Ill Met by Moonlight

Via my friend Stephanie Budin I have discovered a rather interesting conference scheduled for next April. ‘Ill met by moonlight’: Gothic encounters with enchantment and the Faerie realm in literature and culture, is part of a project on Gothic Literature by a group of academics based at the University of Hertfordshire. How I have not heard of them before, I do now know. They’ve been going since 2010, and running annual conferences on all things creepy and going bump in the night. I mean, how can you not love a literary project called, Open Graves, Open Minds.

Anyway, the 2021 conference is about Fairies. Sadly I am scheduled to be in Sweden then, so even though I suspect that in-person events will still be impossible by then, I can’t in good conscience submit a paper on War for the Oaks, even though I want to.

However, you good people are hopefully not so constrained, and therefore might want to get involved. The full CFP is here. If Emma Bull doesn’t appeal to you, they also specifically mention works by Neil Gaiman, Liz Hand and Jeanette Ng. (Sorry Jeanette, you are canon now!). Hie thee to a word processor, and cast thy Puckish imaginings to the aether.

Scary Solstice, Everyone

Well this is cheerful. I’ve just spent a couple of hours listening to Neil Gaiman and friends telling scary stories on Radio 3, and now I’m trying to find one of the HPLHS carols that doesn’t sound horribly prescient. But maybe a little dark humour is what we need to get us through these dark times. So wherever you are, little cultists, hang up those elder signs. The world hasn’t ended yet, so enjoy it while you can.

Last Week on Ujima – Crime, Cricket, Umbrellas & Protest

With profuse apologies for the day, here are the Listen Again links for last week’s show.

We started off with my friend Lucienne Boyce talking about her latest historical novel, Butcher’s Block. This is a new Dan Foster mystery novel, Dan being a Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist. We got onto the subject of bodysnatchers, and thence onto the horrors of 18th century medicine. Inevitably, when Lucienne and I get together, we start talking about suffragettes as well. Not in the 18th century, of course, but next year is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some British women the vote.

Next up was my report on the Kia Super League Finals Day, including interviews with Raf Nicholson of The Cricketer, and Stafanie Taylor, hero of the hour and captain of the West Indies women’s team.

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

The second hour began with a pre-recorded, trans-Atlantic interview with Nancy 3 Hoffman, owner and curator of the world’s only umbrella cover museum. Nancy is packing the museum into suitcases and bringing on it’s holidays to Bristol for a couple of weeks.

Finally I welcomed Amirah and Cat from the Bristol People’s Assembly into the studio. They told me all about the big anti-austerity demonstration that was to take place in Bristol at the weekend. I see from the news reports that it drew some pretty big crowds. It is also the first time I can recall the mayor of a city calling a demonstration against his own policies. Marvin says he has no choice but to make cuts because of reductions in the money he gets from central government, and he wanted people in Westminster to know how angry the people of Bristol are about it all.

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

The playlist for the show was:

  • Thin Lizzy – Fight or Fall
  • Sade – Is it a Crime
  • Eurythmics – Sisters are Doing It for Themselves
  • Queen – We Are the Champions
  • DJ Bravo – Champion
  • Billy Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
  • UB40 – One in Ten
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up

Alfies Update

As I noted yesterday, Tea and Jeopardy won an Alfie this year for being the best placed non-Puppy in the Fancast category. Emma and Pete have done a special episode to mark the occasion. In it Emma has an attack of the squees and the little chickens perform “The Rains of Castamere”. It is hilarious. Give these folks a Hugo next year, folks, they deserve it.

Mars, The Summer Planet

Thanks to Oliver Morton I have been alerted to a fascinating new scientific study of Mars which provides further proof that water once flowed on the Red Planet. A team from the Open University and the University of Leicester have analyzed rock formations from Gale Crater and have determined that they were formed by the evaporation of ancient lakes. They say that the rocks are very similar to those found at Watchet Bay in North Devon.

Which is all well and good, except that, as the North Devon Journal honestly points out, Watchet Bay is in North Somerset. (Kevin – we drove past it on the way to Minehead.)

Suddenly much becomes clear. Mars was once a planet covered by lakes and marshland. The locals drained the land with an extensive system of canals, or rhines as they called them, allowing them to plant vast apple orchards from which the famous Martian cider was made. One day, we hope, summer will return to Mars, the levels will bloom again, and the Martians will emerge from their caves.

There’s all sorts of nonsense you can build on this. Mon Olympus as the Martian equivalent of Glastonbury Tor, for example. Of course the most famous cave system in Somerset is called Wookey Hole, which suggests that the Martians might be a bit hairy.

International Cat Day

The CatnapApparently it is International Cat Day, which means it is time to give this picture another run out. I was, of course, much younger when it was done.

Actually this is my superhero persona. She is known as The Catnap, because of her awesome powers of falling asleep.

Art by Sue Mason, as you should all have known.

The Ghost of the Shakespeare Tavern

Last night’s BristolCon Fringe went very well. We had 12 readers in all, two of whom were reading in public for the first time and did really well. You will doubtless see people on social media muttering about “the eyeball”. I’m afraid you will have to wait a while to hear why as I’m still a bit behind on the audio.

We also had a ghost. Part way through the evening we started hearing a voice coming out of the speakers in the bar. Jonathan Howard kindly went to talk to the staff and ask them to turn it off, but they pointed out that the speakers were indeed turned off. The ghost continued to interrupt the readers at random intervals.

The explanation that the bar staff came up with, is that the ferry boats that ply up and down the river have quite powerful radios, and occasionally their chat gets picked up by nearby electronics.

Hopefully, because it wasn’t directed at the mic the noises won’t get picked up very strongly and they won’t have spoiled the recordings. If they are clearly audible I shall take that as evidence that we had a real ghost. Possibly one with an eye missing.

“We’re not anti-fairies but…”

Ah, Somerset, what a magnificent source of daft news stories you are.

Many of you will already have seen this on Twitter & Facebook, but it is worth repeating here. According to the BBC, a wood near Somerset village is suffering from a plague of fairies, and is having to bring in “fairy control” to deal with them.

This is a part of England where I expect UKIP support to be fairly strong. I am sure they have something to do with it. After all, fairies are Celtic creatures, and the Kippers are most definitely English. It’s a wonder that they haven’t demanded that all of the fairies be sent back to Cornwall or something.

Of course it is also true that the Somerset economy is very much dependent on its dairy industry. All that cream and cheese has to come from somewhere. What people are going to do when the milk starts coming out sour because the fairies are annoyed I do not know.

My guess is that at some point they will have to call Liz Williams in to broker some sort of peace agreement. I hope she gets well paid for it.

Evil Exposed! Shock! Horror!

Secret Trans Cabal Volcano Lair


Throughout the past week British newspapers have been full or articles from prominent left-wing intellectuals explaining how a vicious and violent campaign of bullying and censorship by the “powerful trans lobby” has prevented them from expressing their views in public. Clearly that is horrific enough, but yesterday further news of the perfidy of trans people was revealed — by none other than The Pope.

Some of you may remember that Pope Ratty declared that trans people were a bigger threat to the planet than climate change. Not to be outdone, his successor, Pope Francis, has compared trans people to nuclear weapons.

Of course it is all true. We cannot tell a lie. The picture above shows technicians in the Secret Trans Cabal’s Volcano Lair preparing a Gender Bomb for launch. The exact contents of the bomb are still classified, but I do know that it will contain music videos from a forthcoming Beyoncé biopic starring Laverne Cox.

Further details of the Trans Cabal’s evil plans will be revealed next week in the New Statesman. In order to help you follow the story as it unfolds, here are some of the key members of the Cabal.

Maximum Leader Rozario KavenikovaMaximum Leader Rozario Kavenikova pictured at a recent military parade.

Ninja Sarah BrownSarah Brown prepares for another vicious character assassination of a prominent left-wing intellectual.

Christine Burns directsChristine Burns directs political campaigns from behind the scenes.

Vampire Paris LeesParis Lees prepares to seduce another BBC executive.

CN Lester bandCN Lester and their new thrash sonata band, Gendarok.

MeArtist’s impression of Cheryl Morgan in her younger days (circa 1800 BCE).

Launching the Monkey

This evening I was in Bristol for the launch of the third and final volume of Gareth L. Powell’s Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy, Macaque Attack. As promised in his bet with Twitter, Gareth turned up dressed as his hero. Here is the proof.

Given that Ack-Ack was present, quite a few of us asked him to sign the book rather than Gareth. He has the hang of writing these days. In my book he wrote, “Arse! Fuck! Poop!”. That seems entirely appropriate.

There were, of course, bananas. Also Pat Hawkes-Reed’s banana bread was spectacular. Sadly there was no rum, though most people did go to the pub afterwards.

If you’d like to see some more photos of the event, check out Gareth’s Twitter feed where there is likely to be monkey madness for the next week or so.

How TERFs See Us

Mentioning that horrible Woman’s Hour program in my Radio 4 post reminded me that Sarah Brown came across some really weird stuff online recently. It is a sort of pop-psychology test designed to tell whether you are a trans woman or not, but written by a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. It tells you a heck of a lot about how TERFs think, but very little about trans women.

There were a few questions I answered yes to; for example:

  • Do you spend a lot of time online? (TERFs do, it is where they do most of their harassment)
  • Do you want to be pretty? (Would have been nice, bit late now.)
  • Have you attended a male-only educational facility? (Not my fault, I hated it.)

There were a lot of questions that rather suggested that the author had read Triton and assumed that all trans women were like Bron:

  • Do women really “have it all”?
  • Are feminists whiney bitches?
  • Do women have no right to speak on the topic of gender?
  • Have you always known you were very angry for some reason and it was women’s fault somehow?
  • Tired of no one noticing what a Special Person you are?

There were also quite a few that clearly came from odd stereotypes of the sort of man the author thinks would claim to be a trans woman:

  • Have you been in the military?
  • Have you been in prison?
  • Do you own more than three firearms?

There were one to two that betrayed a general hatred of femininity:

  • Do you celebrate the cultural subordination rituals (“femininity”) that are forced onto females?
  • Do you have a phoenix or butterfly tattoo?

And finally there was some genuine WTFery:

  • Do you have a successful STEM career? (‘Cos that proves you are a man, right? Real women can’t do science.)
  • Long time Dungeons and Dragons shaman of undecided loyalty? Or whatever the fuck?
  • Are you an identical twin?

I’m sure that an actual psychologist could have a field day with it. You can find the whole list of questions here.

By the way, I did also click through and do that COGIATI test that Sarah mentions. I came out as only borderline trans, mainly because the test was stuffed full of gender-essentialist questions about how good you are at reading emotions (surely a learned skill), good navigation skills, and inability to do maths, all of which were assumed to be firm indicators of true femininity.

Giant Squid Book

Last week I got tempted by a very big book. This one. Yes, I know, it is Lovecraft. But if you want to deconstruct Lovecraft you have to know a bit about what he wrote, and this book looks invaluable from that point of view.

Also it is ridiculously good value at only £25.

Of course I have dipped into it. You know that thing when you have written a story around an actual sequence of historical events, and then some new research revels that a key date you had was wrong, and it blows a hole in your plot… Yeah, that.