Dangerous to those who profit from the way things are

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Upcoming appearances

It’s gonna be a busy spring (and summer). Here are the appearances I have booked thus far:

    1. Ad Astra, April 11, Toronto, where I will be participating in panels about AI, privacy, and Hannibal.
    2. Ada’s Technical Books, 5 May, Seattle, where Glenn Fleischmann and I will be talking about…stuff. Probably robots. And earthquakes. And how much I miss Bauhaus Books & Coffee. Also I’ll be speaking to students at my alma mater, and attending my 10-year reunion. Because I am really lucky to be in the position that I’m in, and I want to tell people who are just starting out that things may in fact turn out okay.
    3. Design Business: The Scottish Design Summit, 21-23 May, Edinburgh, where I will be keynoting the “Once Upon A Future” event at the Warburton Gallery, talking about our Gothic future.
    4. Swecon, 7-9 August, Linköping, where I am a Guest of Honour and where I will probably try to buy a winter coat, because Sweden doesn’t believe in bad weather, only bad clothing.

And then in October, I get married. Of all these events, that’s the one I’m most excited about. But if I don’t email you back about something, especially during the fall, that may be why.

LICENCE EXPIRED: open for submissions!

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That’s right, agents. We’re open for business.

David Nickle and Madeline Ashby are co-editing Licence Expired: the Unauthorized James Bond for ChiZine Publications, seeking stories based on the character of James Bond as described in Ian Fleming’s fourteen published works. The anthology will be published by ChiZine Publications in Canada only, as Fleming’s work has entered the public domain only in Canada and a few other countries.

Because of those legal restrictions, stories must only reference elements from Fleming’s stories, and not elements introduced exclusively in the films, new novels and stories, games or other media.

So take up your pens, fill them with poison gas, and get to writing!

Immigration is an information design problem.

While writing this column for the Ottawa Citizen on proposed changes to Canada’s immigration policy, an idea occurred to me that had taken years to crystallize. It emerged, strange but sharp, like a thorn buried under the skin that slowly eases free of the body’s confines.

Immigration is an information design problem.

Read the full article »

Meet me in Winnipeg!

Actually, meet me and David Nickle, hosted by SM Beiko and Chadwick Ginther. Yes, in the fine old tradition of Bogart and Bacall, Gaiman and Palmer, and Bob and Bing, the nice folks at the McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg are presenting An Evening With Madeline Ashby & David Nickle, Friday March 13 at 7:30. (Yes, that’s Friday the 13th. Bring your own chainsaw.) Come watch us do our William Tell routine. We’ll read, we’ll sign, we’ll do the whole bit. Come out to the ‘peg, we’ll have a few laughs!

…Okay, I’m out of jokes. But I am genuinely excited to share the stage with the love of my life, especially when that stage is at one of the best bookstores in Canada. So come on out and say hello.

Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Having Never Done One

So there’s this piece going around, about what students need to do succeed as writers in literary MFA programs. A lot of it is pretty basic — show up, do the work, read good books, nurse your talent. And a lot of it is pretty bitchy — there’s a bit about how being abused as a child can’t make you a better writer, which is both unnecessary and sidesteps the central literary issue of abuse narratives, namely that coming forward to tell a story is the often first step in ending abuse.

But that’s an issue for another post. I’m here to tell you something else about MFAs, and writing in general.

MFAs are bullshit. You don’t need one.

You may simply want one, which is something else. And this isn’t to say that you can’t make use of one. Or that the process of obtaining one isn’t helpful. Getting a Master of Fine Arts degree can be a great way to hone your craft, meet other writers, find mentors, and enter a local literary community. From a networking perspective, it’s a good idea. Especially if you’re writing mainstream lit, you’ll need to find a way to set yourself apart from all the other writers who talk about three generations of women coming together for a funeral, or alcoholic forty-something English profs who fall for their students, or the divorced thirty-somethings returning to their tiny rustbelt towns and reuniting with the parent of the pregnancy they had aborted back in high school, or whatever.

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What can serial killers tell us about artificial intelligence?

I first wondered this while watching the second series of The Fall, a challenging and unapolegetically feminist take on the now-standard serial killer drama. In it, a handsome and fit man by the name of Paul Spector routinely stalks and murders women — in between making appointments as a certified bereavement counselor, going on date nights with his wife, and looking after his two children, ages eight and six. His foe is Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, an empowered take on Alfred Hitchcock’s blonde archetype from the London Metropolitan police called to Belfast first to participate in a departmental review, and then to oversee the investigation into Spector’s killings. It’s Gibson who links Spector’s murders together, spotting similarities in both victim profile and killing methodology. From then on, the drama unfolds as a story of two very brilliant people slowly discovering more about each other from a great distance. With every murder, Spector reveals more of himself. And at every crime scene, we learn what makes Gibson the ideal investigator to see straight through Spector’s self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual bullshit to the grimy engine of misogyny that drives him deeper down his inevitable spiral.

In other words, it’s a Chinese Room story.

In philosopher John Searle’s Chinese Room argument, intended to refute arguments for strong AI, Searle argues that an appropriate contextual response to stimuli is not evidence of genuine consciousness. This acceptance of consciousness as biologically naturalistic has since been called into question by neuroscientists. We are often unconscious of behaviours, leading biologists to wonder what the point of consciousness is, or even if it’s literally just a side-effect of developing vision.

Now imagine that instead of consciousness, we were debating the existence of empathy.

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About LICENCE EXPIRED, the unauthorized Bond anthology I’m co-editing with David Nickle

It’s true! Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and short stories are now public domain in Canada. When I heard this, I immediately asked my Twitter followers if I should write a James Bond novel. (Response was enthusiastic.) The thing is, I’ve already sort of written one — my second novel, iD: The Second Machine Dynasty, drew a great deal of inspiration from Fleming’s work. It’s a fast, brutal, pulpy adventure story about an Hispanic self-replicating humanoid trying to find a rare diamond. There’s a casino. There’s a cruise ship. There are false identities and fight on rooftops. “You’re writing a Bond novel,” David said to me one day as I detailed some plot points. And he should know. He’s read all of them. Multiple times. And the short stories. Sometimes when we’re watching the films, I’ll comment on something and he’ll say: “Oh, the novel is way more racist.”

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About that new Ghost in the Shell movie

As you may have heard, actress Scarlett Johansson recently signed a deal to star in DreamWorks’ upcoming adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, a Japanese transmedia franchise that began as a cyberpunk manga by Masamune Shirow (the author’s pen name) in 1989.

There’s a Ghost in the Shell poster hanging above my desk, in my office. (It hangs next to the Nine Inch Nails poster and the Hollow Ichigo mask from Bleach.) I’m a nerd, and I’m first and foremost an anime nerd. This is why my novels are peppered with anime jokes. I got into anime in high school, when a friend of mine used the story of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune to come out to me. She got me hooked on fansubs, and suddenly I was that annoying person who was comparing Cowboy Bebop to The Great Gatsby. (A totally justifiable comparison, by the way. Look it up.) Some of my favourite memories of high school and college involve late nights, fansubs, and popcorn.  I was even the VP of my university’s anime club. (I got laid less in university than I did in high school.)

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On the Sony hack, and the future of film

The Sony hack is interesting to me on a lot of levels. One, because mine was a Sony family. My dad kept our Betamax alive until I was in university. In fact, we still have two at home — my boyfriend at the time bought us another so dad could complete his editorial projects, like mashing together a perfect cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind that included both the Gobi Desert sequence and both endings.

Yeah. We were that family.

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Fruitcake: not as scary as you think

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Yesterday, I made fruitcake. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. And it made my house smell amazing. You should try it, too.

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  • 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.
  • 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)

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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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