Tag Archives: feminism

The Female Factory

It took me a while to read this one. I read “Vox” and “Baggage” and then had to have a metaphorical lie down for a week, to catch my breath, then read the last two stories.

FemaleFactory-115x188Seriously. These two ladies. THEY DO THINGS TO MY BRAIN.

The no-spoilers version is: this collection is about being a woman, and children, and social expectations, and identity.

Now go read it. No, seriously.

Spoiler-filled version:
“Vox” is incredibly chilling, probably the most of the four stories, and on two laters. Kate’s obsession with the voices of inanimate objects is kooky but not that strange; her despair at not being able to have children is a familiar one. The further despair at having to choose just one child cuts deep… but the fact of what happens to the children she doesn’t choose? I had to reread the sections about the electronics’ voices a couple of time to check whether HannSlatt really had gone there. And yes, they really really had. Plus, Kate’s attitude towards her existing child… says some hard things about maternity. Confronting, in fact.

“Baggage” is a nasty little piece of baggage, with a central character lacking pretty much any redeeming personality features and a quite unpleasant world for her to feature in. Her particular ‘gift’ is never clearly explained, which I liked, given how supremely weird it is. There are definite overtones of The Handmaid’s Tale, although obviously it’s very different, and also perhaps Children of Men? Once again with maternity, although I imagine Kate would be horrified by Robyn’s attitude towards her own fertility, and the cubs she produces.

I loved “All the Other Revivals.” Well, I… hmm. Maybe I didn’t love all of them, but it’s not to say I didn’t love the others…. Oh anyway, it was interesting to come across a male voice, after the first two strong female voices. Not that Baron would see himself as a particularly strong <i>male</i> voice, I suspect. Once again the central conceit – the car in the billabong – isn’t explained at all; it just does what it does. And Baron is who he is, whoever that is – and will be. Once again the nature of motherhood is really strong here, although in a very different way from the first two stories; this time it’s a matter of absence, and one that’s never explained. I guess the billabong can be seen as a sort of mother, too, now that I think about it.

Finally, the titular “Female Factory” – named for a real place, I discover, in Tasmania OH MY BRAIN again. Again with the absence of motherhood (so it was a wise thing to do, to read the first two together and then the second two) – this time the story is from the perspective of young children – orphans no less – influenced by daring medical science in the early nineteenth century and their proximity to two cadaver-obsessed adults. Somehow this story, while creepy, felt perhaps the most comfortable of the lot; perhaps because its ideas are a bit familiar? Which isn’t to say it’s not an excellent story, which it is.

Overall this is an excellent #11 for the Twelve Planets, and once again Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter have well broken me. You can get it from Twelfth Planet Press. 

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Locke-Lamora-UKThis has been on my radar for a while; when I finally added it to my Goodreads page, Katharine went a little mad and next thing I know it’s appeared in my mailbox.

Some slight spoilers below, although not that many and none too significant.

It took me about 4/5 of the book to figure it out, but finally I realised what Camorr reminds me of: it’s Ankh-Morpok at its grimiest. Maybe Ankh-Morpok crossed with Gotham? All the inhabitants are human, but it’s got that chaotic mad feel that Ankh-Morpok has… without the cheerfulness that Pratchett adds. The grimdark version of Ankh-Morpok? Dare I suggest the more realistic version of Ankh-Morpok… So anyway, I quite liked Camorr, although it’s not as ‘original’ as the George RR Martin quote on the front might suggest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – originality is great of course, but building on others can be too. I am also a bit puzzled about the inclusion of the ruins of some long-forgotten alien race. Yes they add to the cityscape, and the idea of Falselight is really cool, but I was kinda expecting a bit more to be made of the Elderglass. Actually I was expecting that Locke was going to be a descendant of that alien race (spoiler! he’s not… well ok, there are apparently another six books after this, so maybe that’s a reveal in the fifth?). So… yes, it’s cool and it does add to the knowledge that this is a complex and complicated world and Lynch has given it great thought. But there was both too little info – who were they? how long ago are we talking?? – and too much info, because there were these teasers all throughout about the glass (can’t be broken, except there’s this one Broken Tower OOOooh, etc).

Is it passé of me to comment on the laydees? Or, let’s be honest, the lack thereof. Locke’s ladylove is mentioned a couple of times – very much in passing – and is completely forgotten for more than half the book. That bugged me. I loved that there were what I think of ‘incidental women’ – guards and merchants and criminals were just as likely to be women as men, but the ones that Locke and his Merry Band of Bastards interact with are almost always men. There are two significant female nobles, and they are awesome and get to be competent and I like them a lot. Buuuut… it could have been better.

So far you might be thinking that I didn’t think much of the book. Actually, I really enjoyed it. Like, a lot. Someone suggested it was an Ocean’s 11 kinda story, and it definitely is – except see that comment about missing the cheerfulness of Pratchett? There are some magnificent one-liners, and the variety of hustles are breathtaking and occasionally hilarious, but this definitely falls on the grimmer end of the scale. It’s a bit of a spoiler I guess, but… people die. I hadn’t really expected that, with my George Clooney/ Brad Pitt expectations. Talk about a kick in the guts.

The plot? It’s a con. There’s one con that threads through the entire thing, and a number of others that crop up. There are external things that get in the way and need to be dealt with; there’s everyday life, there’s death and mayhem, there’s revenge and pain (lots of pain), no romance and a lot of bro-bonding. Oh, so much dude-platonic-love. The ties of brotherly love have rarely had their praises such so highly… and I’m not even being sarcastic at this point.

The protagonist is, of course, Locke Lamora. He’s in the line of Miles Vorkosigan and other such brains-over-brawn heroes: he can hold his own in a fight but he’s not really very good at it and ends up with a lot of cuts, bruises, black eyes and a serious lack of blood at various points. But of course he makes up for it with a devious, cunning brain that comes up with madcap, near-to-impossible schemes. It’s just lucky he has willing confederates to help him carry it out. I really liked Jean, his bruiser with brains best buddy. I was initially a bit wary of the way that he was described as fat, and that seems to be forgotten for bits of the book – I can’t figure out whether that was a good thing or not. But their relationship works; they work well together but they’re not completely reliant on each other.

The villains are… interesting. For a while I couldn’t even tell who the villain was going to be, or even if there was going to be one; after all, the main characters are thieves – let’s not kid ourselves, much as they like to talk about their own code of morality, Locke and his friends get a great deal of joy out of stealing from, conning, and generally making life miserable for many of the honest people of Camorr. But there is/are indeed villain/s – their number depends on how you want to view things like “I was doing what I was paid for” – who of course make our heroes look positively virtuous. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed by the driving force behind the villainy. It felt a little… small.

Ocean’s 11, yes – and 12 and 13. I was also reminded of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (and the others, but that’s the one I’ve rewatched recently). It’s… well. Fun, yes, although with its fair share of rip-your-heart-out moments. It’s a good thing I got to the last fifty-odd pages with nothing else to do, because I just could not figure out where it was all going to end up and I nearly had to put the book down to breathe but I didn’t. I really enjoyed it.

You can get it from Fishpond.

The Tamuli

Earlier this year, Tehani, Jo and I read and reviewed The Elenium (The Diamond ThroneThe Ruby KnightSapphire Rose). It was fun! We enjoyed them – again! So we decided to do the same for The Tamuli! … and that took a bit longer. 

ALEX:

Dear readers,

Here’s an interesting thing. We’ve been writing these reviews in a Google document. This one, entitled Domes of Fire, has existed for a few months without anything being written in it. This is despite the fact that I think we would all have said that we enjoyed the second trilogy a lot, if not as much as the first, and that we all devoured the second trilogy on this re-read just like we did the first.

TEHANI:

Aw Alex. You don’t think all of us being crazy busy had anything to do with it? :)

ALEX:

It’s just that…well, there’s not really that much to say. We said most of it with the first trilogy, and the reality is that this second set, the Tamuli, is basically a reworking of the first.

TEHANI:

Heh, I like that Eddings pretty much acknowledges that about halfway through The Shining City:

“It has a sort of familiar ring to it, doesn’t it Sparhawk?” Kalten said with a tight grin. “Didn’t Martel – and Annias – have the same sort of notion?”

“Oh my goodness, yes,” Ehlana agreed. “I feel as if I’ve lived through all of this before.”

JO:

One will not point out similarities to the Belgariad either. Or the Mallorean. One will not.

ALEX:

Almost identical set of people, very similar set up – except just like any sequel, things are More Impressive and More Worse. Not just a puny god, but a serious one! Bhelliom’s not just an object but an imprisoned eternal spirit! Sparhawk is Amazing!!

…ok that one’s not that new.

What follows therefore is a general discussion of the entirety of the Tamuli – what we liked, what disappointed us, etc.

TEHANI:

I think part of the problem was that once we started reading, we just couldn’t stop – having glommed all six books in such short order made it super hard to separate this batch into separate reviews! So this one giant piece is a much more sensible idea.

JO:

Oh that’s absolutely it! I read all six in this big BINGE… and then you wanted me to sit down and be sensible about each one? Can’t I just say ‘yay’ Sparhawk? Also where are my notes…?

ALEX:

I quite like the opening to Domes of Fire proper, with Sparhawk riding through the streets but this time being recognised. It sets up the idea of familiarity and parallels with the first trilogy very neatly, and suggests that it’s all done deliberately. While I do recognise that this is somewhat lazy writing, I definitely understand the appeal of it for readers – because it appeals to me, when its done well: it’s the same reason why people like staying in the same hotel chain everywhere. Familiarity is comforting. I like reading for comfort sometimes.

JO:

I don’t see it as lazy at all. I see it as fanservice :)

TEHANI:

You know what else can be lazy writing? The “As you know, Bob” thing, which Eddings employs over and over to let us know/remind us what’s going on. AND I DON’T CARE THAT HE DOES! It’s still completely and utterly readable. I’m not sure what it says about me. Or maybe it’s just that even something “lazy” can actually be done well?

ALEX:

I think it’s done with humour, too, often, and that certainly helps his cause.

JO:

Yeah usually it’s just so much fun to read the ‘as you know’ doesn’t bother me as much as it should.

ALEX:

We are such fan girls.

So, straight into the issues: Danae manipulates a lot of people with kisses in these stories. It made me uncomfortable.

TEHANI:

Yeah. Despite the efforts to show women in positions of power, and able to WIELD that power, with Sephrenia, Xanetia, Ehlana, and even Aphrael/Danae herself and so on, there is still a lot of dodgy gender stuff going on.

ALEX:

Women and power… Ehlana comes into her own, but she does still get damsel’d – again. She shows herself quite resilient etc, but still… I’m really not sure what I think of Melidere. Great that she’s smart. Kinda fun the way she plays Stragen and all – you never see it but I have no doubt Stragen sees himself as a stud. Very uncomfortable about her manipulation of him into marriage. Urgh.

JO:
Yeah the gender stuff in these books really pissed me off by the end. SO MANY of the female characters are ‘strong’ because of their ability to manipulate the men around them. And do so ‘prettily’ so awww it’s actually ok. We got more ‘haha women are obsessed with marriage, poor men’ too.

ALEX:
Yes. Icky.

However and meanwhile, SEPHRENIA AND VANION 4EVA.

TEHANI:

They are so adorable! And I love that even though things get tough, they work things out. I also love they are a mature and completely lovely couple who appreciate and work with each others’ strengths!

ALEX:

And a Styric city! While there are some uncomfortable instances of racism that don’t get dealt with, I think this trilogy makes a sturdy – if, I don’t know, simplistic? – attempt at confronting it. Sparhawk confronting his own prejudices – being willing to protect meek and submissive Styrics but being affronted when they’re all assertive and happy – is a really nice moment.

JO:

Simplistic, definitely. But yes, at least it’s there.

TEHANI:

Yes! An excellently written scene. Very impressive to see this sort of examination of prejudice (however briefly) and the understanding that it can be unconscious and inherent to human nature, and challenging to deal with even when one is self-aware. Sparhawk’s conversation with Stragen where he says, “I just found something in myself that I don’t like.” is so short but encapsulates things very well.

ALEX:

Aw Sparhawk. Poor darling. Also? Older man learning about himself and still growing as a person? That is awesome.

JO:

Yes, very good point! That’s not something you usually see, is it. Older men are so often described as set in their ways etc. That’s a part of Sparhawk’s character I’d not noticed before. And it’s nice that he can be strong in ways like this, not just chopping off heads, but emotionally too.

TEHANI:

I particularly like how this comes around again later, when Vanion confronts Sephrenia about her behaviour towards the Delphae, and he says, “Nobody’s different! We have to believe that, because if we don’t, we deny our own humanity as well.”

ALEX:

And Sephrenia’s whole arc for the last novel or so is dealing with her prejudice against Xanetia and the Delphae.

That said, a “universal sisterhood of all women”?? Uh. No. Not until a lot of other issues are dealt with.

JO:

I have a BIG issue with Xanetia that I’d not noticed before, but this re-reading really hammered it home. She and her ability to read people’s minds are just one big plot device. After all the machinations and the foreshadowing, how do we bring the conspiracy out into the open? Xanetia reads people’s minds. BAM. How convenient.

I like her relationship with Sephrenia and the growth that Sephrenia goes through, but Xanetia herself… she’s just there to tell everyone who the bad guy really is so the story can progress. And it’s a revelation that isn’t earned, at all.

ALEX:

I quite like Xanetia – she’s kind of taken Sephrenia’s role as serene and helpful lady, in this series, because Sephrenia gets a bit more development. But yes, the mind-reading is a leedle too convenient.

JO:

Oh don’t get me wrong, I *like* Xanetia, because she’s an Eddings character so how can you not? I just find her mind reading abilities and their place in the plot a little bit of a cop-out. Same can be said for Bhelliom’s ability to jump around the world in the blink of an eye, but that doesn’t stop it being hilarious and cool.

ALEX:

Also meanwhile, I heart Bhlokw. And the Troll-Gods as a collective.

TEHANI:

They definitely grow on you! I really enjoyed how much more intelligent they are by the end than they are first presented. In fact, Eddings was actually rather clever there – when we first meet trolls, they are scarcely more than animals, but by the end of the series we have come to realise they are a complex culture with a firm religious beliefs and a strong sense of right and wrong. Fascinating really, if you’re looking at it from a tolerance and acceptance point of view…

JO:

Or he hadn’t thought that far ahead and just kinda shoe-horns the trolls into that role… but hey, maybe I’m a cynic.

TEHANI:

The whole religion thing in this trilogy is much more in-depth than in the Elenium I thought. There was more exploration of the idea that Danae is actually a goddess, but one among many, and that the gods and goddesses of Styricum are quite different from the other religions as well. I found some of the discussion, particularly pertaining to the Elene god, rather interesting.

ALEX:

There’s definitely more about religion here. The bits about the exquisite politeness between them – how hard it was to get the Atan god in the right frame of mind – is mostly endearing.

TEHANI:

The discussion of slavery in this series (focussed around the Atans and Mirtai in particular) is interesting. On one hand, that Atans are effectively a slave race, yet they are self-governing and pretty much are the means by which the Tamul empire works. However, Mirtai’s experience in slavery outside of this context was pretty horrific. I’m not sure how to unpack that juxtaposition.

ALEX:

It made me quite uncomfortable a lot of the time. The idea that the Atans had put themselves into slavery to look after themselves seemed way too disingenuous… and the fact that they basically rule themselves and that the ‘slavery’ is largely titular does nothing to make it feel better. Because SLAVERY. And as you say, it does lead to Mirtai having a seriously awful set of experiences.

JO:

Yeah, I agree with you there. It always made me feel uncomfortable. They whole “oh but they WANT to be slaves! They’re better off that way. No really, see if they weren’t slaves they’d all kill each other” made my skin crawl.

TEHANI:

It was good to see Eddings didn’t skip the class issues in this trilogy either. Khalad takes Kurik’s role in examining the nobility, but there are lots of instances where peasants are underestimated and aristocrats proven silly. Does it go too far, do you think?

ALEX:

I think it does, mostly because Our Heroes are almost all nobly born but they’re not idiots – which just adds to their exceptionalism. Which is now so overloaded it’s groaning.

JO:

Aristocrats who aren’t knights are usually the silly ones. Funny that.

ALEX:

Do you know, I don’t think I’d picked up that differentiation! and you are so right!!

TEHANI:

I originally read these trilogies in the wrong order, with the Tamuli first, and I still think that Eddings did a really great job with them. I didn’t ever feel when reading that I didn’t know the characters and it was never a problem figuring out what had gone before, or the dynamics of the relationships. Not because Eddings over-explained, but because the characters are so well-drawn. Take Kurik and Khalad for example. They essentially play the same role in the two trilogies, but they are still distinct people (and it’s lovely that Sparhawk never stops missing Kurik throughout the books). That’s not easy to achieve with a large cast.

JO:

It still breaks my brain that you read them out of order!

ALEX:

Me too!! That’s just… inconceivable  ;)

Anyway – it would have been so easy to treat Kurik as “hey, remember that guy?” I’m so glad the Eddingses didn’t. I really like Khalad.

JO:

And the brief moment where we get to see Kurik again… *sniff*

TEHANI:

The way Bhelliom slowly grew a personality was sweet – I particularly liked the scene where Sparhawk has it create a wall to stop the trolls, and when Sparhawk compliments the wall, it gets all self-deprecating. I also enjoyed the point where Aphrael realises that it seems Bhelliom had actually manipulated her into the events of the world, rather than her machinations being at her own instigation.

ALEX:

Oh I do love Bhelliom. Referring to the Earth as its child is so cute! And that brief SF moment of showing other worlds, and the alien soldiers they’re fighting, is quite weird. The discussions of origins is fun.

JO:

Oh me too! Love how it starts off all formal and uber-god-like, but Sparhawk and the gang rub off on it. Soon enough its cracking jokes. Pure Eddings.

TEHANI:

Some favourite quotes:

“I wish she wouldn’t do that,” Stragen complained.

“What’s the problem?” Kalten asked him.

“She makes it seem as if the light in her eyes is the sun streaming in through the hole in the back of her head. I know she’s far more clever than that. I hate dishonest people.”

“You?”

“Let it lie, Kalten.” (Domes of Fire)

“Is she speaking for all of us?” Talen whispered to Berit. “I didn’t really have a girlhood, you know.” (Domes of Fire)

“You’re all just itching for the chance to do Elenish things to those border guards.”

“Did you want to do Elenish things to people, Ulath?” Kalten asked mildly.

“I was suggesting constructive Elenishism before we even got here.” (The Shining Ones)

“Thine Elenes are droll and frolicsome, Sephrenia of Ylara,” Xanetia said.

“I know, Anarae,” Sephrenia sighed. “It’s one of the burdens I bear.” (The Shining Ones)

“Knights, your Grace,” Komier mildly corrected his countryman. “We’re called Knights now. We used to be brigands, but now we’re behaving ourselves.” (The Hidden City)

ALEX:

omg I loved that we got more of the Preceptors in these books. Also eeee Bergsten!

JO:

Personally, I never understood the ending. Would you really give up godlike powers to live a normal life? I mean REALLY? Maybe that’s just me, but that’s never rung true to me. Hmm superamazingmagic or your ‘humanity’. I’ll take the powers thank you very much. (My husband informs me that yes, this is probably just me…)

TEHANI:

He knows you well…

ALEX:

It would have been a very different book if that had happened; Sparhawk would not have been the hero we know if he had kept the powers. I’m not saying I wouldn’t read that book, but I think it would have been super jarring. For all he’s awesome etc, there is an effort to make him at least a little humble, and certainly content with his station in life. Staying a godlike being would have been a serious curve ball.

JO:

Maybe I should change that to – I never understood Sparhawk’s choice at the end. I mean yeah, totally works from a character and story telling point of view but… god-like powers man! I’d keep ‘em :D

TEHANI:

So the verdict? Clearly we still loved the experience of reading these novels again — not just a nostalgia trip but a genuine pleasure. And yet, with the weight of experience and a few years, we also can clearly see there are problematic elements with the books that we may not have noticed when we first fell in love with them, or they may not have seemed quite so concerning then. Is it okay to like books even though they are flawed?

JO:

This is pretty much what we decided for the first three, wasn’t it? Yep, flawed but still so much fun. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to like any media AND be aware of its flaws at the same time. I know that a big part of it for me is that I read these at just the right time and fell so completely in love with them. That feeling stays with me, flaws and all.

ALEX:

As you say, I think that loving any problematic thing is ok – we’re women, we kinda have to be ok with it on some level, right? Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out the flaws and work for things to be better, but nothing is going to be perfect and accepting that can sometimes be ok… I think? I hope so. Because while I may never read these again (although I wouldn’t rule it out!), this has been a fun ride.

Galactic Suburbia 111

In which we try to fix the world and don’t even fix ourselves, but progress is being made (we hope). You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

On the World Fantasy Awards

A couple of links to the big recent internet discussion we didn’t want to try to explain via podcast:
Laura J Mixon
Tessa of Silence Without

What we talk about instead: general issues arising from recent controversies & discussions

Industry bullying & threatening – why people who threaten to blacklist you probably can’t.
On Being Complicit
On Back Channels & the Broken Step
Do We Do Enough & What Else Can Be Done?

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Tansy: Sleepy Hollow #1 (Noelle Stevenson), Gotham Academy #1, Batgirl 35, Young Avengers: Sidekicks
Alex: Interstellar; Haven season 3; the Great Rosetta and Philae saga.
Alisa: We’re not even going to tell you, you have to listen. But it is pretty out there.

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 (http://www.patreon.com/galacticsuburbia) and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Upgrade me now

22591672

What do you do when you have a major heart attack and you’re also creator/sustainer of Clarkesworld? You decide to edit an anthology. Natch. (Read an interview with Neil Clarke here.) And you decide to make the theme of that anthology cyborgs, because you are now one yourself. Thus, Upgraded. 

Now, before you go all ‘hmm, themed anthology’ side-eye on me, just steady on. In some stories, being a cyborg is the point; in others it is incidental. Sometimes being a cyborg is a good thing, a positive addition, welcomed. Others, it is something to be dreaded, confronted, Dealt With. Sometimes being a cyborg makes you better, and sometimes it seems to make you less. Cyborg-ness ranges from fully integrated and augmented body modifications to one seemingly small addition. Augmentation might be for aesthetics, or employment; for someone else’s sake or your own. It ranges from being socially acceptable to being almost beyond the pale.

Some stories happen tomorrow, here; some of them are way over there, temporally and physically. Sometimes there are aliens. Sometimes there are robots. Sometimes they are in love stories, detective stories, war stories, family stories. Not all the cyborgs are attractive characters. Sometimes they become cyborgs before our very eyes, and sometimes they’ve been cyborg so long it’s just what they are. Sometimes they were actually made that way from the start.

These stories feature men, and women, and sometimes genders are unstated. There are white characters and black characters and a variety of ethnicities. One of the central issues is that of disability, dealing with it and changing it and how those around you react to it. There’s queer and straight and none-of-your-business. Authors are from a variety of backgrounds, too.

So sure, it’s a themed anthology. But this is no Drunk Zombie Raccoons in Upstate New York. This is a vibrant, fun, intriguing and varied set of stories that have a basic concept in common.

The stories. Well, let me say upfront that I was so destroyed by Rachel Swirsky’s “Tender” that I had to put the book down and go to sleep. No more reading for me that night. As for the rest, here’s a sampler: Yoon Ha Lee’s “Always the Harvest” is creepy and disconcerting and sets a really great tone for the anthology – it’s the opening story – by being completely unlike any of the others. Ken Liu’s story is also deeply disconcerting because (very mild spoiler here) it is absolutely not the story you think it is. Alex Dally McFarlane does wonderful things with maps, while Peter Watts taps into the zeitgeist to suggest uncomfortable things about the military. And I have a feeling I know something Greg Egan might have read before writing “Seventh Sight” but I’m not going to mention it here because that would be way too much of a spoiler.

This is a really great anthology, with stories that absolutely stand as marvellous science fiction quite apart from their brethren. You can get it from Fishpond!

Galactic Suburbia 109

In which we solemnly swear we will repeat the title of our culture consumed after discussing it. Pinkie promise. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Update on Gamergate with particular focus on Brianna Wu AKA @spacekatgal

(This episode was recorded before the Felicia Day incident)

Alisa’s con report – Conflux
Tansy’s con report – CrimesceneWA

Strange Horizons fundraising

We read and appreciate all your Twitter comments and emails, even if we don’t reply. We love your feedback!

It’s time to start thinking about the GS Award, yes already, WTF 2014 why are you moving so fast?

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Landline, Rainbow Rowell (NB since recording, Alisa actually finished this book YES SHE DID); Night Terrace S1 1- 5

Alex: Sarkeesian’s XOXO talk; Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen); Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond; Indistinguishable from Magic, Catherynne Valente; Bitterwood Bible and other Recountings, Angela Slatter; The Dish.

Tansy: Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan; Night Terrace S1, Agents of SHIELD S1, The Flash S1 Ep 1-2

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 (http://www.patreon.com/galacticsuburbia) and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Fringe spoilerific episode!

Earlier this year I watched the entirety of Fringe – a show that Alisa and Tansy have been raving about around, near and at me for quite a long time. So because I watched it – all of it – in a short period of time, we were finally able to record a Galactic Suburbia spoilerific episode of it. And here it is! 

We spoil absolutely everything. We’re really not joking about that. Only listen if you’ve watched the whole lot, or really don’t mind spoilers.

Indistinguishable from Magic

Sometimes when people talk about an author’s work being ‘raw’, it’s as if they think words just appear on the page and there’s no mediation whatsoever. That these words, ideas, thoughts had been flying across the savannah just minutes before the author brought them down with a flying leap to serve them up still warm for the reader. I’m not silly enough to think that – and even if I were, Catherynne Valente’s excoriating essay against people who think authors are just the conduit for some muse (“she IFMcoverweb-2-200x300wrote it but…”) would have made me rethink my position.

When I say that much of Valente’s work, as presented in Indistinguishable from Magic (provided to Galactic Suburbia for review by Mad Norwegian Press) is raw I mean that she has not hidden her emotions, she has not hidden herself, from the world while writing these essays.

(One presumes. It could all be a very elaborate persona, with a very detailed background and crafted voice. Y’know, I wouldn’t put that past her – she certainly has the mad writerly skillz to accomplish such a feat. And if that’s the case, well, more power to her.)

The essays collected here are variously from Valente’s blog, speeches, and a few other sources. They’re arranged into categories: pop culture and genre; writing and publishing; gender, race, and storytelling; fairy tales, myth and the future; and “Life on Earth: An Amateur’s Guide.” And they showcase the brilliant variety of Valente’s interests passions: Persephone and Doctor Who (… possibly not so much of an antithesis there…), fairy tales, equality in all manner of things, Jane Eyre (see, Tansy? she’s on MY side), poetry, and Single Male Programmer Types managing to have sex (trust me, it’s very a very funny essay).

The pop culture musings range between 2003 and 2011. Valente’s writing is beguiling enough I actually read the entirety of the first essay, which is about Buffy and Angel, despite having watched maybe three episodes of the two shows combined. Her comments on what the show meant to 20-somethings nonetheless resonated – and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the collection. I’m also not a big Trek fan, and have watched very little DS9, but her musings on what the station would have been like with social media? Priceless. More seriously – no, it’s all serious; more academically, her essay on why World War 2 and the Nazis keeps on popping up in comics and other fantastic culture is deeply insightful.

I read about half of the essays on writing and publishing; not being in the game myself means that I don’t really have the emotional attachment to the issues necessary to connect with much of what she writes here. That said, the first essay – the one about writing actually being hard work – is a glorious piece of writing; her explanation of her love of the term metal makes me itch to use the word more; and her utter dismantling of the argument that ‘traditional publishing is dead = a good thing’ is brilliant.

Valente is wonderfully, evocatively, angry and sincere and honest and passionate and conciliatory and clinical in her essays about gender and race and why those things matter in storytelling. “The Story of Us” skewers very neatly the whole ‘but why does it matter?’ complaint – and matches nicely with Pam Noles’ “Shame,” which I read in a Tiptree Anthology. She gets dangerously personal in “Confessions of a Fat Girl” – dangerous to herself, I would guess, because of potential backlash (I really, really hope she didn’t get any); dangerous to some readers because of how it might make some squirm at their reaction; dangerous to other readers because it might just call out their own troubles, and make them confront them.

All the essays up to this point have been easy to read – delightful to read. Some have shown Valente’s academic training. With the essays on fairy tales and folklore, though, she gets her academia on. Katabasis in Alice in WonderlandThe Wizard of Oz, and The Nutcracker? Why fantasy keeps going back to the medieval (“Dragon Bad, Sword Pretty”)? The purpose of Persephone, and her multiple faces? Oh yes.

Finally, the last set are more whimsical as a group – they don’t really have a collective theme, aside from ‘some thoughts on living in the world’. Her reflections on why people love apocalyptic literature are fascinating; her frustration at being of a generation told to live as well as their parents without the means to it revealing; and her reflections on Cleveland surprisingly moving. Her essay on her love of the anchorite idea just sings, as does her discussion of “Two Kinds of Love.”

I read this not quite in a sitting, but with nothing else around it. It certainly works like that. It would also work beautifully as a collection to dip in and out of – none of the pieces are very long, after all. There is so much going for Valente’s writing – for those who are writers, for those interested in fantasy and folklore, for those interested in the world in general. And even if you’ve been a faithful reader of Valente’s blog, Rules for Anchorites, I would suggest this is still a great collection because reading these essays in this order, with essays from elsewhere to add depth and piquancy – it just works.

The Bitterwood Bible

Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter has been on my radar for ages, but somehow I’ve just never got around to reading it. For a while I didn’t realise it was available as an ebook – and Tartarus Press does lovely hard copies, but they’re a leedle expensive for a book you’re taking a chance on. And I also wasn’t sure that these stories were ones that I would really connect with. I mean, yes, I loved “Brisneyland by Night” in Sprawl, and a few others Slatter has written – especially with Lisa L Hannett – and Midnight and Moonshine made me cry with its beauty, but… I just wasn’t sure. And then I found out that Slatter had a set of ‘prequel’ type stories coming out, so I thought I should read those first.

images-3Halfway through reading The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, I finally bought myself Sourdough because there is no way I can now not read that collection. Because I am absolutely an Angela Slatter convert.

The stories collected here are not quite a mosaic in the same way that Midnight and Moonshine are. There, each story was clearly connected – most often by family, which made it seem a generational saga. Here, while there are a couple of stories that feature the same protagonist, a few more with recurring cameos, and most set in the same place or with the same background characters, it’s more like a series of stories set in a couple of distinct suburbs or small towns. Of course you’re going to get the same bars, or neighbourhood characters, or landmarks mentioned; that just makes sense. But the narratives themselves aren’t necessarily connected… although sometimes they are. And these locales that Slatter has invented are very believable. They’re well-realised, and they’re familiar in that fairy-tale sort of way. Because these are indeed a sort of fairy tale. There’s not a whole lot of magic; what there is is generally a quiet, dare I say domestic without it being in the slightest derogatory, magic; no flashiness or gaudiness here, no winning of wars. That would draw too much attention, and drawing attention in these stories is generally A Bad Thing. The women – and the protagonists are almost all women – mostly want to be left alone, to get on with their lives. Sometimes they’re forced to interact with the world, or with other people, that they’d rather not; because they need to achieve some specific goal, or because they’re being manipulated, or they otherwise have no choice. But you certainly get the feeling that most of them would just prefer never to be in the limelight, not to be a household name… not to stand out.

There are scribes and poisoners, seamstresses and pirates, teachers and coffin-makers and servants. They are mothers and daughters and child-free and orphan, young and old and neither; rural and urban, rich and poor. They have varying degrees of agency and control, varying chances of living after and of living happily ever after.

This is a wonderful collection of stories. They can and should be read and enjoyed separately; they can and should be read and enjoyed together, making a whole even greater than its parts. Oh, and Kathleen Jennings’ lovely little illustrations throughout are a delightful addition; I imagine they’re even more impressive in print, but electronically they’re still fine.

This review is part of the Australian Women’s Writers 2014 challenge.

Galactic Suburbia 108

In which we level up in Gamergate, give away Kaleidoscope, and give each other Guardians of the Galaxy mix tapes. You can get us from iTunes or from Galactic Suburbia

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of virtual attacks and physical violence towards women.

Gamergate & Zoe Quinn:

Internet’s Most Hated Person

Charles Tan does a breakdown: Understanding Gamergate.

The word of the day is: doxx

Kaleidoscope ebook giveaway
– contact us via email or social media with a recommendation of a Kaleidoscope-esque YA book or short story in order to enter.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Guardians of the Galaxy, Please Like Me Season 2, Kaleidoscope, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, John Chu “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere” yes finally, shut up.

Alex: Alias season 1; Planet of Exile, Ursula le Guin – and a whole bunch of essays, from Dancing at the Edge of the World and Language of the Night; Landline, Rainbow Rowell; Kaleidoscope; Anita Sarkeesian’s Women vs Tropes in Video Games; Guardians of the Galaxy as well; Radio Lab podcast

Alisa: Rocket Talk – interviews with Kate Elliott and Nora Jemisin; Kameron Hurley; Renay; Podcasts abandoned – This American Life and TED Talks; Frankenstein (Pemberley Digital), Guardians of the Galaxy

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 (http://www.patreon.com/galacticsuburbia) and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

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