research * the future * culture

Today is a good day for finger-wagging.

In a rare coincidence, two pieces of mine are up at SF Signal and, respectively. Thanks to Paul and Bridget, the editors, for allowing me to rant at my leisure.

The first is a piece on how to raise stakes for characters in post-Singularity or post-Scarcity novels. Snip:

I belong to a genre writing workshop that’s lasted for over twenty years, and its collective wisdom is that the “literature of ideas” excuse is just that — an excuse. Listening to a cavalcade of cool ideas without context or implication is about as entertaining and informative as listening to a sugared-up six-year-old describe his first day at camp. (“And then! And then! And then!”) Your characters are the vehicles for your ideas. If they’re not roaring off the page, it’s because you’re not working hard enough.

(It really only gets nastier from there. I’ve been under some stress.)

The second piece is a moral argument for hard science fiction, which I started writing in response to the UK riots and the shutdown of wireless coverage to San Francisco’s BART stations. I had trouble finishing the piece, though, and I was only able to conjure up the ending yesterday. Snip:

Often, when we talk about the politics of representation in media, we’re discussing how one group of people is depicted in comparison to another, and the fairness (or lack thereof) in that depiction. We talk about systemic privilege, and cultural bias, and how these things influence the contemporary myths with which we frame our identities. We do this because stories are important: they shine a light down pathways we might someday choose to take.

In a case of online synchronicity, the good folks at io9 have posted about why we need public science and the anti-vaccine movement within America’s Tea Party. Had my Tor post gone up a day later, I would have linked to these other pieces. Stories like these are exactly what I had in mind when writing my post.

Like many a feminist before me, I see the personal as political. But as a science fiction writer, I also see science as personal. Innovations in security, medicine, and technology can have profound impacts on our daily lives and personal freedoms. Often, these innovations are made possible with public money. That means they are inextricably bound to the decisions made by policy-makers about the value of scientific endeavour and pure research. Those policy-makers are just as influenced by popular culture as you and I are. So, isn’t it about time we stopped giving the mad scientists so much wordcount?

  • Madeline Ashby… 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,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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    Madeline Ashby's books on Goodreads
    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
    reviews: 342
    ratings: 2160 (avg rating 3.43)

    Company Town Company Town
    reviews: 232
    ratings: 1217 (avg rating 3.68)

    iD iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)
    reviews: 73
    ratings: 439 (avg rating 3.66)

    Social Services Social Services
    reviews: 3
    ratings: 10 (avg rating 3.50)

    A Clock Stopped A Clock Stopped
    reviews: 2
    ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.20)

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  • 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

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