Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2017

Today is the day on which we remember all of those trans people whose lives were cut short by hate-motivated murders during the past year. Bristol’s official ceremony won’t be until Friday, which is just as well because I have Fringe to host tonight. However, I did want to do a post to remind you all of the occasion.

As usual, the statistics of the year’s murders can be found at the Transgender Europe website created for the purpose. This year the total number of murders is 325. That is up significantly from 295 last year. The increase is entirely due to a massive rise from 123 to 171 in Brazil. Most other countries have seen a fall, though the total for the USA has risen from 23 to 25.

Thankfully there have been no trans murders in the UK this year. However, given the amount of hate being pumped out by the mainstream media right now, I think it is only a matter of time before someone gets killed. I know that friend of Roz Kaveney’s was assaulted badly enough to need hospitalization recently, and the intensity of the rhetoric has been ramping up every week. I’m also seeing a lot of very upset young people on social media. It is one thing for me to be worrying about having all of my civil rights stripped away after a long and happy life; it is quite another if you are 19 or 25.

Posted in Feminism, Gender | 1 Comment

Fringe Tomorrow

Tomorrow will see the final BristolCon Fringe event of 2017. As usual it will be at the Naval Volunteer pub from 7:00pm. Here are the readers.

Baylea Hart is an IT Technician by day, horror writer by night and a reader everywhere in between.

In 2013 she wrote, directed and edited the short horror film Behind the Door, which won a Top 50 spot in the Bloody Cuts “Who’s There?” competition and as of 2015 has over 430,000 views on YouTube.

In October 2015 she won the Bristol Horror Writing Competition with her short story “Jack in the Box”, and had her story published in the Far Horizons E-Magazine. Her short story “Eyes Open” was published in the 12th issue of 9Tales Told in the Dark in 2016.

Baylea graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and enjoys watching people grow slightly white after reading her stories. Her first novel, The Log House, is due to be published in 2017 via Unbound.

In the early 1990s Jonathan L Howard worked as a scriptwriter and video game writer, including writing credits on the highly successful Broken Sword series of video games.

Following one very positive review of the writing, Jonathan says:

“All this positive feedback made me think that just possibly I might have the ability to make it as a professional writer. I dug out a lot of my old notes from years before, and started working on them again. One set of notes was about a necromancer called Johannes Cabal.”

His first novel, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, was published in 2009. The fifth, The Fall of the House of Cabal, was published in 2016. Jonathan was one of this year’s Guests of Honour at BristolCon. At Fringe he will be reading from After the End of the World, the second in his Carter & Lovecraft series. Eldritch horror can be expected.

I will be hosting, and putting the readers to the question, as usual. Hopefully I will see some of you there.

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Bristol’s Great Menopause Event

I spent yesterday at City Hall in Bristol for the Great Menopause Event which I reported on for Ujima a couple of weeks ago. Of course menopause isn’t something that is going to sneak up on me at any time soon, but a lot of my friends are going through it and as I am on HRT (due to having no gonads) I’m interested to know whether I should be considering lowering the dose as I get older. No one does research on trans people’s long term health issues, of course.

The event had a variety of speakers covering lots of different aspects: the social, the medical, employment rights and so on. My biggest take away is that every woman is different, and therefore every woman experiences menopause in a different way. Some people hardly notice it, others have an awful time. Some women, and this surprised me, go through menopause at 30, which can be a major medical problem. If you have mild symptoms there are all sorts of natural sources of estrogen that you can take, though none of them are as powerful and effective as actual HRT. Lack of GP knowledge about menopause, and unwillingness of some male GPs to even discuss women’s health issues, were highlighted as major issues. It was all very interesting, and all very taboo busting.

I understand that the slides from the various talks will be made available in due course. They will probably be on the City Council’s Women’s Health Task Group web page.

I now have a pile of follow-up to do, much of which involves public policy issues. All of this will doubtless feed in some way into the development of the Women’s Equality Party health policy.

Oh, and no one seemed to object to my being there, which was a great relief considering the torrent of anti-trans propaganda being pumped out by the English media these days.

Posted in Conventions, Feminism, Health | 17 Comments

The 2017 Nommo Awards – Africa’s Finest

The Nommos are awards given out by the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS). I’m delighted to see Africa, and the African diaspora, coming together like this. Many of the winners are unknown to me, as it should be. However, the top two awards went to Nigerians who live in the West. The novella prize went to Nnedi Okorafor for Binti. That will be no surprise to many people. And the novel prize went to Tade Thompson for Rosewater.

I’m not familiar with the other novel finalists, but I have read Rosewater and it is a fabulous book. What’s more, hot on the heels of of the award announcement came the news that Orbit has bought a trilogy from Tade, of which Rosewater is the first. I’m absolutely delighted.

Somewhere I have an interview with Tade about Rosewater that I broadcast part of on Ujima. I’ll dig it out and stick it on Salon Futura over the weekend.

Tade, mate, when are you coming to read at BristolCon Fringe?

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M. John Harrison in Bath

Last night I took myself into Bath where M. John Harrison was reading from his latest collection, the wonderfully titled You Should Come With Me Now. The book is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction, and shows that Mike has lost none of his sentence-crafting skill, nor his biting wit.

The centerpiece of the reading was the magnificent “Psychoarchaeology”, inspired by the discovery of the (alleged) burial of Richard III under a car park. The story is a meditation on the heritage industry, and is both cutting and hilarious.

There’s always a rights issue. Where does the latest Tudor belong? Does he belong where he was found? Or whence he came? Who gets the brown sign? One wrong decision and York won’t talk to Leicester, the knives are out again after hundreds of years of peace. Contracts torn up, the industry at war with itself, we all know where that can lead: diminished footfall in the visitor centres. No one wants to see that.

Elsewhere there are some lovely flash pieces, including one in which the ruins of human civilization are discovered by aliens who can’t understand us because their means of data storage is completely unlike ours, though it is rather like jackdaws.

Mike, of course, loves deconstructing popular genre tropes. There are piss-takes of space opera in book, and of fantasy as well. One of the stories will appear in a much modified form in the Christmas Special edition of New Scientist. Mike describes it as, “a five volume fantasy trilogy in a thousand words.” If only he could be allowed to edit the new Amazon Middle Earth series.

I, though, am a novel reader at heart. Thus I am delighted to report that Mike is working on a new novel. He says it has fish people in it.

Fish. People.

I know what that brings to mind for me. These fish people, however, do not live on Devil’s Reef off the coast of rural Massachusetts. They live in Britain. Obviously they want to take over. Beyond that we know little. Perhaps they have taken over already. What else could explain Michael Gove?

Naturally the audience asked for recommendations. If Mike says that Hassan Blasim writes some of the best weird fiction around, then I am definitely going to give him a try.

Equally naturally, he can’t read everything. Mike, if you can’t remember the two books that I suggested to you they are: Amatka by Karin Tidbeck; and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

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Unexpected TV


After the radio show yesterday I was having lunch in a cafe with a friend (plotting feminist revolution, as one does) when I got a message from the lovely people at ShoutOut Radio. Apparently the BBC were looking for someone to come onto Points West, the regional news program for the South West, and talk about trans issues.

So I got in touch with them to see what they wanted. As it turned out, they were running a feature on pioneering Bristol trans woman, Rosalind Mitchell. They wanted someone to comment on how things have changed for trans folk since she transitioned back in the 1990s.

That was an easy one for me except for the timing. I was due in Bath for a Women’s Equality Party meeting at 6:00pm. The show was due to air at 10:30pm, and I’d need to get a train home. Thankfully we were able to pre-record an interview and get me back to Temple Meads for the 10:22pm train. My thanks to everyone at WEP Bath and the BBC who helped make this happen.

Of course I wasn’t otherwise prepared. I’d managed to forget to pack a lipstick and didn’t find out about the mistake until I was at the WEP meeting and it was too late to go and buy one. My hair needed washing and I was wearing very much the wrong thing for hot studio lights. But I got it done.

If you have access to iPlayer you can watch the broadcast here up until 10:45pm today. Sabet Choudhury was great to work with, and I was pretty pleased with my responses. Sadly I still need a lot of practice on controlling my facial expressions while on TV. I frown way too much, mainly because I’m being serious. But every opportunity to practice is good.

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Yesterday on Ujima – Babbers, Gender, History & World Fantasy

Yesterday’s show began with a chat with my Ujima colleague, Gail Bowen-Huggett. Gail is a great presenter who works on a show called Babbers. It goes out in the same time slot as mine, but on a Monday, and it caters primarily to older listeners. The Babbers team is looking to recruit new members, so Gail and I had a bit of a chat about what is involved in doing radio and how much fun it is. If you are over 55 and interested in getting involved, here’s some details of the awareness day that Gail and her colleagues are running.

The second slot should have featured another Ujima colleague, Angel Mel, but poor Mel has been struck down with the Dreaded Lurgy and consequently I had to improvise for half an hour. Fortunately I can rant for Wales about trans politics, and it is Trans Awareness Week, so I had plenty to say. Mainly it was about Trans Pride South West and about the forthcoming changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

You can listen to the first half of the show here.

At 13:00 I was joined by Leonie Thomas from Bristol University. She is an expert on the history of women in radio, in particular in the early 20th Century. She was there to talk about Una Marson who was the first black woman to front a BBC show. This is the YouTube clip that Leonie and I talked about.

Finally I had an interview with GV Anderson about her success in the World Fantasy Awards. You can find her award-winning story here.

Sadly the recording appears to have cut out after 38 minutes of the final hour. You can catch all of Leonie’s interview here. The interview with GV Anderson is not all there, but it was a pre-record and I have a rather longer version that I will put on Salon Futura fairly soon.

The playlist for the show was:

  • Jamiroiquai – Cosmic Girl
  • Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
  • Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu – Q.U.E.E.N.
  • Sylvester – Mighty Real
  • Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean a Thing
  • Maya Angelou – Stone Cold Dead in the Market
  • Earth, Wind & Fire – Fantasy
  • Bat for Lashes – The Wizard

My next show will be on December 6th and will feature Jonathan L. Howard talking about his latest book, After the End of the World.

Posted in Awards, Feminism, Gender, History, Radio, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Ujima Tomorrow

As there are five Wednesday’s in this November I have volunteered to fill a gap in the schedule by doing an extra Women’s Outlook show tomorrow. I’ll be on at the usual time of Noon-14:00 and my topics this week will be:

  • How older people can get on the radio
  • Diversity in the Bristol music scene
  • A Caribbean woman presenter on the BBC during WWII
  • An interview with GV Anderson

As usual you can listen live online, and I will post the Listen Again links when I get a chance (though probably not tomorrow as I have a very busy day).

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Canadian Indigenous & Black SF

The other week I was talking about Polynesian science fiction. Today it is the turn of Canada. CBC Radio’s show, The Current, has done a feature on science fiction by native and black Canadians. I features the inimitable Minister Faust, and also two indigenous writers. If you’d like to take a listen you can find it here.

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New Gendered Voices Magazine

Earlier this year I attended a really great conference at Bristol University called Gendered Voices. The group that puts it on also publishes a magazine, and for the latest issue they kindly asked me to contribute an article. So I wrote them something on trans people in the Inca Empire. They also put me in the cover collage, which is dedication above and beyond the call of duty.

There are lots of other really interesting articles in the issue, and you can read it for free, here. Enjoy!

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Cheese Tasting

Yesterday I was at M-Shed in Bristol for a meeting, and I took the opportunity to visit the new Bristol Cheesemonger. Rosie Morgan (no relation) has already garnered quite a reputation for her little enterprise, and it was past time I gave it a try.

Of course it is hard to surprise me with cheese because I spend a lot of time looking for new stuff. Rosie, however, came up trumps.

First she introduced me to Cornish Gouda. Dutch friends may, of course, feel a little aggrieved by this, but I have to say that what I bought has exactly the fabulous nutty taste that you would expect. I have only tried the semi-mature thus far, and that has a great flavor. I look forward to trying the older offerings.

Her other suggestion was Renegade Monk. This is a soft blue with an ale-washed rind made in very small quantities by a little Somerset dairy. It has a great taste, but having tried some of it I think I need to leave it a few days to get the full effect. More later, I hope.

And thank you, Rosie, I will be back.

Posted in Food | 1 Comment

Seven

Is the number of trans people elected to political office in the USA yesterday. Helen Boyd has the full list. That’s a nice little black eye for the whiny child in the White House.

As usual the media has been talking all sorts of nonsense about people being the “first”, as if trans people were only invented yesterday. Monica Roberts has a nice post on the history of trans people in US election.

Of course none of those people were elected to a position in national government. However, seven also happens to be the number of trans people worldwide who have achieved that honor. Again Monica Roberts has done the research.

The UK is somewhat behind the curve on this. Indeed, we are in serious danger of going backwards. The Scottish Government released some (excellent) proposals on reform of the Gender Recognition Act today. Westminster is expected to follow suit. Because there will be a public consultation, there will also be a very well-funded campaign aimed at getting the government to scrap the Act altogether. The flood of (deeply dishonest) news articles about trans people we have been seeing over the last few weeks is just the softening up operation. I’m afraid I will have to be asking for your help in the near future.

Posted in America, Current Affairs, Gender | Comments Off on Seven

Not Korean Enough?

Book Twitter today, in between the excitement over the US elections, has been busy fuming over this tweet:

It is a particularly crass example of something which I fear is rather more common than we’d like to think, particularly in literary fiction (or at least fiction that thinks of itself as literary). It is also an example of the sort of thing I was talking about in my paper at the conference in Italy.

Now of course I was talking about trans people in fiction. How does that relate to Koreans? Well, in the case above what I think the editor is really saying is not that Chang’s characters are not Asian enough, but that they don’t sufficiently conform to the editor’s stereotypical idea of what a Korean-American character should be like. In other words, the editor doesn’t want authentic Asian characters, what they want are characters that will appeal to the book’s presumed straight, cis, able-bodied, white audience, of whom the editor assumes themself to be typical.

The same is true of trans people trying to write authentic characters. Here’s a quote from Meredith Russo, author of If I Was Your Girl, after she was asked in an interview to give advice to trans authors who want to get published.

Like, right now, the story that the cis world is most ready for and willing to accept is like “The Danish Girl”. It’s like “hello, I am a trans person, hello, I am a boy who thinks he is supposed to be a girl. Here’s me dealing with it. Here’s a very heavy emphasis on how all my cis friends and family feel about it. I might die. I’ll probably be heartbroken at the end.”

See the similarity? Russo is saying that publishers don’t want authentic trans characters, they want characters that conform to a cis readership’s expectations of a trans character. Nicola Griffith tells me that disabled people face similar issues.

The good news is that, with the small sample size I have of recent YA books about trans people (the subject of my paper) it seems much easier to get an authentic portrayal published in genre fiction. My theory is that’s because the publishers of genre fiction don’t think that character is all there is to a book. They are happy to buy a book on the basis of the plot, and not worry whether the readers will demand certain narratives for the characters.

Posted in Academic, Feminism, Gender, Publishing, Science Fiction | Comments Off on Not Korean Enough?

OutStories AGM Audio

I have posted the audio recording from the guest lecture at the OutStories Bristol AGM. The lecture is titled “EP Warren’s Classical Erotica: LGBT+ activism and objects from the past” and is given by Dr. Jen Grove of Exeter University. A copy of the slides can be downloaded here.

EP Warren was an early 20th Century Classicist who developed a passion for collecting evidence of same-sex relations in the ancient world. Most famously he gave his name to the Warren Cup, now in the British Museum.

The lecture was sponsored by the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition at the University of Bristol in honor of the birthday of John Addington Symonds, 19th Century Bristol-born writer, art historian and pioneer of homosexual rights.

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Queering the Classics

Things are starting to gear up nicely for LGBT History Month 2018. In particular I am delighted to be able to confirm that I will be appearing at a conference at Reading University on February 12th. The event is called LGBT+ Classics: Teaching, Research, and Activism and other confirmed speakers include Jen Grove, Alan Greaves and a keynote from Jennifer Ingleheart. I feel totally like a serious academic among all that lot.

Registration for the conference isn’t open just yet, but if you are a classicist there’s an opportunity for you to get involved too. There will be time during the day’s schedule for a series of short (five-minute) spotlight talks by delegates. If you’d like to participate, details of how to submit can be found here.

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World Fantasy Awards

This year’s World Fantasy Convention took place at the weekend. There were, of course, awards. Some of them made me very happy. The full list is on the snazzily revamped Locus website.

Congratulations first to Jeff Ford who took the Collection category with his A Natural History of Hell. Also to Jack Dann whose collection of Australian horror, Dreaming the Dark, won the Anthology category. I’m sure they are both great books. I don’t know that I’ll ever have time to read them. Sorry guys.

Special Award, Professional went to Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Michael Levy & Farah Mendlesohn. Obviously I’m pleased for Farah, but I am especially pleased about this because Mike passed away earlier this year. He was a good friend to me for many years and I’m delighted that his work his been honored.

The Novel category winner was The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North. Claire is the most recent and successful incarnation of Kate Webb, whom you might know better as Kate Griffin. Here’s hoping that this international recognition means that she won’t have to regenerate again in the foreseeable future.

The prize for Long Fiction (meaning longer short fiction) went to Kij Johnson for The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, a novella that was on my Hugo ballot for last year. Obviously I am very pleased about this.

And finally, the announcement that had me jumping around on Sunday afternoon: the winner in Short Fiction was “Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson. To win an international award with your first published work is an incredible achievement. Here in the South West we are all very proud of Gemma. The story is still available to read at Strange Horizons. I’m hoping to get Gemma on the radio to celebrate, but in the meantime here she is reading the opening of the story at BristolCon Fringe.

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Thank You, LaDIYfest

Despite the determined efforts of GWR to prevent me from getting to Bristol I had a great time at LaDIYfest on Saturday. I’m sorry to have missed the intersectionality workshop, and equally sorry that I was unable to risk hanging around for the bands, but it was a day well worth attending. Here’s to next year.

For those of you who were at my talk, I have checked the recording and it looks like it only missed about 5 minutes. That won’t be hard to recreate. The main problem is finding the time.

Posted in Feminism, Where's Cheryl? | Comments Off on Thank You, LaDIYfest

Cat Out Of Bag

Yesterday Juliet McKenna did a blog post talking about how Ibsen might have intended Hedda Gabler to be black. I haven’t had a chance to follow up on that, though it does sound fascinating. However, at the bottom of the post she mentions a few other things she has been up to, including this:

We’re heading into the final stages of preparing The Green Man’s Heir for publication. This is a modern fantasy novel that will be coming soon from Wizard’s Tower Press.

So, er, yes. This is something that Juliet and I have been talking about for some time. I’ve been leaving her to get on with it at her own pace. I have no timeline for it as yet. When she’s ready, I will progress it through the publication process as fast as I can. As and when I am able to give dates I will do so. I’m very much looking forward to it.

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Aotearoa Futurism

As some of you will have seen from Twitter, I rather enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. There are a lot of fun aspects to the film, but one I particularly enjoyed were the references to Asgard as a conquering empire that then rewrote the history of the Nine Worlds to make Odin and his people seem much more glorious than they had actually been. There was a metaphor going on here that should not be lost on British people.

In fact there was a lot more than I realized watching the film. I’m not going to give you spoilers here, but if you have already seen the film I recommend this article by Maori SF fan, Dan Taipua. The director of the film, Taika Waititi, is also Maori, and he has left a whole bunch of Easter eggs in there for his people, and for their indigenous Australian friends.

Dan got in touch with me on Twitter and pointed me at two Radio New Zealand podcasts in which he and colleagues apply the ideas of Afrofuturism in a specifically Maori/Polynesian context. You can find them here and here.

I’m delighted to see this sort of thing happening in the South Pacific, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Aotearoa Futurism if/when Worldcon comes to New Zealand in 2020.

Posted in Feminism, Movies, Science Fiction | 1 Comment

Historical Fictions Research Conference

I had entirely forgotten that the deadline for paper submissions for this conference was yesterday. I have mine in, but I checked with Farah and due to a pile of other stuff going on she won’t be looking at anything until next week. So if you would like to present, get something in now. It is in Stoke which is a great opportunity for those of you irritated by endless London conferences. And Jerome de Groot is giving one of the keynotes.

Full details of the conference and CfP can be found here.

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