Some Robot History

Today I caught a replay of Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams, a BBC4 documentary on the history of robots. It is by Professor Simon Schaffer, and it looks at clockwork automata, from the earliest mediaeval clocks through the magnificent toys of renaissance courts and on to the invention of industrial robots such as automatic looms. It is worth watching just for the early automata that he has working, but at one point during the program Schaffer says:

A science fiction novel written in the 1770s to attack the aristocratic regime described courtiers as: “Bodies without souls, covered in lace. Automata that might look like humans, but weren’t.”

Given that this was in the run-up to a section on the French Revolution, I suspect that the novel in question was written in French. Probably that’s why Schaffer didn’t mention the name or the author. But he does call the book a science fiction novel, and the date puts it before Frankenstein (though after The Blazing World). I want to know what it is. Can anyone help?

Posted in Books, Science Fiction, TV | 4 Comments

Book Progress

Thanks to a lot of time spent on trains, and one seriously good book, I have made some progress on the To be Read pile. Specifically I have finished Ancillary Sword. It is a very different story to Ancillary Justice, but still a very good book.

I don’t have time to write a full review, but there is one thing I want to highlight. The Radch is an empire, and like all such things it encompasses a variety of cultures. As is common, those cultures that were more recently annexed tend to be seen as the least civilized, and are therefore the worst treated. In this book Breq has to deal with a space station administrator whose attitude towards civil unrest amongst the poorest parts of the population in depressingly familiar way. Breq spells it out for her:

These people are citizens.” I replied, my voice as calm and even as I could make it, without reaching the dead tonelessness of an ancillary. “When they behave properly you will say there is no problem. When they complain loudly you will say that they cause their own problems with their impropriety. And when they are driven to extremes, you say you will not reward such actions. What will it take for you to listen?”

Let no one say that science fiction is not relevant to today’s world.

And now I can get on with Resistance, the new Samit Basu novel, because how can I resist a book that begins like this?

A giant lobster rises slowly out of Tokyo Bay. It is an old-school kaiju, three hundred feet long, and stands upright, its hind limbs still under water, in defiance of biology, physics and all codes of lobster etiquette.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Peter Hamilton in Bath

Yesterday evening Peter Hamilton did a launch event for his latest book, The Abyss Beyond Dreams. It isn’t quite as thick as my hardcover copy of A Dance With Dragons, but it is fairly hefty. Also it is only half the story.

Peter and his publicist, Sam Eades, are working very hard on this tour. They were in Swindon at lunchtime, and at Forbidden Planet in Bristol in the afternoon, before going on to Bath in the evening. Let no one tell you that book tours are easy.

Having done a short reading, Peter talked a bit about his approach to SF, and why he writes. Having done the Dystopias panel last weekend, I was interested to hear him say that he doesn’t like them, and can only write SF because he believes that the human race does have a long term future. I suspect that’s true of most space opera writers — it was certainly true of Banks.

Posted in Readings, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Tobias S. Buckell Interview

Hurricane Fever - Tobias S. BuckellContinuing in the spirit of the Afrofuturism season at The Watershed, here the last of the interviews with Caribbean writers that I have in the can from Ujima. This one is with Tobias S. Buckell and was done around the time Hurricane Fever hit the streets.

The book is quite significant for Tobias because it touches on some of the reasons that caused him to leave the Caribbean and settle in the USA. We cover this in the interview. Another thing we talk about a lot is the origin of the character, Prudence Jones, who is a Bond-like secret agent working for a united Caribbean government. Tobias also goes into the future history that he developed to explain how that political union of the islands came to happen. We may have taken Karen Lord’s name in vain…

Towards the end of the interview Tobias talks about how he got to be a successful writer despite the fact that he suffers quite badly from dyslexia. It is a remarkable story of determination and well worth a listen.

Posted in Books, Radio, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Black Pride on Ujima

As part of the Black History Month celebrations in Bristol we have a number of interesting Jamaican visitors in the city. That includes the Jamaican Poet Laureate, Mervyn Morris, who is doing a public event tonight at Bristol University.

Also in town in Thomas Glave, who is a well known gay writer with several Lammy nominations to his name. Thomas is also one of the founders of J-FLAG, the Jamaican LGBT rights group. I met up with Thomas yesterday at the Ujima studios where he was appearing on the Kizzy Morrell show. I’d been invited along as the LGBT expert.

As it turned out, Thomas was a bit late arriving, and Kizzy had a very packed show, all of which conspired to give us less time than we had hoped. However, the first hour of the show is well worth listening to because of the fascinating interview with a chap from Little Rock, Arkansas, who is in Bristol to explain how his city is helping is poorest citizens. You can find that first hour here.

Thomas and I are on towards the end of the second hour of the show. We start about 49 minutes in. We managed to cover a bit of what is happening in Jamaica these days, including the excellent news that J-FLAG is raising money to provide a safe house for trans teens who are homeless because they have been thrown out by their parents. You can find the second hour of the show here.

Posted in Feminism, Radio | Leave a comment

Shadowboxer Launch in Bristol

Shadowboxer - Tricia SullivanTricia Sullivan’s Shadowboxer is now available in stores, but we’ll be doing a launch event for it on the Friday before BristolCon. This is part of our local outreach program. It is a free event in the Bristol Foyles (who have a lovely event space) with doors opening at 5:30pm for a 6:00pm start. You don’t need to be a BristolCon member to attend. We’ll be finished by 7:30pm because some of us need to be back in the Doubletree for the Fringe open mic session (which is also free and doesn’t require BristolCon membership).

Several of the other authors attending BristolCon are coming along to support Trish, and will doubtless also be willing to sign stuff while they are there. Thus far we have Jonathan L. Howard, Anne Lyle, and BristolCon GoH, Jon Courtenay Grimwood. If you hope to attend, please sign up here. It is free, buy Foyles need numbers to work out how many books to order.

PS – I have read the book. If you see anyone out there claiming that it is transphobic, send them to me.

Posted in Books, Conventions, Readings | Leave a comment

Today on Ujima – Afrofuturism, Prostate Cancer, Regulating Landlords, Somalia

Well you can see how busy that was just from the title.

Firstly I had Edson Burton in the studio to talk about the Afrofuturism season at the Watershed. Well, I should have done anyway. What actually happened was that Edson fell through a warp in the space-time continuum and was a bit late. Fortunately my colleague, Tommy Popcorn, had been at the screening of the George Clinton film and was able to talk about George for a while. My thanks to Tommy for filling in so ably. Also I related the story about the Playtex seamstresses who made the Apollo spacesuits (which I got from Hannu Rajaniemi’s Guest of Honor speech at Finncon).

Edson finally made it to the studio and previewed some of the up-coming Afrofuturism material. The item on black superheroes on Saturday sounds good, and obviously I’m looking forward to next Wednesday when they’ll be showing Pumzi, followed by a film about black science fiction writers, including interviews with Chip Delany, Octavia Butler and Steven Barnes. The later will be introduced by Ytasha Womack (live via Skype from Chicago), and I’ve just been writing a web article to go with it.

The second half hour was given over to a young lady called Vanessa from Bristol University who is studying Caribbean men who have had prostate cancer. I discovered the scary fact that as many as 1 in 4 Caribbean men in the UK can expect to be diagnosed with the disease, a much higher percentage than for white or Asian men. No one knows why, and Vanessa’s research is an important part of trying to find an answer so that something can be done about it.

I note in passing that most trans women will have prostates and can therefore get prostate cancer. Most GPs have no idea about that.

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

For the second hour I handed the mic over to Paulette who had some more political material. First up were a couple of ladies from the City Council who help run a scheme to regulate private landlords. This is obviously great for tenants, but it can also be good for landlords too because going through an approved City Council scheme can be cheaper than using a letting agency.

In the process of doing the interview Paulette and I discovered, to our horror, that it is now mandatory for private landlords to check that anyone they let property to has the right to be resident in the UK.

For the final half hour we welcomed three young people from the Bristol Somali Youth Network. Many of you will have heard the story of Yusra Hussien, the 15-year-old Bristol girl who is believed to have flown to Turkey. The tabloid newspapers have been spinning this as “radicalized Muslim girl flies to join IS”. The story we get from the Somali community in Bristol is very different. The young people of BSYN have been trying hard to give their fellow teenagers a sense of community and belonging, but that must be very hard when so much of the British media is so openly hostile.

Talking of BSYN, they have a wonderful project going at the moment to collect unwanted books and ship them to the library in Mogadishu. Hopefully I will have them back to talk about this in a couple of weeks.

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

The play list for the show was as follows:

  • Dance Apocalyptic – Janelle Monae
  • Alphabet Street – Prince
  • Children of Productions – Funkadelic
  • Clouds – Prince
  • Our House – Madness
  • Burning Down the House – Talking Heads
  • I Feel Alone – Maryam Mursal
  • Welcome – Maryam Mursal

The track “Clouds” comes from Prince’s new album, Art Official Age. My thanks to Edson and Charlie Jane Anders, both of whom enthused about the album to me. It is a very Afrofutrist piece, telling the story of a Mr. Nelson who is awakened after being in suspended animation for 45 years. One of Prince’s collaborators on the album is Lianne La Havas, a Jamaican-British musician whom Karen Lord tells me I need to listen to. And hey, if Prince thinks she’s good, and so does Karen, that’s good enough for me.

Maryam Mursal is Somalia’s best known musician. Both of the tracks I chose come from her album, The Journey, which tells the tale of the seven-month trek she and her five children undertook to escape from the Somali civil war and find a new home in Europe. The album is co-produced by Simon Emmerson and Martin Russell of Afro-Celt Sound System, and is available from Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. Peter plays, and sings backing vocals, on it. To find out more about Maryam and the record, go here.

Posted in Current Affairs, Health, Movies, Music, Radio, Science Fiction | 3 Comments

Destruction Will Continue Until Dudebro Morale Improves

I should really have done this blog post last week, but I had lots of things to write about and got sidetracked. Anyway, as you may remember, the Women Destroy Science Fiction crowdfunding campaign was so successful that they managed to fund anthologies of fantasy and horror as well. Those magazines are now available, and you can find them at the links below:

And we will continue doing stuff like this until people stop pretending that our favorite genres are a boys-only club.

Posted in Admin | 1 Comment

Juliet on Equality in SF&F

While I was in Cheltenham on Saturday I once again had cause to chide Waterstones for their lack of attention to women writers when they do table displays for science fiction. In this case they had managed just one book by a woman out of 22, though at least it was Ann Leckie and not Ursula Le Guin again. Anyway, my tweet came to the attention of Elizabeth Moon, who had not heard about this issue before. I directed her to Juliet McKenna, who has been leading the charge on this particular issue. This prompted Juliet to do a post on her website rounding up all of her writing on the issue of gender equality. You can find it here. It should prove a very useful resource.

Posted in Feminism, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

New Salon Futura Interview – Rhonda Garcia

Lex Talionis - Rhonda GarciaIn the spirit of the Afrofuturism season at The Watershed, I have busied myself to finish editing the full version of my Ujima Radio interview with Rhonda Garcia. She’s a writer from Trinidad whose debut novel, Lex Talionis, is available from Dragonwell Publishing and the usual outlets. I’ve read the book, and found it a nice piece of fast-paced space opera adventure, though with a content warning for extreme sexual abuse which Rhonda and I discuss (in theory, not in detail) during the podcast. It is well worth looking at, unless you are the sort of person likely to be very upset by such things.

I have an interview with Tobias Buckell that I need to get sorted, after which I think I will have the full set of Caribbean SF&F authors with novels out. Clearly more people need to write books. For those of you who may not have listened to the others, you can find them as follows:

And here’s the audio player for Rhonda:

Posted in Books, Podcasts | Leave a comment

Panel Wrap & Reading List #dystopias #cheltlitfest

Well that was fun. Huge thanks to Ken MacLeod, Chris Priest and Jane Rogers for being fine panelists, and to Adam Roberts without whose kindness I would not have been there. My apologies to anyone who was hoping to see Adam and/or Brian Aldiss, neither of whom were able to attend. Also thanks to the audience. We couldn’t see you for most of the hour, but when the lights when up at the end for audience questions we were delighted to find the tent packed.

Here’s my introduction to the panel:


The original meaning of the term “dystopia” is the opposite of “utopia”. It may have been coined by John Stuart Mill for a parliamentary speech in 1868. Utopia, of course, derives from Thomas More’s novel of that name (1516), although people have been imagining ideal societies at least as far back as the Greeks. Other early writers also tried their hand at the genre, for example Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World (1666). Even Shakespeare, in The Tempest (1623), has Gonzalo postulate the creation of an ideal society (in a speech he cribbed from the French essayist, Montaigne).

Looking back, however, these early utopias can seem distinctly unattractive. More’s ideal society has slavery, and doubtless the likes of Jeremy Clarkson would be unhappy with the feminist aspects of Cavendish’s imagined world. The Victorians were keen on writing utopias, but pretty much since the First World War our imaginings have become much darker. We have written dystopias instead. Famous examples include 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Margaret Atwood, in her essay “Dire Cartographies”, suggests that utopia and dystopia are like yin and yang, each containing the seed of the other. This is made explicit in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, which features two rival societies, one based on Libertarian Capitalist principles, and one based on Anarchist Socialist principles.

The critic Frederic Jameson has suggested that writing dystopias is a better way to address the world’s problems. Creating an ideal society from scratch is hard, but in a dystopia we can focus on one aspect of society that disturbs us and think about how to fix it .

But perhaps the word “dystopia” itself is changing. These days publishers appear keen to slap the label, “dystopia”, on almost any work of science fiction, especially if it is written for a YA or mainstream audience. I have even seen the term applied to A Game of Thrones.

There’s no question that books marketed as dystopian are hugely popular, especially amongst young people. But are they depressed about the state of the world? Do they desperately want to change it? Or are they just victims of marketing Newspeak?

We have with us today three fine exponents of science fiction literature, so I’d like to start by asking them to talk about their recent work, tell us if they think it is dystopian, and if it is why they chose to write that sort of book.


Actually only Jane’s book (the Clarke-winning Testament of Jessie Lamb) is remotely dystopian, but Ken and Chris know their science fiction inside out and were able to talk about other books they had written, and a wide range of other books.

The obvious question we had to tackle was why dystopias are so popular in the YA market right now. We looked at a variety of possible explanations, including this one:

Personally I think that wanting to save the world is a natural part of being a teenager, and I was struck reading Jane’s book that world saving is so much harder these days that it seemed when I was a kid. Maybe that’s just perspective, but the teens in Jane’s book seemed to understand that complexity of the world far better than I remember my generation doing. That in turn might lead to a desire to read about worlds that are more easily fixed.

Chris raised the issue that dystopias often get written in times of austerity, pointing in particular to John Wyndham and his cohort from post-WWII Britain who produced a style of SF that was more or less unknown in the much more affluent USA. Ken quoted Laurie Penny opining that kids today gravitate towards dystopias because they believe that they are living in one.

Special thanks to Jane for introducing Octavia Butler to the conversation, and for noting that People of Color writing SF are often painfully aware that they are the aliens in the standard narrative. I’ve made a point of including some books by non-white writers in the reading list.

The audience quickly picked up on the fact that much of what is marketed as dystopian fiction would be better described as post-apocalyptic. I noted that some post-apocalyptic work is better understood as “return to nature” utopian fiction (After London by Richard Jefferies being an early example). Ken defined a dystopia as a story in which, “An oppressive system takes on a heroic individual…and wins”. For more thoughts on categorization, see the SF Encyclopedia.

We were asked if dystopias were primarily aimed at capitalism, to which the answer is a very definite no. 1984 was in part inspired by We, a novel by Russian writer, Yevgeny Zamiatin. We were also asked if any books were written from the point of view of a supporter of the dystopia rather than the heroic rebel. Someone gave me a suggestion during the signing, but I’m afraid I have forgotten it. However, it did occur to me that Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country appears to advocate what many would regard as an oppressive dystopia.

There are a lot more books we could have talked about. Here’s a (very incomplete) reading list of dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature. Enjoy.

  • The Begum’s Fortune – Jules Verne
  • When the Sleeper Awakes – H.G. Wells
  • Swastika Night – Murray Constantine (Katharine Burdekin)
  • We – Yevgeny Zamiatin
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
  • The Machine Stops – E M Forster
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Dispossessed – Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Space Merchants – Frederik Pohl and C M Kornbluth
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
  • Make Room! Make Room! – Harry Harrison
  • Stand on Zanzibar – John Brunner
  • The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner
  • Shockwave Rider – John Brunner
  • Nova Express – William S. Burroughs
  • The Holdfast Chronicles series – Suzy McKee Charnas
  • The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri S. Tepper
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • The Last Man – Mary Shelley
  • Earth Abides – George Stewart
  • The City Not Long After – Pat Murphy
  • I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
  • Station 11 – Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  • The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
  • The Stand – Stephen King
  • The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  • Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban
  • After London – Richard Jefferies
  • The Parable of the Sower & The Parable of the Talents – Octavia Butler
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller
  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  • Noughts & Crosses series – Malorie Blackman
  • Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
  • Chaos Walking series – Patrick Ness
  • Uglies series – Scott Westerfeld
  • Orleans – Sherri L. Smith
  • Dust Lands series – Moira Young
  • Divergent series – Veronica Roth
  • Mortal Engines series – Phillip Reeve
  • Oryx & Crake series – Margaret Atwood
  • The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf – Ambelin Kwaymullina

Other suggestions are welcome. And please remember that we’ve already acknowledged that the category is blurry, so by no means everyone (including myself) will regard all of the above as dystopian.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | 4 Comments

The Watershed Does Fun Palaces

Last weekend was Fun Palaces weekend across the country. (Follow that link if you don’t know what that means, because the concept is a bit nebulous.) The Bristol event took place in the Watershed and was science fiction themed. I missed the Saturday event, which was also part of the Afrofuturism season, because I was in Cheltenham, but I went along on Sunday because there were events being run by BristolCon.

I’m not sure how successful the weekend was. Turnout seemed to be quite poor, but I suspect that was largely a result of the events being free, and so many different groups being involved in the organization. The only people in a position to exercise overall direction were the Watershed folks, and they didn’t have much budget due to it being a free event.

Still, Jo, Roz & the crew got their program done, and hopefully they’ll get some good entries for their short story competition. In the final session Jo handed out some writing prompts. Oddly enough, the two I picked fit very closely to the story I’m hoping to write for Accessing the Future. Of course that story is nothing to do with Bristol.

Talking of Bristol, Edson Burton shared with me this fine illustration of Spaceport Bristol done by Ðrojan for the Saturday event.

Spaceport Bristol

In the evening the Afrofuturism season got going again with the short film, Afronauts, followed by George Clinton: Tales of Dr Funkenstein. We all got the funk. Edson and I will be talking Afrofuturism from Noon on Wednesday on the Ujima Women’s Outlook show.

Posted in Conventions, Music | Leave a comment

First Time at Cheltenham

I spent Saturday in Cheltenham getting my first taste of a major literary festival from the inside. Here are a few thoughts from the point of view of someone who is far more used to large science fiction conventions.

Cheltenham itself seems very nice. The railway station is quite a way out of town, but there is a lovely footpath most of the way into the town center which appears to be at least part-based on an old branch line. I’m not sure that I’d want to use it after dark, but during the day it is very pleasant. The town, once you get there, looks very expensive, perhaps even more so than Bath. I was told that the charity shops there are a good place to shop for designer clothes, so I may have to go back.

The festival covers two large Georgian squares and some of the civic buildings in between. The venues are mostly tent-based, but they are big, serious tents that are probably proof against anything but the most serious weather. They could have done with a few large signs with maps of the layout, but mostly it was easy to navigate. I suspect that the lack of signage to what they called the Authors’ House and what I’d call the green room was deliberate.

The organization was excellent. Everything ran to time. There were helpful staff to make sure that we got to where we needed to be, when we needed to be there. They even did sound checks. Of course it is easier to do that if the programming is fairly light. Venues were not run back-to-back, but instead had hour or more gaps in between sessions so they could be turned round without any crush.

The idea of taking panelists off to do signings immediately after their panels worked fairly well, though the Waterstones tent, where the signings took place, got very crowded at times. Margaret Atwood, bless her, had a queue stretching half way to Bristol. They could perhaps have done signings in the venues, given that they were empty for quite a while after each event, but that would mean moving the books and providing someone to sell them, and anyway people like Atwood needed far longer than an hour to sign.

Inevitably many of the people appearing at the event were celebrities. We were a very bookish crowd in comparison. I was rather looking forward to being able to strut in and thumb my nose at the lobster & Bolly crowd, given that I was on program too, but Caitlin Moran had gone by the time I arrived. The only person I noticed who might have been offended by my presence was Jenni Murray from Woman’s Hour.

All in all, it was a very pleasant experience. I’d certainly go back if asked, though I suspect that’s not hugely likely. I’ll write more about the panel itself shortly.

Posted in Conventions | 2 Comments

Cheltenham Reminder #cheltlitfest #dystopias

Tomorrow from 5:30 to 6:30 I shall be chairing a panel at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. It will feature Ken MacLeod, Chris Priest and Jane Rogers, and the title is: What is the Lure of Dystopia. Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to the world of the dystopia: of government and society gone nightmarishly wrong. From 1984 to The Handmaid’s Tale, this image has been a gripping cautionary force. Ken MacLeod (Descent), author Chris Priest (Adjacent) and Jane Rogers (The Testament of Jessie Lamb) join chair Cheryl Morgan to explore fiction’s greatest nightmare visions and their enduring appeal.

I know that not many of you are likely to be at Cheltenham, but if there’s any chance of you being there please do come along. It isn’t often that such a major festival has clear SF&F programming and we need to support them when they do.

Hopefully there will be some back channel action for those of you who can’t attend. The hastags are #cheltlitfest for the Festival, and #dystopias for the panel. I’ll be tagging everything with both.

If you want to suggest questions for me to ask the panel, please do so below (or tweet me tomorrow). Here are a few themes we’ll try to cover:

  • What is dystopian fiction? How is it different from post-Apocalyptic fiction?
  • Are certain types of dystopian themes popular in certain time periods?
  • Are modern dystopias anti-left, anti-right or something else?
  • Are dystopias written by straight-white folks different from those by non-straight-white folks?
  • If we enjoy reading/writing dystopias, what does this say about us?
  • Does dystopian fiction do harm or good?
  • Why do publishers appear to use “dystopia” rather than “science fiction”?

And if you can’t make it there tomorrow but can do Friday 10th, you could go along and see A Celebration of Sci Fi and Fantasy, featuring Ben Aaronovitch, Joe Abercrombie, Mitch Benn, Sarah Pinborough and journalist David Barnett.

Posted in Conventions | Leave a comment

My BristolCon Schedule

The program for BristolCon is now live (a whole 3 weeks before the convention, y’all). This is what I’m doing:

10:00 – 10:45 Music in my Writing: Music might be even harder to write about than Sex or Death, and yet it’s a really important part of the process for most writers. Many authors write to music or put together soundtracks of their own books. How does music seep into and influence our work? With Tricia Sullivan (Mod), Gunnar Roxen, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Kim Lakin-Smith.

19:00 – 19:45 Steampunk and the Class System: Does steampunk ignore what goes on below stairs? Is it all top hats and parasols, or should we be looking more at the dark underbelly of industrialisation and Empire? With Robert Harkess, Scott Lewis, Roz Clarke, Adrian Tchaikovsky.

I’m very pleased that JCG is on the music panel with me, because I can thank him for introducing me to some fine Arabic music. As to the steampunk panel, I guess I should read this before the convention.

There’s lots of other good stuff going on too. Check it out here.

Posted in Conventions | Leave a comment

Launching the Mothershed

Last night saw the first event of the Afrofuturism season at the Watershed. The main item was a screening of Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, a rare film about the amazing jazz musician, Sun Ra. The film was preceded by a short discussion involving Edson Burton, the curator of the Watershed events, and two guests from across the pond: Ytasha Womack and Floyd Webb. Sadly they were only able to attend by Skype, and the sound quality wasn’t always great, but I was very happy to get to hear Ytasha at last. I highly recommend her book, Afrofuturism, and am still distraught that it just missed out on being a finalist for Best Related Work this year. I know a lot less about Webb because he works mainly in film, but he certainly knew his black SF.

Sadly I had to leave to catch a train part way through the film. I also missed out on the dance party that was staged after the film by some of my colleagues from Ujima Radio. I’ll also miss out on Courttia Newland’s flash fiction workshop because I’ll be in Cheltenham tomorrow. However, I hope to be at BristolCon’s Fun Palace events on Sunday, and I see that there’s a film about George Clinton in the evening. Also, next Wednesday Edson will be in my studio to talk about Afrofuturism. I can guarantee that there will be plenty of that funky stuff.

Posted in Movies, Music, Radio, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

New Dimension 6

Issue 3 of Dimension 6, the Australia short fiction magazine, has just been published. It includes stories by Cat Sparks and Robert Hood, both of whom were on my post-Worldcon radio show.

You can download copies of issue #3 for free here.

Posted in Australia, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

The Last Farewell

My Mum’s funeral takes place today. I won’t be there. There are many reasons for this, but prominent amongst them is who I am

While Mum was supportive of my transition, she was also careful who she told, because not everyone reacts well to such things. There may be people at the funeral who don’t know, and to whom my presence will come as a shock. There will also be people there who do know and are disturbed by me. The possibility of drama is non-zero, and I’d prefer to avoid that if I can.

I’m OK with this. For years I expected that I’d be told that I wasn’t welcome at the funeral, and I’ve had time to get used to the idea. The situation now is more difficult. There will be people who think I have a duty to attend, no matter what, as well as people who think I have a duty to stay away. I’ll upset someone either way, but at least by not being there I’ll avoid the possibility of having my day ruined.

This does not mean that I won’t be marking the day. I’m not entirely sure what the service will be like, but I’m posting a few things that are close to what will happen. Sorry about the ads., but that’s YouTube for you. I’ll be doing other things to remember Mum in due course.

If I can help somebody – Mahalia Jackson

When I am dead, my dearest – Christina Rossetti

We’ll keep a welcome – Sir Harry Secombe & Morriston Choir

Posted in Personal | 9 Comments

October is Science Fiction Month in Bristol

You should all know about BristolCon by now, but that’s only a small part of the SF-related action that is taking place in Bristol this month.

First up, this coming weekend, we have Bristol’s Fun Palaces event. This is a national project co-directed by Stella Duffy that aims to create a “laboratory of fun” in every town. The Bristol Fun Palace will be science fiction themed. Jo and the crew from BristolCon have been busily helping with the organization. Details of the Sunday events that they are involved with are available on the Bristolcon wesbite. On the Watershed website you can also find details of what is happening on Saturday. Assuming that I’m not totally exhausted after Cheltenham, I hope to be at some of the Sunday events.

If you clicked through to that Watershed link you will see that the place has been renamed Mothershed for the month. That, as you might guess, is because it is also home to an Afrofuturism season, curated by Edson Burton. That kicks off tomorrow with a film about Sun Ra. Apparently there will also be a short introduction beforehand that will feature a Skype appearance by Ytasha Womack. And afterwards the Mothershed will enter party mode courtesy of my colleagues at Ujima Radio. I’ll have Edson on my show next week to talk about some of the other events he has lined up, and about Afrofuturism in general.

I am so proud of Bristol.

Update: And there’s more! On Sunday October 12th, 1:00pm to 4:00pm, the M-Shed is hosting Supercomics Sunday, organized by the Bristol Festival of Literature. The guests are Laura Howell (Beano, Toxic), Tom Plant (Beano), Cavan Scott (Beano, Doctor Who), Rob Williams (2000 AD, Doctor Who, Marvel Comics), Huw Powell (Spacejackers). There will be a pirate workshop, and it is free to attend. Awesome! Details here.

Posted in Conventions, Movies | Leave a comment

Some Kickstarter Recommendations

Because I’ve been distracted for the past few months I have not been keeping up to date with the various crowdfunding projects going on. I want to remedy that now. Here are three that I think are worth backing.

First up is Temporally Out Of Order, a themed anthology to be edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray. It is a launch project for a new publishing house, and they have a bunch of fine authors lined up to contribute, including Laura Anne Gilman and Seanan McGuire. I noticed it because one of the stretch goals will be to add a story by my good friend Juliet E. McKenna. She writes about the genesis of her story here. If you fancy the sound of the anthology, and in particular if you want Juliet’s story to be included, go here and back it.

Next we have my good friends at Clarkesworld who have an amazing project going to add stories translated from Chinese to the magazine. They’ve already hit their target for the Chinese stories, but their first stretch goal is to establish a fund to pay for stories translated from other languages. This is a fabulous project, so please do back it.

Finally, a project that I’ve known about for what seems like years, and which is finally happening. Sarah Savage, one of the stars of My Transsexual Summer, has written a book for kids called Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? Fox & Lewis have done a great video for Sarah, so I’ll just leave it to her to explain what the book is all about. Have a listen, then go back it here, please.

Posted in Books, Clarkesworld, Gender, Translations | Leave a comment