Girls And Aliens by Anne Michaud – Available Now

We are delighted to announce the launch of the first book in Anne Michaud’s trio of collections that put girls and women at the fore of their own stories. 

In the first volume our heroines find themselves face to face with alien forces.

Five Girls, Five Aliens. Five Tales of courage and outer space. In this collection by Anne Michaud the lesson is clear, never underestimate the power and resolve of ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances. 
 
‘Anne Michaud’s writing is haunting, powerful and often beautiful’ – Amanda Rutter
 
Contents:
Fix Six
Stardust Motel
Battlefield Lost
Snakes and Ladders
Mercy’s Morgue
 

Stories by Anne Michaud
Cover by Daniele Serra
Edited by Amanda Rutter
Formatted by HandEbooks
Cover layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

You can find the paperback and ebook on Amazon worldwide and the ebook in mobi and epub on our own estore.

Amazon UK Paperback

Reviews are always appreciated, even if it’s just a couple of lines.

Secret Identities : The Many Faces of a Chinese Woman in Publishing.

by Xueting Christine Ni

Let me tell you a secret.

I lead a double life.

By day, I work at one of the UK’s largest publishing houses, producing illustrated novelty books, helping to develop them from concepts to finished products, negotiating with suppliers and collaborating with sales teams and creative professionals to ensure the books are to spec, within budget, manufactured correctly and delivered on time across the globe.

By night, I am China Woman, delivering talks, articles, books and translations to further the understanding of China, protect Chinese Culture from misrepresentation, fighting Sinophobia and stereotyping wherever I go.

Lately, I am finding that in order to rise up and respond to the challenges posed by the current politics of fear, my two roles are coming into contact and beginning to clash…

For nearly a decade and a half, my day job has afforded me little to no opportunities to interact my heritage. Day in day out, I am finding China being confused with Japan or Korea, where my culture deliberately avoided or ignored, by colleagues who wish to gush about their adopted pet Asian country, or by senior management who would resort to Google Translate, Wikipedia and other great lengths to hide their ignorance, rather than consult a native resource within their workforce, even as the majority of suppliers we use across the industry shifts to my homeland. When I start talking about Chinese culture, magically, the whole office becomes an expert on the subject, and whilst the mainly middleclass office takes great pains to be considerate of minorities, from queerness to religion, to gluten intolerance, derogatory insinuations to the Yellow Race as well as the belief that “made in china” may as well continue “..out of radioactive third rate plastic” persist.

I have generally responded to these by keeping my head down, and turning them into fuel for my Chinese culture work when I get home.

I could be kind, if I were inclined to, and say that China doesn’t do a lot to promote its cultural highlights. My social circles have consisted of largely occidental geeks and Japanophiles, the UK geek convention scene has heavily promoted Japan, and despite my efforts to make these gatherings into Pan-Asian culture festivals. Even the BBCs (British Born Chinese), have exhibited an aversion when it comes to their heritage, preferring anime style avatars, Japanese net names and turning up to events in kimonos and Gothic Lolita dresses. At the same time, my friends who’ve come over from Mainland China, have tended towards Anglophilia, desperate to fit in and sublimating their native culture to do so. This self-loathing by the Chinese was something I saw very visibly in the 1990s and early 2000s, and was one of the factors that motivated me in my work to make traditional Chinese culture accessible, as well as showcase the fantastic range of nascent pop culture coming out of a society changing at an astonishing pace.

I could also say, if I felt like being kind, that it’s not as if they have a lot of contact with Chinese colleagues. Like many BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), I had to jump over the hurdle of Family. For Chinese parents, the only jobs one should even consider going into are Banking, Finance and “The Professions”. At gatherings of my family and their friends, you could be assured of bankers to recommend investments, stock brokers who’d try and double it for you, doctors who could write out a handy little prescriptions for pick-me-ups to help them through 20-hour work days, and friendly lawyers who’d get you acquitted if those pills caused someone’s heart to explode. It was a respectable cabal of the soulless, and whilst they may all take day trips out to country houses, none of them seemed interested in the great tradition and culture behind these, a tradition that produced the likes of Brontes, Gaskell, Collins and Foster.

These were the writers who accompanied me through my adolescence. My love of literature was dismissed as ‘a hobby’, until I told my parents I wanted to decline my UCAS offers in Economics, to study English Literature, and study that at university. It was half a year before my mother spoke to me again, despite living in the same house, and I took a part time job to pay for my college fees (something absolutely unheard of in my family social circle). English literature is one of the most popular arts and humanities degree in the country, and Publishing, the most common career of choice for graduates of this subject, yet for me, they were hard won life choices.

Even when we make that leap into the industry, it’s often just the beginning of the battle for BAME. Like everyone who loves literature, I thought I would be working up through the various iterations of editorial assistance, to become an editor. Soon after I had landed my first job at a major publishing group, I was already getting commissions for fiction translation in my “vigilante” capacity, so I felt assured of my dreams.

When an internal vacancy came up, I leapt at the opportunity, and was not at all surprised when I was asked in for an interview.  Little did I know though, that the interview would be one of the shortest I’d ever had; how all the literary talent and organizational know-how with which I was going to impress my interviewer, would remain unsaid, and that the first question I was asked, “is English your first language?”, would in their minds, bar me from that whole side of the industry. The dejection I felt at this off-hand rejection was light compared to the years of self-doubt that followed, exacerbating the fractured sense of identity I’d already been struggling with, and the thought that maybe my parents had been right, and all we were good for was statistics and money. It has been a long battle, and I now have a string of successes and milestones I can use to remind myself that in fact, I’m damn good at this, and in many cases, maybe down to the effort I have had to spend to achieve these skills, far better than a native speaker who has had the English language handed to them on a plate.

I would like to say my work as “China Woman” has been plain sailing, but alas, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Even though I was moved to the UK just before my teens, I had always kept myself aware of what was happening in China. Not just the news, but what my friends were spending their pocket money on, or watching on TV. As a grown-up I was lucky enough to return, and study my home country’s literature and culture in more depth, reconnect with old friends, and make plenty of new acquaintances. When I came back to the UK at the end of the 2000s, I fully launched myself into my Chinese culture work, relying on an unique insight that comes from total immersion in both China and Britain, combined with incisive abilities in cultural and literary analysis, and a passion for research, and most importantly, a desire to bring the best of China out and put it on display for my second home country. Yet I found myself competing against the confident, authoritative voices of white academics, who dominate China-related media circles in the West, and my work being used wholesale and uncredited on several occasions. It was grating to find these people, who had never set foot on anything but a main street, and whose Mandarin did not extend past “Wo Yao Yi Bei Zhong Bei Na Tie”, appearing on national radio to exploit whichever strain of Sinophobia that was doing the rounds, in order promote their field of expertise or full series on Sky Arts. Some, who quite happily ignored China for decades while they eulogized manga and anime in their book deals and public appearances, are suddenly jumping on the China bandwagon; often with such low levels of knowledge of the country’s history, culture, and outlook, that I’m often surprised they don’t burst into flames when they present themselves as the fount of wisdom for another culture.  

Over a decade of learning, commentary and development would gather some critical mass, against whatever odds. Eight years after my rejection by the editor and several unpleasant incidents at other publishers that happened due to a lack of understanding of minority perspectives, I finally found confidence in being myself, both as a person and as a writer. The growth of internet usage, especially social media, both in China and around the world, have not only widened my audience and readership, but facilitated direct contact with them. My website and my posts are now a lot more visible to festivals, organisations and institutions around the world, who can easily reach out to me for talks, commentary and interviews via email, Twitter, or WeChat. It was thanks to this shrinking of the canyons between creators and publishers that I got my first non-fiction commission from a US publisher a few years ago. Chinese deities was hardly a subject I’d dreamt of writing on, but a hungry female BAME author makes the most every opportunity she is offered, and rather than a book on religion, I moulded my creation into a window into Chinese society and culture.

There has been a positive shift to embrace cultural and ethical change around the world. It has led to multiple campaigns, movements, support groups, and many parts of the media to move from mere tolerance to integration, even to the active embracing of diversity. It’s not all Utopian peace and harmony yet, but the subjects are being broached, and where one organization may still be as white as a roll of Gardapat Bianka, others have been actively redressing the balance and seeking out more representation where it is needed.

It has been my pleasure to be invited to teach Chinese cinema, as part of one of the only Contemporary World Cinema courses in the whole country, and although I had to practically start my own press junket on the UK release of Big Fish & Begonia, cinemas such as The Genesis, are starting to recognize the value of having a bicultural speaker introduce films steeped in Chinese tradition and culture to the British audience, rather than just picking the loudest white hack they could most easily get hold of. It has taken me ten years since my last one to find another suitable opportunity to publish my translations in print, but with this coming collection of Chinese Science Fiction, I hope to help English-language readers discover the fantastic range of genre fiction coming out of China.

China’s economic rise has led to a new-found domestic confidence and prompted many around the world to seek opportunities within the country. Together with the accessibility of online platforms, this has encouraged well-researched, accurate and in-depth reportage of China to the West. We no longer have to view China entirely through the lenses of international and colonial politics that traditional media outlets have tended to adopt, though even these are starting to improve. I have been lucky enough to be invited by the BBC to produce content on Chinese sci-fi cinema following the success of “The Wandering Earth”, and Disney’s upcoming live action “Mulan”.

As China becomes a bigger player on the world stage, fear of it, is, I’m afraid, again on the rise, and with it, a targeted attack of stereotyping and misperceptions of China. It serves certain organisations to present China as a land of mindless automatons flooding the West with cheap goods, a nation that can produce but not create. But even this hideous view is now being overshadowed by more modern Fu-Manchu villainy, depicting the country as a powerful polluter, sinister spy or a monstrous monoculture thirsting for world domination. The super-heroine, China Woman, has her work cut out for her, and the next time someone in the office talks of fake rice and spying cell phones, I might not just bite my tongue.

Visit Xueting Christine Ni’s website

New Releases, here first!!

Our summer titles are available here first!!

Girls and Aliens by Anne Michaud

Girls, 5 Aliens. Five Tales of courage and outer space. In this collection by Anne Michaud the lesson is clear, never underestimate the power and resolve of ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances. 

Caleuche by Jonathan Ward

Jericho has fallen.

The world lies in ruins: overrun by an endless tide of self-replicating killing machines known as the Bugs. Only a fraction of its population managed to flee the planet aboard whatever ship would carry them, heading for jump points that would take them to new solar systems and, hopefully, to safety.

Hire Idiots by Professor I. M. Nemo

PROMINENT PROFESSOR STABBED TO DEATH AT KINGSLEY COLLEGE

Unfortunately, the murder may get lost in the confusion of new vice presidents, marketers, focus groups, assessors and protestors as the administration tries to make education profitable. There’s no time for mystery!

Eater of Names by A.R. Aston 
Sequel to the Hobgoblin’s Herald.

Time is the Death of Heroes. Time is the Eater of Names.

The old knight is lost.

Sir Aethed, disguised as a merchant’s bodyguard, travels the world seeking to reunite his crusading king Aaren with the mythical blade Moontalon, so that the crusader king might turn the tide against Ivak Mornscour and save Guien from his horde of travesties.

Still not sure? Read the opening chapters of all four in the free download on our front page.

Skulk at @Dublin2019 WorldCon

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Floof Will Out

Dublin 2019 World Con will be full of floof! It even includes a performance by the Fox Spirit Skulk Players!

CON-EIRE

‘ConEIRE’  50 minutes FRIDAY 5:00 PM  –  5:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2A
Play

A love letter to the people who do the thankless work behind the scenes at SFF cons everywhere!

It’s three days before the start of ConEIRE, the best Irish-themed science fiction and fantasy con in the tri-state area, when a phone call sets the entire Convention Committee into panic mode. Is Big Name Writer going to pull out at the last minute? What does Very Famous Artist have to do with that decision? And what do the fairies have to say about all this? Follow the hilarious mishaps as the committee members work desperately to salvage months of planning and hard work, all of which are about to be undone by a well-known prima donna.

But there are skulk members appearing throughout the con:
THURSDAY
Ruins, curses, and family secrets: the Gothic  50 minutes 11:00 AM  –  11:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-3
Panel
Where does the Gothic fit into the overall horror tradition? What elements of the Gothic remain so compelling today, and why? Panellists discuss the genre from its roots to Southern Gothic and other modern interpretations.
Creating podcasts: ideas, people, and themes  50 minutes THURSDAY 4:00 PM  –  4:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall-1
Panel
FRIDAY
Fleshy fears: horror and the body  50 minutes FRIDAY 11:00 AM  –  11:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2A
Panel
From body horror to body snatchers to possession and beyond, how has horror explored, exploited, and pushed the limits of bodily integrity? What is the subtext of different approaches to body horror, and what practitioners are exploring these assaults on the flesh in the most interesting ways?
Escape Artists podcast: live recording  50 minutes FRIDAY 1:00 PM  –  1:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2B
Podcast
Come and learn more about free weekly podcast fiction! Join the Escape Artists for an audio fiction show presented by all four EA podcasts: Escape PodPseudoPodPodCastle, and Cast of Wonders. There’ll be a Q&A session, swag giveaways, all the latest news, and live readings.
Why is it always raining in Gotham? Noir themes in SF  50 minutes FRIDAY 9:00 PM  –  9:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2B
Panel
Noir tropes are hugely popular in science fictional settings, such as China Miéville’s The City and the City, or William Gibson’s Neuromancer. In what ways are noir tropes adapted or subverted within the genre? Is there a difference in the ways SF books, comics, and movies use elements of noir? The panel will discuss the uses of noir across SF genres and formats.
SATURDAY
Misconceptions in medieval history  50 minutes SATURDAY 10:00 AM  –  10:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-4
Panel
The medieval period is a rich source of inspiration for writers of speculative fiction, but medieval life has been so romanticised in popular culture that it has become hard to separate the chaff of fiction from the wheat of historical fact. Our panel of medievalists will saddle up their warhorses and ride to rescue the damsel of medieval history!
Revolutions in an era of advanced technology  50 minutes SATURDAY 10:00 AM  –  10:50 AM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-3
Panel
How do revolutions (e.g. overthrowing government) occur in an era of advanced technologies? Are orderly regime changes jeopardised with growing asymmetries in weaponry, surveillance, and political power? Are current political processes up to the challenge?
‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know’  SATURDAY 11:30 AM to 12:20 PM (50 minutes) Odeon 6 (Academic) Part of: Crusaders and Fairy Kings
Paper
Susanna Clarke’s sprawling novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell takes in the whole of the 19th century attempt to restore magic to respectability in England. Repeatedly the readers are warned that fairy magic is ‘not respectable’ – most often by Gilbert Norrell, who hides his shame at stooping to its employment on at least one occasion. Why is fairy magic not ‘respectable’? I will argue that it is because it is mostly Celtic, rather than the more dour, respectable, and rather puritanical English magic that Norrell seeks to revive and rule over. In contrast, John Uskglass was trained in fairy magic and his troop, the Raven King’s army, is specifically identified as the Daoine Sidhe. In pursuing the Raven King’s example, Jonathan Strange remains open to this Celtic influence and soon surpasses his teacher in skill and daring, but both Englishmen are unprepared for the full fury of the fairy fight.
Horror: where are we going?  50 minutes SATURDAY 5:00 PM  –  5:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Room-3
Panel
Whose book is it anyway?  50 minutes SATURDAY 5:30 PM  –  6:20 PM  |  Point Square , Alhambra
Panel
Who decides which YA books get bought? Publishers? Editors? Booksellers? Parents? Or maybe even YA readers? Join us for a thoughtful discussion on marketing and publishing in YA as we look at how YA novels get chosen. Moreover, what are publishers and readers looking for in a book?
SUNDAY
Portrayals of mental health in genre  SUNDAY 50 minutes 12:00 PM  –  12:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2A
Panel

Content warning: may include discussions of suicide and self-harm, mental illness and ableism, eating disorders.

Mental health used well can drive a story, create believable motives for characters and even greater awareness amongst the audience. However, these issues are not always treated sensitively or realistically. This panel will explore examples of mental health issues in genre fiction and consider their implications and accuracy.

‘Ditch Diggers’ podcast: live recording  50 minutes SUNDAY 2:00 PM  –  2:50 PM  |  CCD , Wicklow Hall 2B
Podcast
MONDAY
Irish horror and the supernatural  50 minutes 11:00 AM  –  11:50 AM  |  CCD , ECOCEM Room
Panel
Critic Peter Tremayne observed that: ‘Practically every Irish writer has … explored the genre for the supernatural part of Irish culture.’ Ireland has always held its own in fantastical literature, from Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker to Dorothy Macardle and Elizabeth Bowen. But is there a discernible tradition threaded through their fictions? And what, if anything, makes their writing Irish?
Kaffeeklatsch: Marguerite Kenner 50 minutes MONDAY 12:00 PM  –  12:50 PM  |  CCD , Level 3 Foyer
Kaffeeklatsch
Kaffeeklatsch: Alasdair Stuart  50 minutes MONDAY 1:00 PM  –  1:50 PM  |  CCD , Level 3 Foyer
Kaffeeklatsch
[If we missed something tweet Kate with the details]
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Enjoy on us!

There is loads of FREE content for you to enjoy on our website.

At the moment the front page has a sampler of the opening pages of each of our summer releases. 

You can buy Fearless Genre Warriors for £0.00 in our ebook store and get a substantial collection of short stories from our first few years of publishing. 

We have music! Yes actual properly recorded songs, how many publishers give you that? 

Lots of short stories are published on our free fiction page for you to download and enjoy and there are more in the skulk members area if you ‘join the skulk‘ below.  The members area also gives you discounts in the eshop and other goodies.

There is even a bit of video up all for your enjoyment and all it costs is a few moments of your time.

After all that, there is of course the blog, full of great content from guest posts and Hugo nominee Alasdair Stuart’s ‘Not the Fox News’. 

Indulge. Download the stories to take away and read at leisure. Tell your friends and send them over if they are looking for something new to read. The House of Fox has you covered.

Floof Will Out

10 Archaeologists to Dig

10 Archaeologists to Dig

By Jenny Barber

Archaeology has been shaped by women from its inception – they have been pioneers of new field methods, new understanding of history, and activists for better conditions for the women studying, teaching, and working in the field.  While their names are often forgotten, their number is legion, so here’s ten of archaeology’s pioneering women to get you started…

Honor Frost

A pioneer of underwater adventure and archaeology, Honor Frost combined her passion for diving with her experience of land archaeology, applying the rigor of careful site and artefact recording to the wreck dives she took part in.  She was responsible for the identification of a Bronze Age Phoenician ship near Turkey and despite being omitted from many of the later reports, made many vital contributions to the recording and analysis of the site.  She went on to excavate many other sites in the Mediterranean Sea and continued her archaeology and typography work right up until her death at age 92.

 Zheng Zhenxiang

Zheng Zhenxiang developed a passion for archaeology when Chinese archaeology was still a new discipline, and persevered through much local turmoil to become the first female archaeologist of New China and one of the leading experts on Shang Dynasty archaeology.  Her most notable discovery was the tomb of Lady Fu Hao, a Bronze Age female general and priestess.  This discovery, the only undisturbed Shang Dynasty tomb found to date, provided such a wealth of artefacts and remains that it has given archaeologists many valuable insights into Fu Hao and the Shang Dynasty world.

Margaret Murray

Margaret Murray was an archaeologist and Egyptologist who was equally at home on excavation sites as she was teaching generations of students in the lecture hall. She nursed in foreign wars and during epidemics; and was also a member of the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U), participating in the 1907 Mud March.  Her activism also led her to champion better conditions and facilities for the female staff and students at University College London.

Shahina Farid

Considered one of the best field archaeologists in the business, the ‘Lady of the Höyük’ spent 20 years as Field Director and Project Coordinator at the Çatalhöyük site, managing a large international team of over 200 researchers and students.  Seen as a mentor and inspiration by those who worked with her, her expertise is recognised as being a driving force for the Çatalhöyük excavation, while her stratigraphic work has broadened the field and become the foundation for many archaeological and scientific studies.

 Dorothy Garrod

Dorothy Garrod was a pioneer in the field of Palaeolithic archaeology, the first person to use aerial photographs for archaeological work, and the first woman to hold a professorship at the University of Cambridge.  From 1942-1945 she served as section officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Force and in 1965 was awarded the CBE.

 Whitney Battle-Baptiste

Whitney Battle-Baptiste is a scholar and activist who examines the intersection of race, gender, class and sexuality through the lens of archaeology.  She is the author of the ground-breaking Black Feminist Archaeology and co-author of W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

She is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at UMass Amherst and has served as the Director of its W. E. B. Du Bois Center since 2014.

Check out her website here: https://whitneybattlebaptiste.com or follow her on twitter @blackfemarch

Tatiana Proskouriakoff

Born in Russia, Tatiana Proskouriakoff’s start as an architect was derailed by the Great Depression which led to her working as a museum artist. She decided to dedicate her life to Maya architecture, art, and hieroglyphs after a visit to the Maya site of Piedras Negras (Petén, Guatemala) and produced a number of architectural plans for Chichèn Itzá (Yucatán, Mexico) and Copán (Honduras) as well as a book – A Study of Classic Maya Sculpture. She contributed to the deciphering of Maya hieroglyphic writing and is considered the pioneer of the idea that the Maya recorded their political and dynastic histories as well as calendrical and astronomical information.

 Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell was a woman of many talents – known as the ‘Queen of the Desert,’ she was a traveller, a photographer, a mountaineer, spoke eight languages, worked for British Intelligence in Cairo, and her visits to Maltese ruins to draw and photograph them led to an enthusiasm for the excavation and surveying of other ancient sites further afield. She had a particular concern with the security and archaeology of Iraq and visited sites to check for looting and wartime damage, then tracked down and interfered with artefact sales in Baghdad’s bazaars. Later, an official appointment to the Iraqi Department of Antiquities made her officially responsible for monitoring excavation methods and artefact dispersal of Iraq sites. She also established the Baghdad Archaeological Museum (now the National Museum of Iraq) and willed money towards the British School of Archaeology in Iraq which was founded as a memorial to her.

Theresa A. Singleton

Theresa A. Singleton is a writer and archaeologist who is considered a pioneer of historical archaeology in North America. Her work has been particularly important in uncovering finds relating to the African Diaspora, especially African-American history and culture under slavery, and life in communities of African-Americans descended from former slaves.  She is the author of Slavery Behind the Wall: An Archaeology of a Cuban Coffee Plantation and the forthcoming The Archaeology of Plantation Life in the Caribbean and United States.

Amelia Blanford Edwards

A prolific writer and traveller, the ‘Godmother of Egyptology’ developed a passion for the protection of Egypt’s ancient sites after witnessing the rampant destruction and thefts plaguing them.  Along with curators of the British Museum she set up the Egypt Exploration Fund with the aim of studying, conserving and protecting the ancient sites of Egypt, and worked tirelessly to promote and secure funds to enable young archaeologists to study the sites in better ways.

Further reading:

For more on these legendary ladies and other awesome archaeologist women, check out:

Trowelblazers.com

Ladies of the Field by Amanda Adams

Photo Credits:

Honor Frost: By Editsicinf at Italian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41247909

Zheng Zhenxiang: People’s Daily Online, October 2008, accessed via Trowelblazers.com 2019

Margaret Murray: By Unknown (Lafayette Ltd) – http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp101036/margaret-alice-murray, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50111066

Shahina Farid: from https://biaa.ac.uk/about-the-biaa/people

Dorothy Garrod: By Newnham College, Cambridge – http://www.newn.cam.ac.uk/about/about_history3.shtml, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3159074

Whitney Battle-Baptiste: from https://whitneybattlebaptiste.com

Tatiana Proskouriakoff: By Ms. Char Solomon, biographer of Ms. T Proskouriakoff, and owner of site the image is sourced from – http://www.charsolomon.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4427926

Gertrude Bell: By Unknown – picture copied from the Gertrude Bell Archive [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1178123

Theresa A. Singleton: from https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/anthro/Singleton,_Theresa/

Amelia Edwards: By unbekannt – entweder der Verlag oder eine Zeitung – aus dem Buch von Amelia B Edwards “PHARAOHS, FELLAHS AND EXPLORERS”, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11423945

 

Not The Fox News: The Booksmart Chef Maneuver

 

So I’ve checked outside and it’s all still on fire. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s so egregiously and completely on fire that everyone can see it. The countryside is burninated. The peasants are burninated. The thatched roof cottages are going DOWN. It’s just a fact at this point.

That means, like I say, everyone can see it and if everyone can see it that means you don’t have to see it all the time. The single upside to culture-wide multi-quadrant fucktastrophe is ubiquity of observation. You’re not going to miss anything, or miss an opportunity to do some good, by stepping away for a few hours. Or as Mike Doughty puts it….

First off, and miraculously still playing in theatres, Booksmart. Directed by Olivia WIlde (13 from House) from a script by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogekl and Katie Silberman. it stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as Amy and Molly. Amy is recently out, kind of terrified and a straight A student. Molly is class president, a Supreme Court justice in waiting and absolutely prepared to take down anyone or anything that stands in her or her friend’s way. They are brilliant, hard working, relentless and have never partied once. They had more important stuff to do. Until, on the last day of school, Molly discovers the kids who partied got into the same universities they did and makes a solemn vow; they’re going to have fun. By any means necessary. Cue the music.

What follows is this beautifully balanced tango between abject teenage mania and painfully well observed characters. There’s a moment where Amy correctly guesses why Molly is acting a certain way towards another character that will break your heart with its honesty. Likewise, Amy’s catastrophic first kiss is romantic until it turns hilarious until it turns horrifically embarrassing. The movie features the single best written and acted argument I’ve seen this century, as the girls go from light-heartedly messing with each other to absolutely cutting loose. The frantic nature of late stage adolescence is hard coded into every single frame and it’s at times a hard watch but always for the best reasons.

It’s also relentlessly funny. From the opening dance off to the magnificent final few seconds Booksmart is never well behaved, always goes for the best, smartest joke and always surprises you. It’s also littered with excellent cameos, the best of which by far is Billie Lourd as possibly supernatural, definitely massively high partygoer Gigi. Hilariously angry, completely driven and painfully sweet, Booksmart is a modern classic. Miss it at the theatres? Track it down on digital August 20th and blu-ray in early September.. It’s more than worth it.

 

Which brings us nicely to Chef. Written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau it follows chef Carl Casper through the worst, and also best, night of his life. Carl works at a high end Californian restaurant and on the night a big critic comes in, he’s told to ‘play the hits’ rather than experiment. He does. It goes badly. He freaks out. It goes badlier (a word). He freaks out again and he’s fired. Until, with the aid of his ex-wife’s ex-husband, he buys a food truck and rediscovers the simple joy of cooking and of being a father.


On paper it looks sappy as hell but Favreau is a man who never met a piece of dialogue he didn’t love, or a scene he couldn’t frame. From opening to closing, Chef is a love letter to food and what food it is. With technical assistance from Chef Roy Choi (Whose Kogi food truck I have eaten from and remains one of the best meals I have ever had in my life), the techniques and recipes all work. But even more importantly, so does the culture. Carl works constantly, intoxicated and obsessed by food and Favreau, who trained with Choi, shows us everything. The rambunctious, cheerfully foul nature of every kitchen. The strict hierarchies, fierce loyalties and cut throat ambition. All of it stacks up and, brilliantly, evaporates once the truck gets on the road. It may be cramped but you can see Carl breathe out, see Favreau’s burly shoulders droop as his guy rediscovers his love for the game. Given Favreau made Chef after several massive blockbusters, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons between Carl and his creator too.

But the movie really soars in the gentle way it explores Carl’s burgeoning friendship with his ten year old son, Percy. Emjay Anthony is fantastic as a calm, focused kid who wants more and has no problem telling his dad where to get off and he Favreau have great chemistry. The movie also takes the brave step of casting Carl not so much as a bad guy as not a very a good one. He knows he’s a bad father and husband and while he tries to do something about it, there’s always the work, always the food. He and John Leguizamo as best friend Martin are born to that world. Inez, his ex-wife played by Sofia Vergara and girlfriend Molly played by Scarlett Johannsson are far less lucky. Molly in particular exists solely to gaze adoringly at Carl while he makes her lunch and then tell him to go find his bliss.

That element is a hard ask but get past it and Chef is the very best comfort food. Favreau is a great leading man, funny and naturalistic. There’s a wide variety of fun cameos including several familiar Marvel faces. The food looks amazing, the creativity behind it is inspiring and the movie does a lot that’s smart, subtle and kind. Also do eat before seeing it. Or take notes while you are. Chef is available to buy now and honestly, get it. If a really great grilled cheese sandwich (And this movie features the best grilled cheese sandwich in cinema history) was a movie, it would be Chef.

So there you go, a little cinematic comfort food for these trying times. Dig in, trust me it’s worth it.

10 Female Lead TV Shows

Top 10 Female Lead TV shows

By Molly Bruton

The Bold Type

This show started in 2017 following the lives of three strong women who are working at a fashion magazine called Scarlett. Each one is pursuing their own pathway in life with each other by their sides to help. It touches on the issues of feminism, female representation in the media; LGBT issues, politics and many more.

Watch on – Amazon Prime Video (Seasons 1-3)

Derry Girls

A comedy series following the lives of Erin, Clare, Michelle, Erin’s cousin Orla and Michelle’s cousin James – who happens to be English. Not only are they dealing with trying to navigate relationships; their Catholic girl’s school and their parents; they’re also having to deal with the troubles the 1990s brought to Derry, Northern Ireland.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1) or 4oD (Season 1&2)

One Day at a Time

A sitcom based around the Alvarez family, a Cuban-American family. With three generations of Alvarez women living under the same roof, there is bound to be some conflict as well as some amazing stories being told. Lydia, the grandmother, Penelope, the mother and Elena, the daughter are all very different but all similar in the way of them all being strong, powerful women who speak their minds. The show covers a lot of different topics that are important in today’s society in both a comedic way and a serious way as well.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1-3) and PopTV (Season 4)

Orange is the New Black

Since the first season premiered back in 2013, this show has always been praised at its large, diverse cast of women portraying some of the most empowering, inspirational women on TV. Even if they happen to be criminals. As Orange heads into its final season there is no doubt in my mind this show will forever be known as the show that changed the way people watched TV as it was, and still is, Netflix’s most watched show. It was one of the first shows that had people “binge-watching”.

Watch on – Netflix (All Seasons)

Sex Education

An unexpected stand out Netflix original from this year following the story of Otis who, despite his mother being a sex therapist, is extremely awkward about sex. After meeting Maeve – a confident, outgoing, yet vulnerable classmate – they set up a sex advice business helping students with their problems. This show definitely made a lot of people, especially women, feel more confident talking about sex and owning their sexuality as the characters in the show do.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1)

Dead to Me

Two women who seemed to have lost everything become fast friends when they meet each other at a therapy group for widowers. Jen is mourning the loss of her husband who was killed in a hit-and-run; while Judy is grieving her finance, who had a heart attack. As this show is a dark comedy there are lots of twists and turns, but the main element of it is the friendship between the two women and how important that is to each other.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1)

The Act

Based on the true story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a young girl confined to a wheelchair due to multiple illnesses with an extremely overprotective mother. While Gypsy tries to find more independence, she begins to rebel against her mother finally finding out that she has been lying about her illnesses as Gypsy was in fact healthy. This leads her (and her boyfriend) to kill her mother. Although this isn’t the most joyful thing, the acting throughout the show is amazing.

Watch on – Amazon Prime Video

Killing Eve

A classic spy thriller with a twist. The series follows a British investigator, Eve, trying to capture the slightly insane assassin Villanelle. While they are taking part in this cat and mouse chase, the two develop an obsession with each other. Not only is this a critically acclaimed TV show, the two lead actresses in it are both being praised immensely with Sandra Oh receiving two Golden Globe awards for this role. The showrunner of each season has also been a woman.

Watch on – BBC IPlayer

Big Little Lies

One of HBO’s biggest hits in the past few years; with murder, mystery and comedy set in the town of Monterey, California. Their community is fuelled by rumours the whole thing being divided into the people who have and the people who don’t. The series is told through the eyes of three mothers – Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley exposing broken relationships between spouses, families, friends and neighbours.

Watch on – NowTV

Stranger Things

Set in Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s. The laboratory near the town were performing experiments in the paranormal/supernatural. This included human test subjects – one of those being Eleven. They accidentally manage to make a portal to an alternative dimension – The Upside Down. The shows cast is extremely well known due to them being so young and so talented.

Watch on – Netflix (Seasons 1-3)

10 Lost City Breaks

10 Lost City Breaks

By Jenny Barber

If you’re bored with all the usual resorts this summer, why not try one of these city breaks instead! Whether you’re holidaying at home or abroad, adventure beckons…

Atlantis

This island paradise has a network of canals to rival Venice – enjoy one of the boat tours from the coast to the centre of the city and listen to knowledgeable guides while you admire the classic sculpture on the many bridges.  Take a visit to the jewellery district and explore the Atlantean arts scene in the recently renovated orichalcum studios where you can watch your own one-of-a-kind piece being made; or drop into one of the coastal restaurants for the best fish dishes this side of Lyonnesse.  And when you need a break from the bustle of the city, the black and silver beaches are not to be missed. 

image from world atlas

Shangri-La

Hidden away in the magnificent Kunlun mountains, Shangri-La is just the place if you want to get away from it all.  Try out one of the many spiritual retreats; walk the peaceful lake trails; or eat at one of the famous home-style restaurants where everyone is welcome, and all ingredients are acquired fresh that day – and don’t forget to sample one of Shangri-La’s famous peach dishes!

Chicomoztoc

For an exciting Mexican adventure why not try an activity break in Chicomoztoc!  With seven main city-caves and a multitude of caverns and tunnels to explore, there’s something for every level of caver. Beginners can explore the underground streams, lakes, and caverns with stunning stone-age wall art; the more experienced will find some of the most thrilling cave dives in the world, with challenging cave passages that lead to the ruins of ancient tribal sites.

Ys

Twinned with Lyonnesse, this gem of Brittany is one for the shopaholics as it boasts a thriving network of markets that will leave you cash poor but infinitely richer in souvenirs.  The Arts Quarter has always been one of its popular attractions and Ys’s signature marble, cedar and gold can be seen here in abundance.  An energetic night life can be found in the clubs and bars near the dykes and those seeking something quieter will find a great many cathedrals and historic churches to visit.

Hy-Brasil

Despite its limited access restrictions, you’ll find Hy-Brasil a mist shrouded wonder whatever time of year you visit. Situated west of Ireland, its unique environment boasts rare flora and fauna native only to this region, making it a haven for nature lovers; and history buffs will delight in the active excavations and detailed museum that documents the ancient ruins and castle. Guided tours through the ruins and woodlands are available twice a day, or those with stronger stomachs can chance a boat trip around the island and discover the many secrets of its stormy coastline.

image from ancient origins

El Dorado

In the South American jungle, on the shores of Lake Parime, you’ll find the ancient Muisca city of El Dorado.  Known as much for its water sports and vibrant night life, as for its gold, silver, and emeralds, El Dorado caters to many tastes.  Learn to sail on sparkling water of the deepest blue or join a dive tour to see the ancient artefacts that still litter the lakebed; then spend your evening enjoying one of the many regular open-air concerts, festivals or dance clubs. 

Avalon

Closer to home is the fabled island-city of Avalon: one of Britain’s Arthurian centres, you’ll find the famous Avalon Abbey and Academy of Healing as well as bountiful orchards, extensive herb gardens and sacred springs.  Cider aficionados can visit one of the island’s cider breweries and sample the many custom brews, while those looking for something more restful can spend time in the meditation retreat or browse the local bookshops – there’s at least three bookshops per street so seekers of knowledge will not be disappointed.

Zerzura

In the desert, far west of the Nile, you’ll find the shining white city of Zerzura. Built around an oasis network that provides the city with multiple natural pools, springs, and rivers, Zerzura’s impressive city gates are guarded by black stone giants that date back to the Bronze Age.  Its library and university are renowned for holding the oldest records of Egyptian history and its ancient ruins have remained intact and untampered with.  But if history’s not your thing, the dunes outside the city are perfect for sand-boarding and buggy racing, while the nearby mountains are a hiker’s dream!  

Biringan City

If you fancy a trip to the Philippines, why not visit Biringan City! This city of dazzling lights and towering buildings is on the cutting edge of technology and you’ll find the inventions of science fiction brought to life on its streets.  Biringan is also well known for its ghost tours and has a rich folklore woven into local life, making it a rare treat of a city that balances scientific and magical wonders.

Lyonnesse

Between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly you’ll find the historic island-city of Lyonnesse.  While famed for its 140 churches and abbeys; its sub-tropical climate, golden beaches, and azure waters easily rival the Mediterranean – making it the perfect staycation destination for the discerning sun-worshipper.  The nearby Seven Stones reef boasts the best diving in the British Isles and at low tide it’s possible to see the remains of the forest that once stretched between Lyonnesse and the mainland.  You’ll find the best clubs, pubs and arcades along the north coast and a thriving shopping district to the south that demonstrates why Lyonnesse was once a hub of European trade.

 

10 Things That are Improved with Googly Eyes

by Heide Goody

Step into summer! Ten summer things that are improved with googly eyes.

Pack some googly eyes with your summer holiday gear and you’re guaranteed more fun, whatever your destination.

Here are the top ten ideas to see you right through summer.

Keep an eye on what you’re eating

Eating healthily is tough. Turn fruit into eye candy and watch out for admiring glances!

Be fashion-forward

Turn heads with a pair of statement shoes. The statement is “I’m watching you”

Be drink-aware

Are you the designated driver? Do you sometimes feel as though you’re missing out? Not anymore. Add googly eyes to your drink of choice. Here’s mud in your eye!

Take care of the plants

It’s easy to forget the plants when you go away over the summer. Give them some googly eyes and they’ll feel so good that they might forget that you didn’t water them.

Refresh your grooming regime

Don’t lose sight of the basics during summer. Keep an eye on your daily body care regime.

Don’t overlook essential household maintenance

In the heat of the summer we might forget those household fixtures that work so hard during the winter months. Give them some googly eyes so they can enjoy summer too! Then they will see you right during the darker months.

Keep up with current affairs

World affairs won’t stop because you’re on holiday. Make them more tolerable with googly eyes.

we are only permitting this because it’s on bog roll and has googly eyes. – Ed.

Summer reading

A good book is a must for your holiday. How can you be doubly sure that you’ll enjoy it? Add some googly eyes.

Summer tunes

Make any music the soundtrack to your summer. Don’t be afraid to raise eyebrows along with the volume.

Yourself

Go makeup-free this summer! Cheaper than cosmetic surgery and won’t react with chlorine in the pool (probably). You’ll be a vision.