February Fringe (and June tomorrow)

Tomorrow sees the June meeting of BristolCon Fringe, so it is about time I got more audio online. Here, therefore, is February. Well, some of it.

As you may recall, in February I was absurdly busy with LGBT History Month. As a result of this I was very tired at the Fringe meeting. This led to my messing up the recording of the first session. Huge apologies to Will Macmillan Jones for this. He is in the Q&A, and I’ll have more from him available soon.

However, we do have a reading from the fabulous Gareth L. Powell. No monkeys this time, and consequently a considerable reduction in the swearing quotient. Instead Gareth treated us to the opening two chapters of a new space opera novel. There’s no firm information on when or where it will be published yet, but I think that after listening to it you will be keen to get hold of the whole book just like I am.

Because I knew that I had messed up recording Will I asked him for a bit of poetry at the beginning of the Q&A. I knew he’d deliver on that. I asked Gareth about poetry because he has a character in the story who is a not very good but very successful poet. I do not accept any responsibility for the results.

We didn’t get any recordings of the March event, mainly because I was in Canada, so the next batch of material I will have for you will be from the open mic event in April. March was Pete Sutton and Myfanwy Rodman, both of whom also read at the open mic (and Myfanwy’s story was brilliant). Will also read at the open mic, so you’ll get to hear all of the people who we missed. Of course the open mic also includes me.

As for June, that will feature Justin Newland and Stephanie Burgis. Justin will be familiar to you as one of our regular question askers. Stephanie is the author of the Kat Stephenson trilogy for younger readers, and more recently of Smoke and Mirrors. Given that the new book has a eunuch as a main character, you can be sure I will have a question or two to ask. If you can be in Bristol tomorrow night, the event will be at the Shakespeare Tavern on Prince Street and will start around 7:30pm. I hope to see some of you there.

Posted in Podcasts, Readings | Leave a comment

Versailles Done Right

In addition to the Lucy Worsley & Helen Castor documentary, the BBC is running a series of (very) short (5 minute) history shows to accompany each episode of Versailles. Inside Versailles is presented by Professor Kate Williams and Greg Jenner and seeks to throw some actual historical light on whatever nonsense the latest episode of the drama has served up. The first episode, which is about Louis XIV’s mistresses, is a bit breathless. However, episode 2 features my friend Kit Heyam talking about Philippe, gender and sexuality.

Given that Kit talks about being trans in his Twitter bio, I don’t think I need to worry about outing him. I am fairly confident in saying that this is the first time that a trans historian has been allowed to talk about gender non-conformity in history on British TV. That’s an amazing thing. Needless to say, Kit does a far better job than Lucy Worsley in addressing the issue of Philippe’s proclivities.

Shame you didn’t get a chance to talk about de Choisy, Kit. But then I rather expect what you did say was cut massively. Well done on not giving the producer anything horrible to use.

By the way, if anyone is interested in some of the historical arguments surrounding historical interpretation of past identities there is an excellent overview today on the Notches blog.

Posted in Gender, History, TV | Leave a comment

The #TransLit Twitter Chat Storified

A few days ago Gabby Bellot and Oliver Bendorf hosted a Twitter chat for trans writers. Contributors included Keffy, Suzanne van Rooyen, CN Lester, Vee from The Gay YA and Fox Benwell, along with a whole load of folks I don’t know. The chat has now been storified and is available here.

Posted in Gender, Writing | Leave a comment

SF in SF Podcast: Marie Brennan & M. Thomas Gammarino

There’s nothing new on Salon Futura this week. However, I have just posted a podcast to the SF in SF website. It is a reading featuring Marie Brennan and M. Thomas Gammarino. Here’s the audio:

Huge thanks to Soma FM who are doing a great job recording those readings.

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

Yesterday on Ujima: Carers, Harassment, Flash, Trans & Faith

Yesterday’s show on Ujima began with a celebration of Carer’s Week. Caring for relatives or friends who are unable to look after themselves is an activity that falls disproportionately on women. With the current fashion for austerity politics, social service safety nets and support for carers are both being cut back. I talked to Jan from the Carer’s Support Service and Fadumo, one of her clients.

From 12:30 Frances and I took a look at some of the issues surrounding the recent campaigns to combat internet harassment. It is a sad commentary on how politics is done these days that the main political parties (Conservatives, Labour and LibDems) have to run their own campaign separate from that run by the minor parties (Women’s Equality Party, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru), but that’s where we are.

Then again, I don’t think that the major parties would have done anything had WEP not come up with the idea. That makes it an example of how having WEP around forces the bigger parties to pay attention to women’s issues. Of course the big party campaign has Twitter, Facebook and Google as partners. That pretty much ensures that they won’t come up with any meaningful action, and of course the PR disaster of the Demos report they used has pretty much derailed their campaign.

Anyway, congratulations to the LibDems who have decided to back both horses and who on Monday are putting forward some amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill that will specifically tackle the issue of revenge porn. See here for how you can pester your MP to support this.

Ultimately, of course, what we need is a change in social attitudes, and that can only come about through education. Later in the year I will be doing a more in-depth show focusing on the campaign for compulsory personal, social, health and economic education in UK schools. That’s something that even Teresa May supports, so how lefty and progressive can it possibly be?

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

At 13:00 I was joined by Kevlin Henney and Freya J. Morris to preview this year’s National Flash Fiction Day. Both of them had brought stories to read.

Finally from 13:30 I was joined by Surat Shaan Knan of Liberal Judaism. Shaan is a good friend of mine and the person behind the Twilight People project. Obviously we talked about trans people and faith. Many thanks to Shaan for coming all the way from London to be on the show.

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

The playlist for the show starts with a Muhammad Ali tribute and then goes into a funk festival:

  • R Kelly – The Greatest
  • James Brown – Make it Funky
  • Patti LaBelle – Lady Marmalade
  • AWB – Pick up the Pieces
  • Parliament – Children of Productions
  • Prince – Alphabet Street
  • Janelle Monáe – Dorothy Dandridge Eyes
  • Chic – I Want Your Love

Because of Finncon I won’t be on air again until mid-July, but hey, that is a good excuse.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism, Gender, Music, Religion, Writing | Leave a comment

Finncon Program

The program for this year’s Finncon has been announced. You can find it here. I am on two program items:

Sunday July 3rd, 11:00-12:00
Trans representation in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Cheryl Morgan & Suzanne van Rooyen
Trans people are everywhere in the media these days, but are they in science fiction and fantasy? And if they are, do they look anything like real trans people, or do authors get things just as wrong as the newspapers? Our panel discusses the good, the bad and the hilariously wrong of trans representation.

Sunday July 3rd, 14:00-15:00
Music in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Catherynne M. Valente, J. Pekka Mäkelä, Suzanne van Rooyen, Cheryl Morgan (chair)
I’m waiting on an OK from the panel for the description, but I can tell you that this is going to be a David Bowie and Prince retrospective.

Posted in Conventions | 2 Comments

Lammy Winners

The winners of this year’s Lambda Literary Awards were announced last night in New York. Most of the categories won’t mean much to you, or me for that matter. However, there are always a few of interest.

The science fiction, fantasy and horror category was won by The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. I’ve not read it, but several of my friends loved it. A worthy winner given that neither Radiance nor Luna: New Moon was on the ballot.

And… wait for it…

FANFARE!!!

The winner of the Trans Fiction category was Tiny Pieces of Skull by Roz Kaveney.

And here is my interview with Roz about the book which I did for the Lambda Literary website last year.

Posted in Awards, Books | Leave a comment

New Book, Contains Me

WisconChron
So apparently I am now a Social Justice Warrior. Or at least a reduxed one.

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that this is the cover of volume #10 of the WisCon Chronicles, an annual anthology of writings arising from the WisCon convention. This year’s editor, Margaret McBride, kindly asked me to contribute an essay on trans issues as part of the Social Justice theme of the book. That essay is titled, “What Should Diversity Look Like For Trans People?”. It is basically telling people to stop writing transition stories and to stop writing just about binary-identified trans women who transition in middle age. This isn’t new, but it is nice to have it in an actual book.

Other contributors include Takayuki Tatsumi, Nisi Shawl, Johanna Sinisalo, Kathryn Allan, Ian Hagemann, Sandra J. Lindow and Ajani Brown. The book also includes the texts of Alaya Dawn Johnson and Kin Stanley Robinson’s Guest of Honor speeches form last year’s WisCon, as well as the keynote speech Julie Phillips delivered at the Tiptree Symposium in December 2015. I am particularly honored to be in the same book as Johanna, and I am sure the rest of the contributions will be great too.

You can buy the book here. Payment for this was a flat fee, so there is no need to worry that you are enabling any of my addictions by encouraging lots of people to buy the book.

Posted in Books, Feminism, Gender, Personal | Leave a comment

New SF Magazine Launching

I have received notification of a new speculative fiction magazine that will be launching soon. Titled Persistent Visions, it will be edited by Heather Shaw who has an excellent track record in both short fiction and editing. They plan to pay 7c a word, and their submission guidelines suggest that they are committed to diversity and to supporting new writers. That sounds promising. I might even send them something myself.

Posted in Publishing, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Music for Wednesday

That’s R Kelly with a the song from the soundtrack to the 2001 movie Ali (starring Will Smith, obviously). I’m astonished at how many of the songs about Ali are by white people. Even the chart-topping “Black Superman”, which Ali allegedly hated, was written by a white guy for all of its reggae rhythms. I’m glad I found something I can use.

I have this weird vision of Ali and Spartacus sitting down together to have a little chat and see who really was the greatest. I expect that Ali will win, because while he might have been a brilliant fighter he didn’t believe in killing people.

Posted in Current Affairs, Music, Radio, Sport | 1 Comment

A Few Words on Versailles

No, I am not watching the drama series. Enough of you have expressed utter horror on social media to warn me off that. However, I did take in the accompanying documentary about Louis IV and his court presented by Lucy Worsley and Helen Castor.

Mostly this was good stuff, at least as far as I know because 17th Century France really isn’t my period. However, there was one brief comment that caused me to pause.

Normally BBC history documentaries erase all evidence of LGBT folks from the past. After all, children might be watching, and we wouldn’t want to get a nasty letter from Mary Whitehouse, would we? (Yes, I know she’s dead, but the BBC and Ofcom don’t appear to have twigged that yet.) However, you can’t really talk about Louis XIV without talking about his brother, Philippe, Duc d’Orléans.

Philippe was very gay, and an enthusiastic cross-dresser. So far so good. It is nice to see teh gay actually acknowledged (though the chap playing Phillipe in the documentary isn’t like any gay man I know, and looks positively embarrassed when cross-dressed). However, during the documentary Lucy Worsley blamed Philippe’s gayness on his being treated as a girl by his mother, Anne of Austria.

Lucy, we need to have a word.

To start with, suggesting that a kid can be “made gay” by his upbringing suggests that being gay is something that can be induced, and therefore also “cured”. That’s not a good point to be making.

In any case, we know that many gay men exhibit gender-variant behavior in childhood. When you see people claiming that 80% of trans kids “grow out” of being trans, and have thus been cured of their transness, what they actually mean is that 80% or so of kids exhibiting gender-variant behavior are not trans, and mostly grow up to be happily lesbian, gay or bisexual. Or to be happily non-binary but not want any medical intervention. Or can’t make up their minds as kids but discover their trans identity later in life. Philippe fits right into this pattern.

Which brings me to my second point, Lucy. Blaming a child’s gayness on his mother is anti-feminist. Kids are what they are. My guess is that all Queen Anne was doing was accepting her son’s gender-variant behavior. That’s not bad parenting, it is loving your kid. Mothers have quite enough to do without having people going round blaming them for their kids being gay.

Posted in Feminism, History, TV | Leave a comment

A Day in Hay

As I mentioned earlier, I spent yesterday at the Hay Festival. It was the first time I have been, mainly because you need a car to get there and until recently I haven’t had one. Of course having a car means that there are other distractions.

The shortest route to Hay from where I am is over the Severn Bridge, turn left at Newport and from Abergaveny head up through the Brecon Beacons via Crickhowell and Talgarth. It is beautiful country, and I wish I had had time to stop and take lots of pictures.

crickhowell
Crickhowell

I will say, though, that it would have been much easier if I had a SatNav system. Hay is not well signposted. In fact as far as the road system goes it seems that the only acceptable way to get to and from the town is via Hereford. That way the signs are HUGE! Any other route and they are practically non-existent.

Part of this may be due to the fact that Hay is very much a border town. Indeed, there is a Welcome to England sign within the town boundary. There may be some confusion in highways departments as to whether the Festival is an English thing or a Welsh one. Thankfully that confusion was not reflected inside the Festival where evidence of its Welshness could be found everywhere.

Beulah Devaney wrote an article for The Independent this year about how elitist Hay is. She’s right, most of the programme was of little or no interest to me. I can’t imagine Hay having someone like me involved the way Cheltenham did. Then again, Hay is necessarily elitist. You can’t even get there by train, and to enjoy it properly you really need to stay in the area for several days. I’m willing to bet that the cost of accommodation goes through the roof during the Festival. People do actually camp, which doubtless helps with the cost, but personally I am allergic to camping.

So no, Beulah, if we want accessible literary festivals, the first thing to do is to not have them in Hay. There are plenty of others we can target. Hay, I think, can be safely left to go its own way.

Hay600
The Festival site, with the Brecon Beacons in the background.

Why was I there, then? Well to start with I wanted to see the famous Town of Books. That was a complete failure because the main Festival site is in a field on the outskirts of town. I never got into the town itself, except driving through on my way home.

I also went to see Kate Adair. I hadn’t seen her since Trans Pride in Brighton last year and it was good to catch up. I’m really pleased to see her career in TV taking off. It is amazing that BBC Scotland has given her the ability to make shows about trans people herself. They seem to be only available on social media and in community TV in Scotland, but they still have that BBC tag on them which makes a world of difference. Sadly I’ll be a bit too old by the time Kate gets to be a big name BBC producer, so she won’t be able to help me make my trans history documentary series, but hopefully she’ll do it with someone else.

The other reason I was there was because it was archaeology day. There were actually two talks I was interested in seeing. The first was Paul G. Bahn, who is an expert in prehistoric art. That’s primarily cave paintings to you and me, but is also much more as I discovered. To start with ice age people did a lot of art outside. The reason that we only know their cave paintings is that paintings on rocks outside of caves tend not to last as well.

Of course there are people creating rock art today, and one of the reasons why we know so much about how cave paintings were done is that we can go to Australia and ask people how they do it. This is a tradition with a history of tens of thousands of years, and by some miracle European colonialism hasn’t wiped it out.

Probably this most spectacular thing in Paul’s talk was this:

tuc-daudoubert-bisonClay sculptures of bison from the Tuc d’Audoubert cave in France, made around 13,500 BCE.

After Paul it was on to the main event, a talk by Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, who is the foremost archaeologist in Britain. I have been reading his books, and watching him on TV, for decades. His new book is about the history of Eurasia and looks at how civilization developed in that vast land mass. This is very much history on a grand scale, but it is also of interest to me because the narrative touches briefly on things relevant to my world.

Sir Barry’s primary thesis is that Eurasia developed civilization rapidly because the major transport routes (the Silk Roads, the Mediterranean) run within regions that are ecologically similar (i.e. east-west, rather than north-south as is the case in the Americas or Africa). That wasn’t quite what I wanted to hear, because I’m actually looking for links between Mesopotamia and India, but I was delighted to find right in the first chapter mention of trading links between the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and those of the Indus Valley. Sir Barry’s book also contains mention of this:

buddahA statue of the Buddah found in Kabul, which is remarkable because he is wearing clothing that looks distinctly Greek or Roman in style.

I should note, by the way, that I am not specifically looking for evidence of cultural diffusion. When I do talks about trans history people tend to ask me about links between people like the galli of ancient Rome and modern day hijra. There are a lot of similarities. It is possible that the Indus civilization picked up religious ideas from Mesopotamia. But then there are the quariwarmi of the Inca empire, and to claim they got the idea from Sumer takes us totally into von Daniken territory. I want to be able to talk about what is known, not make some imperialist point.

I wish I could have stayed longer. The Michael Palin talk was, of course, sold out. Billy Bragg, on the other hand, was a definite possibility. Fortunately for me I have the memories of the Concrete Castle gig in Bridgwater years ago, when I got close to a personal Billy Bragg concert, so I’m OK about missing him.

sheep600
The locals are unfazed by all of the bookish excitement.

Posted in Art, Conventions, History, Travel | 1 Comment

Zoran Živković News

Some excellent news for fellow fans of the Serbian writer, Zoran Živković. A company called Cadmus Press will be publishing his entire back catalog in English. Zoran has an announcement here.

Naturally I Googled Cadmus to see who they were. I found this:

Cadmus Press was founded to answer a growing need for enjoyable, high-quality, and easily available English translations of outstanding literature from Eastern and and Southeastern Europe.

The region known as Eastern Europe is familiar as the vague geographical area between Western Europe and Russia, mostly parts of the former Soviet Union. Southeastern Europe is less familiar, but generally includes (according to Wikipedia) “Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo, Moldova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and partially Turkey, Italy and Slovenia.” This part of the world has been a nexus of cross-cultural pollination since ancient times, creating a rich and diverse cultural and literary heritage that is yet poorly represented in the English language.

We hope to bring some of its finest work into English, the modern world’s lingua franca, to help it achieve the international acclaim it so richly deserves.

Currently Zoran is their only signed author, but it sounds like an admirable project. Hopefully Zoran’s books will do well for them and help finance bringing other authors to our attention.

Posted in Books, Publishing, Science Fiction, Translations | Leave a comment

How to do Toilets?

Yesterday I took myself off to Wales for a trip to the Hay Festival. While I was there I had need to do what our TERFy* pals describe as an act of rape — I used the ladies’ toilets. They were, of course, single stall with a full-height lockable door. But they came in little portacabins with two or three stalls and a washroom area each. One of the ones I found also had this:

Ladies600

I know what you are thinking here. Clearly someone knew I was coming. Except that if you have been paying attention over the past 10 years or so you will know that my trying to use one of these those things would be pure comedy gold. My friend Kate Adair was also at the festival. She’s a talented video maker and has a job operating one of the festival cameras. With regard to the “what’s in your pants?” question, she recently explained all most eloquently, for the BBC, no less.

So no, I don’t think those urinals for for trans women. What appears to have happened is that Hay had rather more boy loos than it thought it needed, and not enough girl loos, so it re-purposed a cabin that had both stalls and urinals to be cabins only. Those urinals were cordoned off, and the sign was presumably to deter any gentlemen who might ignore that cordon.

It makes for a great photo, though.

* Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, for anyone still wondering.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Leave a comment

Terri Windling Lecture Online

Thanks to some really quick work by the folks at Pembroke, this year’s Tolkien Lecture, given by Terri Windling, is now available to enjoy online. They have a podcast version and a video version. You can find them both, along with some photos, here, and it would be nice to pop over there and say thank you. But I know people are put off by the need to click through to things so here, by the magic of embedding, is what you need.

The podcast

The video of the lecture

And the video of the Q&A

Posted in Podcasts, Science Fiction, Video | 1 Comment

Guy Gavriel Kay in the Salon

Children of Earth and Sky - Guy Gavriel Kay
As promised last week, I have uploaded the full version of the Guy Gavriel Kay interview to the Salon Futura podcast. About half of the material got cut for the radio version, much of it stuff that would be of more interest to dedicated fantasy readers rather than a general audience. So even if you listened to the radio broadcast, this is well worth checking out. It is not all Guy and I talking about whisky, I promise.

In any case, Children of Earth and Sky is a fabulous book which I warmly recommend.

Posted in Books, Podcasts | Leave a comment

The History of the Welsh Empire

As many of you will know, the first person to use the phrase, “The British Empire”, was John Dee, the philosopher and alchemist from Elizabethan England. Indeed, he wrote a book titled Brytanici Imperii Limites (Limits of the British Empire). However, Britain as such did not exist in Dee’s time. Scotland was still an independent kingdom. Ireland had been invaded by the Normans, but English control of the country had lapsed during the Wars of the Roses and was only just in the process of being re-established. What Dee meant by “Britain” was something rather different than a Victorian, or someone today, would understand by the term.

Dee’s Britain was Prydain, an ancient country dating back to before the Roman conquest that had been conquered by the English. Elizabeth Tudor, her father and grandfather could trace their ancestry back to that ancient land. Indeed, Henry VII claimed descent from the greatest king of Prydain, Arthur himself. Most people in Tudor England knew Prydain by the English name for it: Wales.

Many of you will also be familiar with the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, in which it is claimed that Arthur conquered Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark & Gaul, and established a British empire. It is a rather fanciful tale, and no historian gives it credence, but in Dee’s day history was much less developed.

Besides, there was other evidence. I have come across a great paper on Academia.edu which talks about Dee’s sources for his book. There was a book called Gestae Arthuri which may have been lost by Dee’s time but was discussed in a book by a Dutch traveler, Jacobus Cnoyen van Tsertoghenbosche. Dee corresponded extensively with the geographer, Gerard Mercator, on the subject of the Dutchman’s writings. There was also Archaionomia sive de Priscus Anglorum Legibus libri by William Lambarde, of which Dee owned a copy. Both of these books discuss Arthur’s conquests in the Northlands, including parts of Muscovy, Finland (sorry guys), Greenland and the countries to the west beyond the “Indrawing Seas”. The latter appears to refer to parts of North America which were icebound much of the time and therefore deeply hazardous to Arthur’s ships. In these lands Arthur encountered both little people and people who were 23 feet tall.

It seems pretty clear that both of Dee’s sources were British re-tellings of the voyages of Erik the Red, with Arthur in the hero’s role. If the travel to North America wasn’t enough, the 23 foot tall people story is a dead give-away. So Dee’s empire is sadly imaginary. However, all sorts of things can happen in fantasy. After all, if Patricia Kennealy can write about a Celtic empire in space, I’m sure someone can use John Dee as a source.

Posted in History | Leave a comment

Terri Windling’s Tolkien Lecture

The good folks at Pembroke College videoed the whole of Terri Windling’s Tolkien Lecture, so you will be able to enjoy it yourselves soon. However, while you are waiting, here are a few thoughts from me. I should make clear at the start that I’m pulling a couple of key themes out of the lecture and following them up with my own interpretation. Terri may disagree (and hopefully will say so if she does).

Right at the beginning of the lecture Terri made the point that it is in the nature of fantasy to be unknowable. She went on to lament the absence of the numinous from much modern fantasy. I’m right with her there. I think there are two areas where this is so.

In epic fantasy I think we see too much of what I call “Dungeons and Dragons stories”. Back when I did a lot of GMing, there was a big rift among RPG players between those who saw the activity as “just games”, and who required clear and obvious rule systems so you could work out the optimal strategy, and those who saw the activity as more like communal improvised free-form story-telling. I was very much in the story-telling camp.

A lot of modern epic fantasy, however, seems to me to be more in the game playing camp, because writers design their worlds in such detail that it is obvious how everything works, even magic. There’s no room for the numinous in such a world. Indeed, a hard-core gamer would regard such a thing as “cheating”. Everything has to be capable of being explained within the rules.

As far as urban fantasy goes, much of what we see these days with such a tag is more crime or romance fiction with a few super-powered characters than fantasy. Some of it is very good crime and/or romance, but that doesn’t mean that it is good fantasy. Once again, the magic is not magical.

Terri also lamented the absence of sense of place from modern fantasy. Again I agree. There’s something about magic, I think, that is rooted in the land. With modern fantasy fiction we see too much of the generic castles and taverns of FantasyLand, and too much of the generic mean streets of a cookie-cutter modern city where every shopping mall contains the same chain stores.

This isn’t always the case. One of the reasons I love Emma Newman’s Split Worlds books is the way she uses locations such as Bath and Oxford to give a sense of the longevity of the fairy folk. Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police books were rightly mentioned by an audience member as an example of urban fantasy with a strong sense of place. Authors can and do get it right, but they have to put in the effort.

Something else that I think is often missing from modern fantasy, to its detriment, is music. I don’t mean the tendency of fantasy authors to fill their books with bad poetry passed off as song, I mean the sense that music is integral to the world and its magic. Whether it be high elven choral pieces, dwarvish drinking songs, tragic folk ballads, or orcish death metal, music has the ability to draw in that sense of the numinous whose absence Terri laments.

None of this should surprise us, of course. Publishers today are looking for product, not art. Terri mentioned that small presses are doing really good work still. I suspect that’s more the case in the US than in the UK because the bigger market makes it easier to take a punt on something different. However, distribution is much easier these days, especially if you are happy with ebooks, so a lot more of us can benefit. (And a nod of sympathy here to Charles Tan because I know there are parts of the world where buying online isn’t simple.)

Anyway, that’s my 2c worth. Juliet has a few thoughts here. And hopefully the video will be available soon.

My thanks as ever to the good folks at Pembroke for putting on a great show. As is often the case with universities, some of those involved are moving on having completed their studies. However, it looks like a committee is being put in place to ensure that the lecture series continues long into the future. Roll on next year.

Posted in Publishing, Science Fiction | 7 Comments

Suspension Bridges – Invented by a Woman

Suspension bridges are one of the iconic features of Victorian England. Thomas Telford’s bridge over the Menai Straits to Anglesey, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s bridge over the Clifton Gorge in Bristol, are world famous. But neither of these great bridges was designed by the engineer credited with their construction. Both were based on a patent filed by another great Bristol inventor, Mrs. Sarah Guppy.

Well, actually Mrs. Guppy didn’t file the patents herself. That would have been illegal in Victorian England. She had to get her husband, Samuel, to file them for her. Mr. Guppy owned a sugar refining company in Bristol. He’s not listed among the residents of Bristol who were awarded compensation under the Abolition of Slavery Act, so we can assume that he didn’t own plantations, though his fortune must have been based in part on cheap slave labor in the Caribbean.

Mrs. Guppy ended up making a fortune in the arms trade. That probably wasn’t her intention, but her invention of a system for keeping barnacles off ships netted her some £40,000 (£3.5 million in today’s money) from the Royal Navy. Of course all of the money went to her husband, because that patent was in his name too.

To give him his due, Samuel Guppy did actually register the patents in the name of “The Guppy Family”. Nor was Sarah unknown to her peers. Telford and Brunel both appear to have been her friends and she advised them both on the design of their bridges. As a good Victorian housewife she asked not to be credited for her work so as not to appear boastful.

The Oxford Dictionary has recently added Mrs. Guppy to its list of notable British biographies, which has given the Bristol Post the opportunity to celebrate her work.

Sarah’s son, Thomas, clearly took after his mother as he became an engineer when he grew up. He’s a character in my story in Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, where I have him recruited to be the chief engineer on the Severn Barrage (which the Victorians did seriously consider building).

The family is probably best known for Sarah’s grandson, Robert, who became a naturalist and had a fish named after him.

Posted in Feminism, History | 2 Comments

New Juliet McKenna Short Story

Juliet has published a new short story on her blog. “Rocks and Shoals” is the third in a series of stories branching off from the events of the Aldabreshin Compass series. To read it, and the others in the series, click here.

Posted in Science Fiction, Wizard's Tower | Comments Off on New Juliet McKenna Short Story