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.

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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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Finncon 2016 Masquerade

These are the official photos from the Finncon 2016 Masquerade. The first four pictures are from the juniors competition. I’m missing one of the kids as he missed the photoshoot, and some of the names of the adults and their characters. Hopefully someone can help me out.

My thanks again to the Guests of Honour for being wonderful judges, and especially to Jasper Fforde for coming up with silly prizes to give people, and to Cat Valente for her encyclopedic knowledge of video games. Thanks also to all of the sponsors who donated prizes.

Finncon 2016 Masquerade
Finncon 2016 MasqueradeJul 2, 2016Photos: 15
Posted in Conventions, Costuming, Finland | Leave a comment

At Bristol Pride

Scarlet Fever - photo by Caz Milford
Bristol Pride took place today. As usual, I was on hand to help the good people from ShoutOut Radio with their day-long coverage of the event. I wasn’t actually on air much as Ujima was not co-broadcasting the event this year. However, I did spend some time out and about interviewing people and some of the results of that may appear in this Thursday’s ShoutOut show. The above photo (by Caz Milford) shows me interviewing drag Queen, Scarlet Fever. Scarlet’s costume included a full peacock tail made from actual peacock feathers. Scarlet made the entire outfit himself (and yes I did ask about pronouns).

This year Pride was in a new home at the harbourside. The main stage was in the amphitheater in front of the Lloyds Bank building while most of the stalls were in Millennium Square. We had more room than in Castle Park, and it was much drier underfoot. I’m glad it didn’t get too sunny as the black bricks that pave most of the area could have got very hot, but at least we weren’t wallowing in mud. Daryn Carter was interviewed on the show and he said we had 9000 people at the event. It looked like a very diverse crowd. I was particularly pleased to see so many young people wearing trans flags and badges. That bodes well for Trans Pride in September.

One thing in particular that I want to highlight is the online mapping project that my colleagues at OutStories were busy doing this year. That is now launched and you can find the map here. There’s not a lot of trans stuff on it at present, which is in large part down to me not having had time to do it, but there are some 70+ other items mentioned and we’ll be adding to that as time goes on.

Of course the main focus of our day was the music. We get a lot of great acts at Pride. Most of them a singers who work off a backing track. While many of them are very good singers (hello Rozalla), I yearn for people playing actual instruments. Today we had a couple of great bands.

Joanne Joanne - photo by Thomas Page

Here I am with Joanne Joanne (photo by Thomas Page). They are an all-girl Duran Duran tribute act. They do a fine job, especially when you consider that the original material is heavily produced and multi-layered which is hard to reproduce on stage. The photo shows me getting a hug from lead singer, Val Gwyther, which is about as close as I will ever get to getting a hug from Simon Le Bon.

My favorite act of the day, however (bearing in mind that I was unable to stay to hear Little Boots and Lisa Stansfield) was this lot, a local rock band called I Destroy.


On the left is Becky (bass guitar); on the right in the shades is Bec (lead guitar & vocals), and Jenn (drums). I was impressed with how tight they were, and it was great to have a proper rock band on stage along with all of the pop material. They work hard too. They are playing a gig in Stokes Croft tonight and are currently touring including gigs in Manchester and London. I’m hoping I can get them on my Ujima show.

Here’s one of the songs they played today.

Posted in Gender, Radio | Leave a comment

Freedom Youth Book Launch

FreeToBeMeLast night I attended a book launch in Bristol. It was nothing to do with science fiction, but had a close connection with Wizard’s Tower nonetheless.

The book is called Free to be Me and is a history of the first 21 years of Freedom Youth, Bristol’s LGBT Youth club. Freedom Youth was founded back in 1995. One of the founders was Berkeley Wilde, with whom I now do a lot of trans awareness training via his company, The Diversity Trust. The club has kept going ever since through various changes of local government support, and I have had the pleasure of speaking at their meetings on several occasions.

The book is the brainchild of Rosa Fanti, one of the club;s current members, and has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. OutStories Bristol and our friends at Bristol Records Office have been helping Rosa with her research.

So where is the Wizard’s Tower connection? Well to start with Rosa’s mum is a big fan. Having told her of my trip to Finncon, I sent her off with a list of Finnish authors to read. Also the book is published by Tangent Books run by Richard Jones who kindly stocks some of my physical books in his store. And because it is a Tangent book the layout is done by Joe Burt who also does my layouts.

If you are interested in getting the book, it is on sale via the Tangent store. I expect it will also be on sale at Bristol Pride tomorrow.

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Tom of Finland Exhibition

One thing I definitely wanted to see while I was in Finland was the Tom of Finland exhibition at the Taide Halli (Art Hall) in Helsinki. They currently have a huge selection of Tom’s art on display, along with a large number of reference collages that he made from magazines that he scoured for pictures of good-looking young men.

By going there I discovered two things I had not known before about Touko Laaksonen. First up, he was a war hero, having been given a medal for his part in the defense of Helsinki against Russian bombing raids in WWII. Second, he was a classically trained pianist and a very good jazz musician.

The thing that surprised me most, however, was the My Little Tom of Finland pony they had in the gift shop. It is by Mari Kasurinen, who has done pony versions of many other well known people, including Darth Vader, Skeletor and Wonder Woman. You can see the whole collection here. Her My Little Cthulhu is another masterpiece.

I can’t do a post like this without including some of Tom’s art. This is the piece that both Otto and I liked best from the exhibition. Of course to be truly topical the globe needs to be rotated a bit.

The gift shop, and many stores around Helsinki, also had a selection of Tom-themed gifts. There was coffee, and also a wide range of home furnishings from Finlayson. If you really want Tom of Finland art on your sheets and pillowcases you can do so.

Posted in Art, Finland | 1 Comment