Madeline Ashby is an American-Canadian science fiction writer, best known for her novel Company Town, which was selected for the 2017 edition of Canada Reads.
Writers and readers of science fiction love stories about artificial intelligence, robots, and mechanical beings whose sentience mirrors, matches or exceeds that of humans.The stories stay fresh for the reasons stories about humans do—sentience confers individuality, which provides endless permutations for character and plot.Madeline Ashby’s trilogy, The Machine Dynasty, explores the limits of sentience, the meaning of free will, and what it means to look, act, and feel like a human but be denied basic human rights.Published in July, the third book, ReV (Angry Robot, 2020), shows readers the results of a final face-off between self-replicating humanoid robots and humans. That the robots, known as vN, want their freedom, is natural. What isn’t natural is the failsafe programmed into their consciousnesses that requires them to aid humans in distress or danger—or self-destruct.With the failsafe in place, humans use and abuse the vN as they please—as mates, sex objects, laborers. “The failsafe became a way to talk about free will and consent,” Ashby says.Robot stories are usually written from a human perspective, but Ashby tells the story from the perspectives of the vN. “There's a ton of science fiction stories about humans who can't tell robots apart from other humans. But there are very few stories about robots who can't tell humans apart from each other, or robots who are the ones judging what a human being actually is.”Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Our guest this week is Madeline Ashby. Madeline is a futurist and science fiction writer living in Toronto. Her most recent novel, Company Town, is available from Tor Books. For show notes visit:
Our guest this week is Madeline Ashby. Madeline is a science fiction writer and futurist living in Toronto. Her most recent novel, Company Town, was a finalist for the 2017 CBC Books Canada Reads prize. She has also developed science fiction prototypes for the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Data & Society, Nesta, the Atlantic Council, NASA, and others. For show notes visit:
An interview with Madeline Ashby, author of vN and iD, which took place in Toronto in June 2013.
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Creator Details

Apr 24th, 1983
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Episode Count
Podcast Count
Total Airtime
2 hours, 20 minutes
Podchaser Creator ID logo 489350