No Award Writes Books (and gives one away)

No Award is coming to a bookshelf near you! Of recent months, No Award has appeared in two books. Liz was critical to the development of them both.

Cranky Ladies of History

Late in 2013, Liz blogged about noted Cranky Lady of History Tsaritsa Sophia Alekseyvna.  First it was a Tumblr post, and when that exploded, she figured it was maybe worth preserving, and cross-posted it to her blog.

It got a tiny bit of attention on WordPress, but attracted a lot of retweets, at which point someone said (to Tansy Rayner Roberts, if memory serves), “Hey, this would make a great anthology.”

Said great anthology then came into existence.

(Despite Liz’s best efforts, nothing else she has ever posted has ever and will ever achieve this level of success.  All those Tumblr ramblings about how Lin Beifong is great, and no one wants to turn Cranky Middle-Aged Cartoon Superheroines into an anthology.  Which is frankly weird.)

Cover of Cranky Ladies of History - red silhouette people

Crowdfunding took place, pitches were submitted, and, miracle of miracles, both Liz and Stephanie had stories accepted.

Stephanie wrote about her favourite pirate and yours, Cheng Shih, Fierce Lady, Pirate, Total Ratbag. There’s not a lot of documentation out there about her, either in English or Chinese texts, so Steph did the best she could (in both English and Chinese, as a noted polyglot) and then wish fulfilled where she couldn’t.

The greatest new thing Steph learnt about Cheng Shih during research for this story was her potential linkages to the start of the Opium War, and her working relationship with Lin Zexu, who started the Opium War. Fighting the British because of opium would have been totally Cheng Shih’s jam, so it sounds legit.

Cheng Shih, like Noted Asian Lee Lin Chin, is one of Steph’s heroes, and if she were to grow up to be just like Cheng Shih, that would be acceptable.

Liz wrote about Queen Mary 1 of England, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, burner of Protestants and all around cranky lady.  But first, she read half a dozen biographies, one of which turned up a truly amazing anecdote.

From memory: Late in Henry VIII’s reign, when Mary was in her late twenties or early thirties, living as far from her family as she could get without actually running away to Europe, Henry-via-retainer sent her a rather shirty letter to the effect of, he had heard she was entertaining “strangers” in her home, and could she not do that?

Mary replied, effectively, “Surely the king doesn’t want me to abandon the principles of Christian hospitality?  I will continue to act as my conscience dictates, thank you.”

And apparently nothing more came of it, because those letters are published in a rare book, of which only six copies exist.  Suffice to say, Liz’s library didn’t hold it.  (David Starkey owns a copy, but somehow it seemed unlikely he’d lend it to anyone.)

What piqued Liz’s imagination was this: who were these “strangers”?  English aristocrats wouldn’t be strangers.  English peasants wouldn’t come to the king’s attention.  So … time travellers?  Aliens?  ALIEN TIME TRAVELLERS?  (The Doctor?)  Faeries?

None of these questions are answered in Liz’s story because it takes place many years earlier, in the weeks before the downfall of Anne Boleyn.  This was particularly fun because Boleyn is remembered as a light-hearted, witty lady — at least, that was how she interacted with men — whereas Mary quickly went from being a happy, gifted child to a dour young woman with an undefined chronic gynecological complaint.

You can purchase Cranky Ladies of History (please do).

Companion Piece

You might not know this, but Liz loves Doctor Who, and Steph knows that time travel is terrible and no one should do it.  Liz says:

Cover of Companion Piece - a pale brown background with a young woman clambering out of a box. This all started back at Aussiecon 4 in 2010.  Liz and future-co-editor L M Myles were in the bar, as often happens at conventions, and they got to talking about the curious lack of substantial books about Doctor Who companions.  A couple exist, but they’re more promotional than analytical, and at least one is best known for the terrible would-be sexy photos it contains. (Tumblrs that should exist: Unsexy Photoshoots Featuring Sci-Fi Actresses Who Deserve Better.)

Fast forward a couple of years, and Liz Myles had co-edited the Hugo-nominated Chicks Unravel Time, a follow-up to the Hugo-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords.  Liz contributed to Chicks Unravel Time, and publisher Lars of Mad Norwegian Press liked her work enough that when we met at ChicagoTARDIS in 2012, he was willing to give them a chance with a companion book.

Fast forward some more years, in which Liz Myles became a podcasting queen and Liz discovered that programming/chairing a convention and editing a book at the same time is a really bad idea.  And we have, at last, got a book.  An actual book that the two Lizes made, full of essays we’re proud of.  Which brings us to…

Steph wasn’t going to submit anything to this anthology. Liz enticed her in with ‘How would you like to write about the least feminist companion and say something nice about her?’ And you know what? Did Steph ever. Steph mainlined hours of Five and Six, and then wrote several thousand words about how the Doctor is terrible and men are terrible and you should all feel terrible, and misogyny is the thing that keeps Peri from embracing her innate awesomeness. Steph is living her best misandrist life, okay? You should, too.

You can purchase Companion Piece from Amazon and similar places.  (If you do, please feel free to throw a review up on Amazon, GoodReads, etc!)

Alternatively, leave a comment here, and you might be RANDOMLY SELECTED to receive a copy.  IT’S THE FIRST NO AWARD GIVEAWAY!

And if that doesn’t work, we’re also giving away two (!) signed (!) copies at Continuum — go buy yourself a membership, then turn up for the closing ceremony.  Guest of Honour Tansy Rayner Roberts is just one of several contributors attending, so it’s not just Liz and Steph writing their names in the book. (And drawing. Steph will be drawing in books)

No Award in Books: The Live Show

There will be panels about both of these books at Continuum, a speculative fiction convention, of which Liz is Chair and Steph is programmer. Continuum is held over the Queen’s Birthday weekend in Melbourne, Steph uses it to push an agenda, and because this is our blog you’ll be hearing more about it over the next two weeks.

Sunday June 7 6pm, Cranky Ladies of History, including editors Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts. Monday June 8, 2pm.

(PS Don’t try first programming and then chairing a con while co-editing a book.  Learn from Liz’s mistakes.  Sleep is a wonderful thing that you will one day miss.)

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No Award at Continuum: Stephanie

This whole No Award thing came about last year when Liz and I were on a panel about Social Justice 101 and people kept asking for links to not-USAmerican SJ things and we struggled to provide them. And here we are, almost a year later! What that means is, Continuum is upon us in just 11 sleeps, and I got my final list of panels ahead of the program’s release yesterday afternoon.

Check out the program and maybe come along! It can be a little exxy if you’re used to cons like Supanova, but it’s high quality and also you can come along on Friday night which is a gold coin donation and give it a go, if that’s your thing and you’re not sure. There’s programming from 3pm until midnight.

I’m proud that you can read that program (note: I didn’t have anything to do with this program) and see a lot of the things in there that I tried to help along last year in terms of program diversity, understanding, conversations and just being really obviously queer and brown.

Liz will be making her own post about her stuff shortly, but here is where you’ll be able to find me (when I’m not in the bar or loitering out by Purple Peanuts for delicious vegan food).

I am moderating Triptych:

I: Moving Beyond the Gender Binary

II: Othered Sexuality

III: Gender Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction

The plan with this series of panels has always been to really open up and discuss a lot of the issues behind the representation of gender and sexuality issues in SFF. They’re combined as a triptych (across the entire weekend – including the first one being held during the gold coin donation opening evening) in part as acknowledgement that these issues are complicated and linked together and difficult to put boundaries on or definitions around. In Moving Beyond the Gender Binary, we’re talking about the ways in which beyond the gender binary is represented, and the ways in which it’s not – aliens coded as male or female, concepts of no gender futures, reaffirmation of the gender binary within the text as the right way. Othered Sexuality is about the lack of real translation or investigation when presenting sexuality in fantasy and science fiction, and the ways in which they all ultimately boil down to looking the same as what we’ve got now. And also you know how I love talking about othering, and the role of assuming the other and that there is an other, and what that means for your fiction in the real world. Gender Stereotypes is looking at the ways in which stereotypes are reinforced or subverted, successfully and not.

I think this is going to be really interesting because often gender and sexuality in SFF is used as short-hand for a lot of things and it’s done really poorly. Current gender and sexuality on my mind is Game of Thrones (brown people are queer you guys), Avatar (I don’t even know why) and the sudden fandom thing about America for a Bisexual Captain. And also it involves a lot of different people! (I will be interested to find out how many of them are brown)

I’ve got two solo presentations. Realistic Climate Dystopias was basically the inspiration for my article at The Toast: A Look at Australia’s Climate Change Dystopia.  So it’ll be a lot like that, but less structured and at 11:00 am so I’ll probably be on my second coffee. Chinese Mythology is exactly what it sounds like, because I thought you all deserve to benefit from my thoughts and research on Dragon and his nine sons, the role of the Jade Emperor in creating culture, the mother of the earth, and the horrifying hells.

I will also be on Created Languages, Borrowed Languages, Stolen Languages, which you will not be surprised to learn was my idea.  Languages in SFF and fantasy are frequently used for denoting the other and the exotic but WHO IS THE OTHER YOU JERKS. Is it cultural appropriation? Who is the assumed audience? What does it mean to feel like one has the right to steal another’s culture through their language? Why is it always so racist? Am I going to get very angry? Of course I am. I have like five pages of notes already. Also Guest of Honour Ambelin Kwaymullina will be on this panel and she has already been sharing with us her thoughts especially in regard to indigenous languages and it has been EXCELLENT and crunchy and you will be super sad if you don’t get in on this. Language is really important, my quokkas.

I am listed on Readings Special Stream: Outside the Anglosphere, but I actually have a going away party to attend and shouldn’t have been scheduled then. The hope is that I’ll be doing that reading earlier.  The point of Outside the Anglosphere is not to read one’s own work but to highlight someone else’s, and that someone has to be, as the title suggests, outside the anglosphere.  I will actually be reading from (and, let’s face it, probably digressing upon) Cixin Liu’s article of a few weeks ago rather than a story.

I’ve got one late-night I’ll be drunk panel: The Magical Hat of Mystery. This is in no way social justice related, though it could become so. We get drunk and answer questions pulled out of a hat and submitted before the panel begins. Other panelists are people I’ve been getting drunk with for over a decade, and when I yell at them they know I don’t mean it.