Two Weeks of Pride

Bristol Pride isn’t just a party in the park these days. Daryn Carter and his team have a bunch of events planned over the next couple of weeks, and LGBT+ organisations around Bristol have chipped in with their own events.

Although Pride Fortnight is officially July 1-14, the schedule has leaked into the surrounding days. We kick off with a flag raising at City Hall on Friday at 5:00pm. I have to be at the Diversity Trust AGM that day and can’t into Bristol in time. Hopefully the weather won’t be too miserable.

On Saturday there will be a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot. It will be held in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel at 13:00. There will be a number of speakers, including myself and Dr. Edson Burton, as well as the Lord Mayor and Bristol’s first ever LGBT+ Poet Laureate, Tom Denbigh. Full details including a link for (free) booking can be found here.

I will be on way way to Finland as soo as that’s over, but I will be back in time for Pride Day on the 13th. I should be on the radio quite a bit.

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Book Review – The Poetic Edda

The nice people at Oxford University Press sent me a review copy of their new edtion of The Poetic Edda, as translated by Professor Carolyne Larrington. There’s not a huge amount I can say about the text, partly because the stories are so familiar, and partly because I’m in no position to comment on the quality of the translation, save to say that Prof. Larrington is an acknowledged expert in the field.

So instead I have chosen to focus in on a few small bits of the text where we have evidence for queer identities in Norse society. Naturally this involves Loki rather a lot. Again I’m not really in a position to talk authoritatively about translations, but I do have views on what we can and cannot say about ancient societies.

All of which means that the end result is less of a review and more of a short essay on queer Vikings. If you have been wondering about all this gender fluid stuff about Loki in comics, or in Rick Riordan’s books, I can point you at some of the evidence for that intepretation. If that is your cup of tea, you can find the review here.

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Finncon 2019

This time next week I will be in Finland. I will be on my way to Jyväskylä where I am fortunate to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour at this year’s Finncon. Most of you won’t be able to go, of course, and I don’t think there are any plans to record the programme. However, it is going to be fun. I note in particular that on the Sunday I will be giving my GoH talk on the subject of the prehistory of robotics. There were a lot of artificial beings both written about and made before Karel Čapek wrote RUR. If anyone else is interested I’d be happy to give the talk again elsewhere.

Posted in Conventions, Finland, Science Fiction, Where's Cheryl? | 1 Comment

Happy Solstice, McKenna Fans

When considering when to do a cover reveal for The Green Man’s Foe, Juliet and I decided that the Summer Solstice would be an ideal time. The Green Man, after all, is deeply connected to the natural world. And frankly, he’s going to need a bit of sunshine to help deal with this guy.

When you do a good job for someone, there’s a strong chance they’ll offer you more work or recommend you elsewhere. So Daniel Mackmain isn’t particularly surprised when his boss’s architect brother asks for his help on a historic house renovation in the Cotswolds.

Except Dan’s a dryad’s son, and he soon realises there’s a whole lot more going on. Ancient malice is stirring and it has made an alliance in the modern world. The Green Man expects Dan to put an end to this threat. Seeing the danger, Dan’s forced to agree. The problem is he’s alone in a place he doesn’t know, a hundred miles or more away from any allies of his own.

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

It is, of course, another genius piece of art by Ben Baldwin. Juliet and Toby-the-Editor are just putting the final touches to the text. And when they are done I get to do the layouts. I’m still planning on having the book available at Worldcon. Once I have everything I need in my paws I will put the book up for pre-order.

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Cheryl & Christine – Part 2

The second part of my interview with veteran trans activist, Christine Burns MBE, for The Diversity Trust is now available. There are only two parts, so you can all relax. You can find the audio here:

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Fringe Tonight

It is BristolCon Fringe day again today. I will be hosting it. The readers will be Tim Kindberg and Helen Claire Gould. As usual we will be at the Gryphon on Colston Street from around 7:00pm, with readings starting at 7:30pm. Full details are available on Farcebook.

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Bologna Proceedings Published

Some of you may remember that back in 2017 I gave a paper at an academic conference at the University of Bologna. The proceedings of the conference have now been published, and I’m delighted to report that my paper is among them. That’s an actual, genuine academic publication credit.

The paper is titled, “Escaping the Cis Gaze in Trans-Themed Young Adult Fiction”, and it is published in Literature, Gender and Education for Children and Young Adults, Bononia University Press, 2019 pp 137-148.

Huge thanks to Raffaella Baccolini and everyone else involved in the conference for making me so welcome.

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Thank You, Köln

I spent the past three days in Germany (and traveling too and from). The main reason I was there was to give a lecture at the Academy of Media Arts in Köln. However, I did pay for an extra hotel night so that I could do a bit of sightseeing. Hopefully there will be photos up here soon. I did take a lot, but I need to find time to process them (and I know I haven’t done the Ghent photos yet).

What I can say is that Köln is a lovely city. Obviously it is most famous for the giant cathedral which, when you are up close, really does look as if it reaches all the way to heaven. However, there are lots of Roman remains (the city was a legionary base and later capital of the Province of Germania) and twelve Romanesque churches. Sadly the two main museums of Roman materials were closed for rennovations, but I saw enough to want to go back when they are open.

I can recommend the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum which does a good job of being an anti-colonial ethnographic collection. It is also a themed collection. Anyone involved with the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford should take a look.

I can also recommend the Lindt Chocolate Museum and its most excellent cafe.

My talk seemed to go down very well. It was filmed and will be available on the Academy website in due course. We also had a reporter from a local radio station in attendance. If you can understand German you can tell me what he thought of it as his report is already online.

Posted in Academic, Art, Gender, History | 2 Comments

Book Review – This is How You Lose the Time War

Last week I ran an interview with Amal El-Mohtar on my radio show. The main reason for talking to her was the fabulous new novella that she and Max Gladstone have coming out any day now. There has been a lot of excitement about this book, and having read it I can see why.

I should give thanks here to Jo Fletcher Books for sending me an ARC. I don’t often get them these days, and generally only when I specifically ask for them from people I know. And I only ask for books when I am pretty sure that I will love what I get.

If the review appeals, and you haven’t yet listened to the interview, you can find it via the link here for another week or two. After that I will put it on Salon Futura where it can stay for as long as I’m around to pay for the hosting. This digital world is so strange. On the one had we have access to vast quantities of stuff, and on the other much of that stuff will vanish in a puff of electrons once the creator is no longer paying for it to be available. Take backups, people, and give them to others for safekeeping.

Hmm, where did that come from? Too much thinking about time, I suspect.

Still, before I start getting maudlin, here’s the link to the review.

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Book Review – The Light Brigade

Slowly but surely I am catching up with the book reviews. The latest is of Kameron Hurley’s very smart military SF novel, The Light Brigade. This is a book that is very much aware of its place the the history of space war novels. If you have read The Forever War and Starship Troopers you will pick up references.

It can’t have been an easy novel to write, with the lead character switching back and fore through time as the story progresses. My congratulations to Hurley and her editor for keeping it all together. If you want to learn more about the book, click here.

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Åcon – Part 2

I was having so much fun at Åcon that I didn’t get around to writing about it.

Well, that’s not strictly true, I did spend quite a bit of time publicising the charity walk for One25. Huge thanks once again to everyone who sponsored me. Last I heard, all of the various people participating had raised over £11,000 for the charity, and my personal total, including gift aid, was over £700.

I also spent quite a bit of time rehearsing the talk I was scheduled to give, which was about Janelle Monáe. I had decided to do something a bit different and role-play a far future version of myself. So the talk was given by a future historian looking back on the career of the time-traveling android rights activist, Cindi Mayweather. It took a bit of effort to put together a coherent narrative from the information provided in the various song lyrics, and someone else may have a different take on it, but that how historians work. From the reaction on Twitter, and from people thanking me in person, it seemed to have gone down well.

Most importantly, it seems to have led to more people planning to vote for Dirty Computer in the Hugos, because they now understand that Janelle is totally One Of Us.

While I was there I also grabbed a couple of interviews. One was with Amal El-Mohtar and aired on Wednesday’s radio show. The other was with Regina Wang and will air during the July show.

And after all that I still had enough time to enjoy myself greatly. And watch the football. And consume a fair amount of pizza and alcohol.

One thing that I do want to note is a late night event that I’d not paid proper attention to before because it was labeled as “karaoke”. No one wants me anywhere near a proper karaoke event. However, this event did not require any actual singing, because it was a William Shatner Karaoke event. That meant that everyone was expected to perform in the style of Shatner’s infamous “singing” career; so spoken word, hopelessly over-dramatic, and breath breaks in totally inappropriate places. If the audience laughs, that shows you are doing it right.

Finnish conventions are the best. Yes, I know I have said that before. It is still true.

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More Champagne for Juliet

Last March I happily announced that The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna had become the first book from Wizard’s Tower to reach 1,000 sales. I was really pleased by that. It had taken 6 years to get to that point.

Sales of that book are now fast closing in on 1,500, because Juliet’s stock has risen significantly among readers. That’s because of The Green Man’s Heir, which I can now happily announce has sold more than 10,000 copies.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that Wizard’s Tower would ever publish a book that was that popular. The additional good news is that I have just read the sequel, The Green Man’s Foe, and it is a real page-turner. Juliet is already posting snippets of it on her Twitter feed, and we’ll have more news about it later in the month. I am expecting to have the book available at Worldcon.

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Book Review – The Dreaming Stars

I’d been hoping to get a few book reviews published while I was at Åcon, but I was having way too much fun at the convention. Maybe now I can catch up.

I’ll start with the latest book in Tim Pratt’s lovely space opera series. I very much enjoyed The Wrong Stars last year, and The Dreaming Stars did not let me down.

What I love most about this series is that it hits a whole bunch of buttons with regard to diversity and representation, but still manages to be proper space opera as well. Our heroes get to go up against very serious science fictional threats, and deal with them in the approved manner.

The review contains some spoilers for The Wrong Stars, but hopefully nothing that will spoil your enjoyment of the second book. The third book is due out towards the end of this year and I’m very much looking forward to it. (And I wish you could get the books more easily. British bookstores do stock some Angry Robot books, but generally not Tim’s, which is very poor of them.)

To read my review, click here.

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Today on Ujima – HIV, Time Wars & Art

Today’s Women’s Outlook show was one of those where it seemed mostly calm on the surface, but it was all frantic paddling underneath. Yesterday I had one of my guests drop out, so I had a half hour to fill. Thankfully the pre-recorded interview I had would stretch to three segments, and I had enough to talk about to fill the final one I needed. Also Ben, my usual engineer, was unavailable, and the replacement we had arranged was unable to come in, so I ended up with an emergency holographic engineer. Huge thanks to Mikey who did a great job for me.

We began the show with Aled and Acomo from Brigstowe, a local charity that specialises in HIV/AIDS issues. They are one of two charities in England who are running pilots with PrEP, the drug which can protect you from HIV if you take it before having sex. PrEP is already widely available in Scotland and Wales, but as Aled explains the English authorities have fought tooth and nail to prevent it being made available. Now that the courts have forced the NHS to do some trials, Brigstowe needs help getting them done.

They are looking in particular for women from marginalized communities who are willing to get trained on the use of PrEP and can then go out into their communities to srpread the word. They’ll be working closely with my pals at One25 to make sure the drug gets to sex workers, who are some of the people who need it most. They are also very interested in recruiting trans women.

The pre-recorded interview with was Amal El-Mohtar and was made while we were at Åcon. We talked about a range of issues, but obviously there was particular focus on the forthcoming book, This is How You Lose the Time War. I loved this book. There will be a review coming soon.

As I had a bit of time to fill I played a couple of songs with Nordic connections. I have probably enthused about the Swedish electrojazz duo, Koop, before, but I should mention that the particular song I played had guest vocals from Ane Brun who is Norwegian and Sami. She has also worked with Peter Gabriel, taking Kate Bush’s part on “Don’t Give Up” when he was touring.

I also played the Miike Snow song that Amal mentions during the interview. The core of that band is Swedish too. If you are intersted in the very gay video for the song, you can find it here.

Finally on the show I was joined by Cai and Amie from Paper Arts who are a wonderful organisation that helps young people start a career in the arts.

You can listen to today’s show via the Listen Again function on the Ujima website.

The playlist for today’s show is:

  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
  • The Human League – The Lebanon
  • Fairuz – Li Beirut
  • Afro-Celt Sound System – Further In Time
  • Koop – Koop Islands
  • Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
  • Janelle Monáe – Crazy, Classic Life
  • Prince – Purple Rain
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Introducing the Diversity Trust Podcast

As if to prove that work follows me everywhere, today saw the launch of the brand new Diversity Trust Podcast. This will see various people from the Trust interviewing famous civil rights campaigners. And it all kicks off with me talking to the very wonderful Christine Burns.

Actually, you are only getting part 1 of the conversation right now. If you put Christine and I together the chances are that we will rabbit on endlessly about things, and this was no exception. Part 2 will follow in due course, but right now you can listen to part 1 here.

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Åcon – Part 1

Hello from the Åland Islands. I’m not exactly on holiday, because email chases me everywhere. Also I have two programme items at the con and I have the charity walk for One25 to finish. But I am doing my best to have some downtime.

Thus far there has been a lot of travel, including the now-legendary boat trip from Turku to Mariehamn. I have also done my first programme thing, which was chatting with this year’s Guest of Honour, Amal El-Mohtar, about steampunk. But mostly I see to have been walking, sleeping and eating.

One interesting development this year is that Silja Lines now have a selection of beers brewed especially for sale on the ferries. I have picked up a couple of porters to try. Also dinner this evening was at Dino’s (Achipelacon attendees may remember it as the place with portraits of dead rock stars) in part because they are one of the few places that stocks Stallhagen’s Baltic Porter.

I don’t have a lot more to add at this point except to say that This is How You Lose the Time War is brilliant and there will be a review posted soon.

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Book Review – Atlas Alone

There aren’t many authors whose latest book I will grab and read immediately. Emma Newman is one. It has taken me a little while to get around to writing the review, but we are there now.

As I explain in the review, we have got to the point in the Planetfall series where it is hard to talk about the latest book without giving spoilers for the previous ones. If you haven’t read any of these books yet, you are missing out, and should catch up before reading on. If you are up to date, my review of Atlas Alone is here.

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Target Achieved

I’m delighted to report that I have now hit the £450 target that I set for raising money for One25. I still have around 21 miles to walk to meet the 125 miles requirement, but there are plenty of days left in May. So here’s what we are going to do.

I’m going to set a new target of 155 miles (that’s an average of 5 miles per day throughout the month). What I’d like you folks to do is get me to £600.

Can we do this? Sure we can.

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Last Lap

Those of you who have been following my fundraising challenge for One25 will know that I am almost up to 100 miles. I expect to pass that milestone later today, and I’m hoping that I will have passed the target of 125 miles by the end of Sunday. The main reason for that is that I will be leaving for Åcon on Monday and I’m unsure how much time I’ll be able to get for walking while I’m away. (Obviously I have several hours to walk on the boat, but I can’t track that through GPS.)

The other thing I need to do it get the funding up to 100%. We are currently less than £50 short of the target, so I don’t need many of you to help, but I do need some people to step up, please.

The good news is that as of yesterday the campaign had raised £8,743 thanks to all of the people involved. That’s amazing news, and it is going to make a big difference to the lives of street sex workers in Bristol over the coming year.

Great show, people!

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Big in Germany?

Next month I’m going to be giving a talk at the University of Köln in Germany. This is something that grew out of the event in Graz last year. There’s a web page up for the event now. It is in German, but quite a few of the words should be recognisable. The audience will be mainly arts students. It should be fun.

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