Women in SF: The Podcast

The lovely people from Cosmic Shed have published a podcast recording of the panel on Women in Science Fiction that I was part of recently. The other panelists are Kate Macdonald, Emma Geen and Liz Williams. Our thanks to Cosmic Shed, and of course again to Foyles Bristol, The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival, and the Bristol Festival of Ideas.

You can listen to the podcast here, or through the podbean app.

I’m not going to list all of the books I mentioned as the podcast is very clear, but there are a few things that I couldn’t remember or didn’t explain fully.

The essay by Suzette Hayden Elgin that I mentioned is The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-defence and it is available from Amazon and other sellers.

The Dutch writer I mentioned is Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

The woman biologist I was trying to remember is Joan Slonczewski. She’s American, not Canadian, for which my apologies.

And for more about French science fiction, my Small Blue Planet podcast with Mélanie Fazi & Lionel Davoust is still worth a listen.

Congratulations, Olivette

If you follow UK news you may have seen that my friend, Professor Olivette Otele, has a new job. She has been given a new post at the University of Bristol and has been asked specifically to investigate the city and university’s connections to the slave trade. Here’s a BBC report.

Now obviously this is nowhere near as cool as making a documentary with Lupita Nyong’o. However, it is hugely important for the city. I’m sure that Ujima will be following Olivette’s work very closely.

In the meantime, because it is Black History Month, I have resurrected the radio show that Olivette and I did last year. I cut it into two parts for podcasting. You can listen to it here via the links below.

Lunch With Scott

One of the highlights of Worldcon for me this year was being interviewed by Scott Edelman for his podcast, Eating the Fantastic. Obviously having a long chat with Scott was fun, but the unique selling point of the podcast is that the interviews always take place over a lengthy and very good meal. The food that we had at Mr. Fox in Dublin was superb. So my heartfelt thanks to Scott and everyone who helps fund the podcast for paying for that.

The interview is now available online. You can find it on Scott’s blog, and doubtless on various podcast apps as well. It is more than 2 hours long, but hopefully there are ways you can take it in a bit at a time.

I’ve listened through the whole thing. There’s only one issue that I want to come back to right now, and that’s because it became the subject of a Twitter storm soon after Worldcon. In the interview I talk about the need for Worldcon to put more content online. Obviously there are issues with this, but there are many different ways in which it could be done, some of which address those issues. Sadly Twitter discussions tend to polarise very rapidly, with people assuming the absolute worst possible of any idea they attack. I do plan to write more about this issue in Salon Futura. Please wait for that before jumping in and telling me what an awful misogynist I am.

TitanCon – Day 2

I spent much of today behind Francesco Verso’s dealer table. I’m pleased to see we are selling books. They are not moving in huge quantities, despite us being the only new book dealer at the convention. That’s partly because we have a really awful location, but mainly I think because a lot of the people at TitanCon were also in Dublin and have no room left in their luggage. Certainly that’s what several people told me today.

I did an interview with Ellen Datlow, which will appear on the radio show and Salon Futura in due course.

I also did my one panel for the day. This was on Writing Vulnerable Men. I was moderating, so I didn’t have a huge amount of input, but I hope we managed to establish the idea that, while men are often written as vulnerable in various ways, this is usually done along gender-stereotyped lines; they are not generally portrayed as vulnerable in the same way that women are portrayed as vulnerable.

Things got a little tetchy between the two panelists at one point and I elected not to take sides despite having firm opinions on the issue. At the time it was better to acknowledge a difference of opinion and move on. What I will say here is that it is never “unrealistic” to write about certain types of people if people of that type exist in the real world. It doesn’t matter if they are a small minority, they are still real.

This evening I attended a launch event for Distaff, an anthology of science fiction by women authors, including BristolCon’s Rosie Oliver. I’m always happy to support women’s writing, particularly in a field where the prejudices of the publishing industry can make it hard for them to thrive.

TitanCon – Day 1

In theory TitanCon is a 4-day convention. It started today and contines through to Sunday evening. However, the programming on Sunday consists entirely of a coach trip to Game of Thrones filming locations followed by a mediaeval banquet. Practically speaking, therefore, at least from my point of view, it is a 3-day convention followed by going out to dinner with a large group of friends.

Today was all about getting settled in. I did have one panel on small presses, but there was also getting registered and getting set up in the Dealers’ Room. My own books might be sold out, but I have a small number of Twelfth Planet books that I offered to take from Dublin to Belfast, and that I need to sell so that I don’t have to take them home and then to Glasgow for FantasyCon. Franceso Verso is once again giving me space on his table, and here we have more time to chat.

A lot of people have come from Dublin to Belfast, including a significant number of Americans. Goodness only knows what Ben Yalow will make of the ESFS Business Meeting. I’m kind of sad that he won’t get to experience Dave Lally chairing it.

Because I talk a lot about translations on panels, people occasionally give me books. Today I was given a copy of East of a Known Galaxy, an anthology of Romanian science fiction translated into English. My thanks are due to Darius Hupov who is the host of The Galactic Imaginarium, a science fiction podcast based in Romania.

Eurocon is very much a multi-cultural experience. Also today I got to chat with a French fan about translations from French to English, and to a couple of Estonian fans about my visit to their country this summer. I shared a dealer table with an Italian, and was on a panel with a publisher from Portugal. That sort of thing ought to happen at Worldcon, but it doesn’t. Eurocon is where that sort of inter-cultural mixing is commonplace.

Worldcon #77 – Day 3

This morning, after a bit of fruitless chasing of phone companies, I took myself off to The Point to meet Scott Edelman who was on a panel there. This is how I discovered that Dublin has a rule that the Green Room is only open to programme participants during the hour before their panels. I guess they are very short of space. Being me, I blagged my way in.

Once Scott’s panel was done we headed off to his restaurant of choice, Mr. Fox, and recorded a podcast for Eating the Fantastic. Scott will post details of what we ate along with the podcast, but he has released the above photo with me and the restaurant’s signature walnut whip confectionary. Scott’s ability to find superb restaurants is legendary in the SF&F community, and rightly so.

It was a very long lunch, but not alcoholic as I had to get back to The Point to give my talk on the Prehistory of Robotics. It seemed to go down well. I was also pleased to meet a long time friend, Paul Mason, whom I haven’t seen in decades as he’s been living in Japan.

The rest of the day was spent chatting to people back at the convention centre. I was very pleased to meet two talented young women who are starting to make a name for themselves in the business. The first was Molly Powell, who is the new editor at Jo Fletcher Books. She’s the person responsible for bringing This is How You Lose the Time War and Gods of Jade and Shadow to the UK. The other was Tamsyn Muir, author of Gideon the Ninth, which is by far the most talked about debut novel that I can remember. They are both lovely, and I look forward to watching their careers blossom.

I didn’t have enough energy left to go to the masquerade, so I came back to the apartment and crashed.

Tomorrow, I have nothing to do except the Hugos. Quite a lot of panels have had to turn people away, and I have taken a policy decision to give up my seat to newbies. I may go whiskey shopping.

Farah & Cathy on DWJ

I entirely forgot to make a post about last month’s radio show because I was in Finland when it aired. As I’m in the middle of prep for this month’s show, I have been reminded of this and need to do something about it, because there were some good interviews in the show.

One of them is with Regina Wang, which I plan to get online before Worldcon. The other is with Farah Mendlesohn and Cathy Butler, which is slightly more urgent because it is about an event that is taking place this coming weekend – the conference on Diana Wynne Jones that they are running in Bristol (and which I can’t go to because I am swamped with work).

Farah and Cathy are always good value for a chat, but there is no better subject to set them off on than Diana. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Introducing the Diversity Trust Podcast

As if to prove that work follows me everywhere, today saw the launch of the brand new Diversity Trust Podcast. This will see various people from the Trust interviewing famous civil rights campaigners. And it all kicks off with me talking to the very wonderful Christine Burns.

Actually, you are only getting part 1 of the conversation right now. If you put Christine and I together the chances are that we will rabbit on endlessly about things, and this was no exception. Part 2 will follow in due course, but right now you can listen to part 1 here.

Introducing Modern Fairies

Many of my academic friends will know about this project already, but the rest of you will want to catch up too.

Modern Fairies is a collaboration between artists and academics to bring fairy tales into the 21st Century. That’s not re-writing and updating as you might get in a novel, but rather bringing back the stories and performances. The academics are providing the tales, and where necessary the translations from Old English and context. The artists are looking at narrating and performing these stories for a modern audience.

Phase 1 of the project has been a series of podcasts that introduce us to the major themes and stories. It addresses tales of people being kidnapped by amorous fairies, and fairies being kidnapped by humans; of changelings; of helpful fairies who assist the poor; and of loathly ladies who torment handsome knights. One of the presenters is Professor Carolyne Larrington who, in addition to being an expert on mediaeval literature, also wrote this fine book on the myth and history behind A Song of Ice & Fire.

Phase 2 is over to the artists, who will be putting on Fairy Gatherings around the country throughout the summer. There will be music and performance. One of the writers involved is Terri Windling.

And finally it will be back to the academics at the end of the year for a second series of podcasts looking back on what was done, and how it was received.

Look out, Britain. Fairies are coming to a town near you. And, dear Goddess, we could surely do with some right now.

Maria Dahvana Headley in the Salon

Continuing my efforts to catch up on audio recordings, I have posted my interview with Maria Dahvana Headley, which I recorded when Maria was in Oxford talking about The Mere Wife to experts on Anglo Saxon literature. We did talk a bit about Oxford and Tolkien, but basically this was Maria & Cheryl Go On An Extended Feminist Rant. Some of this was on Ujima, but there’s around 50% more here because once we get going on such a rant we are pretty hard to stop. Enjoy.

Slippered!

My interview on the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast is now live. It was specifically about the representation of trans people in SF&F, so obviously my essay in the above fine Luna Press book featured prominently. We did talk about a few other things as well, including talking more generally about feminism, and about Wizard’s Tower Press.

They don’t have embed links for the podcast, and anyway you will want the show notes, so click here.

My thanks to Lucy, Megan & Charlotte for a fun conversation.

Tade Thompson at FantasyCon

I’m trying to make a conscious attempt to catch up on the enormous amount of audio I have stacked up waiting to be published. There are interviews I did at Worldcon in Helsinki that I ran on the radio but still haven’t put online. But before I get to those there are some slightly more up to date pieces that I should run before they become completely stale.

I’m starting with an interview that I did at FantasyCon at the end of last year. Tade Thompson is one of my favorite people to interview because he always has plenty to say, and is always in good humor even when he’s having a rant. This interview covers the success of Rosewater, the scariness of The Murders of Molly Southborne, and what it is like for black writers to live in a post-Black Panther world.

Hugo Participation Trends

Yeah, I know I said I was just doing a post on the Hugo Study Committee Report and then I’d be done. However, this morning I listened to the new episode of The Coode Street Podcast in which Gary and Jonathan talk to Jo Walton about her book, An Informal History of the Hugos. A couple of things Jo said had me sit up and take notice, so I thought I would write about them.

The first point is an object lesson in how easy it is to think that something is traditional and has always been the way things were done. Jo, Gary and Jonathan were lamenting the lack of success that Iain M. Banks had in the Hugos. Jo noted that Banks had not had the advantage of the extra year of eligibility for works initially published outside the USA. That’s a rule I know well, and I was slightly surprised, so I checked the history. It was in 2002 that we added a rule giving works in English published outside the UK a shot at an extra year, but you needed a 3/4 vote in the Business Meeting. It wasn’t until 2014 that the extra year became automatic. So Jo was right, Banks did not get to use this feature of the Hugo rules. It is much more recent than I rememered.

Jo also mentioned that Hugo participation, in terms of numbers of voters, was increasing, and noted the effect of the Puppies on this. Given that it is my job to worry about bandwidth limits on the Hugo Awards website, I figured that the story wasn’t that simple, and I was right.

The following chart shows the total number of Hugo voters in the Final Ballot stage, the numbers that nominated in Novel, and the number of Final Ballots that express a preference in the Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation: Long categories. These are the categories that traditionally get the most interest. I stopped my historical digging at 2009 because that year’s data did not give separate participation data for each category.

The level of participation is almost 3 times what it was in 2009, but it has dropped significantly since the peak of 2015 when all fandom came together to repell the Puppy Incursion. What’s more it appears to be still dropping. That’s not altogether surprising, but it is something we need to be concerned about.

There are some interesting pieces of data as well. 2016 is notable in being a year (probably the only year) in which the number of voters participating in the nominating stage is higher than the number participating in the final ballot. That’s becaue a lot of people joined the 2015 Worldcon to join the fight against the Puppies, and were eligible to nominate in 2016, but having seen that the Puppies were mostly beaten they opted not to join again.

2017 is notable for being a year where a lot of people who particpated in the final ballot did not vote in the Novel category. That’s why I checked BDP: Long. Sure enough, I found that a lot more people participated in that than in Novel, which is also unusual. The obvious reason is that a significant number of voters were not native English speakers. While most Finns have very good English, reading six whole novels must have seemed a bit daunting. Movies were quite likely subtitle or translated.

Heather Child Interview

The interview that I did with Heather Child back in July is no longer available on the Ujima Listen Again system, so I have posted it to Salon Futura. In it Heather and I talk about her debut novel, Everything About You. This is a near-future science fiction novel which looks at what might happen if smart digital assistants know so much about you that they know you better than you do yourself. Have a listen.

The Popelei Naked Podcast

As promised, here is the link to my interview on Tamsin Clarke’s Naked Podcast. As you’ll see, it is Apple only at the moment. If, like me, you would rather sit in a nest of fire ants than install iTunes on a Windows PC, and you have no Apple device to listen on, that may be a problem. I’ll chase Tamsin about other formats.

If you can listen (and thankfully iTunes works fine on my iPad) you’ll see that we discussed getting naked in the sauna in Finland, and the process that strongly binary trans women like myself have to go through in order to get a body they are happy to be naked in.

Today on Ujima – Birthday, SF, Basketball, Nudity & Sex Work

Today was Ujima’s 10th birthday, and I was lucky enough to be presenting the first live show of the day. Thankfully I had a line-up that lived up to the occasion.

My first guest was Heather Child, a new addition to Bristol’s superb collection of science fiction and fantasy authors. Heather’s debut novel, Everything About You, is available from Orbit and is a fascinating exploration of how an AI in a smart device can get under its owner’s skin if it knows more about you than you can remember yourself.

Next up was Emma from Bristol Flyers, the local basketball club. They will be running a summer camp for girls with a view to ramping up the quality of their female teams and entering them into the national leagues. Basketball is in an interesting position in the UK. It has the third largest level of participation of any sport, but very little government funding. That’s a shame. I might find the NBA rather dull to watch, but away from the top flight the sport is a lot of fun and very cheap and easy to play.

The first hour of the show is available on Listen Again here. The Ujima website is currently being renovated so you might see it say that there are 0 minutes to play, or that there’s an issue with Flash, but if you just click on the download link it should play fine.

I kicked off the second hour with a fair amount of giggling as Tamsin Clarke and I discussed the Naked Podcast. I very much enjoyed being a guest on the show, but of course I’m very relaxed about getting naked with groups of women because I have spent so much time in saunas in Finland. We also discussed Latin American football, and Tamsin’s next theatre project.

Finally we got to the serious politics discussion of the day. In Parliament today they have been discussing further regulation of sex work. There was a big demonstration outside, of sex workers protesting about losing their livelihood. In the studio I had Angelica from the Bristol Sex Workers Collective and Amy from One25, a charity that works with street sex workers in the city. We talked about the different ways in which women can end up in the sex trade, and the best ways to help them survive and get out. I hope our politicians will listen.

The second hour of the show is available on Listen Again here. As with hour 1, you need to click on the download link.

The music for this week’s show was as follows:

  • Americans – Janelle Monae
  • Every Breath You Take – The Police
  • Sweet Georgia Brown – Brother Bones and His Shadows
  • Jam – Michael Jackson
  • Totally Nude – Talking Heads
  • Strip – Adam Ant
  • Lady Marmalade – Patti Labelle
  • Backstreet Luv – Curved Air

As you can see, most of the songs were chosen to fit with the subject under discussion. The Janelle Monae song, however, was chosen specifically because it is July 4th today. Happy Independence Day, America. Here’s hoping you keep that precious freedom.

Clothes Off for Feminism

Today I went into Bristol to see my friend Tamsin Clarke of the Popelei Theatre Company. As well as doing great theatre, Tamsin hosts a feminist podcast that addresses body issues. Because bodies are such an issue for women there’s a lot to talk about. Tamsin came up with the idea of recording the interviews with her and the interviewee both naked, presumably because that way all of the body issues are out in the open.

This is not a problem for me. I spend a lot of time in Finland and am therefore very used to sitting in a sauna with a bunch of other women, totally naked, chatting about all and sundry. The big difference was that this was not a general chat, but an interview about my body, which is inevitably an intreview about being trans.

The podcast won’t be out for a few weeks yet, and when it does come out it may well have a content warning because there is discussion of surgery. There’s also discussion of sex, and there’s swearing. It is not a radio thing.

Goodness only knows what the trans-exclusionary mob will make of all this. There’s me “penetrating” a feminist podcast. And not only that, but doing it in a woman’s home (Tamsin lives on a boat currently moored in Bristol) and doing it naked. Doubtless I will be accused of forcing myself on poor Tamsin, and of waving my political willy* in her face. So before there are comments let me state categorically that I was invited to be on the podcast. Also Tamsin and I spent an hour or so on Monday talking through it and making sure that we were both comfortable with what we were going to do.

Anyway, that’s another thing I have now done that I never thought I would ever do. And before anyone asks, I am so not doing a naked interview on TV. Not unless someone offers me enough money to buy immigration to the USA.

* A Political Willy is one that doesn’t actually exist except in the minds of people whose political phliosophy holds that anyone with a Y chromosome is forever male, in possession of a penis, and a violent rapist.

Up On the Aqueduct

It is that time of year when the Aqueduct Press blog blossoms with posts from Aquedistas talking about things that they have enjoyed reading, seeing and hearing over the past year. Today it is my turn. Obviously I can’t talk much about fiction because of the Tiptree judging, but I still managed to go on rather a lot. You can read my post here.