Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

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When a review of an anthology ignores all the women in it

You’re probably tired of hearing me bang on about the Hieroglyph anthology. But one of the reasons I’ve talked about it and promoted it so tirelessly is because I had a great time participating in it. A large part of my enjoyment had to do with the talent, patience, and confidence of my editor, Kathryn Cramer. When I was procrastinating because I was afraid of “not being optimistic enough,” or “not living up to Neal’s vision,” or “not accomplishing the goal of the project,” Kathryn calmly told me to follow my instincts. That whatever fiction arose would be ours to work on, not just mine to salvage. In other words, she did what all good editors are supposed to do: be patient, be firm, believe in the writer, and read carefully. It was one of the best editorial experiences I’ve ever had. A damn sight better than some others I could mention.

That’s why I’m so disappointed to see that this review by Paul Voosen of the anthology in the Chronicle of Higher Education didn’t mention Kathryn once.

Oh, and the reviewer forgot to mention any of the other women. At all. Not me. Not Elizabeth Bear. Not Vandana Singh. Not Annalee Newitz. Not Charlie Jane Anders. Not Brenda Cooper. Not Kathleen Ann Goonan. Our content constitutes a good of half of the anthology, and yet no mention is made of our contributions. Judging by the review, the only optimistic vision of the future Voosen believes in is the one where men dominate the conversation.

Now, granted, most of the review also discusses the awesome event we had with Slate and the New America Foundation, called “Can We Imagine Our Way to A Better Future?” Myself, Kathryn, Kathleen, Elizabeth, and Vandana all participated, as did numerous other women in the technology and media fields. None of our participation is mentioned in the review of our event. In fact, Voosen highlights my mention of Peter Watts’ name during our discusson of surveillance politics (and Watts’ disagreement with David Brin on the idea of a transparent society), without once mentioning my name. Hey, Paul. I gave you that talking point. You’re welcome.

I suppose this could be interpreted as me arguing with a bad review, which is a terrible thing to do because it wastes everyone’s time and energy, especially with one’s own. But as my work and my contributions — and those of all the other women involved — were summarily ignored, there’s no review to argue with. I know that some people enjoyed my story, while others didn’t. I know somee people enjoyed my panel, and others didn’t. Even those that disagreed with me were gracious enough to acknowledge my presence and start a conversation afterward.

Wish I could say the same about The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Another appearance on “The Agenda”

…this time talking about privacy, social media, bullying, feminism, all that stuff.

I had a really fun time with this one. I think I might finally be getting the hang of this!

Dispatches from the Hieroglyph tour

I just wrapped up my first real book tour, in support of the Hieroglyph anthology. I was lucky enough to attend events in NYC, DC, and Ottawa. So, it was a tiny tour for me, but it was pretty packed.

Read the full article »

My Can-Con schedule

I know I should be writing about the amazing time I had on the Hieroglyph anthology Northeastern tour events in NYC and DC, but I’m still processing them. But you can check out the #abetterfuture hashtag on Twitter for a sense of the mood, or take a look at David Hartwell’s photos of the Hieroglyph event at Tumblr.

In the meantime, here is my Can-Con schedule!


7pm, Room 5: Reading
8pm, Room 2: The Past, Present, and Future of Fandom


12pm, Room 4: Political and Social Speculative Fiction
3pm, Room 3: A Feminist Exploration of the Female Villain
4pm, Room 2: The Foresight Panel

If you’re in the Ottawa area, or just feel like hitting a con, come on by and say hello.

Hey, where’s my copy of Company Town?



Good question. Glad you asked. If you pre-ordered the book, know two things: a) I’m ever so grateful, and b) it won’t arrive on time. Why is that? My fellow Angry Robot author Kameron Hurley explains it succinctly:

So back in June Angry Robot Books, publisher of THE MIRROR EMPIRE, closed its ancillary imprints, Exhibit A and Strange Chemistry. This was part of a wider cost-cutting exercise initiated by Osprey, Angry Robot’s parent company, which was going up for sale along with Angry Robot. Angry Robot has since pushed out its fall releases while wheels turn behind the scenes on this. Now you know about as much as I do about that, all of which is public knowledge.

Now, about those fall releases that were pushed out. Company Town is on that list — it won’t be coming out September 30th. And that’s a good thing. Why? Because it has yet to be edited.

As Kameron accurately points out, business comes to a halt when the mergers and acquisitions are afoot. By the time I sent in my manuscript, things had already rolled to a stop. That manuscript still needs some tender loving care. (Don’t we all?) That means everything is going to take longer. It might be a long time before you read the whole thing. But I’d rather you wait a while to read a good book than let you plunge headlong into something riddled with errors, inconsistencies, contrivances, missteps, leaden prose, and the thousand natural flaws that a novel is heir to.

But, because you’ve been so patient, here’s a big ol’ chunk of it.
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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?


  • Madeline Ashby…

    ...is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, 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. 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.
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    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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