The 2023 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature will be given by the very wonderful Maria Dahvana Headley. It is on Tuesday May 16th, and as usual will take place at Pembroke College in Oxford. I’m planning on being there. If you would like to go too, tickets and further details are available here.
New Book, Contains Me
I am delighted to report that, following multiple adventures in the publishing business, a fine new book saw print today. It is titled, Imagining the Celtic Past in Modern Fantasy, and is part of the Perspectives in Fantasy series produced by the good folks at the University of Glasgow for Bloomsbury. This one is edited by Dimitra Fimi, who is a co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at Glasgow, and by Alistair Sims of Books on the Hill. Possibly foolishly, they agreed to accept an essay by me for inclusion in the book.
I say “possibly foolishly” because my essay has little to do with the Celtic Past. It is titled, “Celts in Spaaaaace!”, and it is about the very wonderful Keltiad books by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. They are essentially space opera set in a far-future, Celtic-inspired civilisation, which naturally I love to pieces.
There are many other fine essays in the book as well. Topics include works by Alan Garner and Susanna Clarke. There is a full ToC on the publisher website.
This being an academic publication, it is ferociously expensive. However, I understand that an affordable paperback will be released in due course. In the meantime, you can always order a copy from your local library.
What She Said
I am, for “reasons”, doing a bit of re-reading of Tiptree, and of the Sheldon biography. I came across this:
Women have no rights, Don, except what men allow us. Men are more aggressive and powerful, and they run the world. When the next real crisis upsets them, our so-called rights will vanish — like that smoke. We’ll be back where we always were: property. And whatever has gone wrong will be blamed on our freedom, like the fall of Rome was. You’ll see.
That was Ruth Parsons, towards the end of “The Women Men Don’t See”.
Kim Stanley Robinson in (Virtual) Bristol
It being October, BristolCon is not far away. However, to whet your appetite, there is another science fiction event taking place on Tuesday the 19th. As part of the Festival of the Future City, Bristol Ideas is doing an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson about his latest novel, The Ministry for the Future.
Stan will probably in the the UK at the time, but that’s because he’s been invited to speak at COP26. He had no idea what his schedule would be in advance, so the Bristol Ideas folks decided to pre-record the interview. And they kindly asked me to set the scene by giving an overview of Stan’s career.
That of course means that I was present for the pre-record, so I can promise you that Stan and interviewer, Andrew Kelly, put on a great show. If you are interested in practical political and economic ways to solve the climate change issue, you will probably find it fascinating too.
The event is free to attend. Further details are available here. And you will be able to watch it on YouTube.
New From Luna Press
The lovely people at Luna Press Publishing have a new non-fiction collection on the way. This one is titled Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction. I have an essay in it. As you can probably guess, it is about queer animals. You can read a bit about it here.
Obviously there will be many other essays in the book, all of them covering different aspects of worldbuilding, and doubtless most of them better than mine (if perhaps less funny). There are posts about some of them on the Luna Press blog, and more will be coming in due course.
Translation Awards Shortists Announced
The lovely people at the Futre Affairs Adminstration have announced the shortlists for the SFF Rosetta Awards. You can find them here.
I’m on the jury for the long-form award. We are busy discussing the candidates.
There will also be an award to an individual for services to SF&F translation, but that’s not the sort of thing you announce shortlists for.
At the Movies with Lana & Lily
Recently I was honoured to be asked to make a guest appearance on the podcast, Women Make SF. It is a series about women in science fiction movies, which isn’t normally my bag, but in this case the subject was the Wachowski sisters so I did have things worth saying. Also Amy and Kyle, the hosts of the podcast, are huge fans of Jupiter Ascending, so we got off on the right foot immediately.
It was a lot of fun to record, and the episode is now live. You can listen to it below:
WiFi SciFi Returns
In theory today is Hug Day in the UK, the day when we are finally allowed to hug other people. In practice, of course, COVID restrictions have been getting gradually looser for some time, and both the infection rate and death rate are now on an upward curve. Everyone is hoping that that the vaccination programme will mean that things don’t get out of hand again.
In the meantime, virtual events continue to be staged, and that includes a return for our very own WiFi SciFi. What’s more, we are full-on international now, with a whole bunch of guests from across the Atlantic. It should be fun. It will be on May 29th at 5:00pm, UK time. And it is free. Welcome, one and all. Full details of all the fabulous guests (and me) are available here.
Tolkien Lecture 2021
We are still very much in No Public Meetings mode here in the UK, which means that this year’s J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature will again take place online. While I will miss my annual trip to Oxford, I have to admit that online lectures make it much easier for both speakers and audience to come from anywhere in the world. The main constraint is time zones.
With that in mind, I am delighted to report that the 2021 lecture will be given by one of my favourite writers of fantastic fiction, and also someone who knows Tolkien’s work well because of his work on The Silmarilion. I am talking, of course, about Guy Gavriel Kay. The lecture will be at 6:00pm on Tuesday May 11th, and you can book a (free) place here.
Life Beyond Us
Into hard (biological) SF? Fancy an anthology with top name writers produced in collaboration with the European Astrobiology Institute? That’s your serious speculation on alien life right there. The only catch is that it is currently on Kickstarter, so it needs pledges in order to happen. But look, it will include stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Peter Watts, Premee Mohamed, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Julie E. Czerneda, Malka Older, Stephen Baxter, Bogi Takács and many more. And it is co-edited by my good friend Julie Nováková. The title is Life Beyond Us, and you can back it here.
Thank You, Relampeio
As best as I can gather from social media, you folks are spending the holiday weekend either at Eastercon, at Norwescon, or at both. (Or possibly you are on Facebook complaining about how much you hate online conventions.) I’m not at any of these, mainly because I’m on call for jury service at the moment and this weekend is one time that I know I can get a bunch of work done without having to worry about being called away. However, I did make an exception for Relampeio, because when you get invited to be a guest at a convention in Brazil you obviously say yes.
As a result, last night I spent a couple of hours online with some fabulous people, and had a great conversation. We did a panel titled, Dissident Bodies in Science Fiction, which covered all sorts of ways in which a body can be viewed as less than human, or as inhuman.
With me on the panel were Samuel Muca, who is a podcaster, literary critic and eco-Socialist activist. He’s also blind. Thiago Ambrósio Lage is a lecturer in biotechnology, a writer, and proudly gay. And Járede Oliver is a lecturer in Social Anthropology. We had a great chat, and it is available for reply on YouTube.
The introduction and farewell are in Portuguese, but the rest of the panel is in English. I understand that that was live translation going on, but we were backstage in StreamYard so we didn’t get to see any of that.
And if you enjoyed that, why not check out the rest of the Relampeio feed, which includes events with Chen Qiufan and Nisi Shawl, plus one this evening with Amal El-Mohtar.
New From Academia Lunare
The lovely folks at Luna Press Publishing have a new project underway. It is the 5th in their Academia Lunare series of non-fiction collections. You may remember that book #3 in the series, Gender and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction, won a British Fantasy Award. Also book #4, The Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction, is a finalist for this year’s British Science Fiction Association Awards. What’s more, the books have achieved these honours despite both having essays by me in them.
So, book #5. It is titled, Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy & Science Fiction. As usual it has a stellar international cast of contributors, and me. You can find the full contents list and contributor bios here. My offering is titled, “Worldbuilding with Sex and Gender”. It is, of course, about queer animals, because if our natural world is full of outrageously queer behavior there is no reason why your invented world can’t be either.
Pre-orders will open sometime in the spring, and in the meantime Francesca will be doing the PR thing by releasing abstracts of the various essays to whet your appetites.
Also the CFP for book #6 in the series is now out. It will be titled, Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome. The idea is to write about one of the lesser characters from The Lord of the Rings. You can pick anyone except a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, including Smaug. I wonder how many proposals they’ll get arguing one way or the other about Tom Bombadill. Guess I’d better put my thinking cap on.
The List is Live
It being February, the Locus Recommended Reading List has been published. As usual, I had a part in selecting which long-form works appear on it. Also as usual, I am only one of a large number of people involved, so I am not solely to blame for anything you don’t like about it.
On the other hand if there are things that you think are missing, I’d be happy to hear from you. Liza guested on Coode Street the other day and they had an interesting conversation about known biases of the List. I think that things like the Nth volume on an ongoing series are always going to be at a disadvantage, because reviewers tend to shy away from such things. Getting people to notice books that are not easily available in the USA is also hard. But hopefully the list is getting more diverse.
Philip K Dick Award Finalists
Email has just landed in my inbox listing the finalists for this year’s Philip K Dick Award. That, you may recall, is for science fiction first published in paperback. Here they are:
- Failed State by Christopher Brown (Harper Voyager)
- The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey (Orbit)
- Dance on Saturday by Elwin Cotman (Small Beer Press)
- Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds (Orbit)
- Road out of Winter by Alison Stine (Mira)
- The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit)
It is a bit of a sausage-fest, but I’m not going to complain too much as three friends of mine are on the list. It’s great to see Adrian Tchaikovsky getting more attention across the Pond. Al Reynolds absolutely deserves recognition for his Revenger series. And best of all, a book that I had a small part in creating is up there. Well done, Mike. Fingers crossed!
News broke last night that Storm Constantine has departed this plane of existence for pastures new. Lots of people have been posting about how lovely she was, including many of my collegues at BristolCon where she was a Guest of Honour in 2013. I didn’t see much of her then because that was also the year that Mary Robinette Kowal and Kevin attended, but the day all went very well.
My memories of Storm, however, go back a lot further. Back in 1996 I was in the middle of gender transition and trying to settle into Australian fandom. I went to the NatCon in Perth with some trepidation as Neil Gaiman was the headline Guest of Honour and we’d known each other for a long time; far longer than I had been me, so to speak. Neil had already assured me that he was cool about things by email, but the other writer GoH was Storm. She was a really big name at the time, and also fiercely feminist. I was a bit worried.
I needn’t have been. Storm turned out to be absolutely lovely, and considerably less Goth in real life than in her public persona. She insisted on having her photo taken with as many Aussie fans as she could find so as to have some pleasant souvenirs of the trip.
Despite having a lot of interests in common, we didn’t see each other much. I spent a lot of time in the USA, and Storm had her own group of friends that was somewhat tangential to UK fandom. But I did review more books by Storm in Emerald City than any other author than Kim Newman and Gene Wolfe (they are all tied on 12). She’s written some great books, and I know that the Wraeththu are very much loved by some sections of the trans community.
Storm was a year older than me, which means also a year older than Liz Hand and Ann VanderMeer. I guess that makes her the first of my cohort to wink out. But I’m sure she’s shining brightly in some other universe.
Glasgow Fantasy Centre Does D&D
The lovely people at the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow are doing another online event. This one is titled, “D&D and Fantasy Fiction: Giants in the Oerth”. I am definitely looking forward to this. As someone who bought one of the first (white box) sets of D&D in the UK, I can definitely say “I was there!”. And of course my fellow players were all avid fantasy readers. I’ll be fascinated to see what history says about us.
The event will be at 6:00pm GMT on January 28th. Registration is required but free (and they will probably live stream on YouTube if they exceed their Zoom capacity). More details here.
New Translation Awards
Earlier this year I was approached by the lovely people at the Future Affairs Administration in China. They were interested in starting up a new set of SF&F translation awards and they wanted me to be part of the jury. Gary Wolfe was also involved, and I still very much believe in having such awards, so I said yes.
I was not expecting to be asked to chair the long-form jury, but once they accepted my suggestion that no one should hold the post for more than two years I said yes to that as well. Basically Gary and I are providing continuity from the previous set of awards. After a couple of years the new awards should be able to fly free.
There’s still a but of talking to do internally about how things will work, but there will be awards, and there is now a website.
Rachel Cordasco does a superb job of keeping track of what gets published in the field, so hopefully we won’t miss anything, but we are very much interested in what other people think of published works, so do let us know.
Welcome, Chaz Brenchley
I am delighted to announce that we have a new author joining the Wizard’s Tower family. I have been a fan of Chaz Brenchley’s writing, and his cooking, for many years. When he mentioned on an interview for Coode Street that he was looking for a publisher for his Crater School books, I jumped at the opportunity. My thanks are due to Chaz’s agent, John Jarrold, for making this happen smoothly and quickly. The press release is here.
The books that we will be publishing are Chaz’s Crater School series, which are set in a 1930s girls’ boarding school, on Mars. This, then, is a post-steampunk world. Britain has colonised Mars, Russia has colonised Venus. There has been a Great War. Now there is peace, but uneasy tension between the interplanetary empires.
The books are unshamedly based on the famous Chalet School novels by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. A key aspect of the books is that while young boys are sent off by aetherflier to be educated on Earth, young girls go to school on Mars. So if there are adventures to be had, it is mostly teenage girls who get to have them.
By the way, if you are worried about a bloke writing this stuff, you need to be aware that Chaz got his start on a literary career by writing romance stories for teen girl magazines.
Of course there are adventures. Mars is not the desolate planet inhabited by NASA robots that we know. Chaz’s Mars has canals, it has native flora and fauna. Some of the fauna appears to be intelligent in a strange, very non-human way.
Our heroines, as teenage girls do, are determined to fight for justice. If that brings them into conflict with unreasonable parents, or with Russian spies, so be it. Crater School girls are afraid of nothing, even when perhaps they should be.
The first novel is due out in spring next year, with two more novels and a short story collection to follow. There are also plans for a cookbook, featuring the recipes of the Crater School’s legendary head cook, Mrs. Bailey. Fear not, though, readers, if you can’t find the right Martian ingredients there will be Terrestrial equivalents suggested.
I am going to have so much fun publishing these books. And yes, the first two novels do appear to qualify as YA.
Loving the Alien
That’s the title of a Bowie song, of course. But it is also a good title for a panel about diversity in science fiction and fantasy. No credit to me, of course. The panel is the brainchild of Philippa Ryder, who was one of the Guests of Honour at Octocon earlier this month, and is also a director of Under the Rainbow, a Dublin-based diversity advocacy organisation.
The panel will be free to watch online from 8:00pm on Friday (Oct. 23rd). Irish time is the same as the UK. Details of the other panelists, and how to register, can be found here. Hopefully I will see some of you turn up in the chat.
Two Crowdfunding Projects
I backed a couple of crowdfunding projects today that some of you might be interested in.
The first is The Mab, a collection of tales from The Mabinogion, re-told for young readers by Welsh authors, and beautifully illustrated. Just the thing to get young people hooked on fantasy.
The other is Constelación, a proposed quarterly magazine that will carry speculative fiction in both English and Spanish.