Welcome to Virtual Finncon

If international travel were possible this year, I would be in Finland by now. Finncon should have taken place in Tampere this year. Instead it will take place online. The full programme is here.

Several of the programme items are in English, including the Guest of Honour events with Mike Carey, Diane Duane and Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay.

Of particular interest (well, to me anyway) is the Mike Carey event which involves Mike and I chatting about The Book of Koli and how we worked together on it. That will be at 16:00 Finnish time on Saturday, which translates to 14:00 UK time.

Links to YouTube will be provided from the programme page on the Finncon website in due course. Anyone is welcome to watch.

Of course you won’t get the full Finncon experience, because virtual sauna is not really possible, but hopefully you’ll get something of the feeling of the event.

Feminism & Fantasy

In September Maria Turtschaninoff and I were supposed to be guests at Imagining Alternatives, an academic conference in Augsburg, Germany. The event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, but the organisers have been busy putting stuff online. Last week Maria and I recorded an interview with Dr. Sabrina Mittermeier. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging, but if there’s one thing I said that I want to highlight it is this: if you like the books of Ursula K Le Guin then you should check out Maria’s work as well, because I think you will like it. See here for some reviews.

Coronavirus – Day #107

The big thing that I have done today is create a list of trans and non-binary writers, editors, etc. in the SF/F/H community. Why I have not done this before I do not know. But it is done now.

There will be people that I have forgotten. There will also be people that I have never heard of. There may also be people whom I have put on the list who don’t want to be on it. If you are in one of these groups, please get it touch. I’m also open to suggestions from non-trans folks as to who to put on it, but if you suggest someone please be sure that they are open abuout being trans first. And check to see if they are already on the list before suggesting them.

I also did my weeky Tesco trip. It was very quiet. There were no shortages. I only saw one other person wearing a mask.

June Salon Futura

The June edition of Salon Futura is now online. Here’s what you can find in it.

Book reviews

  • Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
  • FINNA by Nino Cipri
  • Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma

TV Reviews

  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Seasons 4 & 5
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths

I have also done a diversity audit of the book reviews. The results aren’t great, but they are not terrible and I can see where there is room for improvement.

Locus Award Winners

Once again things have happened in America while I was asleep. You can find the full lists of finalists and winners here. I want to talk briefly about the winners.

Charlie Jane won two and Yoon Ha Lee one. That’s three of 17 awards going to people who are out as trans, one of them to a Korean-American. Seanan has always been a great ally and has written some great trans characters. Marlon is an ally too and has a strong interest in the history of gender diversity, not to mention being Jamaican and gay. Gideon the Ninth and This Is How You Lose the Time War are both books about lesbian couples. Not bad for starters. Who else have we got?

Ellen and John are both good friends. Ellen is Jewish, while John is Mexican-American and well known for his work promoting Latinx authors and artists. Ted is Asian-American. Nisi is African-American and gets that extra award for Writing the Other which is a project all about improving minority representation. Tempest gets a share in that one.

I don’t know much about the winners in the non-fiction and art catagories. Tor won both the corporate categories and is, of course, a corporation, not a person. But it is a corporation that has been very supportive of diversity.

And these are popular vote awards.

Don’t let anyone tell you that science fiction is a genre that is only by and for straight cis white men.

Clarke Award Shortlist

The Shortlist for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award was announced today. Here they are, with links to my reviews where they exist:

Of the three I have read, I’d pick The Light Brigade as the clear winner. But Clarke juries are notoriously unpredictable. In any case, I have some reading to do.

The Dan & Cheryl Show

Today I did my thing with Dan Vo for the Queer Britain Lockdown Hunt. It was a lot of fun. I covered a range of queer history books ranging from the 20th Century back to the 2nd. I also mentioned four science fiction and fantasy books. They were:

  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
  • Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Triton by Samuel R Delany

Obviously there’s a huge amount of queer SF&F that I could have mentioned, and I tweeted about several others, but those four had interesting stories. To find out why I chose them, you’ll need to watch the show.

On #QBLockdownHunt Tomorrow

Those of you who have been following the Queer Britain Lockdown Hunt on Twitter will know that each Friday Dan Vo has been getting people to search out particular items of significance in queer history. We’ve done badges, we’ve done postcards, we’ve done t-shirts and fliers. But tomorrow the object will be books.

As you can imagine, that’s right up my street. Dan has kindly invited me to join him at 3:00pm to chat about books. I’ll be showcasing some science fiction novels of significance, and also some books from much further back in time that are important to queer history.

Dan also has several other guests through the day, including the fabulous Diana Souhami who has written several books on the lives of famous lesbians. The full details are in the tweet below.

New Book on Angela Carter

It is a big week for local history on Bristol. A new series of David Olusoga’s popular A House Through Time starts tonight, and this time he’s come home to look at a house built by a wealthy slave trader.

In addition to that the lovely people at the Bristol Radical History Group have published a new book. Mostly I wouldn’t bother telling you about such things, but this one should be of interest. Angela Carter’s ‘Provincial Bohemia’ is an examination of the radical counterculture communities that flourished in Bristol and Bath when Carter lived in the region between 1961 and 1976. Author Stephen E Hunt hopes that the book will shed light on Carter’s influences during these formative years. The book even has a rave recommendation from Eugene Byrne. You can buy it direct from the lovely people at Tangent Books.

Coronavirus – Day #64

It has been another busy day at the fundraising coalface. So far so good, I think. I hope people are enjoying it.

There was also WiFi SciFi #3, for which I was a panelist. We had a great time. Thanks to Anne, Kevlin and all of the team.

As with yesterday, it has also been a busy day on social media. We’ve had the brilliant Guy Gavriel Kay’s #CocktailHour, where we all dress up and post selfies with a drink of our choice. And we’ve had #StayAtHomeDisco run by my lovely pal Laura Rawlings from BBC Radio Bristol. Conviently they were on at the same time so I was able to make one outfit do for both.

Out in the “real” world today there have been “anti-lockdown” protests in major British cities. No automatic weapons here, but doubtless the same far-right funders behind it all. Today was also the first day in around 3 weeks that the 7-day rolling average of deaths in the UK ticked significantly upwards. Cummings and his pals will doubtless be pleased with a job well done.

Today on Ujima – One25, Greek Robots & Mental Health

My first guests on today’s show were Amy & Lu from One25. Amy explained why the women that One25 helps cannot simply stop doing sex work during the pandemic. Most of them don’t even have homes, let alone any other source of income. Lu then chimined in with details of this year’s fundraiser. I’m delighted to see that I’m now up to 78% of my initial target. What I’d love to see is us hitting 100% by launch time on Friday, and then I can set a new target for the 6 days of the campaign.

Next up was my new academic pal, Maria Gerolemou from the University of Exeter. Like me, Maria as a passion for ancient automata. Those of you who have heard my “Prehistory of Robotics” talk will have a good idea of what to expect. The rest of you, prepare to be astonished.

Finally I welcomed back Subitha from CASS to talk about two new mental health campaigns. You can find out more about the #SleepSoundBristol and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek projects at the CASS website. And do please write in to tell them about someone who has been kind to you.

This week’s show also includes tributes to two tiny giants of the music business who sadly left us in the past week. They were Millie Small, who hit #2 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964 with “My Boy Lollipop”, and Little Richard without whom the likes of Prince and Elton John would have been very different musicians.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • My Boy Lollipop – Millie Small
  • Street Life – Roxy Music
  • Money Don’t Matter – Prince
  • Sun Goddess – Ramsey Lewis & Earth, Wind & Fire
  • Chrome Shoppe – Janelle Monáe
  • Dance Apocalyptic – Janelle Monáe
  • Dream within a Dream – Dreadzone
  • Everyone’s a VIP to Someone – The Go! Team
  • Long Tall Sally – Little Richard
  • Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard
  • Keep a Knockin’ – Little Richard
  • Lucille – Little Richard
  • Tutti Frutti – Little Richard
  • The Girl Can’t Help It – Little Richard
  • By the Light of the Silvery Moon – Little Richard
  • House of the Ancestors – Afro Celt Sound System

You can hear the entire show via the Ujima Listen Again service. It will be up there for a few weeks.

Virtual Tolkien

Yes, everything is going online these days. That includes the J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature. But the nice folks at Pembroke College have come up with a cool idea. Rather than have poor Rebecca Kuang give a lecture by Zoom, they have invited a bunch of past lecturers to join her in an online symposium. The subject for discussion is: “the importance of fantasy in times of crisis: how science-fiction and fantasy literature respond to, and provide inspiration during, moments of despair and personal difficulty.” In addition to Kuang the panelists are: Kij Johnson, Adam Roberts, Lev Grossman, Terri Windling and VE Schwab.

The symposium will take place on Saturday May 16, 4:00 – 5:30pm British time (11am – 12:30 Eastern).

Obviously this clashes with WiFi SciFi, but I have been assured that the discussion will be recorded so you don’t have to miss me, though I won’t be at all surprised if you do. If you can’t make it, you can send in a question in advance.

To register, or to ask a question of the panel, go here.

WiFi SciFi 3 is Coming

Yes, we are going to do it again. And I do mean “we”, because Anne has foolishly invited me to be on the panel this time. Said panel will also include, though not all at once, Gareth L Powell, Adrian Walker, Tim Lebbon, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Anne Corlett, Patrick Edwards, Jonathan Pinnock, Corry L Lee, Premee Mohamed, Kevlin Henney and Derek Kunsken. For more details and to reserve a place, click here.

It will be doubly weird for me because I will be in the middle of the One25 Funraiser (please pledge) and will be virtually in California that day. Thankfully it the convention starts at 8:00am California time so I’ll have plenty of day left.

While we are on the subject of virtual conventions, I’m pleased to say that I have signed up for Virtual Wiscon. I used to go every year when I was able to spend time in the USA, but I haven’t been able to go of late and it will be nice to catch up with people. I’m guessing that it is probably too late to get on programme, but you never know.

Coronavirus – Day #36

So, birthday under Lockdown turns out to be much the same as any other birthday, but with a lot more (virtual) company.

I began the day by doing a trans history talk for a local LGBT+ group (adults this time), which was fun.

I have a fair amount of work of various sorts to do, but I decided to goof off for the day and do some baking. I don’t have a usable oven, so for Christmas I bought myself one of these (cheap in a Clark’s Village outlet store). I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to use it before today.

I decided to make scones (for cream tea) as they are fairly easy. They turned out suprisingly well for a first attempt. They were a little over-done, but machines like this are very precise and now I know to reduce the heat setting next time.

I had sport! Formula E has launched a sim series with most of the actual drivers taking part, plus a side race for other folks. It was actually the side race that interested me most as it had a combination of amateurs, profesional esports players, and young drivers hoping to break in to the big time. Charlie Martin has a seat in the Techeetah team. Sadly she didn’t do very well, but everyone is learning right now so I hope she’ll perform better in later races.

And of course there was WiFi SciFi 2. Only one panel this time, and it devolved into discussion of the writing business which is less of interest to me, but probably more what the punters want.

Next up: dinner, wine, cheese, TV or movie.

World, what world?

Today on Ujima – Small Businesses in Lockdown, the Hugos

Today’s show mainly features small businesses talking about how they are coping with Lockdown.

I started with Tara from Talk to the Rainbow, a new psychotherapy service catering to members of marginalised communities. Understandably, they are in a lot of demand right now, but are having to learn to do therapy remotely.

Next up were Graham and Esmerelda from My Burrito, who seem to be doing OK on remote ordering, but are having a lot of trouble with Deliveroo. If you can order your food via a different delivery service then they, and many other restaurants, will be very grateful.

Finally I talked to Dan from Storysmith Books, who are finding that people’s interest in reading has not waned, and may even be increasing.

For the final segment of the show I had a chat with Kevin about this year’s Hugo finalists. We didn’t manage to cover all of the categories, but hopefully we will have generated some interest in the Awards. Plus it was a chance for me to point out how female-dominated they Hugos are these days.

You can find the show on the Ujima Listen Again service.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Andy Allo – Superconductor
  • Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
  • Liane La Havas – Unstoppable
  • Janelle Monáe – Tightrope (Mouche & Big Remix)
  • Chic – Good Times
  • Prince – Alphabet Street
  • Jackie Shane – Money
  • Parliament – Mothership Connection

Otherwise Award Winner & Honor List


The results of this year’s Otherwise (formery Tiptree) Award have been announced. The winner is Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. The Honor List is as follows:

  • “Dreamborn” by Kylie Ariel Bemis
  • The Book of Flora by Meg Elison
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Meet Me in the Future by Kameron Hurley
  • “Of Warps and Wefts” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks
  • The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
  • The Deep by Rivers Solomon

I’m not familiar with Emezi’s work at all, but clearly I should be. Nor do I know much about the short fiction (the Hurley and Motoya are both collections). I have reviewed The Calculating Stars and The Deep. I reviewed Fire Logic and Earth Logic back in Emerald City and loved them both. Both books won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. Now that all four books are out I have been meaning to re-read the entire series, but of course I have no time. Meg Elison won the Philip K Dick Award with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, the first volume in the trilogy that The Book of Flora concludes. I have The Book of Flora on my TBR pile, and it has just got a boost up towards the top.

I am, of course, delighted to see so many works with trans themes on the list.