Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Women’s suffrage in Britain

booksI was a bit scared that this book was going to be intensely academic, which is why I’ve put off reading it for a while. But lo, I was wrong! It was instead intensely readable.

In fourteen fairly short articles, this survey covers a wide range of generally lesser-known topics of the movement for women’s suffrage in Britain. It covers things like the drama, poetry and fiction that came out in support of the suffrage movement; some of the lesser known societies, especially during WW1; the actions outside of London, and those undertaken by working-class women; and the continuing work after 1918 to get the franchise on the same terms as men had it (women over 30 who were householders could vote after 1918; men over 21 could vote). The only chapter that covered things I already basically knew was one on Christabel Pankhurst, who along with her mother Emmeline is probably the most well-known of all suffrage activists.

I learnt an enormous amount about the activities undertaken as well as people’s attitudes. I had always assumed there was a basic oppositional dichotomy between the suffragists (constitutional activists) and the suffragettes (militant activists); not so. Friendships networks were at least if not more important for many women than their ‘official’ societal associations. I also really appreciated reading about some of the literary men who contributed towards the movement; it’s salutary to be reminded that the women weren’t fighting against the entirety of the male population, and that those who opposed women’s suffrage were, eventually, quite a minority.

The depressing part of the story overall is that so many of the issues raised against women voting, and having any position in public life, are frighteningly recognisable in contemporary discourse. A hundred years ago. Seriously.

A Good Day… to watch Bruce Willis

Wellllll… let’s be honest here. Pretty much any day is a good day to watch Bruce Willis. But to be specific, I finally watched A Good Day to Die Hard.

UnknownIt seems to me that the Die Hard franchise is much like the early Star Trek movies; the odd-numbered ones are the good one (I do have a soft spot for #2, but it is not as good as 1 or 3). This outing for old-man-McLean is definitely a more enjoyable film than the fourth one was. And I think there’s a really significant reason for that: he’s with his son, rather than his daughter.


The story: Our McLean finds out his son is in a Russian prison. He goes to see what’s happening. He arrives as his son is breaking a Russian political prisoner out. It is revealed that the son is in fact working for the CIA… and then things continue to Not Be As They Seem. And Chernobyl is involved.

Firstly, the good bits: there are some awesome chase scenes. There are helicopters doing mad things. One of the villains regrets that he did not become a dancer, and does a shuffle to prove it while also kicking away McLeanx2’s guns. Some great banter ensues, especially between father and son, and there are two (that I counted) delightful references to early Die Hard which I think is probably perfect – they were very good and appropriate references, and it doesn’t overdo the call-back which is always a threat in such films.

And then… well, I did have a couple of issues. As mentioned above, I enjoyed this film more than the fourth because of the interaction between the father and child, in this case the son. The daughter is not wholly lacking in awesome in the fourth, but she is a captive and therefore lacking in real agency. And the dude/son-replacement that McLean goes along with just got annoying. Whereas here, father and son are totally equal; their skills complement each other, in every fight they’re equally awesome, etc. So that made me a little bit sad for the daughter. Interestingly, there is a daughter character in this film too (actually two, since the McLean daughter gets a look-in as well, but she is largely irrelevant), who is also interacting with her father – she first appears to be working against him, but then it turns out she is actually working with him. So that’s an interesting inversion of what’s going on with the McLeans. I was a bit worried that the two youngsters would end up getting it on, but that wasn’t a problem because she ended up being Evil, as did Pa, and there wasn’t even time for flutter-eyes between the two Hot Young Things (thus, bonus: no romance!). Good Family have issues but work together despite them; Bad Family are sneaky and always working together even when it doesn’t look like it.

Very watchable, but not re-watchable. I really hope this is the end of the franchise, because the only place to go from here is McLean and grandchildren – which he’s already done in Look Who’s Talking – or McLean in retirement village, which he’s already done in RED (and eeee so excited for RED 2).

Alanna 4: Lioness Rampant

Alanna 1Alanna 2; Alanna 3.



Once again, let’s talk about that cover. It’s way too dark, for a start. Alanna is still not in armour, even though she becomes the king’s champion. The horse is still the wrong colour. The red glow makes sense, I guess, but… yeh. This really doesn’t work for me. The title basically works; it’s better than In the Hand of the Goddess at least.

And again: junior section of the library, people! Weird!

At last, a proper quest. I was beginning to wonder whether it would happen! We had two books of boarding school, one book of… I dunno how to characterise the third, actually. And then here, a quest. Not your average quest, of course, but a quest nonetheless. In fact, a road trip! Alanna learns of a Fabulous Jewel and decides that hey, this is exactly the sort of thing she should be adventuring after as a knight errant. Along the way she meets – and Takes Up With – one of the few men genuinely her match in fighting, Liam; plus a refugee princess, who she eventually matches with Jonathan to take that little problem off her hands; and when she gets back to her home, she helps to bring down a plot against Jonathan (now king), with the back-from-the-dead Roger at its heart. Plus she finally ends up with George, who’s been holding out so faithfully.

The quest angle was interesting, not least because it takes up less than half of the book. The Dominion Jewel does end up being fundamental to Jonathan keeping ahold of his kingdom (literally), but the trip is definitely more about the travel than the destination. Alanna’s relationship with Liam is perhaps the most fascinating of all her loves. For a start, Liam is terrified by her use of magic – so she knows right from the start that they won’t be a long term item (although I am mighty, might sad that he died). His knowing more about some aspects of fighting lends an interesting tone to their relationship, since it takes on a teacher/student aspect – it’s not overdone, though. Her frustration at his occasional desire to protect her comes through well, and not usually as an ‘I’m the strong man’ attitude but more of a ‘I love you so I want to protect you’ thing – which is quite reasonable, from his perspective, if frustrating from hers. And then finally we get female relationships, with Alanna relating to the princess Thayet and her bodyguard, Buri, on a fairly level playing field: Thayet actually outranks her, as no woman she has interacted with daily ever has; Buri is pretty nearly as good a warrior as her. And they manage to have occasionally spiky but generally very good friendships, based on mutual trust and equality. Hooray!

Oh, and she gets the jewel, by nearly defeating and then amusing an elemental being. Awesome. Off home then.

Alanna’s relationships with Jonathan and George have complicated, as they ought. Jonathan is willing to be chivalrous, but really knows that their marriage wouldn’t be awesome; plus, he’s smitten by Thayet, as Alanna was planning. Plus, being married to your Champion would just be awkward. George keeps on being the faithful one, and eventually that pays off. Awww.

Clothes play a rather interesting role in this story. I like that Alanna has a complicated relationship with clothes. It makes sense. I love that she is allowed to mash somewhat-feminine clothes with her status as a knight when she is presented to the court. Liam’s poor reaction to her being in a dress, because that doesn’t suit the box into which he wants to place her, is a wonderful exploration of identity and expectations. The resolute determination of showing that she can be feminine – and like feminine things – and that this does not detract from her status or fighting abilities is magnificent.

There are some things that are rushed, here, as they have been throughout. Alanna’s relationship with her brother Thom, in particular, is never fleshed out enough for my liking; Thom as a character is too distant and unrealised. We just have to accept that he’s become proud because of his power, but that he gets tricked by Delia into resurrecting Roger.. and then he finally gives in and is willing to accept help from his former teacher whom he previously seemed to despise. It’s all a bit of a mess, really, which is unfortunate because I think the twins’ relationship could have been a much more intriguing aspect of the story than it was allowed to be.

I am unconvinced by the conclusion, too. I am happy enough with her ending up with George, although it is just oh-so-convenient that he’s noble now (not to mention pardoned), so there’s no issue of her marrying below herself. However, the idea that she would immediately agree to have children after a year or two of marriage struck rather an off note for me. She’s just made him amend his suggestion that she settle down to going off roaming with him, and now she’s confirmed to near-immediate motherhood? Given the rather pointed bits about her knowing nothing about children – although she does learn – this just seems out of character. And it was an unfortunate way to end, too; I don’t really see why there had to be a discussion of children along with the discussion of marriage.

Overall, I am pleased to have read this quartet; I read the last three in about 24 hours. I may at some stage seek out the next set of books set in Tortall, but I’m (really) in no hurry. Pierce was doing some interesting things, here, but I’m too old and well-read to be as completely overwhelmed as I might have been in my teens. Still, I’d have no hesitation in shoving them down anyone else’s throat.

You can get Lioness Rampant from Fishpond.

Alanna #3: The Woman who Rides like a Man

Alanna 1; Alanna 2.



Soooo… let’s talk about that cover then. Can you spell Twilight? SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. There is so much more to this story than a love triangle! And WHAT the heck is she WEARING?? Is there a Valley Girl in the desert that’s not mentioned? She’s a KNIGHT. She could at least be wearing a burnoose, given she spends a large amount of the story in the desert. But nooooo they have to make it look like this almost modern. You can pretty much ignore the sword in her hand, even! Urgh. Also, I wouldn’t go for either of these fellas.

Still, at least this is a better title than the second one. “Woman who rides like a man” is both directly relevant to the story and intriguing.

Also, found in the junior section. Really makes me think that the staff haven’t read it.

Alanna is now a knight, and like she has been saying for two novels, is off to seek whatever knights errant seek. Warmth in winter and some distance from both Jonathan and George, in this case, plus getting away from people who disapprove of boobs behind armour. She ends up in the desert that she visited in the first book, and stays with a tribe of the Bazhir. She accidentally becomes the tribe’s shaman because she kills the existing one; oops. She also becomes teacher to three young Gifted teens, one of whom dies, and she challenges notions like girls-can’t-d0-stuff. Meanwhile, she  breaks up with Jonathan when he gets very high and mighty about her marrying him, is adopted by Sir Myles as his heir – so now she gets to have her own title because after all her brother inherits Trebond; and takes up with George, at last.

Again, a lot happens in a short novel. I think this one felt better paced overall – perhaps because now Alanna is a knight, which was the whole point of the first two, things can slow down a bit and events can happen kind of for their own sake, rather than to move Alanna along to that particular end. This also covers a shorter period of time, but still felt like there were important things going on.

Again, Alanna grows and changes. In particular her attitude towards being female comes out in fits and starts, and this really makes sense. After all, she’s hidden being a woman for so long – and put all of the potential trappings of femininity out of her mind for so long, disregarding them in her quest to be a knight and definitely seeing them as the lesser of her options – that it makes sense it would be hard to change. I think it does make sense that it might eventually start to be appealing, or at least provoke her curiosity; especially when her lover makes rude comments about not being feminine enough.

There are some problematic things in this novel – I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the characterisation of the Bazhir. However, Alanna’s stay with them does twist some conventions nicely; her very presence challenges some of their notions, and many of them show willing to change when shown that the alternative isn’t disastrous (mostly). I like that there is an insight into the women of the tribe; after all, Alanna is in that sometimes awkward, sometimes useful liminal space of female-knight: she inhabits both masculine and feminine sides. So she learns the magic and the fighting… and then she also learns weaving, and values that, seeing that the women have as much to offer as the men. I love that she is not actually very good at weaving when she starts.

I am intrigued again by the… I hesitate to use the word ‘casual’, because it makes her sound like she just sleeps with anyone, so let’s go with ‘straightforward’ attitude shown towards sex. She’s broken up with Jonathan; George again makes a move; she takes up with him. It’s more than pragmatic – after all George declared his love back in the other book; it’s not rebound sex; and she’s not hung up on the morality of it. This is definitely a different way of portraying such things from your average faux-medieval story.

I think this is my favourite of the four books. Alanna seems to get to be most herself with the Bazhir; she faces challenges and makes decisions like a knight would and should. And she faces the consequences squarely, occasionally with remorse as required. She’s growing into someone to genuinely admire.

You can get The Woman who Rides like a Man at Fishpond.

Alanna #2: In the Hand of the Goddess

A while back, I read Alanna: the First Adventure. I said at that time that I would read the rest of the quartet at some point, but I wasn’t in a screaming hurry. Then the other day on Galactic Suburbia, Tansy announced that she was commencing a re-read. Well, I couldn’t let her re-read beat my initial read, could I? What if she said spoilery things?? So, I went out and borrowed the next three. And read them…



So. The second book. First off, let’s talk about this cover. It’s from the 2011 re-release, and it is less than awesome. Her horse’s name is Moonlight, fercryinoutloud. At least she’s got a sword and is dressed in squire-ish clothes. Secondly, let’s talk about where I found it: in the junior section of the library. Not the YA section; the junior section. I can maybe see the first book fitting there, but not the entire series. I found that weird before I read them, and then as I read the casual attitude towards sex – the sex isn’t explicit, in the slightest, but it is very clearly present – I was even more astonished. Also, the killing of people with swords, which again isn’t the most graphic violence but still, not sure you’d want a ten year old reading it. Thirdly, the title… well, it makes sense in some ways, but it doesn’t inspire me and in fact makes me roll my eyes. I would not pick this up based on the title. (Of course I would already have been put off by the cover of this particular edition.)

Anyway. The story picks up with Alanna now being squire to Jonathan, the prince, who knows that she’s actually a girl. The story essentially covers her progression towards becoming a knight. It covers three or four years in 240 pages. Sometimes you blink and it’s a year later. Some writers carry that off with aplomb – mostly I’m thinking of Ursula le Guin here I think – but I’m not entirely convinced of it by Pierce.  Over that time, Alanna acquires a cat, Faithful (many of the names that appear in this series I am entirely unimpressed by); a lover, in Jonathan; and of course becomes a knight. And, in a very rapid turn of events, she kills her nemesis, Duke Roger. That particular bit happened so fast my head was spinning.

Alanna grows up, as she needs to, and generally that’s well done. She frets about things fairly convincingly. It was good to see that Pierce allowed Alanna’s friends to accept her being a girl relatively easily; that she had proved herself enough that it was straightforward for them to still see her as a knight.

Battle scenes aren’t dwelt on, which I appreciated. The aftermath, though, is not ignored; Alanna throws up after her first real skirmish, the patching up of soldiers is shown in as detail as the battle itself – which isn’t glorified – and when Alanna isn’t able to fight, she goes off and helps the healers. I like how practical Alanna is; I like that the reality is shown, although of course Alanna is Super Gifted in every area necessary (which sometimes does get a bit wearing).

Jonathan is a bit boring. I was surprised when he and Alanna fell into bed together relatively easily; later, there is a suggestion that this diminishes Alanna’s virtue in some eyes, but she doesn’t worry about it at this stage. I can’t help wondering about the power issues of a prince sleeping with a vassal – although of course this has always happened in history – but also the rather weird situation of a knight sleeping with his squire… although of course this may well have happened in history….

As a rogue, George of course is more interesting. I’m a bit impatient with love triangles though.

Really, this book gets through things extraordinarily fast.

You can get In the Hand of the Goddess from Fishpond.

Galactic Suburbia 85

In which we talk about gender stuff in publishing and gaming, Alex votes in the Hugos and Alisa’s thesis starts coming together. A good week! You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

Caught Our Eye

Sexism in genre publishing: A Publisher’s Perspective

JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith – An Open Letter to Writers & Would Be Writers

The Mary Sue & gaming culture: What we aren’t talking about when we talk about inclusion and representation, and what we are

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Hugo reading (novellas and novelettes)

Alisa: Publishing and Reading as Dissent: Resistance, Literary Tourism and Arsenal Press, Casey Stepaniuk (The Word Hoard Vol 1, Issue 1)

Tansy: Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen; Red Sonja #1 by Gail Simone; Much Ado About Nothing!

The Galactic Suburbia Road Trip – we have fun over at the SF Signal Mind Meld!

Tansy’s review of The Other Half of the Sky is up at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Kaaron Warren won a Shirley Jackson for “Sky”!

Please send feedback to us at, 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!

Katherine Swynford

This isn’t a real review, but I wanted to register how much, overall, I enjoyed this biography of Katherine Swynford that I read recently.


I have read a lot of Alison Weir’s work. I know she sometimes gets accused of writing populist history; personally I find her a really intriguing mix between populist and academic. On the one hand – what’s wrong with being populist if you’ve done your research?? Making intriguing women like Swynford accessible to a general public is something to be lauded very, very highly. On the other hand, there were bits that I absolutely skimmed over because they were so dense; I’m sorry, I just don’t find descriptions of household objects and suchlike that riveting. Maybe that makes me a bad historian… or just not a good domestic historian. Anyway – this was largely very readable and enjoyable, and I think would be found so by reasonably educated people with little detailed knowledge of medieval England.

And then there’s the subject. Katherine Swynford! Attendant to Philippa of Hainault when she marries the English Edward III; governess of some sort to John of Gaunt’s (third some of Edward III) children; then (after his beloved first wife dies, and her possibly lamented but not so much husband also) John of Gaunt’s mistress and mother of at least four of his children; then repudiated for some time when he gets a bit thing about maybe becoming king of Castile, plus pious; then, finally, John of Gaunt’s third wife. Which also wrangles the legitimacy of her children by him. All of which doesn’t include the building works she manages in various places, the bringing up of a number of children, possibly being involved in politics at different stages, oh and her sister married Geoffrey Chaucer.

She’s a major reason the Tudors had a connection to royalty, before forcibly taking the crown (they’re descended from the Beauforts, who are the legitimised children mentioned above). She’s also the progenitrix of six American presidents.

Katherine Swynford was clearly a remarkable woman. She was on good terms with a large proportion of the English nobility – admittedly, partly because she was widely known as John’s mistress and thus had access (heh) to his ear, but nonetheless she was clearly highly regarded. She was also on good terms with most of the clergy with whom she came into contact, for example in Lincoln where she appears to have lived right next to the cathedral for many years. She must have been a remarkable housekeeper – in the very broadest and most impressive sense, since it appears that the place she first lived in with her first husband was a bit crap, frankly, and she was largely responsible over many years for making it a good place to live. Plus, she lived through remarkable times: this is the Hundred Years’ War, and also the time of Wat Tyler’s mob rampaging through London and burning the Savoy Palace… which would be the palace belonging to John of Gaunt. Fortunately, not while he – or she – was in it.

It’s brilliant to see such a woman getting a biography. I love Weir’s introduction to this which confesses that pretty much this is the biography she’s been working towards for years – she just had to have the clout to manage to get her publisher to agree to it. Way to go to get what you wanted!

The Odd Angry Shot

This film is an example of why, and how, Australian cinema is so awesome.

UnknownIt’s also quite the who’s who of male actors of A Certain Age in Australian film and TV; there’s even a cameo from Frankie J Holden (for whom I have quite the soft spot).

This is not a film I would tend to watch off my own bat, for a whole bunch of reasons. But I did, and I’m glad I did.

The story focusses on Bill, a  fresh young man (John Jarratt!) off to the Vietnam War as part of the SAS. When there he falls in with some likely lads (Graham Kennedy! Bryan Brown!!) with whom he drinks, jokes, and gets into trouble – and goes on patrol with too. Some of them get wounded. Some of them die.

The film has some remarkable character moments. At one point, Harry is explaining why he’s sketching – he was an artist before he joined up. He then goes on to explain that he joined the army after he got a divorce, and why he got a divorce. It’s a sad story – as such stories ought to be – but it is neither pathetic nor overwrought; it is as pragmatic as your classic Aussie bloke would make it. This is not to say that Harry is unfeeling; quite the contrary. He feels it deeply. But he does not make a song and dance about it.

I think the pragmatism, and the understatement, is the big difference between this film and an American one. I’ve seen Born on the Fourth of July, which is a remarkable piece of cinema. But this captures another, equally true (?for given values of…) version of the experience of war. And it is realistic. There’s tinea, porn, fear, death, the random nature of events; there’s camaraderie, and making the best of a dreadful situation. Like having a cage fight between a spider and a scorpion. As you do.

Unknown-1As with many such films, it’s based on a book. Apparently the author was concerned that the film would turn his anti-Vietnam-but-pro-army story into a buddy war movie. I hope that, when he saw it, he saw a film that did capture some of the essence of his book. Because this is definitely not a pro-war film.

I’m glad  I watched it. It’s pretty raw – there are definitely some cringeworthy moments, made all the more cringey because they almost certainly reflect actual attitudes of the 70s, if not the 60s; but as a short, sharp suggestion of an Australian experience in Vietnam, it works.


Rasputin’s daughter

imagesA little history lesson: Gregory Rasputin was a Siberian peasant who, after being introduced to the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia in the early part of the twentieth century, somehow appears to have had a positive impact on the haemophilia of their son and heir. There were all sorts of rumours going around about him and his relationship to the Romanovs and the way he behaved in St Petersburg, and he was eventually assassinated. This book is more than a hundred pages of his daughter reminiscing about her father, and about 30 – which I didn’t read – of Rasputin’s own reflections on holy places he’s visited.

I recently helped my sister to move house, and one of my jobs was unpacking her books. In doing so I discovered that she had appropriated a number of books that belonged to me but that I’d left at home… anyway. I also discovered this book on her shelf, and I was astounded for a few reasons: that the book exists at all; that she had bothered to nab it (I was reminded that she had studied the Russian Revolution at school)… and that it had belonged to our paternal grandfather. This is somewhat surprising because although not a Communist, our Grandpa was definitely an old-school union man, voted Labor all this life, detested the Vietnam War (wasn’t it awkward when Dad enlisted and went over?)…


etc. So why he had a book aimed at salvaging Gregory Rasputin’s reputation is beyond my ken.

This book is part vindication of Rasputin as a largely good man, part protest at his treatment while alive and his reputation after death, and part somewhat dubious insight into life in Petersburg in the lead up to, and early part of, World War 1. Did I learn anything that I am willing to treat with little scepticism? Yes: Maria Rasputin’s explanation of the fact that her father was not a monk, but was rather a Starets has no need to be distorted and was genuinely helpful in my thinking about him. So too is the fact that Maria and her sister lived with Rasputin for most of the time he was in Petersburg! – this is not something that I have ever seen discussed, and although obviously a father is perfectly capable of being evil and not showing it to his daughters, it’s still an interesting addition to his character. Like I said, Maria (and I’ll keep referring to her by her first name because ‘Rasputin’ would be just too confusing) is clearly aiming to redeem her father’s name, so she stresses that their living room/reception area door was very rarely closed – thus clearly refuting the idea that, at home at least, Rasputin was up to no good and holding orgies (one of the big accusations against him). She doesn’t pretend he was a saint – in fact, she protests against that idea vigorously – and admits that he took up drinking… but blames that on the experience of Petersburg itself, and bad influences, and the need to get just a little bit of downtime.

There’s a whole lot that is pure propaganda. And I can understand that; it can’t have been a comfortable position to be in, as the daughter of such a notorious man. Especially if he had been a loving father, and all the calumny just felt so alien and unlike the man you knew. I was fascinated to read that Maria accepted – or at least wrote that she accepted – the supernatural elements of Rasputin’s story: that he was clairvoyant, enabled by a special connection to God that also enabled him to have special healing powers… I hadn’t expected that aspect.


One problem, for me: I couldn’t help but here Tom Baker’s voice every time Rasputin spoke. That was distracting.



Some Hugo thoughts

I’ve been doing reading towards voting in the Hugo Awards, so these are some thoughts on what I’ve read recently – all in the shorter fiction categories:


“Fade to White,” Catherynne M Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012) – DAMN, man. This novelette is astonishing. Non-linear structure, with advertising copy complete with snarky editorial commentary interspersed throughout the stories of two adolescents living in a post-WW2 alternative America: alternative because things have clearly gone from defeating Germany straight to Hot War with Russia, and that war has come to American soil. Not only is this a fascinating and chilling look at the repercussions for adolescents growing up in such a world, it’s also a frightening and perceptive look at how gender and race issues might play out, too, in an America so threatened. A bit like Handmaid’s Tale in that respect. I should have talked about this one last because much as I liked Pat Cadigan’s “The Girl-Thing who Went out for Sushi” (Edge of Infinity), I think this gets my vote.

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications) – a really lovely story. One of those stories that uses a fantastical idea but makes it normal (well, ish) in the society: in this case, a boy made of glass. The eponymous character is regarded as a freak for having no shadow; the two form a friendship based on their bizarreness. This is poignant and lovely; I’m very happy I got to read it

“In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published) – I read the first October Daye book and was completely unimpressed. I had no idea that this was connected to that series until I saw someone mention it on Goodreads. So, with no background at all, I actually really liked this story. Selkie stories are so hot right now (and it’s pretty funny reading this after recently reading Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories are for Losers,” which I adored) – this one felt like it did something a bit new with the mythology, which I enjoyed.

“Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire ( A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean). Meh. Cat-fae in 1660s London.


After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications) – totally my pick. Again with the non-linear structure, as the title suggests. Bits of the story happen in a world recognisably our own where one of the main characters is trying to figure out a series of kidnappings. Bits of it happen in a very weird future world where some cataclysm has occurred and a small remnant population is trying to get on with. And there’s a bit during the fall as well, of course… and by that stage everything has started to come together, and both of the main characters really make sense and are utterly captivating. Very, very nice.

The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications) – haven’t managed to finish it yet. Possibly shouldn’t therefore comment.

On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press) – I don’t know anything about this universe of de Bodard’s, so I have no idea whether I’ve missed important character references or whatever. Nonetheless the story was highly engaging, and made basic sense – war isn’t hard to understand, and the repercussions for refugees are of course familiar. The intricacies of family entanglements are taking to an extreme and fine degree, but again the basic notion isn’t hard to grasp. It’s beautifully written and very absorbing.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit) – have not read, won’t bother because I haven’t read the Newsflesh series (and don’t like zombies).

“The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012) – interesting idea. Would have been a whole lot better if it wasn’t transparently a Galileo/scientists in general vs Catholic Church story, with little effort to develop an interesting take on the religion.

So, for what it’s worth – those are some of my thoughts!