Today on Ujima – HIV, Time Wars & Art

Today’s Women’s Outlook show was one of those where it seemed mostly calm on the surface, but it was all frantic paddling underneath. Yesterday I had one of my guests drop out, so I had a half hour to fill. Thankfully the pre-recorded interview I had would stretch to three segments, and I had enough to talk about to fill the final one I needed. Also Ben, my usual engineer, was unavailable, and the replacement we had arranged was unable to come in, so I ended up with an emergency holographic engineer. Huge thanks to Mikey who did a great job for me.

We began the show with Aled and Acomo from Brigstowe, a local charity that specialises in HIV/AIDS issues. They are one of two charities in England who are running pilots with PrEP, the drug which can protect you from HIV if you take it before having sex. PrEP is already widely available in Scotland and Wales, but as Aled explains the English authorities have fought tooth and nail to prevent it being made available. Now that the courts have forced the NHS to do some trials, Brigstowe needs help getting them done.

They are looking in particular for women from marginalized communities who are willing to get trained on the use of PrEP and can then go out into their communities to srpread the word. They’ll be working closely with my pals at One25 to make sure the drug gets to sex workers, who are some of the people who need it most. They are also very interested in recruiting trans women.

The pre-recorded interview with was Amal El-Mohtar and was made while we were at Åcon. We talked about a range of issues, but obviously there was particular focus on the forthcoming book, This is How You Lose the Time War. I loved this book. There will be a review coming soon.

As I had a bit of time to fill I played a couple of songs with Nordic connections. I have probably enthused about the Swedish electrojazz duo, Koop, before, but I should mention that the particular song I played had guest vocals from Ane Brun who is Norwegian and Sami. She has also worked with Peter Gabriel, taking Kate Bush’s part on “Don’t Give Up” when he was touring.

I also played the Miike Snow song that Amal mentions during the interview. The core of that band is Swedish too. If you are intersted in the very gay video for the song, you can find it here.

Finally on the show I was joined by Cai and Amie from Paper Arts who are a wonderful organisation that helps young people start a career in the arts.

You can listen to today’s show via the Listen Again function on the Ujima website.

The playlist for today’s show is:

  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
  • The Human League – The Lebanon
  • Fairuz – Li Beirut
  • Afro-Celt Sound System – Further In Time
  • Koop – Koop Islands
  • Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
  • Janelle Monáe – Crazy, Classic Life
  • Prince – Purple Rain

Book Review – Atlas Alone

There aren’t many authors whose latest book I will grab and read immediately. Emma Newman is one. It has taken me a little while to get around to writing the review, but we are there now.

As I explain in the review, we have got to the point in the Planetfall series where it is hard to talk about the latest book without giving spoilers for the previous ones. If you haven’t read any of these books yet, you are missing out, and should catch up before reading on. If you are up to date, my review of Atlas Alone is here.

Fringe Tomorrow

Bristol people, it is that time of the month again. The readers for this month’s BristolCon Fringe are RB Watkinson and Paul Cornell. Cavan Scott is MCing this one, which is just as well because otherwise Paul and I would just talk about cricket.

I look forward to seeing some of you tomorrow night. As usual we will be at the Gryphon on Colston Street from 7:00pm. Full details on Farcebook.

New BBC SF Audiodrama

Forest 404

Our local media in Bristol keeps an eye on what the local BBC offices are up to. Today they had news of a new science-fiction audiodrama. Forest 404 is a post-apocalyptic story set in a world where forests no longer exist. The lead character, Pan, is a sound archivist who uncovers recordings of forest life from centuries before. She’s played by Pearl Mackie who will be best known to you as Bill Potts from Doctor Who.

The 27-part podcast series will also include, “factual talks from a range of speakers including musicians, bioethicists and anthropologists who guide the audience through the themes and issues the podcast presents.”

For more details, see Bristol 24/7.

Book Review – A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago

I used to hate reviewing books before they were available in the shops. My readers would only get angry with me when they discovered that this great story I had told them about was still weeks away from being available.

These days things are different. The book trade, for reasons best known to itself, has become obsessed with pre-orders. If a book doesn’t sell enough copies before it is actually available, it is deemed a failure almost regardless of how many copies it eventually sells. Which is why review copies are now getting made available months in advance.

I got a copy of the new Guy Gavriel Kay novel back in February. I wrote a review immediately on finishing it, but I have saved it until now to post it. I understand it is due out in the UK on May 14th, so you still have time to pre-order it, but you don’t have too long to wait to get your own copy.

It is a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel. You know you want it. But just in case you need convincing, or you want to go down the rabbit hole of Renaissance Italy history before reading it, my review is here.

Oxford Reminder

On Saturday Stephanie Saulter and I will be on a panel about “The boundaries and territories of SF” as part of a conference staged by Maison Française. We will be joined by brilliant Bath-based writer, Emma Geen, and by Jeanne Debats from France. Full conference website here.

I will be in Oxford most of Friday, and will also be spending some time at the Oxford Postgraduate Conference in Assyriology, because why attend one conference when you can do two at once, right?

Hopefully I will see some of you at one or the other event.

Book Review – A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire

There’s so much good SF&F being published at the moment. It is almost as if the universe has noticed the void left by the death of Gene Wolfe and is rushing to fill it. There’s no one of Wolfe’s class that I have noticed yet, but there are some very good debut authors.

I have had to be a little restrained in talking about Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire because too much enthusing over how cleverly she uses an SF idea to set up the plot would be spoilery. I want you all to have the pleasure of working it out for yourselves. You can read what I have felt safe to talk about here.

Worldcon News

Eastercon is taking place at Heathrow this weekend, and one of the major announcements that has been made is that the 2024 bid for a UK Worldcon has selected a venue. The host city will once again be Glasgow, and the site will the familiar SECC, though it is now known as the Scottish Event Campus.

Mike Glyer has a brief report on File 770, and the official bid site can be found here. The bid is currently unopposed, but you never know what might turn up between now and 2022. Presupports will go on sale in Dublin.

As far as I know, there is no intention to revive the White Star Federated Spacelines and Starship Armadillo that Kevin and I created for the 2005 Worldcon. I don’t even know if the Armadillo is part of the facilities plans. But here’s a brief reminder of the Armadillo in flight:

It is also worth noting that by 2024 Scotland may be an independent country within the EU. Or there could be English tanks in Glasgow. In the current state of UK politics, anything is possible. If Scotland is still part of the UK at that time it could be very difficult for non-white-Anglo people to attend.

Meanwhile Jukka Halme, who is at Eastercon, tweeted this:

Knowing Jukka, this could just be him tossing a large rock into the fannish lake and watching the ripples, but if it is serious I’m very interested.

Summer in Finland

The weather appears to have warmed up nicely, so I am looking forward to the summer which, as is traditional, will see me heading off to Finland.

At the end of May I will be at Åcon X, the 10th convention in the Åland Islands. This year’s GoH is Amal El-Mohtar, who I am very much looking forward to getting to know better. Not to mention there will be the boat trips on the Baltic and the lovely island destination.

In July Finncon will be in Jyväskylä, which is always lovely. I will get to hang out with the fabulous Irma Hirsjärvi again. Otto and Paula have promised me some tourism around central Finland. And best of all I get to be a Guest of Honour.

There are a couple of very interesting Finnish guests. Kersti Juva has translated The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh, Watership Down and many other famous books. Raine Koskimaa is a professor of Contemporary Culture, which basically means he gets to play video games for a living. The author GoH is Charles Stross, which means that Feòrag and I will get to hang out together, drink beer and be disreputable. It also means that Fluff Cthulhu will get to feast on Finnish brains.

I’ll doubtless be on programming with Charlie at some point, which may well lead to discussion of tentacled monstrosities from beyond the stars, but we promise to talk about things other than the Tories as well. I will be giving a guest lecture, the title of which is, “The Prehistory of Robotics”. It will cover the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Ottomans, the Kalevala and much more.

Book Review – Rosewater Insurrection

Rosewater

The last couple of weeks have been manic work-wise, but I have managed to get some reading done and today, finally, I have managed to write about some of it.

Tade Thompson is not only a very fine writer, he’s also one of the nicest people I have met on the science fiction circuit. The fact that he’s a psychiatrist by profession, and trans people and psychiatrists are supposed to hate each other, makes our friendship quite unusual.

However, you are not here to listen to me whinge about medical people. You want to know what I think of Tade’s latest book. Short version: I loved it and am eagerly awaiting book three in the triology. Long version: click here.

Utopiales Comes to Oxford

Many of you will be familiar with Utopiales, the big French convention that takes place in Nantes every October. Well this month they are coming to the UK. They are partnering with Maison Française d’Oxford, the French research centre in Oxford, to put on a 3-day conference. The dates are April 24-27.

Days 1 and 2 are the academic part of the event. You can find the full programme here.

Day 3 is more public-oriented and features three workshops. One of them is titled “The boundaries and territories of SF” and features three great writers, plus me. My estemeed colleagues are Stephanie Saulter (who needs no introduction), Emma Geen (who wrote the brilliant The Many Selves of Katherine North), and Jeanne-A Debats who, among other things, teaches Latin and Greek and is Art Director of Utopiales. I know Stephanie and Emma well, and I’m looking forward to meeting Jeanne-A (whom I shall doubtless bore with discussion of queer Romans).

In addition there is an exhibition of art from the 19 years of Utopiales.

It all sounds very splendid, and it is free. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

Today on Ujima: Section 28, Masculinity, Hugos & Silence

It was a radio day for me today. I barely got the show together in time having been away over the weekend and had much of yesterday hijacked by the Hugos, but I got there in the end.

In the first half hour I played an interview I did over the weekend with Sue Sanders, the founder of Schools Out and LGBT History Month. There has been a lot of talk here in the media about the need for a return to something called Section 28, which attempted to ban the mention of anything to do with LGBT people in schools. Thankfully Parliament has refused to turn the clock back, but lots of the people I get in training courses have never heard of Section 28 so I figured that having Sue, who was in the forefront of the fight against it, explain what went down, would be useful.

Next up I had a studio guest, Elias Williams of ManDem, an arts organisation for young black men. Last week I had been on a panel on the future of feminism at UWE (along with the brilliant Finn McKay). Elias had been on it too, and having heard him speak I knew I wanted him on the radio. Young black men are routinely demonised in the media, and it is wonderful to have someone so articulate and sensible standing up for them.

In the third slot I rambled about the Hugos. There are loads of black writers on the ballot this year, and people of colour in general. In particular 3 of the 6 Lodestar finalists are written by black women, and the Campbell finalists are mostly women of color, and one non-binary person of color. This is very promising for the future.

And finally I played part of my interview with Rachel Rose Reid from the LGBT History Month event in Bristol. This was about the Arthuian legend, Le Roman de Silence, which is basically 13th Century French feminist fantasy. It really is remarkable how modern the themes of that book are. I note that Rachel will be in Bristol again with the show on April 28th. Sadly I’m teaching one of Cat Rambo’s writing courses that evening. She’s also in Frome on the 12th, but that’s sold out. Phooey.

You can listen to the whole show via the Ujima Listen Again service here.

The playlist for the show is as follows:

  • School Day – Chuck Berry
  • We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  • It’s a Man’s World – James Brown
  • Word Up – Cameo
  • Pynk – Janelle Monáe
  • Crazy, Classic Life – Janelle Monáe
  • Mirror in the Bathroom – The Beat
  • Ali Baba – Dreadzone

My thanks as always to Ben, my engineer, and to all of my guests.

Hugos Happened

As Twitter followers will know, I was in Belfast over the weekend for an LGBT History conference. When I got home on Monday night and checked my email I found a message to the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee telling us that the announcement of the winners would take place on Tuesday. The announcement was due to be made at 6:00am California time, and Kevin is sick, so it fell to me to get the details online. Thankfully I had a working from home day and was able to do so.

The full list of finalists is available here. As usual there is much that I am delighted about (especially Dirty Computer), and much that is entirely new to me.

Elsewhere I have seen a bunch of fans my age complaining that they haven’t read any of the finalists, and indeed may not have heard of them. This seems bizarre to me. I own 5 of the 6 Novel finalists, and have finished reading three of them. I also own all 6 Novella finalists and have finished 3. I have read at least some books in 5 of the 6 finalist series. Some of the books I nominated are finalists, though inevitably not all of them because there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

I will admit that the Novelette and Short Story ballots are full of works I haven’t read, but that’s because I don’t have time to read magazines and anthologies as well as novels. That’s always been the case.

There are a few works that I’m disappointed not to see on the ballot. In my humble opinion, The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley should be in the Novel list; Time Was by Ian McDonald should be in Novella (though he might have declined seeing as he’s a Guest of Honour); and She-Ra should be in BDP: Long. But really I can’t complain. There’s plenty to vote for. I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

Book Review – Ancestral Night

I do enjoy a good Elizabeth Bear novel. Also I can’t remember ever reading a bad Elizabeth Bear novel, so I tend to pick them up when they come out these days.

Ancestral Night is no exception. It is a fine piece of space opera, which may well turn out to be the first book of a series set in the same universe as the Jacob’s Ladder books, but is perfectly serviceable as a stand-alone novel. If you’d like to learn a little more, click here.

Fringe on Monday

I will be hosting BristolCon Fringe again on Monday. We have an excellent line-up. The readers will be George Mann and Anna Smith Spark. George will presumably be reading from his brand new Newbury & Hobbes novel, The Revenant Express. Anna has suggested that she might read some from her work in progress, The House of Sacrifice, if we ask very nicely (and presumably buy her some spikey shoes as a bribe).

As usual we will be upstairs at The Gryphon on Colston Street. Doors open at 7:00pm for a 7:30pm start.

Slippered!

My interview on the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast is now live. It was specifically about the representation of trans people in SF&F, so obviously my essay in the above fine Luna Press book featured prominently. We did talk about a few other things as well, including talking more generally about feminism, and about Wizard’s Tower Press.

They don’t have embed links for the podcast, and anyway you will want the show notes, so click here.

My thanks to Lucy, Megan & Charlotte for a fun conversation.