And Now Radio 4 Does Trans Kids

Yesterday afternoon BBC Radio 4’s PM program ran a short segment on trans kids. It is available on iPlayer, and the trans coverage is about 22 minutes in.

Once again the program seems fairly positive on the surface, but is let down by careless (or possibly deliberate) framing. Helen Belcher’s son is utterly charming in his brief interview on life as the child of a trans parent, and the head teacher of the school interviewed is clearly trying hard to do the right thing. The young trans girl they are talking about appears to have had a positive experience of transitioning at school (at least thus far).

But look at this tweet from the journalist who did the interview.

The key phrase there is “boy who wants to be a girl”. As with Victoria Derbyshire’s show, this is framing the narrative as someone who is “really” a boy and who is making some sort of lifestyle choice to live a fantasy.

Things go pear-shaped at the end of the segment as well when Helena Lee talks about government guidance. I guess she’s probably just quoting the Department of Education, but if you use the term “sexuality” in the context of trans kids you are either pushing the idea that being trans is somehow a sexual preference (and therefore not an appropriate matter for pre-pubescent children to learn about), or you are saying that your LGBT policy is in fact an LGB policy and nothing will actually be done for trans people. In the case of the Department of Education it probably means both.

I know I’m harping on a lot about this, but it is really important. It is great that trans folk and their allies are getting to speak for themselves rather the being judged by experts, but if the presenters of this programs insist on always putting forward an anti-trans line, either for “balance” or “controversy” then most cis listeners will still come away thinking that the anti-trans line is correct.

And that whole thing about trans people being “really” their assigned-at-birth gender, and therefore people who are living a lie; we know what that leads to, don’t we. It leads to murder.

Posted in Gender, Journalism, Radio | Leave a comment

Come Back, Brontosaurus, All Is Forgiven

Five-year-old me is so very happy.

Posted in Nature, Science | Leave a comment

How Not To Do Trans Kids on TV

This morning BBC2’s brand new daytime magazine show, hosted by Victoria Derbyshire, led off with a feature on trans kids. There were some very good things about it, but also some really bad stuff. I’m not entirely sure who to blame for this. In the article that she did for the BBC website Derbyshire is much more sympathetic towards trans kids than she was in the show. Also Lewis Hancox, who was on the show, commented afterwards that she’d been very nice. I suspect editorial interference. Here’s what happened.

The segment got off to a really bad start with Derbyshire stating that the two kids she would be interviewing were “boys who were living as girls”. She didn’t actually say that they were “really boys, and pretending to be girls”, but the implication was there. What’s more she repeated this phrase at least twice during the show, to make sure that the message got through. There would be no acceptance of the kids as girls.

Then we got to the interviews, which were pretty relentless. Almost every question that Derbyshire asked the two girls was designed to get them to say that they were just going through a phase and would change their minds later. The interviews with the parents focused on the idea that they were harming their kids by allowing them to transition, and that the kids’ gender-variant behavior was somehow the parents’ fault. Normally I’d be pleased to see a lesbian couple on TV, but it was pretty clear from the questioning that little Jesscia’s parents were only on the show to allow Derbyshire to insinuate that their lesbianness had somehow caused Jessica’s transness, and by extension that lesbians were unfit to bring up children.

Later in the show there was a panel discussion involving Lewis Hancox; Loretta, one of the vloggers from My Genderation; Jackson, a young trans man; and Susie, the current Chair of Mermaids. This was much better in that we had a bunch of adult trans people able to assert that transition had benefited them. Even so, Derbyshire’s questions were again largely antagonistic in content if not in tone. And there was the inevitable question about what each person had between their legs. I rather wish someone had asked the same question of Derbyshire.

To give you a better idea of how this all came over to me I’m going to pick up an example that Christine Burns used on Twitter. Suppose the show was about left-handed kids. Would you expect all of the questions to them be about whether they would grow out of it and learn to write properly? Would you expect the questions to the parents to be whether they were ruining their kids lives by allowing them to choose to be left-handed instead of insisting that they behave properly? Well of course not. And yet it wasn’t that long ago that such questions would have been asked. When I was at school there were still teachers who would punish pupils for writing left-handed.

That’s basically where we are with trans kids today. Most of society thinks that they are somehow unnatural, and that the right thing to do is bully them until they conform. It wasn’t until we got to the panel that Susie was able to raise the question of how harmful that might be. (Paris Lees makes the same point very well in this article about the Louis Theroux show.)

One thing that both Theroux and Derbyshire harped on about endlessly is the idea that kids might change their minds about gender transition when they got older, and that as a result they were making a dreadful mistake by transitioning young. During the panel discussion Derbyshire brought in a specialist from New York, Dr. Aron Janssen who is (amongst an impressive list of titles) Clinical Director of the Gender and Sexuality Service at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. He was asked how likely it was that kids would change their minds, and his response was that current research suggests that around 75% of them would.

As you can imagine, my ears pricked up at that. After the show, Susie linked to him on Twitter so I was able to introduce myself and ask for more information. (I do have a very good excuse: I’m helping write some trans awareness training for Bristol University Medical School.) Dr. Janssen kindly replied, attaching a couple of papers by a Dutch team that has been working with trans kids for many years. Having looked through the papers, what I’m seeing is as follows.

Yes, a substantial majority of kids who are treated for gender variant behavior will eventually grow out of it.

However, a significant minority (around 25% according to Dr. Janssen) do not, and those kids are highly likely to benefit from medical transition.

The growing out of it generally occurs in an age range of 10 to 13 as puberty starts to kick in. This is also the point when puberty blockers would begin to be prescribed. Prior to that there is no medical intervention, so the kids who do stop their gender variant behavior will probably not have had any medication.

The data is for all kids who present for treatment due to having gender variant behavior. By no means all of them wish to transition socially. However, a desire to transition socially is a strong indicator that the gender variant behavior will persist through puberty.

What we are seeing here, then, is doctors learning how to distinguish between, on the one hand, those kids whose behavior isn’t stereotypical for their birth gender, and on the other those who really need full gender transition. As it turns out, the kids themselves generally understand their feelings pretty well, and those who need to transition will opt to do so socially before there is any need to do so medically.

Of course there is a lot more detail than I’ve presented here. The Dutch doctors looked at many different factors including the language the kids use when self-identifying, and their observed behavior. Interestingly they found parental reports of behavior of girls to be less reliable as an indicator than was the case with boys, suggesting that parental expectations of gender performance are more rigid for girls than for boys. Nevertheless, the point remains that the “making a mistake” issue can and should be challenged with evidence rather than being left hanging there as bait for haters.

It is still good that trans people are being allowed to speak for themselves, but on the basis of this show the media still has a very long way to go before it will treat us with respect, rather than as an excuse for artificial controversy and a target for their own prejudices.

Update: edited as per Jackson’s comment below. Profuse apologies for the error.

Posted in Gender, TV | 4 Comments

Last Day for GlitterShip Kickstarter

We are fast approaching the final day for Keffy Kehrli’s Kickstarter campaign for GlitterShip, the LGBT SF&F fiction podcast. Keffy has easily smashed his initial funding targets, and as a consequence episodes will be 4 per month rather than 2 per month. There was a stretch goal to allow for 2 episodes a month of original fiction rather than reprints, but as that looked quite far off Keffy has added an easier goal for just one episode of original fiction per month. That looks achievable. Go pledge now!

Posted in Feminism, Podcasts, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Hello, Spacegirl

SpacegirlSo, I have worked out how to export images from Covert Fashion. (It wasn’t hard, there’s a Share function which includes options like PDF and DropBox). This is one I’m rather fond of.

One of the nice things about the game is that many of the contests have fun themes. Sure you might be asked for an outfit for a garden party, or a dinner for two at a 5-star restaurant, but you might also be asked to come up with an outfit that would not look out of place in a cosplay contest.

This one was actually a design for a “Space Oracle”, whatever that means, and it doesn’t score that well because it wasn’t mystical enough. However, having seen that top I knew I had to use it. I bet that girl’s ship could out-run the Millennium Falcon any day.

Posted in Clothes, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

BBC2 Does Trans Kids

Last night BBC2 aired a program called Transgender Kids, fronted by Louis Theroux. It is available on iPlayer, for those of you who can get such things. It is set in the San Francisco Bay Area and focuses on a number of young patients of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center at UCSF Hospital.

I should start by saying that it is one of the best documentaries about trans people I have seen. In particular the kids were given plenty of air time to speak for themselves, the parents interviewed were mostly very supportive, and the program appeared to be trying to say the right things, though because it wasn’t very explicit it is certainly open to alternative interpretations.

Having said that, there were still some fairly serious problems, starting with the use of Theroux as the presenter. He appeared to be trying to be sympathetic, but his usual screen character is that of a detached, somewhat skeptical guide to the weird and bizarre corners of humanity. Consequently he tended to present his interviewees as lab specimens rather than patients.

This wasn’t helped by the program’s obvious need to ask the questions it felt the viewers would want asked. And because this is the cis gaze we are talking about here those questions tended to be intrusive and prurient. Sadly that sort of thing is pretty much inevitable in any program made by cis people about trans people, which is why projects like Fox & Lewis’ My Genderation, made by trans people for trans people, are so valuable.

The medical staff at the hospital appeared to be very supportive, and their boss came out with a couple of very interesting comments. Firstly she claimed to have seen kids expressing clear trans gender preference as young as two years old. I can’t remember anything about being two, and have only been confident about dating my own feelings back to around five years old. It’s highly significant to have evidence of trans identity long before then.

The boss doctor also did a great job of taking down Theroux when he came out with the standard fear-mongering complaint that allowing kids to swap gender so young in life is a huge risk. “What if it turns out to be a mistake”, he asked. The doctor responded that you also have to consider the risk of not providing treatment. Given the suicide rates of trans kids, not helping them is quite likely to result in serious injury or death.

What the program didn’t get right was do a proper job of stressing the difference between puberty blockers and cross-gender hormone therapy. The purpose of puberty blockers is to give the patient the opportunity to delay the unwanted physical effects of puberty while they try out their new identity. If they are withdrawn, puberty proceeds as normal. Cross-gender hormone therapy indices puberty in the preferred gender, and therefore has permanent effects. It sounds like hormones are made available at a somewhat younger age in California than they are here, but even so the program should have made it much more clear that the younger patients were not being given irreversible treatments.

It also got back on the fear-mongering track with one of the older trans kids. The girl and her parents were understandably worried about what the future might hold. At 14 you are thinking about boyfriends, and possibly about marriage and children. Young trans people clearly don’t have the same prospects as cis kids of the same age. At this point there was no friendly doctor to step in and ask, “ah, but what sort of life will they have if they don’t transition?” The assumption is that you’ll have a terrible life as a trans person, and a better future if you live the rest of your life as a lie, knowing that you had a chance of authenticity and turned your back on it, and worrying that all of your friends would abandon you if they knew the truth. Of course when I was a kid the argument was generally, “you’d be better off dead than transitioning”, so I guess we’ve made progress.

What could have been the best part of the program was the variety of different attitudes that kids had. There was little Camile who at 5 was absolutely adamant that she was a girl, but in contrast there was Cole/Crystal who was very happy being a girl at home, but equally figured they’d probably grow up to be an effeminate man. There was a young trans boy who had just had top surgery but didn’t see the need for anything else. And even Camile’s parents, faced with the question as to what they’d say if their daughter changed her mind later in life, simply said they’d accept it and support her decision.

All of this should have resulted in an emphasis on the variety of trans experience, and on the need for each patient to find the solution that fits them best. However, because this was never explicitly stated, and because Theroux came over as unable to get his head around all of this, the program could easily be seen as setting one type of trans experience against another, and perhaps holding Cole/Crystal up as as the sane version.

Thankfully, because the kids and their parents were so great, I think the program was still very positive overall. As someone (I think Helen Belcher) said on Twitter, one thing it did do very effectively was give the lie to the idea that being trans was an adult phenomenon, probably something to do with a perverted sex drive.

The final positive thing that came out of it was that everyone I knew on Twitter started banging on about the need to support the UK’s only charity for families with trans children, Mermaids. Hopefully they will have got some money out of it. I note with some concern that they were left off the BBC’s own list of sources of support, and I don’t believe that can have been an accident.

Posted in Gender, TV | Leave a comment

A New Time Sink – Playing Dress-Up

If I have no time to do anything for anyone from now on, you can totally blame Rachel Swirsky for introducing me to Covet Fashion. It is an online game, and basically the idea is that you get to spend game money on virtual designer clothes that you could never afford in real life, and put together fabulous outfits.

Well it is a bit more complicated than that, obviously. There are contests that you can enter to win more game money and status by designing outfits for specific events. You can also get game money by swapping it for real money at a non-ruinous exchange rate. And you can hook the thing up to Facebook and play with your friends.

There are caveats, obviously. It doesn’t appear to be ruinously expensive, but it is ferociously addictive if, like me, you love fashion. The virtual self that you get to dress up will look nothing like you unless you happen to be supermodel material (though she’s a damn sight more curvy than Barbie). And you will never be able to afford the very real designer clothes that you buy virtual versions of, although the game will occasionally try to persuade you to do so. Of course if you are good at this fashion lark you’ll know that the thing to do is get a sense of what the designers are offering this season and then find a cheap knock-off of the look in chain stores.

It occurs to me that if you are new to femininity (and I’m assuming a few of you are) then a game like this can be a really good way of learning about fashion. As I said earlier, the model in the game won’t look like you, so you can’t necessarily use it to decide what to wear yourself, but you will learn a lot about putting a look together, and about how to assemble a utilitarian wardrobe.

Now I need to work out how I can save pictures of the outfits I have designed so that I can share them here.

Oh, and if anyone wants to start playing, let me know. You can earn game money for introducing friends.

Posted in Clothes, Gaming | 2 Comments

Brief Movie Review – Interstellar

As there was nothing much of interest happening last night, and I was pretty much done on the training material I had to write, I decided to settle in with a nice meal and a movie. Interstellar had just come out on Blu Ray, and I had some steak and a bottle of Aussie Shiraz for the holiday.

I’m glad I had some really good wine. I hadn’t quite understood the people who had said they had walked out after about half an hour when they saw the film in the cinema. Now I do.

Remember that bit at the end of Contact where it goes all woo-woo and mystical. Interstellar is like that. For. Three. Fucking. Hours.

Look, if I want a totally daft movie then at least give me one that is beautiful to look at, doesn’t try to pretend it makes sense, and has space vampire and jet boots. OK?

Of course there’s still three hours of extras to watch yet. It may be that Interstellar, like the Hobbitses, is far more interesting in the making than in the viewing. Then again, some of the extra promise to explain the “science” behind the film…

Posted in Movies | 3 Comments

Book Review – Glorious Angels

I have been looking forward to the new Justina Robson novel for some time, and picked up a copy as soon as I could find one. It did not disappoint. In fact I really wish that I had the time to read it again, but I have this huge To Be Read pile that needs working on. Like any book, it won’t appeal to everyone, and a novel set in a world in which women are acknowledged to be the superior gender won’t go down well in certain parts of fandom (“Oh noes! Science fiction destroyed again!!!”), but hopefully Glorious Angels will sell in sufficient quantities to encourage Gollancz to buy more books from Justina. I know I want to read them. You can read my (very slightly spoilerly) review here.

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New Twelfth Planet Anthology Crowdfunding

Defying DoomsdayThe lovely people at Twelfth Planet Press have another anthology that they are crowdfunding. If it ends up being anywhere near as good as Kaleidoscope we are in for a treat.

So what’s the book about? It is called Defying Doomsday, and it will be “an anthology of apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled characters”. The editors will be Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, who are new names to me but knowing Alisa she will have checked them out thoroughly before working with them.

There’s plenty of information about the book at the Pozible campaign page, but this bit is worth sharing with those of you who haven’t yet clicked through:

We want to create an anthology that is varied, especially among protagonists, with characters experiencing all kinds of disability from physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters. There will also be a variety of stories, including those that are fun or sad, adventurous or horrific, etc, but we are avoiding stories in which the character’s condition is the primary focus of the narrative.

I’m not sure that I’d want trans characters to count as having a physical or mental disability, but I’m absolutely there with the idea of the story not focusing on the character’s condition.

I see that they already have Corrine Duyvis, John Chu and Janet Edwards lined up to write stories, which is very promising. I’ve backed it. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Canaries and Communities

Canary


I found this image via Briannu Wu’s Twitter feed. I’m not sure who originally created it, but it is absolutely spot on. There’s absolutely no point in bringing more women, or more of any minority group, into tech if those people are just going to get marginalized and bullied, and are going to leave again very quickly.

Of course the same applies to all sorts of communities. Also today I saw this post from Rochita Loenen-Ruiz about her nervousness over attending Eastercon.

The bottom line is that if people find the atmosphere in communities toxic, then they will stop wanting to be a part of those communities. Insistence on ideological purity will make a community toxic just as surely as racist or sexist abuse.

Moving to yet anther community, I’ll leave the last word to CN Lester.

Posted in Conventions, Fandom | 3 Comments

Some Comics News

I don’t follow comics news as assiduously as I follow SF&F publishing, but I do keep an eye on Autostraddle and if anything interesting is happening I can rely on Mey to tell me about it.

Yesterday, I noticed this article about the fabulous Runaways series. It included a note that Marvel will be bringing back the series soon, and you can find out more about that on The Mary Sue. To be honest I’m not too thrilled with the idea of Battleworld, but I have heard very good things about Lumberjanes so I was interested to see what Noelle Stevenson made of the team. Then, just to complete the squee, I saw Noelle’s name on this list of trans & non-binary comics creators. That suddenly makes the prospect of the new Runaways much more interesting. I doubt that we’ll get Xavin back, but I’m sure there will be cool stuff.

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February Fringe

March has been a bit of a blur, but I have finally got the February recordings from BristolCon Fringe online.

First up we have John Hawkes-Reed, who treats us to another tale about steam-powered, programmable war elephants. Well, part of a tale anyway. To get the rest of it you’ll need to get hold of North by Southwest, a fine anthology by local Bristol writers, and edited by the fabulous Jo Hall. The book is illustrated by Clare Hutt, who also started BristolCon Frine and drew the logo.

The second reader was the mysterious lone cowboy known as Stark Holborn, who treated us to a deleted scene from the fabulous Nunslinger. Cunningly Stark recruited a couple of volunteers from the audience to read some of the parts. However, they seem to have forgotten that in order to be on the recording you actually have to speak into the microphone. Let this be a lesson you, folks. Apologies to listeners. Maybe we can get Stark & Co to do this again at some point.

Finally we have the Q&A, in which Jo asks John where he gets his ideas from, and Stark reveals the origins of Nunslinger. Along the way there is mention of the amazing Bass Reeves, who is also a major character in Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory. I had to cut several of the questions, again due to people not speaking into the microphone.

Apologies once again for the poor sound quality. Now I need to get to work on the March event, because I am sure that you are all keen to hear an excerpt from the forthcoming Paul Cornell novel.

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The 2014 SF&F Count

Yesterday Strange Horizons published their annual statistics on gender and race balance in SF&F. The full article is here. I’m pleased to see that they are now acknowledging non-binary people in the count. The data is only for the US and UK, but as those markets tend to dominate all other English-speaking markets we’re seeing a significant proportion of the Anglophone world here.

There are a few points I’d like to highlight:

  • Involvement of people of color in the industry is still woefully low
  • As usual, the stats for the UK are worse than those for the USA, on both gender and race
  • The proportion of books published by people who do not identify as male was lower last year, in both countries, than in any previous year that the count has been made

Ouch.

Posted in Publishing, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Thoughts on #TDoV

Laverne Cox on TDoV

1. As usual, Laverne Cox says things better than I can.

2. If UK people want to do something to help, one thing that would be very useful is to promote the Trans Manifesto. You can find out more about that here, but the basic idea is to ask parliamentary candidates if they will sign up to three core principles as follows:

  • Regard trans individuals as equal citizens with equal rights
  • Empower trans individuals to be authorities on all aspects of their own lives
  • Encourage diverse, representative, realistic and positive portrayals of trans individuals

You don’t have to be a trans person to ask candidates about this. In fact it is probably a more powerful message if you are not. You can also find out what your local candidates have said on the subject by looking them up here.

I note that as of the time of writing only 28 of 184 candidates contacted were willing to sign up to those principles. That’s just 15%. Still, that’s only a tiny fraction of the total number of candidates, so maybe things will be get better.

3. If you’d like to see a wonderfully diverse collection of visible trans people, this set of My Genderation videos by Fox & Lewis are an ideal introduction.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | 3 Comments

Getting Visible

TDoV 2015


Tomorrow (March 31st) is the International Trans Day of Visibility. The idea of the day is for trans people who have the luxury of being out to stick their heads above the parapet for a while, remind the world that trans people exist, and provide possibility models for those people who can’t yet be out.

I want to make clear that the point of the day is not to encourage or force people to come out. No one should have to be out unless they are very comfortable with being so.

Anyway, the fine people at Liverpool Trans have come up with a great idea that I wish we had had at Trans*Code over the weekend because it is just perfect for that sort of event. They have created a website that allows you to upload a picture, and which will modify it to add some standard TDoV text. The idea is that people make these images and then use them in social media. You can see mine above.

By the way, I suspect the hand of the awesomely talented Sophie Green in all of this. Check out her website for her more usual activities, such as painting large animals.

Update: Photo credit – Tom Becker. Sorry I forgot to mention that in the original post.

Posted in Gender | 3 Comments

That Was Trans*Code

Many of you will be familiar with the idea of hack days — where a bunch of programmers get together and throw together some interesting and innovative applications, or at least demos of what will be applications after a lot more work. These can be geared for any level of ability and interest, but one of the best uses of them is introducing disadvantaged people to programming. It turns out that IT is a good career for trans people, for the rather depressing reason that it is not a customer-facing job, so employers are less likely to say, “we are not prejudiced, but we have to worry about what our customers will think”. So a hack day is a good way of helping young trans folk get the skills they need to get jobs. Inevitably this sort of thing started in America, and I think we have Kortney Ryan Ziegler to thank for running the first one in Oakland.

Since then other events have happened in other cities, and in Chicago Angelica Ross has set up Trans Tech Social, which is a full-time training company aimed at helping young trans folk. Inevitably someone had to run one in London. Take a bow, please, Naomi Ceder. The UK’s first ever Trans*Code event took place this weekend. I was there.

Getting this to happen has involved Naomi and her colleagues in a lot of work. Profuse thanks are due in particular to GitHub who provided a lot of support, and to SalesForce and GoCardless who provided venues for the Friday night social and Saturday hack day respectively. The Python community (of whom Naomi is a well-known member) has also been very supportive, and having taken a look at it I’m pretty sure that if I were teaching young people to code these days I’d use Python.

There were a bunch of really great projects started today. I think I have the full list below, but apologies if I have forgotten anyone:

  • A mobile app to enable trans people to call for help from a support network if they get caught in a difficult social situation
  • A website allowing trans people to share their experiences of gender and transition, so as to show how varied those things are
  • A website for rating trans experiences with GPs and other health care providers
  • A tool for helping trans people to understand the results of blood tests for hormone levels
  • A web comic
  • A website for finding gender neutral toilets (based on OpenStreetMap)
  • A website to help trans people find a personal style that suits their often unconventional body shapes
  • A tool for analyzing attitudes towards trans people on Twitter
  • A website for helping newcomers to programming

Obviously not all of these things will end up getting finished, and some, such as the doctor-rating thing, are partly duplicated by existing sites. But the creativity and skill shown by the participants was delightful. There are some really talented trans programmers out there.

I spent the day teaching myself new tricks. WordPress is in the process of developing an official REST/JSON API. That will mean nothing to many of you, but if you know what those acronyms mean you’ll recognize that all sorts of cool things can now be done. In particular you can build mobile apps than use WordPress as a content management system, but which have an interface not constrained by WordPress, and which can make use of the power of the mobile devices rather than just display a website.

OpenStreetMap has a REST API as well. In fact that toilet-finding app was based on it. I’ve been showing OpenStreetMap to Judith Clute, who does history walks, and she’s really impressed. I can envisage all sorts of useful applications, particularly if you can link a map location to a pile of additional data on a WordPress site.

Not that I really have time to do any of this, but software is fun. And software that helps young trans people is really valuable.

No religious wars in the comments, please.

Updated to fix a typo and add a project I forgot.

Posted in Gender, Software | 1 Comment

Dimension 6: Issue #4

This is going to be a busy weekend, but I’m popping by briefly because I’ve been asked to tell you that the latest issue of Dimension 6, the free Australian speculative fiction magazine, is now available. You can download it here.

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Launching Holdfast: Year 1

I’m just in from the launch of the Year 1 anthology for Holdfast Magazine. Lucy & Laurel have done a fine job with the book, which is a really beautiful object. I’d support something called Holdfast anyway, because I love the Suzy McKee Charnas novels, but I’m really impressed with what Lucy & Laurel have achieved.

The event took place in the basement of a pub between Tottenham Court Road and University College London. It sounded like there was a disco going on upstairs, but we had a sound system so hopefully everyone could hear. The evening was opened up by Stephanie Saulter who read a poem and a short extract from one of her (R)Evolution novels. Then came Chardine Taylor-Stone who read this letter to Octavia Butler from issue #4. There was me, and then there was Alice Sanders with a slightly updated version of this essay from issue #2 about the idiocy of shark movies.

Because I didn’t want to read just part of an essay, I asked Lucy & Laurel if I could read some flash fiction instead. They said yes, so I read something called “Goldilocks and the One Wolf”, which is sort of mythpunk, with Norse gods and gender-bending. It seemed to go down well.

Stephanie, who had been at last night’s BSFA meeting, introduced me to the work of Suniti Namjoshi. I need to go and buy some of her work.

Now I think sleep is in order. Or possibly reading more of Glorious Angels, because I’m enjoying it very much.

Posted in Books, Readings | Leave a comment

Inverted World at Mr. B’s

This evening I was in Bath for the Mr. B’s SF Book Club. The chosen book for this month was Inverted World by Chris Priest. It got a mixed reception.

One of the more interesting things about the book club is that the members are by no means what people might think of as typical science fiction fans. In particular, if a book is all ideas and devoid of interesting characters then they will probably take against it. How times change.

Another thing that the group had trouble with was the cover blurb, which trumpets a supposed twist ending. Now of course the book has to have a big reveal. It is obvious that there must be a reason why the world of the book is so odd. That means that the explanation, when it comes, is hardly a surprise. Obviously the detail is probably unexpected, but the fact that it happens, and the true nature of the world, are pretty much telegraphed.

Priest, of course, has written many other books about twisted perceptions of the world since. I’m sure he’d be the first to say that he’s got better at it. Nevertheless, as Adam Roberts points out in his introduction to the SF Masterworks edition, the idea of a city moving on rails through a post-apocalyptic environment has been very influential down the years. And I’m still blown away by the audacity of trying to create a world like that.

For next month’s meeting the group will be reading Nick Harkaway’s The Gone Away World, a book that really does have a twist to it. I do hope that they like it. My slightly spoilerific review can be found here.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | Comments Off