Dinomania at Bristol

Here are some more photos I took of the dinosaurs on view at Bristol Zoo.

As usual with animals, getting them to stay still to be photographed is not always easy. Some of them, such as the Pachyrhinosaurus, were gently snoozing. Others were very busy. The most active of them was the dilophosaurus, which seemed to fancy itself as a dragon and delighted in spraying small children with water. Here it is in action. (The background noise is the rain.)

Better photos and more information about the various creatures can be found here.

Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry & Chris Riddell do Mythology


Yesterday at the Hay Literary Festival Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry did an event about mythology. Neil talked about his hugely successful Norse Mythology book, and Stephen about a forthcoming book on Greek Myths. As a special bonus, Chris Riddell sketched live during the event. The 1700 audience (which included Tony Robinson) was enthralled.

Neil read the story of how Fenrir Wolf was chained by the gods, and Tyr lost his hand. Stephen read the story of how King Midas got ass’s ears. I’m assuming that you are familiar with both of these.

What you might not know is that the legendary Midas was said to be king of Gordium, the same city where, years later, Alexander the Great cut a great knot. Gordium is in Phyrgia in central Turkey, which is also the home province of Cybele.

At the end of the event Amanda read Neil’s poem, “The Mushroom Hunters”, which is about how women invented science. This was apparently a request from Stephen who had seen the original reading on Brainpickings.

Neil did a four hour signing after the event, which meant that he missed Amanda’s concert. I went to the gig, which was great. More of that another time. After Amanda had finished, I managed to catch up with Neil who was finally getting time off to eat. As we were chatting, Chris came up with his stack of sketches from the talk. I asked if I could photograph them. The light wasn’t great, and all I had was my phone, but if you’d like to see the sketches you can find them all here.

Launching Twilight People

Twilight People collage

I am in London, for their leg of the 2016 National Festival of LGBT History. The first event was last night at Islington Museum. It was the opening of Twilight People, a photographic exhibition of trans people of faith.

The show has been put together by my friend Surat-Shaan Knan, who is amazingly good at magicking up funds and volunteers for this sort of thing. The photography is really good, and it is fascinating to read all of the stories about the intersections between gender journeys and journeys of faith. If you happen to be in London, do pop in and take a look.

The people in the exhibition come from a wide range of backgrounds including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Paganism. There are, of course, a lot of faiths missing, but Surat-Shaan can only work with people who offer themselves as volunteers. Hopefully he can add to the mix in time.

I am particularly impressed with Liberal Judaism for all of the support that they give to Surat-Shaan in his projects.

I managed to snag a couple of interviews while I was there. One is with Christina Beardsley who is a Christian minister. The other is with the Deputy Mayor of Islington. Shaan dear, you owe me an interview, and I owe you coffee.

Tonight is the Civic Launch of the London weekend. Roz Kaveney is one of the guest speakers.

A Trip to the Seaside

Weston-super-Mare is a small town on the Somerset coast previously most famous for being home to Jeffrey Archer. These days, of course, it is well known for Banksy’s new Dismaland exhibition. I didn’t go there for that. Tickets are like gold dust right now. But it was Weston’s annual Pride today, and with it being a bank holiday a lot of the LGBT Bristol folks were unavailable, so I offered to head over there and help with the stall. I hadn’t been to Weston in a long time, and with the trains on strike it was a good excuse to take Effie for a nice long run.

I did walk past Dismaland on my way to the park where Pride was being held. Parking was pretty much impossible on the sea front, what with it being a bank holiday Saturday and Banksy. The queues of people waiting to get in were horrendous, and that seemed to be for people with tickets, because you couldn’t buy them at the venue. It was sold out online.

Pride, on the other hand, was very quiet. This was only their second year, and having been a bit cramped last time they had moved to a much bigger park in which there is lots of room for expansion. It is a lovely venue. I wish Bristol had somewhere that nice, but we did rattle a bit.

I did some interviews for Shout Out while I was there, including interviewing the Mayor about Banksy. Hopefully Mary will like what I have got. A special mention to Alec, a young trans boy I met there who has started an LGBT group at his school with the help of a supportive teacher.

Having done the interviews, I decided to head home because they really didn’t need me there. But before I left town I stopped in on the Sand Sculpture Festival exhibition. Weston has a funny beach. The tide goes out a very long way. It almost looks like you could walk to Wales over the mud, but there are some very dangerous channels out there, and the chances are that you’ll get stuck in the mud before you get to water. However, near the promenade the beach is lovely. The donkey rides are famous, and the sand is some of the best for castle-building anywhere in the world. The Sand Sculpture Festival makes use of this to put on an annual display of amazing sand art. The photos on their website are probably better, but I took some while I was there and you can see them below.

Weston 2015
Weston 2015Aug 29, 2015Photos: 35
 

Photo Shoot – We Have Results

Photo 172


So yeah, I figured that a serious professional photographer like Lou would manage to produce something I’d be OK with. It is her job to work miracles. I didn’t expect to be really pleased with some of the results.

Here’s a very different one that makes me look a bit more serious and professional.

Photo 132


There are others I like too.

If you need a professional photo shoot done, get Lou to do it, she’s great.

Photo Shoot

I spent the morning in Bath pretending to be a fashion model.

Of course I’m not one. What was actually going on is that I have discovered that I need a professionally done head shot for publicity purposes. This is what happens when you do radio, public speaking and so on. Doing this is beyond scary, because cameras hate me. I have a couple of pictures that I can just about tolerate, but mostly seeing photos of me makes me want to curl up and die. (Please remember this, especially if you are about to post photos of me to Facebook.)

Thankfully I happen to know a very good photographer who lives nearby. Joe Abercrombie’s wife, Lou, has done publicity shots for many of my author friends, including Paul Cornell, Gareth Powell, Emma Newman and Sarah Pinborough; not to mention Joe himself, of course. I really like her work, so I arranged to go and get snapped.

I found the process of being photographed both fun and educational. As long as I could forget the fact that there will be actual photographs at the end of the process I could just enjoy the process and learn how to pose for a camera. It isn’t easy to do well, and I have a great deal of respect for professional models who manage to look happy and sexy to order for hours on end. Striking a pose is also a skill that I probably don’t have, but enjoyed trying to learn.

Eventually I will have to choose a picture or two to use, and I’ll put them up here for you to laugh at. Please don’t judge Lou’s work by this. Check out her website instead. She’s really great at putting her subjects at ease too.

Photos From Pride

Shout Out had an official photographer on hand at Pride, and Mary Milton has just posted a number of his pictures to Facebook. Two of them included me.

Me, Tommy & Jasmine


This is myself, Tommy Popcorn and Jasmine, the Ujima team that hosted the 6:00pm to 7:00pm slot.

Me, Tommy & Jasmine


This is the Bucks Fizz group shot, featuring (left to right) Steffi Barnett, Bobby McVay, Jay Ashton, Tommy Popcorn, me, Cheryl Baker, Steve Shepherd and Mitch, Mike Nolan and Andy Thomas.

(Great dress, Cheryl.)

Museum of Inuit Art, Toronto

I had a little time to myself over last weekend in Toronto, so I took the opportunity to catch up with some culture. For this trip I visited the Museum of Inuit Art, which is in the Queen’s Quay building down by the lake shore. I was very impressed. There are some magnificent sculptures there. Several of them looked very much like they had come straight out of Mythago Wood, which was a strange experience, and I guess shows that Rob got the shamanistic element of the book very right.

One of the favorite subjects for sculptures is Sedna the Sea Goddess, who is a mermaid.

My two favorite artists from the museum are Bart Hanna Kappianaq, who has some beautiful pieces in arctic marble, and Abraham Anghik Ruben, who has a strong Nordic influence to his work.

Visitors were allowed to take photos as long as they did not use flash, so here are some things to whet your appetite.

Museum of Inuit Art, Toronto
Museum of Inuit Art, TorontoDec 14, 2014Photos: 27
 

The Way We Were

My uncle and I have been sorting through my mother’s records to help her manage her affairs while she is sick. In the process I came across a file of letters I sent her while I was living in Australia. It included this picture, which is a much younger and much slimmer me on the beach at Wilson’s Prom. I guess this must be the girl that Kevin fell in love with.

Me at Wilson's Prom

Trans Pride – Day 2 Revisited

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Brighton. I gather from Bethany Black that other parts of the country were actually hot (by which I mean over 30C), but here it was warm with a cool sea breeze. It was ideal for just about everything except spending the whole day out in the sun on your feet, which is of course exactly what I was planning to do.

I began with an hour’s stroll along the sea front from Hove to Kemptown. You can very quickly tell why Brighton has a trans pride, because trans people don’t particularly stand out here. I passed a lot of people in (fake) grass skirts on their way to an event in Hove. When I got to Brighton there was a big group of obvious gay boys heading to the beach wearing Victorian women’s bathing costumes. Later in the day there was apparently a mermaid march through the town in aid of marine conservation (something I would love to have supported). And at night the stag and hen parties come out, both of which appear to involve adopting over-the-top feminine gender presentation.

This year saw the first Trans Pride March, and by “first” I mean not just for Brighton, but apparently for the whole of Europe. I know, San Francisco friends, what took us so long, eh? But we have got there. The marchers, some 450 in all, assembled at the Marlborough and walked up St. James St. through Kemptown to the park where the Pride was being staged. I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in on the rehearsals for Rainbow Chorus, Brighton’s LGBT choir, who provided some of the music for the march. You’ll be hearing more from them on the radio in the coming weeks.

The event was officially opened by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion (and therefore for Kemptown). She gave a rousing speech calling for an end to discrimination against trans people by the media, the government and the health service. I was very impressed.

After the opening ceremonies I went for a sit down out of the sun, finding a lovely little Thai restaurant called Sawadee just around the corner. There was a large party of young Thai people in there, so you don’t need my recommendation.

The afternoon was spent gathering interviews. I have a bunch of vox pops that I need to edit together, plus a number of longer pieces with people like Sarah Savage, Fox & Lewis, and trans model Nicole Gibson who was MCing the event. Alice Denny gave me a reading of a poem that she had written for the event, and I can guarantee you’ll get that on the radio soon.

During periods when there were rock bands on stage and interviewing was impossible I tried to get some shade and rest. Huge thanks to the barmaid in Neighborhood Kitchen who made me a wonderful non-alcoholic mojito when I desperately needed something long and cool that wasn’t water.

Part of the celebrations for the day were provided by Brighton*Transformed, a local history project focusing solely on the trans community and managed by my friend Kathy Caton who also produces the Out In Brighton radio show. They had got large posters featuring photographs of their subjects in many of the shop windows along the route of the march. In the evening they projected 30-foot square photos onto the wall of the (very supportive) Unitarian Church. Here’s the one of Sarah:

Sarah Savage

As you can see, this took place in a very busy location, with lots of local people and tourists out on the town for Saturday night.

The final event of the evening was the afterparty, for which the opening act was comic, Bethany Black. Beth has given me a lovely interview about the new Russell T. Davis TV series that she has been acting in. That too will be on the radio soon. And of course I finally got to see Beth perform, which was great.

I managed to get back to the hotel just before midnight. The damn seagulls woke me up at 6:00am again. It is definitely seagull pie for them if I catch them.

Update: I forgot to note that, despite it being Saturday night, I got a table at Indian Summer, one of the finest Indian restaurants I know. It is a foodie place — obviously, I like it — but if you like that sort of thing it is well worth going to.

Beth Gwinn Photo Kickstarter

Neil Gaiman

My friend Beth Gwinn, who has been the main photographer for Locus for as long as I can remember, has a Kickstarter campaign going to fund production of a book of her photographs of science fiction and fantasy writers. The above photo of Neil Gaiman is a sample of her work. I used that photo because one of the rewards available is that Neil will be signing 3 copies of a previously un-published print of him. Beth is a great photographer. I do hope this gets off the ground. More more information, see the Kickstarter page.

Croatia Trip Wrap

I think I have everything processed now. There is a con report available here, complete with photos of the event.

I should, of course, give huge thanks to everyone involved. To Mihaela, Bernard & Iggy, and to Milena, Marko & family for their hospitality; to Mirko for driving me around; to Igor and his committee for Liburnicon; to Jacqueline Carey who graciously allowed me to share the limelight with her; to Irena and to Žarko who also looked after me at various times; and to SFera for welcoming me to their meeting. I will have news related to discussions there in due course. The whole trip was amazing.

On the subject of SFera, I should note that, despite the club having lots of women members, and being mostly run by women, one of the discussions we had was about whether US writers would refuse to attend their cons due to concerns about sexual harassment. I’ve heard similar fears voiced in Finland. The problem is that what is deemed socially acceptable in a culture can depend very much on cultural attitudes to nudity, and on cultural attitudes to personal space. Finns are used to seeing close relatives and friends naked. Croatians are more touchy-feely than the British and Americans. I tried to reassure them that John Scalzi is a sensible fellow, and will take such things into account.

A potentially more serious issue is that many Croatians still smoke. I was OK with that, partly because it was their homes and their country; and partly because a few days of smoke exposure in Croatia will have minimal effect on my health compared to growing up in 20th Century Britain. Other people may be less tolerant.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time, and hope to be back sometime soon. I also hope to be able to introduce many of you to my Croatian friends at Worldcon and Eurocon next year (and maybe even at Eastercon).

Meanwhile, here are some photos.

Rijeka
RijekaAug 25, 2013Photos: 30
 
Zagreb 2013
Zagreb 2013Aug 26, 2013Photos: 55
 

Brighton – The Photos

I have uploaded the photos I took on my trip to Brighton last weekend. The include a bunch of scenic shots of the sea front, various restaurants, and the meals I ate at Smokey’s and Indian Summer. There are not many pictures of Trans Pride because trans people are generally very nervous about being photographed and there were quite enough people with cameras going round pestering the attendees as it was.

Those of you going to World Fantasy should note the pirate-themed crazy golf course that is on the sea front in front of the Metropole. If the weather is good I think we have to play that.

Brighton
BrightonJul 26, 2013Photos: 47
 

Local Costume Design Exhibition

Our local shopping center has a few empty stores these days, but they seem to be trying to make use of them. Today I found an exhibition of costume art put on by students from a local college. As far as I can make out, the brief was to design dresses influenced by nature, which naturally resulted in some fantastical creations. I took some photos.

My favorite dress was this “Wood Witch” by Zoe Dolman. It reminded me of something Terri Windling might have drawn.

Wood witch - top

The bottom of the dress has more of a seaweed air to it.

Wood witch - bottom

Zoe tells me that her ambition is to do costume design for people like Tim Burton, which is a very fine sort of ambition to have.

If I was going to pick a dress to wear it would be this one:

One to wear

This one looks like something that the Red Queen might wear:

Roses and hearts

This was just a skirt, but again very striking.

Petal skirt

Union Cup – Some Photos

I managed to find the time to take a few photos during the Union Cup festivities. Sadly most of those from the awards ceremony didn’t come out to well (which was partly my fault for trying to avoid getting showered in champagne), but hopefully you’ll get a sense of the event.

I should add here my thanks to the Vixens for the use of their Pavilion, particular the community liaison office in which we built our studio.

Union Cup 2013
Union Cup 2013Dec 31, 2000Photos: 14
 

Those are my pictures. I’d like to add one more that turned up on Facebook. This is me with my new best mates, the Dark Horses of Lisbon.

Lisbon Dark Horses

A Trip to Manchester

Yesterday afternoon I headed up to Manchester, and in the evening gave a talk to the local trans group. Manchester has a very well-organized and active LGBT community. It is a very inclusive group as well, as far as I can see. The city is the host to the annual Sparkle festival, the UK’s national trans festival. And the organization I went to see, the Trans Resource and Empowerment Centre, has space in the Lesbian & Gay Foundation‘s offices in the city center.

As befits an organization whose name abbreviates to TREC, the Manchester folks took kindly to a talk about science fiction. I was made extremely welcome, and even the folks there who said they didn’t read SF were very polite about the talk. Afterwards we went off to a nearby pub called, rather appropriately, The Molly House, where I discovered lots of beers I’d never heard of before.

Anyone from Manchester looking for the list of books mentioned, you can find it here. I also added the following:

The Schrödinger’s Cat trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson.

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan.

Also if the lady who asked about Marxist SF writers should happen to drop by, I recommend China Miéville, Ken MacLeod and Kim Stanley Robinson.

This morning I did a quick tour around the city center taking photos. They turned out to be mainly graffiti, statuary and trains.

Manchester
ManchesterMar 17, 2012Photos: 17
 

Total Art

I’m in London for a couple of days, and I unexpectedly had more free time today than originally planned. Judith Clute suggested that we go and consume some culture, as they would say on Galactic Suburbia. So I allowed myself to be educated, and we went to an art gallery.

To be precise, we went to the Saatchi Gallery on King’s Road, near to Sloane Square tube station. It is an amazing place. The building it occupies is a former military barracks called the Duke of York’s HQ. Presumably it is where the ten thousand men lived when the grand old fellow wasn’t marching them up and down hills. But inside it is thoroughly modern, all glass and steel. And the lighting is fantastic. Clearly a huge amount of effort has gone into thinking about how art can best be displayed. I particularly love the fake skylights that make it look as if the galleries are bathed in natural light.

The exhibition is called Gesamtkunstwerk, which apparently means “total art”, and features a selection of works by many of the most talented of Germany’s young artists. As I generally find with modern art, some of the pieces were amazing, and others left me completely cold. Unusually, the Saatchi Gallery allows photography inside the exhibitions, so I’ve been able to share photos of some of my favorite pieces with you. There’s even one containing a working train set, just for Kevin.

On our way back to Sloane Square Judith and I stopped off at Holy Trinity Church, which is an absolute must visit location for anyone who is a fan of William Morris and similar artists. I have included one photo of that as well.

Saatchi Gallery: Gesamtkunstwerk
Saatchi Gallery: GesamtkunstwerkJan 13, 2012Photos: 15