New Fiction by Me at Holdfast

ontheradio
Yesterday a new story by me went live at Holdfast Magazine. They’d asked for stories inspired by Brexit, and I sent them one that had werewolves and trans medicine, and is primarily set in a radio interview. The locations are all in the Bath and Bristol area. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

Better still, read their whole Brexit supplement, which includes poetry, a cartoon, and the story of what happens when King Arthur returns post-Brexit to sort things out.

This is also a good time to remind you that the Holdfast crowdfunding campaign is into its final week. They are 73% of the way to their goal and just need a few hundred pounds more to get there. Please back them if you can.

Posted in Science Fiction, Writing | 2 Comments

Her Story at the Emmys

jenangelica
The Emmy Awards ceremony took place in Hollywood over the weekend. They did two nights, because there are so many awards these days. Some good stuff went down. Game of Thrones won big, of course. Jessica Jones won for its theme music. Ru Paul won Best Reality TV Presenter. But I want to focus on the Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category, for which Her Story was a finalist.

Lots of trans people have been nominated for, and even won, Emmys in the past, most notably Angela Morley. However, I’m pretty sure this is the first time that a show written by and starring trans people, telling the stories of trans people, has been up for the award. They didn’t win, but it is a landmark achievement all the same. All of the other finalists were on major TV channels. Her Story went out on YouTube.

Of course there was a red carpet and, while cisnormative beauty standards are by no means a requirement for trans women, I am that sort of girl who loves a good ballgown. I’ve done a few award ceremonies myself in the past, and I have to say that Angelica Ross and Jen Richards put me totally to shame. Rock on, girls, you are so inspiring.

Posted in Awards, Gender, TV | Leave a comment

More Awards for Ujima

commradio
Some very nice people have set up awards for Community Radio. About time, you might say, as we’ve been around for years now, but I know how much work these things are so thanks to the kind people at the Community Radio Awards.

The first ever award ceremony took place in Birmingham over the weekend. Ujima was shortlisted in three categories: Community Development Project (for our work with Bristol’s Green Capital year), Female Presenter of the Year, and the big one, Station of the Year.

And we won two. Congratulations to Miss Prim, and to the team as a whole. The photo above shows two of our directors, Kevin and Roger, plus Miss Prim, collecting the Station of the Year award.

I guess I need some new patter to celebrate that.

By the way, my next show will be on September 21st and is devoted entirely to the first ever Trans Pride South West.

Posted in Awards, Radio | Leave a comment

New Resource on Translated Spanish SF

The website cyberdark.net has a new page up listing Spanish language science fiction, fantasy and horror available in English translation. There’s lots of good stuff out there. Why not try some of it.

I will, of course, be reporting in much greater detail about Spanish language SF from the Eurocon in Barcelona in November.

Posted in Science Fiction, Translations | 1 Comment

Atwood Does Comics

angelcatbird

Yes, that’s right. Margaret Atwood, who allegedly doesn’t write science fiction, is writing a superhero comic for Dark Horse. Welcome to the world, Angel Catbird.

Well, quite a few high profile people have taken that leap recently. China Miéville did Dial H for Hero ages ago. William Gibson is doing Archangel. Ta-Nehisi Coates is doing Black Panther. It won’t be long now before some keen young journalist does a piece on how the famous novelist, Neil Gaiman, has started writing comics.

However, I am not here to talk about novelists writing comics, I want to talk about the creative team. I don’t know how much choice Atwood had on who she worked with, but if they are her choices she’s done a damn fine job.

The artist is Johnnie Christmas. He’s Canadian, naturally. He’s also black. I’m not familiar with his work, but I really like what I have seen of the interiors of Angel Catbird. His best known work to date is Sheltered.

Tamra Bonvillain, on the other hand, I am very familiar with. She’s a key part of the creative team for Rat Queens, though sadly she didn’t join the book in time to get in on a Hugo nomination last year. She’s also trans.

Thank you, Ms. Atwood. I shall be buying your book.

Posted in Comics, Gender | 2 Comments

Bristol Festival of Literature News

The website for this year’s Bristol Festival of Literature has started to roll out publicity. You can see the whole thing here, but I wanted to highlight a few things that may be of particular interest to you folks.

On the afternoon of Saturday October 22nd there will be an event at Bristol Museum called Ancient Egyptian Story-Telling. It will feature four writers, three of whom should be known to you. Justin Newland, Amanda Huskisson and Piotr Swietlik have all read at BristolCon Fringe, and Piotr has a story in Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion. The museum folks have been very efficient with the publicity. You can find out more here.

On Monday October 24th there will be an event at Bristol University called Ageing in the LGBT community. It will feature Alan Clark (author of Rory’s Boys, a comedy set in a retirement home for gay men), Dr. Jane Traies (author of The Lives of Older Lesbians), Dr. Paul Willis of Bristol University and Berkeley Wilde of The Diversity Trust. It will be chaired by me. Attendance is free, and it is 7:00pm at the Lecture Theatre, Helen Wodehouse Building, 35 Berkeley Square. I’ll have an official post up on the OutStories Bristol website in a day or two.

On Thursday October 27th there will be an event called Strong Women. Ominously it is going to be at Arnos Vale Cemetery, and it has a 10:00am start time so though I am on the panel I may be mainlining coffee throughout. I’ll let you know as and when I know more, but I’m sure you are familiar with the panel idea. I will take my copy of Fight Like A Girl to wave at people.

Finally on Saturday October 29th there is BristolCon, with Ken MacLeod, Sarah Pinborough, Fangorn and many other fine SFnal people.

I’ll be on Women’s Outlook on October 19th and I’ll be devoting the whole two hours to the Festival. Guests will include Joanne Hall, Dr. Paul Willis and Gav Watkins from the Festival.

Posted in Books, Conventions, Where's Cheryl? | Leave a comment

Civil War on Disc

The DVD and Blu Ray versions of Captain America: Civil War came out on Monday so naturally I rushed out and bought a copy. For those of you who care about such things, I got the Steve cover, because regardless of the issues if you ask me to choose between Steve and Tony I’ll pick Steve every time. I am, of course, Team T’Challa, but you couldn’t buy a cover for that.

The extras on the disc are fairly standard fare: trailers, gag reel, short “making of” documentaries and so on. The only real surprise was a sneak peek at the forthcoming Doctor Strange movie, due out in November. It doesn’t really tell us much new. We get to see more of Baron Mordo and Wong, and we also get to meet the bad guys for the film. There is, sadly, no sign yet of the Dread Dormammu, or his daughter. The villains are a sect of human magicians called the Zealots who seek power from the mystical dimensions. I continue to be rather worried about this film. Still, the Sanctum Sanctorum looks nice, and Benedict Cumberbatch certainly looks the part.

I spent yesterday evening watching Civil War with the directors’ commentary on (which also features the scriptwriters). I do like what they did with this film. The folks at Marvel have very much taken on board the criticisms about endless, formulaic action films and vast amounts of collateral damage. Civil War is very different, and puts a lot of effort into disguising that fact. Some people, I am sure, will feel cheated that they didn’t get a huge slugfest at the end, but so it goes.

Civil War is very much a character-driven film. As the Russo brothers say in their voice-over, the central narrative is all about the personal disagreements between Tony and Steve, and the issues in their lives that drive them to this point. One of the most interesting things about the film is that it couldn’t have worked without all of the backstory that we have got from previous Marvel Cinematic Universe products. Iron Man 2, the previous Captain America movies and the previous Avengers movies all feed into this one. There’s even mention in the commentary of something that Peggy Carter says to Howard Stark in the Agent Carter TV series as being significant to this film.

I guess you can probably watch the film and enjoy it without knowing all of this stuff, but it is better if you do know it. More importantly, given how rigid movie-making has become, there’s no way a Hollywood studio would have let this film be made the way it is without that backstory. They would have insisted on establishing scenes for all of the characters, which would have bogged everything down impossibly.

We don’t get much technical information in the commentary, save for some interesting comments on shooting angles in conversations, but there are quite a few points where the cast get praised for their contributions to the script. My favorite here is in the scene where Tony Stark first meets Peter Parker. An interesting thing about this scene is that we have 18-year-old Tom Holland playing opposite Robert Downey Jr., who is the top paid actor in Hollywood. They are playing a teenage science whizz kid meeting the most famous inventor on the planet. At one point Tony says to Peter, “I’m going to sit here, so move the leg,” and then sits on the bed next to the kid top continue the conversation. What actually happened is that Holland had forgotten the blocking for the scene. Downey improvised a line to remind him where he should be sitting, and it worked so well it got left in the film.

The other technical issue that sticks in my mind is the Black Panther costume. They didn’t have the budget to make it for real, at least not in a way that would have allowed Chadwick Boseman to survive filming. So they made him a much lighter costume for filming, and painted on the panther suit in CGI afterwards. Nice job, ILM!

The big outstanding question has to be where things go next. We know that the blockbuster Avengers movie(s), The Infinity War, are on the horizon, but right now the Avengers are entirely dysfunctional. Several of them, including Cap, are on the run from the US government, and probably quite a few other governments as well. It has been suggested that the natural next step is for Steve Rogers to give up the Captain America identity and become a character known as The Nomad — something he did in the comics back in the 1970s. Well, right at the end of the directors’ commentary there is mention of the possibility of seeing Chris Evans in this costume.

Nomad


Mmmmmmmmmmmmm…

Posted in Comics, Movies | Leave a comment

Cat Valente at Finncon, Two Interviews

The latest podcast to go up on Salon Futura is the full version of my interview with Cat Valente from Finncon. As you may recall, I broadcast part of it on Women’s Outlook a while back, but the whole thing is about half an hour long and so I had to trim quite a bit. As is the way with mainstream media, I chose to trim all of the interesting writing and publishing business neepery, but you’ll get all that good stuff here.

The interview covers the whole of Cat’s career from her childhood obsession with fairy tales through her student days in Edinburgh, her early success with The Orphan’s Tales, the amazing phenomenon that is the Fairyland books and her later adult novels such as Deathless and Radiance. There is, inevitably, mention of David Bowie (Cat and I had just done the Bowie & Prince panel). There is also a fair amount of giggling by both parties. My excuse was that I was getting to interview a writer whose work I absolutely adore.

By the way, the nice Finncon people videoed a lot of the panels and have been beavering away editing the material. I have no idea whether the Trans panel or the Bowie & Prince panel will ever end up on the Internet, but I think you are safe from the Cat & Cheryl do karaoke “Starman” thing because that would be a copyright violation.

However, the GoH speeches are available, so if the above is not enough Cat for you here is Johan Anglemark interviewing Cat in the main auditorium. I’m sat down the front taking notes. I don’t think they ever pull the camera back far enough to see me, but they can’t avoid showing the anime dance practice taking place outside. Check it out, it is awesome.

Posted in Finland, Podcasts, Salon Futura | Leave a comment

Coming in Translation from Aqueduct

MonteverdeToday I got email from Aqueduct Press talking about their forthcoming releases. Among them was Monteverde: Memoirs of an Interstellar Linguist, a short science fiction novel by Spanish writer, Lola Robles. It has been translated by my friend Lawrence Schimel, so I immediately got in touch with him for more information. I’ll have more to say about the book in the near future. Today, however, I wanted to thank Aqueduct for taking a risk on a translated work. I also note that Lawrence has been telling me about science fiction in Spanish featuring trans characters, including a story by Lola and a forthcoming novel by Sofía Rhei.

It so happens that Lola and Lawrence will be at the forthcoming Eurocon in Barcelona. Possibly Sofía will too. And of course I will be there. I’m looking forward to it.

Posted in Books, Conventions, Translations | 2 Comments

Helsinki Site Info

Yesterday hotel bookings for Worldcon opened, and the inevitable panic on social media ensued. Getting a hotel room for Worldcon isn’t, thank goodness, as bad as trying to get a hotel room in San Diego for ComicCon, but it is complicated by the host city being different each year.

Anyway, I do know Helsinki tolerably well, and I have done site reports before now. I figured it would be useful to remind you of them.

First up here’s some video I took of the convention center and city when we were bidding for 2015. Obviously this is a few years old now (it is from 2013), but not much has changed.

There’s also a photo album, taken on the same trip.

One thing that has changed is that there is now a train from the airport that takes you directly into the city center. My report on that (from this year) is here.

Posted in Conventions, Finland | 1 Comment

Freedom Youth in the News

The Bristol Cable has just run a nice little article about Free to be Me, the history of Freedom Youth that was launched at Bristol Pride this year. The article also includes a few quotes from some busybody called Cheryl who was on hand as an expert in local LGBT history.

By the way, the layout was done by Joe Burt who also did Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion and the Colin Harvey novels for me, and is published by my friend Richard Jones at Tangent Books. Richard, like me, is heavily involved in the Bristol Festival of Literature, about which you will be hearing much more in the run up to the end of October. And on that subject, Pete Sutton was on Radio Bristol talking about the festival yesterday. This listen again link is here, and Pete comes on at about 1:22.

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Mike Carey at Waterstones

As promised, I have uploaded the other Mike Carey interview to Salon Futura. This is the one that we did at Waterstones in the evening. It is almost an hour long, so we have a lot more time to talk about Fellside. Mike and I go on a little rant about the economics of private prisons. The conversation also touches on films. The Girl with All the Gifts is due for release on September 23rd. Here’s the trailer.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to release this too soon is that Mike would have had to kill me, because during the interview he mentions the possibility of a prequel to The Girl with All the Gifts. That book is now official, so I no longer have to worry.

Inevitably Mike and I talk about the X-Men. Indeed, I suspect that we could have talked about superhero movies all evening had not one or two people been scowling at us from the audience. Obviously I mentioned the Felix Castor novels, which led us on to the idiocies of publisher branding policies. We even managed to mention the Steel Seraglio books, which Mike wrote with his wife, Linda, and daughter, Louise.

The sound quality is rather poor in places, for which my apologies. My little microphone doesn’t cope well with a cavernous shop, and there were all sorts of issues with capturing audience questions. Hopefully it is all listenable.

This event was arranged by the Bristol Festival of Literature. My thanks to Pete Sutton for doing a fine job.

Next week in the Salon I’ll have the full version of my Finncon interview with Cat Valente.

Posted in Books, Comics, Movies, Podcasts, Salon Futura | Leave a comment

Helsinki Worldcon Academic Track – Call for Papers

Finnish conventions always have a great academic presence, and their Worldcon promises to be no different. I have just been sent the Call for Papers for Worldcon 75. The theme of the track will be “100 Years of Estrangement”. The deadline for submitting abstracts is October 31st.

As it happens, I know exactly what I am going to submit. It is a paper called “Genly Ai and the Trans Panic Defense”. I have been meaning to write it for some time now, and this is a perfect opportunity.

Posted in Academic, Conventions, Gender | Leave a comment

Making Movies – Part II

Not about me this time, this is about real movies.

As those of you who follow trans issues on social media will know by now, there is yet another controversy about a trans woman being played by a cis man in a movie. In this case the flick in question is Anything, starring Matt Bomer as the trans woman, and directed by Mark Ruffalo.

Jen Richards has done a great job on Twitter of articulating the issues, but for those of you who don’t click through on links here are the main points:

  1. There are plenty of great trans actresses who need work;
  2. No matter how good the male actor, and good trans woman will always bring more authenticity to the part;
  3. Every time a movie casts a cis man as a trans woman it reinforces the idea that trans women are “really men” who are “just acting”, and thus feeds the nonsense that leads to “bathroom bills” and murder.

The last one is the key point. You can make an argument for using a male actor if the character is going through transition, as was the case in The Danish Girl, but if the character presents as female throughout you don’t use a male actor. Personally I have no issues with cis women playing trans women. Indeed, the extreme dysphoria experienced by Chloe Sevigny [the interview is in the Malice, I’m not linking to it] while filming Hit and Miss provides a very valuable lesson about what trans women go through.

Something else worth bearing in mind is that women such as Jen Richards and Jamie Clayton are putting their careers at risk by speaking out on this issue. Just as there are NFL bosses who now won’t employ Colin Kaepernick (Go 49ers!), there are (old white male) studio bosses who will turn against anyone seen to be “rocking the boat”. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for September 18th because Her Story surely deserves an Emmy.

There is, perhaps inevitably, a petition asking for the film to not be released. I can’t see that happening. Ruffalo says it has already been shot, and there are doubtless all sorts of contractual issues that would make is very difficult for it to be stopped now. The only thing that can really stop it is if it looked like being such a financial flop that the studio decided to cut its losses, and frankly, with the amount of free publicity it has got, I can’t see that happening.

So what can Ruffalo and Bomer do to make amends? Well to start with they can accept Eden Lane’s offer of an interview (because there are trans women who have good jobs on American television). I’m sure Janet Mock would have them on her show too.

They can also get onto other chat shows, and insist then Jen and or Jamie come on with them to discuss the issues (and be paid for it).

And of course they can donate any money that they make from the film to trans charities. I’m sure they can afford it.

Finally, they can talk to other people in Hollywood and do their best to make sure that this never, ever happens again.

Posted in Gender, Movies | Leave a comment

Making Movies

Hey girls, you know that thing where you have been asked to be interviewed for an educational film, so you get your hair done specially and you spend ages agonizing over what to wear and doing your make-up, and the two guys who are on with you rock up, look at you, and go, “oh, I just threw something on this morning…”

Of course I knew this was the way things were when I signed up for the woman gig. Also I enjoy the whole dressing up thing, so I’m not complaining. But I also know that when the film gets shown people watching it will glaze over the gay guy and the trans guy on it, but will go on endlessly about how unconvincing I look and how everyone can tell I’m “really a man”. Because that too is the way the world is.

Dysphoria. It is real because other people really do judge you.

Posted in Gender, Personal | Leave a comment

Finns for Hugos

MaresiCore
Yeah, I am lamentably late publishing anything for Women in Translation Month. It is, after all, the last day of August. But I didn’t want to talk about these two books until the current year’s Hugo excitement was over, because they are both candidates for next year.

It would be nice to have a Finnish author or two on the ballot in Helsinki, wouldn’t it?

Of course, this being Finland, both books are by women, and both have strongly feminist themes. I wouldn’t expect anything less of my amazing Finnish friends. Both are translations. But there the similarities end. The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo was originally written in Finnish and is science fiction. Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff was originally written in Swedish and is YA fantasy. Both are great books in their own way.

So if you’d like to know more, check out my reviews. You can find The Core of the Sun here, and Maresi here.

Posted in Books, Feminism, Finland | 4 Comments

Parsec Award Announcement Coming Soon

The winners of this year’s Parsec Awards will be announced at Dragon*Con this weekend. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the announcement.

As you may know, the Parsecs are given for achievement in speculative fiction podcasting. Salon Futura isn’t up for anything, which doesn’t surprise me as uploads are anything but regular. Besides, you have to submit your podcast in order to be considered, so I’m clearly full of FAIL on that account. However, quite a few people I know are among the finalists.

There are no Clarkesworld stories up in the fiction categories, which may be because Neil didn’t submit any. However, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a few contenders. Also both Uncanny and Strange Horizons are finalists in the Best Speculative Fiction Magazine or Anthology category. Verity, the all-woman Doctor Who podcast, is a finalist in the Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast (Specific), which will give Tansy something to crow about after the torrent of awards that have been heaped on Alisa and Alex for Letters to Tiptree.

However, the category that I am most interested in is Best Speculative Fiction Audio Drama (Short Form). That’s because one of the finalists is Ray Gunn and Starburst, written by my good friend ‘Olly Rose. There will be a great deal of celebrating done in Bath if the results go the right way.

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Mike Carey in the Salon – Part I

Fellside
Today on Salon Futura I posted the audio from my interview with Mike Carey on Ujima Women’s Outlook back in May. We were mainly discussing his latest novel, Fellside, but conversation also strayed onto The Girl with All the Gifts and the X-Men.

Mike’s comments are particularly interesting in view of the US Department of Justice’s recent decision to stop using private prisons. Whether the UK will follow suit is very much open to debate.

As I note in the interview, I was also scheduled to interview Mike at Waterstones that evening. I have edited the audio from that and hope to have it online for you later this week. In the meantime, here is Part I.

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YA and Gender Conference, Italy 2017

Hello academic pals. Here is a conference that you may be interested in. It is called Literature, Translation, and Mediation by and for Children: Gender, Diversity, and Stereotype, and it will take place at the University of Bologna at Forlì in October 2017. That’s a fair way off, but abstracts have to be in by January 31st so you don’t as much time as it seems.

You may be asking why I am recommending this. Well, obviously the subject matter is of interest. But in addition one of the organizers of the conference is Dr. Raffaella Baccolini who was the scholar Guest of Honor at Finncon this year. She’s very smart, and a lovely person. I’m sure she’ll put on a great conference.

Also, there’s the location. Forlì is not actually in Bologna. It is a little way south-east thereof. It is actually closer to Ravenna than Bologna, and if I am going to be in the area there’s no way I am not going to see those mosaics and to pay my respects to Theodora. About half way between Bologna and Forlì there’s a little town called Imola, which is home to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, one time home of the San Marino Grand Prix. And of course San Marino itself is just a little further along the main road from Forlì.

Actually, to be frank, if I’m going to Italy then I have to go to Rome too because there are things in the Capitoline Museum that I need to see. I would love to go to Pompeii as well, but I don’t know how far the budget will stretch.

Anyway, it sounds like an amazing opportunity, and I shall certainly be submitting a paper. Hopefully some of you folks will be interested in going too. I don’t want to have to consume all of that great Italian food and wine by myself.

You can find the Call for Papers here.

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Whisky Tasting Redux

As Twitter followers will know, last night I attended a whisky tasting given by the fabulous folks at Independent Spirit in Bath. Chris Scullion is enormously knowledgeable about whisky and always worth listening to. Last night’s tasting focused on things that were new in stock, so it was a bit of a mixed bag.

There are a couple of things I want to mention from last night. The first is the question of non-proprietary bottlings. Normally whisky distilleries are incredibly protective of their brands. Nevertheless, casks of malt whisky do sometimes find their way onto the market. Mostly these are sold with made-up names, though the disguise is often tissue-thin. Once in a while, however, the independent bottler will do a really good job and the distillery will allow the use of their name. The final whisky in last night’s tasting was a 7-year-old Talisker from Douglas Laing which does bear the distillery name. Very nice it was too.

One of the malts in the tasting was a Tullibardine. That’s not a well-known distillery, but it is notable for two reasons. Firstly the bottles carry a date of 1488. That’s the year in which King James IV of Scotland stopped by to purchase beer for his coronation. Making whisky is a much more recent activity at the site, but the distillery still proudly trumpets its royal connection.

Tullibardine, however, is no longer Scottish owned. The current owners are a French family who are primarily in the wine business. Their name is Picard, and we all know what that will mean some time in the far future. For now, however, it just means that they have access to some very interesting barrels in which to mature the whisky. The malt that we had last night was the Tullibardine 225, which is matured in Sauternes casks. That gives it a very different, and very fruity, flavor. They also do the Tullibardine 228 which is matured in Burgundy casks. Personally I prefer the 225, but they are both very interesting.

My thanks again to Chris for a fabulous evening. If you do happen to be in Bath, do pop into the shop and say hello.

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