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.
Part 2 will go live next week.
Here is the beginning, to entice you in:
Jump up! Take arms! Bare teeth!
We fight for these sands.
Sink iron knives and white teeth into their scented flesh, their soft city flesh, those stealers of our homes. This is our city now, this desert with its winds that scour our cheeks, its dunes that join us in song, its rare springs that we lap at so gently. We once gulped rivers of rubies and pearls; now they do and we will never be able to claim them back. We will not let them take this final city of air and graveyards from us! Jump up!
We fight for these sands with everything we have and sometimes we forget the feel of a sister’s shoulder beneath our heads, we’ve been so long without sleep—but today will be remembered for more than this.
Today we retrieve the bodies of our Saints.
So this is exciting:
I’ve sold an anthology, Aliens: Recent Encounters, to Sean Wallace at Prime Books for a June 2013 release.
It will be a reprint anthology – as such, I am currently open for reprint suggestions and submissions. Read on for more information.
Under the countless billions of stars in the universe, what forms will alien life take? How will they live? And what will happen when we meet them?
Aliens: Recent Encounters collects answers to these questions from some of today’s best science fiction writers. From first encounters to life alongside aliens – and stories of the aliens’ own lives – here are many futures: violent and peaceful, star-spanning and personal. Only one thing is certain: alien life will defy our expectations.
I am interested in stories that are exciting, thoughtful – and, most of all, imaginative. As a reader, I am often frustrated by how human-like or dull aliens are. Show me something unexpected and wonderful.
Things I am not interested in: stories that use aliens as a shallow analog of racism and race relations here on Earth.
I believe that the narrow focus of some previous science fiction anthologies actively harms the genre and the people within it. I am therefore very interested in hearing about stories by people of every gender, race, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.
Please send suggestions of stories about aliens (published after 2000) or submissions of your own published stories (no more than 3) to aliensanthology at gmail dot com. Please let me know when and where the stories were published. Stories under 10,000 words are preferred. Payment will be on acceptance, at 1 cent per word, as well as 2 contributor copies. I need to receive suggestions/submissions by 15 October. Replies will be sent by 30 November.
I also welcome suggestions in the comments here.
Imagine: a group of women living together without men. It’s been imagined by men – see: the Amazons – generally as an object of eroticism or fear. The ultimate emasculation! Nothing is more horrifying than women who don’t need men! Especially if those women are fierce.
Imagine women doing whatever they want, un-harmed and un-limited by misogyny, forming relationships of all kinds only with one another. It’s a very gender binary view and it’s not the solution to our problems – nor do I want to kill all men. (Honest!) But for someone who is comfortable IDing as female, it can be wish-fulfilment.
But no, no, we can’t have that. Men! Heterosexual love! Pregnancy! Everything must eventually lead to these points.
Earlier this year I read two books, almost back-to-back, in which female-only societies that have thrived for centuries are undermined by the presence of a man – specifically, by heterosexual love with that man.
The first book is Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, which is otherwise a dreadfully dull story about a horrible man and his friends going to find Prester John. I’m sure Baudolino is meant to be a sexist, racist dick because ~historical~ but I don’t see why I should find that in any way enjoyable. But suddenly, amidst hundreds of pages of gross gender essentialism, we meet the hypatias.
“You must realise that a thousand thousand years ago, in a powerful and distant city, there lived a wise and virtuous woman named Hypatia. She had a school of philosophy, which means love of wisdom. But in that city also some bad men lived, who were called Christians; they did not fear the gods, they felt hatred towards philosophy and they particularly could not tolerate the fact that a female should know the truth. One day they seized Hypatia and put her to death amid horrible tortures. Now some of the younger of her female disciples were spared, perhaps because they were believed to be ignorant maidens who were with her only to serve her. They fled, but the Christians by now were everywhere, and the girls had to journey a long time before reaching this place of peace. Here they tried to keep alive what they had learned from this mistress, but they had heard her speak when they were still very young, they were not as wise as she had been, and they didn’t remember clearly all of her teachings. So they told themselves they would live together, apart from the world, to rediscover what Hypatia had really said.”
OH MY GOD
IT BURNS FOR THEM
They utilise the trope of using males (non-human males, in this case) as sperm donors and keeping only the girl-children, sending boy-children back to the males in order to be raised as future sperm-donors. I have a bit of a crush on that trope. It’s not exactly a complex role-reversal and I’m not going to claim it’s particularly feminist or anything, but again: the wish-fulfilment of a female space in which males are irrelevant.
But naturally Baudolino falls in love with the hypatia he meets and they have sex and she realises that men are great and she gets pregnant.
In fairness to Baudolino, the hypatia chooses her people over a man and she doesn’t share Baudolino’s idea that he’s entitled to help raise the child if it turns out to be a girl (whereas she’d give the boy to him, because why would she keep a boy?) so that’s something. It’s not as bad as in the next book. But I want to know why this even needs to happen at all? Why can’t the hypatia remain uninterested? After a millenia of no hypatia expressing an interest in a man, why now? It’s true that they don’t encounter men often, but I struggle to believe that Baudolino is the first ever. Of course, the answer is that Baudolino is the hero of his book and he needs to score with the hot hypatia, because the narrative cares about him far more than it does about any woman at all.
Meanwhile I’m going to sulk in my corner and write hypatia fanfiction.
Which leads me onto Shan Sa’s Alexander and Alestria, which AUGH WHY. I have an academic interest in fictional treatments of Alexander’s story, especially cracktastic ones (that anime, that anime), and this one is certainly terribad. Speaking of fanfiction, like much bad fanfiction it deploys the trope of the raped woobie, with Alexander being raped by his father and many other men as a child, then turning into a messed up adult who occasionally rapes other young people. O…kay. The writing style itself is overtly dramatic, to the point where it becomes laughably angsty. Bad Alexander fanfiction, basically – which I’d forgive, sort of (except for the rape), especially as it makes a vague attempt to depict Alexander as genderqueer (but not really), if not for the fact that the Alestria in the title is the queen of the Amazons.
In this treatment, the Amazons are a tribe of girls who love horses, adding to their numbers by adopting girls across the steppe – generally girls who have been orphaned or cast out. No men are ever welcome in their tribe. They sleep with them sometimes, for fun, but they kill them quite a lot. They also sleep with other women. Oh, and if they get pregnant then they (might) die. GUESS WHERE THIS IS GOING.
Alexander and Alestria meet and fall in love and this fierce Amazon queen, who has fought and beheaded men and never been weak, is reduced to the trophy queen by Alexander because he doesn’t want her (an experienced warrior) to see war.
Here’s where she falls in love with him:
“He forged himself a path in my belly, worked his way up into my blood vessels, found my heart, and broke the wound that acted as my shield. He found his way onto my internal steppes…
How could he read inside my head? A burning torrent made my legs weightless, flowed through my chest, and spread down my arms. A beam of light struck my head and burst inside my body, transforming itself into the Milky Way. I have no more questions. Alexander has defeated me. I am his.”
Unfortunately, she doesn’t see this defeat as a bad thing; utterly in love, she marries him and leaves the Amazons.
Alexander continues his campaign out of Central Asia and into India, running back and forth between the front and Alestria – who does get annoyed at one point and demands to join him in battle, but ultimately doesn’t because he convinces her with the power of his love. Naturally she falls pregnant and, despite the Amazons’ belief that pregnancy kills them, decides to carry the baby to term because true love with a man. To my pleasant surprise, the baby doesn’t kill her (she’s basically Roxane, so this is the miscarriage attested in some sources), but what ultimately causes her death made me want to tear the book into tiny pieces.
More on that in a moment.
There is a redeeming factor: Tania (or Ania – the Amazons drop the T when they leave the tribe). The handmaiden to Alestria, she follows her to live with Alexander – and rages, unending, at the way love has blinded Alestria and broken apart the tribe.
“Our ancestors were right to forbid love, which turns a woman into the living dead!
Alestria, my queen, had become a stone statue.”
“I, Ania, was incensed. Was this love: hiding away a woman as capable of fighting monsters as himself? Was this love: making an Amazon die of boredom and wealth and powerless power? Was this Alexander’s love: putting a bird of the glacier in a cage and leaving it there to wither and die?”
(And this is why I’m not entirely sure what Shan Sa’s objectives were with this book, because Tania is excellent and true – and intentionally so, surely – but other things in the book are so fucking terrible.)
So at the end of the book, Alexander gets crippled in a battle and Alestria decides to carry him back to Central Asia and rejoin her tribe. Before too long, Alexander’s injuries kill him. Then Alestria goes away to die because she has no reason left to live. Then, after that, Tania goes away to die.
WHAT. THE FUCK. NO.
Female-only societies are an ultimate chance of women-positive narratives, right? For me they represent a refuge against the male-dominated landscape I live and read in, a place where women are not measured against male expectations, not perceived through the male gaze, not shackled by internalised male standards, not constantly found wanting – a place where femaleness is normative and safe and good.
It’s not every woman’s idea of escape – what with us not being a monolith and all – but I doubt I’m the only one who finds the idea of female-only societies interesting and welcoming.
But no, what we really need are stories of female-only societies – set up as wonderful havens for women – being infiltrated and undermined by men, with women capitulating to the trueness of heterosexual love and becoming the weaker partner in a heterosexual relationship, perhaps dying once the man dies because we literally can’t live without our man, because it’s not like that story is almost everywhere els- OH WAIT.
Can’t we keep these male-free narratives? There are so many narratives (some bad, some good) where men and heterosexual love are important – but if we want to escape that, can’t we have somewhere to go?
I’ve been watching Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), a documentary film about the Chauvet Cave in France. A rockslide ensured the preservation of the cave, in which rock art dating back to >30,000 years ago was quite recently found (as well as a lot of bones). It’s just… phenomenal.
You can look around the internet for pictures of the cave, but I really recommend this documentary.
What I love about it (as a seasoned documentary watcher) is that it’s not just about the dry facts, although those are there: the discovery, the dating, the methods of dating, some contextualisation (eg how paleolithic peoples hunted before bow and arrow). Primarily it’s about the cave itself, the experience of the cave.
There are long sections just showing the views of the cave from the various cameras, from so many angles, over and over. In one section, there is no sound except a heartbeat and faint music as the cameras pan. The art and its cave – the space and shapes of the cave – are central.
In one interview with a specialist, the questioner is less concerned with science and more concerned with the specialist’s feelings when he stood inside the cave.
The narrator talks about how several people inside the cave felt that they were intruding, in danger of interrupting the paleolithic people at the art-making – that, in some ways, it was a relief to leave.
There is a discussion of the intersection between spirituality and the art, which is hinted at in the placement of a skull and in the art.
(And there are vertebrae covered in the beginnings of stalagmites. Ahh.)
It is impossible to draw every desired conclusion about paleolithic life in this region from the Chauvet Cave. The gap is too great. Instead, the art is offered to us: to form our own theories, our own connection with these long-ago people.
Another poem sale! “Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt” will be appearing in Stone Telling. I’m delighted to be in Stone Telling again.
This poem grew from several things. The main thing was reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It’s not the global survery its title would suggest: it focuses on the Mediterranean region and Europe primarily, with brief mentions of a few other areas of the world, which seems narrow-sighted when there must be plenty to be said about women’s work in every place for which we have archaeological remains. The work that Barber considers is primarily textile work, which is often overlooked because of its overwhelmingly female ownership. Who cares what the women were doing throughout history if it didn’t directly involve men, right? So, though it’s not quite as perfect as it could be, it’s a very necessary and interesting book. That lack of consideration for women’s history is one strand that led to this poem. The other is the string skirt of the title. These are mentioned in Barber’s book as belonging to a number of European traditions (and persisting, in some forms, to this day), dating back thousands of years, with the remnants of one Bronze Age example being found in Denmark with fused remains of metal tubes that were attached to the ends of the strings to give them weight.
This looks like a photo of another string skirt pictured in Barber’s book:
It’s very short. Its use, Barber argues, was probably tied to sex and fertility.
Barber tried on a replica string skirt and wrote:
“That was the greatest surprise of all: the independent life of what now enveloped me. I danced around the room from one mirror to the next, fascinated by the way the heavy fringes moved, completely differently from any other garment I had ever worn. I felt exhilerated, powerful … Is that part of the symbolism of the skirt? The ability to create new life must surely have been viewed as a form of ultimate power.”
I have a lot of problems with that tight alignment between female power and the ability to bear children (and sexuality in general). It denies women-ness to women who do not want to have children, women who are infertile, women who do not have wombs… But I loved what Barber is suggesting: that this skirt in some way empowered women, gave them a sense of ownership over their bodies. That was what went into the poem, without being about sex and children.
There’s more I could talk about, but that’s enough for now.
So far, I have actually been using my tablet to read a lot more online short fiction – it’s much more comfortable than trying to read on my computer screen. And it means I’m no longer missing out on some excellent stories! (Sadly, very little of what I think is really great gets reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies, which are another source of short fiction I’ve been pursuing lately.) So, to borrow an idea from Tempest, who is doing the same thing, I plan to recommend my favourites from the stories I’ve read each month.
In June, then:
“Her Words Like Hunting Vixens Spring” by Brooke Bolander – Lightspeed Magazine (2012)
Foxes! Revenge! In a desert! It’s a Blackbeard/Mr Fox retelling where a young woman who would’ve been the latest bride seeks revenge for the other dead women, helped by foxes that claw their way out of her throat. Love the acknowledgement that no one in the town cared about the disappearing women until she, an important man’s daughter, almost got killed. Love the language.
“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard – Clarkesworld Magazine (2012)
A powerful examination of cultural imperialism and how kicking the colonists out doesn’t end the evils of colonisation. Instead, insidious, damaging ideas of belonging and beauty and “default” are imposed upon the colonised people, and throwing them off is difficult. I especially love that it becomes a story about women helping one another.
“Tiger Stripes” by Nghi Vo – Strange Horizons (2012)
A quiet tale of a woman’s relationship with a tiger in rural Vietnam.
“Eyes of Carven Emerald” by Shweta Narayan – Clockwork Phoenix 3 (2010)
A retelling of Alexander the Great’s history. At pivotal moments across the years of his campaign, he meets a clockwork bird who tells him a story about an invading human king in a land of clockwork people: a story with a purpose, although whether Alexander – who relishes the glory of seeing (ie conquering) new lands – truly understands it is up for question. Love the ending.
“Song of the Body Cartographer” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz – Philippine Genre Stories (2012)
A story of body sabotage and repair in an intriguing matriarchy. Inyanna is a Timor’an, designed to fly with a windbeast, but she cannot. Siren, a body cartographer and her lover, is trying to find out why. At its heart, the story is about body ownership: the fear of sabotage, the ecstasy of using one’s own body as it is designed to be used, unconstrained, and the hard work it takes to achieve that state against subjugating efforts.
“Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz – Fantasy Magazine (2010)
Another beautiful story by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, this one about a young woman growing up in the Philippines and learning what kind of love she wants.
I also enjoyed “Talbot’s Anatomy” by Becca De La Rosa in Jabberwocky Magazine (2012), “Knots, Cracks, Trees, Hills” by Patricia Russo in Jabberwocky Magazine (2012), “Trickster’s Song” by Christopher Reynaga in Expanded Horizons (2012), “Tornado’s Siren” by Brooke Bolander in Strange Horizons (2012), “Tilia Songbird” by Francesca Forrest in GigaNotoSaurus (2012), “A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia in Clarkesworld Magazine (2012) and “Frozen Voice” by An Owomoyela in Clarkesworld Magazine (2011).
Turns out there’s a lot of good stories online. =D
Aliens: Recent Encounters
I'm the editor of Aliens: Recent Encounters, a reprint anthology of science fiction stories, OUT NOW from Prime Books.
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.
- Alex Dally MacFarlane on CALL FOR REPRINT SUBMISSIONS: Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women
- Lorraine on CALL FOR REPRINT SUBMISSIONS: Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women
- Autumn to winter | Hel Gurney on White-centric SF: people still take that seriously?
- Alex Dally MacFarlane 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