Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

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Excerpt of my Hieroglyph antho story, “By the Time We Get to Arizona”

Here’s an excerpt of my story, “By the Time We Get to Arizona,” at io9, where readers there have correctly identified the Public Enemy reference in the title.

Mariposa sat in the space once occupied solely by tarantulas and the rocks they hid under. It sat half on one side, half on the other. They’d dropped it just west of the Nogales-Hermosillo highway like a flat-pack explosive device. It was still in the process of unfolding itself, Tab A into Slot B, still growing into a “planned prototyping community” or “cultural moat” or “probationary testing ground” or whatever it was meant to be. Ulicez had looked up pictures of it and it still looked raw and new, more like a movie set than an actual town. Given that everyone going there was auditioning for something, he supposed that made sense.

On the way out of Nogales, El Tejón joined him. Ulicez had no idea what the old man’s real name was. He’d been called Tejón forever, likely because the whiskers on his chin were streaked with white like a badger’s. But now he melted out of the alley like a tomcat and kept pace with Ulicez without any appearance of effort or exertion. It was as though he’d been waiting for Ulicez to pass by, even though Ulicez had told only his mother that he planned to walk. Then again, it was somehow fitting that the old man be the one to take Ulicez across. They had crossed the same distance together so many times before, although by another route.

Hieroglyph in Toronto

In addition to the Hieroglyph anthology events I’m doing in NYC and DC this month, I’ll also be at Bakka-Phoenix Books in Toronto this Saturday, the 13th, at 3pm to launch the book locally with my pal and fellow contributor Karl Schroeder. The book actually comes out tomorrow, 9 September, so there will be plenty of copies if you’d like them signed.

If you’d like to read more about the anthology, check out this BBC piece on the subject:

Konstantinou admits he was initially sceptical about the nature of Project Hieroglyph, worrying it would “white-wash negative aspects of our reality [and be] too Pollyanna-ish”.

Instead, he now sees the medium as a way to spur creative thinking.

“It’s not the job of the science fiction writer to create a blueprint for the future, but it’s part of a collaboration with the reader to think hard about problems and to think about how people working together might overcome them.”

And an excerpt will also be available from my story “By The Time We Get to Arizona” (about the future of immigration and surveillance in corporate-sponsored bordertowns) soon, so stay tuned.

Upcoming Hieroglyph events in NYC & DC

If you’re in NYC or DC this fall and you like SF like I like acronyms, we might run into each other. September 30, I’ll be in conversation with Elizabeth Bear and Ed Finn at Tumblr HQ in Manhattan about The Hieroglyph Anthology.

Project Hieroglyph, inspired by Neal Stephenson and headquartered at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, aims to rekindle our grand ambitions for the future by bringing together top science fiction authors with scientists, engineers and other experts to collaborate on ambitious techno-optimistic visions of the near future. The project’s first anthology, Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future (HarperCollins), will be published on September 9, 2014.

My contribution to this anthology is a story about the future of immigration policy, called “By the Time We Get to Arizona.” It’s sort of like The Prisoner meets Pleasantville. In the Nogales desert.

Later I’ll be in DC for a few different events with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, Slate Magazine, and ASU’s Center for Science & The Imagination. On October 2, I’ll be at The Keck Center of the National Academy of Sciences for Hieroglyph’s DC book launch — details forthcoming. (It may be a ticketed event; it may be open to the public — I don’t know yet.)

So, if you’re in the area and want to say hi, please come by!

Mez and I, just shooting the shit

So, this is a conversation between Ramez Naam and I about our respective books. Weirdly we were both on the same coast when this interview happened, but still had to do the interview over email because of flight schedules. It turned out pretty well, though, because when we hung out at the annual World Future Society conference in Orlando, I felt like I knew him a little better.


Ramez: A lot of people are worried today that robots are going to take all the jobs. Does that keep you up at night?

Madeline: No. It doesn’t worry me. At all. If I were worried about artificial intelligences taking all the jobs, I’d be worried about stuff like algorithmic day trading and traffic sculpting, or the way so much of basic surveillance and security protocol has been outsourced to unconscious, non-sentient intelligences. Really, I’m more concerned about the economy in general, and the systematic eradication of the middle class. The inability of most people my age to buy a home or have a family has less to do with robots and more to do with social and tax policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

My LonCon (WorldCon 2014) schedule

I spent most of last week in San Jose with a new client, and as such forgot to post my LonCon (which I have taken to calling Long Con, given the price of airline tickets and hotel accomodation) schedule. Here it is. It’s a pretty cool schedule. And after it’s done, we plan to hit a bunch of museums!

Angry Robot and Titan Books Summer Invasion of Forbidden Planet’s London Megastore

Wendnesday August 13 18:00 – 19:00

Strictly speaking, this isn’t an offcial LonCon event. But it’s going to be awesome. The lineup includes Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross, Ramez Naam, Kim Newman, and loads of others. We’re not reading, but we are signing. I fly in that same day, so if you find a short woman dozing in a corner of the manga section, she’s probably me.

The Anime Canon: From the Classics to the Defining Works of Today

Thursday 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 3

You’ve seen Akira, you’ve seen some Studio Ghibli, and you saw a couple of episodes of Cowboy Bebop that one time … but where do you go from there? What does the anime canon look like? Which stories defined the form, and which became shared experiences that defined the fandom? And are they the best entry-points for a newcomer?

(For that, I plan to rail against the exclusion of Cowboy Bebop from this otherwise quite solid list at io9.)

Reading: Madeline Ashby

Friday 17:30 – 18:00, London Suite 1

The Philosophical Mecha

Saturday 15:00 – 16:30, London Suite 3

When is a giant robot more than just a giant robot? Many of the best and most famous anime — such as Evangelion, Gasaraki, or Flag — use the mecha as a tool to explore politics, philosophy, and the human condition. What is the conception of the human explored in such series, and how is it mediated by technological experience?

50 Years After: Asimov predicts 2014 World’s Fair

Saturday 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 15

In 1964, Asimov wrote a set of predictions for the 2014 World’s Fair. What did he predict, what did he get right and wrong, what did he say that was useful, and what did he miss completely?

I Can’t Do That, Dave: artificial intelligence, imagination, and fear

Sunday 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 10

From the Minds of Iain M Banks’ Culture to Portal’s GLaDOS, artificial intelligences abound in sf, and not infrequently they turn on their creators. Whether as idealisation of reason or deadly threat – or both – why do AIs have such an enduring appeal? Where do fictional AIs stand in relation to the real-world science? And to what extent has sf explored the ethical questions surrounding the creation of sentience to better serve humankind?


Sex work, the law, and Company Town

My next book, Company Town (which is currently available for pre-order), takes place on an oil rig on the Atlantic, 500km NE of St. John’s, Newfoundland. It’s my first book set in Canada, despite the fact that I moved to Toronto in 2006. Today being Canada Day, I thought I would talk about why I chose a Canadian setting. TL;DR: I thought I was being clever about the legality of prostitution in Canada, until the Tories fucked up my whole premise.

Read the full article »

Why I donate to Planned Parenthood

I don’t recall the first time I donated to Planned Parenthood. It might have been online. It might have been on the street. I’m not sure. But I will always remember why.

Read the full article »

Hang out with me!

…I realize how pathetic a plea that sounds, but in this case it’s legitimate nomenclature. On Monday 28 April, I’ll be doing a Google+ hangout with some of my Angry Robot Books cohort: Ramez Naam, Wesley Chu, and Cassandra Rose Clarke. We’ll be discussing 21st century science fiction. You should come hang out with us. It’ll be fun. I’ll even wear pants and everything.

Company Town has a cover!

And it’s at io9! (Along with a little essay about the Singularity.) If you’d like to pre-order the book, you can do so here.


All credit goes to the amazingly talented Erik Mohr, who normally works for ChiZine Publications but went to the dark side for me and Angry Robot Books. I’ve wanted an Erik Mohr cover since, oh, 2010, when David’s first collection Monstrous Affections was released. He’s done shockingly good work for David’s novels Eutopia, Rasputin’s Bastards, and The ‘Geisters since then, and so I was quietly thrilled when he casually asked me at a party: “So, when am I doing one of your covers?” (Seriously, it was a bit of an “I carried a watermelon” moment. I think I said, “Uh, um, well, there’s this one I’m working on…about oil rigs?”)

Erik was a delight to work with. He asked all the right questions, and seemed to know exactly what I was talking about before I even said it. He’s also a perfectionist, and won’t let a cover out the door unless it’s just right. If you get a chance to work with him, do.

Future futurist gigs in the future

This year has already been pretty busy, in terms of my foresight work. In January, I ran a workshop at a Day Zero event for Engineers Without Borders Canada AGM. That same month, editors started contacting me about including my story Social Services, which I wrote for an Institute for the Future anthology on the coming age of networked matter, in their “year’s best” anthologies. Then I gave a talk at the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium. And this weekend, I’ll be delivering a keynote on design fiction at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

This summer, I’ll visit Washington, DC to do a three-day workshop on narrative and foresight. Then I’ll head to the World Future Society to attend a symposium on science fiction and teach a workshop on stratifying scenarios so they feel lived-in and real (because your ideal user and the person who uses your product/service/platform are often very different). After that I’m off to LonCon 3, which I will probably start calling “Long Con” after I look at my credit card statement.

In the fall, I might finally learn if the fudning my team applied for to develop a videogame about cybersecurity came through. It’s sort of a mixture of Serial Experiments Lain, Perfect Blue, and Veronica Mars, so I’m hoping it comes through. September marks the publication of the Hieroglyph anthology, inspired by a keynote given by Neal Stephenson and work done between SF writers and faculty at Arizona State’s Center for Science and the Imagination. September is also when my next novel, Company Town arrives on store shelves, or in your phone, or between your nightmares. As that happens, I’ll be working on finishing the Machine Dynasty series with an evil little novel called Rev, and working on stories for a couple of anthologies.

And all of that work leads directly into next year, in a way I can’t really discuss yet. Suffice to say it involves more travel, and more grant applications, and a lot of hard work.

  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, anime fan, and immigrant. 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 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)

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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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