research * the future * culture

The weekend in pictures

It starts Friday night with Cory Doctorow in the basement of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy. (I’ve linked to his signature in the Collection’s circa-1983 guestbook. While I was busy being born, Cory was already hacking — yes, hacking — the way clear for himself.) Cory is the emeritus member of my workshop, and he gave me my first national publication. The second time we met, he reached out and ruffled my hair. Seeing him always feels like seeing my older and cooler cousin, the one who blows into town during the holidays to say hi to the family and give you a hug before continuing his orbit through places that are bound to be both brighter and darker than home.

Speaking of which, my Friday night ended with this:


That’s Amanda Palmer singing my favourite of her songs, “Runs in the Family,” during the encore portion of her show with Jason Webley, Sxip Shirey, and EvelynEvelyn. Dave came too, and he wrote up the performance here. He included video snippets. You should watch them.

I know Palmer and Webley have caught a lot of flak for their portrayal of conjoined twins EvelynEvelyn Neville. I’ve read the show described as “crip cosplay,” and I think a lot of Palmer’s fans were disappointed with her explanation of the twins’ “origin.” And while I think the premise is problematic in theory, in execution it becomes abundantly and immediately clear that Evelyn and Evelyn are a metaphor for our unbreakable bonds to our families and our past, and how memories of both can make us stronger even as they continue gnawing us from the inside. The twins’ performance has a very Grey Gardens feeling about it. EvelynEvelyn get the stardom that Big and Little Edie Beale never got, but their relationship is just as fraught and impenetrable, even as it’s on display. It’s worth noting that since the 1975 documentary, the Beale story has since become fodder for Broadway musicals, YouTube divas, and HBO dramas. It’s been fictionalized and re-fictionalized, with outsiders attempting to pick apart the legacy of two very disturbed women whose downfall was an indictment of the American dream. Perhaps a madly vaudevillian imagining of two people who never existed and musical fanfiction about two historical figures isn’t an apt comparison, but it’s the one I couldn’t help making in the first few minutes of the performance. My husband entered the concert with no context whatsoever, and he grasped the concept immediately. “They should turn that guy’s mike down, though,” he added. “He’s overshadowing her, and it’s a little annoying.”

One thing I can say without qualification about EvelynEvelyn: it will silence all your fears of collaboration. Whatever you’re trying, whatever project you have in mind, is not that difficult in comparison. And whatever shows you might see this year, I doubt any of them will be as brazen or confident as this one. Amanda, Jason, and Sxip know their gifts and put them to their fullest use every night. They own the stage and the people crowding it. I suspect this is why they invite so much audience participation; unlike other performers, they know they can handle it.

I just managed to scrub off the last of my mascara Saturday morning when we departed for greener pastures. Literally.

We spent the next two days on a farm that belongs to my husband’s aunt. The place can’t be found with GPS. The nearest town hasn’t had a doctor in years. And there are pumas, not that we saw any. But we did see deer, and where there are deer, there are carnivores. I became keenly aware of that fact as I walked down this road alone:

As I later explained, the nice thing about pumas (aka mountain lions or cougars) is that, on the exceedingly rare chance that one decides to hunt you, you’ll die in minutes. They pounce from behind to snap the neck in their jaws. This is why, if you meet one head-on, you never turn your back and run. In fact, you desperately attempt to make yourself look larger and more intimidating. If you’re with small children, you put them on your shoulders and get them to wave their arms wildly and say “HI THERE, COUGAR, I SURE AM SORRY FOR WHAT SEX AND THE CITY HAS DONE TO YOUR SPECIES’ GOOD NAME!” and hope for the best.

This sort of thing gets drilled into you while hiking the Olympic National Forest, like I did with my parents when I was much younger. It’s neat to know I can do the same with my niece and nephew. Though for some reason I think explaining a severed spinal cord will be easier than talking about Sex and the City. But maybe that’s just me.

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...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, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with 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, Tor.com, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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    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

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