At the beginning of July I went to the Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society, which presented the findings and developments of a wide range of current scientific projects.
I was particularly interested in the Drowned Landscapes exhibit, which is about the now-submerged land between Britain and continental Europe that used to be dry, settled land: Doggerland.
I already knew a little bit about this land from an unrelated TV show (Coast on the BBC?) where fishing trawlers in the North Sea talked about regularly bringing up mammoth bones and other decidedly non-aquatic remains from the glacial period.
The exhibit was small but really interesting. An interactive game allowed people to guess the best location for a village in an era of rising sea levels. (Those sea levels did not always rise gradually over Doggerland: it is believed that there were several tsunamis as well, with evidence for this including the presence of water-related items like shells in certain levels of excavation in otherwise dry areas of present-day Scotland.) A map showed the greatest extent of Doggerland. One thing I didn’t know is that Doggerland remained some time after the recent glacial period ended, hence some visualisations of it looking quite temperate rather than icy cold.
I talked to one of the men running the exhibit for some time and one thing he said was that these really quite recent discoveries in Doggerland are dramatically changing our knowledge of prehistoric Britain and rendering a lot of our published, widely held theories out-of-date – particularly the question of migration waves into Britain and when agriculture was brought in from Europe. He pointed me to the following books as starting points for exploring this new prehistoric landscape:
Gaffney V, Fitch S and Smith D, Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland (CBA Research Report 160), CBA Press: 2009.
Benjamin J, Bonsall C, Pickard C and Fischer A, Submerged Prehistory, Oxbow Books: 2011.
Bailey G and Spikins P, Mesolithic Europe, Cambridge University Press: 2010.
Hopefully the KCL library will have copies of those so I can read them this autumn.
It sounds like it’s a really exciting time to be studying prehistoric Britain and Western Europe.
But the most awesome thing about the exhibit was getting to hold a 600,000-year-old stone tool. The real thing. Not a replica. It was black and quite big (almost the size of my hand – not that I was allowed to hold it with just one hand) and had worked edges that allowed it to cut and it was 600,000 years old, which is older than our species by several hundred thousand years.
My poem “Tadi” will be appearing in Strange Horizons. This too fits into the future setting; specifically, it’s about the wife of Falna from “Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires”.
I’ve sold not one but two stories recently!
Hannah Strom-Martin and Erin Underwood have announced the list of authors in Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction – and it includes me! Specifically, my story “Unwritten in Green”.
It takes place in the same setting as “Sung Around Alsar-Scented Fires”, four generations later. I’m really excited to be sharing more of this future! It’s also a combo breaker: the main character is male AND the narrative is linear. I know. I know.
Futuredaze is due to be released in February 2013.
Appearing much sooner and set in the same future – in a very different part – is “The 17th Contest of Body Artistry”, a very short piece that will be appearing in the next issue of Expanded Horizons. It’s set in one of the wandering cities: city-sized spacefaring craft that wander between the worlds and moons and other outposts of the (as-yet-unnamed) star system. As the title hints, it’s about a contest of body modification, and it has fun bits like this:
– for Ashah Pear hollowed himself out, and walked around the exhibition hall in his typical combat trousers and boots and sleeves, daring people to put their heads inside him, like a knife into a sheath.
“Listen,” he said as each person rested their chin on a softness almost like flesh.
Proclamations of love in every language and dialect spoken in Goldchair whispered from exactly 67 audio-nodes.
Eventually, in all this writing about this future, I will reach the story of the main novel. Chronologically, it’s still to come. (Naturally the next three stories in this future are set alongside-and-after “Unwritten in Green” – and 100 and 200+ years earlier.) In the meantime, it’s a big setting: there’s plenty for me to write about!
At Readercon this year, Rene Walling sexually harassed and stalked Genevieve Valentine. (Warning for descriptions of that behaviour.) Readercon had in place a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, stating that offenders would be banned from the convention for life. What happened to Rene Walling? A mere two-year ban. Why? Because he aologised nicely to the board.
That third link is not to the board’s response (right now I can’t read it) but to a post that links to it and also provides some past evidence of Rene Walling’s attitude towards harassment.
It’s not a positive, supportive view, nor does it suggest that his apology came from any other place than a self-centred desire not to lose out on Readercon attendance.
Especially when you take into mind what Genevieve says in her second post: “My harasser this year was named elsewhere, and since then I have been made aware, via private correspondence, I am not the only person he has harassed.”
No, she does not give names. Demanding them is no one’s right. However, one person has come forward with a statement of the harassment she has experienced.
Given the behaviour that Rene Walling exhibited towards Genevieve and Kate, I believe 100% that he has done this to many other women and will continue to do this to many women at whatever cons he is permitted to attend.
When you take into account the fact that Rene Walling is a known person within fandom (a recent Arisia Guest of Honour, has chaired a Worldcon, and writes for Tor.com), don’t you start to wonder why he was treated so leniently? Why his apology counts for more than Genevieve’s report of harassment? Because when you add “rape culture”* to “slightly famous dude”, what you get isn’t nice.
*What makes rape culture work also causes harassment such as this, even where no rape is involved. (Warning for discussion of rape at that link.)
I was hoping to go to Readercon next year, because I enjoyed Readercon 2009 so much. Now I don’t feel comfortable going. Not because I think I’m particularly likely to be harassed, no more or less than anywhere else, but because I know that if I – or anyone else at the con – is actually harassed, and I or anyone else comes forward, an act of bravery in itself, my or their report will not be taken seriously.
And it’s not just that, because in most places reports of harassment are not taken seriously – but at Readercon we have just witnessed that seriousness and support pulled out from under our feet and used to coddle the harasser and tell him that it’s okay, it’s fine, he’ll be able to go back, two years isn’t long.
And here’s the thing about harassment: it makes you feel helpless. It makes you feel like there is nothing you can do to stop it. In certain situations, there really is nothing you can do. (My experience at school. A lot of other people’s experiences, too.) In certain situations, you might know that there is a con policy in place to support you. You might not feel helpless, or you might feel less helpless, knowing that the harasser will be kicked out of the con for a long time or forever.
Well, Readercon just made victims of harassment feel helpless there, too.
Two snippets of recently-read poems that are sticking to me:
Patient scholar, half tourist, hunt
for gentians in the thunder-haunted hills.
You will not find our ghosts.
Write: Huddled round campfires, the women felt.
By day, the women attempted.
The women often.
The women must have.
The women were.
Our ghosts are elsewhere.
shining woman, still woman,
skinwild woman, dreaming-fast woman—
— Rose Lemberg, Between the Mountain and the Moon in Strange Horizons
A few very disparate links.
A transgender scientist who has experienced the scientific world first as a woman and then, after transitioning, as a man, offers a damning critique on the various opinions for why there are not many women in science. It’s a fantastic article – I really recommend that you read it.
The final paragraph is especially cutting:
Which may account for what Prof. Barres calls the main difference he has noticed since changing sex. “People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”
Genevieve Valentine talks about bad experiences at this year’s Readercon: first being talked down to and patronised as the only woman on a panel, then being sexually harassed and stalked through the con by a man. She provides an excellent manual for not being a harasser:
A brief conversation is not an opportunity to try your luck.
When someone moves away from an overture you are making? You are done.
When someone indicates something you have said makes them uncomfortable and then turns their back on you? You are done.
When someone turns to you and tells you in no uncertain terms that you are not to touch them again and moves off at speed? You are so incredibly done.
And when you have offended a woman with boundary-crossing behavior, you do not get to choose how you apologize.
If a woman has indicated you are unwelcome (see above, but also including but not limited to: lack of eye contact, moving away from you, looking for other people around you, trying to wrap up the conversation), and especially if a woman has told you in any way, to any degree, that you are unwelcome, your apology is YOU, VANISHING.
The rest of the post contains detailed context. As Genevieve points out, this is not isolated activity. This is not a one-off. This kind of behaviour remains commonplace and needs to stop right now.
Onto lighter matters.
This is a stunning collection of poetry, of deeply felt, painstakingly crafted expressions of doubt, hope, fear, courage, transformation, transgression, and other emotions and experiences that beg to be given form. More than that, though, it’s also a strong, undeniable collection of voices, all of which make their own individual cases to be heard.
My poem is mentioned as one that provides a lingering image: “the woman who sews the gold candle-holder into her wrist in Alex Dally MacFarlane’s ‘Beautifully Mutilated, Instantly Antiquated’”.
“Little Talks” by Of Monsters And Men is an awesome song with an even more awesome video. Watch here:
I am also very fond of their “Slow and Steady”, although it’s pretty depressing. Their album is out this August.
io9 has a piece about 10 civilisations that disappeared under mysterious circumstances, which includes one I find very interesting: Çatalhöyük in Turkey, which thrived between 9,000-7,000 years ago, and is architecturally very interesting, as it “contained no roads as we know them, and was instead built sort of like a hive, with houses built next to each other and entered through holes in the roofs. It’s believed that people farmed everything from wheat to almonds outside the city walls, and got to their homes via ladders and sidewalks that traversed their roofs.”
I vaguely recall finding out about Çatalhöyük in the big museum in Ankara, but it had slipped from my memory until I read this.
Curious, I went over to the wikipedia page about Çatalhöyük and found the following: “In some cases, graves were disturbed and the individual’s head removed from the skeleton. These heads may have been used in rituals, as some were found in other areas of the community.”
THIS IS SO INTERESTING.
When I was researching the story set 16,000 years ago in the Kebaran culture with interesting fox burials, I encountered this, as skulls of humans (and foxes!) were moved between graves for a presumably specific reason. This grew more widespread in the Natufian culture, which followed the Kebaran – but that’s still a lot of millennia before Çatalhöyük! I need to go bibliography-searching to find out more about this.
I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to specialise academically beyond ancient (and very ancient) history. It’s all too interesting on this side of the Common Era.
Fuck the Olympics. Fuck them so much. They are bringing nothing but exploitation and suppression to this city and country.
Some recent links:
UK police raid homes of retired graffiti artists
“Some of the people who were arrested had stopped painting graffiti without prior permission over a decade ago, and now paint commissioned artwork for corporate clients, while others haven’t touched a spray can at all in many years. … After being briefly questioned about these seemingly irrelevant matters, they were told that they were to be bailed until November on the condition that they did not use any form of railway in London (overground, tube or tram), carry spray paint (or other graffiti tools, presumably) at any time, or travel within a mile of any Olympic area. That includes the Olympic Park, the ExCel center and other Earls Court locations, Greenwich park, Hampton Court Palace, Hyde Park, Lord’s Cricket Ground, North Greenwich Arena, The Mall, The Royal Artillery Barracks, Wembley Arena, Wembley Stadium, Wimbledon and a host of out-of-London locations.”
That’s a lot of London they’ve been barred from, not to mention the transport restrictions. All because, in the past, they sprayed graffiti. And these restrictions are totally legal and fine and… what the fuck is wrong with this picture?
Ten to a room and one shower for 75 people: Inside the ‘slum’ camp for Olympic cleaners
“Cleaners at the Olympic Park are being housed ten to a room at a huge temporary compound. The campsite in East London, hidden from public view, has 25 people sharing each toilet and 75 to each shower. They sleep in portable cabins, some of which have been leaking in the rain. … On arrival, some were horrified to be told there was no work for two weeks. But despite this, they were made to pay the cleaning company £18 a day in ‘rent’ to sleep in the overcrowded metal cabins, which works out at more than £550 a month.”
I don’t normally link to the Daily Fail, but… fuck. The link has a picture. It’s fucking awful. Just a data point: I don’t pay much more than £550 a month. Needless to say, my flat is decently sized, does not leak, has a shower and toilet shared between just 2-3 of us, and my rent includes bills and internet and council tax. (Also, I could pay less than that and still live in a very comfortable conditions.)
Britain flooded with ‘brand police’ to protect sponsors
“Almost 300 enforcement officers will be seen across the country checking firms to ensure they are not staging “ambush marketing” or illegally associating themselves with the Games at the expense of official sponsors such as Adidas, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and BP. … Olympics organisers have warned businesses that during London 2012 their advertising should not include a list of banned words, including “gold”, “silver” and “bronze”, “summer”, “sponsors” and “London”, if they give the impression of a formal connection to the Olympics. … At the 40 Olympics venues, 800 retailers have been banned from serving chips to avoid infringing fast-food rights secured by McDonald’s.”
Seriously, read this article, it is like some kind of near-future SF satirising the Olympics except that it’s not satire.
A bit more ridiculousness around the corporate branding involves our famous Boris Bikes, the rent-a-bike system in central London. Well, it’s sponsored by Barclays, who are not sponsoring the Olympics, so you can’t ride your Boris Bike into the Olympics areas.
Hmm, what else? Oh yes, you’re not allowed to wear protest t-shirts anywhere near the Olympics sites. Even if it’s got nothing to do with the Olympics. Also if you wear branded clothing that’s not a sponsor’s brand, you will be charged with commiting a criminal offence.
I also saw someone say on Twitter that even if the Olympics makes a profit (it won’t), the rules of the organisation mean the money can only be put into sport, not schools or health or anything like that. Meanwhile, in some news articles I’ve edited at work I’ve seen reports that a high percentage of businesses think they will make losses during the Olympics. Then there’s all the contracts during the construction and commercial phases of development that have gone to overseas companies.
Let’s look at the police. The Official Protestors did a site visit recently, where they learnt this about Westfield (the main Olympic site):
“One little nugget that they let drop however was that there is in fact a Westfield Police Force, with its own Westfield Police Station on site. Westfield pay the Metropolitan police to provide officers on the ground to police their land. This is private land where the usual laws for protest do not apply being policed by Police Officers who are paid for by a multinational corporation. I’m sure there’s no chance of a conflict of interest there at all.”
That’s not terrifying at all.
I also read that the costs of the Olympics are exempt from Freedom of Information requests (ie the public can’t find out about the costs of this farce), but I can’t find confirmation of that.
Remind me how this is meant to benefit London and the UK?
The concluding half of “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” is now live on Strange Horizons!
Thank you to everyone who has said they enjoyed the first half of the story. It’s been really awesome hearing from various people that they like it. But the most unexpected thing that’s happened so far is being contacted by the editor of Bulgarian zine Сборище на трубадури asking for my permission to translate the story into Bulgarian, based only on reading the first half. So that will be coming out soon. (Still a bit shocked about that.)
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the conclusion of the story! Here is a little piece:
It is beautiful. It catches Jiresh, so bright a green and covered in the tales of Nishir and Aree, carved in the shapes of stone-stories and tail-stories. Its lid is half off. She steps forward. Inside—she could reach out and touch them—lie the mummified remains of Nishir and Aree.
Mike and Anita Allen have launched a Kickstarter for the fourth volume in their Clockwork Phoenix anthology series, which I am very excited about.
The first three volumes of Clockwork Phoenix published weird, genre-crossing, beautiful stories by a wide range of authors – people like Catherynne M Valente, Shweta Narayan, Vandana Singh, Leah Bobet, Ekaterina Sedia, Nicole Kornher-Stace, CSE Cooney, Saladin Ahmed, Tori Truslow and more. As Rose Lemberg says, “There is nothing quite like Clockwork Phoenix on the market, and we need that, because we need stories that do not fit in boxes, we need stories that are different and strange … [we] need to support editors who take chances on weird tales and unclassifiable genre stories that are unexpected and daring.” Given my tastes in reading and writing, I doubt anyone will be surprised to know that I agree with this wholeheartedly. The more places that publish interesting, thoughtful and diverse stories, the better.
In return for support, Mike and Anita are offering a range of prizes, including:
• Digital and paperback copies of the previous Clockwork Phoenix anthologies.
• The conversion of one of your stories or novels into e-book format.
• Artwork by Anita Allen (pins/brooches, sculptures, hats).
• The only copy of poetry zine Mythic Delirium Issue 20 signed by Neil Gaiman.
Head on over to the Kickstarter page to see everything that’s on offer and read more about the previous volumes.
Clockwork Phoenix 4 is almost halfway there already, but there’s still another $2,640 to go.
Because there can never be enough stories about foxes and bones, “Fox Bones. Many Uses.” is now live at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
These foxes are less alive, though.
Here is a snippet:
Out of respect for the fox, she ground its bones there, setting her mortar and pestle in the snow and forcing her cold fingers to co-operate. First she ground the tail-bones, murmuring the words her grandmother had taught her early in the pregnancy: For a strong heart. For strong lungs. For strong arms and legs. For strength. For strength. She poured the pale powder into a small pouch. Then she ground the other bones, separating them as use dictated, and picked up the hide and meat and set off home with steps full of fear: that the tail bones would not strengthen her son; or that they would, and her mother would hate her for it.
Aliens: Recent Encounters
"...this [anthology] blew us away more than any other. Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories... These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today."
- io9.com Best Books of 2013
Coming in 2014
The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women
I will be editing an anthology of powerful, important science fiction stories by women, showcasing the unforgettable contributions made to the genre in recent decades.
Out in late 2014.
Post-Binary Gender in SF
- Kathleen Alcala on CALL FOR REPRINT SUBMISSIONS: Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women
- Patricia on White-centric SF: people still take that seriously?
- TedWest on Women Without Men: A Constantly Undermined Trope
- Crystal Lynn Hilbert on CALL FOR REPRINT SUBMISSIONS: Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women
- Alex Dally MacFarlane on CALL FOR REPRINT SUBMISSIONS: Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women