Whither Fanzine?

This year’s Hugo Administrator, Nicholas Whyte, has written a lengthy blog post looking at some of the interesting features of this year’s voting. The thing that sticks out to me most obviously from the post is his comments on the Fanzine category.

The lack of enthusiasm for Best Fanzine is notable. We were surprisingly close to not giving a Best Fanzine award in both 2019 Hugos and 1944 Retro Hugos this year. The total first preference votes for Best Fanzine finalists other than No Award in both cases was 26.9% of the total number of votes cast overall (833/3097 and 224/834).

The threshold is 25%, so with 59 fewer votes for 2019 or 16 fewer votes for 1944 we would have had to No Award the category. Best Fanzine was also the category with the best percentage for No Award in the final runoff for both 2019 and 1944. (84.4% in 2019, 81.7% in 1944.)

On Twitter Aidan Moher has been calling for more appreciation for video fanzines. (Booktube appears to be the name for such things.) People making them certainly deserve recognition, but they belong in the Fancast category which is for:

Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects

Aidan also suggests collapsing Fanzine and Fancast to create a single category of fan-created works. Much as I would like to see fewer Hugo categories, I can’t see that happening. Neither the podcast people nor fanzine fandom would be happy.

There is, of course, also the question of what we are judging. Abi Brady mischieviously suggested that we also collapse Best Novel and BDP: Long Form, which makes the point very neatly. The trouble is that on the Internet it is very easy to mix media. Most “newspapers” already include video and podcasts in their websites. When I started Salon Futura I deliberately set out to include all three formats: text, audio and video.

But that doesn’t solve the problem. What shall we do about Poor Little Fanzine? Well for starters you should all be nominating Rachel Cordasco’s magnificent Speculative Fiction in Translation. Hopefully we can also get a lot of folks doing fanzine reviews between now and the next nominating deadline. And finally, Salon Futura is still a thing. It is no longer semi-pro because I can’t afford to pay people. The website desperately needs a re-vamp. If I were to put all my book reviews and con reports on there, and maybe give it some sort of issue structure, it would most definitely be a fanzine. And then you would all have to rush around finding other fanzines to vote for, because no one wants me winning any more Hugos, do they?

(And yes, it would still include audio. You can’t expect me to pass up the chance to mess with the category police.)

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Cancelling Campbell

In the wake of Jeanette Ng’s fantastic acceptance speech, lots of people on social media are asking whether John W Campbell’s name can be removed from the Best New Writer award.

The problem with this is that the award does not belong to WSFS. We merely administer it on behalf of Dell Magazines, who were the original publishers of Asimov’s and Analog. So WSFS cannot change the name of the award without risking them withdrawing funding for it.

The most obvious way forward is for people to write to Dell asking them to change the name of the award. Changing the name to the Dell Magazines Award for Best New Writer would solve multiple problems. It would get us away from any association with Campbell. It would give proper recognition to Dell for their sponsorship. And it would make it much less necessary for WSFS to keep having to explain why the award is Not a Hugo. So get writing, people, and please be polite about it.

Of course it is entirely possible that the senior management at Dell will refuse to do so. If they do the next step would be to bring a motion to the Business Meeting asking that we strike the Campbell from the list of awards, and replace it with a Hugo Award for Best New Writer that has exactly the same rules. That would doubtless make Dell unhappy, and be awkward for anyone involved with Asimov’s and Analog, but if the company refuses to budge we don’t have much choice.

There should be no additional burden on Worldcon for converting the Campbell to a Hugo, except the cost of one more trophy. All of the administration, including eligibility checking, is already done by the Hugo Administrators.

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The Race for 2023

There has been some discussion on Twitter today about potential future Worldcon sites. Washington DC has been awarded the 2021 convention. It is probably too late to do anything about 2022, for which Chicago is unopposed. That leaves us with 2023 as the next possible non-US Worldcon.

Prior to Dublin the extant bids for 2023 were Nice (France), Chengdu (China) and New Orleans (USA). The New Orleans bid has, I understand it, collapsed. However, some US fans were busily organising a bid for another city. Apparently they viewed this as essential to prevent yet another non-US Worldcon. I think they have settled on Memphis but it was a bit confused.

The Chengdu bid is controversial for two reasons, one of which is that it is very hard to get into China. Elizabeth Bear told me that she has been denied a visa because she is a writer. That could happen to a lot of us. My own view is that a Chinese Worldcon won’t happen without government approval, and if that approval exists then it should be possible to set up a system whereby visa applications can be expedited. This is China, after all. If bureaucrats are told to do something they will do it. It is only when they have no instructions that they are dangerous. I know this is rough on my Chinese friends, who very much want to extend the hospitality of their country to the world, but they need to show that they can get people to the convention.

The other issue is personal safety. Clearly a lot of Americans are terrified of going to China. I know a lot of people who have been. That includes my boss, Berkeley. His husband, Duncan, has been working in China for several months, and Berkeley has spent a lot of time out there. Given that he’s never had any job other than Gay Activist, and this should be obvious from his social media activity, I don’t think that China is that dangerous for LGBT+ folks.

It is, however, potentially dangerous to Muslims given what is happening to the Uighurs at the moment. It is also extremely dangerous for anyone who has friends or family involved in the current protests in Hong Kong. That is a very good reason for not voting for China. Things may be different in two years time, but political change in China does not happen easily, and I can’t see their government backing off while neither the USA nor the UK has any interest in asking them to, and the EU desperately needs allies against the Trump-Russia axis.

That leaves us with Nice. It is a lovely city, just down the road from Monaco, and easily accessible by train from much of Europe. It may even be accessible by train from the UK if the Channel Tunnel hasn’t been blocked up Brexit fanatics by then. It also has excellent air links. It is not far from Spain (well, Catalonia) and very close to Italy, which makes it a good site for a European event.

The downside is that the Nice bid committee are largely new to Worldcon. As far as I can see they don’t have much involvement from the folks who run Imaginales and Utopiales either. They don’t have fans from other European countries helping them out. And I don’t know of any tradition of con-running in Nice. Organisationally, they seem to be a weaker bid than Chengdu.

We have two years to turn that around. I know a bunch of French fans, and I plan to talk to any I find at Eurocon this weekend. Being of generous spirit, I also hereby volunteer to take a short holiday on the French Riviera so that I can inspect the site. I may be nagging the Nordic, Croatian and Italian fans to help out too.

Finally I note that in these times of increasingly difficulty of international travel, and of burgeoning climate crisis, it is absolutely essential that we look at ways of making more of Worldcon accessible over the Internet so that people can participate without having to travel. The New Zealand convention is an excellent point at which to start. But that’s a big enough subject for a whole new post and I need to talk to Norm and Kelly first.

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Worldcon #77 – Day 5

I woke up from not enough sleep to discover that social media was aflame with drama at the Hugo Losers’ Party. I’m still not entirely sure what went on, but Twitter is full of ranting by people who know nothing of the history of the event so I will try to get to the bottom of it before I post a con report.

The Hugo Losers’ Party has traditionally been the ugly duckling of Worldcon. For reasons lost in the midst of time it has normally been run by the up-coming Worldcon, which in this case would mean New Zealand. The up-coming Worldcons hated this, because it was a major expense and trouble when they had no money and were exhausted from the bid campaign. It was always a terrible party with a minimal budget and too-small room that was ferociously gate-kept by SMOFs who felt it was their duty to police who was worthy of entry.

Then the Puppies happened, and GRRM decided to throw a big party for the convention to give out his Alfie Awards to people who should have won Hugos but didn’t because we’d had to No Award most of the categories. Although the Puppies have been well and truly routed, George holding the party has become a tradition. This is an example of Cheryl’s Second Law of Fandom in action: anything that has happened twice is a Sacred and Holy Tradition that must be retained at all costs.

In the old days, Hugo Loser Party nonsense wasn’t a big deal. If some snooty SMOF decided that you weren’t worthy of your place on the ballot and wouldn’t let you in, you could just move on to one of the other parties that would probably have more and better food and booze. But George runs his parties at off-site locations and if you can’t get in, which happened to a bunch of finalists last night, you are left outside in your award ceremony finery feeling cold and wet and miserable, with no choice but to get a cab back to your hotel.

Quite why so many finalists were turned away isn’t clear. It isn’t the fault of the Dublin committee, because they have nothing to do with the party other than pass on invitations to the finalists. It probably isn’t the fault of the NZ people because these days I understand that organisation of the event is passed on to people who work for George. People on Twitter inevitably blamed George personally (and doubtless complained that he should be writing books rather than running parties). The fault may lie with the staff at the venue. It is all a bit murky.

What is clear is that a whole lot of people who were not Hugo finalists had got into the party long before the Hugo Ceremony finished. This is the publishing industry in action. If there is a swank party going, publishing people will find a way to get into it. And the fact that they did led to the venue being (allegedly) overcrowded and people being turned away.

It is also clear that a whole lot of people who were Hugo finalists, many of them for the first time, had a really shitty experience.

I confess to being a little lacking in sympathy here. The year I won my first Hugo I had been blacklisted from programming at the convention because the head of Programming thought I wasn’t worthy of being on the ballot. And after I won a rant attacking me was posted on the convention’s website by convention staff. (Deb Geisler, who was the con chair, ordered it taken down as soon as she heard about it.) However, I too hate standing out in the cold and rain wearing party clothes so I can imagine what it must have been like.

I’ll have some more thoughts on how we fix this for subsequent years when I write the con report, but a core issue is that throwing a good party is really expensive and the number of finalists you have to cater for has been going up year-on-year.

Meanwhile there was still a day of convention to go. I sold the last copy of The Green Man’s Foe this afternoon so Wizard’s Tower officially sold out. That’s 45 paperbacks and 5 hardcovers in total. As I had an unexpected vacancy in my luggage I offered to take the remaining Twelfth Planet stock to Belfast with me to sell there. If you are going to be at Eurocon, do come to the Future Fiction table to see what I have.

The rest of the day was spent on things like wrangling luggage, saying goodbye to people I’m not going to see again for years, and listening to people say what a wonderful time they had at the convention.

I am now in Belfast. I will be here for a week. The next two days will be mainly sleep, work and tourism. The Eurocon starts on Thursday.

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Worldcon #77 – Day 4

Today was mostly a do nothing day. I didn’t have any panels, and I knew I needed to save my energy for a long evening covering the Hugo Award Ceremony.

I did spend some time in the morning shopping for whiskey, which was very successful. I then spent quite a bit of time just being off my feet. That allowed me to have a chat with Roz & Jo about Airship 2, which is progressing nicely.

To the great relief of all concerned, the Tech team in Dublin had managed to acquire a dedicated wifi connection for Kevin, Susan and I to use for the live coverage of the ceremony. Special thanks are due to Rick Kovalcik for doing all of the leg work on this.

Aside from some rather dodgy speech-to-text conversion software, the ceremony went off very well. The winners seemed very popular except in the Puppyverse. A few of them were even things I had voted first. The full results, with a link to The Numbers, are available here. Kevin and I have been busy getting the official Hugos website updated, so we are not at any of this evening’s parties.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to read those voting breakdowns.

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Worldcon #77 – Day 3

This morning, after a bit of fruitless chasing of phone companies, I took myself off to The Point to meet Scott Edelman who was on a panel there. This is how I discovered that Dublin has a rule that the Green Room is only open to programme participants during the hour before their panels. I guess they are very short of space. Being me, I blagged my way in.

Once Scott’s panel was done we headed off to his restaurant of choice, Mr. Fox, and recorded a podcast for Eating the Fantastic. Scott will post details of what we ate along with the podcast, but he has released the above photo with me and the restaurant’s signature walnut whip confectionary. Scott’s ability to find superb restaurants is legendary in the SF&F community, and rightly so.

It was a very long lunch, but not alcoholic as I had to get back to The Point to give my talk on the Prehistory of Robotics. It seemed to go down well. I was also pleased to meet a long time friend, Paul Mason, whom I haven’t seen in decades as he’s been living in Japan.

The rest of the day was spent chatting to people back at the convention centre. I was very pleased to meet two talented young women who are starting to make a name for themselves in the business. The first was Molly Powell, who is the new editor at Jo Fletcher Books. She’s the person responsible for bringing This is How You Lose the Time War and Gods of Jade and Shadow to the UK. The other was Tamsyn Muir, author of Gideon the Ninth, which is by far the most talked about debut novel that I can remember. They are both lovely, and I look forward to watching their careers blossom.

I didn’t have enough energy left to go to the masquerade, so I came back to the apartment and crashed.

Tomorrow, I have nothing to do except the Hugos. Quite a lot of panels have had to turn people away, and I have taken a policy decision to give up my seat to newbies. I may go whiskey shopping.

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Worldcon #77 – Day 2

Well that was eventful.

I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep in a bit this morning because the first thing I had to do was be at the convention centre for 11:00pm as Juliet McKenna was doing a signing. That went very well. We sold a whole bunch of books, both The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Foe. We were very happy.

Immediately after that I was moderating a panel on promoting translations. I was very pleased with that. I had a very knowledgeable panel, including Neil Clarke and Francesco Verso who are doing far more to promote translations than I am. We had an interesting discussion on how awards might help, what sort of awards were needed, and why the proposal for a Best Translated Novel Hugo is a bad idea.

While we were doing that, the Friday Business Meeting was in progress. While they rarely do Objection to Consideration any more, they can ask for a motion to be deferred for a year to allow more discussion to take place, and that’s what happened to the translation Hugo proposal. I do hope that the people who put it forward will listen to people in the translation community over the next 12 months rather than stubbornly bring back the same flawed proposal in Wellington.

During the panel, Julie Nováková said that she’d like someone to revive the SF&F Translation Awards (or something like them). The charitable organisation that we set up for them has been disbanded, but the website still exists and I’d be happy to talk to anyone who wants to take this on.

After the panel and a quick lunch I headed down to the other venue to check out the tech situation for tomorrow. I have to give my robotics talk in one of the Odeon rooms at The Point and I needed to make sure everything would work. These rooms are effectively overflow programming space, which is great because the con is much bigger than anyone initially expected. However, they are actually in an Odeon. The rooms are part of a multi-screen cinema. This means that the seating is great, but there isn’t much of it. Screen 4, where I will be, only seats about 80 people. What’s more, there is a queueing system. You can’t go and wait outside the room. If you don’t go through the official queueing process then you may not get in. Please bear this in mind if you are coming to listen to me tomorrow.

While I was at The Point I had a look around the Art Show which is very impressive. There are a lot of really good artists in there, the show itself is very big, and the large amount of natural lighting it gets is ideal. I have finally got to see some of Emma Newman’s art in the canvas, so to speak, and it is very pretty.

Unfortunately I also managed to lose my phone while I was down at The Point. I put this down to being very tired by that point and not thinking straight. Fortunately I was able to cadge favours of friends (thanks to Kevin & Andy and to Alan) and get the deivice disconnnected, and I didn’t have anything irreplaceable on it anyway, but it does mean that no one can phone me right now. I will go and talk to the phone company tomorrow, but I may not be able to get a new phone with my old number until I arrive in Belfast next week. If any of you are in the habit of contacting me on WhatsApp please bear this in mind.

Back at the Convention Centre, I inhaled a sandwich and headed off to moderate a panel marking the 50th anniversary of The Left Hand of Darkness. I was pleased with that, so thanks again to a great group of panelists. We all agreed that the book is very relevant, even if part of modern society are less hidebound in their attitudes to sex and gender than poor Genly Ai.

During the panel Nick Hubble mentioned Genly’s suspicion that the Gethenians were genetically engineered from baseline humans sometime far in the past. Genly thinks this was an experiment of some sort, but we only have his word for it and the details appear to be lost in the mists of Hainish history. I would love to see someone write a novel that tells the story of how the Gethenians came to be. Obviously there would be copyright issues, not to mention the jaw-dropping terror of trying to write a novel in one of Le Guin’s worlds, put I’m putting the idea out there just in case.

That was me done for the day. Thankfully I don’t have to go to the Business Meeting tomorrow to fight the translation Hugo proposal, so I have time to see about the phone situation. Over lunch I am being interviewed by Scott Edelman for his Eating the Fantastic podcast. Then it is off to The Point to give the Prehistory of Robotics talk.

We may have a solution to the issue of internet access for the Hugo Award Ceremony coverage, but there’s no guarantee that it will work. I must say that I am deeply disappointed at how successive Worldcons continue to not care in the slightest whether we are able to do this coverage. Despite Josh Beatty trying really hard for us, the Award Ceremony Director simply doesn’t have enough clout to make this happen. We have to get made an official part of the convention staff, with someone on the committee who can fight to get us what we need from the outset. I think WSFS Division is the only logical place for us, because we are an official WSFS function. I shall probably rant about this again after the convention.

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Worldcon #77 – Day 1

Well that was full-on. Welcome to Worldcon!

This morning’s main job was to collect the copies of The Green Man’s Foe and get them on sale in the Dealers’s Room. Huge thanks to Catie Murphy for helping with delivery, and to Francesco Verso for giving me space on his table. If you are at Worldcon and want a copy you can find Francesco at the back of the room sandwiched between Luna Press and the people will the big line of black t-shirts.

I know at least a third of the copies have gone already, which is excellent news.

My next job was to find out where Kevin and I, and Susan de Guardiola, would be based for the Retro-Hugo coverage. There were only a couple of people on the convention staff with that knowledge, and it took a while to track them down. Huge thanks to Josh Beatty for giving us our own office.

In between all this I got to a few panels. The convention centre is lovely, and almost right-sized for the convention. One of my Finnish friends told me that she had queued for two panels and not been able to get in, but I got to all of the panels I wanted without much queueing. There’s a major issue with traffic flow on the Wicklow floor, but the convention is working hard to get something in place. Everything else seems to be working fine, though I haven’t got to the other venue yet.

I went to two panels on translation, which were interesting, and one very well attended panel for queer fans, which was heartwarming. I’ll be doing another translation panel tomorrow. It is good to see so much cross-cultural stuff happening.

This evening saw the Opening Ceremonies and Retro-Hugo Awards. Kevin and I made a decision to do live coverage of this as a trial run for Sunday. The software we normally use for these things is no longer available, and we wanted to give the replacement a run out before the Big Show. We are so glad that we did, because in the process we discovered that the Internet connection we had is terrible. We barely made it through the evening. On Sunday, when the auditorium will be full of people using their phones to do their own coverage, and thereby using up bandwidth, it will be impossible. So we have 2.5 days to find an alternative connection. I do hope the convention has something it can let us have.

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Worldcon #77 – Day -1

Hello Dublin, thank you for having us!

I am safely arrived at my apartment for the week. It is a lovely little Air BnB near the Castle. The travel all went more or less according to plan, despite the best attempts of the West Country weather to have everyone phoning Mr. Noah to ask if he still has that big boat. I haven’t got to the convention centre yet, but I know how to get there and have bought a ticket for the Luas (the city tram network).

Dublin is teeming with fannish persons. When I arrived a flight from Helsinki had just disgored a legion of Finns. I knew three of my fellow passengers on my flight, and several others were clearly fans from their dress and hair color. I ran into John Picacio while I was out shopping for supplies.

The other thing I have been doing today is making sure that The Green Man’s Foe is available online tomorrow. Amazon and Kobo should go live at midnight. B&N and Google may take a little longer. And of course the ebooks will bbe available through the Wizard’s Tower shop.

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Book Review – Gods of Jade and Shadow

The folks at Jo Fletcher Books are doing some great work at the moment, picking up the UK rights for US books that everyone is talking about but that the larger UK publishers don’t want. Am I susprised that an imprint run by a woman is picking up hot books by WoC writers that aren’t selling elsewhere? I don’t think I am.

Anyway, enough of the publishing industry gossip, you want to know about the book. Mayan gods in 1920s Mexico. From a Mexican writer. Need I say more? Of course not. Gods of Jade and Shadow is the latest from Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It is well worth a look. My review is here.

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The WSFS Agenda

With Worldcon almost upon us, it is time once more to descend into that pit of despair, the WSFS Business Meeting. What delights of Parliamentary Procedure are in store for us this year?

The Agenda for this year’s Business Meetin is available here. There doesn’t seem to be anything urgent to debate on Friday. The days when it was necessary to pack the Friday meeting to prevent conservative fans from squashing important motions with Objection to Consideration motions seem to be finally over. Besides, there’s nothing I’m desperate to see get discussed.

Much of the main business, which will be debated on Saturday morning, is either ratification of items passed in San José, or clean-up of the Constitution. The Nit-Picking & Fly-Specking Committee has been doing its usual fine job of spotting side effects of new regulations and quietly proposing simple ways of bringing everything into line. However, there are a couple of new proposals that will doubtless spark debate.

Motion D1: Clarification of Worldcon Powers, is a NP&FS Motion, but it is one that is personally important to me. What it does it make it clear than an individual Worldcon has no power over the Hugo Awards from previous years, administered by other Worldcons. For years after I won my first Hugo, people were saying that an “error” had been made, and that the award should be rescinded because I should never have been allowed on the ballot in the first place. I don’t want this to happen to other people.

Motion D7: Five and Five, would remove the system of having 6 finalists each year. This was put in place as one of the anti-Puppy measures. Those who study the voting figures claim that is has very little effect, and the EPH system is sufficient protection going forward. But why remove it? I have heard people saying that it is just to make life easier for Hugo Administrators. I don’t think that’s the argument being made. The main issues are the amount of reading that has to be done by voters, and the size of the pre-Hugo reception. In practice 6 finalists isn’t a huge problem for voters except in categories that involve novels. But with the Lodestar we have two novel categories, and we have Series which is a nightmare for voters to judge fairly. So there’s something of a point there. As to the reception, this has always been a nightmare for Worldcons, both in terms of the expense and finding a suitable venue that is both large enough and close enough to the auditorium. That nightmare will have been getting steadily worse as we have added more categories. I can quite see why those who run the event hate the 6 Finalists rule.

Motion D9: Non-transferability of Voting Rights, is one that I think will divide the meeting. I can see merits both ways. Personally I am generally in favour of anything that strengthens the bond between the member and WSFS. People buying a membership of Worldcon tend to see themselves as members of that Worldcon, not members of WSFS, when in fact they are both. Obviously there will be old time fans who will see this as creeping corporatisation of WSFS, but I think the time when a cry of, “To the Barricades! No WSFS Inc!!!”, could pack the meeting are long gone. Where I think this motion will attract opposition is from people who see it as taking away their right to re-sell their voting rights, which it does. But as long as membership of WSFS is relatively cheap I don’t have a problem with that. It will enlarge the voter pool, which is a good thing.

There may be some very convoluted arguments about whether Supporting Memberships and WSFS Memberships are, or should be, the same thing. It is complicated.

Motion D11: Clear Up the Definition of Public in the Artist Categories Forever, is all very well in theory, but is certainly not going to achieve what it says on the tin. There are always going to be new wrinkles in definitions as long as the pro/fan distinction exists. All we can hope for is that this reduces the number of issues. I have no idea whether it will.

Motion D12: Best Translated Novel, is one I’d like to speak to if I am still at the meeting (I have a 12:00 appointment elsewhere). No one I know in the translation community is in favor of this. Neil Clarke has laid into it here. Knowing how much the WSFS community hates the idea of a work being eligible in more than one Hugo category, I fully expect there to be an amendment to this proposal that would also bar translated novels from the Novel category, and possibly Series and the Lodestar as well. Even if such an amendment doesn’t get through, I think that the existence of this category will encourage people to think that translated works are not eligible for any other Hugo category. It is hard enough now to persuade people that they are eligible, even though they always have been. We don’t want to be stuck in a ghetto, so please don’t pass this.

Motion D13: Best Game or Interactive Experience, is something I think will have to happen at some stage in some form. I’m not a sufficient expert on the game industry to tell whether this is a good solution or not. Given that the last trial of a game category was 13 years ago, I’d like to see a trial category run before we make anything like this permanent.

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Book Review – The Undoing of Arlo Knott

The last couple of weeks have seen me in Bristol to do events with local author, Heather Child. I hosted a launch event for her new novel, The Undoing of Arlo Knott, and then interviewed her on my radio show. Obviously I needed to read the book, so I have done a review. I’m really impressed with the path that Heather is crafting for herself in the field. It is light years away from the sort of space opera that Gareth Powell is writing these days, but it is nevertheless very thoughtful science fiction. Also Orbit have outdone themselves on the promotional materials. You can find the review here.

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Interview – Regina Wang

This is the other interview that I promised you from Åcon X. Regina and I had a chat about her work promoting Chinese SF around the world. Here are links to some of the things we talked about.

Regina, Chen Quifan and Neil Clarke will all be at Worldcon in Dublin. Knowing Regina, she’s probably going to the Eurocon as well.

Chen Quifan is doing an event in London tonight.

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Book Review – The Calculating Stars

I have a Hugo finalist up for review today. I, of course, voted for Space Opera, because I think Cat Valente is a genius. However, I expect Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars to win. If you want to know why, and why it didn’t quite work for me, you can find my review here.

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Writing Historical Fiction Symposium

This is very much advance notice. I’ll be pushing it much more once I am back from Ireland. But in November (assuming that the UK has not descended into full scale civil war) I am going to be giving a workshop on “Writing Queer Characters from the Past” at a symposium on writing historical fiction at Bath Spa University. The date is Saturday, November 16th. The fee including lunch is £85, though there are concessions available for students. Full details here.

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Tourism in Dublin

Some of you are in Ireland already, and many more are on the way. Obviously there is Worldcon to look forward to, and a fair amount of Irish history (particularly if you count yourself as part of the diaspora), but many of you will be interested in that thing that Ireland is justifiably famous for: alcohol.

I don’t know what the convention centre bars are like, but if they are rubbish I suspect that a lot of us will end up in the Porterhouse on Temple Bar. It happens to be just a short walk from my apartment, and as I recall it is the traditional Dead Dog location for Octocon. Anyway, they will have a good selection of microbrews.

Then there is the matter of whiskey. Are there distilleries? Yes, there are. Can you visit them? Of course. Here’s a quick guide.

First up, don’t bother with Jamesons. I understand that they don’t actualy make whiskey in Dublin any more, and in any case what’s the point in looking for whiskey that you can buy at home. Also Bushmills is in Ulster. Wait until you get to Belfast before asking for that. Thankfully Dublin has seen an explosion of craft distilleries in recent years.

The Tourist Information lady I talked to in Dublin back in February recommended Pearse Lyons and Teeling. My local whiskey shop in Bath added Liberties and Dingle. And there’s also Roe & Co, which I know nothing about. All of these places are right in the centre of Dublin in and around the Liberties district, so south of the river and west of the castle.

If visiting all of those places seems like a bit much, you should be able to get an overview of the field at the Irish Whiskey Museum. You can sample what’s available at the Dingle Whiskey Bar (at least I hope you can, they do have a connection to the Dingle distillery so they may be a teeny bit biased). And you can buy bottles to take home from the Celtic Whiskey Shop.

Most of these distilleries are quite young. I think they all have product available now, but it won’t have had much ageing.

That should keep you all busy during your trip. However, there’s one more place that I’d like to visit if I have the time. That is the Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum. I don’t suppose it is entirely devoted to Horslips, and Thin Lizzy do deserve a place. I gather that there’s another Irish rock band that is quite famous too. Anyway, it seems like fun.

Posted in Conventions, Music, Travel, Whisky | 2 Comments

Reviews Come In

Reviews for The Green Man’s Foe are starting to come in. There is a rather spoilery, but very enthusiastic, one up on The Monday Review. Michele is less spoilery, but no less enthusiastic, on Goodreads, where you can also find comments from KJ Charles and Jacey Bedford.

Meanwhile Juliet informs me that The Green Man’s Heir now has 125 reviews on Amazon UK, with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

I am so very happy for her.

Posted in Books, Wizard's Tower | 3 Comments

Today on Ujima – Mexican Food, Poetry, Fiction & Renewables

Today I was in the studio at Ujima with lots of studio guests.

First up I welcomed Graham from My Burrito, a fabulous Mexican eatery in Bristol. We had a great chat about the glories of Mexican food. I was hungry by the end of it, as were Ben, my engineer, and Keziah, the studio manager. You probably will be too.

Next in the hot seat was Tom Denbigh, Bristol’s first LGBT+ Poet Laureate. I met Tom at an event that was part of Bristol Pride and loved the poem he read so I knew I had to get him on the radio. Sadly Ofcom rules about swearing on air rather limited what he could read. It’s about time the regulations caught up with everyday speech.

Guest three was Heather Child, who was no problem to interview as I had already done it last week at her book launch. We talked again about The Undoing of Arlo Knott and the various places where you can find out more about the book.

Finally I was joined by Jon Turney from Zero West to talk about local renewable energy projects.

Much of the music I played was inspired by my time doing the live coverage of Bristol Pride. The full playlist was:

  • Boney M – By the Rivers of Babylon
  • Pointer Sisters – Fire
  • Shea Freedom – Woman’s World
  • Nina – Calm Before the Storm
  • Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
  • Eddy Grant – Baby Come Back
  • Chi-Lites – Give More Power to the People
  • Boney M – Brown Girl in the Ring

You can listen to the whole show for the next few weeks via the Ujima Listen Again service.

Posted in Books, Environment, Food, Music, Poetry, Radio | Leave a comment

Farah & Cathy on DWJ

I entirely forgot to make a post about last month’s radio show because I was in Finland when it aired. As I’m in the middle of prep for this month’s show, I have been reminded of this and need to do something about it, because there were some good interviews in the show.

One of them is with Regina Wang, which I plan to get online before Worldcon. The other is with Farah Mendlesohn and Cathy Butler, which is slightly more urgent because it is about an event that is taking place this coming weekend – the conference on Diana Wynne Jones that they are running in Bristol (and which I can’t go to because I am swamped with work).

Farah and Cathy are always good value for a chat, but there is no better subject to set them off on than Diana. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Posted in Academic, Conventions, Podcasts, Salon Futura | Leave a comment

The OutStories Bristol AGM

Regular readers will know that each year at the OutStories Bristol AGM we have a lecture from a respected academic on some aspect of LGBT history. This year I am delighted to announce that our guest lecturer will be Professor Jennifer Ingleheart from the University of Durham. She will be talking about the Classical influences of the poet, AE Housman. The meeting is on October 5th, at the Wills Memorial Building, Bristol University. Full details are available on the OutStories Bristol website.

Posted in History | Leave a comment