Monthly Archives: August, 2013

Cute things



Yup, more knitting, for babies again. The monsters are Claudes, from Rebecca Danger; the booties and cap are ones that I have knitted heaps over the last few months – they’re incredibly rewarding because they’re done SO FAST. photo

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Galactic Suburbia does Saga

Galactic Suburbia Episode 87: Saga Spoilerific Book Club

SagaFor the first time in years, all three hosts of Galactic Suburbia have read the same thing at the same time! So buckle up, it’s time for another installment of the Spoilerific Book Club! (Get us at iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.)

We’re taking on the Eisner-award winning & Hugo-nominated comic Saga, written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics.

For this episode we look at the 12 issues which have been collected as the first two trade editions of Saga and we spoil EVERYTHING, so don’t listen unless you’ve a) read it or b) don’t care about spoilers. Which while being spoilers aren’t story-destroying spoilers, ifyouknowwhatimean.

We discuss tree rockets in space, breastfeeding, childbirth, violence, men with TV screens for head, gay sex, straight sex, parents-in-law, mutilated bodies, fatherhood, brothel planets, child prostitutes, romance novels, the sexual anatomy of giants, Lying Cat, and character deaths.

PLEASE NOTE THE EXPLICIT TAG. (It’s not that racy; we just have to be careful.)


The issue that was (briefly) too racy for ComiXology, and why this was a double standard. Because it wasn’t the issue with the child prostitutes.

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!

An Aura of Familiarity

I hadn’t heard of the Institute for the Future until I found out about the short anthology they put out recently, called An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter The point of it is to explore, in science fiction, the possibilities of a human future that is even more hyper-connected than it is today. I’m delighted by the idea of such an institute existing at all, and the fact that they are calling on creative types to offer their perspectives.

This is a lovely-looking book, even in digital format; the pictures throughout, contributed by Daniel Martin Diaz, are fascinating – I’d  love prints of them.

Rudy Rucker starts the anthology with “Apricot Lane.” In this version of the networked future, every single item you buy has the ability to speak to your brain – and not just to advertise themselves, but telling you anything they feel like. Not only does this vision of connecting suggest hyperconnection with your belongings (and others’), but the lack of privacy suggested is also staggering. It’s a clever concept, and a horrendous one; I didn’t love the narrative itself though.

“Lich House,” by Warren Ellis, is horrifying in a different way: here, someone has managed to get into a house that ought to be impregnable, and attack the occupant. The ‘getting in’ has involved essentially killing the house, and most of the narrative is actually taken up with the dying of the house, in rather gruesome detail. So, it’s a clever idea – and again a clever vision of connection – but don’t read it for the narrative; it’s a vignette not a story.

Ramez Naam’s “Water” focuses particularly on the commodification of water, although other consumables are also networked and able to advertise directly to your brain (you can turn the ads off, but that costs a lot more). The opening of the story is, again, horrifying – showing how someone might massage the ads you receive to their benefit (this is of course not so far removed from your internet experience today). But the majority of the story is actually about how this networking might be manipulated for economic gain. This is the most interesting story of the first half of the anthology.

Madeline Ashby, the only woman in the anthology, contributes “Social Services” – and, again, showing a theme, this is an intensely creepy story. The networked matter is important to the story but not vital. The point, instead, is in how people manipulate one another and the consequences of that.

“From Beyond the Coming Age of Networked Matter,” by Bruce Sterling – one of the early lights of cyberpunk – takes the idea of networking matter to an extreme and vaguely Lovecraftian end. Disappointingly, it’s the least interesting story.

The final story is from Cory Doctorow. “By His Things will You Know Him” just pips “Water” as my favourite. It’s a close, deliberately claustrophobic story: a man whose estranged father, a hoarder, has recently died – and he has to deal with his effects. The funeral director introduces him to a new programme that will catalogue everything using clever new intelligent devices. Doctorow cleverly entwines the story of grief and the story of obsession; the idea of ‘networked matter’ is fundamental to the narrative but does not dominate, as in some of the others here. It’s a wonderful story that could easily appear in a different setting and still make sense.


In something of a break from my usual reviews, have one about a history of Weimar Germany.

UnknownThis is not the book I thought it was going to be. I bought it in the expectation that it would be an in-depth look at the history of Weimar Germany as a political and economic institution, because that’s what I’m particularly interested in. Instead, this takes a much broader look at Weimar Germany as a particular period in a nation’s history, and consequently looks at politics, economics, architecture, sound and vision, philosophy and sexuality across 1918-1933: how these things developed, changed, challenged and were challenged, and what it all meant to at least some of the people living there at the time.

A couple of things to note first of all: one, I am horrified and deeply ashamed that some members of the Lutheran and Catholic Churches espoused the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the age. Yes, church leaders have never been exempt from secular pressures and concerns, and there have been instances of the Church being subsumed into nationalistic/ worldly concerns across its entire history. Nonetheless, the attitudes of some high-profile members (and it was only some) was horrifying to read. And two, if a nation needed an incredibly selfish reason to be inclined towards accepting refugees these days, the list of people who fled from Germany after 1933 should stand as a reminder that people who are forced to leave their country often have exceptional skills to offer the place that will accept them. Perhaps if PNG plays its cards right, it will experience quite the efflorescence in the coming decade?

What did I learn? Well, the politics and development of events across the Weimar period was set out fairly clearly, and added some depth. The economics section proved that I am really not an economic historian, and the imperative towards growth that allowed hyperinflation to get a hold (because <i>some</i> inflation is a good thing) just doesn’t actually work in my brain. The exploration of the Weimar milieu, though, was the bit that I was both not expecting and got the most out of. The impact of architecture – the development of radio (microphones!) and cinema – the sexual reform movement: I understand a little better why the conservative and radical Right were so incensed by what they saw changing, and how they reacted. Weitz makes the Weimar period sound quite captivating if you happened to be in the right place at the right time: Berlin, basically, in the mid-late twenties; and if you had money to burn. If you were planning a time-travel visit, you would arrive in 1925 and leave before 1930; you’d make sure you had a good middle-class office job, too – Weitz is careful to mention that life for the majority was not the glitzy, cabaret-soaked free-loving experience that is sometimes upheld as “Weimar’s golden period.” In fact, the insight into working-class lives is also remarkable – and horrendous.

One of the foci for Weitz, because it apparently was for many of the commentators of the time, was the ‘mass’ aspect of Weimar society: an era of mass communication, mass society… more people moving to the cities, the blurring of art as being for mass consumption or not… it seemed at a few points that Weitz was using Weimar as a case-study in what mass society can be, when it has such poor pre-conditions as Germany in 1918.

I did not love the penultimate chapter. He spends a long time going over what a couple of philosophers and architects do after they flee Germany in 1933. And that was interesting, but it did not need to take forty pages. Forty pages would have been better spent doing more of a survey of the variety of intellectual and art-types that he had covered over the book, not obsessing Herbert Marcuse and Hans Morgenthau – whose work as transmitted by Weitz, I freely admit, I do not understand and care little for.

Overall, this does work as a good introduction to the issues, history, and implications of the Weimar period for Germany, and less completely, Europe and America. If you are interested in history beyond the political and economic, this is the sort of coverage that will work.

You can buy it at Fishpond.


Sick of Australian politics? and Australian media? Watch Newsroom!


We watched the entirety of season 1 in just a couple of days. Much like watching West Wing (which is unsurprising), coming back to reality after watching this is enough to cause a smidgen of despair. In terms of the way politics is discussed, anyway. There were a few things I did have an issue about; well, mostly the portrayal of women.

Newsroom is about one of US cable TV’s most-loved news anchors and his awakening to the duties* of civilising America. There’s a lot of quoting of Don Quixote (we skipped back and rewatched the bit at the end of the last episode where MacAvoy starts quoting totally appropriate sections of DQ, and got inspired for all of five minutes about going and memorising appropriate bits of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer to spout at appropriate points in time).

It is the anti-Frontline.

The show is pretty coy for a while about MacAvoy’s own personal politics – Republican or Democrat – making the point that that shouldn’t matter, in the reporting of the news; the story, and presenting a balanced/fair (there’s a lot of discussion about what actually is necessary to make reporting balanced and fair) story. One of the very cleverest bits of the show is that they use real news stories to base each episode around. The date is shown in every episode – sometimes later, sometimes earlier, depending on how much of a reveal the specific news-focus is – and the the news itself actually plays a major part in every episode. Like what I think usually made the best episodes of West Wing is when the political decisions themselves were a crucial part of the story. Unlike how Grey’s Anatomy focuses on actual medicine (ie not).

My problem with the show, which makes me a bit sad, is the representation of women. Some spoilers below here.

The women: Maggie, a ditzy intern who clearly has some skills but is pretty insecure, makes some dreadful mistakes and, especially at the start, appears to be in a borderline abusive relationship. Sloan is a spectacularly intelligent economist with monumental ethics who is utterly clueless about emotional stuff. And Mckenzie, the world’s greatest executive producer – recently returned from two years producing the news from Afghanistan and Iraq – sometimes feels as ditzy as Maggie, and only really shows any competence when she’s in the room pushing MacAvoy to be the best he can (thus, facilitating a man). My total favourite overall is Leona – Jane Fonda rocking as an older, tough, “I can kill you with my brain if you’re worth the time” channel owner; but she doesn’t get that much airtime. There’s also a few other women whom I think of as “all the ones with long hair and the black chick too” – because they’re just background characters (which is not in itself objectionable since there are a few purely background male characters too, that’s fine). I do think the show passes the Bechdel test, which is nice; it would take some effort to make a show where discussing the news is central to not have two women doing so. My problem is that these three women do not really get the development and complexity that the male characters do.

Will MacAvoy is an ass. He’s brilliant and selfish and vain and on a mission to civilise. Jim is sweet and competent, hopeless in personal stuff and yet clearly has more of a clue than Maggie (who has been in a relationship for what, a year?) about her own life. Don is even more of an ass than MacAvoy and for the first few episodes I was quite happy to see be hit by a bus; I was shipping Maggie and Jim so hard. But he comes through in awesome news-ways and he has self-realisation when it comes to his relationship with Maggie. Neal has the struggler’s back story and does a lot of silly things but also comes through a number of times as vital to the team (also, is a true believer of Bigfoot). Leona’s counterpart in the older-tougher stakes is Charlie, who isn’t quite a major player but still has some emotional moments, especially towards the end of the season.

The gender development is uneven and it got to me. It was balanced by the fact that almost every episode had me wishing I could sit down every journalist in the country to watch every episode back to back and then set homework. So that helped. It is also genuinely fascinating to have an insight into how a news programme is actually put together (one version of it, anyway).


*Which I always think of as “doooty,” thanks to West Wing and the discussion about Gilbert and Sullivan.

Galactic Suburbia 86

In which we feed the feedback, unpack the Hugo packet, and put Jane Austen on a bank note. You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

What Caught Our Eye:

Twitter… the abuse of Caroline Criado-Perez

Chief Commissioner – Have a look at yourself

Mary Beard Will Tell Your Mum How You Behave on Twitter


We appreciate every email sent to us, even if we very rarely do this thing we are doing, and read them out. But this time we did that thing!

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Eternal Flame, Greg Egan; the rest of the Alanna books, Tamora Pierce; Pacific Rim

Tansy: Hugo packet reading – short story, novelette, novella, also Splendid Chaps Seven/Religion, & new social justice pop culture Aussie blog No Award.

Alisa: Hugo Packet including novels

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!