Yesterday on Ujima – Punching Nazis, Ending Violence, Mental Health

Yesterday’s radio show began with an interview with Jonathan L. Howard whose latest Carter & Lovecraft book, After the End of the World, sees our heroes transported into a world in which the Nazis won WWII. We discussed how miraculously on point such a book appears these days, and the fabulous Crisis in Earth-X crossover event which sees Supergirl, Flash, Green Arrow and friends doing their own Nazi-punching. Of course we also discussed HPL’s racism and Jonathan’s other projects, including a zombie computer game which might destroy parts of Bristol.

Next up I was joined in the studio by Charlotte Gage of Bristol Zero Tolerance. This is a great project run by Bristol Women’s Voice that aims to make the entire city free of violence against women and girls. Of course this is a bit of an uphill struggle, but at least progress is being made.

Unfortunately, thanks to the continuing squeeze on local council funding, the project (including Charlotte’s job) is currently under threat. There’s a crowdfunding campaign going on, which you can find here, but what Charlotte really needs is for some big company to step up and sponsor the project.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Charlotte and I continued our discussion in the second hour. We talked about how hard it is these days for any charity to get the day-to-day funding it needs to keep operating. Funding bodies are always happy to sponsor one-off projects, but these typically exclude what is called “core funding”, the stuff that keeps your organization running, and often excludes any funding for staff salaries. Up until now charities have often been able to get core funding from local councils who need their expert skills, but this is all being cut. There’s a major crisis brewing here.

We also had a brief chat about trans-inclusive feminism and the difficulty of getting any sort of dialog going. There is so much going on in feminism right now with attacks on reproductive rights, the #MeToo campaign and so on. It is a huge shame that so much time and energy is being wasted on attempts to keep trans women out of feminism.

Finally on the show I talked to Levi, a young man from Bath who has been working on a project about men’s mental health. Suicide is apparently the number one killer of young men in the UK, and the theory is that much of this happens because men are socialized not to talk about their feelings, and so have no one to turn to when things get bad. I also think that one of the main cause of violence against women is that men are socialized to believe that violence is the only properly masculine way to solve any disagreement. So this is really valuable work that Levi is doing. What’s more it has resulted in a handbook being distributed to children’s mental health services all over the country. Here’s hoping the make good use of it.

Here’s the film he and his friends made:

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The play list for the show was as follows:

  • Bat for Lashes – Two Planets
  • Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
  • Tracy Chapman – Behind the Wall
  • Linda Ronstadt – You’re No Good
  • Renaissance – The Winter Tree
  • Isaac Hayes – Winter Snow
  • Labi Siffre – Sparrow in the Storm
  • Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing

The Labi Siffre song dates from 2006 but is even more on point now. It contains this verse:

The message written on our walls
For the strong to climb : the weak must fall.
This is heresy I guess, but could the strong
perhaps learn to live with less.

Ben, my engineer, joked that I’d be mobbed on social media for playing such heretical views. It has all been quiet thus far, so maybe the world isn’t as far gone as we think.

My next show will be on January 3rd. As I doubt that I will get any guests then, it will probably just be me playing music and highlights from 2017. If anyone wants to do a pre-record interview let me know.

Queering Localities, Day 2

Friday was pretty full on, including having to deliver my own paper, but I had a really great time and learned lots. Here are some highlights from day 2 of the conference.

Louise Pawley from Brighton told us about an amazing protest against Section 28. It was a year that the Tory party was having its annual conference on the south coast. One day the Brighton queer community gathered on the beach and gazed out to sea. At the exact time the tide was due to turn they lit torches and turned around to face the building where the conference was being held, symbolizing the tide turning against homophobia. I have no idea how many of the politicians saw this, but it was a magnificent gesture.

My own session included American historian, Susan Ferentinos, who told us all about a range of LGBT+ exhibitions that have been staged in the heart of Red State territory. It is good to know that even in the most conservative parts of the USA people still find ways to celebrate queer culture.

My thanks go to my colleague, Julian Warren, who expertly co-presented with me. It was a pleasure to tell the conference about several of the great LGBT+ history projects we have done in Bristol. It is also, as always, a pleasure to share a platform with Surat-Shaan Knan who was there talking about his Rainbow Pilgrims project.

Probably my favorite paper of the day was Jenny Marsden introducing us to the remarkable photographic archive of the trans community in Cape Town in the 1950s and 60s. Everyone was taken with the idea of the “salon crawl” where visitors would sample all of the various hairdressing salons where the queer community of District 6 worked and hung out.

The final session of the day included three remarkable papers, starting with Anne Balay on the subject of queer truckers in the USA. Truck driving is an awful job, with truckers generally working 14 hour days almost every day of the year. With the advent of “spy in the cab” technology it has also become one of the most intensely micro-managed jobs in the world. As a result, white men have moved out of the business, leaving it to people of color, women and queers (and in many cases people who are all three). Anne learned to drive a truck and worked in the industry for a while to do her research. I’m looking forward to the book when it comes out.

Zhenzhong Mu told us all about the tradition of yue opera in China. Officially these performances are done by women, but there is a sizeable subculture of men who gather together for weekends to stage their own amateur performances in drag, and to have sex with each other, before going home to their wives and jobs.

Rebecca Jennings gave a paper about lesbian separatist communities in Australia and Wales in the 1970s. There was much talk of essentialist views of femininity, and some rather naive ideas about setting up self-sufficient communities far from civilization while remaining defiantly vegan and eschewing all modern technology. “No one told me about wallabies,” complained one European visitor to an Australian site. The cute little creatures would destroy crops and keep people awake with their enthusiastic nocturnal bounding. Goodness only knows what they would have done if the camp had been attacked by drop bears. Thankfully modern feminism is far more about bringing down the patriarchy rather than trying to leave it and setting up an equally authoritarian matriarchy.

My thanks to Justin Bengry and Alison Oram for putting on the conference, and to Katy Pettit for her flawless admin (and the cake).

Now I need to go write a bunch of emails to new friends I have made.

Seven

Is the number of trans people elected to political office in the USA yesterday. Helen Boyd has the full list. That’s a nice little black eye for the whiny child in the White House.

As usual the media has been talking all sorts of nonsense about people being the “first”, as if trans people were only invented yesterday. Monica Roberts has a nice post on the history of trans people in US election.

Of course none of those people were elected to a position in national government. However, seven also happens to be the number of trans people worldwide who have achieved that honor. Again Monica Roberts has done the research.

The UK is somewhat behind the curve on this. Indeed, we are in serious danger of going backwards. The Scottish Government released some (excellent) proposals on reform of the Gender Recognition Act today. Westminster is expected to follow suit. Because there will be a public consultation, there will also be a very well-funded campaign aimed at getting the government to scrap the Act altogether. The flood of (deeply dishonest) news articles about trans people we have been seeing over the last few weeks is just the softening up operation. I’m afraid I will have to be asking for your help in the near future.

Airships Over America

Thanks to Kevin, and to Dave Clark of Cargo Cult Books, copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion are on sale this weekend at BayCon, a large annual convention held in San José, California. Kevin tweeted this photo to show us what good company we are in.

Any other US bookstore who are interested in stocking the book, just ask. I can have the books printed and shipped within the USA.

Political Stories

I’ve not been commenting on the US election, partly because I’ve lived there and know that the situation is far more complex than most people over this side of the pond think it is, and partly because I deeply distrusted most of the reporting. Now it is all over, here are a few thoughts.

Although Obama’s share of the vote went down this time, he still won the electoral college by a massive margin. Yet most media outlets were constantly telling us that the election was neck-and-neck. People who understand the system, like Nate Silver, and doubtless the bookies, were confidently predicting an Obama win. Why? Do no TV or newspaper politics pundits understand how Presidential elections work?

Also, various people in the social media lists I’m following are hoping that some sort of third party will arise, or at least that the next election will be less acrimonious and divisive. Any chance of that?

Personally I suspect that the journalists know exactly what they are doing, and that this sort of election will become more of the norm, not just in America, but worldwide. Why? Because elections are becoming more about the media event than about politics. The media wants stories, preferably simple stories with a good guy and a bad guy. Exactly who was the good guy and who was the bad guy will depend on which news outlets you follow, but in both cases those telling the story want the result to be in doubt right until the last moment.

Quite what this means for the idea of democracy isn’t clear, but we monkeys are deeply addicted to stories and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

Freeloaders, We Hates Them

My American friends have been having a good laugh recently over the fact that Mitt Romney told a bunch of his rich backers that Obama voters are freeloaders who live off state handouts. It seems an odd audience to say that to, given that most of them, like Romney himself, will employ clever accounts to keep their tax bills down to the absolute minimum (though I guess they must resent having to pay for those accountants). However, I’m not sure that the message will play out quite as badly as my Liberal friends expect.

My evidence from this is something called the British Social Attitudes survey. The 29th edition was published yesterday, and its findings are consistent with the fact that an awful lot of Britons read the Daily Malice. I quote from their conclusions:

Neither redistribution in general nor welfare benefits in particular are as popular as they once were. This is by no means a recent change and certainly predates the recession. It primarily reflects a change in public attitudes during Labour’s years in power between 1997 and 2010.

These findings point towards an increased sense of ‘them and us’, with the most vulnerable in the labour market being viewed far less sympathetically than before, despite Britain’s current economic difficulties.

Somehow I doubt that Britons are unique in having become more mean-spirited (not to mention xenophobic — apparently 52% of Britons think immigration is a bad thing). And Americans tend to be more individualistic than Britons, not less.

The trouble is that no one is a freeloader in their own mind. Also everyone has anecdata about “real” freeloaders (mostly gleaned from the right wing media). In times of austerity the temptation to think that you are working hard, while others are sponging off the state, will be greater. A message that “people who vote for me are hard working, while those who vote for Obama are freeloaders” might work very well for Romney.

Silicon Valley Gets Desperate

So there you are, kicking out one great software idea after another, and all you need to get them to market are a pile of top class computer science graduates. You want the very best people, no matter where in the world they come from. Unfortunately your government makes it very hard for those people to get work visas. What do you do? You buy a cruise ship, anchor it 12 miles off Half Moon Bay, and put them all on that. At least, that’s the proposal for Blueseed, one entrepreneur’s solution to a desperate need.

Sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to afford a berth on it. More to the point, it sounds distinctly like one of those Libertarian seasteading projects. I can see there being a mutiny on board, and the whole thing turning into a live action single person shooter game. Worse still, the ship might get attacked by the most vicious predators on the planet.

Weightless Books Sale

Listening to the latest Coode Street Podcast, I have finally discovered why Black Friday is called Black Friday. As you may be aware, much of the retail business is focused on the Winterval shopping frenzy. That’s particularly the case for toy shops, but other stores do very well over the holiday as well. In the US, that shopping period starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving (when everyone except the shop staff are on vacation), and that Friday is the first day of the year on which many retail businesses finally break even, or “go into the black”, as the accounting vernacular has it. Thank you, Gary, for explaining.

Anyway, everyone with a retail store in the US is having a sale at the moment, and that includes ebook retailers, in particular our friends at Weightless Books. You can get 25% off just about anything, and a whopping 50% off books by Small Beer Press. This means titles by people like Geoff Ryman, Karen Joy Fowler, Maureen McHugh, Ted Chaing, Delia Sherman, and of course the first ever Translation Awards Long Form winner, A Life on Paper: Stories by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud (translated by Edward Gauvin). Gavin Grant explains all here. If you don’t buy anything else, get Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, because it is an absolutely wonderful book.

Running the Numbers

Over on his Livejournal, Neil Clarke has been doing some analysis of short fiction category of the Locus Recommended Reading List. The numbers are quite an eye-opener. I knew we had done well, but it hadn’t occurred to me as even possible that we would tie with Asimov’s for the most selected stories. We did, with 7 each. Am I proud? You bet!

The trend towards fiction from online venues continues, and this is the first year that more short stories have come from online venues than from print magazines and books.

Also worth noting is that 38 of the 68 stories are by women. Six of Clarkesworld’s seven recommended stories are by women.

Meanwhile on Twitter there has been a great deal of fuss. It has been created by what I’m starting to think of as the UKIP wing of British fandom, because the people concerned are constantly whining about being oppressed by Locus and the Hugos in pretty much the same way as right-wing tabloid newspapers whine about being oppressed by the EU.

There story here is that a vicious cabal of Evil Americans (such as Jonathan Strahan, John Clute, Graham Sleight, Farah Mendlesohn, Tansy Rayner Roberts and myself) gather together each year to plot the downfall of British science fiction by picking only American works for the Recommended Reading List. This year, apparently, we were worse than usual, with the list being hideously skewed towards US writers, magazines and publishers. That, of course, is all part of my Evil Plan. So I decided to look at some numbers to see how Evilly I had done.

I’ve looked only at the three adult novel categories as those are the only ones I have significant input to. As a benchmark, I’m going to use the fact that there are roughly 5 times as many Americans in the world as British people, so if the list had been chosen purely at random there would be 5 Americans for every British writer. (I am assuming here that American and British writers have equal access to publishing opportunities. As far as I know, no one is arguing that they don’t. This is not analogous to a gender or race issue where there may be barriers to entry.)

There are 17 novels on the science fiction list. 11 are by Americans. Greg Egan is Australian. Canada would kill me if I identified Bill Gibson as American, even though he was born there. Johanna Sinisalo is Finnish. And three (McDonald, Reynolds, Banks) are British. That gives us 11.5 Americans to 3 British, which is about what we would expect. Must try harder!

On the Fantasy list there are 24 novels. 14 are by Americans. Michael Ajvaz is Czech, Lauren Beukes is South African, and Guy Gavriel Kay is Canadian. The other 7 (Fforde, Fox, Gilman, Miéville, Mitchell, Pinborough and Stross) are all British. So that’s a ratio of 14:7. And that, apparently, is hideous anti-British bias. Hmm.

The one that surprised me was the First Novel list. Of 15 entries, 11 were by Americans, but there was not a single Brit amongst them. At last, my Evil Plan is working. Possibly. I’ll come back to it in a minute.

Of course if you are of a UKIP frame of mind there’s little that can sway you from your feelings of oppression. There is always some excuse for why things that are doing well and appear to be British are in fact not so. For example, some of those “British” writers live in America (Gilman) or, heaven forbid, in Edinburgh! (Stross). Then again, most of them have US publishers as well as British contracts. This, I suspect, will be held up as evidence that they are writing “American” fiction, and therefore don’t count. The assumption being that if they wrote “British” fiction it would be too intelligent and left-wing for an American audience and American publishers would not buy it.

My explanation is a little different. The US publishers are well aware that British writers are very good, and so anyone from these isles who gets a bit of critical attention gets snapped up for a US contract. As the UK market is much smaller, it is much less likely that a successful US writer would get a UK contract.

Complicating matters is the international nature of publishing. Orbit, for example, tend to buy world rights to books, but it is British editor Tim Holman, based in New York, who calls the shots. Angry Robot has a US branch, but they are headquartered in Nottingham.

One area where you might expect British publishers to score is in First Novel, because the writers there might be people who were discovered by a UK operation and have not yet got a US contract. As I noted, none of the First Novel authors are British. However, three of the four non-US authors were first contracted by British publishers. That’s Terry Dowling (Australian), Hannu Rajaniemi (Finnish) and Lavie Tidhar (Israeli). So the reason why there are no British authors on the First Novel list is, at least in part, because British publishers are looking outside the UK for new talent.

Finally a brief word on magazines. The absence of Interzone from the list is obviously a clear indication of anti-British bias, right? All the other magazines are “American”. But, as noted above, a lot of the short fiction is now coming from online venues. That means that they are edited by Evil Americans like me and (as of this year in the top job at Strange Horizons) Niall Harrison.

I took a look at the numbers for Clarkesworld’s 2010 stories. 14 of the 24 were by Americans. The other authors came from a variety of countries including two British and one Irish. Non-fiction is mostly American, but I get so few submissions that it is really hard to get much diversity into the selection. In cover art, however, where excellent command of English is not required, the picture is quite different. Only 3 of the 2010 covers were by Americans. There were 2 from Brazil, 2 from Turkey, and one each from Russia, France, Bulgaria, the Phillipines and Mexico. So yeah, clearly Clarkesworld is an Evil American magazine.

Anyway, enough bashing of the English for now. Time to watch them getting bashed on the rugby field instead (I hope).

Traveling European Fans Wanted

Via Steve Green on Facebook I understand that TAFF, the Transatlantic Fan Fund, is in a bit of a crisis this year. The deadline for nominations for the 2011 race, which will take a fan from Europe to the Worldcon in Reno, is this Saturday. To date only one candidate has come forward (John Coxon), and the rules of TAFF state that if the race is uncontested then it must be canceled.

So here is a big opportunity for a European fan. If you would like an expenses-paid trip to Reno, why not give TAFF a try. Of course there are obligations (see the official website for details), but nothing a reasonably organized person can’t cope with. You will need three nominators from Europe (one of whom could be me if I know you), and two from North America (whom I can help you find), so if you have two local friends you are all set. How about it?

The Timing of Summer

Here in Britain we tend to recognize summer on the basis of astronomy. June 21st is the longest day of the year, so it must be mid-summer’s day. That means summer is half over already, and a pretty rotten summer it has been.

Americans, on the other hand, at least those I have talked to about such things, use a different system. When Kevin emailed me yesterday he talked about it being the “first day of summer”. Astronomically this is a bit daft, but practically it does make a bit of sense. The weather here in May can be pretty dodgy, but the weather in August is often very good and early September can be quite lovely. Counting “summer” as being mid-June to mid-September therefore makes quite a bit of sense.

What times do people in non-English-speaking countries count as “summer”? Is there an historical reason for the UK/US divergence?

Regardless, it is a gorgeous day here, and I’m getting some where out of my summer dresses at long last. Wimbledon has started. England are playing Australia at cricket. Stupid time for me to be so busy.

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy…

It being election time here in the UK, the TV is full of party-political broadcasts. The latest fashion is for celebrity endorsements. David Cameron has apparently being hitting the campaign trail with a pop star in tow (or possibly the other way around). Meanwhile Labour has put out a broadcast staring Eddie Izzard.

Why, out of all the other things going on in the election, do I find this worthy of mention? Well, because Mr. Izzard is a well-known transvestite. It is quite remarkable that Labour should choose him as a front man. But in America, if the American Psychiatric Association gets its way, Eddie would be of much less use to politicians, because he’d be certifiably crazy. That’s because the APA wants to stigmatize every man who occasionally wears what they deem to be gender-inappropriate clothing as a lunatic. It doesn’t matter how otherwise sane and stable the man is, the mere fact that he sometimes wears “women’s clothes” is, in the APA’s eyes, enough to mark him out as suffering from a mental illness that will require treatment.

The idiocy of the proposal becomes even more obvious when you note that the reverse does not apply. According to the APA, a man who tries to look like a woman is mad, but a woman who tries to look like a man is perfectly sane. This tells you everything you need to know about the motivation behind the new “diagnosis”.

So, US readers, pop over here, read a bit more, and then sign the petition. You don’t have to be crazy to do so.

Another US Immigration Story

The eagle-eyed Arnold Akien sent me a link to this story about Indian IT workers with valid H1-B and L-1 visas being denied entry by the CBP. In theory such visas only entitle you to work for a single employer in the USA, but if you are a consultant you will inevitably work for clients on behalf of your employer. That’s the way consultancy works. The CBP appears to have got it into its head that this is a violation of the terms of the visas, and once again are denying entry to legitimate visa holders.

The sad thing is that a lot of this work can probably be done remotely, so in attempting to defend US jobs the CBP is probably only sending them offshore, at a significant cost to the US economy.

A Parallel Experience

This morning friends in New Zealand forwarded me a link to this sorry tale of an experience with US Customs & Border Patrol.

Obviously bekitty had a much worse time of it than I did. As I have said, the CBP officers that I dealt with were very sympathetic. I was very lucky. However, strip away the abuse that gets handed out to suspected illegal immigrants in Los Angeles and you are left with a fairly similar story. Except that bekitty had a perfectly legitimate visa.

This is the sort of problem I am facing. Even if you have a visa, CBP can and will make life difficult for you if you come and go too often. They can and do deny people entry because they suspect them of traveling for purposes other than those stated on their visa. And the key word there is “suspect”. If they suspect you, no matter how wrong they may be, you are guilty until such time as you can go back to your own country and spend a lot of money on lawyers to prove your innocence.

I also note that the visa descriptions are drawn so tightly that it is pretty much impossible to avoid violating their terms if you travel regularly and for more than a few days at a time.

Hopefully this will help explain why I am taking things slowly and carefully. I don’t want to waste any more money on lawyers or plane fares until I’m pretty certain that I will be allowed to travel.

Border Issues

As many of you will already know, Peter Watts had his day in court yesterday, and has been found guilty. He now faces the possibility of up to two years in prison, although the final sentence could be a lot less (possibly even non-custodial).

Much outrage has already been vented around teh intrawebs, but before you add to it I strongly suggest that you read Peter’s remarkably measured and calm analysis of the case.

There is a tendency, especially amongst those of us who have training in IT or science, to think that laws are something simple and fair; rules by which one can easily be judged guilty or not. That’s often far from the truth, especially when cross-border issues and/or juries are involved. Often laws leave massive room for lawyers to argue a point. Cross-border issues tend to bring out the worst in people. And whether someone is “guilty” or not can often depend very heavily on the views of the jury members (see this article about the Christopher Handley obscenity case for another example).

Peter’s case is, in most ways, much more serious than mine. He has already faced massive legal bills, and could face much worse. Two things, however, we have in common. Both of us have a chance of being on the Hugo ballot in Reno (both through Clarkesworld in different ways) and won’t be able to attend the ceremony if we are. And both of us are caught in a situation where, regardless of the rights and wrongs of the case, we are going to be deemed guilty because it is a border issue and people get very irrational over such things.

In such situations, all you can do is go forward as best you can, and make as much lemonade as is possible of the lemons that life has thrown you. Judging from his blog post, Peter is holding up fairly well. I wish him all the best and hope he can stay that way.

Trying to Make Sense of It All

There has, inevitably, been a small amount of speculation around the blogosphere about my travel problems. On the one hand there are the people preaching doom and gloom about how the Evil TSA are Out To Get Us All. On the other there are people muttering darkly that I must have done something Very Bad. We do love our dramas. The reality is much less interesting and also far more complicated. I’m not sure that I understand it myself. But now that I’ve had a chance to decompress I’m going to try to explain what the problem is.

Entry into the USA is controlled by two different government departments: Customs & Border Patrol (CBP), who man the desks at airports, and the State Department, who run embassies and issue visas. These two organizations have different, and sometimes competing, aims.

The CBP generally dislikes the visa waiver scheme, because it means letting people into the country without any proper vetting. Their job is to protect the US from undesirables, and visa waiver makes that hard. State, on the other hand, is constantly besieged by people wanting visas. Anything that they can do to cut down the size of the queue is good, and from that point of view they love visa waiver.

An additional complication is that CBP and State have rather different views of what constitutes “business”. As far as the CBP is concerned, anything that isn’t obviously tourism is “business”. If you are attending a conference, or a board meeting, or doing anything for a charity or non-profit organization, that’s still business, and potentially suspicious. But State is concerned with the economic welfare of the USA, and will only grant a “business” visa if what you are doing obviously involves trade.

Then there is the question of visa categories. There are many of them, and they are all very tightly drawn, so if the purpose of your travel is anything out of the ordinary you may find it very difficult to find a category that fits you.

The final piece of the puzzle concerns the rules for visa waiver. There are certain things that prevent you from using the visa waiver system. Many of you will have had a good laugh at the questions about being convicted of genocide or being a Nazi. But it is also absolutely forbidden to use visa waiver if you have been denied an ordinary visa by State. Because, after all, if you were denied a visa then you must be a potential danger to the country.

So here’s the problem. In late 2008 the CBP says I travel back and fore too often for their comfort, and they want me to get a visa. I talk to a lawyer and in early 2009 I try to get a visa. State says that the sort of travel I am doing is exactly the sort of thing that visa waiver was designed for, and in any case I don’t fit into any of their neat visa categories so they can’t give me one. They tell me that I should carry on using visa waiver. So I follow their advice, and that appears to work. I am let in twice during 2009, once after a lengthy grilling that doesn’t once mention any visa application.

Then, last week, I get hauled in front of CBP officials. My records now say that I have been denied a visa and consequently a) I can’t use visa waiver and b) I have told a lie on that little green form you have to fill in on the aircraft. As far as I’m concerned I haven’t told any lies, I have done exactly what I was told by State. But proving that is likely to be a lengthy and very expensive process. And even if I do manage to clear my name, I have now actually been denied entry, and can no longer use visa waiver. And I can’t apply for a proper visa because there is no visa for the sort of things I do when visiting.

The net result is that I am totally screwed. As I’m sure you can see, much of this is due to the way in which the system is set up. Changing it, however, is an uphill struggle, and any attempt at reforming immigration laws is liable to get the froth-at-the-mouth brigade very excited. I’ve been talking to an immigration lawyer who campaigns for change in the system, and I hope that my story will provide her with useful ammunition. As far as I’m concerned, however, the only things that are likely to get me back into the US are a) if I become very rich, or b) if I manage to start making a living from the science fiction industry. The former requires a lottery win, and given that many of our top writers have to keep their day jobs because they can’t make a living out of writing novels, the latter is almost as unlikely.

More Linkage

Because the world keeps getting more weird, and religious bigots keep shooting themselves in the foot.

– First up a humiliating defeat for right-wing bishops as the House of Lords decides that the Church of England does not have the right to force all religions to hate gays.

– Then we have one of those lovely stories about gay-hating Republican politicians being caught frequenting gay bars. This time it is a California state senator who was a leading proponent of “Proposition H8”.

– Not to be outdone, a Vatican chorister has been sacked for running a gay prostitution ring. Nice to see your boys setting a good example, Mr. Pope.

– Meanwhile South Carolina is compiling a register of people plotting to overthrow the US government. Several amusing Discordians appear to have registered, but no sign of Sarah Palin as yet.

– Back with sanity, Nick Harkaway is plugging a fundraiser anthology helping victims of the Haiti earthquake.

– And finally, one of the cutest things I have read in a long time: Georgia Roberson writes a letter to Dr. Seuss.

Have to Drive

America has ground to a halt for the very long holiday weekend that is Thanksgiving. As this is the time of year to get together with one’s family, travel is famously a nightmare.

Kevin and I planned to get on the road around midday and actually managed it about 12:30. Amazingly the roads were clear all through Niles Canyon and up 680 as far as the dreaded Cordelia Junction where we stopped to stretch our legs on the grounds that the van wouldn’t be going that much slower in a car park than on the road.

Fortunately the snarls don’t last too long. Today’s were perhaps a little longer than usual due to a couple of accidents around Fairfield. It took us an hour to get to Cordelia and another hour, including leg stretch, to get to Vacaville where we stopped for lunch.

North of Vacaville the roads were fairly clear and we were able to roar along and turn off the traffic news, instead opting to treat the good Christian folk of the Sacramento Valley to the dulcet tones of Miss Amanda Palmer. We did not get arrested, though the idiot in the SUV who was doing around 90 did get pulled over by a passing highway patrolman. As he was passing us at the time he attracted the attention of the officer I can conclude that the CHP is more concerned about speeding than my singing. This was no consolation to Kevin.

Talking of singing, you know you are still congested from teh hamthrax when you try to breath deeply. -sigh-

Anyway, we are now safely in Yuba City and tomorrow will make the short trip up to Sutter to have Thanksgiving lunch with Kevin’s family. I was pleased to have the hotel reception guy ask us if we really needed our room serviced tomorrow because they didn’t want to keep the maids at work too long. Here’s hoping for a nice, quiet weekend.