A selection of short stories
Published by Westerly, March 2023
A year or two into our future, a middle-aged woman addresses an audience gathered in London to try to understand the global phenomenon of “the burning men”, and how to build a new world without them.
“Late on Wednesday afternoon, just after a desultory PMQs in which the leader of the opposition failed once again to achieve cut-through, the Prime Minister sagged into the backseat of his car, sighed at a red traffic light on Parliament Square, and spontaneously combusted.”
Praise for “Burning Men”
“Burning Men is a wild, furious, funny, insider’s satire and roar for justice,” Laline Paull (“The Bees”, “Pod”)
“This story seems to understand my anger about violence against women, and take it somewhere. It’s so richly enjoyable and clever, and the prose is chef’s kiss.” Shelley Harris (“Vigilante”, “Jubilee”)
“A gorgeous and haunting short story – brava!” Cory Doctorow (“Chokepoint Capitalism”, with Rebecca Giblin, “Little Brother”, “Walkaway”)
“I am just stunned. The combination of erudition, plotting, and evocative writing, brilliant insights about gender, power, unchecked capitalism, class.” Lisa Goldman, editor (The Conversationalist, +972 Magazine, The Daily Beast)
Published by the Manchester journal, Lunate, October 2021
“A deeply humanist and darkly comic examination of religious and geographical dislocation: displacement, the rigours of faith, the fragile nature of community. A hypnotic narrative voice. We knew this story would connect. How could it not? “Churched” by Maria Farrell becomes our most-read day-of-publication story – by some distance.”
“I don’t know how it is in Ireland now, but here if you want to see old people and babies, go to Mass. Mass is full of people you don’t see most places except the dole queue or A&E which is full of drunks with a bang on their head that might be a brain bleed and babies with runny noses that might be meningitis. We see the babies first. A sick child goes downhill fast but a drunk with a sore head will always be looking for company.”
Praise for “Churched”
“What a superb story. The voice is so authentic and just carries the reader along like a current through the whole plot.” Georgia Hilton (Poet and fiction writer; “I went up the lane quite cheerful” and “Swing”)
“Beautiful.” Kate Mascarenhas (“The Psychology of Time Travel”, “The Thief on the Winged Horse”)
“Churched just absolutely exploded out of the submissions inbox earlier this year. It’s become, by some distance, our most-read short story.” Gary Kaill and Han Clark, Lunate
A selection of articles
“Your platform is not an ecosystem”
Big Tech’s proprietary platforms aren’t ‘ecosystems’. They’re exploitative, single-crop plantations, with all the problems that extractive, intensive, monoculture cultivation creates. What if we didn’t just call the internet an ecosystem, but actually worked to help it truly flourish like one? Ecology is a whole new way to look at internet infrastructure, and ecologists have a set of tools and a courageous and disciplined mindset that technologists need to adopt.
Praise for “Your platform is not an ecosystem”:
“Recommended reading: Maria Farrell’s terrific assault on corporate cant about closed tech platforms being “ecosystems”, on the site Crooked Timber.” John Naughton, The Observer.
Twitter consequences; not just for little people
“I hope the ex-Twitter workers find new ways and places to apply what they’ve learnt on the planetary-level hard problems of ad-monetised fascism. And also, perhaps, that some of them take from this the insight that there are no rewards for loyalty to employers, no long game you can play in someone else’s playpen, and the extreme urgency of using whatever position you have to push as far and as hard as you can, because no one is coming to save any of us.”
Praise for “Twitter consequences; not just for little people”:
“A terrific blog post by Maria Farrell on the human consequences of Elon Musk’s irresponsibility,” John Naughton, The Observer.
The tech executive turned data justice warrior is celebrated as a truth-telling hero, but there’s something a bit too smooth about this narrative arc.
Praise for “The Prodigal Tech Bro”:
“The brilliant critic Maria Farrell calls (the Silicon Valley executives featured in the documentary “The Social Dilemma”) “prodigal tech bros”. And she says that the real problem in terms of the prodigal son narrative is that the prodigal son is redeemed because he really suffers. However the suffering these sort of prodigal sons have experienced is just feeling sad.” Cory Doctorow, The Guardian
“Can’t believe I missed this fantastic piece by Maria Farrell on “the prodigal Tech Bro” – she really puts the fine point on it that I’d been struggling to.” Jillian C. York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the author of Silicon Values.
“A memorable essay”, The Observer
Do Tech Slogans Really ‘Make the World a Better Place’?
“Thanks to Big Tech itself, corporate slogans are no longer broadcast-only; they’re just the opening line in an often tetchy conversation.”
This is your phone on feminism
How to fix our disturbingly unequal relationship with smartphones.
Soldiers with smartphones can be a gift to the enemy
With security risks and data-leaks, why do some serving soldiers bring smartphones on deployment, and how do countries differ?
Social media’s right-wing bias is baked in to its business model
A platform that makes more money from lies than from truth will by definition make social democracy impossible.
What is Ours is Only Ours to Give; on Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Ministry for the Future”
“Kim Stanley Robinson’s books are how I think about the future. I’m not exaggerating when I say they’re how I manage to think about it at all. They provide much of the temporal and political context in which I do my work, which is to say, they educate me and let me know I’m not alone.”
Praise for What is Ours is Only Ours to Give
“Mind-bendingly good essay engaging deeply, critically, and insightfully with Stan Robinson’s THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE.” Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Editor-in-Chief, Tor
“Sister Ben / Margaret MacCurtain / Peig; an appreciation”
“Ireland’s bravest and most beloved historian died on Monday night. Margaret MacCurtain, known to UCD students of the nineteen-sixties as Sister Ben (short for her assigned religious name, Benvenuta), was a Dominican sister and social activist who pioneered feminist history in a country (and a university department) that insisted there was simply no such thing.”
Even at the End of the World, There’s Still a Duty of Hope
“What if we looked our potential extinction right in the face and stopped jokily saying, “I hope I perish in the first wave,” and instead said, “This could really happen. This is the urgency that demands action, and here is what we are going to do.”
If We Remember How Unity Feels, We Can Save Democracy
“Growing up in one place and living in another is like joining a new family when you get married. You don’t divide your loyalties — you multiply them.”
Even the World’s Biggest Problems Aren’t Hopeless
“The “duty of hope” — the unofficial slogan of Irish diplomats in the Northern Ireland peace process — requires that we take a clear-eyed look at our situation and then act as if there will be a future. (It’s basically Gramsci’s “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” in sensible shoes.)”
One Hell of a To-Do List for Saving Democracy
“We need to apply problem-solving skills to the systemic threats facing democracy.”
How to Cope with the End of the World
“It feels “strong” to think absolutely everything is shit and to imagine smashing it all, going out in a blaze of glory to a background of dawning horror on the faces of everyone who didn’t enrich you or valorize you or give you sex. But we shouldn’t mistake this for any more than what it is; an adolescent jerk-off fantasy shaped by criminal politicians into national suicide cults.”
A new world order: With the US and the UK in disarray, where can Ireland look for a new democratic role model?
“Democracy may be down, but it’s far from out.”
Brexit: Where will you be when the data stops flowing out of the EU?
“If you are an Irish company that sells, say, custom T-shirts to people in Northern Ireland, then you may experience what the UK government euphemistically calls ‘turbulence’.”
What people with decades of experience of energy-limiting illness can share with Covid long-haulers, and what I’ve learnt from the newly chronically ill:
“To imagine what mild to moderate ME is like, remember a time you had real, proper flu – not just a heavy cold – and bring yourself back to the first couple of days you were well enough to get out of bed but not to leave your home. How do I conduct what superficially looks like a normal life while counting the sometimes quite vicious opportunity cost of walking the dogs or buying groceries? Peaks, troughs and, especially, habituation. You’d be surprised what you can get used to, until you do.”
Indefinitely Ill – Post-Covid Fatigue
My story of ME/CFS and advice to covid sufferers to rest and convalesce, even when capitalism says that’s not ok (May, 2020)
“Think of post-viral fatigue as climate change for the human body. It’s here but not here; you acknowledge the immediate effects but haven’t really got your head around their implications. You need to invest heavily up-front and in the face of widespread disbelief to avoid medium and long-term catastrophe.”
I Will Be Complete review: a subtle but shocking memoir
“The writer’s tricks of temptation and evasion, foreshadowing and repetition, dangling a telling detail here and hinting at dark motivations there; all are present in the conman’s patter and the self-delusion of an adult stealing her son’s childhood so she can have another shot at her own.”
“The crowd boos. Ted Cruz’s grin is restored. Our tournament is over.”
“Dystopia basically writes itself. Utopia, aka imagining just and liveable futures, is harder and far more essential.”
“Twenty minutes after they’d phoned, an NBC news crew was setting up lights in the study, or book-womb, as one of my sisters calls it.”
“In the daytime, I would go to the refugee camps to visit various people the Irish network put me in touch with. They weren’t camps, just unofficial towns on the other side of checkpoints.”