#WOWLDN | Do Women Dream of a Different Future? Women and Science Fiction

The Women of the World Festival is back at London’s Southbank Centre 9-11 March. I’ll be talking about the futures women dream of with Fiona Sampson MBE, author GX Todd, and Leila Abu El Hawa of the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club and Dark Societies. We’ll be chaired by Una McCormack, best-selling SF author, academic and lecturer.

Here’s what the lovely folk who organise WOW have to say about the panel:

From the The Handmaid’s Tale to The Power and The Hunger Games to Noughts & Crosses, women’s writing has drawn on history to imagine different futures in sci-fi and fantasy writing. With grim comparisons being drawn with dystopian fiction and our current political climate, and as technology and science begin to make what seemed impossible a reality, what can speculative fiction tell us about our world today? On the bicentenary of the publication of Frankenstein – written by a 19 year old Mary Shelley in 1818 and often called the first true work of science fiction– we talk to the women who rule sci-fi and fantasy right now to help us imagine a gender equal world.

I’d love to tell you to go buy tickets, but they’re already sold out! If you were quick enough to get yourself a Saturday or weekend pass, please join us in the Level 4 Blue Bar from 13.15-14.15. If not – well, I was on another standing-room-only WOW panel in 2015 which the festival recorded and posted online very shortly afterwards. Hopefully they’ll do the same again.


A Good Conversation

One of the earliest, somewhat snarky observations I made about myself on this blog was that I like good conversation when I can get it. Back in December I had a long and lovely email exchange with award-winning author Tricia Sullivan (ahead of her piece in the Independent about negotiating the line between science and fiction). The full text of our interview has now been published over on the Gollancz blog as She Blinded Me With Science Fiction #4. We talked about art and anthropology, dystopia and discrimination, the conduct of war via social media, evolving models of capitalism and a great deal more. It was one of the best conversations I’ve had in quite some time; I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. (And do read Tricia’s other, equally penetrating interviews with Karen Lord, Emma Newman and Anne Charnock.)

Utopia Season

What a week it’s been. I generally add press news to the link page (see menu tab above), tweet once or twice and move on, but there’ve been a couple of things that deserve a bit more bigging up than that (and not just because I’m in them).

It’s Utopia season on BBC Radio 4; it kicked off with a documentary commemorating the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia (which is well worth a listen). Last year the BBC and acclaimed SF author Geoff Ryman approached me to participate in another documentary for the series: a retrospective on the proto-SF feminist utopian novel Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which would also examine how gender evolves – or doesn’t – in the futurist fiction we write now. I’d written a short post on the fictional possibilities of utopia; an approach I’ve taken in my own books, and not unrelated to the fact that they are subtly but thoroughly egalitarian when it comes to gender. Geoff and I had a long chat about the intersection of these issues at Nine Worlds in August, recorded by BBC producer Nicola Swords. Rather more than I expected made it into the final cut of the Herland documentary – along with wonderful insights from Laurie Penny, Sarah le Fanu, Dr Sari Edelstein, Caitríona Ní Dhúill, Sarah Hall and of course Geoff himself. The result is an elegant combination of a respectful look back and a provocative look forward, and though I do say so myself, it’s well worth thirty minutes of your time.

Do spend another fifteen with No Point Talking, the short story Geoff wrote while working on Herland. It’s a fantastic portrayal (and performance!) of a conservative alpha male protagonist in a near-future America in which his traditional views about gender and society are shaken to the core. It’s heartbreaking, infuriating and funny – often all at the same time.

My ideas about utopia have a lot to do with being collaborative and collegiate as opposed to hierarchical or exclusionary – so it’s particularly serendipitous  that the week started with Tricia Sullivan’s article in The Independent on how SF authors negotiate the boundaries between fact and fiction. What’s remarkable about Trish’s approach is that she got the gig as part of the promotional push for her new novel Occupy Me – and then went about it by interviewing myself, Karen Lord, Anne Charnock and Emma Newman and quoting us liberally in her piece. I’m humbled by her generosity. I’m also impressed by her publisher, Gollancz, which will be posting all four interviews in full on their website in the coming weeks.

The world, we are often told, is going to hell in a handcart. Spend half an hour watching any news programme and it’s hard to disagree. But somewhere among the embers, the flame of utopia flickers on.

My Nine Worlds Geekfest Schedule

UPDATE 30 July: Signing and room assignments added


Here’s my schedule for the 2nd Nine Worlds Geekfest Convention, now (gasp!) only a month few days away:


Friday 8 August 15:15 – 16:30, County C&D

Superheroes and Superhuman: exploding the myth of the superwhathaveyou

Superheroes are everywhere these days, from comic books to literary novels to the Disney Store. How is society exploring what ‘super’ means, and how does that change depending on the suffix attached?

Nick Harkaway, Jenni Hill, Taran Matharu, Barry Nugent, Stephanie Saulter


Friday 8 August 22:15 – 23:30, Royal B

New Voices: Welcome to the class of 2014!

The evening showcase of new writers – one of last year’s most popular events – returns! Bring your drinks, bring your friends: this is your chance to find your next literary addiction. Fun and fast, New Voices is an opportunity for debut writers – if you know someone who would fit the bill, head over to Twitter and nominate them at @booksnineworlds.

MC: Stephanie Saulter


Saturday 9 August 11:45 – 13:00, Connaught B

Writing The Other – A workshop for writers

How do you write ‘the Other’ without falling into common traps, harmful tropes, and clichés? Back by popular demand after last year’s successful event, we will be exploring these issues in a writers’ workshop, with exercises, discussion and a Q&A.

Facilitator: Stephanie Saulter


Saturday 9 August 22:15 – 23:30, Royal B

New Voices: the class of 2014 continues!

More fun and fast-paced readings from the best new writers.

MC: Stephanie Saulter 


Sunday 10 August 11:45 – 13:00, Connaught B

Reading SF While Brown – Views on speculative fiction

For many of us, reading science fiction and fantasy was a formative experience — one that introduced new ideas, and shaped what we knew or hoped to be possible. But what imaginative leaps does a reader have to make to buy into worlds that don’t include anyone who looks or talks like them? And what impact does making that imaginative leap, time and again, ultimately have? Genre writers and readers talk about their experiences of reading SF while brown.

 Camille Lofters, Taran Matharu, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Aishwarya Subramanian


Sunday 10 August 13:30 – 14:45, County C&D

X-Punk: punk as suffix, genre and state of mind

Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Grimpunk, Sandalpunk, Godpunk, Pinkpunk, Punkpunk… what’s nextpunk? Our panelists consider the next big thing – and the perils of the X-Punk genre lifestyle.

Djibril al-Ayad, Kim Curran, Mathew Pocock, Stephanie Saulter, M. Suddain


Sunday 10 August 14:45 – 15:45, Commonwealth West

Signing @ Forbidden Planet table

Gail Carriger, Stephanie Saulter, M. Suddain



You can follow Nine Worlds news and updates on Twitter at @London_Geekfest.

My WorldCon Schedule

UPDATE 26 July: Paradox book launch has been added!

UPDATE 18 July: I’ve received my final schedule for the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention (aka Loncon 3). Here’s what I’ll be doing even more:


Thursday 14 August 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCel)

Does the Future Need to Be Plausible?

One of the most common complaints about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is that the world she proposed was, at best, implausible. Collins is not alone is this. But to what extent do we need veracity from our imagined futures, and how much does the measure of ‘plausibility’ differ from reader to reader? Is a science fictional story diminished if it’s too divorced from the physical reality we live in? Is there a difference between a future we can see and a future we can only hypothesize in the abstract?

Howard Davidson (moderator), Janet C Johnston, Kin-Ming Looi, Ian McDonald, Stephanie Saulter


Friday 15 August 10:00 – 11:00, London Suite 5 (ExCel)

Kaffeeklatsch – Ken Macleod, Stephanie Saulter


Friday 15 August 16:30 – 17:30, Library, Fan Village (ExCel)

Paradox Book Launch


Friday 15 August 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCel)

SF: What It Is, What It Could Be

SF as a genre is both loaded and contested, bringing with it decades of controversies, assumptions, prejudices, and possibilities. What do the genre’s various practitioners and consumers think SF is? Are we speaking the same language, or talking past each other? How do perceptions of SF – in terms of who can write it, who can consume it, and what kinds of stories can find a market – create or reinforce realities? Is ‘core’ SF still about space exploration and colonisation, or is there room for other types of stories? If SF is ‘dying’, as we’re frequently told, what does that mean and in whose interests are the preparations for its funeral?

Tobias Buckell, Jeanne Gomoll, Ramez Naam, Alastair Reynolds, Stephanie Saulter (moderator)


Friday 15 August 22:00 – 22:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCel)

Reading – Stephanie Saulter


Saturday 16 August 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCel)

Race and British SF

Four years ago, Tricia Sullivan threw a spotlight on the gender balance of SF authors published in the UK, leading to a continuing conversation that is – perhaps – finally having an effect. However, although other aspects of representation have been mentioned in the course of this conversation, they have rarely been the focus, and in particular it can be argued that UK fandom and publishing have not talked enough about race. To use the same barometer as Sullivan, only one writer of colour has ever won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and so far this century only three have been shortlisted. Yet the success of diversity-led events such as Nine Worlds suggests the audience is there. So what else should publishers and fannish institutions in the UK be doing to support writers of colour? Whose work should Loncon attendees rush to buy in the dealer’s room? And whose novels and stories are we eagerly anticipating?

Dev Agarwal, Amal El-Mohtar (moderator), Tajinder Hayer, Stephanie Saulter, Russell Smith


Saturday 16 August 16:30 – 18:00, Autographing Space (ExCel)

Autographing 1Stephanie Saulter


Sunday 17 August 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 10 (ExCel)

You Don’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Commenting on the portrayal of Magneto in X-Men: First Class, Abigail Nussbaum noted that there is an “increasing prevalence of vengeful victim characters, who are condemned not for the choices they make in pursuit of revenge, but simply for feeling anger … There is in stories like this a small-mindedness that prioritizes the almighty psychiatric holy grail of “healing” – letting go of one’s anger for the sake of inner peace – over justified, even necessary moral outrage.” Which other stories – on TV or in books, as well as in films – follow this template, and whose interests do they really serve? Where can we find screen depictions of the power of anger, and/or other models of anger?

Abigail Nussbaum’s full review can be found here (although the discussion is intended to range wider than this single film or franchise, and include stories from any media).

Nin Harris, Martin McGrath, Mary Anne Mohanraj (moderator), Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Saulter


Sunday 17 August 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCel)

SF/F Across Borders

Genre writers such as Vandana Singh, Geoff Ryman, Tricia Sullivan, and Zen Cho are already travellers to other worlds. Many authors write as resident outsiders, and want to write their new homes as well as their old. How does the experience of moving between countries affect the writing of fiction? How can or should writers respond to the varying power dynamics of race, language and culture involved in such migrations? And how should readers approach the stories that result?

Jesús Cañadas, Glenda Larke, Yen Ooi Ms, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Suzanne van Rooyen


Monday 18 August 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 14 (ExCel)

Paradox Book Discussion

A discussion of the science and fiction elements in the stories in the Fermi Paradox anthology from the authors who wrote them.

Pat Cadigan, David L Clements, Paul Cornell, Adam Roberts, Stephanie Saulter, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates (moderator)


Many thanks to the organisers for such a brilliant itinerary! It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to all of my events. I can’t wait to see the full programme – it’s never too early to start despairing about one’s inability to be in two (or three, or four) places at the same time.

A list of lists

I’ve been kept warm and cozy by all the lovely mentions of my books on people’s best-of and most-looking-forward-to lists over the past few weeks. It’s been a wonderful end to a remarkable year, and I am more honoured and grateful than I can say. One of the things I use this blog for is to keep track of memorable moments in my writing life; so here is my list of lists. THANK YOU ALL.

Favourite 2013 Debuts | A Fantastical Librarian

Best Books of 2013 | Tor.com Reviewers Choice | Liz Bourke

Best Debuts of 2013 | Shadowhawk’s Shade

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing & Listening in 2013 | Ambling Along the Aqueduct | Cheryl Morgan

The Best of 2013 | Over the Effing Rainbow

Best Covers of 2013 | Shadowhawk’s Shade

The Year That Was | Sleepless Musings

Anticipated Science Fiction & Horror (Winter-Spring) 2014 | A Fantastical Librarian

Most Anticipated Books of 2014 | Shadowhawk’s Shade

And of course, the first two lists that kicked off my personal season of joy:

Best Science Fiction of 2013 | The Guardian

BSFA Awards 2013: Nominations so far | BSFA

UPDATE 3 Jan 2014:

Anticipated Books 2014 | The Book Plank

UPDATE 7 Jan 2014:

Books to Look Out For | Sleeps With Monsters | Tor.com

UPDATE 8 Jan 2014:

MIND MELD: Our Favorite SF/F/H Consumed in 2013 | SF Signal

‘Tis the season of lists …

I was rather lazily reading Adam Roberts‘ Guardian roundup of the best science fiction books of 2013 after dinner last night, and damn near choked on the dregs of my wine … did a double-take … triple-take … no, nothing funny in the glass (I checked) nor wrong with my eyes (no more than usual, anyway). There was Gemsigns, sharing column inches with the likes of Margaret Atwood and Stephen King, Lauren Beukes and Lavie Tidhar, mega-seller Hugh Howey and Booker winner Eleanor Catton. Among others too numerous and luminous to mention. I am amazed and grateful to be in such company. And I’m particularly thrilled, because it was clear when Adam read the book a few months ago – and as he also indicates in the article – that it didn’t work for him right away; but, as he says, ‘it has proved a grower.’ I love that. I love that a book which is so much about perception and persuasion, the ways in which people’s ideas about what is wrong and right and good and bad can shift and shift again, has had in the real world the effect it describes in an imaginary one. The synergy of that delights me. So thank you, Adam, for letting my book grow on you; and for including it on your list.

The other pleasant list-related surprise of the evening was this BSFA blog post with the best-of-2013 nominations so far: best non-fiction, best artwork, best short fiction, best novel. Once again there was Gemsigns, keeping company with some truly wonderful books. I’ve no idea who nominated it, or even if it was more than one – but whoever you are, thank you. Nominations remain open until mid-January and it’s already up against some very big hitters, so I have no expectations beyond the nomination itself – but then I wasn’t expecting that. I am in ‘you never know’ territory at the moment. It’s great.

Where I’ll be at Bristolcon

I’m going to be up, out, and on a train at a deeply uncivilised hour tomorrow morning, but it’ll be worth it because Bristolcon! Last year it was only my second con ever; I listened to great readings and discussions, met lovely people, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year I volunteered to do ‘stuff’ – and the stuff I got is great:

Programme Room 1  –  10am

Creating A Culture – Building A Working Fantasy / SF Society

Worldbuilding: you want to change some of the rules to make things interesting, but you still want people to buy into the world you’ve created. Rocks, trees and dragons may give you a setting, but unless your protagonist is alone on an uninhabited planet, people (human or otherwise) will have to be organised somehow. How do you set about designing an original and yet believable society? What are the most ingenious societies we’ve seen in SF&F – and what might they tell us about ourselves?

Panel discussion with Dev Agarwal (moderator), Mary Robinette Kowal, Robert Harkess, Stephanie Saulter, Peter Sutton

Programme Room 2  –  6pm

Plausible Critters    

We see a lot of creatures in SF and fantasy that are just horses or dogs in cheap disguises. Conversely, we see interesting alien life forms that are hopelessly implausible. When sticking wings on a rabbit and calling it a snoogle just won’t do, how can you create weird, wonderful and convincing critters? What are some examples of the best and worst critters in fiction?

Panel discussion with Max Edwards (moderator), Snorri Kristjansson, Stephanie Saulter, Jaine Fenn, Gareth L. Powell

Both panels are variations on a theme: the construction of a storyworld that makes a kind of intuitive sense to the reader, that is coherent and immersive enough to allow for the suspension of disbelief so crucial to any kind of fantastic fiction. So – come hear how we think it should be done and who we think does it well (or not). And in between there’s loads more to see and hear; I’ve got my eye on the Re-Telling Fairy Tales panel, as well as Comics – Art And Literature With Speech Bubbles. And of course Forbidden Planet will be there, plus the organisers have arranged a sale table for authors they may not carry. So, you know. Buy books.

Heard it on the radio

I was going to write a quick post with a summary and links to the podcasts for yesterday’s Ujima Radio appearance in Bristol, but since my wonderful host Cheryl Morgan has already done so on her site I’m going to save myself the trouble and just reblog hers. Thanks again Cheryl, and Paulette and Jackie and Judeline and Mark (who was Tech Guy so you won’t hear him on-air, but lovely and clever nonetheless).

Today on Ujima | Cheryl’s Mewsings.

Well that was a busy day. Huge thanks to Stephanie Saulter for being a fabulous guest on the show. I seem to have monopolized most of the two hours this week. Here’s what went down.

The first half hour was all about Stephanie. We talked about her trip home to Jamaica to launch Gemsigns. We talked about her experiences at the Nine Worlds convention over the weekend. And we talked about the current state of affairs in Jamaica, which ranged from the economy to Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle to the horrific transphobic murder of Dwayne Jones.

The Nine Worlds coverage include shout outs for Hal Duncan, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Tade Thompson and quite likely a few other people. I also got in a mention of the fabulous new @WritersofColour Twitter account, and my friend Nikesh Shukla, who has a great article on their blog today about how brown people get used in movies.

In the second half hour I talked to Hannah Lawton, a young Bristol lady who, with her friend Jessie Van Beck, will be rowing across the Atlantic for charity this December. This is part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. You can read more about Hannah and Jessie, and why they are undertaking this grueling challenge, here.

The first hour of the show is now available as a podcast here.

Hour two begins with the Lighter Look at Life segment, which this week was all about proverbs and grammar and, well, it rambled a bit. And I think we might have got a bit confused between Axioms and Maxims. Stephanie and I both feature.

Then after 15 minutes we have the Woman of the Week slot, in which I talk to Stephanie about her life, her amazing family, and how a girl from Jamaica with what might have been the best job in the world ended up in the UK and becoming a science fiction writer.

Finally we have 15 minutes on summer reading, including Jackie’s kids being charming about their love for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Between us Stephanie and I managed to recommend Nalo Hopkinson, Ian McDonald, Karen Lord, Juliet McKenna, Jon Grimwood and the whole of the World Fantasy Awards Best Novel ballot.

The second half hour is available as a podcast here.

Nine Worlds News

Where have I been, where have I been?

Enjoying that rarest of phenomena, a proper British summer; selling my house (big moves afoot! more in a future post); rereading the Binary draft, collating thoughts — editor and agent, the ®Evolution Readers, and my own (again, lots of material for its own post here) — and commencing my own edit; all interrupted, for the past 36 hours or so, by a visit from the norovirus (who knew you could get the winter stomach flu in the summer?!?); and getting ready for the NineWorlds Convention, now only two and a half weeks away.

I jumped on the Nine Worlds bandwagon when it was running its Kickstarter back in February. The organisers billed it as ‘an unconventional convention’, with multiple tracks to accommodate all fans of the fantastic; from comics and cosplay, to gaming and Game of Thrones, to films and fanfic, to academia and, of course, books. If I’m honest, the thing that had me most worried was the sheer enormity of their ambition – could a first-time convention put together by a bunch of fans actually pull off something on this scale? But I made my pledge anyway, because I prefer grand ambitions to puny ones, and because I was really impressed by the con’s commitment to being thoroughly diverse and completely inclusive; to internalising the full breadth and depth of fandom, and making the event a place where everyone is welcome and safe, and no one feels marginalised. That, I thought, was well worth a punt.

I’ll report back after the event, but on both fronts the signs are good. The number of tracks is frankly mind-boggling, and they all seem really well programmed. The guest list is, to say the least, impressive. And judging by that programme and those guests and the regular bulletins we’ve been receiving, they’re doing what they promised and making it a con for everyone.

My appearance schedule looks like this:

  • Friday 9th August, 10:15pm: NEW VOICES SLAM SESSION. Short readings from nine of science fiction and fantasy’s most promising new authors! (Full disclosure – I suggested this one to the organisers, because there are always more authors wanting to read than can be accommodated, plus it’s hard for new authors to pull an audience on their own. So if it tanks, blame me. But it won’t. It’ll be great. I can’t wait. It’s on Saturday night as well, with a different line-up — go to both.)
  • Sunday 11th August, 10:15am: CAN’T TAKE THE SKY FROM ME: SCIENCE FICTION AND SPACE TRAVEL. It’s over fifty years since we sent the first humans into space. Are we still as excited about going to the stars? How have real-world concerns about the reality and practicality of space travel affected the genre? I moderate Charles Stross, Adam Christopher, Jaine Fenn, Ian Whates and Gavin Smith.
  • Sunday 11th August, 11:45am: RACEFAIL 101. The panellists discuss colonialism, xenophobia and racism in science fiction and fantasy, recommending the best works discussing these issues as well as discussing the problems we face in writing and reading SFF and what we can do about them. Anne Perry moderates me, Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and Tade Thompson.
  • Sunday 11th August, 1:00 – 2:00pm: BOOK SIGNING. I’ll be racing from Racefail to the Forbidden Planet table to sign copies of Gemsigns – do drop by for a chat and a scribble.
  • Sunday 11th August, 3:15pm: WRITING THE OTHER. Last but by no means least, I’m joining Rochita Loenen-Ruiz to run this workshop as part of the Queer stream. The thinking is to follow on from some of the themes of the Racefail panel, looking broadly at issues of inclusion, diversity, and social justice in addition to the core LGBTQ focus. I’m told that signups are essential for this one; email queer@nineworlds.co.uk.

In addition, I’m definitely going to the launch party for Tom Pollock and Snorri Kristansson‘s new novels (The Glass Republic and Swords of Good Men respectively) at 8:30pm on Friday; to the panel on gender and sexuality at 8:30pm on Saturday; and then to the New Voices Slam at 10:15pm Saturday, assuming I’m still vertical. In between all of that I shall be spinning around like a top, trying to work out how to take in all the other great events.

Nine Worlds is being held at the Radisson and Renaissance hotels near Heathrow. Tickets are still available here, and you can follow them on Twitter; the event-wide handle is @London_Geekfest, the Books track is @booksnineworlds, the Queer track is @NineWorldsQueer, the Writing track is @9WorldsWriting … and there are more. Did I mentioned I’m impressed? I’m impressed.

  • 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.

  • Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events

  • Latest tweets

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,079 other subscribers
  • UK edition


    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK edition


    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK Edition


    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition


    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition


    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition


    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

  • Meta

%d bloggers like this: