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?

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Finncon – The Report

With profuse apologies for taking so long, I have finally done a report from Finncon. Having done so I found to my horror that I hadn’t done a con report since 2015. I need more space in my time to write (and to edit audio).

Anyway, there is now a Finncon report. The tl;dr is that it was amazing and I had a wonderful time. But there’s a whole lot of stuff that went on, and you can read about it here.

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ESFS Awards Finalists

Those of you who are attending the Eurocon in Belfast after Worldcon will get to see the ESFS Awards in action. They are a very different beast from the Hugos, necessarily so because the members of the convention are unlikely to be familiar with most of the finalists because they don’t speak the necessary languages. Instead the ESFS Awards work on a system of national delegations, thereby ensuring equal representation for each member country. The full rules are available here.

The finalists for this year’s ESFS Awards have been announced, as reported by Europa SF. I don’t have a vote, but I am familiar with some of the finalists. Here are a few quick comments.

In Best Author, most people will be familiar with Charlie Stross. That may not count in his favour as delegates tend to mark down people who write in English precisely because they are so much more likely to be translated. I’m hoping for a win for Maria Turtschaninoff who has written some amazingly good feminist fantasies. I’d be happy with a win by Aleksandar Žiljak as well because he has a story in the anthology of Croatian SF that I published.

In Best Artist I’d love my friend Ninni Aalto to win, but it is a tough field with a bunch of professional illustrators, some of whom undoubtedly work internationally.

In Best Publisher I’m rooting for my pals Pete Crowther (PS Publishing) and Francesco Verso (Future Fiction). Pete has a huge track record, while Francesco deserves recognition for his commitment to translations.

In Best Promoter I note that Petra Bulić has worked tirelessly for Croatian fandom for decades (who remembes the Zagreb in ’99 Worldcon bid?), but Toni Jerrman absolutely deserves all of the awards for Tähtivaeltaja.

The only one of the Translator finalists that I know personally is Marko Fančović. Fingers crossed for him.

In Work of Fiction I’d like to highlight Mats Strandberg’s Slutet. Lots of people at Åcon were enthusing about this book. It has a 4-star rating from over 100 reviews on Goodreads. Mats tells me that an English translation has been made because there’s interest from TV companies. It needs an English language publisher.

If you happen to be a member of a national delegation, please take note.

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EuroCon Schedule

The programme for TitanCon, this year’s Eurocon, does not appear to be on their website yet, but it is on Grenadine so I guess it is public. Here’s what I am doing:

Small Press
22 Aug 2019, Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, Lagan A (Hilton Belfast)

Small Press publishers are the backbone of the SF&F industry. Our panel will be sharing experiences, insights and anecdotes. Pedro Cipriano (Editorial Divergência), Ms Cheryl Morgan (Wizard’s Tower Press) (M), Carole Parker ms

Writing Vulnerable Men
23 Aug 2019, Friday 17:00 – 18:00, Lagan A (Hilton Belfast)

A look at the presentation of non-stereotypical male characters in SF&F. Ms Cheryl Morgan (Wizard’s Tower Press) (M), Ian McDonald, Zoë Sumra

The Matrix – 20 years on
24 Aug 2019, Saturday 13:00 – 14:00, Lagan A (Hilton Belfast)

In 1999, cinema viewers across the world were asked “What is The Matrix?” Twenty years on, the question still remains. On its face a groundbreaking SFX blockbuster, it can be read as a transgender parable, a treatise on the Philosophy of Mind, an object lesson on the dangers of Sequelitis, and more. Ms Cheryl Morgan (Wizard’s Tower Press) (M), Dyrk Ashton (Paternus Books Media), Flickums (Royal London Group), RB Kelly

Yes, I am moderating all three of those. I am also moderating every panel I have been put on at Worldcon. Someone has obviously got a reputation.

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Book Review – Empress of Forever

With Worldcon season fast approaching, a reviewer’s mind tends to turn to chrome rockets. We know who is in the running this year, but what of the crop of hopefulls who will be wending their way to Wellington in 2020 (assuming they are able to make the trip)? Max Glastone, I suspect, will have at least two reasons to go. This is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal E-l-Mohtar) will probably be in the Novella category, and Empress of Forever has a good shot at Novel.

There are many people who are capable of writing light-hearted, entertaining novels. There are also many people capable of writing very serious and thoughtful novels. Few people can do both in the same book. Terry Pratchett was a master at it. Cat Valente cracked it with Space Opera. And now Max has done the same with Empress of Forever. To find out more, check out my review.

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My Worldcon Schedule

The final programme allocations for Worldcon were released today. Here’s where you can find me:

Bridging the language barrier: translated SFF

16 Aug 2019, Friday 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)

How has the landscape of translated SFF changed in the last decade or so, both into English and from English into other languages? We’ve seen translated pieces triumph in the genre’s prime awards and gain dedicated magazines, the attention of more readers, and many specialised anthologies. The panel will discuss trends in translated genre fiction as well as possible future directions.

Cheryl Morgan (M), Julie Novakova, Neil Clarke, Francesco Verso, Emily Xueni Jin

Anniversary: The Left Hand of Darkness

16 Aug 2019, Friday 20:00 – 20:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

It is the 50th anniversary of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. For many, this book has been an eye-opening presentation of gender. How has it influenced and shaped gender in SFF books? Where has the genre gone since?

Cheryl Morgan (M), Laura Lam, Dr Nick Hubble, Ell Schulman

Robots before RUR

17 Aug 2019, Saturday 15:30 – 16:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)

The word ‘robot’ was coined by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek, for his play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, first performed in 1921. However, the idea of artificial human-like machines is far older. Cheryl Morgan takes us on a tour of the prehistory of robotics to see how artificial beings were imagined, and even built, by visionaries of the past.

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Book Review – Unravelling

A new Karen Lord novel is always a special occasion for me. This one did not disappoint. It is quite a complicated and thoughtful book, as I’ve come to expect from Karen. If that’s the sort of thing that appeals to you, then you’ll enjoy this one too. Further details are available in my review.

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The Green Man’s Foe at Worldcon & Eurocon

Worldcon is approaching fast, and The Green Man’s Foe is officially launching on August 15th, the first day of Worldcon. We should, barring disasters, have paper copies for sale at both Worldcon and Eurocon. One of my current tasks is to work out how many copies to have shipped to Ireland.

The convention sale prices for the book will be €10/£10 for the paperback and €15/£15 for the hardcover. They’ll probably be about 1:1 by then. If you want to pay in US$, talk to Kevin or myself.

If you want to be sure of getting copies, please email me and let me know how many and which format(s). If you want copies of The Green Man’s Heir as well, let me know.

The book will be available from Francesco Verso’s Future Fiction company in the Dealers’ Room. I’ll be on the stand as much as I can. While you are there I suggest you pick up a copy of his new anthology, World Science Fiction #1: Visions to Preserve the Biodiversity of the Future, which contains stories from authors from all over the world. He’s also having a launch party (Saturday, 17 August, 12:30-13:30, Warehouse 2 (WH2), first floor, Point Square) but I won’t be there as I’m being interviewed for Scott Edelman’s fabulous Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I will also carry some books around with me, so you may be able to get a copy at one of my programme items. Juliet may do the same. I don’t know as yet whether she will have a signing, but I don’t know if you are allowed to sell books at a signing.

Francesco and I will also be at Eurocon in Belfast so if you are only going to that convention you can pick up there book there. Be warned that we may try to sell you a pre-support for the Fiuggi Eurocon bid, which you will want to buy because a) it is near Rome, and b) the 2021 Worldcon will be in the USA which may be an unsafe destination for many of us.

And finally a reminder that you can pre-order the ebook from either Amazon or Kobo. Those links are for the UK stores, but the book is available internationally.

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Graphic Novel Review – Vei

Asgard is big business in Hollywood these days. With the announcement of Thor: Love and Thunder, and the Loki TV series, many of us are eagerly looking forward to the latest adventures of our favourite Norse gods.

But what about the Norse themselves? Stan Lee didn’t invent Thor and Loki. Actual Norse people did. In Iceland workship of the Æsir is still a living religion. Is anyone in Scandinavia upset about all of this? Well maybe, but not that I know of in Sweden. It is hard to get the Swedes upset about anything except losing an ice hockey game to Finland. But that doesn’t mean that they are not doing anything. Two Swedes in particular — Sara B. Elfgren and Karl Johnsson — are staking their own claim to the stories of the Æsir with their own imaginative, and beautifully illustrated, story. For more about what they are up to, see my review of the first volume of their graphic novel series.

(The text in the sample page below is in Swedish, but you can get the book in English.)

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Congratulations, Juliet!

Here’s a piece of news I have been sitting on excitedly for a few days now. The Green Man’s Heir is a finalist in the Best Fantasy Novel category at the British Fantasy Awards. Naturally I think this is thoroughly deserved. Juliet is a great writer. She was a finalist in the BSFA Awards last year in the Non-Fiction category (for an essay in Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction, a book which won Non-Fiction in the BFS Awards), but this is her first major fiction nod since 2000 when The Thief’s Gamble placed 5th in the Locus Award for First Novel. This has been way too long in coming.

Congratulations are also due to Ben Baldwin whose magnificent cover has played a huge part in the book’s success. And to editor, Toby Selwyn, because everyone needs an editor and Toby certainly made the book better.

I am, of course, irrationally pleased that a book that draws its inspiration from a legend of the wild wood is up for the Robert Holdstock Award.

This is the first time that any book I have published has been up for a major award. I am absolutely delighted about it. It shows that even the smallest presses can produce great fiction. And more importantly it shows that the original premise of Wizard’s Tower — the idea that previously successful writers whose sales have taken a dip are not over the hill and can produce great work again if properly supported — is indeed correct. Mainstream publishers please take note.

Obviously I will be in Glasgow for FantasyCon. This will involve a certain amount of rearranging schedules because I was supposed to be elsewhere that weekend. But somehow I have to be at that award banquet.

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The Green Man’s Foe – Open for Pre-Orders

Preparations for the publication of The Green Man’s Foe continue apace. I’m hoping to get proof copies of the paper editions later this week, but in the meantime you can pre-order the ebook editions via the following links:

Pre-orders aren’t a huge issue for me because I’m not going to be making any publisher decisions based on them. Nor do I expect to see the book in best seller charts, or indeed stocked in bookstores. However, they are very important for Juliet because mainstream publishers look at those figures and if they see a book they don’t know from an author they do then they ought to pay attention. And of course Amazon will take notice. Discoverability is everything on Amazon, and a large number of pre-orders will help the book hugely when it becomes available.

What does matter to me is how many copies to take to Ireland. I don’t want to run out early in Worldcon, and equally I don’t want to be stuck with a large pile of books to take home. So I’m looking into possible ways that I could allow people to buy the book for collection at Worldcon or Eurocon.

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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.

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Amal El-Mohtar Interview on the Salon

As This is How you Lose the Time War is now available in shops I figured it was a good time to stick my interview with Amal El-Mohtar up on Salon Futura. This is mostly what went out on Women’s Outlook, minus the music, but all in one easy chunk. My review of the book is here. Enjoy!

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Afronauts Online

With all of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings going on, Nuotama Frances Bodomo’s strange little film, Afronauts, which is inspired by the Zambian Space Programme, has been made available online. You can watch it here.

I’m delighted to see from that website that Bodomo has been working on a full-length film. As part of the research she has been interviewing some of the original participants in that space programme.

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Congratulations, Tade

The winner of the 2019 Arthur C Clark Award was announced last night. I am absolutely delighted that the prize went to Tade Thompson. I’ve been telling people about Rosewater for over 2 years, and of course it won the Nommo in 2017. It was also a Campbell Award finalist in 2017 (that’s the SF novel award, not the new writer one). Sometimes it can take a book a while to break into the big time.

The upside of this is that I have a couple of interviews with Tade in which he talks about the book.

This one is from 2017. The sound quality is a bit poor, but there’s more about Rosewater in it.

This one is from FantasyCon last year.

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Thank You, Finncon

It has all be very quiet here recently because I have had an intense couple of weeks traveling around Europe. Some of you may have seen the firehose of a tweet stream. Since getting back I have a) been sick and b) been catching up or things I wasn’t doing while I was away. One of those things was getting The Green Man’s Foe ready for publication, which is kind of urgent.

There will be more reportage once I manage to get a bit of free time. But I did want to break the radio silence to say a huge THANK YOU!!! to everyone involved in Finncon 2019 for making my Guest of Honour stint there so pleasurable. I had a fabulous time. Thanks also to my fellow guests: Charlie Stross, Kersti Juva and Raine Koskimaa who were great company. And of course thanks to Fluff the Plush Cthulhu for not destroying the world during the convention.

The Finns might think that by making me a GoH they will have got rid of me, but they have chosen Mike Carey for one of their Guests of Honour in Tampere next year so I guess I have to go.

There will be a more detailed con report in due course. Promise. And it will have to happen before Worldcon.

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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.

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Book Review – The Poetic Edda

The nice people at Oxford University Press sent me a review copy of their new edtion of The Poetic Edda, as translated by Professor Carolyne Larrington. There’s not a huge amount I can say about the text, partly because the stories are so familiar, and partly because I’m in no position to comment on the quality of the translation, save to say that Prof. Larrington is an acknowledged expert in the field.

So instead I have chosen to focus in on a few small bits of the text where we have evidence for queer identities in Norse society. Naturally this involves Loki rather a lot. Again I’m not really in a position to talk authoritatively about translations, but I do have views on what we can and cannot say about ancient societies.

All of which means that the end result is less of a review and more of a short essay on queer Vikings. If you have been wondering about all this gender fluid stuff about Loki in comics, or in Rick Riordan’s books, I can point you at some of the evidence for that intepretation. If that is your cup of tea, you can find the review here.

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Finncon 2019

This time next week I will be in Finland. I will be on my way to Jyväskylä where I am fortunate to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour at this year’s Finncon. Most of you won’t be able to go, of course, and I don’t think there are any plans to record the programme. However, it is going to be fun. I note in particular that on the Sunday I will be giving my GoH talk on the subject of the prehistory of robotics. There were a lot of artificial beings both written about and made before Karel Čapek wrote RUR. If anyone else is interested I’d be happy to give the talk again elsewhere.

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Happy Solstice, McKenna Fans

When considering when to do a cover reveal for The Green Man’s Foe, Juliet and I decided that the Summer Solstice would be an ideal time. The Green Man, after all, is deeply connected to the natural world. And frankly, he’s going to need a bit of sunshine to help deal with this guy.

When you do a good job for someone, there’s a strong chance they’ll offer you more work or recommend you elsewhere. So Daniel Mackmain isn’t particularly surprised when his boss’s architect brother asks for his help on a historic house renovation in the Cotswolds.

Except Dan’s a dryad’s son, and he soon realises there’s a whole lot more going on. Ancient malice is stirring and it has made an alliance in the modern world. The Green Man expects Dan to put an end to this threat. Seeing the danger, Dan’s forced to agree. The problem is he’s alone in a place he doesn’t know, a hundred miles or more away from any allies of his own.

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

It is, of course, another genius piece of art by Ben Baldwin. Juliet and Toby-the-Editor are just putting the final touches to the text. And when they are done I get to do the layouts. I’m still planning on having the book available at Worldcon. Once I have everything I need in my paws I will put the book up for pre-order.

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