Festival Season


It’s that time of year when the festivals come thick and fast.

Over the next couple of months I will be taking part in a number of SE London events, so I thought I’d just mention them, in case you felt like coming along.

Hither Green Festival

I will be talking, with Katy Darby (fellow editor and author at Arachne Press)
about Women, Science Fiction and Fantasy
at Manor House Library 34 Old Road SE13 5SY
Friday May 18th 19:00-21:00 FREE

 

 

 

Brockley Max Festival 

I will be reading alongside my WOOA mates at Strange Brew, on Saturday 3rd June at 4pm at the Talbot Tyrwhitt Road SE4 1QG

Join us for

Strange stories including (probably) spells potions and drinking. Bring your own (story!) to read, and join in the writing relay.

 

Bellingham Festival

I am judging the children’s poetry competition! Winners will be announced on 16th June.

On 20th June I will be presenting authors from Arachne Press’ Dusk anthology, reading their contributions – stories and poems inspired by the in-between of no sun but not dark – yet.

12:00-12:45

St John’s Church on Bromley Road, opposite Homebase.

 

 

Additional panel at LonCon3


I’ve been asked to step in last-minute to moderate another panel at LonCon3

Reimagining Families (Thursday 11:00)

In a 2013 column for Tor.com, Alex Dally MacFarlane called for a greater diversity in the way SF and fantasy represent families, pointing out that in the real world, “People of all sexualities and genders join together in twos, threes, or more. Family-strong friendships, auntie networks, global families… The ways we live together are endless.” Which stories centre non-normative family structures? What are the challenges of doing this in an SF context, and what are the advantages? How does representing a wider range of family types change the stories that are told?
Cherry Potts (moderator)
Jed Hartman
Laura Lam
David D Levine
Rosanne Rabinowitz

The other panels I am on are:

Liechester Square: Getting London Wrong

Thursday 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about the reaction to any piece of SF set in London, it’s that British fans will delight in nit-picking the details: you can’t get there on the Piccadilly Line! So who are the worst offenders? Whose commodified Londons do we forgive for the sake of other virtues in their writing? Do we complain as much about cultural errors as geographic ones, and if not, why not? And given London’s status as a global city, is it even fair to claim ownership of its literary representation?
Alison Scott (Moderator)
Cherry Potts
Leah-Nani Alconcel
Mike Shevdon
Russell Smith

We Can Rebuild You

Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, London Suite 2 (ExCeL)

SF medicine regularly comes up with “cures” for disabled bodies — from Geordi LaForge’s visor to the transfer of Jake Sully’s consciousness in Avatar — but the implications of such interventions are not always thought through as fully as we might hope. How does a rhetoric of medical breakthroughs and scientific progress shape these stories, and shape SF’s representation of lived physical difference? In what ways can SF narratives address dis/ability without either minimising or exaggerating such difference?
Cherry Potts (Moderator)
Neil Clarke
Tore Høie
Helen McCarthy
Marieke Nijkamp

LonCon 3 – Suggestions?


So I’m on a couple of panels for LonCon 3, and I need to do some homework so that I’m properly on the ball. Suggested (re)reading (and viewing I suppose) please, from all you SF fans out there.

First one:

WE CAN REBUILD YOU. SF medicine regularly comes up with “cures” for disabled bodies — from Geordi LaForge’s visor to the transfer of Jake Sully’s consciousness in Avatar — but the implications of such interventions are not always thought through as fully as we might hope. How does a rhetoric of medical breakthroughs and scientific progress shape these stories, and shape SF’s representation of lived physical difference? In what ways can SF narratives address dis/ability without either minimising or exaggerating such difference?

My immediate thought is Anne McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang and from the film world Gattaca, but can anyone suggest any other SF where future-science plays a major part in coping with, or celebrating disability? I can think of piles of fantasy, but not so much SF. Obscure short stories maybe? Oh, something just surfaced in the old brain there – Vonda McKintyre – must find… Suggestions (of things you have actually read or seen yourself, please) in the comments please!

Panel number 2:

Liechester Square: Getting London Wrong

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about the reaction to any piece of SF set in London, it’s that British fans will delight in nit-picking the details: you can’t get there on the Piccadilly Line! So who are the worst offenders? Whose commodified Londons do we forgive for the sake of other virtues in their writing? Do we complain as much about cultural errors as geographic ones, and if not, why not? And given London’s status as a global city, is it even fair to claim ownership of its literary representation?

Suggested reading /viewing on this one? (Cliff – any particular episodes of Dr Who?)

I’m thinking Day of the Triffids, Quatermass, Rivers of London, Un Lun Dun, Veronica Britton, the dreadful (but London set) Avengers movie. There’s something by Diana Wynne Jones (I think) tugging at my memory too.

I don’t want to read or watch the entire enormous oeuvre of London Sci Fi, but any suggestions for particularly well-handled London, or particularly badly imagined London? Anything that makes you cry out as Lyra does, of Oxford, in The Subtle Knife:
That’s not my London!

Comments invited!

The Woman Who Loved the Moon and other stories


wwlmFor LGBT History Month, here’s an edited version of the review I wrote for Short Review of the fantasy/ scifi/ horror collection from 1981 by Elizabeth A. Lynn

Lynn is one of the earliest fantasy writers to include same-sex relationships in her writing as a matter of course.

Author of A Different Light, The Dancers of Arun, The Northern Girl (a favourite book of mine) and Watchtower (which won a World Fantasy Award as did the title story of this collection.)

The collection hosts traditional fantasy and science fiction tales which are given a lift by strong writing, realistically strong female protagonists, and satisfyingly matter-of-fact lesbian characters.

“Explain need for Empire at this Time”

I first read this collection when it was originally published back in 1981, an important year for me, coming out and on the lookout for (to be honest, any) books that were positive about lesbians. As a convinced fantasy enthusiast I fell on the work of Elizabeth A Lynn with delight. Thirty plus years later, (long enough to have forgotten all but the general shape of the stories, with the exception of the title story which haunted me for years) these stories have worn well, although I can see their faults more. Lynn does herself no favours with her introductory paragraphs, which I quickly learnt to avoid reading, best to dive straight in to the fantasy than hear how come it took so long to find a publisher, or why she got saddled with a different title (although the variant titles thing is quite interesting!).

As with all collections there are strong, and less convincing stories, and it is when Lynn sticks to fantasy that she is at her best – it is as though an outlandish setting gives her permission to really explore psychological and emotional complexity. The horror stories (and some of the SF)  in this collection are thin to the point of transparency, and feel thrown together, whereas the fantasies engage and challenge – for this shortened version of the review I’m sticking to the positive – this IS one of the books I would save from a burning building, despite its faults.

The first story Wizard’s Domain, starts solidly with treachery and an inventive punishment followed by a forgiveness of the perceived crime, and the forgiveness of the punishment, which we are set up to not trust. Lynn puts her wizards through it: Magic is not easy, and she can be both lyrical and brutal.

The Gods of Reorth is one of those ‘the natives think were gods but we are from another planet’ stories that feel very 50’s in content, but Lynn throws an unconventional spanner into the story with her indignant goddess/alien, who doesn’t see why she should do what the leaders back at home want for this planet, but hesitates too long and has to stand by and let her lover be killed. She gets a subtle, clever revenge. One of the best stories in the book.

The Saints of Drimman takes an anthropologist exploring religious ecstasy one step too far, and I dream of a bird, I dream of a fish, is a moving bit of mother-love overcoming odds with casually plausible bio-science.

Things really pick up with The Dragon Who Lived in the Sea, which makes an unexpected tragedy from fearlessness taught to a child, a lovely thoughtful story, chock full of tension and disappointment.

Mindseye is another explorers-on-an-alien-world story, but it cleverly explores what we mean by human; and how open we can be to difference, or not.

In Don’t Look at Me, a daughter uses sleight of hand to almost gets away with murder, and you find yourself wishing she had.

Jubilee’s story (the original title Gimme Shelter was rejected by the publisher as obscure) throws in warring brothers, childbirth and abuse, and is one of those stories that you spend time thinking about what came before and what might come after.

The final and title story, The Woman Who Loved the Moon brings together lots of mythological tropes: three sisters, goddesses peeved at being compared unfavourably to mortals, kingdoms under the hill where time moves differently, and magical mirrors. Lynn draws you in with the rhythms of the language and even though you are silently protesting this isn’t going to end well, don’t do it, Kai, Lynn allows you to believe it might – just – maybe, be possible to love the moon, and astonishingly be loved back. It is one of the saddest stories I’ve read, and while it doesn’t move me the way it did thirty years ago it deserved the Word Fantasy Award it won.