The lovely people at Inclusive Journalism Cymru have kindly taken another one of my articles. This one is all about what the media insists on calling “artificial intelligence”. The piece is called “The Great AI Scam” and you can read it here.
And that means that LGBT+ History Month is on the horizon. Interest in this sort of thing seems to have waned a bit over the past few years. That’s partly because the sorts of institutions that put on events are increasingly demanding something recorded that they can use for years to come. The problem with that is that you have to ensure that your presentation is free of copyrightable images, and that takes a lot of effort. Also, of course, there’s a good chance doing such things, especially if they involve trans issues, is likely to become illegal soon, regardless of who wins the next general election.
However, the lovely folks at M-Shed in Bristol are still doing good work. They have a fine program of talks scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24th, and only one of them is by me. Excitingly there will also be a talk by Mark and Jack, the Museum Bums boys. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be talking about the search for trans people in Celtic Britain. OutStories Bristol has a long post about the various talks.
I will be doing a couple more talks, including one at Oxford University, and one online for a university in Canada, but I don’t yet know of anything else that will be open to the public. If something turns up, I will let you know.
On the assumption that a lot of people won’t be paying much attention to the internet over the holidays, I’ve been queueing up a bunch of posts, so apologies for the unusual flurry this week.
To begin with I’d like to draw your attention to a new online critical magazine for SF&F literature. It is called Speculative Insight, and it is edited by Alex Pierce whom you may know from Galactic Suburbia, Letters to Tiptree, Luminescent Threads, or even Locus. Alex kindly asked me to write something for her and, much to my surprise, it ended up launching the magazine.
“What is Fantasy Anyway?” is an essay-length version of the talk I did at Bristol Central Library in support of their contribution to the British Library Fantasy exhibition. It is basically me having a go at the people who are heavily invested in policing genre boundaries. Hopefully some of you will find it interesting.
Speculative Insight will continue with a mix of paid and free articles over the coming months. I’m looking forward to seeing what it produces. And remember when you look at the prices that an Australian dollar is only worth a little over 50p.
A major exhibition on Fantasy will be opening at the British Library next week (Friday 27th) and will run until Sunday, February 25th, 2024. The curation team included Neil Gaiman, Aliette de Bodard and Roz Kaveney, so you can tell it will be very good. There are a whole bunch of events planned around it as well. Full details are available here. Many of them are online. I’m particularly keen to see Natalie Haynes interviewing Susan Cooper, and the Black to the Future event. I might also try to get to London for the full day of events on December 9th (or not, it is sold out, but online is available).
For those of us out west, I am delighted to see that Bristol Central Library is joining the fun. They have a bunch of events of their own. That includes co-hosting the Neil Gaiman livestream on November 20th, but also a bunch of events of their own. The following are part of their Lunchtime Lectures series.
Thu, Nov 9, 12:30 – Fantasy and the Cotswolds – a talk by the wonderful Cathy Butler. Who knows, it might feature Juliet McKenna, given that she lives in that part of the world.
Thu, Nov 30, 12:30 – Dianna Wynne Jones – I don’t know Henrietta and Lydia Wilson, but any talk on Dianna is likley to be a lot of fun.
Thu, Nov 16, 12:30 – What is Fantasy Anyway? – Oh, that’s me. Here’s the blurb:
Literary critics and booksellers are fond of dividing books into smaller and smaller categories. Is this book epic fantasy or sword & sorcery? Urban or rural? Historical, folklore or mythological? How can we tell? Authors, however, are much more slippery than those who seek to categorise their work would like. Books tend to slip and slide between genres, not just within fantasy, but outside of it as well.
In this talk, Cheryl Morgan, will look at how books at categorized and, with the help of some fine example works, make the argument that pretty much all fiction is fantasy of a sort.
For those of you who can’t get to Bristol, this talk will be getting turned into an essay, for publication in a venue I can’t tell you about yet.
There are also a couple of events at Bedminster Library. The full list is available here.
BristolCon is this weekend. Things will be happening.
Most importantly, Juliet’s book launch for The Green Man’s Quarry is FRIDAY NIGHT. I can’t see anything on the convention website that makes this clear. Juliet will not be at the convention on the Saturday, so if you want to see her, or want a personalised signing, you need to be there on Friday night.
Signed books will, of course, be available in the Dealers’ Room on Saturday. I’ll be there most of the day.
However, at 13:00 I will be in Panel Room 2 for this:
How to make AI socialist?
AI and machine learning are set to transform the knowledge economy in the same way automation changed the manual labour economy. How can society learn from the mistakes of the past in not disempowering the workforce and putting lots of people out of work?
With peter sutton, Stephen Oram, Roz Clarke and Piotr Swietlik (M)
I can’t make it to Dublin this year. Indeed, I’ll be spending most of the weekend at a writing retreat here in Wales. However, I have agreed to do one online panel for Octocon. It is on Sunday Oct 8th at 13:30 and the subject is: “Who Reviews the Reviewers: Current Trends in Review Culture”. Full details here.
FantasyCon is only a week and a bit away now. I will be there, but I will not have a dealer table as I still don’t have a car capable to transporting books to a con, and the car hire cost would not be economic. So…
If you want a book from Wizard’s Tower, let me know so I can bring it with me. Usual convention discounts will apply, so paperbacks are mostly £10.
If you are wanting the new Green Man book, that’s not ready yet, but I may have e-ARCs and the book should be at BristolCon.
And now, my panel schedule.
Building Your Writer Website- Saturday 10.00am (Panel Room 1)
E.M. Faulds (Moderator) Steve Morgan, George Penney, Ryan Cahill, Cheryl Morgan.
Designing and maintaining your own space on the internet is part and parcel of being a writer these days. Our panel will go through some of the ways you can set up your website and offer advice on the dos and don’ts.
Fantasy: Where Are The People Like Me? – Saturday 2.30pm (Panel Room 3)
Cheryl Morgan (Moderator), Lindz Mcleod, Omar Kooheji, C. L. McCartney.
A panel that looks at how different readers can see themselves in the fantasy worlds of authors. This is a consideration of identity and formative inspiration.
I’m currently also listed on The Great British Monster Off, but that appears to clash with the banquet so I’m waiting to hear back from the con on that one.
Later this month I will be making the long train journey up to Glasgow for an event at the university. This is not anything to do with the Fantasy Centre, but rather a queer history thing that happens to involve Glasgow academics. The event is aimed primarily at early career humanities scholars, looking for ways to engage with professionals outside of academia. However, it is free, and will be broadcast on Zoom, so if you are intersted I’m sure you’d be welcome. Details are available here.
While I am in Glasgow I am hoping to swing by the SECC and do a quick check of the Worldcon site. It is a while since I was there and I know things have changed quite a bit.
I was hoping to see a bit more of Winnipeg yesterday, but the timing of various events didn’t give me a decent-sized time slot so I spent time writing and doing a bit of Day Job instead.
My final panel was about AI. I had two excellent co-panellists. Helen Umberger works for a company that tries to monitor AIs for accuracy and lobbies for proper regulation of the industry. Having been involved in industry regulation for energy markets and commondities trading, I wish her the best of luck. Shalya Elizabeth is a Winnipeg local and a member of the Indigenous Writers’ Collective of Manitoba. Her perspective was invaluable.
I attended the Closing Ceremonies because it was an opportunity to catch up with Kevin, and I was hoping for another performance from the First Nations drummer. Both expectations were fulfilled. We also had a bagpiper, apparently in recognition of the Mansfields’ Scottish ancestry. Linda is a Ross, after all, and that’s a very fine Scottish name.
I should have reported yesterday that Buffalo won the right to hold the NASFiC next year, when Worldcon is in Glasgow. Obviously I can’t attend, so I have not been paying much attention. However, I’m delighted to see a Black man chairing an official WSFS convention. Congratulations to Wayne Brown and his team. The full view of the Business Meeting at which his convention was officially seated is below, and you can find him around 9 minutes in, after Kevin has finished with the official stuff and Sharon Sbarsky has announced the results of the voting.
I’m now all packed and ready to head off to the airport. Thanks are due to my room-mate, Heather Rose Jones, for saving me a lot of money and providing companionship. And of course to the Pemmi-Con committee who did a good job under difficult circumstances.
I didn’t see much of the convention on Saturday. In the morning I took myself off to the Human Rights Museum, which is something you don’t get in every city you visit. It is, in various ways, amazing, heart-rending and disappointing. Certainly worth a visit, but equally a measure of who is deemed to have a legitimate human rights struggle and who isn’t.
The afternoon was spent taking care of some WSFS stuff with Kevin. If he gets a visa for China, he probably won’t be able to update the Hugo Awards website from Chengdu. I will be at BristolCon. Somehow we will get it done, though it will probably be behind places like Tor.com and Locus.
The evening saw the Pemmi-Con masquerade, which I went along to because my good friend, Sandy Manning, was running it. It was small, but very well done. I almost ended up on the judging panel, but thankfully Sandy found someone better qualified in time. They had four novices who had never been on stage before, including one young lad who had used a 3D printer to make parts of his costume. The journeyman category had a topically revived Barbie costume that had last been in competition in 1999. There were three master level entries. It is not often that you will see the Pettingers place third in a field of three, which should tell you a lot about the quality of the entries. The clear winner, by audience acclamation as well as by the jury, Best in Show in both Presentation and Workmanship, was the Baba Yaga’s Hut costume pictured above.
Today’s job, other than one panel, is to find the names to go with the photos I have taken so I can do a fuller write-up in Salon Futura.
Yesterday I was scheduled to give my talk on the Pre-History of Robotics. As per yesterday’s report, it had to be moved because I’d been put in a room with no screen or projector. I ended up in York 2 in the 5:30pm program slot.
This was progress in that I knew that room did have the necessary kit, but that’s only half the problem. Should I be sending my slides to someone, or could I use my own laptop? And what about the online part of the convention? I figured I should check the room out early. It turned out that the tech kit in the room was an Apple laptop that didn’t have PowerPoint, so I’d have to use my own machine. To do that I needed to be able to log in to Zoom as a panelist. I should have an email with a link, right? Er, no.
Apparently the links for the day were not send out until 1:00pm. Once I had the email, it all went fairly smoothly at my end. Sadly the same was not true for the online participants who had problems with the sound throughout. I don’t blame the tech guy in the room for this. Like many of the con staff, he was a very late recruit. And having to do set-up on a different machine for each program item is far from ideal, especially with only 15 minutes between panels. The Eastercon system of allowing 30 minutes between panels because the tech for a hybrid con needs that much time is sounding more and more sensible.
Anyway, I had a reasonable-sized audience and they seemed to enjoy the talk. My apologies again to the online audience.
The rest of my day was taken up with being photographed. There’s a Bay Area fan photographer called Richard Man who has a project to take high quality photos of prominent people in the field using a lovely old camera. It is one of those things where you have to slide a plate in for each shot, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on getting each take right. My official photo was taken by Lou Abercrombie using a digital camera and she must have taken at least 300 shots. Richard told me he can only afford two per subject.
As it turned out, I ended up being done twice. Richard, having not been involved with Bay Area fandom when I lived there, hadn’t been entirely sure who I was. After the initial shot he did a bit more research as asked me if I’d come back for a photo using a Hugo trophy. There are three on display in the Exhibits area, one of which is Kevin’s which he got for being co-chair of ConJosé so there was no problem borrowing one.
It will be a while before I see the results as the plates need to be developed, but you can see some of Richard’s work here, and there is more available in this year’s Hugo packet as he is a finalist for Best Fan Artist. Y’all should vote for him ‘cos he’s lovely.
My talk on the Prehistory of Robotics is now taking place at 5:30pm in York 2, so I should have a screen and projector.
Also I am on “How technology treats minorities and women differently” at 1:00pm on Sunday in York 3. For some reason that doesn’t show up on list view or tile view on the online schedule, but it is on the grid view.
I’d suggest trying the Speakers page to get a list of my panels, but I’m not listed as a speaker.
As a software professional, I’m a little aghast that it is possible for these things to be wrong in Grenadine.
I am in Canada, by the skin of my teeth. I am getting too old for travel nightmares.
When I booked this trip I was due to have a Noon flight from Heathrow on Tuesday, spend Wednesday morning with clients, and be on a 6:00pm flight to Winnipeg. That so did not happen.
On Monday morning I got a text from Air Canada saying that my flight from Heathrow was cancelled and they were trying to find me an alternative flight. I was due to see Roz Kaveney who is in hospital recovering from a hip operation, so I put the flight to the back of my mind and went on with my day. But while I was in the hospital I got another text saying that no alternative flights were available and promising a refund. Of course that would only be a refund from the London-Toronto, not the Toronto-Winnipeg. Plus no convention.
Once I’d handed over visitor duties to Roz’s partner, I went on to my hotel at Heathrow (which I had already paid for) and set about trying to fix things. I had been in the queue to speak to Air Canada for about 5 minutes when a new text came through. They had found me a flight to Toronto. It was leaving at around the same time, but from Zurich. So would I please get myself to Heathrow in time to catch the 6:00am Swiss Air flight to get me out there. That meant getting up at 2:30am. It is a good job that I had an airport hotel.
Anyway, I made it, and I got to see Zurich, if only from the air. I got to my Toronto airport hotel around 5:00pm local and went to bed at around 8:00pm as I needed to be up at 5:00am to get to my client’s offices. Somehow I managed to deliver a training course without falling asleep.
Some weeks back the 6:00pm Winnipeg flight had been changed to 6:30pm, which was fine. I was just leaving the client’s offices when a new text came in. The Winnipeg flight would be 7:45pm. We had two gate changes between my arriving at Pearson and the flight starting to board. Boarding began at around 7:40pm, but by 8:00pm we were all on board. And then we sat there, for over an hour. Waiting for I know not what. The pilot blamed it on the ground crew being slow loading the baggage, but it shouldn’t take over an hour to get that done. It was almost midnight by the time I got to bed.
Goodness only knows what will happen on the trip home. I expect to be stranded in Toronto on Monday night.
But before then I have a convention. Today I have watched online talks at the universities of Bristol and Glasgow, which were much more interesting than the programing here. Then I did a panel on diversity in SF&F in past times. I was looking forward to that because I’ve met no end of 20-something fans who are convinced that there were no PoC or queer folks in SF&F before about 2010. But, as it turned out, I’m actually in the younger half of attendees here. Many of the audience were older than me, and they knew a lot about old books, stories and writers. Anyway, I got to rant about Heinlein. My thanks to Nisi Shawl and Sandra Bond for being great co-panelists.
Tomorrow I am giving a talk on the Pre-History of Robotics. I can’t tell you where, but it probably won’t be in York 3 as advertised because that room has no screen or projector.
I get the impression that the concom here are doing sterling work with far too little money and ever fewer volunteers.
However, it has all been worth it because I got to see the First Nations woman perform at openening ceremonies. It was just her voice and a tympanum-like drum, but she was amazing. The wolf song was particularly impressive, you could really feel the drama of the pack chasing down its prey.
I’ll be leaving for Winnipeg and Pemmi-Con early on Monday. Pretty much any overseas trip from Wales takes a couple of days. Also I’m spending a day in Toronto along the way to visit some clients. I should arrive in Winnipeg on Wednesday evening.
With the convention less than a week away, I’d assumed that I had not been allocated any programming. This isn’t a problem. I’ve not been to Winnipeg before and am looking forward to seeing the city. Also I haven’t seen Kevin since December. But in my email this morning was a message from the programming team. The schedule isn’t finalised yet, but I am doing at least two program items.
Knowing the Roots: Representation in the Genre before (provisionally Thursday 14:30 – 15:45, in York 2, Convention Center)
Modern SF is often considered to be inclusive. But when did the genre begin to include representatives of BIPOC and/or LGBTQ communities? Our panellists point out hidden examples of early SF that treat these communities with respect.
The Prehistory of Robotics (Friday 16:00 – 17:15, Charleswood B, Delta Hotel)
If you were at the Dublin Worldcon, or the Finncon I did it for, you will have seen this. But I’m guessing that most of the Pemmi-Con attendees will not have seen it. Hopefully they will come along and learn about ancient robots.
I will update this when I get a final schedule.
This year’s Finncon took place in Tampere last weekend. At the closing ceremony they handed over to next year’s convention, which will be in Jyväskylä. A key part of the ceremony is the announcement of the Guests of Honour. Those will be Ursula Vernon (who needs no introduction); Tiina Raevaara, a fine Finnish writer; Jyrki Korpua, a respected academic who has shared the ToC with me in some of the Academia Lunare books; Tero Ykspetäjä, who has been a mainstay of Finnish conrunning for many years; and me.
That’s really incredibly kind of them. It is getting like Peadar O’Guilin being a permanent GoH at LuxCon, though for me it only happens when Finncon is in Jyväskylä because the con-runners there are sweet and lovely people who seem to like me rather a lot. (I should also note that it will cost them almost nothing as I pay for my own travel and will probably stay with friends while I’m there.)
Anyway, it will be fabulous. I’m particularly pleased for Tero. For context, if he was British, he would certainly have won the Doc Weir Award by now. Hopefully I will see some of you in Jyväskylä next year.
I will be back in Bristol for a day next Thursday. Bristol Pride is due up soon, and I have been asked to give a talk at Bristol Central Library. This one will be about how gender is seen differently at different times in history. The blurb is as follows:
Byron and the Lion King
In 1821 Lord Byron wrote a play called “Sardanapalus”. It was about an Assyrian king whose degeneracy and effeminacy caused the downfall of his empire. Byron relied on ancient sources, and thanks to modern archaeology we know that the man he was writing about was Ashurbanipal, the man shown bravely hunting lions on friezes in the British Museum. How did Byron get it so wrong? Or is our understanding of gender in ancient Mesopotamia confused? Cheryl Morgan takes us on a literary detective trail.
I’d love to see some of you there, though obviously it is a day time thing which is difficult if you have to be in an office. I’m afraid it is only in-person, not online. Booking details here. It is free to attend.
I’m here, and the convention is underway. The travel was very smooth, despite the train line being closed for repair. The bus was fine. If you are coming through Arlanda tomorrow, buy a ticket from the info desk, or one of the newsagents (it is 99 kr) and then follow the signs to the bus stops. You want stop 1 which is at the far end as you exit the terminal buildings. I have done my first panel, which I thought went very well. So far, so good.
Also Uppsala looks like a lovely town. There are plenty of places to eat, a lovely river, a splendid cathedral, and of course the university where the convention is being held and which dates back to around 1600.
In other news, yesterday’s experiment worked well with Mastdon, but not with Farcebook because apparently you can only cross-post to a Farcebook page, not to your main account. It is not called Farcebook for nothing.
The main reason for this post is that WordPress finally has an official cross-posting facility for Mastodon. Previous I have been using a special plugin, which worked, but is not an ideal solution. Hopefully the official system will also work.
WordPress no longer cross-posts to Twitter because the Musk Rat is an arsehole and doesn’t understand how social media ecosystems work. Given that it doesn’t, and that not enough of you are on Mastodon, I have reluctantly re-connected Farcebook. So this is a test for that as well.
Finally, because I shouldn’t do a post with no news, I am writing this from a hotel at Heathrow because I have an early flight to Stockholm tomorrow. If all goes well, by this time tomorrow I will be in Uppsala and will have done my first panel.
Updated because I missed one.
In just over a week I will be in Uppsala, Sweden for this year’s Eurocon. I will be on panels. Here’s what I’m doing.
Thursday, 8 June 2023: 18:00 CST
Using Speculative Fiction as Your Research Ground — Speculative fiction is the fertile soil from which we’ve grown a thousand ideas, while simultaneously acting as the lens through which we study those very same ideas and theories. But what does research in this field imply? Is there opportunity, funding, and support? Or is the trajectory of the research marred by the long-term stereotypes concerning the genre itself — that sff just isn’t “good enough”? — with Anna Bark Persson, Niels Dalgaard, Karolina Fedyk & Merja Polvinen.
Friday, 9 June 2023: 13:00 CST
Alternate History — Alternate History is a fictional subgenre telling history the way it could have been. What if de Gaulle was killed in that attack? What if humans landed on the moon much earlier than the 1960’s? There are many intriguing books to read! This panel talks about Alternate History books and discusses them. What is your favorite? Is it Fantastic literature or just cool? — with Jean Bürlesk, Rasmus Häggblom, Jukka Halme & Martha Wells.
Friday, 9 June 2023: 15:00 CST
The Emperor’s new book — Sometimes a book just doesn’t live up to the hype. Our panellists share their unpopular opinions about books they feel have been praised without actually being worthy. Are we missing something, or are some popular books just bad? — with Jukka Halme, Stefan Högberg, John-Henri Holmberg & Gunilla Rydbeck.
Saturday, 10 June 2023: 12:00 CST
Families of the future — The nuclear family is a relatively recent invention. Going into the future, families may be something very different. In science fiction there are many descriptions of unconventional family structures. How do we imagine the families of the future today? How have these been explored within the SF genre? — with Saga Bolund, Eva Holmquist, Jane Mondrup & Nina Niskanen.
The full programme schedule can be found here.
Yes folks, it is another Academia Lunare project. This one is called Follow Me: Religion in Fantasy and Science Fiction. I have an essay in it about queer gods. There’s lots of other excellent content too. For full details and to pre-order, click here.