Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Galactic Suburbia 62

In which Alisa and Alex bravely confront the realities of podcasting without Tansy, and come up rather short… (ha!). You can find us on iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia

Convention Highlights
Alex’s blog & con report roundup
Embiggen Podcast (hang around after we stop talking to hear it!)

Chronos, Ditmar, etc: the Aussie winners

Locus Awards: more winners

Women in SF & Fantasy in Australian media – check out the article quoting several Australian spec fic writers & editors

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alex: Prometheus; Ishtar (Kaaron Warren, Deb Biancotti, Cat Sparks).

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

[Photo Credit: Cat Sparx – Kirstyn and Mondy enjoying the convention!]

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In collaboration with Writer and the Critic, we are delighted to present a special podcast dedicated to the critically acclaimed Twelve Planets series of short story collections and recorded live at the beautiful Embiggen Books in Melbourne.

The Great NatCon Blog Post Round-Up

Because reading one blog post about a NatCon weekend is just not enough. The official website, with info about Ditmar and other award winners, is here. (Also, the opening ceremony video is online, too.)

Tansy has several posts about different aspects of the con: first there was discussion of the craft and the programme; then there was all that food (cocktails, cupcakes, trifle oh my!); and then the Night of the Squeaking Octopus (aka awards night).

Ben has a great post about being inspired about writing and about how awesome he found the fan community to be in general (awww).

DarkMatter Fanzine has a good round-up of the awards night, including some of the Kirstyn&Mondy banter that really set the mood.

Alisa also succumbed to the con-report-in-parts bug, beginning by smugly showing off the books she bought but also exclaiming over how social and fun the con was as a whole (this is a theme…). In part 2 she goes into great detail about the preparation for Twelfth Planet Press hour, which saw mountains of cupcakes consumed (a few even managed to be photographed), while the third post is mostly devoted to the podcast undertaken by nine of the Twelve Planets authors at Embiggen Books, as well as some crafty things (and annoying news about Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls). Kirstyn has posted said podcast over here, for your listening pleasure. (Other podcasts recorded at Continuum is episode 309 of Boxcutters, a debate that All SF TV is rubbish; Galactic Suburbia 61; and a Writer and the Critic ep that I’m sure will be up sometime soon…)

Terri, the whiz behind the cupcake extravaganza, has a short post about her experience at the Con wherein she coins the acronym WWTD (What Would Tehani Do?) to describe her method of how to sell Twelfth Planet Press books…  and then goes into even more detail about the creation of those cupcakes (the photo on the left, c/o Cat Sparks, is too good not to feature again). What an effort!

Mark, a NatCon newbie, blogged basically on a daily basis: Day 1 (panels! lots of panels!); Day 2 (more panels! including Galactic Suburbia!); awards (a list, and recounting the less than sterling start to the evening for Mondy…); Day 3 (more panels, and some time at the bar); and Day 4 (more panels, and generally being happy with the con). If you want a good feel for the programming at this con – which I thought was very good – this is a really good wrap of one person’s attendance.

Sean the Bookonaut, another NatCon newbie and one that many took great pleasure in meeting (not that we didn’t enjoy meeting Mark, too!), had quite the experience in getting home, but starts off with recounting Thursday… and then Friday, complete with discussion of panels and nude cyclists. ETA: And Saturday, now, too: panels, and Embiggen Books, and being a one-man audience to various people.

Jason managed to keep his con report to just one post, talking about launching his novella Salvage, going to the podcast and Embiggen Books, and the Ditmar/Chronos Awards as well.

Alan too kept his report to one post. He discusses panels he was on, including one on religion in world-building, and the experience of launching Felicity Dowker’s Bread and Circuses, among other things.

Ian, redoubtable awards-night co-MC, has a post that mostly focusses on his probably-not-food-poisoning experience pre-awards, and the glory of winning both a Chronos and a Ditmar (and well deserved too).

Russell discusses some highlights, which included doing a reading from his own fairy-tale retelling, and attending/being on various panels.

Sue mentions an orange scarf she started courtesy of the free yarn strewn around, as well as attending the launch of ASIM 56 and Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear, among other things.

Kathleen used the con as an opportunity for one of her awesome Dalek pictures – Lady Churchill’s Dalek Wristlet – as well as other snippets of drawing and crocheted octopi. Plus winning two awards.

Admittedly Flinthart’s post focusses primarily on the disaster that was his departure from Melbourne, and some food… but he looms large wherever he goes, so I think it counts.

Deb provides a reading list as a follow-up to a panel she was on (with Gillian Pollack, Trudi Canavan and Louise Cusack) called Writing Diverse Genders, Sexualities and Cultures. (She is also mentioned regarding the launch of Ishtar, a set of three novellas – one of which she wrote – which happened at Continuum.)

And, yes, I too wrote two posts about my experiences: one that was really all about my time on panels etc here, and another a bit more generally on the programming and craft and awards etc here.

ETA: Jo writes about her experience over here, complete with winning a Ditmar and talking about books so much her voice packed it in afterwards. Also, Gillian Polack-with-one-l has posted numerous thoughts: here, talking about racism and suchlike; on stereotypes; on being a critic.

**I’m sure there are other posts out there that I haven’t linked to – please feel free to comment with the links!

Prometheus

I saw it, and I enjoyed it. I’m not saying it was a great movie; it was a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.

However…

What follows is my entirely spoilerific rambly take on Prometheus. You’ve been warned.

The first thing to mention is, I’m sure to no one’s surprise, the role of women in the film. I thought it started well with one of the lead archaeologists being a woman, and indeed the one to make the final discovery that locks the whole ‘they’re inviting us to go visit them’ into place. And then the apparent leader of the spaceship is a woman, too, so that was cool, and one of the crew too, seemingly the one with med training. So… three out of 17. Well, ok, it’s only 2093, so maybe things haven’t changed a whole lot? Anyway, things progress, and then I got cranky… because Holloway, the male archaeologist, is talking about how amazing it is that life is ubiquitous and that it can be created anywhere, and Shaw – the woman – gets all teary because she can’t have children. Now, I understand that this is indeed a very painful thing for many women; and I understand that it sets up the tension for later in the film when – spoilers! – she appears to be pregnant, but… seriously? What it felt like was someone, somewhere, thinking “hmm, we really must account for this young woman having a spectacular career and going off in a spaceship while not worrying about her toddlers at home. I know! Make her infertile!” And it made me angry. Especially – especially – when teamed with the attitude towards Vickers, nominal head of the spaceship.

Because it really is nominal: in his introductory speech, Weyland appears to make the archaeologists the leaders of the expedition; and Janek is the captain of the ship, so he has significant power too. Fine, whatever, a confused power structure; this is nothing new, and interesting for plot tensions. It still sucks. Then there are a few lewd comments about lap dances with Vickers and suchlike… ok, grunts make fun of their commander, I can kinda see that. But then there’s a conversation between Janek and Vickers where the former says she should just say she’s looking to get laid, rather than pretending to be interested in something vital to the success of the mission. Vickers laughs this off quite successfully, and I thought it would be left there as an example of adult banter between people who respect each other. But then Janek asks whether she’s a robot, and Vickers’ response? “My room, ten minutes.” And at that point I got pretty cranky. Because of course, a woman resisting a man’s advances is clearly inhuman. And a woman already struggling with clear chains of command is clearly going to sleep with a subordinate just to prove she can! So. Dumb.

Oh, and the medic gets very few lines and dies horribly, but this was the case for most of the male red-shirts too, so that didn’t fuss me much.

And then there’s the mystical pregnancy. Oh yes, ladies and gentleman, there is one. I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when you realise that  yes, Ridley, this is an Alien prequel (more on that below). Shaw is told, by David, that she is pregnant… about three months’ pregnant, which is impossible unless we’re to accept that pregnancy is halted by cryosleep, which I guess it might be. Of course the other option is that actually this is from the sex 10 hours ago, which is also impossible… but the TRUTH! Yeh, it’s an alien. And it leads to a very graphic attempt at a caesarian, which is only possible after Shaw tricks the automatic surgery unit that it must do abdominal surgery on her, which it has to be tricked into because it’s configured for a male and therefore can’t do a caesarian. WTH? A gender-specific automatic surgery unit? Are you for real? So, a few issues in that little plot device then.

Now that I have that out of my system, what else is there to say? Oh, I thought Michael Fassbender was generally excellent as David, especially for the first half of the film. I think I picked him as an android in the first two seconds of seeing him walk; I really liked being introduced to him walking around the spaceship alone, checking up on things – and his fascination with Lawrence of Arabia was awesome and gave me all sorts of expectations (not all of which were fulfilled) for his role throughout. It does, of course, poignantly contrast with the utter callousness directed towards him by Weyland and, especially, Holloway, later in the film. This callousness from Holloway was one of the things that struck an off-note for me, because otherwise he is shown to be a generally sympathetic and empathetic character. I know it’s possible for someone to be perfectly nice to ‘like’ people and evil towards the ‘unlike’; but it still felt off. And sadly, David goes seriously off piste in the second half of the film, and it was just another bit that didn’t make sense. Why was he so determined to bring back samples that he infected Holloway? From Ash, in Alien, and from Carter in Aliens it makes sense – it’s part of their instructions. But with David, all we know is that Weyland wants to meet the creators; are we seriously expected to think that David hopes that infection will somehow turn Holloway into one? It just seemed like yet another way to draw a parallel between this and Alien – because make no mistake, this is absolutely the Alien/Aliens story all over again, and basically a direct prequel.

Shaw IS Ripley, in many respects. The four Alien movies are in many ways the evolution of Ellen Ripley, from somewhat naive spacefarer with a dislike for violence through to a demi-monster for whom violence threatens become the be-all. Shaw can be seen as the stage before this: she rarely uses violence, and indeed in fighting the alien at the end who threatens to kill her does not personally actually fight him: she lures him into a fight with the alien thing that had previously been in her stomach (which has, in a matter of hours, grown to epic proportions). And at the end (I did say there were spoilers!) she wants to go off and find the aliens’ home planet, if she can, not to deliver the ship-load of biological weapons she has at her disposal, but to ask them what humanity did wrong. No “get away from her you bitch” lines there (but hey, she’s not a mum, so what can you expect?).

Look, there are dozens of other plot holes that I could happily drive a semi-trailer through. I know they’ve been picked over by many people on the internet – and heck, the stuff I’ve ranted about above has been too. But you know what? I don’t count it a waste of my two hours. Terminators 3? That was a gigantic waste of my time, and I wanted a scrubbing brush to clean my brain with afterwards. Prometheus, by contrast, I thoroughly (well, mostly) enjoyed at the time, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about it afterwards. Would I stop someone from going to see it? Only if I thought they would have series trigger issues. Will I watch it again? Almost certainly not. And that’s ok.

Trouble and Her Friends

So… I’ve been meaning to write this review since August, when I read it. I’ve therefore managed to get to it before a year is out, if only just. Which is good. But the reason it’s taken me so long is because there are so many things I wanted to say! … and of course I’ve forgotten most of them. Because that’s the way these things work. I did make a little list of notes as I went, so this is going to be a somewhat disjointed review as I write those notes and try to remember what I meant by them. Bear with me?

Firstly, this is a really really great book. Seriously. I went and bought two or three more Scott books pretty much immediately (the fact I haven’t managed to read them yet says nothing about Scott and everything about my teetering TBR pile). It has plot, it has characters, it has a brainworm… for me, this is like the pinnacle of cyberpunk. This is what it should do. The plot has action and intrigue and nice twisty bits; I quite enjoyed the description of being on the brainworm and participating in the net. The characters are nicely varied, and Trouble herself is complex and sympathetic and compelling. The blurb makes it sound like a techno-western (Trouble as “the fastest gun on the electronic frontier”) and while I’m not entirely sure it works, I think I can see where it’s going.

As I was reading, I had this really awesome revelation about how it connects being a cracker to gender, and how old-school crackers don’t like the idea of the brainworm because it allows bodily experience within (what is effectively) virtual reality or the internet. And I thought – hey, woman dealing with physicality, which men so often don’t do! … yeh, turns out this was by no means something that I noticed all on my own, but something that was in my head because Helen Merrick had pointed it out in The Secret Feminist Cabal… which is the main reason why I wanted to read Trouble in the first place. Oh, so meta. And so dumb.

Anyway, for a book published in 1994 it’s a bit depressing that, in this indeterminate time in the future, women and homosexuals are not still equal. Scott also says some interesting things about inequality and the willingness or desire to have the physical experience: “it was almost always the underclasses, the women, the people of colour, the gay people, the ones who were already stigmatised as being vulnerable, available, trapped by the body, who took the risk of the wire” (p128-9).

There’s also a pessimism in Scott’s thoughts on how society will view the net: with suspicion, is the answer. She imagines fairly rigorous policing of it, both externally and internally (maybe because of that same notion of the ‘wrong’ people hanging out there?); the net is scary, in need of tight controls – slowed down, checked thoroughly – so that mainstream upright society isn’t threatened.

It’s awesome. Cyberpunk and gender stuff and a ripping story. Awesome mix.

You can buy Trouble and her Friends at Fishpond.

Castles Made of Sand

Jones begins this story just minutes after the conclusion to Bold as Love, such that I had to go back and read the last chapter of that book to make sense of this one. Which, to my mind, doesn’t happen very often; it made it feel like this was less a sequel, as such, and more a continuation of the same story. As it should be, I think.

*Spoilers here for Bold as Love*

I loved this novel. A lot. Maybe not quite as much as I loved the first one, because that was all bright and shiny and shocking and new… but it’s love nonetheless.

I still liked the characters. Fiorinda is a bit more grown up and less annoying baby-rock-princess; still vulnerable (if not as much as the boys think) and spiky with it; she’s not my favourite person to read but she is sympathetic. Mostly. Ax, now dictator of Britain in some sense (I found the politics a bit hard to follow, especially figuring out how the rocknroll counter-culture side fit in with the still-existant Westminster government), struggles believably with the difficulties of leadership and relationships. Sage… well, Sage was always going to be my favourite, but/and he gets darker here too. He struggles with love and with science-cum-magic, and with music, too.

The plot… well, it’s hard to go into it without being spoilery, which I would like to avoid. But there are metaphorical dragons that our heroes must confront: some political, especially in the form of neo-Celtic pagans who’ve read a bit too much about maybe-druids and their sacrifices; some personal, both in how to balance one relationship with another and how to balance any relationship with power and expectations. And then there’s the people who are actively trying to bring down this counter-culture, for their own political and personal reasons.

Look, it is wonderful. Not without flaws, and not without uncomfortable bits (those two not always the same); but it’s a fascinating view of the world and explores some provocative ideas for how to make the world a better place. Also, she brings the magical aspect just a little bit more into view…

For a spoilerific and eye-opening (for me) description of this novel, especially as it relates to Arthurian and medieval fantasy tropes, my hat goes off to the Wikipedia contributors for this novel. Well done indeed.

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess

*Some spoilers for the first Agatha Heterodyne novel/some of the graphic novels*

Yes I am a fangirl. Let’s move on, and firstly talk about the look of this lovely book. I don’t mind the cover – I think it’s appropriate and quite pretty – but when I was reading I took the dust jacket off and oh my, I don’t think I can put it back on again. The hardcover itself is beautiful, with gorgeous gold embossing and little swirls and… it’s just wonderful.

So, the story. This covers, I think, volumes 4-6 of the graphic novels (I may be wrong). Agatha has escaped from Castle Wolfenbach and quite literally falls to earth in company with Krosp, the talking cat. She gets taken in by a travelling circus, after a few adventures, and things proceed from there: more adventures, some science, a little bit of romance, and some interesting characters too. Things are, of course, not entirely what they seem in the circus; and even if that were the not the case, odd things are afoot within Europa so Agatha and her friends are confronted with monsters and other unpleasant people as they travel around. And then there’s the castle with the slightly crazy people…

You probably wouldn’t enjoy this novel without having read the first one. If you’ve read the graphic novels, then you know exactly what happens here already. For me, I read the graphic version long enough ago that I’d forgotten many details, so it was still highly enjoyable. Additionally, I think the Foglios are adding more detail in, especially in terms of back story for some of the more minor characters – and for Europa, and the places visited, as well. I am still a word-reader at heart, and much as I love the graphic novels I don’t think I yet have my eye ‘in’ – I’m sure there are details I miss in pictures that I easily grasp in words. So, it works. Actually I think the main indication that this novelisation works is the fact that it makes me keen to go back and read with the pictures, because I do love them.

Another reason I enjoyed this novel is that the Jagermonsters feature. A lot. Which makes me happy. Also, it so passes the Bechdel test. There are women who are warriors, and schemers, and costumers, and mechanics, and while men feature in their discussions they’re not the sole focus. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.

More graphic novels: Birds of Prey and Castle Waiting

Perfect Pitch

I am beginning to see that not reading these in order may indeed have its drawbacks. This set appears to be the start of the Birds of Prey proper, with Huntress unconvinced that she really wants to be a part of it and Batman making a rather unexpected appearance (well, unexpected for me; I know nothing about Bats in comic-world). It also spans the Infinite Crisis… thing… about which I know nothing, except that a year is skipped and all of a sudden Black Canary is off doing weird things in a nameless Asian jungle while the mysterious Shiva is scaring the pants off people in Gotham.

In terms of plot, occasionally hard to follow for someone with little to no backstory, and also not a nice continuous arc like the previous Birds of Prey (Dead of Winter) I read. The art was usually pretty fun, although I did feel uncomfortable with some of the shots of Black Canary and her kicks. It’s nice to see a group of women working together with no arguments about who gets the guy (well, ok, some arguments, but ‘getting the guy’ in this case means ‘kicking the guy’) – they’re by no means perfect, and there is some dysfunction, but it makes sense. So that’s definitely a plus.

Castle Waiting

Starts off with only a slightly off-kilter telling of Sleeping Beauty – I really liked the focus on the fairies/witches at the start here and moves into the castle and surrounding area essentially becoming a refuge for people who have nowhere else to go, or nowhere else they want to be. The reader arrives via o

ne such, a pregnant woman who later gives birth to a rather… peculiar… baby. But for me, this set of stories is really all about the bearded nuns.

Yes, bearded nuns. Never did I think that someone could have the sympathy, and the art, to draw very attractive women with beards, but such is the accomplishment of Linda Medley. This order of nuns is begun by women escaping an unhappy fate and continues to present just such a chance for other unhappy women. There are many things I loved about the bearded women, just one being that the idea of a man loving one of them was perfectly natural – they are by no means freaks to anyone in the book except those who are clearly immoral/unpleasant/otherwise non-relateable anyway. There’s a nice variety within the bearded women community – the beards and being female are about the only thing they have in common, except that a few of them have also experienced being in the circus. If for nothing else, Medley won me as a fan for this aspect.

She does win me for other reasons: the art is delightful without being distracting or overwhelming; the numerous sub-plots are nicely woven, and I love that the knight in armour is actually a horse.

I look forward to reading more.

Galactic Suburbia in Melbourne

In which we report live and punchy (not enough sleep to be sassy) from Day 2 of Continuum 8: Craftonomicon, Natcon 2012 in Melbourne Australia. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

NEWS
The Con so far: panels, parties, yarn and cupcakes…

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: Deadline by Mira Grant
Alex: Game of Thrones s1; Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency; The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (YES ALRIGHT AT LAST)
Tansy: Timeless by Gail Carriger, Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan

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

[Photo credit: Cat Sparks]

Snapshot 2012: a final word

I found it really hard to personally keep up with all of the interviews that were conducted over the Snapshot week; turns out there were something like 158, so I don’t feel too bad about that. Happily, the awesome Tehani has done a great job at collating the links for all of the interviews, which can be found here, at ASif! If you want to get a feel for some of the interviews without reading all of them, Ben did an amazing job of picking a quote or two from each interview, assembling and linking them in what amounts to a snapshot of the Snapshot, which can be found over on his blog. 

I’m really pleased with how this turned out! Now someone needs to run the numbers for us and work out the trends, particularly for question 4 – who people are reading – and 5 – what’s changed in two years. I don’t think I’m volunteering  😀

Con #2: the slightly less self-indulgent version

I forgot to mention in my last post that I also went to a panel called Crafts in Space, at which Tansy, Trudi Canavan and Lyn McConchie led a discussion about what sort of crafts might be done in space/while exploring and settling new planets; how they might be done and why and all that sort of stuff. The discussion itself was fascinating, with Lyn explaining that you can use a thing called a beehive to keep your yarn in one place while knitting and therefore it won’t go everywhere in zero G, and Trudi explaining that you could use a loom in zero G. Tansy raised the question of whether you would craft if you could only do it on the holodeck and therefore not actually produce something tangible – although I suggested you could have a gallery on the holodeck where you could at least see it – and we ran through the possible scenarios of what sort of native stuff might be used to craft with. There was a lot of lusting over 3D printers or fabricators: the idea of endless stash, a la the endless ammunition in The Matrix, had several people go glassy-eyed. Along with the discussion was the atmosphere. Lyn was doing this amazing shell-patterned crocheted rug, and she explained that she uses yarn from thrifted ‘jerseys’ (heh, she is a Kiwi) and she knits these rugs for various emergency services in her hometown; she also admitted that on one long-haul flight, she ended up teaching several people how to crochet because they were dazzled by her fingers as she sat watching TV. This led to some speculation about what would happen if spaceships ended up with craft specialities, and the outcome of a meeting between the yarn-dying ship and the sock-knitting ship… Then there was Trudi with this amazing i-cord device, which turned out to be an automatic French knitter which reaaally took me back to childhood; Tansy was sewing together Dr Who hexagonals for her quilt; and half the rest of us were knitting, crocheting, or doing other crafty things. It led Tansy to the inspired idea of Crafty Klatsches for the next con… only to discover that last year’s Continuum already had that idea. Our final conclusion seemed to be that when they’re filling the colony ships, the administrators ought not just look for people of reproductive age: they also need grandmas, or the colony will be screwed.

The con itself was well run, and I think the programming was generally very good. I was a bit sad that the launch of Ishtar clashed with our recording Galactic Suburbia, but I understand that there are time restraints. Also, I got my copy of Ishtar, and I got all three authors to sign it! So stoked! I’ve just started reading it so watch out for some Assyrian loving coming on soon. Anyway, the panels that I attended were generally nicely balanced in terms of the people on it – like the book blogging one had two professional bloggers (they get paid to blog at least part of the time), two personal bloggers (me and Sean, whom I finally got to meet), and our moderator seemed to fall kinda in the middle. I mentioned this to Julia, the head programmer, and she said it was more luck than design but I don’t think that entirely works; so I’ll say GO JULIA for good programming. I didn’t always want to go to the panels that were on, and I actually think that means it was well designed: a con that entirely suits me is going to be dead dull for Tansy, for a start! The hotel was ok…  I didn’t stay there so I have nothing to say on that side of things; people were disappointed about the bar closing at 11pm but presumably they had a restricted license that meant they had to.

I spent very little time with the guests, but they certainly seemed involved in the programming and con-life in general. Kelly Link hosted a session of Mafia today! – and I had an incidental chat with her about Game of Thrones, which was delightful.

Also, I said I wasn’t going to say much about the awards, but I do want to mention that The Writer and the Critic took out both the Chronos AND the Ditmar for Best Fan Production, and I was immensely pleased for them (I was sitting with the rest of Galactic Suburbia, and we gave them a standing ovation, but they didn’t notice). It was very well deserved indeed, and Mondy especially looked so stoked! Which was great because they were also hosting the awards ceremony, which may have been the greatest decision of the entire con. They have such great repartee – and this from a Mondy with food poisoning – that the entire thing ran smoothly and was as much entertainment as anything else. So, it was a highlight of the entire weekend. Also, The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood won Best Novel. I love you, fandom.