In which we solemnly swear we will repeat the title of our culture consumed after discussing it. Pinkie promise. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.
Update on Gamergate with particular focus on Brianna Wu AKA @spacekatgal
(This episode was recorded before the Felicia Day incident)
Alisa’s con report – Conflux
Tansy’s con report – CrimesceneWA
Strange Horizons fundraising
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It’s time to start thinking about the GS Award, yes already, WTF 2014 why are you moving so fast?
What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: Landline, Rainbow Rowell (NB since recording, Alisa actually finished this book YES SHE DID); Night Terrace S1 1- 5
Alex: Sarkeesian’s XOXO talk; Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen); Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond; Indistinguishable from Magic, Catherynne Valente; Bitterwood Bible and other Recountings, Angela Slatter; The Dish.
Tansy: Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan; Night Terrace S1, Agents of SHIELD S1, The Flash S1 Ep 1-2
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Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter has been on my radar for ages, but somehow I’ve just never got around to reading it. For a while I didn’t realise it was available as an ebook – and Tartarus Press does lovely hard copies, but they’re a leedle expensive for a book you’re taking a chance on. And I also wasn’t sure that these stories were ones that I would really connect with. I mean, yes, I loved “Brisneyland by Night” in Sprawl, and a few others Slatter has written – especially with Lisa L Hannett – and Midnight and Moonshine made me cry with its beauty, but… I just wasn’t sure. And then I found out that Slatter had a set of ‘prequel’ type stories coming out, so I thought I should read those first.
Halfway through reading The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, I finally bought myself Sourdough because there is no way I can now not read that collection. Because I am absolutely an Angela Slatter convert.
The stories collected here are not quite a mosaic in the same way that Midnight and Moonshine are. There, each story was clearly connected – most often by family, which made it seem a generational saga. Here, while there are a couple of stories that feature the same protagonist, a few more with recurring cameos, and most set in the same place or with the same background characters, it’s more like a series of stories set in a couple of distinct suburbs or small towns. Of course you’re going to get the same bars, or neighbourhood characters, or landmarks mentioned; that just makes sense. But the narratives themselves aren’t necessarily connected… although sometimes they are. And these locales that Slatter has invented are very believable. They’re well-realised, and they’re familiar in that fairy-tale sort of way. Because these are indeed a sort of fairy tale. There’s not a whole lot of magic; what there is is generally a quiet, dare I say domestic without it being in the slightest derogatory, magic; no flashiness or gaudiness here, no winning of wars. That would draw too much attention, and drawing attention in these stories is generally A Bad Thing. The women – and the protagonists are almost all women – mostly want to be left alone, to get on with their lives. Sometimes they’re forced to interact with the world, or with other people, that they’d rather not; because they need to achieve some specific goal, or because they’re being manipulated, or they otherwise have no choice. But you certainly get the feeling that most of them would just prefer never to be in the limelight, not to be a household name… not to stand out.
There are scribes and poisoners, seamstresses and pirates, teachers and coffin-makers and servants. They are mothers and daughters and child-free and orphan, young and old and neither; rural and urban, rich and poor. They have varying degrees of agency and control, varying chances of living after and of living happily ever after.
This is a wonderful collection of stories. They can and should be read and enjoyed separately; they can and should be read and enjoyed together, making a whole even greater than its parts. Oh, and Kathleen Jennings’ lovely little illustrations throughout are a delightful addition; I imagine they’re even more impressive in print, but electronically they’re still fine.
This review is part of the Australian Women’s Writers 2014 challenge.
Haha! At first I thought it was just a single one-off story, but I enjoyed writing it so much and I got so much great feedback on it that I thought I should take it a little further. Originally I thought I’d write three novellas with the same characters and pitch them to small presses in Australia. But I got to the point (after writing the original short story and two of the novellas) of thinking “You’re an idiot, just write the damned novel.” So I did and it’s taken three and a half years, and that’s as much because I’ve had to pick story threads apart and re-work them to fit into a more traditional novel structure as because I was also working on other projects and doing part-time work (and finishing a PhD). In short, it was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But I got there in the end, with a huge amount of beta reading from Lisa Hannett, Peter M Ball and Alan Baxter — thanks, guys! Now it’s a matter of seeing how it goes out in the real world on the hamster wheel of agents and publishers — which has started.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? Do you think you will be writing differently in five years from now?
One of the things that I really like is that novellas are on the rise again: small presses like Earthling, TTA, Twelfth Planet, and Gray Friar Press are producing some terrific works.
I don’t think I’ll be writing any differently, but the means of getting the work out there may well change. The message stays the same though the medium might change. And I think it’s important for writers to network and maintain relationships with individuals in the industry, rather than think their future is entirely invested in a single publishing house — very few writers nowadays are ever published by a single house. But editors and publishers and agents and booksellers all move around the industry: keep your ties with them and new opportunities may well come from that.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:
This book. Oh, this book.
It took me a few months to read this collection, this mosaic novel. This is no reflection on the quality of the book. Well, actually it is, but not the way you might think. See, I’d read a story, and then I’d be forced to close the book, sigh, and stare into space in order to wallow in the beauty of the prose. And then I’d have to go read something else, because (like with me and Gwyneth Jones’ Bold as Love series) sometimes too much beauty is painful and you need a break.
First off, look at that cover. Is she not glorious? are the colours not soothing and enticing? Created by the awesome Kathleen Jennings (who chronicles the saga of its production on her blog), I would absolutely have this on my wall. LOVE.
Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett created the contents. Writers who collaborate are even more of a mystery to me than authors who work alone, and to produce this sort of magic has to be just that – occult somehow. And they haven’t been content to just a straightforward story. Instead, as suggested above, this could be seen as a collection or a mosaic novel. A collection because it is made up of short stories that can basically stand by themselves. You could take one and put it in an anthology and it would still work ok. However – and here’s a metaphor I’m very pleased with – that’s like taking a candle out of a chandelier. Yes, it still sheds light. But when you put it with its fellow candles and they’re ringed with crystal, the whole effect is so much more just a few candles in one place. These thirteen stories, read together and in sequence (and wrapped in that art), are far more than the sum of their parts. Together, they create a history of an entire people: their origins, their interactions with humanity, their crises and triumphs, and the ongoing impact of a few families and their heirlooms. Thus, a mosaic novel – there is continuity, but it’s thematic and genetic; there’s only one character appears in or influences lots of the stories. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Edward Rutherford (London, Sarum) and James A Michener (The Source) following multiple generations in one place in order to fictively illustrate local history. Slatter and Hannett do just that… with magic. And Norse gods. Same amount of revenge though.
The premise, as set out in “Seeds,” is of Odin’s raven Munin (memory, here called Mymnir) surviving Ragnarok and setting out for Vinland (thought to be somewhere on the north-eastern corner of North America) with a few followers. Once she gets there, she creates an enclave and peoples it with servants, and sets out to rule it I guess like she learned from the Aesir she’s observed for however many centuries. Of course this does not go entirely well either for her or for her people. There’s love and betrayal, selflessness and vindictiveness; people get beaten up, rescued, married off, wooed… and some people even manage to make their own destinies. My estimate is that the stories take place over roughly a millennium, but that’s based entirely on the fact that that’s about how long ago it’s posited that Vikings did historically head off for Vinland and settle for a short span. The early stories take place in a sort of timeless, medieval-ish zone; from memory there are no dates in the first seven stories, and it feels like that sort of myth/fantasy where time itself is important but recording it is less so. Then, with “Midnight,” suddenly the external world exists and thrusts itself onto this dreamy place. From then on, time is relentless, and within 5 or 6 stories it’s the modern world. This development works mostly because although the stories do stand alone, there is continuity within families. Sometimes the names give them away, sometimes it’s an heirloom appearing, occasionally a reference to a past event. This often means that rather than having to struggle for a new emotional connection every time, the reader can build on the investment already made in the character’s family, from an earlier story. It’s the same reason Rutherford and Michener’s works can be successful.
And on top of all of this, the sheer beauty of the prose. I do not have the words to explain how delightful the words in this book are. It just all works.
Did I mention it’s an Australian production? Produced by Ticonderoga, in Perth.
You can get Midnight and Moonshine over at Fishpond. (Although it does ship from a US supplier.)