CoNZealand – Day 3

Yesterday morning I was up early for a translations panel because I’d promised the moderator, Kalin from Bulgaria, that I’d be available. I went straight back to bed afterwards.

Much of the rest of the day was taken up with fannish drama, and trans drama. I’m not sure which is worse.

The big event of the day was the Site Selection results announcement. To the suprise of no one who knows anything about Worldcon, Chicago beat Jeddah by 517 votes to 33. Yasser Bahjatt has been taking the whole thing remarkably well, all things considered. He’s also announced that he’s rolling the bid forward to 2026. Currently that’s unopposed, but I don’t expect it to be for long. Yasser seems to think that a large part of the value of the bid is to draw attention to Arabic SF&F in translation, which is surely a good thing.

In other bid news Nice has formally postponed their bid. While their statement in the Question Time session this morning talked only about COVID-19, I understand that they have also lost their venue because the newly elected Mayor of Nice has vowed to demolish it and build a new convention centre.

But, as one bid vanishes, new ones take their place. A group of Australian fans has launched a bid for Brisbane in 2025 (opposing Seattle). I’m really sad for the Seattle folks, because I seem to end up opposing their bids all the time, but I can travel to Brisbane and I can’t go to Seattle so I know who I am supporting.

Recordings of panels are now starting to turn up on the CoNZealand website. I watched the Masquerade over breakfast (it is quite short) and the Modern Criticism panel over lunch. Those were both on the big screen TV (giant Gary Wolfe with giant wine glass). However, I have discovered a very easy way to watch panels. If you have an iPad, download the app for The Fantasy Network. Log in with your CoNZealand email address, and everything is there.

Well, not quite everything, because panels are slow appearing. I gather that the automatic system for saving and uploading panel recordings doesn’t work, and CoNZealand staff are having to do it manually, which is slow and labour-intensive. Much sympathy to them.

Thank You, Australia #GiveItUp125 #IDAHOBIT

Being in Virtual Australia on IDAHOBIT Day is a poignant reminder that I did most of my gender transition while living in Australia. There were a number of reasons for that, but one of them is that the medical support for transition was better in Australia than it is here in the UK. That’s even more true now. I will always be grateful for the support I got from friends in Australia, in particular the folks at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club who accepted me without question.

One of the disappointments about not being able to travel to New Zealand for Worldcon this year is that a planned visit to Melbourne has had to be cancelled too. Maybe another year.

The photo above was taken at the Wilson’s Promontory National Park, which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Country Victoria in 1999 #GiveItUp125

Here are some photos from the trip that Kevin and I made following the World Science Fiction Convention in 1999. First up we have the Puffing Billy Railway, which made Kevin very happy.

And second, one of the best ways to get up close and personal with Australian wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary. (Sadly digital cameras back then had little in the way of zoom so these are the only good shots I have.)

As usual, click on any photo for a bigger image and slide show.

My #IWD2018 Ujima Show

A day early for International Women’s Day, I devoted most of my show yesterday to feminist issues. However, I started out in Australia by welcoming film critic, Tara Judah, to talk about Sweet Country.

Tara is from Melbourne originally, so we had a lot to talk about. However, we did our best to keep the discussion to matters of race relations in Australia. Things continue to be pretty bad there, and I very much hope that this film shines a necessary spotlight on the situation.

After the news I started playing the interviews that I had picked up at the International Women’s Day event put on by Bristol on Saturday. They included comments from Penny Gane, Eleanor Vowles, Leonie Thomas, Rosa Taggert, Sian Webb and Elizabeth Small of Ra Cultural Consultancy.

Normally I would tell you to go to the Listen Again feature for all of this, but for some reason only 10 minutes of the first hour recorded. It is still worth it for a few minutes of Tara who is an amazing guest, but the IWD interviews are not there. Thankfully I still have the originals, and I hope to post them as a podcast at some point.

The second hour kicked off with more IWD interviews featuring No More Taboo, Sandra Gordon and Alex Raikes. The singers that Alex refers to are Pitch Fight, the Bristol University a capella group, whom you can find more about here.

The African Queens project that I talked about with Sandra is a project photographic Bristol women of color cosplaying famous women from African history. It was done for Black History Month last year. You can find out more about it here.

Finally I was joined in the studio by a couple of people I met on Saturday. Charlotte Murray is a young student who was interested in finding out more about radio, to I invited her into the studio. Jane Duffus is the editor of The Women Who Built Bristol, a fabulous collection of stories about the famous, and not so famous, women from the city’s history. If you are interested in buying the book, please order it through Bristol Women’s Voice because if you do all of the proceeds go to the charity.

Thankfully the second hour recorded correctly, and you can listen to it here.

The music for the show was as follows:

  • Walking the Dog – Jackie Shane
  • Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
  • Make me Feel – Janelle Monae
  • Independent Woman – Destiny’s Child
  • Our Day Will Come – Amy Winehouse
  • We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  • Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
  • It’s Raining Men – Weather Girls

Sadly I had to cut off Janelle after a minute or so because I did not want to bleep out the swears. Once I have a copy of the clean radio mix I will be playing that song regularly.

Queering Localities, Day 2

Friday was pretty full on, including having to deliver my own paper, but I had a really great time and learned lots. Here are some highlights from day 2 of the conference.

Louise Pawley from Brighton told us about an amazing protest against Section 28. It was a year that the Tory party was having its annual conference on the south coast. One day the Brighton queer community gathered on the beach and gazed out to sea. At the exact time the tide was due to turn they lit torches and turned around to face the building where the conference was being held, symbolizing the tide turning against homophobia. I have no idea how many of the politicians saw this, but it was a magnificent gesture.

My own session included American historian, Susan Ferentinos, who told us all about a range of LGBT+ exhibitions that have been staged in the heart of Red State territory. It is good to know that even in the most conservative parts of the USA people still find ways to celebrate queer culture.

My thanks go to my colleague, Julian Warren, who expertly co-presented with me. It was a pleasure to tell the conference about several of the great LGBT+ history projects we have done in Bristol. It is also, as always, a pleasure to share a platform with Surat-Shaan Knan who was there talking about his Rainbow Pilgrims project.

Probably my favorite paper of the day was Jenny Marsden introducing us to the remarkable photographic archive of the trans community in Cape Town in the 1950s and 60s. Everyone was taken with the idea of the “salon crawl” where visitors would sample all of the various hairdressing salons where the queer community of District 6 worked and hung out.

The final session of the day included three remarkable papers, starting with Anne Balay on the subject of queer truckers in the USA. Truck driving is an awful job, with truckers generally working 14 hour days almost every day of the year. With the advent of “spy in the cab” technology it has also become one of the most intensely micro-managed jobs in the world. As a result, white men have moved out of the business, leaving it to people of color, women and queers (and in many cases people who are all three). Anne learned to drive a truck and worked in the industry for a while to do her research. I’m looking forward to the book when it comes out.

Zhenzhong Mu told us all about the tradition of yue opera in China. Officially these performances are done by women, but there is a sizeable subculture of men who gather together for weekends to stage their own amateur performances in drag, and to have sex with each other, before going home to their wives and jobs.

Rebecca Jennings gave a paper about lesbian separatist communities in Australia and Wales in the 1970s. There was much talk of essentialist views of femininity, and some rather naive ideas about setting up self-sufficient communities far from civilization while remaining defiantly vegan and eschewing all modern technology. “No one told me about wallabies,” complained one European visitor to an Australian site. The cute little creatures would destroy crops and keep people awake with their enthusiastic nocturnal bounding. Goodness only knows what they would have done if the camp had been attacked by drop bears. Thankfully modern feminism is far more about bringing down the patriarchy rather than trying to leave it and setting up an equally authoritarian matriarchy.

My thanks to Justin Bengry and Alison Oram for putting on the conference, and to Katy Pettit for her flawless admin (and the cake).

Now I need to go write a bunch of emails to new friends I have made.

New Dimension 6

Issue #10 of Dimension 6, the free Australian short fiction magazine, is now available from download from their website. The contents of this issue are:

  • “The Other City” by Rjurik Davidson
  • “Glide” by Natalie Potts
  • “The Seven Voyages of Captain Cook” by Craig Cormick

Rjurik is probably the best known writer on the list, but I do like the description of the Natalie Potts story:

There are lots of species of Australian fauna that want to kill you. We just found one more.

I bet that whatever it is will be achingly cute as well.

You Eat Ants?

As well all know from Disney’s Jungle Book, bears are famously omnivorous. Personally I tend to side with Bagheera over Baloo, but that’s feline solidarity for you. However, there are other creatures that eat ants. Australians, for example.

Thanks to the excellent cheese magazine, Culture, I have discovered Anthill, which is a chèvre coated in lemon myrtle leaves and ants. It achieved a top 16 placing in last year’s World Cheese Awards. Also it retails for a whopping AU$350/kilo (around US$270/kilo at current rates). My congratulations to Kris Lloyd of Woodside Cheese Wrights. Thankfully it is so expensive that I don’t feel the need to try it.

The Emmys, Part Three

There are International Emmys. Who knew? Not me. It is starting to seem like every time I look at social media a new set of Emmys is being announced. I don’t mind, because the results keep getting better.

Why? Well to understand my excitement we need to travel back in time to June 1998. I am in Wellington, New Zealand for a convention. I’m there partly to promote the (as it was then) San Francisco in 2002 Worldcon bid, partly to see my old friend Neil Gaiman, and partly to meet the other Guest of Honor at the event, a chap called George R.R. Martin whose new novel, A Game of Thrones, I had got quite excited about. (Foolishly, at the end of my review of the book, I had written, “Get on with it, George, there are a large number of people out here who are on tenterhooks”.)

Anyway, there I am in an Indian restaurant in Wellington with George & Parris, Neil, and a lovely Australian couple called Medge & Bean. Also with us is a friend from Melbourne, Sean McMullen, whose writing I had been championing, and his daughter. Of the young lady I wrote:

Catherine is very sweet, but boy can she be hard work at times. For a nine-year-old, she is exceptionally bright, and she holds her own in fandom with ridiculous ease. The trouble is, we just don’t have her energy. How Sean copes I do not know.

Fast forward now to August 1999. I was doing an Australian special edition of Emerald City in honor of the Melbourne Worldcon. I wasn’t the only editor thinking that way, because one of the things I reviewed was an all-Australian edition of Interzone. Sean had a story in it, and so did Catherine. She might just have turned 11 by then, and she went on to charm the whole Bay Area crew that came to Melbourne where our Worldcon bid was being voted on. (It was a three-year cycle back then.) I commented:

If Sean’s daughter isn’t famous by the end of the next decade I’ll eat my keyboard.

Ten years later Catherine was at Melbourne University studying for a joint degree in Film Studies and Law. She’d won something called the Melbourne National Scholarship which is a university study grant (all tuition fees paid) for student of outstanding academic achievement. I wasn’t surprised. I did not eat a keyboard.

Since graduating Catherine has racked up a host of credits on TV shows in a variety of roles, including Production Secretary on the SyFy mini-series of Childhood’s End. And now, drum roll please…

The 2016 Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award Winner is C.S. McMullen for her script, “Living Metal”.

Sir Peter Ustinov Award

The Emmys website says:

Each year, The Foundation administers the Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award. The competition is designed to motivate non-American novice writers under the age of 30, and offer them the recognition and encouragement that might lead to a successful career in television scriptwriting. Entrants are asked to create a completed half-hour to one-hour English-language television drama script.

The award winner receives $2,500, a trip to New York City, and an invitation to the International Emmy® Awards Gala in November.

I am well impressed. Congratulations on the award, Catherine. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Typically studios queue up to produce the Ustinov-winning script, so I’m sure we’ll see “Living Metal” on our screens in the near future.

It’s Snapshot Week Down Under

The lovely people of the Australian speculative fiction community have this great little tradition of The Snapshot. Every few years they post a series of short interviews with the movers and shakers of the community, so the rest of the world can see what they are up to. The 2016 Snapshot is being published this week, and lots of interviews have appeared on their website.

Possibly the best way to browse the material is via their Twitter feed. The website has a sorted index, but the Twitter feed contains photos of most of the interviewees and is currently more up to date.

I note that not all of the interviewees are wholly Australian. This year, for example, they added Julia Rios on the strength of her work on Kaleidoscope for Twelfth Planet Press. It is vaguely possible that they will also include a mouthy Pom who happened to live in Melbourne for a couple of years.

Last Day for GUFF Ballot

Today is the final day of voting for this year’s GUFF ballot. There is only one candidate, Jukka Halme. However, it is important that people do vote because voting is the only way that GUFF gets any money. Without votes, there will be much less money for to send Jukka on his trip around Australia and New Zealand, and he might have to miss out on some places. This would be sad, because Jukka is a lovely person and I want all of my Aussie and Kiwi pals to meet him.

Oh, stop laughing. Wales haven’t played Australia or New Zealand in the World Cup yet, so I can’t be wanting revenge for anything. I’ll actually be cheering for the Wallabies on Saturday.

No, seriously, Jukka will be a great GUFF delegate. Plus he’ll be able to enthuse everyone Down Under about making the trip to Helsinki in 2017. Please vote. Details of how to do so can be found here.

Fury Road – Brief Thoughts

Wow. Two whole hours of solid stupid. As I said on Twitter last night, let no one now dare tell me that the plot of Jupiter Ascending makes no sense.

And this, remember, is someone who is a life-long fan of Formula 1. I like watching cars going round and round in circles.

I guess, though, that Mad Max is more for fans of stock cars and monster truck racing, where half the point is that the vehicles should look ridiculous and get destroyed during the race.

Of course it was funny. Furiosa was (mostly) tougher than Max. A small group of women managed to defeat an entire army of Gamergaters, sorry Warboys. Women deserve a chance at all roles in life, including idiot car chase movies.

As feminist science fiction, however, I found Fury Road wanting. I note that when it came to actually having a plan, as opposed to just running away, it was Max who came up with it. I wanted to see more leadership from the women. And I wanted a plot that you could actually believe in, because if the plot is nonsense all you have done is blow a few raspberries at the Patriarchy.

It will doubtless get on my Hugo ballot next year, if only to annoy the puppies. There will be films and TV that I will have enjoyed more.

What Exactly Constitutes a Terrorist Threat?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me taking a renewed interest in the case of Monica Jones. She’s an American trans activist whose case I wrote about back in April. Recently Monica flew to Australia to do some research on AIDS as part of a college course she has been doing. As this Advocate article reveals, she was stopped at Sydney airport and deported because her name was on a no-fly list as someone as someone who might be considered a “possible threat” to Australia. Gosh, is she a terrorist? Well, I guess that depends…

You see, Monica is in trouble with the law back home in Arizona. She has been found guilty of “manifesting prostitution”, which basically means that a police officer saw her in the street and decided that she was soliciting. No other evidence than that is required for conviction. In other words, Monica was found guilty of walking while black and female. And for this she was put on a no-fly list and barred from entering Australia.

Oh, and she’ll fail her college course because she was unable to complete the research.

Just what are you afraid of, Australia?

Ah well, at least she didn’t have a Hugo in her luggage. And I’m not even going to start on the whole saga of a TV crew being tipped off about her being stopped and Aussie immigration then using that as part of their excuse for deporting her.

The point is that these days we are living in a “Your Papers, Please” society, and the less privilege you have, the more likely it is that you will suddenly find that your papers are not in order and you no longer have any rights.