Outrage Season

We have finally got the nomination statistics for the 2023 Hugos, and understandably there is a great deal of concern being expressed. Some very strange things have gone on. Believe me, I’m not happy either.

Fairly inevitably there are plenty of people who know little about how WSFS works who assume that there must be some overriding authority who could, and should, have prevented Chengdu from doing what they have done. Kevin and I try to explain, but often we are met with incredulity because it seems crazy that any organisation would work that way. I’m not happy about how WSFS works either.

What does confuse me, however, is the way that people assume utter idiocy by those involved as the only explanation. For example, Kevin and I have been beset by demands that it is our duty to find out what happened. Do people really think that we don’t want to know? And haven’t asked? I guess they do.

Stupidity is also being ascribed to the Chengdu committee. If I wanted to fix the results of the Hugos, there are two ways I would go about it. The first is that I would put out an entirely falsified set of nomination statistics. After all, the ballots will have been destroyed by now. How would anyone know that they were false?

The other option is to simply not issue the nomination statistics at all. Sure, they are supposed to, but there is no effective comeback if you don’t do it, and the outrage at them not doing so is likely to be far less than what is happening right now.

Instead they have chosen to put out a set of nomination statistics that makes it very clear that shenanigans have taken place. Maybe we should be thinking about why they did that.

February Looms

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.

Farewell Duolingo

I have cancelled my subscription to Duolingo. It has been a good run, and I think it has helped quite a bit in my efforts to learn Welsh. However, I reached the end of the Welsh course some time ago and the app isn’t teaching me much new any more. The course I’m doing through Carmarthenshire Council is now much more useful.

I was quite tempted by the music course, but it turned out to be something like a platform video game. If you don’t have the hand-eye coordination to get it right the course is a waste of time.

December Salon Futura

As I say in the editorial, this was a strange issue. For a variety of reasons most of the SF&F reading I did in December was now reviewable, but there was a bunch of other stuff that I could put in. Highlights of the December Salon Futura include:

There may be no issue in January because I still have a heap of Crawford reading to do, and work is still very busy.

Introducing Speculative Insight

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.

Festival Cheeseboard

Yesterday I shared a photo of my holiday feast cheeseboard on Mastodon. That’s reproduced above. I promised a blog post explaining what the various cheeses were, so here goes.

Right at the top is something that should be familiar to all of you. That’s Colston Bassett Stilton. It is widely available, and very good.

Bottom centre and right are two of my favorite cheeses: Gorwydd Caerphilly and Pitchfork Cheddar from Trethowan Dairy. The Trethowan brothers started making the Caerphilly on their family farm in West Wales, but with success came the need for better milk supply and they moved to Somerset. Their two signature cheeses thus reflect the dairy’s twin heritage. As I never tire of telling people, the Caerphilly has won the gold medal at the World Cheese Awards, so it can truly claim to be the best cheese in the world.

Bottom left is a British Brie: Baron Bigod from Fen Farm Dairy in Suffolk. My tasting notes from the cheesemonger say it has hints of wild mushroom. Can’t go wrong with that.

Centre left is something very squidgy. It is Eve, a goat’s cheese washed in Somerset cider brandy and wrapped in vine leaves. It is made by White Lake Cheese in Somerset. I’m not sure I want my cheese quite that liquid, but it certainly tastes good.

In the centre is my favourite discovery of the year. It is Witheridge in Hay, made by Nettlebed Creamery in Oxfordshire. The cheese is quite literally aged in a wrapping of hay. I’m not sure that it is quite as strong as mature cheddar as the website claims, but it is quite robust and very tasty.

Finally we have centre right which is Abaty Glas from Caws Penhelyg near Aberystwyth. It is a mild blue cheese which is again very tasty but inevitably suffers from being next to the Stilton. I think maybe I should have it earlier in the tasting sequence.

I should note that many of these cheese are made with rennet and/or unpasteurised milk, and may not be suitable for everyone.

Happy Solstice!

Because the universe is not neat and organised, it will not actually be the Solstice in the UK until a little into Friday. Today is Solstice day for the Americas though. Presumably similar issues apply in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer. Here, however, we shall celebrate the defeat of the Dark and look forward to the return of the Light. And tomorrow night I will have a special date with a ghost horse.

Hereabouts actual Solstice celebration is being deferred until Saturday when, with any luck, I will actually get a day off work. Which is more than I can say for next week, I suspect. But that’s being freelance for you. You take the work when you can get it.

Meanwhile, here is a card for you. As usual, it is by the very talented Dru Marland. You can buy her stuff here.

Fantasy in London and Bristol

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.

My BristolCon Schedule

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)

In a Business Meeting Far, Far Away

Worldcon is due to start in just a couple of days time. Kevin is on his way to China to keep some of the wheels of WSFS turning. Part of that, of course, involves the Business Meeting, which will have a very different flavour this year as the majority of attendees will probably be Chinese.

Chinese fandom has taken the whole thing very seriously. There are a whole load of new motions listed in the Agenda, many of which have been proposed by Chinese fans. Some of them are good ideas. For example, I’m very much in favour of adding a specific clause to note that works are eligible for the Hugos regardless of language. This has always been the case, but so many people refuse to believe it, and even firmly assert that it is not true, that we could do with some specific langauge.

It is also a good idea to have a specific rule about converting word counts into something that works in non-Western languages.

With several of the other proposals, I suspect that people will suddenly decide that the rule that changes to the WSFS Constitution must be passed by two successive Business Meetings is a good idea after all. But there is only one that I am actively worried about. That motion proposed deleting section 3.4.2 of the Constitution, which reads as follows:

3.4.2: Works originally published outside the United States of America and first published in the United States of America in the previous calendar year shall also be eligible for Hugo Awards.

The commentary on the motion reads:

The original clause reveals a tendency towards regional arrogance and a possibility of discrimination. We strongly recommend a revision to remove it, for impartiality.

I can quite see why the proposers of the motion should feel that way. It certainly seems odd that a particular part of the world is singled out in that way. It also looks like the rule favours American fans, because it gives them two opporunities to vote on a favourite book. However, that’s not what the rule is there for. The Hugo rules don’t, for the most part, care about fairness to fans. They do care about fairness to creators who might be eligible for awards.

The reason that 3.4.2 exists is because it is acknowledged that every year (possibly until now) the majority of voters in the Hugos are Americans. If a work in English is published in the USA, fine, no problem. The voters will have access to it. But if a book is published in the UK, in Australia, Nigeria, India, or any other country with a substantial English-language publishing industry, there is no guarantee that it will be published in the USA in the same year. If the book is successful in its home country, it may then be picked up by a US publisher in a later year, but by that time it will have burned its Hugo initial eligibility. No matter how much US fans like the book, they wouldn’t be able to vote for it if not for 3.4.2. And thanks to 3.4.2 it will have a much better chance of winning than it would the first time around.

No one really likes this rule. It would be much better if all books were published internationally at the same time. But that isn’t going to happen. Indeed, publishing seems to have got more insular of late, not less. So we are kind of stuck with it.

What I’m wondering is whether the same might apply to Chinese-language books. Suppose there was a science fiction small press in somewhere like Vancouver that has a large Chinese population, and it chose to publish a book in Mandarin. The book would sell very few copies in Canada, but it might be picked up by someone who took it back to China and showed it to a publishing house there, resulting in publication in China a year later. Chinese fans would find that they could not vote for it. If we are going to have a significant number of Chinese fans participating in the Hugos in years to come, the right thing to do might be to amend 3.4.2 to be about English language works published in the USA or Chinese language(s) works published in China. Longer term we might want to identify major markets for works in, for example, Spanish and Russian as well.

My hope is that, even if the motion passes in Chengdu, it will be kicked out in Glasgow. After all, Ken MacLeod is someone who has benefitted from 3.4.2. However, given the tendency of British fans to assume that the Hugos are rigged in favour of Americans, it would not surprise me to see the argument being put forward by the Chinese gain traction in the UK too. It would be ironic if a UK Worldcon did something that actively damaged the chances of UK authors winning Hugos, but it could happen.

A Cooking Thing

This morning Jo Hall posted one of those question game things to Farcebook. You are supposed to re-post it on you own page with your own answers, but as I hate posting anything to Farcebook I’m doing mine here.

I should note that it is a very American quiz. Some of the questions make no sense unless you are familar with American cuisine. This gives me a slight advantage. Here are my answers.

Kevin – if I have forgotten anything I made for you, let me know.

1. Made biscuits (it means scones) from scratch? Yes
2. Cooked fresh okra or squash? Yes
3. Made Homemade soup? Clam chowder FTW!
4. Fried chicken? Yes
5. Made spaghetti sauce from scratch? Yes and I’m doing it this evening
6. Made Homemade rolls/cinnamon rolls? No, because I’d have to eat them all immediately
7. Baked a cake from scratch? Yes
8. Made icing from scratch? Don’t think so, too much sugar
9. Cooked a pot roast with all the veggies? That’s what a slow cooker is for
10. Made chili from scratch? So many times
11. Made a meatloaf? I leave that to Jim Steinman
12. Made potato salad? Salad is not cooking
13. Made mac/cheese from scratch? Nope
14. Made any pies from scratch? Yes, but pastry is a pain
15. Made sausage from scratch? No
16. Made fudge? No
17. Made cookies from scratch? Yes
18. Cooked a pot of dried beans? Probably not, I generally use tinned
19. Cooked a pot of greens? Why a pot?
20. Made cornbread from scratch? For the chili, obviously
21. Make a pie dough from scratch? See pies
22. Cooked a whole turkey? No, I’m usually only cooking for one these days
23. Snap’d green beans & cooked them? No
24. Made mashed potatoes from scratch? Only monsters make it any other way
25. Prepared a meal for 30 plus people? Might have helped cook a Far Isles banquet
26. Made homemade tortillas? Obviously I’ve made burittos (even cooked my own carnitas), but I haven’t made the tortillas
27. Made pancakes from scratch? Yes
28. Roasted vegetables in the oven instead of boiling them? Yes
29. Made pasta from scratch? No
30. Made tamales from scratch? Dont think so (Kevin?)
31. Made tuna or chicken salad? Salad, yeuch
32. Fried Fish ? Yes
33. Made baked beans? I have made meals with beans
34. Made ice cream from scratch? Yes
35. Made jam or jelly? No
36. Zested an orange or lemon? Obviously
37. Made grits from scratch? It’s a sort of porridge, of course not
38. Made an omelet? Probably
39. Made homemade pizza? Yes unless it means have you made the dough
40. Lived in a house without a dishwasher ? Yes
41. Salt cured a whole salmon? No

The Green Man’s Quarry

Juliet and I revealed the title and cover of the next Green Man book at FantasyCon over the weekend. The reaction of people to Ben Baldwin’s magnificant art was very heartwarming.

Pre-orders for the ebook edition of The Green Man’s Quarry are now available from Kobo, Amazon and B&N. Paper pre-orders will open soon. And we will be having a book launch on the Friday night of BristolCon (October 20th). Full details are available from the Wizard’s Tower website.

My FantasyCon Schedule

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.

A Lovely Review

The July 31st issue of Strange Horizons has a review of Imagining the Celtic Past in Modern Fantasy, an academic book in which I am fortunate to have an essay. It is a very lovely review. In particular, Debbie Gascoyne says, “Sometimes reading academic works can be a slog; there was no such problem here (indeed, Cheryl Morgan’s chapter was actually in places laugh-out-loud funny).” I am very proud of that.

If the high price of the book is causing you concern, please note that we are expecting a much more reasonably-priced paperback early next year.

August in Glasgow

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.

Pemmi-Con – Day 4

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.

Pemmi-Con – Day 3

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.

Pemmi-Con – Day 2

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.