Today has been Publication Day for Unjust Cause, which means that you can now buy the ebook from our store. Our authors make more money if you buy direct. Also we give you both the ePub and Mobi, DRM free. Please buy from us rather than that big river place if you can.
There is going to be a new free short story going up tomorrow. This one is by me. I don’t normally push my own fiction, but I have good reason this time. All will be explained tomorrow.
Because I was busy I missed the Hugo Finalists announcement last night. I gather from Twitter that most people are very pleased, which is a relief. Personally I’m pleased to note that there are at least 6 trans people on the ballot. I’m also really pleased to see that all of the nominees for Fan Writer are first-timers. That shows that the field is really healthy.
Of course the big question will be whether a man manages to win a fiction award this year. It won’t happen in Novel because all six finalists are women. Ted Chiang, of course, has an excellent chance of winning. I will laugh myself silly if the only man who wins is Yoon Ha Lee.
Aside from pushing the new book, and the radio show, today has been more day job. I have no idea what is happening in the outside world, but I’m assuming that if the PM had died I would have heard about it.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was hoping to get lots done today. I did, just not all of the things I expected to get done. This isolation thing is turning out to be exceptionally busy.
In theory you were supposed to get a new issue of Salon Futura today. In practice it is not going to happen. And I’m certainly not planning to stay up all night making it happen. It will be there tomorrow, which is shaping up to be an even busier day than today.
In other news, I finished off editing this week’s radio show today, so that will be broadcast on Wednesday as scheduled. Many thanks to all of the people who agreed to be interviewed.
Also the hardcovers of Juliet McKenna’s Tales of Einarinn books should be available today. Amazon appears to be having issues getting them, or the paperbacks, on sale, but given the state of the world right now that could be for a whole variety of reasons. I’m happy to allow them a little slack.
In other news I’m pleased to see that the numbers of new virus cases and new deaths in the UK have been fairly flat for the past few days. That may be a sign that the restrictions on movement are starting to take effect. For a full-blown epidemic those numbers should get larger each day. Then again, I suspect that numbers of cases are being massively under-reported because people with mild symptoms don’t want to bother the over-stretched health services. Who knows?
Today was a cooking day. I made a batch of prawn and lobster risotto. That sounds pretty posh, but actually it is a mostly storecupboard meal. It needs an onion, but they keep well. Other than that it is rice, a tin of lobster soup, some frozen prawns, and seasoning. I flung in some sherry as well. Dead easy really, unless you start cooking the risotto before defrosting the prawns, which is a bit silly. You can tell I hadn’t cooked it for a while.
I have spent most of the day recording and editing interviews for Wednesday’s radio show. I have 8 interviews altogether, from different places around the world. While most people have similar experiences of government-mandated shutdowns, attitudes towards the effectiveness of government responses vary wildly. Hopefully it will be an interesting show.
One of the things that the current crisis has laid bare is just how international and connected our world now is, or at least can be.
On the one hand, my local residents’ group has sent round an email asking whether people are lonely, and offering to host a meeting by some strange new software system called Zoom.
On the other hand I have spent the day on Zoom, Google Hangouts and Facebook. I have given a talk on trans history to an LGBT+ youth group in Somerset. I have recorded interviews for my next radio show with people in France, Germany and the USA. I have chatted to friends in Finland and Greece. And I have participated in a committee meeting in the USA.
I don’t have the time to be lonely.
Two weeks in, and my life shows no sign of slowing down. Today has been mostly a Wizard’s Tower and Ujima Radio day. Huge thanks are due to all of the lovely people who agreed to be recorded for a slot on my show.
Today was also the final episode of Star Trek: Picard. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in Salon Futura next week, but basically I think that Michael Chabon has done a good job in what was a very difficult task.
The national news has been abuzz with the fact that both the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have tested positive for COVID-19. I’m not in the least bit surprised. When a junior health minister announced that she had tested positive a couple of weeks ago I expected the entire Cabinet to go down with it. This thing is incredibly infectious and also has a long incubation time, which is why it spreads so effectively. The UK had 2885 new cases and 181 new deaths today alone, and there’s no sign of it slowing down because most of the people testing positive now are people who have had it since before the lockdown began. As the only people getting tested in the UK are the very rich, no one has any idea how many actual cases there are.
That said, the vast majority of cases are in London. Most of the rest of the country is relatively quiet. Here’s hoping that it stays that way.
Where does the time go? I had another full day mainly on Wizard’s Tower work today. Tomorrow will be similar, but I also need to start work on my next radio show. Ujima is still on the air. A few people are allowed in to the studios to keep things running, and the rest of us are putting together shows at home. Personally I love doing live radio, but I’m happy to do pre-records if that’s all that is possible. Weirdly they might take me less time than doing a live show, so I might end up doing more shows. If it provides a useful service to people in these difficult times, it is worth doing.
Anyway, the plan for next week’s show is to interview people from around the world to find out how the pandemic is affecting them. I have the USA and France covered. I’m looking for people from other countries. If I can get enough I will only need a few minutes per person, which is about enough time to introduce yourself, say if you are well and have work, and bitch about how badly your government is doing. All interviews will be via Zoom. If you are interested, let me know.
In other news I gather than our government has promised a package of help for the self-employed. But no one will get any money before June. I think they are hoping that we’ll all be dead by then.
When Colin Harvey died, a group of Bristol area writers wanted to do something in his memory. Colin was a huge supporter of the NHS, and worked closely with a Bristol-based charity called Above & Beyond. They raise money for Bristol’s city-centre hospitals. So we decided that we would put together a charity anthology and donate all of the proceeds to Colin’s favourite charity.
Those hospitals currently need our help more than ever.
Colinthology is still on sale. These days I’m surprised if a copy sells. But it has stories by Gareth L Powell, Jo Hall, Roz Clarke, Stephanie Burgis, Jonathan L Howard and many others. As usual we get the most income if you buy direct from the Wizard’s Tower shop. And every penny we take in will go to Above & Beyond.
One of the interesting things about the current crisis is how quickly things have changed. Only a couple of weeks ago we were wondering whether travel would be affected. Now conventions as far out as August are being cancelled. And you can get caught out. I’ve been watching a documentary series about British Rivers on Channel 5. It is basically an excuse to do some local history of the back of the region that a major river flows through. The latest episode I watched was on the Warwickshire Avon. (There are lots of rivers called Avon in England because afon is Welsh for river, and the English are stupid.) This is the one that flows through Stratford, but it is also known for Rugby and its sport, Warwick for its castle, Leamington for its spa and several other things. The river is also prone to flooding. At the start of the show the narrator said that 2020 would be remembered as the year of terrible floods on the Avon. Ha, no mate. Nice try.
Keeping up with the pace of change has been hard for some organisations. Today I got email from Tesco to say that they have finally implemented a queuing system (with enforced separation) for getting into stores, and at checkouts, plus a rigorous cleaning regime. They’ve also cut down on the range of products they stock to make sure they have enough basic necessities. I’m not going to risk heading out there for a while though. Goodness only knows how people will be behaving.
What does seem to be working is the Internet. Today I had a long video chat with my friend Otto in Helsinki. That sort of thing is easy. Also Disney+ seems to have got through its UK launch with no capacity issues. But utility systems are complicated. We still have power, water, and connectivity, but what happens if things go wrong? I’ve just had email from my internet provider, Zen, who have been great, but they don’t own vans. If something were to go wrong on the network out in the country somewhere, it is a company called Openreach that would send an engineer to fix it. They have just announced that they can no longer keep to their advertised service level. If your internet goes down, and you are not a priority industry, then you are screwed. In theory I still have the mobile phone, but hopefully I won’t need it.
Without the Internet, of course, I would be completely cut off. I think I would probably still be OK for a while. I’m slightly boggled at the people who are getting cabin fever after a day or two of working from home. Obviously I don’t have kids, which helps a lot, but I’m used to this. I’ve been working for myself, mostly from home, since 2003. What’s more, as a trans person, I’m used to going 2 to 3 weeks over Christmas with no in-person social contact every year. In effect I have been training for this for a long time.
The global pandemic is affecting a lot of the ways in which we live our lives, and science fiction conventions are no exception. Many events, including this year’s Eastercon, have been cancelled, but others are going virtual. On Sunday SFWA announced plans for their annual Nebula Conference to be an entirely online event. And yesterday CoNZealand said that Worldcon too would be a virtual event.
This is good for me. I’d been expecting to have to miss Worldcon this year because of visa issues. Now I can play a full part in it (assuming I can stay awake theough the night). It is also good for SFSFC. Kevin was due to chair next year’s Westercon, and had selected a site in Tonopah, Nevada which is dirt cheap but 200 miles from the nearest airport. We’d been planning a lot of online content for those people who couldn’t make it. Lots of people had derided the idea, but the pandemic has made things that were previously viewed as radical and impossible into things that are necessary and not as hard as people said.
First thoughts, of course, should be for Kelly, Norm and their team who have been working incredibly hard for 10 years on bringing Worldcon to New Zealand. I was there at the covention in Wellington in 2010 when the bid was first officially discussed. This will have been incredibly hard for them, and hugely disappointing. But in the long term I think this will be good for conventions, because it will open them up to lots of people who previously had no chance of attending.
I’ll have more to say about this in Salon Futura next week.
One of the things I have been trying to do while I am self-isolated is find ways to support local small businesses. There’s not much in town. The shops are either chains, or too small to have websites. But there are places that I can support.
We’ll start with books. I get most of my books from Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, and have been ordering from them. You might also consider Books on Hill in Clevedon, and The Portal Bookshop in York, both of which are owned by lovely people.
Also, order while you can. California has banned bookstores from doing mail order, as well as ordering them to shut their doors.
And then there’s food. The supermarkets are completely overwhelmed, but some small food shops are selling online. I was delighted to be able to place an order with The Fine Cheese Company in Bath. Not only does that help the store, it also helps the small, artisan cheese-makers whose goods they stock. And it is really good cheese, which is all you need, right?
Well maybe booze and chocolate. The lovely folks at Independent Spirit do not have mail order, which is just as well for me. One of the ways in which I can tell that I am actually still sick is that I have no appetite for alcohol. But you can buy chocolate online from Hotel Chocolat, and delivery is free on orders over £20.
It was a beautiful spring day here today again so I decided to venture outside. I’m getting worried that all of the dry air from central heating isn’t doing me any good. And I need some exercise.
There were a lot of people out. Mostly they were walking dogs or small children, but there were also the inevitable joggers. The majority seemed to have no great interest in social distancing.
There were shops open. That included the convenience store just around the corner, and the small Co-Op about 5-10 minutes walk away. The latter had food and was very quiet so I popped in and got a few things. There wasn’t much fresh, but I did get milk, bread, tomatoes and mushrooms. That should help me through another couple of weeks at home.
I’d spent the morning going through the food cupboards. Inevitably I found a few things well past their sell-by date. That included a lot of half-used bottles of various chili sauces. I suspect they will kill most things, except viruses.
For dinner tonight I tried a new toy. I found this top-end mini-blender going half-price on Amazon and ordered one. I got to try it out this evening. I put in some banana yoghurt, some frozen blackberries and raspberries, and some fruits of the forest juice. The end result was delicious. At some point I plan to try it with mango yoghurt, tinned peaches and orange juice, which I suspect will also work well.
Finally a bunch of British writers have been providing ebook stories, podcasts and so on for free to give folks stuck at home something to read or listen to. The BSFA has a page linking free SF&F stories. I’ll try to get something out from Wizard’s Tower this week. Alternatively, if you are into long reads, Galley Beggar now has an ebook store and you can get Ducks, Newburyport for only £2.50, which of course I have done.
Today I got a message through the door from some people down the street. They are looking to put together a little community support group. I gather this sort of thing is happening all over the country, which is heartwarming. Unfortunately I’m not much use in such things. Firstly, as I may have the virus, I should not be socialising. And second, my first thought on seeing it was that if I got to know the rest of the people in the street then pretty soon they’d all know that I was trans and I’d have to find somewhere new to live.
I’m continuing to get “helpful” messages from all sorts of corporations. I use scare quotes because today I got messages from two different delivery companies. Both said they were introducing new procedures to avoid contact and that I should go to their website to enter my preferences. In both cases the website is not set up to enable you to do that.
As the day job hasn’t been chasing me today, I’ve been able to spend another day on Wizard’s Tower work. I’ve done most of the work on layouts for the new Tate Hallaway book, Unjust Cause, so that will be coming your way some time in April.
I have also been doing some testing with Zoom. Going into Bristol for a radio show is not a good idea, so I’m hoping to do some interviews remotely and put together a pre-record show. The plan for the April 1st show is to talk to a bunch of people from different countries around the world about how people are dealing with the pandemic where they live. So if you have always wanted to be on the show, this is your chance. Let me know.
Today’s cooking was proper store-cupboard stuff. Tuna, tomatoes, and some spices makes a great pasta sauce. Serve with conchiglie, obiously.