Monthly Archives: November, 2016

In the Chinks of the World Machine

Look, any book whose title is taken from a Tiptree story – and “The Women Men Don’t See” no less – is likely to be very appealing to me. And ta dah! It was.

Unknown.jpegThis delightful feminist, academic, personal, humorous, thoughtful, and passionate examination of women in science fiction and women writing science fiction came out in 1988. So yes, it’s dated – of course it has. There have been lots more stories written in the last (oh heck) nearly thirty years that have a variety of female characters, and of course more female authors challenging and playing with science fiction ideas. But I think that the categories that Lefanu considers – Amazons, utopias and dystopias, women in love, and so on – these categories often still apply to the ways that women appear, or are thought that they should appear, as characters. So I certainly found these chapters resonant and not only from a historical perspective.

The second half of the book was the bit that I really loved, though. James Tiptree Jr, Ursula Le Guin, Suzy McKee Charnas and Joanna Russ: what a magnificent set of women, and a magnificent set of stories between them. Lefanu examines a set of the novels and short stories of each of the women (in Russ’ case, almost all her science fiction) and dissects the ways in which they present women. She’s not always flattering – she has some issues with Le Guin’s early female characters, which I don’t entirely agree with – but she is always interesting and insightful.

One of the things I really appreciated and enjoyed about this book is that while Lefanu is absolutely writing an academic piece and interrogating issues of feminism and how science fiction fails or encourages women, there are also personal moments that didn’t feel at all out of place. I really, really like this idea that the writer actually exists and has an opinion – that the book isn’t pretending to be a disembodied, clinical examination but acknowledges the very real body behind the … well, typewriter probably.

If you’re interested in feminist science fiction, in women in science fiction (in all senses), or have a somewhat historical literary bent, this is a really great book. It’s very approachable and even if you haven’t read the stories Lefanu examines (I’ve only read one of the Charnas books), she explains them enough that her analysis makes sense… and I still want to read the books.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones

So yes, I’m very privileged. I got to read Every Heart a Doorway a long time before it came TB_DownAmong-070716.jpegout. And now I’ve had the chance to read the prequel a long time before it comes out, too. It’s out from on 13 June 2017…

The blurb says

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first.

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tomboy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

… and the opening, which is set in the Real World, is about the most horrifying part of the whole thing. Parents who have children because they think it will make them look good, who force children into preconceived notions and potentially do a lot of damage: it’s just hideous. And the worst part is the way that McGuire writes about this from a very knowing, self-aware position: the narrator is pointing out what the parents are doing, making sure the reader knows how dreadful this is. And it works to heighten the horror rather than defuse it; this is not ‘telling instead of showing’, this is a sympathetic yet almost malicious commenter making sure you know exactly what’s happening.

Then the twins find themselves in a different world, and they get to make choices for about the first time ever and those choices have serious implications. And the way they’ve been brought up has consequences for the choices they make, and also doesn’t in the slightest prepare them for them.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Every Heart a Doorway wasn’t a standalone story. And this is an absolutely standout addition to the world of portal fantasies that McGuire created there, with Other Worlds matching the people who find them and having an irrevocable impact on the inadvertent travellers. I love how McGuire takes bits of other stories and fairy tales and weaves them into her story in her very own way: you get the pleasure of recognition combined with the shock of difference and it’s a delight.

Apparently there will be a third book. I’ll just be over here, watching my inbox, waiting…

Galactic Suburbia 156

In which Tansy and Alex share a culturepalooza — witches, spies, hockey romance and magical secret agents! Get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

New on the internet?

@GailSimone asking for recommendations of books/comics by POC, LBGTQ or other marginalised creative teams.


Alex: The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett;
Tansy: Her Every Wish, Courtney Milan;
Alex: The Song From Somewhere Else, AF Harrold;
Tansy: Mockingbird,
Alex: Long Hidden anthology, Rose Fox and Daniel Jose Older;
Tansy: Sarina Bowen The Ivy Years: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, The Understatement of the Year;
Alex: Agents of Dreamland, Caitlin R Kiernan;
Tansy: The Hamilton Mixtape,
Alex: Imprudence, Gail Carriger
Tansy: The Miraculous Ladybug

Please send feedback to us at, 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!

Agents of Dreamland

This novella was sent to me by the publisher,, at no cost. It will be on sale on 28 Feb, 2017.

Unknown.jpegIf you’re looking for resolution and answers, do not come to Caitlin Kiernan.

If you’re looking for a linear narrative that moves smoothly through chronological time, do not come to Agents of Dreamland.

If you’re afraid of mushrooms or fungus, do not read this novella.

And if you’re concerned that beings Out There are coming to get us, and that people Down Here are trying to hide that fact… well, you might want to read this, but it won’t give you any reassurances one way or another.

There’s a Waco-syle whacko, and a glitch with New Horizons (which really happened!), and super-secret agents trying to figure out exactly what’s going on and how to save the world. Which may not be possible but I guess we’ll try anyway, and it may require copious amounts of coping alcohol.

Kiernan develops a vision of possible impending doom across the twentieth and twenty-first century, mostly through the experiences of two opaque secret agents and one ex-junkie. It’s not always an easy read but it’s definitely a gripping one. Definitely recommended.

The Song from Somewhere Else

This book was sent to me by the publisher, Bloomsbury, at no cost. It will be out in Australia in December 2016; RRP $24.99 (hardback). Recommended ages 9-12.

Unknown.jpegUh, wow. This book is utterly beautiful and wonderful. Both the prose and the object itself.

The story: bullied girl one day gets rescued by the weird, despised kid. She goes back to his house where she hears haunting, enchanting music, so she goes back the next day. Things get weirder over the next couple of days – and worse, and better. There’s kind-of magic, and real friendship, and problems to overcome.

I smiled. I had tears. I audibly gasped.

This is one of those gentle, insistent, wonderful books that make me happy to be reading. It kinda reminded me of Patrick Rothfuss’ Slow Regard of Silent Things – there’s more plot here, but the sensibility somehow feels similar.

This is also one of those books where I think “by golly I hope I’m not one of those sorts of adults.” Harrold has captured Frank’s voice wonderfully, and an attitude towards adults – their jokes are embarrassing, they can’t or won’t help with bullies, they’re basically oblivious – that feels all too real.

Other things I love about Frank: she has regular cranky discussion with her stomach, which tells her to ignore interesting-if-maybe-dangerous things, points out that things are about to go badly, and occasionally ostentatiously ignores proceedings and reads a newspaper instead. Pure magic. Also, her name is Francesca Patel. One old lady makes some passing comment about “do they have tuna where you’re from?” but otherwise, that’s just her name and I have no idea what she or anyone in her family looks like.

Oh yes – she has a family. There was a slight undertone of Archer’s Goon here; not that the family gets involved, but that they’re present and loving. This is a really nice take on the ‘weird things are happening to the kid but the family has no idea’ trope, without the family seeming evil for their ignorance.

And the book itself? The version I have is a smallish hardback. The pictures, by Levi Pinfold, are gorgeous. Many of the pages have story-appropriate shadows about the edges, and the text largely stays away from them, which is really cute. The front cover gives you an idea of what the internal illustrations look like: as if they’re maybe done in pencil? I don’t know, I’m no artist, but they’re delicate and rely on shadow and light and they’re a wonderful complement to the text.

One slight warning: if you are distressed by descriptions of bullying then this may be just a bit too much for you. I have horrible memories of The Chocolate War and usually hate those sorts of books… and I found the treatment of Frank by the bullies quite nasty. But what makes it work here is that Frank, while definitely and understandably affected, isn’t completely ground down. She doesn’t pretend that everything is ok, and some days it affects her more than others, but she ends up coping. And my heart sang when, seeing one of the bullies having been attacked, she decides to help him: “This wasn’t about him, was it? It was about her and who she wanted to be. She wanted to be a better person. Better than him at least. And not because it was a competition, just because” (161). YES. Just because. I love it.

I have every intention of holding onto this book (… I don’t keep every book…) and putting it into the hands of any kid (and possibly adult) I can.




This is the second book about Prudence, daughter of Alexia Tarabotti and Conall Maccon of the Parasol Protectorate books. I’m pretty sure you’re only going to like these books (the first is Prudence) if ours already invested in the world and the characters.

This is a very silly book. There are silly amusing events, silly amusing misunderstandings, and very silly characters. I enjoyed it but… it is silly.

This book has a lot more about Alexia and Conall than the first Prudence book did – in fact the first third or so is explicitly about them and their relationship with Rue and what’s happening with them and the consequences for everyone. Then things proceed to be more about Rue and the crew of her ridiculous dirigible The Spotted Custard. The action is mostly well paced and the events follow one another smartly; there’s certainly no time for boredom.

As I said, I enjoyed this book but I would have liked it more if I had a better grasp of who Rue is. Perhaps I’m expecting her to be too much like her mother, which is a failing of other people as Rue has grown up and so I’m embarrassed to admit it. But I found her disconcerting because it feels like she vacillates between ‘I’d rather stay at home and have tea’ and ‘daring adventurer!!’ in a way that’s not particularly convincing. I wonder if this is partly because we see her as a toddler in the last Alexia book, and then in her first book she’s 20 – but there’s little filling-in-of-background, not that much explanation for how she came to be the sort of person she is (with the exception of being accepting of non-heterosexuality). So that was a detraction.

It’s a fun, bubbly read, with the sort of attention to dress and food detail that I’ve come to anticipate from Carriger. Not for the Carriger noob, but a nice light read for those fond enough of the world to want to revisit.

Galactic Suburbia 155

Our post-Halloween episode, featuring vampire college students, spider-infested children’s birthday parties, and tiny adorable skeletons. This isn’t even the culture consumed part, it’s our real life! You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

(sorry for the sound quality of this one, we’re blaming the weather or possibly DEMONS)

The Halloween Update
From birthday parties to Trick or Treating, yes, Halloween is a thing in Australia now.

What’s new on the internet?
World Fantasy Awards winners announced.


Alisa: Frequency Season 1 ep 1-4, Jessica Jones

Tansy: Hocus Pocus; Octavia Cade: The Convergence of Fairy Tales, Tremontaine 1 & 2, Kelly Robson’s Tremontaine story, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson; Hold Me, Courtney Milan

Alex: Carmilla season 2 and season 0; Jericho rewatch; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; The Congress

Please send feedback to us at, 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!

Long Hidden

Unknown.jpegA book that celebrates the marginalised throughout history. The women. The black. The brown. The queer. The trans. The freaks.

Stories that give the marginalised agency, even when they’re oppressed; purpose, even when they’re condemned; existence, even when they’re ignored.

I loved this anthology. I at least liked, if not loved, every single story.

Every story is set in a historical time and place: parts of the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe. They deal with real instances of marginalisation and oppression: sometimes minorities within hostile communities, sometimes systemic social oppression. In each story the characters are those whose stories have tended not to be told in Official History – at least not until the last few decades, and still slowly at that. In some cases the stories are triumphant; in some cases the stories tell of loss and woe. But almost always there’s an element of optimism, or hope. That through oppression, defiant humanity shines through. That despite others trying to remove that humanity, the marginalised know that they are human, and deserving of dignity. Even if in this instance, they’re not accorded it. I found it an unexpectedly uplifting anthology.

It reminded me of Cranky Ladies of History, for its agenda of shining light into often unlit areas of history. But the difference is that this is consciously speculative fiction about the margins. Most often that’s expressed as magical ability of various kinds, rooted in real religious systems or within individual humans; or there’s the occasional science fictional element. Sometimes it’s zombies or shape-changing, or magical/otherworldly creatures. Sometimes the speculative element is central to the story, and sometimes it’s just there, part of the world. It’s always done well.

Everyone should read this anthology.