Mother of Invention

A Twelfth Planet Press anthology

Author: admin (page 1 of 2)

AI as the Other, AI as Family

By Aliette de Bodard

I wrote my first original AI by accident.

Before that, I’d made a few clumsy attempts to merge my writing and my day job (as a computer programmer specialising in machine learning, one of the foundational techniques of programming AIs). My AIs were, for the most part, derivative and unconvincing: vague, unformed ideas of programs giving birth to one another, of parallel consciousnesses I couldn’t properly describe or make into characters that felt real.

Then I wrote a story called “The Shipmaker” (later published in Interzone), about a maker of spaceships who met the woman incubating the organic intelligence meant to be a ship’s brain. I wrote it about motherhood and pregnancy and loss – and the AI in it was dead, or more accurately stillborn, never breathing or animating any circuits. Continue reading

The Gender in the Machine

By Katherine Cross

Would a true artificial intelligence, a sapient artificial lifeform, have a gender identity? Ask this of almost anyone and, regardless of their politics or background, they’ll give a firm “no”. Why should an AI have a gender at all? Surely, it’s regressive to suggest such a thing. To some, it goes against the biological purpose of gender.

On Quora, that font of crowdsourced hearsay and supposition, two men answered the question: “Would a truly artificial intelligent entity be genderless?” with repeated references to biology.

“Gender comes from a biological need for two organisms of different gender to have a sexual relationship to reproduce and sustain their species. When a species uses sex to reproduce, that species will have 2 genders,” wrote the first.

“Male and female are defined by what’s sticking out, or not. The only reason that part exists is because we need to reproduce. That’s why bacteria don’t have genders because they don’t need to reproduce,” added the second.

Neither seems to understand that the reason bacteria doesn’t have gender is because bacteria doesn’t think. (Each fellow could certainly stand to meditate on this fundamental kinship they share with our microscopic friends, but I digress.) Aside from the elementary error of confounding sex and gender—crudely, sex is biology, gender is the meaning we assign to that biology and to certain cultural practices—they also believe that gender exists only for facilitating reproduction. If AI can’t boink (yet another assumption, by the by), then it has no need for gender. Continue reading

Cover art, launches and more!

Our book is almost done!

We’re about to go to print with our glorious hardbacks for our Kickstarter backers, featuring this fabulous artwork by Likhain. We’re so delighted with this cover and we hope you are too. Tansy and Rivqa have received their QA copies and it is beautiful inside and out. The paperback launch is slated for September, so if you missed out on the Kickstarter sign up here to be notified when preorders open.

Rivqa made an appearance at Wiscon at the end of May, with a Mother of Invention themed party featuring some of our authors (of fiction and the upcoming essay series) and backers, plus general TPP supporters.  She then chatted to Strange Horizons about the experience, the book, and her own writing. Rivqa, Tansy, Likhain and others were at Continuum in Melbourne in June for the (first) Australian Mother of Invention party. Author Cat Sparks took some snaps, of course.

Tansy just finished Frankentastic, a podcast reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, regendered. It’s been an eye-opening experience. Did you know that Frankenstein celebrates its 200th anniversary this year? Check out the podcast if you want to listen to Tansy reading a classic… with a few key differences.

Androids and Allegory

By K. Tempest Bradford

Dirty ComputerThe science fiction genre digs its allegories. Scratch the surface of any piece of literature, movie, or TV show that features alien races, advanced or mutant humans, robots, androids, or other forms of technology-based intelligence, and you will find a parallel or three to real-world marginalisation, oppression, and bigotry. SF writers love to create characters and entities that stand in for ‘the Other’ and craft scenarios that allow them to explore hatred and hierarchical attitudes a step or two removed from reality. As a speculative literary device, allegory has the power to open minds and change culture if done well. However, narratives that use robots and androids to represent the Other often don’t interrogate the assumptions about humanity at their core because they fail to answer one question: Why are so many androids white?

In books, movies, and television—from 1927’s Metropolis on down to 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War—most androids depicted visually have facial features that code as Caucasian (Bicentennial Man, 1999; I, Robot, 2004) or straight-up look like humans of European descent (Blade Runner, 1982; the Alien franchise, 1979–2017). There are a handful of exceptions to this which serve to highlight the problem and do little to alleviate it. Too often, when science fiction creators imagine artificial beings made in the image of humans, Human means white. So what happens when androids get to be Black? Allegory gets much less allegorical. Continue reading

February Update — the Book So Far!

Hi all

You haven’t heard much of us in recent months because we’ve been busy putting a beautiful book together, but now we’re on the home stretch.

This is super important: Kickstarter backers will receive a Backerkit email shortly. It’s from us. Please fill in the contact survey as quickly as you can, to help us manage our rewards delivery.

Rivqa & Tansy have been editing, juggling, proofing and generally book-building. We’re delighted with the balance of stories from our open reading period as well as our tentpole authors and we’re sending the manuscript to layout by the end of the month. YES IT’S THAT SOON.

In the mean time, we’ve also been working on rewards. Our publisher Alisa moved from WA to Canberra, knitting toy robots the whole time! Tansy’s house is now full of delicious robot tea, bookmarks, enamel pins and the like.

Rivqa & Tansy actually managed to meet in person over the summer, and assembled our top tier robot reward with the help of our surprisingly compatible children.

You’ll be getting lots more updates over the next few months, as well as actual reward delivery. We’re hoping to have everything out to you all by May… and while the paperback won’t officially be released to the public for sale until September, there are two book launch parties that you are welcome to attend… one at Continuum (Melbourne fan convention) in June and one at FREAKING WISCON in May. Stay tuned, robot friends!

Much love, and thanks for your support. We couldn’t have made it this far without you.

Rivqa, Tansy & the TPP team.

Open Call Author Acquisitions!

In addition to the pieces already commissioned from our fabulous tentpole authors, we are thrilled to announce our new acquisitions from the open call submissions. In alphabetical order by story title, they are:

  • “Arguing with People on the Internet” – E.H. Mann
  • “A Robot Like Me” – Lee Cope
  • “Junkyard Kraken” – D.K. Mok
  • “Knitting Day” – Jen White
  • “New Berth” – Elizabeth Fitzgerald
  • “Rini’s God” – Soumya Sundar Mukherjee
  • “Sugar Ricochets to Other Forms” – Octavia Cade
  • “The Ghost Helmet” – Lev Mirov
  • “The Goose Hair of One Thousand Miles” – Stephanie Lai
  • “Tide Falling, Falling Tide” – Meryl Stenhouse

We can’t wait to share them with you, and we’re excited to be working with these authors. So many great stories were submitted to our book, and we were sad we couldn’t accept all the ones we loved — many of which we expect to see popping up in other publications because they were so good.

We’ll be releasing a full Table of Contents before the end of the year, including story titles from our tentpole authors and a proper running order, but Rivqa & Tansy are leaving for Genrecon today and wanted to give you this exciting news update on the project.

It’s all happening, you guys. We’re making a book!

Reflecting on Indigenous Worlds, Indigenous Futurisms and Artificial Intelligence

Here’s a special Mother of Invention preview: an essay by Ambelin Kwaymullina.  Ambelin is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people. The homeland of her people is located in the dry, vivid beauty of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Ambelin has written and illustrated a number of award-winning picture books as well as writing a dystopian series – The Tribe – for young adults. When not writing or illustrating, Ambelin teaches law and spends time with her family and her dogs. 

I am a Palyku author of Indigenous Futurisms, a term coined by Anishinaabe academic Grace Dillon to describe a form of storytelling whereby Indigenous peoples use the speculative fiction genre to challenge colonialism and imagine Indigenous futures.[1] Indigenous Futurist writers draw from worldviews shaped by our ancient cultures, from our inheritance of the multigenerational trauma of colonialism, and from the sophisticated understandings of systems of oppression that are part of the knowledge base of all oppressed peoples. Because of this, we share similarities that shape our works and provide a fruitful base for cross-textual analysis.[2] But because we are many individuals from many Indigenous nations, each with our own homelands, cultures, and identities, there is also great diversity between us all. As such, my viewpoint is one among many Indigenous viewpoints. Continue reading

Mini-MOI interview: E.C. Myers

We had a quick chat with one of our Mother of Invention authors, E.C. Myers. If you’ve backed our Kickstarter, drop us a comment here by 30 June, 5pm AEST (that’s 3am  EDT and midnight PDT) . You’ll need to include the name you used on Kickstarter so that we can verify your details. You’ll go in the running to win a signed copy of E.C. Myers’ novel, Fair Coin (postage within the continental U.S. only).


No spoilers, of course, but can you tell us one cool thing about your Mother of Invention story?

I love anime, and a classic show I used to like (which in retrospect is horribly flawed, as it was targeted toward pubescent boys) is Video Girl Ai. It’s about a “video girl”, a VHS tape with a recording of a girl named Ai Amano which is intended to encourage lonely men–only this girl comes alive, a la Weird Science. (See what I mean about it being problematic?) This series didn’t inspire my story, but it’s been bubbling up in my subconscious as I write it. In many ways, I’m writing the reverse of the premise of Video Girl Ai… more along the lines of Video Girl AI.

Tell about your favourite fictional AI or robot (from any medium!).

That’s an easy one. My favorite fictional robot is the Iron Giant from Brad Bird’s criminally underrated animated film of the same name. The message of the film is incredibly moving: “You are who you choose to be.” And as sappy as it may sound, every time I watch the movie, without fail, the ending brings me to tears.

What else have you published/worked on recently (or have forthcoming)?

My latest publication is a collection of short stories linked to my Silence of Six series titled 1985: Stori3s from SOS, which is from Adaptive Books and exclusively available at Barnes & Noble. I have short stories forthcoming in several anthologies all due in the fall: Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy (Laksa Media), Behind the Song (Sourcebooks), and Feral Youth (Simon Pulse). I’m also currently co-writing season two of ReMade, a science fiction serial from Serial Box Publishing, which features some interesting and disturbing AIs in various incarnations.

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts. He has published four novels and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, most recently 1985: Stori3s from SOS. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy. [Twitter]

Mini-MOI interview: Jo Anderton

We had a quick chat with one of our Mother of Invention authors, Jo Anderton.

No spoilers, of course, but can you tell us one cool thing about your Mother of Invention story?

It’s inspired by kintsugi, and I think kintsugi is cool.

If you could invent a robot or AI, what would its capabilities be?

I’m all for the self-driving cars, and I’d make sure they were actually polite drivers too. Sydney could use some of that.

What else have you published/worked on recently (or have forthcoming)?

Well, it’s completely different, but I have a children’s book coming out early 2018. It’s called The Flying Optometrist, it has the most beautiful illustrations (done by the amazing Karen Erasmus, not me!) and it’s totally unrelated to robots or AI or SFF in general. But it’s super exciting!

Jo Anderton writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a pinch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to everything. She has won the Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards. [Twitter]

Mini-MOI interview: Cat Sparks

We had a quick chat with one of our Mother of Invention authors, Cat Sparks. If you’ve backed our Kickstarter, drop us a comment here by Thursday 8 June, 5pm AEST (you’ll need to include the details you used on Kickstarter) and you’ll go in the running to win a signed copy of Cat’s novel, Lotus Blue (postage within Australia only).

No spoilers, of course, but can you tell us one cool thing about your Mother of Invention story?

Mach, one of many seemingly identical bioceramic Legionnaire-350 war machines, has taught itself to lie and steal in an effort to protect itself, its maker and the future. Because when it comes to dealing with humankind, there doesn’t seem to be another way.

Tell about your favourite fictional AI or robot (from any medium!).

Bishop from Aliens. I love Bishop, possibly at least in part because I adore Lance Henriksen, the actor who portrayed him so convincingly. Bishop is gentle, soft-spoken and kind. There’s a considered innocence about him coupled with strength, both physical and emotional. If I were ever stranded in deep space, I would choose him as my artificial person companion.

What else have you published recently?

My debut science fiction novel, Lotus Blue, was published earlier this year. The titular character is an artificial intelligence, a war machine waking up in an ecologically ravaged future Australia trying to find a way to get back to doing what it does best.

Recently, my short story “Prayers to Broken Stone” was published in Kaleidotrope. I’d class it as dark literary fantasy – very different from my usual kind of thing.

Cat Sparks is a multi-award winning Australian science fiction and fantasy author. Cat grew up in Sydney, has a BA in Visual Arts and is finishing a PhD examining the intersection of science fiction and climate fiction. She was Fiction Editor of Cosmos magazine for five years and managed Agog! Press from 2002 to 2008.  Seventy of her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies including The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Year’s Best SF 16, Loosed Upon the World, Solaris Rising 3 and Lightspeed Magazine. Lotus Blue, her debut novel (Skyhorse, 2017), is set in a far future war and climate-ravaged Australia. [Twitter]

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