Airship 2 Deadline Extended

This is the point at which I should be reminding you that you need to get your submissions for Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion 2 in by the end of the month. However, Jo & Roz are currently in the throes of moving house and they have told me that they won’t be able to look at anything for a couple of weeks. Consequently I am extending the deadline to May 14th.

Full submission details here.

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Fringe Happened

I have been ridiculously busy of late so I am very behind on writing about things. I’m making a start on catching up. The first thing you need to know about is that the latest BristolCon Fringe event was a big success.

Most of the credit for that should, of course, go to our two readers, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Emma Newman. They are both very high profile and we got the expected crowd as a result.

Adrian began proceedings with a reading from his novel, Dogs of War. This is a story of bioengineered animal soldiers, led by Rex who is trying hard to be a Good Dog but gets sent on a covert mission without Master (the humans want plausible deniability) and has to lead the troop himself. One of the other characters in the troop is a swarm of bees. As you can imagine, it is very weird, but also highly amusing.

Emma read from her newly released novel, Before Mars, which is set in the Planetfall universe and takes place at roughly the same time as After Atlas. It takes place in a small base on Mars, and among other things it addresses themes of post-natal depression and paranoia. Ever cheerful, our Em. It also discusses how you deal with an AI that is potentially hostile to you but runs everything on the base where you live. I have just finshed reading it and, as usual, it is very good.

People have been asking me about the podcasts. We have made recordings, but I don’t have the time to edit them. I will upload them as and when someone else has the time to do the work.

Posted in Readings, Science Fiction | Comments Off on Fringe Happened

Thanks Guys, But No Thanks

I spend a fair amount of time watching the TERF nonsense than goes on on social media without actually getting involved. It pays to know what your opponents are up to. There is a pattern to how this stuff goes.

The TERFs, of course, make a point of being inflamatory and offensive whenever possible. They want to provoke a reaction, hopefully an angry one that they can later claim is violent.

When trans people and cis women oppose them they generally react with harrassment, mobbing anyone who dares to speak out. Cis women, they will often accuse of being trans. They make disparaging remarks about these women’s appearance as if this somehow proves that they are “really men”.

But sooner or later some cis man will gallantly leap to the defence of his friends. It is great to see, and I’m very grateful, but it is not always helpful. Because as soon as this happens the tone of the TERFs changes. They suddenly switch to a narrative of, “Help, help! We are being oppressed! How dare men tell us who is allowed to call themselves a woman?”

You see, the long term objective of all of this is to cast the disagreement, not as something between trans people and a small but vociferous minority of cis women, but rather one primarily between women and men. On their side they want people to think that they have all women, and some men (you know, good, feminist men like Donald Trump and Mike Pence); and on the other side they want you to think there are mainly just Bad Men.

The point is that this argument looks much better if they can point to actual cis men who are opposing them. That allows them to talk endlessly about how their opponents are “men”, without them having to make themselves look ridiculous by having to give the likes of me as examples of such “men”. They have actual men that they can point to instead.

So I’m afraid that this is a fight where the brunt of the work has to be borne by cis women. There are many other things cis men can go and do, like refusing to be on manels and calling out their misogynist mates. And of course we are very happy to have support behind the scenes. But as far as the public fight goes, cis guys, please stay out of it where possible.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Comments Off on Thanks Guys, But No Thanks

Another Trans Award Winner

Recently I was feeling very positive about the large number of trans people who are finalists for the Hugos this year. But that’s not the only area in which trans writers are achieving success. Last weekend the winners of the Kitchies were announced. In the Golden Tentacle (debut) category I spotted two trans people that I know. And one of them won!

Congratulations, then, to Alex Acks who is not only the person who provides the best live commentary from the WSFS Business meteing, but can now call themself an award winning author. Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fun book. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

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Talking Trans to Healthwatch

Yesterday, after having to deal with a plumbing disaster in the kitchen (which for me mainly involved phoning the plumber and panicking while she did the work) I headed off to Weston-super-Mare where the Diversity Trust trans health report was due to get its public launch.

This is something that we have been working on for some time now. The core of the research was an online survey that drew responses from 225 trans and/or non-binary identified people from around the South West. The results are unsurprising to anyone who has any knowledge of the day-to-day realities of being trans. You can read the report and/or executive summary here.

The good thing about this is that Healthwatch have a key role in the health service in the UK. In a world of increasingly commerical GP practices, it is the job of Healthwatch to remind them that they are providing a public service, not just making money for the senior management. If the various local Healthwatch bodies that commissioned the report take our recommendations on board, they may be able to drive through some changes that will improve the way GPs treat trans patients.

Of course some of these changes need to be made at a national level. We’ve talked to most of the local Healthwatch bodies in our region, but it would be good to coordinate. If anyone out there working in trans health has also talked to their local Healthwatch I would love to swap notes.

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Cheese Tasting: Fourme D’Ambert

On Friday I was in Bath shopping. I needed cheese and the Paxton & Whitfield shop is just across the road from Mr. B’s. I was actually looking for something like a Camembert or Brie, and ended up with an Oxford Isis, but while I was there they guys in the shop did some upselling.

The cheese they had me try was Fourme D’Ambert. It is a French blue, softer than a Stilton, and less sharp than Roquefort. I was impressed. And pleased to find out that it is a cheese whose history may stretch all the way back to the 8th Century. More details here.

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Virginia in the News

I managed to miss a lot of local news while I was in Canada. One thing I missed was that Bristol 24/7 did a feature on Virginia Bergin and her Tiptree win. You can find it here.

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Forthcoming Event – The Groove Within Us

On the evening of Tuesday April 24th I will be appearing as part of a event called The Groove Within Us at the Southbank Club in Bristol. This is the first of what is intended to be a series of events which mix social awareness with music. The concept is as follows:

The Groove Within Us is a night designed to Educate, Amplify and Celebrate diversity within our society.

Each night will be centred around a certain theme related to current social issues. Our panel will consist of people from as many walks of life as we can manage. The first part of the talk will be a chance for the panel to raise issues that they feel need greater awareness in the community. After that there will be a chance to submit questions for the panel to answer on the given topic.

During the break there will be a chance to network and talk to representatives from various charities and community projects.

After the talk we will celebrate diversity with a party hosted by our fantastic live band. The Groove Within Us House Band will play soul and funk tunes to get everyone dancing into the night.

For this first event the topic for discussion is Transgender Visibility, hence my being asked to be on the panel.

The Facebook event is here, and tickets for the event are available here. I should note that people will not be paying to see me. They are paying to see the band, fronted by the fabulous Ruth Royall. But if a few people turn up in time to listen to the panel as well I shall be very pleased.

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The Endless Demand for “Debate”

Well known trans activists such as Paris Lees and Shon Faye are well used by now to being invited to “debate” trans rights in the media. Mostly they turn these invitations down because they know that they will be “ambush interviews” in which you get asked to talk about one thing and find out when you get to the studio that you have been put up against some Trans-Exclusionary Self-Identified Feminist (TESIF 1) and are expected to talk about some completely different issue. The TESIF will get the majority of the air time and the presenter will support the TESIF’s side.

I don’t get such invitations. I am occasionally asked to be on local TV, but they are much nicer people than the national lot. However, of late I have started to get requests to “debate” trans rights from non-media people. I am starting to see a lot of ordinary people — often nice, middle-class, left-wing women — asking me when trans women 2 are going to answer the legitimate concerns of ordinary women about this new trans agenda that they have heard so much about.

Now talking to cisgender people about trans issues is my job. I do it a lot (though I normally get paid for it these days). However, it is very clear that when I do training for an organisation I am mostly preaching to the converted. That is, the course is optional, and the only people who attend are people who already have sympathy for trans folk. The people I am getting asked to talk to now are not those people. They are folk who are becoming increasingly worried and frightened about what those evil trans women are up to.

In politics there is a concept known as the Overton Window. The idea is that for an given issue there is a spectrum of views on that issue. Any position within a Window on that spectrum is seen as fair and reasonable by the public. Any position outside the Window, on either end of the spectrum, is seen as extremist and unreasonable. The way to win at politics is to move the Window so that your own views are squarely within the Window, and those of your opponents mostly outside of it.

The way that you move the Window is through the media. As the TESIFs have almost complete control of the media in the UK, they have managed to shift the window so far that trans women are now faced with being accused of extremism if we defend rights that we have exercised in the UK, without any negative effect, for the past eight years. The results of this are deeply worrying.

We are asked to defend things that we have never said.

We are asked to debate political positions that we don’t hold.

We are asked to apologise for things that we haven’t done.

And if we refuse to do so then we are accused of being angry extremists.

In any case, it is very difficult for us to do so. We have no access to the mainstream media except where cisgender allies facilitate it for us. Most of the discussion has to take place on social media, where everything we say will be attacked by people who have nothing better to do with their lives than hate trans women.

It is all very frustrating and depressing. I regard myself as having pretty good mental health these days, but even I’m starting to worry about what’s going to happen over the next year or two. It is pretty clear that the TESIFs want to remove gender reassignment from the list of protected characteristics in the Equality Act, and repeal the Gender Recognition Act. I suspect that the only thing preventing action being taken in Parliament is the ongoing Brexit paralysis.

I will continue to try to talk to people about this when asked, but it is very difficult to know what to say. Presenting the facts won’t wash, because the public has become so conditioned to the lies that they won’t believe anyone who says otherwise. And why should they? The stories they have been told have often come from respectable middle-class journalists from broadsheet newspapers and Radio 4. The only “compromise” positions I can see myself taking involve trans women giving up a lot of the rights that they currently have.

Still, last year a British trans woman was given political asylum in New Zealand because the nice Kiwi people deemed the UK too dangerous for her. I think I might try Canada first as it is closer to Kevin.

1. The TERFs keep complaining that “TERF” is a slur, even though it was coined years ago by irritated Radical Feminists wanting to distance themselves from the trans-hating crazies. So I am trying a new term. They certainly don’t deserve “Radical” as their biological essentialism makes them deeply conservative on the subject of gender roles. And while they might self-identify as feminists I think that anyone whose feminism isn’t intersectional, and who does no political work save for hating trans women, doesn’t deserve to be called a feminist.

2. I talk mainly about trans women in this post, because almost all of the hate is directed at trans women. Can you say “misogyny?” Apologies to trans men and non-binary folks. I am happy to fight your corner too where necessary.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gender | Comments Off on The Endless Demand for “Debate”

New Book from Zoran Živković

Well that has been a long time coming, and fans of Zoran may be disappointed to learn that this is not a new novel. However, it sounds like a fascinating book. Zoran has recently retired from his post as Professor of Creative Writing at Belgrade University. He’s very much a theorist as well as a practitioner. In this book, which is from an academic publisher, he takes on the themes of First Contact and Time Travel. Both sections are illustrated with stories of his own.

The title of the book, rather obviously, is First Contact and Time Travel: Selected Essays and Short Stories. The publishers say that this is the first volume in a series, so I’m already looking forward to later volumes on other themes.

Thankfully, despite the publishing channel, the book is very affordable. You can pre-order from you know who.

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Yesterday on Ujima – Hate Crime, Jazz & LGBT in Africa

There were a whole pile of significant anniversaries to consider with last weeks’ show. I’m annoyed that I missed out on wishing 90th happy birthday to Maya Angelou. I did get in that it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. But we began the show looking back on the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Alex Raikes of SARI, Bristol’s hate crime service, joined me in the studio to look at the state of hate-based crime in the UK, and specifically in Bristol, today.

To lighten the mood a little I was joined after the news by Dave Merrick of local jazz & blues group, Small Days. Dave and his colleague, Natalie Davis, have been wowing audiences around Bristol for some time now, and they have a new show coming up at the Zion Community Arts Centre in Bedminster. The show, called “Ladies First”, is dedicated to jazz divas and will feature covers of songs from the likes of Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone.

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

My third guest of the day didn’t turn up. Thankfully she’s OK. I found an apologetic email when I got home. Sometimes life gets in the way of being on the radio. Ben the Engineer and I managed to find enough content on the fly to fill in.

In the final segment I played an interview I made at the LGBT History conference in Liverpool last month. It is with Prossy Kakooza, who works with African LGBT asylum seekers in Manchester, and Frankie Edozien, who has recently written a book on LGBT life in Africa. Annoyingly the Listen Again recording cut off with about 9 minutes of the hour to go, but I have the full recording and I’m going to put it out on one of my podcast feeds.

You can listen to (most of) the second half of the show here.

The music for yesterday’s show was as follows:

  • Winston Groovy – The Stephen Lawrence Song
  • The Specials – Nelson Mandela
  • Small Days – God Bless the Child & Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Small Days –
  • Clipping – The Deep
  • Labi Siffre – So Strong
  • Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel
  • Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog
  • Jackie Shane – Any Other Way
  • Jama – No Borders

And if you would like to hear more from Small Days there have lots of free songs on SoundCloud.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism, Gender, Music, Radio | Comments Off on Yesterday on Ujima – Hate Crime, Jazz & LGBT in Africa

Brief Hugo Thoughts

This year’s Hugo shortlists were announced yesterday. I was mostly too wiped to pay much attention, but it did seem to be a very good list and reaction today seems to have confirmed that.

Having been drowning in Tiptree reading for the past year my own ballot was a bit sketchy, but I am delighted to see a few of the works I and my fellow jurors loved getting a nod from the Hugo electorate as well. The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang was on our Honor List, while “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara was on the Long List. Rivers Solomon, who appears on the Campbell short list, was also on our Honor List for An Unkindness of Ghosts.

Which brings me to another thing. Back when I was getting nominated for Hugos I was generally the only trans person on the list. That didn’t surprise me too much as we only make up a small percentage of the population. Last year there were at least three, including two on the Novel list. This year we have at least six, plus a few more who may identify as non-binary but don’t do so very publicly. Also the Yang and Szpara stories specifically feature trans themes.

This year list is also starting to feel truly international for the first time. It is still largely anglophone — certainly all of the written works were published in English — but the people on the list come from many parts of the world, not just the USA and UK.

Somewhat to my surprise, the category that I am most well read (well, watched) in is DP: Long. Much as I love the first bits of Wonder Woman, and the disc extras, I’m pretty sure that I will be voting for Thor: Ragnarok. I have a sneaking suspicion that Taika Waititi knows what a Hugo is and will make a very silly acceptance video. And he may mention Jack Kirby in the process, because the visuals on that film were totally a tribute to the King.

The category I am going to find hardest is Novella. Nnedi is brilliant, I love JY Yang’s Tensorate stories and would very happy to see another trans winner, but I adore Murderbot. Speaking of whom, I am really pleased to see the Raksura books get a nod in Best Series. I have been a fan of Martha Wells’ work since Emerald City days and am delighted to see her getting recognition at last.

The only thing that disappointed me about the list was that I was hoping to be voting for Discovery in BDP: Short, but Trek fandom went and picked the episode I liked least from it. Still, everyone keeps telling me that I should watch The Good Place and now I have no more excuses. Also the Clipping song appears to be radio-safe, so guess what I’m playing on my show on Wednesday.

My congratulations to all of the finalists, many of whom I am delighted to call friends. Best of luck in August, folks.

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The TransGeek Movie – Coming Soon #TDOV

Way back in 2012 I was interviewed (in the lovely surroundings of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights) for a project called the TransGeek Movie. In 2015 there was a Kickstarter campaign to fund extra filming and production. Now at last the film is done, and it is being offered to film festivals around the world.

With any luck some big ones will take it and you’ll hear a lot more about the film, but either way once the current round of festivals is over it will be made generally available. I’m hoping we can do something for Trans Pride in Bristol this year.

As I am in it, I got sent a link to a preview screening. Good timing meant that Kevin and I were able to watch it together. The bits with me in are not too embarrassing (though the interview is almost 6 years old so I can’t enthuse about April Daniels as I would have done had I been talking today). More importantly it contains contributions from Julia Rios and Alicia E. Goranson, from Naomi Cedar, from Jennell Jaquays and Becky Heineman, and from many other well known and successful trans people. If nothing else it is a fabulous piece of oral history. I hope you get to see it soon.

Posted in Gender, Movies | Comments Off on The TransGeek Movie – Coming Soon #TDOV

The Green Man’s Heir at Eastercon and Norwescon

Folks back in the UK will be heading for Eastercon around now. If you are looking for a paperback copy of The Green Man’s Heir then you are in luck, because Juliet has a box full of them. You will be able to find them in the Dealers’ Room at the Angry Robot table. Or corner Juliet if you can find her; she has a very busy schedule.

We haven’t managed to get any paper copies printed in North America as yet, but I have given the proof copy to Kevin and he will be at Norwescon over the weekend. If you’d like to take a look, track him down. I’m sure we can arrange to get copies to some US dealers soon.

If you are wondering what people make of the book, here are a couple of early reviews:

Also here’s a wonderful endorsement from the brilliant Garth Nix.

So if you want to know what a shuck is, go buy the book.

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Hello from Vancouver

It has been a long road trip. Kevin and I had a great time in Victoria, and I promise to write more about that soon. We’ve also had a nice few days together in Vancouver but, thanks to the nature of our jobs, have spent much of that time cooped up in our hotel room working. We are both very tired. Tomorrow we’ll be up in the middle of the night so Kevin can catch a train to Seattle and I can catch an early morning flight to Toronto. I will be back in the UK on Sunday and am planning to spend most of the rest of the holiday weekend sleeping. Fingers crossed I will manage to find some time to write as well.

However, I have scheduled a couple of posts for while I am on the road, and I might manage something from Toronto tomorrow.

Posted in Where's Cheryl? | Comments Off on Hello from Vancouver

The Green Man Lives

Juliet E. McKenna’s new novel, The Green Man’s Heir, is now available from the usual ebook stores. You can find a list of links here.

The paper edition is also available, but Amazon will probably take their time listing it, and will say it is out of stock, because that’s what they do to small presses who don’t publish through them. You should be able to order it from any bookstore. The ISBN is 978-1-908039-69-9. I’d be really grateful if you could order it from Waterstones as that might encourage them to stock our books.

Bristol people, I plan to have copies available at the April Fringe. If you can wait that long, let me know and you can buy it at the heavily discounted convention price. Printers and post people willing, there should be copies at Eastercon.

US people, you should be able to order it from bookstores as well as it is available for printing in the USA. BASFA people, Kevin will be able to take orders for direct sales, though I’m not sure when he’ll next be at a meeting.

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An Evening with Tom Robinson

I am in Liverpool for the Outing the Past academic conference. The Friday evening programming of this event is always the Alan Horsfall Memorial Lecture. Horsfall, as Peter Tatchell explained in his introduction to the event, was a founder and mainstay of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality for many years, and someone who was never satisfied with whatever compromise for limited rights was brokered with politicians at the time.

This year’s lecture was given by Tom Robinson. If you are less ancient than me you might ask, “who”, but to anyone of my generation the guy is a hero. He’s the man who penned that great anthem, “Glad to be Gay”. And he made an additional step forward for equality much later when he found, to his surprise, that he was bisexual. It has taken a long time for the LGBT+ community to come to terms with this, and I am sure that there are pockets of people who are still furious. I’m delighted that the conference is finally honoring a bi celebrity.

Tom’s lecture was essentially a coming out story. Or rather two because he had to come out first as gay and then as bi. But it is a story which, for the second half, was lived in the full glare of tabloid publicity as one of the most famous gays in Britain. If you think “Glad to be Gay” is bitter about the media, you should hear Tom talk about them now. Though he did note that these days if the papers tell a bunch of porkies about you then you can at least tweet about what crap they are printing.

Obviously coming out is useful politically, but Tom also focused on the importance of intersectionality. Back in the days of Rock Against Racism, and of Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners, we were intersectional without having a word for it. The same rules apply now. We are stronger together. No one is free until we are all free.

Naturally the evening ended with a rendition of “Glad to be Gay”. My thanks to Tom for encouraging the crusty old academics in the audience to sing along so that I wasn’t the only one doing so.

I had a quick word with him afterwards and grabbed a selfie for Twitter. He told me that he’ll be playing the Fleece Bristol in October, and that the band will be playing songs from Power in the Darkness. The dates haven’t been officially announced yet but it won’t be the day of BristolCon because some guy called Ed Sheeran is booked in that night.

Here’s a taster of the sort of thing you might expect.

I do love the way Tom adapts lyrics as time goes on. The version of “Glad to be Gay” he sang tonight only had the first verse in common with the original single.

Anyway,that’s enough for tonight. I have a busy day tomorrow and could do with some sleep.

What? You want an encore? Oh, alright. Here is a much younger Tom. Y’all sing along now.

Posted in Academic, Feminism, Music | Comments Off on An Evening with Tom Robinson

Fringe Is Back!

I’m delighted to report that BristolCon Fringe is getting back into the swing of things again. We are still experimenting with venues, but there are some great readings lined up for this year.

On Monday we will be at the Gryphon on Colston Street and our readers will be Ken Shinn and Gareth L Powell. Gareth will be reading from his recently released space opera, Embers of War. We are hoping that Virginia Bergin will be able to be there too so we can congratulate her on her Tiptree win.

The readings will start at 7:30pm, but people will start arriving from around 7:00pm because we need time to order drinks first. What Pub says that the Gryphon does evening meals, but I’ve not tried them.

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Who Runs the World – Spoilerific Review

These days I have the shouty parts of the Internet mostly blocked on social media. It can take me a while to catch up with Drama. I was rather surprised, therefore, to discover from some of my fellow jurors that an evil bunch of cis people had voted a deeply transphobic book as the winner of this year’s Tiptree Award.

Not that I was surprised at being characterized as an evil cis person, of course. But I figured that my fellow jurors had more credibility than that. Besides, how could anyone assume that a jury that had put the Dreadnought books, the Tensorate books and “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” on the Honor List was in any way transphobic?

I am not at liberty to discuss jury deliberations in public, but I did make sure before agreeing to be on the jury that I would be working in a group where I felt I could highlight problematic works and be listened to. During the process I felt that absolutely was the case, and I am very grateful to my fellow jurors for doing me that courtesy. Some of them know enough about trans issues to be able to occasionally question me, and that was useful.

Personally I think that if there had been problems with Who Runs the World? then my fellow jurors would have spotted them. However, as I recommended the book to the jury, it is down to me to explain why I liked the book. This necessitates a spoiler-filled review. If you don’t mind the spoilers and want to see what I think, you can read the review here.

Posted in Awards, Books, Gender | Comments Off on Who Runs the World – Spoilerific Review

Tiptree 2017 – We Have A Winner

As you probably all know, I have been on the Tiptree Award jury this year. It has been an amazing experience. I got to read a lot of fabulous books and stories. I met some lovely fellow jurors and learned a lot from them. And now I can finally enthuse about the books we loved.

This year’s winner is Who Runs the World by Virginia Bergin. At this point, if you are not Bristol-based, or well-versed in the YA market, you may be saying, “who?” Therein lies a story.

Last May I attended an event at Watershed with the feminist science writer, Angela Saini. There I met Virginia for the first time. As soon as she told me about the book I realized it was potential Tiptree material, but it was YA and UK published only so it was pretty much off the radar. However, Virginia was clearly One Of Us so I encouraged her to come and read at Fringe and bought her book. (You can listen to her Fringe reading here.)

Having read the book, I knew I liked it. But by this time I was in a rather difficult position because Virginia had become a friend. All I could do was suggest to the rest of the jury that they read the book, and recuse myself from all further discussion. So I did, and got to sit back and cry over my keyboard as I watched my fellow jurors tell me how much they loved my friend’s book.

Those of you reading this outside of the UK may be wondering how you can get the book. Fear not! A US edition is due out in September. It will be called The XY, the meaning of which will be obvious if you read a bit about the book. Also please don’t worry about the YA Award at the Hugos. The US publication means that the book will be eligible again next year so y’all have plenty of time to read it. Dublin is just over the water from Bristol.

Of course the Tiptree is about far more than the winner. The Honor List is full of fabulous books that we all liked very much. I am, fairly obviously, very fond of the works by April Daniels and Charlie Jane Anders, but all of the Honor List are well worth your time. The Long List is full of great books too.

I’ll be talking more about many of these books in due course, but right now it is party time.

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