la_marquise: (Default)
It's been a while. I never intended to become so intermittent with the blogging, but just lately it hasn't seemed like that there was much that I wanted to say. There's the state of the world... but much of my life in recent months has been bound up with that, and words are not enough. There's the state of me -- but I really don't find myself that interesting, and I certainly believe that the rest of the world don't really need to know about the routine of books and laundry and cats (well, maybe the cats). I had eye surgery in mid-December, and it healed well; I had shingles in March, which I could have lived without and for which I am holding Theresa May personally responsible. I'm doing some teaching on speculative fiction for one of the local universities, and that's the best bit right now (and the students are lovely: talented and motivated and engaged).
And I didn't write and didn't write, from November onwards, because, well, the state of the world, and the state of the book (which is evil) and the eyes and the shingles (but not the students).

And then on Friday I sat down and wrote a 1000 words. Not on the book I'm meant to be writing. Not on the other book, either, but on something new and shiny and unexpected. And the words came back, and that's good. (I'm holding <user name=dancinghorse) partly responsible for this, because a conversation I was having with her on Facebook was just the trigger I needed: so, thank you, Judy, you are once again my hero and my role-model). Here's a snippet: "The hounds were hunting. Stars scudded across the sky, taking cover behind wisps of cloud. The moon rode low, horns reaching out to hook anyone or anything careless enough to come to close. Dust splattered and span out with every tread, every bound the hounds took. Ice snapped in the air. Bess shivered and pulled her thin wrap up over her head. Her hands, in their shabby wool mittens, sought sanctuary within the sleeves of her rough knit coat. The linen of the wrap was scant defence against the wind, blowing wolf-breathed from the east. A fine night for hunting. A fine night for fear and pain and blood. A fine night for war... She crested the ridge, worn boots slipping on the wet earth. A line of dull amber marched along the skyline to the east. Someone’s home, someone’s livelihood, was on fire. More than one someone, for certain: several hundred, most like. She whispered a blessing under breath, and made herself move on. War was not her business tonight, whether in heaven or down here." So far, it wants to have old magic and hidden places, war and resistance, Aramis, and, heaven help me, Lenin. (I know. My brain.) I think I like it. Skirt of the day: San Jose teal and fuchsia
la_marquise: (Default)
It's been a while since I posted here: this is mostly a test to see how the settings are working. Good morning, all. Just remember: today is another day on which to stand up and be counted.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
There are days when silence is the only answer. I've had a lot of those lately. There's not a lot to say when everything seems to be falling to pieces on all sides. And what use are the words of the powerless anyway?

But here's the thing. Today we were presented with a summary of Our Great Leader's Five Year Plan manifesto for our all-new, all-shiny, back to the 1850s Britain.
Our borders will be ironclad, to keep out anyone who isn't just like us.
Because this country should work for everyone.
Our schools will be streamed, divided and reshaped to ensure that social barriers not only remain in place but become harder to climb, and that only the children of the privileged can be certain of a rounded education, while the rest -- the majority -- are inculcated from as early as possible with a sense of their own inadequacy, stupidity and inconsequence.
Because this country should work for everyone.
Foreign-born workers will be sent away, hampered, demonised and blamed, in the name of jobs for locals -- even if the places they work for depend on them and cannot function without them, because, well, umm....
Because this country should work for everyone.
Firms will be forced to list the nationalities of their employees, and universities deprived of students; while landlords will be forced to spy on tenants.
Because this country should work for everyone.
All European laws will be signed into British law, so Mrs May's government can repeal all and any they wish, including protections for workers, LGBT people, people of colour, people with disabilities, women, children... anyone who can't afford the best lawyers.
Because this country should work for everyone.

And in return... There are airy promises of more medical training places -- but no mention of funding for these, or of doing anything about the huge debt burden education now places on students.
Firms will be told to employ locals. But they will not be told pay a livable wage (a real one, not the fake one of Osborne), or to offer decent working conditions. Zero hours contracts will not be outlawed.
Mrs May has lots of words about fairness, but she promised no action against major tax evaders, the use of off-shore havens, the corrupt practices employed by the wealthiest to avoid not only tax but all other forms of civic duty also. She made no move to close done the channels of influence that allow the richest privileged access to the halls of power. She made no move to put the brakes on Jeremy Hunt's wrong-headed attack on junior doctors, or the wider assault on the NHS. Her ministers have made promises left, right and centre to continue subsidies for large and influential groups that benefited from the EU -- but not to the smaller and less powerful ones (like the whole of Wales. Huge agribusinesses matter. But Wales does not). I have doubts that some of these groups will see these promises honoured in full -- but insofar as any do, it will, I strongly suspect, only be those at the very top of the wealth pyramid. The ones related to members of her cabinet, the ones who bankroll her party, the ones whose opinions Matter.

Because make no mistake, Mrs May's manifesto is for the few and not the many. This is a manifesto for right wing upper and upper middle class southerners, Daily Mail readers, and pirate capitalists. She offers money for new houses -- but her hoyusing minister Gavin Burwell is suggesting this be achieved by removing minimum size requirements on new builds. And she made no mention of clamping down on exploitative practices employed by some landlords, of ensuring tenants' rights and safety, of introducving fair rents in major cities. Tenants are not people. Only the rich are people.

Just before he ran away to regroup on 24th June, Boris Johnson said of the referendum result that you can't just ignore 16 million people. But -- as with so much else -- he was wrong. Mrs May can. Liam Fox can. David Davies and Jeremy Hunt can. May was theoretically in the Remain camp, but no trace of that can be seen. And it's not just remainers. The poor are not people. Tenants are not people. The ill, those with disabilities, those who are not British-born, those who are not southern, those who are not old enough to vote, those are not Perfect Little Englanders, are not people.

According the the Ashcroft polls, attitudes amongst the leave camp did not simply map against Euroscepticism (and plain Euroscepticism is not an inherently bad thing: the EU is not perfect, and there are serious concerns). Amongst those polled, the majority also wanted women's rights reduced, social liberalism rolled back, and, yes, grammar schools.

There was nothing in the referendum about grammar schools or about non-EU nationals -- yet here are the measures, pandering to the the kind of reactionary sentiments that the hugely wealthy owners of the right wing press espouse. This is the beginning, not the end.

Remember that some of the wealthy backers of the leave campaign want maternity rights rolled back, because protection for women with children costs businesses money. There is a wedge aimed at the heart of our society, controlled by plutocrats and Big International Money.

We can, eventually, vote out a government. But the Murdochs and the Desmonds and the Greens are accountable to no-one. And they are buying control of the world.

Skirt of the day: blue tiered.
la_marquise: (Marquise)
So, back in the ninth century, having established himself as king of Wessex, Alfred the Great initiated a programme of education of his male aristocracy and oversaw the translation into Old English of a number of books he considered to be 'most necessary for men to know'. These were mainly religious, but also included Bede's A History of the English Church and Peoples, and Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.

What books would you recommend today, aside from sacred books and standard chestnuts like Shakespeare? Mine would be Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, which to my mind is the finest early history we possess and a textbook introduction into how we construct, create, manipulate and interpret the varied histories that make up our past; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which despite dated sections is still a clear cold look at the intersection of greed for money and power, faith and modern society; and Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, which is a masterclass in plotting, pace and colour by a mixed-race author who was always proud to be exactly who he was, and as a result wrote characters who stand up for their principles. (I love the Musketeers more; and his best female characters are Claire and Manon in The War of Women, but Monte Cristo is probably his strongest book).

Over to you.

Skirt of the day: blue flags.


Jul. 7th, 2016 03:59 pm
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Resident cats deny all knowledge.

An mouse was found dead earlier today in the middle of the floor of a Cambridge sitting room. The body showed signs of an attack. Resident cat Miss Telzey denied all knowledge of how this had come to pass. "Kill my own food?" she told our reporter. "I would never do that! I am a Princess, and I expect my food to be properly prepared and presented to me on suitable plates by my human servants. Perhaps it had a heart attack or something. And anyway," she continued, "I was upstairs asleep the entire time."

Her fellow feline residents Horus and Random were unavailable for comment, but sources close to this journal report that at both of them were recently involved in an assault on a juvenile wild rabbit. The household is continuing to investigate.

Skirt of the day: blue tiered.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Everyone seems very determined in preaching the mantra of 'no, there's no hope: know your place'. And any attempt at looking for any alternative way is greeted with derision and contempt.
I'm 53. I am *not* naive. The next person who dismisses me with that line will be summarily blocked. If I have to respect you, then you play by the same rules and respect me. Sneering, gloating and bullying do not entitle you to a courteous response from me. Pointing and laughing when your own house is on fire may be cathartic, but it's not my duty to be polite when you shove it in my face.
Sneering at the underprivileged and labelling them stupid, racist, ignorant etc is not a solution. Calling everyone not in your little bubble 'them' is not a solution. I disagree profoundly with the working class and underclass leave voters but I do not blame them for what has happened. The narrative of fear, suspicion and jingoism has been fostered and promulgated by a particular subset of the global elite, who see personal advantage in creating and maintaining divisions between nations and cultures and who benefit by keeping the poor frightened, envious and empoverished. It has been created by a weak Tory leader who could not heal the deep divisions in his party. It has been created by ambitious and cynical upper class men who saw a chance to gain vast personal power.
Blame the plutocrats, and the media barons. Blame the Westminster cynics who repeatedly chose their own personal ambitions over what actually helps those they purported they serve. This includes the Blairites who are more interested in grabbing back leadership than in trying to address the crisis that grips the country right now. This includes the squabbling Tories. This includes UKIP, who have masqueraded as the champions of the people while admitting the rank and file of the old BNP and NF to their ranks and offering them up as plausible potential councillors and MPs without checking to see if they advocate apartheid or homophobia or virulent sexism.
Blame the rich. Every time you point fingers at the disprivileged who have voted Leave after decades of neglect and abuse from the establishment, you collude with that establishment. I wish to the bottom of my heart that more of the poorest had been able to believe in the EU and vote Remain. But I refuse to play the 'them and us' game. I refuse to follow the narrative preached by the greedy, biased, wealthy ruling classes who have brought the rest of us to our knees with their pandering to the free market over all, and their contempt for anyone who isn't just like them.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
So, it's polling day, and I'm about to go out and make my mark -- with a pencil provided in the polling station, because I do not believe that anyone will be rubbing out and replacing marks. I am going to make my mark in the box marked Remain.

There has been a lot of bad temper and bad faith in this campaign, from both sides. I've been patronised, mansplained to (there there, dear, the Westminster men will look after you girls), yelled at, and called an idealistic lefty. Nothing new there. Throughout my adult life, whenever I've expressed a view out of line with the neo-liberal, pro-wealth rhetoric that has succeeded in relabelling itself 'the practical thing to do', I've been told I'm naive. Naive is neo-liberal code for 'shut up and stop questioning the status quo.' I've been informed that the island will sink if one more foreigner arrives, that Britain will be Free and Rule the World, that we are strangling in foreign red tape, that we will be invaded immediately by Turkey, if we don't vote out this very second.

It's not true. If we vote Remain, nothing will change. Life next week will be like life last week, only with less political campaigning. If we vote to Remain, the number of immigrants will not go up dramatically, Turkey will not suddenly be an EU member, and we will not be subjects of Angela Merkel. We will go on as we are, with our right wing current Tory government and its cuts and austerity and pandering to the international super-rich.

If we vote Out, that will happen too. But we will have fewer protections. Migration will still happen -- most migrants now are from outside the EU, and that will continue. Employers will go on hiring people from outside the UK, both EU citizens and not. But... Our legal protections at work will be less secure, because any government that decides to change them for the worst will not have to comply with a wider law that protects us from too much exploitation.

The backers of Out include business interests who are on record as wanting laws protecting workers relaxed, not for reasons of freedom but for reasons of profit. They want our environmental protections loosened so they can exploit more and more land for profit -- and not have to pay for cleaning it up afterwards. They want us weak, so they can make more money from us. They want, in some cases, to roll back women's rights, on grounds of 'morality' and on grounds of business needs.

I have a niece and two nephews. I have a god-daughter. I have friends with children in their teens and early twenties. And that's why I'm voting Remain.

I want those young women to have the same rights in work that I have had, the right to maternity leave and maternity pay, the right not to be fired for getting pregnant or getting married, the right not to face intrusive questions from employers about their family planning intentions. I want them to be protected from sexual harassment at work from bosses and co-workers. I want them to be seen as people -- and I do not trust Nigel and Boris and their friends to respect those rights.

I want those young people to have the right to work safely, with proper equipment, in work-places in which their right to safety and health is taken seriously. My great-grandfather, a miner, was part of the union fight to get safely lamps for miners in South Wales, back in the days when all the mines were private. He was fired and black-listed -- and that black-listing lasted 3 generations, all the way down to the point when the mines were nationalised. Nearly 50 years of employer abuse. Union rights in the UK are the weakest in Europe and every Tory government for the last 35 years had sought to weaken them further. Unions save lives. I want those lives to be saved. And I certainly don't trust Boris and Nigel on that point (nor Dave and George, but the EU restricts how far they can go on this).

I am not going to be bullied, nagged or intimidated into xenophobia. Britain has accepted immigrants regularly since before we were 'Britain' as such, and those immigrants have made us richer, more inventive, stronger. They contribute more in taxed and labour than they take out. There are places where migration is placing strain on local services, I know -- but that's not down to the immigrants. It's down to poor government policy, which concentrates people in small areas rather than spreading them out, to ridiculous rents and to the unbalanced way employment is distributed geographically. And those are infrastructure problems, central government problems, which we can solve. Yvette Cooper pointed this out last year and made sensible proposals for sorting it out. Better infrastructure, rent control and a reining-back on the greed of landlords (whose rights have grown and grown from Thatcher onwards due to weakening of UK law) solves this, not banning foreigners.

And, before anyone says I don't know about this, I grew up in Coventry and Leicester, with people from Poland and Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Caribbean. I've lived with migrants my whole life. I've been one, I lived and worked in Ireland for two years. I've had colleagues from Germany and China and the US, Canada and India and Iceland. I'm childless, but my friends' children go to multi-racial schools and flourish, and the Roma pupils at the school in which my brother taught at the time made a special trip across Wales to go to his wedding, because they liked him. Most of my family are migrants, from Wales and the border into the Midlands at a time when being Welsh was not seen as positive. Migrants are part of the Britain I know, they are British too, and I like that.

Ah, Kari, but what about 'sovereignty'? 'Take back control,' trumpets Boris. 'The people versus the establishment,' brays Nigel. But what does that mean? Not a lot, for you and me. Boris and Nigel went to the same schools as Dave and George (and Tony). They move in the same elite circles. They serve the same set of unaccountable international business interests. They are not 'the people'. They are the aristocracy of wealth, and they are interested in themselves. Boris won't end austerity, because that wouldn't be good for him. Look at the USA, and in particular at the 'right to work' states (that means 'no unions', btw, not 'jobs for all') and you will get a better picture of Boris's Britain. No minimum wage. Minimal protection at work. No health care. All these people are the Establishment, but if we stay in the EU, we are part of a larger unit, we have more support against this. TTIP is a good example. The EU overall is anti -- but Cameron is pro and so is Boris. Dave can't force it on us while we're in the EU, but once out he -- or anyone -- can sign us up and make our public services vulnerable to huge business interests.

And then, what does 'sovereignty' mean? The right to settle our own affairs? We already have that. We already make our own laws, control our own borders, and negotiate exemptions from aspects of EU law that we (or whoever are our current government) don't like. We -- ordinary people -- won't 'take back control' if we vote out. We'll just hand it to a different set of rich powerful people -- and the representatives of the Leave campaign are in general more right wing, more libertarian and more authoritarian even than our current government.

I like accountability. It matters. It helps us. International mega-corporations like News International aren't accountable. EU bureaucrats are -- to the elected representatives we chose. Our governments from Thatcher onwards have been far too cosy for my taste with the unaccountable international plutocrats. The EU is a check on this -- and again, look at the US, where Trump is a plausible candidate for president and corporations are treated as people in some states and have more rights than workers.

And I like being European. I like that we have had no wars in Europe for nearly 70 years (other than the civil war in the former Yugoslavia). I like that we have peace between countries and freedom to move and live and work. I like that the EU has supported poorer countries out of the painful legacies of totalitarianism and towards greater democracy. I like being part of a unit large enough that it can stand up to the big international powers of the USA and China. Of course the EU is imperfect. But within it, we can work to change and improve it. Britain is due to hold the presidency of the EU very soon. That gives us even more chances to, as Gordon Brown put it, lead Europe, not leave it. Outside it, we risk isolation and increased lack of control.

So I'm voting Remain.

PS I'm not going to provide facts and figures and receipts. Those have been made available in large quantities for weeks.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Given how much people trafficking goes on, and how complicit some UK employers are in this -- this matters.
Immigrants 'undercutting' British workers isn't about the immigrants. It's about the employers who would rather mistreat, abuse and entrap foreign workers than pay a living wage to them or to anyone. We've seen an increase in abuse of British people with learning disabilities forced into domestic labour, too, and that's fuelled by the same thing -- greed.
Everyone deserves a living wage and respectful terms and conditions. No-one should live in modern slavery so that an employer can up his profit. If we leave the EU, we won't see a miraculous increase of jobs for Britons in the low paid sectors where immigrant workers are being abused (hotels and catering, agriculture, domestic service and far too many more). We'll see an increase in people-trafficking.
The people at fault aren't the immigrants, they're the greedy bosses who would rather abuse people and break the law than pay a living wage. EU law helps us fight these people. EU law helps the British police find and close down people-traffickers wherever they are. (And in passing I will note that the North Cambs force has been doing a wonderful job finding, stopping and prosecuting these modern slave-traders. Leaving will make that job harder and increase the problems for everyone.)
Britain isn't perfect, but we have a long history of combatting human rights' abuses. We have welcomed people in need for centuries (not always with good grace, but we've done it). We have been people of mixed ethnicity since the Romans, at the latest, and it has always benefited us. Our industrial innovation, our scientific progress, our arts and culture are all blended, created by Britons of mixed ancestry.
We are not just Little England. We are not just narrow. We are not just scared people hiding behind Big Bad Boris and his portfolio of emotive exaggerations, misrepresentations and even lies.
We are better than that. We are kinder than that. We are more generous than that.
The rich and the privileged want us to forget our kindness, our compassion, our empathy. They want us scared, because scared people are easy to control. And they want us to focus our fear on an easy target -- foreigners -- who are in the main just as vulnerable as we are -- because that distracts us from the real danger, which is the greed and arrogance of the rich.
The EU didn't cause the 2008 crash: that was greedy rich financiers and their friends.
The EU didn't cause austerity: that was greedy, rich, Tory politicians who see our Welfare State as a threat to their profit, because they don't make as much money from public services as from privatised ones.
Immigrants didn't cause the crash, or austerity.
Immigration is not the problem.
Rich, entitled, establishment cronies are the problem.
Don't sell us all to Boris, Nigel, and their greedy, selfish friends.
Brexit could destroy EU progress on tackling modern slavery
Britain would be weaker in the fight against people trafficking outside the EU


Jun. 14th, 2016 05:55 pm
la_marquise: (Caspian)
I'd like to know how so many journalists know for sure that working class British voters who support Brexit are all 'Labout supporters'. I keep hearing this, over and over, but nowhere have I seen clear evidence that this is so. The assumption that working class === Labour has not been valid since the Thatcher years. There are working class Tories, floating voters, Greens, Lib Dems, the whole spectrum. Our media seem happy to concede that the middle and upper classes have varied views -- and indeed may be right wing on some things, left wing on others, centrists on yet others. But the working class? No, they are only one thing. Oh, and when the radio and tv do vox pops, working class voices predominate in the clips of pro-Brexiteers. It's the old, old fallacy, that everything we dislike in our society can be laid at the door of the poorest.

The leaders -- the cheer-leaders -- of the rampant xenophobia are all of them highly privileged people, middle class, upper class. Farage, Johnson and all their friends are at the top of the economic hierarchy. So are their friends at the Mail, the Express, the Sun. But they have aides to help them concoct their speeches and steer them away from overt xenophobia. They are given pass after pass when they slip and show their deeper views.

I'd like just once to see the BBC or ITV or Sky take their vox poop cameras and microphones into the cushy enclaves of the right wing middle classes. I'd like to hear the posh xenophobes for once, caught at their own game. I'd like to see the real culprits -- the people who have enabled the weakening of employment laws that allow employers to undercut wages, to exploit loopholes and pay migrants less; the people who want to erode maternity leave, holiday pay, the minimum wage so that they and their friends can make more money -- I'd like to see this lot interviewed and made to look mean and unkind and narrow-minded -- which they are. I'd like the media establishment to stop the classism and show us the truth, which is that xenophobia is not simply a property of the poor, but a tool of the rich.


Jun. 13th, 2016 08:12 pm
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Prejudice and hatred are not the unique property of any one culture, any one faith, any one community.
Blaming one set of people for all the worlds ills makes those ills worse, not better.
Fostering a culture of suspicion, fear, hatred and contempt for others creates violence, widens divisions and ensures that those at the top stay unchallenged, ruling through that fear and suspicion.

Gun control is not communism. It is not a theft of rights from the individual. It is not an indication of government intervention gone mad. It's a recognition that guns are not status symbols, not badges of personhood, not vital protections. They are weapons made for one thing and one thing only, to kill.

To those who speak of the right to own guns, I ask this: what of the right to life of the victims yesterday in Florida, last year in Charleston, in Aurora and Columbine and Sandy Hook and all too many more. What about the right to life of the innocent, killed for being in the wrong place in the wrong time, because someone was fuelled with hate and rage, because some government wanted war, because the victims were the 'wrong' colour, age, gender, nationality, sexuality...?

This latest terrorist attack, this time against gay people, is not just about the religion and opinions of the shooter. It's about a wider culture that says gay lives, black lives, female lives, trans lives, disabled lives are all worth less than the nebulous right of the prejudiced and the greedy, the fearful and the suspicious, the haters and the bullies, to say and do anything and everything they want to, because only some people (people like them) matter. It's about the absurd cult of gun ownership that seems to be embedded in US culture.

You have no right to kill others because they are not like you.
You have no right to kill others because what they are -- their ethnicity, their sexuality, their gender identity -- offends you.

You have no right to kill.
la_marquise: (Goth marquise)
So, I have a question for my female friends and female-presenting non-binary friends.
For those of us who present as 'feminine' in the more traditional sense (can be having longer hair, wearing skirts or other 'girly' clothing, being soft-spoken and so forth): do you find people are more ready to question your knowledge than they do that of women who are seen as less 'girly' in presentation? It was noticeable in my last academic jobs that my female colleagues with short hair who dressed in suits tended to be taken more seriously than the rest of us, and were less likely to be asked to undertake extra admin jobs and to do emotional caretaking.
I'd be interested in hearing the experiences of others about this.

Skirt of the day: Blue-tiered the 2nd (as distinct from the beloved, much worn, fragile blue tiered the first.)


Mar. 22nd, 2016 11:46 am
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Mancunicon is approaching rapidly and I have my schedule. I'm particularly looking forward to interviewing Aliette de Bodard on Saturday and to the Tanith Lee tribute item. I hope to see at least some of you there!

Revealing History, Revealing Now

Friday 17:30 - 18:30, Room 8&9 (Hilton Deansgate)

We think of historical fantasy and alternate history as changing the past: but can they be used, instead, to reveal it? How do the tools of SF and fantasy enable writers to tell stories that allow us to think differently about our understanding of history? How can such stories help us to better understand the present? (And which "us" is defining "our", in any case?)

Susan Bartholomew (M), Jacey Bedford, Aliette de Bodard, Kari Sperring, Sarah Walters.

A Tribute to Tanith Lee

Saturday 14:30 - 15:30, Deansgate 3 (Hilton Deansgate)

Tanith Lee was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award, for Death's Master (1980). She was nominated for and won various World Fantasy Awards, and wrote over 90 novels, 300 short stories, poetry, a children's book and episodes of the TV show Blake's 7. Her work explored feminism and sexuality. In this discussion, five of her literary "nieces", who all have a short story in an anthology dedicated to her (to be published by Storm under the title Night's Nieces), enthuse about her works and what made her such a critical figure in female and British Fantasy until her untimely death in May 2015.

Storm Constantine, Kari Sperring, Sarah Singleton, Freda Warrington, Liz Williams, John Kaiine

Guest of Honour Interview - Aliette de Bodard

Sunday 16:00 - 17:00, Deansgate 2&3 (Hilton Deansgate)

Aliette de Bodard was born in the USA, and grew up in London and Paris, where she now lives and works.
She began publishing short fiction in 2006, and gained rapid notice, particularly for work in her Xuya setting, including the Nebula Award-winning stories "Immersion" (2012) and "The Waiting Stars" (2013), and the Hugo-nominated novella On a Red Station, Drifting (2012).
Her first novel Servant of the Underworld, published in 2010, began the Obsidian & Blood series of Aztec mysteries. Her most recent book is The House of Shattered Wings, a BSFA Award nominee this year.

Kari Sperring (M), Aliette de Bodard.

Historical Fiction and Fanfiction

Sunday 17:30 - 18:30, Room 8&9 (Hilton Deansgate)

Historical fiction is set in the past. Fanfiction is produced by fans, for fans, using famous people or source texts as an inspiration. Frequently the worlds overlap. This panel discusses the overlaps, benefits and pitfalls of them. The overlaps include writing fanfiction about historical fiction, setting fanfiction in an alternative universe by placing the narrative in a different historical era, fanworks about real-life historical figures (Historical RPF), or historical fanworks - any fanwork set in the past.

Amanda Baker (M), V Allan, Kari Sperring, Zoe Sumra, ickle_tayto

Science Fiction Criticism - Masterclass 1

Sunday 19:00 - 20:00, Room 10 (Hilton Deansgate)

Every Summer the Science Fiction Foundation holds a Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism with world-renowned critics, academics and authors. This session provides a taster. Participants are required to sign up in advance (at Ops) and should read the short story assigned for the session. There is a limit of ten participants.
This session will be looking at Liz Williams, 'The Banquet of the Lords of Night', which can be found online at

Tony Keen, Kari Sperring.

I will also be working in Green Room (when aren't I? My favourite place!) and helping out with the bid for Follycon, so this is shaping up to be a busy convention.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Happy St David's Day, all!
la_marquise: (Caspian)
So there's yet another list of vital SF -- all by white men, some of them dead. I don't want to shout at the author or host site. There are plenty of people doing that already, and it's not likely to be productive.
Instead, let's compile a list of cutting edge sf by other writers -- writers of colour, women, QUILTBAG writers, white male writers who aren't Anglophone or from currently dominant cultures, non-binary writers....
My suggestions include Nnedi Okorafor; Nisi Shawl; Aliette de Bodard; Dung Kai-Cheung; Justina LA Robson; Tricia Sullivan.

(The list also omits some really major white male Anglophone writers, who should be credited, including William Gibson and Walter Jon Williams. That is bad, too.)

I'm also doing this on FB and there's a #CuttingEdgeSF tag on twitter.

Skirt of the day: blue flags
la_marquise: (Marquise)
I don't like to write about writing.
I don't like to talk about writing, much of the time. There is a reflex in me that makes me close down whenever anyone asks me about what I'm working on, how I write, how I'm getting on. Oh, I can talk about the generalities -- voice and pace and dialogue and so on -- if I have to, but even then, I'm not really comfortable.
You see, in my head, writing and fear are all tangled up. And I do not like to be afraid.

If I have a single talent, it's fear. I'm really really good at it. I can fill myself up, inch by slow inch, until my skin is no more than a thin boundary on terror and every single part of me is sparking with alarm. I can turn enjoyment into duty and duty into fear in a matter of moments.

It doesn't really matter why this is so. Let's say it's how I'm wired, and move on. There are lots of things that scare me, mostly irrational (it's a fact that I am far more afraid of zombies than I am of being run over. When it comes to things like that latter, I'm fairly calm). And when the spiral, the heavy dead grip of fear takes hold, I find it almost impossible to break free. Once that shiver is under my skin, it takes over.

And writing is scary. People say this a lot, and there are endless lists as to why. Fear of being exposed, of failure, of taking risks... I understand all of those and I sympathise, but, for all their familiarity within the language of writers, they are not really what I mean when I think about the intersection of writing and fear. What I mean, what this fear means to me is this: I am afraid to lose permission.

It sounds ridiculous put like that. And, on the scale of real fears -- of being murdered for one's race or gender identity or sexual orientation or faith, of famine, of flood, of homelessness, of loss of freedom, of persecution -- it is a tiny, unimportant thing. It's ridiculous. I know it's ridiculous, and yet there it is, making me unsafe in my skin.

I'm not good at permission. There are lots of reasons for that. Some of them are socio-cultural, to do with class and gender. Some are personal, to do with lived experience. Many of them are just plain irrational. But in the end, most of the time I hover on the edge of feeling I am not allowed to write, that me writing somehow takes away from others, that it's wrong. I've felt this about writing since long before I was first published. It isn't about public space (though I worry about that too, because there are enough white writers already, and I'm nothing special). It is, quite simply, about whether or not it's okay for me to set down words in a line on a page. Even if no-one will ever read them but me and a handful of my friends.

This looks nonsensical, even to me. But for whatever reason, because of how I'm wired, because of the things that have happened in my life, I find it incredibly hard to give myself permission to do things. And writing matters. I've written since I was 7 or 8. It used to be easy. No-one minded me writing stories for myself and my friends. It was only in my 20s that I discovered how competitive some people can be, how confrontational, about writing -- which is not a competitive activity. And, well... if there is something I can do that others want, I'm wired to think its my duty to step aside and let them have that space. And once that happens, I find it very hard to try and find any new space for myself. Someone else wants it. So I mustn't have it. And I stop writing. Even just for myself, because someone else might not approve.

It's ridiculous. Writing is not a competition, though equally it is far from a level playing field and there are many many writers out there, probably far better than me, who face huge institutional, social and cultural barriers. It matters hugely that writers who face fewer barriers -- writers like me -- boost and support those voices. They matter far more than my nonsense.

But fear is funny and it smothers us. When that inner place where my writing, at least, comes from, is bound up in fear, it paralyses everything else, too. I stop feeling like me. And I am doing it to myself. Those other people are not withholding permission. I don't matter to them at all. And so I'm writing this, to remind myself that this is my fear, not something external to me. To expose the fear to the open gaze of the web, to remind myself of my own ridiculousness. To expose it, even, to anyone who does think I shouldn't have permission.

Because it isn't up to them. It's not up to anyone but me to grant that permission. And, well... I need to learn how to do that by myself.

Skirt of the day: blue cotton print.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
So it's been a while since I posted here. I'm not sure why. I did Nanowrimo in November and hit the 50k, and am now trying to wrangle the book into shape. Then there was Christmas, which was quiet and pleasant. And January. Which was as it was. No drama, no crisis, just life. And my life is fairly ordinary.

We are now once again a three-cat household: Miss Telzey's little brother Random came to join us in early December and has settled down very well. He's a lovely, friendly, confident little boy and he's getting on well with both Telzey and Horus. Both of them let him snuggle up to sleep, and play long games with him. Here he is: CIMG3955

And that's me. How's everyone else?
Skirt of the day: denim.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
Let's start with a link. I'll wait while you go and read it:

This is scary. Someone was killed at Zombiecon by someone who turned up and started shooting.
This time, for the first time ever, I looked up what the gun laws were for the place where worldcon was to be held, because some of the things that had been said in the run-up to it by some of the puppy-allies were seriously scary. I didn't enjoy that feeling, nor did I enjoy feeling I needed to know. Fan space isn't necessarily safe space -- indeed, often it isn't safe. But this is an added level of anxiety, which had begun for me two years earlier and is one of the reasons I didn't go to LoneStarCon. I come from a culture in which guns are rare and controlled. I'm outspoken, female and left wing -- very left wing by US standards. Texas feels scary to me (well, some parts of it do).
In the run-up to Sasquan, someone -- I forget who, and don't have the link to had -- called for worldcons in future only to be held in open carry states. Someone else threatened to hit anyone who dared to find his views frightening. That same person stated that he will only accept foreigners who agree with him that the US is the greatest country in the world and who place its interests above everything else.
I've had issues with sexual harassment and misogyny in fandom for years. I've witnessed incidents of homophobia, transphobia and racism at cons. I've witnessed one psychotic breakdown (the concom and site handled it well and with compassion for all involved) and many crises. I've twice been seriously assaulted in fan space and I've long lost track of the minor incidents. SFF has a long way to go. But until the puppies appeared, I've never worried about guns.
SFF is bigger than right wing gun lovers. It's bigger than US exceptionalists. It belongs to all of us, whatever our race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, whether we're cis or trans, old or young, rich or poor. My fanspace has room for everyone, even the puppies (though I'd prefer they left their guns at the door, for everyone's safety).
Yesterday, someone opened fire at a cosplay event.
I don't want this to happen on another day at an sff con. If you'd asked me about this a few years ago, I'd have said, 'That'll never happen.' Now... I know I'm not alone in feeling afraid. I know I wasn't alone in worrying in the run-up to Sasquan.
But here's the thing. This whole deal with guns is part of the US culture war. SFF does not belong to any one country, any one creed or race or gender or whatever. It's bigger than that.
And I want the culture war out of our space.

Skirt of the day: blue flags.
la_marquise: (Caspian)
My piece on lewft wing politics and fantasy is up today on the Open Democracy website.
la_marquise: (Iskander)
Our darling Ish cat passed away last Thursday, from suspected pancreatic cancer, while we were at Worldcon. [ profile] groliffe was splendid in caring for him at the end, and the Cambridge Vet School was the best place he could have been in the circumstances. He knew and liked it there, and they loved him.
We are heartbroken. I never would have gone to Sasquan if I'd thought he was this ill. Horus, who adored him, is hunting and calling, and wanting lots of cuddles from us and from Miss Telzey. We are doing our best to reassure him. Ish was a lovely, sociable, determined boy who had many adventures in his 12 and 1/2 years, made many friends (including half a mile away at the local gas showroom) and had Views on everything. He was the cat who chose us, and we will miss him forever.
Pictures )
la_marquise: (Caspian)
So there's this guy I know. I've known him most of my life: I'll call him Alfie, for now, though that's not his name. He's a nice bloke: good company, smart, funny, kind and reliable. For a while, we worked at the same place, and he was good at his job and, by and large, a nice colleague. I was at school with him, and we ended up at the same university -- you know how that goes. We didn't always end up in the same social circles, and we have some different interests, but he's one of those people, I guess: one of those people you just know and have always known.

I like Alfie: like I said, he's good company. I've never shared a house with him, but our mutual friend Bimla did, and she tells me he washed up after himself and sometimes remembered to do the vacuuming, just like her. He was a pretty good housemate (and he's a very good cook). He's married now, with two daughters who he adores and encourages to play soccer and study science. To use the old terms of the 80s, he's a new man: he helps around the house, has been known to change nappies and he treats his female work colleague Chantal well. Alfie's one of the good guys.

Except when he isn't. Because, you see, here's the thing about Alfie: he's a comfortable misogynist.

About this point, I can see the frowns starting. What's misogynist about what I've described, exactly? Alfie cooks and cleans and is nice to Chantal at work. He's a good dad (though his wife Daisy does sometimes wish this extended more to picking up toys and getting up when one of the girls is ill, and less to the fun stuff, like playing sport and going for ice cream). He's a good guy, I said so. He's a friend. He's not a sex pest or a male rights' activist. He thinks women should be allowed to work and he is outraged at female genital mutilation and all the news coverage of historic sex abuse cases. When it comes to big issues, Alfie's a feminist.

He feels good about that. And that's where the problem starts, because while he's great at the big picture, he is rubbish at seeing what's right under his nose. To this day, he doesn't understand why Daisy was so upset when he went on that month-long training course two weeks after their 2nd child was born. It was a great opportunity -- and while he could have gone on the next repeat of it, six months later, well, he didn't really want to go then because of his cricket side, and anyway three years on he got that great promotion. And Daisy managed. He thinks Chantal bears unnecessary grudges, because she's still sore that Edward got a pay rise when she didn't, even though they do the same job and her appraisal was better. But Edward's older than she is and he has a son at private school: he needs the extra money. Chantal's single. She'll get her turn. And it's not like the company's sexist: look at Frances at head office! She's practically a partner. Okay, there was that fuss about how she didn't get promoted that time, and Chantal and the other girls -- Grace who does admin, and whatserface, that old bat from human resources -- were up in arms about it and kept trying to get him to say something to Harry, the senior partner. But they didn't seem to get that Frances is, well, kind of abrasive and she can be really pushy, and anyway Alfie has to think of how it would look, him recommending her to Harry. He doesn't want to damage his own career. And it worked out all right, didn't it? Harry headhunted Ian from the competition and Frances got that great sideways move and a new company car.

And then there was that time Jim made a pass at that girl -- what was her name, Bimla's friend? Karly? She totally over-reacted: went on like he'd raped her or something, when it was just a few kisses and a friendly squeeze or two out in the car park. And Karly was being pretty naive, going off alone with Jim when everyone knows what a joker he is. And he was drunk: Jim's a decent bloke, everyone knows that. Yes, he makes some off-colour remarks, and yes, he can be a bit, well, *handy* when he's drunk, but it's just a bit of fun. Jim wouldn't really rape anyone. Alfie's sure of that. He wouldn't be friends with a man like that. (And anyway sometimes women exaggerate. He knows it's a bit edgy to say that, but he read this article in the paper the other day, and they interviewed a lawyer, and he'd know, right?) But Bimla and Daisy flew off the handle about that, and Daisy won't let him invite Jim round any more.

The thing is, Alfie thinks, is that women are just a bit... well, they expect miracles, right? It can take years to get where Ian and Harry are: Frances should know that. Her turn will come, if she's patient and doesn't make trouble. (Yes, Ian's a few years younger that her, but she took those two years out when she had her baby, so it evens out.) It's a hard word for everyone and these girls, well, they're being naive. There's laws and everything now about equality: people aren't allowed to discriminate any more. There's a level playing field. But some of these women insist on seeing sexism everywhere where it's not. If it was there, he'd know, and he'd be right there fighting for justice for them, just like in the old days when he used to go on those Reclaim the Night marches with Daisy and Bimla. He supports women's rights. That's one of the reasons he didn't go to Harry about Frances or Chantal: it would have been sexist, like they couldn't speak for themselves. And he was really busy that week anyway, and, well, this stuff is really hard work and he just doesn't have the energy for all that, some days.

Alfie means well. He understands the big issues and, despite how he looks from the above, he's a solid ally on those things: he really is a good dad and he doesn't expect rewards for doing housework. But sometimes, he doesn't get the insidious things. He doesn't mean to be hurtful, but he simply does not see the pattern of, say, Jim's behaviour, that makes Daisy and Bimla and Karly so uncomfortable. He doesn't connect it with the wider social problems of sexual harassment and rape culture. He really does think that Frances' abrasiveness is the main thing holding her back. (And he hasn't noticed that Ian is far ruder and far pushier, because, well, Ian is assertive and confident, isn't he?) They look to him like little, isolated problems, not part of a toxic cultural institution. And because to him, they're small, they're not worth getting wound up about (as he sometimes says to Daisy).

Alfie is fictional, of course. I invented him as a place-marker. He's a composite of hundreds and hundreds of men I've known over the years, mostly good blokes, people I like, people who are good people. I don't know anyone who so consistently trips over his male privilege as Alfie. But the thing is, we are an institutionally misogynist society, even with the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act and so on and so forth. We are rooted in a culture soaked in thousands of years of discrimination and sexism and assumptions about gender roles. We see where that operates on the large scale, but not always on the small -- and the less affected we are by it, the less we see. I could say the same about racism and homophobia and gender-essentialism and transphobia. The Alfies of the SFF world buy stories from women writers, and sometimes read books by them. They listen to the women they know. They are genuinely delighted when a new woman writer does well. They host guest posts from women on their webpages and link to things they write. They see and act on the big stuff. And sometimes, when historic inequities are pointed out, they help signal boost this.

And yet, and yet... If you talk to many women in sff, and particularly women who have been around a while, they'll often express a feeling of fatigue. We have been fighting so long to be seen and heard and yet our voices are barely any louder, and when new voices appear -- which is great -- older ones are dropped or forgotten to make space. I've said this before, over and over, but it is still predominantly older or established women who are expected to give way for the newcomers. A new book by William Gibson is An Event. A new book by multiple-award winning, genre-shaping C. J. Cherryh passes with barely a notice. And when this is mentioned out, men (and some women and non-binary people, yes, because #notallmen) point to the current clump of hot women writers and say 'But look at them!'

We have a culture that found it right and proper that after the death of Iain M Banks, no new GoH was announced for worldcon, but a debate started as to whether the female guest should be replaced with a different, younger woman, because the older woman 'wasn't relevant to younger readers' (which was itself wrong, as she is very popular with teenagers). We have a canon that repeats the same handful of women as members -- LeGuin, Russ, Butler, Moore, Tiptree -- without apparently seeing the problem that these women are used to stand for hundreds of others who are forgotten or dismissed (and *I* for one have not forgotten the male critic who told me that he didn't read 'the sort of mediaevalist stuff you write'. Fine, if that's a question of personal taste, but the fact is I don't write mediaevalist fantasy. But I'm a woman who writes fantasy, so he Knew, without troubling to check). I've not forgotten the fan who was incredibly vocal condemning an all-male awards' shortlist drawn up by a panel which was 50% female, but when he found himself in a similar position on a different panel, justified the absence of women by naming a couple of female writers and adding 'We don't want that kind of romantic slush on an awards' list, do we?' I've not forgotten the man who, after I was on a panel about sexual harassment in fandom, backed me into a corner to lecture me on what I was doing wrong in how I tried to protect myself (complete with 'how to dress' notes). The latter reminded me of the first iteration of Alfie I ever met, a boyfriend of a college friend, who used to censor her wardrobe on how 'feminist' it was. He forbade her to wear skirts, even if she wanted to, because it was unfeminist. And then there are all the men who say 'I need to step back; this is so tiring! I don't know how you women cope!'

We cope because we have no choice. We can't step out, not without harming ourselves. We can't endorse, say, panel parity for just a year, because these are our lives. The same is true, of course, for those engaged in anti-racist action, and that is often far harder, because the barriers are greater.

It doesn't help when the Alfies tell us not to get so wound up, or when they say 'Oh, but it's not my fight', or when they recycle the same list of women-who-matter, or Know what we write without looking it up. It doesn't help when they put up their 'Best of' lists, with only 2 women (both usually the current hot women writers). It doesn't help when they fence-sit, or fail to confront misinformation because they can't be bothered or don't want to 'dominate' (guys, you can speak up without taking over). It doesn't help when they say 'Oh, but that's so trivial'. It doesn't help when they say, 'SF by women doesn't sell' without thinking about the social and cultural reasons why that may be so (men get more reviews; their books are more likely to be promoted; men are more likely to recommend books by other men -- and to take recommendations from other men; bookshop buyers respond to numbers without looking at how they privilege male authors and order fewer books by women and so on and on). It doesn't help when men leave the women out when they talk about their influences. It doesn't help when women who self-promote are labelled pushy and aggressive while the men who do the same are seen as cool and clever.

I'm not saying most men do this on purpose. They don't. We are, as I said, an institutionally sexist culture. Women are embedded in this, too. I have had to have brisk conversations with myself more than once as to *why* I find self-promotional posts by women more worrying that those by men, for instance. We are all complicit in this comfortable misogyny, because we were all raised that way. And the same is true about other damaging, harmful social institutions, particularly racism.

Speak up. Take risks. Women have to, every single day. People of colour have to. This uneven division of labour we have, where women and people of colour and transpeople and queer people have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting is itself part of the problem. Yes, the voices and ideas and needs of those who are Othered must be front and centre. But those who sit silent, or act like Alfie are, in the end, part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Skirt of the day: blue parachute.


la_marquise: (Default)

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