Monday, 6 July 2015
But first, some news of my new novel, Lena's Nest. As some of you will know, it's coming out soon as an e-book, and I intend to follow that up with a paperback. It's science fiction - a new venture for me as far as my writing goes, though I've been a fan for many years.
One of my recurrent complaints is the scarcity of female protagonists in the genre. OK, there are women characters, but in many cases they still tend to be the helpless kind who suffer as a result of all those dangerous, ambitious males (human, alien, robotic...) and are need of rescuing by other courageous, capable males... you get the idea. And yes, I know there are exceptions, but not enough of them for my liking. And where computers and AI are involved, it's always the men who do the programming, isn't it? Even in the recent film Ex Machina, which I like a lot... OK, there's female emancipation but it's the men who write the code.
I have taught in a number of university departments - Computer Science, Applied Computing, Artificial Intelligence etc... and we were always short of women, both female staff and female students. I've taught brilliant female students, often with deep insight and understanding as well as the ability to write code... but there were never enough of them. Things may have changed a little in the last few years, but they haven't changed enough.
Young girls need to see older girls and women programming computers. Congratulations to the Channel 4 series Humans, which I'm pleased to see has a very bright young girl who is clearly at home in the programming world. It's a great series in other ways, too, though I have my quibbles, which I won't go into here.
Anyway, all this points to my reasons for creating Lena, a female computer scientist, AI practitioner and robotics expert, who finds herself experiencing, ninety years in the future, the consequences of some of her own research... while doing other things like being a single parent and trying to find her missing children.
I had enormous fun creating the world of 2104 in which Lena finds herself. I used my own knowledge of AI, my sci-fi reading and my hopes and fears for the future, as well as my experience of beng a working mum with kids, to try to create a story that would speak to both sexes but perhaps especially to women. I hope some will read it who are not usually sci-fi fans. I hope it will provoke comment and discussion. The issues currently being raised in films like Ex Machina and programmes like Humans are not quite upon us yet, but they may be closer than we think... and we need to start discussing all that is involved - before it happens, not after.
Lena's Nest will be appearing soon. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, happy reading.
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