This is very much advance notice. I’ll be pushing it much more once I am back from Ireland. But in November (assuming that the UK has not descended into full scale civil war) I am going to be giving a workshop on “Writing Queer Characters from the Past” at a symposium on writing historical fiction at Bath Spa University. The date is Saturday, November 16th. The fee including lunch is £85, though there are concessions available for students. Full details here.
Some of you are in Ireland already, and many more are on the way. Obviously there is Worldcon to look forward to, and a fair amount of Irish history (particularly if you count yourself as part of the diaspora), but many of you will be interested in that thing that Ireland is justifiably famous for: alcohol.
I don’t know what the convention centre bars are like, but if they are rubbish I suspect that a lot of us will end up in the Porterhouse on Temple Bar. It happens to be just a short walk from my apartment, and as I recall it is the traditional Dead Dog location for Octocon. Anyway, they will have a good selection of microbrews.
Then there is the matter of whiskey. Are there distilleries? Yes, there are. Can you visit them? Of course. Here’s a quick guide.
First up, don’t bother with Jamesons. I understand that they don’t actualy make whiskey in Dublin any more, and in any case what’s the point in looking for whiskey that you can buy at home. Also Bushmills is in Ulster. Wait until you get to Belfast before asking for that. Thankfully Dublin has seen an explosion of craft distilleries in recent years.
The Tourist Information lady I talked to in Dublin back in February recommended Pearse Lyons and Teeling. My local whiskey shop in Bath added Liberties and Dingle. And there’s also Roe & Co, which I know nothing about. All of these places are right in the centre of Dublin in and around the Liberties district, so south of the river and west of the castle.
If visiting all of those places seems like a bit much, you should be able to get an overview of the field at the Irish Whiskey Museum. You can sample what’s available at the Dingle Whiskey Bar (at least I hope you can, they do have a connection to the Dingle distillery so they may be a teeny bit biased). And you can buy bottles to take home from the Celtic Whiskey Shop.
Most of these distilleries are quite young. I think they all have product available now, but it won’t have had much ageing.
That should keep you all busy during your trip. However, there’s one more place that I’d like to visit if I have the time. That is the Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum. I don’t suppose it is entirely devoted to Horslips, and Thin Lizzy do deserve a place. I gather that there’s another Irish rock band that is quite famous too. Anyway, it seems like fun.
I entirely forgot to make a post about last month’s radio show because I was in Finland when it aired. As I’m in the middle of prep for this month’s show, I have been reminded of this and need to do something about it, because there were some good interviews in the show.
One of them is with Regina Wang, which I plan to get online before Worldcon. The other is with Farah Mendlesohn and Cathy Butler, which is slightly more urgent because it is about an event that is taking place this coming weekend – the conference on Diana Wynne Jones that they are running in Bristol (and which I can’t go to because I am swamped with work).
Farah and Cathy are always good value for a chat, but there is no better subject to set them off on than Diana. I hope you enjoy the interview.
As you might have guessed, that is the title of an academic conference. It is a bit of a mouthful, but basically it was a feminist conference about trans issues. It look place at the University of Roehampton in London last week, and I was one of the speakers.
You can find the full schedule for the day here. Sadly UIrika Dahl was unable to attend due to illness, but the rest of the conference went ahead as planned.
Because the conference was advertised online it came to the attention of the transphobe mob on Mumsnet, who unsurprisingly lost their collective shit about it. If you want to see the nonsense that they come up with, just Google the conference title. This had two main consequences. Firstly the trans student group that was going to be involved had to withdraw because they were concerned about their safety. (One of the haters’ favorite games is to take unflattering photos of trans people and post them online accompanied by a sea of insults and, if they can get it, doxing data.) The other was that for the first time in my life I attended an academic conference that had a security guard on duty at all times. Thanks Pavel, you were great.
Interestingly, of the 8 speakers, 6 were cisgender women. The claim that the haters speak for all women is really utter nonsense.
I won’t go through all of the talks because much of it is fairly niche stuff, but Erzsébet Barát’s description of life in Hungary under the government of Viktor Orbán was chilling, and could prove a forecast of what the UK will be like should Boris Johnson still be Prime Minister at the end of the year. Sadly there are always women who are prepared to go along with far-right regimes and preach a form of “feminism” that puts women’s lives firmly in the control of men.
The really bizarre thing about right-wing Hungarian “feminists” is that they describe their views as being in opposition to that awful neo-liberal capitalist form of feminism known as “intersectional feminism”. The capacity of the far right to re-define words to mean what they want never ceases to amaze me.
The other country I learned a lot about at the conference was India. My thanks are due to Sarah Newport (I’ve found your thesis, Sarah, and look forward to reading it), and also to Antonia Navarro Tejero who introduced me to a work of Indian feminist science fiction.
Manjula Padmanabhan is an Indian SF writer who is working on a trilogy of novels about a young person called Meiji. The first book, Escape, is set in a country in which all women have been exterminated. As the title suggests, Meiji, who was assigned female at birth, manages to escape, and book 2 is set on The Island of Lost Girls. This, of course, is the place where women survivors have fled to. But, as all Suzy McKee Charnas fans will know, that doesn’t mean it is a utopia.
Listening to Antonia talk about the books, it is clear that Padmanabhan is in conversation with Joanna Russ and Charnas. My guess is that she has read both The Female Man and The Holdfast Chronicles. What is interesting and different about her books is that there are a whole lot of trans people in them.
Book 3 isn’t out yet, but I have bought the first two books to see what they are like. That wasn’t easy. Amazon appears to be deliberately hiding them. If you search for “The Island of Lost Girls” you won’t find Padmanabhan’s book even though that’s a full and almost-unique title. I had to search for “The Island of Lost Girls Manjula” to find it. And the two books aren’t linked either.
Anyway, I will read the books and report back. In the meantime, does anyone know anything about Manjula Padmanabhan? Mimi, Tasha, Aisha, Samit?
With profuse apologies for taking so long, I have finally done a report from Finncon. Having done so I found to my horror that I hadn’t done a con report since 2015. I need more space in my time to write (and to edit audio).
Anyway, there is now a Finncon report. The tl;dr is that it was amazing and I had a wonderful time. But there’s a whole lot of stuff that went on, and you can read about it here.
Those of you who are attending the Eurocon in Belfast after Worldcon will get to see the ESFS Awards in action. They are a very different beast from the Hugos, necessarily so because the members of the convention are unlikely to be familiar with most of the finalists because they don’t speak the necessary languages. Instead the ESFS Awards work on a system of national delegations, thereby ensuring equal representation for each member country. The full rules are available here.
The finalists for this year’s ESFS Awards have been announced, as reported by Europa SF. I don’t have a vote, but I am familiar with some of the finalists. Here are a few quick comments.
In Best Author, most people will be familiar with Charlie Stross. That may not count in his favour as delegates tend to mark down people who write in English precisely because they are so much more likely to be translated. I’m hoping for a win for Maria Turtschaninoff who has written some amazingly good feminist fantasies. I’d be happy with a win by Aleksandar Žiljak as well because he has a story in the anthology of Croatian SF that I published.
In Best Artist I’d love my friend Ninni Aalto to win, but it is a tough field with a bunch of professional illustrators, some of whom undoubtedly work internationally.
In Best Publisher I’m rooting for my pals Pete Crowther (PS Publishing) and Francesco Verso (Future Fiction). Pete has a huge track record, while Francesco deserves recognition for his commitment to translations.
In Best Promoter I note that Petra Bulić has worked tirelessly for Croatian fandom for decades (who remembes the Zagreb in ’99 Worldcon bid?), but Toni Jerrman absolutely deserves all of the awards for Tähtivaeltaja.
The only one of the Translator finalists that I know personally is Marko Fančović. Fingers crossed for him.
In Work of Fiction I’d like to highlight Mats Strandberg’s Slutet. Lots of people at Åcon were enthusing about this book. It has a 4-star rating from over 100 reviews on Goodreads. Mats tells me that an English translation has been made because there’s interest from TV companies. It needs an English language publisher.
If you happen to be a member of a national delegation, please take note.
The programme for TitanCon, this year’s Eurocon, does not appear to be on their website yet, but it is on Grenadine so I guess it is public. Here’s what I am doing:
22 Aug 2019, Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, Lagan A (Hilton Belfast)
Small Press publishers are the backbone of the SF&F industry. Our panel will be sharing experiences, insights and anecdotes. Pedro Cipriano (Editorial Divergência), Ms Cheryl Morgan (Wizard’s Tower Press) (M), Carole Parker ms
Writing Vulnerable Men
23 Aug 2019, Friday 17:00 – 18:00, Lagan A (Hilton Belfast)
A look at the presentation of non-stereotypical male characters in SF&F. Ms Cheryl Morgan (Wizard’s Tower Press) (M), Ian McDonald, Zoë Sumra
The Matrix – 20 years on
24 Aug 2019, Saturday 13:00 – 14:00, Lagan A (Hilton Belfast)
In 1999, cinema viewers across the world were asked “What is The Matrix?” Twenty years on, the question still remains. On its face a groundbreaking SFX blockbuster, it can be read as a transgender parable, a treatise on the Philosophy of Mind, an object lesson on the dangers of Sequelitis, and more. Ms Cheryl Morgan (Wizard’s Tower Press) (M), Dyrk Ashton (Paternus Books Media), Flickums (Royal London Group), RB Kelly
Yes, I am moderating all three of those. I am also moderating every panel I have been put on at Worldcon. Someone has obviously got a reputation.
The final programme allocations for Worldcon were released today. Here’s where you can find me:
Bridging the language barrier: translated SFF
16 Aug 2019, Friday 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)
How has the landscape of translated SFF changed in the last decade or so, both into English and from English into other languages? We’ve seen translated pieces triumph in the genre’s prime awards and gain dedicated magazines, the attention of more readers, and many specialised anthologies. The panel will discuss trends in translated genre fiction as well as possible future directions.
Cheryl Morgan (M), Julie Novakova, Neil Clarke, Francesco Verso, Emily Xueni Jin
Anniversary: The Left Hand of Darkness
16 Aug 2019, Friday 20:00 – 20:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)
It is the 50th anniversary of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. For many, this book has been an eye-opening presentation of gender. How has it influenced and shaped gender in SFF books? Where has the genre gone since?
Cheryl Morgan (M), Laura Lam, Dr Nick Hubble, Ell Schulman
Robots before RUR
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 15:30 – 16:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)
The word ‘robot’ was coined by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek, for his play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, first performed in 1921. However, the idea of artificial human-like machines is far older. Cheryl Morgan takes us on a tour of the prehistory of robotics to see how artificial beings were imagined, and even built, by visionaries of the past.
Worldcon is approaching fast, and The Green Man’s Foe is officially launching on August 15th, the first day of Worldcon. We should, barring disasters, have paper copies for sale at both Worldcon and Eurocon. One of my current tasks is to work out how many copies to have shipped to Ireland.
The convention sale prices for the book will be €10/£10 for the paperback and €15/£15 for the hardcover. They’ll probably be about 1:1 by then. If you want to pay in US$, talk to Kevin or myself.
If you want to be sure of getting copies, please email me and let me know how many and which format(s). If you want copies of The Green Man’s Heir as well, let me know.
The book will be available from Francesco Verso’s Future Fiction company in the Dealers’ Room. I’ll be on the stand as much as I can. While you are there I suggest you pick up a copy of his new anthology, World Science Fiction #1: Visions to Preserve the Biodiversity of the Future, which contains stories from authors from all over the world. He’s also having a launch party (Saturday, 17 August, 12:30-13:30, Warehouse 2 (WH2), first floor, Point Square) but I won’t be there as I’m being interviewed for Scott Edelman’s fabulous Eating the Fantastic podcast.
I will also carry some books around with me, so you may be able to get a copy at one of my programme items. Juliet may do the same. I don’t know as yet whether she will have a signing, but I don’t know if you are allowed to sell books at a signing.
Francesco and I will also be at Eurocon in Belfast so if you are only going to that convention you can pick up there book there. Be warned that we may try to sell you a pre-support for the Fiuggi Eurocon bid, which you will want to buy because a) it is near Rome, and b) the 2021 Worldcon will be in the USA which may be an unsafe destination for many of us.
Earlier this year the Dublin Worldcon asked members to sumbit suggestions of good LGBT+ representation in SF&F as part of a project with Dublin Pride. That list has now been published and you can find it here (Google Docs spreadsheet). There’s a lot I could add (no Cat Valente!), but that’s my fault for being too busy to contribute. On the other hand there are books there I hadn’t heard of, which is an excellent indicator of the state of the field because years ago I could have named pretty much all of them very quickly.
It has all be very quiet here recently because I have had an intense couple of weeks traveling around Europe. Some of you may have seen the firehose of a tweet stream. Since getting back I have a) been sick and b) been catching up or things I wasn’t doing while I was away. One of those things was getting The Green Man’s Foe ready for publication, which is kind of urgent.
There will be more reportage once I manage to get a bit of free time. But I did want to break the radio silence to say a huge THANK YOU!!! to everyone involved in Finncon 2019 for making my Guest of Honour stint there so pleasurable. I had a fabulous time. Thanks also to my fellow guests: Charlie Stross, Kersti Juva and Raine Koskimaa who were great company. And of course thanks to Fluff the Plush Cthulhu for not destroying the world during the convention.
The Finns might think that by making me a GoH they will have got rid of me, but they have chosen Mike Carey for one of their Guests of Honour in Tampere next year so I guess I have to go.
There will be a more detailed con report in due course. Promise. And it will have to happen before Worldcon.
This time next week I will be in Finland. I will be on my way to Jyväskylä where I am fortunate to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour at this year’s Finncon. Most of you won’t be able to go, of course, and I don’t think there are any plans to record the programme. However, it is going to be fun. I note in particular that on the Sunday I will be giving my GoH talk on the subject of the prehistory of robotics. There were a lot of artificial beings both written about and made before Karel Čapek wrote RUR. If anyone else is interested I’d be happy to give the talk again elsewhere.
I was having so much fun at Åcon that I didn’t get around to writing about it.
Well, that’s not strictly true, I did spend quite a bit of time publicising the charity walk for One25. Huge thanks once again to everyone who sponsored me. Last I heard, all of the various people participating had raised over £11,000 for the charity, and my personal total, including gift aid, was over £700.
I also spent quite a bit of time rehearsing the talk I was scheduled to give, which was about Janelle Monáe. I had decided to do something a bit different and role-play a far future version of myself. So the talk was given by a future historian looking back on the career of the time-traveling android rights activist, Cindi Mayweather. It took a bit of effort to put together a coherent narrative from the information provided in the various song lyrics, and someone else may have a different take on it, but that how historians work. From the reaction on Twitter, and from people thanking me in person, it seemed to have gone down well.
Most importantly, it seems to have led to more people planning to vote for Dirty Computer in the Hugos, because they now understand that Janelle is totally One Of Us.
While I was there I also grabbed a couple of interviews. One was with Amal El-Mohtar and aired on Wednesday’s radio show. The other was with Regina Wang and will air during the July show.
And after all that I still had enough time to enjoy myself greatly. And watch the football. And consume a fair amount of pizza and alcohol.
One thing that I do want to note is a late night event that I’d not paid proper attention to before because it was labeled as “karaoke”. No one wants me anywhere near a proper karaoke event. However, this event did not require any actual singing, because it was a William Shatner Karaoke event. That meant that everyone was expected to perform in the style of Shatner’s infamous “singing” career; so spoken word, hopelessly over-dramatic, and breath breaks in totally inappropriate places. If the audience laughs, that shows you are doing it right.
Finnish conventions are the best. Yes, I know I have said that before. It is still true.
Hello from the Åland Islands. I’m not exactly on holiday, because email chases me everywhere. Also I have two programme items at the con and I have the charity walk for One25 to finish. But I am doing my best to have some downtime.
Thus far there has been a lot of travel, including the now-legendary boat trip from Turku to Mariehamn. I have also done my first programme thing, which was chatting with this year’s Guest of Honour, Amal El-Mohtar, about steampunk. But mostly I see to have been walking, sleeping and eating.
One interesting development this year is that Silja Lines now have a selection of beers brewed especially for sale on the ferries. I have picked up a couple of porters to try. Also dinner this evening was at Dino’s (Achipelacon attendees may remember it as the place with portraits of dead rock stars) in part because they are one of the few places that stocks Stallhagen’s Baltic Porter.
I don’t have a lot more to add at this point except to say that This is How You Lose the Time War is brilliant and there will be a review posted soon.
On Saturday Stephanie Saulter and I will be on a panel about “The boundaries and territories of SF” as part of a conference staged by Maison Française. We will be joined by brilliant Bath-based writer, Emma Geen, and by Jeanne Debats from France. Full conference website here.
I will be in Oxford most of Friday, and will also be spending some time at the Oxford Postgraduate Conference in Assyriology, because why attend one conference when you can do two at once, right?
Hopefully I will see some of you at one or the other event.
Eastercon is taking place at Heathrow this weekend, and one of the major announcements that has been made is that the 2024 bid for a UK Worldcon has selected a venue. The host city will once again be Glasgow, and the site will the familiar SECC, though it is now known as the Scottish Event Campus.
Mike Glyer has a brief report on File 770, and the official bid site can be found here. The bid is currently unopposed, but you never know what might turn up between now and 2022. Presupports will go on sale in Dublin.
As far as I know, there is no intention to revive the White Star Federated Spacelines and Starship Armadillo that Kevin and I created for the 2005 Worldcon. I don’t even know if the Armadillo is part of the facilities plans. But here’s a brief reminder of the Armadillo in flight:
It is also worth noting that by 2024 Scotland may be an independent country within the EU. Or there could be English tanks in Glasgow. In the current state of UK politics, anything is possible. If Scotland is still part of the UK at that time it could be very difficult for non-white-Anglo people to attend.
Meanwhile Jukka Halme, who is at Eastercon, tweeted this:
Worldcon in Berlin in 2026.
— Logan Handsomepants (@jukkahoo) 19 April 2019
Knowing Jukka, this could just be him tossing a large rock into the fannish lake and watching the ripples, but if it is serious I’m very interested.
The weather appears to have warmed up nicely, so I am looking forward to the summer which, as is traditional, will see me heading off to Finland.
At the end of May I will be at Åcon X, the 10th convention in the Åland Islands. This year’s GoH is Amal El-Mohtar, who I am very much looking forward to getting to know better. Not to mention there will be the boat trips on the Baltic and the lovely island destination.
In July Finncon will be in Jyväskylä, which is always lovely. I will get to hang out with the fabulous Irma Hirsjärvi again. Otto and Paula have promised me some tourism around central Finland. And best of all I get to be a Guest of Honour.
There are a couple of very interesting Finnish guests. Kersti Juva has translated The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh, Watership Down and many other famous books. Raine Koskimaa is a professor of Contemporary Culture, which basically means he gets to play video games for a living. The author GoH is Charles Stross, which means that Feòrag and I will get to hang out together, drink beer and be disreputable. It also means that Fluff Cthulhu will get to feast on Finnish brains.
I’ll doubtless be on programming with Charlie at some point, which may well lead to discussion of tentacled monstrosities from beyond the stars, but we promise to talk about things other than the Tories as well. I will be giving a guest lecture, the title of which is, “The Prehistory of Robotics”. It will cover the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Ottomans, the Kalevala and much more.
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.
This year’s invitations to do talks for LGBT History Month included one from Queen’s University, Belfast. I’d never been to Belfast before, and had a friend who teaches at the University who was able to put me up for the night (thanks Danielle!) so I said yes. It turned out that the cheapest way to get there was to fly to Dublin and head north from there, hence this little travel adventure.
Thursday started badly with heavy fog over Darkest Somerset. When I got to Bristol airport flights appeared to be coming and going OK, but mine wasn’t. I think the problem was that the likes of a 757 were OK, but the little turbo prop that Aer Lingus was using for my flight was too small to risk it.
I got re-booked on a later flight, but there was no time to fulfil my plan of going into Dublin and catching the train to Belfast. Instead I booked myself on an express bus from Dublin airport to Belfast. Thanks to Jon Turney for the travel advice. I normally travel very badly on buses, but this one was motorway pretty much all the way to Belfast. I actually ended up feeling much more sick on the short hop from plane to terminal at Dublin because we had a shuttle bus driver who thought he was in a rally.
The other reason I survived the bus trip was that I slept most of the way. I woke up when we got to Ulster and started making stops. We arrived in Belfast just before 17:00 and looking at the traffic I figured we’d be stuck, but there is a secret bus-only route that takes you right into the city centre. I’m impressed, Belfast.
By the way, that did mean that I was asleep when we crossed the border. There was no passport check at any point on the journey. That ease of travel will probably go away post-Brexit.
Having made it to Belfast on time, I did my talk. Huge thanks to the lovely students in the Queens LGBT+ group. We also had a great meal at a local Nepalese restaurant. There seems to be plenty of good eating in Belfast.
On Friday morning I was able to check out the trains. I caught a commuter service from where I was staying into the city, then the Enterprise down to Dublin.
It is worth noting that the main station for Belfast city is Great Victoria Street. However, the Enterprise leaves from Lanyon Place which is smaller and in a commercial/industrial district. The bus station is next to the Great Victoria Street station.
It is also worth noting that the train is much more expensive than the bus. I paid £30 for a Belfast-Dublin ticket on the train, and €8 for a Dublin-Belfast single on the bus. Of course I my case I can work on the train. On a bus I can only sleep or be sick. So the extra cost is worth it. Also the train has free wifi and a food & drink service, which the bus does not. The journey time is about 2 hours on the train. It is also 2 hours from Dublin airport to Belfast, because the airport is north of Dublin right on the motorway. If you get the bus from central Dublin you need to add at least an extra half hour to get out of the city.
There were no passport checks on the train either. I knew when I crossed the border because my phone told me that I had switched from a UK service to a (free) roaming provider. The free roaming will go way after Brexit too.
The other way that you can tell whether you are in Ulster or the Republic is the signage. In the Republic it is all dual-language. In Ulster it is defiantly English-only.
Having got to Dublin I spent an hour or two wandering around taking photos of things of interest close to the convention center where Worldcon will take place in August. I tweeted the photos, and you can find the thread here.
I also got into a lengthy conversation with a lovely Croatian woman who was working at the Tourist Information Office in Dublin. She gave me a lot of advice about places to visit (most importantly whiskey distilleries). But I’m saving that up for another post.
Thankfully my trip home was a lot smoother than the outward leg.
As most of you will know, I spent the first third of December in Austria. Part of it was tourism, of which much more later, but the main purpose of my trip was to attend the Worlding SF conference at the University of Graz.
I had an absolutely amazing time. Vienna and Graz are both beautiful cities in their own, very different, ways. I’ll have more to say about them in later posts. This post, however, is all about saying thank you. That’s thank you to the organisers, to the University, to my fellow keynote speakers (Mark Bould & Gerry Canavan), to all of the great presenters whose papers I heard, and to everyone who said such kind things about my keynote.
If you’d like to get some idea of the sorts of things that were discussed, Julia Grillmayr has an excellent report on her podcast, Superscience Me.
And if you want to see what all the fuss was about with respect to my keynote, you can watch the whole thing here. Inevitably it begins with film of me tweeting.
Mark and Gerry gave great speeches too. There was apparently an issue with the sound on the film of Mark’s talk, which the film crew are trying to fix, but Gerry’s talk and some other great videos are available here (Farcebook login required by the looks of it).