Look Ma, I’m On TV

Or possibly not. But I am on video interviewing Sophie Cook, who is the new anchor for The Latest TV, the community TV station in Brighton. Whether any of Sophie’s coverage of Trans Pride, including her interview of me, will make it into a broadcast is unclear, but my interview of her was filmed, and Sophie has kindly put it on her YouTube channel.

Sophie has also posted this report including interviews with other attendees of Trans Pride.

Posted in Gender, TV | Leave a comment

Hugo Voting Time

There’s an awful lot bad going on in the world at the moment, and much of it we can’t do anything about. However, those of you who have a membership in this year’s Worldcon can do one positive thing: you can give everyone’s least favorite disease another kick in the teeth. Yep, it is Puppy Clobbering time again.

Many of you will have already downloaded the Voter Packet, though I don’t blame you if you haven’t read it all. If you need a quick guide to which items on it got there because of the Puppies, Mike Glyer has a comprehensive guide.

Having said that, not everything on the Puppy slates is awful. Last year VD and his drones claimed “victory” because one of their picks took out the Dramatic Presentation: Long Form category. That was for a film about a multi-racial crew of misfits who saved the galaxy from a racist, religious fundamentalist bigot on behalf of a government with a female head of state. It says a lot about the fragility of VD’s ego that he has to claim such things as victories.

Of course you should come up with your own philosophy as to how to vote. Mine is that I only place things below No Award if I think that they genuinely do not deserve to be on the ballot. I have done that occasionally in years past, long before the Puppy Plague, and I’ll continue to do it now. Most years very little of what was on my nominating ballot makes it to the Finalist stage, so I’m very used to voting for things put on the ballot by other people. And as far as I am concerned, works by the likes of Al Reynolds and Neil Gaiman deserve to be on the ballot whether or not the Puppies put them on a slate.

This year most categories appear to have at least one Finalist that deserves a rocket, though Related Work looks to be a disaster zone which is sad because Letters to Tiptree surely deserved a Hugo.

You have until the end of the month to vote. Get in early, just in case the final rush causes the MidAmeriCon II servers to melt down under the last minute rush. You can always update your votes later if you want to.

There is also the Business Meeting to come, and the question of what we do with the Hugo rules. That deserves a post all of its own.

Posted in Awards, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

This evening I took myself off to see one of the most controversial films of the year. The sheer oceans of man-tears that have been shed over the Ghostbusters remake would drown entire solar systems. Goodness only knows what movie they think they would see if they were to actually go and see it. The real thing is pretty darn good.

The showing didn’t get off to a great start because the cinema insisted on putting on a bunch of trailers “specially selected” to go with the main event. So yes, there were trailers for some really bad comedy films that looked at if they had been written by men with the intention of appealing to very drunk women. There was one piece of genius by Celia Imrie, but otherwise the trailers were even more cringe-worthy than the one for Ghostbusters.

Thankfully the film itself is nothing like the trailer. To start with, Leslie Jones’ character, Patty, is much smarter than the trailer gives her credit for. OK, she’s not a scientist like the other women, but she has plenty of brain. They could have done better, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

The film isn’t a continual laugh-fest, and that’s probably just as well, because that sort of thing gets wearing. There are bits that are not as funny or clever as the scriptwriters probably thought. The section at the heavy metal concert, in particular, felt very flat for me.

However, there were many good jokes, and all four main actresses did good jobs. Chris Hemsworth isn’t nearly as good without Loki to be the straight man for, but then again he was only there as eye candy, a job he fulfilled admirably.

Some of the best jokes came after the credits started to roll. I cannot understand why modern cinema audiences get up and leave before the end. Do they not pay attention to anything written about other films?

I am tempted to complain that there was too much of other people’s music and not enough of Ray Parker Jr.. However, if there had been more of that song I would probably have had to get up and dance, which would have been embarrassing for everyone.

As many other people have noted, Kate McKinnon steals the show. As I said earlier on Facebook, if you don’t come out of this film a lesbian then my name isn’t Mrs. Holtzmann.

Thankfully for my straight reputation there is also Mr. Hemsworth (swoon), and his character is called Kevin (double swoon). Now all I need to do is avoid getting the two of them confused…

Most importantly, however, I cannot for the life of me understand what all of the fuss is about. Dan Ackroyd has writing and production credits on the film, and it would be hard to find any other film with such obvious respect and affection for its predecessor. The cameos are brilliant, especially the final one, the one after the credits have started. And if you stayed to the end you will know that there really needs to be a sequel. I’m hoping that Holtzmann’s mentor gets a bigger role in that one.

Posted in Feminism, Movies | Leave a comment

That Was Trans Pride

Photo by Sarah Savage
That’s another Trans Pride successfully concluded. Well, concluded for me, anyway. Lots of people are still enjoying the evening gig, but my feet have given up on me as I spent all day wandering round the event talking to people and getting interviews.

The photo above is from the march. Having outgrown yet another park, this time we were in Brunswick Gardens. For those of you who know Brighton, that’s the park just off the sea front which is surrounded by a huge Georgian terrace, just west of the Metropole. It was a great location, and it meant that we got to march a long way along the sea front in full view of lots of tourists. Everyone seemed either bemused or was very supportive.

I got a lot of great interviews with people, including a group of Buddhist trans people who are from the same order that Michael Dillon joined all those years ago.

As usual there were lots of stalls, mostly promoting support services for trans people. However, we are starting to see more celebratory activities as well. My favorite new stall was E-J Scott’s Museum of Transology, which bills itself as, “A mobile museum that collects and exhibits trans peoples’ stuff.” E-J is encouraging trans people to donate things that have a personal connection to their lives. Of course he’ll end up with the biggest collection of used fake boobs in the world, but hopefully he’ll get other stuff too.

This year the music was interspersed with spoken word performances, which meant we got a full set from the amazing Alice Denny. However, my favorite bit of the stage entertainment was Ren Stedman. He’s a great singer-songwriter in the classic tradition of the angry young person with a guitar. And he’s a lovely bloke too — gave me a great interview.

Also on my interview list is the fabulous Sophie Cook who is the news anchor for Brighton’s community TV network. I consider myself now well and truly out-classed in terms of trans local media stardom. Hello, Made in Bristol TV, we are behind the curve. Get yourselves a trans presenter pronto.

The weather was good. Early on it was bright and sunny, and I was a bit worried it would be another day of heatstroke and sunburn. However, it had misted over by midday and the sun didn’t get out again until late in the afternoon. I got a light touch of sun walking back to my hotel because I was going east and there are bits of my back that I can’t reach with the sunscreen, but it was much better than it might have been had the sun been out all day.

Sarah Savage tells me that numbers are up at least 50% on last year. They should be OK in Brunswick Park for another year, but after that they might have to move again. I bumped into a friend from Bristol who is now living in Essex and she told me that Brighton’s Trans Pride is a bigger event that Essex Pride, which caters for the whole LGBT spectrum.

Mostly the day was very positive, but the reality of trans lives is never too far from the surface of the party. While I was having lunch two women came and sat next to me on the bench. At first I thought they might be mother and daughter, but it soon became clear that they were therapist and trans girl. You try not to overhear, but emotions get loud and it soon became obvious that this was a conversation involving family abuse and self-harm. At least one person had come to Trans Pride looking for help. I hope she found what she needed.

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National Diversity Award Shortlists

Ujima’s time as a reigning National Diversity Award champion is coming to an end. In 8 weeks time new winners will be crowned for 2016. The shortlists have just been announced and once again I know some of the people involved.

In LGBT Role Model we have Lee Gale, who is a fantastic trans awareness trainer. Lee works much harder than I do, traveling all over the country to do training. He’s a lovely bloke too.

In LGBT Organizations we have Mermaids (who are awesome), Gendered Intelligence (whom Lee works for), and Trans Pride Brighton, which is the event I am attending this weekend. Lee is here, of course, and he’ll doubtless be helping with the GI stall tomorrow. It’s all happening here.

Finally in the Multi-Strand Organization category we have Off the Record Bristol. They are the people who run Freedom Youth, our LGBT youth group. My friend and colleague, Henry Poultney works for them. Of course they do other stuff for young people too, which is why they are multi-strand. I can’t comment on that, but their LGBT work is awesome.

Best of luck to everyone.

Posted in Feminism, Gender | Leave a comment

Activism is Work

A lot of people these days think that “activist” means someone who sits at home monitoring social media all day and making angry tweets about the state of the world. Of course a lot of good activism can be done online. The campaign to get Tara Hudson moved to a women’s prison was done mostly that way (plus a lot of phone calls), and it was a lot of hard work. But you also have to get off your arse and do things occasionally.

Case in point. Last night, after the radio show, I attended a meeting at the offices of Bristol City Council. It is part of an ongoing initiative in Bristol and surrounding areas to draw up what is currently being called an “LGBT+ Manifesto”; that is a statement of the particular needs of LGBT citizens, and ideas as to what should be done to meet those needs. Along with a couple of other trans folks (hello Henry & Lexi), I have been asked to be on the steering committee.

This morning I headed into Bristol and gave a trans awareness course to teachers at a local school. They were lovely people, very keen to help trans kids. Berkeley and I have been invited back in September to do some more work with them.

Immediately after the course I went back to Temple Meads and took a train to Brighton, where I am now. Tomorrow I am attending a conference run by Brighton & Hove City Council. This will report on their groundbreaking Trans Needs Assessment, which grew out of Trans Pride and has now been going for a couple of years. We’ll hear how the city is responding to that survey, what various agencies like the local police and health services are doing, and where it will be going next. I’ll be bringing all of that information back to the LGBT+ Manifesto group in Bristol.

And on Saturday I’m attending Trans Pride, which for me means doing interviews, and chatting to various people about ongoing projects. Hopefully I will get time to hang out with some friends too.

Posted in Gender, Where's Cheryl? | Leave a comment

Two Magazine Crowdfunding Campaigns

Two magazines that I am very fond of are currently doing fund raising campaigns.

First up there is Holdfast Magazine. I have a personal interest in this because some of the money raised will go towards paying me for my story, “Experimental Subjects”. Of course there are lots of other fine people who will benefit as well. You can donate to Holdfast here.

Also there is Uncanny, which has been remarkably successful in its short life. Given how well they have done in just a few days I suspect that most of you space unicorns out there have already signed on for year three, but just in case you haven’t you can do so here.

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Today on Ujima – Cat Valente, Rape Prevention, Hate Crime & Brexit

Sorry about the weird company, Cat. That’s the way it goes with radio some days.

Today’s show began with an interview I did with Cat Valente at Finncon. As usual with such things, I was only able to broadcast about half of it. All of the in-depth writerly stuff got cut. The full thing will appear on Salon Futura in a few weeks. Cat and I seem to have done a lot of giggling in that interview.

In the second half hour I was joined by Charlotte Gage from Bristol Women’s Voice to talk about the “R U Asking 4 It” fiasco, in which members of Avon & Somerset Police were taken to task by a group of Bristol teenagers for entirely inappropriate comments on rape prevention. I should note that following the initial disaster the response of the police has been fantastic. Very senior people have got involved, and I understand that today another email went around the force reminding officers of the need to be on message over such issues.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Next up I spoke to Jennie Darch from SARI about the rise in hate crime following the Brexit referendum. SARI is a charity that specializes in helping the victims of hate crime, and there is no doubt that their case load has increased dramatically since the vote. Charlotte also mentioned women talking to BWV about a sudden upsurge in racist harassment.

I was delighted to see that during the music breaks Charlotte and Jennie were busy comparing notes and thinking of ways in which their agencies could work together to tackle this problem.

The final half hour was given over to vox pop interviews about Brexit that I collected at Finncon. My thanks to the many lovely people from around the world who were willing to share their views.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The music this week was mostly on the theme of immigration. That included “Get Back” by The Beatles which was very much on an immigration theme before the Fab Four thought better of it and re-wrote the lyrics to be more politically safe (including some casual transphobia). The full playlist is as follows:

  • Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On?
  • Jama – No Borders
  • Bob Marley – Buffalo Soldier
  • Horslips – The Man Who Built America
  • Tabby Cat Kelly – Don’t Call Us Immigrants
  • Maryam Mursal – Lei Lei
  • The Beatles – Get Back
  • Fontella Bass – Rescue Me
Posted in Books, Current Affairs, Feminism, Music, Radio | Leave a comment

Awards at Finncon

Being a national convention, Finncon has a number of award ceremonies as part of the program. Usually I manage to report on this at the time, but this year I managed to be way too busy. Thankfully the ever-reliable Tero Ykspetäjä has done the job for me and all I need to do is to point you to his fine (English language) blog.

First up Atorox Award for Finnish short fiction went to Magdalena Hai. If you don’t remember her name you may remember her fabulous blue hair from her photo in issue #3 of The Finnish Weird. The story that won the Atorox (“Beautiful Ululian”) is different from the one in The Finnish Weird (“Corpsemarsh”) so she’s clearly building up a good portfolio.

By the way, Toni Jerrman tells me that the ebook editions of the first two Finnish Weird magazines have been substantially re-worked, so if you have those and have issues with the formatting please download the new ones.

Next on the awards list we have the Tähtifantasia Award which is for fantasy novels translated from a language other than Finnish. This went to Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. That’s quite an achievement for a graphic novel to win such an award. It beat out books by Haruki Murakami and Patrick Rothfuss among others. Well done Shaun!

Finally we come to the Kosmoskynä Award which is an occasional award given to people or organizations who have significantly advanced the cause of Finnish science fiction. This year it was given to my dear friend, Irma Hirsjärvi. This is so thoroughly deserved that I can only ask why it didn’t happen earlier. Then again, the Kosmoskynä is a really hard award to get. It has only been bestowed 13 times since 1985. Congratulations, Ipa!

Posted in Awards, Finland, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Fringe Tonight

For those of you within easy reach of Bristol, there will be a BristolCon Fringe event tonight. The readers will be Thomas David Parker and Tim Lebbon. We will get going at the Shakespeare Tavern (68 Prince St.) at around 7:30pm, but people will be there before then for food. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

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Real Gods of Egypt

The Pharaonic period of Egypt lasted for about 3000 years. During that time, much can change. It is therefore impossible to propose a definitive form for Egyptian religion. To do so would make as much sense as to say that there was a definitive form of Christianity that applied to both the early Byzantine church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Egyptian religious belief and practice changed radically through time as one temple or another, one city or another, gained power. There were attempted revolutions such as that of Akhenaten. In the last few hundred years of the Pharaohs, however, the changes were much more radical.

In 525 BCE the Persians conquered Egypt. I’m not a great expert on their rule, but they were adept at absorbing many different cultures into their empire. My guess is that they will have left Egyptian religion mostly alone, though it will not have escaped unscathed. However, in 332 BCE Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great. One of his generals, Ptolemy, was put in charge of Egypt and became Pharaoh in 305 BCE. His descendants ruled Egypt until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BCE which resulted in the absorption of Egypt into the Roman Empire.

Rule by a Greek dynasty caused major changes in Egyptian religious life. The Ptolemies were keen to show their commitment to local culture, but at the same time they wanted to bring in a lot of Greek ideas. Let’s start with the chap pictured above. You might think that he doesn’t look much like an Egyptian god, and you’d be dead right, but he is one. His name is Serapis. It is not clear whether he existed before the Ptolemaic period, but it is clear that his worship was either invented, or massively promoted, by the Ptolemies. He continued to be popular through the Roman era.

That’s a very imperialist approach to merging cultures, but there is another option. Syncretism is the process of finding links between two different religions and building on that basis. You could take the view that two cultures worship the same god, but each has their own prophet whom they deem the sole arbiter of that god’s word, in which case they must fight for all eternity to see whose prophet is right. But you could say, look, your god Khonsu is a bit like our god Herakles. Both of them are mighty young warriors who defend their people. Perhaps they are the same god seen through a different cultural lens. Let’s build a friendship based on that. This sort of thing happened a lot, both in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.

I came home from London yesterday with a new goddess for my home. This one.

Isis-HorusThis is Isis and her son, Horus. Images of Isis nursing Horus were common in ancient Egypt (though Horus does seen a little big for breastfeeding — perhaps he grew very quickly).

The image of the nursing Isis is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, of course, it is very similar to the image of Mary and Jesus that is so well known in Christianity. Secondly, those of you who know a bit about Egypt will have spotted that Isis is wearing the horned crown of Hathor. By the time this statue was made the cult of Isis has absorbed that of the older mother goddess, Hathor the Cow.

What attracted me about this statue, however, is that it has a significant difference from most Isis and Horus images. In fact it doesn’t appear to have been taken from either of the Isis & Horus statues found in Thonis/Heraclieon and Canopus. Rather it is based on this one, which is in the Knust Museum in Vienna.

The difference in the statue is the throne on which Isis is seated. It is flanked by lions, and that’s something more often seen elsewhere. Here, for example.

That’s Cybele, an Anatolian goddess with strong links to Ishtar who ended up in Rome as their Great Mother. Cybele was the patron goddess of trans women in Rome.

I know very little about gender in Egyptian society, but I am starting to turn up some very interesting stories about Isis. Some sources I have seen mention that the Phoenicians connected Isis to Astarte, their local version of Ishtar. Others mention a connection between Isis and Cybele in Rome.

There is no temple to Cybele in Pompeii. There is one in Herculaneum, and there is a lot of evidence of Cybele worship in Pompeii, including a number of paintings in people’s homes. What Pompeii does have, is a big temple to Isis. A while back I came across this master’s thesis suggesting a syncretic relationship between Isis and Cybele in the Roman Empire. Images Isis seated on Cybele’s lion throne would seem to confirm this.

Posted in History, Pagan | 2 Comments

Well That Went Well

The nice LGBT police people seemed to enjoy my talk. It was great to catch up with Surat Shaan Knan and see the new pop-up version of the Twilight People exhibition. There were at least two trans people (serving police officers) in the audience.

The conference was in the Guildhall in the City of London. It is a very impressive space. I haven’t had time to process my photos yet, but hopefully I’ll have some for you later.

We also had a lovely party last night. One of the advantages of hanging out with gay people is that they have no qualms about playing Wham. Whatever else you might think about George & Andy, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” is a great dance track. (And no, I can’t hit that high, I don’t have that vocal range.)

Today I took myself off to the British Museum to see the Sunken Cities exhibition. This is material from the Egyptian cities of Thonis (called Heracleion by the Greeks) and Canopus. It is amazing, if you like that sort of thing, which I do. The quality of the artifacts is superb, because they have been preserved under the sea rather than out in the open getting weathered, smashed and stolen.

The exhibition traces the history of Egypt’s incorporation into the Mediterranean world from the first use of Greek soldiers by the pharaohs through the conquest by Alexander to incorporation into the Roman Empire. The religious history over this period is fascinating, with Egyptian gods first being mapped onto Greek religion and then incorporated into the religious use of the Empire. I’ll have more to say about this in a separate post.

And finally I paid a brief visit to Forbidden Planet and came away with a pile of books. Chief among this was Seanan McGuire’s novella, Every Heart a Doorway, which is utterly delightful and thoroughly recommended.

Posted in Books, Gender, History, Personal | Leave a comment

Talking to the Police

Sorry about another apparent clickbait headline, but that’s exactly what I will be doing.

This morning I RT’d the tweet below. Yes, there is such a thing as a police LGBT conference. The 2016 event is taking place in London tomorrow. I’m going to be one of the guest speakers. I’ll be telling them all about trans people in antiquity. Should be fun.

Posted in Gender, History, Personal | Leave a comment

Remembering Wendy Carlos

As I have probably mentioned before, one of my TV addictions is music documentaries. Recently I have been watching a few about electronic music. Now when you think of the history of electronica you probably think of people like Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, but synthesizers had been about in popular music since the 1960s. Historically, of course, it can be dated back at least as far as 1928 when Léon Theremin patented his truly bizarre musical instrument. Two early pioneers of the use of synthesizers in rock and pop were Pete Townshend and Stevie Wonder. But the synth-only album was quite another thing.

My favorite synth composer from when I was a teenager was Isao Tomita (and I’m playing Snowflakes are Dancing while I write this). But he wasn’t the first on the scene. Back in 1968 Wendy Carlos had an unlikely commercial hit. She had realized that the metronomic precision of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was perfect for synthesizers, and created an album called Switched on Bach which reached #10 on the Billboard album chart and has sold over 1 million copies.

Although she produced several other classical-themed albums, Carlos’s career quickly moved sideways into films when she was hired by Stanley Kubrick to write the score for A Clockwork Orange. She re-united with Kubrick to score The Shining, and was later hired by Disney to produce a soundtrack for Tron. That’s not a bad career for a woman composer you have probably never heard of.

If you find an early copy of Switched on Bach you may see it credited to someone else. That’s because, back in the 1960s, in addition to becoming a pioneer of electronic music and a pop sensation, Wendy was also undergoing gender transition. Trans women are awesome.

Oh, and Wendy is still with us. There’s someone I would love to meet.

Posted in Gender, History, Music | 4 Comments

An Accident of Stars

An Accident Of Stars - Foz Meadows
This is not a book review. That’s because the copy of Foz Meadows’ debut novel, An Accident of Stars, that I received was very much an Advance Reading Copy. So advance, in fact, that it still had bits of chat between the author and editor embedded in it. I’m guessing that this happened because there was an issue with NetGalley and the lovely folks at Angry Robot kindly sent me something they had to hand instead.

Anyway, I’m not going to assume that what I read was final, but it was still a complete book. I won’t pass judgement on quality because it may change somewhat before it reaches the shops, but I do want to comment on trans representation.

The non-spoilery version is that I think that Foz has done a great job. If you are very allergic to spoilers then stop reading now.
Continue reading

Posted in Books, Gender | Leave a comment

Some Brief Awards News

Last weekend was a busy one for awards. First up the Shirley Jackson Awards were announced at Readercon. I’m not familiar with all of the winners, but I am delighted to see an award for Wylding Hall by the fabulous Liz Hand. That, of course, is a novella. The novel category was taken by Experimental Film by Gemma Files, a book I have been wanting to read since I first heard about it a couple of years ago.

Also announced at Readercon was the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, given to unfairly forgotten authors. This year it went to Judith Merril, better known as an editor but also a fine writer. The judges for the award were Elizabeth Hand, Barry Malzberg, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer. This may come as a surprise to some as Malzberg has recently penned an article for Galaxy’s Edge which is, shall we say, less than complimentary about Merril’s contribution to the field. Malzberg notes:

I am not in a merciful mode—as I have become both the perpetrator of a body of work now close to unknown…

Oh dear…

The finalists for this year’s World Fantasy Awards were also announced at the weekend. There’s a lot of good material in there. I’m pleased to see both Uprooted and The Fifth Season make the novel list. Congratulations are due to a couple of my friends, Kim Newman and Selina Chambers, who both have fiction nominations. There’s a Finnish book on the list — the awesome Collected Fiction of Leena Krohn, published by the VanderMeers’ Cheeky Frawg. And there’s a nod for Letters to Tiptree in the still insultingly named “Special Award, Nonprofessional” category. Alisa and Alex already have a Locus Award, and I’d love to see them add a not-Howie-any-more to it.

Over in Japan, Ancillary Justice has added a Seiun to its many awards. Tough luck on my pal, Gareth Powell, but hey, what company to be in. Big in Japan, mate.

The Gemmell Award shortlists have produced the expected whiff of testosterone, but I’m pleased to see two local(ish) writers on the debut novel list. Well done Pete Newman (The Vagrant) and Lucy Hounsom (Starborn).

Canada’s Suburst Award (their version of the Clarke) has shortlisted both Experimental Film and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s wonderful Signal to Noise.

And there have been announcements about the Sidewise Awards and Prometheus Award, neither of which I have much to say about as I’m unfamiliar with the works involved.

Posted in Awards | Leave a comment

New Fafnir

A new issue if Fafnir, the Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, has been posted. You can find it here.

In this issue there are two papers by academics from India. That’s impressively international of my Nordic friends. And on the basis of those I really need to read the anthology, Breaking the Bow, which is spectulative fiction stories based on the Ramayana.

So much to learn…

Posted in Academic, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

April Fringe (contains me)

The April BristolCon Fringe night is, by tradition, an open mic where they let all sorts of people read, even me. Lots of better writers turned up as well, and we ended up with 12 readers divided into three sessions.

Session 1 features three novel excerpts. Justin Newland and Amanda Huskisson both have fantasy novels set in the ancient past. Jack Anderson’s novel is from Roman times, and is a straight historical tale. The session ended with Jackie Rogers who read two pieces of fantasy flash.

Session 2 got us going on the explicit tags. Kevlin Henney opened up by killing off almost everyone on the planet. Pete Sutton’s magpie story, “I Butler”, was somewhat more restrained but does feature a serial killer. Jo Hall read us a piece from a new novel that she has just started working on, Gods of the Grey City. People die horribly. And finally we have “Zombie Walk” by Myfanwy Rodman. Only three people die in that, but the zombies are already dead and there are lots of them. We very much needed a break after that one. You have been warned.

Session 3 began with Steve Tanner who read from the first book in a fantasy trilogy. Then it was my turn. I read the start of a short story called “Snow White’s Wedding”, which I’d originally written for the Upside Down anthology (it didn’t get in). Next up was Will Macmillan with “Hatchet”, a cautionary tale about the dangers of living with a writer, and indeed being one. Finally Jonathan L. Howard read from an unpublished novel called Heart of Empire. That’s something he calls “tea punk”, which appears to mean very polite British people having very dangerous adventures and remaining calm throughout.

During this session we were visited by the Fringe Ghost. A mysterious voice began emanating from the pub’s speaker system during Steve’s reading and continued off and on for the rest of the evening. The speaker system was turned off. Various theories were proposed, and the one that seems most likely is that the speakers are picking up the radio transmissions of ferry boats in the harbour. Thankfully the Ghost doesn’t seem to have spoiled the recordings.

In the Q&A I asked Jo a bit about her forthcoming books. The Summer Goddess is now scheduled for September and reviews are starting to appear online. Pete Sutton launched A Tiding of Magpies while I was in Finland so it is now available from good bookstores everywhere. Will talked about reading stories from memory. Naturally we all wanted to know where Myfanwy got her gruesome ideas from.

In case you are wondering, there is no audio from March. I was in Canada and the folks back in Bristol had tech fail.

The July Fringe event will be in a week’s time on July 18th. It is a horror special, and will feature Tom Parker and Tim Lebbon.

Posted in Podcasts, Readings | 3 Comments

The Bowie & Prince Panel

There’s not a lot to report from this panel as we didn’t really have a reading list. However, there are a few things I want to mention.

Firstly I opened up with Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff, because what better way to start an SF&F convention panel on Bowie than with Neil Gaiman performing the countdown from “Space Oddity”. I’m very fond of the Strung Out On Heaven album, but it wasn’t until I was listening to a music documentary this morning that I realized that on “Space Oddity” Jherek had done with strings what Bowie had originally done with a Mellotron. On the 1969 recording it had been played by a young session musician called Rick Wakeman. (Wakeman also played piano on a number of other huge pop hits, including Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Cat Stevens’ “Morning has broken”.)

As I was the only member of the panel who had grown up in the UK, I probably had more of a connection to Bowie than most, but Cat surprised me by revealing that her step-mother was a huge Bowie fan.

For Cat and Suzanne much of their connection to Bowie came through fantasy rather than science fiction. Labyrinth seems to have been a very important film for lots of people. I can quite understand why.

Cat, having grown up in the US, was invaluable when it came to discussion of Prince. The UK barely bats an eyelid at the sort of thing the Purple One got up to. He didn’t even get banned from Radio 1, though he did have to make a small change to the lyrics of “Sexy Mother Fucker”. The USA, on the other hand, went into full scale moral panic over “Darling Nikki”.

Bowie did so many SF concept albums that we had no trouble finding things to talk about. Cat said that parts of Blackstar sounded like a story she might have written. Hopefully one day she will be able to do it. Prince only did one SF concept album: Art Official Age, which is a “sleeper awakes” story (and features Lianne La Havas as the doctor). After the panel, Iia Simes reminded me (and I had indeed forgotten) that Prince wrote the music for Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, Batman.

As both Cat and I noted, Prince may not have written much SF, but everyone agreed that he must be an alien.

I ended the panel by going a little off topic because there is a recording artist who has managed to combine the legacies of Prince and Bowie. Prince played on some of her early work, and that work involved the creation of a character every bit as vivid as Ziggy Stardust. Take a bow, Janelle Monáe Robinson, a.k.a. Cyndi Mayweather.

Finally, for those of you who have no idea what I meant when I said that Cat and I re-created the famous Bowie/Ronson hug from “Starman”, here are Ziggy and the Spiders in that famous Top of the Pops performance. Everyone sing along now.

Posted in Conventions, Music | Leave a comment

Queer Spirit Festival

One of the things I learned about yesterday was the Queer Spirit Festival, “a festival of queer spirituality” which will take place in August. The festival site is not far from where I live, but it is a five-day event and you can only buy a five-day ticket at £130 so I doubt that I’ll be popping over to take a look. I did promise to give it a plug, though. Maybe some of you will find it of interest.

Posted in Pagan | Leave a comment