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Most Necessary for (Wo)Men to Know.

So, back in the ninth century, having established himself as king of Wessex, Alfred the Great initiated a programme of education of his male aristocracy and oversaw the translation into Old English of a number of books he considered to be 'most necessary for men to know'. These were mainly religious, but also included Bede's A History of the English Church and Peoples, and Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.

What books would you recommend today, aside from sacred books and standard chestnuts like Shakespeare? Mine would be Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, which to my mind is the finest early history we possess and a textbook introduction into how we construct, create, manipulate and interpret the varied histories that make up our past; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which despite dated sections is still a clear cold look at the intersection of greed for money and power, faith and modern society; and Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, which is a masterclass in plotting, pace and colour by a mixed-race author who was always proud to be exactly who he was, and as a result wrote characters who stand up for their principles. (I love the Musketeers more; and his best female characters are Claire and Manon in The War of Women, but Monte Cristo is probably his strongest book).

Over to you.

Skirt of the day: blue flags.

Murder!!!!!

MOUSE FOUND DEAD IN CAMBRIDGE SITTING ROOM.
Resident cats deny all knowledge.

An mouse was found dead earlier today in the middle of the floor of a Cambridge sitting room. The body showed signs of an attack. Resident cat Miss Telzey denied all knowledge of how this had come to pass. "Kill my own food?" she told our reporter. "I would never do that! I am a Princess, and I expect my food to be properly prepared and presented to me on suitable plates by my human servants. Perhaps it had a heart attack or something. And anyway," she continued, "I was upstairs asleep the entire time."

Her fellow feline residents Horus and Random were unavailable for comment, but sources close to this journal report that at both of them were recently involved in an assault on a juvenile wild rabbit. The household is continuing to investigate.

Skirt of the day: blue tiered.

#redwriter Blame The Rich

Everyone seems very determined in preaching the mantra of 'no, there's no hope: know your place'. And any attempt at looking for any alternative way is greeted with derision and contempt.
I'm 53. I am *not* naive. The next person who dismisses me with that line will be summarily blocked. If I have to respect you, then you play by the same rules and respect me. Sneering, gloating and bullying do not entitle you to a courteous response from me. Pointing and laughing when your own house is on fire may be cathartic, but it's not my duty to be polite when you shove it in my face.
Sneering at the underprivileged and labelling them stupid, racist, ignorant etc is not a solution. Calling everyone not in your little bubble 'them' is not a solution. I disagree profoundly with the working class and underclass leave voters but I do not blame them for what has happened. The narrative of fear, suspicion and jingoism has been fostered and promulgated by a particular subset of the global elite, who see personal advantage in creating and maintaining divisions between nations and cultures and who benefit by keeping the poor frightened, envious and empoverished. It has been created by a weak Tory leader who could not heal the deep divisions in his party. It has been created by ambitious and cynical upper class men who saw a chance to gain vast personal power.
Blame the plutocrats, and the media barons. Blame the Westminster cynics who repeatedly chose their own personal ambitions over what actually helps those they purported they serve. This includes the Blairites who are more interested in grabbing back leadership than in trying to address the crisis that grips the country right now. This includes the squabbling Tories. This includes UKIP, who have masqueraded as the champions of the people while admitting the rank and file of the old BNP and NF to their ranks and offering them up as plausible potential councillors and MPs without checking to see if they advocate apartheid or homophobia or virulent sexism.
Blame the rich. Every time you point fingers at the disprivileged who have voted Leave after decades of neglect and abuse from the establishment, you collude with that establishment. I wish to the bottom of my heart that more of the poorest had been able to believe in the EU and vote Remain. But I refuse to play the 'them and us' game. I refuse to follow the narrative preached by the greedy, biased, wealthy ruling classes who have brought the rest of us to our knees with their pandering to the free market over all, and their contempt for anyone who isn't just like them.

#Redwriter. Polling Day

So, it's polling day, and I'm about to go out and make my mark -- with a pencil provided in the polling station, because I do not believe that anyone will be rubbing out and replacing marks. I am going to make my mark in the box marked Remain.

There has been a lot of bad temper and bad faith in this campaign, from both sides. I've been patronised, mansplained to (there there, dear, the Westminster men will look after you girls), yelled at, and called an idealistic lefty. Nothing new there. Throughout my adult life, whenever I've expressed a view out of line with the neo-liberal, pro-wealth rhetoric that has succeeded in relabelling itself 'the practical thing to do', I've been told I'm naive. Naive is neo-liberal code for 'shut up and stop questioning the status quo.' I've been informed that the island will sink if one more foreigner arrives, that Britain will be Free and Rule the World, that we are strangling in foreign red tape, that we will be invaded immediately by Turkey, if we don't vote out this very second.

It's not true. If we vote Remain, nothing will change. Life next week will be like life last week, only with less political campaigning. If we vote to Remain, the number of immigrants will not go up dramatically, Turkey will not suddenly be an EU member, and we will not be subjects of Angela Merkel. We will go on as we are, with our right wing current Tory government and its cuts and austerity and pandering to the international super-rich.

If we vote Out, that will happen too. But we will have fewer protections. Migration will still happen -- most migrants now are from outside the EU, and that will continue. Employers will go on hiring people from outside the UK, both EU citizens and not. But... Our legal protections at work will be less secure, because any government that decides to change them for the worst will not have to comply with a wider law that protects us from too much exploitation.

The backers of Out include business interests who are on record as wanting laws protecting workers relaxed, not for reasons of freedom but for reasons of profit. They want our environmental protections loosened so they can exploit more and more land for profit -- and not have to pay for cleaning it up afterwards. They want us weak, so they can make more money from us. They want, in some cases, to roll back women's rights, on grounds of 'morality' and on grounds of business needs.

I have a niece and two nephews. I have a god-daughter. I have friends with children in their teens and early twenties. And that's why I'm voting Remain.

I want those young women to have the same rights in work that I have had, the right to maternity leave and maternity pay, the right not to be fired for getting pregnant or getting married, the right not to face intrusive questions from employers about their family planning intentions. I want them to be protected from sexual harassment at work from bosses and co-workers. I want them to be seen as people -- and I do not trust Nigel and Boris and their friends to respect those rights.

I want those young people to have the right to work safely, with proper equipment, in work-places in which their right to safety and health is taken seriously. My great-grandfather, a miner, was part of the union fight to get safely lamps for miners in South Wales, back in the days when all the mines were private. He was fired and black-listed -- and that black-listing lasted 3 generations, all the way down to the point when the mines were nationalised. Nearly 50 years of employer abuse. Union rights in the UK are the weakest in Europe and every Tory government for the last 35 years had sought to weaken them further. Unions save lives. I want those lives to be saved. And I certainly don't trust Boris and Nigel on that point (nor Dave and George, but the EU restricts how far they can go on this).

I am not going to be bullied, nagged or intimidated into xenophobia. Britain has accepted immigrants regularly since before we were 'Britain' as such, and those immigrants have made us richer, more inventive, stronger. They contribute more in taxed and labour than they take out. There are places where migration is placing strain on local services, I know -- but that's not down to the immigrants. It's down to poor government policy, which concentrates people in small areas rather than spreading them out, to ridiculous rents and to the unbalanced way employment is distributed geographically. And those are infrastructure problems, central government problems, which we can solve. Yvette Cooper pointed this out last year and made sensible proposals for sorting it out. Better infrastructure, rent control and a reining-back on the greed of landlords (whose rights have grown and grown from Thatcher onwards due to weakening of UK law) solves this, not banning foreigners.

And, before anyone says I don't know about this, I grew up in Coventry and Leicester, with people from Poland and Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Caribbean. I've lived with migrants my whole life. I've been one, I lived and worked in Ireland for two years. I've had colleagues from Germany and China and the US, Canada and India and Iceland. I'm childless, but my friends' children go to multi-racial schools and flourish, and the Roma pupils at the school in which my brother taught at the time made a special trip across Wales to go to his wedding, because they liked him. Most of my family are migrants, from Wales and the border into the Midlands at a time when being Welsh was not seen as positive. Migrants are part of the Britain I know, they are British too, and I like that.

Ah, Kari, but what about 'sovereignty'? 'Take back control,' trumpets Boris. 'The people versus the establishment,' brays Nigel. But what does that mean? Not a lot, for you and me. Boris and Nigel went to the same schools as Dave and George (and Tony). They move in the same elite circles. They serve the same set of unaccountable international business interests. They are not 'the people'. They are the aristocracy of wealth, and they are interested in themselves. Boris won't end austerity, because that wouldn't be good for him. Look at the USA, and in particular at the 'right to work' states (that means 'no unions', btw, not 'jobs for all') and you will get a better picture of Boris's Britain. No minimum wage. Minimal protection at work. No health care. All these people are the Establishment, but if we stay in the EU, we are part of a larger unit, we have more support against this. TTIP is a good example. The EU overall is anti -- but Cameron is pro and so is Boris. Dave can't force it on us while we're in the EU, but once out he -- or anyone -- can sign us up and make our public services vulnerable to huge business interests.

And then, what does 'sovereignty' mean? The right to settle our own affairs? We already have that. We already make our own laws, control our own borders, and negotiate exemptions from aspects of EU law that we (or whoever are our current government) don't like. We -- ordinary people -- won't 'take back control' if we vote out. We'll just hand it to a different set of rich powerful people -- and the representatives of the Leave campaign are in general more right wing, more libertarian and more authoritarian even than our current government.

I like accountability. It matters. It helps us. International mega-corporations like News International aren't accountable. EU bureaucrats are -- to the elected representatives we chose. Our governments from Thatcher onwards have been far too cosy for my taste with the unaccountable international plutocrats. The EU is a check on this -- and again, look at the US, where Trump is a plausible candidate for president and corporations are treated as people in some states and have more rights than workers.

And I like being European. I like that we have had no wars in Europe for nearly 70 years (other than the civil war in the former Yugoslavia). I like that we have peace between countries and freedom to move and live and work. I like that the EU has supported poorer countries out of the painful legacies of totalitarianism and towards greater democracy. I like being part of a unit large enough that it can stand up to the big international powers of the USA and China. Of course the EU is imperfect. But within it, we can work to change and improve it. Britain is due to hold the presidency of the EU very soon. That gives us even more chances to, as Gordon Brown put it, lead Europe, not leave it. Outside it, we risk isolation and increased lack of control.

So I'm voting Remain.

PS I'm not going to provide facts and figures and receipts. Those have been made available in large quantities for weeks.

#redwriter rides again

Given how much people trafficking goes on, and how complicit some UK employers are in this -- this matters.
Immigrants 'undercutting' British workers isn't about the immigrants. It's about the employers who would rather mistreat, abuse and entrap foreign workers than pay a living wage to them or to anyone. We've seen an increase in abuse of British people with learning disabilities forced into domestic labour, too, and that's fuelled by the same thing -- greed.
Everyone deserves a living wage and respectful terms and conditions. No-one should live in modern slavery so that an employer can up his profit. If we leave the EU, we won't see a miraculous increase of jobs for Britons in the low paid sectors where immigrant workers are being abused (hotels and catering, agriculture, domestic service and far too many more). We'll see an increase in people-trafficking.
The people at fault aren't the immigrants, they're the greedy bosses who would rather abuse people and break the law than pay a living wage. EU law helps us fight these people. EU law helps the British police find and close down people-traffickers wherever they are. (And in passing I will note that the North Cambs force has been doing a wonderful job finding, stopping and prosecuting these modern slave-traders. Leaving will make that job harder and increase the problems for everyone.)
Britain isn't perfect, but we have a long history of combatting human rights' abuses. We have welcomed people in need for centuries (not always with good grace, but we've done it). We have been people of mixed ethnicity since the Romans, at the latest, and it has always benefited us. Our industrial innovation, our scientific progress, our arts and culture are all blended, created by Britons of mixed ancestry.
We are not just Little England. We are not just narrow. We are not just scared people hiding behind Big Bad Boris and his portfolio of emotive exaggerations, misrepresentations and even lies.
We are better than that. We are kinder than that. We are more generous than that.
The rich and the privileged want us to forget our kindness, our compassion, our empathy. They want us scared, because scared people are easy to control. And they want us to focus our fear on an easy target -- foreigners -- who are in the main just as vulnerable as we are -- because that distracts us from the real danger, which is the greed and arrogance of the rich.
The EU didn't cause the 2008 crash: that was greedy rich financiers and their friends.
The EU didn't cause austerity: that was greedy, rich, Tory politicians who see our Welfare State as a threat to their profit, because they don't make as much money from public services as from privatised ones.
Immigrants didn't cause the crash, or austerity.
Immigration is not the problem.
Rich, entitled, establishment cronies are the problem.
Don't sell us all to Boris, Nigel, and their greedy, selfish friends.
Brexit could destroy EU progress on tackling modern slavery
Britain would be weaker in the fight against people trafficking outside the EU
http://leftfootforward.org/2016/06/brexit-could-destroy-eu-progress-on-tackling-modern-slavery/

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#redwriter

I'd like to know how so many journalists know for sure that working class British voters who support Brexit are all 'Labout supporters'. I keep hearing this, over and over, but nowhere have I seen clear evidence that this is so. The assumption that working class === Labour has not been valid since the Thatcher years. There are working class Tories, floating voters, Greens, Lib Dems, the whole spectrum. Our media seem happy to concede that the middle and upper classes have varied views -- and indeed may be right wing on some things, left wing on others, centrists on yet others. But the working class? No, they are only one thing. Oh, and when the radio and tv do vox pops, working class voices predominate in the clips of pro-Brexiteers. It's the old, old fallacy, that everything we dislike in our society can be laid at the door of the poorest.

The leaders -- the cheer-leaders -- of the rampant xenophobia are all of them highly privileged people, middle class, upper class. Farage, Johnson and all their friends are at the top of the economic hierarchy. So are their friends at the Mail, the Express, the Sun. But they have aides to help them concoct their speeches and steer them away from overt xenophobia. They are given pass after pass when they slip and show their deeper views.

I'd like just once to see the BBC or ITV or Sky take their vox poop cameras and microphones into the cushy enclaves of the right wing middle classes. I'd like to hear the posh xenophobes for once, caught at their own game. I'd like to see the real culprits -- the people who have enabled the weakening of employment laws that allow employers to undercut wages, to exploit loopholes and pay migrants less; the people who want to erode maternity leave, holiday pay, the minimum wage so that they and their friends can make more money -- I'd like to see this lot interviewed and made to look mean and unkind and narrow-minded -- which they are. I'd like the media establishment to stop the classism and show us the truth, which is that xenophobia is not simply a property of the poor, but a tool of the rich.
#redwriter

Orlando

Prejudice and hatred are not the unique property of any one culture, any one faith, any one community.
Blaming one set of people for all the worlds ills makes those ills worse, not better.
Fostering a culture of suspicion, fear, hatred and contempt for others creates violence, widens divisions and ensures that those at the top stay unchallenged, ruling through that fear and suspicion.

Gun control is not communism. It is not a theft of rights from the individual. It is not an indication of government intervention gone mad. It's a recognition that guns are not status symbols, not badges of personhood, not vital protections. They are weapons made for one thing and one thing only, to kill.

To those who speak of the right to own guns, I ask this: what of the right to life of the victims yesterday in Florida, last year in Charleston, in Aurora and Columbine and Sandy Hook and all too many more. What about the right to life of the innocent, killed for being in the wrong place in the wrong time, because someone was fuelled with hate and rage, because some government wanted war, because the victims were the 'wrong' colour, age, gender, nationality, sexuality...?

This latest terrorist attack, this time against gay people, is not just about the religion and opinions of the shooter. It's about a wider culture that says gay lives, black lives, female lives, trans lives, disabled lives are all worth less than the nebulous right of the prejudiced and the greedy, the fearful and the suspicious, the haters and the bullies, to say and do anything and everything they want to, because only some people (people like them) matter. It's about the absurd cult of gun ownership that seems to be embedded in US culture.

You have no right to kill others because they are not like you.
You have no right to kill others because what they are -- their ethnicity, their sexuality, their gender identity -- offends you.

You have no right to kill.

But seriously...

So, I have a question for my female friends and female-presenting non-binary friends.
For those of us who present as 'feminine' in the more traditional sense (can be having longer hair, wearing skirts or other 'girly' clothing, being soft-spoken and so forth): do you find people are more ready to question your knowledge than they do that of women who are seen as less 'girly' in presentation? It was noticeable in my last academic jobs that my female colleagues with short hair who dressed in suits tended to be taken more seriously than the rest of us, and were less likely to be asked to undertake extra admin jobs and to do emotional caretaking.
I'd be interested in hearing the experiences of others about this.

Skirt of the day: Blue-tiered the 2nd (as distinct from the beloved, much worn, fragile blue tiered the first.)

Mancunicon

Mancunicon is approaching rapidly and I have my schedule. I'm particularly looking forward to interviewing Aliette de Bodard on Saturday and to the Tanith Lee tribute item. I hope to see at least some of you there!


Revealing History, Revealing Now

Friday 17:30 - 18:30, Room 8&9 (Hilton Deansgate)

We think of historical fantasy and alternate history as changing the past: but can they be used, instead, to reveal it? How do the tools of SF and fantasy enable writers to tell stories that allow us to think differently about our understanding of history? How can such stories help us to better understand the present? (And which "us" is defining "our", in any case?)

Susan Bartholomew (M), Jacey Bedford, Aliette de Bodard, Kari Sperring, Sarah Walters.


A Tribute to Tanith Lee

Saturday 14:30 - 15:30, Deansgate 3 (Hilton Deansgate)

Tanith Lee was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award, for Death's Master (1980). She was nominated for and won various World Fantasy Awards, and wrote over 90 novels, 300 short stories, poetry, a children's book and episodes of the TV show Blake's 7. Her work explored feminism and sexuality. In this discussion, five of her literary "nieces", who all have a short story in an anthology dedicated to her (to be published by Storm under the title Night's Nieces), enthuse about her works and what made her such a critical figure in female and British Fantasy until her untimely death in May 2015.

Storm Constantine, Kari Sperring, Sarah Singleton, Freda Warrington, Liz Williams, John Kaiine


Guest of Honour Interview - Aliette de Bodard

Sunday 16:00 - 17:00, Deansgate 2&3 (Hilton Deansgate)

Aliette de Bodard was born in the USA, and grew up in London and Paris, where she now lives and works.
She began publishing short fiction in 2006, and gained rapid notice, particularly for work in her Xuya setting, including the Nebula Award-winning stories "Immersion" (2012) and "The Waiting Stars" (2013), and the Hugo-nominated novella On a Red Station, Drifting (2012).
Her first novel Servant of the Underworld, published in 2010, began the Obsidian & Blood series of Aztec mysteries. Her most recent book is The House of Shattered Wings, a BSFA Award nominee this year.

Kari Sperring (M), Aliette de Bodard.


Historical Fiction and Fanfiction

Sunday 17:30 - 18:30, Room 8&9 (Hilton Deansgate)

Historical fiction is set in the past. Fanfiction is produced by fans, for fans, using famous people or source texts as an inspiration. Frequently the worlds overlap. This panel discusses the overlaps, benefits and pitfalls of them. The overlaps include writing fanfiction about historical fiction, setting fanfiction in an alternative universe by placing the narrative in a different historical era, fanworks about real-life historical figures (Historical RPF), or historical fanworks - any fanwork set in the past.

Amanda Baker (M), V Allan, Kari Sperring, Zoe Sumra, ickle_tayto


Science Fiction Criticism - Masterclass 1

Sunday 19:00 - 20:00, Room 10 (Hilton Deansgate)

Every Summer the Science Fiction Foundation holds a Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism with world-renowned critics, academics and authors. This session provides a taster. Participants are required to sign up in advance (at Ops) and should read the short story assigned for the session. There is a limit of ten participants.
This session will be looking at Liz Williams, 'The Banquet of the Lords of Night', which can be found online athttp://clarkesworldmagazine.com/williams_05_13_reprint/

Tony Keen, Kari Sperring.

I will also be working in Green Room (when aren't I? My favourite place!) and helping out with the bid for Follycon, so this is shaping up to be a busy convention.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

Happy St David's Day, all!

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