Worldcon News

Eastercon is taking place at Heathrow this weekend, and one of the major announcements that has been made is that the 2024 bid for a UK Worldcon has selected a venue. The host city will once again be Glasgow, and the site will the familiar SECC, though it is now known as the Scottish Event Campus.

Mike Glyer has a brief report on File 770, and the official bid site can be found here. The bid is currently unopposed, but you never know what might turn up between now and 2022. Presupports will go on sale in Dublin.

As far as I know, there is no intention to revive the White Star Federated Spacelines and Starship Armadillo that Kevin and I created for the 2005 Worldcon. I don’t even know if the Armadillo is part of the facilities plans. But here’s a brief reminder of the Armadillo in flight:

It is also worth noting that by 2024 Scotland may be an independent country within the EU. Or there could be English tanks in Glasgow. In the current state of UK politics, anything is possible. If Scotland is still part of the UK at that time it could be very difficult for non-white-Anglo people to attend.

Meanwhile Jukka Halme, who is at Eastercon, tweeted this:

Knowing Jukka, this could just be him tossing a large rock into the fannish lake and watching the ripples, but if it is serious I’m very interested.

Posted in Conventions, Science Fiction | 5 Comments

Summer in Finland

The weather appears to have warmed up nicely, so I am looking forward to the summer which, as is traditional, will see me heading off to Finland.

At the end of May I will be at Åcon X, the 10th convention in the Åland Islands. This year’s GoH is Amal El-Mohtar, who I am very much looking forward to getting to know better. Not to mention there will be the boat trips on the Baltic and the lovely island destination.

In July Finncon will be in Jyväskylä, which is always lovely. I will get to hang out with the fabulous Irma Hirsjärvi again. Otto and Paula have promised me some tourism around central Finland. And best of all I get to be a Guest of Honour.

There are a couple of very interesting Finnish guests. Kersti Juva has translated The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh, Watership Down and many other famous books. Raine Koskimaa is a professor of Contemporary Culture, which basically means he gets to play video games for a living. The author GoH is Charles Stross, which means that Feòrag and I will get to hang out together, drink beer and be disreputable. It also means that Fluff Cthulhu will get to feast on Finnish brains.

I’ll doubtless be on programming with Charlie at some point, which may well lead to discussion of tentacled monstrosities from beyond the stars, but we promise to talk about things other than the Tories as well. I will be giving a guest lecture, the title of which is, “The Prehistory of Robotics”. It will cover the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Ottomans, the Kalevala and much more.

Posted in Conventions, Finland, Science Fiction, Where's Cheryl? | 2 Comments

Book Review: Luna: Moon Rising

Luna: Moon Rising

Few things get a book up to the top of my To Read pile quicker than it being by Ian McDonald. I’ve been waiting eagerly for the final installment in the Luna series for some time. Obviously it had to be out in time for Worldcon, where he is the Author Guest of Honour. So it is available now (sort of). If you want to see what I made of it, click here.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

New Asterix Book in October

I get all sorts of odd PR emails from publishers, many of which are of no interest to me whatsoever. This one was different. I grew up on Asterix books, and while I know they are not quite the same these days as there has been turnover in the creative team, a new one is always of interest.

The book will be called Asterix and the Chieftan’s Daughter. The basic plot is that Vercingetorix, the famous Gallic leader who defied Caesar, had a daughter. She has now come to the little village in Amorica. The blurb doesn’t explain why, other than that she’s on the run from Caesar, but I’m assuming that she will want Asterix and co to support her in a rebellion against the Romans.

The book is due for publication on October 24th. Full press release here.

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Zoran Živković on Writing

Many of you will know Zoran Živković as one of our finest contemporary writers of weird fiction. Fewer, I suspect, know that for many years he taught courses in creative writing at the University of Belgrade. Now a book based on his teaching is to be published in English. It is called The Clay Writer and will be available from Springer in August. The book consists of a lengthy essay on writing, followed by a number of short stories that Zoran used to demonstrate technique. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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Fringe Open Mic Tonight

If you happen to be in Bristol tonight, do pop along the the Gryphon for BristolCon Fringe. It is our annual Open Mic event where anyone can come along and read for 5 minutes. If there are insufficient victims volunteers I may read something myself.

Full details here.

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Greetings from GeMANE 3

Hello, I am in Ghent, which is in Belgium, though very close to the Dutch border and most people here seem to speak Dutch.

The reason that I am here is that I am attending the 3rd Workshop on Gender, Methodology and the Ancient Near East. It is basically a gathering for Assyriologists who are mindful of gender and intersectionality issues in their work. That means that they don’t assume that the people they are studying are all white, all cisgender and heterosexual, and all convinced of the primacy of the nuclear family as a basic social unit. I mean, really, why would anyone make those assumptions? And yet they do.

Much of what goes on is relatively specialist. Also, like any academic conference, sometimes we get talks from people who are early in their careers and don’t have a lot to say. But they’ll get better from going to events like this. And there have been several really great papers already.

Being me, I was particularly interested in the session on the Neo-Assyrian Empire. My thanks to Amy Gansell for continuing to expand my knowledge of Assyrian queens, and to Saana Svärd for a fascinating paper that hinted at a possible matriarchal culture, and maybe even women warriors, among the ancient inhabitants of Arabia.

For this post, however, I will concentrate on just one paper: Omar N’Shea & Sophus Helle on the gendered performance of Ashurbanipal.

Some of you will have seen the exhibition about the life of Ashurbanipal at the British Museum over the winter. He’s the guy featured in the reliefs of a lion hunt. All very macho. And yet up until the 19th Century our view of him was very different. Our only evidence for his existence came from the Roman writer, Diodorus Siculus, who called him Sardanapulus and said he was decadent and effeminate. The picture above by Delacroix gives a good impression of the image Diodorus protrays.

Diodorus claims to have got his information from a Greek writer called Ctesias, but the work he cites hasn’t come down to us and Greeks tended to be a bit biased when talking about anyone from the part of the world where Persia then stood.

Then we did archaeology, and discovered Assyrian records, and the lion hunt reliefs. Our picture of Ashurbanipal changed significantly.

But it isn’t that simple. Here’s the famous picture of Ashurbanipal skewering a charging lion.

That thing in his belt that I have highlighted, it is a stylus, for writing on clay tablets. The King is a scholar as well as a warrior, and doesn’t go anywhere without the means of writing down his exploits.

Omar (and Sophus but he couldn’t be here this week) then pointed to a message from the goddess Ishtar to Ashurbanipal. The Elamites were in revolt, but Ishtar advised the King not to lead his troops against them. She, the Goddess of War, had it all in hand. He should stay safe at home and enjoy a feast or two. Here he is enjoying a garden party along with his principal wife, Libbali-šarrat.

And yet this scene of domestic tranquility is not all it seems. To the far right of the picture Ashurbanipal’s bow lies resting on a table. To the left the head of Teumman, the Elamite king, hangs from a tree.

Ashurbanipal, then, sends very mixed messages through his royal imagery and statements. On the one hand he is a pleasure-loving scholar whose empire is so safe he doesn’t need to go to war himself; on the other he hunts lions for fun and glories in the defeat of his enemies. This contradiction may have led to a certain amount of character assassination by his enemies, and that may have given rise to the legend of Sardanapulus.

So that’s the sort of thing I have been listening to today. My thanks to Omar and Sophus for a great paper.

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Book Review – Rosewater Insurrection

Rosewater

The last couple of weeks have been manic work-wise, but I have managed to get some reading done and today, finally, I have managed to write about some of it.

Tade Thompson is not only a very fine writer, he’s also one of the nicest people I have met on the science fiction circuit. The fact that he’s a psychiatrist by profession, and trans people and psychiatrists are supposed to hate each other, makes our friendship quite unusual.

However, you are not here to listen to me whinge about medical people. You want to know what I think of Tade’s latest book. Short version: I loved it and am eagerly awaiting book three in the triology. Long version: click here.

Posted in Books, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Utopiales Comes to Oxford

Many of you will be familiar with Utopiales, the big French convention that takes place in Nantes every October. Well this month they are coming to the UK. They are partnering with Maison Française d’Oxford, the French research centre in Oxford, to put on a 3-day conference. The dates are April 24-27.

Days 1 and 2 are the academic part of the event. You can find the full programme here.

Day 3 is more public-oriented and features three workshops. One of them is titled “The boundaries and territories of SF” and features three great writers, plus me. My estemeed colleagues are Stephanie Saulter (who needs no introduction), Emma Geen (who wrote the brilliant The Many Selves of Katherine North), and Jeanne-A Debats who, among other things, teaches Latin and Greek and is Art Director of Utopiales. I know Stephanie and Emma well, and I’m looking forward to meeting Jeanne-A (whom I shall doubtless bore with discussion of queer Romans).

In addition there is an exhibition of art from the 19 years of Utopiales.

It all sounds very splendid, and it is free. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

Posted in Academic, Art, Conventions, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Today on Ujima: Section 28, Masculinity, Hugos & Silence

It was a radio day for me today. I barely got the show together in time having been away over the weekend and had much of yesterday hijacked by the Hugos, but I got there in the end.

In the first half hour I played an interview I did over the weekend with Sue Sanders, the founder of Schools Out and LGBT History Month. There has been a lot of talk here in the media about the need for a return to something called Section 28, which attempted to ban the mention of anything to do with LGBT people in schools. Thankfully Parliament has refused to turn the clock back, but lots of the people I get in training courses have never heard of Section 28 so I figured that having Sue, who was in the forefront of the fight against it, explain what went down, would be useful.

Next up I had a studio guest, Elias Williams of ManDem, an arts organisation for young black men. Last week I had been on a panel on the future of feminism at UWE (along with the brilliant Finn McKay). Elias had been on it too, and having heard him speak I knew I wanted him on the radio. Young black men are routinely demonised in the media, and it is wonderful to have someone so articulate and sensible standing up for them.

In the third slot I rambled about the Hugos. There are loads of black writers on the ballot this year, and people of colour in general. In particular 3 of the 6 Lodestar finalists are written by black women, and the Campbell finalists are mostly women of color, and one non-binary person of color. This is very promising for the future.

And finally I played part of my interview with Rachel Rose Reid from the LGBT History Month event in Bristol. This was about the Arthuian legend, Le Roman de Silence, which is basically 13th Century French feminist fantasy. It really is remarkable how modern the themes of that book are. I note that Rachel will be in Bristol again with the show on April 28th. Sadly I’m teaching one of Cat Rambo’s writing courses that evening. She’s also in Frome on the 12th, but that’s sold out. Phooey.

You can listen to the whole show via the Ujima Listen Again service here.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • School Day – Chuck Berry
  • We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  • It’s a Man’s World – James Brown
  • Word Up – Cameo
  • Pynk – Janelle Monáe
  • Crazy, Classic Life – Janelle Monáe
  • Mirror in the Bathroom – The Beat
  • Ali Baba – Dreadzone

My thanks as always to Ben, my engineer, and to all of my guests.

Posted in Awards, Current Affairs, Feminism, Gender, Music, Radio, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Hugos Happened

As Twitter followers will know, I was in Belfast over the weekend for an LGBT History conference. When I got home on Monday night and checked my email I found a message to the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee telling us that the announcement of the winners would take place on Tuesday. The announcement was due to be made at 6:00am California time, and Kevin is sick, so it fell to me to get the details online. Thankfully I had a working from home day and was able to do so.

The full list of finalists is available here. As usual there is much that I am delighted about (especially Dirty Computer), and much that is entirely new to me.

Elsewhere I have seen a bunch of fans my age complaining that they haven’t read any of the finalists, and indeed may not have heard of them. This seems bizarre to me. I own 5 of the 6 Novel finalists, and have finished reading three of them. I also own all 6 Novella finalists and have finished 3. I have read at least some books in 5 of the 6 finalist series. Some of the books I nominated are finalists, though inevitably not all of them because there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

I will admit that the Novelette and Short Story ballots are full of works I haven’t read, but that’s because I don’t have time to read magazines and anthologies as well as novels. That’s always been the case.

There are a few works that I’m disappointed not to see on the ballot. In my humble opinion, The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley should be in the Novel list; Time Was by Ian McDonald should be in Novella (though he might have declined seeing as he’s a Guest of Honour); and She-Ra should be in BDP: Long. But really I can’t complain. There’s plenty to vote for. I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

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Another Amazon Sale

I’m delighted to report that Amazon UK is once again putting The Green Man’s Heir on sale. This time it is for the whole of April. So if you don’t have a copy yet, do please pick one up. It is a bargain. And tell all of your friends.

The image above is a reminder of what happened when we were on the Daily Deal. I don’t expect the same level of visibility this time, because the mere fact of an offer being one day only tends to concentrate sales. But being on any sort of Amazon sale does wonders for your visibility, which in turn does wonders for sales.

I note also that if we do well again this time then Amazon will want to put the sequel on sale too when it arrives later this year.

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Book Review – Ancestral Night

I do enjoy a good Elizabeth Bear novel. Also I can’t remember ever reading a bad Elizabeth Bear novel, so I tend to pick them up when they come out these days.

Ancestral Night is no exception. It is a fine piece of space opera, which may well turn out to be the first book of a series set in the same universe as the Jacob’s Ladder books, but is perfectly serviceable as a stand-alone novel. If you’d like to learn a little more, click here.

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Introducing Modern Fairies

Many of my academic friends will know about this project already, but the rest of you will want to catch up too.

Modern Fairies is a collaboration between artists and academics to bring fairy tales into the 21st Century. That’s not re-writing and updating as you might get in a novel, but rather bringing back the stories and performances. The academics are providing the tales, and where necessary the translations from Old English and context. The artists are looking at narrating and performing these stories for a modern audience.

Phase 1 of the project has been a series of podcasts that introduce us to the major themes and stories. It addresses tales of people being kidnapped by amorous fairies, and fairies being kidnapped by humans; of changelings; of helpful fairies who assist the poor; and of loathly ladies who torment handsome knights. One of the presenters is Professor Carolyne Larrington who, in addition to being an expert on mediaeval literature, also wrote this fine book on the myth and history behind A Song of Ice & Fire.

Phase 2 is over to the artists, who will be putting on Fairy Gatherings around the country throughout the summer. There will be music and performance. One of the writers involved is Terri Windling.

And finally it will be back to the academics at the end of the year for a second series of podcasts looking back on what was done, and how it was received.

Look out, Britain. Fairies are coming to a town near you. And, dear Goddess, we could surely do with some right now.

Posted in History, Music, Pagan, Podcasts | Comments Off on Introducing Modern Fairies

Maria Dahvana Headley in the Salon

Continuing my efforts to catch up on audio recordings, I have posted my interview with Maria Dahvana Headley, which I recorded when Maria was in Oxford talking about The Mere Wife to experts on Anglo Saxon literature. We did talk a bit about Oxford and Tolkien, but basically this was Maria & Cheryl Go On An Extended Feminist Rant. Some of this was on Ujima, but there’s around 50% more here because once we get going on such a rant we are pretty hard to stop. Enjoy.

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Fringe on Monday

I will be hosting BristolCon Fringe again on Monday. We have an excellent line-up. The readers will be George Mann and Anna Smith Spark. George will presumably be reading from his brand new Newbury & Hobbes novel, The Revenant Express. Anna has suggested that she might read some from her work in progress, The House of Sacrifice, if we ask very nicely (and presumably buy her some spikey shoes as a bribe).

As usual we will be upstairs at The Gryphon on Colston Street. Doors open at 7:00pm for a 7:30pm start.

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Slippered!

My interview on the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast is now live. It was specifically about the representation of trans people in SF&F, so obviously my essay in the above fine Luna Press book featured prominently. We did talk about a few other things as well, including talking more generally about feminism, and about Wizard’s Tower Press.

They don’t have embed links for the podcast, and anyway you will want the show notes, so click here.

My thanks to Lucy, Megan & Charlotte for a fun conversation.

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Book Review – The Raven Tower

Well, this is a new departure for Ann Leckie: a fantasy novel.

The good news, folks, is that it is a stand-alone fantasy novel. It is not book one in an interminable epic saga. But will it please fantasy fans? Will it please fans of Leckie’s science fiction? Oh, and it has a trans character as one of the main protagonists. I have opinions. You can read them here.

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It’s Nominatin’ Time

The deadline for submitting nominations for this year’s Hugos is on Friday. To help you on your way, here are a few things you might not have considered.

In the Lodestar, the brilliant Anna-Marie McLemore has a 2018 novel, Blanca & Roja.

In the Campbell I shall continue to keep my fingers crossed for K Arsenault Rivera. If she doesn’t win this year, Shefali & Shizuka may get a bit angry, and no one wants that.

For fan writer I want to put in a good word for Bogi Takács who has been doing a fine job in writing about fiction by trans authors. I’m also nominating Bogi in Editor: Short for Transcendent 3.

In Fancast I would suggest that you check out Breaking the Glass Slipper, which has done some very fine feminist work over the past year.

I am woefully out of touch with what is happening in fanzines, but when it comes to semiprozines I will always have a place on my ballot for Tähtivaeltaja.

I am equally clueless about art and art books. I see that there is a book of the art of Into the SpiderVerse, but artist friends tell me that such books generally have poor reproduction quality as they are intended to cash in on the movie, not sell to art lovers.

In Editor: Long I’m nominating Navah Wolfe who has done great work with writers such as Rebecca Roanhorse and Rivers Solomon.

Dramatic: Short will doubtless be full of Doctor Who episodes again, but I’m nominating “Man of Steel” from Supergirl, Season 4. It is a fine description of how circumstances can conspire to turn ordinary people into far-right extremists. Kara and the DEO are partly to blame, because they can’t be everwhere all the time.

Dramatic: Long is going to be a fabulous fight between Black Panther and Into the SpiderVerse, but please do’t forget Dirty Computer: The Emotion Picture. Also season 1 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is eligible. If it isn’t on your ballot, Catra and I will want to know why.

In Related Work I’d like to put in a good word for my pal Jason Heller’s Strange Stars, because we all need a book about the likes of David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.

Series is a category that is still finding its feet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Emma Newman’s wonderful Planetfall books, and of course for Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire.

I don’t read much short fiction at all, but I do want to put in a good word for GV Anderson. “Waterbirds” is available on Lightspeed.

Novellas are a different matter these days. They are available as books, I’m reading a lot, and it is a hugely competitive category. Much as I love Murderbot, my top pick this year is The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark.

And finally, in Novel, I’m sure you are all nominating Space Opera and Blackfish City, but please don’t forget The Mere Wife. Also I’m going to be nominating The Green Man’s Heir, because any book that can sell over 8000 copies despite being published by me has to be a work of genius.

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Marvel Iconography

I went to see Captain Marvel today. I loved it for all sorts of reasons. I continue to be in awe of how Kevin Feige and crew manage the overall story arc. I enjoyed the glimpses of young Fury and Coulson. I can’t wait to see Monica in Endgame, which she surely has to be. Annette Bening totally stole the show. And of course there was Goose.

But there was one thing in particular that sticks out for me about the character. Captain Marvel’s symbol is an eight-pointed star. And she is accompanied by a particuarly dangerous cat. What’s that all about? Well here’s a clue.

By the way, Wonder Woman’s tiara originally sported a classic Texan five-pointed star. They changed it to an eight-pointed one for the movie. DC’s iconography is all over the place.

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