Thursday, April 8, 2021

CoNZealand Fringe Transcript: The Best Parts of the Worst Year: Favourite Books and Media of 2020

During CoNZealand, a group of fans put together a set of panels, which took place outside convention hours, which would be available for free via Youtube and offer a taster of the Worldcon experience to those unable to participate in CoNZealand's programming hours, or hadn't bought a membership but were interested in the kind of content provided. The result was a set of 15 panels over 6 days, archived and available for all at

As a fringe event in the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe was conducted entirely outside core programming hours and spaces, and panels were not official CoNZealand programming. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.

Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together is pleased to host the transcripts of CoNZealand Fringe panels for fans who are unable to watch the videos or prefer a written format. This is the transcript for The Best Parts of the Worst Year: Favourite Books and Media of 2020, which ran on Saturday 1 August 2020 at 6pm BST/1pm EDT/10am PDT/5am NZST (next day) and is available here. Other panel transcripts are available via our transcript hub. 

The Best Parts of the Worst Year: Favourite Books & Media of 2020

Panel Description: These first seven months of 2020 have been a long couple of years, but buried inside them have been a lot of truly exceptional stories of every length and format. So, if you’re looking to start building your Hugo ballot early or just want some recommendations for some of the best fiction produced so far this year? Do we have a panel for you! Join our panelists as they discuss the books and media they loved from 2020.

Host: Jade @ BedtimeBookworm

Moderator: Alasdair Stuart (he/him)

Panellists: Sean Dowie (he/him) Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, R.S.A. (Rhonda) Garcia (she/her), Joanne Hall (she/her)

Jade: Okay, looks like we are live. Hi everyone, welcome. My name is Jade and this is my channel, Bedtime Bookworm, where I usually talk about the books that I like to read. I am very excited to be hosting one of the CoNZealand Fringe Panels. This one is about the best media and books from 2020 so far. So I'm going to hand it over to Alasdair who is going to be moderating this panel. So I'm going to pop off screen, but I'll be helping out in the comments section too. So I will be here. Alright, here you go Alasdair.

Alasdair: Thank you. Hello everybody and welcome to Best of the Worst Year. Scientists working earlier today did finally confirm that 2020 is in fact proveably the worst. However that we have good news because this terrible dog's asscrack of a year has actually so far generated some remarkably good media and I and my intrepid team of action scientists are here to delve deep into this and bring out some good stuff for you. But before we go any further. Two things. Firstly this is a CoNZealand Fringe programme. We are not affiliated with CoNZealand we are simply happening around them in UK and European friendly timezones. 

[Inaudible speaking]

Oh, are we alright? Okay good. Secondly, I would like my, I'm going to hand over to my panelists now to introduce themselves, starting with Sean.

Sean: Hi, I am Sean and I'm a contributor for the Hugo nominated fanzine Nerds of a Feather as well as a book reviewer for FIYAH literary magazine and I am very excited to talk about good books because it's one little light in this dark, dark year.

Alasdair: Mmhmm....  Donald.

Donald: Okay, okay, my name is Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. I'm a Nigerian speculative fiction writer and editor and I write fantasy, sci-fi and I talk about books.

Alasdair: Excellent. Joanne?

Joanne: Hi, my name is Joanne Hall. I'm a fantasy writer, mainly, and acquisitions editor for Crystal Ink which is a small press based in Oxford, and a fan of many things.

Alasdair: Thank you. And finally R.S.A.

Rhonda: Hi, I'm actually Rhonda, you can call me Rhonda.

Alasdair: Sorry.

Rhonda: I'm a speculative fiction author [laughs] from Trinidad and Tobago which is in the Caribbean for those who don't know. Home of the steel band, calypso, limbo and the best carnival in the world. I have been writing science fiction and fantasy since I was a small child and I have been lucky enough to publish a novel and some stories and hoping to keep going in this wonderful community.

Alasdair: Fantastic! Thank you all for joining us here today. And um what I really wanted to start in with is, really a nice easy question. What is one piece of media that you've encountered in 2020 so far that has been balm for the horrified soul that this year is? Something that's just made you feel good. And this is open. Anyone jump in.

Rhonda: [Softly] Um, this is a tough one.

Joanne: I've gone back to kind of open world gaming. Snd that's been really nice because I've felt that this year has been, [pause], obviously this year has been ah, whatever this year has been. Everything has felt very out of control so, to go back to something like Skyrim or Breath of the Wild where I can just build my own thing and be in control of the world and, like, build little houses. I think a lot of people are playing Animal Crossing because of this, but the same thing. You've actually got an element of control over some aspects of the world while everything around you... [sighs]

Alasdair: Yep, that makes a ton of sense. Who's next?

Sean:  Um, I'll go back to books and I really enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune, which isn't usually my thing because I'm not usually into feel-good happy books, but my cold heart is in desperate need of some sustenance and I feel that book is probably the best balm right now, uh, to get you through the world because it's like so optimistic, so friendly, so breezy. It's really something.

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Middle grade has been very much my balm. A Mixture of Mixchief by Anna Meriano was so perfect.]

Alasdair: What was the title?

Sean: The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Alasdair: [writing down] House in the Cerulean…

Sean: It's a Tor book. It came out a few months ago.

Alasdair: Fantastic. Who's next?

Rhonda: Well, I have definitely been enjoying my Netflix subscription. Thank God. And [laughs] and I have to say that short fiction has also been a balm for me this year. I really loved AirBody by Sameem Siddiqui that was in Clarkesworld earlier this year. Um, it was just really... it's not like it was the happiest story in the world, but it was so beautiful and it's such a concept. The idea of using people's bodies as one-stop hotels, because that's what it was. Like basically it was, people's bodies were where people would sign in like a hotel.

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: haha I have been watching more tv than usual lately too]

[Pop-up from The Fancy Hat Lady Reads!: I also really loved The House in the Cerulean Sea!]

Alasdair: That sounds cool.

Rhonda: You know. Exactly. To experience things, um, in other countries. You would sign up to let someone live in your body for a short while and it was so touching and unusual. And I'd also have to say that I have really enjoyed, I don't know if it's been out this year.  I'm sure it's been out a while actually, but I've rediscovered it thanks to my sister. Way of the House Husband, um, which is this Japanese Manga about, basically a Yakuza guy who becomes a house husband and it's hilarious. [laughs]

Alasdair: Um, Danny from FIYAH magazine and the just finished excellent run on the James Bond comic was talking about the TV version of that, has just been announced today.

Rhonda: Oh, that's so awesome! I was like, the whole time I was reading I just kept thinking 'Why has no one ever made this into a movie or a TV series?' like I would pay money to see this really hot, gentle guy, like tattooed up the yin yang and carrying guns, you know, taking care of his wife. 


[Pop-up from The Book Finch: Animal Crossing has been the balm I’ve needed to get through the year]

Alasdair: Brilliant. Donald? 

Donald: Okay, well I sort of discovered audio books earlier this year because I was doing a review of stories I read last year. African speculative fiction stories. And there were quite a number of them, like close to a hundred. So I had this thing where I needed to read a bunch of stories in very limited time because I had a lot of things going. So I decided to try audiobooks because a number of sites had the audio versions of their stories. On Strange Horizons, The Dark, um, yeah, the Escape Artists, line of my dreams podcasts, Podcastle, Escape Pod.  And I discovered it was a really fun, it was a really easy way to consume stories. You didn't have to focus. You didn't have to concentrate, you could even have your attention divided between something else.And it's sort of been my favorite way of consuming stories since then, but yeah unfortunately not all stories can be gotten in audio. 

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Audio books have been working for so many people who are struggling to concentrate during everything going on]

Donald: That's the setback, but if I wanted to talk about the story I really liked this year.  Well, I wouldn't say “like”, exactly, I would say more impacted me, it's a story in the Dominion anthology which is being edited by myself and my co-editor Zelda Knight. It's a horror story. 

It was written by Nuzo Onoh. It's titled 'Your Claim'. Now the story is about a Nigerian woman in the 1960s. It's a heavy patriarchal society where it is demanded that you have a male child and she eventually resorts to the diabolical means to get the child and everything ends up really horribly. Now the thing about the story is. It's really powerful. In fact I can say it's one of the strongest stories I've ever read. You know while I was reading the story I fell sick. Like I don't mean I wasn't feeling, I don't mean I threw up or - I literally fell sick. I had malaria. I had to treat myself and then when I recovered I completed the story. So yeah, that's…

Alasdair: Yeah, that, there's a lot to unpack there and I'm really glad that we get some comments through as well. Your point about audiobooks and podcasts especially, that there's almost that kind of background element to it, as you say, it's something you can focus on and consume media and at the same time be doing something else and it's interesting to me that a lot of this year so far has been defined by people changing how they interact with, and how they control fiction. I have a lot of... I've seen an awful lot of people talk about how they have trouble concentrating on things and your point about podcasts and short fiction kind of speaks to that. That it's almost become one of those media that fits the level of attention and the level of relative calm people have. Which, um, I was wondering if people could maybe talk about that. Is short fiction something which everybody has picked up on and also is horror something which people find themselves interacting with more this year?

Donald: [Crosstalk]

Sean: Yeah, uh, I'll go. I'm sorry, you go. Go ahead, go ahead.

Donald: No, no, no. Fine. Fine.

Sean: Okay, yeah, I've been interacting with a lot of short fiction. Like I've been trying to read everything on in Lightspeed magazine and Strange Horizons. And it's definitely been more - easier. It's been my preferred literary medium particularly because it's so easy to concentrate on and doesn't require a long expanse of concentration and as for horror, I actually have been going into that a lot more and I think it's because it makes my life seem better by comparison by watching like all these people go through the most harrowing activities.

Joanne: [Laughs]

Sean: I can just look at my life and be like 'oh yeah that's... you know it's... my life is like a three out of ten, but their life is a one out of ten.’ So it can be worse.


[Pop-up from Kiritsu Zutsu: I’ve been doing A LOT of podcasts, but also love to liten to audiobooks. It’s good stuff to listen to while working a rather boring job.]

Alasdair: I love that you have a very specific score.

Sean: Yeah. It has to be specific. Exactly three.

Rhonda: No points for style.

Sean: No. No. My life isn't very stylish anyway.

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: I don’t love horror, but somehow I’ve been reading a fair chunk of it this year…?]

Joanne: I've been reading more novellas I think. I don't usually read short fiction a lot, but I've read This is How you Lose the Time War and I read Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma. And yeah, just a lot more sort of very quick short fiction. A lot of middle grade, YA stuff. Just stuff that doesn't seem like a big daunting task.

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Lockdown brain has definitely impacted my reading]

Joanne: So yeah, and I think what Donald said about podcasts is bang on because it's so hard to concentrate when there's so much going on. I'm still finding I can only manage to read in little chunks. So I can read a novella in, a couple of sittings and it doesn't feel quite as intimidating as reading something huge.

[Pop-up from Kris Vyas-Myall: I have been listening to a lot of audio. But my preferred relaxation is sword and sorcery adventures, just good to turn brain off.]

Alasdair: Exactly. Donald you had a follow-on point I think.     

Donald: Okay, yeah, I was, I think it's sort of maybe a lesson I sort of got from your claim. This story is really strong, and a bunch of reviews have come out for the anthology and all the reviewers seem to agree that it's a rather strong story so I feel like there's a lesson there. The story happens to be a reprint, so it's a bit unusual you know. It's not the kind of story that would easily get published. Let me put it like that. But despite it being unusual and despite it's rather strong nature there's been a lot of people that could vibe with it or see the need for it.  So I feel like we should give more room for unusual stories, you know, because there's a place for every story I've seen or there's someone who is interested in every story. But yeah.        

[Pop-up from Christy Luis - Dostoevsky in Space: I’m finally getting back into reading hard stuff, but it took a while]

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: I recently read Way of Kings and honestly getting totally immersed in a really long high fantasy was really nice and cozy after struggling to read for a couple of months.]

Alasdair: I think that's a really good point and I think that kind of ties into the larger narrative I've seen a lot of people interact with this year which is everything is awful and horribly on fire, let's try something completely different. Rhonda. What are you thinking?

Rhonda: Yeah, I agree with that. I was just thinking, of course one size never fits all.

Alasdair: Of course.

Rhonda: Although I think many people, definitely myself, are having issues concentrating. So, yes, short fiction has become like a sort of easy way to get into something and get back out and definitely podcasts as well. I was just thinking about the fact that sometimes the stories that captivate me or that impact me or that I really am still thinking about aren't necessarily the happiest stories, but even in this time I think there is a lot of value in the fact that we can discuss hard things and look at difficult questions in our fiction and that there is still an audience for that. It must feel sometimes like if you are addressing dark topics or difficult topics that this is not the time and that we all want happy, happy light things. You know, but I do believe that there's so much value in not backing away from the hard stuff and I have definitely enjoyed some fiction that hasn't, um, been exactly what you would call joy joy.

Alasdair: [Laughs]

Rhonda: You know. Kacen Callender's Queen of the Conquered is really hard-hitting and a look at post-colonial and colonial oppression and it's really impressive for not wanting to look away from the hard fact that colonialism damages everyone.

Alasdair: Of course.

Rhonda: It's not just about the people who colonise you. It's also about what it does to the people who are colonised and how they see themselves forever after, you know. So in this difficult time when we're dealing with the fallout from a lot of these horrible systems that we've imposed across the globe. There are some people like myself who are gonna be okay with talking about that in fiction and maybe trying to come up with ways to ease ourselves into the problems and possibly the solutions.

Alasdair: That's a really good point. There's something which I kinda want to pull out from that and put out to everybody. Which is. Fiction. In my experience, and it's purely my experience, fiction has been... [audio glitch] ... as pointed out, seen a shift away from fiction as comfort and more fiction as “this is the tool that fits my hand. This is the way that I have to interact with people as much as possible.” Rather how I can interact with the world.

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Speaking of short fiction, horror, and looking for a better future, we’re reading the short story anthology New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl right now, and it’s amazing!]

Alasdair: We also have a recommendation in the comments for the New Suns anthology edited by Nisi Shawl.

Rhonda: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I'm up for that. [Laughter]

Sean: I co-sign that too. That's a great anthology.

Alasdair: Excellent.

Rhonda: Definitely.

Alasdair: Okay, so. Fiction as escape and fiction as comfort, as tool, what do we think?

Rhonda: Agree. I think that for me actually that's pretty much it. Why I probably don't mind whether the tone is happy or sad or whatever. Fiction for me is escape and when I do fiction I'm primarily really attracted to characters and worldbuilding. So if you give me characterisation and worldbuilding that sucks me in, even if it's not the greatest place in the world or the nicest people, I'm your girl every time.

[Pop-up from The Fancy Hat Lady Reads!: I read Riot Baby when the Black Lives Matter protests broke out en masse, and it was really powerful]

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: New Suns is amazing]

Rhonda: You know. So escapism is really big for me and I love when I get into novellas or novelettes or books and from the word go you're just, you're in there and you lose yourself and like literally when you're done you wake up and you're sort of confused like what just happened? I was somewhere else for a while. Has the world changed? Is Trump still president? Okay.


[Laughter, Crosstalk]

Joanne: Yeah I -

Sean: Yeah for me - sorry.

Joanne: Carry on.

Sean: Yeah, I agree. I think fiction has to always be interesting but it doesn't always have to make you inhabit a likeable world and I think fiction can be comforting even when the world doesn't seem that great to be in, because the best fiction has something that's constructive that will make you see the world in a better light and it'd be like full of torture and misery and everything, but through every piece of fiction I've read, at least the ones that really work, there's always a bit of light amidst all the misery and the light doesn't have to be like joy and ease. It can be a nugget of information that would make you live through reality a better place.

Alasdair: Yeah, I see that. Joanne, any thoughts?

Joanne: Yeah, I was going to say I'm 100% with Rhonda on this one, that, you know, I'm reading because it's taking me away from everything that's happening and that's where I want to be. That's where I want to live right now is in books rather than the real world because the real world is, just this year is too hard. So to sort of lose yourself in a book for a couple of hours is just a welcome release.

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Can also highly recommend The Outcast Hours]

Alasdair: I understand that completely. I've been finding the same thing with comics. I was a comics journalist and retailer for a while and it’s never quite left me and I found myself going back to the medium a lot this year, because I can read six comics in an hour and feel like I've accomplished something and at the same time it only takes six to seven minutes at a time so 2020 can't get me.

Joanne: [Laughs] Yes. The hiding from the year.   

Alasdair: Exactly. Exactly. So, one of my other questions is this. This is a year where escape has become very important and specifically escape through fiction has become vital. What doesn't work for the panel? What areas of fiction or what styles of media have you just bounced off this year?

Rhonda: That's a tough one. I'm thinking probably for me, just for me, because it's been so hard to focus on things that require that you really pay like huge attention. Like if it doesn't grab you immediately and you have to really focus and see what the person is doing to get into it. I've bounced off a lot of hard sci-fi. And incredibly intricate level fantasy that doesn't really have much happening as they lay the groundwork. I bounced off of that because I run out of concentration space. I start thinking about something else. I mean I've done this even when you're watching film now. Like this never happens, but I swear to god I spent most of my time watching foreign film and foreign tvs now. Like German, Korean especially. I love Korean drama and because you have to read the subtitles. So if you're watching a show in French you gotta pay attention. As a result I found some really great science fiction and fantasy from all of those, countries on Netflix and also on the Viki Rakuten app. But I swear to god sometimes I would not be able to watch a show if there wasn't a subtitle demanding that I find out. Sometimes my mind wanders even then. I was literally watching The Man in the High Castle for the first time. I just found it out and I've been watching out the entire series and I've had to rewind a million tme and it's in English. [Laughs]

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: For me, I’ve struggled with some things that feel like they support the kind of old-school patriarchy - I just need something more revolutionary. I don’t have the patience.]

Alasdair: [Laughs]

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Any forthcoming releases everyone is particularly looking forward to for the rest of the year?]

Joanne: Now I'm finding that I'm just, I'm bouncing off most new TV. Anything that I haven't already seen a million times is just, it's not going in properly so we forgot. We've been re-watching DS9. We watched the Dark Crystal, we watched that earlier in the year and we're watching that again and it's going in better this time, but old stuff that's comfortable. Like the X-Files and things. I've just gone back to all this really old stuff that I've seen a thousand times because I know it's comfortable and safe and I know I don't need to concentrate because I've seen it. But I've found myself trying to watch things just completely zoning out.

[Pop-up from Kris Vyas-Myall: Anything with viruses in it. Right now I just cannot separate from it and increases my anxiety]

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: I watched a post-pandemic/apocalyptic movie last night called Light of my Life that I really loved!]

[Pop-up from Lis Riba: I’ve been reading a lot of space opera lately for the escapism]

[Pop-up from SFF180: Piranesi]

Rhonda: Yeah, I've seen a lot of people doing comfort watching. That's what I call it. A lot.

I think that's why Disney Plus is so popular right now, for comfort watching!


[Pop-up from FinalBlowJoe: I’ve read very little hard SF I’ve realised too, which is unusual]

Rhonda: I'm not actually not from that group. I watch more new stuff, because if I know what's coming my mind wanders. So with the new stuff I'm forced to pay attention. But I find myself really attracted to stuff with heart. A lot of heart. And that focuses on relationships and community and struggling against the odds and climbing above it and anything, anything that at least makes a decent attempt at diversity will get my eyeballs right now. 

Alasdair: Absolutely.

[Pop-up from Christy Luis - Dostoevsky in Space: I’m having trouble reading without an audiobook to listen along with. Audiobooks have really helped- even if I have siri read an ebook to me. Unfortunately not everything has an ebook or audiobook lol]

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Re-watching and returning to favourite books is definitely a HUGE comfort]

Sean: Yeah [Crosstalk] Oh, go ahead.

Alasdair: Donald.

Donald: I just remembered because she was talking about heart. Did anybody watch The Mandalorian?

Rhonda: I started. Oh my god, I was so annoyed I bought this collection and the second disc was scratched and I had to stop at episode two and I haven't been able to replace it up to now. What did you think?

[Pop-up from FinalBlowJoe: I’d suspect dystopian hasn’t been read as much by people as we appear to be living in one]

Alasdair: I didn't quite catch the name of the show. Could you repeat it?

Donald: Sorry? The show?

Alasdair: I didn't quite catch the title. Could you repeat it?

Donald: Oh, okay. Mandalorian. Mandalorian.

Alasdair: Oh, Mandalorian! Of course.

Donald: Mandalorian, yeah. Baby Yoda.

Alasdair: Oh, bab - oh my god.

Donald: Of course there's a lot of baby Yoda.

Rhonda: Of course everything is about baby Yoda.

Alasdair: The thing I really loved about that actually hits in episode two and it's the point where after he spent about three quarters...

[audio glitch] 

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: I actually like reading dystopians now because usually those worlds seem worse to me than our current situation. But I know that’s not the norm.]

[Pop-up from The Book Finch: Mandalorian, the balm for my soul]

Alasdair: ...You can't see anything, but the look on his face somehow comes across and it's just like, oh, and I've never related to a helmet more than that exact moment. It was so good.

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Trying to listen to audiobooks after I get home from work, but that inevitably leads to me falling asleep before finishing a single chapter]

[Pop-up from Martin Blacklock: half-man half-delorian]

Rhonda: That is what you call great acting, using your body language to convey expression so incredibly well. He does that so incredibly well. We've been able to take in one episode but you were never wondering what, what he was thinking. You know, in a way it's kind of related the way the Witcher talks to you with 'hmmm' 

[Pop-up from SFF180: Dystopias usually do show characters doing what they can to survive and overcome, so they can be uplifting in that regard]

Donald: You know, come to think of it, I only actually just realised he wore a helmet. I always assumed the helmet was his face because I could actually always see expressions on the helmet. Like, I could picture expressions. I could tell when he was annoyed. I could tell when he was angry and I just sort of fitted the expressions to the helmet.

Rhonda: That is so true. 

Alasdair: Yeah. So well done. I loved it.

Sean: Um -

Alasdair: Sean.

Sean: The thing that I've been avoiding recently is books that raise the thread of an important issue and then sweep it under the rug and it can be like feel good books or feel good movies or feel bad mediums. I'm always for, if you want to raise something then you have to tie it up and in a world where people are trying to tie things up and trying to improve the world socially it just feels like a disservice to haphazardly raise something and then forget about it.

[Pop-up from The Book Finch: Because of Mandalorian I now understand the Victorians thirsting after a flash of an ankle. I’ve never found a full body armour and helmet combo so hot]

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: YEAH, so agreed with Sean]

Rhonda: Yea or just like…

Alasdair: Absolutely.

Rhonda: Shows that kind of, and properties that trying to shoehorn diversity in.

Sean: Yeah.

Rhonda: It was never part of the worldbuilding and you can tell when you do the scaffolding, people. Man in the High Castle I'm looking at you. 

Sean: I haven't seen that but I trust your opinion so I will agree.

Rhonda: [Laughs] Thank you. Thank you. [Crosstalk] I've actually been watching this show for the last week. I've sped through three seasons and then in season four there's this abrupt shift that just smelled entirely of 'oh, wait Black Panther made money.’ [Laughs] And I was like, it's not that I'm ungrateful for your attempts, but good grief they are so clearly a trap. And I just want to let people know you know while, as a black person, I am excited every time I see black people on screen I am also excited to see other cultures and other peoples.

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Disney Plus STILL isn’t available in South Africa :(]

Rhonda: I'm still waiting for you know, authentic Native American representation or Middle Eastern representation or Hispanic representation of any kind. Asian representation that isn't oppressive or stereotypical. When you look at stuff like that it's kind of hard not to get slapped in the face with it all the time, but you kind of grow up making allowances for it, I guess, when you are Black you know you're not gonna be numero uno most of the time. So you kind of make allowances for it and you appreciate it even if there's flaws. Like I really enjoyed Old Guard. I loved that movie. I love Charlize Theron. She should get an award for being the best action star since Liam Neeson. But there are issues, yes, but for me just seeing a black woman front and center as the chosen one made up for so much.

Alasdair: Yeah, there was a lot to enjoy in Old Guard.

Joanne: I haven't watched that yet, but I've heard nothing but good things about it so I think I might give it a go. One thing that I'm having trouble with is watching anything apocalyptic and it's not, because we are living through what we're living through.It's because I'm sitting there going 'Nobody is stockpiling toilet roll, what's wrong with these people?’


Sean: Yeah, once you live in a semi-apocalypse you start to gain a better perspective of how living in it is.

Rhonda: I cannot believe that all these decades after The Stand that I'm living through this and realising that apparently people don't listen to doctors or scientists about viruses and illnesses and apparently we have a world full of people who think that 200 plus countries will pretend to have an illness to own you.


Rhonda: I just, I could not have... that's my problem with apocalyptic stories right now is that they're not wack enough. Like everything I grew up with gave us way too much credit.

Joanne: People in the real world are apparently far more stupid than people in apocalyptic movies.

Sean: Yeah. Who would have known that? Who would've known?


[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: I have an issue watching shows because I immediately get upset that nobody are wearing masks and standing way too close to each other]

Alasdair: Donald go, sorry.

Donald: Okay, I actually find post-apocalyptics, comfort in this period. I had this article on Tor where I was listing five post-apocalyptic stories from last year. Now the thing about post-apocalypses is relatability. The thing about stories, movies, books is they are kind of optimistic and they are rarely tragic where everybody dies off and everything ends horribly. I mean it's usually there's a struggle, then there's usually a light at the end of the tunnel. The characters manage to find the way out after all the struggles of course with acceptable casualties. So it sort of gives you this feeling that you can relate to the characters. You can see they are struggling. You can see some of it reflected in your own lives and eventually when they find the way out through ingenuity or perseverance you get to feel like you can also find a way out of this apocalypse if you persevere or… So yeah, I kind of find them comorting in that way like you know we can come out of this, but then again characters in stories are usually smarter than yours in real life. So yes, that.

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: I feel like pandemic books skip the disbelief part of the pandemic haha, they did no prepare me for the public reaction to this pandemic haha]

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Ted Chiang talked about this in an interview and said he never would have written a story with the kind of response that we’ve had in the real world since it’s too unbelievably stupid]

Joanne: Definitely.

Rhonda: I agree with Donald so much. When this thing started I re-watched Contagion and it was incredibly comforting, because I was like “oh look, they found a vaccine in a few months. That's amazing.”


[Pop-up from SFF180: 2020 definitely needs to get sent back for rewrites]

[Pop-up from Zalia Chimera: Right? What about htat 2020 killer hornet subplot that just got dropped?!]

Alasdair: I think I read somewhere Contagion has been basically parked in the top 10 on Netflix for about six months for that exact reason. Because people desperately, desperately need, like you've all been saying, that sense of comfort, that sense of “we will come out the other side of it.” It's been an interesting one, because one of the things that it taught me is how important the stuff that has gone away is. The announcement of the new Star Trek show, Strange New Worlds actually hit me quite emotionally. Because I was like, “oh yeah, the spaceships and people who are kind and solve problems and problems that finish in 45 minutes and then the end credits happen! I'm very ready for that. Thank you. Could I have that now?” You know.

Rhonda: Yeah, I've been rewatching DS9 too.

Alasdair: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Donald: You know, there's this thing that happens in fiction where something happens and you're like “that's so ridiculous, that's not possible, that can't happen. No one would actually be that stupid,” and then it happens in real life. Boom. And you are like 'Whaaat?'. So yeah.

I guess fiction is realer than real life.


Alasdair: I just. I'm hung up on the fact that on the whole apocalyptic fiction that moves on from, that gets written from here on out is going to have to be stupider or people will be [laughter].

Donald: Yeah.

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: haha yeah if 2020 was a book, I think I might have thought it was unrealistic]

Alasdair: Uh, we had a question about 10 minutes back, is there anything coming out this year that the panelists are really looking forward to? 

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Any forthcoming releases everyone is particularly looking forward to for the rest of the year?]

Donald: Coming out or already out?

Alasdair: We'll do already out after this, but coming out first.

Rhonda: In terms of television I have to say I'm waiting for the new season of the Expanse with bated breath.

Alasdair: Mmhhmm.


Sean: I've already read it, but I'm really looking forward to re-reading Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark which is a novella coming out from 

Donald: Oh, yeah.

Sean: It's really something and I could read it again and again. I'd never get tired of it. 

It's about how D.W. Griffith who created the film Birth of A Nation weaponised the film to create demonic KKK members. Yeah it's amazing. I can't wait to buy a physical copy.

Alasdair: That sounds good. Who's that from?

Sean and Donald: P. Djèlí Clark.

Rhonda: Yeah, he's one of my faves. And also Trinidadian ancestry.

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: You guys, Sean has a great review of Ring Shout in FIYAH magazine - definitely recommend reading that!]

Joanne: I don't know if it's this year but there's supposed to be a televised version of Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough and I'm really looking forward to that. It'll be really interesting to see what they do with that and how it works, because that's been one of my lockdown reads. I found it in my local bookshop for a Pound and I was like I'm having that and that properly took me away from everything so I'd really like to see how that comes out on TV. I'm not sure what service it's going to be on.

[Pop-up from Infinite Text: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini]

Alasdair: I think I heard Netflix.

Joanne: Oh, I hope so. Yeah. Because Netflix is the one I've got. 

Alasdair: Donald?

Donald: Yeah, Umbrella Academy. We're looking forward to that. Does anybody know if it’s out? I’m not sure. Umbrella Academy Season 2.

Alasdair: Cool.

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky for me]

Rhonda: Sorry, I didn't catch that.

Donald: Umbrella Academy 

Rhonda: Oh yeah. I actually did like the first season. I mean it had some issues with it, but it was compelling and I do plan to watch season 2 for sure.

Joanne: It just looks like enormous fun.

[Pop-up from Bedtime Bookworm: It won’t be out in 2020 but I’m very much looking forward to the Wheel of Time adaptation (no surprise to anyone who knows me). I think it will be out early 2021]

Rhonda: The second season looks like even more fun than the first season, which was kind of dark and a little disturbing sometimes. You know. But dark and disturbing: I'm okay with that.

It depends on the tone. It depends on what you're ultimately getting at and what I really love is families and communities, so it kind of hits me right there.

[Pop-up from Kris Vyas-Myall: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow really want to read]

[Pop-up from The Book Finch: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse]

Alasdair: Mmhmm.

Rhonda: Yeah. I'm also looking forward to, I think they're bringing out either a series or a mini-series about Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, I think. And..

Joanne: Oh, really? Cool.

Alasdair: Yes.

Rhonda: Yeah I think I'll like that and I'm so excited for that. It will be so cool, finally, finally to see that.

[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Umbrella Academy 2 just went live yesterday didn’t it?]

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: I’m really looking forward to Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse too - epic fantasy inspired by pre-Columbian Americas]

Donald: I think the script is being written by Nnedi Okorafor.

Rhonda: Yes, that's how I found out about it.

Sean: Oh, okay.

Rhonda: And definitely Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. Yes.

Alasdair: Which has just been mentioned in the comments. Excellent.

Rhonda: It has just come out. Please god yes.

Sean: Yeah, I'm excited for that too.

Rhonda: Pre-Columbian, Aztec, Mayan. Like I grew up with this stuff in school and it... I mean Tobias Buckell did the same thing with his novels, his debut novels. Oh god I forget the name, I think it's Xenowealth, but yeah. Anything like that gets me.

[Pop-up from Kiritsu Zutsu: Thirteen Storys from Jonathan Sims actually. I’m really interested in his story writing]

Alasdair: Excellent. And I'm seeing a couple of mentions of Thirteen Stories from Jonathan Sims in the comments as well which is one I'm really looking forward to. It's the debut novel from a horror podcaster. And it's, as I understand it, it is a different story for every floor of the skyscraper the main character lives in and I'm an absolute mark for that kind of thing. Along similar lines, one of the things I'm really looking forward to is the fifth volume in one of those series of books that kind of sneaks out. It's called Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski and it is a podcast as a book. And each volume is - examines a - in the world of the books, an unsolved crime and each chapter is an episode of the podcast and each chapter is a different perspective on the crime. And then once that's done the whole thing kind of moves on and it is right on the edge between crime and horror. And I am waiting for someone to sweep up the TV rights for this because when they do it will look like nothing else. It's really cool.             

Sean: Okay.

Rhonda: Yeah, it sounds like a sort of Rashomon technique. Yeah, I love that. I love it.

Alasdair: So that's stuff that's coming out, what about stuff that's out now?


[Pop-up from WorldsinInk: Don’t know when it will be out, but really excited for the TV series adaptation of Lauren Beukes’ THE SHINING GIRLS. So much potential there.]

Sean: One book that isn't my favorite but I can't stop thinking about is Burn by Patrick Ness which is like, it has dragons, it has assassins and it has many other things, but I can't say because it's a spoiler, but it throws like everything against the wall and I just respect its sheer ambition. It only manages to hit things out of the park fifty percent of the time, but for something that's like eighty thousand words long, I can't fault a book for cramming like five books' worth of story into a single Young Adult novel. 

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Oh, also, Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger!]

[Pop-up from The Book Finch: Yes. I second Elatsoe]

Alasdair: Well, that sounds great.

Sean: Yeah.

Alasdair: Donald, you had something.

Donald: Okay, yeah there's um, Nine Bar Blues by Sheree Renée Thomas. You guys know her? Sheree, Sheree Renée Thomas. Nine Bar Blues. She did the Dark Matter anthologies, Dark Matter one or two. That's just came out. There's Club Ded by Nikhil Singh. Then there's this novella, A Fledgling Abiba by Dilman Dila. That's three works that are currently out. Sorry, I was going to mention among the works that we are expecting, Suyi Davies Okungbowa. He has this series The Nameless Republic coming out. And I think…

Alasdair: Sorry. Could you just repeat that last one? I'm really sorry, I didn't quite get it.

[Pop-up from Kris Vyas-Myall: Only part way through but I am really enjoying The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison]

Donald: Okay. Yeah. The Nameless Republic by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. It's forthcoming next year. Then I think, but I'm not sure, Tochi Onyebuchi, I think there's a second book to his War Girls coming out, but I'm not quite sure. So yeah, that's…

Alasdair: Cool. Very cool. Who else?

Rhonda: I was thinking about The Fires of Vengeance. I think it's the sequel to Evan Winter's Rage of Dragons. Yeah, so I think that's coming out, looking forward to that.

Alasdair: Yeah, Rage of Dragons is fantastic. Uh, Sean.

Sean: Oh - This is for books that are out now right?

Alasdair: Mmhmm.

Sean: Okay, well I already said Burn by Patrick Ness, but if I were to pick another one it'd probably be Providence by Max Barry which is a space opera that doesn't follow any of the space opera tropes. It's all about determinism and how we're basically directed to do things that are out of our control while usually space operas are about huge expansive spaces where the sky is the limit. And I was just really impressed how Max Barry managed to, uh, break the formula of space operas and destroy its unending adventurism and still make it interesting.

[Pop-up from Alistair: Mexican Gothic soon or now, the 3rd Baru Cormorant]


Alasdair: That sounds great. Joanne?

Joanne: Yeah, there've been a couple this year that really, you know, sort of had me.So, Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed, which I think came out February, which is kind of, she takes like Lovecraftian tropes and then kind of ties a knot in them and then turns them into a clockwork people and pushes them down a flight of stairs.

Alasdair: Perfect description.

Joanne: She's brilliant. That's, yes, fabulous book. I really, really enjoyed it and I don't normally like Lovecraftian stuff like that, but I thought that the way she did it was so clever and so smart and endearing that I loved it. The other one came a few weeks ago, was Threading the Labyrinth by Tiffani Angus. Which is a time travelling magic garden.

Alasdair: Oh. Sold.

Joanne: So. Yes. Yes! [laughs] And that one I just, I read that earlier in the year and I've just bought the paperback. I found that tremendously comforting. So again, it’s the comfort thing is nice, but it's just… yeah, it was just a lovely, lovely story.

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Also, Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez is a recent release that I’m dying to read. If you don’t read middle grade, you need to read this series!]

Sean: And some people are mentioning Mexican Gothic which I'm reading right now and I can't give my final opinion on that, but I think it's a phenomenal novel so far. So I'd also echo that one.

Alasdair: Brilliant. And also That's So Poe has just popped up in the comments and recommended Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. I read that a couple of weeks ago and it is joyous. The first page includes one character introducing themselves as a calamity physicist and it just builds from there. There is an artificially intelligent toilet who is a vital character and a useful counsel for several characters and it just does a really, really fun, compassionate kind of approach to some really interesting stuff.

[Pop-up from Kiritsu Zutsu: I would really love a list of all these mentioned books!]

Alasdair: We also have a request for a list of all these mentioned books as stuff has been coming up so, panel;ists if you could possibly, when we wrap up, note down as many books as you can remember and send them to me. What we'll do is put up a curated list on Twitter so we should be able to capture most of these for you. The one I have from stuff which is out [holds up hard copy of Savage Legion by Matt Wallace] I'm cheating and have visual aids, is Savage Legion by Matt Wallace who is a podcaster and has just stepped across into epic fantasy after a very, very weird and very good seven novella series about urban fantasy catering. Which is somehow even better than that suggests and Savage Legion is basically a full frontal assault on epic fantasy. It takes on everything that you would expect and does it completely differently and explores it from a political and moral point of view and it is stupendously good. It's one of the best things I've read in a long time.   

[Pop-up from Infinite Text: I now want a Ph.D. in Calamity Physics]

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Seriously, middle grade and horror are basically doing some of the most impressive work right now]

Alasdair: Likewise, Beneath the Rising, which was actually the other book which I was going to grab from the shelf, so thank you for getting ahead of me.

Joanne: [Laughs, points off-screen] I can't reach it. It's up there somewhere.

[Pop-up from Infinite Text: Feels like this year Space Opera September will be a lot of fun]

Alasdair: So, we have covered, stuff that's out, that's good. Stuff which is coming out which we are looking forward to and we've circled around an awful lot the concept of comfort viewing, or comfort reading, and how that's perhaps changed a little bit across the course of this horrible year to date. One of the things I've found which again speaks to a couple of slightly earlier topics is I'm able to watch three or four 90 minute horror movies on Netflix a day at the moment, because firstly it's daytime, secondly there's never any lighting so I can't see what is eating people and thirdly I'm not the one being eaten. So, I'm introduced to these people. They wander along and get horribly killed and then the movie finishes and I have a sandwich and that's weirdly comforting in this terrible year and I don't know why, but on some level it just is. I was wondering whether anyone has had comfort media experiences where you've returned to them and it hasn't worked? And if so I'm curious as to why you think that is.

Rhonda: Yeah, I think I did. I think I tried to -

Donald: Well -

Rhonda: Go ahead.

Donald: Okay. Well, I'm going to mention Taylor Swift's new album not hitting us as much as they used to. Yeah... yeah Miss Swifty that's probably something I shouldn't say in public. So yeah, I'm not sure if that counts though. Don't mind me. Go ahead!

[Pop-up from Cheryl Morgan: Looking forward to Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson]

Sean: The movies that I've watched - This is like a dumb reason to not have a re-comfort from a media experience, but I just feel so, it feels so otherwordly to see people walk around outside in public without masks or without any Covid protocols.It feels like an alternate universe and I feel kind of jealous of that universe and I wish I could return to it. So anything with normality in it is something that I find a little off-putting these days.  

Alasdair: I read an article a couple of months ago about, um, authors who have had to modify their books as a result of the pandemic and how suddenly, as one particular crime author said [inaudble] for most of the books and above, that's a problem right now and how you have to work around it and change things.

Sean: Yeah. For sure.

Rhonda: Yea, we're gonna have a choice as creators I think. Depending on what you work in. If you work in contemporary literature, if you work in, you know, romance or anything really that's supposed to reflect the 'real' world, you're gonna have to make a choice whether you're going to stick with fiction, namely everything's the same as it was, or if we're going to incorporate that into our work going forward because we have no idea how long we're going to be in this position of having to live differently.

[Pop-up from Infinite Text: I feel so strange watching shows with crowds now]

[Pop-up from Lis Riba: First paragraph of Gideon the Ninth refers to mints on hotel room pillows, which felt jarring…]

Rhonda: I mean, I look back over the pandemics of the past and it's clear that two years, three years, everybody went back to living however, because we either...the virus was either under control or moved on or we found a vaccine, but when you think about it, that's going to be really tough for people who have to talk about viruses and pandemics and relationships and community, now, and who have their books based in that sort of immediacy. So I guess I don't mind either choice. I mean, whatever works for you, but I do sort of judge you if you're giving me today and there's no social distancing. I have no idea how we're going to frame romance looking forward. [laughs] I mean it's pretty obvious you're going to have to date over Zoom. Beyond that…

Alasdair: This same article mentioned how there's already a small cottage industry in pandemic and lockdown crime novels. There are an awful lot of 'I have witnessed someone being murdered over Zoom and for various complicated reasons I cannot go to the police' books at various stages of production right now for a start. And it's been interesting as well to look at some of the stuff that's been produced this year in direct reaction to it. There's a sub-genre of a sub-genre of horror movie I really like which is called screenlife which is basically what we're doing right now where the entire movie happens on the screen and horrible things happen to everyone in the film on the screen. This won't happen to us, it's fine…

Joanne: Promise?

Alasdair:... but I find it really interesting how that kind of thing has been adapted by kind of current media creators. In particular there is a stunningly good BBC sitcom called Staged, which is six fifteen minute episodes of David Tennant and Micheal Sheen being incompetent at one another over Zoom and it's David Tennant and Sheen playing each other in their houses because that was where the only place they could be when they filmed it. And I think maybe that's, because we're starting to come up on time a little bit. I think that that's, maybe my final question for the panel. What do you think this time period is going to bring forth into the creative media? What do think we're going to see as trends across the next year or so and how do you think that's going to interact with the need for comfort? Which is a massive question, I know, especially in nine minutes, so I'm.. sorry.

[Pop-up from Kris Vyas-Mall: I think we need more robot romances, like Alyssa Cole’s The AI Who Loved Me]

Joanne: I think there's going to be a flurry of people writing pandemic fiction and most of it is going to be terrible, and, yeah, that's what I'm anticipating next time we do open subs is lots and lots of pandemic fiction, which will be very, very bad and hopefully some people go “no I just want to write something completely different” and maybe some new and interesting creativity will come out of it, but I don't know how people are managing to write. I'm struggling to write because I'm struggling to concentrate, so I'm hoping that some people have unlocked their creativity while they've been in lockdown, but I know a lot of people are massively struggling.

So, I don't know whether we'll get fewer books, or whether we'll just get a lot of bad pandemic books or - I think what I'd like to see is like a lot of alternative realities, because I'd like an alternative from this.

[Pop-ups from Bedtime Bookworm: I’m very interested to see how books and media change over the next few years, especially pandemic fiction / and lots of tv and movies have had to stop production too!]

Alasdair: That's fair.

Rhonda: Yeah. I hate to say it, but I foresee a trend of publishers pretty much sticking with proven writers already, you know, lots of sequels and from those writers who can produce them. Lots of work getting a second installment or whatever and less and less room for debut authors and new stories in the mainstream area because when you have big corporations that own everything like Disney and 20th Century Fox or whatever, when you have people that own everything they want to make sure that they're going to make money and right now the best way to do that is comfort watching. There are a lot of people who are looking for comfort reads and comfort watches. So, yeah, I think we're going to end up with some really bad pandemic fiction, maybe, but I'm not so sure that it will get picked up that often. And I really see people looking to promote more proven authors and I kind of feel for everyone who have new novels coming up this year and next year. I don't know if they'll actually put the effort into the marketing that some of those novels deserve.

Sean: So, yeah. I think pandemic fiction is definitely something that will arise a lot more, but I also think that this situation has shed a spotlight on the malleability of humanity and their eagerness to risk their lives when it facilitates a political belief that they believe in. So I think in terms of like the human aspect of how stories are told I think we're going to be seeing a lot more willful stupidity and partisan bipartisanship and like how especially one side in particular which I will not name is willing to risk their lives in the name of their beliefs even when it defies logic.

Alasdair: Yes, that that makes a ton of sense and speaks to Donald's excellent point from earlier about fiction which inspires and embodies hope.

Rhonda: Yeah, no challenging foundational beliefs. 

Joanne: I think it's sad, but I think a lot of small presses will go to the wall because people are just struggling so hard to keep their jobs and make money that having, if being a publisher is not your main job it's gonna be really, really hard, which is really sad because I think that we're gonna be missing out on a lot of really good writing. Just because, like you said, the big publishers will stick with what they already know and their big sellers and the small presses will be struggling financially. So that's kind of depressing. Sorry. I didn't bum everybody out there.

Alasdair: I have a glimmer of hope there. Um, one of the other hats I wear is I co-own a podcast network and the thing which we've seen and which has been reported up and down the industry is that donations are flat. They're not going up, but they're not going down. So there seems to be a willingness at the moment for a lot of content creators, and I kind of hate that phrase, but in a lot of kind of media, people are quite prepared to throw money at it, because this is what we all have to do to get by right now, so we've got to make sure it's still there, so I'm hopeful that won't quite come to pass.

Sean: Yeah maybe this is just the trend, but I found especially in June when Black Lives Matter really pushed forward, FIYAH and other Black artists that get a little more recognition and... I do not know if that's going to be a long lasting thing, but at least now things are in a better place for writers of colour. So I mean that's…

Donald: Is that really true?

Alasdair: Definitely.

Joanne: It was kind of heartening to see how many people during that were promoting black businesses and black writers and black artists and there was, there was a big wave of like 'these are good people buy their stuff'.

Sean: Yeah, and I hope it's not like a trend for sure. I hope it's a long lasting thing.

Joanne: That was, that was...

Donald: Can I say something?

Alasdair: Donald.

Donald: I hesitate to agree, you know? I feel like, I don't want to be pessimistic, but I feel like some of this so-called support is window dressing and -

Alasdair: Yeah.

Donald: - and it really doesn't reach deep. It really doesn't reach very far. I mean. Okay, we're talking about, there's supposed to be support for Blackness, minorities, but there was a lot of uproar when American Dirt came out. Yeah? 


Alasdair: Yeah.

Donald: There was a whole uproar about you know, the bad portrayals, the stereotypes, the.. you know, but despite that it's still sitting comfortably on a lot of bestseller lists. Right?

Alasdair: Yeah, it did.

Donald: Right?

Alasdair: Mmhmm.

Rhonda: Exactly.

Donald: So, and if you were to really look at it. Okay, okay. The book was, you know, it was... [pauses] it was a bad take, you know, at Mexican story. Yeah? It's still selling comfortably more than stories by Mexicans that have more accurate portrayals, like Mexican Gothic for example.  Which is by a Mexican which even has Mexican in the title. So I don't know. I hesitate to accept that it's all going to be, oh, all breeze and everything.

Rhonda: Yeah, Donald. Yeah, I agree with you completely, a lot of, of course no names or anything, but a lot of the calls that we've had from agents, from publishers, submit your work and so on. First off I think it's important to remember that everyone is under pressure right now and it's really difficult as a marginalised person of any kind to create work. So thinking that I'll have something ready for you in the next few weeks that I can just submit to you is kind of, you know, short term thinking, and we'd like to see those calls keep going and also to question, basically piggybacking off of your point and what I was saying about the fact that the mainstream likes mainstream. These books continue to be a success because they put the marketing dollars and the recognition behind these stories and the authentic stories or the marginalised persons or persons of colour do not get the marketing budget, do not get the hype machine. And I think one of the really important things that readers can do outside of these machines that help a lot, is to review the stuff that you love on every platform that it's on, and to like these things and to talk about these things and to, please, buy these things and recommend these things because you would not believe that the amount of reviews you get on Amazon actually determines how much, and what kind of marketing you can access. You know, and a lot of persons don't have that wherewithal and Black persons, persons of colour, marginalised persons often are at the absolute bottom of that marketing pile, that hype machine. And we could use the pushback and the help from readers.

Donald: Yeah.

Alasdair: Absolutely.

Donald: And to add to what you were saying. You're talking about the establishment, about budgeting, but I think it goes beyond that. I think it's actually a work for readers, you know, like you said.

Rhonda: Yes.

Donald: So maybe appealing to readers to be more - I think that readers tend to be a bit laid back, you know, it's easier for them to reach out to works from authors that they're more familiar with. You know, the more established names. Names that are everywhere. So it would be really helpful if they stop trying to be spoon-fed, if they actually try to go out there and search and look for what's out there that's authentic from upcoming voices, you know, where… anyway, anyway. Yeah…

Rhonda: Definitely. Definitely. I agree with that. I think we could really, readers can really help by not just accepting their favourite groups and their favourite authors every single time and really look for something different and also, in the industry, could we - although there's great value to every story, there are certain kinds of stories about cultures and people that are acceptable and I think that we should allow people of colour, we should allow marginalised persons to tell all sorts of stories and not immediately assume, oh there's no audience for this kind of story from someone like you. Why don't you tell us about yourself, why don't you tell us about your culture, why don't you tell us about your history? You know, people have things to say beyond that.

[Pop-ups from That’s So Poe: Very agreed with Rhonda and all of us working to support the authors we want to see more from by reading their work and talking about it. / And agreed with Donald about how we have to put in the work to searching out things as well.

Donald: I would like to recommend, it's a medium, Kickstarter. There's a lot of awesome works by Black authors being kickstarted. There's a lot of great works. Comics, books, novellas being kickstarted.


Alasdair: Mmhmm

Donald: Yeah, so. Yeah. Because a lot of these authors might not have the mediums to come out with big publishers so they eventually end up putting out their works by themselves through crowdfunding. So it would be really helpful to check out which works are being kickstarted and trying to see if you can support the promising works.

Alasdair: I agree completely and I think the interesting thing about the discussion we've had across the last hour is I wonder whether all this could, what this all boils down to, it's almost an opportunity and maybe, perhaps, even an obligation. We are all having to interact with culture in wildly different, in a very different way than we were in February. Remember February? I almost do, now.

Joanne: It was 84 years ago.

Alasdair: There is an opportunity now to try different authors, different voices and I would argue there's also an obligation to do that because especially in the kind of massive social and political upheaval which we are currently living through, there is a chance to make things better, and make things better, as has been pointed out, permanently rather than for the space of the lifetime of a Twitter hashtag and I am sincerely hopeful that if enough people put the work in, and the work has to be done by everybody, that's going to happen. That we're going to see focus on authors who have previously been overlooked. We're going to see a change in approach and a change in inclusiveness for want of a better word and I'm very conscious of people's time and I'm wondering whether this is perhaps a good point to, if possible, make a recommendation for an author from one of the groups that has traditionally been completely unfairly marginalised, as an opportunity for our viewers to try something new and hopefully start down a very different path into some amazing stories which deserve new eyes on them.                                      

Rhonda: Yeah, for sure. A few authors really quickly from me. Tonya Liburd is a sci-fi author from Canada that's really good.

Donald: [different pronunciation] Tonya Liburd.

Rhonda: Yes, Liburd. Thank you. Does really good work. Also, Kacen Callender, they're amazing. And I would also like to draw attention to Arula Ratnakar who had her first work published in Clarkesworld, um, last year and should have something else coming from them that's brilliant very shortly. And yeah, I think that's it for me for now. There's lots of other people and I'm so sorry I forgot.

[Pop-up from That’s So Poe: Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger: Coming out in a month.]

Donald: Okay.

Alasdair: Donald.

Donald: Okay. I'll go with Nikhil Singh. Dilman Dila, Tochi [Onyebuchi] is pretty known. Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Milton Davis, Balogun Ojetade. Yeah


Alasdair: Excellent.

Rhonda: Ooh, before I forget Brandon O'Brien from Trinidad and Tobago.

Sean: Oh, yeah. Brandon O'Brien is great.

Alasdair: Brandon is the best. Love Brandon.

Rhonda: Yeah.

Donald: Okay and, yeah, Thaddeus Howze.

Sean: So I'll recommend some short fiction authors, so, Kathleen Kayembe who has a great novelette in Nightmare magazine. Ian Muneshwar, I might have butchered that last name, but he has great short fiction in Anathema magazine and Strange Horizons magazine and, while they have published a lot of novels they've written a lot of short fiction too so Nalo Hopkinson is another one who I'd recommend.

Alasdair: Fantastic.

Donald: Okay, I'll just add, there's this girl, Zin Rocklyn. She has a novelette on Tor. A horror novelette. Yeah.

Alasdair: Cool. On the list. Joanne.

Joanne: Yeah, I would say Premee Mohamad we mentioned earlier, Beneath the Rising. Anything by Priya Sharma who is an astonishing writer. Tade Thompson, I just read Rosewater, I thought that was excellent, yeah, and Stephanie Saulter who wrote the Gemsigns trilogy which is kind of near future SF. That was really, really good.

Alasdair: Brilliant. And I'm gonna round things off with a podcast recommendation. NIGHTLIGHT is by some distance one of the best horror podcasts on the planet. It's Black authors, Black narrators and Tonya is just a stunningly good podcast host. That's about half of my day job and Tonya is the kind of podcast host I want to be when I grow up. She does amazing work and it's one of those shows where every single episode you hear is fantastic.

So, that is hopefully a huge raft of recommendations for you to try some amazing fiction which deserves far more eyes on it and which is going to get you through the rest of this, hopefully, fractionally less horrible year, with some really fun and diverting and important and necessary stories for you.

I would like to thank my incredible panel who have been a font of knowledge and enthusiasm in exactly the way that I desperately hoped they would be. Thank you Donald, Joanne, Rhonda, Sean. Thank you to Jade for moderating and I hope you enjoyed listening and watching. Thank you and we'll see you soom!

Sean: It was great. Thank you very much.

Joanne: Thank you.

Rhonda: Thanks everyone have a great day.

Donald: Alright. Thanks everyone. Yes, bye.

Special thanks to WorldsinInk for drafting this transcript! Final responsibility for the text lies with Adri Joy- for any corrections or comments, please get in touch via Twitter.