The Future Happens This Week

Yes folks, FutureCon is upon us. It starts on Thursday and continues on a leisurely schedule through to Sunday. There not a lot of panels, but they are all very interesting. And they are all free to watch. You can find the full list on YouTube.

From my point of view, all of the most exciting stuff happens on Thursday. I have my panel at 16:00 (UK time), and the evening panel features Aleksandar Žiljak whose book, As the Distant Bells Toll, is due out from Wizard’s Tower next month.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Discord channel. The link to do is is on the convention’s home page, near the bottom.

Introducing FutureCon

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

Oh, and there will be me, talking about translations, obviously. Also Wizard’s Tower author, Aleksandar Žiljak, will be joining in from Croatia. Both he and I will be talking about the new collection that we will be launching at the Eurocon in October.

This is a brand new thing, and I’m very excited about it. Hopefully it will grow over the years and will help forge a truly international SF&F community.

Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

If you would like to help, there are three things you can do. The first is to donate some money to help with their running costs. You can do that here. Second, subscribe to their YouTube channel. Apparently you need 100 subscribers to be allowed to have a custom URL, which would be useful. And finally tell all of your friends, especially friends who, for whatever reason, might not be able to attend big, international conventions.

Ill Met by Moonlight

Via my friend Stephanie Budin I have discovered a rather interesting conference scheduled for next April. ‘Ill met by moonlight’: Gothic encounters with enchantment and the Faerie realm in literature and culture, is part of a project on Gothic Literature by a group of academics based at the University of Hertfordshire. How I have not heard of them before, I do now know. They’ve been going since 2010, and running annual conferences on all things creepy and going bump in the night. I mean, how can you not love a literary project called, Open Graves, Open Minds.

Anyway, the 2021 conference is about Fairies. Sadly I am scheduled to be in Sweden then, so even though I suspect that in-person events will still be impossible by then, I can’t in good conscience submit a paper on War for the Oaks, even though I want to.

However, you good people are hopefully not so constrained, and therefore might want to get involved. The full CFP is here. If Emma Bull doesn’t appeal to you, they also specifically mention works by Neil Gaiman, Liz Hand and Jeanette Ng. (Sorry Jeanette, you are canon now!). Hie thee to a word processor, and cast thy Puckish imaginings to the aether.

Regarding Borderlands

One of the less expected effects of the pandemic is that women have become somewhat more willing to speak out about sexual abuse by men. We’ve had a number of high profile cases in the SF&F community, but up until recently nothing involving people I knew well.

That has now changed. Over the past week or two some horrendous stories have come to light regarding Alan Beatts, the owner of Borderlands Books in San Francisco. This is a shop that I spent a lot of money in when I lived in the Bay Area. The store was also home to many events involving author friends of mine, and it supported the SF in SF readings series, which I have been involved with since it started.

I’m not going to say any more about the stories. They are some of the worst I’ve heard. If you want to know, a local paper has a report.

What I will say is that I am angry.

I’m angry because while this sort of thing is happening, a bunch of self-styled feminists are wasting their time accusing me, and people like me, of being sexual predators rather than focussing on the real dangers.

I’m angry because we have very few specialist SF&F bookstores available and this looks like depriving us of one more.

I’m angry because a whole lot of good people work at that store, some of whom are friends of mine, and they must now be worried about their jobs.

But mostly I’m angry because men continue to try to get away with this shit. And often they do. What do we have to do to put an end to this?

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.