Scary Monsters?

Halloween Moomins
What’s the scariest thing you can see on Halloween? Well for some people it is apparently Moomins. Not these Moomins, though. They definitely have teh cute. They were pointed out to me by a kindly Twitter follower from Japan. You can see more photos of the group here.

The Kids Are Revolting, In a Good Way

Last night’s BristolCon Fringe meeting was very interesting in two ways. Firstly, Ken Shinn had us agog with a tale about a demonic version of Benny Hill who has a drunken otter for a familiar. In addition our other guest, Andy Goodman, had some very interesting things to say in the Q&A.

Andy writes fiction primarily aimed at teenage boys. I asked him about that market, and was delighted to hear him say that there is now pressure from publishers for authors to move away from the “books for boys / books for girls” marketing philosophy, and instead to produce books that can be enjoyed by young people regardless of their gender.

It is not entirely clear why, and it may well be in part due to the pressure that parents have been putting on them. However, Andy’s anecdotal evidence suggests that practical experience has played a part. I’ve been saying for years that if you pinkify a book then boys are not going to read it. It appears that the message has got through to publishers that by packaging books by women as “for girls” they are cutting off half of their potential audience. Here’s hoping that this message spreads throughout the publishing industry.

The audio from the readings should be online early in August.

I Love Liverpool

Yeah, OK, there’s the Adelphi, but I am trying hard to block that from my mind. Actually it has been quite a while since I was here. The last time was in 2004, when I see I was a bit rude about the local wildlife. Much has changed since then, particularly around the Albert Dock area where museums have been springing up like mushrooms after a wet autumn night. They have the Tate, of course, and the Beatles Experience, but now they have so much more.

One of those new places is the Museum of Liverpool were the conference I am attending is being held. It opened in 2011 and is seriously impressive. I spent a bit of time wandering around today, mainly taking train porn pictures for Kevin. There’s also a Maritime Museum, and somewhere a Slavery Museum (something Bristol should have too). You could spend a week here just doing museums and art galleries.

But the reason I like it here is that Liverpool is its own place. It has no truck with Englishness and Respectability. Liverpool does what Liverpool wants to do, and does not care if the rest of England looks down its collective nose at the city as a result. Sometimes that means doing amazing things like the April Ashley exhibition (of which more later). Sometimes it is just being daft for the heck of it.

So, for example, in Albert Dock I found a Yellow Submarine. You can rent rooms on board. It is moored between “The Titanic” (which is gracefully sinking) and a purple-painted barge which claims to be “The Joker” out of Gotham City.

Liverpool is also the only place in the UK which, yesterday, was not plagued by free copies of The Sun. Murdoch’s flagship muck-raker is afraid of Liverpool, and with good reason.

I wish I had more time up here. I want to see all these museums and art galleries. Sadly my life has just got stupidly busy (again) and I have to go home on Sunday.

The Rise and Fall of Grimpink

Today was a day much like any other on teh intrawebs, in that a bunch of SF&F people were irritated about something that Damien Walter had written in The Guardian. Specifically it was this piece, in which Damien has a go at the newly minted sub-genre of grimdark fantasy. Damien said, “It’s a particularly cynical worldview, that perhaps says more about the psyche of the young male readers and writers who dominate grimdark fantasy than anything else.” He probably thought that he was being very right on in doing so, and would therefore have been somewhat surprised to find himself assailed by angry women. “Oy, Walter,” they said, “I read/write grimdark, does this mean I’m not a woman?” One or two older men might have been a bit miffed too.

Naturally this led to a discussion as to whether books that looked just like grimdark, but which suffered from an infection of girl cooties, would be categorized in some other way. Teresa Frohock coined Girldark. I suggested grimpink, and one or two people were kind enough to find that funny. I even suggested doing a grimpink anthology. Then I went away to do some day job stuff and left things ticking over in my mind.

Of course the whole idea of grimpink is ridiculous. But is it ridiculous enough for no one in the UK book business to take it seriously? What if? What’s the point of being a science fiction writer if you can’t get into your time machine and see what would have happened…

Cue theramin music…

The genre of grimpink grew out of a conversation between Kameron Hurley, Elizabeth Bear and Cheryl Morgan in the bar at the 2013 World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. It’s official start is generally acknowledged to be the anthology, Grimpink, edited by Hurley and Morgan, and published by Morgan’s Wizard’s Tower Press.

Despite a successful Kickstarter campaign, the book was a commercial flop. It was universally panned by male critics. Jonathan McAlmont described it is, “derivative, clichéd, and entirely irrelevant to the needs of the pathetic, dwindling group of middle-aged adolescents who still read fantasy fiction.” A controversial review in Black Gate by someone calling himself Max Gore claimed that the book was, “positive proof that women can’t write fantasy, and exactly what the term ‘girl cooties’ was invented for.” Meanwhile women critics focused on the question as to whether the book succeeded in its professed aim of diverse content, mostly concluding, more in sorrow than in anger, that the anthology was “full of FAIL!!!”

That might have been the end of grimpink, had it not been for the London Worldcon, at which other conversations were had in bars and one or two people in UK publishing decided that grimpink might have commercial prospects if it were done right. Of course the whole idea had to be put past marketing departments before anything could be commissioned, and certain changes to the basic concept were made. Some stories from the original anthology came in for particular criticism. Brit Mandelo’s tale of a woman warrior struggling through battle while suffering from period cramps, and Glenda Larke’s story of a woman insisting on heading into an important battle mere hours after giving birth, were both deemed much to grotesque and disturbing for the crucial adolescent male demographic.

It was decided that the primary market for the new genre would be adolescent females. As such it was deemed necessary for the stories to include a male love interest; preferably a vampire, werewolf or similar tall, dark and handsome fellow who could be relied upon to rescue the heroine at vital moments during the narrative. When commissioning novels, extra weight was to be given to books that involved the heroine going into battle riding a unicorn. The standard cover design involved a beautiful young white woman holding a very large sword in front of her crotch and wearing armor that exposed her breasts, navel and thighs. Her unicorn steed could be seen in the background.

In all, a couple of dozen grimpink novels appear to have been commissioned. Most vanished without trace, mainly because they were marketed as fantasy and Waterstones refused to stock them anywhere except in their largest stores on the grounds that they were written by women and therefore unlikely to sell. The few that survived were those whose publishers, seeing the way the wind was blowing, quickly re-branded them as “dark fantasy” or YA. The best selling titles, mainly because they got the biggest publicity budgets, were those by T.A. Pratt and M.L.N. Hanover.

Within a couple of years the brief excitement caused by grimpink had completely disappeared. Before the end, however, Damien Walter wrote an article for The Guardian praising Robert E. Howard, the creator of Red Sonja, as the founding father of grimpink.

New Finnish Fiction from Cheeky Frawg

The fabulous VanderMeers have sent me the latest Cheeky Frawg book: Datura, by Leena Krohn (translated by Anna Volmari and Juha Tupasela). Here’s what the blurb says:

Our narrator works as an editor and writer for a magazine specializing in bringing oddities to light, a job that sends her exploring through a city that becomes by degrees ever less familiar. From a sunrise of automated cars working in silent precision to a possible vampire, she discovers that reality may not be as logical as you think ­and that people are both odder and more ordinary as they might seem. Especially if you’re eating datura seeds. Especially when the legendary Voynich Manuscript is involved. Where will it all end? Pushed by the mysterious owner of the magazine, our narrator may wind up somewhere very strange indeed.

Jeff and Ann go on to describe Krohn as “one of the most respected Finnish writers of her generation” but really she should be one the the most respected writers of her generation in any country. I am so pleased to have one of her books available in English.

And while I am here, don’t forget the fabulous bargain of the Michael Cisco omnibus. To give you a taster, The Divinity Student is being serialized on Weird Fiction Review. Check out what they have online already, and then come back and buy all four books at a knock-down price.

Brighton Restaurants – The Marlborough

Well, more of a pub than a restaurant, and as much of a queer club and theater as a pub. When we have an Outer Alliance meet-up with the local community (which I am sure we will), it will be in the Marlborough, because that is where such things happen in Brighton.

Of course it is a pub, so you’ll be wanting to know about the beer. They have the usual stuff, but also stock beers from a couple of local breweries: WJ King and Dark Star. Katherine McMahon and I did a tasting of the more girly offerings from these folks. Our verdict is that the Sunburst is deliciously smooth and summery, but the Brighton Blonde has much more of the traditional bitterness that people often want from their beer.

As I mentioned above, the Marlborough is a club. They put on lots of events. In particular, on Thursday October 31st, they will be staging a Halloween event. There will be costumes, there will be DJs, and there will be the Voodoo Love Orchestra. Really, what more does World Fantasy need? So do bring your costumes, and let’s horrify the fuddy-duddies on the World Fantasy Board.

Voodoo Love Orchestra – Thriller from Jack Chute on Vimeo.

New Translation From Le Guin

I uploaded a number of new books from Aqueduct Press today. I’ll get around to talking about them all in the coming days, but I want to give pride of place to a translation. The original work was presumably in Romanian, because that’s where Gheorghe Săsărman is from (he grew up in Cluj, the capital of Transylvania). I’m not sure what route the stories took to get into English, but I do know that they were selected and translated by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Do you need more motivation? No, of course not. But I should mention that Squaring the Circle is a collection of fictional writing about imaginary cities. It is subtitled A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony, and the Publishers Weekly review compares it to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It goes on to say, “Săsărman’s masterfully crafted prose poems feel more immediate, serving as spellbinding descriptions of architectural impossibilities as well as slyly subversive social commentary.”

Silly Season

You never quite know what to believe from the things you read online on April 1st. One of the more interesting posts I saw was this one from Jonathan Clements about a new anime series based on the manga, Pretty Petra Pope. The basic idea is pretty simple. There’s a pretty schoolgirl who also happens to be the Pope. She has a gaggle of seven incredibly cute boy cardinals vying for her attention, and she’s threatened by a gang of evil nuns called the Ugly Sisters. Oh, and the Pope has an actual flock of sheep to be shepherd of, and thanks to a divine miracle they can talk.

That’s totally believable, right? I want to believe it. Especially as Jonathan says that the series was originally published in a comic called Weekly Cheryl. Someone make this true, please.

An SEO Tip

Yeah, not the sort of thing I normally blog about. 🙂

Over the past few weeks I have achieved around a 50% increase in blog traffic. I didn’t do anything special myself. It is all down to this post, in which I report briefly on an LGBT History Month talk. Ever since I posted that, “gay cartoon” has been one of the to search terms for the blog (often first, and with “gay carton” in second place). That little post has been the most viewed page on the blog on many days.

I have no idea what the people making those searches hope to find, and I’m pretty sure that they don’t find it. But, to quote Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, “still they come”. Weird, but definitely traffic-enhancing.

Bristol’s Troll Bridge

Many of you will know that there is a troll living under the Bay Bridge that connects San Francisco to Oakland (not the Golden Gate bridge, that’s the other one). But did you know that there is a troll living under the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol? Well there is now. It is only an animation created for Halowe’en, but it is pretty cool. (If you can’t see the embedded video, click here.)

Fame At Last… Sort Of

I don’t often remember my dreams, which is probably a good thing as it prevents me from boring you with the details. Every so often, however, something wakes me up in the middle of a dream and I find out just how odd my mind can be.

So last night it appears I was in Harvey Nichols. Goodness knows why. I can’t afford to go in through the door, let alone shop there. But there I was, and the staff had discovered that I knew Cat Valente, as a result of which they were treating me like a celebrity and allowing me to try on some fabulous, feather-festooned bridal gowns.

Then I woke up, and as it was the middle of the night I needed to get back to sleep. My usual tactic in such cases is to play a podcast, because I can lie there in darkness letting the lilt of voices wash over me. Normally this works, no matter who is on the podcast. But as I had been dreaming about Cat I put on the latest episode of the SF Squeecast, which was recorded live at Worldcon before the Hugo ceremony (where of course they all won rockets).

You should all listen anyway, just to hear Cat enthuse about John Crowley, but I stayed awake for quite a while. Towards the end Paul Cornell started talking about the Hugos, which got me concentrating on what was being said. Which is how I discovered that they mentioned me. And how I heard Elizabeth Bear say, “Stop fucking me, Cheryl”.

On closer examination this morning, what she actually said was, “Stop fucking with me, Cheryl”. But she said it quite quickly, and I was in bed half asleep. It was a somewhat surreal moment.

Still, I have now been mentioned on the Squeecast, and while I wasn’t exactly squeed about I am claiming that I’m now famous. If you want to hear why Bear was saying that about me, you’ll have to listen for yourselves.

Spot Betting Scandal Hits British SF

The British Science Fiction Community was thrown into disarray this week after two undercover Guardian journalists, Alison Flood and Damien Walter, claimed to have obtained footage of a juror for the Arthur C. Clarke Award agreeing to fix the results of the short list in return for a substantial bribe. The affair is believe to be connected to a betting scam based on the popular Guess the Clarke Short List game run by the online gambling company, Vector. Flood and Walter say they have sent a copy of their evidence to the Metropolitan Police.

Mr. Tom Hunter, the Chief Executive of the Clarke Award, dismissed the allegations as nonsense. “This is just two desperate journalists making up a story for the muck-raking media”, he commented. “Flood and Walter have been camped outside my flat for weeks hoping to get a scoop on the short list before it was announced. Once I even caught Walter going through my waste bin, but I think that’s because journalists are so badly paid these days. I had just thrown away half a hot Cornish pasty. There will be more detailed allegations of misconduct in my forthcoming submission to the Leveson Inquiry.”

Political and religious figures have been quick to weigh in on the controversy. In Pakistan Imran Khan said he was not surprised about the allegations. “What can you expect from a country that gives literary awards to Salman Rushdie?”, he asked. Britain’s Prime Minister, Call-Me-Dave Cameron, hit back angrily. “It’s clearly not enough for Mr. Khan for his cricket team to have thrashed us 3-0 in the recent test series, now he has to rub it in by being rude about our science fiction awards too. I was so upset by his comments that I had to whip Clegg for almost half an hour before I could calm down. There is a word for this, and that word is ‘bullying’. I will be asking the United Nations to consider an emergency motion on the subject of cyber-bullying by politicians from foreign countries. And if Mr. Khan doesn’t apologize immediately I shall tell Mr. Obama on him and we’ll carpet-bomb a small Muslim nation into oblivion. So there!”

ArchbishopNewly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Paul Cornell, placed emphasis on the morality of gambling. “It seems that someone may have been very naughty here”, he said, “and in the Anglican Church, as of policy adopted at our last synod, we frown on naughtiness. People shouldn’t do it. I don’t have the eyebrows to frown as well as my illustrious predecessor, but frowning I am.”

Other religious leaders were less restrained. One such was Rev. Christopher Islander, the High Priest of the Wessex Baptist Church, a small fundamentalist sect whose tenets include the belief that the Israeli philosopher, Lavie Tidhar, is the new messiah. Islander’s church is quite popular amongst the London arts community where members are often known as “lavies” in recognition of their faith. Islander fulminated at length on the evils of the Clarke Award in his sermon this morning, calling for the jury to be burned at the stake and their remains thrown into a pit of boiling lava. He described the authors of the short-listed books as “demon-spawn”, “sons and daughters of Satan”, “avatars of Evil”, “a stinking pile of foetid LOLcat feces” and, more unusually, as “Internet puppies”. Members of the Wessex Church are now picketing the Clarke Award offices in St. Johns Wood waving placards that read “God Hates Dogs”.

God hates DogsNot everyone is impressed with Islander’s statements. Damien Walter claims to have a fresh scoop. “I paid a cat burglar to raid the offices of Rev. Islander’s psychiatrist”, he said. “I can now exclusively reveal that Islander is a frustrated science fiction writer. He’s been worried about declining membership of his church and thinks he will do better if he could emulate his idol, L. Ron Hubbard, and write blockbuster SF as well as found a religion.”

The Clarke Award jury has been largely silent on the matter, though Juliet McKenna did generously offer to meet Rev. Islander as discuss the matter with him privately over an Aikido mat.

The authors attacked by Islander have been more forthcoming. Sheri Tepper released a statement that was read to journalists for her by her secretary, a horse named Ed. The text was as follows:

“As I have often written, patriarchal religions of the sort led by Rev. Islander are a scourge upon the planet. For the good of all the species of Earth we should cull all male religious leaders like the pestilence they are. There can be no leniency, no exceptions.”

Charles Stross made no comment, but did let his tongue hang out and panted enthusiastically. His partner, Feòrag, commented happily, “this has done wonders for Charlie’s training. I lined his litter tray with photographs of Rev. Islander, and now his poop is on target every time.”

Speaking from his Seattle home, Greg “Killer B” Bear said, “I am so happy to have another excuse to go to Merrie Olde London. I love that city. It is so great to visit somewhere that hasn’t changed since the days of Dickens, Austen and Shakespeare. I’m really looking forward to seeing those great London landmarks such as Big Ben, Bucking Ham Palace, Stone Hinge and the Eiffel Tower. And if I meet that Islander guy there I’ll happily give him a bloody nose.”

The scandal has come to the attention of worldwide literary bodies. Speaking for the International Awards Association, Mr. Kevin Standlee called for a full and frank inquiry to be carried out by the England & Wales Science Fiction Board. “Corruption in literary awards will not be tolerated”, said Standlee. If the England & Wales Board cannot clear up this matter to our satisfaction then we may be forced to impose sanctions, up to and including denying their request to host the World Science Fiction Contest in London in 2014. If necessary we will relocate the event to Glasgow, a nearby city that has a distinguished record of hosting the event.

British fandom has also been discussing the scandal enthusiastically. Mr. Richard Bheerbhelly, who describes himself as a life-long BSFA member and someone who has attended every Eastercon since it was founded in 1833, was scathing in his condemnation of the Clarke. “I am delighted that this has been exposed at last”, he said. “I have suspected for some time that the Clarke was corrupt. Nothing else could explain the fact that fine science novels such as The Eye of Argon, March of the Robots, Battlefield Earth, Atlanta Nights and the Wheel of Time series have failed to win the Clarke. None of these jurors have any idea what true hard science fiction is.”

Another British fan, Mr. Jonathan Agnew, blamed America. “Our finest writers are being lured abroad to write in the American Premier Literary League for silly money. Everyone knows that the juries for the Hugos, Nebulas and Locus Awards are on the make. You only have to look at the luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle they lead to realize that they must be raking it in. No wonder our British lads and lasses are tempted.”

The UK publishing industry has been quick to cash in on the crisis. Noted science fiction satirist, A.R.R.R.R.R.R. Roberts, has been contracted to write a series of darkly humorous thrillers set in the high finance world of science fiction awards. The Clarke Inheritance is already written and in production, with The Clarke Legacy due to follow next week and several more sequels planned. The dashing young hero of the books, Tim Huntsman, fights an increasingly bizarre series of foreign plots against British science fiction while investigating the possibility that he is the secret son of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. A Hollywood studio has already taken out an option on the first book, though it is understood that the story will be changed for the movie so that it can be set in Los Angeles and feature the Hugo Awards instead of the Clarke.

Author Norman Nobbish, whose self-published novel, Cyber-Wolf Pirates of the Death Galaxy, was overlooked for this year’s Clarke, will be challenging the Award results in the courts. On his blog he said:

“Corruption in the Clarke has cost me million’s in unpayed royalty’s. I demand to be constipated not only for this but for the billon’s I wood have received from the movie that wood have been made from my book had I one as I deserved!!!”

Meanwhile Hunter is becoming increasingly frustrated with the affair. Speaking from in front of his office, and struggling to make himself heard above the constant chanting of “God Hates Dogs”, he said, “all of the work on this award is done by volunteers, and in this climate of fear no one is willing to help out. I have to go to my day job now, so I can’t talk to you any more. I need help. Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?

[My apologies to non-UK readers who might not be 100% up on such urgent matters of British politics as betting scandals in cricket and PastyGate. I have tried to provide informative links where possible so as to establish the veracity of this story.]

The Diagram Prize

It is that time of year again when we all get a good chuckle over the crazy titles some people have picked for their books. The short list for this year’s Diagram Prize is now available and open for public vote. So what wonderful works do we have this year?

  • A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume 2: The Welsh Coast — great local excitement about this, but probably not a winner
  • A Taxonomy of Office Chairs — weird, but hardly outstanding
  • Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World — One for you Martha? (personally I’d prefer Estonian beer)
  • The Mushroom in Christian Art — I shudder to think what the symbolism might be
  • The Great Singapore Penis Panic — ooh, err…
  • Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge — I wonder if Hebden Bridge was a famous lesbian enclave in those days?
  • And finally, especially for Ian Mond and Jonathan McCalmont — Cooking with Poo

If only all awards were this much fun.

The Truth About The Gender Industry

Yesterday’s Daily Malice contained a lengthy article purporting to expose the evils of Britain’s “Gender Industry”. Unfortunately, as is common for the Malice, their journalists knew very little about the subject and got much of it wrong. In particular they fingered the Portman and Tavistock Clinics as leaders of this industry, when in trans communities this organization is known as deeply conservative and often acting in ways directly opposed to the interests of trans people. For an example, in 2002 a group of their staff wrote to the Daily Telegraph as follows:

The recent judgment in the European Court of Human Rights, in which a post-operative transsexual person was granted permission to marry in his adopted gender role, is a victory of fantasy over reality.

If there is someone that these people deem worthy of treatment, you can bet that the case is very clear cut.

The reality of care for trans people is very different. There are probably a few surgeons who make good money, though I’m guessing less than they could get in more glamorous specializations. Organizations that care for trans people are often heavily dependent on charity, which in turn relies on actual trans people for donations, and they are chronically underemployed. Medical professionals are constantly at risk of being hit with malpractice suits from conservative colleagues should they be deemed guilty of treating trans people with compassion and respect.

Of course the British people, and indeed concerned persons all around the world, do need to know more about this clandestine and hugely profitable gender industry. I have therefore taken it upon myself to indulge in a little investigative journalism. Here is the awful truth of how cunning trans people have made fortunes by replacing “real” men and women with “fakes” in work that does not conform to traditional gender stereotypes.

One of the first gender entrepreneurs in the UK was Roz Kaveney. A struggling journalist and aspiring writer, Kaveney was introduced by her friend, Neil Gaiman, to an equally ambitious American screenwriter called Joss Whedon. Whedon had a plan to create a TV series based around the cult movie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, he was unable to persuade any Hollywood actresses to star in the series. They felt that taking the role of a kick-ass, vampire-killing heroine would be damaging to their public images, and to their long-term careers. Whedon therefore asked Kaveney to supply a group of trans women to act in the series.

When Buffy became a surprise hit, Kaveney was suddenly in great demand in Hollywood. Every studio wanted a similar series, and Kaveney’s company, Trans R Us, was the leading supplier of suitable actresses. Kaveney’s products later went on to star in TV series such as Alias, and in movies such as the Underworld and Resident Evil series.

Her commercial success allowed Kaveney to return to her first love, writing. Realizing that no self-respecting “real” woman would write romance novels featuring kick-ass, monster-killing heroines, she began to write novels featuring characters similar to Buffy. The idea took off, and soon Kaveney found books by her pen names, including Laurell K. Hamilton, Carrie Vaughn and Kim Harrison were becoming best-sellers. Pretty much all of the early output of the paranormal romance and urban fantasy genres was penned by Kaveney herself. However, despite her success, women writers were willing to follow her example for fear of a public backlash, or being blacklisted by published who deemed their work insufficiently feminine. Unable to find suitable talent within the trans community, Kaveney hired a number of male ghost writers to write her books for her. Successful authors such as Tim Pratt, Daniel Abrahams, Ian McDonald, Sean Williams and John Scalzi all got their start ghost writing for Kaveney.

Although Kaveney is believed to be the first British trans woman to become a millionaire through her business interests, her wealth and fame is far eclipsed by that of the health industry mogul, Christine Burns. Around 2004 the Blair government began to run into problems recruiting staff for the National Health Service. Their program of gender equality in education had been so successful that all young women studying medicine now wanted to be doctors rather than nurses. Unfortunately a high profile study by the Royal College of Psychiatry had proved conclusively that male hospital patients are unlikely to recover successfully unless they have pretty young women to look after them. The shortage of female nurses looked set to result in a major health crisis.

Some of the shortage was made up through immigration, but Burns approached the government with the idea of transforming aspiring young male nurses into women. The idea proved very effective in solving the nurse shortage, and Burns was awarded an MBE for her services to the NHS. Indeed, so successful has she become that other companies in the UK health sector poured millions of pounds into Conservative Party coffers in the hope that they could win an election and put a stop to Burns. The NHS reforms championed by Andrew Lansley are the end result of this campaign. NHS staff, many of whom owe their jobs to Burns, are vociferously opposing the reforms. It remains to be seen whether Burns’ commercial empire will survive the assault.

Gender entrepreneurs have been successful in many other walks of British life. For example, the entertainment industry has long held that women simply aren’t funny. In any case, feminists have no sense of humor so there would be no sense in catering to them by providing women comedians. However, the general trend in society towards equal rights did require at least a semblance of balance. As a consequence, Bethany Black has built a substantial business out of supplying trans women comics, including Ellen De Generes, French & Saunders, and Jo Brand. You didn’t think they could be that funny if they were “real” women, did you, people?

The gender industry has been much slower on the uptake when it came to trans men, but one notable business has been built in sports. Back in 2006, Delia Smith was worried about the poor performance of her Norwich City football club. An internal enquiry had identified that a major problem was the team’s yellow shirts. They were deemed “too girly”, and as a consequence top flight players were unwilling to join the club. The enquiry recommended a change of strip, but Smith is a committed traditionalist who was unwilling to abandon not only the club’s colors, but also their nickname of The Canaries. Even the club badge would have to be changed. She turned instead to gender entrepreneur, Juliet Jacques, herself a life-long Norwich fan, and asked her if she could turn top quality female players into men.

The project took a long time to bear fruit. Amongst the teething problems was the fact that large doses of testosterone made trans men prone to fits of anger and violence. Some early models such as Robbie Savage and Joey Barton have become notorious for their poor disciplinary records. Eventually, however, the years of research paid off and Norwich is once again back near the top of the Premiership.

Meanwhile, determined to make the best of her initial failures, Jacques tried selling some of her early models to rugby clubs. This proved ideal, and although rugby is a much less wealthy sport it provided a healthy income for Jacques and her company. At one point she supplied the entire squad of the top Parisian team, Stade Français. This deal came to an end thanks to events in Italy.

In 2010 a newspaper owned by a rival media company exposed the fact that all of the prostitutes at one of Prime Minister Berlusconi’s famous orgies were actually trans women supplied by wealthy Italian gender entrepreneur, Vladimir Luxuria. As part of the fall-out from this, it was revealed that the Italian rugby captain, Sergio Parisse, a Stade Français player, was actually a trans man. The scandal spread back to France, and the Parisian club ended their deal with Jacques. The team has languished in the lower reaches of the French league ever since.

The gender industry is by no means confined to Europe. Indeed, it is currently playing a major role in US Politics. Back in 1998, Newt Gingrich was scouring Hollywood for a rugged, right-wing actor who could be groomed to be the next Ronald Reagan. Arnold Schwarzenegger was ineligible due to being foreign-born, and Gingrich found the majority of male Hollywood stars — people like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio — to be a bunch of effeminate metrosexuals entirely unsuited for political office. Then he met up with gender entrepreneur, Calpernia Addams, and American politics changed forever.

The project was put on a back burner during the Shrub Presidency, and when it was revived early attempts to produce potential female candidates from right-wing males proved disastrous. The subjects were unable to successfully integrate their new female identities with the level of misogyny required of them. Projects such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann were notable failures. However, Addams then came up with a new idea. Combining the successful work of Juliet Jacques on trans men with the assistance of top quality Hollywood cosmetic surgeons and make-up artists, she began to develop a series of trans male replicants. These could take the place of under-performing Republican politicians and push the party line that Gingrich wanted. Products such as Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have proved very successful with Republican voters in recent months.

Unusually Gingrich, who had tired of the hurly-burly of political life, also opted to have himself replaced by a replicant. His new career as mild-mannered investment consultant, “Bernie Madoff”, went very well until his business ran into trouble during the recent financial crisis. The real Gingrich has therefore been forced to watch from jail as his trans replicant hits the presidential campaign trail.

The hot young talent in the gender industry is Paris Lees. Tall and slender herself, Lees quickly realized that the standard shape for catwalk models doesn’t work for women. They simply don’t have, well, shape. So Lees began a modelling agency for trans women. Her initial products, Lea T and Andrej Pejić, have been hugely successful. Given Lees’ energy and business acumen, it seems likely that she’ll be the major supplier of catwalk models for years to come.

There have long been rumors in fandom that I am fantastically wealthy, and I can now reveal that much of my income has come from a burgeoning business in gender derivatives. The idea is deceptively simple. Rich couples are able to take out an option on the gender of future children. If a pregnancy turns out to be for a child different from what they wanted, the option pays out and they can afford gender reassignment surgery. Some of my customers have instead opted to have the unwanted child adopted, and to choose a new child of their own. This has led me to become close friends with prominent people in the celebrity adoption industry such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie. Many of my best clients come from European royal families. Indeed, Kevin and I will be attending the Monaco Grand Prix in style this year. Look out for us in the Royal Box during the trophy presentation.

Thanks to my interests in the gender industry, I am now financially secure and able to indulge in a little philanthropy. I have decided to help out the campaign for gender equality in the science fiction and fantasy community. It is well known that no “real” man would ever give up his place on a panel in favor of a woman. However, by licensing the trans replicant technology from Calpernia Addams, and severely toning down the testosterone doses, my staff have managed to create a range of male writer replicants with an interest in gender equality. As you might have guessed, one of our first products is Paul Cornell.

Unfortunately the real Paul Cornell didn’t take kindly to being replaced. He has converted to Catholicism and is currently studying at a remote monastery in the Calabrian Mountains in Southern Italy. He is a member of a new militant order of Catholic monks founded by Pope Ratty and financed by Berlusconi and prominent Mafia leaders. Penis Dei is devoted to saving the world from the Transgender Menace by hunting down trans people and selling their stories to British tabloid newspapers. Their headquarters are believed to be in Ireland, where they disguise themselves as mild-mannered, fun-loving bookmakers.

I would like to thank Julie Bindel and her tireless colleagues at the pressure group, Trans Empire Watch, for their help in preparing this article.

The management accepts that certain details presented in this article may be somewhat less than entirely factual, but they have been retained for artistic effect. We assert that the Truthiness quotient of this article is no less than that of some articles about trans people published by the Daily Malice. Furthermore we assert that, in the world of the UK’s tabloid newspapers, the concept of “truth” is entirely fungible and often used to indicate that the material in question is entirely made up.

You’ll Believe A Squid Can Fly

Things have been a bit heavy around here for the past few days, so I figured that you folks deserved some light relief. Here it is.

For the benefit of those of you who didn’t click through, it appears that squid, the smaller varieties thereof anyway, can indeed fly. They use the same jet propulsion system that they use under water. The biologists concerned think that they developed this ability because flying takes less energy than swimming, and perhaps to escape predators.

Now all they need to do is work out how to achieve escape velocity.

Finn Fan Secret Exposed?

Well, CNN might not know where London is, but they do have some interesting stories.

According to this news item, a group of shipwreck hunters operating in the seas between Finland and Sweden have discovered an unusual object on the bottom. It is roughly circular, about 60 metres across, and looks remarkably like the Millennium Falcon.

Weird news experts have already picked up the story. I found it via David Roden who linked to this piece, speculating that the object might be part of R’lyeh.

I, however, have a different theory. It is well known that Finnish and Swedish fans hold an annual convention on an island in the seas between Finland and Sweden. Is it possible that what the shipwreck hunters have discovered is in fact Jukka Halme’s secret undersea base? Inquring minds want to know.

The Great Haggis Extinction Mystery

As many of you will know, tomorrow is the traditional date of Burns Night, the day on which a person of Scottish descent, and anyone else looking for a good excuse to down some fine malt whisky, celebrates all things Caledonian. Normally at this time of year the supermarket shelves in the UK are groaning under the weight of haggises great and small, and of all species, even the rare “vegetarian” haggis. This year, however, there was nothing. Zip. Nada. Not a haggis was to be had in all of Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. I was worried. What could have happened?

Had there been some sort of mass extinction event? Had the unseasonably warm weather caused the poor wee beasties, unable to shed their thick, ginger pelts, to expire of heat exhaustion long before the hunting season started? Or was politics to blame? Had Westminster banned the import of Scotland’s national dish in retaliation for the Scots’ recent upsurge of interest in independence? Then again, it could be the economy. Perhaps some great haggis processing factory has gone out of business, beggaring a small Scottish town and threatening the livelihood of hundreds of haggis hunters who no longer had an easy outlet for their catches?

I knew that the Bath Sausage Shop generally has haggis for sale, but I didn’t have the time to get there before tomorrow night so I tried my local butcher. Much to my relief, they were well stocked. I came away with a small haggis which, the butcher assured me, had been caught in the mountains above Lock Muick and sold at market in Arboath. I’m looking forward to serving it with neeps, tatties and a dram or two of Jura Prophecy tomorrow. But I am still no closer to solving the mystery of the absence of haggis from English supermarket shelves. Can anyone explain it?