Courtney Milan and romances

I was one of those girls – women – who was pretty down on romance as a genre. There are lots of complicated reasons for this. Partly it was a woman thing; I wanted to not be that sort of woman (what sort? I don’t know. I guess I associated liking romances with weakness or something?). Partly it was a genre thing: over here in the disregarded spec fic corner, it’s nice to disregard someone else.

But of course this was always both a) a completely stupid attitude for a multitude of reasons and b) hypocritical. Because I do like reading romances in the stories I’m reading.

tdw-small.jpgI think I’ve finally figured out what doesn’t usually appeal: romances that exist purely by themselves. I’m certainly not saying that they are bad or stupid, but that as a rule they don’t appeal to me (like I don’t love vampire stories as a rule, although I do enjoy the Blade films). What helped me finally articulate this is having read three of Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series. (There is a fourth but I don’t plan to read it, partly because the main character doesn’t appeal and partly for Historical Snobbish reasons.) This is mostly because of Tansy.

the-small.jpgThese are Victorian romances, which means Milan gets to take advantage of some of the interesting social and political and scientific changes happening in the mid-19th century in England (and across Europe). The main point is always about a girl and a boy and how of course they ought to be together but there are all of these problems that might prevent their happiness: scandals in the past, problems in the present, nasty people, social expectations, etc. Some of these relationship problems ring a bit more true than others: I didn’t find Minnie’s ‘scandal’, in the first book, all that convincing, while the problems of the third book were magnificent. Overall, though, the characters are treated sympathetically and the problems carefully – no one of consequence dismisses anyone’s fears without regard, which I found quite a relief. I especially liked that both female and male protagonists get to tell the narrative from their point of view, making the stories much more rounded and feel more genuine than might otherwise be the case.

tcc-small.jpgAnd around these relationship issues are the social and political themes that Milan uses to flesh out the world. In the first book it’s class relationships and working conditions and rape and marrying for money. In the second book it’s about race and political representation and social expectations and marrying for money and child guardianship and medical ethics and mental health. In the third it’s mostly about science (oh my, seduction by science I LOVED it) and gender expectations. Some of these issues play into the romance, and some of these issues are things that the characters are dealing with quite apart from their romance because of course life exists outside of does-she-love-me and Milan knows that very well. Milan is presenting complex and complicated individuals and worlds.

Of course, this is all within a fairly constrained society: the focus is on the wealthy, with a few not-nobles thrown in (not just as window-dressing but still, they have to meet the expectations of the Haves), almost everyone is white, and so on. There’s a lot of pretty dresses and balls and large houses. But… that’s the sort of book that Milan is writing. A romance set in the middle-class or working-class echelons would be very different and deal with different issues. And wouldn’t have the foofy dresses, which are – as you can see from the covers – important to the story.

I am not going to start reading nothing but romances (historical or otherwise), because I am still mostly interested in space ships and explosions and the odd dragon, and there are so MANY of those I haven’t read yet. But I am very glad I have grown up enough to acknowledge Old Me’s appalling attitude, and I’m very glad to have read and enjoyed these books.

Galactic Suburbia 152

In which Alisa & Tansy are left unsupervised to read feedback, give you the lowdown on the Brangelina break up and discuss how Hillary Clinton and Harley Quinn both have to put up with the same ridiculous gender double standards. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia

Relevant links:

Garth Nix on Aboriginal stories

The Cost of Building the Death Star

Brangelina is Dead, Long Live Angelina (on Jolie’s handling of the media narrative built around her and her family)

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!

FarScape rewatch: s1, e15

Farscape rewatch

Each week on a Sunday afternoon, join Alex (of Randomly Yours, Alex) and Katharine (of the unpronounceable Ventureadlaxre), as they re-watch the Australian-American sci-fi show Farscape, notable for the Jim Henson animatronic puppets, the excellent mish-mash of accents, and the best OTP ship of all time.

Season One, Episode Fifteen: Durka Returns

Rygel’s past comes back to haunt him one more time, as the rest of the crew try to deal with both this as well as Moya’s continuing pregnancy.

K: As we join our brave heroes, Moya is still suffering through her pregnancy. Pilot is getting snippy on Moya’s behalf as their crew complain a little.

A: Turbulence, starburst, and a ship…

K: They starburst, and crash into an unsuspecting ship which Pilot brings on board, as the crash disabled them. And Lucius Malfoy arrives. And with him is an old friend of Rygel…

A: I like that Pilot is completely doing his own thing – bringing the other ship on board – without checking with anyone.

Another Rygel-heavy ep? Aw man.

K: Even Aeryn is a little shaken by the events.

A: AHAHA it’s Dennis Denuto from The Castle as Salis! Continue reading →

Galactic Suburbia 151

In which we consume culture and take names! get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia. 

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?

Tansy’s novel Musketeer Space is half price this week on Kindle (and in other ebook stores)! Price goes back to normal on Wednesday.

CULTURE CONSUMED

Alisa: Vaginal Fantasy; Crosstalk, Connie Willis

Alex: Revenger, Alastair Reynolds; Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer; Stealing Snow, Danielle Paige – abandoned!; The Silk Roads, a New History of the World, Peter Frankopan

Tansy: Superior, Jessica Lack; Fangirl Happy Hour on Ghostbusters: Eps 49, 50 & 52

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!

Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle

18668150.jpgI was predisposed to liking this, of course, being a big Girl Genius fan from a number of years back. I don’t know whether I like the graphic novel or the written novel more; they’re obviously quite different media. I’m still not very good at reading graphic novels, despite a bit of practise – I’m not great at reading pictures.

Anyway, I already knew the story going in although there were a few twists that I had forgotten, which was nice. It’s still an amusing story with Agatha finding her feet as a Spark and as the Heterodyne; I like the relationships with Zeetha and Gil and Tarvek. Something this series has always done well is the secondary and supporting characters – frequently over the top but always enjoyable. I adore the Castle and its quirks – it’s a really nice way of illuminating the Heterodynes as a family, and of course adding some amusing danger along the way.

images.jpegOne curious and disappointing thing is the cover of this book. It looks like a page from one of the graphic novels, with one big difference. In the graphic novels, Agatha is buxom and curvaceous. But not on that cover. She’s verging on slender, which is really not Agatha. Bit disappointing really.

FarScape rewatch: s1, e14

Farscape rewatch

Each week on a Sunday afternoon, join Alex (of Randomly Yours, Alex) and Katharine (of the unpronounceable Ventureadlaxre), as they re-watch the Australian-American sci-fi show Farscape, notable for the Jim Henson animatronic puppets, the excellent mish-mash of accents, and the best OTP ship of all time.

Season One, Episode Fourteen: Jeremiah Crichton

Crichton accidentally gets abandoned and Rygel features a bit too much.

K: Once again, John is being snappy and inconsiderate of others.

A: It can’t be easy losing some of his connection to Earth – no more fuel. Nonetheless, being mean to Zhaan is inexcusable.

K: Must be pretty cool to be able to fly out into space instead of just going for a walk around the block, though. Continue reading →

Crossroads of Canopy

Unknown.jpegThis book was sent to me by the author at no cost. She’s a friend: I have blown detergent bubbles with her Small One at Ditmar awards ceremonies and watched them burst on someone’s expensive suit. So it’s a very good thing that I really enjoyed this, because it would just have been awkward otherwise.

This is her debut novel, and it’s coming from Tor in January 2017 (the hardcover will be USD$25.99, which will be who knows how much in actual AUD by that stage).

So yes, I enjoyed it. I would absolutely have enjoyed it without any knowledge of the author, too, so I have no hesitation in recommending it. The characters are compelling, the world is fascinating, the narrative moves at a good clip while leaving breathing space for characterisation, important issues are touched on. I don’t know what else you might want… I mean, there’s no dragons or unicorns, but you can’t have everything… .

This is a forest world (… what we know of it…) where the trees must be many hundreds of metres high. Our protagonist, Unar, is born to Canopy – the most privileged section of the forest, being the closest to the sun. She is not born to the most privileged group there, but she gets herself into the service of a goddess and life improves. Plus, there’s slaves to reassure her that there are always people worse off than yourself. Of course, things do not go as swimmingly as Unar would hope, and she is forced to learn new things – do new things – and meet new people in order to survive. It’s a self-discovery narrative, in that the focus is the reader learning through Unar as she learns about herself and her society.

In Canopy, there are thirteen gods and goddesses, who are served in different niches and who die and then reincarnate and who enable magic in their acolytes. In Canopy, they fear those of the Understorey. In Canopy, there are very definitely still haves and have-nots.

There’s a lot of interesting things going on here, especially in the world-building. There are people living at different points on the trees, and basically location connects to class/privilege in a really physical way where you can see the in-world logic: closer to the sun makes you better than everyone else, naturally. Dyer, of course, sets this up to be questioned and undercut as Unar progresses through her story and learns more of life and her world. There’s little historical background about how this society became so (literally) stratified – just some teasers – so I’m looking forward to seeing that develop. But/And it’s not all as simple as it might appear…

Throughout, Dyer sets up delightfully complex relationships: parent and child, siblings, friends, acquaintances, enemies-who-work-together, lovers (straight and queer), slave and owner. Very few of them exist or progress in expected patterns, with betrayals likely, loyalty in unexpected places, and the odd bit of casual cruelty that makes the humanity ring just that bit more true. Sometimes people have a reason to be angry, and sometimes they Just Are – also adding to their humanity; sometimes people fall in love with completely unexpected people; sometimes bad things happen for no reason.

Something else that I loved and that really struck me in reading the description of the rainforest is the Australian nature of it. Non-Aussies will probably suspect that Dyer is just making up names of all the trees (some of them she has, I think). But blue quandongs are real, as are bloodwoods, as are ironbarks and tallowwood. Some of the nasty critters suggest that she’s taken a good long look at goannas and other monitors. I fully expect a demented cassowary to feature in some future book, and Dyer will barely have to change them at all to make them amongst the most terrifying creatures ever.

This is the start of a series, which is great because I look forward to seeing where Unar goes. But, happily, it also stands all by itself – so if publishing falls over in February (may that not be so) we won’t be stuck wondering about really serious issues. Of course, Dyer COULD pull a Carmody/Obernewtyn on us, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t do that to us. PRETTY sure.

I have two slight gripes: I don’t love the title – I don’t hate it, but I don’t feel it’s the most explanatory or gripping. There’s also a point towards the end that I felt was too rushed, where Unar very quickly grasped something that was not at all obvious to me, so it felt too hurried. But those are pretty minor quibbles.

Get this book when you can. You really want to.

Acts of Kitchen

aok_logo_v2.pngI have a new blog! and a new podcast! Acts of Kitchen is kinda just that. The blog is about whatever I’m cooking or reading about food or watching about food. The podcast (same name) is mostly about me interviewing people to get their food and cooking stories. It’s fortnightly, and I aim for it to be about 15-20 minutes in length – pretty easy-listening length, right? You can subscribe at iTunes or listen to it at the blog!

Revenger

I received this book from the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It’s out in September; RRP $32.99.

Unknown 7.21.29 PM.jpegIt’s hard to really talk about this book without massive spoilers that completely take away from the gripping revelations that come as the story unfolds. So I’ll do that below the cut. But firstly: I really like this cover! The flat picture doesn’t do it justice. The stark black with pinprick stars and a black silhouette of a spaceship in the middle – it’s lovely. The title font is a bit Alien, although without a narrative connection, and the silver does cool things in the light. I’m interested that the title is larger than Reynolds’ name, since on his last (solo) novel, Poseidon’s Wake, it wasn’t (nor on the novella Slow Bullets). Must be a deliberate decision but I couldn’t speak to why.

Anyway. It gets a lot darker than I was expecting, it’s fair to say – not in a bad way but in an intriguing way. Adrana and Fura are sisters from a sheltered little world and a sheltered little family who decide to run away to sea – well, to space. The crew they join is welcoming if a bit dubious, as you would be, but things generally go well… until they don’t. And then things go quite bad.

Fura is the narrator, and when the action opens she’s not yet reached her majority. It’s unclear how old that is on her world, but one of the early tensions is the question of whether Fura is capable of making decisions for herself, or if she’s just being pulled along by Adrana. Of course, as the story progresses she develops and grows and – no spoilers – shows that she can indeed be responsible. Ish. There are some really interesting relationships that develop, but they really take back seat to the development of Fura herself.

A note on language: Reynolds hasn’t gone all Andrew Macrae Trucksong and re-invented language to represent the immense span of time; neither is he insisting that this is English – it’s just some universal language. But it’s not just transliterated (as it were). The spaceship crew, like sailors of the 18th or 19th centuries, have their own patois: people are coves, there’s lots of abbreviation and slang. More generally there are some words that are different – lungstuff, for instance, for oxygen; my favourite is quoins, for money. It doesn’t always work – it doesn’t always feel completely natural – but I especially like that the different social groups are clearly differentiated by their language, which is very real.

I love the narrative but I am really, really intrigued by the universe that Reynolds has created here. It is – I am almost certain – our solar system, but it’s an unimaginable time in the future. There’s an enormous number of worlds called the Congregation, most of which are not worlds as we know them, but small and many clearly artificial. There have been many collapses and resurgences of humanity, with concomitant loss of memory and history and mysterious rubbish left behind. The ship Fura and Adrana head out on are, brutally, junk connoisseurs – what can they find in places that might have been picked over several times in the last few centuries? But there’s a trick there, since the places with good junk are protected and dangerous. And there are alien races, too. I would really, REALLY like to see more stories set in this world.

A couple spoilery thoughts below… but the long shot is, this is a great fun novel and I’m super excited to see yet what else comes out of Reynolds’ brain.

Continue reading →

Great Scott: Beverley Hills Cop II

Tony: 1987

Every fortnight (ish)* my beloved and I are watching a film by either Ridley or Tony Scott. We’re watching in chronological order. There are, of course, spoilers.

Unknown.jpeg*Haven’t sourced Bladerunner yet. We will get there, promise. And fortnightly it ain’t…

For the record, yes we did watch Axel Foley’s first outing in Beverley Hills Cop right before watching number II – it only seemed right.

A: thoughts on BHC 1: I would watch the heck out of a Taggart/Billy buddy cop movie; I would watch a film about Serge any day of the week; I love Eddie Murphy’s laugh. A black lead detective, a black boss policeman, and an interracial BFF seems very progressive for 1984. Also, THE MUSIC.

J: First notes of the music, is this Top Gun or Beverley Hills Cop II ?

A: Opens with an ice queen! I adore her style. Continue reading →