Convention Planning

I hadn’t been planning to attend Eastercon this year. However, with The Green Man’s Foe being up for a BSFA Award it seemed entirely appropriate that I should be there with copies to sell. You’ll therefore be able to find me in the Dealers’ Room. And if all goes well there will be something rather special Juliet-related available.

I warn you in advance that I will not be very awake. I will be fresh off a plane from Western Canada and in the middle of jet lag recovery. I may hide in my room quite a bit.

So that’s one extra convention on the calendar for this year. I also have one fewer. For complicated reasons I will be unable to attend Worldcon in Wellington. I am very disappointed about this as I have been looking forward to this particular Worldcon for 10 years, but my life gets complicated by things outside of my control. I would like to stress that this is not the fault of the ConZealand committee, who have been incrediably helpful, nor are the particular conditions affecting me likely to prevent anyone else from attending. Have fun in NZ, folks. I will miss you all.

Love Diana?

No, not the Goddess. Not even Diana Prince. I am, of course, talking about Diana Wynne Jones.

Last year an academic conference about Diana’s work was held in Bristol. My friends Farah Mendlesohn and Cathy Butler were the main movers behind the event. An ebook of papers from the conference has since been published. You can get a copy here.

If you buy it, you are buying direct from the publisher, i.e. the conference. Everyone who provided content and helped create the book has given their labour for free, so all of the money from sales goes back into the project. The plan is to use revenue from book sales to finance another conference. Just 25 copies of the £10 will generate enough income for a deposit on the venue.

It would be great if other academic conferences worked like that, instead of getting tied in to the scam of academic publishing.

Update: Farah tells me that some independent professionals were involved in creating the book, and were paid for their services, But I understand that those costs have now been covered. So all future revenue will go towards the next conference.

Congratulations, Juliet!

I am a very proud publisher today. Getting The Green Man’s Heir on the short list for the Bristish Fantasy Awards was a pleasant suprise, but something I thought had a chance of happening. Getting The Green Man’s Foe on the short list for this year’s British Science Fiction Association Awards is veering into “beyond wildest dreams” territory. I mean, just look at the company the book is keeping:

  • Emma Newman – Atlas Alone (Gollancz)
  • Gareth L Powell – Fleet of Knives (Titan Books)
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Ruin (Tor)
  • Tade Thompson – The Rosewater Insurrection (Orbit)
  • Juliet E McKenna – The Green Man’s Foe (Wizard’s Tower Press)

All of the other books on that list are on the Locus Recommended Reading List. That is pretty special company to be keeping.

Congratulations are also due to Ben Baldwin for the cover, and to Toby Selwyn who edited the book.

So I guess I might have to be at Eastercon after all, though I will be very jet lagged because I’ll be fresh off a plane from British Columbia.

In the meantime, if you want a copy of The Green Man’s Foe, there are links here. If you are buying the ebook, Juliet gets most money if you buy direct from Wizard’s Tower. You’ll also be able to get copies from me in person at Foyles, Bristol later this month, and at Swecon in March.

Concorde Goes Gay

LGBT History Month is now well underway. In Bristol we began with an event at Aerospace Bristol, a brand new museum built to house a Concorde, and a wealth of other relics of Bristol’s proud aerospace tradition.

Because of where we were, the event focused on LGBT people in engineering, and in aviation in particular. That made it a bit hard to find cis women to speak, but trans women were delightfully abundant. The main speakers were:

  • Caroline Paige (ex-RAF)
  • Finn Mckay (UWE)
  • Rob Hurley (Airbus)
  • Christina Riley (construction industry)

We also had a panel of young people from the Alphabets youth group, and Drag Queen Story Time.

I have seen Caz Paige perform a couple of times before. Despite the fact that I know her story pretty well by now, she manages to tell it differently each time. For us she put in extra aircraft. I’m in awe of how much driving she puts in during LGBTHM. She’s far more in demand than I am. I bet she misses having a helicopter instead of a car. The photo above is of Caz and myself with a well known celebrity aircraft.

The event was sponsored by The Diversity Trust and was staged with help from OutStories Bristol and South Gloucestershire Council. The OutStories Bristol exhibition is in the Concorde Hanger and will be available to museum visitors until the 24th. Most of the work was done by Claire & Amy from the museum’s outreach team. I’m pleased to say that it all went very well.

Of course it could not be a properly queer event without cake. Thanks to Ian Boulton for providing something very appropriate.

Congratulations, Tamsyn

I’m sure that no one is unduly surprised that Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth won this year’s Crawford Award. Well, apart from the silly people who insist that because it is set in the future and has spaceships it can’t be fantasy, even though it is a story about sword fighting and necromancy.

As you may know, I am part of the group of people that the IAFA Awards Committee consults with regarding the Crawford. We are not exactly a jury, and the makeup of the group varies from year to year depending on who is available. It is a huge honour to take part, and my thanks are due especially to Gary K Wolfe who administers the whole thing.

It was a special joy to have Mimi Mondal as part of the group this year. She has a very different perspective to offer, and got us reading books we would not otherwise have heard of.

There are more details about the award at Locus. Commiserations are due to Alix E Harrow whose The Ten Thousand Doors of January put up a very valiant fight. We don’t often specifically name a runner up.

Anyway, congratulations Tamsyn. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel, and to seeing Gideon on the Hugo ballot in Wellington.

Today on Ujima: #LGBTHM, Feminist AI and Time to Talk Day

I was live on Ujima again today. It was a bit of a scramble getting the show together and huge thanks to those guests who came on board yesterday. Also huge thanks to my old pal Valentin who used to run the desk for Paulette back in the day when I was a trainee presenter. As Ben was on holiday this week, Valentin stepped in to help out. Ben messaged me to say he was listening to the show online, which is incredible devotion to duty, and probably means that we had a listener in Kenya this week.

The first hour of the show was devoted to LGBT History Month events in Bristol. First up I was joined by Claire from Aerospace Bristol. They, in conjunction with The Diversity Trust, OutStories Bristol, and South Gloucestershire Council are putting on an event specifically aimed at engineers, and the aerospace industry in particular. The headline speaker is the wonderful Caroline Paige, and I’m particularly looking forward to the panel with the young people from Alphabets who will be discussing what they want from employers in the future. That event is on Saturday. I will be there with both my DT and OSB hats on. Full details are available here.

Next I welcomed back Karen from M Shed, along with Zoltán from Freedom Youth. I’m not curating the M Shed event this year. We’ve turned the whole thing over to the young people, and they have done an amazing job of putting together a programme. You can find details of their event here. It is on Saturday 22nd, and sadly I will be in Salzburg that weekend, but I hope some of you will go along and let me know how it turned out.

We also mentioned two other great events coming up in Bristol this month. The leading civil rights lawyer, Johnathan Cooper, will be at Bristol University Law School on the evening of the 19th to talk about, “Policing Desire: LGBT+ Persecution in the UK, 1970 to 2000”. Tickets are available (for free) here. Also there is the Black Queerness event that we covered in last month’s show. That’s on at the RWA. It is officially sold out, but there’s a wait list that you can get onto here.

The second half of the show began with my being joined by Coral Manton from Bath Spa University. Coral describes herself as a “creative technologist”, which basically means that she gets to do fun things with computers all day and gets paid for it. One of her projects is Women Reclaiming AI, which looks to do something about the sexist bias in electronic personal assistants.

We all know that most of these things (Alexa, Siri, etc.) come with female-coded voices, and that’s because the companies who make them decided (probably after some market research) that customers wanted a subordinate and submissive identity for their personal assistant. (Interestingly SatNavs work the other way: male drivers won’t take instructions from a female-coded voice.) Because these software constructs are maninly created by men, the personalities that they have are not based on real women, but on what men want their female assistants to be like.

This leads us down all sorts of feminist rabbit holes. Most notably, before Coral and her colleagues could create a “real” female personality for an AI, they had to decide what it meant to be a “real” woman. Part of the process has been running workshops in which groups of women get to have input into the process of creating the AI personality.

It turns out that one of the things that they asked for was that the AI would have the right to decline to help every so often. Real women can’t drop everything and help their families whenever they are asked to do so, so artificial women shouldn’t either. That sounded good to me, though I did have visions of Hal 9000 saying, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that”; and possibly of Portia from Madeline Ashby’s vN saying, “NO, you will obey ME!”

I could have happily have talked to Coral about this stuff for the whole two hours. Hopefully you find the discussion as interesting as I did.

My final guests were Ali & Loo from some local mental health charities, and Shani, a poet who works with them. Tomorrow is Time to Talk Day, on which people are encouraged to talk about their mental health issues. There’s a whole lot going on in Bristol tomorrow, and you can find links to it all here. I particularly love Loo’s event making pom poms to support the Sunflower Suicide Prevention Project.

The other event that I had to mention is the one coming up at Foyles in Cabot Circus on the evening of the 25th. That will be Emma Newman, Emma Geen, Liz Williams and myself in conversation with Kate Macdonald on the subject of women in science fiction. I understand that it is sold out, but there is probably a wait list. Details here.

You can listen to today’s show via the Ujima Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Faint of Heart – Tegan & Sara
  • So Strong – Labi Siffre
  • Two Old Maids – The Vinyl Closet
  • Cream – Prince
  • Come Alive – Janelle Monáe
  • Are Friends Electric – Tubeway Army
  • Dock of the Bay – Otis Reading
  • I Need Somebody to Love Tonight – Sylvester

And in case any of you haven’t seen it, here is the wonderful video for the Tegan & Sara song. Watch carefully and you will spot Jen Richards and Angelica Ross in there as well.

Talking of Angelica, I see that there are rumours that she’ll feature in the Loki TV series. There have also been hints that Sera, one of Marvel’s current openly trans characters, will be in Thor: Love & Thunder. It is tempting to tie the two together, but what I really want to see happen is for Angelica to play Loki alongside Tom Hiddleston, because it won’t be proper Loki without some gender-flipping and it would be awful if they put Tom in drag for that.

Congratulations, Ardel!

This time last year I was telling you about this fabulous book which I had the honour to make a small contribition to. Most of the work was done by the amazing Ardel Haefele-Thomas, but part of the plan for the book was to have a whole lot of “voices from the community” contribitions. One of those was me, talking about trans Romans.

Since then the book has been quietly on sale. Ardel and I did an event at Gay’s the Word in London late last year. Then I hadn’t thought to much more about it. But this morning I awoke to the amazing news that the American Libraries Association had voted it one of their top 10 queer books of 2019. They normally pick 5 works of fiction and 5 of non-fiction. And that means that Ardel’s little book (well, rather hefty book actually) is on the same list as books by Marlon James, Tamsyn Muir, Carmen Maria Machado and Samantha Shannon.

Which is awesome!

I’m absolutely delighted for Ardel. I’ll be seeing them in Canada in April at the trans history conference. I suspect that a few other contributors will be there. There might be a little celebrating.

January 2020 Salon Futura




A new issue of my fanzine, Salon Futura, went live today. Here’s the things I reviewed:

There are also two articles. One talks about the sorts of stories that can and can’t be told about trans people. The other takes a look at what might be on my Hugo nominating ballot this year.

Crunching Hugo Stats

The lovely people at Vector asked me if I wanted to do an article looking back on the decade. This gave me the opportunity to crunch some Hugo data. The results are really quite remarkable. If you take a look here you will see why I titled the article, “The Decade That Women Won”.

I should dedicate that article to Joanna Russ. I wish that she was still alive to see it. We still have a long way to go, but the fight is not impossible.

Wild, Wild Wales

I spent much of today in Cardiff helping kick off a project to create queer history tours of the National Museum of Wales. This is being run by the fabulous Dan Vo who also created the similar tours at the V&A in London. The museum is mainly natural history and art, but there’s plenty there to talk about. I will have more to say about the queer stuff in due course, but today I want to highlight one of the more bizarre things I found in the museum.

Whenever I visit a museum I am always on the lookout for Amazons, so my interest was caught by this painting of a woman dressed as Diana herself. She has a bow and quiver, and even a little crescent moon headdress. Who was this woman, I wondered?

Well, her name is Diana Pryce (not Diana Prince), and her father was Sir John Pryce, the 5th Baronet of the Pryce family of Newtown Hall in Montgomeryshire. Sir John was what the museum descibes as a “well known eccentric”. This refers to the fact that he kept the embalmed bodies of his first two wives in his bedroom, until he got married for a third time and his new wife insisted that he got rid of them.

Wife three also pre-deceased him, whereupon Sir John hired a local faith healer, Bridget Bostock, to bring her back from the dead. Sadly the woman’s skills were not up to the task.

People had some very strange ideas in the 18th Century.

A February Heads Up

My speaking schedule for February is starting to firm up, and a number of events are starting to post their programmes. I’ll do a full schedule later in the month, but I did want to share one thing with you. It is this.

Yes, that is me giving a talk at The Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon. How cool is that?

The description is a little weird. I’m sure that’s not what I submitted to Schools Out. But the talk is about a play. It is a play by Byron, not by Shakespeare. And the story involves Ashurbanipal and Romans and Byron’s alleged bisexuality. It should be fun.

By the way, if you are coming to the Historical Fiction Research Network conference in Salzburg later in the month then you will get the academic version of this talk which will be more about sources and translations, and probably a little less about Byron’s sex life.

Today on Ujima: Feminism, Black Queerness & TV Careers

Today was my first day back at work that involved leaving home. I was back in the Ujima studios for another Women’s Outlook. It had been a bit of a challenge pulling this one together because no one was answering email before Monday, so I had two days. Nevertheless, we had some guests.

The first slot was empty so I played some music to talk about the unpleasant prospect of at least 5 years of the UK being ruled by Blue Meanies. I then played a few songs to send a message to a certain orange-faced person over in the USA.

My first guest was Carolyn from Bristol Women’s Voice. There was a time when people like me were distinctly unwelcome at that organisation, but I’m pleased to report that they have turned a corner and are happy to include all women again. Carolyn was particularly there to promote their Volunteer Network Event later this month, but we also discussed current campaigns, and of course the International Women’s Day event in March.

Next up was Helen from Royal West of England Academy. She was on the show to talk about the amazing Celebrating Black Queerness event coming up in February, and the associated Africa State of Mind exhibition. Celebrating Black Queerness is a joint event with Kiki, Bristol’s QTIPOC organisation, and will feature luminaries such as Lady Phyll and Travis Alabanza.

My final guest should have been Jo from Diverse Insights, but she suffered a transport malfunction on the way to the studio so I had to fill in for her as best I could. The event she was due to talk about is Screen Futures 2020, which is an amazing day of workshops for people interested in pursuing a career in television and radio.

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

Here’s the playlist:

  • Ike & Tina Turner – A Little Help from My Friends
  • Aretha Franklin – Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Angelique Kidjo – Once in a Lifetime
  • The Temptations – War
  • Culture Club – The War Song
  • Eddy Grant – War Party
  • Alicia Keys – Superwoman
  • Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman
  • Little Richard – Good Golly Miss Molly
  • Bessie Smith – A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Bow Wow Wow – TV Savage
  • Andy Allo – If I was King
  • Janelle Monáe – We Were Rock ‘n’ Roll

BSFA Award Long Lists

The British Science Fiction Association has released their long lists for awards for works published in 2019. I’m deighted to note that The Green Man’s Foe features twice on the lists. Juliet McKenna is listed for the novel, and Ben Baldwin for the cover. There is, of course, a long way to go yet. There are two more rounds of voting to go before they end up with winners. But hey, this is unexpected and much appreciated success for Wizard’s Tower. I am really pleased.

Hugo Voting Opens

Unless you have been avoiding social media, you will probably know that Hugo Award voting is now open for this year. If you are eligible to vote you should have had email from CoNZealand explaining how to nominate. If you haven’t then you should contact them.

As a reminder, here’s my eligbility:

The only one I’m really concerned about is Fanzine, and that’s only because participation in the category was very low last year and I’m hoping to encourage people to take an interest in it again. If you have a fanzine that you think is eligible, let me know and I’ll tell my readers about it.

Where Are We Now?

Most of you will probably be aware that the UK will now formally leave the European Union by automatic operation of law at the end of January. Lots of people, however, including many within the UK, are uncertain of what this actually means. I must admit I’m pretty confused myself at times. But there are helpful explainers on various websites which seem to more or less agree.

The important point is that while the UK will reach the point of no return on January 31st, nothing much will change. There will be an 11 month (at least) Transition Period during which life will carry on pretty much as before. You can find explanations of this at The Institute for Government and the BBC.

Most importantly, there will be no immedite change to international trade, and no change to freedom of movement, during this period. Those things will only happen at the end of the Transition Period on December 31st 2020.

Equally I suspect that there will be little in the way of changes to UK equalities law during the Transition Period. In theory, at least, we are still subject to EU law. I can’t see the government wanting to make an issue of this, because they have made it clear that they want to pretend that we are already fully out of the EU as of the end of this month, so they won’t do anything that makes it clear that we are not.

Of course, as we have seen in the USA, it is entirely possible for government to ramp up discrimination against minorities without changing the law. I expect there to be a raft of government notices that target Muslims, trans people, EU citizens and so on. But this will not be anywhere near as bad as will happen once EU law is off our statute books.

So basically we have a year of being in a sort of dreamlike state where we are on a train, heading for a precipice in 11 months time, but the government will be telling us that everything is fine because we have aleady passed the precipice and gravity has not taken effect.

I guess we should be using that time to get stuff done.

New Year, New Look

No, not me, the blog.

As you have presumably noticed, there’s a new theme in place here. This wasn’t planned. Some very old themes don’t support mutliple screen sizes very well. In particular they tend to be designed for PCs rather than tablets or phones. Modern themes are designed with portability in mind. Now you can get clever stuff that will adjust your theme for mobile devices (in the Jetpack plugin, WordPress veterans), but that is being retired this year.

There are a lot of sites that I manage, and many of them use a themes that are up to 10 years old and which need an update. Also many of them are text-heavy, and most modern blog themese assume that every post will have an associated image. So finding a replacement theme that a) works on a text-heavy site; b) is free; and c) isn’t likely to become unsupported in a year or two; will not be easy.

This theme is Penscratch which looks specifically designed for a text-heavy site. It is also created by Automattic who own WordPress so it is likely to stick around for a while.

The header image is from Pixabay. It has cats and books, which seems kind of appropriate.

I will probably fiddle with the look of the thing for a while yet. In the meantime if you spot anything that is not working in the theme (not broken links, there are bound to be lots of those) then please let me know.

December 2019 Salon Futura

A new issue of my fanzine, Salon Futura, went live today. Here’s the things I reviewed:

In addition there’s an interview with Kate Macdonald from Handheld Press, and cover art and an editorial.

Happy reading.

Scary Solstice, Everyone

Well this is cheerful. I’ve just spent a couple of hours listening to Neil Gaiman and friends telling scary stories on Radio 3, and now I’m trying to find one of the HPLHS carols that doesn’t sound horribly prescient. But maybe a little dark humour is what we need to get us through these dark times. So wherever you are, little cultists, hang up those elder signs. The world hasn’t ended yet, so enjoy it while you can.

Holiday Cheese Blogging

As is my wont, I bought a large quantity of top quality cheese to see me through the holiday season. Some of it you will be familiar with from my past posts: Stichelton and Gorwydd Caerphilly. The Gorwydd, by the way, finished 11th in this year’s World Cheese Awards, which pleases me greatly. But there are others that deserve a mention.

This year’s goat’s cheese is Ragstone, made by the folks at Neal’s Yard Creamery. It comes as a fairly firm log, but will soften up with time. Mine is still firm in the centre, but quite gooey around it. It has quite a strong taste for a goat’s cheese. I’m very pleased with it.

As you’ll see from the above picture, Renegade Monk now has a splendid new steampunk-like packaging. Its taste is every bit as robust and uncompromising as usual. It gets eaten last, despite being a soft cheese.

This year’s discovery is Gallus. How could I possibly resist a cheese with that name? It is Swiss, and made by Affineur Walo who are also responsible for Red Wine Farmer. Gallus is not named after the devotees of Cybele, but rather after the Swiss town of St. Gallen. The original saint was Irish and a close companion of St. Columba. Given that he was called Gallus, I think it entirely likely that he was a eunuch. The abbey in St. Gallen is famous for having been home to St. Wiborada, the first woman to be formally canonized by the Vatican (thank you, Pope Clement II).

Sorry, I digress. The cheese is a Gruyére, and looks like it might be one of those tasteless continental cheeses we are used to. It isn’t. It has a strong, nutty taste. What’s more, it finished 7th in this year’s World Cheese Awards.

The usual warnings apply. These cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk and are not recommended for pregnant people and anyone else particularly at risk from bacteria.