Thank You, Good Law Project

Here’s something else to be thankful for. The Good Law Project is a legal initiative that seeks to provide legal redress for the disadvantaged and voiceless in the UK. It is a non-profit organisation funded largely by donations. It is currently suing the government over various apparent breaches of public procurement law in which contracts for things like PPE have apparently been handed to companies run by friends of Cabinet ministers without competitive tender, or even proper scrutiny. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today.

For a year or so now, well-funded anti-trans organisations have been bringing malicious law suits against anyone who dares to stand up for trans rights. The objective appears to be to scare the likes of local councils, the NHS and so on into withdrawing trans inclusion policies. Faced with a threatened law suit, management of such organisations will often cave in to demands rather than face the expense and guaranteed negative press coverage that would result from fighting a case they should win.

The trans community, of course, cannot fight back. Despite the constant allegations on social media that we are somehow funded by George Soros and an International Jewish Conspiracy, we have no money. Nor do we have the expertise.

However, the lovely people at the Good Law Project have decided to lend a hand. They have set up a fighting fund for taking cases on behalf of the trans community. There’s a public appeal here, which aims to raise £20,000. That’s a small amount compared to what anti-trans groups regularly raise in their campaigns, but it is a start. If you have a few quid to spare, please consider sending it in their direction.

Thank You, USA

Despite having spent quite a lot of time in the USA, I’ve never really got into Thanksgiving. It seems a somewhat dubious holiday that really ought to be more focused on saying thank you to the people whose country got stolen, and improving their lot in the world.

However, in this particular year I want to say a huge Thank You to the people of the USA for voting out the Orange Idiot. The world will be a much safer place with Joe Biden in charge. Also the fact that the US President is no longer selfish and authoritarian has had repercussions here. Bozo’s styling himself as a mini-Trump no longer seems a wise strategy, no matter how much it does for his ego. It will be a long and hard road before we manage to relieve ourselves of this particular yoke, but the change in leadership across the Atlantic has made an immediate noticeable difference here. I am very thankful.

I’m not a big fan of turkey, but I am planning on celebrating with y’all over there. There’s nothing quite as American as pepperoni pizza, is there? (Actually I almost bought a packet of Hostess Twinkies today, because there are places you can buy them in the UK, but I came to my senses quite quickly.)

TDoR 2020

It is that time of year again. As usual I have been helping read the list of names at the Bristol Trans Day of Remembrance ceremony. As by no means usual, this year it was virtual. I think that made it easier somehow.

Also I wrote a thing for the lovely folks at A New Normal. You can read it here.

Social media has been the usual mix. I was pleased to see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris issue a very supportive statement. I was less keen to see politicians who have spent the year bending over backwards to appease the transphobes in their parties suddenly want to be seen as trans allies. It is not a good look. This year has taught me a lot about who I can count on as allies. The number of people in that group is a lot smaller than the number of people who wave trans flags today and spit on us for the rest of the year.

PowerPoint on Zoom

Those of you who, like me, have been spending a lot of time on Zoom this year will be familiar with this problem. Someone needs to give a presentation on Zoom. They share their screen, but when they try to advance the slides it works for them, but not for the audience. As far as the audience is concerned, the presentation stays fixed on the first slide.

The easy fix for this is to drop back into edit mode in PowerPoint. It isn’t elegant, but at least your audience can see the slides. Alternatively you can give someone else the slides and ask them to screen share PowerPoint, but that means you have to keep asking them to advance the slides. I was sure that there had to be a better way if only you could find out which of the gazillion settings in Windows or PowerPoint or Zoom would fix it. I think I now have the solution.

In PowerPoint, select the Side Show menu, and click on Set Up Slide Show. That will bring up the dialog box above. Make sure that the first set of radio buttons (Show Type) is set to “Browsed by an individual” rather than to “Presented by a speaker”.

Kevin and I tested that this evening and it seems to work. I’m giving a talk on LGBT+ History on Wednesday evening. Fingers crossed it will work for them too.

Geek and Trans

As anyone who is on social media will know, this week is #TransAwarenessWeek, which basically means that us trans folk have to be aware that everyone will be looking at us more for a whole seven days. Eeek!

But this week is also the week of Trans Pride South West. There will be a (virtual) parade and community day on Saturday. I will, as usual, be helping host the Trans Day of Remembrance event on Friday. And during the week the TPSW team have been putting on a number of virtual events. One of them is called Geek and Trans: Talks about Geek Culture, Conventions and Gender Identity. It is hosted by my friend Nathan, and I am one of the people that he chose to interview about being trans in the geek community.

I’ve just finished watching it, and Nathan has done a great job getting some really interesting people on the show. He’s also edited my contribution beautifully (which I can say as I know what it was like raw). It is also not too embarrassing, so I’m OK sharing it with you. Here you go:

Michael Dillon at M-Shed

For the benefit of those of you who missed the LGBT History Month 2021 launch event last week, I have written a blog post for the M-Shed Museum about Michael Dillon. That contains most of what I said in the launch event, and a bit more besides.

Come February we (meaning M-Shed and OutStories Bristol) will be doing a series of online talks about LGBT History. That will include on by me about Dillon.

Žiljak Hardcover Available


With profuse apologies for the delay, I am pleased to announce that the hardcover edition of Aleksandar Žiljak’s As the Distant Bells Toll is now available to purchase. The ISBN, should you need to talk sternly to a bookstore, is 978-1-913892-07-4.

Bookshop.org doesn’t have it listed yet, but that should happen soon. I remind you that if you buy from them you a) get a discount, b) make money for Wizard’s Tower, and c) make money for UK independent bookstores. You can find the paperback here.

London Met Archives gets Unorthodox

Loki - Karl Johnsson
On December 5th the London Met Archives will be holding their 18th Annual LGBTQ+ Conference. There will be a lot of great content, including a panel discussion on queering museums led by the inimitable Dan Vo. And there will be me.

One of the themes of the conference is, “In what way faith, religion, and belief intersect with sexuality, transition(ing), identity and dissent?” In view of this I have offered a talk titled, “What Gender is God?” This will look at a range of religions, mainly around the ancient world, and how they have queered gender. Will there be Loki? Of course there will. And lots more besides. It should be fun.

To see the whole programme, and reserve a ticket for the entire event (£10), click here.

The image, by the way, is from volume #2 of Vei, the wonderful graphic novel in which Sara B Elfgren and Karl Johnsson give a new take on their traditional mythology.

New Salon Futura


The October issue of Salon Futura went live over the weekend. It includes reviews of books by Hao Jinfang, Elizabeth Bear, P Djèlí Clark, Linden A Lewis, and Elizabeth May & Laura Lam. There’s also a review of the Lovecraft Country TV series, and no less than three separate convention reports. You can read the whole thing here.

New as of last night, I have puchase links to Bookshop.org in the UK. Unlike the Amazon links, these are affiliate links, and of course any sales made means money going to independent bookstores, as well as to Wizards’ Tower. So if you are in the UK, I’d appreciate you using them.

Coronavirus – Day #217

As most of you will probably have heard, there are new Lockdown rules coming into force in the UK this week. At this point the government can’t really be accused of a u-turn, because it is more accurately spinning like a top. At the current rate of policy changes, it is predicted to reach tornado velocity shortly before Christmas and land us all in Oz some time in early 2021. This is not a bad thing. Being anywhere other than in post-Brexit Britain will be an improvement.

Meanwhile the virus stats keep rising fast. We had 397 deaths recorded yesterday. For comparison, that’s more people than have died in Finland in the entire pandemic.

I made my weekly visit to Tesco today. A friend in Bristol had reported stores running out of toilet roll again there yesterday, so I was relieved to see that the shelves were not completely bare. The only thing I expected to be able to find but could not was chocolate organges — the standard variety, that is, I’m trying the new white chocolate ones.

I can, if necessary, survive a couple of weeks without another trip, but hopefully that won’t be necessary. I continue to have plenty of work, some of which is even paid.

World Fantasy Awards

The winners of this year’s World Fantasy Awards were announced last night. As the convention was virtual this year, I was able to “be there”. The full list of winners is available on the Locus website, but I want to focus on just two.

Firstly, the ridiculously titled Special Award – Non-Professional category was won by Fafnir – The Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. This is apparently the first time that the award has been won by an academic journal, and it is one founded by Finns.

I have to confess a certain amount of bias here. I am on the Advisory Board for the journal, but they haven’t actually needed any advising, so I can’t claim any credit there. I also have an article in the current issue, but that was published this year and therefore should not have been considered by the World Fantasy Jury.

There are lots of people who deserve congratulations. The current editors, Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Laura E. Goodin & Esko Suoranta, will get the trophies. But there are two other people I’d like to draw attention to. Firstly there is Merja Polvinen of University of Helsinki. She’s the Chair of the Advisory Board, and was very much a driving force in getting the journal started. The other is Irma Hirsjärvi, because the Journal is very much an outgrowth of the academic tracks that we run every year at Finncon, and Irma is one of the main instigators of those. (I just turn up to comment on the papers.)

Finally, we should note that while Fafnir is an academic journal, it is open source. That is exactly the sort of academic publication that the World Fantasy Awards should be honouring.

The other winner I want to mention is in the Novel category: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender. Kacen is non-binary person of colour, using they/them pronouns. I’ve had the book on my Kindle for several months but haven’t got round to reading it yet. Given that it beat both The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Gideon the Ninth, it must be very impressive. And the fact that someone like Kacen can be voted the author of the best fantasy novel in this year, of all years, fills me with joy. I think you can work out why.

A New Bookstore

If you are part of the UK book community then your social media will have been filled over the past few days with posts about a new online bookstore, cunningly called “Bookstore”, and touted as a rival to Amazon. They launched today, complete with a big article in the Guardian explaining how they support UK bookstores. Lots of people are encouraging you to buy from them, and some have even suggested that you might be a scab if you still have links to Amazon. Well, here’s a publisher view.

The first thing to note is that they are not a replacement for Amazon because they only sell paper books. Wizard’s Tower was founded as an ebook company, and the majority of our sales are still ebooks. The majority of those are through Amazon. I do try to encourage Kindle owners to buy direct from us, but most won’t do so because we can’t offer direct download, and in any case I’ll probably have to close the bookstore in January because of Brexit. So I am not going to stop linking to Amazon from Wizard’s Tower.

Secondly these folks are UK only. Apparently they have a US website as well, but I think I need to spoof a US location before I can look at that. This is the internet. I have readers and customers all over the world. So while I am keen to support UK boosktores, I will have readers and customers who will need to buy elsewhere.

The final issue is making sure that the books are listed. I started by doing a search for Juliet and it only came up with some of her books, but if you search for books by title I think they are all there. I will get on with putting up links to the books on the Wizard’s Tower website. I will also check out the US site. Because we are a Print-on-Demand company, they will put up warning messages about titles being out of stock, but that just means it will take them a few days to get the book to you. I’ll look into signing up as an affiliate, as they have a very good commission rate (10%), and they also donate 10% of the cover price to a fund to support UK bookstores. That’s a good thing.

Coronavirus – Day #210

I haven’t said much about this of late, partly because I have been busy, and partly because it is terrifying. We are now closing in on 400 deaths per day, and given how sharply new cases and hospitalisations are rising, that is only going to get higher. If things are this bad at the start of winter, it is going to get pretty brutal by December and January.

I wish I could say that there was a chance of the government coming to its senses and trying to do something useless, but sadly I don’t see any chance of that. They are convinced that only poor and useless people are going to die, and they are happy with that.

My congratulations to Melbourne, which has endured a fairly severe lockdown and is now at 0 cases.

LGBHTM 2021

Yes, I know it isn’t February yet, but there is a tradition of doing a launch event for LGBT History Month in November, and that month is almost upon us.

The being the Year of the Plague, there will be no flashy in-person show at some posh venue, but we will be (virtually) at the British Library. The online show is being produced by the inimitable Dan Vo, and I am delighted to report that I have a small speaking part. For more information, and to book a place at the event, click here.

World Fantasy Schedule

My appeal for people to complain to the World Fantasy Board about failings in this year’s convention seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I’m not entirely surprised. Fandom generally prefers to blame other fans when things go wrong, rather than the people whose fault it is, and who might be able to change things.

That left this year’s WFC badly short of knowledgeable panelists. So I had a choice: either join the boycott and let this year’s ConCom take the rap, or accept panel slots and use the platform to talk about why this year’s original programme descriptions were so bad in the hope that someone might actually take note.

There were a whole bunch of things that informed my decision. High on the list was the fact that the convention told me that they had a lot more international members this year. WFC is very expensive and almost always in North America. If going virtual this year meant lots of new members from around the world, I wanted to be able to talk to those people.

I confess also to wanting to rub certain people’s noses in it. The usual rule for WFC is that no one gets more than one panel slot. This year I have three. Take that, Steve Jones! Doubtless this will be an excuse for him to declare this year’s convention the new “Worst WFC Ever!”

Another important factor was that I got offered a panel on small press publishing, and I have a duty to my authors to promote them were possible.

Anyway, here’s what I am doing. All times are US Mountain Time.

Queering Fantasy
Date and Time: Thursday Oct 29, 4:00 p.m.
Panelists: S. Qiouyi Lu, Jerome Stueart (M), Cheryl M. Morgan
This is the one that originally had a trans-exclusionary description. Kudos to Jerome for writing something much more interesting.

Tropes and Archetypes
Date and Time: Friday Oct 30, 3:00 p.m.
Panelists: Kryssa Stevenson, Sarah Beth Durst, Cheryl M. Morgan, Sharon Shinn
This one was originally a “women in fantasy” panel. I’m pleased to see that the new description actually addresses one of the issues that causes the problem. Mythology and folklore are full of misogynistic tropes and archetypes.

Small Press Impact: Great Books Not Published by the Big Five
Date and Time: Saturday Oct 31, 2:00 p.m.
Panelists: Yanni Kuzia (M) Cherise Papa, Kathryn Sullivan, J.R.H. Lawless, Cheryl M. Morgan
Yanni is with Subterranean, so from my point of view I am totally playing with the big boys here.

The full panel descriptions are available here.

Of course WFC is expensive, so most of you won’t get to see me in action. I’m hoping that you might hear about it, though.

Welcome, Chaz Brenchley

I am delighted to announce that we have a new author joining the Wizard’s Tower family. I have been a fan of Chaz Brenchley’s writing, and his cooking, for many years. When he mentioned on an interview for Coode Street that he was looking for a publisher for his Crater School books, I jumped at the opportunity. My thanks are due to Chaz’s agent, John Jarrold, for making this happen smoothly and quickly. The press release is here.

The books that we will be publishing are Chaz’s Crater School series, which are set in a 1930s girls’ boarding school, on Mars. This, then, is a post-steampunk world. Britain has colonised Mars, Russia has colonised Venus. There has been a Great War. Now there is peace, but uneasy tension between the interplanetary empires.

The books are unshamedly based on the famous Chalet School novels by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. A key aspect of the books is that while young boys are sent off by aetherflier to be educated on Earth, young girls go to school on Mars. So if there are adventures to be had, it is mostly teenage girls who get to have them.

By the way, if you are worried about a bloke writing this stuff, you need to be aware that Chaz got his start on a literary career by writing romance stories for teen girl magazines.

Of course there are adventures. Mars is not the desolate planet inhabited by NASA robots that we know. Chaz’s Mars has canals, it has native flora and fauna. Some of the fauna appears to be intelligent in a strange, very non-human way.

Our heroines, as teenage girls do, are determined to fight for justice. If that brings them into conflict with unreasonable parents, or with Russian spies, so be it. Crater School girls are afraid of nothing, even when perhaps they should be.

The first novel is due out in spring next year, with two more novels and a short story collection to follow. There are also plans for a cookbook, featuring the recipes of the Crater School’s legendary head cook, Mrs. Bailey. Fear not, though, readers, if you can’t find the right Martian ingredients there will be Terrestrial equivalents suggested.

I am going to have so much fun publishing these books. And yes, the first two novels do appear to qualify as YA.

Loving the Alien


That’s the title of a Bowie song, of course. But it is also a good title for a panel about diversity in science fiction and fantasy. No credit to me, of course. The panel is the brainchild of Philippa Ryder, who was one of the Guests of Honour at Octocon earlier this month, and is also a director of Under the Rainbow, a Dublin-based diversity advocacy organisation.

The panel will be free to watch online from 8:00pm on Friday (Oct. 23rd). Irish time is the same as the UK. Details of the other panelists, and how to register, can be found here. Hopefully I will see some of you turn up in the chat.

Coronavirus – Day #208

The UK is now well into its second wave of infections. New cases have been in the 15k-20k per day range for the past three days, and hospital admissions are rising very steeply. Deaths are still only in the 100-150 per day range, but will doubtless rise as the disease runs its course for the newly infected.

The governement continues to babble incoherently, issuing new emergency plans on a regular basis and changing their minds a few days later. There are only two things consistent about the statements: they always insist that they are doing a magnificent job, and any problems are the fault of other people. It reminds me of satirical send-ups of the likes of Idi Amin.

Thankfully the area where I live continues to be relatively less-badly affected. We are officially at “Medium” risk, which by goverment definition is the lowest level on the scale. I don’t think Cummings is very good at Maths.

One of the reasons why Bozo and his gang of incompetents can get away with this is that they media is still largely on their side. Yesterday one of the idiot “opinion” writers for the Telegraph noted that everyone is going to die eventually, so their is no point in wasting time and money saving people who are dying from the virus. I’m sure it won’t be long before they are claiming that it will be good for the economy if a few more people were to die earlier rather than later, and that the virus is not sufficient to encourage this. Another one of them was claiming that the right to be racist was a free speech issue. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Another reason that they are getting away with it is that they still have sufficient support in the polls to easily win a General Election. But fear not, dear reader, the Labour Party has a cunning plan to win back the electorate. It is called, “embracing transphobia.” They seem to think that will be a huge vote winner.

I think I’ll just go and read a science fiction book or something.

Two Crowdfunding Projects

I backed a couple of crowdfunding projects today that some of you might be interested in.

The first is The Mab, a collection of tales from The Mabinogion, re-told for young readers by Welsh authors, and beautifully illustrated. Just the thing to get young people hooked on fantasy.

The other is Constelación, a proposed quarterly magazine that will carry speculative fiction in both English and Spanish.