Alexander Jablokov


I'm a writer, mostly of science fiction, with a new novel, Brain Thief.

The name is pronounced Yablokov, and the legal name is Jablokow.  My best friends can't spell or pronounce it, so you shouldn't worry about it either.

More here

Write me at alexjablokow [at]

I'd love to hear from you.





"The Instructive Tale of the Archeologist and His Wife", Asimov's Science Fiction, out now

"Bad Day on Boscobel", The Other Half of the Sky.

"Feral Moon", novella, Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2013

"Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance", Daily Science Fiction, November 6, 2012

"The Comfort of Strangers", short story, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2012

"Blind Cat Dance" reprinted in Gardner Dozois's Best Science Fiction of the Year 28

"The Day the Wires Came Down", novelette, Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2011

"Plinth Without Figure", short story, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2010

"Warning Label", short story, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine August 2010

"Blind Cat Dance", short story, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine March 2010

Brain Thief, a novel, Tor Books, January 2010


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Reboot blog



An explanation for opposition to female schooling

One thing we see in religiously fundamentalist cultures is an opposition to female schooling. This comes up in the news most often about Moslem fundamentalists, but is part of other fundamentalist traditions as well. The usual explanation for this is the kind of non-explanation about how these people just want to keep women down, women are threatening to their worldview, something like that. Those things might very well be true, but seem inadequate.

A couple of days ago I was listening to Russ Roberts's indispensable Econtalk podcast. It was an interview with Edward Lazear on the works of the economist Gary Becker, who died recently. One topic caught my ear: Becker's work on the opportunity cost of raising a child, where he, controversially, classified a child as "a consumer durable".

Becker was trying to explain why poorer women in the 19th century had fewer children than wealthy women, while, in the 20th and 21st centuries, it was wealthy women who had fewer children. If having a child is a choice (and to some extent it always has been, even before reliable contraception), the relevant resource is the woman's time, since women, even in our theoretically equalitarian age, do the majority of child-rearing.

So Gary reasoned, well, if it's the mother's time that's involved then you have to ask: What is the cost of using the mother's time? And of course in economics one of the most fundamental concepts is opportunity cost. It's the cost of foregoing the next best alternative. And so Gary then reasoned that the opportunity cost of a child was the price of the mother's time; and the price of the mother's time is what she could be doing elsewhere. And that related to her wage rate. All right, so what does that tell you? Well, in the 20th century, what that says is that when women had the option to work, or when most women were working, as they are now, what you'd expect is that women with high wages have very high values of time, and as a result, it's more costly for them to take time off and to have children, and so they tend to have fewer of them.

In the 19th century, it was poorer women whose time value was higher, given how valuable their labor on the farm or in the household was to the success of the family enterprise, so they tended to have fewer children than wealthy women, who, given the constraints they faced, could contribute little to their own families.

That's an interesting observation and explanation of facts otherwise hard to explain, the kind of thing Becker was known for.

My issue here is not that, but to note that if you have a cultural value of having lots of children, and see them as an underlying resource in your struggle against the world, and essential to the success of your enterprise, the last thing you want is educated women, no matter how much value you get out of their additional brainpower. The greater the value of that brainpower, in fact, the less likely they will be to want to give birth to and raise a large number of children.

So, if you accept those premises, refusing to let women get educated only makes sense. Of course, I was kind of deprecating "attitudes" as a way of explaining things, but have really just identified a deeper and less structured attitude than just wanting to subordinate women, so clearly the real explanation is even deeper than this.

In fiction, we don't usually dig underneath for the contingent material circumstances that constrain and condition the cultural attititudes that affect the characters and their personalities and opinions. Except in science fiction, of course, where sometimes that is the point of the story, and one reason the genre still has unexplored potentialities.

Do I have a story in mind to deal with that issue? Not yet.


Dozois's Best SF 31: my story

The Gardner Dozois anthology The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection came out a couple of days ago.  It has one of my stories in it, "Bad Day on Boscobel", set in the same universe as my novels Carve the Sky and River of Dust. It comes from the wonderful anthology The Other Half of the Sky, edited by my friend Athena Andreadis.

As I've mentioned before, Athena is the reason the story exists to begin with, since she asked me to contribute to the anthology, and then, when I was unable to come up with anything, suggested the subject, the life of a certain character, Miriam Kostal, in between the two books (Dust is kind of a prequel to Carve).

This is always a great collection, and I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in it.

And the story itself has generated enough interest that I am thinking about another story with Miriam and the characters she encounters in it. We'll see.



My definition of satire, from Readercon

I was on a panel on satire at Readercon last night, and, in response to something my fellow panelist Him Morrow said, I came up with this definition of satire:

"The goal of satire is to describe the Emperor's New Clothes in so much detail that anyone can see they aren't there."



Writing, and teaching writing

There are a lot of excellent teachers of the craft and trade of writing out there, particularly in my genre, fantastic fiction.  Many writer friends of mine teach writing, either occasionally, or as their main money-earning career. On Thursday and Friday I was up at Jeanne Cavelos's Odyssey Writing Workshop, in New Hampshire, where I was a guest speaker for a day.

I have always been reluctant to add that particular arrow to my professional quiver, for a few reasons.  First is the fact that there are so many dedicated, talented, and hard-working people already providing the service. The second is that I have a day job, and another skill set, in content marketing, that pays the bills, so any spare time I have I want to devote strictly to the creation of fiction. And third is probably that I did not come up through the residential workshop structure that already existed when I was a new writer, in the form of Clarion, and so have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about being a free-range writer, idiosyncratic and unpolished, with no stake in the system.

Then I try something like a day at Odyssey, and have more fun than I've had in a long time. I do like to perform, and I do have opinions about the writing of fiction, and it was fun to do both with a group of interesting and intelligent people. In some ways, I am at my best when volleying ideas back and forth with other people. Ideas come to me that wouldn't emerge any other way. And, yes, I do like the idea that something I worked out with a student might actually stimulate their own ideas, and lead them to come with things they otherwise would not have.

So, maybe, I might try this more, we'll see. I do need to be careful to position myself in this market as what I really am, kind of an outlier, not necessarily trustworthy or a good example to emulate, but someone who can be entertaining and fun while being respectful of the individual needs of the writers he deals with. Call me the Crazy Uncle of writing workshops. With a well-written warning about potential side effects, I could actually be useful.


How big is your comfort zone?

Big news from the Gray Lady today:  even crayfish get anxious when you shock them. They become less willing to venture out and discover new worlds and new civilizations.  After being given a nice Librium, they relax right down and start getting down with exotic alien maidens....

I was just sitting around minding my own business....

The real question is, when is the menace of researchers administering electric shocks to anything that moves, and many things that don't, going to end?  I mean, look at that poor thing. They should be ashamed of themselves.

But, now that they've done it, it is another indication about how much our minds depend on relatively simple structures evolved millions of years ago, sometimes for other purposes. And those ancient creatures evolved relatively complicated ways of judging and reacting to reality. That evolutionary environment didn't contain nasty researchers with electric crawdad prods, but it contained things just as nasty.

That's a difficult thing about coming up with a genuine alien. It's not that species that's alien, its the entire lineage it comes from. The reactions come from choices made deep in the forgotten past. Once you start thinking of the complexities of that, you'll never get off the ground.