar. Enjoy!
A while back, the amazing people at FuturEverything invited me to Manchester to give a talk at their festival. I had watched the festival from afar via Twitter for years, and I felt like the cool kids (Goth-cool, not preppie-cool) had finally invited me to their lunch table.
Only their lunch table was Manchester Town Hall, which is a Victorian neo-Gothic cathedral to municipal goings-on, complete with gargoyles, crenellations, murals, stained glass, brass chandeliers, and odd little mosaics depicting bees. “It’s a worker bee,” one of the volunteers told me, in a very helpful tone that was not all reminiscent of an extra in The Wicker Man.*
Just before the Christmas of 2015, a friend got in touch and said she had a really interesting opportunity for me. Early on Christmas Eve morning, she brought me to a location in the suburbs of Toronto, and introduced me to someone. This someone was warm and welcoming and gracious, and the location she’d brought me to was obviously very special to him. The task, I was told, was to communicate that specialness to other people. To find someone who might understand it.
In the small hours of yesterday morning, I felt my heart squeezing inside my chest. It thudded, like in a comic book. I felt it pulsing down into my fingers. Each time I rolled over, I felt it there, leaden, like a ball bearing sliding up and down the walls of my body. Eventually I was able to go back to sleep.
When I woke up, I felt like I had run a marathon.
The pain was tight across my chest and shoulders. When I stood up, my heart squeezed. It hurt to breathe, and as a result, I felt that I couldn’t quite catch my breath. Well aware that signs and symptoms of heart attack are different for women than they are for men, I looked them up, and then called Telehealth. For those of you who are unaware, Telehealth is a free service offered by the province of Ontario that connects patients with registered nurses. If you’re sick but uncertain how to proceed, Telehealth can help you make a decision.
Yesterday, the nurse on the other end of the line called an ambulance for me.
“You’re exhibiting classic symptoms of a heart attack,” she said.
“But I don’t have the nausea or clamminess,” I said. “And I’m 32.”
“Unlock the doors for the crew,” she said. “Do you have any pets? You might need to lock them up.”
ARC’s (pictured above, with a delightful blurb by none other than Mira Grant) went out a little while ago, and now the first review is in. This is great, because I’ve been having those moments when I wake up at four am and wonder if the book is actually terrible, and I was deluding myself all along. But, Publisher’s Weekly seems not to think so:
Hwa does pretty well for herself as a bodyguard for the sex workers who populate a self-contained community/oil rig off the eastern coast of Canada. She wants cybernetic enhancements, but her uncaring mother won’t let her get them. When an obscenely rich family with unusual views buys the entire town, Hwa’s brought into their family affairs, which include multiple murders. Hwa is an immediately likable protagonist who isn’t afraid to shatter rules—or bones. The world is an updated version of Raymond Chandler’s, with gray morals and broken characters, and Hwa’s internal monologue has just the right balance of introspection and wit.
The review is more balanced than that — it mentions some plot stuff that wasn’t quite cleaned up by the time print ARCs went out. But, discussing those elements further would mean giving out spoilers, and well, no can do. (Also, Raymond Chandler had some wild and crazy plot twists, too.) By and large I’m delighted with this review, and once again, impressed at how reviewers are better able to summarize my own plots than I am.
I imagine that elsewhere, this is described as a link round-up. Or, if it were more thoughtfully and intentionally curated, it would go into a newsletter (which I don’t have the time or focus to create; remembering to blog is hard enough). One of my bad productivity habits is keeping a bunch of tabs open, thinking that I’ll blog about them individually. Naturally, I don’t. Then I feel bad about not doing so, but the moment has passed, so I feel worse, and it turns into this very Catholic shame spiral, and eventually Firefox crashes under the weight of my good intentions. So really, I’m attempting to clear my tabs in an effort to clear my head. As Chuck Palahniuk once said at a reading of his that I attended: “I like this for the same reason I like sex. It’s all about me.”
I may be paraphrasing. But only a little.
Keanu Achilles: John Wick and Modern Anger If I wind up with a tattoo that reads “????? ?????, ???,” it will be Adam Roberts’ fault. My favourite bit: “The appeal here is of a dangerous kind, I think. It flatters that sense we have, on whatever level, that because ????? is divine, pursuing our own anger with ?????-level implacability will in some sense make us godlike. Ours, after all, is not any old anger: no, no, it is righteous, justified and magnificent. Except that it’s actually none of those things. Except that it doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. We will only wear ourselves down. We are not gods. You, and I, are not invulnerable as John Wick. And though I can’t speak for you, I know that I am not as beautiful as Keanu Reeves.”
Notes Towards a Feminist Futurist Manifesto “The apparent downsizing of contemporary science and technology from claims to artifice (machines that can think and live) to those of ambience and augmentation are deeply disingenuous and, in as far as they extend the reach of biopower through i.e. gendered visions of the smart home, servile agents and avatars embodying female stereotypes etc, they require a gendered form of biopolitics. Even within the short life span of Ambient Intelligence, the iconic agent of servility has shifted from that of the butler to that of the nurse. Ambient intelligent nurses, designed to manage and regulate an ageing population @home rather than in the care of the state, would know when they were needed, come when they were called and cost next to nothing compared with the flesh and blood variety who are already ever more precariously employed.”
The Real Horror At The Heart Of “The Witch” “You can see how this created a deep and abiding pathology around objects of abjection. But in order to express that pathology, you need something more expansive and flexible than static biblical texts. Thus: the sermon, the fairy tale, the nursery rhyme, all of which coalesce into the second and equally potent form of maintaining the status quo. Call it folklore, call it storytelling, but it takes on the guise of being “just a story” while performing necessary ideological policing.”
Designed to Fail “So being in a dense urban location turns out to be the optimal design solution: relying as it does on the healthiest, least expensive, lowest carbon and most fully deployed transport technology in human history: walking. IDEO already knows this: that’s why they pay premium rents for their tidy, exposed-brick office space in the West Loop.”
Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules Bear is really brave to talk about this, and she does so with plainspoken grace. Christ knows I’ve felt this worn out before, and I don’t have half the track record she does. Bear’s also an awesome person who bought me a salad for breakfast on the morning of an early flight, during the Hieroglyph tour, after listening to me prattle on about Atkins during a walk along the National Mall. (Also her Hieroglyph story is way cooler than mine and you should read it.)
Finally, here’s this:
Like Hannibal Lecter, I also listen to the Goldberg Variations when I’m gathering my wits. I particularly like this version.
The other day, after watching Crimson Peak for the first time, I woke up with a fully-fleshed idea for a Gothic horror story about experience design. And while the story would take place in the past, it would really be about the future. Why? Because the future itself is Gothic.
...is a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates. You can buy her novels here. She has written narrative scenarios and science fiction prototypes for organizations like Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. 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.