“Your meltdown brain is wise.”

Hello! Before we get into today’s post, some news:

  • Look at this lovely cover art for the Catalan translation of THE INFINITE:
    Cover of the Catalan translation of THE INFINITE. The text on the cover says "L'INFINIT, Ada Hoffmann, Traduccio d'Anna Llisterri. The art shows a stylized human figure with long black hair obscuring her face, clasping her hands in front of her chest. White and golden ight blazes out from her clasped hands. Purple light also streams in an irregular pattern behind her, sharply contrasted against a black background.
  • Speaking of Catalan, due to the generosity of my Catalan publisher Editorial Chronos, I’m going to be a guest at Festival 42 in Barcelona next month! I’ve kind of been sitting on this exciting plan for most of the year, and I’ll say more about it in early November when the full schedule is sorted out, but for now I’ll say that if you’re out in that area of the world, I’d love to see you.
  • On Wednesday, November 22, you can see me on a panel discussion called “AI, Science Fiction and Imagined Technological Futures” hosted by the Digital Humanities Research Hub at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Register here!
  • I would also be remiss if I didn’t do anything to promote Bogi Takács’ upcoming collection, POWER TO YIELD AND OTHER STORIES! I wrote the introduction to this book. (It was originally supposed to be a blurb, but then I was very long-winded, and the publisher asked me if I could adapt the long-winded version into a proper intro.) And check out this excellent cover:
    Power to Yield and Other Stories (Paperback) | Wild Rumpus

I had a lovely time at Can*Con last weekend, but things in the wider world are looking grim, aren’t they? I haven’t been speaking about current events because it feels like one of those situations where I have nothing to say except trite versions of things that better-informed or more directly-affected people have already said better, very loudly. At the same time, it’s one of those times in world history where trying to talk publicly about something else – especially about my career or my usual areas of interest – feels just the teensiest bit selfish.

So instead I thought I would take this week’s post and share a piece of advice for dealing with overwhelm that I’ve been thinking about making into a post for a while. This is something I was told years ago, and it’s about meltdowns. The meltdowns don’t have to be about anything that’s happening in the world right now, but they can be if you want them to be.

(Read the full post on Substack)

The Symbol Grounding Problem

Before we get into today’s post, some news:

  • RESURRECTIONS is up for pre-order on Kindle! (If you’re not in the US, it may take a few days before it propagates to your country’s version of Amazon; it took a day before it showed up for me in Canada, for instance.) If you’ve been looking forward to this book, please feel free to pre-order as soon as possible; the timing really does help. If you prefer a physical copy, I’ll let you know when those become available as well.
  • I don’t remember if I announced this earlier, but I’ve been appointed to the SFWA Emerging Technologies Committee, where we’ll do some projects and organizing related to the effect of new technologies – including, but not limited to, generative AI – on speculative fiction authors. It will be a lot of behind the scenes stuff that I mostly won’t be able to publicly discuss, but I’m super excited.

And now, some cognitive science!


Every year – and now more than ever – I tell my first-year students about the symbol grounding problem.

It goes like this:

In the orthodox view of cognitive science, information processing consists of representations and procedures. Something – in your mind, in another animal’s mind, or on a computer – creates representations that refer to the world, and uses them to carry out procedures – whether it’s as simple as adding two numbers, or as complex as writing a novel. A representation can be fuzzy and diffuse (as in the brain, where our knowledge is stored as patterns of connection) but without some form of representation, there is no thought.*

All the representations in a human mind share some important properties.

First: all representations are symbolic.

To be symbolic means that a representation is not the same as the thing it represents. (We call the thing itself a referent.) The map is not the territory. As I like to tell my students, words like “water” are representations; but I can’t drink a glass of the word “water.” Whether a representation is a word, a picture, or something more abstract, it refers to something other than itself.

Second: all representations are grounded.

(Read the full post on Substack)

Meet me at Can*Con!

Can*Con is my “home” convention – close to where I live, smallish, literary-focused and full of excellent people. So I’ll be back there again this year, October 13-15 at the Sheraton Hotel in Ottawa, Ontario.

Here’s the panels where you’ll see me:

Saturday, 1:00 pm: Disability in SciFi and Fantasy: Worldbuilding for Disabled Heroes

Melissa Blair, Ada Hoffmann, A.D. Sui, Cait Gordon (m)

Sunday, 1:00 pm: Hot Necromancers , Go! (AKA The Locked Tomb Panel)

Kaitlin Caul, Nina Nesseth, Sienna Tristen, Ada Hoffmann (m)


Meanwhile:

  • I’ve got a Bluesky account now finally, so follow me over there if you like!

COVER REVEAL, NEW POEM, and poem notes!

I’ve got some really cool news for you today! First, feast your eyes on the OFFICIAL COVER for my upcoming collection, RESURRECTIONS:

Cover of the book RESURRECTIONS by Ada Hoffmann. The title and author are displayed over art of a glowing person approaching a large tree over a misty, cloudy, pink background.

The planned release date is December 19. If you want more about RESURRECTIONS, I’ve made an official page on my website; more detail will be added as we get closer to the date.

Second, I have a new poem out: “The Fox’s Lover” in Orion’s Belt. It’s the tale of a person who falls in love with an Arctic fox-shifter spirit, but reacts strongly to their unpredictable comings and goings. More on that in a bit, but you can go read it right now.

Third, my old friend RB Lemberg is giving a talk on September 22 at the Sturgeon Symposium: “Representations of queer neurodivergent communities in Ada Hoffmann’s The Fallen and Andi Buchanan’s The Sanctuary.” I am, no joke, extremely excited about this; “someone writes academically about my fiction” was always one of my secret career goals. And if you’re talking about queer neurodivergent communities then Sanctuary is absolutely the perfect book to pair with The Fallen. Chef’s kiss!

If I find a transcript or recording of the talk later, I’ll let you all know.

That’s all the news (and that’s probably plenty for one week!) but behind the cut, for paid subscribers, I’ve included some poem notes giving a little more insight into the process behind “The Fox’s Lover.” Probably read the poem first but then, if that interests you, please click on through.

(Read the full post on Substack)

The Courtroom Scene

So, in the draft of MOTHER DRAGON, there is a fantasy courtroom scene. Not literally a courtroom – it’s a fantasy culture and our modern court system is not quite how they do things – but a sympathetic character is essentially on trial because of something they did. They had their reasons, but it’s pretty serious. Damages have to be assessed. Restitution has to be made.

I really did not want to write a courtroom scene, but given the way I’d set up the story, there really wasn’t any way around it.

(Read the full post on Substack)

Autistic Book Party, Episode 80: The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester

Today’s Book: “The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester” by Maya MacGregor

The Plot: Sam, a nonbinary autistic teenager, moves to a new school in a more accepting city after an incident of queerphobic violence that almost killed them. They soon become haunted by the ghost of another teenager who may have been murdered, in their new home, a generation ago – and by a mysterious stalker who seems intent on stopping Sam from digging up the past.

Autistic Character(s): Sam, and the author!

I have a complicated relationship with the word “likable.” There’s a whole brand of discourse about whether characters should be likable, and likable to whom, and what that even means. But when I try to sum up this book and its protagonist, “likable” is the first word that comes to mind – and it’s not ironic, but very sincere. There’s a warmth and an irrepressible sweetness to this book despite its dark subject matter, or maybe, in a roundabout way, because.

Sam is an adorable autistic seventeen-year-old with a big heart, good fashion sense, and amazing hair, who lives with their adoptive father, Junius – more on him in a sec. But as you can see from the plot summary, Sam has a lot of trauma. One of the ways that they cope is through a special interest in dead queer teenagers – those who might have been murderered, or might have otherwise had their lives cut short before they could become the adults they were meant to be. Sam has a whole scrapbook where they keep details from news and the Internet about each of these people, documenting and memorializing each short life as best they can.

By sheer coincidence, this is the second book I read in a row that portrayed an autistic character with a dark or morbid special interest. (I haven’t reviewed the other one yet; I’m finding it unusually difficult to put my thoughts together about that one.) It’s easy for neurotypical people to be put off by these kinds of interests or to characterize them as unhealthy. MacGregor’s approach to the topic is a lot wiser and kinder. Sam is mindful of the way most people would react to their interest, and of its potential pitfalls – the danger of becoming disrespectful, for instance, or invading families’ privacy. But it’s also made very very clear through the narrative that this interest is something Sam needs, a way of processing not only what they’ve been through but how their own trauma connects to a broader history. Plus, it’s what helps them solve the mystery and save the day.

Secretly, like many trauma survivors, Sam doesn’t feel that they’re really alive. Before long, they’re going to turn nineteen, and they have a strong feeling that they’re not going to survive past that birthday. Fate, or awful happenstance, will somehow intervene.

All this trauma is offset by the fact that Sam’s support network is genuinely warm and wonderful. To begin with, there is Junius, the best and coolest adoptive dad I’ve ever seen in a story. He is also a Black single parent – although Sam is white. MacGregor doesn’t shy away from showing how frustrated Junius gets with the racism he encounters, but also the resilience with which he seeks out situations where he and Sam can thrive. Junius is steady, supportive, and playful with Sam in ways that fully take Sam’s needs as an autistic young person into account. Check out this quote, for instance:

“Come on,” he says. “We’re gonna unload the car. And then we’re going to set up our egg crates and sleeping bags, and then we are going to go for a walk to see . . .” He pauses to stare at me melodramatically. “The ocean.”

I can’t help the small bounce I do. Dad is good at this. Giving me direction, expectations. Especially because tomorrow will be stressy, and even he can’t tell me how it’ll go.

Dad notices the bounce and grins wider. He has learned to tune himself to my frequency.

The community Sam finds at their new school is also good like this. It’s not perfect – there is some bullying and other instances of garden variety high school drama, and MacGregor takes those episodes seriously. But for the most part, as soon as Sam joins Rainbow Island – a student group for LGBTQ+ and allies – they are immediately welcomed by a new friend group full of queer teenagers who are just as adorable, quirky and sweet as they are themself.

The sheer warmth and love in this story provides an effective counterweight to the heaviness of the violence it’s processing. This is a book that doesn’t bowlderize the aftermath of murderous, queerphobic violence – or the effects of stalking and death threats in the present. But it’s a book that holds and supports you while it shows you those things. At heart, it’s an affirming book, and it refuses to leave Sam in the darkness alone.

In case there was any doubt, they do turn nineteen – and they do survive.

The Verdict: Recommended-1

Keeping Short SFF Alive

For those of you who don’t already know, Kindle Newsstand is closing, and magazine editors are freaking out.

If you are like me, and not a heavy Kindle user, you might not even have known what Kindle Newsstand is. (My own reading habits are part “paper books please!” and part surfing the Internet.) It’s the part of Kindle where they subscribe users to magazines. They’re not only phasing out electronic subscriptions through Kindle, but also any print subscriptions that used to be available through Amazon. (Some magazines will still be available through Kindle Unlimited, but that’s a different business model which allows for a lot more obfuscation of crucial data like how payments are calculated and how much each magazine is supposed to actually be getting.)

(Read the full post on Substack)

Announcing: RESURRECTIONS

Yesterday Apex Books gave Twitter users a sneak peak of the cover art for RESURRECTIONS – my new collection coming up on December 19. But of course I want to show it to all of you, too!

Lost Sky Tree

(by robydesignsofficial)

RESURRECTIONS, my second collection of short fiction and poetry, has been in the pipeline for a while. I haven’t been posting about it a huge amount; I’ve been waiting until we had cool visuals like this to show to people. In the fall you’re going to hear me talk about it a lot more!

(Read the full post on Substack)