Girls On Stage: A Trailer #LGBTHM22

The fabulous Gigi from A New Normal asked me if I would mind doing a little chat for LGBT+ History Month. I suggested maybe a bit of a teaser to encourage people to attend my M Shed talk on cross-dressing in the theatre. So we did. Now it is online and you can watch it below.

And if that sparked your interest you can catch the whole talk here. It is on February 24th, and it starts at 7:00pm so it is convenient for some of you folks across the Pond too.

Coronavirus – Day #642

Hello again from Plague Island. This is your latest report on the campaign of the Tory Party kill off all of the poor, unfit, brown, queer, old and otherwise undesirable elements of the population. How are they doing?

Well, the infection rate has taken a sharp tumble from the dizzy heights of early January, but it appears to have stabilised at around 1% of the population being infected at any one time, which would have been a record at any time prior to the arrival of Omicron.

Meanwhile the government has been busy. Yesterday four of Bozo’s senior aides resigned. One more followed this morning. Also yesterday the First Minister for Northern Ireland announced his resignation in despair at the mess Brexit has made of his country. Bozo announced that he had actually fired all of these people and that he was “taking back control”.

Also today there was a report that staff are leaving the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission in significant numbers. “It was as if Baroness Falkner and the Board wanted people who actually cared about human rights to leave,” said one ex-staff member. Falkner was appointed to head the organisation by Liz Truss, apparently with a specific mission to take away trans people’s civil rights, and to rubbish the idea that things such as racism and Islamophobia could exist.

Truss, when she is not busy campaigning to take over Bozo’s job while professing total loyalty to him, is planning to host a major LGBT+ Rights conference in London this summer. Business leaders believe that she is hoping to close some major trade deals for exporting the majority of the UK’s LGBT+ population to other countries.

Fear not, though, dear readers, all is not lost. Bozo has come up with a brilliant plan for defeating the Coronavirus. He is going to stop publishing data on cases. That way no one will ever contract the disease in the UK again, let alone die of it. He is understandably proud of his genius.

LGBT+ History Month is here

Yes, it is February again, which means I am going to be busy doing talks. There will be only two public ones this year, and both will feature my new theme for this year: crossdressing in the theatre. This was inspired by reading some great research on the boys who actually played women in Shakespeare’s plays. I hope that the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust would pick up on it, and they did. I will be part of an Outing the Past event on February 17th. See here for details.

One of the things that delighted me about this is that, in researching the talk, I discovered that our Will was really quite conservative. Other plays written by his contemporaries were much more queer, including some actual trans material.

I’m doing a related talk for my friends at M Shed Museum in Bristol. It turns out that they have a fine collection of Japanese prints, including a number of portraits of kabuki actors. Also they wanted a much longer talk, so this one will visit ancient Greece, mediaeval China and Japan as well as Elizabethan/Victorian England. It is on February 24th, and you can book here.

M Shed also has a bunch of other talks that I have helped curate, including ones by my friends Andrew Foyle and Norena Shopland, and one by a Chinese queer activist, Qiuyan Chen. Check out the What’s On listing for details.

There are, of course, talks happening all over the country. This year some of the hubs are doing in person events again, but I suspect that quite a few will be virtual still. You can find a list of all the events here.

I’m doing a bunch of talks for private clients too. That doesn’t mean I’m getting big bucks, it means it is for a local or company LGBT+ group and they want to restrict access to members. This is mainly repeats, but I’ll possibly be doing one for Trans Day of Visibility in March that might turn into next year’s public talk.

New Locus – Contains Me

A new issue of Locus was published yesterday, and it is probably the one that people most look forward to each year because it is the one that contains the Recommended Reading List. As usual, I had a part in choosing the books in some of the categories. There are a lot of other people involved, and nothing gets on the list just because I say so. Equally there are books I recommended that didn’t make it. No one is going to think the final list is perfect, but it contains a lot of very good books and stories. You can find the full list here.

This issue also contains an article by me. This coincidence is an artefact of the December Worldcon. I generally write them something about the WSFS Business Meeting, so if you have the magazine you can read that too. Liza and the team have my deepest sympathy for having to do a Worldcon report and the Recommended Reading List in the same issue.

New in the Sidebar

The eagle-eyed among you (assuming that anyone actually still reads this) may have noticed something new in the sidebar of this site. It is a little badge saying that I am a member of the Society of Authors. This is a UK organisation, and unlike SFWA it caters to authors of all sorts. I note that Joanne Harris and Juliet McKenna are both members of the elected Management Committee, and Joanne is currently the chair of that group, so I’m well connected.

Some of you are doubtless scratching your heads and wondering why a professional association of writers would let in someone whose fiction is as poor as mine, but that’s not why I joined, and presumably not why I was accepted. I’m doing a lot of history writing these days, some of it for books from mainstream publishers. The academic stuff tends to be unpaid, but it does lead to speaking gigs and those are often paid. Talks have to be written.

The main reason I wanted to join is because the Society provides good value professional indemnity insurance which is geared specifically towards writers, and writers who do public appearances. Given that some of the people I do talks for now have contracts asking me to indemnify them against a whole range of risks, and given the ever increasing litigious nature of the anti-trans lobby, insurance is essential.

Anyway, I now a professional writer of a sort. Which is nice. Even if it doesn’t make me a lot of money.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Happus!

Or Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day to you English speakers.

But who is Saint Dwynwen, and why should we be happy on her day? Well, she is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, so today is the Welsh version of Valentine’s Day. These days it is associated with almost as much ritual consumerism as the better known love festival.

Valentine was an early Christian martyr, executed for trying to convert the Emperor to his beliefs. He died on February 14th, 269 (according to Catholic Online). It is unclear how he came to be associated with being in love. Dwynwen has a much better claim to the job.

Dwynwen was one of the 24 daughters of King Brychan Brycheiniog, whose territory is the region we now call the Brecon Beacons. She was, naturally, the prettiest of them, and there was competition for her hand. A young man called Maelon Dafodrill was particularly smitten with her. What happened next varies a lot from one story to the next.

Some say that Dwynwen rejected Maelon’s advances and he became furious with her, perhaps even raped her. Others say that she loved him in return but she had been promised to someone else by her father. Whatever happened, she prayed to God for help and he proved remarkably willing to get involved.

There may have been a potion of forgetfulness, provided by an angel, which either erased the pain of the rape, or the pain of losing her love. Also the unfortunate Maelon was turned into a pillar of ice. And finally God granted Dwynwen three wishes.

For the first wish she asked that Maelon be unfrozen forthwith, which shows that she had a rather better understanding of compassion and forgiveness than God.

For the second wish she asked that God take good care of all true lovers, that their lives might prove happier than hers, which is where she got the patron saint job from.

And finally she asked that she be allowed to never marry. She lived out her life in a nunnery, and founded a small church on a little island near Anglesey.

So what are we to make of all this? Was Dwynwen a broken-hearted lover? If so, why did she not just ask God to allow her to marry Maelon? Was she put off men by Maelon’s bad behaviour? Perhaps, but she seemed willig to forgive him. Or maybe she just wasn’t interested in men at all.

What we do know is that she was a kind-hearted girl who wanted the best for others. (She is also the patron saint of sick animals.) And I rather like the idea that the Welsh patron saint of lovers might be lesbian or asexual.

Hugo Nominating Period Opens

We are barely a month since the last lot of Hugo Awards were handed out, and it is nominating time again already. Hopefully we are back to the traditional calendar for Worldcon now, and that sort of thing won’t happen again for a while.

Anyway, you can now nominate. If you are not yet a WSFS member for 2022, you have until the end of January to buy at least a Supporting Membership to Chicon 8.

And if you are a WSFS member, voting details can be found here.

As with last year, Salon Futura is eligible in the Fanzine category, and I’m eligible in Fan Writer. Rather more importantly, Salon Futura contains lots of reviews of wonderful stuff that you might want to consider when it comes to filling in your nominating ballot. The nominating stage of the process will end on March 15th, and Finalists are likely to be announced sometime in April.

If y’all don’t get Ryka Aoki on the ballot this year I shall be deeply disappointed in you.

New Salon Futura

The December issue was a little late up due to the holidays, but it did go live on January 1st which is not too bad. In it you will find:

Book reviews

  • Beyond the Hallowed Sky by Ken MacLeod
  • The Anthropocene Unconscious by Mark Bould
  • The Memory Theater by Karin Tidbeck
  • The Necropolis Empire by Tim Pratt

TV and Movie reviews

  • The Green Knight
  • Supergirl Season 7
  • Hawkeye
  • Titans Season 3

And to cap it all off one of those very long Worldcon reviews. All the controversy, all the time. And just who was responsible for selling the Hugo Awards to Raytheon (if indeed that happened)?

You can read it all here.

Another Year, Eh?

Well, that was 2021. And from the look of things we can expect more of the same in 2022. A surprising amount of good things happened to me despite the pandemic. I’m not going to complain, but equally I’m not looking forward with any confidence. In the last 7 days over 1 million people in the UK have contracted COVID. That’s more than 1% of the population. Thankfully for a lot of people it will be very mild because they are vaccinated, but hospital admission rates are rising rapidly.

I should be going to get food some time next week, but actual shopping seems pretty dangerous so I have signed up for the “click and collect” service from Tesco, which means I just have to drive up to a collection point in the car park, grab my stuff, and leave again. I am fully vaccinated, but as a trans person in the UK I can’t trust the NHS to take care of me the way they would anyone else, so it is maximum isolation for me.

As far as 2022 goes, I’m just planning on doing the day jobs, and making books. Hopefully I will also get a chance to do some good trans history. Here’s hoping that you folks have things to do that make you happy as well.

If you were expecting a new Salon Futura, it is mostly done, and will be finished this evening, but there’s no point in putting it live then because you folks all have better things to be doing than reading my fanzine. It will appear tomorrow.

That Time of Year

Hunker down, little cultists, it is that time of year. In the dark of winter, all sorts of strange creatures are abroad. Some pull sleighs through the sky, others are, well, less wholesome. Here for your entertainment, from Mr Ogham Waite and his Amphibian Jazz Band, is that well loved seasonal ditty, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Fishmen.”

Happy Solstice!

As usual, my holiday card this year is by my talented friend, Dru Marland. This picture is titled, “Fox on Pickle Hill”, and Juliet McKenna fans will note that I picked it specifically because it features some of the chalk figures from the Wiltshire landscape. These also play a key role in The Green Man’s Challenge.

This particular image is currently unavailable as a card from Dru’s shop. I’m guessing that she has run out of stock. But it does feature in her 2022 Wildlife Calendar which looks an excellent thing to have.

May you all have a very happy holiday season, and in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the return of shorter and warmer days. (Sorry Aussie pals, but you are thumping us at cricket so we need something to cheer us up.)

Those of you who celebrate the Solstice will be able to follow the sunset alignment at Maeshowe in Orkney via the broadcast below. It starts at 15:00 today.

Buy Me for Christmas

If you missed my HistFest talk on trans Romans first time around, you have a second chance. It will be available for a number of days over the holiday period. What’s more, for the ridiculously low sum of £8.68 (that’s £7.50 plus EventBrite fees) you get not just me, but five other great history talks by actual, genuine historians too. That has to be better than watching Christmas movies, right? If you would like to purchase access, you can do so here.

By the way, I don’t get a cut of this. I was paid a flat fee for creating the talk. But if you do watch my bit that will help encourage the lovely HistFest folks to commission more trans-related material, which would be a very good thing.

Hugos Happened

Last night, while I was asleep. There ceremony was delayed by a couple of hours, apparently due to an electrical fire in the hall where it was due to take place.

Anyway, the full results, including all of the usual statistics, are available here. Let’s take a quick tour through the numbers.

In Novel, Network Effect by led throughout, proving that Nora Jemisin is not invincible. I see the Mexican Gothic was only 8 nominations short of reaching the final ballot.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo eventually won after a titanic battle with Come Tumbling Down. I do love Seanan, but Empress was magnificent and I’m delighted to see it win. There were a whole bunch of great books in the also rans too. It was a very tough year.

In Novellette Isabel Fall’s “Helicopter Story” got the most first preferences but finished 5th, which is the sort of thing I had expected. I hope that Fall is hearted by seeing how many people loved her story. I liked Sarah Pinsker’s winning story, so I’m not unduly upset.

As usual, I found the short stories fairly forgettable.

Series was dominated by Murderbot.

I did not win Related Work. In fact CoNZealand Fringe came last. I am not surprised, though I am sad for my fellow finalists. We did manage to finish ahead of No Award, which I hope will upset Mike Glyer. I’m and surprised and delighted to see that we almost topped the nominations, losing out narrowly to FIYAHCON after the EPH thing, which is definitely worth celebrating. I’m also delighted that Beowulf won because it is an amazing piece of work.

I’m afraid I know almost nothing about graphic novels this year.

Dramatic Presentation: Long was won fairly easily by The Old Guard, so yay for Amazons. I see that Season 2 of The Mandalorian had enough nominations to make the ballot but, “As two episodes of The Mandalorian also qualified for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, the administrators removed the full Season 2 from the ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.” Because you can’t be a finalist twice for the same piece of work.

Not that this helped the helmeted one, because The Good Place won DP: Short very easily. Those of you who failed to vote for She-Ra are terrible people and will doubtless suffer horribly in lives to come.

Ellen Datlow won Editor: Short (again), but it was a tough tussle with Lafferty & Divya. Lee Harris was unlucky not to make the final ballot.

Editor: Long was an exciting three-way fight between Navah Wolfe, Sheila E Gilbert and Diana M Pho, which Pho eventually won despite having finished 3rd in the first round. This is the voting system showing its power. Poor Lee Harris was the first runner-up in the nominations again. Vote for him next year, folks.

It has definitely been Rovina Cai’s year. She won the World Fantasy Award for Artist last month, and added the Hugo yesterday. I must say that I love the work she has done for Nicola Griffith’s Spear (out next April), but I really wanted Maurizio Manzieri to win. The work he has done for Aliette de Bodard is amazing.

Uncanny has finally been unseated in Semiprozine after four consecutive wins. Well done FIYAH, and hopefully this makes up for FIYAHCON not winning Related Work.

Fanzine was a close run thing between Journey Planet and nerds of a feather, which the latter finally won. I’m all in favour of seeing new names on the list of winners (and very happy for my pal Adri). I see that Salon Futura featured on the long list. 20 of you lovely people nominated me, though I seem to have lost a lot of votes in the EPH system, so next year please get your enemies to vote for me as well as your friends. Not that I actually need any more Hugos, but the SF Award Database people have decided that this year doesn’t count as a real finalist credit, so now I’m offically annoyed enough to want another one in my own name.

Gary and Jonathan have finally won Fancast for Coode Street. I’m delighted for them both, particularly Jonathan as he’s been a finalist 17 times before without a win.

Fan Writer was also very tight, with Elsa Sjunneson and Cora Buhlert being neck and neck through several rounds. I’m sure that Cora will win one day. She easily topped the nominations.

Fan Artist saw another first time winner in Sara Felix, who led throughout. The Long List notes that Tithi Luadthong was removed from the final ballot as he, “informed the Administrators that he had produced no eligible art in 2020.” Hopefully he’ll get another chance because honesty like that should be rewarded.

I know nothing about video games, but Hades seems to be a very popular winner having crushed the oppostion.

Ursula Vernon dominated the Lodestar, which is unsurprsing as she’s already a fan favourite.

And finally the Astounding was a close race between Micaiah Johnson and Eily Tesh, which Tesh finally won.

New Compass eBooks

Those of you who have ebook editions of Juliet McKenna’s Adabreshin Compass books should be getting notifications of new editions that are available. The main reason for this is to incorporate the fabulous new map of the Aldabreshin Archipelago that Oisín McGann did for us for the paper editions. Enjoy.

The Saturday Panel Lives

After some hard work by the programming team, the “What Do We Look for in a Fanzine?” panel has been re-constituted as a fully-online event. It will be in Harris at 10:00am EST (15:00 UK). The description for it is as follows:

Everyone on this panel writes fanzines. What that means has changed over the years, but they are all passionate about them. The panel will talk about what excites them, what delights them, and what makes them nominate something for a Hugo.

The panelists are: Erin Underwood, Guy Herbert Lillian, Jaroslav Olša, Jr., Joe Sherry and Sarah Gulde; and the moderator is me.

Tune in tomorrow.

Coronavirus – Day #623

Omicron has arrived in the UK. How do I know that? Well the peak number of daily new cases last winter was over 70,000. The last three days have all exceeded that, with today being a whopping 88,000. And this time there is pretty much nothing being done to stop it, save for the government exhorting us all to get vaccinated.

The good news is that I had my booster on Monday. It was a Pfizer, whereas the previous two had been AstraZenica. Other than a sore arm and feeling a bit tired I’ve had no side effects. The theory is that if I catch the Rona then I’ll survive it. In practice, given my medical history and the likelihood of my being discriminated against in a hospital, my chances are not good. I’ll be isolating as much as I can.

I do need to do one more food shop before the holidays, but that will be tomorrow and hopefully it will be good for three weeks.

The other good news is that hospitalisations are around a quarter of what they were last winter. That’s because vaccines work. Most of the new cases are less serious. How things will pan out when the number of new cases is well over 100,000 a day and climbing remains to be seen.

There is a parliamentary by election tomorrow. Despite the utterly awful record of the current government, the expectation is that the Tories will win, because the other two major parties are far too busy fighting each other. We may get rid of Bozo soon, but only because Tory MPs are bleating about loosing their Freedumb by being asked to wear a mask, or show evidence of vaccination before going to a football match. Whoever replaces him is likely to be worse, because there isn’t anyone better in the running for the job.

Happy Holidays from Plague Island.

Worldcon Starts Tomorrow

Well that crept up on me. It is all too easy to miss the excitement when you don’t have to travel to the convention. But Worldcon does start tomorrow, and I have panels. The schedule that I was given is as follows:

  • Wednesday 15th 16:00, Kress Room: Fanzines and Meta Fandom
  • Thursday 16th 10:00, Kress Room: Planning and Running a Virtual Fan Event
  • Saturday 18th 10:00, Calvert Room: What Do We Look for in a Fanzine?

Those time are for Washington DC. For UK times add 5 hours.

The first two of those are definite. The Saturday one may not happen for me because it has not been scheduled as a virtual event. I don’t know how that managed to fall through the cracks, but watch this space.

Of course I will also be online on Saturday night because I have a Hugo to lose. I shall be sad for my CoNZealand Fringe pals, but Related Work is a very tough field this year.

By the way, I see that Twitter is busy discussing accessibility issues again this year. This is not good, obviously, but it is hard to see what can be done.

Worldcon facility contracts are a big deal and are generally signed soon after a Worldcon wins site selection. If the facility isn’t accessible at the point, there’s very little you can do.

So we should only be picking sites that are accessible. And people do ask questions about this at bidder presentation sessions, but there are lots of other things that people care about in terms of site selection. In any case, the bidders have probably taken the facility’s world about it being accessible, and haven’t sent a team of experts to inspect it.

OK, so maybe all bidders should be more responsible and ensure that their facilities are accessible before they start. But finding a local facility that is the right size and affordable is really hard, and fan groups are unlikely to decide not to bid if their accessibility isn’t up to scratch.

Besides which, they don’t have to care, in that they are only in this for one year, and if they screw up it doesn’t matter because it will be Worldcon that gets the bad rap, not the people who failed to run it well enough.

The bottom line is that accessibility is never going to be done right except by good fortune, or because we have a group of people who are responsible for running Worldcon year after year and see such issues as important.

On Female Masculinity

Last week I recorded an an interview with my Radical Feminist pal, Finn Mackay. Finn has written a book with the intriguing title of Female Masculinities and the Gender Wars. The lovely people at Bristol Ideas wanted to do a feature on it, and I got asked to host.

Finn and I talked about an awful lot of stuff. It is an absolute delight to be able to have a deep and nuanced conversation about feminism and gender without some idiot fauxminist yelling “Penis!” at us. Hopefully the conversation will be illuminating for people who have hitherto only been exposed to the nonsense in the media.

If you would like to take a listen, you can do so here.

New Salon Futura

I know, it has been up for a week now, but I forgot to tell you about it here. Issue #35 has the following reviews:

  • Deep Wheel Orcadia by Harry Josephine Giles
  • Spear by Nicola Griffith
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson
  • Black Widow
  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

There is also a lot of discussion of virtual conventions, and a preview of my Worldcon program schedule. You can find the issue here.