Hello, American friends, I miss you.
However, in the grand tradition of today’s festival, I am watching NFL on TV, and I am thinking about what I am thankful for.
The list is pretty short, because the latter part of this year has been spectacularly shit. I am, however, still alive, still healthy, and Kevin still loves me. I try to remember these things in amongst all of the family drama, fannish drama, VAT rule changes and other things that are keeping me awake at night.
Short term, however, I am particularly grateful for one thing: I have a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy on Blu Ray, and I am going to watch it tonight. It is, I suspect, pure escapism, but it is funny, and has a kick-ass sound track. It also has Rocket, and Groot. That’s just what I need right now.
Yesterday evening I attended a meeting of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club run by Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. The book under discussion was Ann Leckie’s multi-award-winning Ancillary Justice. I had recommended it to the group months ago, but they chose to go with another of my choice’s — Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass — instead. Now, with all of those awards behind it, Ancillary Justice was back on the menu.
I’m delighted to report that everyone at the group was pleased that they had read the book. Some, inevitably, had had difficulty getting into it. The lack of information about characters’ gender is hard to get used to if you have grown up in a society that uses gendered pronouns. Most people who read the book, including me, start out by trying to guess what gender the characters are. Eventually most people relax into the story and stop doing that. The few bad reviews that the book has had appear to be have mostly been written by people who were unable to do that.
One thing that did interest me is that a few of the group, presumably quite subconsciously, constantly referred to the characters as “he”, despite everyone in the book being referred to as “she”. These people were all women. It just goes to show how deeply ingrained the default-to-masculine idea is.
The only major complaint raised was about The Gun (you’ll know what that means if you have read the book, and I’ll try not to give too much spoiler if you haven’t). Basically The Gun is a piece of alien technology so advanced that no one in the Radsch (the human space empire) can understand how it works. Most of us were OK with that, but for one person who likes his SF neatly explained it was an unwelcome intrusion of magical technology.
Ancillary Sword is now available, and I think most of the group are going to buy it and read it. However, before then we have the January meeting coming up, and the chosen book for that is Mythago Wood. I’m really looking forward to reading it again. And we’ll all be buying the brand new 30th anniversary edition, complete with Neil Gaiman’s new introduction.
Yesterday evening I headed into Bath to see William Gibson at Toppings. It was a very interesting evening, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading The Peripheral. Unfortunately it is also Locus Recommended Reading List season, and as anything by Bill is going to be on the list by default I really need to think diversity and read other books first.
Still, some of you will be interested to know what The Peripheral is like, so here as a few comments. The most important thing to note is that, unlike the Blue Ant series, this book is set in the future. The real future, not an unevenly distributed present. It includes smart phone systems that are embedded in the body, and distributed rather than being a single lump of tech. The other thing I got from the reading is that it is going to be quite funny. Here are a couple of quotes:
You’re a publicist, she’s a celebrity. That’s interspecies.
She smiled, displaying teeth whose placement might well have been decided by a committee.
Bill is still clearly very much interested in PR, but he appears to be taking a lighter and more sarcastic view of the whole thing, at least from the bits of the book I heard.
There was also a Q&A session. I asked him a follow-on question from the Start the Week show he did on Tuesday. He talked about how he expected that people from around the time of The Peripheral will look back on our era with as much disgust as we look back on the Victorians. Asking him what about us might seem so disgusting in the wake of the Ferguson verdict was, of course, a no-brainer, but I asked him anyway and he gave exactly the sort of answer I was hoping for. He said that, given much of what disgusts us about the Victorians are things they were very proud of, what will disgust future humanity about our era won’t just be things like destroying the environment, it will also be some of the things that we do that we think are wonderful.
On the subject of social media, Bill said he expected it to fade away as we become more connected, presumably because we’ll always be able to check in on what each other is doing, rather than needing a platform to do so. I’m less convinced about that, because the whole point of things like Facebook is to create a walled garden that users think is the entire internet. That people buy into this, despite the far greater risks, suggests that we’ll always be prey to such marketing ploys.
Another really interesting answer he gave was in response to a question about AIs. This is what he said:
Our idea of artificial intelligence may turn out to be like the flying cars of the 1940s
Science fiction authors, please take note.
Finally, Bill was asked if The Peripheral was going to be the first book of a trilogy. He said he hoped not, and in particular he hoped that it would not become one of those works of art whose value was diminished by its sequels. Yes, he was talking about The Matrix. Sorry Lana.
I’m a bit behind on this due to having been focusing on other things for the past few months, but I have just caught up on a change to VAT legislation that looks like being an absolute nightmare for anyone running a small press (and indeed anyone who sells digital products).
As you may know, the whole situation with VAT on ebooks is crazy. Although the rate for paper books is zero in the UK, the rate for ebooks is 20%. The avoid this, Amazon Europe has incorporated in Luxembourg, where the rate is only 3%. This gives them a significant advantage over UK-based rivals. Other large ebook platforms do the same thing.
The powers that be in Europe have, for some time, been trying to find a way to close this loophole. The obvious thing to do would be to have a common VAT rate across the EU, but of course there’s no way that individual countries will ever agree on what it should be. So instead they have created a bureaucratic nightmare.
From January 1st, the way that VAT is levied in Europe will change. Instead of companies having to charge VAT at their local rate, they have to charge VAT at the customer’s local rate. This is called the Place of Supply rule. This means that anyone selling digital products in Europe has to register for VAT in every country, charge VAT on each sale according to the local rate, and account for all of this on a quarterly basis.
Normally this would not matter too much, because it would only affect big companies. The UK has a healthy and very sensible turnover threshold below which you do not have to register for VAT. I have never bothered for my consultancy business. I’d probably save money doing it, as I’d be able to claim VAT back on purchases, but the time involved in filing VAT returns, and the near certainty of being investigated by VAT officers who won’t believe that my clients are primarily in the USA, make it not worth my while.
Except that the new rules coming in next year have a turnover threshold of zero for digital products. Yes, that’s right. If all you do is sell one ebook, or a few knitting patterns on Etsy, or a little app you made for fun, you are required to register for VAT and file VAT returns once a quarter. Even if the tax involved is only pennies.
Because I am coming to this rather late, I don’t have a good handle on all of the implications. For example, if you sell through Amazon, it may be that what you have is a Business-to-Business relationship with a Luxembourg company rather than a Business-to-Customer relationship with each person who buys your book. My little bookstore, however, would have to start charging VAT and accounting for where customers lived. I’m also pretty sure that a crowd-funding campaign would count as Business-to-Customer.
The implications for any small company selling digital products are so horrendous that the Head of Tax at the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England & Wales) has apparently suggested that small businesses stop selling in Europe to avoid all of this mess. Except, how can you? The digital world is global by nature. The better-written platforms, such as Amazon, will at least allow you to block sales via their EU-based sites. However, there’s nothing to stop someone in, say, Finland, buying one of my books via Amazon US, or Amazon UK. If they did, I may be legally obliged to account for that, and Amazon’s systems don’t give me enough information to do that.
Right now I am desperately trying to get some tax advice as to what I can and cannot do. However, because the vast majority of people affected by this are so small that they have never registered for VAT, and probably don’t make enough to afford an accountant, finding someone able to give good advice may be quite hard.
There is a petition on change.org asking the Secretary of State for Business to provide some sort of threshold below which registration will not be required. Please sign. However, from what I have read I’m not convinced that he can do that without withdrawing from the system altogether.
There is also a plan for a Twitter campaign tomorrow morning (UK time) to try to make the government aware just how many small businesses are going to be wrecked by this legislation. Details are here. All support will be gratefully received. If you don’t have time to follow the link, please at least look out for anything containing the hashtags #VATMOSS and #VATMESS, and retweet like crazy.
Somehow I will find a way for Wizard’s Tower to stay in business in some form next year. But right now I have no idea how.
The Lord Mayor of Bristol, the Rt. Hon. Councillor Alastair Watson raises the transgender flag outside City Hall to mark the Trans Day of Remembrance.
This is the first ever civic event in Bristol organized for trans people. The event was organized by the Rainbow Group, the City Council’s LGBT staff network.
I’m in the picture because I was doing audio recording for Shout Out Radio. The video was taken by Michelle Hine.
Also in shot is the Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Sarah Watson. In the background in the orange coat is Danielle Radice, the Leader of the Green Party on Bristol City Council.
Our TDOR Remembrance Ceremony took place last night. It was attended by 28 people, most of whom were trans, and at least three of whom were people of color. (I say “at least” because I don’t know how everyone identifies.) Inevitably it was a solemn affair, but we did also have a constructive discussion about progressing trans rights in Bristol afterwards.
Thanks are due to the Rainbow Group, the City Council’s LGBT staff network, who provided the money to hire the venue, and to Sarah and her colleagues from LGBT Bristol who provided the refreshments & flowers and did most of the work.
My apologies to Jamie and the rest of the Bristol University group for missing their event. Lots of people wanted to talk to me after the ceremony, and I needed to stay and listen to them.
The discussion, perhaps inevitably, focused primarily on health issues. There is a huge amount of anger amongst the UK trans community at how badly we are treated by the NHS, and how specialist gender services appear to be getting steadily worse. Sadly there is not a huge amount that the City Council, and bodies funded by it, can do about this. However, there are other things that can be moved forward, and hopefully I’ll have more news in a few weeks.
Well that went very well. We had a large group of people at City Hall to witness the raising of the Transgender Flag. Many of them were trans. There were also lots of allies, including the Rainbow Group, the Council’s LGBT staff network, who had organized the event; Simon Nelson, who I had on the radio yesterday; Out Stories Bristol, witnessing the historic event; Bristol University LGBT+, who ran such an awesome trans awareness campaign on Twitter this week; Bristol Pride; and LGBT Bristol.
The flag was raised by the Lord Mayor of Bristol, the Rt. Hon. Councillor Alastair Watson (who is a Conservative).
Some of the very many people in attendance are pictured below.
I was interviewed by Edward from Made in Bristol TV. I have no idea when/if that will air, but it was great to have them there. I just wish we’d had someone more photogenic lined up to talk.
Also I have edited a clip from the Lord Mayor’s speech for broadcast on Shout Out tonight. My guess is that it will go in the news section at the front of the show. I’m pleased about that because the Council folks cribbed much of the speech from the press release material I had written for them.
This evening we have two remembrance ceremonies: one in the city, and one later at Bristol University. I am reading The List at the first one, and hope to attend the second. There will also be people from LGBT Bristol and the Council on hand to engage with the trans community and hopefully take forward some of the issues that Simon and I discussed yesterday.
Today’s Women’s Outlook started quietly enough. In the studio for the first half hour was Jo Keeling who, amongst other things, is the founder of Ernest Journal, a magazine dedicated to a slow and considered lifestyle, and made in a way consistent with that lifestyle. You’ve seen me talk about slow food here before, and this is a publishing version thereof. Unsurprisingly, Jo and I bonded very quickly.
After that things got much more serious. I was joined in the studio by Simon Nelson, the Equality Officer of the City Council. We discussed the Trans Day of Remembrance, and how the City Council can do more for its trans citizens. I’m hoping that a lot of good will come out of what Simon and I started today.
You can find the first hour of the show on Listen Again here.
That was me done for the day, but Paulette then took over and the second hour was given over to two guests from the Terrence Higgins Trust to talk about HIV. Paulette and Judeline bravely volunteered to get tested to prove that it is a) painless and b) very quick. I’m pleased to report that they are both free of HIV.
You can listen to the second hour of the show here.
This week’s show has been a bit of a nightmare behind the scenes, as sometimes happens with live radio. I’d like to apologize particularly to Mike Allwood of BCP Expo who in the end didn’t make it onto the show. If you are in Bristol, Mike’s event is well worth checking out. Jo Hall will be there selling her books and mine.
I woke up this morning to find Kate Elliott on Twitter saying that she was old because she remembered the early days of MTV.
I am SO OLD that my then-fiance & I used to go to a frozen yoghurt store that showed MTV so we could watch music videos. (no cable at home)
— Kate Elliott (@KateElliottSFF) November 16, 2014
Well, of course, some of us are SO OLD that we remember the days before MTV. But that doesn’t mean that music video didn’t exist. Kate’s post sent me down a rabbit hole of researching the history of the music video, hence this post. It will contain a lot of embeds so for the sake of those who scroll down my home page I’m putting them all behind a cut.
It is a fairly depressing day online: people’s parents dying, cats dying and so on. To cheer myself up I thought I’d post some nice book covers. This is one for a book you can get now, because it was launched on Wednesday. It is Resurrections, the third volume in Roz Kaveney’s Rhapsody of Blood series. I’m reading the book at the moment. Roz is a very, very naughty National Treasure. Then again, us Trans girls are all going to burn in Hell for All Eternity anyway, so we might as well have a bit of fun before we go.
Oh, and Roz, I think the world needs more details on centaur sex…