I am now a cyborg. Allow me to explain.

A couple of months ago, because of my TED Talk, I was asked to host a documentary series for VICE UK about the future. I said yes. (In fact I might have said “hell to the fucking yes.”) My patrons have known about this since it happened, and have been getting behind-the-scenes updates and photos all the while—if you want to get these updates in the future, sign up here!—but I’m writing about it publicly on the blog now because the first installment in the series just came out today and it is SO. FUCKING. GOOD.

Seriously. Can I gush a second? The director Sam Goldwater and producer Louis Bamber and cameraman Edward Vijayavargya were such a dream team. They produced such a beautiful film. And they were such a delight to work with, from dawn to midnight. I couldn’t have been more lucky to land with them. A second installment, set in Skye and Cambridge, is coming out next; we head to Japan to film the third segment next month.

“Wait,” you say, “what about the cyborg thing?” YES, thank you for reminding me. I am INDEED a cyborg. If you watch the whole segment (about ten minutes long), you come upon the part where I get a tiny magnet implanted into my finger. For the record, Vice didn’t pressure me to do this—they just asked if I’d be interested, and after thinking about it, and considering the fact that my next novel deals with the practice of bloodletting and I am nothing if not a Method Writer™, I said yes.

I got it without anesthesia, which biohackers call “going raw.” It did hurt. Exquisitely so.

But now I can sense electromagnetic fields. 😉



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A home without a name.

Last night, I dreamt I couldn’t remember the name of the city where I lived. I felt crazy. How could I have forgotten the place I’ve called home for twelve years? But all I could remember was that it was in the south; and warm, and bright.

I’ve been on the road for two months: Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Baltimore, D.C., Bath, Skye, Cambridge, Rye, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Annville, and D.C. again. (This picture is of me yesterday, taking shelter from the rain on the porch of the Supreme Court.) Right now I’m waiting for the metro that’ll take me to my car so I can drive home. Durham, of course: that’s the city I live in. I wonder how it’ll feel. I worry that this time I’ve gone and done it, I’ve changed too much.


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Dear Microsoft: absolutely not.

And it has nothing to do with your software. It has to do with your new ad campaign, which I happened to see while I was at the gym last week. Here’s the gist: brilliant young girls express their ambitions to cure cancer and explore outer space and play with the latest in virtual reality tech. Then—gotcha!—they’re shown a statistic that only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. They look crushed. The tagline? “Change the world. Stay in STEM.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

Microsoft, where’s your ad campaign telling adult male scientists not to rape their colleagues in the field? Where’s the campaign telling them not to steal or take credit for women’s work? Or not to serially sexually harass their students? Not to discriminate against them? Not to ignoredismiss, or fail to promote them at the same rate as men? Not to publish their work at a statistically significant lower rate? Not to refuse to take women on field expeditions, as did my graduate advisor, now tenured at University of Washington? Where’s your ad campaign telling institutions not to hire, shelter, or give tenure to serial harassers or known sexists, as UW and countless others have done? Where’s your ad campaign encouraging scientific journals to switch to blind submissions and blind peer reviewers? Or to pay women at the same rate as men? I could keep linking articles all day. But I’m tired. Everyones’ noses have been pushed in these same data for decades and nothing changes.

There’s a reason women and girls leave STEM. It is because STEM is so hostile to women that leaving the field is an act of survival. It was for me.

Microsoft, do not dump this shit on the shoulders of young girls. It’s not their responsibility; it’s the responsibility of those in power. That means you.

Get it right.

*EDIT 10pm April 6th: Mansplainers, gas-lighters, and other sundry contradictors: I’ll mark your comment as spam, which will not only delete your comment, but prevent you from commenting on my blog (and possibly other WordPress blogs) ever again. So don’t bother.

*EDIT 12pm April 7th: And if you bother anyway, there’s a solid chance I will make fun of you publicly on my Instagram.


My work is entirely funded by patrons like you. If you liked this post, please consider supporting my work on Patreon for $1+/month. Thank you.


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Heads up: D.C., VIRGINIA, and MARYLAND folks!

Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

FRIENDS! Go see my play What Every Girl Should Know at Forum Theatre in D.C., playing through April 15th! Tickets are right here. It’s about four Catholic teenagers in 1914 who form a devotional cult of Margaret Sanger (aka, the founder of Planned Parenthood). I crawled out of my novel-writing hermitage to go see it TWICE last weekend and the production is just stellar. Incredible acting, direction, music, lighting, set design–-everything. It’s the kind of production playwrights dream about. And if you want to know even more about the play, read this review by a critic who liked it as much as I did.

Go see it and report back!


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Six kinds of books.


I estimate that, between my Kindle and my home library, I have 250 books in my to-read pile.

What’s a woman to do?

In my case, I put my books in six distinct categories, each with their allotted time in the course of a working month. So at any given time, I’m in the middle of at least six books.

1. Bathroom reading. This is not any kind of insult to the book. These books just tend to be dense with information, and so, best digested in small bits (so to speak). Currently it’s Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict by Joan V. Bondurant, which is extremely good. (Also, I am so grateful that I have not undertaken any kind of nonviolent resistance before I knew a hundredth of what the f*ck I was doing.)


2. Research books. These are books I’m reading for whatever writing project I’m currently working on.The pile for The Actual Star is…significant. If I get my word quota done early in a day, I read these; I also take them along with me on errands, so I have something to read if I get lunch out somewhere. Most recently: my own sister’s book The Other Catholics!—which is a landmark, comprehensive, gorgeously written study of U.S.-based independent Catholic churches.


3. Sunday long-term pleasure reads. Sunday is my day off, by God, so it’s reserved specifically for reading what I want and tossing it aside if I don’t like it (SO satisfying.) Right now, every Sunday brunch at Old Havana Sandwich Shop, I’ve been reading Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s Big Book of Science FictionI manage two or three stories a session; even so, it’ll probably take me a year to get through it all. Here is my progress with, as always, a plate of rice and beans, maduros, fried egg, and seasoned pork, with a sweet café con leche. I call it my Sunday church 🙂


4. Sunday short-term pleasure reads. These are books I can read in a day. I’d forgotten that I can easily read a whole book in a day! I used to take a month or more to read a single book because I could only read for a half hour here and there, but now that I have an entire day of the week reserved for it, it’s easy. The latest: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Holy mackerel it was creepy—like The Haunting of Hill House, except in the Australian outback. I highly recommend it.


5. Road trip audiobooks. My sweetie lives in D.C., so I’m taking trips up to visit him often, and audiobooks make the long drives happier. Right now I’m reading A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, about the spontaneous utopias that arise in the wake of environmental catastrophe. Very relevant to our flooded future.


6. Art-making audiobooks. When I do art commissions (like this one or this one!), I’m bent over them for hours at a time in a trance state. When I’m designing it, I need silence; but when I’m in the coloring-and-decoration phase, I can listen. Right now I’m making my way through the entire Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, an account of how humans settle and terraform Mars. Each of them is thirty hours long!

Also, a few years ago, I finally gave myself permission to stop reading a book if I didn’t like it. It was life-changing. Now, I stop reading as many books as I finish. Because life is too short.

Do you have any “systems” to organize all your reading?


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Friends: we are 88% of the way toward the goal. THAT IS HUGE. And today is the very last day to get your pledge matched by NINE generous anonymous donors toward the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and The Octavia Project. That means if you pledge $5, then $45 will be donated to them. But only until midnight tonight! So go pick your tier, and I’ll see you on the other side! Thank you.


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My childhood lesson in nonviolence.


Picture credit here.


TW: abuse.

I was nine or ten years old, on the school bus, sitting toward the back. It was early morning—we Catholic kids had to get up earlier than our friends, because we lived in an adjacent school district (Annville-Cleona) that was required by law to provide bussing for us, but it meant we had to be routed through several stops. So it was always just us few scattered Catholic kids, on a sleepy bus, early every morning, waiting in parking lots for the bus driver to come back on board.

Two older boys sat behind me. They were twelve or thirteen, and cruel. I don’t know what they had going on at home, or in their hearts or minds, that they chose to act that way. But I was chubby, and had bad skin, hair, glasses, braces; I was also very smart and outspoken. All of this made me a target of bullying. They’d just started at the high school, which meant they’d just started carrying around big heavy textbooks.

I heard them whispering to each other in the seat behind me. And then a silence, as one of them rose to his feet. And then, out of nowhere, he hit me over the head with his textbook so hard it knocked the wind out of me.

And I heard a clear inner voice say immediately: Make no acknowledgment whatsoever.

So I sat there, continuing to stare out the window, as if nothing had happened.

He hit me on the head with his textbook again, much harder this time. An involuntary tear came out of my eye. My neck ached. I just continued to breathe deep and gaze out the window. I told myself, I am stronger than them. I could hear them swearing and giggling in the seat behind me, incredulous at what they believed to be their own boldness, and at my course of action. But the second blow had just hardened my resolve, somehow. The voice persisted: Make no acknowledgment. You are stronger. Breathe through. Breathe through. I didn’t move, didn’t cry out. I just took deep breaths and gazed out the window.

A third blow with the textbook, so hard I thought my head would cave in. I could hear them gasping in the seat behind me, both at themselves and at me, and I braced for another round.

But it stopped. That was the last blow. They didn’t hit me again.

That’s all I remember of the incident.

I’m still not sure where my reaction came from. I could have moved, yelled at them, hit back, reported them to the bus driver. But for some reason, by animal survival or human instinct, what seemed to me the most powerful course was stillness.

I’m only starting my reading on nonviolent resistance—currently, Conquest of Violence by Joan V. Bondurant, a classic Western study of satyagraha campaigns. And I just keep thinking of this incident from my childhood. I’m not saying what I did was the right thing or the wrong thing or effective or ineffective. I was just a child at the time. But one of the reasons I’ve always avoided in-person protest so far is because I don’t trust myself to not be violent, thinking that that is my default reaction—even the default human reaction.

But then I remember this incident, and think, maybe there’s a deeper truth.


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