Madeline Ashby on sci-fi and self-acceptance
In her sci-fi novel Company Town, Madeline Ashby imagines a city built on an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland, where the wealth gap is so extreme it often spills over into violence. At the centre of the chaos, and often causing it, is Hwa, a reserved but tough-as-nails bodyguard recruited by the rig's powerful owners to protect the company's heir apparent.
I wanted to talk about what it felt like to be on the outside, what it feels like to never be seen for who you truly are. I'm not going to pretend that my life has somehow been more difficult than it has been. I've been very lucky. But a lot of people carry an insecurity with them all the time. It's certainly something I struggle with. I feel ugly all the time, and I think a lot more people do than don't. I wanted to look at what it feels like to inhabit a body that you hate or that you presume that other people might hate.
I think everybody wrestles with the idea that if they expose their true self, they might not be loved. That if anyone got close to them or if they were truly vulnerable to someone, that they would not be loved, that engagement or intimacy is impossible. We think we live in a society that crushes intimacy. We all talk about the loss of privacy after the Internet. But one of the things that we've also lost is intimacy, the ability to have a secret.
Utopia is relative
I think Company Town is often characterised as a dystopian novel because the wealth gap is so broad. If you've been privileged your whole life, someone else's life is your dystopia. Your utopia is definitely someone else's dystopia. I've believed that for a very long time. For as good as you might have it, someone else doesn't. And the world that enables you to have it so good is also the world that keeps someone else down.
Madeline Ashby's comments have been edited and condensed.