Book Review – Full Fathom Five

FullFathomFiveHere’s another book with a trans character in it. This one was very different. As I note in the review, blink and you will miss the fact that the character is trans.

On the one hand, that’s not good because it means that there are aspects of being trans that don’t get explored. If it is too easy to be trans in an SF or fantasy world then the problems faced by trans people don’t get discussed. For quite a long time I worried that this book might be one of those. But then I finally worked out why (I think) Max Gladstone chose to use a trans character as the protagonist (yes, the protagonist) of Full Fathom Five, and then I was very happy that he had done so.

Full Fathom Five is an interesting book in other ways too. It is mainly about things like offshore banking, the difficulties faced by small nations trying to stay independent in a world run on trade, and the power of faith.

You can find my review here.

Posted in Books, Gender | Leave a comment

New Juliet E. McKenna Book Forthcoming

Now there’s a nice thing to be able to announce. In October Wizard’s Tower will be publishing Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom, a new collection by Juliet E. McKenna. This volume brings together stories previously available in a range of anthologies and in online and SF convention publications, not all easily found, as well as some new material. There will be a map by the very talented Sophie E. Talis, and a specially commissioned cover by Ben Baldwin (who also did the Aldabreshin Compass covers).

And what’s more the book will be available as a paperback as well as an ebook.

Yeah, the economics suck, but guess who has been teaching herself InDesign so that she can do this. There may, ahem, be another announcement forthcoming soon about a different book.

We’ll be teasing the cover in September. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in review copies, do let me know. I should be able to do PDF ARCs at some point in September.

It sure feels good to be a publisher again.

Posted in Books, Wizard's Tower | 4 Comments

Book Review – Too Like the Lightning

TooLikeTheLightningI am continuing to work my way through books that do interesting things with gender. The latest victim subject is Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer. This is a book that attracted a lot of critical attention when it came out, and deservedly so as it does a lot of interesting things. My review is very long.

The book doesn’t do too well on the gender front. It is one of those SF novels that tries to speculate about the future of gender without bothering to engage much with what people are saying about their genders now. How it does on political philosophy, which encompasses the main thrust of the book’s argument, is still open to question because there is at least one more book to come.

You can find my review here.

Posted in Books, Gender | Leave a comment

Saving Hugo

Worldcon is almost upon us for another year. I am looking forward to having to be up half the night on Saturday to help Kevin and Mur Lafferty host the text-based coverage of the Hugo Award Ceremony. There will also, of course, be a Business Meeting, where thoughts once again will turn to saving Hugo.

Just about everyone is agreed, I think, that poor little Hugo needs to be saved from the Hideous Puppy Hordes. Unfortunately, just as no one seems to be able to agree on what Brexit means (other than that it means “Brexit”, as our Prime Minister so sagely put it), no one seems to be able to agree what saving Hugo means.

There are people who are perfectly happy with the status quo, pointing out that whenever a Puppy-dominated category pops up we can just whack it with a No Award. There are people who will be happy if there can just be one or two finalists in each category that are worth voting for. There are those who want all Puppy picks expunged from the ballot. And there are those who want the Puppies nuked from orbit, both in the present, at all times in the past, and in the future from now until eternity. The solutions required to produce these outcomes are not the same.

It is also true that people can’t agree on what a “Puppy pick” means. Does it include works promoted by the Sads? If so that can be a lot of potential finalists, as this year the Sads tried to do the right thing and build a recommendation list. Does it mean everything on the Rabids slate? That could be a problem, because VD has got into the habit of including some hot favorites on his list so that he can claim to have “won” when those works take the rocket. It is not an easy decision.

Sadly it is not possible to build an automated system that will correctly remove all Puppy picks from the ballot, if only because people can’t agree on what a Puppy pick is. There are those, of course, who think this is an argument for human intervention. “I know a Puppy pick when I see one,” they say. Well yes, you might, but does everyone agree with you?

All of this talk of having people whose job it is to decide which works are worthy of being a Hugo finalist and which are not makes me very nervous. Why? Because I remember people insisting that Emerald City be removed from the ballot. And then when it won demanding that the “Hugo Committee” correct the obvious error and take back my Hugo. Putting someone in charge of deciding what is Hugo-worthy and what isn’t will make it possible for those sorts of demands to be acceded to. Regardless of whether you think I deserved any Hugos or not, I hope you will agree that giving someone that power has the potential to go very badly wrong.

There is a proposal on the agenda (“Additional Finalists”) to give Hugo Administrators the power to add finalists to the ballot, which has less potential for abuse. I think it is important that these issues be debated, but I think they are way more complex than most people think. Currently Hugo Administrators are not expected to have any view on the merits of the works. Giving them that power would change the nature of the job, change who would want to have the job, and ask serious questions about how people were appointed to the job.

Another suggested means of combatting the Puppies is to place new restrictions on who is allowed to vote. There are two proposals aimed at stripping nominating rights away from some of the people who currently have them. Whether this would affect the Puppies or not depends on how willing they are to spend money to get their voting rights. If they are prepared to buy a Supporting Membership each year then it will not restrain them at all. We extended nominating rights to try to encourage more people to take part in the first stage of the ballot. If we take those rights away again, fewer people will nominate, and those people who claim that voting in the Hugos is too expensive will have more of a case.

Up for ratification this year are the two proposals from last year that aim to curtail the power of slate voting. These are “E Pluribus Hugo” (EPH) and “4 and 6”. It has been argued that “EPH” is the better of these because if the Puppies have enough numbers, money and discipline then they can still dominate the entire ballot under “4 and 6”. This is true, though we don’t know whether they are capable of doing that.

On the flip side, “EPH” is less transparent. I can guarantee that if it is implemented then in future everyone who has a beef about the final ballot will complain that they were unfairly discriminated against by it. I have no concerns about the math because I trust the people putting it forward, but I do think it is important that fandom understands what it will do. It is becoming clear that many people thought it would remove all of the Puppy picks from the final ballot, and that’s certainly not the case.

Then we come to a new proposal called “Three Stage Voting”. Do we really need another method to pick from? Well perhaps we do.

Before I get into discussing the details of the proposal I want to address the complaint that having three stages of voting massively increases the workload for Hugo Administrators. It will certainly mean another set of ballots to count, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a 50% increase in work load. Here’s why.

Counting should be a mostly electronic process. These days vast majority of ballots are submitted online and are validated and counted by software. Much of the work involved in Hugo administration revolves around checking eligibility of likely finalists, checking who should get the credit for those works, and sorting out situations where people have nominated the same work under a variety of different names. There have been some embarrassing screw-ups in these areas in the fairly recent past.

As I understand it, the proposal is that the long list generated by the new stage of voting could be less thoroughly checked, and that fandom at large could have some input into the checking process. This would actually reduce the work for the Administrators. In addition, of course, any withdrawals would take place at this stage rather than the final ballot.

One of the proposed benefits of the new system is that it could potentially remove all of the Puppy picks entirely. That’s because it allows the voters, all of them, to make that decision as to whether a work is worthy or not. I think that’s a solution that is far more in keeping with the traditions of the Hugos than appointing a jury. It has been argued that under this system the Puppies would be able to vote off any works they didn’t like. However, that assumes that the Puppies make up at least 60% of the people voting. If that’s the case I think they have won anyway.

By the way, I don’t think that down-voting is a necessary part of the proposal. As long as the majority of voters are non-Puppies, up-voting should be sufficient to produce a decent final ballot when there are only 15 choices. Down-voting will, of course, make those people who want to the ability to vent happy.

However, the thing that interests me most about this proposal is that it directly addresses the problem with the current system, which is not the Puppies, but the way in which the nominating ballot works.

All awards need a means of getting the list of finalists down to manageable proportions. There are vast numbers of novels published each year, and even more short stories. In the case of the Hugos, because eligibility extends to works published anywhere in the world, in any language, the pool of potential finalists is truly vast.

Different methods are used to thin the herd. The British Science Fiction Association and British Fantasy Society allow their members to make the picks before opening voting up to a wider pool of convention attendees. The Clarke Award charges publishers for the right to enter their contest. The Locus Awards has a pool of experts (of whom I am one) charged with picking the long lists. The Hugos use the nominating ballot, and this does not work well for a variety of reasons:

  1. Voter tastes can vary widely, leading to a large number of works all getting a small number of nominations;
  2. This makes the process possible to game by a small, determined group who decide to all vote for the same works;
  3. Every year, despite being continually reassured that this is not the case, large numbers of people recuse themselves from voting claiming that they are “not qualified” to participate.

The three stage system won’t do away with the problems of the nominating ballot, but it will provide a filter on the results of that ballot to control which works get onto the final ballot. Because people will have a limited number of items to vote on, we won’t have the issue of way too many things to pick from. The power of block voting will be much reduced. And most importantly potential voters won’t get that “rabbit in the headlights” feeling they have when faced with an entirely blank nomination ballot. In the second stage, no one will have to “be familiar with the entire field” (as if anyone ever could be), and that should encourage participation.

People have often asked why WSFS doesn’t produce an official recommendation list. The answer is that we’d have to appoint someone to compile it. What three-stage voting does is turn the nominating ballot into a process to create a crowd-sourced recommendation list. Just as works with get the fewest nominations of the finalists can go on to win once more people are aware of them, so I think three-stage voting will allow some of the works in the 6-15 positions in the nominating ballot to gain more attention and possibly make the final ballot.

I’m not 100% convinced by any of these solutions, if only because I don’t think fandom really knows what sort of a fix it wants. Given that, I think it is more important that we give ourselves options to react quickly next year if whatever gets implemented this year doesn’t work out as intended. I can’t be at the Business Meeting, but if I could be this is what I’d be advocating:

  1. We decide which of “EPH” and “4 and 6” to ratify for next year (I prefer 4 and 6, but your mileage may vary), but require it to be re-ratified next year;
  2. We postpone ratification of the other one until next year so it can be implemented for 2018 if required;
  3. We pass “Three Stage Voting” as well so that is also available for implementation in 2018.

Kevin notes that “EPH” and “4 and 6” are not incompatible. We could pass both. I’m not competent to judge whether this would result in elimination of more Puppy picks than “EPH” alone, but I am sure that someone can work it out.

I note in passing that the three-stage voting proposal effectively makes nominations “5 and 15”.

There are lots of other items of business on the agenda. My very best wishes to Jared Dashoff who has a challenging task ahead of him in his first time as Chair. I don’t have firm views on all of the measures, but I do have a couple I would like to highlight.

Firstly please do ratify the “Electronic Signature” motion, which will allow online voting in site selection. It is ridiculous that we allow online voting for the Hugos but not for site selection.

Secondly I’m really impressed with the creative solution that the YA Hugo Committee has come up with. Doubtless some people in the YA field will get all irate about their award being “Not a Hugo”, but by making a proposal for a separate award the YA Committee has neatly sidestepped all of the arguments about exactly how a YA category in the Hugos should be defined, and how to avoid a work winning two Hugos in the same year. I’d like to see their proposal given a try.

Posted in Awards, Conventions, Fandom | 13 Comments

May Fringe Podcasts – Martyn Waites & Paul Cornell

It is that time of the month again. If you are in Bristol this evening do come along to the Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street for 7:30pm to hear Scott Lewis and Jo Lindsay Walton. In the meantime, here are the recordings from the May event featuring Martyn Waites and Paul Cornell.

The event was a crime fiction special in honour of Crimefest, our local crime fiction convention which was due up the following weekend. Martyn does have SF credentials, of which more later, but his fiction is straight crime. In addition to his own books he writes as Tania Carver, and it is one of her books that he reads from here.

Paul, of course, read from Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, the latest in his Shadow Police novels.

And then of course we had the Q&A, which was epic. I, of course, wanted to know the story about how Martyn came to write as Tania. As you will hear, the position of women writers in crime fiction is very different from that in SF&F. Martyn gave me an idea for a panel at BristolCon.

Along the way Martyn also revealed his various SF&F credentials, including publishing a Doctor Who fanzine and featuring in a Robin Hood TV series. We also talked about a book called Great Lost Albums in which Martyn and friends invent famous albums that never were. I was particularly taken by the idea of a Kraftwerk Christmas album.

Paul talked more about the Shadow Police series. Naturally there is discussion of Holmes, and Paul’s recent episode of Elementary. There is also mention of his comic series, This Damned Band. There is, inevitably, some discussion of science fiction television series, which leads to some well-deserved praise for The Expanse.

Posted in Comics, Readings, Science Fiction, TV | 1 Comment

Trans-port Safety Advisory

One of the delights of doing trans awareness training is having a multi-cultural class and meeting people who know more about trans life in their own culture than I do. As a result of yesterday’s course I found out about this fabulous video in which a group of hijra do a traffic safety promotion. Thanks Bhavna!

Posted in Gender | Leave a comment

Olympic Rugby Catch Up

Well that was a pretty good start to rugby’s place in the Olympics.

Congratulations are due to the Canadian women for getting a surprise bronze medal. I didn’t see the game, but apparently it was an inept performance by GB. Congratulations also to the Aussies for grabbing the gold off New Zealand.

The past few days have been taken up with the men’s tournament. The Americans ended up 9th, having narrowly lost to both Argentina and Fiji, and missing making the quarter finals by just a single point. Still, they have no one but themselves to blame after a dreadful error in the last minute lost them the game against Argentina. No shame losing to Fiji, of course. In fact running them so close is heroic.

The quarter finals produced some of the best Sevens rugby I have seen in a long time. Fiji held off a spirited second half fight back from New Zealand. Japan scored in the last minute to beat France (having previously beaten New Zealand in the group stage). GB beat Argentina in extra time after an epic defensive duel that ended 0-0 at full time. Only South Africa’s demolition of Australia was dull.

The semi-finals saw GB involved in another titanic struggle, finally beating South Africa 7-5. Fiji crushed brave Japan and went on the cruise through the final as well. It was expected, but no less delightful for all that. Rugby is Fiji’s national sport, and that gold was the first Olympic medal the country has ever won.

Posted in Rugby | Leave a comment

Mars, The Summer Planet

Thanks to Oliver Morton I have been alerted to a fascinating new scientific study of Mars which provides further proof that water once flowed on the Red Planet. A team from the Open University and the University of Leicester have analyzed rock formations from Gale Crater and have determined that they were formed by the evaporation of ancient lakes. They say that the rocks are very similar to those found at Watchet Bay in North Devon.

Which is all well and good, except that, as the North Devon Journal honestly points out, Watchet Bay is in North Somerset. (Kevin – we drove past it on the way to Minehead.)

Suddenly much becomes clear. Mars was once a planet covered by lakes and marshland. The locals drained the land with an extensive system of canals, or rhines as they called them, allowing them to plant vast apple orchards from which the famous Martian cider was made. One day, we hope, summer will return to Mars, the levels will bloom again, and the Martians will emerge from their caves.

There’s all sorts of nonsense you can build on this. Mon Olympus as the Martian equivalent of Glastonbury Tor, for example. Of course the most famous cave system in Somerset is called Wookey Hole, which suggests that the Martians might be a bit hairy.

Posted in Space, Weird | 2 Comments

WSFA Small Press Award

The Washington Science Fiction Association has released the short list for this year’s Small Press Award. I like this award, partly because it is only for small presses, and partly because all of the judging is done blind. This year has produced a very interesting list.

Of the nine finalists, five are women and four are men. There are three stories from Clarkesworld, including Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please”, which I very much hope will also get a Hugo. Cats are clearly the in thing as two other stories come from Lawrence M. Schoen’s anthology, Cats in Space. One of the finalists is by Tanith Lee. It was published posthumously. I’m also pleased to see a story on the list by Stephanie Burgis who is a BristolCon regular. However, the story I want to win is “The Haunting of Apollo A7LB” by Hannu Rajaniemi, which I fell in love with when I heard Hannu read it at Finconn in 2014.

The full list off finalists is as follows:

  • “The Art of Deception,” by Stephanie Burgis in Insert Title Here, ed. by Tehani Wessely, published by Fablecroft Publishing, (April 2015);
  • “Burn Her,” by Tanith Lee in Dancing Through The Fire, ed. by Ian Randal Strock, published by Fantastic Books (September 2015);
  • “Cat Pictures Please,” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, ed. by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace, (January 2015);
  • “The Empress in Her Glory,” by Robert Reed, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, ed. by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace, (April 2015);
  • “The Haunting of Apollo A7LB,” by Hannu Rajaniemi in Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction published by Tachyon Publications, (May 2015);
  • “Headspace,” by Beth Cato in Cats In Space, ed. by Lawrence M. Schoen, published by Paper Golem LLC, (December 2015);
  • “Leashing the Muse,” by Larry Hodges, published in Space and Time Magazine, ed. by Hildy Silverman, (May 2015);
  • “Leftovers,” by Leona Wisoker in Cats In Space, ed. by Lawrence M. Schoen, published by Paper Golem LLC, (December 2015);
  • “Today I Am Paul,” by Martin L. Shoemaker, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, ed. by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace, (August 2015).
Posted in Awards, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Congratulations, Ujima!

My good friends at Ujima Radio have been awarded a major grant by the Arts Council, as reported here by Bristol 24/7. I should note that this does not mean money for my radio show. The money is primarily intended to help run events alongside the radio station, and will be aimed at the various black communities in Bristol. It will, however, help keep the station running, which is a good thing from my point of view.

Posted in Radio | Leave a comment

International Cat Day

The CatnapApparently it is International Cat Day, which means it is time to give this picture another run out. I was, of course, much younger when it was done.

Actually this is my superhero persona. She is known as The Catnap, because of her awesome powers of falling asleep.

Art by Sue Mason, as you should all have known.

Posted in Personal, Weird | Leave a comment

New SF Translation Resource

I don’t have time to do much work on translated SF&F these days, but I am delighted to see that there is a new site devoted to this important area. Rachel S. Cordasco’s Speculative Fiction in Translation has some great material of its own, and is also gathering together links to other people’s work. It is well worth a look.

Posted in Science Fiction, Translations | Leave a comment

Go Eagles!

As some of you may have noticed, there is an important sporting event going in Brazil on at the moment. Yes, it is an international rugby sevens tournament. There may be some other sports going on too, but we don’t care about them, do we?

Anyway, the ladies’ tournament has been happening over the past few days. Most of the usual suspects have got through the semi-finals, but I want to focus on the USA team.

The Eagles (USA uses the same team name for all genders) were unlucky to be drawn in a pool with Australia and Fiji. Bearing in mind that Fiji are past world champions and one of the favorites for the men’s title, that’s a tough group. Nevertheless, the Eagles managed to hold Australia to a 12-12 draw, which earned them a place in the quarter finals as one of the best 3rd place teams. There they faced New Zealand, and only lost 5-0. The Kiwis had destroyed all of their previous opponents (including France), so that was a really great performance by the Americans.

Kudos also to Canada who beat Fiji in their quarter-final and go forward to a semi-final against Australia. Britain are in the other semi-final, but I expect an Australia-New Zealand final.

The men’s tournament begins tomorrow, and the US team has drawn Fiji, Argentina and Brazil in their group. Given their performances on the sevens circuit of late, they should go through to the quarter-finals from that group.

Posted in Rugby | Leave a comment

Some Notes On Trans Kids

These days we see less outright hostility to trans people in the media, but a great deal more concern trolling. Much of this takes the following form:

Trans people are bad because [long list of things that most trans people do not believe or do]. I would be much more inclined to support trans people if [list of things that most trans people believe and do].

I keep meaning to write things debunking this nonsense, but I have better things to do with my life and to be honest the whole thing gets very tiresome after a while. Fortunately I can rely on other people to do the job for me.

The most recent fuss has been to do with trans kids, because when it comes to concern trolling there’s no better line than, “Won’t someone think of the children?” The articles have centered on the claim that 80% of kids diagnosed as being trans “grow out of it”. I have written about this before, but it is a meme that has an enormous amount of tenacity.

The general thrust of the articles is as follows:

The vast majority of kids diagnosed as being trans grow out it, so huge numbers of cis kids are being misdiagnosed as trans. We must stop all treatment for trans kids so as to avoid any risk of a cis kid being forced into transition.

Of course they don’t put it so bluntly, but that’s what they want to happen, and why they want it to happen.

Part of the problem here is the question of what we mean by the diagnosis. Edition IV of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association had a 5-point test for being trans. One of those is the obvious one of, “Repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex.” However, the DSM rules allowed doctors to diagnose a kid as trans if only 4 of the 5 criteria were met. So it was possible to diagnose a kid as trans even if they did not, in fact, identify as trans. See Kelley Winters for more on this issue.

There’s a lot more that I could write, but Julia Serano has done it for me, and as usual has done it far better than I ever could. This essay is rather long, but it puts the whole fuss into context and whacks all of the necessary moles. Doubtless, as in a game of whack-a-mole, they will all pop up again, but at least we now know what to do to them.

While I am on the subject of trans kids, you may have been me tweeting appeals for the crowdfunding campaign for the Gendered Intelligence Trans Youth Camping Trip. They are in the final week of the campaign, and today they finally hit their target. However, they could probably do with a bit more just in case someone has to back out.

Still on the subject of kids, you may remember that I had some young people doing their National Citizenship Scheme training on the radio show last week. Part of the NCS programme is that the kids should do a community project that raises money for people in need. This year two groups (not in Bristol) have chosen to raise money for GIRES, an excellent organization that does great work for trans people. You can find their campaigns here and here.

Posted in Gender | 3 Comments

This Week on Ujima – Pete Sutton, Hate Crime & Teenagers

Yesterday’s Women’s Outlook show was supposed to kick off with Sarah Hilary talking about her fabulous new crime novel, Tastes Like Fear. However, Sarah is not well, and Pete Sutton gamely stepped in at the last minute to talk about his debut short story collection, A Tiding of Magpies.

Special congratulations were due to Pete and Ian Millstead (both of whom are in Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion) because their stories in North by South West got honorable mentions in the latest Year’s Best Horror anthology from Ellen Datlow. I apologize profusely to Ellen for describing her as the Simon Cowell of the horror industry, but I did say that she’s a much nicer person.

Pete and I also talked briefly about the forthcoming Bristol Festival of Literature. We provided a sneak preview of some of the exciting events that will be happening.

Next up I talked to Jaya Chakrabarti and Paul Breedon about a Peace Picnic that they organized in Knowle West last weekend. There have been some fairly unpleasant hate crime incidents in south Bristol since the Brexit vote, and the community wanted to do something to stand in solidarity with the victims.

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

The second half of the show was given over entirely to a group of young people on a National Citizenship Scheme training program. We had them in the studio as a sort of work experience thing, part of which involved getting interviewed live on air by Paulette and myself. They did very well.

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

The playlist for the show was as follows:

  • Chic – My Forbidden Lover
  • The Pointer Sisters – We Are Family
  • Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Peace, Love & Understanding
  • The O’Jays – Love Train
  • Marvin Gaye – Abraham, Martin & John
  • Stevie Wonder – Superstition
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
  • Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child
Posted in Books, Conventions, Current Affairs, Music, Radio | Leave a comment

It’s Snapshot Week Down Under

The lovely people of the Australian speculative fiction community have this great little tradition of The Snapshot. Every few years they post a series of short interviews with the movers and shakers of the community, so the rest of the world can see what they are up to. The 2016 Snapshot is being published this week, and lots of interviews have appeared on their website.

Possibly the best way to browse the material is via their Twitter feed. The website has a sorted index, but the Twitter feed contains photos of most of the interviewees and is currently more up to date.

I note that not all of the interviewees are wholly Australian. This year, for example, they added Julia Rios on the strength of her work on Kaleidoscope for Twelfth Planet Press. It is vaguely possible that they will also include a mouthy Pom who happened to live in Melbourne for a couple of years.

Posted in Australia, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Book Review – Lizard Radio

Lizard Radio - Pat SchmatzHere is the last of the book reviews I promised you of books with trans characters in them. This one is a Tiptree winner, and oddly enough the one that I was least impressed with.

This review is fairly spoilery. It has to be that way, otherwise I could not explain the problems I have with it. So if you are spoiler averse, don’t click. To read what I have to say about the book, click here.

There will be more trans-related book reviews coming soon, but we are now into August and it is Women in Translation Month, so I need to swap obsessions for a while.

Posted in Books, Gender | Leave a comment

World Fantasy – Plus ça change

Another year, another day of social media full of outrage about something the World Fantasy Convention has done. How tiresomely predictable.

For those who are late to the party, Sarah Pinsker has a lot of inside track on what went on, having tried to save them from their stupidity. Mike Glyer has a round of of Twitter reactions. And Foz Meadows has a lengthy blog post. An earlier blow-up about this year’s convention is reported by Jason Sanford.

You may also want to refresh your memory of some of the previous drama, because this convention sure has history.

Foz concludes her piece as follows:

But we know all that. We’ve said it before. What else is there to say?

I have much sympathy. We’ve been here before. I don’t doubt that we’ll be here again. Some people, however, are bravely trying to do something about it.

Some people have been busy contacting the up-coming WFCs in San Antonio (2017) and Baltimore (2018). This has some promise. The San Antonio event is being run by the people who run Armadillocon which does at least have a harassment policy. I’m hearing some good things on Twitter about the Baltimore event. However, this is only a short term solution. The World Fantasy Board appoints a different group to run each year’s event. They can, and will, continue to give that job to people who produce the sort of convention that they want, rather than the sort of convention other people might want.

Over on Facebook, Tempest Bradford has suggested boycotting the convention. Again this has some merit. The problem is that, as a high profile professional networking event with a membership cap, WFC generally has no trouble attracting attendees. People, and especially aspiring young writers, feel that they need to be seen there. If going to WFC is important to people’s careers, and the only people who go are people who are comfortable at an event aimed primarily at straight cis white men, well I think you can see the problem.

Tempest suggests ghosting the convention (i.e. not buying a membership, but getting a hotel room and joining the bar conversations). She’s absolutely right that this is where all of the action happens. WFC programming has been crap for as long as I can remember, so most people don’t got to it. As a con-runner I’m always a bit nervous about ghosting because it can cause financial problems for the organizers, but if the event is sold out that’s a different matter.

Other people have been suggesting having an alternative convention, perhaps online. I’m certainly interested in that, but the networking really on happens at meatspace events. If you want networking and can get to US events, the Nebula weekend seems to have been going from strength to strength since people with an eye on the future took over SFWA. The Locus Awards weekend is also chock full of leading industry folks. Personally, of course, I would like something more international. Sadly this year’s Eurocon in Barcelona is sold out, otherwise I would suggest y’all come over here instead.

The only way we will get real change, I think, is if the people at the top of the field stop supporting WFC. The convention can only be good for your career if people you want to network with are going to be there. That means publishers, their editors, top writers and so on. We need those people to stand up and tell WFC that they will stop attending unless the event stops being an embarrassment to the industry.

Anyone?

Posted in Conventions | 5 Comments

Book Review – Every Heart A Doorway

Every Heart A Doorway - Seanan McGuireContinuing my reviews of books featuring trans characters, today I am taking on what appears, at least in my little corner of the world, to be one of the most talked about books of the year. If you see someone raving about how good this book is, listen to them.

Oh, and it is a novella, so it is a nice, quick read. There’s not much pain on the “to read” pile.

I wouldn’t need to talk about it, except that it has a trans character so I have to. You can find my review here.

Posted in Books, Gender | 1 Comment

Fox Does Trans Pride

Fox Fisher has posted his video report on this year’s Trans Pride. I have embedded it below. I’m somewhere at the back of that huge crowd outside the Marly at the beginning, but otherwise the film is entirely Cheryl-free, so it is safe to watch.

Posted in Gender, Video | Comments Off on Fox Does Trans Pride