Author Archive: Alex

Galactic Suburbia 103

In which we talk harassment policies, upcoming publishing projects, Hugo reading and more! You can get us at iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

News

Update on the Elise Matthesen harassment case from Wiscon 2013.

Anna Tambour collection – The Finest Ass in the Universe to be published by Twelfth Planet Press in July 2015

Kaleidoscope Table of Contents including Tansy’s story Cookie Cutter Superhero

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alex: finished Fringe; Orphan Black season 2; Europa Report; Hugo reading: finished the novelettes, most of the novellas and shorts. Bikes in Space vol 2

Tansy: The Two-Hearted Numbat, Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina; Romanitas by Sophia McDougall, The Machine; The Musketeers;

Alisa: ON HOLIDAYS AND ONLY KNIT And Orphan Black, random PhD update of sorts

Thanks to Patreon supporters so far – we’ve hit our first milestone! To keep us Going!!! Our next milestone: quarterly spoilerific book/media club episodes become a regular feature.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Bikes. In. Spaaaaace

This should be being talked about more.

bikesinspace2_web-295x440I came across Elly Blue courtesy of the Kickstarter folks featuring her in their weekly newsletter – as a result of which I now always take the time to at least skim that email, just in case there are other little nuggets of pure gold. Blue publishes a quarterly zine that focusses on “the feminist bicycle revolution,” and if that doesn’t sound awesome then I… have no other words. Taking the Lane looks at different aspects of cycling culture, and the original Bikes in Space was meant to be just a fiction edition of the zine. And then, from what I can tell from her website, it kinda grew. Such that this issue was published outside of the quarterly schedule (I believe), and as a book rather than as a zine. And there’s a third volume in the works.

It’s a cute little product – goes well with the Twelve Planets books; I don’t know who did the physical publishing but it feels nice and well-made. I love the cover! And the stories… well.

“Racing the Drones” is a nod to bike couriers everywhere, and the advantages they have over other forms of delivery. “The Sassy Chassis Lassies and the Devolution Revolution” makes comment on road etiquette – and the frequent lack of it from cars – as well as the freedom offered by bikes. “Winning is Everything” looks at a woman defying a male status quo, while “Grandma Takes Off” features a very awesome older lady. I have named my bicycle, so “Tabula Rasa” – about forming an emotional connection to your ride – worked for me; “Bikes to New Sarjun” is incomplete but takes up the idea of bicycles and charity and government intransigence. And Elly Blue herself addresses that bane of the cyclist’s life, butt-dialling.

“From an Interview with the Famed Roller Sara Zephyr Cain” is one of my absolute favourite stories. There is so much going on here, like hints at some sort of post-apocalyptic world, and tantalising ideas of genetic modification. But more profoundly, it’s a discussion about gender – choosing it, and dealing with people’s reactions to that. I’d love to hear what transwomen think of the story. Another of my favourites was “Midnight Ride,” which takes as its theme the freedom offered by cycling – and whether that can be inclusive (it is a little sentimental but/and I think it’s done nicely). And then there’s “The Bicycle Maker,” a lovely little story set well into the future, where humanity – at some point before they disappeared – delegated bicycle-making to a machine of some sort. And what’s that machine to do when there are no humans to ride its bikes?

But I don’t like bikes!

Tch. Come on. The bikes are always present, but they don’t necessarily play a huge role in the plot; sometimes they are simply there as transportation – although, of course, the use of bikes is often in itself a political statement. Which is part of the point of this anthology. Trust me, this is not a legit excuse.

You can buy this (and its predecessor, which I got as part of the Kickstarter and haven’t read yet) over here. 

For Your Eyes Only

 

MV5BOTEwNzY5OTgyNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDAxNzczNA@@._V1_SY1023_CR26,0,630,1023_AL_This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

Summary: in which Tywin Lannister Charles Dance has a non-speaking role as a thug, Walter Donovan Grand Master Pycelle Julian Glover is a double-dealing villain, and James Bond refuses to have sex with a young woman. There’s a plot in there somewhere, too.

Alex: First of all: WHAT THE HELL is with that promo poster?? There is… I can’t… there are no words.

james-bond-for-your-eyes-only-1981-title-stillSecond of all: I’m really sorry, Moonraker. It turns out I maligned you, because there is a worse theme song than yours, and it’s this one. I don’t remember 1981 except that I got a brother, so I don’t know whether Sheena Easton was just All That, but this is the first (…and only?) Bond in which the singer actually makes an appearance in the credits sequence (I was going to say that she’s lucky to be wearing clothes, because none of the rest of the women are, but actually I’m not sure I can say, definitively, that she is). And it’s just… forgettable.

This movie has perhaps the oddest, and weakest, opening of any Bond. Bond goes to put roses on Theresa Bond’s grave, and then his helicopter is hijacked by a bald man whose face we never, in a wheelchair. This is clearly meant to be Telly Savalas’ Blofeld, and I guess that means Bond throwing him (wheelchair and all) down an industrial chimney is meant to be just retribution or something? It’s weird, and without context quite uncomfortable. The helicopter aerobatics, and the cinematography of that section, is indeed spectacular.

Anyway, the film itself is about attempts to recover an ATAC – device that orders submarines to launch ballistic missiles – from the ocean floor off Albania. Of course the Russians want it as much as the Brits want it. This leads to the Havelocks – underwater archaeologists – being killed, in front of their daughter Melina’s eyes, which in turn leads to this masterclass in acting (you have to imagine the camera steadily getting closer in):

ForYourEyesOnly_2… and also leads Melina to declare that Greek women, “like Elektra,” always want revenge. Because that worked out so well for Elektra.

1857-3Bond ends up working with a Greek businessman, Kristatos (Julia Glover), who tells him that his former comrade in arms (Columba, played by Topol) is responsible. But surprise! It turns out to have been Kristatos all along! Columba is just an honest smuggler – he would never deal in heroin, or deal with those Ruskies. While we’re here: Columba is totally adorable. Always with the munching on pistachios!

I’m a bit worried that I am acquiring an immunity to Roger Moore, because I actually rather liked this film. This feels like a problem. There were still lots of issues – I’m getting there! – but the plot itself mostly worked (except for Melina leaving an oxygen tank on the ocean floor for no reason at the start of the film, and then OH LOOK it’s there when they need it at the end… oh right, and that bit where the parrot disclosed where the villains were heading). The pacing was pretty good, and – oh heck – even Moore was ok. In the accompanying features, Michael Wilson makes the point that they felt like Bond needed to literally and figuratively “come back to Earth” after Moonraker, and so they made this… dare I say it… grittier. So perhaps this is approaching the feel of my first Bond, Brosnan? Or yeh, maybe I’m infected with something.

1981-bibi-lynn-holly-johnson-for-your-eyesBut it’s not all sunshine and skittles! Of course I got cranky! Where to start… hmm… how about Moneypenny? Sprung putting on some lippy at the time she’s expecting Bond. Now I love Lois Maxwell a lot, but she has aged a lot since she started as Moneypenny, and while I have no problem with older ladies flirting with anyone they like (in a responsible, consensual manner), I do have a problem with the writers making her look pathetic at lusting after a man for nigh on 20 years, like this. She’s better handing out the snark and being arch. Then there’s Bibi – oh Bibi. A young, bubbly, blonde, ice skater – Kristatos’ ‘protege’ (aaaand all the eyebrows shoot up). Lynn-Holly Johnson is a fine enough actress given the circumstances, but Bibi actually has no role in this film. Actually no role. She serves no plot purpose. She does two things for characters: first, she makes Bond look marginally less like a womaniser because he refuses to sleep with her (oh so magnanimous), and then – when we already know Kristatos is the villain – she has the throw-away line “I know what you want. You’re too old for me.” So she makes one man look good, and one look bad. But those things are already established by other aspects of the film, so she’s irrelevant. Except, as James points out, as eye-candy…. There’s a “countess,” Lisl, whose role consists of sex for Bond and a bit of information on the side, and then she’s killed. The main woman, though, is Melina. She gets involved because she wants revenge (see above); she helps Bond out of difficult situations a few times, and he rewards her by bullying her out of her plans. I would have no problem with Bond saying “look lady, I’m trained for this, plus I have no compunction about killing, so maybe I could help you not die in getting revenge?” But Bond ordering her to leave, without explaining who he actually is – yeh, that’s just rude and high-handed. I was also cranky at the scene in the sleigh where they’re giving conflicting orders to the driver and the driver listens to Bond. And when they stop arguing, he looks over his shoulder and sighs “Amore!” um NO. Really NO. Anyway, she gets to be competent – she’s a skilled scuba diver, she knows her father’s codes, she navigates the 2-man sub, and she’s a dab hand with a cross bow. So that’s something.

Worth noting: M is “on holidays” while these events take place, so Bond has to deal with the Minister and some random flunky. And this is because Bernard Lee died at the start of 1981, so presumably he was already sick and/or too old while filming was going on. Very sad, and I’m therefore on fire to see whether/how they replace M for the next four movies, given the glory that is Dame Judi Dench with Brosnan.

James: Is this the part where I write about all the awesome stereotypically boy parts of the film which Alex has neglected ? Why yes it is.  Basically this is everything that happened in the film anyway. First the car … a For_Your_Eyes_Only_-_The_Lotus_explodesLotus Esprit Turbo which meets a quick end in the film when one of the thugs trips the ‘car alarm’ and self-destructs the car – angular, 80s and cool.

Next we have a winter sports montage chase scene where Bond and his pursuers take part in four or five winter olympic events on a mix of skis, motorbikes and feet; the ski jump and the luge are the highlights.  Out of the snow and into the water via the for-your-eyes-only-neptune-submarineNeptune mini sub searching for the secret (but tracked by the Russians and quite obviously not secret) British ship with the ATAC – this section of the film culminates in a hilarious fight against an enemy with a comically HUGE diving suit getting his head literally blown off by a limpet mine Bond just happens to have from the ATAC unit.SUPERSUIT  Finally we get some modern technology too in the form of Q’s new identigraph-blog-hostalia-hostingidentigraph system which takes a series of very Tron (or is it logo writer) graphics and suddenly punches out a face on a 9pin dot-matrix impact printer using nothing but ASCII characters (with the identity and dossier also of course).  The movie finished up with a suspense filled infiltration of a cliff top monastery, culminating with a dying 500px-For_Your_Eyes_Only_-_Kristatos_gets_knifed_by_Columbo.Columbo saving Bond and Melina from Kristatos, saving her from the previously mentioned revenge task of digging two graves.  Oh, wait…  vlcsnap-2012-10-20-16h50m05s64Bond and Melina kiss at the end; come on it’s James Bond people.

2.5 Martinis

Valour and Vanity

I continue to adore these books. That’s all you really need to know, right?

Valour-and-VanityThis is the fourth book in the Glamourist Histories, in which Mary Robinette Kowal creates an alt version of the English Regency period and gives it ‘glamour’, a form of magic that is generally used to decorate the sitting rooms of the gentry but which can also (we discovered in the last book) be used to create cold, and which maybe just might have military uses as well. I think this book could stand by itself – glamour isn’t that hard to comprehend and the relationships between the two main characters, Jane and Vincent, and their respective families are both spelled out and not vitally important to the plot. But of course, WHY would you want this book to stand by itself? Just read all of them!

If you haven’t yet read the series, there was a spoiler in the first paragraph – sorry – Jane and Vincent end up married. But come on, this is an historical romance with magic; yes I’m sure ‘grimdark’ has made its mark on that genre somewhere, but it’s not here and that’s quite nice, thankyouverymuch. So things generally end up nice at the end… but if you’ve never read this genre and you assume this means everything is always roses, HECK NO. Kowal is quite happy to put her characters through very nasty events. Here, Jane and Vincent are off to visit Murano (near Venice) to visit the glassblowers, but their ship is hijacked and they end up penniless in Murano. In a world without fast communication or access to emergency funds, in a country where they know no one. They’ve never been filthy rich, but neither of them have ever struggled like this before.

There are many things I loved about this novel.

1. Jane and Vincent’s relationship. How often do we get beautiful, complicated married relationships at the core of a story? Where although they’re hitched, there’s still romance… and where complications are real and frightening but working them out is a real and worthwhile goal. I just love this portrayal of love in marriage, not least because it’s not perfect. Both of them do detrimental things, but it’s not the end of the world – and it’s not simply ignored, either, but worked out and worked through.

2. Jane. Jane Jane Jane. Determined, fragile, strong, plucky, innocent, smart. And with marvellous flashes of feminism – she knows Mary Wollstonecraft, hurrah.

3. “The magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven.” That’s from the blurb, and forgets that Austen didn’t write magic, but anyway whatever. Yes, the plot. Oh my goodness. A heist! Double dealing, shenanigans, gondolas and magic and puppeteers (heh – Kowal is one herself) and nuns. Also international conspiracies and disguises and Byron.*

4. The prose. It’s delightful and ever so readable and captures the places and people beautifully. I don’t love fashion – I’m closer to Vincent than to Jane in my reaction to the necessity to purchase clothes – but Kowal’s attention to detail and simplicity of description amuse even me.

5. It’s not the same as the others. I’d probably still read it, even if it was the same sort of adventures over and over again, but it’s not. Well, there are similarities – difficulties to be overcome, new people to meet and either befriend or contend with – but Jane and Vincent do actually grow and develop over time, and the sorts of problems they face are also different.

6. Issues. This series makes no claims to tackling major issues, but they certainly do not ignore them. The class issues have been present, sometimes as undercurrent and sometimes overtly, from the start – never solved, but certainly problematised. Race appeared as a serious issue in the last book and is acknowledged here as well. Gender is always an issue; that Jane is competent and works as a glamourist, that Vincent is excelling in a traditionally feminine sphere – both of these continue to be part of the complex society presented, along with other problematic aspects of gender relations in the period.

You can get Valour and Vanity over at Fishpond. And you want to. Seriously.

*Don’t worry, not a lot of Byron. Just enough to be amusing but not enough (in my opinion) to get eye-rolly.

Secret Lives

L. Timmel Duchamp says that Love’s stories consist of “fairly plain words (and never very many of them),” in her introduction to this collection. That might sound like faint praise indeed, except that the rest of the introduction praises those same words’ “amazing, amusing magic” – and she’s right. It’s also why, when Alisa Krasnostein (of Twelfth Planet Press, who put this collection out – yes, fair dealing, she’s a friend) asked what I thought of it I had to pause, and think through my response. Which initially concerned her, I think, but my hesitation wasn’t about “how do I tell my friend I didn’t like the book?” but “how do I my feelings into words?” It was compounded by the fact that I read the collection in very fast time (two and a bit tram rides, to be exact) – it is only 80 pages long, in the cute little format that all of the Twelve Planets have come in.

SecretLives-cover-01-115x188So what did I think? Well, most of the stories feel pretty easy to read, thanks to that simplicity of prose Duchamp identifies and the fact that there’s no padding in any of them. Most of them, though, are likely to sneak around to the back of your head and whack you one to make you realise that simplicity of prose is by no means the same as simplicity of purpose, or theme, or consequence.

“Secret Lives of Books” has the most straightforward narrative structure of the stories here. Ritchie is dying, and his books have always been of far more importance to him than human relationships. So, simple: after death, go live with the books. In the books. But as he whispers to his ex-wife Luisa: Books suck your blood. How will they respond to this invasion, and how will they react when their existence might be threatened? And when they find out about the internet? … A simple narrative, yes, but a provocative probing into our relationship with books and with other people, and with the concept of knowledge. I read once a (mostly tongue-in-cheek) suggestion that humanity was the weapon grasses like wheat utilised in order to fight the trees. I was reminded of that, here.

True fact: I have never heard of Kiddofspeed. Turns out this is a real thing, a website where Elena Filatova discussed riding a motorbike through the area around Chernobyl, post-disaster. In “Kiddofspeed” Love does a glorious job of interrogating the question of fact v fiction, and especially the question/issue of how the internet makes the casual reader’s understanding of the line between these two things so much harder. If it’s on the internet it’s true, right? If I say it is? (I’m put in mind of this article suggesting/explaining that Tom Cruise did not, actually, jump like a mad thing on Oprah’s couch – well, not how most of us “remember” him doing so, anyway.) Love also has a dig at some of the wilder “theories” about Chernobyl, and shoots them down in very few, scathing, words.

A qasida is “a form of lyric poetry from Arabia about the pain of lost love” – at least so says the prologue to the story of the same story, and coming straight after “Kiddofspeed” there is part of me that pauses and wonders whether the entire collection might be playing some sort of grand didactic prank… but surely not. (Right?) This story flicks between Bronnie, living now and with the knowledge that Mars-obsessed Del is lost, and Livia Wynne – general fixer for the British Empire in its last gasp, after the First World War. I could completely spoil the narrative (Del is on Mars) and not spoil the story. I haven’t, promise. (And because it’s on the internet….) Relationships, the quest for knowledge, the (im)possibility of cross-cultural understanding, the drive to go, the complexity of language: all of these are touched on, lightly but generally profoundly.

“The Kairos Moment” is probably my least favourite story. I don’t dislike it, it just doesn’t work for me like the others. ‘Kairos’ is the Greek term (apparently… who me, paranoid?) for a moment of something wonderful happening. The narrator theorises that music is one method by which to achieve a kairos moment, and proceeds – as part of her research (I just realised I’m assuming it’s a her – I don’t think it’s revealed) – to try and create one. It’s not entirely straightforward, nor entirely a healthy experience for some.

The final story is

The slut and the universe

or

The relations between feminism, global warming, global financial meltdown,

asteroid impact, the nuclear arms race and the mass extinction of species.

or

How feminism got to be both the root of all evils and the means of salvation from them.

It opens with “One upon a time, there will be a young girl who live with her family in the middle of the woods.” Can you tell this is my favourite story? Marysa lives with her mother and her grandmother. They argue about the clothes she wears, with the word ‘slut’ bandied around – “Not that they mean Marysa is a slut… [but that she] has chosen to dress like a slut, and therefore… people she meets… will treat her like a slut and TAKE ADVANTAGE” (68). A condemnation of slut-shaming in a page of prose, hell yes. And then they get on to the patriarchy and all of the things suggested in the multiple titles. With Gaia along to stir up the conversation a bit. The narrative is tenuous, true; there are hints of a world that has gone bad (worse than ours at the moment anyway), and the relationships between the three generations. The focus is absolutely on conversation and argument between the four. It’s a place for Love to set up ideas and be provocative and maybe even extreme, and I loved it.

This collection is awesome. You should buy it. 

Galactic Suburbia 102

terri-icon-cropIn which Alex and Tansy debrief Alisa on their ContinuumX hijinks, and a crowdfunding scheme unfolds… please admire our lovely new logo thanks to longtime listener Terri and her ninja cupcake skills! You can get us at iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.

News

Ditmars, Norma, etc etc. Con report! Book launches, panels…
Literary Guests of Honour: Ambelin Kwaymullina & Jim C Hines (speeches not available online yet, will link when we can)
Check out also the great Continuum X Twitter Storify
As mentioned by Ambelin in her GOH speech, the Australia Council guidelines on writing about Indigenous culture and people, which were formulated by Indigenous people.

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: The Gods of Wheat Street; Vaginal Fantasy (The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay);
Alex: Kitty and Cadaver, Narrelle M Harris; Vanity and Valour, Mary Robinette Kowal; Vox Day and Ted Chiang; Edge of Tomorrow (and X Men: Days of Future Past)
Tansy: Lightspeed Magazine Women Destroy Science Fiction, Seanan Maguire “Each to Each.”

And our cake logo winners! It’s Terri! Because we never knew how much we needed to be a cupcake until we became one. We hope we were delicious.

New way to support Galactic Suburbia via our Patreon page – help us cover our running costs, & if we hit $50 per podcast we will commit to regular Spoilerific Club podcasts! plus other incentives, for you and for us.

You may also be interested in these other Patreon campaigns:
Tansy’s Musketeer Space project.
Terry Frost’s Paleo-Cinema Podcast page, also inspired by the crowdfunding panel at ContinuumX!

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Moonraker

This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

Summary: in which, space. And Jaws. But no sharks.

bond3Alex: still not a fan of Moore. However, there were some parts of this film that I actually liked. It’s definitely better paced than the earlier Moores, and who doesn’t love a good giggle over the hilarity of 1970s space stations? It does, however, feature my least favourite Bond theme. Sorry Shirley, it does nothing for me.

The prologue introduces us to the shuttle, Moonraker, as it gets hijacked. We also see Bond encounter Jaws again, henchmanning for some random villain, and then they both end up out of a plane sans parachute. This section had some truly awesome cinematography, and the feature on the DVD about how it was shot is definitely worth watching.

bond4The shuttle was built by Drax Enterprises, and himself is pissed that the British lost his shuttle. So Bond is off to California to snoop around, see who might be responsible for it going missing. I WONDER WHO IT COULD BE? Oh wait, Drax is dressed almost entirely in black and speaks with a slight accent and in a monotone! Nothing suspicious here! No visible deformities, anyway, which is just about a first for this franchise. He does have two Lady Friends, one black and one white, who don’t speak; and two perfectly trained Dobermans; and a Generic Asian Servant. And yes, I really do think those three things can be listed as about equal, from the film’s perspective.

Drax graciously allows Bond to meet one of his chief scientists, Dr Goodhead. Who is, surprise! Female. Bond, condescending: “Are you training to be an astronaut?” Goodhead, I Am So Used To This Crap: “I’m fully trained, on loan from NASA.” What follows would be termed willy-waving if it were between two men, but because it’s between a man and a woman there’s the mandatory sexual frisson – from Bond anyway – as he tries to demonstrate to the woman WHO HAS AT LEAST ONE PHD that he knows as much as her. Because showing you’re smarter than her is a sure way into a woman’s pants. Or something. Still, hurrah for a competent female scientist! She may be my favourite woman from the Moore era yet, which still isn’t saying a whole lot because I didn’t love her. As an actress I found her boring and wooden; as a character she started off well but, as always, goes downhill after she (inevitably) succumbs to Bond’s irresistible charms. Not only does Bond have an ORGAN I CAN’T MENTION that turns women from evil to good, it also apparently saps the competency from them.

bond6Anyway. Bond chases Drax’s establishment to Venice – hello gondola chases – and has a tour through a glass museum, which as soon as it comes on screen you just KNOW is going to be the scene of a horridly destructive fight. And it was. Then Bond goes to Rio, as far as I can tell just so that he can sleep with the local MI5 contact and the film can showcase Carnevale. And then he and Goodhead, who have now teamed up because she’s actually CIA, are off down the Amazon and there find Castle Anthrax. Seriously. All the astronauts in training there are beautiful and lissom and – it turns out – paired to one another, because Drax’s goal is to sterilise the Earth and bring back his genetically perfect humans to Rule The World! They all end up in space, and eventually, after some pretty cool null-grav scenes, Bond escapes and destroys it.

Brief space rant now. It can’t be that far out in orbit because it doesn’t take that long to reach it in their shuttles. How did they avoid detection? Well, Drax has developed a cloaking device (basically) that prevents radar from detecting bondthem. Ta dah! … but wait – what about the astronomers?? This is pre- any space telescopes. It’s also a time when, I presume, the light pollution wasn’t nearly so bad as it is today. I can guarantee that amateur astronomers would have spotted it, let alone the pros. Heck, I’ve followed the ISS in a telescope by moving the scope manually, and you can see the shape quite easily. This space city is meant to be much bigger than the ISS.

/end rant

That  issue aside, the end of the space city is actually the most terrifying part of the whole movie because US-trained space troops fly up to occupy it (once they know it’s there): they know how to fight in space, and they have laser guns. This is what the 1980s feared with discussion of the militarisation of space. And I can well understand the fear.

Weird moment: the code to get into a secret lab is the signature motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

From a racial perspective: Generic Asian Servant gets to beat up Bond a bit, but of course can’t win. There are some non-white astronauts in Drax’s plan for perfecting humanity, so that’s awesome – but it is overwhelmingly white.

From a feminist perspective: Goodhead isn’t bad; she takes a while to succumb to Bond, and she is blunt about her lack of trust in him. She stays mostly competent when she’s allowed to demonstrate it. There are three other “Bond women.” He’s smooching one at the start, who then pulls a gun on him – hilarious, but she is then nowhere while the fight takes place, and given it’s on a plane that makes no sense. Then there’s Drax’s helicopter pilot. Bond kisses her, she responds with “You presume a great deal” – and then kisses him back. She dies. The Brazilian contact is attacked by Jaws in a clown outfit.

Jaws! How remiss of me not to mention: Jaws gets a girlfriend! Aww… they meet when he’s just finished destroying a cable car with Bond and Goodhead on board. They both end up on the space city, and Jaws actually helps Bond when he realises that neither he nor Braids meets Drax’s standards of human perfection. And he even gets to speak, which I’m sure meant that he had to take out the metal teeth.

bond5JStar Wars Theatrical Posters Around The World in 1977 (1)ames: Classic movie poster – almost as awesome as the vintage Star Wars ones.  It might be my favourite part though.  The effects are improving as we move forwards in time too but like Alex I’m bored with Moore and ready to move on.  More space, more lasers – I had never really noticed in the past how central space, orbital weapons and lasers are to Bond (and it’s not about to stop yet…). 2 Martinis.

 

 

 

North Wind

I did not manage to finish the book prior to this one, Gwyneth Jones’ White Queen. I am slightly surprised that I finished this one, in that light, but the structure of this novel is definitely easier to cope with, and I think the plot is slightly more straightforward too.

So in White Queen the aliens arrive and it turns out they’ve been living amongst for rather a long time. The world is a difficult place in which to live anyway – environmental stuff etc – and when the aliens finally decide to make contact there’s a conference on women happening … and for whatever reason, the aliens decide that that is the world government. Which means that all of a sudden (ok, I think it makes months or years) there is an actual real Sex War, at least partly because of the aliens. Stuff happens… etc.

9780312859268North Wind is told from two main viewpoints. Sid is a human liaison to the Aleutians – the aliens. Bella, also known as Goodlooking, or the librarian, is an invalid Aleutian. Their experiences of the world are very different: because of their expectations of gender, because of their expectations of humanity, because of their expectations of family and other social interactions. Their interactions with each other are immensely complicated for all of these same reasons, and because of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

This novel could have been relatively straightforward. It’s an attempt to figure out what is indeed a complex problem, but the actual events along the way are not that Byzantine.

Jones, however, was not interested in writing a relatively straightforward novel. And that’s perfectly fine; just don’t expect it to be one. Because Jones used this novel to explore concepts of gender, in particular, in detail and in complexity that you don’t often get in novel form. Not from widely popular novels that get nominated for the Clarke Award (in 1995) necessarily, anyway. The Aleutians have a very different concept of gender from most of humanity, and the intersection between the two species’ expectations and lived experiences highlight, in particular, humanity’s limitations.

I found this a difficult book to read partly because of the switching of pronouns, which takes some getting used to; partly because Jones uses narrative ellipses to imply things and sometimes I wasn’t fast enough on the uptake. Probably I missed some subtleties from not finishing White Queen (like the issue with Johnny, but that is eventually explained). It’s a clever book, and it’s an important book, and I want to say it’s an ambitious book but so often that phrase gets used in a condescending tone and I really don’t mean it like that. I really mean that Jones is doing ambitious and difficult and passionate things. But… I didn’t love it. I think it was too difficult for me. I won’t be rushing out for Phoenix Cafe, the third in the series. Which makes me a bit sad because I had intended to read all of Gwyneth Jones’ work, but I don’t have to like everything, I’ve decided.

Yet another book off the TBR shelf! Go me!

Hardwired

I don’t think I’ve read a Walter Jon Williams novel before. I’ve read some of his short stories, in anthologies, and generally loved them. Pretty sure I got this novel from Better World Books because it was in the bargain pile and I thought it would be an interesting enough place to start reading his work. Plus, I suspect I was in a cyberpunk zone.

ETA: No, I am stupid. Of course I have read other Williams books… This is Not a Game, AND Deep State, and The Fourth Wall. I can’t believe I forgot that.

It’s a good thing I have read other stuff by him in the past.

2247146It’s not a bad book. I did finish it. But it’s definitely not a great book, and I’ll be more circumspect in what I choose to read of his in future. Probably I will ask Jonathan for recommendations. A couple of reviewers over on Goodreads suggested that this was an example of style over substance, and that this was Williams trying to be William Gibson. The former I agreed with, by about halfway through; the second I disagree with, although I haven’t read Gibson’s complete cyberpunk oeuvre so perhaps I can’t entirely make that decision.

Style over substance: there are some lovely, almost lyrical passages in this novel. There are some amusing and clever descriptive passages. There are some that are just a bit silly, though, and seem like evidence either of Williams trying a bit too hard or the editor not trying hard enough.

William Gibson: keeping in mind it’s been a while since I read Neuromancer etc, I think there’s a different aesthetic at work here, and a different use for technology. Williams has tech for a purpose, and that’s why it exists. Even the character who loves the tech and most lives for it loves what it allows him to do, and feel – being a pilot. My memory of Gibson is that the technology is a bit more… pure is the wrong word, but perhaps abstract? Good for doing stuff, but that’s not it’s sole purpose. Those who are more familiar with Gibson, feel free to correct! (This reminds me that I really, really must read them again/finish the series (pl) that I have started…).

This is a world where orbital communities are doing nasty things to the dirt-siders, along the lines of controlling their economy and doling out important things like drugs (… the medicinal ones and the ‘medicinal’ ones). Well, I say ‘dirt-siders’; I really mean ‘people living in the former USA’, because as far as I can tell the rest of the world just doesn’t exist for this novel. Just a little thing those of us outside of the USA notice. Anyway, it’s the former USA because it’s all been divided up for various reasons that I’m sure have more resonance with people who have an actual grip on USAn geography and history (i.e. not me).

The novel is told from two perspectives: Cowboy is a pilot who lives to fly but has been grounded by the dangers of doing so – because he mostly flies on illicit ‘pony express’-type runs. Well, he’s been grounded, but he still gets to do his runs in a panzer. I was a bit dozy while reading the start because it took me ages to realise that meant he was crashing across continental US in a tank. The other perspective is provided by Sarah, whose childhood was seriously screwed up and who will do most anything to raise the serious money needed to get a better life, including radical body mods and very dangerous work. Cowboy and Sarah’s stories collide, mesh, separate and do reasonably interesting things. Intertwined throughout are advertisements for various companies – mostly for body mods or drugs – and the occasional news heading. I don’t think this is something invented by Williams, but when it’s done well (and I think it is here) I really like it as a style.

Cowboy and Sarah are both interesting enough, but I didn’t really engage with either of them. They were both too distant. Cowboy’s monomania about flying – even when it begins to get tempered by a developing conscience – prevented me from clicking with him. I thought he was pretty consistent, though, and could appreciate that. Sarah didn’t really work overall. Her concern for her brother, especially, felt out of place with the rest of her attitudes. I have no doubt it’s possible for a cynical, pessimistic person to care as deeply for a family member as Sarah is shown to – but I didn’t buy it here. Especially given what it ends up costing her.

The plot itself is fast-paced enough that I kept reading; there were some nice twists, although nothing completely unexpected. I don’t remember anything that made me want to throw the book away, so that’s faint praise but praise nonetheless. Not one I’m recommending to anyone but a hardcore Williams or cyberpunk fan.

Galactic Suburbia 101

GoogleSquiggleIn which we emerge from our cake coma to discuss awards, speeches, hashtags and online activism. And, okay, more cake. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

News

Norman Hetherington’s birthday celebrated by Google: Australians love Mr Squiggle!

Nebula award winners announced.

N K Jemisin’s GoH speech and Hiromi Goto’s GoH speech at Wiscon

Alisa’s post: If You Aren’t Part of the Solution

Discussion of #yesallwomen and #notallmen

Charles Tan’s important essay on Bigotry, Cognotive Dissonance and Submission guidelines

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Total Devotion Machine, Rosaleen Love; Perfections, Kirstyn McDermott; The Lady Astronaut from Mars, Mary Robinette Kowal
Alex: A Pursuit of Miracles, George Turner; Black Ice, Lucy Sussex; Jane Bites Back, Michael Thomas Ford. Project Bond.
Tansy: X-Men Days of Future Past, Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction, Robotech Rewatch

Galactic Suburbia Scrapbook
– is still a preorder which means if you go ahead and preorder, we’ll send you a copy of the book when it drops, glitch with the Paypal means it charges you 1c on preorder but Alisa refunding those. And also, all sales for the Scrapbook will go towards running costs for GS.

PS we have a donation button on the Podbean site, which we thought we would mention because we got scolded by email… if you want to throw us a donation towards our hosting fees, we will be very grateful!

Check out our Pinterest board for the entries in our cake logo contest! We haven’t been able to choose, so we’re asking for feedback from our listeners. Vote for your favourite by emailing us – and remember it’s not about how much you like the look of the cake itself, but which picture you think makes the best logo to represent us for our next 100 episodes.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

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