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SF Link Round-up

The BBC will be hosting a Science Fiction Season this month.

New Interview with Ursula Le Guin over at

This forthcoming documentary sounds amazing: Invisible Universe: A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction

I really liked this piece: On Interstellar, Plot Holes, and letting stories be themselves (via BethanVJones)

Cherokee SciFi Author Craig Strete has offered Free Downloads of His Out-of-Print Works

This is an interesting article by Cheryl Morgan on the representation of trans people in speculative fiction

Joachim Boaz reviewed a forgotten masterpiece over at SF Mistressworks: Naomi Michison, Memoirs of a Spacewoman

Rose Eveleth wrote about our short memory when it comes to women publishing science fiction:  Women Rise in Sci Fi (Again)

There’s an Interview with Martha Wells at SF Signal

The current issue of Paradoxa focues on African Sf and the introduction is available for free: A History of African SF

This is one of my favourite posts of 2014: Feminist Fiction, We Need More Mary Sues

A little heartwarmer for you: Star Trek fan proposes to boyfriend on Enterprise Bridge

And finally, here’s an absolute gem from Neko Case, Ellie Kemper, Kelly Hogan, These aren’t the Droids (via @infamy_infamy on twitter)

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Leslie Feinberg: 1949 – 2014


A little round-up of posts about Leslie Feinberg who sadly passed away this week at the age of 65. It is only through the immense courage of people like Feinberg that our lives have become possible. We should remember them with honour and gratitude.

Obituary by Minnie Bruce Pratt in The Advocate, Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died

Trish Bendix at After Ellen, “Stone Butch Blues” author Leslie Feinberg passes away

Shauna Miller in The Atlantic, Why We Still Need Leslie Feinberg

KayLyn at Autostraddle, Leslie Feinberg, Transgender, Lesbian, Activist, Author, and Revolutionary, Dies at 65

Martin Pengelly in The Guardian, Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues, author and transgender campaigner dies at 65

The Advocate, Op-ed: How Leslie Feinberg Saved My Life

My favourite quote appeared in Sassafras Lowry’s Lambda Literary piece, Losing our Hero:

“As queer folk, so many of us have been rejected and abandoned that we’ve had to build our own worlds. So many of us have found ourselves so alone when we come out. We grow ourselves up. We build our own families and in a way queer books become our parents, our grandparents, our best friends and families. We curl up with them on cold nights on borrowed couches uncertain of where we will sleep tomorrow, or in bathtubs, our ears ringing with the sound of a lovers footsteps walking out the door a final time. We turn to books to prove that we exist. Books keep us company, raise us up, and give us hope that survival is possible. In a way, through queer books we build a relationship to that book’s author as well. For so many of us, Leslie is more than a beloved author. Zie has been part of our family. Now, as we mourn hir loss, we’re left trying to understand a world that is much darker and colder without hir to fight for us and protect us.”

Books by Leslie Feinberg
Stone Butch Blues
Transgender Warriors
Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time has Come

Website: Transgender Warrior

“Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Soundtrack to Summer 2014


The album of the summer was Lissie’s Back to Forever (2013). Her catchy tunes and big, confident sound was just what I needed to hear over the last few months. The more reflective and stripped-down acoustic versions of the songs are also excellent.  Ingrid Michaelson’s delightful Lights Out came a close second with its smart, witty lyrics and great vocal arrangements. It makes me want to dance so much (thanks to oddnumbereven for the recommendation).

We’ve been listening to Janelle Monáe’s albums, The Archandroid (2010) andThe Electric Lady (2013). I think I have a slight preference for the first, but they’re both dizzyingly creative and exciting. You can hear all her influences at work, but the music sounds so fresh.

This has been a summer of pop music. I finally started getting into Janet Jackson, who my possibly cooler sister liked way back when Rhythm Nation came out (I was a Madonna girl). Prince is beginning to grow on me too. I’ve never been into his music, but my work colleagues kept going on about him until I felt I had to make more of an effort. I listened to a fair bit of Beyoncé and Rhianna as well.

I got the 32-song epic Purgatory/Paradise (2013) by Throwing Muses earlier in the year and have been listening in bits and pieces because I find it too intense, too raw and rugged, for one sitting. I can’t wait to see them play in a couple of weeks’ time. Ex-band member Tanya Donelly will be supporting at the gig. I’ve been loving her recent Swan Song series which is “An ongoing series of EPs made up of collaborations with various musicians, authors, and friends”.

I’m late coming to Stevie Nicks and have been making up for it by keeping Crystal Visions, The Very Best Of on heavy rotation. This is sexy, grown-up woman pop and the 9 minute live version of ‘Edge of Seventeen’ (with symphony orchestra) is pretty mind blowing.

The recent BBC Four documentary, The Kate Bush Story – Running up that Hill focussed on her music and its influence on other artists. It also set me off on a Kate Bush spree, especially Never Forever (1980) and Hounds of Love(1985).

Summer 2014 Mix Tape

1. Lissie, The Habit
2. Ingrid Michaelson, 
Time Machine
3. Shakespear’s sister – 
Hello (Turn your radio on)
4. Emiliana Torrini, 
The Sound of Silence  (favourite cover)
5. Manic Street Preachers, 
Rewind the Film (so, so melancholy)
6. David Bowie, 
The Man who sold the World (“I thought you died alone, a long long time ago”)
7. Janelle Monáe, 
8. Prince and Sheena Easton, U Got the Look
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 
10. Janet Jackson, 
Black Cat
11. Uh Huh Her, 
12. Hesta Prynn, 
13. Stevie Nicks, 
14. Throwing Muses, 
Milan (live)
15. Tanya Donelly, 
Making Light
16. Kate Bush, 
The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix)

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5 Things

Five things that interested me recently.

I liked Suzanne Heintz’s artistic response to the question 
Why aren’t you married yet? Fourteen years worth of pictures of herself posing with a mannequin family certainly draws attention to the mythology of white, middle-class family “happiness”. Even though Suzanne is posing with mannequins, these images and the meanings they are supposed to convey (and impose) are instantly recognisable. Perhaps she’s also suggesting that people don’t care who the members of her family are, or what her relationship with them might be, as long as “family” is performed in the correct way. There is even the suggestion that this mythology reduces people to the status of mannequins. Roland Barthes would be proud.

Ludovic Florent’s series of photographs Poussiere d’etoiles (stardust) inspired me after a difficult day. These images that capture dancers interacting with a cloud of flour are a gorgeous tribute to the art of dance and the power of the human body.

I discovered Thomas Tallis’s forty part Renaissance motet Spem In Alium (c 1570) via the documentary series A Very British Renaissance. It is an incredibly beautiful piece of music, but when I looked it up on You Tube I was also interested to discover that a lot of people have been listening to it because its mentioned in Fifty Shades of Grey. Some commenters were expressing horror at the idea of nasty Fifty Shades fans “polluting” this lovely music. It’s an interesting clash of high and popular culture that raises all sort of questions about who has a right to enjoy and reference this kind of cultural artefact, and I’m sure issues relating to gender and sex too.

Andy and I saw exhibitions of the work of John Piper and James Dickson Innes at the National Museum of Wales. I really went off these two artists after my mother made me do a GCSE art project on paintings of Wales. I wanted to do something else entirely (what, I ask you, is wrong with doing an art project on representations of Hell?), but I got pressurised into doing her idea. Taking the time to look at their paintings again, I realised that I do actually like them both very much.

I spent this afternoon lying on the sofa watching Professor Richard Fortey talking about the Magic of Mushrooms. Neither animal nor plant, fungi are a source of food, medicine, and now, eco-friendly packaging as well. They can be destructive, but without them the planet would be a giant rubbish dump. Absolutely fascinating and there’s little more beguiling to me than the sight of Professor Fortey romping through the woods with his mushroom-gathering basket.

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"a match burning in a crocus"


It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores. Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over – the moment.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, edited by David Bradshaw, (Oxford; New York, 2000), p. 27.

London Book Buying



Gay’s the Word is an essential stop for us whenever we visit London. This time around, we picked up Alexis De Veaux’s Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (2004) in the used section for £5. The used shelves also yielded up a couple of good lesbian short story collections: Anna Livia and Lilian Mohan (eds.)The Pied Piper: Lesbian Feminist Fiction (1989), which contains stories by the likes of Gillian Hanscombe, Patricia Duncker and Mary Dorcey, and Ruthann Robson’s Lambda nominated Eye of a Hurricane (1989).


Andy bought a new copy of Lolly Willows (1926) by Sylvia Townsend Warner. This is a novel about a middle-aged spinster who abandons her family responsibilities to become a witch. She also got Ash (2009) by Malinda Lo, which is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella and had the shop assistant raving. Apparently, he’s bought it for all his friends.

That wasn’t the end of the book-buying spree because, on the way to meet some friends, we happened upon the used books display outside socialist bookshop,Bookmarks. I got a nice copy of Christopher Isherwood’s Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935). I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since it was recommended to me by a twitter acquaintance, John Beecher, who died in March last year. I enjoyed his tweets and will always think of him when I read Isherwood.

Perhaps my favourite find at Bookmarks is this collection of science fiction stories by women, The Eye of the Heron and Other Stories (1980). It’s edited by Virginia Kidd and I like the way Le Guin’s fame is used to give props to lesser known female writers like Elizabeth A. Lynn. It’s even prefaced with a poem by Marilyn Hacker. Sisterhood!


I also picked up a copy of China Mieville’s Kraken (2010). I enjoyed reading The City and The City last year but, if I’m honest, I was mainly motivated to buy it by the opening sentence on the blurb:

“Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?”

Natural History Museum? Giant squid? SOLD.

Finally, we visited Oxfam where I got a copy of Jacklight (1996), which is a collection of poems by Louise Erdrich. I’ve read a few of her poems here and there and was intrigued by this article about her fiction in The Paris Review. I’ve only glanced at the poetry so far  and it looks quite unsettling.

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January 2014

I felt mildly depressed during January. This is not unusual for me, but I think I handled it better this year by increasing my levels of self-care and resting a lot. 


I finished three books: Joanna Russ’s
On Strike against God (1980), Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Anna Akhmatova’s Selected Poems (trans. D.M Thomas).  The Russ and the Austen actually complimented one another quite well, what with both being angry, funny books about the lives of women. On Strike against God is astounding. It’s a revelation of a book and has convinced me to give The Female Man another try. Anna Akhmatova’s poems are wonderful and terrifying. 

I had a lot of other books on the go in January. I couldn’t decide which of my recently purchased
Mammoth Books of Science Fiction to start, so I just started them all at once and am now about halfway through them.  I’ve almost finished Elizabeth Bear’s short story collection, Shoggoths in Bloom and Ian Tattersall’s Masters of the Planet: The Search for our Human Origins (2012) (ignore the macho title, this is a quiet, thoughtful book about how we got to be who we are).  I’ve also been reading Rodney Smith’s Stepping out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self (2010), which I’m finding helpful and alarming in about equal measures.


I re-organised all my playlists and (according to Last fm.) I’ve been listening to a lot of Feist, Erykah Badu, Throwing Muses, Mazzy Star, Garbage, Joy Division, Arcade Fire, and Regina Spector.  If I had to pick a song to represent January, it would probably be PJ Harvey’s ‘
The Big Guns Called me Back Again’. 


I really liked the gothic ‘lady in distress’ thriller
The Spiral Staircase (1945). I was disappointed by Dracula's Daughter (1936) which, entertainingly unsubtle lesbophobic subtext aside, was quite boring. I enjoyed the science fiction dystopia of Logan's Run (1976). The film is a little overlong and the ultimate message super-conservative, but Michael York and Jenny Agutter are watchable.  We also watched Jurassic Park for the first time in years and found it fucking terrifying. 


I haven’t been watching anything very consistently in January. I caught a few episodes of Neil Oliver’s documentary series Sacred Wonders of Britain (2014) and A History of Ancient Britain (2011). I’m interested in the topics, but I also find Neil himself very appealing as a presenter. I think it’s his
hair and dress sense


I ate a toasted ganoush wrap at a local cafe which was absolutely amazing and had a very good lunch at a German deli. We cooked a tasty stew with sauerkraut which has already been mentioned in another post.  The surprise success story was a recipe called ‘Barley with Spinach and Ginger’ from my ancient Good Housekeeping Complete Book of Vegetarian Cookery.  We made it to use up an old packet of barley. It has about four ingredients and its worthiness caused Andy to call it a “pot of lesbianism”, but it was surprisingly delicious. 

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5 Things

5 things that have interested me recently.

This image is one of my
favourites, so I was delighted to discover that this article from FACTS.FM has more astonishing photographs that reveal the Hidden Beauty of Sand. I'm especially taken with the grains of sand that are actually tiny fossils.

Continuing with the fossil theme, I adored David Attenborough's 1989 documentary
Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives. Attenborough's passion for fossils is infectious and I think the documentary is improved by being produced before the advent of CGI. Without the option to create CGI images of the animals (which is almost certainly what would happen if this was made now), the documentary has to focus on the actual fossils. So if you want to see fossils in abundance, this is the one to watch. I think it's stunning and can't wait to show it to my nephew when he's old enough.

Here's another interesting article about food from Mother Jones,
9 Surprising Facts about Junk Food. This should probably have been titled '9 Terrifying Facts about Junk Food'. Andy was raised on a lot of sugary stuff and it's taken her years to kick the habit.

Andy introduced me to this wonderful
Vintage Lesbian tumblr, which features a vast range of fascinating images. What interests me is just how many images there are considering how taboo the subject was supposed to be until quite recently. When it comes to the nineteenth-century photographs, I can't help wondering who was taking the pictures and how were they getting them developed. By the way, Andy also curates her own Lesbian Cultures tumblr.

This gorgeous
Naeem Khan gown for Hel, Norse goddess of the dead and afterlife. Despite appearances to the contrary, I like looking at dresses. The main reason I don't wear them is because I don't think I have the figure for them, but I might be tempted to give this one a try if it came my way.
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Where is my effort pointing?

Effort had always been my avenue for success. I may not have had the intelligence or the ability of others, but I could usually trump whatever I was lacking with my dogged determination. As I explored effort, I saw that much of my tension came from a need to succeed, and until I addressed that urge, the impulse to improve would be behind all my spiritual labor. As I explored the desire to achieve, the psychological pain of unworthiness that had been driving the effort surfaced. Other questions arose, like “Where is all this effort taking me?” and “How will I know when I get there?” I realized from these questions that I had no idea where my effort was pointing and no blueprint or arrival information. All I had was what other people had told me, and that just led to more confusion and striving. Perhaps the most disturbing understanding that arose through this line of inquiry was that I was on my own, and I now realized I was hopelessly lost.

Rodney Smith, Stepping out of Self-Deception: the Buddha’s liberating teaching of no self, (Boston & London: Shambala, 2010), p. 67.

5 Things

Okay, I’ve only managed to do one of these ‘5 Things‘ posts so far, but I am determined to get back to it. It’s a nice way to keep a record of things that have interested me.

Let’s start with 
SauerkrautSomehow my mother managed to persuade me to take home an enormous jar of Sauerkraut.  This was because she wouldn’t “be able to finish it all herself”, although she was able to finish the chocolate biscuits and the ice cream. Now, I’ve always liked Sauerkraut, but I was just a little intimidated by the size of this particular jar. I turned to twitter for help and soon had recipe suggestions for Shchi (@PrimeJunta) and Bigos (@plumpieinthesun). We made the Bigos and it was fantastic. I had no idea that Sauerkraut could result in something so delicious. I want to make the Shchi was well, but the jar is now almost empty and I’ll have to get another one.

Continuing the food theme, I liked this article from Mother Jones, Don’t do the Paleo Diet in which Michael Pollan explains what’s wrong with the Paleo Diet. As someone with history of food and eating problems myself, I’m always interested in strange ideas about nutrition. Affluent people, who can already afford to eat better than most other people on the planet, seem particularly inclined to buy into the idea of magical diets.  But the good news in this article is that microbes play a key role in our health.  You know what that means? More pickles. Pass the Sauerkraut.

I love this infographic about sleep, Dream On: Why Sleep is So Important. It’s full of fascinating and nicely presented research findings on the importance of sleep. I’ve always been a bit of sleep resister and, while I’m much better than I used to be, I’m still a little careless about it and often end up feeling exhausted by the weekend.

Last week I discovered The Conversation. This is a free, independent news site produced by academics and journalists. It’s basically an attempt to bring some academic rigour to journalism and it’s packed with informative articles. For example, ‘Hatred, envy, fear – it’s all in a day’s work for British tabloids‘ and ‘Preventing sexual abuse is a public health issue‘.

Finally, I was very struck by Terry Bisson‘s short story ’Scout’s Honor’ (2004). I’ve read a couple of science fiction stories about Neanderthals recently, the other being Ted Kosmatka’s ‘N-Words’ (2008).  While Kosmatka presents us with a future in which cloned Neanderthals turn out to be stronger and cleverer than Homo Sapians, Bisson explores the possibility that they were very different to us.  In ‘Scout’s Honour’ a lonely scientist begins to receive strange messages that appear to have been sent by a researcher who has travelled back in time to observe a group of Neanderthals. Both ‘N-Words’ and ‘Scout’s Honor’ are excellent stories with considerable emotional power. Both also suggest a sense of guilt about the Neanderthals. We suspect we may have played a part in the disappearance of these relatives, and perhaps we kind of miss them and wish they were still around. Maybe then we would feel a little less lonely as a species on this planet. The story is available in Gardner Dozois (ed.) The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 18(2005). 

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