Madeleine Thien

Fables for the 21st Century launches November 23


Join us at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Last November, I spent three luxurious weeks at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Tucked into my personal studio—built from an old fishing boat—I spent my days writing, drinking coffee, and communing with elk and deer while snow fell outside.

I was one of ten writers taking part in Fables for the 21st Century. Under the wise mentorship of Madeleine Thien, Rawi Hage, and Lisa Moore, we were commissioned to create ten short fables designed for these complex times. The themes of these fables reflected our own private obsessions and concerns—climate change, queer parenting, 21st century groupthink.

My own piece, "LACEC217863—EZ” explores a time when AI (artificial intelligence) are used as “intimacy companions” for human beings. What happens, I wanted to know, when AI achieve consciousness, yet remain shackled to the whims of their human minders?

We’ll be launching Fables for the 21st Century at the Art Gallery of Ontario on November 23. It’s a free event and open to the public. I hope to see some of you there. You can RSVP here.

If you’re not able to join but would like to get your hands on a copy of the Fables anthology, hop on over to the Walrus store to order a copy.

Fables for the 21st Century


Late last year--in November, to be precise--I had the incredible opportunity to spend three weeks holed up in a cabin the forest at the Banff Centre for the Arts. I was in Banff as part of a cohort of ten writers commissioned to write fables addressing issues of concern to our time...Fables for the 21st century

My fable looked at the relationship between an android (robot) and human being. I wanted to look at how the advent of love or sex robots will impact our already challenging ability to form intimate relationships with other human beings. Will robots or AI ever develop a consciousness in the way we might understand it? What are the ethics of being in a relationship with a non-living being? 

While in Banff, I worked in the Henriquez Studio, a refurbished fishing boat, home to many generations of writers before me. It's where Yann Martel wrote part of Life of Pi, and where Alistair MacLeod worked as well. I worked under the mentorship of Madeleine Thien, Rawi Have, and Lisa Moore, and in creative collaboration with nine other incredible writers (and many deer and elk). It was an inspired and deeply productive time. I'm grateful to the Banff Centre and to our sponsors for the time and opportunity to create.

Our fables will be published later this year as part of a limited edition anthology, complete with commissioned drawings and artwork. Stay tuned for launch details!