Fringe Tonight – Paul Cornell & Martyn Waites

If you are anywhere near Bristol this evening then make your way to the Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street for the May edition of BristolCon Fringe. This is a crime special, and our guest readers will be Paul Cornell and Martyn Waites.

Paul should be familiar to all of you. He’ll be reading from his forthcoming novel, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes, which I talked to him about on the radio the other week. It is, of course, the latest in the Shadow Police series, and I enjoyed it a lot. Paul is doing launch events for the book at Forbidden Planet in London on Thursday and Bristol on Saturday.

Martyn is more of a straight crime guy and has an impressive track record. He’s also a former TV actor, and he’s definitely One Of Us. I want to talk to him about this book. He also moonlights as crime writer, Tania Carver. There are not many male authors around who use a female pen name, so I’ll be interested to ask about this when we get to the Q&A.

All of which can be taken to imply that yes, I will be hosting the event as usual. 7:30pm start. See you all there.

Posted in Readings | 1 Comment

The Silk Road

One of my primary procrastination habits is watching history documentaries. Obviously they tend to be a bit superficial, but you can still learn stuff to follow up. Recently I have been watching Sam Willis’s BBC4 series, The Silk Road, which aired the final episode last night. My guess is that a lot of it is based on the similarly named book by Peter Frankopan, which Guy Gavriel Kay enthusiastically recommended in my recent interview with him, but that’s £30 and long enough to justify the price tag so I don’t think I’ll be reading it any time soon.

So what did I learn from last night? Well for starters I got to see part of the underground irrigation system that Glenda Larke used to great effect in designing the world of The Watergivers. History and epic fantasy truly are joined at the hip.

I also discovered that the distinctive teardrop shape in Paisley fabric designs is Persian in origin and may symbolize the sacred flame of Zoroastrianism.

And finally I learned that the practice of covering walls with mass-produced, pre-patterned ceramic tiles was first developed by Baha’ ad-Din al-`Amili, architect of the Shah Mosque in Isfahan. Yet another great invention that Islamic civilization has given the world.

Posted in History, TV | 3 Comments

Ray Gunn & Starburst – Last Day

This is a gentle reminder that if you haven’t signed up for the Ray Gunn and Starburst crowdfunding campaign then it will soon be too late, because it ends today.

Currently the campaign is just shy of 50% funding, but it is on a flexible scheme so it doesn’t have to make the target. Hopefully Olly and the crew can make up the shortfall elsewhere. But in the meantime every little helps.

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The Darkening Garden: The Exhibition

As some of you will know, The Darkening Garden is the title of John Clute’s book about horror fiction. It is now also the title of an art exhibition by Judith Clute. You can find it at the Camden Image Gallery (just round the corner from Camden Road railway station). I was there last night for the launch night party, as were many other people from the SF scene.

The exhibition looks great. I have seen a lot of Judith’s art over the past 10 years or so, but it has always been spread about the Clute flat, and often half-finished. To see a large collection of it on gallery walls was a great pleasure. Even better, people were buying it. Here’s hoping that Judith does well out of it.

After the party I went out for dinner with Farah Mendlesohn, Edward James, Liz Williams, Roz Kaveney and Dave Lally. We had been wondering where might be good in the area and Roz mentioned that she’d eaten at a Thai place just around the corner a while back. We went and looked, and it was still there, but now more Cambodian in its cuisine. Roz did some sums and realized it was 25 years ago that she last ate there, but hey, the food was great. How Roz manages this sort of trick is a great mystery to me. If you happen to be in Camden, Lemongrass has great food and is pretty good value. I had the spring chilli chicken.

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Ray Gunn & Starburst Crowdfunding

Ray Gunn & Starburst
Those of you who follow my radio show will remember that last week I was lucky enough to have Olly Rose in the studio. Olly is the scriptwriter for Ray Gunn and Starburst, a fabulous audio comedy series. However, not everyone wants to listen to me playing at being a DJ, so I thought I should remind you that Olly and the crew have a crowdfunding campaign going to help finance season two of the show.

Why should you give them money? Well for starters you could just listen to season one, and if you enjoy it as much as Kevin and I did I think my case is made. Otherwise, you’ll just have to trust me, OK?

I’m a cute feline, of course you can trust me.

Wait… what?

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Mike Carey Reminder

Fellside - Mike Carey
This is mainly for Bristol people, but there will be radio coverage too.

Next Wednesday (May 18th) Mike Carey will be in Bristol to promote his latest book, Fellside. He will be on the radio with me at lunchtime, and in the evening we’ll be doing an event at Waterstones. So poor Mike gets to be interviewed by me twice in one day. I hope he doesn’t get too bored.

I, er, promise not to ask him about the next Felix Castor book more than once per interview, OK?

Anyway, it should be great. If you are in Bristol, please do come along in the evening. You can book (for free) here. If you are not local, I’ll be posting the Listen Again links to the show. I’ll try to get audio of the thing in Waterstones too, but I can’t guarantee I’ll get anything of decent quality.

Oh, and Fellside? Gripping.

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Stephanie Saulter Interview

Last September I did a Skype interview with Stephanie Saulter for Women’s Outlook to promote her new book, Regeneration. As is usual with such things, Stephanie and I talked for far longer than I could possibly broadcast. As the book is being published in the USA this month I thought this would be a good time to dig out the full interview and publish it.

Obviously the discussion is a little old, but as far as I can make out the only thing that is dated is our discussion of Marlon James’ chances in the Booker. I’m delighted that he won, even though that meant I had no chance of getting an interview.

I have a bunch of other SFF-related interviews from Ujima shows that I really need to get online because the Listen Again links have vanished. All I need is a little time, right?

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How To Do Government

Loretta Lynch on trans rights
Not a lot I can add to that, save to thank Brianna Wu for the image.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Leave a comment

January Fringe Recordings – Nick Walters & Will Loram

The podcasts for the January edition of BristolCon Fringe have gone live. This was a comedy special featuring Nick Walters and Will Loram.

As Will had been eaten by aliens, or by the Welsh, or by Bristol’s traffic, Nick kindly agreed to take the mic first. Nick had arrived hotfoot from a training course on project management, which is perhaps ideal preparation for reading from a novel in which the Earth is menaced by alien bureaucrats. Fortunately a certain Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart will arrive to save the day, though not in the extract that Nick reads.

Fortunately Will did finally make it to the event. His reading is from a novel in which… well, maybe it is best to let him explain that. But there are pirates, OK? And dragons. And lots of bureaucracy, because there’s nothing that the British like more than making fun of bureaucrats.

Finally our readers for January were asked to explain themselves, which was almost certainly a bad idea because you should never try to explain comedy. I tried hard to make project management sound amusing and failed dismally. Nick explained ASBOs for the benefit of foreign readers. Will explained more about the world of his book. We narrowly avoid mention of fluffy cushions.

The next Fringe event will be on May 16th and will feature Paul Cornell and Martyn Waites. Full details here.

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Bath, Fairies and Feminism

Today I was up early and off to Bath to catch some of the participants in Emma Newman’s Split Worlds Ball before they were too busy. It is an absolutely amazing event that Emma and her friends are staging. How they are going to manage a LARP with over 80 participants is a mystery to me.

Still, I know a few of the participants, so I will hopefully get reports back of how it went. Always assuming they survive the evening. You never can tell where the fae are concerned. I should have some audio, and a few pictures, but you know what fairies are like with electronic stuff.

Over lunch I headed off to Victoria Park for the joint BGEN/WEP intersectionality picnic. Quite a few more WEP members turned up this time, and BGEN was out in force as usual. Everyone seemed to get on very well, and the older ladies from the WEP appeared very keen to learn from us. Weirdly I found myself explaining what things like “no homo” and “friend zone” mean. I guess I’m not as out of touch as I think.

There was a great deal of excitement about how well Sophie Walker did in the London mayoral elections. Obviously no one expected her to win, but getting 2% of the vote is a substantial achievement for a party that is barely a year old. Next up, get more votes than UKIP.

That done, several of us trooped back into town to visit Mr. B’s and to do Free Comic Book Day. And then Olly and I trotted back to the Guildhall to catch some of the fairies. Olly, as well as being a genius radio comedy writer, is also a champion cosplayer. We had a great conversation about the difference between comic conventions and Worldcon and I got to show some of my old masquerade pictures.

I am now back home and not really fit enough for much except dinner and TV. If I had a bath I would be in it. Not complaining though, it is lovely to have warm weather at last. I think it might be safe to turn the heating off.

Posted in Comics, Costuming, Current Affairs, Gender | Leave a comment

The Finns Have Weirded (Again)

One of the places I would love to be this weekend is Åcon. Sadly I can’t afford to do Finncon, Barcelona and a second trip to Finland. So profuse apologies to Zen Cho, whom I would have loved to hang out with, and best wishes to everyone currently in Mariehamn.

Fortunately, even though I can’t visit the Finns, they have visited me, in the form of a new issue of The Finnish Weird. This excellent little magazine features all that is good in Finnish weird fiction. Issue #3 includes the fabulous Johanna Sinisalo and Anne Leinonen. It also features three authors that I am less familiar with. They are all women, naturally. Magdalena Hai has blue hair for extra bonus weirdness.

The new issue, and the two previous issues, are available for free download as ebooks here. They do normally make paper editions too. Hopefully I can pick one up at Finncon.

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This Week’s Women’s Outlook Show

Sorry this is a bit late. I’ve been rather busy with doing trans awareness training and various LGBT-related meetings in Bristol. Here’s what we had on Wednesday’s show.

The first hour was mainly my interview with Guy Gavriel Kay about Children of Earth and Sky. Guy and I talked for almost an hour, and I managed to boil that down to three 7-8 minute segments. I’ll post the whole thing on Salon Futura later. The discussion will be of particular interest to Croatian readers. There are brief mentions of Mihaela and Iggy.

After the second ad break I talked a bit about Prince, and other black musicians who died recently. Any recommendations as to what Papa Wemba songs I should play would be gratefully received. I also chatted brief with Olly Rose about musical heroes, “dad music” and the like. (Or in my case more like grandma music.)

You can listen to the first half of the show here. Thankfully it is audio only, so you can’t see me playing air guitar along with Nils Lofgren.

The second half of the show begins with me talking to Olly Rose about their fabulous sf audio comedy, Ray Gunn and Starburst. Series 1 is well worth a listen, and if you want to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign for series 2 you can do so here.

My final guest this week was Paul Cornell. We talked mainly about his new Shadow Police novel, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? Because Paul and I know each other rather well the conversation went a bit off the rails in places and there was giggling. Paul will be reading from the book at BristolCon Fringe later this month, and at a book launches at Forbidden Planet London and Bristol a few days later.

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

The playlist for the show was as follows:

  • When Doves Cry – Prince
  • I Feel For You – Chaka Khan
  • Manic Monday – The Bangles
  • Purple Rain – Bruce Springsteen
  • Let’s Go Crazy – Prince
  • Little Red Corvette – Prince
  • How Come You Don’t Call Me? – Alicia Keys
  • 1999 – Prince

All of the songs were written by Prince.

I’ll be back on air on May 18th, with Mike Carey. Mike and I are doing two interviews that day: once on the radio and once at Waterstones in the evening. I’m currently reading Fellside and am very impressed.

Posted in Books, Podcasts, Radio, Readings | Leave a comment

Tolkien Lecture – Terri Windling!

Tolkien Lecture 2016 - Terri Windling
May 26th in Oxford. This year’s Pembroke College Lecture in honor of JRR Tolkien will be given by the fabulous Terri Windling. Be there, or be menaced by tiny boggles who will poke you with sharp twigs.

Attendance is free, but please book so that the college can keep an eye on numbers. Details here.

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Introducing SharkPunk

I have email from Jonathan Green asking me to promote the call of submissions for SharkPunk 2, an anthology of genre fiction featuring sharks. There has been a SharkPunk 1, which apparently featured:

space sharks, ghost sharks, Franken-sharks, psychological sharks, and “sharks with frikkin’ laser-beams attached to their heads”

The book will be financed through a Kickstarter campaign and published by SnowBooks. Payment will be £50, a copy of the book, and royalties if it earns out. Word count is 3,500 to 7,000. Further details here.

So: pirate sharks, zombie sharks, kick-ass woman warrior sharks… Or maybe alien shark people who decided that Earth has to be destroyed because the dominant indigenous species is too vicious and needs to be culled. It is entirely up to you. Good luck!

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I Am Cait #2.8

I have finally seen the finale of season 2 of I Am Cait. Clearly it was intended to bookend the season. Back in episode 1 the season started off with the other girls getting angry with Caitlyn over her support of the Republicans, and of Ted Cruz in particular. Episode 8 is the end point of Caitlyn’s journey from right-wing drone to leftist activist. Well, sort of.

More of that later, but first the more interesting part of the show which featured Ella and her relationship with her father. When Ella was introduced to the show it was as the trans daughter of an old friend of Caitlyn’s. In episode 8 we got to meet this guy, who was very supportive of the girls. Afterwards Ella was a bit upset and basically doing the, “you have no idea how much hell he put me though” thing. Eventually Ella and dad get to have a chat, and it all turns out in the end, which was good TV but did feel a but scripted. I hope it wasn’t.

The point of all this is to show how hard things can be for young trans kids, and indeed for any trans person who has a family. With most problems in life, you tend to feel that the one group of people you can turn to for support is your family. For trans people it tends to be the exactly opposite — family are the people who find it hardest to accept you.

Part of that, of course, is that they have known you longer and better than anyone else, and therefore find it harder to come to terms with what they see as a “new” you. But part of it is also that families are very much afraid of the social opprobrium that will descend upon them because of what you have done. It is the same sort of dynamic that leads to honor killings.

We have to hope that in time society will become sufficiently accepting of trans folks that families will no longer feel shame, and be afraid of losing status, because a relative comes out as trans. It appears to have mostly happened (in Western countries) with lesbians and gay men. We are still a long way from it with trans. Ella was lucky, in that her dad was able to get over the shame he felt at having to tell his mates that his child was transitioning. Caitlyn probably helped a lot with that, simply by being very publicly trans and famous. Other trans people aren’t so lucky. Sometimes if you love your family you have to let them go and give them time to get used to you and want to come back.

Meanwhile, back with the politics. As anyone who is following the news knows, Caitlyn hasn’t exactly turned her back on Republicanism. She is still, after all, a very rich person with a lot to lose under a more left-wing government. What she is slowly coming to realize, however, is that a lot of her friends have far more to lose under the likes of Cruz, and that she too could fall victim to that. Losing half a million dollars in taxes when you are worth billions is one thing; losing your ability to participate in public life because you are banned from using toilets and openly discriminated against by many businesses is quite another.

The main thrust of this episode was a trip to Houston to confront the right-wing pastors who led the campaign to repeal HERO, the city’s equal rights ordinance. This was a fairly general piece of legislation promoting equality in a wide range of areas. It was brought down by a campaign that pretended the law was specifically about allowing trans pedophiles into women’s toilets.

I note in passing that I now feel so much less guilty about all those years of yelling abuse at Lance Berkman from the stands at Emperor Norton Field. The guy really is an unpleasant piece of work.

As television the episode didn’t work that well because the crew was refused permission to film at either of the churches they tried to attend. We have only the cast’s reports of what happened. They do, however, ring true. Apparently, while the pastors and older members of the congregations mostly shunned them, the young kids all wanted to take selfies with Caitlyn. Even Kate Bornstein was very positive about the change that Caitlyn is helping make happen.

What the show didn’t show is the controversy that surrounded its making. The trans community in Houston, and specifically black trans people, had been very much involved in getting HERO passed in the first place, and in the fight to keep it. No attempt was made to involve them in the show. Instead the crew brought in Mara Kiesling, a high profile, Washington-based, white trans activist.

I’ve met Mara and liked her. She does a very good job. But the apparent shunning of the local black activists in favor of a Washington-based white one did not go unnoticed. Whether this was the result of cluelessness, or a feeling that the local activists had failed, or that the show didn’t want to upset Texas too much my showcasing people who were black as well as trans, isn’t clear. It also doesn’t matter, because the damage got done either way.

There has been some talk on Twitter about there being a season 3, and I know some people have been agitating for the show to look at trans communities outside of the USA. That would be good. But I think it has work to do inside the USA first. Right now it is very much a show about good-looking, gender-normative, mostly-white trans women. There was the debacle last season over Angelica Ross, and the one this season over Houston. We’ve seen nothing of Laverne Cox or Janet Mock, who are far more articulate advocates for the trans cause than Caitlyn, and we have seen very little of trans guys or non-binary people. Before the show starts to look at the wider world, it needs to look at the whole of the US trans community.

Posted in Gender, TV | 1 Comment

The WEP and Me

Yesterday I headed into Bath. Part of that was to do some shopping. I had a copy of the new Johanna Sinisalo book, The Core of the Sun, to pick up from Mr. B’s. I’m very much looking forward to that one. I also discovered the Saturday market that they have in the old Green Park Station building (Green Park was the northern terminus of the Somerset & Dorset Railway, or the Slow & Dirty, as it was known in these here parts). There I found Somerset Charcuterie, who do some very nice salamis. I picked up packets of the Garlic & Black Pepper, and the Red Wine & Blue Cheese flavors, both of which are very nice.

The main point of the day, however, was to attend a meeting of the Women’s Equality Party. There has been some concern that the WEP might end up a White Feminist party. I was encouraged by the interview I did with Jess from the Bristol branch on Ujima a few weeks ago. However, the Facebook page of the Bath branch has seen a lot of TERF presence. There was some concern that these people might actually be members of the Bath group, as opposed to trolls. So I went along to a party meeting to see what these people were like.

I am pleased to report that I was made very welcome. I’m pretty sure that most WEP members are reasonable people who do want equality. I note also that Sophie Walker, the party leader, has stood up to TERFs in online discussions. And the leaflets they had at the meeting clearly said that the party welcomes member of all genders. No doubt the mob at the New Statesman will be doing whatever they can to change this, but for now the WEP appears to be shaping up quite well.

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New From Aqueduct

I have email today from the very fine people at Aqueduct Press, informing me of new books that they have available. A couple of them look very interesting.

The first is a new novel from Andrea Hairston. Will Do Magic for Small Change is a follow-up of sorts (though a couple of generations later) to her Redwood and Wildfire, which won the Tiptree and Kindred awards. It looks like a really interesting book.

Of great interest to me, though possibly not to many of you, is The Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism, a collection of non-fiction writing by the legendary Judith Merril. Given that Samuel Delany describes Merril as, “perhaps the most important intra-genre critic the field has had”, she is someone that every aspiring SF critic needs to read.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

The LRB Does Trans

The London Review of Books normally only features in this blog when I am reporting on the VIDA count — it has a lamentable record. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t publish women at all. The forthcoming issue will contain an article by a woman, and it is about trans people. What’s more, you can read it online here.

Jacqueline Rose’s essay is very long, and somewhat rambling. It is broadly supportive, and contains a lot of interesting stuff. I certainly learned a few things from it. I don’t expect many of you will have the stamina to read it, but I know some of you have. As with any long piece, it goes off the rails a little in places, and I wanted to note those here.

First up, I don’t think it was “sentimental” of the writers of The Danish Girl to change Lili Elbe’s story so that she died from the results of her gender surgery, rather than from a later attempt to give her a womb. I submit that it was a deliberate lie to make it seem like gender surgery is much more dangerous than it actually is, and to give the impression that being a trans woman is a crime publishable by death.

Second, it is not generally true that hijra, “renounce sexual desire by undergoing sacrificial emasculation”. Some may do. India is a huge country, and hijra are found in other parts of south Asia as well, so I’m actually not comfortable with any blanket statements. However, I do know that some hijra have partners (whom they presumably have sex with), that some do sex work (which they may or may not enjoy), and some are involved in ritual sex work as part of their religious function.

Thirdly, when Rose pisses all over the Trans Day of Remembrance, she is clearly unaware of the work done by Transgender Europe’s Murder Monitoring Project which most definitely does keep information about the victims aside from their names.

My main concern about the article, however, is that it is a think piece, and as such it spends a lot of time trying to understand and explain trans people. When someone from outside of the trans community tries to do this, it often results in pontification about what trans people are “really”, and in pitting parts of the trans community against each other to try to find who is doing trans honestly and authentically, and who is a liar and a fake. This never works, because trans people are not all the same.

If you think about a gender spectrum, for example, someone who has a very strong identification with one gender, which just happens not to be the one assigned to them at birth, is a very different person from someone who is genderfluid, or agnostic about gender. It makes no sense to say that one of them must be “doing trans wrong”. Look, some men like to spend their weekends running around mountains, or white-water kayaking, while others prefer to spend it sat on a couch drinking beer and watching football. Is one of those groups somehow doing masculinity “wrong”? Or are they just different?

(I’d make the same argument about female gender stereotypes, but pretty much whatever women do you can find a ton of articles in women’s magazines pearl-clutching about how this is inappropriate female behavior and everyone should stop doing it or GUILT!!!)

So it doesn’t matter if Kate Bornstein and Jenny Boylan have different views as to what it means to be trans. That’s natural and healthy, not a sign that one is honest and the other lying to herself and others. If the trans thing has a value to feminism and gender studies, it is because we explode boxes in all sorts of interesting ways. Please don’t try to find new boxes to put us in.

Posted in Gender | 1 Comment

Eastern Tide in Store

Eastern Tide - Juliet E McKenna
Copies of Eastern Tide, the final volume in Juliet McKenna’s Aldabreshin Compass series, is now available from Google, Kobo and Nook (the latter US only). Amazon are doing their usual thing of making me jump through hoops to prove that I have the right to sell the book, but they’ll probably be on board tomorrow sometime. Links to the purchase pages of the books are available here.

Update: Eastern Tide is now available from Amazon as well.

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Fantastically Horny: Final Reminder

The crowdfunding effort for the Far Horizons Press anthologies has just a few days to run. It is a flexible funding thing, so the books are going to happen even though it is a long way from the target. I would, of course, like to be paid for my story, but more importantly I’d like the other contributors to get paid. Every little helps.

By the way, thanks to the BristolCon Foundation for contributing to the fund drive. Part of their purpose is to support local writers and publishers, and while I have an obvious vested interest this is clearly well within their remit.

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