2016Snapshot: Cheryl Morgan

SnaphotLogo2016CMM-03.jpgCheryl Morgan is a writer, editor, critic, publisher, radio presenter and expert on trans history. She has no idea how she managed to end up with so many interests, and often wishes that there were more hours in the day, but at least she is never bored. Cheryl is of Welsh ancestry and currently lives in the English portion of the Disunited Kingdom. She has formerly lived in Australia and California, and very much wishes she had been able to stay in either of those places.

At a recent con in Finland (so jealous) you presented a panel on Trans Representation. Do you think that panels along these lines have become easier to present, or more generally accepted, in the last few years? Does it seem like people are more interested in discussing genuine diversity of gender? 

I’m not sure. I remember doing a trans panel at the Toronto Worldcon in 2003 and there were something like 8 people in the audience. LGBT panels at Finncon and Archipelacon have been packed out. I was a bit worried about a trans-only one, but we got a very good crowd (I have asked for numbers). So from that point of view things are looking good.

On the other hand, those panels happen because the Finns trust Suzanne van Rooyen and I to do a good job, and they have firm evidence of demand. I’m not sure that the same panels would work elsewhere. My local convention, BristolCon, doesn’t have them, but that’s because it is a one-day event with only two program rooms and an enormous amount of competition for program slots. I don’t know whether an Eastercon would run such a thing.

Something you’re currently involved with is presenting a show on the radio station Ujima. What does the radio show let you do? And what’s it like preparing for a regular show like that?

Being a presenter on Ujima is a great privilege. The station broadcasts mainly to the Afro-Caribbean community in Bristol, and I certainly don’t fit that demographic. However, the station management, and in particular my Producer, Paulette North, have a commitment to diversity. Having a trans woman fronting a women’s interest show appeals to them.

My main job on the show is to showcase feminist issues, which I am very happy to do. I’m also encouraged to do features about books. That enables me to run interviews with many famous authors, and a bunch of talented locals. I have to branch out of the SF&F field occasionally for the show, but that’s probably good for me. Finally I have to fill my diversity role by talking about LGB, and particularly Trans, issues.

A two hour radio show might not sound like much work, but it is. It can take me a couple of days to find all of the guests and research questions to ask them. I also have to decide what music to play. And although the show is only 2 hours long the studio is in Bristol, so doing the show takes up much of the day with far more travel than air time.

It is, of course, tremendous fun. Had you told teenage me that I would one day have my own radio show I would have laughed at you and said that dreams like that don’t come true.

On your blog you’ve talked a bit about the trials and tribulations you face with Wizard’s Tower Press, and especially the inability to have the Bookstore because of EU changes. Where do you see the Press going in the future? 

Thanks to the hard work of Juliet McKenna and her colleagues, we are starting to get somewhere with the VAT issue. It is now legal to sell ebooks without charging VAT if you email the book to the customer rather than allow them to download it direct from a website. I know that sounds stupid, but that’s the way government bureaucracies work. In the longer term the EU does want to sort this out, but as 52% of my fellow Brits have just thrown a gigantic spanner in the works no one has any idea of over what timescales that will happen, or if the UK will be affected.

Meanwhile I am definitely planning to do more books. I can use Kickstarter and Patreon now. Watch this space.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Well obviously I am very fond of Letters to Tiptree and Galactic Suburbia, but that’s kind of incestuous. I do have a copy of Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow And Such waiting to be read, and I’m looking forward to that. What I have read is an early ARC of Foz Meadows’ debut novel, An Accident of Stars. I’m slightly reluctant to pass judgement as the book was clearly still in the process of being edited, but there’s some really good material in there and I very much like how Foz handled the trans character.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. I can think of quite a few authors I’d like to spend time chatting too (Cat Valente, M John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Gene Wolfe, for example), but I suspect that over a long plane trip I would end up feeling embarrassed and stupid because they are so much smarter than I am.

I would appreciate a chance to catch up with Neil Gaiman, because although we have known each other for decades he’s so much in demand that when we are in the same place together we rarely get time for more than a few minutes chat. Then again, knowing Neil he probably looks forward to long plane trips as an opportunity to get some writing done.

So I think I will go for China Mieville. We have a lot of interests in common besides fiction. Also all of the other women on the plane would be incredibly jealous of me.

Crossposted, along with all the other Snapshot interviews, at the Snapshot blog.

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