FantasyCon – Days 2 & 3

I guess I have been busy. The Dealers’ Room was quite quiet, but I sold some books. Also my panels and workshop went well. I live-tweeted the awards. Juliet did not win, but my pals at Breaking the Glass Slipper and GV Anderson did, so I’m very happy.

I’d like to say a special hello to The Portal Bookshop who were in the Dealers’ Room here and will be opening for business in York next week. If you happen to be in or near York, please do give them some custom. Not only are they a specialist SF&F dealer, but they have a particular interest in books with queer and other marginalised characters. They are, as far as I know, the only bookstore in the UK that is currently willing to stock Wizard’s Tower books.

I will do a proper con report in the next Salon Futura.

Now I could do with some sleep.

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FantasyCon – Day 1

Hello from Glasgow. I arrived here late yesterday afternoon and have done nothing much except socialise since I got here. The hotel is modern, comfortable and spacious. The restaurant is good and the bar is cheap. Programme, what programme?

Actually I did attend one item. The lovely people at Handheld Press are re-publishing Vonda McIntyre’s debut novel, The Exile Waiting. It is set in the same world as her Hugo-winning Dreamsnake. Well worth a look.

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Off To FantasyCon

I will be spending the next few days at FantasyCon in Glasgow. The full schedule is available online here, but if you are just looking for me this is what I’m doing:

Saturday, 14:00 Panel Room 3 – Reviewing and Non-Fiction (with Rob Malan & Alasdair Stuart)

Saturday, 17:00 Panel Room 3 Panel Room 3 – Fantasy in Translation (with Ali Nouraei, Max Edwards & Tasha Shuri)

Sunday, 11:00 Panel Room 2 – Writing Queer Characters From History (a workshop, run by me)

Sunday 13:00 Waterhouse Room – British Fantasy Awards Banquet (cheering on Juliet)

The rest of the time I will either be a) at the Luna Press table in the Dealers’ Room or b) watching rugby, presumably in the bar. There will doubtless be some eating and sleeping as well. And showering because I am a good con-going-person.

Obviously I am very much hoping that Juliet wins the Rob Holdstock Award (for Best Fantasy Novel). But it is an incredible honour for a little press like mine to be a finalist so I really can’t complain if she doesn’t. It will be a great weekend regardless.

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Channel 4 Goes to Kush

As part of their celebration of Black History Month, Channel 4 has run an archaeology programme about Kush. As is the way of such things, it is fairly superficial, and spends more time dramatising the activities of modern (white) archaeologists than it does talking about the Kushites. Nevertheless, it does have some lovely shots of the inside of the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal and some great panoramic shots of other Kushite settlements. I was particularly impressed by the statues of the 25th Dynasty pharaohs fround at Kerma, which you can see in the photo above.

The programme does mention the great Kushite pharaoh, Taharqa, noting that he ruled over a kingdom stretching all the way from Khartoum to the Mediterranean. It did not mention him fighting alongside King Hezekiah of Judah against Sennacherib of Assyria. Nor does it mention that he survived both Sennacherib and Esarhaddon, but was eventually defeated by Ashurbanipal. Assyria v Kush (with added Israelites) for the control of Egypt has to be one of the greatest stories of the ancient world, and I’m rather sad that nothing seems to have come of Will Smith’s planned movie.

The programme also didn’t mention that there is a shrine to Amun built by Taharqa in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is the biggest single item in their collection, and it was made by Kushites, for a Kushite pharaoh.

There is brief mention of Meroë being the successor kingdom to Kush, but there is nothing about that kindgom preserving Egyptian culture long into the Roman period. Nor does it mention Queen Amanirenas beating up the Romans.

In short, it could have been so much better, because there are such great stories to tell. I need to dig out the audio from the radio show that Olivette Otele and I did last year and get it back online.

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An Ideal Prince

Charlotte Bond, who is part of the fabulous team that does the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast, and also the fearless copyeditor for Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II, has been doing a series of blog posts about princes. What do people want in a fairytale prince these days? Several people have offered their opinions. Here, for example, is Anna Smith Spark, whom I’m pleased to see has something sharp and deadly in her photo. And here is David Tallerman whose favourite prince is Utena Tenjou. I mean, who can argue with that?

Well, I can, obviously. As far as I am concerned there is only one prince in it. I think you can probably guess who it is.

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The BristolCon Programme is Live

The BristolCon programme went live today. There are things that I will be doing. Here they are.

Friday 20:00 Programme Room 1 Open Mic — I and a number of other authors will be doing 5 minute readings. Some of the readings will be from Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II.

Saturday 12:00 Programme Room 2 Broader Horizons: Despite some sterling work in recent years, big commercial fantasy is still in thrall to the tropes of medieval Europe. How do we break out of that setting? (With Ian Millsted, Zoe Burgess-Foreman, Mark Lewis & Anna Stephens).

Saturday 14:00 Programme Room 1 Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II Launch

Saturday 17:00 Programme Room 1 Opening the Door: The Panel share their experiences of discovering genre and the world beyond the everyday. A celebration of childhood imagination. (With Jo Hall, Steven Poore, Janet Edwards & Phil Gilvin).

At all other times you will be able to find me at the Wizard’s Tower stall in the Dealers’ Room.

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A Romanian Film Festival

When I was at Titancon I met some Romanian fans and got given a copy of an anthology by their local writers. I haven’t had a chance to read that yet, but Darius Hupov has emailed me to let me know about a science fiction and fantasy film festival that he and some colleagues are organising in May next year. The website is here. I will probably be in Finland at the time, but some of you might want to go.

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Batshit Crazy

Publishers are strange people. We love books so much that sometimes we are drawn to extraordinary lengths to make them. Sometimes mere paper is not enough. And to illustrate the point here is something completely crazy that is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. This is what the publishers, Beehive Books, have to say about it:

Bram Stoker made a radical experimental choice in the writing of his classic novel Dracula. He presented it as a collection of found documents — correspondence, newspaper articles, journal entries — painstakingly transcribed and compiled into the published book by his characters themselves. His experimental approach brings you directly into the story, and refracts it through countless points of view.

DRACULA: The Evidence is an entirely new way to experience Stoker’s masterpiece: through an actual physical research file full of ephemera, correspondence, clues and artifacts. It’s the entire original text of Dracula, presented as a gorgeously designed and curated briefcase full of maps, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, and phonograph records. We’ve teamed up with Dracula expert and Bram’s descendent Dacre Stoker to bring you the most immersive way imaginable to experience this modernist masterpiece of gothic horror.

Of course it is fantastically expensive. A copy of the “book” will set you back $400 ($350 if you get in on the early bird offer). I certainly don’t have that much money to splash, nor do I have anywhere to put the thing if I did. But the toothy Transylvanian has plenty of wealthy admirers and fanatical followers so I’m sure the project won’t have any trouble getting funded.

I am, of course, in awe of the ambition of the people who came up with this idea.

By the way, as I understand it, the putative Kickstarter staff union has asked people not to boycott the site just yet as negotiations are still underway. I do hope that the dispute is resolved amicably because I want to see more projects like this happen.

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New Book on the Way

It is a very busy month for Wizard’s Tower Press. We have Juliet being up for the Robert Holdstock Award with The Green Man’s Heir at FantasyCon. We have Airship Shaped & Bristol Fashion II being launched at BristolCon. And in the meantime I’m busy working on next year’s releases. As part of that I am delighted to announce that we have exchanged contracts with Tate Hallaway (aka Lyda Morehouse) for a new novel.

Unjust Cause is a sequel to Tate’s highly enjoyable urban fantasy novel, Precinct 13. Despite getting great reviews, Tate was unable to interest the original publisher in a sequel, so I get lucky. Tate fans will be aware that an incomplete version of the novel was posted online, but the new version has been almost completely re-written and will be available as a paper edition as well as in ebook format.

Work is progressing on the book. The plan is to have it ready to go for sometime in Spring next year. I’ll let you know when we have a cover, and when pre-orders open. The official press release is here for anyone who is interested.

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Lunch With Scott

One of the highlights of Worldcon for me this year was being interviewed by Scott Edelman for his podcast, Eating the Fantastic. Obviously having a long chat with Scott was fun, but the unique selling point of the podcast is that the interviews always take place over a lengthy and very good meal. The food that we had at Mr. Fox in Dublin was superb. So my heartfelt thanks to Scott and everyone who helps fund the podcast for paying for that.

The interview is now available online. You can find it on Scott’s blog, and doubtless on various podcast apps as well. It is more than 2 hours long, but hopefully there are ways you can take it in a bit at a time.

I’ve listened through the whole thing. There’s only one issue that I want to come back to right now, and that’s because it became the subject of a Twitter storm soon after Worldcon. In the interview I talk about the need for Worldcon to put more content online. Obviously there are issues with this, but there are many different ways in which it could be done, some of which address those issues. Sadly Twitter discussions tend to polarise very rapidly, with people assuming the absolute worst possible of any idea they attack. I do plan to write more about this issue in Salon Futura. Please wait for that before jumping in and telling me what an awful misogynist I am.

Posted in Fandom, Personal, Podcasts | 2 Comments

Today on Ujima – PapayaFest, Discrimination at Work, Fungi & Ellen Datlow

I did a radio show today. Here’s what went down.

I started out with a visit from my good friend Tamsin Clarke. We kept our clothes on this time. As you may recall, Tamsin is from Venezuela. She has been putting together a festival of Latinx culture called PapayaFest. It will feature Tamsin’s theatre productions and a great line-up of bands and DJs. Because Tamsin has such great topics for her plays we ended up talking about Simón Bolívar, matriarchal families and the current state of feminism in Latin America.

Next up I was joined by Karen and Erin from Bristol Law Centre. They have come up with an interesting new way of funding employment discrimination cases and they wanted to get the word out there. I was pleased to be able to point out what good work they do, and how necessary they have become because of the current government’s actions designed to make recourse to the law something that is only available to the very rich.

Guest three was my friend Esme who has got involved with mushrooms. They really are fascinating life forms, and most people have no idea how many types of fungi there are, or how crucial they are both to the ecosystem and to many modern industries. There will be a Fungus Day at Arnos Vale Cemetery on Saturday, which I’d be very tempeted to go along to if I wasn’t booked elsewhere.

And finally I ran part of the interview I did with Ellen Datlow at TitanCon. This extract includes how she got her job at Omni, what “best of the year” means, who is the only writer ever to have scared her, and why she once turned down a story by Margaret Atwood. The full interview will run in Salon Futura at the end of the month.

You can hear the whole show via Ujima’s Listen Again service here.

The playlist for this month’s show is as follows:

  • Simón Díaz – Caballo Viejo
  • WARA – Leave to Remain
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela – Hanuman
  • Elsa J – 9 to 5
  • Carlos Santana – Flor d’Luna
  • Janelle Monáe – Mushrooms & Roses
  • Sade – Nothing can come between us
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller
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Airship II Pre-Orders Open

Pre-orders for ebook editions of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion II are now open in various stores. Here are some links:

I see that Amazon are also accepting pre-orders for the paperback, which is nice.

The book will be launched at BristolCon on October 26th.

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Mind Meld Returns

One of the fun features of the late, lamented SF Signal was the Mild Meld column, in which various people were invited to opine independently on some topic. I participated in several of them and was always happy to do so if I had something worth saying.

I am pleased to report that Mind Meld now has a new lease of life. It has moved across to Nerds of a Feather where it is once again edited by Paul Weimer. The debut column asks people to name their favourite Hugo-winning novel. If you want to know which book I picked, you’ll need to read the column.

As a hint, Charlie Jane Anders and I picked the same book, so we must be right, yes?

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Airship II Nears Launch

Yeah, I have been quiet for a while. The politial situation in the UK doesn’t help. But also I have been busy working on this here book. Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II is due for launch at BristolCon. I posted about the Table of Contents a while back. I can now show you the cover, which is once again by Andy Bigwood.

The ebook will be available for pre-order in the usual online stores any day now (well, except for Google for arcane reasons best known to them). If any of you would like an eARC to review, do let me know.

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Airship II – Table of Contents

Yes folks, the Little Airship that Could is back for a second helping. Airship Shape and Bristol-Fashion is still selling steadily, five years after publication. So it is about time for Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II : Planes, Trains and Automatons.

Once again the book is being edited by Joanne Hall and Roz Clarke. Today Jo posted the table of contents to her blog. The over reveal will be coming fairly soon, and we are expecting a launch at BristolCon.

The sharp-eyed will notice that I have a story in the book. I put some trains in for Kevin. There’s also something else… Kaiju!

I’m looking forward to you folks being able to read it.

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Juliet on the Road

Today on her blog Juliet E. McKenna has announced several public appearances. The first is at The English Bookshop in Uppsala, Sweden on Saturday 14th September. She will be appearing alongside Steven Savile, Stephen Gallagher and R J Barker. It is quite a novelty for me to be asked to send books to Sweden for an author event. So if you happen to be in striking reach of Uppsala, do pop along and buy some. (Not that I’ll be asking Juliet to bring them back. Any leftovers will be going to Swecon, Åcon and Finncon next year.)

The next event in her diary is BristolCon Fringe on Monday September 16th, where she will be reading alongside Rosie Oliver. I will be on hand with books. So listen up:

If you want a hardcover copy of The Green Man’s Foe (or indeed The Green Man’s Heir) then please let me know, because I’m only planning to bring paperbacks.

After that Juliet and I will be at FantasyCon and BristolCon. I will have a dealer table at both events and will therefore have a bigger selection of books.

Also at BristolCon I expect to have something else, but that’s a subject for a whole new post…

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Today on Ujima – LGBT+ History, Worldcon & Women’s Cricket

I was back in the Ujima studio today, and my first guest was friend and colleague, Dr. Jamie Lawson of the University of Bristol. Jamie has written a children’s book on LGBT+ history called Rainbow Revolutions. It is published tomorrow, and I’m very impressed with it. We had a great conversation about the use of the word “queer”, Section 28 and why people are worried it might come back, Ball Culture and the success of Pose, and so on.

Next up I dragged in Harriet Aston who roomed with me at Worldcon. It was her first big convention and understandably she was a bit overwhelmed, which makes her an ideal person to represent that first Worldcon experience. I was impressed that Harriet felt that she was swimming rather than drowning by day 4.

The rest of the show was devoted to women’s cricket and the triumph of Western Storm in the final year of the Kia Super League. I played my interview with Raf Nicholson, and passed on the latest news about the women’s part in the stupid new “The Hundred” series. It is possible that a new Western Storm might rise from the ashes of the KSL after all.

You can catch up on the show via the Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  • Grace Jones – This Is
  • Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – September
  • Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm
  • Billie Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • The Impressions – We’re A Winner
  • Jim Steinman – The Storm

My next show will be on October 2nd and will feature an interview with Ellen Datlow that I recorded while we were in Ireland.

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News From Juliet

For the past year or so I have been party to a small publishing secret. Juliet McKenna has a secret identity as JM Alvey, a mild mannered writer of crime novels set in ancient Greece.

It’s not a very serious secret. Anyone who has turned up to an Alvey signing will have spotted who is writing the books, and if you checked out where Alvey’s website is hosted you might put two and two together. But in the wild and whacky world of publishing such subtefuge is often necessary to persuade bookstores to stock volumes by an author whose recent sales have been less that stellar.

Anyway, for a variety of reasons that Juliet doesn’t want to dwell upon, Mx Alvey’s career seems to have come to a premature end. Consequently she’s free to write about it, and if today’s social media is anything to go by that’s lead to an immediate increase in interest in the books. I know that Juliet has many fans out there, including some who would pay good money for a shopping list if she’d written it. I’m happy to add to getting the world out now that I can.

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Champions!

As trailed last week, I spent the weekend in Brighton watching the Finals Day of the Kia Super League. The weather was fine, the cricket was exciting, and best of all, WE WON!

Again.

Western Storm are now the only team to have won the KLS title twice. And because the league is being discontinued, we get to keep the trophy forever.

There will be much more coverage of the event in my radio show on Wednesday. It will include some good news about the future of women’s cricket in the West Country. I promise not to play The Wurzels, even though “Combine Harvester” is the official team song. But I might have a few storm-related songs.

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Farewell, KSL

This weekend I am off down to Brighton for the Finals of the Kia Super League, the UK’s premier competition in women’s cricket. The KSL has been hugely successful in the 4 years that it has run, but this will be the final year of the competition. This is an act of wanton vandalism by the England & Wales Cricket Board.

Let me explain. Back in 2003 the ECB invented T20 cricket, a form of the game that was fast, exciting, and about the same length, time-wise, as the average baseball game. They did not take it very seriously, and promoted it badly. Then, in 2008, India created the Indian Premier League. They poured money into it, they encouraged the best players in the world to take part, they promoted it brilliantly, and it very quickly became the premier competition in world cricket.

The ECB reacted badly to this. The IPL season, while fairly short, does overlap with the start of the English domestic season, which is very long as it includes a contest for 4-day games. They didn’t like English players going out to India to play. But it soon became obvious that if you wanted to be a top-class T20 player you had to go to the IPL and compete against the best in the world.

Having lost that fight, the ECB are trying a new tactic. They have invented a radically new form of cricket called The Hundred. It is slightly shorter than T20, and has some very different rules including overs that are 10 balls long rather than 6. There is no economic justification for this. It exists solely to try to create a new form of cricket in which England would be the home of the premier tournament rather than India (even if that’s because no one else in the world plays it).

One of the problems of having multiple different formats of a sport is that players need to be able to function easily within that format. Think of tennis, for example, where some players are specalists at singles and others specialists at doubles. In rugby some players are specialists in the 15-a-side games, and others are specalists in Sevens. In cricket we have seen even the best players having difficulty adjusting their game when moving from the very fast-paced T20 to the longer formats, especially 5-day test matches. Other countries are unlikley to adopt the Hundred format because they want their players to be good in the formats that are used for international games. Meanwhile English players will be acquiring skills in a format that is not used outside England.

The men will at least still play T20. But that means that the already overcrowded English season becomes even more crowded. There will be 4 major tournaments rather than 3.

But for the women the only major tournament is the KSL. That will be discontinued, and England’s top women will only play a format of the game that is played nowhere else in the world.

Futhermore, The Hundred will be played by only 8 teams. That in itself is not a problem. One of the reasons why the English T20 tournament hasn’t been a success is that having all 18 English counties contest it makes for a very long season. The KSL only has 6 teams. But the choice of teams is important. London has been given 2 teams, and one of the knock-on effects of that is that there is no team in the South-West. There’s nothing in Somerset; nothing in Bristol. And most importantly the most successful team in the KSL, Western Storm, will be destroyed.

I’m kind of used to stupid decisions being made by the old men who run sporting bodies, but this is extraordinary. Words fail me.

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