research * the future * culture

My FuturEverything talk, “Abandon All Hope?” is now up!

A while back, the amazing people at FuturEverything invited me to Manchester to give a talk at their festival. I had watched the festival from afar via Twitter for years, and I felt like the cool kids (Goth-cool, not preppie-cool) had finally invited me to their lunch table.



Only their lunch table was Manchester Town Hall, which is a Victorian neo-Gothic cathedral to municipal goings-on, complete with gargoyles, crenellations, murals, stained glass, brass chandeliers, and odd little mosaics depicting bees. “It’s a worker bee,” one of the volunteers told me, in a very helpful tone that was not all reminiscent of an extra in The Wicker Man.*


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Remember that film project I told you about?


Here it is!

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Where is this place? (On creating my first transmedia campaign.)


Just before the Christmas of 2015, a friend got in touch and said she had a really interesting opportunity for me. Early on Christmas Eve morning, she brought me to a location in the suburbs of Toronto, and introduced me to someone. This someone was warm and welcoming and gracious, and the location she’d brought me to was obviously very special to him. The task, I was told, was to communicate that specialness to other people. To find someone who might understand it.


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On (not) having a heart attack in Canada.


In the small hours of yesterday morning, I felt my heart squeezing inside my chest. It thudded, like in a comic book. I felt it pulsing down into my fingers. Each time I rolled over, I felt it there, leaden, like a ball bearing sliding up and down the walls of my body. Eventually I was able to go back to sleep.

When I woke up, I felt like I had run a marathon.

The pain was tight across my chest and shoulders. When I stood up, my heart squeezed. It hurt to breathe, and as a result, I felt that I couldn’t quite catch my breath. Well aware that signs and symptoms of heart attack are different for women than they are for men, I looked them up, and then called Telehealth. For those of you who are unaware, Telehealth is a free service offered by the province of Ontario that connects patients with registered nurses. If you’re sick but uncertain how to proceed, Telehealth can help you make a decision.

Yesterday, the nurse on the other end of the line called an ambulance for me.

“You’re exhibiting classic symptoms of a heart attack,” she said.

“But I don’t have the nausea or clamminess,” I said. “And I’m 32.”

“Unlock the doors for the crew,” she said. “Do you have any pets? You might need to lock them up.”

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Oh hey, the first COMPANY TOWN review



ARC’s (pictured above, with a delightful blurb by none other than Mira Grant) went out a little while ago, and now the first review is in. This is great, because I’ve been having those moments when I wake up at four am and wonder if the book is actually terrible, and I was deluding myself all along. But, Publisher’s Weekly seems not to think so:

Hwa does pretty well for herself as a bodyguard for the sex workers who populate a self-contained community/oil rig off the eastern coast of Canada. She wants cybernetic enhancements, but her uncaring mother won’t let her get them. When an obscenely rich family with unusual views buys the entire town, Hwa’s brought into their family affairs, which include multiple murders. Hwa is an immediately likable protagonist who isn’t afraid to shatter rules—or bones. The world is an updated version of Raymond Chandler’s, with gray morals and broken characters, and Hwa’s internal monologue has just the right balance of introspection and wit.

The review is more balanced than that — it mentions some plot stuff that wasn’t quite cleaned up by the time print ARCs went out. But, discussing those elements further would mean giving out spoilers, and well, no can do. (Also, Raymond Chandler had some wild and crazy plot twists, too.) By and large I’m delighted with this review, and once again, impressed at how reviewers are better able to summarize my own plots than I am.


I imagine that elsewhere, this is described as a link round-up. Or, if it were more thoughtfully and intentionally curated, it would go into a newsletter (which I don’t have the time or focus to create; remembering to blog is hard enough). One of my bad productivity habits is keeping a bunch of tabs open, thinking that I’ll blog about them individually. Naturally, I don’t. Then I feel bad about not doing so, but the moment has passed, so I feel worse, and it turns into this very Catholic shame spiral, and eventually Firefox crashes under the weight of my good intentions. So really, I’m attempting to clear my tabs in an effort to clear my head. As Chuck Palahniuk once said at a reading of his that I attended: “I like this for the same reason I like sex. It’s all about me.”

I may be paraphrasing. But only a little.

  • Keanu Achilles: John Wick and Modern Anger If I wind up with a tattoo that reads “????? ?????, ???,” it will be Adam Roberts’ fault. My favourite bit: “The appeal here is of a dangerous kind, I think. It flatters that sense we have, on whatever level, that because ????? is divine, pursuing our own anger with ?????-level implacability will in some sense make us godlike. Ours, after all, is not any old anger: no, no, it is righteous, justified and magnificent. Except that it’s actually none of those things. Except that it doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. We will only wear ourselves down. We are not gods. You, and I, are not invulnerable as John Wick. And though I can’t speak for you, I know that I am not as beautiful as Keanu Reeves.”
  • Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt It is very hard to live in a world that no longer has Umberto Eco in it. This is just one reason why.
  • Notes Towards a Feminist Futurist Manifesto “The apparent downsizing of contemporary science and technology from claims to artifice (machines that can think and live) to those of ambience and augmentation are deeply disingenuous and, in as far as they extend the reach of biopower through i.e. gendered visions of the smart home, servile agents and avatars embodying female stereotypes etc, they require a gendered form of biopolitics. Even within the short life span of Ambient Intelligence, the iconic agent of servility has shifted from that of the butler to that of the nurse. Ambient intelligent nurses, designed to manage and regulate an ageing population @home rather than in the care of the state, would know when they were needed, come when they were called and cost next to nothing compared with the flesh and blood variety who are already ever more precariously employed.”
  • The Real Horror At The Heart Of “The Witch” “You can see how this created a deep and abiding pathology around objects of abjection. But in order to express that pathology, you need something more expansive and flexible than static biblical texts. Thus: the sermon, the fairy tale, the nursery rhyme, all of which coalesce into the second and equally potent form of maintaining the status quo. Call it folklore, call it storytelling, but it takes on the guise of being “just a story” while performing necessary ideological policing.”
  • Dine Out Like a Hollywood Legend at These Retro L.A. Hot Spots I’m really just making note of this for the next time I’m in LA. Which I hope is very soon. Having been born there, I occasionally crave the city.
  • Designed to Fail “So being in a dense urban location turns out to be the optimal design solution: relying as it does on the healthiest, least expensive, lowest carbon and most fully deployed transport technology in human history: walking. IDEO already knows this: that’s why they pay premium rents for their tidy, exposed-brick office space in the West Loop.”
  • Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America’s Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists Umberto Eco, author of Foucault’s Pendulum, the best novel ever written about conspiracy theorists, just died. Why isn’t this being shared everywhere?
  • How the Flint River got so toxic Surprise! It took over a century, but you can do a lot in a century.
  • Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules Bear is really brave to talk about this, and she does so with plainspoken grace. Christ knows I’ve felt this worn out before, and I don’t have half the track record she does. Bear’s also an awesome person who bought me a salad for breakfast on the morning of an early flight, during the Hieroglyph tour, after listening to me prattle on about Atkins during a walk along the National Mall. (Also her Hieroglyph story is way cooler than mine and you should read it.)

Finally, here’s this:

Like Hannibal Lecter, I also listen to the Goldberg Variations when I’m gathering my wits. I particularly like this version.

Our Gothic Future


The other day, after watching Crimson Peak for the first time, I woke up with a fully-fleshed idea for a Gothic horror story about experience design. And while the story would take place in the past, it would really be about the future. Why? Because the future itself is Gothic.

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Promising the Stars: How Trump Could Win

One of our favourite activities in this house — at least, one I can comfortably describe in greatest detail — is talking about how Trump could win the Presidency.

This isn’t because I want Trump to win. I just see how he can. Papa Bear O’Reilly is right: Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same coin. Both are tapping into feelings of rage and despair in a populace experiencing the ever-widening wealth gap as precarity, hopelessness, and a lack of faith in government:

It’s not an accident that these men are frontrunners. They’re both charismatic campaigners, one with a definite brand and the other with years of media experience. Even Trump has acknowledged this. After their respective wins in the New Hampshire primary, Trump said: “We’re being ripped off by everybody. And I guess that’s the thing that Bernie Sanders and myself have in common. We know about the trade.” (He then went on to claim that Sanders had no idea how to fix the problem, and that only he did. The man has more stumps than Paul Bunyan.)

But picture, if you will, a Trump nomination. What happens next?

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How I Lost the Weight







I used to think that I would open this post with bikini shots. You know the ones: flabby and pale and lumpy on one side, tight and tanned and toned on the other. But that would require someone to photograph me in a bikini, or a bathing suit, or my underwear, or nude, or what have you. And that requires a degree of confidence I’ve rarely possessed.

I didn’t lose my sense of self-love after gaining weight. That would imply that I’d had some to lose, in the first place. (Pride? Sure. Self-respect? Definitely. Love? Pass.) When I was a size 2 and 98 pounds in high school, I felt my body was plain and uncompelling. When I was a size 16 and 174 pounds at age 31, I felt my body was still plain, but now objectively worthless in society. How other people felt about my body was different; I got laid at both weights, and at all weights in between. I’ve never understood their perspective. I’ve always felt they were being charitable. The only thing that changed between weights was my experience of physical pain. It was this that convinced me to make a change.

Between September 2014 and September 2015, I lost forty pounds. It didn’t make me ready to get naked on camera. It didn’t make me feel much more desirable. But it did make me feel better living my everyday life.

Here’s how I did it.

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“Be Seeing You” up at Motherboard

Hey, would you be interested in reading a chapter from my forthcoming Tor Books novel Company Town? If so, you’re in luck, because VICE’s tech and SF blog Motherboard has posted it for your holiday reading pleasure. “Be Seeing You” is also part of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pwning Tomorrow anthology, which features stories from (among others) Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley, Ramez Naam, Charlie Jane Anders, and Annalee Newitz. In other words, I’m really lucky that the folks at Motherboard chose to feature my story!

Company Town is the story of Go Jung-hwa, a bodyguard for the United Sex Workers of Canada who gets hired to watch over the heir to the Lynch energy empire when the company buys the oil platform around which her city floats. This chapter takes place shortly after that hiring, when Hwa is wrestling with the realities of working for her new corporate overlords. It’s actually one of my favourite chapters, because it really feels (to me) like a near-future episode of Veronica Mars.

So check it out:

“How did you know my order?” Hwa asked.

Síofra rolled his neck. It crunched. He was avoiding the answer. Hwa already suspected what he would say. “I see the purchases you make with the corporate currency.”

She scowled. “I don’t always have the eggs baked in avocado, you know. Sometimes I have green juice.”

“Not since the cucumbers went out of season.”

Hwa stared. Síofra cocked his head. “You’re stalking me.”

“I’m not stalking you. This is just how Lynch does things. We know what all our people buy in the canteen at lunch, because they use our watches to do it. It helps us know what food to buy. That way everyone can have their favourite thing. The schools here do the same thing-it informs the farm floors what to grow. This is no different.”

Hwa sighed. “I miss being union.”

I’m also pretty pleased that Company Town has found its way onto two “Most Anticipated of 2016” lists, at Barnes & Noble and editor Jonathan Strahan’s blog. (Someone told me they also saw it mentioned in a list at Locus Magazine, but so far I haven’t been able to find a link to it. If you saw it, let me know!) It’s a lovely Christmas present, and I couldn’t be happier.

  • 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.

  • Books

    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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