Recently I was honoured to be asked to make a guest appearance on the podcast, Women Make SF. It is a series about women in science fiction movies, which isn’t normally my bag, but in this case the subject was the Wachowski sisters so I did have things worth saying. Also Amy and Kyle, the hosts of the podcast, are huge fans of Jupiter Ascending, so we got off on the right foot immediately.
It was a lot of fun to record, and the episode is now live. You can listen to it below:
My HistFest talk on transgender Romans is coming up next week. Many of you have already booked up for it, which is lovely, but inevitably a few of you have had issues with the timing. Well I have good news for you: it doesn’t matter. Sure, if you can’t be there on the night, you will miss the live Q&A. But you know where to find me, right? Other than that, if you buy a ticket, you will get a link that you can use any time in the next 7 days, because the HistFest people are lovely like that. So if you were planning to go to the pub, have a D&D night that you can’t cancel, or live in Australia and can’t be up in the middle of the night, it is OK. You can catch up on replay.
By the way, I’m not hassling you on my behalf. I get a fixed fee regardless of the audience size. But if we can get a really big attendance for this then HistFest will see value in doing other trans-related talks. And that will be a good thing.
It has been a while since I did one of these, but I had my second vaccination today and I figured that was worth marking. For the record, I’m fine, other than being very tired, which may be a result of it being warm and muggy today rather than the virus.
Other than that, life on Plague Island is pretty much as usual. Not content with trying to be responsible for more deaths than Winston Churchill, Bozo is also trying to have more wives than Henry VIII. Here in the South West we are currently in a mostly COVID free phase, but elsewhere the new Delta Variant is running amok with the result that national infection rates have been rising for several days now. Those with long memories will remember that Bozo delayed imposing travel restrictions from India for many days because he was planning a visit to that country, and that’s the main reason why we are heading into a new wave of infections.
The big difference this time is that our vaccination rate is pretty good. As of today, almost 75% of the country has had one dose, and almost 50% has had both. It will be interesting to see what difference that makes to the spread of infection.
Anyway, we have sunshine, which is good. Also I still have plenty of work and don’t need to go anywhere. And if I have got through 400+ days of this I’m sure I can do a few hundred more if need be.
No, this is not a post about the Cummings and Goings in Westminster. This is about book. That lovely cover is for Tate Hallaway’s fabulous Unjust Cause. It is selling like the proverbial hot cakes in the USA — well over 100 copies a month at full price. And it has the magic 50 reviews so it should be nice and visible. In the UK it has been priced at around £2 all month. Nothing to do with me, it is an Amazon thing that they didn’t tell me about. And yet, in 26 days of it being on sale, not one UK customer has bought a copy!
People, what are you thinking? This is a great fun book about a girl coroner and her dragon boyfriend, with a very serious punch to the ending. I know it is book #2, but you don’t need to have read Precinct 13 to enjoy this one. Get out there and snap it up while it is cheap.
I have just backed a Kickstarter for a book called Alia Terra by Ava Kelly. It is a short book of fantasy stories, based on Romanian folk tales, about non-binary people, by a non-binary writer, that will be in both Romanian and in English translation. The money is being raised primarily for the illustrations, which will be by an American-Romanian trans artist, Matthew Spencer. The project is being put together by the lovely people at Atthis Arts.
You can get the ebook for $7. That has to be worth doing, right? Pledge here.
Well that’s a relief. My fundraiser for One25 hit the target today. Thanks so much to all of the lovely people who pledged. Of course I still have to finish the distance. I have 25.77 miles to go, and 7 days in which to do it. If it would just stop bloody raining…
By the way, you can still pledge. There are no stretch goals, but there’s nothing wrong with raising more money than I’d hoped. I’m sure that One25 can find uses for the money.
If there are any of you, and I confess I’ll be a bit disappointed if there are, who do not yet have the full set of Juliet McKenna Green Man books, you have just one week left to pick them up cheap. Amazon has The Green Man’s Foe at 99p in the UK and Europe. We’ve reduced prices elsewhere, and on the other two books, though ebooks only I’m afraid. But you do need to buy before June. After that it is all back to full price.
Today it was announced that I will be doing a talk for HistFest (June 17th, 7:30pm UK time, booking details here). This is huge.
No, seriously. The sort of people who get on that platform are TV historians, eminent professors, or people with books coming out. Often they are all three. Recent events have featured Michael Wood, Alice Roberts, Olivette Otele, Sir Michael Palin, David Olusoga and Janina Ramirez. And they want me to talk about trans people. It feels kind of like being a finalist for the Best Novel Hugo without having actually written a book. I am so grateful to Rebecca Rideal for asking me to do this, and of course to all of the professional Classicists and Assyriologists who have helped me get the skills to make this possible.
Now all I have to do is perform, and thanks to years of experience with LGBT+ History Month I know I can do that. What I’m hoping some of you will do is buy a ticket. I want this to sell out, not for me, but to show people that LGBT+ history has a market.
By the way, if you saw my talk at the University of Durham in February, this will be mostly the same material, but made a bit more accessible for a more general audience. However, there will be some new stuff about trans men in this talk.
In theory today is Hug Day in the UK, the day when we are finally allowed to hug other people. In practice, of course, COVID restrictions have been getting gradually looser for some time, and both the infection rate and death rate are now on an upward curve. Everyone is hoping that that the vaccination programme will mean that things don’t get out of hand again.
In the meantime, virtual events continue to be staged, and that includes a return for our very own WiFi SciFi. What’s more, we are full-on international now, with a whole bunch of guests from across the Atlantic. It should be fun. It will be on May 29th at 5:00pm, UK time. And it is free. Welcome, one and all. Full details of all the fabulous guests (and me) are available here.
Well, this is proving challenging. Every morning I wake up wondering if I will have got fit enough that my calves won’t ache, and every morning I am disappointed.
That’s not the hard bit, though. It is the bloody rain that is the problem. Cats hate getting their fur wet, but finding time to go for a walk when it isn’t raining is proving challenging. That’s the main reason why I am barely up with the required rate of 4 miles per day. But up with it I am. I’m at 55% of the distance, in 55% of the time. Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t get any worse for the rest of May.
The fundraising is going a little better, being at 65% of target, but it is going very much in fits and starts. There’s a lot happening right now, and if you are deciding to spend your money on helping people in India, or Palestine, or Colombia, or any one of many other deserving causes, that’s entirely understandable. But if you can spare a few quid/bucks/whatever for One25 I would be very grateful, and so would the unfortunate women that they exist to help.
I’m told that the team has raised a total of £2,243, which is great news. I have been stuck on £226 for a while. I’m hoping to get to £350, so that’s only £124 more. If 25 of you could give just £5 each I’d be there. Here’s the link to donate.
I have just been listening to Guy Gavriel Kay give this year’s JRR Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature. It was, as with every lecture that Guy gives, very amusing, and well worth listening to.
The topic that Guy settled on for the evening was that of how much light an author should shed upon the workings of magic in their books. Guy, of course, is famously reticent in such matters and, while he defends the right of others to write as they wish, he nevertheless wishes to advocate for his own approach. He loves to leave things to the imagination, to make, as he said, his books a dialogue with the reader, and not just a monologue by the author.
The entire lecture is available to watch on repeat on YouTube. Here it is.
Personally I am a big fan of ambiguity. One of the examples Guy used is probably my favourite scene from any of his books, that alarming encouter with a force beyond the ken of mortal men on a country road in Sailing for Sarantium.
I also like ambiguous endings, and to show that they have a place in fiction, and perhaps as a gift to Guy if I might be so bold, here is an example. It is taken, not from modern fantasy fiction, but from the work of the 16th Century playwright, John Lyly, a man much beloved of the sort of gender-bending that Shakespeare would later use, much toned down, in his own comedies.
The plot of Gallathea tells of a village that has offended Neptune and, to avoid destruction, must offer up its fairest maiden every five years to the god of the sea. As the fateful day arrives, the fathers of the two most obvious candidates disguise their daughters as boys and send them off into the woods to hide.
Both girls, Gallathea and Phyllida, are very frightened, and nervous that their disguise might be insufficient. Both are therefore delighted to meet a handsome young man from whom, they hope, they can learn how to behave as a man should. Before long, both girls are deeply in love with each other.
Woods being woods, the gods are about. Diana is hunting, and Cupid is looking for mischief to make. Seeing what has happened with our heroines, Cupid decides to make Diana’s nymphs fall in love with the “boys” too. The nymphs, of course, are supposed to remain virgins, so Diana is furious, and she summons Venus to put things right. Eventually all is revealed, and even cruel Neptune is mollified.
There remains the question of our two lovers. “How like you this, Venus?” asks Neptune.
“I like well and allow it,” she replies, “they shall both be possessed of their wishes, for never shall it be said that Nature or Fortune shall overthrow Love.”
She does, however, offer to change one or other of the girls into a boy, that they might be married. The girls’ fathers immediately start arguing over who shall lose a daughter and who gain a son. Seeing a problem, Venus suggests that the girls need not decide until such time as they present themselves at a church door. Her solution is acceptable to all and there, save for the resolution of a subplot, and an epilogue about the need for ladies to surrender to love, our story ends.
Who becomes a boy? Is it Gallathea? Is it Phyllida? Or do they choose to both remain female and eschew the strictures of heteronormativity? We are not told, and nor should it matter. As Venus knows well, all that is important is that Love shall conquer all.
I should add that the play was first performed in front of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, on New Year’s Day, 1585. No one lost their head, and therefore we can perhaps infer that the Queen was as well pleased as Venus with the ending.
If you would like to know more about John Lyly and his amazingly queer writing, you can do so via this fine podcast.
As Twitter followers will know, I am well into my charity walk for One25 now. With 10 days gone that’s more or less a third of the month, and I am bang on target as far as miles walked goes. The money is looking good, but that’s in no small part thanks to a very generous donation from Kevin. I don’t expect other people to give anywhere near that much, so hitting that target won’t be as easy as it looks right now.
I’m not hugely confident about the distance either. I like to be ahead of the rate. Unfortunately Saturday was very wet here, and on Sunday I was unaccountably woozy for most of the day. The forecast for this week is not good, so I may find it hard to get keep up. We shall see. But I need to have walked those 125 miles by the end of the month. A commitment is a commitment.
Well, not actual Mars, of course. That is still only inhabited by robots. But, in the world of the Crater School, Mars is most definitely alive. Three Twins at the Crater School is now available for purchase. There are links to various stores here. I’d love to be able to link to Bookshop.org as well, but for some reason they are listing it.
Anyway, enjoy. And if you can do so please leave a review on Amazon. I know this gets very boring, but it really does make a difference.
Slowly but surely, infection and death rates continue to fall, at least they do in this country. Are we getting back to normal? How would we tell?
Well, one of the potential signs is people feeling confident enough to hold coventions. Not here, just now, I hasten to add, but this year’s Eurocon, to be held in Fiuggi, Italy, has announced that they have permssion to go ahead. Their dates are July 15-18.
Data point: infection rates in Italy are currently four times what they are in the UK. That’s not huge. The USA and France are much higher, and India is off the scale, but it is still an interesting level of confidence from their government.
Currently us Brits are forbidden from going on foreign holidays (unless we are very rich or related to a Cabinet minister). We are due an announcement on the 17th about possible loosening of those restrictions. Whether Italy will be on the list of permitted destinations is another matter.
Am I going? I don’t have a clue. It would be lovely, but I haven’t had my second vaccination yet and I would not put it past our disaster of a government to suddenly stop second injections for anyone they deem expendable so that can save a bit of money. Ordinarily wild horses couldn’t stop me from taking a trip to Rome, but these days going anywhere still seems potentially unwise. FantasyCon in Birmingham in September seems like a more realstic goal.
It being Beltane today, what better time to celebrate the Green Man. Amazon thought so too, and they have put The Green Man’s Foeon sale in the UK and Europe for the whole of May. Not wanting the rest of the world to miss out, and also wanting to encourage new readers to try the books, Juliet and I decided to extend the sale to the rest of the world, and to reduce the prices of The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Silence as well. And if you prefer ePub you should soon be able to get the sale on Nook and Kobo as well. Given the complexities and flakiness of store websites, this won’t all happen at once, but of there’s somewhere you think you should be getting a sale and are not, please let me know.
Somewhat to my surprise, Amazon UK has also decided to drastically reduce the price of Unjust Cause. It isn’t in the 99p sale, so it is not getting the same level of promotion as The Green Man’s Foe, but it is a great price for a very lovely book. It is selling very well in the USA, and the number of sales per month is actually going up, which is unusual for a book that has been out for a while and is not getting any special promotion. Sales in the UK have been much lower, but this is your chance to see what the Americans are so excited about.
Regular readers will remember that in May I do something mad to help raise funds for One25. They are a wonderful charity from Bristol who understand that to get women out of the sex trade there is no point in punishing them, or their clients. What you need to do is a) make sure that the women are safe and healthy until they can get out; and b) help them find alternative sources of income so that they no longer need to sell themselves.
This year I will once again be attempting to walk 125 miles during the month of May. That’s an average of 4 miles a day. When I did this two years ago it didn’t seem too hard, because I was regularly going into Bristol for meetings and walking at least 4 miles a day in the process. But for the past year I have been cooped up at home getting steadily less fit and when I started testing myself early in April I found I was struggling to make 2 miles. I’m a bit fitter now, but I’m going to need all the incentive I can get to meet the target. You can help by pledging money here.
And if you can’t afford to donate anything yourself, please at least signal boost the campaign. You know it is going to be a firehose on Twitter, right?
We are still very much in No Public Meetings mode here in the UK, which means that this year’s J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature will again take place online. While I will miss my annual trip to Oxford, I have to admit that online lectures make it much easier for both speakers and audience to come from anywhere in the world. The main constraint is time zones.
With that in mind, I am delighted to report that the 2021 lecture will be given by one of my favourite writers of fantastic fiction, and also someone who knows Tolkien’s work well because of his work on The Silmarilion. I am talking, of course, about Guy Gavriel Kay. The lecture will be at 6:00pm on Tuesday May 11th, and you can book a (free) place here.
With only a couple of weeks to go before the release of the first Crater School book, publicity is happening. Fortunately for me, Chaz Brenchley is part of a fine writerly podcast called Writers Drinking Coffee. In the latest episode he talks a bit about the inspiration for the Crater School books, and reads from Three Twins at the Crater School. If you want to know what is going on in the scene we used for the cover, listen in to Chaz because he will tell you. You’ll also get to find out a bit more about the Martian fauna, and what the dastardly Russians are up to.