Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

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Interstellar: you will believe in life in space

Dave and I are in Washington DC for the World Fantasy convention, and among the places we’ve visited in town is the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. It’s an awesome place, with scale reproductions of spacefaring vessels, artifacts from past missions, and exhibits on everything from celestial navigation to the spectroscopy. While there, we kept seeing posters for IMAX screenings of Interstellar, which we thought we’d have to catch after returning to Toronto. “Wait,” I asked. “Is Interstellar playing…here?

And lo, it was. And thus, we saw it.

You should see it, too.
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I spent a week writing my first comic and it was awesome.


The week spent writing the comic, that is. The comic might not be that great. It’s hard for me to tell. But I had a great time writing it.

A while back, some people at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to participate in the new phase of EVOKE, a transmedia experience produced by the WorldBank to teach young people about social innovation. EVOKE can take the form of a comic book, a web game, a forum, all three, or something new. I and a bunch of other writers, artists, and experts were asked to produce compelling narratives about issues like food security, local economies, nuclear proliferation, and the like. In short, to create a human story about an abstract issue that can often seem dry, boring, or just plain daunting in scale.

I chose human trafficking.

I chose human trafficking because I ended up learning a lot about it during my research on border security. A lot of the literature and media around border security automatically casts migrants as members of some kind of deliberate enemy incursion, and not people pushed to desperate measures by desperate times. Many of them have been lied to — deceived about where they’re going or what kind of work will be expected of them, or even if they’ll be allowed to live.

But until I had to write about it more directly, I had no idea of the true tragedy involved. I and my wonderful artist collaborator Anthony Diecidue were paired with two experts from the University of Guadelajara, María del Carmen Quevedo Marín and José Luis Echenausía Monroy. They’ve studied human trafficking throughout their careers, and the stories they told me broke my heart. While the story I developed for our project wasn’t exactly the warmest or fluffiest, it could have been so much worse.

It could have been about parents who sell their kids for their organs. Because young organs are the cleanest. They fetch the highest price. Just as an example.

After hearing stories like those, it seemed a little odd to leave Arizona feeling so energized and refreshed and confident. But that’s how I felt. Because not only had I somehow managed to write a full ten-page comic script in three days, and made what felt like lasting friendships over that short timespan, I realized that people really are interested in investigating these issues and others like them. They’re working it. We just never hear from them, because they’re not busy tweeting about it — they’re busy getting shit done.

And that’s awesome.

Halloween Special: Error 237


You might not be aware of this, but the end of Blade Runner is the beginning of The Shining. A friend reminded me of this during a conversation we shared at Can-Con earlier this month. “Well, it works,” I said. “They do talk about going north. And the Overlook is really on Mount Hood, in Oregon, north of LA. You could drive there. So it works. Which begs the question: are replicants haunted by human ghosts?”

Well? Are they?

Happy Halloween.

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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.

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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.

  • 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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    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
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    Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF
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    Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction
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    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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