Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

research * the future * culture

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.

The (f)Anthropology of True Detective

Like seemingly everyone else watching True Detective, I had my theories about who the Yellow King was. But for me, that was of tertiary importance compared to learning the answer to another question: Why the Yellow King?

(Spoilers ahead, for True Detective and Twin Peaks.)

Read the full article »

The Evil that Men Do: on being a woman watching (true) detectives

Today marks the end of Meanwhile, the 25-year period that, according to Twin Peaks lore, Special Agent Dale Cooper has waited in the Black Lodge for Laura Palmer to return and end his torment.

Read the full article »

Some Company Town links

For each book I write, there’s a separate tag in my Favourites file. (I’m old-fashioned, and don’t carry a mobile Favourites with me. Doing so reminds me of my time in academia, when every scrap of information had to be saved. It also gives me hives.) Here are a few from the Company Town tag:

Company Town, you’ll recall, is the story of an escort’s escort named Hwa who starts working for vertically-integrated energy concern when they buy the city she lives in, which happens to be a series of autonomous towers floating around an oil rig in the North Atlantic. Protecting the heir to the firm means going back to finish high school, fighting off some post-Singular asshole who thinks it’s the Terminator, and catching a serial killer. You know. The usual senior year bullshit.


Doing the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, today

I’m late posting this, but I’m honoured to be a guest of the 2014 Toronto SpecFic Colloqium. The theme this year is “Unnatural Histories,” and I’ll be getting a lot more personal than I usually do. More to come.

The Kindle edition of vN is on sale!

Yes! For For a whopping $1.79, according to my Amazon. (American browsers might see $1.99.) If you have not read vN already (and I know there are a lot of you), this would be the perfect time to pick it up and give it a try. Or if you have a grandmother who you particularly loathe, sending her a copy might be a subtle way to start that special “get the fuck out of my life, you hateful old bitch,” conversation. Or you could send it to your ex-boyfriend with a note that reads, “This is why I never read all that Asimov you lent me.” Or you could send it to your friends who say they don’t read SF by women writers, along with a baby blanket and a pacifier so they can at least suck on something instead of just sucking in general. What I’m saying is, a book always makes a good “Thank you” or “I love you” gift. But sometimes, a book can also sometimes make a good “Fuck you,” gift. And that’s the kind of book vN is.

Don’t nominate me for the Campbell; I declined it last year.


Photo: Adam Christopher

Last year, I was nominated for a Campbell Award, for my debut novel vN. Then I declined the nomination, because I realized I wasn’t truly eligible for the award that year. Why? Because I’d already made a sale to Nature magazine. SFWA treats Nature as a Campbell-qualifying market, which means my “Campbell clock” (which I imagine looking like the glowing crystal in Logan’s Run) has been running since 2009.

Read the full article »

How to watch “Love, Actually”

There have been a lot of retrospectives written on Love, Actually this year. The Atlantic hates it. Mother Jones loves it. Jezebel makes fun of it. Having just watched it again last night as I do every year, I have my own issues with it: that “Colin goes to America” plotline is absolutely abysmal, a weird wank-fantasy in an otherwise tender movie. Also, it wouldn’t have killed Richard Curtis to replace that lacklustre storyline with a storyline about a queer man or woman. Hell, you could even do that same story about someone going to America — to a city where the queer scene is better/hotter/more interesting/geekier/whatever. Instead we get Betty Draper seducing a charmless lout at a dive bar in Milwaukee. This was an opportunity to something more than throw a bone to the guys who got dragged to the film by their girlfriends. (Those guys got all kinds of bare-breasted action, already, in Martin Freeman’s plotline. They’re doing just fine.) Also, the movie is awfully marriage-happy: one couple gets engaged within a month of meeting, and another is married within two months. There’s no real reason for those couples to even get engaged — it just happens because everything in the movie is dialled up to 11 and marriage is supposedly the telos of romantic life. Similarly, I’ve never really needed the addition of Claudia Schiffer to tie up Liam Neeson’s plot. I feel like it pulls focus from the love story between himself and his step-son.

And I say “love story” because that’s what all the stories in the movie are. They’re love stories. They’re just not all romantic love stories. Some of them are about the love between brothers and sisters, or best friends, or parents and children, or creative partners. Hugh Grant’s monologue makes that pretty clear at the beginning, during the airport sequence. That’s what’s called a thesis statement. You may have heard of it.

With that said, I do watch the movie in a pretty particular way each year. And I don’t just mean the fact that there’s usually a bourbon-and-eggnog in my hand. I mean that as a viewer, I’ve filled certain gaps in the story with my own answers. Scott McCloud talks about this in Understanding Comics. It’s really something everybody does, though — you don’t have to be filling the “gutter” between panels. You can just be imagining what happens in the scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut. That’s how fanfiction gets written. So, without hope or agenda, here’s my fannish reading of Love, Actually. Let’s get the shit kicked out of us by exegesis.

Read the full article »

New story: A Very vN xMAS Special

I have a real love for Christmas specials. Or, to be more accurate, Christmas episodes. If you gave me the choice between an unknown Christmas movie and a Christmas episode of The West Wing, I’d choose the latter every single time. I watch “A Very Supernatural Christmas” every year around this time. I like what a specific seasonal, cultural, emotional context can do for characters. Putting them through a regular event that your audience has a visceral understanding of is a good way to cast them in a different light. So, in this spirit, I wrote “A Very vN xMas”.

For those of you playing along, this could very well be the first (non-prologue) chapter to Rev: The Third Machine Dynasty. It immediately follows the end of iD, which costs only £1 in ebook form today, along with vN. So consider it a sort of sneak preview of coming attractions. Those attractions include spider tanks and fried chicken and a whole novel about the robot apocalypse told from the perspective of ubiquitous surveillance. Watch for jokes or references to:

  • “Merry Christmas! War is Over!”
  • Star Wars
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Lupin III
  • Tokyo Godfathers
  • Many, many Christmas songs

Here’s a taste:

Javier was uneasy in this place. That much was obvious. Portia saw them when they were sleeping. She knew when they were awake. She knew if they’d been bad or good. At night Javier lay awake, staring at Amy before getting up to check on the children. Amy had designed living walls and water features into their bedroom, so the whole place was thick and warm and green with organic life, but it still wasn’t the teeming silence of the forests Javier’s clade was built for. Portia understood. Portia sometimes missed the desert. It was so conveniently anathema to human life. Like Mars.

At night, Javier stared down on the city with something like quiet horror. At first Portia suspected it had to do with the bomb dropping there. He still had some sympathy for humanity, she thought. Some remnant of sentiment running through him like old viral RNA. Something that made him feel pity and not scorn. But no. It was the city. It was the height of the towers and the lack of trees. The lack of green. The farm towers couldn’t make up for that lack, no matter how hard they tried. This was the price of his freedom. The problem with becoming a real live boy. The thing the Tin Man had exchanged for a heart.

It wasn’t until he was in the living room, staring down at the lights around the harbour, that Esperanza would silently creep into her brothers and slip herself onto the futon beside him. Each morning she left at dawn. Sometimes her brother noticed her. Sometimes he didn’t. When he did, he curled an arm around her, and she smiled. She still smiled, even when he didn’t. Even now, this minute, she was staring at her brother from under the long lashes her father had given her. And Xavier, like everyone else in the whole goddamn family, was completely oblivious.

Portia would have to do something about that. Wake them up. Get them into fighting form. It would be her gift to them, in the spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

My SFContario 4 schedule

This Black Friday marks the advent of SFContario 4, where I will be a panelist (among many others). Here is my schedule, for anyone who may be interested.

Saturday, 11:00am, Ballroom BC: “No, I’m Hero Support.” Good sidekicks aren’t just ciphers. They have back-stories that may be as rich as the main character’s. A good sidekick does more than point, ask questions, and scream. Our panelists discuss what goes into creating a good companion or sidekick. (I’ll probably spend this time talking about Javier.)

Saturday, 1:00pm, Courtyard: “Social Commentary and SF.” The SF genre has long delivered a conduit for discussing controversial contemporary issues and has often offered insightful social commentary on potential future issues. The presentation of disconcerting issues can be made more acceptable when they are explored in a future setting. Does current science fiction continue to explore social and political issues? Should it? (Someone will probably ask me about pedophilia and robots.)

Saturday, 3:00pm, Courtyard: “Multiculturalism in SF.” Multiculturalism in SF: We live in a real world of cultural contact and immigration, yet a reflection of the immigrant experience seems to be rare in our imaginary worlds. Is the success of  stories such as Ken Liu’s “Paper Menagerie” evidence that we want a more nuanced portrayal of being between two cultures than we can get from angsty half-elves and intergalactic vagabonds? (Yes. Yes it is. Christ, I hope so.)

Sunday, 10:00am, Gardenview: Reading I’ll probably read from Company Town, because I’m really excited about it. After that, Dave reads in the same room. Let us nurse your hangovers with much cursing and squick.

  • 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. She has been a guest on TVO's The Agenda multiple times. Her novels are published by Angry Robot Books. Her 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)

  • Profiles

  • Twitter

  • 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

    More of Madeline 's books »
    Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
  • Photos

  • Tags

  • Categories

  • Calendar

    September 2014
    M T W T F S S
    « Aug    
  • Archives