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New Juliet McKenna Short Story

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

Juliet has published a new short story on her blog. “Rocks and Shoals” is the third in a series of stories branching off from the events of the Aldabreshin Compass series. To read it, and the others in the series, click here.

Girls Can’t Code

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

Many thanks to the Girls Who Code movement for this hilarious video parodying the excuses given for not employing women as programmers.

In my case it is even harder. I suffer from autogynephilia, so not only do my boobs get in the way of my seeing the screen and keyboard, but the mere sight of them keeps me in a constant state of sexual arousal. It is very distracting.

Some Sportsball Congratulations

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

Or, in the first case, sportspuck. Huge congratulations to the San José Sharks for making it to the Stanley Cup final. It has been a long time since I have been to the Shark Tank, but I haven’t forgotten. Go get ’em, boys!

https://twitter.com/SanJoseSharks/status/735710109356064768

Also congratulations to Bristol Rugby on finally making it back to the Premiership. Of course this means that you will be up against the Mighty Bath, but that’s only two games a year you’ll lose, right?

Sophie Walker in Bath

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

The other event in Bath this evening was a visit from Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party (and recent candidate for Mayor of London). I may have more to say about this tomorrow when I have a bit more time and can talk in detail about how WEP works as a party. For now all I want to say is that Olly and I were impressed. (We had sent Ceri home because she’s sick.)

The bottom line is that WEP knows it has to appeal to a broad audience to succeed. It can’t be a major force in UK politics if it only appeals to cis straight white able-bodied middle class women. Olly and I talked to Sophie and Halla, her chief policy advisor, about trans issues, and it is clear that they are on board. What they need to do, and presumably need help with, is to reassure the many rank and file members, and prospective members, who have been taken in by the appalling lies spread by Sarah Ditum and her ilk. That, I am sure, can be done.

In the meantime there is lots of important work to be done, particularly with respect to the e-Quality campaign. I spent part of the evening plotting with Jess from the Bristol branch. Expect a special radio show later this year.

I should note that no political party is perfect. WEP’s policy on sex work is, IMHO, absolutely wrong. But Sophie knows this is a contentious issue. As with the trans thing, there is education to be done. Unlike the trans thing, I’m not best placed to do it. (Looking at you, Brooke.)

Oh, and there was talk of a WEP football team. Not involving me, I hasten to add.

Come Into My Parlour, Said the Mayor

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

This evening I was in Bath for two events. The first was in the Guildhall. There were no fairies, but there was a mayor.

Will Sandry is the 788th Mayor of Bath, and as far as I know the first openly gay one. He has been an excellent friend to the Bath Gender Equality Network over his year in office, and today he invited Ceri and the gang for drinks in the Mayoral Parlour, a room full of bling and history used by mayors for entertaining visiting dignitaries. Thus it was that a bunch of mouthy feminists (many of them trans people), and one young unicorn got to tread in the footsteps of various kings and queens, Baden Powell, Winston Churchill, Emperor Haile Selasie and most recently the Chinese Ambassador. We all behaved ourselves, more or less. There are some pictures on the BGEN Facebook page, but I’m not sure if all of them are public.

The room is a Victorian extension to the Guildhall, so Jane Austen would not have been there.

Huge thanks to Will for inviting us. When I get a chance I’ll process my photos of the bling and history. They have charters signed by Richard I and Elizabeth I, over £1million worth of gold bling, and a nice big sword. It is quite impressive.

Pete Newman Interview

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

The Vagrant - Pete Newman

I am continuing to sort through my archives of author interviews and publish stuff that is still relevant. The following interview with Pete Newman took place on Ujima in May 2015. Pete and I talk mainly about The Vagrant, which has just been released in paperback. The sequel, The Malice, is also new out in hardcover. We spend a lot of time talking about demons, babies and goats.

As is fairly inevitable, there are a few things in the discussion that are dated — primarily where we talk about Tea and Jeopardy being a Hugo finalist. However, most of the discussion is still very relevant. Also Emma’s Planetfall is now out, and it is wonderful.

Next week the May 4th show will have fallen off the Listen Again system at Ujima so I will be able to bring you the full rambling glory of the Guy Gavriel Kay interview.

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Writing Class Scholarships

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

Cat Rambo runs excellent online writing courses (I can say that because I have taken one). However, being a professional writer, she does need to charge for them. This can be a problem for the more disadvantaged parts of the community. I am therefore delighted to see that going forward each class will have one slot available for free to someone who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Full details as to how to apply, and an explanation as to why Cat decided to call these things Plunkett scholarships, are available on Cat’s blog. I see that she says that applications from QUILTBAG folk and People of Color are particularly welcome. A special shout out is due to Keffy who inspired the whole thing.

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SHIELD and Puppies

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

I was watching the latest (for the UK) episode of Agents of SHIELD last night. This was one featuring a group of inhuman-hating bigoted thugs who call themselves The Watchdogs. I noticed that everyone kept referring to them as “Puppies”. This has to be a coincidence, right? I mean, why would anyone writing a science fiction show associate the idea of puppies with spreading hatred?

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WEP’s e-Quality Campaign

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

I have email from the Women’s Equality Party. Tomorrow they are launching a new campaign called e-Quality. It is aimed at tackling the issue of harassment and bullying of women online which, unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years, you will know has become a major issue.

It’s not just fanboy tantrums over girl gamers or the all-women Ghostbusters movie we are talking about here. As this Telegraph article points out, girls as young as 11 are becoming victims of revenge porn attacks. Any woman who pokes her nose above the parapet is deemed fair game. I have no idea how people like Brianna Wu and Laurie Penny cope with the level of shit directed at them on a daily basis.

Wisely, in my view (and I’ve been saying this on the radio show for some time), WEP is making a core part of its platform a demand for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. This is something that was proposed earlier this year, with the backing of both the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, but was vetoed by the Prime Minister. The work that groups like TIGER do in Bristol is invaluable, but right now schools can just ignore such issues and let me media do all of that side of kids’ education.

Personally I think that the campaign should also target social media companies, particularly Facebook. It is becoming increasingly obvious that their “community standards” are being enforced by people who are misogynistic and transphobic. That may not be company policy, but it happens and you have to create a huge stink to get anything done about it.

While this is a specifically UK campaign, it isn’t a UK-only issue. This morning I saw an article from another SF-writing journalist, Kate Heartfield from Canada. She too was wrestling with the issue of the need to tackle certain issues as women, not as members of a political party, a position that WEP has to spend a lot of time defending.

There will be an online thing happening tomorrow morning with the hashtag #CtrlAltDelete. I shall be interested to see how that goes, and how much trolling it attracts. As Sophie Walker, the WEP party leader, will be in Bath on Wednesday evening, I should be able to get an up-to-date report on how things went.

The Age of Apocalypse is 10-Year-Old Cheryl

Originally published at Cheryl's Mewsings. Please leave any comments there.

Scott & Jean
So, I have seen the new X-Men film, and I absolutely loved it. This does not mean that you will. Bear with me a moment, please. I will try to make this as spoiler free as possible.

As anyone who has seen the previous films in this Bryan Singer series will know, each one is being set 10 years apart, and much of the X-Men chronology has been thrown up in the air. The primary constants of the series are Charles, Hank, Eric and Raven. This film is set in the 1980s and introduces Jean and Scott, along with Kurt, Warren and Ororo, all as teenage additions to the team. Of course the original series had a much more traditional X-Men team in it, but that series went downhill rapidly as even Singer acknowledges in this film. This film was a chance for redemption, and Singer has grasped it with both hands.

The jumbled chronology has set up some odd effects. Having been seen on television facing down Magneto in Days of Future Past, Mystique has become a hero to young mutants all over the world such as Ororo Munroe growing up in Cairo, and Kurt Wagner in Berlin. This is probably the last thing that Raven wants. Eric is trying his best to hide away from everything and lead a normal life. Meanwhile Charles and Hank have the school up running again, and are recruiting new students, the most powerful of whom is this girl with red hair.

Sophie Turner does an OK job as Jean. It isn’t her fault that when I look at her I only see Sansa Stark. She doesn’t look any more like Jean than Famke Janssen did, and neither of them has captured Jean’s personality. However, the story is there; all Singer & co have to do is tell it, and that they do very well.

I totally accept that if you haven’t grown up on X-Men and don’t have a huge emotional investment in the characters the way I have then you may get a bit bored by the long and somewhat silly plot involving some guy called Apocalypse. That wasn’t what kept me watching, often in tears, and at one point in serious danger of sobbing out loud, which I have never done in a cinema before. That was one of the defining mythologies of my childhood being played out right there on the big screen.

There were dodgy things, of course. There was rather a lot of fridging, which I do wish screenwriters would learn to do without. Scott and Alex being brothers doesn’t make much sense if Scott is a teenager now and Alex was one back in the ’60s. We can’t have Wanda because she’s in the Avengers universe, and Quicksilver’s name is Pietro, not Peter.

There is one thing, of course, that I am very sad about. But then nothing is perfect.

On the other hand, there was good stuff. I loved the scene where Scott, Jean and Jubilee take Kurt to see Return of the Jedi (and no one bats an eye at the teenager with blue skin because those kids are obviously science fiction fans). There are probably more brown-skinned Egyptians in the introduction than in the whole of Gods of Egypt. Alexandra Shipp is delightful as the young Ororo, as is Lana Condor as a very young Jubilee. As you have probably heard, Weapon-X makes a brief and bloody appearance. The Quicksilver time freeze sequences are as much fun as ever, if even more improbable.

There’s an awful lot of new X-Men material in production. Fox appears to be determined to turn the X-Men into as massive a franchise for themselves as the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is for Disney. Eventually this has to be bad, because Claremont happens and we all know that things will go to shit in the end. But maybe there will be a few more movies before that happens. Also, of course, Singer hinted at the end of Days of Future Past that the universe in which the first three films existed (and Patrick Stewart is the Professor) had changed, and that possibly the events of Last Stand would not happen. If he’s prepared to do that, maybe he can make changes here too. After all, Emma is already dead in Singer’s universe. Who knows what might happen?