Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

research * the future * culture


I have a deep and abiding love for Sneakers, Phil Alden Robinson’s film, penned in part by Lawrence Lasker, who also wrote War Games. Like that film it’s also a critique of how technology and power intersect. But instead of cute-but-scrawny Matthew Broderick, it has rumpled-but-sexy Robert Redford. I’m not saying that Sneakers is entirely responsible for my sexuality, but, well, I invite you to check out my wedding photos. More importantly, it’s a much better film than its contemporary, Hackers, which is basically about Hot Topic employees fighting computer graphics. I’ve probably watched Sneakers at least twenty times. I was nine when it came out. I probably first saw it around the age of ten, when it appeared on VHS. As a kid, it was one of my favourite movies. And it still is.

The only thing was, I never really identified with Mary McDonnell’s character. She’s The Girl, in case you didn’t know. Because, you know, There Can Be Only One. It’s her job in the story to rope-a-dope an engineer by getting him to say the right word (“I just love the word passport,” she coos) that will allow the guys entry to Playtronics Industries. Also she gives them the use of her townhouse for a while, which quickly becomes more of a treehouse, strewn with computer parts and someone else’s garbage. The point is, she’s basically there to be attractive enough to seduce the mark. Growing up, I knew that would never, and could never, be me.

Which is why I thought about gender-swapping the story.

And, well, the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. You see where this is going, right? I mean, it’s not like I have too many secrets.
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My Comic-Con schedule

While I was away on the Company Tour (which I really need to write up), I received an invitation to participate on a panel on science fiction and futurism at San Diego Comic Con. A friend of mine couldn’t do it, and recommended me, instead.

I know, right? I am a very lucky person. (Very lucky, and very grateful.)

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Disrupt Tha Police


Yeah, I said it.

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The Company Tour is real!

About three weeks ago, my friends at the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to join them at the annual meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing for a “book sprint.” I’ve done similar sprints with them before — in collaboration with the WorldBank’s EVOKE project, I wrote a complete 10-page comic book script on the future of human trafficking. But knowing that my airfare would be paid for, I started to wonder if I could turn this into visit to my parents, who live about four hours away from Vancouver in Twin Peaks country.

And then I started to wonder: could I see more people? Could I finally hang out with some of the collaborators and clients and friends who had invited me out to the West Coast after our various engagements?

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Company Town, reviewed

The reviews are in! (At least, some of them are.) In addition to blurbs from Charlie Stross, Seanan McGuire, and Chuck Wendig, here are some other reviews for Company Town, which is finally out today! So if you were thinking about picking the book up but wanted to wait for some professional opinions on the matter, here you are:

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The Company Town playlist

Company Town comes out next week, (although Chapters Indigo in Canada seems to be shelving it already!), and so I thought it was time for me to put up some of the music I listened to while I was writing it (and re-writing it, and re-writing it yet again).

There are some odd combinations here. Waylon Jennings and Portishead. The Irrepressibles and Lucinda Williams. Nine Inch Nails and Carly Simon. Smatterings of the Manhunter soundtrack. (I watched Manhunter at least once a night for a solid month, during one particular re-write.) Reviewers have been saying that Company Town straddles a lot of genres, and so does this playlist.

One thing there isn’t: a whole lot of Newfoundland jigs or reels or chanteys, even though the novel takes place there. There also isn’t any K-pop, although one character is a former K-pop idol. (Fun fact: Hwa abhors K-pop, mostly because her mother used to make her learn all her old dance routines.) If you have recommendations for either of those genres, let me know.

The playlist happens in roughly chronological order. If you notice a shift in tone as the set plays out, it’s because the tone of the novel is changing. And if you read quickly, you’ll probably be able to feel these tones shifting both in the air and on the page. There’s over four hours of music, here. And while the book isn’t what I’d call slim, it’s also not exactly a doorstop. You can probably manage some synchronicity if you have a comfy chair, a locked door, and a well-stocked bar. Enjoy!


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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  • 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 Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her novels 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, Tor.com, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.
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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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