Yesterday on Ujima – Historical Fantasy Preview

I wasn’t in the studio for long yesterday. I just had a half hour slot previewing the Historical Fantasy event we would be doing in Foyles that evening. I had been expecting Juliet McKenna to join me, but an accident near Swindon blocked her access onto the M4 and left her parked and fuming for an hour or so. Thankfully Luciennce Boyce and I were able to have a good discussion, which mostly didn’t overlap with what we said in the evening.

The rest of the show was given over to an interview with the head of the Bristol Green party, Councilor Daniella Radice. I need to listen to that myself. I couldn’t stick around for too long as I had to go and find Juliet.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here, and the second hour here.

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A Little Civil Rights Campaigning

If you listened to last week’s Women’s Outlook show you will have heard from a very articulate young man called David McLeod. David is something of a legend in the Bristol Afro-Caribbean community, having successfully won a racial discrimination case against his then employers, a large local school. The short version is that David, having been doing a job very well for some time, was passed over for promotion in favor of a white person with fewer qualifications, for a job that was all about outreach to ethnic minority communities. The tribunal found evidence of other instances of racial discrimination at the school as well, and in the wake of this the head teacher, Gill Kelly, decided to look for alternative employment.

You will have heard me rant before about how anti-discrimination laws are often toothless. Sure David won his case, but it will be very difficult for him to get a new job. What HR department is going to recommend hiring someone who sued his former employer for discrimination? Ms. Kelly, on the other hand, was spared the indignity of being fired for the lapses that took place on her watch. And now we learn that she has been given a high profile consulting job by the City Council’s education department. That, dear readers, is what privilege is all about.

We talked about this with David after the show last week and Paulette, being Paulette, was immediately organizing a protest and phoning all of her media contacts. I volunteered to contact my colleagues at Bristol 24/7. I wasn’t sure what to expect as they are a relatively new outfit and I’ve not actually met any of them, but I was delighted to see them run a big story about David yesterday.

It gets better. The BBC picked up the story, even crediting us for breaking it. And today we ran a new article featuring legendary Bristol civil rights campaigner, Paul Stevenson.

I am very pleased. I don’t know whether anything concrete will come of all this. Institutional racism is a very hard thing to break down. But at least the city’s new media is taking a stand, and forcing some of the old media to take notice. The Post, of course, seems to have missed the story entirely.

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Game of History Reminder

A Game of History
As noted last week, tomorrow evening I will be chairing an event at Foyles in Bristol. It will feature Juliet E. McKenna, Lucienne Boyce, Helen Hollick and Jack Wolf. I hope to see some of you there.

Also, Juliet and Lucienne will be joining me on Ujima Radio’s Women’s Outlook show at noon to discuss the panel and their work.

It should be a great day. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

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The Future is Luxurious, and French

Well here is an exciting thing.

The Comité Colbert is a trade association of French luxury goods manufacturers founded in 1954. Members produce all sorts of things from fashion to champagne to furniture. Also, crucially, some of them publish books. Naturally they exist to encourage people to buy fine French merchandise.

Given all of the doom, gloom and austerity around at the moment, these good people decided that the world needed a bit of cheering up. So they commissioned a bunch of French science fiction writers to imagine a utopia (set in 2074) in which everyone would be able to partake of a little French luxury.

The result is an anthology called Dreaming 2074. And because this is, after all, a marketing exercise, the Comité Colbert has paid to have the book translated into English, and is making the ebook edition available for free. You can download it here.

So basically you lucky people are getting seven stories by top French science fiction writers translated into English for free. Well, six writers actually. One of the stories is a musical interlude present in the book only as a QR code. Anyway, go snap them up. The Table of Contents is as follows:

  • Porphyrian Tree (Xavier Mauméjean)
  • Amber Queen (Olivier Paquet)
  • Facets (Samantha Bailly)
  • Future Mirages (Roque Rivas) (Musical illustration)
  • Diamond Anniversary (Jean-Claude Dunyach)
  • A Corner of Her Mind (Anne Fakhouri)
  • The Chimeras’ Gift (Joëlle Wintrebert)
Posted in Books, Translations | 1 Comment

Giant Squid Book

Last week I got tempted by a very big book. This one. Yes, I know, it is Lovecraft. But if you want to deconstruct Lovecraft you have to know a bit about what he wrote, and this book looks invaluable from that point of view.

Also it is ridiculously good value at only £25.

Of course I have dipped into it. You know that thing when you have written a story around an actual sequence of historical events, and then some new research revels that a key date you had was wrong, and it blows a hole in your plot… Yeah, that.

Posted in Books, Weird, Writing | 4 Comments

World Fantasy Awards

This year’s World Fantasy Award winners were announced yesterday. I’m horribly behind on reading, but I can assure you that the winners look very good indeed.

Special congratulations are due to my pals at Clarkesworld who have finally picked up the Special Award – Not A Full Time Job category. I knew they’d get there eventually.

I also note that, out of nine categories, all but two include at least one woman in the list of winners. In four of the categories all of the winners are women. You know what this means, don’t you, folks?

OMG! The FemiNazis Have Destroyed Fantasy!!!

Eat cooties, dudebros.

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New Bristol Writers Anthology Crowdfunds

A bunch of my Bristol-based writer pals are currently running a crowdfunding campaign for an anthology. It features a number of people who will be familiar to you, especially if you have been to BristolCon, listened to Fringe podcasts, or read Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion. Pete Sutton is running the campaign; Jo Hall is editing the book; contributors include Pete, Roz Clarke, John Hawkes-Reed, Kevlin Henney, Ian Millsted, Justin Newland & Desiree Fischer. Some of the stories in the book have been read at Fringe events. Illustrations are provided by Claire Hutt. The book will be called North by Southwest, and you can back it here.

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New Venue for Queer Writing

I spotted this on Twitter the other day. It is a magazine called Vitality which aims to publish, “awesome literature featuring queer protagonists”. Given my article for Holdfast this week, I am delighted to see that Vitality wants material that portrays queer people in a positive light, and shows queer people living ordinary lives. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, they are offering a pretty good pay rate (though I note that SFWA professional rates are now 6c/word, not 5c, so anything published by Vitality won’t count as a professional sale). Submission guidelines are available here.

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Thanks, Sir Elton

As some of you will know, Sir Elton John founded a charity devoted to helping people with HIV/AIDS. They work primarily by granting money to other charities, to research projects and so on. Yesterday they announced a grant of $200,000 to one of my favorite organizations, the Transgender Law Center. The money will be used to undertake a national (USA) needs assessment of trans people living with HIV. For further details, see this news story. I’m delighted to see Elton, not only standing up for trans people, but also putting his foundation’s money forward to help them.

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Beer Review – X-Ale

X-Ale
My pals at Independent Spirit Bath tell me that this is technically a red ale, but it is quite dark in color and the tasting notes say is has notes of dark chocolate and spices. I can see exactly what they mean. It is a little too bitter to get on my favorites list, but it is definitely drinkable. Also it has dinosaurs on the label, which is really all that you need to know. It is X-Ale, and it is available from Partizan Brewing of Bermondsey.

Posted in Food | 4 Comments

This Week’s Radio – Judy Darley, Bristol Homeless, Black Identity

I began Wednesday’s show with a few mentions of people. As many of you will know, Caroline Symcox has just been inaugurated as Vicar of Fairford, which is not that far away from Bristol. I suspect that Paul Cornell is hoping that the vicar and her spouse get an invitation to the town’s famous air show.

Also in the mentions list were the environmental campaigners from Avonmouth, whom I had on the show back in July. Council staff had tried to sneak through approval of the biomass plant without debate, but the Councillors insisted on discussing the matter and, much to everyone’s surprise, denied the planning application. The expectation is that the power company will go running to the government who will order Bristol to change its mind, but at least our local politicians have made a stand. My colleagues at Bristol 24/7 have the story.

Finally I played a tribute to the great Acker Bilk, one of our local area’s finest musicians, who sadly died on Sunday.

My guest for Wednesday was local writer, Judy Darley. As Judy mainly does short and flash fiction, she was able to read some of her work on air. Much of Judy’s writing is inspired by works of art, which makes it very different from the sort of thing I normally read, but fascinating all the same.

Paulette took over for the next half hour, and welcomed Caz from the One Love Breakfast Show (which Ujima co-hosts with BCFM). Today they were doing a fund raiser for homeless people in Bristol, which is a very good thing to be doing at this time of year. Caz also looked back on the special edition of the show that featured Mayor Ferguson answering questions live in the studio.

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

The second hour was given over entirely to a discussion of black identity, so it was very much a Paulette thing.

I suspect that most of you won’t know that Haile Selassie once lived in Bath. The house where is lived is now a museum, and naturally it is a focus for local Rastafarians. It was great to have Shawn Sobers from that project on the show.

Some of the discussion will ring true with those of you who get irritated by the habit of our American friends of referring to all black people as African-American. (He’s from Wakanda, damnit! He’s African.) I was also reminded of a discussion on the Writers Of Colour tweet stream over the weekend in which they talked about being “politically black”.

You can listen to the second hour here.

As a reminder, next week I will have Juliet McKenna and Lucienne Boyce in the studio to talk about historical fantasy. I think I might play some Bat for Lashes.

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Historical Fantasy Comes to Bristol

Historical Fantasy
Next week (Wed. Nov. 12th) at Foyles in Bristol there will be a major event on the subject of the links between historical fiction and fantasy.

One of the guest authors on the panel will be the fabulous Juliet E. McKenna who is, of course, published by Wizard’s Tower.

Alongside Juliet will be Jack Wolf, author of the fabulous The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and Helen Hollick, who has written Arthurian and Pirate-themed novels. The whole thing has been put together by Bristol author, Lucienne Boyce, who is best known to me as a local historian but who has also written a novel, To the Fair Land, which tells of a voyage to the mythical land of Terra Australis.

Obviously such a collection of brilliant novelists needs to be kept well in hand, and that means they need someone to chair the event. That would be, er, me…

The event is free to attend, so I hope I’ll see a bunch of Bristol-based people there. For those of you who are not able to get to Bristol, Juliet and Lucienne will be joining me in the Ujima studio to preview the event and talk about their writing. For further details, see here.

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Trans Guys On Film

Today seems to be a day for films featuring trans people to turn up in my Twitter stream, so I thought I would pass them on.

First up we have Ryan Kennedy and Hazel Edwards talking about their book, f2m: the boy within, and about Ryan’s transition. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ryan and Hazel on my various trips to the other side of the globe and they are lovely people.

Next up is a brief update from the fabulous Fox. I’m seriously impressed that he has done a TED talk, and I can’t wait to see it.

And finally, here is Fox’s business partner, Lewis, giving his latest life update.

I guess a common thread throughout those films is the need for those of us lucky enough to be able to be out to represent the trans community to the rest of the world. As Fox says, the more of us there are, the more normal we are going to seem.

At the same time, Lewis is quite right, we need to be doing things other than being publicly trans. I love the idea of trans actors getting roles playing cis people. I mean, why shouldn’t we? (Cue various New Statesman columnists complaining about appropriation and how the horrible Tr*nnies are oppressing them again.)

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Holdfast Does Diversity (includes me)

Issue 4 of Holdfast Magazine went online today. This is a diversity special. It includes awesome stuff like an interview with Stephanie Saulter, an Afrofuturism playlist, a letter to Octavia Butler, and even a contribution from me.

My article is titled, “There’s More To Me Than Crisis And Tragedy”, and it is all about how trans characters in books, even when authors make a determined effort to get things right, can still manage to portray trans people in something of a negative light. Of course given where we are starting from — either being ignored of laughed at — any attempt at a respectful representation is to be welcomed. But I do think that authors can do better, and I hope that they will. You can read the article here.

I suspect that one or two people reading that will think I’ve lost my mind, because all they will remember of Triton is the character of Bron. If you are in that group, I’d like to remind you that Sam is a trans character too. As I recall, Chip was living downstairs from a gender clinic when he wrote that book. He will have seen the full spectrum of patients, both good and bad.

It also occurs to me that I should have made mention of Sandra MacDonald’s lovely collection, Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories. Diana is definitely a trans character who gets to do more than suffer.

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Afrofuturist Film Kickstarter

I’ve heard from Ytasha Womack via Twitter about Bar Star City, an Afrofuturist movie that she is crowdfunding. You can find the campaign here. It looks very cool.

Having said that, checking out the campaign makes me so glad that I’m into books rather than movies, because you can offer much better low-value perks. Of course if you get to make a successful movie the upside can be much greater, but I’m quite happy in my little literary corner of the world.

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Neil Clarke on Translations

The new issue of Clarkesworld is now available. It has some excellent content, including stories by Pat Cadigan, Ken Macleod, Robert Reed and Ken Liu. But I want to highlight something that Neil said in his editorial:

Along those lines, a reader asked me why we decided to go with a regular feature over a special issue or anthology. It’s a good question, particularly in light of how fashionable the latter has become in recent years. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with special issues, I’m not a big fan of the one-and-done model of promoting a cause. They might make a big splash and generate some warm fuzzies, but months later, it’s largely forgotten.

I want translations to become something normal. They shouldn’t stand out or be special because of where they originate. Regularly publishing stories from other parts of the world is the best way to do that. If something is important, make it part of who you are.

Much as I love some of the special issues and anthologies that have been created in recent months (and indeed may do something like that myself), I absolutely agree with Neil that one-offs are not enough. If we want lasting change, it has to be a central part of what we do.

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Destruction Goes Rainbow

Yes folks, it is time to Destroy Science Fiction again. This time the fine folks at Lightspeed want Queers to do the job. Goodness only knows what the Dudebros are going to make of that.

I guess I’d better try to think of a story idea, though actually I need to finish the story for Accessing the Future first.

Anyway, if you are interested in submitting to Queers Destroy Science Fiction, the guidelines are here. And keep a lookout for the crowdfunding campaign, because if they get enough money they are going to queer fantasy and horror too.

Posted in Feminism, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Coming Soon in That London: Nigerian Fantasy, Arabic SF

Geoff Ryman has alerted me to an event featuring top Nigerian fantasy writer, Okey Ndibe. It is taking place on Saturday at Book & Kitchen. Details are as follows:

Saturday 1st November, 2014
4.00 pm
at BOOK AND KITCHEN
31 All Saints Road
London W11
near Ladbroke Grove tube, parallel to Portobello Road

Mr Ndibe was editor under Chinua Achebe of the Journal African Commentary. He is a regularly published essayist and journalist. He co-edited Writers, Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa (Adonis Abbey, 2009). His first novel, Arrows Of Rain is a powerful story of injustice in an fictitious African society, the role of storytellers and journalists and much else besides. Foreign Gods Inc. is similalry multi-layered novel about Nigeria, its religions, and its relationship to itself and the West.

Looking slightly further ahead, I have email from Yasmin Khan about the forthcoming event on Arabic SF at the Science Musuem. The speakers will include top journalist, Samira Ahmed and Saudi author, Yasser Bahjat, whom you all should know, plus three names who are new to me. Hassan Abdulrazzak is an Iraqi novelist and biologist who is turning his hand to SF; Ehsan Masood is a science journalist who has worked for New Scientist and Nature; and Larissa Sansour is a Palestinian filmmaker. Further details here.

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This Week’s Radio – Food, Feminism, Lady Mayoress

First up on Wednesday’s show I interviewed Daphne Lambert who is crowdfunding a book called Living Food: A Feast For Soil & Soul on Unbound. There was some general chat about seasonal food, healthy food, environmental awareness and so on. Possibly the most interesting thing that came up, however, was the enormous amount of pumpkin flesh that gets wasted every year in the UK at Halloween. 18,000 tons of the stuff, according to The Independent. I shudder to think how much goes wasted in the USA.

Daphne was accompanied by her friend, Elizabeth Winkler, who provided that little titbit. For the second half hour Paulette took over and we had a bit of a feminist rant, in particular about how the UK has fallen down the international league table, as explained here by The Guardian. The fact that we rate 26th is bad enough, but to drop from 18th to 26th in just the past year is very worrying.

You can listen to the first hour here.

Next up, Judeline took over the microphone to interview our friend Sabitha (sorry love, don’t have your last name written down and don’t want to mangle it). This turned out to be mainly about the growth of racism in the UK in recent years.

And finally, we were delighted to welcome Shilpi Choudhury, the wife of Bristol’s last Lord Mayor, Faruk Choudhury. Her story of how a young couple of Bangladesh came to the UK to study and ended up as Bristol’s first citizens was tremendously encouraging after the somewhat negative tone of the past two segments. Also the deli that Shilpi has opened, Chai Shai, sounds very interesting. (And I note that the finding for the deli came via Outset, the organization that I talked to Amy Morse about a few weeks back. Paulette ran this one.

You can listen to the second hour here.

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Scary Monsters?

Halloween Moomins
What’s the scariest thing you can see on Halloween? Well for some people it is apparently Moomins. Not these Moomins, though. They definitely have teh cute. They were pointed out to me by a kindly Twitter follower from Japan. You can see more photos of the group here.

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