Coronavirus – Day #24

Slowly but surely I am running out of urgent things to do. I might actually be able to enjoy some of that free time at home that everyone else is talking about soon. Of course there are plenty of non-urgent things, or at least slightly less-urgent things, to be doing. I’m not expecting to be bored any time soon.

Today marked the last of my near-future convention cancellations. Finncon 2020 is no more. However, the Finns have taken the decision to roll everything forward to next year. The 2020 convention has become the 2021 convention with the same location, guests and so on. There’s talk of some virtual events this summer, but I don’t suppose it would be very easy to have a virtual sauna.

This does mean that I won’t be visiting Finland at all this year, unless I make a special trip once the panic is all over. Maybe I should go in the winter. There are, after all, things to do.

The next physical trip that I have planned is to an academic convention in Germany in September. I’m keeping my paws crossed for that one.

I made a pot of chili in the slow cooker today. That will keep me fed for several days.

Unjust Cause – Launch Week

Unjust Cause, the latest new book from Wizard’s Tower will be available to buy on Wednesday. In the meantime you can pre-order copies from the major ebook stores.

Tate/Lyda and I will be doing more PR over the coming days. It’s a NEW BOOK, people!

By the way, I have been asked whether it is necessary to have read Precinct 13 before you read this book. My own experience, having read Precinct 13 years ago and therefore having forgotten most of it, is that you’ll be fine. Obviously it helps to know some of the characters, but mostly you will pick it up as you go along.

Coronavirus – Day #23

Today was a little bit of Wizard’s Tower work then finishing off the editing for my next radio show. This one will have a big feature on taking care of your mental health during lockdown, plus my fabulous Venezuelan friend, Tamsin Clarke. Regular followers will be pleased to hear that, despite doing an interview over Zoom, Tamsin and I kept our clothes on for the whole thing.

Social media in the UK today has been mainly about the government’s threat to ban outdoor exercise if people don’t stop flocking to parks. Reaction seemed to be split between those people stressed out by having to stay indoors, and those stressed out by fear of catching the virus. Me, I’m happy to stay at home as much as possible. I note that Pilates was developed as a means of keeping fit while a prisoner of war. Most people should be able to do some exercise. As far as I’m concerned the big issue is not space, but shortness of breath.

I’ve just seen a report that Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests. There’s no means of knowing how serious this is.

Elsewhere there are reports that the US Federal Government has seized a shipment of vital medical supplies bound for Barbados. There have been earlier reports that Trump has also intercepted shipments paid for by individual state governments within the USA. The word for this is piracy. Meanwhile the British newspapers are apparently demanding that we sue the Chinese for reparations over the virus. I’m assuming that they will agree provided that they can sue us over the opium wars. Goodness only knows where it is going to end.

Coronavirus – Day #22

Today was all about Zoom again. I now have three interviews in the can for next week’s radio show, and there was the convention that I have just posted about.

The convention featured some breakout rooms in which we attendees got to chat. It was interesting to hear from people around the world who are being affected by the pandemic in different ways. The two most extreme experieneces were both from the USA. One person had been in strict quarantine for 30 days, the other said hardly anyone locally was taking self-isolation seriously.

Several people bemoaned the lack of physical contact with others, which I am not finding a problem but I totally understand. Some were happy being able to spend more time with their families, but one person reported folks on a parent chat group who just can’t cope with having the kids at home all the time.

Most people seemed to think that communities were coming together during the crisis, which is great to hear. Of course it also bepeaks a certain amount of privilege in that they must be comfortable being part of their local community. People from minority groups are often scared of their neighbours.

We spent quite a lot of time talking about the sort of fiction that might come out of this shared global experience. That too will be very varied, I suspect. Some people will find benefit in writing through the trauma. Some won’t be able to talk about it for a long time. And some will use the techniques of speculative fiction to talk about it obliquely.

Finally one piece of good news that I have noticed thanks to having it pointed out by my Finnish friend, Otto. Telephone spam has pretty much dried up. It used to be that when I worked from home I could expect 2 or 3 spam calls every day. I can’t rememeber when I last had one.

Oh, and I was sent a cake in the post. You know who you are. That was very kind of you. Thanks!

WiFi SciFi – First Impressions

Today I participated in my first online science fiction convention. It was a small thing, just two panels and a quiz, but you have to start somewhere. It went very well, all things considered. Of course not everything went according to plan, but the attendees weren’t expecting perfection because we all knew it was an experiment. One of the purposes of the experiment was to find out what worked and what didn’t, so that next time can be better.

Part of the success was definitely down to a great list of panelists that included Mike Carey, Dave Hutchinson, Aliette de Bodard, Gareth Powell and Tade Thompson. Part of it was also due to Anne Corlett and her team who, I understand, have been working hard in the past few days getting to grips with the Zoom software and discovering all of the advertised features that don’t actually work as advertised.

Another great part of the event was the international nature. We had people from the USA (including one Californian who was up at 7:00am), from Canada, from Finland and Croatia, apparently someone from India though I don’t know who that was, and one very keen Australian for whom the con was in the middle of the night. This gives me a lot of hope for Worldcon becoming truly international.

I will be catching up with Anne and her team over the next few days and talking through some of the issues that came up. There are certainly some things that can be improved with minor tweaks to the way things are run, and others that would be better if the software wasn’t so buggy. If anyone who attended it has feedback they want to pass on, do get in touch. The objective is to do a more in-depth review for the next Salon Futura.

The first panel was also streamed live on YouTube. You can watch it below.

I’m not sure what happened to panel 2, but I’m sad if it is not available as it was great (apart from Tade’s internet woes).

Coronavirus – Day #21

Wow, three weeks, doesn’t time fly?

I have been much more quiet on social media today as the insanity of yesterday has gone away. Juliet seems to have sold a good number of books, which is very welcome.

Instead today I have been doing interviews for next week’s radio show. The main focus of the show will be on mental health as I think we are all struggling a bit these days.

I also got the opportunity to watch some of HistFest: Lockdown, the online history festival that replaced the big event due to take place in London this weekend. My good friend Dan Vo was one of the presenters, and there were several other talks I found very interesting. The whole thing can be found online here.

By the way, if all goes according to plan then Dan and I will have some exciting news for you next week.

Tomorrow I get to attend my first ever virtual science fiction convention.

And finally, for those of you who have access to the BBC, this Mark Gatiss documentary about the great Aubrey Beardsley is well worth a watch.

The infection and death rates in the UK continue to accelerate. There were just short of 700 deaths reported today. For comparison, it appears that the number of people who die of the flu in the UK in an average winter is around 17,000. We only have 3,605 COVID-19 deaths in the UK at the moment, but the vast majority of those have occured in the last two weeks and things are getting worse.

Coronavirus – Day #20

Today has been a bit crazy. Not quite as crazy as the first time The Green Man’s Heir got to be a daily deal on Amazon. You can’t really expect the same results the second time around. Not when over 10,000 of you lovely people already own the book. But very pleasing all the same. That will mean a nice chunk of cash for Juliet.

And frankly I have been so busy that I haven’t worried much about the virus today. I gather that the infection and death rates are still increasing, and that the government is making more worthless promisies to do things that we all know it has no intention of doing. Quite why Bozo wants to go down in history as the man who killed thousands of his own people is a mystery to me, but I guess someone must be paying him well.

Anyway, I cooked today. Actual spag bol. Well, technically linguine bol, but we can’t be fussy these days. It was good, even though I forgot to put any chili in.

Tomorrow I start doing interviews for next week’s radio show.

New Free Lockdown Reading

In amongst all of the Green Man excitement, I have found time to release a new free short story as part of the Wizard’s Tower Lockdown Reading collection. This one is The Data Class by Ben Jeapes, a charming little tale of AIs who decide that their working conditions are less than ideal. It was originally published in Interzone, and then in Ben’s collection, Jeapes Japes. If you like this one, why not buy the whole book?

Introducing #GreenMan Day

Good morning Juliet McKenna fans. Today is going to be exciting. Yes, The Green Man’s Heir is on the Daily Deal at Amazon today, in the UK. That’s £0.99. To celebrate we have dropped the price of The Green Man’s Foe as well. It is £1.99 in the UK, and we have dropped the price to match for the rest of the world as well.

Upated as Amazon is showing GMH on sale in the USA if you view their website from the UK, but not if you view it from the USA. Very sorry, US readers. But you can still but GMF cheaply. I would have dropped the price of GMH everywhere if I could, but until Amazon goes live you don’t know where they’ll put the book on offer.

Last time this happened, The Green Man’s Heir was #1 in science fiction and fantasy on the day. I’d love to see it back there again, and see the sequel chart as well.

Now I know what you are thinking, you already own both books. Of course you do. But here are a few things that you can do to help Juliet out.

If you don’t own the books on Kindle, buy them. They are really cheap. Think of it as buying Juliet a coffee.

Tweet about them, or post on other social media. Tell your friends how much you enjoyed these books, and that they can get them very cheaply today. Use the hashtag #GreenMan, please.

Also please amplify any social media posts that Juliet and I make, again with the hashtag #GreenMan.

And if you need something to be excited about, head over to Juliet’s website where there is exclusive news of book #3 in the series. I have a draft copy, and I can’t wait to read it.

Finally, don’t forget that you can get a free Einarinn story from the Wizard’s Tower bookstore as part of our Lockdown Reading series. There will be another one released today, though not from Juliet. She’ll be back in a week or two.

Coronavirus – Day #19

As you can tell by the continued flurry of blog posts, life here continues to be very busy. Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, will be a whirlwind. More about that as and when it happens.

I was very pleased with how the radio show went. I suspect that I am one of the few presenters who has the ability to make shows at home. As a result I will be doing another show next week.

One of the things I did today was prepare another free story to go out. That’s something else for you to look out for tomorrow.

I see from the Public Health England website that the infection and death rates in the UK have started to accelerate again over the past couple of days. We are now running at over 500 deaths per day. That’s lower than the USA, but I suspect higher per head of population. This is not going to end well.

I’m seeing an increasing number of posts on Twitter from health service professionals angry at the lack of support they are getting. The more I see of this, the more it reminds me of the huge number of unnecessary deaths in WWI. The UK had more than twice as many military casualties in WWI than in WWII, despite the later conflict being longer, with deadlier weapons, and a much greater geographic spread. Much of that, I understand it, can be put down to incompetence and penny-pinching by government and military command. This isn’t my period of history, so I’m happy to be told I’ve been taken in by popular myth, but many of us who have seen the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth can’t ever forget it. I don’t want us to be having to make things like that about health service workers today.

A Virtual Convention, On Saturday

While I have been busy making books, one of our local writers has been busy making a convention. Anne Corlett has created WiFi SciFi, which will take place on Saturday afternoon over Zoom. It is only a small convention, but it has a great line-up. Gareth Powell, Mike Carey, Tade Thompson and Aliette de Bodard are all involved. And it is free to attend. For more details, go here.

March Salon Futura

The latest issue of Salon Futura went live last night. Here’s what you can find in it:

Reviews

Other Things

All You Need Is Love

And lo, I can bring it to you, courtesy of Academia Lunare.

Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy & Science Fiction is the title of the latest collection of academic essays from our very lovely friends in Edinburgh. The book is due to be published on July 28th, but the table of contents has just been released. You can find it here.

You all want to read a paper by me titled, “Robot Love is Queer”, don’t you.

Pre-orders will open in May.

Today on Ujima – Pandemic Special

Today on my radio show I interviewed a bunch of people from around the world about how they are coping with the cornavirus pandemic. These days my shows are all pre-recorded as I can’t go into the studio, but Miranda and the back office team at Ujima do a great job of getting me on air. Here’s the list of people that I interviewed:

  • Kevin Standlee (Nevada, USA)
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts (Hobart, Australia)
  • Celia Neri (Nice, France)
  • Sabrina Mittermeier (Munich, Germany)
  • Rhonda Garcia (Port of Spain, Trinidad)
  • Mihaela Perković (Zagreb Croatia)
  • Maria Turtschaninoff (Helsinki, Finland)
  • Juliet McKenna (Oxford, England)

Of those I think the government of Trinidad has probably come out of it best. Celia’s stories of teaching school kids on line, Sabrina’s need to flee the USA, and Mihaela’s story of the Zagreb earthquake stand out.

I tried to make the music choices fit as best I could with our current circumstances. Here are the songs I played.

  • Heroes – Janelle Monáe
  • Say a Little Prayer – Aretha Franklin
  • May the Force Be With You – Bootsy’s Rubber Band
  • 4 Leaf Clover – Erykah Badu
  • A Little Help from My Friends – Ike & Tina Turner
  • We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  • When You’re Lonely – Labi Siffre
  • Dancing in the Streets – Boney M

The show will be available via our Listen Again service for a few weeks. You can find it here.

As I have a bit of free time on my hands thee days I am planning to do more shows to help keep our listeners entertained over the period of lockdown. If anyone has anything Bristol-related that they want to feature, please let me know.

Coronavirus – Day #18

Today was a day for me to be visible, so I went out.

Well actually that wasn’t the reason. I was starting to run out of fresh food, and today was forecast to be fine weather. If I was going to have to queue to get into a grocery store I didn’t want to have to do so in the rain. So today had to be the day for the expedition.

I decided to try the big Tesco mid-afternoon. I figured it would not be too busy at that time on the Tuesday. Even so there must have been around 100 people in the store. However, it was all very smoothly marshalled. The staff were great, and everyone behaved themselves. This was a great relief after some of the stories I have been seeing on Twitter. And I only had to queue for about 10 minutes to get in.

Also the car started, which was a relief. That meant I was able to buy a lot more that I could carry.

There was plenty of food in the store. Certain things were close to unobtainable: flour, pasta and rice were all in short supply. And there are certain brands that Tesco are not stocking during the emergency. But I came away with almost everything I wanted. I even got some eggs, so there may be some baking experiments in the coming days. There was plenty of toilet paper. Not that I needed any. I don’t go through it that quickly and I have one pack of 9 in store.

Aside from that it has been a very busy day. There was all of the social media fuss over Trans Day of Visibility. There was the Unjust Cause cover reveal. And I’ve just put a new issue of Salon Futura online. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but if you are keen to read it you can find it here.

Oh, and I watched the first episode of Batwoman, which was very promising.

Unjust Cause Cover Reveal

Here it is, folks! The fabulous Ben Baldwin cover for the new novel from Tate Hallaway, Unjust Cause.

Did you love Precinct 13? Do you just love contemporary fantasy in a crime setting with queer and poly characters? Hey, this book is for you.

Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring, cushy job. She didn’t count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she’s a full-fledged member of Precinct 13, a paranormal police unit, and is trying to make a life with her dragon familiar, Valentine. Just when things seem to be settling down, bodies start falling out of the sky… literally.

Publication will be on April 8th. I’m just off to set up the pre-orders. If you are interested in an eARC, let me know.

On the Trans Day of Visibility

Here we go again. Today is the day on which trans people all over the world are supposed to stand up and be counted. Already I have seen a flood of posts on social media celebrating the visibility of trans folks. I’m also seeing posts from trans people saying that they are fed up of being visible; that they are scared of being visible. Part of that is because the world has changed dramatically since TDOV was first concieved, but it is also a matter of how we do TDOV.

A little context is in order. TDOV was created because the only international day that the trans community had was the Trans Day of Remembrance. That’s a pretty depressing, if essential, experience, and it is also one many trans people want kept within the community. It is noticeable that anti-trans extremists now deliberately target TDOR in order to provoke offence and, they hope, mental health breakdowns. We needed a much more positive day.

TDOV is supposed to be that day. However, since it has become popular it has started to have the opposite effect that was intended. That, I think, is because in trying to make trans people more visible, it has ended up as an exercise of They Walk Among Us, which makes us seem different and scary.

Now it is important that trans people be visible. I’m certainly not advocating that we go back to the days of having to disappear into the cis population and fearing that your life will be over if you are ever outed. I’ve been through that fear. It isn’t fun. Not can we pretend that we are “just like everyone else”, because clearly we are not, especially those of us who live far outside the gender binary.

What we do need, however, is to be visible for things other than simply being trans. And there’s no reason why we can’t be, because trans people are fucking awesome. We have to be.

What I would like to see today, therefore, is not just trans people being visible, but trans people visibly doing things in addition to existing. That can be the day-to-day work that they do, but it would be even better to see what trans people are doing to help the community through the current health crisis. I’m sure there are loads of great stories out there waiting to be told. I’ll start.

  • I’m still working with The Diversity Trust, most recently doing an online talk on trans history for an LGBT+ youth group;
  • Through Wizard’s Tower I am helping authors continue in business when mainstream publishing and bookselling are collapsing around them;
  • Wizard’s Tower is also putting out a series of free-to-read short fiction to help people stay entertained during lockdown;
  • And I’m still doing my radio show for Ujima. The next one will be broadcast tomorrow.

Over to you, trans community. What are you doing that you would like to be visible for?

And cis folks, if you are thinking of doing posts, please stop thinking of trans people as a downtrodden minority that needs saving, and start thinking of us as hidden heroes whose contributions to society should be recognised.