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.
One of the more striking aspects of the Black Panther movie is the reliance of Wakanda on an all-female elite fighting force, the Dora Milaje. Those of us who have an interest in women warriors know that this was inspired in part by the real African kingdom of Dahomey which boasted its own female army. The Agojie, or Mino, made up around a third of the nation’s fighting force when they were first contacted by Europeans. Although they were disbanded after Dahomey became a French protectorate in the late 19th Century, memory of them lives on.
Lupita Nyong’o, who plays T’Challa’s girlfriend, Nakia, in the movie, has made a film for Channel 4 about the historical inspiration for Wakanda’s women warriors. Some local historians feature in the film, and the historical advisor for the programme was my good friend Professor Olivette Otele.
During the course of the programme Lupita meets a number of people who have connections to the Agojie, and is helped by the current Dahomey royal family. She also witnesses a Vodun ceremony that invokes the spirit of a dead Agojie warrior (CN: animal sacrifice).
It is a fabulous piece of history, exposing both the admirable and horrific aspects of an all-female army in an African society. One thing I picked up was that life in the Agojie was a common choice for young girls who did not want to marry, which shows that Dahomey made space for lesbians in its society, albeit a fairly brutal one. In theory all of the Agojie were married to the king, but he wasn’t likely to take advantage of that when he had a harem recruited for non-military skills.
The programme will be available for a few weeks, at least to viewers in the UK. If you want to watch it, you can do so here.
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.
With all of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings going on, Nuotama Frances Bodomo’s strange little film, Afronauts, which is inspired by the Zambian Space Programme, has been made available online. You can watch it here.
I’m delighted to see from that website that Bodomo has been working on a full-length film. As part of the research she has been interviewing some of the original participants in that space programme.
I went to see Captain Marvel today. I loved it for all sorts of reasons. I continue to be in awe of how Kevin Feige and crew manage the overall story arc. I enjoyed the glimpses of young Fury and Coulson. I can’t wait to see Monica in Endgame, which she surely has to be. Annette Bening totally stole the show. And of course there was Goose.
But there was one thing in particular that sticks out for me about the character. Captain Marvel’s symbol is an eight-pointed star. And she is accompanied by a particuarly dangerous cat. What’s that all about? Well here’s a clue.
By the way, Wonder Woman’s tiara originally sported a classic Texan five-pointed star. They changed it to an eight-pointed one for the movie. DC’s iconography is all over the place.
I began today’s show with some extracts from Marlon James’ Tolkien Lecture. You can listen to the whole thing here.
The second segment was an interview with Chloe Tingle of No More Taboo, the period poverty charity. We talked about how Bristol is leading the way in tackling period poverty, about a course that Chloe will be running in Bristol next week, and about how a film about periods won an Oscar. If you want to go on the course, booking details are here.
In segment 3 I was joined in the studio by Harry Silverlock of the Palace International Film Festival, queer film festival which originated in Poland (in an actual mediaeval palace) and is coming to Bristol next week. It sounds like a really great event. I’m particuarly pleased with how diverse the selection of films is.
Finally I was joined by Lisa Whitehouse who has an International Women’s Day event on Saturday to promote. It is going to be at Hannah Moore Infants School on Saturday but there’s an issue with the Facebook presence right now so I can’t link to it. The most important think is that Lisa assures me it is trans-inclusive, unlike certain other IWD events I could mention.
The music today was largely devoted to remembering the great Jackie Shane who died peacefully in her sleep last month aged 78. It is good to know that some trans women of color can live long lives. Here’s the full playlist:
More of the “that time of year” thing. This time it is the review of the year posts on the Aqueduct Press blog. The lovely folks at Aqueduct keep asking me to write these things, so I keep doing them. This year I was a bit late due to the Austria trip, but my contribution is up at last. You can find it here.
In a week and a bit’s time I will be in London for a couple of decidedly Queer events.
On Saturday 17th I will be at the Fringe! Queer Film Festival for a showing of TransGeek, a documentary film about trans people who also happen to be geeks. I’m one of the people interviewed in the film. Roz Kaveney and I will be on hand to answer questions afterwards, as will the film’s Director, Kevin McCarthy.
On Sunday 18th I will be at the National Maritime Museum as part of their Lost in a Book literary festival. Roz and I, together with Sacha Coward from the NMM, will be hosting a discussion on Queer Futurism. As the blurb says: “This is an informal chance to talk about LGBTQ+ representations in science fiction and fantasy. We want to imagine what a queer-inclusive future might look like.”
If you happen to be in the area and fancy popping along to either of these, I would love to see you.
Unsurprisingly, Deadpool 2 is a steaming heap of dingo poo with far less self-awareness than the average Internet troll, at which market is it clearly aimed. It does have some good stuff. The DC joke was actually funny. Domino is awesome and clearly needs her own movie, though of course she is unlikely to get one. Also we have our first glimpse of Teenage Mutant Lesbians, neither of whom get killed off. Indeed, while the cis, white women in the film have life expectancies in nanoseconds, the other women escape unscathed. I’m assuming that the scriptwriters didn’t notice this. Otherwise the film is pretty much forgettable.
While I have little to say about the plot, I was intrigued by one small fashion choice. See above. Ellie (Negasonic Teenage Warhead, on the right) is wearing a green and black, metallic-look fluffy sweater. I recognised it instantly. Something very like that was in fashion back in the late 80s, and early 90s.
This being a Deadpool movie, it is pointless trying to fit it into X-Men chronology. We last saw our favorite mutants in the 1980s, but there are sufficient pop culture references in the film to date this one to at least the present day. Also Deadpool knows that Wolverine is dead, which doesn’t happen until around 2024. Besides, why would the film crew spend any time thinking about setting-appropriate fashion choices when they could be writing another dick joke?
I’m therefore forced to conclude that the sweater is there because Brianna Hildebrand owns it and thought it would suit Ellie’s style. But how? She wasn’t born when it was originally in fashion? Does she collect vintage clothing? Or has someone brought it back? If they have, please point me at it so that I can buy one.
Most of the time Worldcon doesn’t cause much of a splash in the country where it is held. It is often as much as we can do to get the mayor of the host city to take notice. Who cares about a bunch of nerds, right?
Sometimes, however, it is different. Kevin has fond stories of Winnipeg, where I believe that Worldcon was the biggest event held in the city that year. Helsinki too sat up and took notice. And now we have two seated Worldcons that are again in quite small countries.
New Zealand has set a high bar. When they won their bid they unveiled this video by their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, welcoming Worldcon to her country.
That’s pretty special. After all, Ms. Ardern has won an election while pregnant, and given birth while Prime Minister. She’s clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Not to be outdone, at Closing Ceremonies yesterday the Dublin folks presented a message from the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. The message includes the following:
Ireland is a land which celebrates stories and imagination, and our Irish heritage has always been imaginatively interwoven with new cultures and new traditions. This is aptly reflected in our deep appreciation and appetite for speculative fiction.
Of course, just because you are a small country, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a great science fiction tradition. Both countries are rightly proud of their film industries. Wellington, New Zealand, is home to WETA, who produced the Lord of the Rings movies. Ireland is also a favorite location for SF&F filmmakers. For closing ceremonies the Dublin folks produced this video.
What struck me about that video, however, was the music. You can hear part of a song from the legendary Irish rock band, Horslips. It is this song.
Dearg Doom is a song from their album, The Tain, which is a rock version of the famous Irish legend, the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). The title means The Red Destroyer and is one of many songs on the album devoted to the hero of that legend, Cú Chulainn.
Horslips did two albums based on Irish mythology. The other, The Book of Invasions, is based on the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland). These two, are, in my humble opinion, two of the best rock albums ever recorded. If the Dublin committee can work with Horslips, that’s Opening and Closing Ceremonies pretty much sorted. They can open with this music, which announces the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann in Ireland.
And end with their departure.
This is probably a good time to remind you all that my friends Dimitra Fimi and Alistair Sims are editing a book of academic essays on the use of Celtic mythology in science fiction and fantasy. That should be available at Worldcon next year. The essay I have submitted does mention Horslips, but it is mainly about Patricia Kennealy-Morrison’s Keltiad books.
I ended up doing a bonus show yesterday. As I had to go into Bristol for the TV appearance, and I have nothing else urgent on that day, I figured I might as well spend some time in the studio. That meant putting together a show at short notice.
The easiest way to do that is with phone interviews, though it does mean using Skype which can mean very variable quality. I badly need an alternative means of doing phone interviews, especially as the latest versions of Skype actively prevent the use of third party call recorders. (Why anyone would produce a digital phone system and now allow call recording is a mystery to me.)
Anyway, there were people I could interview. In the first hour I talked to Jake Smith of Tusko Films. Jake was the directory for Talking LGBT+ Bristol, the film about the city’s LGBT+ community that we made for Bristol Pride. I figured that if Jake and I were going to be on TV for 3 minutes in the evening, we should have a longer chat about the film as well.
I also recorded an interview with Rivers Solomon because there has been some really exciting news about their next novel project. Getting to write a novel with clipping has to be a dream come true.
The Listen Again system appears to have been fixed, so you can listen to the first hour of the show here.
I did manage to arrange one live interview. On Tuesday there was a flash mob demonstration in the city protesting Boris Johnson’s appalling comments about Muslim women. I was very pleased to have Sahar from Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) to explain about the different types of headgear that Muslim women wear, and why they wear them. She was joined in the studio by Lisa from Stand Up to Racism.
I had half an hour to fill so I rambled on a bit about the women’s cricket, and about this year’s Hugo finalists. You can listen to the second half of the show here.
While the show is available on Listen Again I won’t put it up on the podcast. But once it has fallen off those interviews will appear there (and in the case of Rivers on Salon Futura). I will try to get an old interview or two up on the podcast in the meantime. And if anyone would like to become a patron of the podcast I would be very grateful. We only need 8 more people at $1/month to cover costs.
If you would like to know more about the Jimi Hendrix album that I was playing tracks from, you can find some details here.
The full playlist for yesterday’s show is as follows:
I appear to have had one of those weeks in which I had lots of good intentions to blog about Trans Pride, but ended up too busy or too tired to actually do so. Certain issues with Worldcon might have had something to do with this, not to mention some UK politics.
Anyway, Trans Pride in Brighton (the original, and still the biggest) happened last weekend, and give the state of the world I went along to show solidarity. It was great. The march appears to have had between 4,000 and 5,000 people, and Brunswick Gardens was buzzing all afternoon.
My favorite stall in the park was one being run by a group of midives from the local NHS trust. They were keen to help any trans guys and non-binary folks who wanted to get pregnant, and even had advice for trans women on breastfeeding. The things that can be done these days are just amazing.
One important announcement came from Jane Fae. On September 8th there will be a conference in London called We’re Still Here. There will be workshops on all sorts of interesting things. It looks like it will be very interesting.
I, however, won’t be there, because the date clashes with the Women’s Equality Party conference, and someone has to be there to defend trans rights. WEP has been fairly heavily targetted by the anti-trans brigade in the past, and I’m sure they’ll see this conference as an opportunity to futher their attempts to turn all cis women against trans people.
Life, it keeps coming at you. But sometimes it is fun, as proof of which here is the My Genderation film from last weekend.
To be fair, it has been happening for a couple of weeks now. Daryn, Freddie and the rest of the crew have done an amazing job putting on a whole festival of LGBT+ goodness. However, this weekend was the culmination of all that, and it all began on Friday night with the city’s first ever official Black Pride event at City Hall. The photo above shows some of the organizers, along with the Guest of Honour, Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah.
The event also saw contributions from the Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig (Labour), and the Lord Mayor, Cleo Lake (Green). Cleo (shown above) got totally into the spirit of things with some amazing hair.
The big concern about Saturday was that there would be some sort of attempt by anti-trans extremists to disrupt the march, as happened in London the previous weekend. Daryn and the LGBT+ Group of Avon & Somerset Police worked hard to make sure that we would be prepared in the event of an attack, and they kindly kept me informed throughout the process. Thankfully everything went quietly, or at least as quietly as any Pride event can be. The March was led by the folks in the picture above. That’s the Elected Mayor, Marvin Rees (Labour); the Independent Police & Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens; Asher Craig and Cleo Lake. They carried the front of the enormous flag though the whole parade. Here we are temporarily halted while the police cleared some buses from the road ahead.
And finally, durign the afternoon the big screen in Millennium Square provided the first public showings of the Talking LGBT+ Bristol film produced by Bristol 24/7. The film is now available online, so you can all watch. My thanks to Caragh, Connie, James, the folks at Tusko Films, the Heritage Lottery Fund and all who made this possible. My OutStories Bristol colleagues, Charlie and Robert, are superb in this.
Some of you may remember that the lovely people at Bristol 24/7 have been working on a film project about LGBT life in the city. I got asked to be it in, as did many of my friends. Tonight at the Arnolfini there will be a preview screening. I think there are still tickets left if you are interested. And if you can’t make it, the film will be screened a lot on Pride weekend.
With any luck some big ones will take it and you’ll hear a lot more about the film, but either way once the current round of festivals is over it will be made generally available. I’m hoping we can do something for Trans Pride in Bristol this year.
As I am in it, I got sent a link to a preview screening. Good timing meant that Kevin and I were able to watch it together. The bits with me in are not too embarrassing (though the interview is almost 6 years old so I can’t enthuse about April Daniels as I would have done had I been talking today). More importantly it contains contributions from Julia Rios and Alicia E. Goranson, from Naomi Cedar, from Jennell Jaquays and Becky Heineman, and from many other well known and successful trans people. If nothing else it is a fabulous piece of oral history. I hope you get to see it soon.
A day early for International Women’s Day, I devoted most of my show yesterday to feminist issues. However, I started out in Australia by welcoming film critic, Tara Judah, to talk about Sweet Country.
Tara is from Melbourne originally, so we had a lot to talk about. However, we did our best to keep the discussion to matters of race relations in Australia. Things continue to be pretty bad there, and I very much hope that this film shines a necessary spotlight on the situation.
After the news I started playing the interviews that I had picked up at the International Women’s Day event put on by Bristol on Saturday. They included comments from Penny Gane, Eleanor Vowles, Leonie Thomas, Rosa Taggert, Sian Webb and Elizabeth Small of Ra Cultural Consultancy.
Normally I would tell you to go to the Listen Again feature for all of this, but for some reason only 10 minutes of the first hour recorded. It is still worth it for a few minutes of Tara who is an amazing guest, but the IWD interviews are not there. Thankfully I still have the originals, and I hope to post them as a podcast at some point.
The second hour kicked off with more IWD interviews featuring No More Taboo, Sandra Gordon and Alex Raikes. The singers that Alex refers to are Pitch Fight, the Bristol University a capella group, whom you can find more about here.
The African Queens project that I talked about with Sandra is a project photographic Bristol women of color cosplaying famous women from African history. It was done for Black History Month last year. You can find out more about it here.
Finally I was joined in the studio by a couple of people I met on Saturday. Charlotte Murray is a young student who was interested in finding out more about radio, to I invited her into the studio. Jane Duffus is the editor of The Women Who Built Bristol, a fabulous collection of stories about the famous, and not so famous, women from the city’s history. If you are interested in buying the book, please order it through Bristol Women’s Voice because if you do all of the proceeds go to the charity.
Thankfully the second hour recorded correctly, and you can listen to it here.
The music for the show was as follows:
Walking the Dog – Jackie Shane
Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
Make me Feel – Janelle Monae
Independent Woman – Destiny’s Child
Our Day Will Come – Amy Winehouse
We Are Family – Sister Sledge
Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
It’s Raining Men – Weather Girls
Sadly I had to cut off Janelle after a minute or so because I did not want to bleep out the swears. Once I have a copy of the clean radio mix I will be playing that song regularly.
It was great to have T’Challa in the last Avengers movie, but giving him his own movie was always going to be a whole new level, and one Marvel could easily have botched.
I can’t pretend to understand all of the political issues that the film has to deal with. Africa is not a country, and African-Americans are not the same as Africans. I could see some of that being played out, and I know it will be impossible to please everyone. From my point of view, as a Black Panther reader from way back in the Don McGregor days, and a cat person, this was a fine movie. I also understood and enjoyed the parts where it made comment on wider political issues.
The film isn’t perfect. I’ve been seeing people online complaining about lack of queer content. But all things considered it could have been so much worse. Or it could not have existed at all, which would have been terrible. I very much hope that other people enjoy it as much as I did.
Oh, and stay right to the end of the credits. You always do that in Marvel movies, right?
As numerous sites have been posting spoiler-filled reviews of The Last Jedi I assume that it is OK for me to do the same. My apologies to those of you who haven’t seen the film.
Like many people, I found the film interesting as long as you make allowances for it being a Star Wars movie. You really don’t expect any of it to make sense. Adam Roberts does an excellent job of pointing out some of the more egregious plot holes over at Strange Horizons.
Of course not all of this can be blamed on the mythic nature of the Star Wars universe. Some of it is required by the nature of the beast. For example, Leia could have made a much better job of disciplining Poe, but to do so she would have had to make him confront the cost of his recklessness more closely. That would doubtless have been deemed too dark for a family film. In Star Wars death is sad, but everyone gets over it quickly.
Sometimes sense is sacrificed for the sake of plot. Admiral Holdo might not have seemed so incompetent had it not been necessary to make her seem so in order to sucker the viewer into the misdirection of her being a traitor. A better script might have helped, but there was probably no room. Even at 2.5 hours there wasn’t enough room in the film for all of the story that they tried to cram into it. This is by no means an unusual problem with modern Hollywood. I can understand the temptation to want to cram in more and more story, but the result of that is that the script gets pared down so ruthlessly that we have to rely on our semiotic intuition to fill in the gaps left by missing dialog and poor acting.
All of which brings me to the Canto Bight episode. I gather that lots of people have been complaining that it was a waste of space. Over at Tor.com Molly Templeton makes the case that it was necessary to show ordinary people resisting the First Order. The return there at the end of the film underscores that. But Templeton is wrong to dismiss the few lines of dialog about morality as comparatively inconsequential.
As is often the case these days, some of the best analysis comes from the LA Review of Books. Dan Hassler-Forest goes through the usual points about foregrounding female power at the expense of toxic masculinity. But he then goes on to look at the significance of Canto Bight and how it completely undermines the entire Star Wars narrative.
The lesson of Canto Bight is that both the First Order and the Resistance are being played by rich oligarchs who sell weapons to both sides and encourage them to fight. They are the real power in the galaxy: not the Jedi; nor Snoke, Kylo and their petulant, entitled pawn, General Vox.
There’s a serious political point being made here. Rian Johnson is asking his audience to forget about political tribalism and follow the money. That’s where you’ll find the real enemy. Whether the message will get through is another matter. The people who most need to learn that lesson are the people blithely voting for the First Order because they’ve been told that the Resistance are a bunch of dangerous SJWs who will destroy their European Heritage and Masculinity. But maybe once the enormity of the tax bill takes hold they too will learn that they need to stop fighting those they hate and start saving those they love.
Of course the chances of this message being carried through into Episode IX are not great. The people in charge of merchandising at Disney will continue to try to pretend that Kylo Ren is the hero of the story. Changes in plot direction may well be required of the next director. After all, misdirection is a staple tool of Star Wars plotting.
Which brings me to the question of Rey’s parents. Does anyone really believe that they were nobodies? Yes, it would be great if they were, because that would further undermine the dynastic theme of the franchise. But all of that can be changed. My bet for Episode IX is that it will be revealed that Rey was vat-grown from tissue stolen from Han and Leia when they were prisoners of the Empire, and Kylo will be redeemed because he can’t bring himself to kill his sister.
Yeah, that sucks. But at least we will have had The Last Jedi, and once again the middle part of the trilogy will be the one everyone says is the best.
It is that time of year when the Aqueduct Press blog blossoms with posts from Aquedistas talking about things that they have enjoyed reading, seeing and hearing over the past year. Today it is my turn. Obviously I can’t talk much about fiction because of the Tiptree judging, but I still managed to go on rather a lot. You can read my post here.
As some of you will have seen from Twitter, I rather enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. There are a lot of fun aspects to the film, but one I particularly enjoyed were the references to Asgard as a conquering empire that then rewrote the history of the Nine Worlds to make Odin and his people seem much more glorious than they had actually been. There was a metaphor going on here that should not be lost on British people.
In fact there was a lot more than I realized watching the film. I’m not going to give you spoilers here, but if you have already seen the film I recommend this article by Maori SF fan, Dan Taipua. The director of the film, Taika Waititi, is also Maori, and he has left a whole bunch of Easter eggs in there for his people, and for their indigenous Australian friends.
Dan got in touch with me on Twitter and pointed me at two Radio New Zealand podcasts in which he and colleagues apply the ideas of Afrofuturism in a specifically Maori/Polynesian context. You can find them here and here.
I’m delighted to see this sort of thing happening in the South Pacific, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Aotearoa Futurism if/when Worldcon comes to New Zealand in 2020.