Crunching Hugo Stats

The lovely people at Vector asked me if I wanted to do an article looking back on the decade. This gave me the opportunity to crunch some Hugo data. The results are really quite remarkable. If you take a look here you will see why I titled the article, “The Decade That Women Won”.

I should dedicate that article to Joanna Russ. I wish that she was still alive to see it. We still have a long way to go, but the fight is not impossible.

Up On the Aqueduct

It is that time of year again. My review of the year post has gone up on the Aqueduct Press blog. There are already lots of other fine entries to the 2019 series, and doubtless many more to follow.

I need to apologise to Kate Heartfield because I totally forgot about her Alice Payne novellas when writing that post. However, I have now read Alice Payne Rides, so that will be reviewed in the next Salon Futura.

I still haven’t got to see Frozen 2. Maybe tomorrow.

February: Women in SF&F in Bristol

Normally in February I am rushing around the country doing LGBT History stuff. Next year, however, I will also be doing a panel on Women in SF&F at Foyles in Bristol (assuming that no apocalyptic events have destroyed Cabot Circus in the meantime, as tends to happen with great frequency in books by local writers). This event is the brainchild of Kate Macdonald from Handheld Press, and is going to be part of the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival. I am hugely honoured to be asked to feature alongside three brilliant local writers: Liz Williams, Emma Newman and Emma Geen.

It is a paid event, which I’m making no apologies for because the number of times I have turned up for a sold out free event and fewer than half the number of people who have booked have turned up is ridculous. You can get a ticket, and learn more about the event, here.

I am very much hoping that Ian Whates will manage to get some copies of Liz’s new novel, Comet Weather, to us for sale.

Inventing the Future

Yesterday evening I was a guest panelist at an event in the Bristol Technology Festival. It was called Invented Futures, and it was all about how we use technology to, you guessed it, invent the future. Obviously I was there a the science fiction expert, but the rest of the crew covered a wide range of technological innovation.

Julia Scott-Stevenson from UWE is an expert in Virtual Reality. She’s involed in the i_Docs project (immersive documentaries), and she has also written a manifesto on how immersive experiences can be used for good.

Coral Manton from Bath Spa University works with computer games (and therefore has one of the best jobs in the world). She is also one of the people behind a fascinating project called Women Reclaiming AI, which seeks to create a digital assistant made by women (as opposed to an artificial woman made by men).

Pete Bennett from the University of Bristol has a variety of creative projects including Digitally Enhanced Lego, and making games for the gorillas at Bristol Zoo.

Also I shouldn’t forget our moderator, Maria Leonard, who is the brains behind Death.io, which helps people manage their departure in the digital world. (Did you know that you can leave your Farcebook account to a friend to manage after you die? I didn’t.)

I saw my job as talking about as many great books as possible, and it was slightly disturbing to realise that many of the people in the room only consumed science fiction through TV and movies. Consequently they were completely unaware of the changes that have happened in the field over the past decade. I asked the audience to guess how many of the fiction writing awards it this year’s Hugos had gone to women. It took quite a while for someone to twig that the correct answer was, “all of them”, and this despite the fact that the audience was majority female.

I mentioned as many books as I could. Even so, I couldn’t get in every one I wanted. So here is a reading list.

Books by Bristol writers that address issues with the current digital world:

  • Everything About You by Heather Child
  • After Atlas by Emma Newman
  • Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan

Books about AIs and artificial beings:

  • Autonomous by Analee Newitz
  • The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • vN and iD by Madeline Ashby
  • Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M Valente
  • The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod
  • Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

Other books about digital worlds:

  • Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder
  • Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Julia recommended the anthology, Women Invent the Future.

If anyone has any additional suggestions please add them in comments. But let’s it keep it to fairly recent books, OK? There’s no need to suggest Asimov’s robot novels, or Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep.

Today on Ujima – Books, Theatre, Trans Pride & Tobias Buckell

My first guest on today’s radio show was Kate MacDonald of Handheld Press, a wonderful local publisher based in Bath. Kate will be familiar to people on the UK SF&F circuit as she was at FantasyCon and BristolCon. She doesn’t just publish SF&F, but when she does it is pretty spectacular. You will have heard me enthusing about her Vonda McIntyre reissue, and she has had great success with a Nicola Griffith book. On the show we talked about a book by Rose Maculey which inspired Brave New World. John Clute gets a starring role in the story of how Kate got to publish that one. And if we’d had more time we’d have talked about the new Sylvia Townsend Warner book, Of Cats and Elfins, which has a Greer Gilman introduction and a Neil Gaiman front cover blurb.

That was hard to top, but for the second section of the show I welcomed Nick Young from Creative Youth Network and two wonderful young actors who will be performing in The Edge, a play about the dangers of reality TV. The play is written by my friend Edson Burton, and will be staged at Colston Hall later this month. As the advertising says, it will be an immersive live performance. You’ll have to listen to the interview to find out just how clever they have been.

In part three I welcome Lowie Trevena, the new LGBT+ Affairs correspondent of Bristol 24/7 to talk about the upcoming Trans Pride South West. Lowie did a preview of the event for the paper yesterday, and we went a lot more into detail on that. We also talked about what it means to be a non-binary person, and how non-binary does not mean androgynous.

Finally I re-ran parts of my 2014 interview with Tobias Buckell to celebrate his win (along with Paulo Bacigalupi) in the World Fantasy Awards last weekend. Their book, The Tangled Lands, won the Best Collection catageory. In the 2014 piece Tobias and I talk about hurricanes in the Caribbean, climate change, and some interesting regional politics that allowed Tobias to create a unified Caribbean state for some of his work.

You can listen to the show here.

The playlist is as follows:

  • Pipe – Christina Aguilera & Lewis Hamilton
  • World in Union – Ladysmith Black Mambazo (feat. PJ Powers)
  • Screen Kiss – Thomas Dolby
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
  • History – Shea Freedom
  • Sticks and Stones – Jackie Shane
  • Hurricane Season – Trombone Shorty
  • 007 – A Fantasy Bond Theme – Barry Adamson

This Week in Bristol

I have a fairly busy week coming up. I have a radio show on Wednesday, which all of you can enjoy. That will include an interview with Kate MacDonald of Handheld Press and will look forward to Trans Pride South West. However, there are also two evening events that may be of interest to those of you who are local.

On Thursday night from 6:30pm I will be at the Framework Co-working centre at 35 King Street taking part in the 2019 Bristol Tech Festival. I will be on a panel called Invented Futures which will look emerging technology and the stories we tell about it. You can find more details about the event, and reserve a free ticket, here. I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow panelists, especially Coral Manton because I want to learn more about the Women Reclaiming AI project.

And on Friday night from 7:30pm at Foyles in Cabot Cirus there will be a science fiction event featuring three of our finest local authors: Peter F Hamilton, Emma Newman and Gareth L Powell. That’s £3 a ticket and you can get one here. I might have to skip that one, depending on how much I manage to get done on Friday durign the day and how tired I am by the end of it, but it should be great..

Steampunks in Space

I have email from the UK’s National Space Centre. Later this month (23rd/24th) they will be having a steampunk convention at their museum in Leicester. It looks like a pretty full on two days of events. Sadly I don’t have the time to arrange to go and sell books, but hopefully some of you will have the opportunity to attend. For more details, click here.

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.

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

Interview – Regina Wang

This is the other interview that I promised you from Åcon X. Regina and I had a chat about her work promoting Chinese SF around the world. Here are links to some of the things we talked about.

Regina, Chen Quifan and Neil Clarke will all be at Worldcon in Dublin. Knowing Regina, she’s probably going to the Eurocon as well.

Chen Quifan is doing an event in London tonight.

Finncon 2019

This time next week I will be in Finland. I will be on my way to Jyväskylä where I am fortunate to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour at this year’s Finncon. Most of you won’t be able to go, of course, and I don’t think there are any plans to record the programme. However, it is going to be fun. I note in particular that on the Sunday I will be giving my GoH talk on the subject of the prehistory of robotics. There were a lot of artificial beings both written about and made before Karel Čapek wrote RUR. If anyone else is interested I’d be happy to give the talk again elsewhere.

Book Review – This is How You Lose the Time War

Last week I ran an interview with Amal El-Mohtar on my radio show. The main reason for talking to her was the fabulous new novella that she and Max Gladstone have coming out any day now. There has been a lot of excitement about this book, and having read it I can see why.

I should give thanks here to Jo Fletcher Books for sending me an ARC. I don’t often get them these days, and generally only when I specifically ask for them from people I know. And I only ask for books when I am pretty sure that I will love what I get.

If the review appeals, and you haven’t yet listened to the interview, you can find it via the link here for another week or two. After that I will put it on Salon Futura where it can stay for as long as I’m around to pay for the hosting. This digital world is so strange. On the one had we have access to vast quantities of stuff, and on the other much of that stuff will vanish in a puff of electrons once the creator is no longer paying for it to be available. Take backups, people, and give them to others for safekeeping.

Hmm, where did that come from? Too much thinking about time, I suspect.

Still, before I start getting maudlin, here’s the link to the review.

Book Review – The Light Brigade

Slowly but surely I am catching up with the book reviews. The latest is of Kameron Hurley’s very smart military SF novel, The Light Brigade. This is a book that is very much aware of its place the the history of space war novels. If you have read The Forever War and Starship Troopers you will pick up references.

It can’t have been an easy novel to write, with the lead character switching back and fore through time as the story progresses. My congratulations to Hurley and her editor for keeping it all together. If you want to learn more about the book, click here.

Åcon – Part 2

I was having so much fun at Åcon that I didn’t get around to writing about it.

Well, that’s not strictly true, I did spend quite a bit of time publicising the charity walk for One25. Huge thanks once again to everyone who sponsored me. Last I heard, all of the various people participating had raised over £11,000 for the charity, and my personal total, including gift aid, was over £700.

I also spent quite a bit of time rehearsing the talk I was scheduled to give, which was about Janelle Monáe. I had decided to do something a bit different and role-play a far future version of myself. So the talk was given by a future historian looking back on the career of the time-traveling android rights activist, Cindi Mayweather. It took a bit of effort to put together a coherent narrative from the information provided in the various song lyrics, and someone else may have a different take on it, but that how historians work. From the reaction on Twitter, and from people thanking me in person, it seemed to have gone down well.

Most importantly, it seems to have led to more people planning to vote for Dirty Computer in the Hugos, because they now understand that Janelle is totally One Of Us.

While I was there I also grabbed a couple of interviews. One was with Amal El-Mohtar and aired on Wednesday’s radio show. The other was with Regina Wang and will air during the July show.

And after all that I still had enough time to enjoy myself greatly. And watch the football. And consume a fair amount of pizza and alcohol.

One thing that I do want to note is a late night event that I’d not paid proper attention to before because it was labeled as “karaoke”. No one wants me anywhere near a proper karaoke event. However, this event did not require any actual singing, because it was a William Shatner Karaoke event. That meant that everyone was expected to perform in the style of Shatner’s infamous “singing” career; so spoken word, hopelessly over-dramatic, and breath breaks in totally inappropriate places. If the audience laughs, that shows you are doing it right.

Finnish conventions are the best. Yes, I know I have said that before. It is still true.

Book Review – The Dreaming Stars

I’d been hoping to get a few book reviews published while I was at Åcon, but I was having way too much fun at the convention. Maybe now I can catch up.

I’ll start with the latest book in Tim Pratt’s lovely space opera series. I very much enjoyed The Wrong Stars last year, and The Dreaming Stars did not let me down.

What I love most about this series is that it hits a whole bunch of buttons with regard to diversity and representation, but still manages to be proper space opera as well. Our heroes get to go up against very serious science fictional threats, and deal with them in the approved manner.

The review contains some spoilers for The Wrong Stars, but hopefully nothing that will spoil your enjoyment of the second book. The third book is due out towards the end of this year and I’m very much looking forward to it. (And I wish you could get the books more easily. British bookstores do stock some Angry Robot books, but generally not Tim’s, which is very poor of them.)

To read my review, click here.