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reV: or, the Apocalypse as told by the Devil herself

reV: or, the Apocalypse as told by the Devil herself

Oh, hello. Were you curious about what your psychotic grandmother the distributed AI was doing? Well, wonder no longer! Portia is happily causing havoc in America’s airports, using widely-available, mostly-insecure data from wearable technologies, purchasing records, and surveillance networks. You can read more of Portia’s exploits later, especially if you pre-order. In this scene, Portia is trying to create a news story that she can use as marketing material for her anonymous pro-robot SuperPAC. Which is tough, when you don’t…

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Want to write convincing futures? Work retail.

Want to write convincing futures? Work retail.

A while ago, I tweeted something based on this piece in VICE UK, called “Things You Only Know When You’ve Worked in Retail.” I don’t really care for the clickbaity title, but the content of the piece isn’t wrong. Here’s what I said: People ask me how I do gritty, lived-in SF and futures work and I basically always answer: “I used to work retail.” https://t.co/P2ugdAlf8m — Madeline Ashby (@MadelineAshby) July 3, 2015 That got retweeted around, and I heard…

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

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…

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Fun exercise: translating Lovecraft into Hemingway

Fun exercise: translating Lovecraft into Hemingway

One dreary afternoon last October, David and I started playing a game. (Not that kind of game.) He would read aloud a passage from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I would try to communicate the exact same thing, in the style of Hemingway. For example: Lovecraft: The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst…

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

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

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.

New story: A Very vN xMAS Special

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…

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About my next novel, Company Town

About my next novel, Company Town

Recently, Angry Robot announced something I’ve known about for quite a while now: I’m writing a book called Company Town, set apart from the Machine Dynasty series. It’s about an escorts’ escort named Hwa, who takes a job bodyguarding the young heir to a family-run corporate energy empire, just as that empire colonizes Hwa’s hometown: a floating city of Slocum towers built around an oil rig 500 km northeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Taking the job means quitting her gig…

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New story, “Permacultures,” available now

New story, “Permacultures,” available now

Today sees the release of Cautions, Dreams, and Curiosities, another anthology from the Tomorrow Project at Intel Labs. I was asked to write a story pertaining to the White House Grand Challenges, and I focused on food security. I watched a lot of TED talks (Netflix helpfully organizes the subject headings, and there have been a lot on the subject of farming, food security, food science, genetic modification, and so on) and a lot of documentaries like Food, Inc. and…

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Bad words: depicting female arousal in your fiction.

Bad words: depicting female arousal in your fiction.

Recently, Kameron Hurley shared this piece by E.M. Kokie on the seeming dearth of language available to workaday prose writers to describe what arousal feels like in a cis female body. Said Kokie: When I found myself stuck and looking for the words, I started pulling books off my bookshelves and scanning for the romantic scenes I remembered from prior readings (much like when I was an adolescent reader). I was shocked to find a complete lack of language for…

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