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.





"How Sere Picked Up Her Laundry", Asimov's Science Fiction July/August 2017(out now)

"The Forgotten Taste of Honey", Asimov's Science Fiction, October/November 2016

"The Return of Black Murray", Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2016

"The Instructive Tale of the Archeologist and His Wife", Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2014

"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



My Boskone panels

I’m at Boskone In a couple of weeks. I’m moderating the Noir and Marketing panels, something I like to do—I like to think I’m a solid, mildly authoritarian moderator who keeps things moving. And the Marketing one will reveal to me all the things I still don’t know about how to promote myself as a writer.

If you go, be sure to look me up.

Angels in Speculative Fiction

16 Feb 2018, Friday 15:00 - 16:00, Marina 4 (Westin)

Angels in fantasy, science fiction, and horror aren't always what you might expect. There are the ones that behave, well, angelically, and the fallen angels — but also bad-tempered angels, angels from advanced civilizations, and more. What attracts writers (and readers) to this motif? What common themes, like redemption or the Fall, recur? Are there novel ways to write an angel?

Bob Kuhn, Alexander Jablokov, Victoria Sandbrook , Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Walt Williams

Future of Noir

16 Feb 2018, Friday 19:00 - 20:00, Marina 4 (Westin)

Noir (the French word for “black”) began as a Hollywood subgenre depicting hard-boiled, cynical characters in sleazy settings. It’s certainly found a new home in urban fantasy. But is the murky world of noir inherently incompatible with the sleek, shiny surfaces of science fiction? Or as our visions of the fruits of science and technology grow darker, does noir have a future as a main strain of SF?

Alexander Jablokov (M) , Nik Korpon , Christopher Irvin, Vikki Ciaffone, Laurence Raphael Brothers

Group Reading: Cambridge SF Workshop

Format: Reading

16 Feb 2018, Friday 20:00 - 21:30, Griffin (Westin)

A rapid-fire reading by the members of the long-running Cambridge SF Workshop, featuring writers Heather Albano, James L. Cambias, F. Brett Cox, Gillian Daniels, Alex Jablokov, Steve Popkes, Ken Schneyer (M), Sarah Smith, and Cadwell Turnbull.

Heather Albano, James Cambias , F. Brett Cox , Gillian Daniels , Alexander Jablokov , Steven Popkes , Kenneth Schneyer , Sarah Smith

Non-Genre Fiction That Inspires Us

17 Feb 2018, Saturday 15:00 - 16:00, Marina 3 (Westin)

We’re always talking about icons such as Mary Shelley, Stephen King, J. R. R. Tolkien, and others who breathed air into our literary lungs — but what about non-genre fiction? Our panelists discuss some of their favorite authors from outside the SF/F/H field, who have inspired them as writers and readers.

Kenneth Schneyer (M), Tamora Pierce, Alexander Jablokov , Theodora Goss, F. Brett Cox

Marketing Uphill

18 Feb 2018, Sunday 11:00 - 12:00, Harbor II (Westin)

Sometimes marketing for writers feels like walking uphill to school barefoot in the snow. Does it ever get easier? At what point is enough enough for you and your social network? What about live events? How much should you invest, and how do you measure the return? Our panelists share their experiences and tips for managing your marketing.

Alexander Jablokov (M), Melanie Meadors, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Joshua Bilmes , Craig Miller


My Arisia panels

One of my local cons, Arisia, is this weekend. I like cons, but they quickly tire me out, so I prefer the ones I can leave and go home from.  I have four panels from this one, on topics I managed to persuade myself, and them, that I could speak usefully about.

Arisia panels are appallingly long, over an hour. The ones at 10 pm (piece of advice:  look at the panels they've assigned to you some time before it's too late to say you don't want to do one without being rude to hard-working con staff) will be a particular trial.

I do some friends at this con that I don't get to see otherwise, its got a great, high-energy vibe, and the hall costumes are tremendous.

Here are my panels:

Fri day Jan 12, 2018 5:30 PM
Building Credible Near-Post-Apocalyptic Worlds

What happens after your characters deal with the initial zombie apocalypse or alien invasion? As they survive the continued threat, how would their society evolve 1-20 years after the happening? Our experts will discuss how to build upon an apocalyptic event to create a gritty, realistic post-apocalyptic world that will keep your readers in sequels for years.

Saturday Jan 13, 2018 8:30 PM
Death Science: Autopsies, Cremations, & Burials          

Despite the taboos surrounding them, there is nonetheless much critical science surrounding post-mortem analysis and proper corpse disposal. Why do some doctors prefer to operate after the patient has died? How hot should crematory fires be, and what if the smoke gets in your eyes? What are the public health concerns for a proper burial?

Saturday 10:00 PM
Poverty in SFF: Money Makes the Worlds Go Round

Space is expensive. Magic swords are made of rare metal. Evil pays well, but heroes are often from humble backgrounds. What is SF/F that dwells in the mean streets and the gutter like? What authors have taken the themes of poverty and want into their work? What is the future of poverty, and how do we see poverty represented in speculative fiction?

Sunday Jan 14 10:00 PM
Did SF Just Say No to Drugs?

The 70's appear to have been the high times of SFF, but there seems to have been a marked drop-off in SF that addresses drugs and drug use. In this panel, we'll discuss why that may be. Has the ramping up of the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use) Drugs in the 80s and the Tough on Crime policies of the 90s had a chilling effect on stories that look at substance use? What recent stories speculate about altered consciousness and what has yet to be explored on the subject of substances.

If you get a chance, stop by and say hi.


Who cares about climate change?

Do liberals actually care about climate change? Or is it just a weapon in the eternal political war everyone seems to find so interesting?

As a good liberal, I'd like to think it was the former, but most available evidence indicates that it is the latter.

Long-time readers will know how interested I was in Washington's Initiative 732 during the election, It was a revenue-neutral carbon tax that hoped to provide a pragmatic path to carbon reduction that would appeal to the right as well as the left. Predictably, it went down to defeat, through what can only be called an unholy alliance of social justice activists and the Koch brothers. I'm still surprised that it didn't get more notice. Donald Trump really has sucked all the oxygen out of the room.

Activists were concerned that the bill was just intended to reduce carbon emissions. If you really thought climate change was an existential threat of immense importance, that would seem to be a pretty good goal. But activists are politicians. They have constituencies, and need to be seen bringing home the vegan bacon. The bill's neutrality, to them, was definitely not a feature.

Now that Washington is completely Blue, there seems to be hope for a more pork-filled socially conscious carbon tax bill. One that dispenses with revenue neutrality, and focuses on visibly paying off certain key leftist constituencies, thus ensuring visible and useful resistance from the right.

A recent (not very well written or reported) article in Mother Jones, the only mention of the initiative since the election that I've found, brings us up to speed. People are talking a lot about it, but nothing seems imminent.

One group is

...looking at a policy that reduces greenhouse gas pollution, but also redirects investment into a suite of programs to promote clean energy, electrifying the transportation sector, clean water, and communities of color.

The fear of saying "we're doing the thing we think is most important first" is so universal that no progress can ever be made. And there are further problems on the horizon. No, not anything about carbon or climate (why do you keep nattering about that?) but

Native American tribes...feel the Alliance’s new framework does not go far enough and that their input wasn’t considered warned in September that they may offer a competing carbon tax ballot initiative.

People who keep talking about the "science" of global warming certainly need a lot of input from non-scientists. Those scientists and economists are just so cold and pragmatic. Always with the numbers. It's really all about the way you feel.

Now, to be clear, my frustrated rhetoric aside, Initiative 732 went down 60% to 40%. It was nowhere near close. I doubt any other bill will do better.

Still, it would have been one of those experiments the laboratories of the states are supposed to be able to perform. We would have seen its effects before we thought about rolling it out more widely.




Colonoscopy without sedation

Being old, I recently went in for my second colonoscopy (the recommended interval for those not of high risk is every 10 years, starting at age 50). The first time, I just went in without doing a lot of research, and got knocked out by whatever anesthetic they used, and came to later, woozy and sick, not remembering anything.

This time I asked for a sedation-free procedure. Everyone in the GI department at Somerville Hospital was accomodating--they clearly didn't think it was the best idea, but no one tried to pressure me out of it. In fact, everything about my experience belied the stereotype of overly busy health facilities without time for patients. The physician doing the procedure sat down, introduced herself, and talked through the procedure. The nursing staff was cheery and solicitous. They did talk a bit too much about food (this was right before Thanksgiving), and I had been on a fast for a day and a half by that point.

The procedure did hurt a couple of times. You have to pump air in (actually carbon dioxide in this case, which gets absorbed, and avoids some post-procedure pain) to get the colonoscope around bends in the colon, and that's what hurts.  It feels like an extremely bad cramp. I would relax and breathe deeply until she was around the bend. The whole thing took maybe fifteen minutes, and I could get up and leave. Plus I got to watch the ride through my smooth, pink insides ("that's the entrance to your appendix!") on the big screen.

A couple of points. The physician pointed out that some people, particularly women, have twistier colons (she knotted up her stethoscope to demonstrate). More bends=more pain. While my plots are twisty, clearly my colon is a Roman road. If you try your colonoscopy without sedation based on this account, be aware that you may feel more pain than I did, depending on your anatomy.

But the second point is more complex. How much pain do various people feel? And how does it affect them emotionally? Various staff members made remarks about how tough I was being. Everyone was genuinely concerned that I would be in pain, that I would suffer because of what they were doing.

I could have tolerated a fair amount more--a couple more bends, with a bit more pressure. How to judge when it would have been more than I wished to endure?  No one knows, the reason they were reluctant to accept that I would be fine. They did put a line in so they could give me some sedation if it grew to be too much.

Now, I regularly do things like hike, gasping, up mountains with a pack on my back, in a certain amount of pain for much of a day. And I do this for fun. That it hurts is, weirdly, part of that fun. In my younger days I often hiked with horrendous blisters. Definitely not part of the fun, but something I just took for granted. I've gotten a bit smarter since then, so that is a pain I avoid now. I do avoid pain when I can. Really.

I think it is also conditioned by your expectations. I expected a few moments of fairly severe pain, and it was a bit less severe than I expected, so it was fine. Plus, all the pain came at the beginning, as the colonoscope went in, with no pain at all in the latter part, the actual examination, as it came back out. I don't know if that's what it's always been like, but that's the perfect way to structure the experience so you remember it...well, not fondly, but with equanimity.

So, should you try it? It does hurt, no question, but really not that much, and it's really quite an interesting experience. Thought I'm certainly willing to wait another decade to have it again.



Workshop technique: submitting an outline for review

I've been a member of the same peer speculative fiction writing workshop for decades now. In addition to the usual stories and novels, we've commented on plays intended for the stage, plays intended for historic sites, essays, and other forms of prose.

A couple of our members like submitting outlines of something they are planning to write. These pose some specific challenges to a workshop, so I thought I'd run through some suggestions on how to get the most out of your workshop if you feel like doing something like this.

First, recognize that this does impose a lot of extra cognitive work on your workshop. We're used to reading, thinking about, and analyzing completed prose works. No matter what their failures, gaps, ambiguities, and errors, we can usually tell what you're driving at, and do our best to help you move in that direction more effectively. A completed prose work is something that has actually been written with the intent of having someone else read it.

By contrast, an outline is, by definition, not meant for anyone to read. It is a guide to yourself on how to proceed. In writing it you have not done the threatening work of daring to write something meant to entertain someone else.

So you have to turn your outline into something meant for someone else to read, which is almost as much work as writing something. I've sometimes read an outline and had absolutely no idea of whether that set of events would work on the page. That's because I sometimes don't know this about my own work, using an outline I wrote myself for myself.

So: provide capsule descriptions of the characters, their roles, their goals, and their arcs. Explain not what a setting looks like, but what it feels like, what role it plays in the story. Be explicit about what is untold and suspenseful, what is obvious about a character and situation, and what revelations will come as a surprise to the characters, or to the reader.

I do this in my work as a marketing writer. I tell my client what the goal of each part is, who I am assuming the reader is, what I am trying to get them to think, and then to do. Knowing what the piece is trying to do lets them focus on the things they know about, their business, and also distracts their attention from what they would otherwise waste their time on, monkeying with the prose (that is, invariably, making it longer and vaguer).

If you do this, you'll find that you have to do a lot of extra work before you submit the outline to your workshop. Maybe you'll decide it's not worth it, and that you should just use the outline to write the damn thing. That's usually the best idea, by the way. Or you might decide that you really can't figure out some crucial things, and would really like to talk it over with the group. Give them something they can actually talk about.

A workshop is a wonderful servant and a terrible master. It is powerful, but limited. It can get cranky if you misuse it, because everyone is busy. Our workshop has survived for decades because we recognize how much everyone puts into it, and how that benefits each of us.

So, think twice about submitting that outline, and if both thoughts really do confirm that you need to do it, make sure provide your workshop with the tools it needs to do its best work for you.