Tag Archives: feminism

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!

Galactic Suburbia 107

In which, Alisa and Tansy debrief Alex on their Worldcon adventure: The Ritz, the books, the people, the Hugos, the ribbons, the concrete wasteland, and the jet lag. Get us at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Here are the magic stats from the Hugo Awards.

If you still don’t have your copy of Kaleidoscope, here are some places you can buy it.

Check out the full Ustream footage of the Hugo awards.

Fakecon in all its glory

Tansy’s post-Loncon Jet Lag Links

Alisa’s Debriefs:

1 – Yarn Edition
2 – Dealer’s Room
3 – The Ritz
4 – The Hugos

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!

GoldenEye

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

images-1Summary: in which Bond races a plane to the ground, a tank and a train play chicken, and Bond deals with a space laser. Again. Oh also he gets a new face. Again.

Alex: Now we get into the movies that I know really well. What can I say? I’m absolutely a product of my generation. And what’s fascinating is that this film, and Pierce Brosnan, feels much closer to what I understand as ‘classic’ James Bond – certainly more than the Moores, although perhaps I’m just biased… there’s the martini, the gambling, the cars, Q… a bit of banter but mostly cold-eyed getting-the-job done-ness. I mean, look at that stance (on the right). Doesn’t it just – well, not scream, but state politely and firmly and with a gun in its hand that this man will succeed?

The film opens with perhaps the most dramatic opening ever:

… marred only by the fact that there’s about three different hairstyles on the man involved. Oh well. Then a bit later Bond throws himself off another cliff and chases a plane to the bottom of a ravine and manages to get into the plane before it hits the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s a fundamental lack of understanding of physics implicit in this scene. Oh! And we also saw Sean Bean, as Agent 006 (I don’t think we’ve ever met another oo agent?) get killed! (which just shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.) Although then he turns up as ‘starring’ in the credits – hmm, spoiler much?

Anyway then it’s nine years later, after the boob-filled credits, and Bond is driving fast in a car with a woman – at which point I realised: no woman in the prologue! Amazing!! This woman is meant to be evaluating Bond but instead is all gooey and giggly, and quite put out when Bond starts flirting with a woman in a fast red car who nearly gets them all, and a large peloton of cyclists, killed. This is Xenia Ontatopp, whose name makes even Bond pause, and proceeds to kill her Admiral-boyfriend. We know that she’s going to be bad not so much from the killing but because she’s clearly turned on by inflicting and receiving pain. This is clearly coded as abnormal, and as we know by now, Bond villains are generally abnormal in some way. Also, she goes on to steal a brand new fancy pants helicopter. Bad Xenia, bad!

Meanwhile, in Russia, Natalya the computer programmer is having to deal with sexual harassment from a colleague. Apparently this is funny. (This theme is repeated in an exchange between Bond and the new Moneypenny – back to being M’s secretary – who archly points out to Bond that Unknownhis statement could be seen as sexual harassment and that the punishment is one day having to make good on your insinuations. Way to go scriptwriters, in making sexual harassment at work a sexy sexy thing.) Anyway most everyone is killed pretty soon by Xenia and the space laser – I’m sorry, space-based EMP – called GoldenEye. The EMP is cool but perhaps to most striking thing about this scene is how modern it looks, with its banks of computers. Yes perhaps this dates me – after all they’re all big clunky CRT screens etc – but they’re still on desks, being used by individuals, and there’s a whole bunch of them.

Anyway, because of this event we go back to Britain and get to the best bit of the whole movie: the new M. Hello Dame Judi Dench I love you very much. Seriously the interaction between this M and Bond is the highlight of the entire thing. There’s disparaging discussion about her being a bean counter and then she turns up and is cold, calculating and totally ready to send a man off to die. She’s willing to accept when she’s wrong and she’s willing to do something about it. Also: “if I want sarcasm I’ll talk to my children,” and Bond is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” So tough. So real. So human – “come back alive.”

images-2Eventually it turns out that the helicopter was stolen for Alec – Sean Bean – who’s not dead but is scarred (see? abnormal) and who was always going to use his position to hurt Britain in some way because his parents were Lienz Cossacks, betrayed by the British afterimages WW2. In a botched attempt to kill Bond, Alec introduces him to Natalya – and this picture, on the right, reflects no part of the film whatsoever at any point in time. They end up in Cuba, where they foil Alec’s plans for stealing lots of money and – perhaps more importantly – wiping London’s computer records and sending England “back to the Dark Ages.” Actually Alec, in the not-Dark Ages they had print copies so they would have been fine if you’d used an EMP on them. But I guess your history education is a bit lacking. Anyway, this plot idea is an interesting one – not physical destruction but informational. Also, it reminded me a lot of Die Hard with a Vengeance.

My assessment of the first Brosnan Bond? He looks like Dalton, which is interesting. I think it continues the more violent/’realist’ tendencies of Dalton but is somewhat softer; Brosnan already has more quips than Dalton. M is awesome – did I mention that? On the women issue, Natalya is highly competent as a computer programmer – despite being constantly undervalued by her arrogant “I am inVINCible” co-worker Boris. But Moneypenny is a bit sad, and Xenia chews the scenery like it’s going out of fashion, and Minnie Driver is just bizarre as a Russian gangster’s mistress strangling a cat singing “Stand by your Man.” The explosions are bigger than before, the stunts are incredible, and the chase scenes are fantastic. This is a very enjoyable film.

James: A modern action movie which hasn’t dated as much as I thought it might.  I had never realised how like Dalton Brosnan looked either until this re-watch.  We’re back to the cold war with great classic gadgets, though we see the rise of product placement with the Omega watch foreshadowing Nokia, BMW and others in future Brosnan films.  The portrayal of computer hacking is typical of movies from this era (or full stop?) – the slightly nerdy looking, yet likeable character madly bashes at a keyboard while others look on applying pressure of death or similar and some how when the hack is completed it’s always show in some very cartoonish visualisation rather than they reality of unix terminals and copying files off a system.  Q doesn’t disappoint with gadgets like a pen grenade and we introduce one of my favourite good bad guys Robbie Coltrane playing Valentine a Russian mobster.  The finale of the movie is magnificent set against the background of Arecibo’s 305m radio telescope dish built into a volcanic crater in Puerto Rico (and it really is).  It’s like a less rubbish version of the finale from You Only Live Twice in Japan.  3.5 Martinis.

The Tiptree Award Anthology vol 3

UnknownI just love these anthologies. I love what it showcases – the diversity of what the different Tiptree panels have judged as falling into the category of ‘exploring and expanding gender,’ which is the remit of the Tiptree Award each year. I love that it shows diversity within the genre, full stop. I love that the anthologies don’t just have fiction, and don’t just have fiction from one or two years, but that there’s non-fiction and older works as well. And that the introduction and sometimes the introduction to each piece are interrogating themselves, the pieces, and the scene in general.

There’s a lot to love.

I’ve had this volume waiting to be read for aaaages. I thought it appropriate to read as I rode public transport on my way to interviewing Rosaleen Love – what I’ve read of her work fits into the broader milieu of the works represented here. As I read, I couldn’t believe that I’d allowed myself to leave this book festering on the shelf for so long.

The non-fiction includes an essay of Pam Noles’, called “Shame,” which struck me very deeply: about the experience of watching and reading science fiction as a person of colour, and not seeing yourself. Her dad sounds awesome: he called the movies she was watching “Escape to a White Planet,” and “Mars Kills the White People.” There’s an enormous amount in this essay that I, as a privileged white reader (gender does not trump race – it’s not a competition) probably need to read it again. Several times. And that the editors paired it with Dorothy Allison’s essay on Octavia Butler was very nice – the latter doesn’t talk all that much about race, more about Butler’s vision of women in the future, but the two are surely entwined… perhaps not especially in Butler, but certainly in Butler. And then there’s a letter from L Timmel Duchamp to Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr, which is a lovely musing on what Sheldon/Tiptree as person and as author has meant to one individual.

Geoff Ryman looks at some possible consequences of the internet arriving in an out of the way village; Nalo Hopkinson goes domestic, sinister and mythological all in one hit; Margo Lanagan does weird weird things that I’m still figuring out in “Wooden Bride” – the story that, I think, gets the shortest introduction of all, since “some stories shouldn’t be introduced” and doesn’t that just describe all of Lanagan’s work? Aimee Bender’s “Dearth” is a devastating, heart warming, bewildering story about maternity and mothering… and I’ve just realised the protagonist is never named. And isn’t that a statement in itself. All of the stories so far were new to me, and Bender was a new name. And then it gave me Ursula Le Guin’s “Mountain Ways,” one of my favourites of her short stories. I can’t possibly pick a favourite story, because that would mean choosing between Le Guin and Ted Chiang: “Liking what you see: A Documentary” is another of his glorious mucking-with-structure stories in which the question about whether you should turn off the ability to see/appreciate beauty is presented as if as a transcribed documentary. And the fact that there are no visuals to accompany this story about visuals just adds to its power and general gloriousness. And for the editors to pair this with Tiptree’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” – well, I’ll admit that I did not reread the Tiptree. It was just going to be too raw an experience. So too was “Litte Faces,” by Vonda McIntyre, but I didn’t know that before going in. Deeply disturbing and weird (but not entirely in an unpleasant way), as well as powerful and impressive – and so very different. So, too, the final story – different that is, slightly less weird and disturbing – is “Knapsack Poems,” from Eleanor Arnason. She uses a character who is effectively distributed over eight bodies to tell a story of travel and experience, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. I’m not sure the similarities are much more than superficial, but they’re intriguing anyway.

This anthology works as something read from cover to cover in a sitting or two; it could be dipped into over months; it could be hopscotched. It should be read in any way you can.

Noah

I watched Noah last week with some friends from church. We weren’t expecting A Beautiful Mind, but I would have been happy with Gladiator.

I did not get Gladiator.

I wasn’t expecting it to be completely true to the biblical account.

Which is good, because there were some remarkably true-to-Bible bits (Noah does indeed get drunk and found by his sons in the nud)… but then there were weird magical type bits, too. Like Methuselah making a barren girl fecund, and a snake skin having maybe magical powers? Also, no UnknownGod. Rusty sometimes implored the clouds, and they talk about the Creator, but God never interacts.Unknown-1

I did not expect quite as much angsty Rusty, but I definitely got it; and I really didn’t expect such weird and dramatic hair, and hair changes, as I got. I also didn’t expect the film to be having an identity crisis about whether it was a BC Fantasy film, or a post-apocalyptic SF film. It had occasional moment of both.

The creators (heh) kept the basic story… which you’d kinda expect if you want to have even credence as a Noah story. So people have got bad and Noah has a dream (change) wherein he realises humanity will be wiped off the earth via a flood, and he builds an ark to save the animals and a few people – his family – coincidentally. The animals come in two by two (ish), there’s a dove brings notice of land being back, and oh yes, Noah gets drunk afterwards.

For the changes, though… the biggest one is the change to Noah’s family. Japheth is a child when they board the ark, and Ham does not have a wife or girlfriend or any prospect of one. Shem has Ila (Emma Watson), but she’s barren (or so Noah believes), so there is no chance for continuing humanity – and that’s a good thing because Noah comes to be convinced the humans need to be wiped off the planet, which is very convenient since he hasn’t managed to get ladeez for his lads anyways. When he discovers Ila’s pregnancy, he proclaims his intention to kill the child if it’s a daughter, because that would allow the race to continue. OH THE DRAHMAH. Then Ila gives birth to twin girls, and Noah finds – after oh such a high tension moment – that he can’t kill them. So now humanity is going to continue because CLEARLY Japheth and Ham will procreate with their much younger nieces EW EW. (Oh, did I forget to mention there are spoilers here?)

I guess I understand wanting to add family tension in to the story, but surely there are better ways than this. Even the tired old ‘sisters-in-law not getting along’ would have been better than this – and that’s saying something.

images Let’s stop and think about the women for a moment. Jennifer Connelly is a great with a rubbish script… although I don’t think her name is ever actually used (apparently she’s Naameh). There is at least one point at which it looks like she’s wearing a very finely woven garment, though, while everyone else is getting around in very natty leathers (Noah appears in what is almost a leather/rags suit towards the end), which is a bit weird and one of those which time period is this? moments. Her character is mostly the supportive-wife type – and since that’s biblically accurate, I suppose (she doesn’t get much airplay there), I guess it’s nice they gave her anything to do. She’s fierce in defence of Ila. And Ila – again, I think Watson does well with a rubbish script. She has quite a lot of agency, for a movie of this sort – she Unknown-2speaks without first being spoken to, she’s noble, she’s fiercely protective of her children and defiant as well. But this is all within the rubbishness of the script. There’s one other named woman, who appears for about five minutes – Na’el, I believe – whom Ham meets when he goes off to find himself a bride. They chat, she seems ok, they head back to the ark… and then she gets trampled to death when her leg is caught in a bear trap (this was another what the hell time period is this set in? moment), and Noah refuses to help. Which is about as bad as it gets for all the unnamed women in the camp of the Evil Mens who are planning to storm the ark when it’s time. Their fate is not explicitly shown, but there’s lots of screaming.

There’s a lot else to be said about this film but I’m not sure I have the energy required to take down the ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY MINUTES in their entirety. The CGI/green screening was… actually some of it was really good – some of the animals were exceptionally lifelike. But overall it just felt so incredibly fake it was difficult to care. Also, they made the ark basically brick shaped. Also also, Anthony Hopkins are you so hard up for cash this was a necessary career choice? Fella, go on Patreon – I’m sure you’ll get lots of supporters and you’ll never need to think about this again. images

And then there are the Watchers. Who are kind of rock Ents, and kind of Transformers I guess, and kind of that turtle-mountain thing from Neverending Story, and kind of just really really weird. Because they’re fallen angels, see: they fell to earth to help Adam and Eve when they were kicked out of the Garden, and then their fiery essence was encased in rock? Or something? They end up helping Noah because he’s in the direct line of descent from Seth, and because he’s on a mission from God (it HAD to be said). They are, hands down, the WEIRDEST part of the entire film.

I will never get back those minutes. I am more glad than I can say that I spent them with friends, and not alone with the film; and it did involve tea and the last of last year’s mince pies, so I guess it wasn’t a complete loss. I guess.

Alexandra Kollontai

Cranky Ladies logoThis post is was meant to be written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour

… But I didn’t get there, which is all sorts of tragic and sad, because this lady is outrageously and fabulously fantastic. So, in brief, because I can’t stand to have this post sitting in my head and not share it:

If a memoir was published as “The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Woman” in 2014, there would be, I think, three possibilities: it’s ironic, and actually about the difficulties of sex & the city; it’s the story of a woman from [insert stereotypically sexually-repressed religious group] discovering sex; it’s a woman who’s been living under a rock and missed the last fifty years of women and sexuality.

However… use that as your title in 1926? That makes you a seriously Cranky Lady. So does being centrally involved in a political revolution and then being the sole woman in a political administration.

Alexandra Kollontai was a firm believer in Marxist ideology, and its commitment to bettering the world via bettering the place of the proletariat. A Russian, she joined the Social Democratic Labour Party in 1899, but didn’t follow either the Mensheviks or the Bolsheviks when the party split in 1903. She did eventually join the Bolsheviks in 1915, and was appointed Commissar for Social Welfare in the new Bolshevik administration after October 1917. From about 1920 on, she began to have some problems with the directions being taken by Lenin and his closest allies. Rather than sitting back, Kollontai helped to form the Workers’ Opposition. Yes, she formed a group within the young Communist Russia that could be seen as directly opposing Lenin. How many others can claim that? Sadly, Lenin managed to close them down, and from this point Kollontai started getting pushed out. And she was even less welcome by Stalin, who got rid of her by sending her out of the country. But this wasn’t exile, and there was no ice-pick to the head (oh Trotsky); instead, she was invested as the USSR ambassador to Norway, then Mexico, then Sweden.

She was the first female ambassador not of Russia, but in the world.*

World’s first female ambassador. In 1923. As a way of getting rid of her. Lady, you are awesome. Stalin, you are… a bit of a dope.

Of course, it wasn’t just Kollontai’s political politics that some people had a problem with. It was her social politics that really stirred things up. Marxist and feminist theory have worked together in understanding the marginal place of women in the home as being a similar thing to the class problems of the proletariat: Engels suggested that women’s subordinate place in the home was part of the capitalist machinery. And Kollontai ran with this. And – note the autobiography’s title – she believed that this applied to sexual relationships as well. Some people got all antsy about her being all free-lovin’ and so on, but I don’t think she was a proto-hippy. I think she was in favour of monogamy, but not as a way of tying women down. As a partnership of equals.

Alexandra Kollontai is an aspect of the Russian Revolution that too often gets overlooked – as does what she and other women achieved for women in general. I understand that the legislative changes don’t make up for the lived horrors of those first few years, but when we ignore them (like when we ignore the radical changes to divorce laws in the French Revolution, in favour of concentrating on the Terror), we’re ignoring a significant part of history – and attempts to change the world should be regarded seriously, even if they get overshadowed by famine and war.

 

*Her Wikipedia page, which is wickedly short on details, calls her the first ambassador of modern times, stating Catherine of Aragon was briefly an ambassador to England before her marriage.

The Sapphire Rose

UnknownEDDINGS RE-READ: The Sapphire Rose, BOOK THREE OF THE ELENIUM

Because we just don’t have enough to do, Alex, Joanne and I have decided to re-read The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies by David (and Leigh) Eddings, and – partly to justify that, partly because it’s fun to compare notes – we’re blogging a conversation about each book. We respond to each other in the post itself, but you can find Tehani’s post over here and Jo’s post here if you’d like to read the conversation going on in the comments. Also, there are spoilers!

ALEX:
Almost the very first page of this book has an Author’s Note, which says that the wife wants to write the dedication. And “since she’s responsible for much of the work,” he’s going to let her. Why don’t you just acknowledge the co-authorship, DUDE?

JO:
I don’t see the ‘David Eddings’ on the covers any more. In my mind, it’s ‘David and Leigh’ :)

TEHANI:
Of course, when I first read these I had no idea, but since finding out, it’s been an annoyance every time I picked up one of the books.

Also, I think this is the first of the books where we see a really intrusive breaking of the fourth wall by the author/s? For example:
The appearance of the detachment at the gate was, in Preceptor – ah, shall we say instead Patriarch – Darellon’s words, disgraceful. (p. 155 of my version).

ALEX:
The descriptions of Ehlana, who gets cured of the poison in this book, are beyond horrid. There’s “overpowering femininity,” and women being “notoriously adept” at recognising things like a ring being an engagement ring (did I miss that seminar? How DO you tell that a ring is an engagement ring? How do I know whether I’ve been stooged?). Ehlana is unbearable smug about “netting” Sparhawk. I will admit that the point about wavering between wanting to flaunt her “womanly attributes” and wanting to hide them is fair – and even perceptive – but it’s surrounded by so much URGH. And I’d like to say that I, for one, am glad that Sparhawk tried to get out of their marriage. I know that 17 years’ difference doesn’t HAVE to be a barrier, but there is SUCH a difference between the two of them.

TEHANI:
By the end of this book, I was starting to get an uncomfortable feeling about the number of very young girls who become obsessed with older men. And Aphrael’s manipulation with kisses is most disturbing!

JO:
Oh yes that’s definitely a thing in these books.

ALEX:
urgh.

JO:
And we meet Mirtai! Isn’t she an interesting character? Super-strong, super-warrior who is quite happy to be a slave. In fact, she insists on it.

TEHANI:
Mirtai is such a contradiction! Not always deliberately on the author’s part, I think… This bit really got up my nose on this reread though:
Mirtai’s skin had a peculiarly exotic bronze tinge to it, and her braided hair was glossy black. In a woman of normal size, her features would have been considered beautiful, and her dark eyes, slightly upturned at the corners, ravishing. Mirtai, however, was not of normal size. (p. 324 of my version)
SO. MUCH. WRONG. To begin, what the heck is “normal size”? And the “exotic” bronze tinge of skin and “slightly upturned eyes”? ARGH!

JO:
I should probably leave this discussion for Domes of Fire, because there’s not much Mirtai in The Sapphire Rose.

ALEX:
Jo – indeed – but yes, that exoticising is repellant. And the whole ‘normal size’ thing makes me cross-eyed.

In the last book there was the issue of being ‘misshapen’. I couldn’t help but notice that in this one, when the Pandions are being domineering of the Elenian council, there’s the pederast Baron and Lenda and “the fat man”. Does the fat man ever get named? Fat isn’t entirely an evil thing like deformity is, in these books – Platime is fat but approaches genius-ness on the council, Patriarch Emban is very clever, and both of them are good – but it’s still always mentioned. There’s barely a reference to Emban without mention of his belly. And he uses that sometimes – to defuse tension, for instance – but I’m still not entirely comfortable with it.

TEHANI:
That’s interesting though, because both Platime and Emban are important, good characters – not presented as useless or bad people, and so I guess I read that as subverting the trope? Although there is Otha…

JO:
Even though Platime and Emban are good and important characters, their ‘fatness’ is mentioned a lot. Like it’s a personality trait.

TEHANI:
Very true.

ALEX:
Speaking of the council, I would like to declare my sympathy for Lycheas. He’s a dimwit and a pawn, but surely he deserves sympathy.

TEHANI:
Oh, I disagree! He’s not very bright and he’s been led astray I accept, but I think he knew he was doing wrong, and there were times he could have chosen another path. He was as hungry for power as the rest of them!

ALEX:
Hmm. Perhaps. How much choice did he have with a mother like that probably poisoning him from the start? (If we accept the premise of the story.) … oh wait, does that shoot my theory down, at least somewhat, given that is probably exactly the reason why he’s hungry for power? Dang.

JO:
I think the Eddings set him up to be disliked, and he simply has no say in the matter. He’s always portrayed as snivelling and pathetic and stupid. He may or may not be hungry for power, it doesn’t matter. He’s there to be a lesser baddy that everyone can look down on and routinely threaten to kill.

ALEX:
You’re saying he’s just a narrative device? SAY IT AINT SO.

A rather chilling part of this novel is the utter lack of regard for the civilians in Chyrellos, during the siege. It was really quite unpleasant reading.

JO:
I find the siege so boring I have to say that never really bothered me. The scene that does stick in my mind is when Sparhawk and an unnamed soldier witness a woman dragged into an alley and quite obviously raped (though thankfully off camera). The soldier, crying because she ‘could have been his sister’ shoots the rapist. But then the woman staggers out of the alley, sees her not-quite-dead rapist, takes his dagger and violently finishes the job and steals his loot. The soldier ‘retches’ and Sparhawk says “Nobody’s very civilised in those circumstances”.

This scene was always a WTF moment for me. When you consider Sparhawk’s career, what about her actions make them ‘uncivilised’, exactly? He does much worse things to people and is rewarded for them! Is it because she’s a woman? Or because she’s not a Church Knight and it’s okay when they do it. Or because she took the loot? I mean, seriously…?

ALEX:
Yes!! This!! I was so ANGRY at that reaction from the men – who are safe on so many levels from this sort of thing – getting all uppity about her taking revenge. I don’t like her doing it either, but I don’t like the initial rape even more.

I cried at Kurik’s funeral. Not at his death – that all happened too fast, I think – but when I got to the funeral…well, I was glad to be by myself. However, I am still suspicious of the idea of Aslade being quite so accommodating of Elys.

JO:
Kurik *sniff* :(

TEHANI:
And you know, none of that business really makes sense. Kurik is portrayed as steadfast, loyal, moral and really quite upright (even uptight?), so the fact he cheated on Aslade (and their four sons, essentially) is, well, just a bit weird. It was a useful way to have Talen important to the group, I guess, but the character path is very odd.

ALEX:
YES. Also it makes adultery completely fine, which… I know there are other ways of doing relationships than ‘conventional’ monogamy, etc etc, but not within THIS world’s framework – everyone else who does that is regarded severely. Whereas Sparhawk etc are all, “dude, no worries! Everyone sleeps around sometime, the wimmens is so attractive we can’t help it!”

JO:
YES from me too. Never felt right to me for exactly those reasons.

TEHANI:
I do like the way the Kurik’s sons talk about their “mothers” in the later books though. That said, remembering I read the Tamuli trilogy first, I was quite certain Aslade and Elys had been both married to Kurik, the way they are referred to there!

JO:
Heh yes. I can imagine. Although I was always proud of Aslade and Elys for being able to put aside their potential conflict and just get on with life. So often the relationships between women are portrayed as bitchy, jealous, spiteful things. And usually its over the attention of a man. So I appreciate that they went down the opposite path.

Actually, in the Tamuli there are a lot more examples of strong female friendship too.

TEHANI:
Some more perpetuation of stereotypes here, too. In this case, the temper of the red-head:
In Delada’s case all the cliches about red-haired people seemed to apply. (p. 282 of my version).

JO:
Yeah I thought they got a little carried away with that!

TEHANI:
And what the heck is this bit of elitism? Stragen says, Whores and thieves aren’t really very stimulating companions… (p. 410 of my version). Um, well Talen and Platime AND HIMSELF are thieves and all presented as quite stimulating! The whores get a poorer presentation, but still!

ALEX:
That bit also made me very cranky. Again with the superior attitude.

TEHANI:
And this awful bit of Ehlana characterisation:
“Would you all mind too terribly much?” Ehlana asked them in a little-girl sort of voice.
YUCK! The woman is a queen, and fully in command of herself and the power she wields, yet she resorts to that (for no reason, anyway!)?! No! We talked a bit about this in one of the earlier reviews, how the women themselves are supposed to be powerful, and there are quite a lot of them, which is nice, but the actual presentation of them really undermines this at times.

JO:
Yes! This is what’s been irritating me the whole time, and it only gets worse as the series goes on. Doesn’t matter how strong a woman is, she still resorts to hissy fits and theatrics or childishness to either get what she wants, or basically keep control of the ‘relationship’. Even Sephrenia does it in the later books! It just feels to me like the books believe that deep down, women are irrational children. OR that they will resort to acting like them as a way of keeping their men in line.

JO:
Am I the only one who finds Ehlana’s speech to the council a little…difficult to believe. All these supposedly hardened politicians/Patriarchs completely suckered in by her ‘divinely inspired’ speech? Just because she’s pretty, or something? And because she ‘fainted’?

TEHANI:
I have such a different view of the Patriarchs to you! I always read ANY of those political gatherings as being a bunch of little boys just grabbing for power, none of the “hardened” politicians at all! In fact, Eddings seems to have very little respect for political systems at all. They’re all corrupt or useless!

ALEX:
I don’t think they’re MEANT to look like that, but they sometimes do – and it’s another thing that annoys me about the Eddings portrayal of religion, because it’s JUST another instance of politics and again there’s so much uselessness and cunning and unpleasantness. Also, Ehlana manipulates them, and I think it manages to make her look silly – conniving and dangerous with the using feminine things in dangerous ways – AND it makes the Patriarchs look silly for falling for such obvious, feminine strategies. Way to go for insulting two groups there!

JO:
Last time I said that I found The Ruby Knight a lot faster-paced and more enjoyable than I remembered. I have to say the opposite for The Sapphire Rose. Oh god I was so sick of the siege by the time it ended, and it seemed to take forever to get to Zemoch. It felt like so much padding. Just destroy Azash already!

TEHANI:
Some excellent examples of Faran the human horse again:
Faran made a special point of grinding his steel-shod hooves into a number of very sensitive places on the officer’s body.
“Feel better now?” Sparhawk asked his horse.
Faran nickered wickedly. (p. 155 my version)

JO:
I could summarise the plot again but you probably don’t want me to do that this time!

They cure Ehlana. She’s all grown up now and in love with Sparhawk. They ‘accidently’ get engaged. Off to Chyrellos to stop Annias being elected Archprelate. There’s a siege which goes on forever. Then Wargun and Ehlana turn up and the siege is over. Ehlana and Sparhawk get married. They go to Zemoch with Bhelloim to kill Azash. It takes forever. They get to Zemoch. Kurik dies. Martel dies. Otha and Annias die. Azash dies. Lycheas dies. Arissa kills herself. They return to Cimmura. Everything’s peaceful, but kinda crappy, because the gods are shell-shocked by Azash’s death. Danae happens. Eventually, Aphrael and everyone go on holidays and spring returns.

ALEX:
Nice work there, Jo. I would add: Sparhawk and Ehlana get married in the same way that a person might buy a horse; Martel dies but everyone’s real sad, because actually he was decent and just led astray, y’know? And “Danae happens” means that a goddess is incarnate in a different racial family and that’s really kinda cool.

JO:
Heh, that’s awesome.

TEHANI:
Well, we’ve picked a lot of nits in the Elenium books, but final verdict on the first three? For me, I have to admit I still thoroughly enjoyed reading them, with grins and tears throughout, and the comfy blanket feeling of an old favourite that still (mostly) holds up. Although there were definitely a lot more grimaces at the rough patches than when I was younger!

ALEX:
I think I feel basically the same as you, Tehani. It really is a warm comfy blanket… with moth holes and a few scratchy bits… but a lot of love and memories holding it together.

JO:
Couldn’t agree more! I might snipe at them, but I still love these books and rereading them has been thoroughly comforting. It also reminds me what I love about reading and writing in the first place. It’s just so much fun!

Galactic Suburbia 105!

drowned vanilla coverThis episode of Galactic Suburbia is brought to you by the flavour vanilla and the colour of fairytales. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

News

Drowned Vanilla Cover reveal – order the book at the publisher’s site.

Tansy’s Drowned Vanilla Pinterest board

Wiscon Update

Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot is on again.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Go Bayside (April Richardson); Breaking Bubbles; Dimetrodon, the Doubleclicks; First 3 Harry Potter movies, The Prisoner of Azkaban

Alisa: Squaresville; The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet; What book will she discard?

Alex: The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies, David Eddings; Snowpiercer; Reality Dysfunction, Peter F Hamilton; Extant

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!

A View to a Kill

MV5BMTMwMTYzOTIwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODY5MDg0NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.Unknown

Summary: in which microchips are a thing, and so are horse-breeding and earthquakes; Christopher Walken and Grace Jones are A Thing; and Roger Moore is really quite old. But that’s ok, because this is his last Bond!!

Alex:  last Moore last Moore last Moore…

This is the first (only?) Bond to start with a legal disclaimer. Weird! But it turns out that when they named the villain’s company Zorin – which, among other things, makes microchips – they creators didn’t realise that there was already a company in existence called Zoran which, among other things, makes microchips. How on EARTH does something like that get past the people in charge? Or the researchers?

Anyway, the microchip appears set to be at the heart of the story when that’s what Bond retrieves in the Siberian snow in the prologue (which is a relatively good chase scene, until it turns out that his iceberg hidey-hole is actually a submarine complete with blonde and cocktails). This particular chip has somehow been manufactured to be resistant to the EMP of a nuclear bomb – clearly a useful advantage if you’re worried about nasty commie retaliatory or preemptive strikes. But then it’s discovered that the commies have this tech too! So we need to go investigate the producer of the chips.

Which leads to the racetrack, and Moneypenny wearing an appalling dress. Zorin’s horse comes first out of nowhere, which leads to Bond visiting the stud farm (oh gahd the possible jokes, most of which are avoided). It turns out the horse what won had a microchip in its leg which released a hormone when activated.

… all of this stuff about the usefulness of microchips is actually build-up for the fact that Zorin is put out about Silicon Valley producing way more than he does, so he’s got a Cunning Plan: destroy Silicon Valley. Buy the factories out? Use poisonous gas? Direct a space-controlled laser on to them? Goodness no! He’s going to instigate an earthquake in both faults that run alongside the Valley, which will destroy it and leave it flooded. Of course! And then the rest of the film is about how Bond finds that out and how he Foils the Dastardly Plan.

Is it obvious that I am so over Moore?

Moore: is old. Seriously. Um, what else… the scene where he drives a Citroen taxi, badly, through Paris is about the most forgettable Bond chase sequence ever, even though he’s chasing Grace Jones with a parachute. And he’s shown, yet again, to be unbearably Good At Everything when he’s able to ride the unrideable horse, over the unrideable steeplechase course. He has a moment of not sleeping with the cute young blonde woman – which was refreshing – but it doesn’t last. images

The villain: Christopher Walken chews scenery. Once again we have an ‘abnormal’ villain: this time it’s revealed that he is (almost certainly) the product of a Nazi experiment, where pregnant women were injected with steroids. images-1And the doctor in charge is the same doctor responsible for dosing his horses, which just… ew. Weird. Zorin is also a KGB agent, at least in theory – he has a chat with General Gogol, played by the same actor as always, about having decided to ditch them and go his own way now, thanks. In case we were in any doubt about his villainy, Zorin’s headquarters a lot of the time are on an airship. Most intriguingly about Walken’s character is his relationship with Grace Jones: Mayday.

Mayday: It’s unclear early on whether they’re an item or she is just his bodyguard; they kiss after sparring, but then he allows he to go sleep with Bond (when he’s put himself in her bed, to avoid being found out as wandering the chateau). At the end, though, Mayday helps Bond because Zorin has left her for dead in a flooded mine – she shrieks: “I thought that creep loved me!” and then she sacrifices herself for Bond, after making him promise to “get Zorin for me.” Grace Jones is the best bit about this film. She is tough and competent, she has outrageous costumes (including that most 80s of outfits, a g-string leotard – and a look on her face that says “go on, I dare you, make a comment about my black butt”).

Women: well, there’s Mayday. … And a random Soviet agent, working for Gogol, with whom Bond has already had a relationship and with whom he ends up in a hot tub…  and there’s Stacey, the geologist (who seems to be a precursor for Denise Richards as nuclear physicist, but maybe I’m just scarred by that. Stacey is not nearly as bad as Christmas). Bond first tries to chat her up at Zorin’s stud but it doesn’t work (again with the possible innuendo that doesn’t get exploited! It seems like the writers were actually calming the heck down!). He meets here again in America, where it turns out she hates Zorin because he took over her oil company (inherited from her father, but totally still her thing) in a highly dubious manner. He rescues her, and ends up sleeping in a chair – thank goodness. Then there’s discussion of geology and nearly getting burned alive, a truly appalling chase scene with Bond then Stacey driving a firetruck, and the Golden Gate Bridge scene where she’s hanging from a girder and he’s fighting Zorin, after she got kidnapped on an airship. Only THEN do they get it on.

Race: the American CIA agent who connects with Bond is Chinese-American. Sadly, we’re back to PoC-sidekick-dying territory. And while I quite liked him, I was sad it wasn’t Felix Leiter. Plus of course the Walken/Jones couple – there’s no mention of race in any discussion of Mayday, as far as I noticed. Bond films never seem to have a problem with mixed race couples, which is admirable.

Finally, I have to share this photo:

dolph2That, my friends, is Dolph Lundgren, on the set of his first movie: A View to a Kill.

James: Jumping off the Eiffel Tower. Saggy old Bond.  I struggled to get excited about the last of the awful Moore Bonds… bring on the new era.  1 Martini.

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