Tag Archives: angela slatter

The Tallow-Wife

36147725I can always rely on Angela Slatter to shatter my heart.

This wee volume was put together by Fablecroft for Conflux, the Canberra SF convention, this year. It’s a teaser for Slatter’s next volume of stories set in the world of Sourdough and Bitterworld Bible, basically. The main feature is the title story, with a couple other short bits included, and – to make it extra special – illustrations from Kathleen Jennings.

“The Tallow-Wife” is exactly the sort of story I have come to expect from Slatter, especially when it’s a story from this world. It’s a family story, it’s a gentle story, it’s a nasty story as only family stories can be. There’s hints and suggestions of machinations that aren’t spelled out, there’s layers of heartbreak and confusion, and it’s all presented in beautiful prose that sometimes bewilders me: how can such lovely words be telling a story that tears me up? It took me a good couple of weeks to read this – I read it in two sittings but after I put it down the first time I was super reluctant to pick it back up because I knew it would just hurt. And it did, but it was worth it, and I loved it for all the pain.

It must be noted that this is a lovely <i>object</i>, too. Hard cover, Jennings pictures; it’s a delight.

 

Galactic Suburbia 145

In which we all had a very exciting weekend. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia. 

Launched & pre-launched at Continuum: Defying Doomsday and Something New Can Come Into This World

Tansy & the Silent Producer totally got married!

British Fantasy Award shortlist

CULTURE CONSUMED:

Alisa: The Martian, Trepalium

Tansy: The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley, Cleverman, UnReal, Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson

Alex: Angela Slatter binge: Vigil, Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Sourdough and Other Stories, Black-Winged Angels. Also Revolution School (ep 1 until July 6)

Alex’s new podcast! Acts of Kitchen

Tansy’s new superhero story at The Book Smugglers: Kid Dark Against the Machine
On superheroes, kids, gender and role models: Tansy’s Inspiration & Influences

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

Black-Winged Angels

Continuing my Angela Slatter kick…

23461889.jpg“Baba Yaga is a woman who cannot be bound. She will bear no more children, she bow to the wishes of no man; she is independent, adrift from the world and its demands. The world, in ceasing to recognise her value, has granted her a freedom unknown to maids and mothers. Only the crone may stand alone.” (p135)

Angela Slatter’s exploration of the different ways women can be is one of the things I love most about her work, and it’s evident in this reprint collection. Most of the stories build on European fairytales or characters – Bluebeard, the Snow Queen, Melusine, the Little Match Girl. But the focus is different from the familiar story, because Slatter changes or explains the motivation, or centres on a different protagonist, or moves the setting and therefore the entire context… and she forces the reader to reconsider the telling of those stories, and what we can or should get out of them.

The quote above is one of my favourite parts of the whole collection, putting me immediately in mind of Ursula Le Guin’s reflections on being a ‘crone’, especially the essay “The Space Crone.” How often is old age meant to be something women should fear? And while Slatter’s Baba Yaga is by no means always happy with her status, she lives it.

This book is also a beautiful object. I have a hardback copy; the cover is black with a white cut-out illustration by Kathleen Jennings. Jennings’ artwork appears throughout the book, with each story having a dedicated picture – some quite simple, some incredibly complex. I love Jennings’ work and she beautifully complements Slatter’s ideas.

Vigil

A number of years ago, Angela Slatter wrote “Brisneyland by Night” for Twelfth Planet Press’ anthology Sprawl. It was excellent. Vigil is that story grown-up and turned into a novel, with at least two (I believe) more stories about Verity Fassbinder scheduled.

Unknown.jpegThis novel was sent to me by the publisher, as an uncorrected bound proof. Also, I had the enormous privilege of reading it in draft form, which I just can’t tell you how awesome that was. I have re-read it now partly because I have a bad memory and I knew the details had escaped me but that I loved it; partly because it’s Angela Slatter and she always withstands re-reading; and partly because it was sent as a review copy, so of course I had to. It was mostly the first two, though.

Verity Fassbinder “has her feet in two worlds” – that of the Normal, where there is definitely no magic and the only things that go bump in the night are trees in the wind and possums in the bins, and that of the Weyrd. With the Weyrd, things going bump in the night may well be very old, very cranky, and very powerful. Also, weird. Her father was Weyrd; he could change shape and he was a criminal, against both Normal laws and Weyrd customs.

Verity is a wonderfully attractive heroine. She inherited strength from her father but violence is not (always) her first recourse in a dangerous situation; she’s got a pretty short temper and little patience with bureaucracy and authority; she’s a fierce friend and protector of her neighbours, single mum Mel and daughter Lizzie; she lives in a clapped-out old house in Brisbane’s suburbs. She has little interest in fashion, she’s stubborn and determined, she’s willing to compromise and admit when she’s wrong. Basically she’s human, with flaws and problems and the sorts of characteristics I would absolutely love in a friend.

Slatter’s plot is not at all straightforward. She starts with the scenario from “Brisneyland” – children going missing – and builds layer upon layer of Weyrd problems that may or may not be connected. The death of a siren (hence the cover image), the disappearance of a young man, possibly random other deaths – all of which Fassbinder must solve, with varying levels of help and hindrance from a range of friends, acquaintances, enemies and bystanders. It’s a detective story with paranormal elements, and while that’s not a unique proposition it’s the setting and the side characters (and of course Verity herself) that make this wonderful.

Brisbane is by no means a fast-paced city. Slatter has jokes about the places that do or do not get flooded; there’s jokes and having to eat out before 8.30pm; there’s a distinctly slow-paced, I guess Australian feel to the whole situation. Moving this to an American city would make it very different, and lose a lot of its charm; I hope that translates to non-Australian readers.

Verity is aided by Ziggi, driving an entirely disreputable taxi and watching her with his third eye; she’s employed, kind of, by a Weyrd ex-boyfriend, Bela, who has some hidden depths and unexpected shallows. She’s helped and hindered in sometimes equal proportions by the Norn sisters – home of an addictive caramel marshmallow log that I wonder whether Slatter has actually made – and has all-too-frequent dealings with (Normal) Detective Inspector McIntyre, who may very well be my favourite of all the side characters (sorry Ziggi) for her ‘whisky-and-cigarettes voice’ and her even lower interest in putting on a good appearance than Verity. I really hope she continues to turn up throughout the series. I would swap her for Bela any day.

Vigil is fast-paced, quirky, full of twists, and thoroughly grounded in Brisbane (even if it is a somewhat imaginary Brisbane) and the reality of immigrant Australia. I love it and I want more Verity.

Sourdough and Other Stories

Unknown.jpegReading this has been a long time coming. I think I’ve owned it for a couple of years, but I’ve never quite got there before now… mostly because I knew that once I had read it, I would have read it, and then it wouldn’t be sitting there waiting to be read.

Yes, sometimes my brain is weird.

TL;DR: totally, totally worth it; wonderful and strange and making me moon-eyed. It is indeed like reading those fairy tales that were deemed Not Really Fit for young children and discovering that THAT is where the good stuff is.

Almost all of the narratives in this collection are connected in some way to other stories. Sometimes this is explicit: there are a couple of families for whom generations get stories. Others are more round-about, as a passing character in one gets developed in another. This goes too, of course, for The Bitterwood Bible in which Slatter has written prequel stories, of sorts. The fact that I read Bitterwood first meant I got to see some of the places where she went back and filled in gaps, fleshed out history, made connections clearer. The upshot is that reading the stories is a bit like moving to a small town. You meet one person and then another and only a few months later do you discover that those two have History; and then over time all the rest of the connections come tumbling out – except some of them still stay hidden, teased at the edge of perception. Sourdough and the world that Slatter has created here is exactly like that.

One of the things I fiercely love about the stories here and in Bitterwood is the focus on women – and that they are so very varied. Women are daughters, mothers, lovers, wives, friends, neighbours, enemies; they are skilled, bored, frustrated, vengeful, magical, lost, bewildered, smart, sacrificial, victims and heroes. They are human.

Seriously, just read this. Come back and thank me later.

Galactic Suburbia 129

In which we explain the metaphorically violent nature of Australian politics, celebrate the return of Feminist Frequency and our faces are on the internet.
And I am late in posting this! Holidays will do that, when you don’t take a laptop camping… you can get us from iTunes or Galactic Suburbia, anyway.

What’s New on the Internet

Malcolm Turnbull is not Tony Abbott: the Australian Spill Story
Our national sport
The onion thing, no we don’t get it either.

New Feminist Frequency Tropes v Women in Video Games – Women as Reward & Special DLC Mini Episode.

The Three Hoarsemen Podcast Episode 25 featuring Alisa

Galactic Suburbia on Books and Pieces

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Mad Max Fury Road; Undisclosed: The State vs Adnan Syed Podcast

Alex: Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut; Archer’s Goon, Diana Wynne Jones; I finished Stranger in a Strange Land!! Also Of Sorrow and Such, Angela Slatter

Tansy: Dawn, Octavia E. Butler; Bombshells #1, Marguerite Sauvage & Marguerite Bennett; The Cornell Collective; Supernatural

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

Of Sorrow and Such

I received this as an ARC from the publisher.

UnknownFirstly, LOOK AT THAT COVER OH MY IT IS A THING OF BEAUTY.

Secondly, Margo Lanagan is right, as usual. This is a riveting read.

Mistress Gideon, the narrator, is not a nice person. She’s not a good person, either; she works for and wants the best for those she loves, and for that reason is a fierce and loyal friend… but she’s not nice. And she’s not good. She is terrible to her enemies.

Mistress Gideon has enemies because she is a witch. Those of her neighbours in Edda’s Meadow who know she is a witch don’t say anything, because it’s useful having a witch nearby. But when visitors come through with a bit too much curiosity… well. Curiosity can be unhealthy.

Slatter has written a – well, not a lovely story. There’s a bit too much ruthlessness and hands cut off for ‘lovely.’ But it is a fierce story and one that demands to be finished; it’s complex and surprising. Don’t expect an entirely happy ending. It takes the old story of witches being found out and burnt at the stake and makes it a far more dynamic tale, exploring motivations and cause and consequence and collateral damage.

What I liked most, in the end, is that this is a story focussed on women. Women who love and who hate and who survive and who hang on through sheer bloody-mindedness. There are brutal witches and resentful teenagers and flighty wives and despairing lovers and bitter sisters and the guilty, the grim and the determined. Some of the women are a number of those things at the same time. These women are complex and challenging and very very real.

Of Sorrow and Such will be out in October. You know you want to read it.

The Female Factory

It took me a while to read this one. I read “Vox” and “Baggage” and then had to have a metaphorical lie down for a week, to catch my breath, then read the last two stories.

FemaleFactory-115x188Seriously. These two ladies. THEY DO THINGS TO MY BRAIN.

The no-spoilers version is: this collection is about being a woman, and children, and social expectations, and identity.

Now go read it. No, seriously.

Spoiler-filled version:
“Vox” is incredibly chilling, probably the most of the four stories, and on two laters. Kate’s obsession with the voices of inanimate objects is kooky but not that strange; her despair at not being able to have children is a familiar one. The further despair at having to choose just one child cuts deep… but the fact of what happens to the children she doesn’t choose? I had to reread the sections about the electronics’ voices a couple of time to check whether HannSlatt really had gone there. And yes, they really really had. Plus, Kate’s attitude towards her existing child… says some hard things about maternity. Confronting, in fact.

“Baggage” is a nasty little piece of baggage, with a central character lacking pretty much any redeeming personality features and a quite unpleasant world for her to feature in. Her particular ‘gift’ is never clearly explained, which I liked, given how supremely weird it is. There are definite overtones of The Handmaid’s Tale, although obviously it’s very different, and also perhaps Children of Men? Once again with maternity, although I imagine Kate would be horrified by Robyn’s attitude towards her own fertility, and the cubs she produces.

I loved “All the Other Revivals.” Well, I… hmm. Maybe I didn’t love all of them, but it’s not to say I didn’t love the others…. Oh anyway, it was interesting to come across a male voice, after the first two strong female voices. Not that Baron would see himself as a particularly strong <i>male</i> voice, I suspect. Once again the central conceit – the car in the billabong – isn’t explained at all; it just does what it does. And Baron is who he is, whoever that is – and will be. Once again the nature of motherhood is really strong here, although in a very different way from the first two stories; this time it’s a matter of absence, and one that’s never explained. I guess the billabong can be seen as a sort of mother, too, now that I think about it.

Finally, the titular “Female Factory” – named for a real place, I discover, in Tasmania OH MY BRAIN again. Again with the absence of motherhood (so it was a wise thing to do, to read the first two together and then the second two) – this time the story is from the perspective of young children – orphans no less – influenced by daring medical science in the early nineteenth century and their proximity to two cadaver-obsessed adults. Somehow this story, while creepy, felt perhaps the most comfortable of the lot; perhaps because its ideas are a bit familiar? Which isn’t to say it’s not an excellent story, which it is.

Overall this is an excellent #11 for the Twelve Planets, and once again Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter have well broken me. You can get it from Twelfth Planet Press. 

One Small Step

Soooo this anthology came out in 2013 aaaand I’ve only just got around to reading it. Um. Oops. I have no excuse for this. It just didn’t happen.

OneSmallStepCoverdraft-196x300In my defence I read the whole thing last Sunday. That counts, right?

The subtitle is “An Anthology of Discoveries” and what’s really interesting is that this is such a broad anthology but yes, the theme of discovery – of place, or self, or strangers – is the unifying factor. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s subtle; sometimes there are world-shattering consequences and sometimes not so much.

The other superbly interesting thing about this anthology is that it’s all women. From memory of Tehani discussing the process, pretty much accidentally so. And it’s not all just dresses and kissing! (Sorry; /sarcasm.) It’s basically a who’s who of established and emerging Australian writers, too, which is a total delight.

Some of these stories really, really worked for me. Michelle Marquardt’s “Always Greener” is a lovely SF story that ended up being simultaneously darker and more hopeful thanI expected (yes that’s a contradiction, too bad). And then to have it contrasted with the fantasy of Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter’s “By Blood and Incantation” – which is not my favourite HannSlatt but is still quite good – neatly skewered expectations that it was going to be an SF anthology, pointing out that ‘discovery’ is a mighty broad concept. And then “Indigo Gold” by Deborah Biancotti! Detective Palmer!!! and !!! The Cat Sparks story is awesome (it feels like ages since I read a Cat Sparks story), Penelope Love is quietly sinister in “Original,” Faith Mudge does fairy tale things beautifully in “Winter’s Heart.” And the final story, “Morning Star” by DK Mok, is a magnificent SF bookend to match Marquardt but on a much grander, more extravagant scale.

This is a really fun anthology and I’m sorry it took me more than a year to read it. You can get it right here.

Galactic Suburbia 112

In which we help you with your (possibly last minute) Christmas shopping with a ton of our favourite recommendations from the year, plus culture consumed. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Don’t forget to send us your recommendations for the GS Award: for activism and/or communication that advances the feminist conversation in the field of speculative fiction

Christmas gift suggestions!!

Alisa: Soapasaurus; Ancient Arts Yarn
Alex: Orphan Black. Abhorsen trilogy (plus prequel), Garth Nix. Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Angela Slatter. Hav, Jan Morris. Rupetta, Nike Sulway.
Tansy: Ms Marvel Vol 1: No Normal, G.Willow Wilson; Teen Titans Go; Dimetrodon, The Doubleclicks; The Musketeers (BBC 2014); Sex Criminals, Matt Fraction
TPP: Drowned Vanilla! Secret Lives of Books; The Female Factory, Kaleidoscope, The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories; Perfections;
Other Personal Stuff to Plug: The GS Scrapbook, The Twelfth Planet Press Tab, Musketeer Space

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Scrivener; Monstrous Affections edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant; Champagne and Socks (Alisa’s personal blog)
Alex: The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss; Troll: A Love Story, Joanne Sinisalo; Uncanny #1; finished Project Bond.
Tansy: Young Avengers 2: Family Matters; Civil War: Young Avengers/Runaways; Young Avengers Presents, The West Wing, Chicks Dig Gaming, Jennifer Brozek & Robert Smith?

Have a great summer… even if it’s winter where you live.

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