Recently I was honoured to be asked to make a guest appearance on the podcast, Women Make SF. It is a series about women in science fiction movies, which isn’t normally my bag, but in this case the subject was the Wachowski sisters so I did have things worth saying. Also Amy and Kyle, the hosts of the podcast, are huge fans of Jupiter Ascending, so we got off on the right foot immediately.
It was a lot of fun to record, and the episode is now live. You can listen to it below:
At long last the final piece of my LGBT+ History Month tour has dropped into place. This is the video interview I did with Dan Vo for the National Galleries Scotland exhibition on Ray Harryhausen. The basic idea is that each of Dan’s interviewees would pick a Harryhausen creature and explain how it connected to queer history. My choice was Medusa, and the edited interview is now available to view.
The most obvious thing about it is that I am still really bad at TV and should not be let anywhere near a camera, but at least I have a decent background. I’m pleased to have given a supporting role to Ifor the Dragon.
Also the story is good. There’s a lot in there about African history and Amazons. I also manage to reference Sandy Stone and Dorothea Smartt. If you want to know what they have to do with Medusa, you need to watch the interview.
What didn’t make it into the final cut was my plug for Liz Gloyn’s book, Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture. I did try, Liz. If you want to know why I was plugging it, check out my review on Salon Futura.
My thanks once again to Dan, and to National Galleries Scotland, for inviting me to be part of this series. And now, without further ado, here is the show:
The UK’s National Space Centre will be screening a documentary film called We Are Stars free on YouTube this coming Friday (April 24th). Narrated by Andy Serkis, it promises to allow you to, “Discover what are we made of and where did it all come from. Explore the secrets of our cosmic chemistry, and our explosive origins.” It is aimed at families so it should be ideal if you have space-mad kids.
Screening starts at 18:00 UK time, which is 10:00 in California so it should work for folks in North America as well. Further details here.
Much excitement in the UK media today. With the Labour Party pretty much dead in the water thanks to its own internal squabbles, the Tories feel safe to fight amongst themselves. Thus we had the remarkable sight of The Times launching a full-scale attack on Boris Johnson.
For the benefit of foreign readers, a little explanation is in order. The Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has always backed Michael Gove for Prime Minister. However, the Tory right, which is very traditionalist, prefers the Telegraph, for whom Bozo is a columnist. Having The Times attack Bozo is therefore possibly a signal that Gove thinks he can make a bid for power while the PM is still indisposed from his bout of virus.
There are other things to bear in mind, though. Gove probably doesn’t have the support of either the party or the country for a coup. What he can do is fire a warning shot across the bows of Acting Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, to let him know that he has to do what Murdoch wants while Bozo is not around. What Murdoch wants, of course, is the end of Lockdown, and a return to the “herd immunity” strategy, because that is seen as being good for the economy (well, good for billionaires).
The coming week will be an interesting time in Westminister.
Not that us ordinary citizens can do much to influence things. We’ll just have to sit tight and hope that a modicum of common sense prevails.
In the meantime I have been working on next week’s radio show, and I have started on a project I promised myself when this all started. I am planning to watch all of the Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix. Today I watched Howl’s Moving Castle. I am now very much hoping that Lockdown lasts long enough for me to watch all of the others.
My cheese order arrived safely today, so I shall be eating well for the next few days.
I also had a bit of a cooking experiment. I have no mince, but I’d seen various people talking about using chickpeas instead. It wasn’t entirely a vegetarian meal because I had some pancetta I’d bought specifically for making bolognese, but it was mostly veg, and mostly storecupboard. Fresh onion and garlic, obviously. Anyway, I was pleased with the results.
Also I found a bottle of this stuff in the cupboard. It needed using up, and it worked fine with vanilla ice cream.
Because I needed to crack a bottle of red wine for the bolognese, I tried having a glass of it with the meal. As I rather expected, wine and a thick head do not go well together. On the other hand, the wine also triggered an intense coughing fit which was scary at the time, but brought up some of the muck in my wind pipe. I can breath a bit easier now. Who would have thought?
Today’s other excitement was the launch of Disney+. There is so much good stuff on there. And so much good stuff for kids as well, which I suspect will be a boon to many households. I am holding off watching the Mandolin Man thing because I figure there will be a lot of demand. Besides, there’s plenty of other things I want to watch. Is The Inhumans really as bad as everyone says?
Also, when are we getting Frozen II? It is on Sky.
Today’s radio show sat on the cusp between the end of LGBT History Month and the arrival of International Women’s Day. (International Men’s Day is on November 19th, thank you for asking.) I began the show by looking backward and running an interview with my friend and sometime colleague, Dan Vo, that I had recorded in Cardiff over the weekend. Dan is a professional Queerator, that is, someone whose job it is to go around museums and find queer stuff in their collections that they can use to be more LGBT inclusive.
In the second slot I welcomed Rebecca from Watershed who is part of their cinema team. In particular she has been helping put together their International Women’s Day programme which features the Feminista Short Film Festival. There are also some great women-centered feature films coming up. Rebecca is also involved in QueerVision, the Watershed’s regular celebration of queer cinema. There’s a short film festival coming up for that and she’s looking for submissions.
Slot three should have been a feature on drink spiking featuring Andy Bennett from Avon & Somerset Police, but some sort of operational emergency claimed his time and I had to fill in with the chat and extra music. Hopefully we can do that piece another time.
Finally I welcomed Sian and Laura from the Bristol Festival of Women’s Literature. They have loads of great talent lined up for this year’s event, including the very wonderful Juliet Jacques talking about memoir writing. You can find more details of the programme here.
An event of particuar interest to me is the launch party at Spike Island on the 27th as it is being run in conjunction with the wonderful people from Comma Press who are publishing Europa 28, an anthology of writing about the future of Europe by women from all over the continent. It is political essays rather than SF, but these days the one quickly shades into the other. And of course much of the content is translated.
If you missed the show live it will be available through our Listen Again service for a few weeks. Go here to listen.
The playlist for the show was as follows:
Duffy – Rockferry
Tracy Chapman – She’s Got Her Ticket
Selecter – On My Radio
Rihanna – Only Girl in the World
Janet Kay – Silly Games
The Weather Girls – Its Raining Men
Bat for Lashes – Horse and I
Thelma Houston – Don’t Leave Me This Way
Janelle Monáe (feat. Grimes) – Pynk
Aretha Franklin – Until You Come Back
Sian and Laura, this is the famous Monica Sjöö painting that was one of the inspirations for Janelle Monáe’s video for Pynk.
Because I’m going to be in Canada with Kevin for the first part of April, my next show will not be until April 15th.
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.