Feminism & Fantasy

In September Maria Turtschaninoff and I were supposed to be guests at Imagining Alternatives, an academic conference in Augsburg, Germany. The event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, but the organisers have been busy putting stuff online. Last week Maria and I recorded an interview with Dr. Sabrina Mittermeier. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging, but if there’s one thing I said that I want to highlight it is this: if you like the books of Ursula K Le Guin then you should check out Maria’s work as well, because I think you will like it. See here for some reviews.

Introducing France #GiveItUp125

Here we are folks, the final stage on my virtual world tour. France, of course, is famous for its food. In this video I have breakfast and lunch. The latter includes far more cheese than is entirely sane, and a plate of escargots. Enjoy!

In case you were wondering, I did eat all of the snails. So much garlicky goodness.

As always, if you have enjoyed these videos, please donate to help One25. Every little helps. I’m only on 68% and today is the final day of the challenge.

Nalo on Toronto #GiveItUp125

Author Nalo Hopkinson was born in the Caribbean but spent much of her life in Toronto. Weather-wise it was a huge shock, but she still loves Canada’s largest city. Here we talk about ethnnic diversity and tourism opportunities. I make a geographical error of such magnitude that I had to leave it in so you could all laugh at it.

Introducing Finland #GiveItUp125

Hello, and welcome to Virtual Finland. I’ve had a busy morning in the kitchen. You can see the results in this video.

The recipe that I used for the Karelian Pies is this one. I’m not hugely impressed with it. There seemed to be rather too much filling for the amount of pastry. But I did have to improvise quite a bit along the way.

In the video I promised you some photos. Here are the Karelian Pies:

And here is the cream tea with cloudberry jam:

For the benefit of folks from Devon and Cornwall who care passionately about such things, I put the cream on first because the cloudberry jam is a lot more liquid than a traditional English jam, and if you put the jam on first the cream will just slide straight off.

The Queer Britain #QBLockdownHunt Challenge

A quick break from Virtual Italy to note that there’s another charity campaign going on today. Queer Britain is a wonderful project that aims to create an actual bricks & mortar exhibition of LGBT+ life in the UK. Today my friend Dan Vo is running an awareness campaign on Twitter and is asking people to find t-shirts and fliers that relate to queer history and post about them. He’s also interviewing a whole bunch of fabulous people. I have rather a lot of material, so I decided to channel my inner Dan and make a video. This covers a lot of my work with OutStories Bristol, how I got involved in doing LGBT History Month Events (sorry Sue, you are stuck with me now), and a little bit about the tragedy of the UK’s lost trans history archives. The latter is an excellent example of why Queer Britain is so badly needed. There’s also a little bit of science fiction in there.

Coronavirus – Day #45

I forgot to do a post yesterday, didn’t I. Not that I had a huge amount to report. I was busy.

Today has been much of the same. I have recorded an interview, made a Museum From Home video, and done some Day Job work.

Video editing is hell. So is being in a video. I am so not television material.

Today’s big news, other than Bozo claiming that over 40,000 people dead was a great success on his part, is that doctors in the US have had an idea as to how to help male patients survive the virus. They are going to try dosing them with oestrogen.

This isn’t quite as mad as it sounds. We’ve known for some time that mortality is higher among men than women. This has led to the anti-trans brigade on social media crowing that C-19 is a Y Chromosome Plague that will somehow wipe out all trans women because we are “really men”.

Now there are reasons why having XX chromosomes is good for your health. Having two Xs is a backup strategy. If a gene on one chromosome has an unhelpful mutation, the chances are that you’ve got a correct version on the other. This makes XX people somewhat more disease resistant than XY people. But equally oestrogen is good at helping your immune system and doctors in China have speculated that it might help protect against C-19. It is also possible that it is testosterone weaking the immune system that is the issue. This paper suggests that might be the case (thanks to Julia Serano for the link).

So there’s a whole bunch of different biological reasons why XY people might be more susceptible to C-19 than XX people, and that’s without starting on gender-based issues such as men being more likely to be heavy smokers, work in high-stress occupations, spend more time on crowded communter trains, and so on. But this is a crisis, and we should try everything. Maybe the estrogen trials will work.

Some people on social media have been worrying that if the trials do work then there will be an even worse shortage of estrogen than there is now. That’s certainly likely, though it is easy to make and the recent shortage in the UK was caused mainly by government stupidity rather than a real shortage.

Of course if oestrogen does turn out to be an effective treatment then the anti-trans brigade will start yelling for all trans women to be arrested because we are using valuable medicine that is needed by their menfolk. And despite having spent years complaining that hormone treatment for trans women is untested and dangerous, they will want immediate deployment of it to save people from C-19. Consistency has never been their strongpoint.

In better news the UK has now had a whole week of the number of deaths being lower than they were on the same day in the previous week. That’s a good measure of progress because it eliminates daily patterns in the data. It isn’t over yet by any means, but it looks like we are getting there. Now we have to resist the temptation to all rush back to “normal” before it is safe to do so.

Museum From Home does Trans Romans


I did my thing with Dav Vo earlier today. It was a lot of fun. Indeed I was enjoying it so much that I went a little bit over my alloted 15 minutes.

The star of my talk is the goddess Cybele who rides around in a chariot drawn by lions. It so happens that at this time of year the Romans would have been celebrating the Megalesian Games in her honour. There would have been theatre, chariot racing, and of course much feasting. Cybele’s main temple in Rome was on the Palatine Hill next to the Imperial Palace, and directly overlooked the Circus Maximus.

I illustrated my talk with pictures from museums around the world. Hopefully it looked OK on screen, but if not you can download the slide pack here. In the Notes section of each slide I have put a link to a web page about the object. Sadly Italian museums don’t have much in the way of online catalogues (that I can find in English, they may have them in Italian but Google isn’t finding them) so I have had to resort to Wikipedia.

Dan will be putting all of the talks on YouTube eventually, but for now you can watch via the link below. I note that I was helped by my leonine friend, Augustus, who is alright for a lion, despite being a fan of Imperialism, Patriarchy and English rugby. I see that we’ve had 777 views already. I hope I wasn’t too embarrasing.

At UVic: Trans Speculative Fiction in Independent Media

When Kevin and I were in Canada for the Moving Trans History Forward conference this year, one of the people we met was Charles Ledbetter. It used to be the case that I was pretty much the only person talking about trans characters in speculative fiction, but now there are at least three people doing PhDs in the subject, all of them trans identified. Charles is one of them.

A unique feature of Charles’ research is that they are looking, not at works that get wide distribution (which up until recently meant works written by cis people, for cis people), but at works published by independent presses, in fanzines, and self-pubished material. Charles rightly surmised that they would find much earlier examples of trans-authored works this way. Consequently, even though they are based at the University of Tübingen in Germany, Charles is spending time in Victoria going through the archives looking for material.

If you happen to know of anything that would fit the type of work Charles is looking for, I’m sure they would love to know. Bogi Takács and I have both been corresponding with Charles, and Kevin has suggested a bunch of webcomics, but there’s bound to be more out there.

In November, to mark Trans Day of Remembrance, the folks at UVic asked Charles to give a public lecture. I have finally found time to watch it, and it is good stuff. (And I don’t just say that because I get cited.) I was particularly pleased to see the Transvengers comic mentioned. Hopefully some of you will find it interesting too.

Hutton on Fairies

Bristol University has many fine academics on its staff, but undoubtledly one of the best is Professor Ronald Hutton. Here he is giving a lecture on the origins and purposes of fairy stories.

In the Q&A I discoverd that “trow” is an Orkney/Shetland word for “troll”. Local opinion has it that the town where I live was originally called Tree-bridge (treow-brycg in Old English), or True-bridge. From now on I am going to assume it is actually Trollbridge, because that’s much more cool.

Thanks to John Reppion for the link to the lecture.

A Short History of Gender at UWE

The lovely people at UWE Feminist Society filmed my talk from last night and have put it on their Facebook page. Serious video skillz there. They’ve sent me the file and I’ll get it up on YouTube or Vimeo sometime, but in the meantime the Facebook version is available.

This talk is designed to give an overview of just how different attitudes to gender were in the past. None of it is in-depth history, though I’m quite happy to talk about parts of it in more detail, and I try to note where my knowledge isn’t very deep.

The video does include the Q&A, and one audience member asked for more information about African practices. I don’t know a huge amount about Africa, but someone who does in Bisi Alimi. Last night he wast tweeting about just the sort of things I would have mentioned had I known about them in time. I linked to the thread here.

Content note: inevitably I talk about castration, and about people having sex.

The talk comes in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. Both are just over half an hour long.

Huge thanks to Tessa and her colleagues for making me so welcome.

Pasila Station and Messukeskus – the Worldcon 75 Venue

Four years ago, when Helsinki was first bidding to hold Worldcon, I did a video tour of the venue. You can find that here, but a few things have changed since then so I thought it would be worth re-visiting the venue. In particular you may have heard scare stories about construction work. Thankfully that turns out to be pretty much a non-event as we don’t need to go near the parts of Pasila station that are being dug up. Of course the room allocations that I mentioned in the older video may have changed too, but I didn’t have facilities staff around today to explain things.

Here is the latest video, in which I manage to mispronounce Messukeskus in a variety of spectacularly wrong ways.

Helsinki – Airport to City by Train

A whole lot of you will be flying into Helsinki for Worldcon over the next few days, and will be wondering how you get from the airport to the city. So I made a video of what I did when I arrived. For the princely sum of €5 you can get a train from the airport to either Pasila, the station by the convention center, or Helsinki Central. The full journey takes just 28 minutes, and the trains are very frequent. Here’s how it is done.

Update: In answer to Lynn’s question in comments, the schedules are available online here. The trains have a gap in service between roughly midnight and 5:00am, but there are a number of bus services that full the gap. The 615 is half-hourly through the night.

Dinomania at Bristol

Here are some more photos I took of the dinosaurs on view at Bristol Zoo.

As usual with animals, getting them to stay still to be photographed is not always easy. Some of them, such as the Pachyrhinosaurus, were gently snoozing. Others were very busy. The most active of them was the dilophosaurus, which seemed to fancy itself as a dragon and delighted in spraying small children with water. Here it is in action. (The background noise is the rain.)

Better photos and more information about the various creatures can be found here.