My Octocon Schedule

The lovely Irish people have been very kind to me this year. You can catch up on my interview with translator, Julia Meitov Hersey, and on the launch event for Juliet McKenna’s The Green Man’s Gift, via their Twitch stream. The convention itself is just a week away, and the programme for the weekend has been released. It is a hybrid event and I’m part of the online entertainment. Here’s what I will be doing.

Saturday, 15 October – 17:30

Found in Translation – There’s so much amazing SFF we would love to read but that wasn’t written in a language we know. Fortunately, translators can bring those stories to us by choosing just the right words to convey the nuances and flavour of the landscapes, characters, and dialogue of worlds beyond our experience. Our panel discusses the secrets behind the linguistic alchemy of translation. With Jean Bürlesk, Faranae (M) & Julia Meitov Hersey.

Sunday, 16 October – 10:00

Monarchy and Nepotism in Fact and Fiction – “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.” Divine right, heroic lineages, secret legacies and cronyism are all often used to explain why a character is important within a story, whether they – or the audience – know about their birthright or not. But considering we find it hard to tolerate these ideas in our own societies, what are the alternatives in fiction to the random lottery of inherited power, wealth and privilege? With Jean Bürlesk, Aliette de Bodard, Ian Moore & Gillian Polack. I am moderating.

Memberships, both virtual and in-person, are still available from the convention website. A virtual membership is only €20.

Octocon Presents (me)


I’m delighted to report that, on Tuesday September 20th, I will be participating in the Octocon Presents programme for 2022. This is a series of online events leading up this this year’s Irish National Science Fiction Convention. I will be talking to Julia Meitov Hersey, a translator who works with Russian language books. She is the translator for Ukrainian authors, Maryna and Serhiy Dyachenko, and the winner of last year’s Rosetta Award for SF&F translation. The show starts at 8:00pm Irish time which, miraculously giving how stupid my government is, is exactly the same as British time.

My FantasyCon Schedule

As promised, here’s what I will be up to at FantasyCon:

Saturday 17th, 11:00 – Angry Robot Room – Non-fiction Genre Writing – Reviews and Critiques (with John Dodd (m), Maura McHugh, Steven Poore, Kit Power)

Saturday 17th, 16:00 – Atlantis 1 – Writing in Collaboration (with Emily Inkpen (m), Gary Couzens, LR Lam)

Sunday 18th, 10:00 – Atlantis 2 – Writing Older Characters – What happens when the chosen one grows up (with Jen Williams, Gabriela Houston, Liz Willams, WP Wiles)

If you are wondering about the writing in collaboration one, I’m told that the panel will encompass many different ways in which that happens and I’ll be talking about sensitivity reading.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever been put on an old person panel, though it looks like everyone else on it is younger than me (and in some cases a lot younger).

Hopefully I will see some of you there.

Worldcon Approaches

I see that Chicon 8 has now published their program schedule. I’m not on it. I did apply for programming, and I was offered three interesting panels. However, two of them were potentially quite controversial, and something happened that made me not feel 100% safe to be involved, so I withdrew from participation.

I’d like to note that this is unlikely to be an issue for the vast majority of people. I’m an easy target, for a whole variety of reasons, and I have a very high comfort threshhold. I’m still happy to do smaller conventions, and indeed have three panels at the upcoming FantasyCon which I will write about in a day or two. But I am thinking very seriously about being involved in Worldcons in future because they are so high profile and therefore get targeted by people who want to cause trouble.

Imaginales in Crisis

Long-time readers will remember that I very much enjoyed my trip to Épinal (the ‘home of comics’) in France for the Imaginales festival. It had a lot of the feel of a traditional science fiction convention, but was run in conjunction with the municipal authorities which meant that it was a) free and b) very well attended.

Well, it was good while it lasted. The trouble with working with local government is that the people you are working with can get voted out and replaced by people with very different attitudes.

Thanks to friends from France (primarily Aliette de Bodard and Lionel Davoust) I have learned that the new mayor, Patrick Nardin, has fired Stéphanie Nicot, the Creative Director of the festival, and many other staff are leaving in protest.

Stéphanie was the founder of Imaginales, and has been in charge since it started. She is getting on in age these days, but had put a succession plan in place. Possibly more importantly in this case, Stephanie is a trans woman, and one of the better known advocates for trans rights in France. I’m hearing of various women and people of colour complaining that their role in Imaginales has been reduced since the new management took over.

M. Nardin has also accused Stéphanie and her team of being unprofessional. Having been to the event, I’m happy to say that’s absolutely not the case. However, I suspect that what is meant here is not ability to do the job, but desire to make profits. My guess is that M. Nardin wants to see Imaginales run more like San Diego ComicCon, and have the festival bring in big money for the town. If that’s the case, he certainly won’t be interested in the top quality literary guests that Stephanie used to bring to the event. He’s also going to have to find a whole lot of fans daft enough to work for free to make money for him.

There’s an interview with Stéphanie (in French) here.

It is all very sad, but probably kind of inevitable given the rightward drift of politics around the world. I hope that French fandom rallies round and finds somewhere to put on a new event. They may not be able to do it in conjunction with a local council, and they might have to charge for memberships, but at least they’ll be in control. Hey, they might even bid for a Eurocon…

Westercon Updates

Westercon #74 starts tomorrow, and as always there are a few programme updates. In particular I’ve stepped in to moderate the Gulf Futurism panel because Cristina has been dragged away for other things. I know very little about SF&F from the Arab world, but I have some excellent panelists to talk to. Also I’m going to be interviewing Stark Holborn for the SF Westerns panel, because none of the other ornery varmints wanted to be on that panel.

Kevin tells me that membership sales are closed now, because the registration staff are to busy at-con. However, if anyone is desperate for a virtual membership, I’m sure I can sort that for you. The virtual program schedule is here, and anything listed here as being in the Blue Room is also being streamed.

Coming to Tonopah?

Westercon is a traveling convention that usually takes place somewhere on the West Coast of the USA. This year it will be “in the middle of nowhere”. That’s a Finnish joke. The Finns have a saving that means “in the middle of nowhere” but actually translates as “in the middle of Nevada”, which is exactly where this year’s Westercon is.

It is actually remote even for the USA. Tonopah, Nevada is 200 miles from the nearest airport. It is a nice little town, with an interesting history, and an excellent value convention center. Some people will be there in person. But it will be a BristolCon sized event: small and friendly. For those people who can’t make it in person, there will be an online component.

The virtual program, which I helped curate, will take place early in the morning, Nevada time. In-person attendees can watch it over breakfast, but it is better timed for people on the East Coast, in Brazil, or in Europe. We made a point of not using North American panelists. Everyone is from Europe, the Middle East and South America. You can see the list of panels here.

In addition, one stream of in-person programming will be broadcast (and have some virtual participants). That’s everything listed in the Blue Room here.

If you would like to watch the virtual program and/or the streamed content, you can do so with a Supporting Membership, which costs just $20. Buy here.

Airship Nebula Ahoy!

The 2022 Nebula Conference starts tomorrow, with the award ceremony on Saturday evening (US time). Thankfully I don’t have to be up for that, but I am on programme.

Indie Publishing for LGBTQ+ Authors
Sat, May 21, 2022 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM
Indie publishing is a new frontier for many authors, but what does breaking into this space look like for members of the LGBTQ+ community? Join us for a discussion of ideas, advice, and the personal experiences of independently published queer authors.
With Maya MacGregor / M Evan MacGriogair, Sienna Tristen & Sarah Loch (M)

I hope to see some of you there.

My Eastercon Schedule

Just a couple of days to go now. The full programme for Eastercon has been released. I will be in the Dealers’ Room for most of the convention, but I am doing two panels (and moderating both of them). Here’s the details:

Publishing in the Pandemic
Saturday 16th; 10:30; Bleriot
The Covid-19 pandemic proved tough for publishing. Paper shortages, distribution issues, and alterations to working patterns all brought massive change to the industry. The panel discusses the good and bad, and what might last. With Tiffani Angus, Francesca Barbini, Marcus Gipps & Joanne Hall.

Reclaiming Ourselves: What Does It Mean To Reclaim Our Physical Bodies?
Sunday 17th; 10:30; Endeavour
Lockdown living meant seeing far fewer people face-to-face – which for some of us meant the opportunity to change how we dress, look, or otherwise engage with our bodies, relatively free from external judgement. (Plus, unable to get a haircut.) What can our responses to lockdown living tell us about our attitudes to our bodies and what we are ‘allowed’ to do with them? What about those of us who were already constrained in how we engaged with the physical world, eg through disability? With FD Lee, Stewart Hotston, Juliet E McKenna & Lee Swift.

New Locus – Contains Me

A new issue of Locus was published yesterday, and it is probably the one that people most look forward to each year because it is the one that contains the Recommended Reading List. As usual, I had a part in choosing the books in some of the categories. There are a lot of other people involved, and nothing gets on the list just because I say so. Equally there are books I recommended that didn’t make it. No one is going to think the final list is perfect, but it contains a lot of very good books and stories. You can find the full list here.

This issue also contains an article by me. This coincidence is an artefact of the December Worldcon. I generally write them something about the WSFS Business Meeting, so if you have the magazine you can read that too. Liza and the team have my deepest sympathy for having to do a Worldcon report and the Recommended Reading List in the same issue.

The Saturday Panel Lives

After some hard work by the programming team, the “What Do We Look for in a Fanzine?” panel has been re-constituted as a fully-online event. It will be in Harris at 10:00am EST (15:00 UK). The description for it is as follows:

Everyone on this panel writes fanzines. What that means has changed over the years, but they are all passionate about them. The panel will talk about what excites them, what delights them, and what makes them nominate something for a Hugo.

The panelists are: Erin Underwood, Guy Herbert Lillian, Jaroslav Olša, Jr., Joe Sherry and Sarah Gulde; and the moderator is me.

Tune in tomorrow.

Worldcon Starts Tomorrow

Well that crept up on me. It is all too easy to miss the excitement when you don’t have to travel to the convention. But Worldcon does start tomorrow, and I have panels. The schedule that I was given is as follows:

  • Wednesday 15th 16:00, Kress Room: Fanzines and Meta Fandom
  • Thursday 16th 10:00, Kress Room: Planning and Running a Virtual Fan Event
  • Saturday 18th 10:00, Calvert Room: What Do We Look for in a Fanzine?

Those time are for Washington DC. For UK times add 5 hours.

The first two of those are definite. The Saturday one may not happen for me because it has not been scheduled as a virtual event. I don’t know how that managed to fall through the cracks, but watch this space.

Of course I will also be online on Saturday night because I have a Hugo to lose. I shall be sad for my CoNZealand Fringe pals, but Related Work is a very tough field this year.

By the way, I see that Twitter is busy discussing accessibility issues again this year. This is not good, obviously, but it is hard to see what can be done.

Worldcon facility contracts are a big deal and are generally signed soon after a Worldcon wins site selection. If the facility isn’t accessible at the point, there’s very little you can do.

So we should only be picking sites that are accessible. And people do ask questions about this at bidder presentation sessions, but there are lots of other things that people care about in terms of site selection. In any case, the bidders have probably taken the facility’s world about it being accessible, and haven’t sent a team of experts to inspect it.

OK, so maybe all bidders should be more responsible and ensure that their facilities are accessible before they start. But finding a local facility that is the right size and affordable is really hard, and fan groups are unlikely to decide not to bid if their accessibility isn’t up to scratch.

Besides which, they don’t have to care, in that they are only in this for one year, and if they screw up it doesn’t matter because it will be Worldcon that gets the bad rap, not the people who failed to run it well enough.

The bottom line is that accessibility is never going to be done right except by good fortune, or because we have a group of people who are responsible for running Worldcon year after year and see such issues as important.

Settling In

As is the way of things with convention trips to other time zones, Kevin and I are now more or less used to Canadian time (in my case helped by their clocks going back on Sunday morning), but it is now time to start adjusting to our home time zones again.

We are settling in to Montréal in other ways too. We are eating very well, and have found the local farmers’ market so that we can sample the native cheeses. This one was rather good. We are a little hobbled due to the absence of the excellent Scott Edelman, but we shall do our best to channel his enthusiasm for fine dining and find some where spectacular to eat. We are in Montréal, that should’t be hard.

Another way in which we are getting acclimatised is that we are making like proper Canadians and going everywhere we can underground. This isn’t actually necessary. The weather has been fabulous — mostly in single digits but only very slightly negative overnght. But the underground routes are there for a reason and we are (re-)learning to use them. There’s no particular need for a coat.

I say “re-learning” because of course we learned all this in 2009 when we were here for Worldcon. This morning our route to breakfast took us past the convention center, and the fabulous Embassy Suites where Sissy Pantelis and I spent a happy week luxuriating in a superb hotel room. I want to stay in that hotel again.

However, all too soon it will be time to head home. We’ve done departure tests (though it looks like you don’t actually need one for the UK until after you have arrived, because the UK government is really keen on people spreading COVID as widely as possible). I shall have to find an excuse to come back.

My World Fantasy Schedule

I have passed my “fit to fly” test and think that I have all of the other bits of paperwork that the Canadian government requires, so I am expecting to be flying out to Montreal tomorrow. Assuming that all goes according to plan, I will be on program at World Fantasy. Here’s what I have been scheduled for.

Friday 5th – Noon: Covid-19 and the BookWorld – Effects and Consequences
We don’t have a good picture on the consequences of the Pandemic for our industry and our genre, but the effects are huge, and they’re continuing to unfold, and will likely continue to unfold for years, with massive effects on the stability of writing as a career, on small presses, on major publishers, on printers, supply chains, on bookstore chains and independents, marketing, ebooks and audiobooks, and the industry at large.
With Joshua Palmatier, Ashley Hisson, Deanna Sjolander & Julie E. Czerneda

Saturday 6th – Noon: Works in Translation
The world of fantasy has many languages and translation is an important part of making literature available to a larger audience. The panel will discuss the challenges of translating a work from one language to another.
With Jean-Louis Trudel, Mathieu Lauzon-Dicso, Eugenia Triantafyllou

The Covid panel is in person only, but the translation one is hybrid, meaning that at least one of the panel will be attending virtually. The panel should be visiable to anyone with a virtual membership.

BristolCon Programme

No sign of a government u-turn as yet, so here’s my schedule for BristolCon. First up I am on this:

Panel Room 2: 13:00 – We’ve been ret-conned again!

Does the body of work always belong to the author, or can it be removed from them and become a readership property? From film directors issuing recuts, reworkings, removing originals from print, to the issues of author bigotry the panel discusses who truly owns a work of fiction once it’s been published and who controls it’s authority

Cheryl Morgan, S. Naomi Scott, R B (Rosa) Watkinson, Justin Lee Anderson , Kevlin Henney (M)

And then I am moderating this:

Panel Room 1: 16:00 – Why is there no democracy in epic fantasy?

The genre is still in thrall to the lure of kings and queens and dynastic power, let alone the Chosen One who’s just plain better than you. Where is the voice of the people and the emergence of democracy?

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Juliet E McKenna, Kate Macdonald, Justin Lee Anderson , Cheryl Morgan (M)

Both panels look like being a lot of fun. The rest of the time I will be in the Dealers’ Room. See some of you there.

Coronavirus – Day #567

This is about the time when I’d be telling you about my programming assignments for BristolCon and World Fantasy. However, I have no idea whether I will be at either of them.

Here’s the problem. COVID infections have been rising rapidly in the UK over the last couple of weeks. We are now over 50,000 new cases every day. For comparison, that’s roughly where we were at Christmas last year.

The government says that it is not worried, because the death rate is very low. It is just over 100 a day, which compares very well to the over 600 a day we were seeing last Christmas. Vaccines work. Of course 100 deaths a day is still horrific, but the government is very happy with it. Their ideology states that anyone who dies was obviously weak and not worth saving.

So a death rate of 100 a day isn’t going to result in any change in government policy. Probably 200 a day won’t either. But that’s not the number I’m watching. The key indicator is the number of people admitted to hospital, because that tells you whether the NHS is likely to be overloaded. That number has been rising steeply through October, and is roughly tracking the level we had last winter. That’s not good.

It doesn’t help that the situation here in the South West is far worse than the national average. This is in large part because one of the testing labs that serves the region had been discovered to be returning a large number of false negatives. This is apparrently what happens when you hand out government contracts on the basis of who you know and how much they donate to Tory Party funds, rather than their ability to do the job. Anyway, lots of people around here who had COVID were told they didn’t, and as a result infections have skyrocketed.

Right now the government is trying to bluster its way through the situation. They insist that there is nothing to worry about. This is rather like when a football club says that it has total confidence in the manager. You know that a dramatic u-turn is coming soon.

There’s also the attitude of other countries to consider. Morocco closed its borders to the UK last night. Other countries are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks. Canada might be one of them.

I’m still planning to go to both conventions, but anything could happen between now and the end of the month.

Green Men at BristolCon


Yes folks, BristolCon is fast approaching, and I will be in the Dealers’ Room with lots of lovely books for you to buy.

The book that will probably be most in demand is The Green Man’s Challenge. I should have enough paperbacks, but if you want a hardcover it would be best to reserve one. Equally if you want a copy of something else that is low on stock.

Anyway, the bookstore now sells paper books to UK customers. Mostly that means postage, but if you expect the pick up the book at a con then just select that delivery option instead. Please check any books that you want, because the website does have stock levels so it is easy to see if anything is in short supply.

Did I mention that you get a free copy of the ebook if you buy a paper book direct from us?

See (some of) you at BristolCon.

Octocon This Weekend

Ireland’s national SF&F convention will be taking place virtually again this year. It is free to attend, and there is a lot going on. Details are available here.

I am on two panels. They are as follows.

Saturday, 21:00 How Not to Code Your Non-Humans
Writers often use traits of neurodiverse, non-binary, queer or disabled people as blueprints for their aliens, robots and monsters, but don’t allow their humans to share these characteristics. How can we build both human and non-human characters to exhibit a wide range of identities without resorting to mere ambiguous coding or else to using racist, sexist or other bigoted stereotypes?
With: Faranae, Kat Dodd, Angeline B. Adams & S.L. Dove Cooper

Sunday, 15:00 Uncovering the Hidden Treasures of the Past
Science fiction as a genre looks to the future, but authors of the past can still have a lot to say to us even though their work may have fallen out of print and become a distant memory. Why have some writers and works been consigned to the vaults of history while others have remained on the shelves, and what would our panel most like to see restored from the archives?
With: Ian Moore, Michael Carroll, Cora Buhlert & Deirdre Thornton

I will also be available in the Wizard’s Tower Press channel of the convention’s Discord.

Juliet McKenna is doing a couple of panels on Saturday, and a reading on Sunday.

As far as the rest of the programme goes, I’m looking forward to the great Shelly Bond talking about editing comics, Gillian Polack’s talk on Food in Fantasy, and S.L. Dove Cooper on Asexuality in SF&F. The full schedule is available here.

Hopefully I will see some of you there.

HFRN 2022 – Call for Papers

The Historical Fictions Research Network (of which I am a Trustee) has elected to hold their 2022 conference entirely online. The situation with the pandemic is too confused for us to be able to make any other plans.

Of course the great thing about being online is that we can get papers from all over the world. As with this year, we are aiming to schedule timeslots that will allow everyone from New Zealand to California to particpate.

The dates of the conference will be February 19-20.

Our keynote speakers will be:

  • The George Padmore Institute: An archive, educational resource and research centre housing materials relating to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe.
  • Amy Tooth Murphy: A Trustee of the Oral History Society and a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the blog Notches: (re)marks on the history of sexuality. Dr. Murphy will be talking about her project on the oral history of the Butch Community.

The Conference Registration Fee for this year is £75 for regulars and £40 for concessions (PhD students, low-income). Tickets are available here.

Paper proposals are due 1st September 2021: they should consist of a title, and up to 250 words abstract. The decisions on acceptance would be communicated by 1st November 2021. All papers will be delivered live and we will schedule across time-zones.

The theme of the 7th annual conference of the Historical Fictions Research Network is “Communities” and spans a wide array of topics across the disciplines of Archaeology, Architecture, Literature, Art History, Cartography, Geography, History, Memory Studies, Musicology, Reception Studies, Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Museum Studies, Media Studies, Politics, Re-enactment, Larping, Gaming, Transformative Works, Gender, Race, Queer studies.

For the 2022 conference, HFRN seeks to engage in scholarly discussions and deliberations on how communities construct their own pasts; how different versions of the past are used to create – or question – a national memory and identity; how communities challenge the narratives that have been foisted upon them or are used to oppress and discriminate; how communities challenge their own consensual understandings of their past; or how a re-evaluation of the past and past events may change a communities’ self-image. We welcome paper proposals across historical periods, with ambitious, high-quality, interdisciplinary approaches and new methodologies that will support research into larger trends, and which will lead to more theoretically informed understandings of the mode across historical periods, cultures, and languages.

The conference will prioritize (but will not be necessarily limited to) the following thematic strands:

  • Past, Present and the community writing
  • Literature, Language, and community building
  • Historical Fiction, Gaming and Community
  • Gender Writings, Health and Community
  • Textual retellings, revisions, and Community construction
  • COVID, Community and resilience
  • Queer Space and community development
  • Social Media and digital communities
  • Web series, Film adaptation and community
  • Memory, community, and identity
  • Ecological writings and community
  • Community, worldbuilding and historical imagination
  • Cultural histories of communities
  • War, Migration, and community restoration
  • National memories and identities

Each presentation will be of 20 minutes followed by an interaction session.

To register your interest in presenting a paper, please fill in this form.

Visit our website for more details and regular updates. You can also email us.

Clevedon Tomorrow

This is a reminder that Juliet McKenna and I will be in Clevedon tomorrow for their literary festival. Juliet is appearing on the Fantasy Fringe panel at 3:30pm, but the lovely people from Books on the Hill, who are organising that event, have a stall there all day, so I’ll be going over early to give them some books to sell.

Mind you, given that Clevedon is a seaside town, and the weather is forecast to be excellent, I might not be at the venue all day. A little bit of breathing in of sea air might be necessary.