Life on Transphobia Island

It is fairly well known now that the UK has become one of the most transphobic countries in the world. We aren’t as bad as places like Russia or Hungary yet, but the situation is not good. Most of you will probably think that the bulk of the problem is lack of reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and the constant flow of anti-trans propaganda in the mainstream media. Some of you may be aware that there is now around a 5 year waiting list to get a first appointment at a UK gender clinic, and that in five years time that delay will be much longer. These are the things that hit the headlines, but they are not all that is going on. Behind the scenes, much worse is happening.

I’m writing this post today because today is the first time that I have resorted to ordering medication over the internet. I’m hoping that I won’t have to use it, and there are some helpful people within the NHS who are trying to get me a new hormone prescription. But without the cooperation of a GP local to me they will probably fail.

The GP services in the UK are currently organised through things called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). There are lots of these around the country. While patients have a free choice of GPs within their local CCG, it is difficult to get care from anywhere else. A recent survey by Gender GP has discovered that 83% of CCGs in England do not have any policy in place regarding healthcare for trans people. That doesn’t necessarily mean no treatment. If you have a friendly GP whom you have know for years they will probably still prescribe. But increasingly GP services are run through large, multi-doctor surgeries where you never see the same doctor twice, and without an official trans healthcare policy from their CCG they will probably refuse treatment.

Note that I’m not asking for anything highly specialist here. The gender transition process is still handled by Gender Identity Clinics. But if, like me, you have had your gonads removed, you need an alternative source of hormones to stay healthy. In theory I should be getting a regular prescription of oestrogen. In practice GPs refuse to prescribe, even though they know I will get quite ill without it.

There are parts of the country that are not so bad. There’s that 17% of CCGs that do have a trans policy. Plus, if you happen to live in London, Manchester, Brighton or Liverpool there are specialist GP services you can go to. But for much of England there is a huge problem.

You might think that, in such a situation, someone in private practice would leap in to take advantage, but that doesn’t happen. I’ve tried three private GP services, including BUPA. All three said that they would not accept a trans person as a patient. Anyone who sets up in private practice specifically to help trans people is quickly hounded out of business by the medical authorities.

So healthcare is a problem, but a potentially far worse one is the removal of trans people’s civil rights through changes in police policy. The UK now has elected Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for each local force. In England, inevitably, the majority of these are Conservatives. Recently there has been a coordinated push by these people to redefine the law as it applies to trans women. In a recent post on the right-wing website, Conservative Home, several PCCs stated their opposition to trans rights, and to the LGBT+ charity, Stonewall.

The reason for the complaints against Stonewall is that their training on the Equality Act correctly explains that trans women can only be excluded from “women-only” spaces if there is a good reason for doing so. This is in line with the official guidance regarding the Act produced by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Earlier this year an anti-trans lobby group spent a large amount of money to bring a court case demanding a judicial review of the EHRC guidance. The claimed that, under the Act, trans women should always be excluded from women-only spaces. The judge described their argument as “absurd” and “wrong in law”. Nevertheless, the media continues to put forward this anti-trans position as if it is fact, and now several PCCs have done so too.

The most extreme example is Philip Wilkinson, the PCC for Wiltshire, which happens to be where I live. He stated that he does not believe that “biological men” should be allowed into women-only spaces. The term, “biological men” is a favourite of anti-trans campaigners. Its meaning varies quite a bit. Some people say it means people with a Y chromosome, others that it means people who do not have ovaries, and others also want to exclude anyone with above average levels of testosterone in their body. But all of them agree that the term absoutely excludes all trans women.

Currently in the UK the Gender Recognition Act allows trans people to change their legal gender. That should allow them to be treated as an ordinary person of that gender in almost all circumstances. Equally, the Equality Act says that it is illegal to discrimiate against a person on the grounds that they have undergone, are undergoing or plan to undergo gender reassignment. By saying that he will bar trans women from women-only spaces, Mr Wilkinson is saying that he wants the police under his command to ignore the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act, and to act with prejudice against any trans women they encounter.

Of course this is illegal, but if there is one thing that the current government in the UK has shown it is that they have no respect for the law, and believe that they can break it with impunity whenever they wish. The same is apparently true of Conservative PCCs. And while a trans woman who is arrested for using a toilet, or trying to buy clothes, might eventually have her day in court and win, that won’t make up for the trauma of the experience.

It is probably no accident that Mr Wilkinson’s statement was quickly followed up by the launch of a campaign by Wiltshire Police to target “sex offenders”. How they are likley to be able to spot potential rapists before they commit any rapes is a bit of a mystery. But it is axiomatic amongst the anti-trans movement that they “can always tell” if someone is trans, and Mr Wilkinson clearly believes that all trans women are, by definition, sex offenders. It is pretty obvious who the Wiltshire police will be on the lookout for.

Sadly the “we can always tell” manta is nonsense. The vast majority of people who get harrassed in public toilets and other women-only spaces on suspicion of being trans are cisgender women. They might have short hair and a fairly masculine style of dress; they might be wearing a wig for some innocent reason; or their might have lost their breasts to cancer. Many trans women are quite safe in comparison, but it doesn’t feel that way when you know that you are being hunted by the police.

So yeah, life here on Transphobia Island is not much fun right now. My advice to young trans people is to get out if you possibly can. It will get worse before it gets better.

Bristol on Saturday

It has been a long time. The last public event I did in Bristol was, I think, February 25 2020. I have done one in-person training course for the NHS there last summer, and of course a whole lot of virtual events, but this is very different.

What am I up to? Well, the Palace International Film Festival is taking place at St. Anne’s House in Brislington. It is a festival of queer cinema, and as part of the programme Tom Marshman and I will be Queer and Indecent. Well, that’s that it says on the website anyway. The longer version is, “As part of our Queer & Indecent Exhibition, join curator Kate Fahy as she talks to two local queer Bristol artists for a conversation about queer history, spaces and community.”

If you are able to attend, it is a 12:30 start. You may want to book a place as COVID security will mean a fairly limited attendance.

If you are in Bristol this weekend you may also want to check out the Queer Bristol Audio Tour put together by Anna Rutherford and collagues. If you go on the tour you might hear a familiar voice talking about Michael Dillon.

Outremer Returns


When I started Wizard’s Tower, my primary business plan was to help authors whose books had gone out of print to get them available to the public again. In particular I was looking at books for which an ebook edition never existed, because making an ebook was easy. Of course a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the past 10 years. I certainly never expected to have a huge hit with original fiction published in paper. But equally I haven’t lost sight of the original goal. It is therefore with great pleasure that I can announce that Wizard’s Tower will be producing new editions of Chaz Brenchey’s Books of Outremer.

I read these books back in 2004 and was struck by how they provided a nuanced and understanding view of the Crusades at a time when simplistic and Islamophobic Crusader imagery was being widely deployed in support of the Iraq War, and that they featured a gay relationship between two major characters. In 2004 that was massive. But Chaz was a UK writer largely cut off from the UK scene, and positive coverage in Emerald City wasn’t enough to break him in America. These days he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, so hopefully the new editions will find their way to US conventions, at least on the West Coast.

An interesting piece of synchronicity is that John Jarrold, who was the commissioning editor at Random House back in the 1990s who originally bought the books, is now Chaz’s agent and was responsible for negotiating the deal with me.

Those who know the books will have questions. Here are some answers. We will publish the series in six volumes as per the US edition. There will be new cover art. (I’ve given Ben Baldwin some ideas.) And there will be hardcovers. The first book will be out early in 2022, hopefully for LGBT History Month here in the UK. The rest of the books will follow over time, but we have the Crater School books to do as well and there’s a limit to how quickly Chaz and I, not to mention Ben, can get through all of this.

If you are unfamiliar with the books (and don’t mind spoilers) there is a website devoted to the series. Also I reviewed all 6 books for Emerald City.

John’s official press release is here.

And I am a very happy publisher.

Spider Divination and Divine Androgyny

“What on Earth do those two things have in common?”, you may well ask. It goes like this.

Having given a 2-hour webinar on trans issues this morning I took a little me time and spent the afternon watching a mini academic conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sir Keith Thomas’s legendary history book, Religion and the Decline of Magic.

The papers were from people such as my friend Will Pooley who know far more than I do about magic in the early modern period. That was fun, and I learned stuff, including that there are now academics who study magical thinking amongst fringe groups on the internet. This is just as well, given the amount of nonsense being spread by the alt-right.

However, the thing that got me to sit up and take notice was a mention by an anthropologist that some people in Africa do divination with the aid of spiders. Someone in the audience posted a helpful link to the chat, so now I know how it is done.

The method used by various peoples from Cameroon uses large spiders that live in burrows — presumably a form of tarantula. The diviner has a collection of cards that are scattered around the entrance to the spider’s burrow. The whole assemblage is then covered over. The spider, thinking that her burrow has collapsed, comes out and thrashes around for a while trying to work out what has happened to the sun. Eventually the cover is removed, and the pattern of cards left by the spider is read to produce the divination.

There’s more on this, and other forms of animal divination, here. Land crabs can apparently be used in a very similar way. But in reading the article I came across this:

Androgyny seems to be a common goal among the African cultures where diviners engage in cross-gender dressing. Examples can be found among peoples from West, Central, and Southern Africa. I have long thought that this might reflect an understanding of spiritual entities as androgynous themselves (as opposed to mere humans of single sexes), and that such a posture would have value for the diviner when dealing with male and female clients.

Anyone who has done a bit of anthropology knows that in various tribal cultures around the world, non-binary people are viewed as being especially holy and often as having magical powers. Similar beliefs are found in ancient cultures such as the Scythians and the Inca.

It is generally agreed these days that the idea of a world that is gradually progressing from a belief in magic, to a belief in religion, to a belief in science, is much too simplistic. But we can occasionally see shamanistic beliefs re-purposed in organised religion. Which brings me to this article, published today in The Independent, which looks at the Graeco-Roman deity known as Hermaphroditus. Classicists now mostly accept that statues of Hermaphroditus were not pornographic jokes, as has been assumed by cis male historians for the past couple of hundred years, but rather were expressions of a mystical union of male and female.

So bascially God is non-binary (which Michelangelo understood when he painted the Sistine Chapel). They are doubtless deeply unimpressed with the current fashion for anti-trans extremism.

The Green Man’s Challenge


Yes folks, the latest book in Juliet McKenna’s hugely successful Green Man series is coming very soon. Publication is planned for September 28th, and pre-orders are opening up around the internet. More on that later, but first some blurb.

A while back, Daniel Mackmain’s life took an unexpected turn. Now the Green Man expects him to resolve clashes between those dwelling unseen in wild places and the ordinary people who have no idea what’s out there. Dan’s father is human and his mother’s a dryad, so he sees what’s happening in both these worlds.

Once upon a time, giants walked this land. So says everyone from Geoffrey of Monmouth to William Blake. This ancient threat is stirring in the Wiltshire twilight, up on the chalk downs. Can Dan meet this new challenge when he can only find half-forgotten fairy tales to guide him? Will the other local supernatural inhabitants see him – or the giant – as friend or foe?

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

The book also features a bonus short story starring Dan’s boss, Eleanor Beauchene.

There you have it. But who is that person on the cover? Obviously you will need the book to find out.

Links to various stores that have the book available can be found here. It is a bit sparse at the moment, but it should fill out over the next few days. I’ve just approved the paperback for printing, so that should be appearing in stores soon.

If you are going to be at FantasyCon then you will be able to get paper copies a few days early. Juliet and I will be there, and to help me judge how many copies I need to take with me I have opened up a special pre-order page that is for at-con pickup only. Juliet will sign the book for you at the con, and the price is a lot lower than you’ll pay in a shop.

We’ll also be at BristolCon, of course, but that means waiting another month.

The other way to get the book quickly would be to ask me for an eARC so you can write a review.

With all of the nonsense resulting from Brexit and the pandemic, getting paper books to customers has become much harder, so I am taking the plunge and looking into selling direct to the public. This will be UK only, thanks to Brexit, but hopefully it will shift some stock. More on this later. Right now I’m looking into environmentally responsible packaging.

There are other things I’m working on to make our books more easily available. Also there will be some exciting Chaz Brenchley news real soon now. Watch this space.

Top of the Charts Again


Yesterday The Green Man’s Heir was on sale at Amazon UK again. I wasn’t expecting a lot, because it has been on sale a few times before. I figured everyone I knew would have a copy by now. Nevertheless, little ebooks flew off the virtual shelves, and soon things got exciting. By early evening the book was once again #1 in paid SF&F on Kindle.

To get there once in a book’s lifetime is pretty incredible. To do it twice… I’m flabbergasted.

Of course there is also the special thrill that comes from seeing a book that I published ahead of works by She Who Must Not Be Named in the charts.

I should add also that GMH was by no means the only quality book on sale yesterday. We spent the whole day locked in a contest with two of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut books, the most recent of which ended up #2 in the charts. There were also books on sale from the likes of Joe Abercrombie and Neil Gaiman. Possibly those were on longer-term sales, which would mean less concentrated action on one day, but even so it is very pleasing.

A lot of it is down to Ben Baldwin’s brilliant cover, of course. Juliet and I have been lucky enough to see some drafts of the cover for The Green Man’s Challenge, and y’all will get to see it later this week.

Also of note yesterday was a tweet from Fonda Lee noting that only three things can make a book a huge hit: a big marketing campaign; the author being a celebrity; or word of mouth. There’s no way Wizard’s Tower can afford a big marketing campaign. Juliet is nowhere near that famous. And so, as she said in response to Fonda’s tweet, we owe all this to you. Without all of the positive reviews, the encouraging your friends to buy the book, and so on, we would not have this massive hit on our hands. Thank you!

By the way, if anyone ever tells you that books with green covers don’t sell…

That Finnish “Non-Binary” Burial

Last week the newspapers were full of stories about a supposed “non-binary” burial discovered in Finland. I got a few inquiries regarding my thoughts. It has taken a while to find the time to do more than make a few scathing tweets about the poor quality of the journalism. Here’s something a little more in depth. (And if you want to check what I say against the original academic paper it is here.)

First up, the actual facts. The burial is located near Hattula in Finland, which is a town roughly half-way between Helsinki and Tampere. The grave has been dated to about 900 years ago, which means during the Viking era (at which point someone will yell at me for using the word “Viking”, but if Cat Jarman can use it I can too.). It was first excavated in 1968 and appeared to contain a single person, two swords, and clothing/jewellery that has been interpreted as female-coded. There has been much controversy over the findings, with some people claiming that this is a grave of a woman warrior, and others claiming that there must have been two bodies in the grave, one of whom was male. The current research has tried to solve that mystery by analysing the DNA of the skeleton, but has only resulted in an even bigger mystery.

I’ll pause here to note that I said “interpreted as female-coded” very deliberately. The gendering of grave goods is an imprecise art, of which I’ll have more to say later.

The result of the DNA analysis suggest that the person buried in the tomb exhibited what we now called Kleinfelter’s Syndrome, which means that they had an XXY chromosome pattern. I am going to assume that the DNA analysis is correct, because I don’t have the expetise to judge it. However, the paper produced by the archaeologists does say that the analysis was difficult, and I am entirely prepared for an expert in genetics to tell me that it was bunkum.

The DNA analysis has led both archaeologists an journalists to talk about the body buried in the grave being someone who is “intersex” and “non-binary”. What does this mean, and are these statements correct.

Let’s start with “intersex”. What this means is people who are, “born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies”. XXY chromosomes very clearly do not fit the notion of a gender binary. You will see some people talk about strict definitions of “intersex”, which generaly refers to something to do with genitalia. These definitions tend to be produced by medical people. You may also see the term “DSD” used. It stands for “Disorders of Sexual Deveopment” and is deeply pathologising, partly by suggesting that all intersex people are “disordered”, and partly by suggesting that they can and should be “fixed” in some way. When talking about intersex people in training I try to be guided by the Organisation Internationale des Intersexués, and I defend the right of intersex people to be accepted as an ordinary part of human variability.

By the way, the “Gender Critical” movement tends to dismiss intersex people as being “very rare”. There are over 100 intersex traits known to modern medicine, and between 1% and 2% of the population will have one, though many will be unaware of this. The NHS web page on the subject says that around 1 in 600 men exhibit the Kleinfelter trait, which means over 50,000 people in the UK alone. Of course many will be unaware of this, because who has their chromosomes tested?

Note that the NHS said “men” there. People with XXY chromosomes will normally be assigned male at birth because they have penises. The effect of having XXY chromosomes on the body can vary significantly, but as far as gendered appearance goes the only common effect is enlarged breasts. Some XXY people also exhibit soemthing the medical people call hypospadias, which means there is an opening on the underside of penis. This can result in the person being assigned female at birth.

Back when I transitioned, being diagnosed as XXY was the gold standard for trans women, because doctors would see that extra X chromosome and decide that you were half way to being female already. This idea was strengthed when Caroline Cossey revealed that she had XXXY chromosomes, and we all wanted to look like her. But it seems that the majority of XXY people identify as men and are happy as such.

Now on to the question of non-binary identity. I’d like to start by saying that the idea that being intersex implies that you are non-binary is on a par with saying trans women are men, because it assumes that biological factors are the sole determinant of your gender. In all probability the majority of intersex people are happy being cisgender. Remember, many have no idea that they are intersex. Some intersex people, such as Caroline Cossey, will identify as trans women. There are also intersex traits that result in a baby being assigned female at birth but being more likely to identify as male. And there are some intersex people who identify as non-binary because of their biology, or because they would have been non-binary regardless of their biology.

So the idea that the person buried in the Hattula grave is non-binary because they happen to have XXY chromosomes is nonsense. What are the actual possibilities?

The archaeologists have tried to get this right. Their paper has references to work by the likes of Anne Fausto-Sterling and Judith Butler. However, they are hampered by a legacy of assumptions being made about the gender burials which tell us more about the people making the assumptions than about the person buried. The idea that anyone buried with a sword must be a man is taking a very long time to die.

In recognising that the subject is complex, the paper’s authors look around for possibilities and occasionally end up down the wrong rabbit hole. For example, they say, “An interesting aspect of the graves containing osteologically determined females and swords is that they often lack jewellery and other feminine accessories (Simniškytė, 2007; Price et al., 2019). This is seemingly in line with the idea that the Scandinavian gender system accepted masculinity as the only normative gender and allowed only some females to obtain masculine gender in certain circumstances (Clover, 1993).” However, this grave does contain jewellery and the person buried there would probably have been assigned male at birth.

The point this does make is that trans and non-binary identities are culturally contextual. You can only say that someone is non-binary if they behave outside the cultutally accepted norms of male and female for the society in which they live. Do we know what these norms were for early-mediaeval Finnish culture? Possibly not.

It seems likely that the person in the grave would have been assigned male at birth. Very few cultures assign anyone as neither male nor female at birth, and those that do (for example the Navajo) tend to require ambiguous genitalia for make such a pronouncement. If the person in the grave did exhibit hypospadias, then they may have been assigned non-binary at birth, or been assigned female, but we have no way of knowing.

The identification of the person buried as female is dependent on the grave goods. The items of interest are a small number of brooches, and the probable presence of expensive fur-trimmed clothing. As the authors of the paper note, this could mean that the person buried in the grave was a very wealthy and powerful man who liked using excessive bling to emphasise his status.

If the person buried exhibited hypospadias then they may have been assigned female at birth, but masculine biological characteristics would have asserted themselves at puberty and this could have led to the person acquiring a liminal identity. In our culture such people are normally deterined to have been the victims of a mistaken gender assignment, and are re-assigned as men. There are several well known cases in the UK from the 1930s. We appear to be better at gendering babies now. Early mediaeval Finnish culture may well have been more accepting of non-binary identities.

But probably the person buried was identified as male at birth. They may have developed pronounced breasts during puberty or, like Caroline Cossey, they may have had a strong female gender identity, or both. We don’t know how the local culture would have reacted to this. They may have seen the person as liminal in some way and required/allowed a non-binary identity. Or they may have allowed gender transition. Again, we can’t know.

So in conclusion, the person buried at Hattula may have been a cisgender man with a liking for bling, or someone assigned female at birth who “magically” acquired male characteristics in life, or someone assigned female at birth who “magically” acquired female characteristics later in life, or someone who was assigned female at birth who transitioned socially to live as a woman. All of these explanations could possibly have been seen as “non-binary” in some way by the local culture. One of them has the buried person strongly identifiying as a man, and one has them strongly identifying as female. How the person identified themself could be rather different from how the rest of their society viewed them.

Gendering burials is hard, folks. But the act of trying to do so can teach us a lot about the complexity of human biology and identity.

Coronavirus – Day #503

Gosh, I went over 500 days and didn’t even notice. The pandemic has become a way of life.

Of course I would have been more likely to notice if I’d be posting about other things more often. Its not that nothing is happening in my life. It is partly that I’m very busy, and partly because most of what is happening in my life is stuff I can’t talk about.

Some of that, however, is Wizard’s Tower stuff. Look out for some exciting announcements soon. Including, of course, the new Green Man book.

Meanwhile we all try to get used to living with the virus. Last Friday I had dinner with friends in Bath. I traveled by train, and I took one of those home tests the day before, just in case. The tests are horrible to do, but much better than infecting your friends.

In theory, life should ramp up more in September. I have a couple of work things in London I should go to, and there’s FantasyCon at the end of the month. Then I look at the virus stats and worry. There was a huge spike in the UK due to the football, and a drop again once the tournament was over. But now cases are rising steadily again. Over 100 people are dying every day. Its only likely to get worse over the winter. Is it wise to go anywhere? I really don’t know.

A Daily Deal


In case you haven’t noticed, The Green Man’s Silence is a Daily Deal on Amazon UK today. That means you can pick it up for just 99p, but today only. It being the third book in the series, it isn’t going to do quite as well as when The Green Man’s Heir got to be #1 in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but it is doing very nicely. If you don’t have a copy yet, do pick one up while you can. It will help encourage Amazon to promote the new book when it comes out. And these sales figures do wonders for Juliet’s ability to sell to mainstream publishers.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten this. Take that, Rowling!

New Salon Futura


The July issue of Salon Futura went online over the weekend. It is a bit thin because life has been rather busy of late, but hopefully it will still be of interest.

The issue leads off with a look at the comics origins of the Loki TV series. There’s a good reason why the show is very reminiscent of Doctor Who, and an unexpected Alan Moore connection.

The fiction reviews are of A Strange and Brilliant Light, a rather unusual science fiction debut from Eli Lee, and the justifiably much praised Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi. There’s also a non-fiction review featuring a new biography of William Blake, William Blake vs the World. Plus I take a look at the latest Academia Lunare book, Worlds Apart. Finally I have a review of the new Disney animation, Raya and the Last Dragon. You can find it all here.

There will be no new issue in August as I take that month off. That’s ostensibly because of Worldcon, but this time more to hopefully get my life in order.

Luna Press News


The latest volume in the Luna Press Academia Lunare series is now available. This one is called Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction. As always, it is filled with fascinating essays on the titular theme, and an essay by me. This time I have written something about worldbuilding with sex and gender. Yes, it is a paper version of the funny animals talk. There are a few new creatures in the mix this time, and of course you’ll have the text to refer to rather than having to listen to me. I’ll talk a bit about the other essays in the next Salon Futura.

But that’s not all, because the short lists for this year’s British Fantasy Awards have been announced, and last year’s Academia Lunare book is honoured in the non-fiction category. That’s Ties that Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction, which features my essay, “Robot Love is Queer”.

The BFS Awards contain lots of other great works and people as well, many of them in that non-fiction category. I’d like to make particular mention of two of our Bristol people: Stark Holborn and Pete Sutton. Well done folks, great to see you getting honoured.

HFRN 2022 – Call for Papers

The Historical Fictions Research Network (of which I am a Trustee) has elected to hold their 2022 conference entirely online. The situation with the pandemic is too confused for us to be able to make any other plans.

Of course the great thing about being online is that we can get papers from all over the world. As with this year, we are aiming to schedule timeslots that will allow everyone from New Zealand to California to particpate.

The dates of the conference will be February 19-20.

Our keynote speakers will be:

  • The George Padmore Institute: An archive, educational resource and research centre housing materials relating to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe.
  • Amy Tooth Murphy: A Trustee of the Oral History Society and a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the blog Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality. Dr. Murphy will be talking about her project on the oral history of the Butch Community.

The Conference Registration Fee for this year is £75 for regulars and £40 for concessions (PhD students, low-income). Tickets are available here.

Paper proposals are due 1st September 2021: they should consist of a title, and up to 250 words abstract. The decisions on acceptance would be communicated by 1st November 2021. All papers will be delivered live and we will schedule across time-zones.

The theme of the 7th annual conference of the Historical Fictions Research Network is “Communities” and spans a wide array of topics across the disciplines of Archaeology, Architecture, Literature, Art History, Cartography, Geography, History, Memory Studies, Musicology, Reception Studies, Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Museum Studies, Media Studies, Politics, Re-enactment, Larping, Gaming, Transformative Works, Gender, Race, Queer studies.

For the 2022 conference, HFRN seeks to engage in scholarly discussions and deliberations on how communities construct their own pasts; how different versions of the past are used to create – or question – a national memory and identity; how communities challenge the narratives that have been foisted upon them or are used to oppress and discriminate; how communities challenge their own consensual understandings of their past; or how a re-evaluation of the past and past events may change a communities’ self-image. We welcome paper proposals across historical periods, with ambitious, high-quality, interdisciplinary approaches and new methodologies that will support research into larger trends, and which will lead to more theoretically informed understandings of the mode across historical periods, cultures, and languages.

The conference will prioritize (but will not be necessarily limited to) the following thematic strands:

  • Past, Present and the community writing
  • Literature, Language, and community building
  • Historical Fiction, Gaming and Community
  • Gender Writings, Health and Community
  • Textual retellings, revisions, and Community construction
  • COVID, Community and resilience
  • Queer Space and community development
  • Social Media and digital communities
  • Web series, Film adaptation and community
  • Memory, community, and identity
  • Ecological writings and community
  • Community, worldbuilding and historical imagination
  • Cultural histories of communities
  • War, Migration, and community restoration
  • National memories and identities

Each presentation will be of 20 minutes followed by an interaction session.

To register your interest in presenting a paper, please fill in this form.

Visit our website for more details and regular updates. You can also email us.

Coronavirus – Day #466

It is a time for experiment here on Plague Island. For the few weeks we have been running an experiment involving huge crowds at sporting events, and large numbers of people getting very drunk and running around the streets. That is set to continue throughout the summer, though probably with not quite the same level of drunkeness and violence now that the football is over.

As of this time next week, pretty much all COVID restrictions in England will be removed. We are apparently still encouraged to wear masks in high risk locations such as on public transport, but it won’t be mandatory and the government is crowing about it being “Freedom Day” so lots of people will doubtless stop doing it.

In view of this you will doubtless expect that the pandemic is well under control here and all of the danger indicators are at very low levels. You would be exactly wrong.

Today we had almost 34,500 new cases of COVID and are now over 300 cases per 100,000 people. The rate is rising fast. Hospitalisations are now shooting up, with over 550 today. Deaths are still quite low — only 6 today — but everything will ramp up as the restrictions come off. The good news is that last time we had this many infections the death rate was over 600/day. Clearly the vaccines are having a major effect on the lethality of the disease. But government scientists are apparently predicting we could get up to as many as 200 deaths per day in the near future.

Bozo is telling us that this is a risk we must take for the good of the economy. It is very much a case of, “You people must die so that my share prices can remain high.”

Technically I still have in-person conventions planned for September and October, and I’d still love to get to Canada for World Fantasy in November. I have no idea what will happen with any of them, though I suspect that the Canada trip will be the least likely because other countries will not want people from the UK visiting them.

For comparison, the UK had the second highest number of COVID cases of any country in the world today. Only Indonesia had more. I believe that we have more cases per day than the rest of Europe combined. I would love to be heading to Rome this week to enjoy Eurocon and to congratulate my Italian friends on their victory in the football, but that isn’t going to be possible.

New From Luna Press

The lovely people at Luna Press Publishing have a new non-fiction collection on the way. This one is titled Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction. I have an essay in it. As you can probably guess, it is about queer animals. You can read a bit about it here.

Obviously there will be many other essays in the book, all of them covering different aspects of worldbuilding, and doubtless most of them better than mine (if perhaps less funny). There are posts about some of them on the Luna Press blog, and more will be coming in due course.

Coronavirus – Day #455

Now that the third wave is well underway here we have some interesting data. The daily infection rate is now over 27,000, which is where we were in mid-December last year. However, at that time we were seeing a death rate of over 400 per day. Yesterday’s death count was 22. Equally in mid-December the hospitalisation rate was just short of 2000/day. Currently it is under 300.

Obviously I’m not an epidemiologist, so my analysis of this data should probably be taken with a very big pinch of salt. But what I think I am seeing is that the pandemic is once again raging out of control, but amongst a population that is far more resistant to its effects. Vaccines work.

Is that a good thing? I guess that depends. It should mean that more people can feel safe going to work, going to entertainment venues and so on. But it will also mean that there will be less concern about biosecurity, and therefore those at risk will be more likely to get sick when they are less able to fight it off.

Anyway, it doesn’t make much difference to me. I’m old. My lungs are distinctly dodgy. And I’m highly likely to be discriminated against in a healthcare setting. I’m taking no risks.

Coronavirus – Day #439

Well, here we go again. To very few people’s surprise, the current levels of Lockdown restrictions in the UK are being extended, rather than being eased next Monday as was originally planned. Why? Because infection rates are soaring, as they have been for around 3 weeks now. The current restrictions haven’t slowed that, so there is no reason to think that simply extending them will have any effect. Things will have to get substantially worse before the government will admit that there is a problem.

I must admit that I was a little nervous about going to Clevedon on Saturday, but I also knew that it was likely to be my only chance of any sort of break. Also I am fully vaccinated which ought to count for something. But from now on it is back into security mode.

That means definitely no Eurocon for me. Probably no Bristol Pride, which is currently scheduled for July 10th. Further out on the planning horizon I have FantasyCon in September, BristolCon in October, and World Fantasy in November. I’m much less hopeful for all of those now, but at least come August we’ll have a better idea of what this current wave looks like.

In the meantime, if you haven’t booked up for my trans Romans talk on Thursday, there is still time to do so. Remember that you don’t have to listen live, you have a whole week to watch it on replay. Tickets available here.

Clevedon Tomorrow

This is a reminder that Juliet McKenna and I will be in Clevedon tomorrow for their literary festival. Juliet is appearing on the Fantasy Fringe panel at 3:30pm, but the lovely people from Books on the Hill, who are organising that event, have a stall there all day, so I’ll be going over early to give them some books to sell.

Mind you, given that Clevedon is a seaside town, and the weather is forecast to be excellent, I might not be at the venue all day. A little bit of breathing in of sea air might be necessary.