UK, What Are You Thinking?


No, this is not a post about the Cummings and Goings in Westminster. This is about book. That lovely cover is for Tate Hallaway’s fabulous Unjust Cause. It is selling like the proverbial hot cakes in the USA — well over 100 copies a month at full price. And it has the magic 50 reviews so it should be nice and visible. In the UK it has been priced at around £2 all month. Nothing to do with me, it is an Amazon thing that they didn’t tell me about. And yet, in 26 days of it being on sale, not one UK customer has bought a copy!

People, what are you thinking? This is a great fun book about a girl coroner and her dragon boyfriend, with a very serious punch to the ending. I know it is book #2, but you don’t need to have read Precinct 13 to enjoy this one. Get out there and snap it up while it is cheap.

Non-Binary Translated Fantasy

I have just backed a Kickstarter for a book called Alia Terra by Ava Kelly. It is a short book of fantasy stories, based on Romanian folk tales, about non-binary people, by a non-binary writer, that will be in both Romanian and in English translation. The money is being raised primarily for the illustrations, which will be by an American-Romanian trans artist, Matthew Spencer. The project is being put together by the lovely people at Atthis Arts.

You can get the ebook for $7. That has to be worth doing, right? Pledge here.

Green Man Sale Final Week


If there are any of you, and I confess I’ll be a bit disappointed if there are, who do not yet have the full set of Juliet McKenna Green Man books, you have just one week left to pick them up cheap. Amazon has The Green Man’s Foe at 99p in the UK and Europe. We’ve reduced prices elsewhere, and on the other two books, though ebooks only I’m afraid. But you do need to buy before June. After that it is all back to full price.

Mars Lives!


Well, not actual Mars, of course. That is still only inhabited by robots. But, in the world of the Crater School, Mars is most definitely alive. Three Twins at the Crater School is now available for purchase. There are links to various stores here. I’d love to be able to link to Bookshop.org as well, but for some reason they are listing it.

Anyway, enjoy. And if you can do so please leave a review on Amazon. I know this gets very boring, but it really does make a difference.

Go Green (Man) for May


It being Beltane today, what better time to celebrate the Green Man. Amazon thought so too, and they have put The Green Man’s Foe on sale in the UK and Europe for the whole of May. Not wanting the rest of the world to miss out, and also wanting to encourage new readers to try the books, Juliet and I decided to extend the sale to the rest of the world, and to reduce the prices of The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Silence as well. And if you prefer ePub you should soon be able to get the sale on Nook and Kobo as well. Given the complexities and flakiness of store websites, this won’t all happen at once, but of there’s somewhere you think you should be getting a sale and are not, please let me know.

Somewhat to my surprise, Amazon UK has also decided to drastically reduce the price of Unjust Cause. It isn’t in the 99p sale, so it is not getting the same level of promotion as The Green Man’s Foe, but it is a great price for a very lovely book. It is selling very well in the USA, and the number of sales per month is actually going up, which is unusual for a book that has been out for a while and is not getting any special promotion. Sales in the UK have been much lower, but this is your chance to see what the Americans are so excited about.

Chaz Does a Crater School Podcast


With only a couple of weeks to go before the release of the first Crater School book, publicity is happening. Fortunately for me, Chaz Brenchley is part of a fine writerly podcast called Writers Drinking Coffee. In the latest episode he talks a bit about the inspiration for the Crater School books, and reads from Three Twins at the Crater School. If you want to know what is going on in the scene we used for the cover, listen in to Chaz because he will tell you. You’ll also get to find out a bit more about the Martian fauna, and what the dastardly Russians are up to.

Life Beyond Us

Life Beyond Us
Into hard (biological) SF? Fancy an anthology with top name writers produced in collaboration with the European Astrobiology Institute? That’s your serious speculation on alien life right there. The only catch is that it is currently on Kickstarter, so it needs pledges in order to happen. But look, it will include stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Peter Watts, Premee Mohamed, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Julie E. Czerneda, Malka Older, Stephen Baxter, Bogi Takács and many more. And it is co-edited by my good friend Julie Nováková. The title is Life Beyond Us, and you can back it here.

Dyslexic-Friendly Books

The lovely people at Books on the Hill have a Kickstarter campaign running to produce a line of dyslexic-friendly books. Because of who they are, most of the initial titles will be SF/F/H. Thanks to a modest early target (to produce just 3 books) they are funded already, but there are stretch goals for another 5 books so there’s definite value in joining the campaign. You can get the full details from the campaign website. Go ye forth and pledge!

Three Twins in Paper

Three Twins at the Crater School
Pre-orders for paper editions of Three Twins at the Crater School are now available in a variety of places, incuding Amazon stores around the world and Waterstones. I expect other stores to follow in due course. I got a proof copy of the paperback in the mail today and it looks lovely, though not as lovely as the hardcover which I expect to arrive next week.

As usual, all of the links to places where you can pre-order the book are on the Wizard’s Tower website.

Oh, and Juliet announced today that she’s sent Green Man #4 off to the editor. More on that soon.

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies


I’m in another book. It is a massive, two-volume encyclopedia, and my contribution is very small, but I am in it. I have a small section on trans people in the ancient world.

I won’t be getting a copy of the book, because this is academic publishing and even with my author discount it would be a ridiculous amount of money. But books like this are not intended to be purchased by humans. They are aimed primarily at academic libraries. If you happen to work in such a place, then do please consider buying this book because every university should have one. Purchase details are here, and I can probably get you a discount.

Three Twins Cover Reveal


Today on social media I unveiled the cover for the first of Chaz Brenchley’s Crater School books. Three Twins at the Crater School introduces us to the eponymous school, and some of its staff and pupils. We also get to meet some of the Martian fauna which, as you can see from the cover, look pretty scary.

I have put the book out for pre-orders, and hopefully the links will be available tmomorrow, but Kobo are on vacation for Easter and you can never tell how long it will take Amazon to do anything. I will tweet as soon as links are availalble. In the meantime here is the promo blurb and some reactions from early readers. (eARCs are available.)

Mars, the Red Planet, farthest flung outpost of the British Empire. Under the benevolent reign of the Empress Eternal, commerce and culture are flourishing along the banks of the great canals, and around the shores of the crater lakes. But this brave new world is not as safe as it might seem. The Russians, unhappy that Venus has proved far less hospitable, covet Britain’s colony. And the Martian creatures, while not as intelligent and malevolent as HG Wells had predicted, are certainly dangerous to the unwary.

What, then, of the young girls of the Martian colony? Their brothers might be sent to Earth for education at Eton and Oxbridge, but girls are made of sterner stuff. Be it unreasonable parents, Russian spies, or the deadly Martian wildlife, no challenge is beyond the resourceful girls of the Crater School.

“For every fan of The Chalet School”
Farah Mendlesohn

“A rollicking good read from start to finish!”
Ellen Klages

“I wish I were a Crater School girl”
Marie Brennan

“Splendidly full of peril and charm”
Gillian Polack

“Brenchley had me at ‘British girls’ school on Mars’”
Jennifer Stevenson

“I sincerely hope there will be further instalments”
Marissa Doyle

“This is a one-sitting page-turner!”
Sherwood Smith

“Highly recommended”
Juliet E. McKenna

“Twins we will never forget and cool Mars creatures.”
Miranda and Talia, age 9

De Lint on McKenna

One of the first things I always do when I have a new Juliet McKenna book to publish is send a review copy off to Charles de Lint. He has been wonderfully supportive of the Green Man series in his column in Fantasy & Science Fiction. The Green Man’s Silence is no exception. You can find his review of the new book in his March/April 2021 column. Right after his review of the new Garth Nix. Am I a proud publisher? You bet! Thanks Charles.

He’s right, of course, the Green Man books are fabulous. Thousands of readers can’t be wrong. You can find purchase links here.

New From Academia Lunare

The lovely folks at Luna Press Publishing have a new project underway. It is the 5th in their Academia Lunare series of non-fiction collections. You may remember that book #3 in the series, Gender and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction, won a British Fantasy Award. Also book #4, The Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction, is a finalist for this year’s British Science Fiction Association Awards. What’s more, the books have achieved these honours despite both having essays by me in them.

So, book #5. It is titled, Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy & Science Fiction. As usual it has a stellar international cast of contributors, and me. You can find the full contents list and contributor bios here. My offering is titled, “Worldbuilding with Sex and Gender”. It is, of course, about queer animals, because if our natural world is full of outrageously queer behavior there is no reason why your invented world can’t be either.

Pre-orders will open sometime in the spring, and in the meantime Francesca will be doing the PR thing by releasing abstracts of the various essays to whet your appetites.

Also the CFP for book #6 in the series is now out. It will be titled, Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome. The idea is to write about one of the lesser characters from The Lord of the Rings. You can pick anyone except a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, including Smaug. I wonder how many proposals they’ll get arguing one way or the other about Tom Bombadill. Guess I’d better put my thinking cap on.

In Search of Trans Celts

On Friday I gave a talk for the lovely people at Aberration as part of their LGBTHM festival. They asked me to look for evidence of trans people among the Celtic inhabitants of Britain. This isn’t easy, and my talk was hedged around with caveats. I promised a blog post that would explain things in more detail. Here it is.

I need to start off by explaining what I mean by “Celtic”, because the Romans did not use that word to describe my ancestors. The people who lived in France were called Gauls, and the people who lived here were called Britons. Beyond that they often used local tribal names such as Brigantes, Silures and so on.

However, the Greeks used the word “Keltoi” to describe people who lived up the Danube, so north of the Balkans, including places like Hungary and Slovakia. The modern word “Celtic” is used to denote a group of Bronze/Iron Age tribal cultures that are united by a common language and culture. They spread all the way from Britain and Spain to Eastern Europe and possibly even China. Archaeologists will refer to Hallstatt Culture (named after a town in Austria) as a general term for these people. There are regions of Spain and Poland known as Galicia because the Romans knew them as home to Gauls.

This is all very simplistic, of course. The reality of the archeology is much more complex as we shall see. Also shared culture is not proof of shared ethnicity. The fact that we drive Japanese cars and watch anime does not prove that we are ethnically Japanese.

The only reference I could find regarding trans people in possibly-Celtic culture comes from Tacitus in his book, Germania. As far as the Romans were concerned, “Germany” was somewhat displaced east from our modern idea of the country. The people he was talking about were a tribe called the Nahanarvali, who were part of a larger confederation of tribes called the Lugii. Their home territory was in modern Poland, between the Oder and Vistula rivers. Tacitus wrote:

Among these last is shown a grove of immemorial sanctity. A priest in female attire has the charge of it. But the deities are described in Roman language as Castor and Pollux. Such, indeed, are the attributes of the divinity, the name being Alcis.

On the face of it, that’s pretty good. Sacred groves are things that we associate with Celts, and these people lived in an area where Hallstatt materials have been found. But were they Celts? And if so, would the same gods have been worshipped in Britain? Well, it is complicated.

Depending who you read the Lugii are described as Celtic, Germanic, or proto-Slavic. We do know that the Germanic tribe known as the Vandals lived to the north-east of Lugii territory, and that they gradually pushed westwards through the Roman era. But Tacitus says that the grove is very old, so hopefully that indicates a Celtic origin.

Then there’s the language. The Lugii sound like they are associated with the Celtic god Lugh (Irish) or Lleu (Welsh). There is an unrelated tribe with the same name in Scotland. But the name of the god, Alcis, suggests a Germanic root and an association with deer.

Also, sacred groves are not unique to Celts. I have turned up evidence of one in Sweden, and Cybele (the patron goddess of trans women) was worshipped in a sacred grove on Mount Ida in her home in Phrygia.

Then there is the nature of the gods. Tacitus says they are twin boys, and compares them to Castor & Pollux. But those gods are traditionally associated with horses, not deer. There is good evidence of a pair of twins associated with horses being worshipped by the locals in the Spanish Galicia during Roman times, but we’ve still got the wrong animal.

Of course none of this proves anything about the ancient Britons, so I turned to the Mabinogion to see what surviving Welsh legend might tell us. Somewhat to my surprise, I found something.

In the Fourth Branch, as a precursor to the tale of Blodeuwedd, we get a story about two sons of Dôn, Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. Gwydion goes on to have many other adventures, but Gilfaethwy is known only for his obsession with a young girl called Goewin. She’s not interested, and she’s a special virgin servant of King Math of Gwynedd so untouchable. Gwydion and Gilfaethwy therefore kick off a small war by stealing some pigs from a rival king, Pryderi of Dyfed. While Math is away dealing with the inevitable retaliation, Gilfaethwy is able to rape poor Goewin.

When Math gets home he finds out what the boys have done and is furious. He turns them first into deer (significant?), then into boar, and then into wolves. In each case one of the boys becomes a male of the species, and the other becomes a female, and they have children, whom Math adopts.

So what we have here is a tale of divine brothers who go through species and gender changes and produce offspring, which is all a bit reminiscent of Loki. Also the boys’ sister, Arianrhod, becomes the mother of Lleu.

At this point the story is so complicated that it is impossible to say anything concrete without sounding like Robert Graves or James George Frazer. You start to understand why they wrote the things that they did. My mind has been racing down rabbit holes ranging from Castor & Pollux and their sister Helen on the one hand, to Freyja and Freyr on the other. I could easily concoct a whole neo-pagan theology around this.

But I am a responsible historian, so I just have to say that we don’t know. It is all very mysterious.

In the meantime, if you have been sent here by the folks at Aberration, you can find a lot more about trans Romans in my academic writing. And the books that I mentioned on Friday are:

New Salon Futura

The December issue of Salon Futura went live last week. Here’s a list of the things reviewed:

  • Blackthorn Winter by Liz Williams
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow
  • When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo
  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
  • The Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt
  • Last Stand in Lychford by Paul Cornell
  • Miracles of Our Own Making by Liz Williams
  • Merry Happy Valkyrie by Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Mandalorian – Season #2
  • SMOFcon 37¼

If you are in the UK and like the sound of any of those books, you can buy them through Bookshop.org and help support Wizard’s Tower Press in the process.

In the Dark Midwinter

Yesterday morning I did a quick check of my podcast feeds in case there was anything worth listening to while I had breakfast. I was delighted to see that the Backlisted crew had a new episode up focused on Susan Cooper’s fantasy series, The Dark is Rising. The guests on the show were Robert Macfarlane, who writes about landscape in a way that fantasy writers love; and Jackie Morris, who in addition to being a writer and illustrator of books for children of all ages, turns out to have a voice that is always winter and never Christmas.

The discussion was excellent, as I had expected. I was partcularly pleased that it included extracts from Cooper’s Tolkien Lecture. But what got me sat up and taking notice was the music, which was taken from a concept album inspired by the books. The music was created by a chap who calls himself Handspan. He’s originally from the north-east of England, but now lives in Joensuu, a town in the mid-latitudes of Finland but far east towards the Russian border. The extracts I heard from the album were good enough for me to hop onto Bandcamp and by a copy, which I spent much of yesterday playing.

Handspan’s work is electronica, so of course it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed it. There are other instruments on it besides synths. Apparently Handspan has taught himself to play the kantele, a traditional Finnish stringed instrument.

Of course I then had to compare Handspan’s work to Bo Hansson’s album based on The Lord of the Rings. Hansson was a synth pioneer, and managed to catch the wave of Tolkien-mania that happened in the 1970s so the album did very well at the time. As far as I’m concerned, Handspan wins easily. Hansson’s work is not bad music, but I can’t see the connection to Tolkien. Handspan, on the other hand, totally gets British fantasy. A review of his album in Fortean Times says, “the album is as crisply keen as the sweeping snowdrifts and slate-grey sky that lend the book such an air of forbidding, suffocating stillness.” I’m guessing that he sees a lot of that sort of weather in Joensuu.

So that was my Christmas Day. Many thanks to the Backlisted crew and to Handspan for giving me a suitably wintry experience. Now I’m wondering if we can get Handspan to come to Finncon to talk about his work. I’m sure we can find a Cooper expert or two to be on a panel with him. And maybe we could have a concert.

Green Man Sale Reminder


It seems kind of foolish to remind you to buy a book that you almost certainly own, but you might know someone who is looking for a good read over the holidays. It therefore behooves me to mention once more that The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Silence are both on sale from that great river in the aether to UK customers for a mere 99p each. The Green Man’s Foe is not on sale, but you can get all three books for under £7 which is a ridiculous bargain. ‘Tis the season, so go ye forth and encourage people to buy. The sale ends on Dec. 31st. Linkage here.

Up On The Aqueduct

It being that time of year, I have once again contributed to the annual Aqueduct Press “The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening” series. If you want to know what I have been spending my leisure time on over the past year, you can read all about it here.

There have been a bunch of other great posts in the series this far, and I’m sure there will be many more to come.

Green Men Going Cheap


Amazon really loves Juliet McKenna. Once again they have chosen the Green Man books to feature in a promotion. I can see why. The books do seem to sell remarkably well.

This time it is The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Silence that are on sale at 99p each. The deals are UK only. I dearly wish that they would put them on sale in the USA as well. I could do it myself, but the books won’t get anywhere near the same visibility on the site as they do as part of an official promotion.

The Green Man’s Foe is still £4.99, but maybe the sale for the other two will be good for sales of that too.

In theory the sale is in place for the whole of December, so I will get quite boring reminding you about it. Sorry.