Voter Turnout: New Story

Natalia reads her latest topical speculative fiction: Voter Turnout. Listen and download for free. Vapes! Drones! Tattoos! This story has it all.

ALONE (short story)

I’m pleased to release a new short story for your reading pleasure on these brief Fall afternoons. What is this story, ALONE, all about?

Two marooned astronauts cope with isolation, existentialism and artificial intelligence in this romantic tragedy.

I’ve been writing on ALONE for nearly a year, picking it up and working feverishly on it, then putting it away for weeks at a time. Finally I decided to let it out into the wild. This germ of this story sprouted from wanting to write something that made the reader (you) feel uncomfortable. I test my protagonist with impossible situations, of being alone and confined while travelling through the infinity of space. What does life mean at that point? What would keep someone alive or cause them to give up hope?

This is a sentiment I’ve often felt — though not while travelling through space where a technical malfunction could mean certain death — but on tour. In a tiny bunk on a tour bus, squished up in a van with 6 other people or on an intercontinental flight for hours on end: each day, every day, for months at a time. On the road, my purpose is constantly tested, patience taken to new heights. On a terrestrial tour, if something goes wrong, it is easily remedied. You pull over and the problem easily solved. But what would you do in space, alone, with limited resources and millions of miles from anything resembling home?

I also tip my hat to CBC’s Canada Writes and their “Sci-Fi Twitter Challenge” — though I’m not exactly sure what that means. I guess this is my long-form contribution to the community. There is sadly no podcast at the moment (as my lengthiest finished story, the MP3 file would be too enormous). For eyeballs only. Happy reading.

New Blog in Which I Extol Montreal’s First Maker Faire

Lately I’ve been obsessed with today’s musical climate. Too long have I agonized over this sentiment, trying to reconcile whether “it’s just me” or if music has evolved into a new beast with unusual behaviours I no longer understand.

As is well documented on my blog, I feel as though apathy has taken over music, especially in “indie” rock. And although I must continue to conduct myself within the music industry’s walls, I am merely moving about its hollow carcass as a means to an end. So instead of continually raging against the music machine, or, alternately, risking being that crusty old hipster at the back of the dubstep show, I will put it out of my mind. Modern music, I am done with thee.

As a result, I have turned my mind to creativity on a global level. What keeps me going is the knowledge that people are still putting their souls into things. How do I know? Because it is in our human nature to create, it is what separates man from beast. Except maybe these guys.

I’ve found a new creative optimism in technology and the wonderment of science. Undoubtedly fraught with its own demons of commercialization, to me the tech world still wears a virginal shroud, an unpretentious Eden yet to be explored. Programming, artificial intelligence and robotics are elements that represent, to me, the possibility for expression and reflection of humanity in infinite ways. Not to mention space exploration. It’s partially why I’ve started writing fiction, specifically speculative fiction: for the creative freedom.

How do I jump from there to here? From music to tech, in one simple step? I’m not sure I can answer that, but as a mother of a seven-year-old with another along the way, the future is, quite simply, more meaningful. Dare I say, more relevant?

Next weekend I’ll be taking my family to Montreal’s inaugural Mini Maker Faire. Having followed some of the activities at the flagship Maker Faires, I am beyond pumped to go. Labelled as a “festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness,” I can only imagine the range of ideas — from crafts to Arduino-controlled machines — individuals catering to their imaginations and simply creating for creation’s sake.

For a long while, music was fun, an exploration. But somewhere along the way it became a one-dimensional business that lost its naïveté. I long for those carefree days, but know it will never be 1998 again. In our current tech-drenched world, storytelling and expression exist in a multiverse. And as music continues to evolve, I can rest easy knowing that there is a place where I can continue to to the same.

Upcoming Canadian Faires:

Montreal Mini Maker Faire (Parc Olympique): August 25 & 26, 2012

Calgary Mini Maker Faire (East Village Riverwalk): September 8, 2012

Ottawa Mini Maker Faire (Shopify Lounge): October 13 & 14, 2012

This post also appears on the Huffington Post.

Why?

This month I started an online course in Artificial Intelligence. I also recently met, quite randomly at a bar, a gentleman much more technically minded than myself, who is also taking the course. He asked me recently:

I’m curious, what’s gotten you interested in following this class? Is it your apparent love of scifi, or something else?


To which I replied:

Hmmm….what’s gotten me interested? You realise my answer to this question is going to become a blog post…

Last night I went to see Daniel Clowes and Seth, two comic book illustrators, speak at their joint book launch. My daughter asked me: “Why are you going?” and I had to actually think for a moment: why, indeed? I had one of Daniel Clowes earlier books, and knew little of Seth, yet I was still making an effort to go to this reading. I’m a casual illustrated book reader, hardly hardcore, and then I realised, simply, that I enjoy immersing myself in things I know nothing about.

The most often asked question to me is: “Who is your favourite band/musician?” or “What are you listening to?” And my answer is invariably: “I don’t listen to music.” I don’t. And I don’t mean to sound presumptuous or pretentious or holier-than-thou, but being immersed in the music industry for the past decade has made me a non-believer in music. Only a tiny margin of music is real anymore, the rest are just feeble attempts at fame, fortune, or worse, relevancy. I rarely listen to new music because all I hear is…dishonesty.

But it *would* be pretentious so live a life without culture, so I’ve turned my focus elsewhere. I’ve started reading books again, and writing fiction. And I enjoy these two tasks immensely. As I write, especially, I learn: my choice to write “genre” fiction is no accident. In speculative and science fictions I see open space, pure freedom, a world without restraint. I fold in to my work things I read about technology, computing, medical advances, space exploration and robotics. I feel that in researching this stuff and reading about it, a new frame of mind is being revealed. A fresh perspective of the world spurts forth, a new community of people working and thinking… not to be “cool” but to be, essentially, creative.

I miss that about music, which is why I’ve taken this step in the opposite direction. It doesn’t mean I’m done with being in a band or making records at all. If anything I will only return with resolve and a fervent dedication that should be feared by the entire hipster set.

So….does this answer the question? Kind of. I’m really digging the way my brain is being pulled by being in the ai-class, forced to think pragmatically and logically. Embracing new terminology and honing mathematical and deductive skills. My past will reveal that I was a big nerd. My dad is an electrical engineer. I was in “Gifted” in grade school. I took Computer Science class in grade 11. I took enriched math and wrote nation-wide math competitions. I was never the “cool” kid, and I never felt threatened by the “in” crowd. I made friends from strangers through BBS‘ and the first computer I bought was the first generation clamshell iBook…dare I say…before it was cool. If I hadn’t decided to move to Montreal at the age of 18, I would have been in “New Media” at Ryerson. A technical school. One of my favourite movies OF ALL TIME is Terminator 2.

I guess with this free, online course from a reputable university came up I just said to myself: “Why not?”