On Desecrating Statues

Today’s guest lecturer at the OutStories Bristol AGM was my friend Dr Alan Greaves from the University of Liverpool. As he was visiting Bristol (virtually) Alan decided to give a talk about desecrating statues. It is topical, after all. The talk focussed on one statue in particular. This one.

The statue came to the Museum of Liverpool via the estate of a wealthy collector called Henry Blundell. It is described as a “Sleeping Venus”. But, as the Museum’s website explains, the statue did not always look like that. The British Museum has a drawing made by Blundell’s friend, Charles Townley, before the statue was “restored” by Blundell’s workmen to make it suitable for display on his estates. Here is the drawing.

So the original statue was not of Venus/Aphrodite at all, but rather of the god(dess) Hermaphorit(us/e), who is shown surrounded by young children, one of whom she is suckling.

I should note that we have no idea why the Romans would have made such an image. However, they were very much aware of the existence of various types of intersex people, and would therefore not have regarded such a person as impossible, or unnatural.

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 Smithsonian Discovers Kush

Every so often White Media discovers ancient Black civilisations. (Don’t worry, Black folks, they will forget you again soon.) Today it is the turn of The Smithsonian Magazine, which has allowed a Sudanese-American journalist to tell the story of the African kingdoms to the south of Egypt. The tale includes Taharqa and Amanirenas, whom I have probably talked quite a bit about here already. It also includes an interesting piece of queer history.

In the New Testament the Acts of the Apostles includes a story about how St. Philip met a foreign dignatory on the road south of Jerusalem. The man was a treasury official from the court of the Kandake of Meroë, probably Queen Amantitere given the dates. This fellow, named as Simeon Bachos by the 2nd Century writer, St. Irenaeus, had an interest in Jewish religion, and had been to Jerusalem to learn more. He had obtained a copy of the Book of Isaiah which he was reading on his way home. He asked Philip for help interpreting the words of the prophet, and by the time the Apostle had finished Simeon was eager to convert to Christianity.

One obvious point here is that as a foreigner it seems unlikely that Simeon would have been welcome to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish elders of the time were a stuffy lot. The New Testament also describes him as a eunuch, which would also have counted against him. Philip may have been reminded of the time, reported in Matthew 19:12, when Jesus spoke of how eunuchs were welcome in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But what exactly does “eunuch” mean in this context. Jesus describes three types. There are those who are made eunuchs by others. Simeon might have been an ex-slave who won his freedom thanks to his skill at accountancy. There are those who make themselves eunuchs for religious purposes, such as the Roman transfeminine priestesses of Cybele, but this seems an unlikely explanation given our man’s interest in Judaic religion. Finally there are those who were deemed “natural eunuchs”; that is, men who have no desire to have sex with women. This has lead some people to claim our African accountant as the first gay Christian.

Whatever the explanation, as a eunuch Simeon would have been regarded as neither male nor female by the cultural traditions of his time. Even if he didn’t identify as queer in some way himself, he would have been seen as such by others.

To the best of my knowledge, the people of Meroë were still following Egyptian religion at the time. It would be interesting to know what the Kandake thought of Simeon’s conversion. But there has been a thriving Christian church in Ethiopia since at least 333 CE, so presumably our man made some converts among his people.

There is a painting of the baptism in the Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum of Wales. I believe that it is part of the LGBT history tour that Dan Vo put together for the Museum. I know Dan and I talked about it as a possible inclusion, but I missed my Guide training session thanks to COVID.

The Green Man’s Silence Cover

For those of you who were not at Worldcon (and missed a great party), here is the cover for The Green Man’s Silence. Juliet read briefly from the book at the party, but it is still in edit so it won’t be out immediately. I’ll be opening pre-orders shortly, but it won’t be out until September.

In the meantime, enjoy Ben Baldwin’s beautiful artwork.

Unjust Cause Cover Reveal

Here it is, folks! The fabulous Ben Baldwin cover for the new novel from Tate Hallaway, Unjust Cause.

Did you love Precinct 13? Do you just love contemporary fantasy in a crime setting with queer and poly characters? Hey, this book is for you.

Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring, cushy job. She didn’t count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she’s a full-fledged member of Precinct 13, a paranormal police unit, and is trying to make a life with her dragon familiar, Valentine. Just when things seem to be settling down, bodies start falling out of the sky… literally.

Publication will be on April 8th. I’m just off to set up the pre-orders. If you are interested in an eARC, let me know.

Wild, Wild Wales

I spent much of today in Cardiff helping kick off a project to create queer history tours of the National Museum of Wales. This is being run by the fabulous Dan Vo who also created the similar tours at the V&A in London. The museum is mainly natural history and art, but there’s plenty there to talk about. I will have more to say about the queer stuff in due course, but today I want to highlight one of the more bizarre things I found in the museum.

Whenever I visit a museum I am always on the lookout for Amazons, so my interest was caught by this painting of a woman dressed as Diana herself. She has a bow and quiver, and even a little crescent moon headdress. Who was this woman, I wondered?

Well, her name is Diana Pryce (not Diana Prince), and her father was Sir John Pryce, the 5th Baronet of the Pryce family of Newtown Hall in Montgomeryshire. Sir John was what the museum descibes as a “well known eccentric”. This refers to the fact that he kept the embalmed bodies of his first two wives in his bedroom, until he got married for a third time and his new wife insisted that he got rid of them.

Wife three also pre-deceased him, whereupon Sir John hired a local faith healer, Bridget Bostock, to bring her back from the dead. Sadly the woman’s skills were not up to the task.

People had some very strange ideas in the 18th Century.

Today on Ujima: Feminism, Black Queerness & TV Careers

Today was my first day back at work that involved leaving home. I was back in the Ujima studios for another Women’s Outlook. It had been a bit of a challenge pulling this one together because no one was answering email before Monday, so I had two days. Nevertheless, we had some guests.

The first slot was empty so I played some music to talk about the unpleasant prospect of at least 5 years of the UK being ruled by Blue Meanies. I then played a few songs to send a message to a certain orange-faced person over in the USA.

My first guest was Carolyn from Bristol Women’s Voice. There was a time when people like me were distinctly unwelcome at that organisation, but I’m pleased to report that they have turned a corner and are happy to include all women again. Carolyn was particularly there to promote their Volunteer Network Event later this month, but we also discussed current campaigns, and of course the International Women’s Day event in March.

Next up was Helen from Royal West of England Academy. She was on the show to talk about the amazing Celebrating Black Queerness event coming up in February, and the associated Africa State of Mind exhibition. Celebrating Black Queerness is a joint event with Kiki, Bristol’s QTIPOC organisation, and will feature luminaries such as Lady Phyll and Travis Alabanza.

My final guest should have been Jo from Diverse Insights, but she suffered a transport malfunction on the way to the studio so I had to fill in for her as best I could. The event she was due to talk about is Screen Futures 2020, which is an amazing day of workshops for people interested in pursuing a career in television and radio.

You can listen to the show for the next few weeks via the Ujima Listen Again service.

Here’s the playlist:

  • Ike & Tina Turner – A Little Help from My Friends
  • Aretha Franklin – Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Angelique Kidjo – Once in a Lifetime
  • The Temptations – War
  • Culture Club – The War Song
  • Eddy Grant – War Party
  • Alicia Keys – Superwoman
  • Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman
  • Little Richard – Good Golly Miss Molly
  • Bessie Smith – A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Bow Wow Wow – TV Savage
  • Andy Allo – If I was King
  • Janelle Monáe – We Were Rock ‘n’ Roll

Batshit Crazy

Publishers are strange people. We love books so much that sometimes we are drawn to extraordinary lengths to make them. Sometimes mere paper is not enough. And to illustrate the point here is something completely crazy that is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. This is what the publishers, Beehive Books, have to say about it:

Bram Stoker made a radical experimental choice in the writing of his classic novel Dracula. He presented it as a collection of found documents — correspondence, newspaper articles, journal entries — painstakingly transcribed and compiled into the published book by his characters themselves. His experimental approach brings you directly into the story, and refracts it through countless points of view.

DRACULA: The Evidence is an entirely new way to experience Stoker’s masterpiece: through an actual physical research file full of ephemera, correspondence, clues and artifacts. It’s the entire original text of Dracula, presented as a gorgeously designed and curated briefcase full of maps, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, and phonograph records. We’ve teamed up with Dracula expert and Bram’s descendent Dacre Stoker to bring you the most immersive way imaginable to experience this modernist masterpiece of gothic horror.

Of course it is fantastically expensive. A copy of the “book” will set you back $400 ($350 if you get in on the early bird offer). I certainly don’t have that much money to splash, nor do I have anywhere to put the thing if I did. But the toothy Transylvanian has plenty of wealthy admirers and fanatical followers so I’m sure the project won’t have any trouble getting funded.

I am, of course, in awe of the ambition of the people who came up with this idea.

By the way, as I understand it, the putative Kickstarter staff union has asked people not to boycott the site just yet as negotiations are still underway. I do hope that the dispute is resolved amicably because I want to see more projects like this happen.

Today on Ujima – LGBT+ History, Worldcon & Women’s Cricket

I was back in the Ujima studio today, and my first guest was friend and colleague, Dr. Jamie Lawson of the University of Bristol. Jamie has written a children’s book on LGBT+ history called Rainbow Revolutions. It is published tomorrow, and I’m very impressed with it. We had a great conversation about the use of the word “queer”, Section 28 and why people are worried it might come back, Ball Culture and the success of Pose, and so on.

Next up I dragged in Harriet Aston who roomed with me at Worldcon. It was her first big convention and understandably she was a bit overwhelmed, which makes her an ideal person to represent that first Worldcon experience. I was impressed that Harriet felt that she was swimming rather than drowning by day 4.

The rest of the show was devoted to women’s cricket and the triumph of Western Storm in the final year of the Kia Super League. I played my interview with Raf Nicholson, and passed on the latest news about the women’s part in the stupid new “The Hundred” series. It is possible that a new Western Storm might rise from the ashes of the KSL after all.

You can catch up on the show via the Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  • Grace Jones – This Is
  • Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – September
  • Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm
  • Billie Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • The Impressions – We’re A Winner
  • Jim Steinman – The Storm

My next show will be on October 2nd and will feature an interview with Ellen Datlow that I recorded while we were in Ireland.

Happy Solstice, McKenna Fans

When considering when to do a cover reveal for The Green Man’s Foe, Juliet and I decided that the Summer Solstice would be an ideal time. The Green Man, after all, is deeply connected to the natural world. And frankly, he’s going to need a bit of sunshine to help deal with this guy.

When you do a good job for someone, there’s a strong chance they’ll offer you more work or recommend you elsewhere. So Daniel Mackmain isn’t particularly surprised when his boss’s architect brother asks for his help on a historic house renovation in the Cotswolds.

Except Dan’s a dryad’s son, and he soon realises there’s a whole lot more going on. Ancient malice is stirring and it has made an alliance in the modern world. The Green Man expects Dan to put an end to this threat. Seeing the danger, Dan’s forced to agree. The problem is he’s alone in a place he doesn’t know, a hundred miles or more away from any allies of his own.

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

It is, of course, another genius piece of art by Ben Baldwin. Juliet and Toby-the-Editor are just putting the final touches to the text. And when they are done I get to do the layouts. I’m still planning on having the book available at Worldcon. Once I have everything I need in my paws I will put the book up for pre-order.

Thank You, Köln

I spent the past three days in Germany (and traveling too and from). The main reason I was there was to give a lecture at the Academy of Media Arts in Köln. However, I did pay for an extra hotel night so that I could do a bit of sightseeing. Hopefully there will be photos up here soon. I did take a lot, but I need to find time to process them (and I know I haven’t done the Ghent photos yet).

What I can say is that Köln is a lovely city. Obviously it is most famous for the giant cathedral which, when you are up close, really does look as if it reaches all the way to heaven. However, there are lots of Roman remains (the city was a legionary base and later capital of the Province of Germania) and twelve Romanesque churches. Sadly the two main museums of Roman materials were closed for rennovations, but I saw enough to want to go back when they are open.

I can recommend the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum which does a good job of being an anti-colonial ethnographic collection. It is also a themed collection. Anyone involved with the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford should take a look.

I can also recommend the Lindt Chocolate Museum and its most excellent cafe.

My talk seemed to go down very well. It was filmed and will be available on the Academy website in due course. We also had a reporter from a local radio station in attendance. If you can understand German you can tell me what he thought of it as his report is already online.

Today on Ujima – HIV, Time Wars & Art

Today’s Women’s Outlook show was one of those where it seemed mostly calm on the surface, but it was all frantic paddling underneath. Yesterday I had one of my guests drop out, so I had a half hour to fill. Thankfully the pre-recorded interview I had would stretch to three segments, and I had enough to talk about to fill the final one I needed. Also Ben, my usual engineer, was unavailable, and the replacement we had arranged was unable to come in, so I ended up with an emergency holographic engineer. Huge thanks to Mikey who did a great job for me.

We began the show with Aled and Acomo from Brigstowe, a local charity that specialises in HIV/AIDS issues. They are one of two charities in England who are running pilots with PrEP, the drug which can protect you from HIV if you take it before having sex. PrEP is already widely available in Scotland and Wales, but as Aled explains the English authorities have fought tooth and nail to prevent it being made available. Now that the courts have forced the NHS to do some trials, Brigstowe needs help getting them done.

They are looking in particular for women from marginalized communities who are willing to get trained on the use of PrEP and can then go out into their communities to srpread the word. They’ll be working closely with my pals at One25 to make sure the drug gets to sex workers, who are some of the people who need it most. They are also very interested in recruiting trans women.

The pre-recorded interview with was Amal El-Mohtar and was made while we were at Åcon. We talked about a range of issues, but obviously there was particular focus on the forthcoming book, This is How You Lose the Time War. I loved this book. There will be a review coming soon.

As I had a bit of time to fill I played a couple of songs with Nordic connections. I have probably enthused about the Swedish electrojazz duo, Koop, before, but I should mention that the particular song I played had guest vocals from Ane Brun who is Norwegian and Sami. She has also worked with Peter Gabriel, taking Kate Bush’s part on “Don’t Give Up” when he was touring.

I also played the Miike Snow song that Amal mentions during the interview. The core of that band is Swedish too. If you are intersted in the very gay video for the song, you can find it here.

Finally on the show I was joined by Cai and Amie from Paper Arts who are a wonderful organisation that helps young people start a career in the arts.

You can listen to today’s show via the Listen Again function on the Ujima website.

The playlist for today’s show is:

  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
  • The Human League – The Lebanon
  • Fairuz – Li Beirut
  • Afro-Celt Sound System – Further In Time
  • Koop – Koop Islands
  • Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
  • Janelle Monáe – Crazy, Classic Life
  • Prince – Purple Rain

Big in Germany?

Next month I’m going to be giving a talk at the University of Köln in Germany. This is something that grew out of the event in Graz last year. There’s a web page up for the event now. It is in German, but quite a few of the words should be recognisable. The audience will be mainly arts students. It should be fun.

Utopiales Comes to Oxford

Many of you will be familiar with Utopiales, the big French convention that takes place in Nantes every October. Well this month they are coming to the UK. They are partnering with Maison Française d’Oxford, the French research centre in Oxford, to put on a 3-day conference. The dates are April 24-27.

Days 1 and 2 are the academic part of the event. You can find the full programme here.

Day 3 is more public-oriented and features three workshops. One of them is titled “The boundaries and territories of SF” and features three great writers, plus me. My estemeed colleagues are Stephanie Saulter (who needs no introduction), Emma Geen (who wrote the brilliant The Many Selves of Katherine North), and Jeanne-A Debats who, among other things, teaches Latin and Greek and is Art Director of Utopiales. I know Stephanie and Emma well, and I’m looking forward to meeting Jeanne-A (whom I shall doubtless bore with discussion of queer Romans).

In addition there is an exhibition of art from the 19 years of Utopiales.

It all sounds very splendid, and it is free. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

Trans Bare All Anniversary Book

The lovely people at Trans Bare All are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. Normally I would just point you at their website, but they are dealing with a little malware issue at the moment so I have just linked to their Twitter so you can see who they are. This is what I wanted you to read:

We want to mark the occasion by creating a book of art and writing that reflects some of what TBA is all about, and, as it is all about our community, that means we need you.

We are welcoming submissions of original writing and art on the theme of TBA and gender (perhaps what TBA means to you), or on gender alone, and we actively encourage not only those of you who regularly write or create art, but also those who might need a little encouragement.

You can write in any form you wish (poetry, prose fiction, life writing non-fiction etc) and, if your submission is accepted, you will have the chance to work with an editor to polish your piece for publication in the book. We are also welcoming submissions of visual art that explore the themes above – please see below for image specifications.

The workshop plan below will guide you step by step towards a piece of life writing with a creative approach, and you can also use these workshop exercises to generate ideas for a visual art piece.

Submission eligibility:

  • Following the TBA age limit, you must be 18 years or older by the submissions deadline
  • You do not have to have attended a TBA retreat or party before
  • You do not have to live in the UK

Submission guidelines:

  • Please submit your original work to book@transbareall.co.uk
  • You must include the following in your covering email, as it helps us understand our community better and make our work more accessible:
    1. the name you want your piece published under
    2. your gender
    3. your ethnicity
    4. if you consider yourself to have a disability (no need to state what it is)
    5. your age on the submissions deadline
  • Deadline for submissions is 11.59pm Friday 8th February 2019

For writing:

  • submit your piece as a fully compatible Word document, or .txt if .doc is not possible
  • 2000 word limit for prose (fiction and non-fiction)
  • 80 line limit for poems (including stanza breaks), with maximum 60 characters per line (including spaces)

For visual art:

  • Submit your piece as a high quality JPEG or TIFF file that is
  • Sized for A5 publication, so 154mm x 216mm portrait, with no important images within 15mm of each edge as these may be trimmed off in print
  • 300dpi (dots per inch) so it is at print-quality
  • If text is incorporated into your piece, please ensure that it is legible at A5 size
  • Please contact us if you need more detail about image requirements

FAQ:

  • You can submit more than one piece of writing or art or both, and, if selected, our editors will choose their favourite piece for the book
  • Submission does not guarantee that your piece will be included
  • All submissions will be notified of our selection decision within eight weeks of the deadline. Please be patient – we are volunteers!
  • if you want your piece attributed to ‘anonymous’ then please state this clearly in your covering email
  • All accepted submissions will undergo an editorial process with our editors and designer
  • All submissions must be free from publishing restrictions for the next two years. If your piece is currently published or under consideration elsewhere, please contact us to discuss.
  • As we are an unfunded volunteer-run organisation, unfortunately we cannot offer a fee for accepted submissions; however, all contributors will receive a copy of the finished book!

There you go. Obviously a charity project, but hopefully some of you will take an interest. Good luck if you do.

Kunsthistorisches Museum Photos

My main interest in Vienna was the Kunsthistorisches Museum. I only had a few hours and of course I spent most of my time looking at ancient stuff. Frankly there was so much bling on show in the Hapsburg displays that it was rather overwhelming. I loved the automata though, and kudos to the museum for having tablet computers with film of each one working available.

Anyway, here are some photos. If you share my obsession with ancient history you’ll enjoy some of these. The gallery plugin I am using doesn’t allow for much descriptive text so do ask if you are interested in anything.

The museum is an exhibit in itself

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Graz Photos

Here are some more photos from my trip to Austria. These are all from the city of Graz, where the conference took place. They include the Schlossberg, the precipitous, fortified hill in the middle of the city.

Graz is 2 hours by train south of Vienna. Part of the reason for the time is that the railway has to wind through the foothills of the Alps. It is not far from the Slovenian border, and only a few hours from Zagreb by road. A lot of the big buildings in the city were built by Italian architects, which gives the city something of a Mediterranean feel. The courtyards are a particular feature of the old town.

City Hall lit up for Christmas

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This Year’s Card


I still have a few, mostly elderly, friends and relatives to whom I send cards. I always buy my cards from my friend Dru Marland. The design I chose for this year is shown above. So for everyone who isn’t getting a phsyical card, here’s your holiday greetings thing. May you have a fabulous end of the year celebration.

And if you fancy buying cards from Dru, you can do so here.