My friend Beth Gwinn, who has been the main photographer for Locus for as long as I can remember, has a Kickstarter campaign going to fund production of a book of her photographs of science fiction and fantasy writers. The above photo of Neil Gaiman is a sample of her work. I used that photo because one of the rewards available is that Neil will be signing 3 copies of a previously un-published print of him. Beth is a great photographer. I do hope this gets off the ground. More more information, see the Kickstarter page.
People have been starting to ask me which conventions I will be at during August, so I thought that a post would be useful.
I won’t be at Nine Worlds. I have to get work done some time, and there’s a limit to the number of conventions I can afford.
I will be in London during Worldcon. I won’t be on any panels, and I’m not planning on spending much time actually at the convention. This is mainly a case of self-care. However, I do want to catch up with as many visiting friends as possible, so if you fancy getting together for a coffee or something please let me know.
I will be at Eurocon in Dublin, and I’m hoping to be on program. I have to leave on Sunday because of an event in Bristol on Monday, but the flight is very late so I should be there for all of the official stuff except the Porterhouse.
I have hotel rooms booked for both events. In both cases these have double beds but they might be switchable to twins. Let me know if you are looking for somewhere to stay.
Also Kevin has a membership for Dublin that he won’t be able to use. If you are looking for one cheap, get in touch.
I have one accommodation issue outstanding. Every year I have to get declared sane by a gender specialist in London (otherwise they’ll stop my hormones, which will drive me crazy). I have an appointment for the Tuesday after Worldcon, but no hotel booking for Monday night. If anyone can put me up for that one night I’d be very grateful.
Yesterday Juliet McKenna put up a long post looking at the issue of how SF&F books are promoted by Waterstones. She has had some friends doing a survey of stores around the country. It looks like there is some pretty good evidence that the feature tables for SF&F are biased in favor of male authors. This is one of the issues we discussed at the Women & Publishing panel at Finncon, where I noted that the last time I was in the Bristol store the counts were 5/35 for fantasy, and 0/35 for SF. If you assumed that the store staff thought Robin Hobb was a man, the fantasy count would change to 3/35.
Juliet makes some excellent points about how Waterstones are hurting their own sales by this behavior. There are plenty of women who read SF&F. Indeed, as another data point, the majority of members of The Emporium Strikes Back, the SF&F book club at Mr. B’s, are women. But why is the effect Juliet notes happening, and what can be done?
Obviously lack of knowledge by buyers and store staff is a contributing issue. Heck, the SF&F table at my local store has disappeared completely since we’ve had a change in management. But even when there is knowledge it doesn’t always filter through. Last year, when Juliet first started making a fuss about this issue, my local manager wrote to head office asking why she was given so few women SF&F books to stock. The buyer wrote back enthusing about something called Ancillary Justice that they expected to be a big seller. And yet, when it came out, my local store wasn’t sent any copies, and the book still isn’t getting pushed much in any store I have seen despite the heap of award wins.
Then of course there is the whole issue of publishers, the editorial staff of whom appear to be mostly female. Yet they too appear to mostly push SF&F by male writers at the expense of women. At Finncon Elizabeth Bear noted that she found UK publishers much more hostile to women SF writers than in the USA.
With all this in mind, I found this article on Mashable very interesting. It reports on an academic study of middle managers in large US corporations, and looked at how those managers’ performance was rated on the basis of their hiring choices. As a back-up, the study was replicated as an experiment using college students role-playing the senior management, and this produced similar results.
What the study found is that, although the corporations has policies advocating diversity, and although white male managers were praised for making diverse hires, female managers and PoC managers were given negative performance evaluations if they recruited people like them.
This appears to be telling us two things. Firstly prejudice is probably much more ingrained and subconscious than we like to think. And secondly women and PoC who are in a position to improve diversity within in their organizations are likely to damage their careers if they do so. No wonder this stuff is so hard to shift.
Since I have got back from Finland pretty much all I have wanted to do is sleep. However, it has just penetrating my fogged brain that there will be a BristolCon Fringe event on Monday, which I guess I must be hosting.
The two readers are Andy Goodman & Kenneth Peter Shin. Ken has a story in Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, which he read at Fringe a while back. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. I don’t know anything about Andy, so I guess I’d better do some sleuthing before Monday evening.
Anyway, I hope to see some of you there. Also we’ll be trialing the new amp that Jo has bought, which hopefully means much better quality recordings.
As promised, I have posted the LGBT Reading Lists that Suzanne Van Rooyen and I produced for the panel at Finncon. You can find them here.
My apologies to everyone I have left out. I’m sure that there are lots of other fine books and authors we could have recommended.
So, yeah, popular vote stuff. Probably mainly an excuse for big corporations to advertise their support for diversity without actually having to practice it, and for celebrities to charge for their endorsement. And of course the awards will go to those people and organizations that work hardest on social media to get the vote out. But that’s a game anyone can play and as I have stupidly large numbers of “friends” and “followers” I should do my bit for organizations that are important to me.
In particular I’d like you to endorse the nominations of Ujima Radio and Bristol Pride. Ujima absolutely deserves it. I mean, how many other minority-ethnic community radio stations are going to let a trans woman talk to science fiction writers on their main women’s interest programme? And Bristol Pride needs your help. It is a great show, it is genuinely trans-inclusive, it got voted the second-best Pride in the UK last year, and yet the City Council has voted to withdraw all funding for next year. Here are the links:
All you have to do is given them an email address they can verify. There doesn’t seem to be any requirement for voters to be UK-based.
What I should have been doing yesterday was sleeping. What I actually did was host a 2-hour radio show on climate change and green power issues.
We started out with a pre-recorded interview with Tobias Buckell whose new novel, Hurricane Fever, is just out (and is a lot of fun). I have a longer version of the interview that I’ll be posting on Salon Futura in due course. The reason I had Tobias on the show was that his latest books talk a lot about the effect of climate change on the planet, and in particular on the Caribbean.
Next up were Tasha & Tin from the Avon Coalition Against Big Biofuels. This was mainly a discussion about how all biomass is not equal. Chopping down rain forests in South-East Asia and transporting the wood to the UK to be burned is not, by any stretch of the imagination, green.
You can listen to the first hour here.
At 1:00pm we were joined by Steve Norman who is part of a group protesting about existing activities at Avonmouth. Any wonder what happened to your household refuse? If you happen to live in the South-West of England much of it got baled up and stored at Avonmouth docks waiting to be shipped to Scandinavia for incineration. The local seagulls got rather excited about this, and once the bales had been pecked open the local flies took an interest and started breeding. It got so unpleasant event the Prime Minister was moved to comment. And as there are not enough incinerators in the UK to cope, the stuff is now going into landfill again.
This is, of course, a complicated issue. Ideally we’d throw away less refuse, but recycling facilities in the UK are dreadful and the amount of packaging on things we buy keeps going up. Incineration is better than landfill, but incinerating safely is challenging and companies are tempted to cut corners. Also the ash left after incineration is nasty stuff. So we end up exporting refuse to countries who are prepared to pay for proper incineration, or whose inhabitants don’t protest incinerators as loudly.
My final guest was Harriet from the Centre for Sustainable Energy because I wanted to end by talking about what we can do to help with the energy issue. The CSE does a lot of good work helping people reduce their energy use, and even generate their own. I was particularly interested in Harriet’s comments that people are much less likely to protest green power schemes (such as wind and solar farms) if they are community-owned, and supply power direct to the community, as is generally the case in Germany and Scotland, rather than being owned by multi-national corporations and feeding into the Grid, as is the case in England.
You can listen to the second half of the show here.
The music for the show was chosen by the guests, mostly by Tin. The songs were:
- Breathing Underwater – Metric
- 007, A Fantasy Bond Theme – Barray Adamson
- Green Garden – Laura Mvula
- Appletree – Erykah Badu
- Everyday Life Has Become a Health Risk – Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
- Electioneering – Exit Music feat. Morgan Heritage
- Sleeping In – Postal Service
- The First Cut is the Deepest – I-Roy
And here, just for you, Tobias, is Barray Adamson once again.
Today we traveled back to Helsinki from Jyväskylä. As usual, my Finnish friends insisted on showing me some of the best parts of their beautiful country.
The day began with breakfast with Irma at a cafe on a place called Women’s Island. I have no idea where the name came from, but the island is in part of the network of lakes and waterways that surrounds Jyväskylä. There are a couple of hydro-power stations on the island: an old one which is now a bat sanctuary, and a new one that actually provides power. There is also a large lock that we got to see in operation as a Finnish family on a boating holiday came through while we were looking around.
While we were eating a red squirrel wandered into the cafe gardens. Wisely it wasn’t going to let the very large cat get too close, but Paula managed to sneak up and get a good picture.
In the afternoon we took the scenic route back to Helsinki. The road Otto took ran along a narrow ridge between two lakes and had some magnificent views.
Back in Helsinki we checked out some of the new construction by the railway station. It is mainly offices, but several of the buildings have restaurants on the ground floor. A place called Eatos doesn’t sound very promising, but Otto had seen it recommended in the Helsinki Sanomat so we checked it out. The food was seriously good. So if you want Mexican food in Helsinki you now know where to go.
I’m flying back to London tomorrow and will be offline most of the day. Then it is back into the Ujima studio on Wednesday, for which I have an interview with Tobias Buckell.
I’m just back from the dead dog party. It is very late, so this will be brief.
Hannu’s Guest of Honor event was wonderful. He talked for about 20 minutes on the history and symbolism of spacesuits. Then he read a really lovely short story about one of the black seamstresses who hand-sewed the spacesuits for the Apollo astronauts. I very much hope that story will appear online in due course.
The Women & Publishing panel went well. Elizabeth Bear, Tanya Tynjälä & Johanna Sinisalo were all wonderful as expected (and all had very different perspectives from around the globe). I was also delighted to make the acquaintance of a rising star of Finnish fiction, Salla Simukka. She’s very smart, she’s as good as Gail Carriger when it comes to fashion, and the first book of her trilogy is out in English in August. The panel was apparently so engrossing that our program gopher forgot to watch the time and tell us when to stop.
I went straight from there to the LGBT panel. It had been put in one of the smaller programming rooms, but on the basis of similar panels at other events I expected about half a dozen people, all of whom identified as LGBT. When I got to the room I found that it was packed solid and people were being turned away, 10 minutes before the scheduled start. Suzanne van Rooyen and Markku Soikkeli helped me put together a great panel, though we really only scratched the surface of the topic. I’ve been talking to the Archipelacon programming people about doing something similar, in a bigger room, next year.
Thankfully the hall costume judging was mostly done by the time I got there, so my lack of brain cells did not cause any problems. Closing ceremonies went very smoothly, and I got a couple of hours power-napping before the dead dog, which helped me survive the evening. Now I need sleep.
I’ll be doing at least two more posts in due course. One will be the reading list from the LGBT panel. The other will be the photos from the masquerade which Joonas Puuppo has kindly sent me.
First up today was my LGBT superheroes talk. I didn’t count the audience, but it looked like at least 50 people. They laughed in all of the right places, which is good.
Then I had a panel on “likeable” characters with Rjurik Davidson, Hannu Rajaniemi & Jukka Halme. I had a bit of a rant about people who pan a book because it doesn’t have any characters that they like. We all agreed that being interesting was much more important than being liked. It was noted that M. John Harrison hasn’t written a likeable character in his life, but that doesn’t stop him being a brilliant writer. And of course one group of characters that everyone loves is the Daleks.
I got taken to lunch at the home of the best cook in Jyväskylä. I never thought that I would have got so excited over spinach soup.
In the afternoon we had the masquerade. That went well in the end, but had a major organizational problem. Against all usual practice the convention asked us to present the contest, judge and give out prizes all in the space of an hour and a half. They told me they had a half time show organized for while the judging was taking place. I pointed out that I could not host the half time show and chair the judging. Jukka Särkijärvi kindly volunteered to hold the fort for me, and I stupidly assumed that the planned entertainment would give us time to deliberate. You know what happens when you assume something, don’t you.
Poor Jukka was left hung out to dry for about 20 minutes. Thankfully something got done to help out (I have no idea what). The first thing I did when I got back was to give a prize to the guy in Cylon armor so he could go and take it off. Otherwise we would have waited until we got to the people in contention for Best in Show.
We had 15 entries this year, including one large group. I actually got to be part of one act. Marianna Leikomaa and a friend had planned to do Emma Frost and Jean Grey arguing over Cyclops. The friend could not turn up, so Kisu made use of a convenient redhead. The jury (without my knowledge) decided to award her the price of Best Use of a Prop.
Some of the entries this year were of very high quality. Petri Hiltunen and Hannele Parviala both had beautiful make-up jobs. There was the aforementioned Cylon. There was a lovely elf costume. Alex Rowland, a young fan of Scott Lynch, had an amazing dress that had around 200 hours of hand-stitching and texturing in its manufacture. However, once again it was Simo Nousiainen who blew everyone away. This year he did Geralt the Witcher from the works of Andrzej Sapkowski.
Hopefully I’ll be able to source some good photos for you over the next few days. I was far too busy to take any.
My thanks to my fabulous jury – Hannu Rajaniemi, Jukka Halme, Tanya Tynjälä and Jenny Teerikangas – to all of the wonderful contestants, and especially to Jukka Särkijärvi for keeping the audience entertained while we did the judging.
After the show we went to Harald for dinner. Hannu and I had one of the set meals that came on a large, sword-shaped skewer. It was fabulous. Bear and Scott were blown away by the wonder of tar ice cream.
In the evening we had the Guest of Honor filks. Those for Jukka and Hannu were written in Finnish, so I have no idea what they were about, but judging by the laughter they were very funny. Bear’s was good too. She will probably blog the lyrics at some point. We also celebrated Toni Jerrman’s birthday. It was a significant one of some sort. I think he might be 25. In duo-years.
That’s it for the day. Tomorrow I have two more panels, and judging for the hall costumes, followed by the dead dog. Given how tired I am, there may be a dead cat too.