What I Did On My Summer Holiday (or, How to travel to Helsinki and end up on the radio in Bristol)

I haven’t done a Worldcon75 round-up; I was too busy in Helsinki and I’ve been too busy since I got back. I’m working on a revised draft of my new novel, following some candid and entirely apt feedback from my agent (bless you, professional readers who pull no punches. Bless you, bless you). I’m also one of the Lignum Vitae Awards judges this year; they’re for unpublished work by Jamaican authors. My beat is adult fiction or creative non-fiction, so I’ve got a scary number of novel-length manuscripts to finish reading in the next few weeks. I suppose I didn’t actually have enough time to take any off, but I’d been planning it for a year and I’m very glad I went. The con was great, and so was the city (I have to keep reminding myself that I was there during a gloriously sunny and warm week in August; it’s possible I might have enjoyed it less in oh, say, December. But I doubt it.) Helsinki is on the water, with bridges and bays everywhere you look; it’s compact, clean, easily walkable, good for cyclists (I’m not one) with excellent train, tram, bus and ferry service. The food is good, the people are lovely, the museums are excellent (and everyone speaks English).

No post-mortem as such, but I was asked if there was a particularly memorable con moment. There were actually two, starting with the panel I wasn’t scheduled to be on and the reading I hadn’t known I was going to do. The panel was Caribbean SF, and featured Worldcon Guest of Honour, fellow Jamaican Nalo Hopkinson; Barbadian writer, Worldcon Toastmistress and my good mate Karen Lord; and Brandon O’Brien from Trinidad & Tobago. As they made their way to the front of the room I was summoned from my front-row seat to join them on the platform. They’d already discussed kicking off with 2-minute readings from their own work, to give the audience a sense of how our region influences the way we write: in dialect, in imagery, in the cadences of our prose. I obviously hadn’t been part of that prep meeting, but as luck would have it I happened to have with me the newly rewritten opening chapters of the new book, which is influenced by Jamaican heritage and folklore to a far greater degree than any of my previous books. So I got to test it out via my own mini-reading (it went down very well), in addition to being part of a brilliant conversation with a brilliant group of people.

Memorable moment number two is actually online, so I can share it. The prominence of Caribbean women writers and women of colour at Worldcon this year (N.K. Jemisin won the Best Novel Hugo award for the second year running) prompted Cheryl Morgan to do a series of interviews for Ujima Radio‘s Woman’s Hour programme. Ujima is an award-winning community radio station in Bristol, with a strong Afro-Caribbean focus. The show went out last week, and Listen Again links are now up. I’m on first, followed by Karen Lord. That link is here. I talk about the rise of Caribbean speculative literature, the politics of diversity and importance of cultural narrative, and the joy of being surrounded by friendly Finns who look as though they’re cosplaying my characters. Karen takes us behind the scenes at Worldcon, is delightfully amazed to find herself doing the incredibly cool things she’s doing, and talks about her new gig writing seasonal fiction. (If you need any more reasons to listen, the playlist includes Prince, P-Funk and Hendrix.) The second hour kicks off with African-American writer K. Tempest Bradford, and wraps up with Nalo Hopkinson; here’s that link (and yes, the playlist is just as awesome).

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Women in Science Fiction Panel − YouTube links

When Karen Lord, Naomi Foyle, Jaine Fenn, Janet Edwards and I got together with moderator Edward James at Blackwell’s Charing Cross back on the 8th of May, our chief organiser and master of communications Andrew Turner of Jo Fletcher Books was on hand with a video camera. It turned out to be one of the best panel discussions I’ve ever been lucky enough to be part of; and unlike any of the others, this one has been posted to YouTube for your remote viewing pleasure. Herewith links. Enjoy!

Women in Science Fiction Panel Part 1

Women in Science Fiction Panel Part 2

Women in Science Fiction Panel Part 3

Blackwell’s hosts Women in Sci Fi

That cool announcement I trailed a couple of weeks ago has been announced. If you’re going to be in London on the 8th of May mark your calendars and claim your tickets: Blackwell’s on Charing Cross Road hosts the Women in Sci Fi Panel!  It’ll run from 18:30-19.30 and I’ll be one of the panellists, along with Karen Lord, Naomi Foyle, Janet Edwards and Jaine Fenn. Our moderator will be Edward James, and we’ll be discussing the debate surrounding the representation of female authors in genre fiction. The evening will also feature the launch of a new display of books at Blackwell’s featuring female authors of science fiction and fantasy – we’ll be on it of course, along with many other wonderful writers. The event is free but spaces are limited, so reserve yours now! (And if you reserve but find you can’t make it after all, please remember to cancel so someone else can take your place.)

I’d like to say a personal thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for thinking up and organising this in partnership with Blackwell’s. They’re one of the few publishers whose SF list has equal numbers of men and women authors – the ratio we all say we want, but tend not to notice when we get! And I like the idea of doing something a bit more unusual and potentially impactful than a traditional launch party – so this stands in lieu of that for Binary. But there’ll definitely be a chance to grab a drink afterwards, and I’ll be very happy to sign for anyone who wants. Do please come along!

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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