Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

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Meet me in Winnipeg!

Actually, meet me and David Nickle, hosted by SM Beiko and Chadwick Ginther. Yes, in the fine old tradition of Bogart and Bacall, Gaiman and Palmer, and Bob and Bing, the nice folks at the McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg are presenting An Evening With Madeline Ashby & David Nickle, Friday March 13 at 7:30. (Yes, that’s Friday the 13th. Bring your own chainsaw.) Come watch us do our William Tell routine. We’ll read, we’ll sign, we’ll do the whole bit. Come out to the ‘peg, we’ll have a few laughs!

…Okay, I’m out of jokes. But I am genuinely excited to share the stage with the love of my life, especially when that stage is at one of the best bookstores in Canada. So come on out and say hello.

Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Having Never Done One

So there’s this piece going around, about what students need to do succeed as writers in literary MFA programs. A lot of it is pretty basic — show up, do the work, read good books, nurse your talent. And a lot of it is pretty bitchy — there’s a bit about how being abused as a child can’t make you a better writer, which is both unnecessary and sidesteps the central literary issue of abuse narratives, namely that coming forward to tell a story is the often first step in ending abuse.

But that’s an issue for another post. I’m here to tell you something else about MFAs, and writing in general.

MFAs are bullshit. You don’t need one.

You may simply want one, which is something else. And this isn’t to say that you can’t make use of one. Or that the process of obtaining one isn’t helpful. Getting a Master of Fine Arts degree can be a great way to hone your craft, meet other writers, find mentors, and enter a local literary community. From a networking perspective, it’s a good idea. Especially if you’re writing mainstream lit, you’ll need to find a way to set yourself apart from all the other writers who talk about three generations of women coming together for a funeral, or alcoholic forty-something English profs who fall for their students, or the divorced thirty-somethings returning to their tiny rustbelt towns and reuniting with the parent of the pregnancy they had aborted back in high school, or whatever.

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What can serial killers tell us about artificial intelligence?

I first wondered this while watching the second series of The Fall, a challenging and unapolegetically feminist take on the now-standard serial killer drama. In it, a handsome and fit man by the name of Paul Spector routinely stalks and murders women — in between making appointments as a certified bereavement counselor, going on date nights with his wife, and looking after his two children, ages eight and six. His foe is Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, an empowered take on Alfred Hitchcock’s blonde archetype from the London Metropolitan police called to Belfast first to participate in a departmental review, and then to oversee the investigation into Spector’s killings. It’s Gibson who links Spector’s murders together, spotting similarities in both victim profile and killing methodology. From then on, the drama unfolds as a story of two very brilliant people slowly discovering more about each other from a great distance. With every murder, Spector reveals more of himself. And at every crime scene, we learn what makes Gibson the ideal investigator to see straight through Spector’s self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual bullshit to the grimy engine of misogyny that drives him deeper down his inevitable spiral.

In other words, it’s a Chinese Room story.

In philosopher John Searle’s Chinese Room argument, intended to refute arguments for strong AI, Searle argues that an appropriate contextual response to stimuli is not evidence of genuine consciousness. This acceptance of consciousness as biologically naturalistic has since been called into question by neuroscientists. We are often unconscious of behaviours, leading biologists to wonder what the point of consciousness is, or even if it’s literally just a side-effect of developing vision.

Now imagine that instead of consciousness, we were debating the existence of empathy.

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About LICENCE EXPIRED, the unauthorized Bond anthology I’m co-editing with David Nickle

It’s true! Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and short stories are now public domain in Canada. When I heard this, I immediately asked my Twitter followers if I should write a James Bond novel. (Response was enthusiastic.) The thing is, I’ve already sort of written one — my second novel, iD: The Second Machine Dynasty, drew a great deal of inspiration from Fleming’s work. It’s a fast, brutal, pulpy adventure story about an Hispanic self-replicating humanoid trying to find a rare diamond. There’s a casino. There’s a cruise ship. There are false identities and fight on rooftops. “You’re writing a Bond novel,” David said to me one day as I detailed some plot points. And he should know. He’s read all of them. Multiple times. And the short stories. Sometimes when we’re watching the films, I’ll comment on something and he’ll say: “Oh, the novel is way more racist.”

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About that new Ghost in the Shell movie

As you may have heard, actress Scarlett Johansson recently signed a deal to star in DreamWorks’ upcoming adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, a Japanese transmedia franchise that began as a cyberpunk manga by Masamune Shirow (the author’s pen name) in 1989.

There’s a Ghost in the Shell poster hanging above my desk, in my office. (It hangs next to the Nine Inch Nails poster and the Hollow Ichigo mask from Bleach.) I’m a nerd, and I’m first and foremost an anime nerd. This is why my novels are peppered with anime jokes. I got into anime in high school, when a friend of mine used the story of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune to come out to me. She got me hooked on fansubs, and suddenly I was that annoying person who was comparing Cowboy Bebop to The Great Gatsby. (A totally justifiable comparison, by the way. Look it up.) Some of my favourite memories of high school and college involve late nights, fansubs, and popcorn.  I was even the VP of my university’s anime club. (I got laid less in university than I did in high school.)

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On the Sony hack, and the future of film

The Sony hack is interesting to me on a lot of levels. One, because mine was a Sony family. My dad kept our Betamax alive until I was in university. In fact, we still have two at home — my boyfriend at the time bought us another so dad could complete his editorial projects, like mashing together a perfect cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind that included both the Gobi Desert sequence and both endings.

Yeah. We were that family.

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Fruitcake: not as scary as you think


Yesterday, I made fruitcake. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. And it made my house smell amazing. You should try it, too.

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Sugoi! The Japanese vN cover is here!


Aren’t they gorgeous? I’m not sure who the cover artist is, but I’m working on finding out. I really love this cover, and someday I’ll get a poster of it for my half of the office. (And one of the Company Town cover, once it has a Tor logo. Note to self.) What I like most about it is how it absolutely nails the relationships between Amy, Charlotte, and Portia. (The women on the cover could be Amy and Charlotte, or Charlotte and Portia, or Amy and Portia, depending on how you think of them.) That mingled affection and menace is such fun to write, and I’m really pleased with this visualization of it. Also, if you look hard, the Museum of the City of Seattle is in the background. At least, I think that’s what it is. It definitely looks like the Pacific Northwest, what with all the gloom.

Gah, it’s so pretty, I can’t stop staring at it.

Christmas Episodes, ranked

Last week was terrible. This week isn’t looking much better. Here are some things to watch on Netflix in case you need to re-charge your batteries.

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Big news: Company Town will be published by Tor!

Yes, it’s true. Company Town has been acquired by Tor Books. Angry Robot will no longer be publishing it. I explain how this happened at io9:

Ashby tells io9 that her editor had left Angry Robot before editing Company Town, and meanwhile the book was delayed — so she informed the authors who were blurbing it that there was no rush, after all. One of those would-be blurbers offered to show the book to his editor at Tor instead, and Tor had a spin on the book that Ashby liked.

I’m really excited about this, but I know you might have questions. If you have any more that I didn’t think of here, then I’ll try to answer them in the comments.

When will the book be out?

I’m not sure. We’re working on a date, but it looks like Fall 2015 might work.

Will my pre-order still work?

Doubtful. I will provide a pre-order link as soon as Tor generates one.

What will your next book from Tor be about?

I have some ideas! (I have too many ideas, actually. The trouble is sorting through them and finding the right one.) First I have to finish Rev, for Angry Robot, and a bunch of stories for various anthologies. But odds are it will be a standalone novel, probably set in the nearish future.

Will Rev: The Third Machine Dynasty be end of the Machine Dynasty series?

Yes. I have no plans to continue the series, either with Angry Robot or with anyone else.

Will it be your final book with Angry Robot?




  • 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 IAM Sports & Entertainment. 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, 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.
  • 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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