Madeline Ashby is a science fiction writer, strategic foresight consultant, anime fan, and immigrant. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and IAM Sports & Entertainment. She has been a guest on TVO’s The Agenda multiple times. Her novels (vN and iD) are published by Angry Robot Books. Her fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity, and Tor.com.
Why Robots Are Cooler To Write About Than Vampires and Fairies
by Madeline Ashby
A while ago, someone asked me: “In a world full of vampires, were-creatures, angels, fae, and assorted other supernatural creatures, what made you choose robots (besides robots obviously being far superior)?”
Basically, I answered that the market was already saturated with stories about vampires and other supernatural creatures, especially by young female writers, and my contribution would likely go unnoticed. Second, I’ve never found vampires all that compelling as a story teller. I love consuming stories about them, but I don’t get much joy from creating stories about them. My ideal vampire story is about a vampire librarian, or a vampire museum curator, because that’s a really good job for immortal beings who can’t go outside. That, or some sort of IT job. Nobody wonders why you never seem to sleep; nobody questions how you get rid of annoying interns. Just use a SodaStream to funnel blood into another bottle of Code Red Mountain Dew, and you’re good to go.
…Now, does that sound exciting, to you? Does that sound dramatic? No. Of course it doesn’t. Because nobody wants to read about a vampire making a PowerPoint that explains how to boost CTR via social media widgets. People read books so they don’t have to think about that shit. But such are the extent of my vampire ideas. So, no vampires for me.
REVIEW SUMMARY: vN is the book you would hope for in a story about an A.I. robot who overcomes her failsafe and struggles not to kill humans.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: vN is the story of five-year old Amy, an A.I. robot whose parents — father human, mother A.I. — are starving her in order to let her grow up as slowly as humans. A bloody incident with her grandmother reveals Amy as having a faulty failsafe and forces her to grow up fast or die.
PROS: Unrelenting and surprising conflict drives a fast-paced read; genuine, human-robot dystopia; powerful character arcs; evokes series addiction.
CONS: A few small sections were a bit slower to read.
BOTTOM LINE: A great time to start The Machine Dynasty series because after you finish vN, you are going to want to jump right into the sequel, iD, which releases at the end of June.
In episode 167 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and his rag-tag band of panelists, discuss:
2012 YEAR IN REVIEW
- Which 2012 Debut work (movie/short story/book) most impressed you?
- Which 2012 book that you were really looking forward to, delivered on your expectations and why?
- Which 2012 book that you were really looking forward to failed miserably and why?
- Which 2012 movies disappointed and why?
- Which 2012 movies most impressed you and why?
So the last time I posted here (about science fiction books that are useful to read for futurist information), a commenter asked if I’d met Madeline Ashby. I had never heard of her, but since she writes science fiction and does futurist work, I decided I should do some research. I started out buying a copy of her debut novel vN. It’s a page turner that surprises and brings a fresh look to a classic SF topic. In fact I simply sat down and read it – I usually read multiple books at once and pick up / put down regularly, but Madeline got my attention and I just read right through beginning to end.
Not only did I get to hear her read (really well) and to chat with her over tea at the World Fantasy Convention, but I also sent her some interview questions. I liked her answers a lot, and I suspect you might, too:
BRENDA COOPER: Your novel does not bode particularly well for a human future. In real life, how likely do you think it is that humanity will have an excellent future? Regardless of how likely it is, what are a few of the things most important for us to accomplish as a species, perhaps to change?