I’m on my way to Toronto on business, and to see Kevin who is there for SMOFcon. While I’m traveling, you can feast your eyes on the above. Lyda has the final draft for proofing, so I expect it to go into the store soon after I get back.
Yeah, it is December. Time to drag the old tree out of storage, stock up on mince pies, and read a few sentimental stories. You know what my favorite is: Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol, by Liz Hand. Now it turns out that there is a special e-book edition being released this year. Here’s why.
One of the characters in the story is an autistic boy called Peter. Kids like that need very special teachers, and one such person was Anne Marie Murphy who went to school Liz’s younger sister. I say “was”, because Ms. Murphy was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. So Liz has produced an ebook edition of the book, and all of the proceeds from it are being donated to the charity, Autism Speaks.
Nice move, Liz. I hope it sells well.
We do. And patriotism too, apparently. Specifically we have Sunshine Patriots, a 15th anniversary edition of Bill Campbell’s satirical military SF novel. Just click on through and look at some of the reviews it got when it first came out. And only £1.90 as well.
Alisa Krasnostein has sent me another new novel, and this one looks very interesting. Trucksong is set in post-apocalyptic Australia, and might be described as like Mad Max were is not for the fact that the bad guys are not human, they are giant cyborg trucks. The book also comes with a free alternate version written in a dialect invented for the novel (shades of Feersum Endjinn, though of course Banks didn’t invent that dialect) and background music composed and performed by the author. This sounds totally the sort of thing that small presses are there to bring to market. Nice job, Alisa.
I have added three more books from Muse It Up Publishing to the bookstore. Once again they are very different.
Wucaii by Pembroke Sinclair appears to be an urban fantasy romance set on another planet with a heroine who is half-dragon, which certainly stretches the boundaries of that genre. Lovely cover too.
Quest of the Hart by Mary Waibel is a YA fantasy romance about a spoiled princess who has to take up adventuring the rescue the prince she wants to marry.
And finally Seventh Grade Alien Hero by K.L. Pickett is a middle school book about a young boy who dreams of meeting an alien, and who finds out that reality can be scarier than dreams.
Last night’s book club meeting went very well. Everyone was pleased to have read Vurt, even if some of them were occasionally grossed out or confused by it. Like any book, it is an artifact of its time, and in the case of Vurt it seems to have an amazing vision of the future, as seen from 1993, and to have some social attitudes that are firmly rooted in the 1960s and ’70s. If it were published now I am sure that it would very soon have a small army of feminist bloggers jumping up and down on its head.
Re-reading the book, I found two things of significant interest. The first is that it is an almost perfect example of genre-blending. It reads just like a science fiction novel, but the internal logic is entirely magical. Nothing about the Vurt makes any sense scientifically, yet it is presented as if it is actual technology.
In addition Vurt illustrates very clearly just how glamorized most cyberpunk is. Traditional cyberpunk is all about gleaning chrome, black leather and mirror shades. The mean streets of Manchester are all about broken glass, dog shit and abusive relationships.
The re-read also got me wondering about the possible relationship between Vurt‘s Shadowcops and the Shadow Operators from Mike Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract series.
One area that the book club members focused on is disconnect between the cyberpunk style of the book and the Manchester setting. The characters tend to talk like they are in an American TV drama. I’m wondering how much of that was a conscious artistic decision by Noon, and how much was an attempt to appeal to the SF market.
We also got into a long discussion about the abusive relationships in Scribble & Desdemona’s family, how Scribble repeats those relationships after leaving home, and the meaning of the Thing as a Hobart-equivalent swap for Desdemona. Which just goes to show that top-rated SF can be very much about characters.
Yeah, I know, I have been quiet. I have a huge amount of stuff to do before I head off to Canada to see Kevin (and possibly attend SMOFcon, though that’s a very minor attraction in comparison). Progress is being made, sort of.
Anyway, today I am off to Bath for the next meeting of The Emporium Strikes Back, the Mr B’s science fiction book club. Today we will be discussing Vurt, which I have just had the pleasure of re-reading. I will be fascinated to see what the rest of the group has made of it.
Also it is my turn to suggest books for the next meeting. I have been asked to pick three. Naturally they are all science fiction books by women with some sort of feminist element to them. I’ll tell you tomorrow which ones they were, and which one the group finally chose. In the meantime you can amuse yourselves by trying to guess which three I picked.
A couple of things irritated me greatly during the Trans Day of Remembrance. Firstly we had supposed feminists telling trans women to quit all the depressing stuff about people being murdered. Like, who cares, right? And even if they did it was hardly as important as trans people being mean to celebrities on Twitter. On the other hand we had LGBT people in the UK saying that TDOR wasn’t important here because all the people who get killed live in other countries.
The points I kept making are that there is a reason that around 99% of the trans people who get murdered identify as female, and there is a reason why the vast majority of the victims are people of color. There is misogyny involved, and racism. Being a trans woman of color puts you very near the bottom of the tree, but it is a tree whose branches reach out and touch us all.
Now it so happens that today in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. That means we get to look at cis women who get killed. There are a lot more of them than trans women, so the numbers are much higher. I understand that in the past year 88 women in the UK have been killed by their male partners.
Violence against women. It happens. And violence against trans women is part of that.
Talking of which, Pink News reports that a trans woman was found dead in her home in Worthing just three days after TDOR. The police are treating it as murder.
Last night Channel 4 screened an archaeology documentary claiming to have found the true location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Although Greek sources say that the Gardens were in Babylon, and were built by Nebuchadnezzar, no trace of them has ever been found, either on the ground or in documents left by the very efficient Babylonian state bureaucracy.
The program suggests that the gardens were in fact elsewhere in the area covered by the historical Babylonian empire. Specifically they were at Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, and they were built by Sennacherib, one of the greatest Assyrian kings. Evidence is provided in the form of an actual canal network built to supply water to the city, and a carving in the British Museum that appears to show an ornate garden. There is also a cuneiform inscription stating that Sennacherib built a large and ornate garden adjoining his palace.
As a Mesopotamian history geek, this is very exciting to me. But just as exciting is that once again we’ve got a highly publicized broadcast TV program fronted by a lady academic who appears well past the age at which women are usually chuckled off TV for not being pretty enough. So congratulations Stephanie Dalley on a great piece of historical detective work, and on overcoming British TV’s notorious age and gender biases.
Of course this is all to the greater glory of Ishtar, and one in the eye for the perfidious Babylonians. Huzzah!
UK readers should be able to watch the program here. Those of you in the rest of the world will probably find the video blocked, but there is a long article about the discovery in The Independent which contains a lot more scholarship than the TV producer felt comfortable with including. There is also a book, which I am definitely buying.
One of the things that people who rant about lack of diversity at conventions often miss is that attendance at conventions is not cheap. It is necessarily not cheap, because you have to hire the venue. But the fact that it is not cheap means that those sections of society with less money will be less well represented amongst the membership. To get a more diverse membership, therefore, you have to find a way to help those in financial hardship to attend.
That is exactly what this year’s NASFiC, Detcon 1, is doing. The convention is being held in Detroit, a place famously down on its luck right now. As they note:
The city of Detroit has some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the entire country. It is also over 80% African-American.
So the convention committee has launched an appeal for funds to help local fans attend the event. Each $55 donated means one free membership for a local fan. And the committee has pledged to match donations up to a total of $550.
Further details, including instructions on how to donate, and how to apply for one of the free memberships, are available here.