Coming on Thursday, Museum From Home

My good friend Dan Vo has been entertaining people during Lockdown by hosting a daily Twitter video called Museum From Home. Each day he has a different guest to talk about something museum-related, and probably queer. Today he put out this tweet.

So that’s the cat out of the bag, so to speak. On Thursday I will be Dan’s guest. Despite the emoji he used for me, I will not be talking about Amazons (though I might another day if he’ll have me back). I will be talking about trans Romans. I should note that the show will come with a whole host of content warnings because the Romans were horrible, horrible people by our standards. But if you managed to sit through I, Clavdivs then you should be OK on Thursday as well.

On the Trans Day of Visibility

Here we go again. Today is the day on which trans people all over the world are supposed to stand up and be counted. Already I have seen a flood of posts on social media celebrating the visibility of trans folks. I’m also seeing posts from trans people saying that they are fed up of being visible; that they are scared of being visible. Part of that is because the world has changed dramatically since TDOV was first concieved, but it is also a matter of how we do TDOV.

A little context is in order. TDOV was created because the only international day that the trans community had was the Trans Day of Remembrance. That’s a pretty depressing, if essential, experience, and it is also one many trans people want kept within the community. It is noticeable that anti-trans extremists now deliberately target TDOR in order to provoke offence and, they hope, mental health breakdowns. We needed a much more positive day.

TDOV is supposed to be that day. However, since it has become popular it has started to have the opposite effect that was intended. That, I think, is because in trying to make trans people more visible, it has ended up as an exercise of They Walk Among Us, which makes us seem different and scary.

Now it is important that trans people be visible. I’m certainly not advocating that we go back to the days of having to disappear into the cis population and fearing that your life will be over if you are ever outed. I’ve been through that fear. It isn’t fun. Not can we pretend that we are “just like everyone else”, because clearly we are not, especially those of us who live far outside the gender binary.

What we do need, however, is to be visible for things other than simply being trans. And there’s no reason why we can’t be, because trans people are fucking awesome. We have to be.

What I would like to see today, therefore, is not just trans people being visible, but trans people visibly doing things in addition to existing. That can be the day-to-day work that they do, but it would be even better to see what trans people are doing to help the community through the current health crisis. I’m sure there are loads of great stories out there waiting to be told. I’ll start.

  • I’m still working with The Diversity Trust, most recently doing an online talk on trans history for an LGBT+ youth group;
  • Through Wizard’s Tower I am helping authors continue in business when mainstream publishing and bookselling are collapsing around them;
  • Wizard’s Tower is also putting out a series of free-to-read short fiction to help people stay entertained during lockdown;
  • And I’m still doing my radio show for Ujima. The next one will be broadcast tomorrow.

Over to you, trans community. What are you doing that you would like to be visible for?

And cis folks, if you are thinking of doing posts, please stop thinking of trans people as a downtrodden minority that needs saving, and start thinking of us as hidden heroes whose contributions to society should be recognised.

Coronavirus – Day #2

So far so good. Aside from not going out, today has been a pretty normal Sunday. I did some housework (cleaned the fridge!), did some reading and writing, and got caught up on Formula E. I’m slightly bemused by all of the people on Twitter wondering what they are going to do when they are stuck at home.

The other thing that I did today was go over a draft of a new will. That’s not because I’m expecting to die imminently. It occurred to me a few weeks back that I really should make provision in the will for Wizard’s Tower. The lawyers sent me a draft, and it has taken me a couple of weeks to get around to reading it.

Of course if I do get the virus my chances are good, but not great. Given average worldwide figures I probably have about a 1 in 30 chance of dying. That’s a damn sight more likely than winning the lottery. So I’m not being blasé about it.

This being Britain, Land of Transphobia, the anti-trans brigade are going off on social media about how it is important to know your “biological sex” when going to the doctor. But of course by “biological sex” they mean chromosomes, which have very little effect once you have been born. Interestingly mortality among men is higher than among women, and that’s despite women doing a lot more of the healthcare. An article in The Lancet suggested a number of gendered explanations for the difference, including men being more likley to smoke, and women being less likely to have to go into an office or other workplace in order to keep their job. Being a life-long non-smoker, and a self-employed work-from-home person, I have a more feminine social profile.

But who knows? I’ve had pneumonia in the past. That might make me more vulnerable. Worrying over percentages like this is pointless. My life has got less busy all of a sudden, and while I will miss the foreign trips I am determined to enjoy the additional relaxation time. Back to reading, I think.

A Favour, Please

So, there you all are twiddling your thumbs and wondering what to do as the long days of self-isolation stretch ahead of you. Yes, you should be reading books, but hopefully you have time to do something quickly for me.

As you may be aware, governments in the UK have been consulting on changes to the Gender Recongition Act. This is because the current system for obtaining a revised birth certificate (and with it a new legal gender) and a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is so complex, difficult and expensive that most trans people don’t bother. Changing your ID such as passports and driving licences is much easier, and who ever looks at a birth certificate anyway? But government officials are concerned that many people have ID in one gender yet are legally a different gender, and they want to change that by making it easier for trans folks to make the legal change.

There were a couple of consultations last year, one in Scotland and one in England & Wales. The Scottish one showed 60% of respondents in favour of a change. Westminster has refused to publish the results of their consultation and the new government apparently has no intention of going ahead with the process, but the Scots have published a bill and opened a consultation on that. The consultation closes on Tuesday (17th).

You might wonder what this has to do with you, as most of you are not Scottish. Well, the Scottish government is welcoming input from all around the world, and you can bet that the anti-trans extremists will be doing their best to flood the consultation with responses favouring their view. Trans people in Scotland have been subjected to weeks of relentless and hostile media coverage, and risk losing their civil rights altogether if this consultation produces a negative result. (Transphobes within Westminster are already calling openly for the repeal of trans people’s civil rights.)

The good news is that the consultation is very easy to fill in. There are just five questions. There’s also a fair amount of background information to digest, but I’ll try to summarise things briefly here.

1. All that this affects is the birth certificate. That has almost no effect on day-to-day life. It governs what gender you can get married in, and what gender you are recorded as when you die, but very little else.

2. Scotland will requre a Statutory Declaration to change your legal gender. A false declaration counts as perjury, which is a serious crime with stiff penalties. It will not be possible to change your legal gender on a whim, or easily change back afterwards.

3. Similar systems are already in place in Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Norway and several other countries outside of Europe.

4. If you have any concerns regarding the safety of women as a result of these changes, please read this article from The Scotsman which summarises the responses of women’s servces in Scotland to the initial consultation (spoiler, they were all supportive of the changes).

Question 1 asks, “Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least 3 months before applying for a GRC?” Simply saying No would indicate that you have no concerns, but a message saying that you support the changes would be helpful.

Question 2 asks, “Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must go through a period of reflection for at least 3 months before obtaining a GRC?” Personally I think this is rather silly, but equally it can’t do much harm. If you don’t want to go into the arguments you can safely answer No here.

Question 3 asks, “Should the minimum age at which a person can apply for legal gender recognition be reduced from 18 to 16?” Under current NHS guidelines you can begin medical transition (by taking hormones) at 16, so of course 16-year-olds should be able to change their legal gender along with everything else they will be changing.

Question 4 asks, “Do you have any other comments on the provisions of the draft Bill?” At this point it would be very helpful to ask the Scottish Government to do something for non-binary people. I have worked a lot with organisations from hospitals to domestic violence refuges, and for all of them the lack of any legal recognition of non-binary gender makes it very hard for them to make appropriate allowances for non-binary people.

Question 5 asks, “Do you have any comments on the draft Impact Assessments?” If you are a woman, this would be a good place to say that you do not think that your rights or safety are in any way threatened by the existence of trans people (which is basically the conclusion that the Scottish Government came to).

Some alternative advice, along with discussion of the issues, is available from Mermaids.

The online consultation is available here.

There is no guarantee that the bill will go forward if the consultation delivers a positive result. The anti-trans lobby has plenty of money and powerful friends. But if the consultation delivers a negative result then trans rights in the whole of the UK will in serious danger of being repealed.

Concorde Goes Gay

LGBT History Month is now well underway. In Bristol we began with an event at Aerospace Bristol, a brand new museum built to house a Concorde, and a wealth of other relics of Bristol’s proud aerospace tradition.

Because of where we were, the event focused on LGBT people in engineering, and in aviation in particular. That made it a bit hard to find cis women to speak, but trans women were delightfully abundant. The main speakers were:

  • Caroline Paige (ex-RAF)
  • Finn Mckay (UWE)
  • Rob Hurley (Airbus)
  • Christina Riley (construction industry)

We also had a panel of young people from the Alphabets youth group, and Drag Queen Story Time.

I have seen Caz Paige perform a couple of times before. Despite the fact that I know her story pretty well by now, she manages to tell it differently each time. For us she put in extra aircraft. I’m in awe of how much driving she puts in during LGBTHM. She’s far more in demand than I am. I bet she misses having a helicopter instead of a car. The photo above is of Caz and myself with a well known celebrity aircraft.

The event was sponsored by The Diversity Trust and was staged with help from OutStories Bristol and South Gloucestershire Council. The OutStories Bristol exhibition is in the Concorde Hanger and will be available to museum visitors until the 24th. Most of the work was done by Claire & Amy from the museum’s outreach team. I’m pleased to say that it all went very well.

Of course it could not be a properly queer event without cake. Thanks to Ian Boulton for providing something very appropriate.

Today on Ujima: #LGBTHM, Feminist AI and Time to Talk Day

I was live on Ujima again today. It was a bit of a scramble getting the show together and huge thanks to those guests who came on board yesterday. Also huge thanks to my old pal Valentin who used to run the desk for Paulette back in the day when I was a trainee presenter. As Ben was on holiday this week, Valentin stepped in to help out. Ben messaged me to say he was listening to the show online, which is incredible devotion to duty, and probably means that we had a listener in Kenya this week.

The first hour of the show was devoted to LGBT History Month events in Bristol. First up I was joined by Claire from Aerospace Bristol. They, in conjunction with The Diversity Trust, OutStories Bristol, and South Gloucestershire Council are putting on an event specifically aimed at engineers, and the aerospace industry in particular. The headline speaker is the wonderful Caroline Paige, and I’m particularly looking forward to the panel with the young people from Alphabets who will be discussing what they want from employers in the future. That event is on Saturday. I will be there with both my DT and OSB hats on. Full details are available here.

Next I welcomed back Karen from M Shed, along with Zoltán from Freedom Youth. I’m not curating the M Shed event this year. We’ve turned the whole thing over to the young people, and they have done an amazing job of putting together a programme. You can find details of their event here. It is on Saturday 22nd, and sadly I will be in Salzburg that weekend, but I hope some of you will go along and let me know how it turned out.

We also mentioned two other great events coming up in Bristol this month. The leading civil rights lawyer, Johnathan Cooper, will be at Bristol University Law School on the evening of the 19th to talk about, “Policing Desire: LGBT+ Persecution in the UK, 1970 to 2000”. Tickets are available (for free) here. Also there is the Black Queerness event that we covered in last month’s show. That’s on at the RWA. It is officially sold out, but there’s a wait list that you can get onto here.

The second half of the show began with my being joined by Coral Manton from Bath Spa University. Coral describes herself as a “creative technologist”, which basically means that she gets to do fun things with computers all day and gets paid for it. One of her projects is Women Reclaiming AI, which looks to do something about the sexist bias in electronic personal assistants.

We all know that most of these things (Alexa, Siri, etc.) come with female-coded voices, and that’s because the companies who make them decided (probably after some market research) that customers wanted a subordinate and submissive identity for their personal assistant. (Interestingly SatNavs work the other way: male drivers won’t take instructions from a female-coded voice.) Because these software constructs are maninly created by men, the personalities that they have are not based on real women, but on what men want their female assistants to be like.

This leads us down all sorts of feminist rabbit holes. Most notably, before Coral and her colleagues could create a “real” female personality for an AI, they had to decide what it meant to be a “real” woman. Part of the process has been running workshops in which groups of women get to have input into the process of creating the AI personality.

It turns out that one of the things that they asked for was that the AI would have the right to decline to help every so often. Real women can’t drop everything and help their families whenever they are asked to do so, so artificial women shouldn’t either. That sounded good to me, though I did have visions of Hal 9000 saying, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that”; and possibly of Portia from Madeline Ashby’s vN saying, “NO, you will obey ME!”

I could have happily have talked to Coral about this stuff for the whole two hours. Hopefully you find the discussion as interesting as I did.

My final guests were Ali & Loo from some local mental health charities, and Shani, a poet who works with them. Tomorrow is Time to Talk Day, on which people are encouraged to talk about their mental health issues. There’s a whole lot going on in Bristol tomorrow, and you can find links to it all here. I particularly love Loo’s event making pom poms to support the Sunflower Suicide Prevention Project.

The other event that I had to mention is the one coming up at Foyles in Cabot Circus on the evening of the 25th. That will be Emma Newman, Emma Geen, Liz Williams and myself in conversation with Kate Macdonald on the subject of women in science fiction. I understand that it is sold out, but there is probably a wait list. Details here.

You can listen to today’s show via the Ujima Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was:

  • Faint of Heart – Tegan & Sara
  • So Strong – Labi Siffre
  • Two Old Maids – The Vinyl Closet
  • Cream – Prince
  • Come Alive – Janelle Monáe
  • Are Friends Electric – Tubeway Army
  • Dock of the Bay – Otis Reading
  • I Need Somebody to Love Tonight – Sylvester

And in case any of you haven’t seen it, here is the wonderful video for the Tegan & Sara song. Watch carefully and you will spot Jen Richards and Angelica Ross in there as well.

Talking of Angelica, I see that there are rumours that she’ll feature in the Loki TV series. There have also been hints that Sera, one of Marvel’s current openly trans characters, will be in Thor: Love & Thunder. It is tempting to tie the two together, but what I really want to see happen is for Angelica to play Loki alongside Tom Hiddleston, because it won’t be proper Loki without some gender-flipping and it would be awful if they put Tom in drag for that.

Congratulations, Ardel!

This time last year I was telling you about this fabulous book which I had the honour to make a small contribition to. Most of the work was done by the amazing Ardel Haefele-Thomas, but part of the plan for the book was to have a whole lot of “voices from the community” contribitions. One of those was me, talking about trans Romans.

Since then the book has been quietly on sale. Ardel and I did an event at Gay’s the Word in London late last year. Then I hadn’t thought to much more about it. But this morning I awoke to the amazing news that the American Libraries Association had voted it one of their top 10 queer books of 2019. They normally pick 5 works of fiction and 5 of non-fiction. And that means that Ardel’s little book (well, rather hefty book actually) is on the same list as books by Marlon James, Tamsyn Muir, Carmen Maria Machado and Samantha Shannon.

Which is awesome!

I’m absolutely delighted for Ardel. I’ll be seeing them in Canada in April at the trans history conference. I suspect that a few other contributors will be there. There might be a little celebrating.

A February Heads Up

My speaking schedule for February is starting to firm up, and a number of events are starting to post their programmes. I’ll do a full schedule later in the month, but I did want to share one thing with you. It is this.

Yes, that is me giving a talk at The Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon. How cool is that?

The description is a little weird. I’m sure that’s not what I submitted to Schools Out. But the talk is about a play. It is a play by Byron, not by Shakespeare. And the story involves Ashurbanipal and Romans and Byron’s alleged bisexuality. It should be fun.

By the way, if you are coming to the Historical Fiction Research Network conference in Salzburg later in the month then you will get the academic version of this talk which will be more about sources and translations, and probably a little less about Byron’s sex life.

Writing Queer Charcaters from History: Online

I’m delighted to announce that my workshop, “Writing Queer Characters from History,” is now available from the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. Those of you who participated at FantasyCon, and at the Writing Historical Fiction conference at Bath Spa University, seemed to enjoy it. Bath Spa folks in particular should note that the online course will be 2 hours, not 20 minutes, so there will be a lot more time to explore the issue.

The first course will be on Saturday, January 4, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time. Further details about the course and how to sign up are available here.

New Diversity Trust Newsletter

My colleagues at The Diversity Trust have put together another newletter highlighting our work over the past few months. you can read or download it here (PDF).

The contents include a report from one of our happy training clients. (I was so pleased to be able to deliver trans awareness training in Taunton.) There’s also a great little article on pronouns by my colleague, Aaron. And my 15 minutes of fame being featured in BBC Online has been turned into an article too. Any excuse to re-use one of those fabulous Lou Abercrombie photos, eh?

We Were Proud

Last week saw the 4th anniversary of Trans Pride South West (TPSW), our local celebration of trans pride which sprang from Sarah Savage’s visit to our LGBT History Month event in 2016. I’m not involved in the running of it, but I do get involved in various parts of it.

This year, for the first time, we had a march. That began with a gathering on College Green in front of City Hall, and that meant speeches. We had some political representation. Carla Denyer, the Green Party candidate for Bristol West, was there. She was accompanied by a bunch of young party members, and by Baroness Bennett, so the Greens really put some effort behind us. The Liberal Democrats sent along James Cox who had kindly stood down in Bristol West in order to give Carla a better chance of getting elected. Sadly there was no official representation from Bristol Labour, though Kaz Self from the TPSW committee did make a speech on their behalf. There was also a representative from the Women’s Equality Party, which was of course me. So yes, I did make a speech. No one laughed, except when I wanted them to, which I am taking as a win.

From there we marched up Baldwin Street towards the city centre. We had space in The Station, a former fire station on Silver Street for a Community Day. There were just under 200 people (and three dogs) on the march, which was very good for a cold and wet November morning. I was very pleased to count at least 16 people of colour among us.

The Community Day had a lot of stalls. I was representing OutStories Bristol. The photo above shows me at my stall along with Spencer from TPSW and Alex from the hate crime charity, SARI. The Diversity Trust also had a stall. The event was very well attended. Indeed, around 13:00 you could barely move in the room. I think the committee might need to look for a bigger venue next year.

I was somewhat worried that there might be some attempt by right-wing groups to disrupt the march, but everything went off very smoothly. Clearly the anti-trans fauxminists are easily put off by a little rain.

I had to rush off immediately after the event ended as I was giving a talk in Brighton on the Sunday, so I didn’t get to chat to people at thing were winding down, but I’m very happy with how things went and I’m looking forward to TPSW being bigger and better next year.

Queer (Romans) in Brighton

Here’s something I am doing this weekend, which I didn’t tell you about earlier because by the time I got the details it had sold out. Which is very pleasing.

Anyway, immediately I finish at Trans Pride in Bristol on Saturday I will be on a train to Brighton. It is a mad schedule, but Sunday morning trains are crap and I need to go on Saturday to make sure I get there in time.

On the Sunday afternoon I will be at Brighton Museum for their monthly Queen in Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club. I will be talking about being trans and intersex in Ancient Rome. There will be gender reassignment surgery; there will be gossip about the Imperial Family; there will be stand up philosopher contests; and being the Romans it will all be a bit gruesome.

What have the Romans done for us? They invented the dick pic.

If you want to know more, and be sad that you can’t get a ticket, the booking page is here.

Historical Fiction at Bath Spa

I spent yesterday at Bath Spa University (the beautiful Newton Park campus) at a conference on writing historical fiction. This is a brief report on the event.

First up I should note that this conference differs from the Historical Fiction Research Network conferences in that it is primarily for students of creative writing, and for working writers. I think I was the only speaker presenting as an historian as opposed to a writer, literary critic or publishing industry expert. Both conferences have value in their own way.

I knew that it was going to be an interesting day right from the start when the opening speaker, Alan Bilton from Swansea University, started talking about postmodernism and whether we can ever know what really happened in the past. We largely managed to avoid going down any Alt-Right rabbit holes, but it did lead to someone asking about authenticity, own voices and so on. And straight down another rabbit hole we went.

When these discussions start (and particularly when they start on social media) they tend to devolve into an argument with people on one side saying that writers should be allowed to write whatever characters they want, and people on the other saying that only people with lived experience of certain types of characters should be allowed to write those characters.

Repeat after me, please: All binaries are false.

As it happens, I’m a big fan of own voices work. If I’m going to read a book set in, say, Mexico City, I would much rather read one written by someone who has lived there (e.g. Silvia Moreno Garcia) than by someone whose knowledge of the city comes entirely from Wikipedia. (And yes, that is another false binary.) But this isn’t the entirety of the disucssion. When it was my turn to get up to speak I made the point that if only trans people were allowed to write trans characters then only around 1% of fiction would contain trans characters, and this would be a bad thing because we desperately need positive portrayals of trans people in fiction right now.

One of the ways around this is to employ a sensitivity reader. Of course that term is a red rag to the more conservative end of the industry, but it shouldn’t be. There was a good example to hand, because Alan had been talking about his forthcoming novel which happens to be set in Russia. He mentioned that he’d relied heavily on a Russian-born colleague for advice. That’s using a sensitivity reader. Most science fiction readers would applaud an author who had worked with actual astronauts, or actual astrophysicists, to get scientific details right. That too is using a sensitivity reader. It is no different from asking for help to make sure that you get Polynesian culture, or non-binary identity, right in your book. Except that if you are asking for help from someone from a marginalised group for help you should probably be paying them, rather than offering a few beers or a favour in return.

My talk, by the way, was a slightly rushed and less interactive version of my workshop on writing queer characters from history. A few folks on Twitter expressed interest in it. I’d be very happy to run it at other events in the future.

The final session of the conference was an industry panel featuring literary agent, Kate Horden; novelist and publisher Lorna Gray; and the historical fiction reviewer for The Times, Antonia Senior. It turned out that Antonia is related by marriage to Amal El-Mohtar and can therefore talk knowledgeably about the difference between the SF&F and historical fiction communities. I found myself nodding along to pretty much everything she said because every book critic has the same issues with too many books and the foolishness of the publishing industry. She had also read and reviewed Shadows of Athens, which made me very happy.

Because the attendees of the conference were almost all women, there was some interest in questions of author identity, use of initials and so on. If anyone wants to follow up on that, I warmly recommend Juliet McKenna’s essay, “The Myth of Meritocracy”, in Gender Identity and Sexuality in Fantasy and Science Fiction, the British Fantasy Award Winning book from Luna Press. Juliet goes through the entire pipeline of the publishing and bookselling industry and shows, with data and references, how it is stacked in favour of straight, white men at every turn.

If it were up to me I’d make that essay required reading on all creative writing syllabi.

There were other great sessions as well. I enjoyed discussing theoretical approaches to writing historical fiction with Melissa Addy (I hope you enjoy Guy Gavriel Kay, Melissa). I was delighted to meet British-based Serbian writer, Senja Andrejevic-Bullock, who had really interesting things to say regarding writing about recent wars when you are from a people who are regarded as the bad guys. I learned a lot about women at sea from Sarah Tanburn, and about the hidden meanings in Pieter Bruegel’s paintings from Lisa Koning. I even met someone who has written feminist science fiction. Hello Lania Knight!

Huge thanks to Celia Brayfield and Bea Hitchman for organising the event. I understand that there are plans to run the conference again next year, and it will be at the University of Gloucester. I’ll let you know when I have more details.

Today on Ujima – Books, Theatre, Trans Pride & Tobias Buckell

My first guest on today’s radio show was Kate MacDonald of Handheld Press, a wonderful local publisher based in Bath. Kate will be familiar to people on the UK SF&F circuit as she was at FantasyCon and BristolCon. She doesn’t just publish SF&F, but when she does it is pretty spectacular. You will have heard me enthusing about her Vonda McIntyre reissue, and she has had great success with a Nicola Griffith book. On the show we talked about a book by Rose Maculey which inspired Brave New World. John Clute gets a starring role in the story of how Kate got to publish that one. And if we’d had more time we’d have talked about the new Sylvia Townsend Warner book, Of Cats and Elfins, which has a Greer Gilman introduction and a Neil Gaiman front cover blurb.

That was hard to top, but for the second section of the show I welcomed Nick Young from Creative Youth Network and two wonderful young actors who will be performing in The Edge, a play about the dangers of reality TV. The play is written by my friend Edson Burton, and will be staged at Colston Hall later this month. As the advertising says, it will be an immersive live performance. You’ll have to listen to the interview to find out just how clever they have been.

In part three I welcome Lowie Trevena, the new LGBT+ Affairs correspondent of Bristol 24/7 to talk about the upcoming Trans Pride South West. Lowie did a preview of the event for the paper yesterday, and we went a lot more into detail on that. We also talked about what it means to be a non-binary person, and how non-binary does not mean androgynous.

Finally I re-ran parts of my 2014 interview with Tobias Buckell to celebrate his win (along with Paulo Bacigalupi) in the World Fantasy Awards last weekend. Their book, The Tangled Lands, won the Best Collection catageory. In the 2014 piece Tobias and I talk about hurricanes in the Caribbean, climate change, and some interesting regional politics that allowed Tobias to create a unified Caribbean state for some of his work.

You can listen to the show here.

The playlist is as follows:

  • Pipe – Christina Aguilera & Lewis Hamilton
  • World in Union – Ladysmith Black Mambazo (feat. PJ Powers)
  • Screen Kiss – Thomas Dolby
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
  • History – Shea Freedom
  • Sticks and Stones – Jackie Shane
  • Hurricane Season – Trombone Shorty
  • 007 – A Fantasy Bond Theme – Barry Adamson

Today on Ujima – LGBT+ History, Worldcon & Women’s Cricket

I was back in the Ujima studio today, and my first guest was friend and colleague, Dr. Jamie Lawson of the University of Bristol. Jamie has written a children’s book on LGBT+ history called Rainbow Revolutions. It is published tomorrow, and I’m very impressed with it. We had a great conversation about the use of the word “queer”, Section 28 and why people are worried it might come back, Ball Culture and the success of Pose, and so on.

Next up I dragged in Harriet Aston who roomed with me at Worldcon. It was her first big convention and understandably she was a bit overwhelmed, which makes her an ideal person to represent that first Worldcon experience. I was impressed that Harriet felt that she was swimming rather than drowning by day 4.

The rest of the show was devoted to women’s cricket and the triumph of Western Storm in the final year of the Kia Super League. I played my interview with Raf Nicholson, and passed on the latest news about the women’s part in the stupid new “The Hundred” series. It is possible that a new Western Storm might rise from the ashes of the KSL after all.

You can catch up on the show via the Listen Again service here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Gil Scott Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  • Grace Jones – This Is
  • Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – September
  • Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm
  • Billie Holiday – Stormy Weather
  • The Impressions – We’re A Winner
  • Jim Steinman – The Storm

My next show will be on October 2nd and will feature an interview with Ellen Datlow that I recorded while we were in Ireland.

Writing Historical Fiction Symposium

This is very much advance notice. I’ll be pushing it much more once I am back from Ireland. But in November (assuming that the UK has not descended into full scale civil war) I am going to be giving a workshop on “Writing Queer Characters from the Past” at a symposium on writing historical fiction at Bath Spa University. The date is Saturday, November 16th. The fee including lunch is £85, though there are concessions available for students. Full details here.

Thinking Beyond – Transversal Transfeminisms

As you might have guessed, that is the title of an academic conference. It is a bit of a mouthful, but basically it was a feminist conference about trans issues. It look place at the University of Roehampton in London last week, and I was one of the speakers.

You can find the full schedule for the day here. Sadly UIrika Dahl was unable to attend due to illness, but the rest of the conference went ahead as planned.

Because the conference was advertised online it came to the attention of the transphobe mob on Mumsnet, who unsurprisingly lost their collective shit about it. If you want to see the nonsense that they come up with, just Google the conference title. This had two main consequences. Firstly the trans student group that was going to be involved had to withdraw because they were concerned about their safety. (One of the haters’ favorite games is to take unflattering photos of trans people and post them online accompanied by a sea of insults and, if they can get it, doxing data.) The other was that for the first time in my life I attended an academic conference that had a security guard on duty at all times. Thanks Pavel, you were great.

Interestingly, of the 8 speakers, 6 were cisgender women. The claim that the haters speak for all women is really utter nonsense.

I won’t go through all of the talks because much of it is fairly niche stuff, but Erzsébet Barát’s description of life in Hungary under the government of Viktor Orbán was chilling, and could prove a forecast of what the UK will be like should Boris Johnson still be Prime Minister at the end of the year. Sadly there are always women who are prepared to go along with far-right regimes and preach a form of “feminism” that puts women’s lives firmly in the control of men.

The really bizarre thing about right-wing Hungarian “feminists” is that they describe their views as being in opposition to that awful neo-liberal capitalist form of feminism known as “intersectional feminism”. The capacity of the far right to re-define words to mean what they want never ceases to amaze me.

The other country I learned a lot about at the conference was India. My thanks are due to Sarah Newport (I’ve found your thesis, Sarah, and look forward to reading it), and also to Antonia Navarro Tejero who introduced me to a work of Indian feminist science fiction.

Manjula Padmanabhan is an Indian SF writer who is working on a trilogy of novels about a young person called Meiji. The first book, Escape, is set in a country in which all women have been exterminated. As the title suggests, Meiji, who was assigned female at birth, manages to escape, and book 2 is set on The Island of Lost Girls. This, of course, is the place where women survivors have fled to. But, as all Suzy McKee Charnas fans will know, that doesn’t mean it is a utopia.

Listening to Antonia talk about the books, it is clear that Padmanabhan is in conversation with Joanna Russ and Charnas. My guess is that she has read both The Female Man and The Holdfast Chronicles. What is interesting and different about her books is that there are a whole lot of trans people in them.

Book 3 isn’t out yet, but I have bought the first two books to see what they are like. That wasn’t easy. Amazon appears to be deliberately hiding them. If you search for “The Island of Lost Girls” you won’t find Padmanabhan’s book even though that’s a full and almost-unique title. I had to search for “The Island of Lost Girls Manjula” to find it. And the two books aren’t linked either.

Anyway, I will read the books and report back. In the meantime, does anyone know anything about Manjula Padmanabhan? Mimi, Tasha, Aisha, Samit?

The Dublin Pride List

Earlier this year the Dublin Worldcon asked members to sumbit suggestions of good LGBT+ representation in SF&F as part of a project with Dublin Pride. That list has now been published and you can find it here (Google Docs spreadsheet). There’s a lot I could add (no Cat Valente!), but that’s my fault for being too busy to contribute. On the other hand there are books there I hadn’t heard of, which is an excellent indicator of the state of the field because years ago I could have named pretty much all of them very quickly.

Two Weeks of Pride

Bristol Pride isn’t just a party in the park these days. Daryn Carter and his team have a bunch of events planned over the next couple of weeks, and LGBT+ organisations around Bristol have chipped in with their own events.

Although Pride Fortnight is officially July 1-14, the schedule has leaked into the surrounding days. We kick off with a flag raising at City Hall on Friday at 5:00pm. I have to be at the Diversity Trust AGM that day and can’t into Bristol in time. Hopefully the weather won’t be too miserable.

On Saturday there will be a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot. It will be held in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel at 13:00. There will be a number of speakers, including myself and Dr. Edson Burton, as well as the Lord Mayor and Bristol’s first ever LGBT+ Poet Laureate, Tom Denbigh. Full details including a link for (free) booking can be found here.

I will be on way way to Finland as soo as that’s over, but I will be back in time for Pride Day on the 13th. I should be on the radio quite a bit.