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.

Žiljak Hardcover Available


With profuse apologies for the delay, I am pleased to announce that the hardcover edition of Aleksandar Žiljak’s As the Distant Bells Toll is now available to purchase. The ISBN, should you need to talk sternly to a bookstore, is 978-1-913892-07-4.

Bookshop.org doesn’t have it listed yet, but that should happen soon. I remind you that if you buy from them you a) get a discount, b) make money for Wizard’s Tower, and c) make money for UK independent bookstores. You can find the paperback here.

World Fantasy Awards

The winners of this year’s World Fantasy Awards were announced last night. As the convention was virtual this year, I was able to “be there”. The full list of winners is available on the Locus website, but I want to focus on just two.

Firstly, the ridiculously titled Special Award – Non-Professional category was won by Fafnir – The Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. This is apparently the first time that the award has been won by an academic journal, and it is one founded by Finns.

I have to confess a certain amount of bias here. I am on the Advisory Board for the journal, but they haven’t actually needed any advising, so I can’t claim any credit there. I also have an article in the current issue, but that was published this year and therefore should not have been considered by the World Fantasy Jury.

There are lots of people who deserve congratulations. The current editors, Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Laura E. Goodin & Esko Suoranta, will get the trophies. But there are two other people I’d like to draw attention to. Firstly there is Merja Polvinen of University of Helsinki. She’s the Chair of the Advisory Board, and was very much a driving force in getting the journal started. The other is Irma Hirsjärvi, because the Journal is very much an outgrowth of the academic tracks that we run every year at Finncon, and Irma is one of the main instigators of those. (I just turn up to comment on the papers.)

Finally, we should note that while Fafnir is an academic journal, it is open source. That is exactly the sort of academic publication that the World Fantasy Awards should be honouring.

The other winner I want to mention is in the Novel category: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender. Kacen is non-binary person of colour, using they/them pronouns. I’ve had the book on my Kindle for several months but haven’t got round to reading it yet. Given that it beat both The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Gideon the Ninth, it must be very impressive. And the fact that someone like Kacen can be voted the author of the best fantasy novel in this year, of all years, fills me with joy. I think you can work out why.

Welcome, Chaz Brenchley

I am delighted to announce that we have a new author joining the Wizard’s Tower family. I have been a fan of Chaz Brenchley’s writing, and his cooking, for many years. When he mentioned on an interview for Coode Street that he was looking for a publisher for his Crater School books, I jumped at the opportunity. My thanks are due to Chaz’s agent, John Jarrold, for making this happen smoothly and quickly. The press release is here.

The books that we will be publishing are Chaz’s Crater School series, which are set in a 1930s girls’ boarding school, on Mars. This, then, is a post-steampunk world. Britain has colonised Mars, Russia has colonised Venus. There has been a Great War. Now there is peace, but uneasy tension between the interplanetary empires.

The books are unshamedly based on the famous Chalet School novels by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. A key aspect of the books is that while young boys are sent off by aetherflier to be educated on Earth, young girls go to school on Mars. So if there are adventures to be had, it is mostly teenage girls who get to have them.

By the way, if you are worried about a bloke writing this stuff, you need to be aware that Chaz got his start on a literary career by writing romance stories for teen girl magazines.

Of course there are adventures. Mars is not the desolate planet inhabited by NASA robots that we know. Chaz’s Mars has canals, it has native flora and fauna. Some of the fauna appears to be intelligent in a strange, very non-human way.

Our heroines, as teenage girls do, are determined to fight for justice. If that brings them into conflict with unreasonable parents, or with Russian spies, so be it. Crater School girls are afraid of nothing, even when perhaps they should be.

The first novel is due out in spring next year, with two more novels and a short story collection to follow. There are also plans for a cookbook, featuring the recipes of the Crater School’s legendary head cook, Mrs. Bailey. Fear not, though, readers, if you can’t find the right Martian ingredients there will be Terrestrial equivalents suggested.

I am going to have so much fun publishing these books. And yes, the first two novels do appear to qualify as YA.

Two Crowdfunding Projects

I backed a couple of crowdfunding projects today that some of you might be interested in.

The first is The Mab, a collection of tales from The Mabinogion, re-told for young readers by Welsh authors, and beautifully illustrated. Just the thing to get young people hooked on fantasy.

The other is Constelación, a proposed quarterly magazine that will carry speculative fiction in both English and Spanish.

The Bells Are Tolling


The latest book from Wizard’s Tower, Aleksandar Žiljak’s fantasy collection, As the Distant Bells Toll, is now available in the usual places. Ebooks went live in stores on Friday and the paperback was available from Monday. There will be a hardcover in due course, but I’m taking my time with the paper because I want to make sure that the quality of the illustrations is OK. Aleksandar is a fabulous artist and each story in the book is accompanied by a beautiful illustration.

Purchase links can be found here.

And we have our first review, here (thanks Womble!).

As the Distant Bells Toll – Pre-Orders Open


Those of you who watched the Translation and/or Eastern Europe panels at FutureCon yesterday will know that the latest book from Wizard’s Tower, a fantasy collection by the great Croatian writer, Aleksandar Žiljak, is due any day now. Pre-orders were live on B&N and Kobo yesterday, but it always takes longer on Amazon. I’m now pleased to report that we are live everywhere. You can find the links to the stores here.

Please note that this is not quite the final cover. Ben Baldwin and Aleksandar are still discussing a few fine details. But in the meantime you can enjoy some of the fine internal art. Aleksandar has provided illustrations for each story, and this one for his biography.

The Trials of Koli

It is Happy Book Birthday today for the second volume in Mike Carey’s Rampart Triology. The Trials of Koli describes how Koli and his friends travel down from Yorkshire towards London. We learn a lot more about the world that Koli and his friends inhabit, but this is also the volume in which Koli, Cup, Ursala and Monono have to come together as a team. This excellent review describes them as a “found family”.

One of the issues that they face while on the road is that Cup is starting to go through male puberty. It is coming to her a bit late because she has been quite malnourished, but now it is an urgent issue. This is where I probably had most input to the story, talking to Mike about the puberty process and what treatments might be available via Ursala’s box of tricks. Credit should also go to my friend Ben Vincent whose book on Trandgender Health is an excellent and very accessible guide to the subject. Ben explains things far more authoritatively than I can, and probably more clearly too.

Of course there’s a lot more in the book as well, and there are a lot more surprises to come in the third volume which will be out early next year. I do hope you enjoy the whole series. And once again my huge thanks to Mike for treating trans issues with such generosity, acceptance and support.