Hugo Award Nominations 2014. Part I.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

So, in this first post, let’s talk about:

Best Dramatic Presentation “Long Form” (more than 90 minutes)

Best Dramatic Presentation “Short Form” (less than 90 minutes)

Best Editor Short Form

Best Editor Long Form

Best Professional Artist

Best Fan Writer

Best Fan Artist


Best Dramatic Presentation “Long Form” (more than 90 minutes)

1. Tomb Raider. It’s a brilliant game: it integrates character, narrative, design and gameplay really well. And it plays like good story. Really sodding tense, driven story.

2. Pacific Rim. It is visually amazing, has some solid performances, and is an immense amount of fun.

3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It’s a flawed film, and a flawed adaptation – but on the other hand, the fact that it’s not perfect doesn’t mean that it isn’t really good. And I really like the fact that Katniss is the stoic silent pragmatic one who finds it hard to express emotions, and Peeta is the sensitive one with all the feelings.

I did not encounter anything else this year that I would like to nominate in this category, although all things considered it probably would not actively hurt if Thor: The Dark World made it onto the ballot. I haven’t seen Frozen, or Gravity although I hear they’re good – and none of the other videogames I played approach Tomb Raider‘s commitment to doing good story.

Best Dramatic Presentation “Short Form” (less than 90 minutes)

I did not watch any SFF television from 2013 – certainly nothing that stands out as memorable.

Best Editor Short Form

I don’t follow the short form of the genre scene all that well. I don’t feel I have enough appreciation of who has edited (or acquired) which excellent stuff consistently well to make a nomination.

Except your man Neil Clarke from Clarkesworld. Clarkesworld always seems to publish real gems.

Best Editor Long Form

An industry award, and one that always seems to me to be slightly odd on an award given by popular vote. How does one judge a “Best Editor”? By the strength of the novels they work on? (But I don’t know who edits even half the books I read.) By how much better they make novels that are submitted to them? (But I don’t know what the novels look like before they come from the presses.)

So this is another one I have to leave blank.

Best Professional Artist

1. Julie Dillon. Her work is brilliant – especially her work with Kate Elliott on The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi-Barahal.

2. Todd Lockwood. I like dragons. I especially like his cover art and interior sketches on Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons.

Best Fan Writer

In this category, I am considering only people who are best known for their work as commentators, rather than as writers of fiction. This is a bit limiting, but – the field’s really wide as it is.

1. Abigail Nussbaum. Incisive, detailed, eloquent.

2. Foz Meadows. Frequently, brilliantly, breathtakingly, wittily furious. Incisive when it comes to books and culture alike.

3. Justin Landon. My favourite post of his is actually the one he wrote about cover art at The Booksmugglers. I still think he’s frequently wrongheaded about books, but he’s always interesting.

4. Aishwarya Subramanian doesn’t seem to have written as much this year as was my impression in 2012, but what she has written, particularly at Strange Horizons, is really good.

There are a bunch of other interesting people writing about science fiction: Paul Kincaid, Stefan Raets, Renay, Thea James and Ana Grillo, who write at the Booksmugglers, Jared Shurin… and those are just people I’ve read on a semi-regular basis. I can’t choose between them for slot #5.

Best Fan Artist

What do I know about fan art and its artists? I don’t know enough about the people who qualify for this category and their bodies of work to make an informed decision. Blank again!


And that, dear readers, concludes Part I: The Easy Part.

Ancient Roman Infanticide

An interesting look at what bones from the ancient world can tell us.

In the new study, the researchers delved into why these babies were killed. Ancient Roman texts refer to infanticide as an accepted practice, and the only way people could control the size of their families in a time before reliable contraception. (In fact, Rome’s foundation myth involves twin boys, Romulus and Remus, who are left to die by their mother, but are saved by wild animals.)

The texts refer to infanticide in Rome itself, however, which had a different culture than its far-flung territories, such as those in Britain, Mays said.

And although the Roman preference for boys would suggest that Romans practiced sex-selective infanticide, Mays said, there is only one document to back up that assumption — a letter from one Roman soldier stationed in England to his pregnant wife, telling her not to bother keeping the baby if it’s a girl when it’s born.

Marrying one’s sofa

It seems the thought that there are persons writing, and enjoying, fiction, and wanting more fiction that reflects their own experiences, and it seems that the fact these persons do not fit certain Lowest Difficulty Setting persons’ idea of real, normal, or worthy-of-consideration people –

– well, it seems that certain persons find this worth excoriating.

ETA: Alex has some things to say on comments and civility, with which I agree in substance.

I’m with Alex Dally MacFarlane, on this one, but regardless, you are all cordially invited to the ceremony of betrothal between me and my armchair, which is presently being solemnised.


Less snarkily: I’m a queer person.

I’m still figuring out what that means for me in terms of gender identification, orientation, attraction. Perhaps I’ll never know what it means. In a culture which defines things and traits as masculine and feminine, am I a male person with a female body, or a female person who does male things and feels deeply uneasy with female social roles?

It is much easier not to think about it, and far, far easier not to talk about it. I’m comfortable with celibacy: who I am, who I’m attracted to, might be a much more pressing matter if I was drawn more strongly towards sexual relationships, or if I felt more strongly towards the sexual characteristics of my own body.

Or perhaps I’m more comfortable with celibacy precisely because it means I don’t have to think about what gender means to me personally, as opposed to what being perceived, and living, as a (butch) female person means for me socially.

(This is, I understand, the thing called coming out. Y’know, it’s kind of terrifying? I’m okay with being out about depression and anxiety, but coming out about this is making me shake.)

Science fiction and fantasy is one of the few places where it is possible to conceive of worlds from the ground up that don’t carry the same historical, cultural baggage of binary gender, of masculine and feminine as socially concrete. I was eighteen or nineteen before I realised it was possible for me, for women, to be attracted to both women and men;* several years older, before I got my head around the idea it could be more complicated than that, that the gender you were socially assigned, the role society pressured you to fill, wasn’t necessarily the same as the one inside your head. That the faces we show to the world are all social roles. All performances.

That we can perform differently. Be, differently.

The idea of gender-as-reified, of biology-as-destiny? I’m getting over it.

I don’t know what queerness means for me. I don’t know what their life experiences mean for other people. I don’t even know if I should be coming out and saying this: will it make trouble for me now? In the future?

Probably. I’ll burn that bridge when I get there.

But I do know that SFF is a genre that can, in its stories, show us different views of ourselves. Different ways, perhaps, to be. Maybe – who knows? – better ones.

Break the binary. Break the mould.


Also, me and my armchair? We’re practically married already.


*I’m still convinced at an emotional level that it is somehow fundamentally wrong to like anyone sexually at all. The benefits of a Catholic education are numerous, so it’s said, but… yeah, that’s not really one of them.

BSFA Awards Shortlist

It is out. I am on it, for “Sleeps With Monsters” at Tor.com.

Along with a whole lot of shiny people.

You know how people say it’s an honour just to be nominated? It is an amazing honour just to see my name on that list. But I owe a great number of people for making it possible to write that column.

I couldn’t write the “Sleeps With Monsters” column without building on the work and support of a hell of a lot of other people: people like Bridget McGovern, at Tor.com, who first invited me to contribute the thing that between “Sleeps With Monsters,” and like Irene Gallo, Tor.com’s publisher, both of whom have been incredibly supportive when it comes to my work for them. People like Elizabeth Bear and Amanda Downum and Jaime Lee Moyer and Leah Bobet, who have been friends to me for a good long time; people like the community of people I have encountered through Livejournal and Twitter, like Jenny Kristine Thurman and Fade Manley and Alex Dally MacFarlane and many countless others, too many to name, who’ve challenged me to think harder, more thoroughly, and more deeply, about genre, gender, and intersectionality. And I’m indebted to all the writers who’ve allowed me to interview them, to share their perspectives on science fiction and fantasy.

I fail a lot. I fall short of consistently producing the kind of work, and the kind of thinking, I’d like to produce. But it’s been a privilege to be able to contribute to the conversation, and it’s an immense honour that the BSFA’s membership has chosen to recognise my work by shortlisting for the award. It’s an honour I’ll do my best to see my work lives up to, in the future.

Congratulations to the other shortlistees, especially Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie, whose works deserve to be on the Best Novel shortlist if anyone’s does.

Patricia Briggs, NIGHT BROKEN

Reviewed over at Tor.com. I’m late linking to it. Again.

Night Broken is the eighth instalment in Patricia Briggs’ popular Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series, after 2013’s Frost Burned. Readers familiar with Briggs’ series already know whether or not they are interested in reading this one: it follows faithfully in the footsteps of its predecessors, delivering a tidy urban fantasy adventure featuring the regular cast.

Simon Schama, CITIZENS: A CHRONICLE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. Penguin, London and New York 2004. First published 1989.

Weighing it at 740 pages, excluding preface and endnotes, this is a magisterial volume. For all its size, however, it is surprisingly easy to read. Schama has a directness and a grasp of narrative that carries the reader along, from the last years of the reign of Louis XV through the reign of the ultimately-doomed Louis Seize, to the execution of a moaning Robespierre on the guillotine. Schama doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the Revolution, nor from the failings of the monarchy beforehand. He also considers the social and cultural context – even if he doesn’t cover nearly as much as I wanted to know about everything. (Which would probably make the book unmanageably long.)

One day I’ll read a history of the Revolution that takes the narrative all the way through the Directorate and the coup of Consul Napoleon, but I have yet to find that book. This book, however, is excellent, detailed, and readable – and I want to read more about the Revolution now.

Call For Papers: Current Research in Speculative Fiction, Liverpool, Friday 20th June 2014

Call For Papers: Current Research in Speculative Fiction

CRSF 2014
Friday 20th June 2014
University of Liverpool

With Keynote Lectures from:
Dr. Mark Bould (University of the West of England)
Prof. Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck University London)

Now in its fourth year, CRSF is a one day postgraduate conference designed to promote the research of speculative fictions, including SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY and HORROR; showcasing some of the latest developments in these dynamic and evolving fields. CRSF attracts an international selection of delegates and provides a platform for postgraduate students to present their current research, encourages discussion with scholars in related subjects and the construction of crucial networks with fellow researchers. The University of Liverpool, a leading centre for the study of speculative fiction and home to the Science Fiction Foundation Collection, will host the conference.

We are seeking abstracts relating to speculative fiction, including, but not limited to, papers on the following topics:

•Alternate History •Alternative Culture •Anime •Apocalypse •Body Horror •Consciousness •Cyber Culture •Drama •Eco-criticism •Fan Culture •Gaming •(Geo)Politics •Genre •Gender •Graphic Novels •The Grotesque •The Heroic Tradition •Liminal Fantasy •Magic •Meta-Franchises •Morality •Monstrosity •Music •Non-Anglo-American SF •Otherness •Pastoral •Poetry •Politics •Post-Colonialism and Empire •Proto-SF •Psychology •Quests •Realism •Sexuality •Slipstream •Spiritualism •Steampunk •Supernatural •Technology •Time •TV and Film •Urban Fantasy •Utopia/Dystopia •(Virtual) Spaces and Environments •Weird Fiction •World Building •Young Adult Fiction.

Please submit an abstract of 300 words for a 20 minute English language paper and a 100 word biography to CRSF.team@gmail.com by Monday 10th March 2014.

For further information email the conference team at CRSF.team@gmail.com or visit our website:
http://www.currentresearchinspeculativefiction.blogspot.com

David Cressy, DANGEROUS TALK: SCANDALOUS, SEDITIOUS, AND TREASONABLE SPEECH IN PRE-MODERN ENGLAND

David Cressy, Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England. Oxford University Press. Oxford, 2012. First published 2010.

I read unrelated-to-my-research history books for ongoing relaxation. Often it takes me some weeks, even months, to finish one. Cressy’s, though, I finished inside a week: it is an interesting, engaging look at speech crime in England from the late medieval period to the 19th century.

Not at all crimes of speech, mind you. Just speech which went contrary to the established order. Scandalous speech, which affected the reputation of notables and nobles; seditious speech, an amorphous category, which touched slightingly upon matters of state and the royal person; and treasonable speech, which “compassed or imagined the death of the king,” and for which people could at various times be executed – rather than the more usual mutilation, branding, fines, whipping, and imprisonment that applied to lesser speech crimes. (Depending on the type of speech, and the contemporary zeitgeist, of course.) The reigns of Henry VIII, Mary, and Elizabeth I were especially perilous times in which to grumble about the status quo.

Cressy reconstructs the speech crimes mostly from magistrates’ records, records of judicial proceedings, and Star Chamber records. The spoken word is ephemeral, but when reported as a crime it could enter the record, bringing with it some fragment of how lower class people, whose words are not generally preserved, viewed the political issues of their day – and what kind of talk went on in alehouses, taverns, and the occasional gentry dinner gathering. (A common excuse for seditious speech was, it seems, to plead I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was saying! I didn’t mean it!)

All told, a really interesting book.

Post-Binary Gender in SF

The always-interesting Alex Dally MacFarlane, editor of Aliens: Recent Encounters, has begun a new column at Tor.com: Post-Binary Gender in SF.

The first installment went up yesterday.

Amal El-Mohtar wrote a piece about the process of finding—having to find—a pioneering woman writer, Naomi Mitchison, and followed it up with a post where she said:

“It breaks my heart that we are always rediscovering great women, excavating them from the relentless soil of homogenizing histories, seeing them forever as exceptions to a rule of sediment and placing them in museums, remarkable more for their gender than for their work.”

It seems to me that there’s a similar process for post-binary texts: they exist, but each reader must discover them anew amid a narrative that says they are unusual, they are rare, they sit outside the standard set of stories. This, at least, has been my experience. I want to dismantle the sediment—to not only talk about post-binary texts and bring them to attention of more readers, but to do away with the default narrative.

I look forward to reading more.

Carl von Clauswitz, ON WAR

Carl von Clauswitz, On War. Everyman’s Library. New York, London and Toronto, 1993. Translated from the German by Michael Howard and Peter Paret.

Why, you might ask, did I read On War? It is seven hundred and seventy-one pages (excluding the modern commentary) in this edition, and the print is not noticeably large.

Well, why not?

Clauswitz is one of those intellectual figures who’s frequently quoted – “War is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means,” and, “War is an instrument of policy,” among the most famous quotes – but seldom read, and that’s a shame. Because Clauswitz is surprisingly readable for a theorist of 19th-century warfare, and many of his points remain valid for today. Especially the first chapter of the first book of On War, entitled “What Is War?” – it should be required reading for everyone with a passing interest in politics and international diplomacy. (The second chapter, “Purpose and Means in War,” and the seventh, “Friction in War,” are likewise particularly illuminating reading.)

On War was unfinished at the time of Clauzwitz’s death, and the complete rewrite that he indicates he intended was never completed. But it’s still an immensely interesting look at war as phenomenon, in its context.

Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold 20th August 2014

Call For Papers (via):

Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold 20th August 2014
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge
Keynote Speaker: Edward James

Potential contributors are invited to submit an abstract for a one-day conference to be held at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, on August 20th 2014. This inter-disciplinary conference will explore the works of Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer Lois McMaster Bujold, encompassing both her science fiction and her fantasy novels. Papers and pre-formed panels are invited on issues related to (but not limited to) any of the following themes related to the works of Lois McMaster Bujold:

space opera
fantasy
american fantasy
fantasy and environmentalism
feminist science fiction
science fiction and biotechnology
science fiction and gender
science fiction and sexuality
science fiction and race
utopias and dystopias

300 word abstracts should be submitted by 31st March 2014. Abstracts should be submitted to the conference organizer, Dr Una McCormack: una.mccormack@anglia.ac.uk. Emails should be entitled Biology and Manners Conference: Abstract, and should contain the following information:

a) author(s) of paper/panel; b) affiliation; c) title of abstract; d) body of abstract.

Susan R. Matthews’ Jurisdiction series available as ebooks from Baen

I received an email last week informing me that Susan R. MatthewsJurisdiction series – which I may have mentioned once or twice over at Tor.com – are available as ebooks from Baen.

Baen have done their usual tasteful job with cover art. Well. Their usual job, anyway…

Now me, personally, I think Susan R. Matthews is among the best writers of ethical arguments at work in science fiction today – or she would be at work, if she had a contract for the next book in the series. (I have my copies of her books shelved beside Elizabeth Bear and Kameron Hurley. They seem to suit each others’ company.)

I’m really hoping this ebook availability is a positive sign for future new Matthews’ books.

They’re available as a bundle and individually at the very reasonable price of $4.99.

Disillusioned and Angry: a post about politics and the economy

What follows is a little different from my usual line.

I used to think it was possible to have ambitions. I used to think the ambition of having a steady job – permanent and pensionable – that paid a living wage and left time over for enjoying life was a modest ambition. Maybe not achievable by everyone,* but for someone with my advantages, my – not to be falsely modest – intelligence, and ability to fake middle-class socialisation, something I shouldn’t worry too much about not achieving.

Today I saw this item in the paper. “Wanted: PhD grad to work for jobseekers’ benefit + E50.”

Two different companies have advertised internships as part of the Government’s JobBridge initiative — but want only highly qualified staff.

A pharmaceutical plant in Cork is seeking applications under the back-to-work scheme and a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry is considered to be a “base requirement”.

A spokesman from Hovione said there “hasn’t been that much interest” in the role.

However, another pharmaceutical plant in west Dublin, Clarochem, had a similar requirement for a PhD intern and has just filled the role for a full 39-hour-week programme for six months.

Clarochem Ireland, a custom manufacturing plant in Mulhuddart, asked that applicants held a minimum of a PhD in synthetic chemistry, and were capable of working on solo projects in a dynamic environment.

The oligarchy has won. There is no future for any of us not born to unmortgaged assets in this country – and maybe not in any other, either. Finance Minister Michael Noonan goes to Brussels to get his plaque with “Best European Finance Minister” engraved on it for licking the boots of unelected European eminences, for selling the poor of the Republic down the river and the middle-class after them, in service to the interests of global capital.

The European project is a humanitarian and democratic – and on any measure other than that of global capital’s, an economic – failure, but we’re still shackled to the corpse of all its fine promises. Our budgets will go to Brussels to be amended and approved by unelected, unaccountable men and women – carrion-feeders who will continue to demand the privatisation of state assets and state bodies (assets and bodies that by right and justice belong to the people of Ireland!) and to whose dictates our spineless, treacherous, two-faced “leaders” will cravenly bow.

The Irish government will not be able to reclaim the assets it has sold at a loss to corporate interests – corporate interests that will use them to make a profit at the expense of Irish residents. Nor will our government easily recover the powers it has so cravenly surrendered.

They call this a recovery. Who has recovered?

Who was responsible for this catastrophe in the first place? Who has benefited from it?

Not the people struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Not the people seeing their real wages – if they’re employed at all – go down, and the cost of food and accommodation go up. Unemployment remains above 13%. Three hundred and thirty thousand people are out of work. (That is at least 7% of our total population, for comparison purposes: 13% of people between age 18 and 65 are signed on for benefits, which approximates to 7% of all the people of any age normally resident in this country.)

And, let’s reiterate: the people who are in work have seen their take-home pay decrease under the burden of wage-cuts and changes in their tax and PRSI assessment. That particular trend isn’t about to reverse itself.

Conclusion? The average person at work, or looking for work, in the country is comprehensively screwed.

Barring a sustained revolutionary change in the relationship between the citizenry and our government, between the nation and the European Union and the IMF – and going forward in an age of ever-increasing automation, in how we conceive of the relationship between people, labour, and capital – we’re permanently screwed.

Because under the conditions presently obtaining and likely to remain in place, there will never be enough actual work to provide full employment at non-poverty-level standards of living. So we need to change how we think about the relationship between labour and money, between people and capital – and that is a change far more revolutionary than demanding democratic accountability from the Oireachtas and the EU.

*Which is another story, and a shame and a half.

Link of interest: Jaime Lee Moyer on Year’s Best lists

Jaime Lee Moyer, author of Delia’s Shadow, talks about a problem she’s been having with Year’s Best lists in the blogosphere:

I never expected to make any lists. I knew that going in.

What kills me is that so many women who should be on these lists? They aren’t there.

As in, taken strictly by appearances in year’s best lists–women didn’t publish much of anything last year.

Nada. Zero, zip. Nothing.

Which, as you know Roberta, is total bullshit. Women published some amazing novels last year.

Yet I’ve read list after list where five out of five best of the year books were written by men, or eight out of ten, or on a good list, seven out of ten were written by men. Thousands of books published by women every year, and list makers can’t find any for a YB list?

This is one of the cases where you should also read the comments.

Calling people on thoughtless sexist sh*t: Justin Landon on Patrick Rothfuss

So Patrick Rothfuss, on his Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, did this:

Let’s all talk about cup sizes. There’s nothing wrong with reducing a female person to her secondary sexual characteristics!

It passed unnoticed by many, unremarked-upon by most.

But Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review decided he would remark upon it:

By not objecting to the comment on Reddit, Rothfuss functionally condoned the behavior. By responding to it, and participating in the masturbatory exchange that followed, Rothfuss demonstrated a camaraderie with the concept that his female characters exist solely for the benefit of the male gaze. He is normalizing a culture in which men feel entitled to have access to “attractive” women, judge women’s worth on their “attractiveness”, and not consider women as anything other than objects for view/consumption. I think what bothers me most of all is that the science fiction and fantasy community has done nothing but rail against this kind of mentality for the past several years and yet one of its most successful [authors] is perfectly fine participating in it.

…If the Reddit question was the first example of Rothfuss doing something questionable as it relates to women, I would keep my mouth shut. But, for the past several years he has published a pin-up calendar for his Worldbuilders charity that depicts female characters from genre novels in alluring poses. He’s even got some high profile women authors to contribute their characters to the project. Why is the calendar problematic? Because the man is framed as the viewer, and the woman as the viewed. The calendar is celebrating science fiction and fantasy, and thus framing the woman as a passive recipient in the art excludes them from an active role in the making, creating, and consuming of the genres themselves. Of course, none of that is nearly as egregious at the comment that opened this post, but it points to a pattern of behavior. A pattern which none of the big dogs have deemed appropriate to call out.

I don’t want to talk about Rothfuss, or the shit that some Reddit-using Rothfuss fans are giving Landon for drawing attention to the fact that the SFF community’s big names don’t tend to call out their community-involved success stories for doing thoughtless shit/saying thoughtless crap in public. (It is a very human thing to not want to piss off your friends and colleagues. On the other hand, it can become a problem.)

No, I don’t want to talk about Rothfuss. I want to mention, instead, what it means to me to see a (cis) male person on the internet calling out an incident of thoughtless sexist speech, and doing so quite thoroughly.

Men get a lot of kudos for calling out sexism/misogyny. Part of the reason they do, I think, is because non-cis-male people have learned not to count on the support of men when it comes to how the (to use bell hooks’ phrase: white supremacist patriarchy) patriarchy screws them over. We expect them to dismiss us, to uphold a viewpoint that dismisses our lived experience as irrelevant, a hierarchy that devalues our participation.

When a guy comes out and proves by word and action that he’s listening – and using what he’s learned to go out and preach to the unconverted – and that he’s willing to take us seriously, that he’ll stand up and be counted in support, there’s an startling amount of relief associated with that. And that startlement – that lack of expectation – means he receives the kind of effusive thanks usually reserved for completely unexpected and really welcome costly gifts.

Because make no mistake, pushing back against damaging cultural norms is work that costs people who do it. In energy – emotional, physical, and intellectual – yes, but it can also cost them their sense of personal safety (see under: death threats, rape threats, bomb threats), sometimes their jobs, and sometimes their mental health.

The more support there is for this kind of work, the less, ultimately, it will cost us to do it. Men have the advantage that other men are more likely to listen to them and take them seriously than they are to people who aren’t cis men, which is part of those damaging cultural norms, but the more men there are walking the walk as well as talking the talk, the more men there will be who are willing to listen to the rest of us when one of us says, Actually, that’s a problem.

So to Justin: thank you. It is a lovely gift.

Now I’ll expect this kind of gift from you all the time.

The Skulls of Londinium

A life of violence, and a violent death?

The Guardian had a piece on thirty-nine (yep, that’s right, 39) skulls uncovered in London during the eighties:

Scores of skulls excavated in the heart of London have provided the first gruesome evidence of Roman head hunters operating in Britain, gathering up the heads of executed enemies or fallen gladiators from the nearby amphitheatre, and exposing them for years in open pits.

“It is not a pretty picture,” Rebecca Redfern, from the centre for human bioarchaeology at the museum of London, said. “At least one of the skulls shows evidence of being chewed at by dogs, so it was still fleshed when it was lying in the open.”

“They come from a peculiar area by the Walbrook stream, which was a site for burials and a centre of ritual activity – but also very much in use for more mundane pursuits. We have evidence of lots of shoe making, so you have to think of the cobbler working yards from these open pits, with the dog chewing away – really not nice.”

Here’s what the Independent had to say.