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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Fringe Tomorrow

Bristol people, it is that time of the month again. The readers for this month’s BristolCon Fringe are RB Watkinson and Paul Cornell. Cavan Scott is MCing this one, which is just as well because otherwise Paul and I would just talk about cricket.

I look forward to seeing some of you tomorrow night. As usual we will be at the Gryphon on Colston Street from 7:00pm. Full details on Farcebook.

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New BBC SF Audiodrama

Forest 404

Our local media in Bristol keeps an eye on what the local BBC offices are up to. Today they had news of a new science-fiction audiodrama. Forest 404 is a post-apocalyptic story set in a world where forests no longer exist. The lead character, Pan, is a sound archivist who uncovers recordings of forest life from centuries before. She’s played by Pearl Mackie who will be best known to you as Bill Potts from Doctor Who.

The 27-part podcast series will also include, “factual talks from a range of speakers including musicians, bioethicists and anthropologists who guide the audience through the themes and issues the podcast presents.”

For more details, see Bristol 24/7.

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Book Review – A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago

I used to hate reviewing books before they were available in the shops. My readers would only get angry with me when they discovered that this great story I had told them about was still weeks away from being available.

These days things are different. The book trade, for reasons best known to itself, has become obsessed with pre-orders. If a book doesn’t sell enough copies before it is actually available, it is deemed a failure almost regardless of how many copies it eventually sells. Which is why review copies are now getting made available months in advance.

I got a copy of the new Guy Gavriel Kay novel back in February. I wrote a review immediately on finishing it, but I have saved it until now to post it. I understand it is due out in the UK on May 14th, so you still have time to pre-order it, but you don’t have too long to wait to get your own copy.

It is a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel. You know you want it. But just in case you need convincing, or you want to go down the rabbit hole of Renaissance Italy history before reading it, my review is here.

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Raising Money for One25

Every May the lovely people at One25 do a fundraising campaign around the theme of My 125 Miles. The idea is that you commit to traveling 125 miles under your own steam in some way or another, and people sponsor you. I’m a bit old for the running, swimming, etc., but I can still walk and a day in Bristol is generally about 4 miles worth. That’s what I have to average in a day to meet the target, so I figure I can do it.

For those of you who don’t follow me that closely, One25 is a Bristol-based charity for street sex workers. They do an amazing job supporting some of the most marginalised and despised women in Bristol. And they do it with love. Their aim is to get people out of the sex trade, but they don’t shame those women, they don’t scare them, they don’t persecute or prosecute them. The idea is to help the women become economically independent so that they don’t feel that they need to do sex work any more. And for those who are not yet economically stable enough to give it up, they provide food, health checks, hot showers, advice on avoiding dangerous clients and so on. You can find out more about their work here.

Royal watchers may remember that Meghan & Harry visited One25 earlier in the year, and Meghan wrote a bunch of uplifting statements on bananas. The White Feminism crowd on Twitter were furious with her (as they usually are).

Back with the campaign, I have undertaken to walk at least 125 miles in May. I’m looking for people to sponsor me. You can do that via this JustGiving page. I will be using MapMyWalk to verify the distance, and I’m pleased to report that today I managed 6 miles.

Details of the campaign and how the money will be spent can be found here. I have set a target of £450, which I note One25 says will cover the cost of supporting two women fleeing domestic abuse.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

I’ll be keeping you updated regularly via Twitter on my progress, both putting in the miles and getting pledges.

The donation page suggests a minimum donation of £10, but you can give any amount. I have almost 8000 Twitter followers. If just 1 in 20 of you gave just £1 each we’d be almost there. You can donate in currencies other than GBP.

And thank you to everyone who donates.

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Today on Ujima – Cervical Screening, Interculture, Mental Health Awareness & San Francisco

It was a busy show on Women’s Outlook today, and I didn’t cope as well as I might have done. Apologies again to Ben the Engineer for the various screw-ups which, hopefully, we managed to cover up during the show.

Anyway, we had guests, starting with Lynne from the NHS talking about their ongoing cervical screening campaign. As she explained, testing is very effective and the majority of cervical cancer cases can be cured before they get serious. Screening can help with other issues too. Of course there are all sorts of reasons why people might be nervous about the screening, but hopefully Lynne will have set people’s minds at rest, including those of trans guys. If you still have concerns or questions, Jo’s Trust are the people to talk to.

Next up we had Lisa Whtehouse from Interculture along with a lovely lady from the Ivory Coast whose name I think is Anamita, but I’ve not seen it written down (Lisa, please correct me if I’m wrong). Interculture is doing great work bringing cultures together. They are helping an empowering immigrant women, and I’m delighted that they want to do an event in Pride Week.

My third guest was Amran from CASS, a local mental health charity. She wanted to promote their campaign for Mental Health Awareness Week. The My Body Can campaign encourages people to think of positive things that your body can do, even if it is ony giving your friends a hug. The idea is to get people thinking positively about themselves, and to share that positivity on social media.

Thinking of which, my body can grow breasts naturally, given sufficient estrogen. I’m amazed at the number of people who think that trans women all have breast implants.

And finally, I ran an an interview with the fabulous Ardel Haefele-Thomas from San Francisco who is the editor of Introduction to Trandgender Studies, in which I have an essay. We talked about Ardel’s work as a lecturer at a community college, about the gentrification of San Francisco, and about the Orange Monster.

During the show I also did some plugs for events:

The latter includes Gareth L Powell and Virginia Bergin as well as myself; and Dr Sam Rogers from UWE who is a lecturer in English – my how the world has changed.

I also talked about a fundraising campaign I am doing for the lovely people at One25. I’ll be writing separately that very shortly. And I had a bit of a rant about the nonsense meted out to poor Caster Semenya today.

You can listen to the show via the Listen Again system here.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Pynk – Janelle Monáe
  • Sugar Walls – Sheena Easton
  • Lei Lei – Maryam Mursal
  • No Borders – Jama
  • Body & Soul – Amy Winehouse & Tony Bennett
  • Everybody Dance – Chic
  • I Left My Heart in San Francisco – Julie London
  • Dance With Me – Destiny’s Child
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