Category Archives: Fandom

Diverse book clubs & meetups in London

A Twitter query following my panel at Bare Lit made me think there might be more general interest in this information. If you’re based in or near London, here are a few book clubs/meetups to check out if you’re looking to read more “diverse” literature* or hang out with like-minded bookish people.

African Fantasy Reading Group

The African Fantasy Reading Group discusses “all things AfroSFF”, including science fiction, fantasy, comics and movies. I think there is the occasional in-person meetup but also plenty of discussion on the Facebook group.

African Reading Group London

Breaking the bonds of genre restrictions, ARG! London meets monthly at Book and Kitchen to discuss recent books by writers from Africa and the diaspora. Check out the Book and Kitchen events page for upcoming meetups. There’s also a Facebook group.

Asian Book Club Meetup

I have foolishly never attended this, not least because I have forgotten my Meetup.com password, but this is a monthly book club run through Meetup to discuss books about Asia and by Asian authors (including diaspora): Asian Book Club – Asian Authors/Books about Asia.

What’s really nice about it is that in addition to regular book club meetings, there are lots of ancillary events — author events, joint visits to literary festivals, social meals, etc. Here’s a nice blog post about the book club by one of the organisers.

Super Relaxed Fantasy Club

I confess Super Relaxed Fantasy Club is the only meetup I attend (sort of) regularly out of these, because it’s so suited to lazy people. It takes place on the last Tuesday of every month on the top floor of a Central London hotel. There are two author readings, a bar and plenty of chat. It’s attended by SFF industry people, fans, readers and aspiring writers, and conversations I’ve had at meetups range from cats to the delights and horrors of the Stucky tag on Tumblr to the peculiar pressures of the dreaded second book.

It isn’t focused on BAME books the way the other groups are, but they do care about equality — they insist on gender parity in their readers and until the group of attendees grew unmanageably large everyone used to introduce themselves. It was a bit like the first day of kindergarten! (Or AA, I guess.) The organisers talk about the genesis and principles of the meetup here (but, like, in a really relaxed way).

Join the Facebook group or follow the Twitter account for updates. I’m reading in September!

Feel free to suggest more in the comments!

* The “diverse” is in quotes because it’s terminology I’m not totally comfortable with (on which see Kavita Bhanot’s great article, Decolonise, not Diversify). That said, it’s a useful shorthand.

Eschacon, 5 to 7 November

I feel like maybe it wasn’t the greatest feat of marketing genius to write a load of publishing journey blog posts, announce the UK publication of my book and then promptly drop off the radar for a month, but phew! It has been very busy! And it’s not looking like it’s going to let up any time soon. I’m looking forward to being able to take a proper break some time in 2016 …

Before then, though, I’ll be in Amsterdam a week on Thursday for a minicon focused on World SF, Eschacon. The full programme is here, but below’s what I’m doing specifically.

Thursday 5 November

18:30-21:00 Tribute to Chip Book Presentation and World SF panel discussion

Author and editor Bill Campbell will talk about his latest project Stories For Chip, a tribute to Science Fiction Writers of America Grandmaster Samuel R. “Chip” Delany. Following the presentation is a panel discussion about World SF and diversity in the speculative fiction genre with authors Zen Cho, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.

Friday 6 November

18:00-19:30 Q&A and booksigning with Zen Cho

Join us for an evening around the (imaginary) fireside with author Zen Cho. Zen will discuss her new book, the art of writing and the business of getting published.

Saturday 7 November

10:00-11:00 Kaffeeklatsch

Getting up early has never been so fun. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) while talking about books, stories and other geek-related subjects with authors Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Bill Campbell.

I’m really looking forward to this event, though there’s now a great deal of sadness associated with it as well, as one of the main things I was looking forward to was hanging out and talking with the wonderful Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Rochita has since posted about the very sudden and sad death of her partner.

There is a fundraiser to help Rochita and her family, with lots of cool rewards that have been offered as a thank you to donors. Rochita is a thoughtful, nuanced and compassionate voice in the field and she also does an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to support and nurture marginalised writers. I am only one of many writers who have benefited from her friendship. While it’s reached the goal, any additional amounts will still be very useful, so please check out the fundraiser and chip in if you can and feel like it: Funds for Rochita Loenen-Ruiz.

What I’ll be doing at Nine Worlds

August is so soon now! :D: I am excited about the cons (ALL THE CONS), but omg need more time in the day to prep and be ready to say clever things and maybe hoard £5 notes so if people want to buy my book from me I can give them change! /o\

So here’s where I’ll be at Nine Worlds! My commentary is in italics.

FRIDAY

Voices From Other Worlds
5.00pm – 6.15pm
Readings from authors of colour on the theme of race and culture.
Guests: Taran Matharu, Zen Cho, Adam Lowe

I’ll be reading from my short story The Earth Spirit’s Favourite Anecdote, i.e. the story that makes editors advise me to improve my English. Oh editors! No.

The story isn’t about race and culture, but it is written in Manglish, so see la if anyone understands it!

School Stories: prefects, headmasters and tuckshops, oh my!
10.15pm – 11.30pm
County C&D
School stories: why are we so fascinated by them? From Harry Potter to Ender’s Game, from St. Trinian’s to the X-Men, will we ever really escape our school days? Oi, no talking in the back of the class, there.
Panel: Aishwarya Subramanian, Zen Cho, Emma Vieceli, Tiffani Angus

:D The panel I persuaded Aisha to come to Nine Worlds for! (I wanted her for the Race & Culture track really. But I tempted her with school stories!) This is actually only one of two school stories panels I am on this summer, yay \o/

SATURDAY

Rule 63: Gender and subversion in history, popular culture and fandom
10:00am – 11:15am
“Rule 63: an internet adage which states that for every fictional character, there exists an opposite gender counterpart.” (knowyourmeme.com)
This popular rule has an obvious power for subverting male-dominated media and an equally obvious (if less discussed) potential for introducing trans narratives. In its positioning of ‘opposite’ genders, it is also potentially troubling from trans and non-binary perspectives. This panel will discuss Rule 63, from real historical examples of people inhabiting ‘opposite’ genders to contemporary fanworks, through queer and feminist lenses.
With Tab Kimpton, Zen Cho, Alex Dally MacFarlane, more TBC

I am kind of nervous about this — Rule 63 is a really meaty trope to think about, but I am not sure I am remotely qualified to talk about it! But it should be very interesting.

This Will Always Be Your Home: Race, Culture, and Fannish Life
1.30pm – 2.45pm
Western media fandom, from zines to Tumblr, has been something special to so many people: a community and a home. We live here too – so what does it mean to be a fan of colour?
Guests: Iona Sharma, Frank Voss, Koel Mukherjee and Kelly Kanayama

I’ll be modding this! It’s not something that has a lot of emotional relevance to me anymore — I went from Western media fandom to anime/manga, where being a fan of colour is different from being a fan of colour in Western media fandom, because you are so not the only one in anime/manga fandom. Then I basically moved out of fandom because even those stories weren’t quite satisfying me anymore. (To be clear, I still read manga and follow fannish trends, more or less, but I’m not really actively fannish in the sense of writing meta or fanfic and stuff like that.) But fandom really shaped me, probably Western media fandom more than any other (it got me at a younger age than anime/manga did), and I can see how it was both a good and a bad space for me as a non-white/non-American/&c. person.

SUNDAY

Spock vs the Sorcerers: F or SF? The Genre Deathmatch Smackdown!
11.45am – 1.00pm
County C&D
The vicious genrepocalypse that we’ve all been waiting for. There can be only one.
Debate: Anne Perry (Moderator), Daniel Polansky (Fantasy), Liz Bourke (Fantasy), Zen Cho (SF) , Geoffrey Ryman (SF)

  • omg I am arguing for SF even though I write almost exclusively fantasy, and don’t read that much SF because not all SF is feminist SF interested in people
  • omg I am on a panel with Geoff Ryman
  • wait what
  • … OMG

How the Lord of the Rings movies influenced me

vi asked about formative movies.

There are three movies I can think of, and they are (surprise, surprise) the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read the book when I was 12 – I distinctly remember it because it was in the joyous days after UPSR, and a classmate put me onto it. (I wonder who she was? I can’t remember her at all now.) And half a lifetime later, it seemed at the time – but only three years in actual fact! – the movies started coming out, reigniting my enthusiasm for the book.

The movies aren’t my Lord of the Rings – they’re too OTT and focused on fight/battle scenes, and the elves are too pretty, and the dwarves are not taken seriously enough (at least something The Hobbit movies are remedying, though The Hobbit movies are still not really worth it), and I will hold a grudge against Sean Astin for his overacting on the slopes of Mount Doom forever. But I like the movies for what they are, and they played a big role in my life.

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Geek authenticity and its symbols

Tade suggested I write about “geek authenticity in a world that has appropriated the symbols for commerce“.

I am not sure I am really qualified to write about this, because I am not sure what geek authenticity means. But assuming it means, like, being a geek by genuinely doing or watching or owning the things that geeks do, I wonder whether it isn’t the other way around. Because —

Doing geeky things: I am not sure this can really be appropriated for commerce. Something like reading comic books doesn’t have to be a geeky activity — in the sense that doing it makes you a geek — unless you want it to be. And what you do and how you feel and how you think can’t be appropriated or taken away from you by Commerce. Commerce can try, but it can’t do it if you don’t let it. That is why resistance is possible even within systems that treat people and cultures like things. It is why art and community are important.

Owning geeky things: All the things I can think of as being symbols of geek authenticity are things like … um, I don’t know, nerdy-looking glasses? T-shirts with Green Lantern symbols on them? Those pocket protector things geeky characters in US sitcoms used to wear? These are all pretty culturally specific, but I don’t think the idea of a geek culture[1] or geek authenticity makes sense outside a couple of cultures. Anyway, the point is, these symbols are all things. Why should a particular kind of T-shirt say anything meaningful about your identity? Because consumerism, basically.[2]

So I guess what I’m saying is I am not sure it is the case that the world has appropriated the symbols of geek authenticity for commerce, and now geeks have to figure out how to preserve that authenticity against the brute forces of capitalism. I think the symbols of geek authenticity were always owned by Commerce, and people just adopted those symbols and gave them meaning.

I don’t mean to say that geek culture lacks meaning or validity. I think fandom is a valid and valuable response to media culture. But I am wary of concepts like authenticity in this context. And I sort of think the only thing people can really build an identity[3] on is: how they act. What they do. How they treat other people. Not what they watch or read or listen to, what they like, what they find funny, what allusions they get. Those things are preferences. They are not character.

 

[1] You can probably debate whether geek culture actually is a thing, but there are enough people who find that language a helpful self-identifier — a genuine reflection of their lived experience — that I am not too bothered about arguing about it here. [back]

[2] I totally buy and wear T-shirts as a means of self-expression, so it’s not like I’m knocking it as a practice. I’m just sayin’! [back]

[3] Well, I actually think the Buddha is probably right and there isn’t really any such thing as the self, but for the sake of argument! [back]