Tag Archives: sean williams

Galactic Suburbia 113

In which we’re back, baby, all cultured up from our summer holiday to tell you what’s good in books, shows, comics & more. You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

Thank our Patreons for the Alisa’s headphones which have greatly improved our sound quality!

Alisa is about to go to print on the Year’s Best YA.

Over the summer, as well as appearing on Galactic Suburbia’s sister-wife podcast Verity!, Tansy also guested on the Two Minute Time Lord talking about the Doctor Who Christmas special. Yes, Chip’s episodes are totally 2 minutes or less most of the time, but of course Tansy talked for longer than that, don’t be ridiculous! Tansy also wrote an article on Sex & Science Fiction over at Uncanny Magazine.

Alex has an exciting new announcement too, but you’ll have to listen to find out what it is. (cough, Tor.com, cough)

The Locus Recommended Reading List is out now, and features lots of Aussies.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Warehouse 13 Season 1; Twinmakers by Sean Williams; Crash by Sean Williams;
ODY-C #1 (Image); Federal Bureau of Physics Vol 1: The Paradigm Shift (Vertigo); Sex Criminals Vol 1 and Sex Criminals Issue 6 and 7; Julie Dillon’s Imagined Realms Book 1;Once Upon a Time Season 1 and 2; Serial

Tansy: The Fangirl Happy Hour podcast, Issue 1 reviews: Bitch Planet, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, SHIELD, Hawkeye, Black Canary & Zatanna: Bloodspell, by Paul Dini; Agent Carter, Kameron Hurley on not quitting her dayjob.

Alex: Three Temeraire books, Naomi Novik; Haven season 4; The Female Factory, Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter; Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch; A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge; Clariel, Garth Nix; Tam Lin, Pamela Dean. Abandoned: Orphans of Chaos and Hidden Empire

ZEROES – New superhero YA book deal from Scott Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti & Margo Lanagan – words do not describe how excited Galactic Suburbia is about this one!!! Coming out from Simon Pulse in northern autumn this year.

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!


UnknownDeclaring my connections: the publisher and half the editors of this anthology, Alisa Krasnostein, is a Galactic Suburbian with me; so is the author of the first story, Tansy Rayner Roberts.

I’m a lucky person because I’m white, and straight. I’m marginalised in fiction because I’m a woman who reads science fiction. I’m one of those female readers who long ago learned the trick of imagining myself with the fellas in the books I was reading – courtesy of all those Biggles books, mostly, and all that never-written-down fanfic of joining the Fellowship of the Ring (mostly to swoon over Legolas). So my emotional connection to the idea of needing diversity in fiction is somewhat less than, say, Julia Rios – one of the editors of this anthology – who notes that “As a bisexual Mexican-American woman, I didn’t see myself reflected very often in books I read as a child or teen…”. Nonetheless, I do get personally terrifically bored of straight while male characters, and I intellectually and ethically passionately support the need for diversity in all fiction. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that this project was a great one in theory, and has turned out to be a great one in practise.

Krasnostein and Rios got themselves an awesome set of authors to approach the idea of stories whose protagonists represent diversity, but where that diversity isn’t the point – it just is. Just like it should be in life. So this isn’t an issues book, and it’s not even really a themed anthology. There’s superheroes (hey Roberts, where’s that novel?) and d-mat transportation and mythology and aliens. There’s neurodiversity and mental health issues and gender and sexuality questioning and non-whites! and teens being teens and why haven’t you bought it yet?

I’ve noted before my assumption that picking the first story of an anthology must be hard. I say this with no reference to Tansy being a friend: “Cookie Cutter Superhero” really does deserve to springboard more stories. A universe wherein machines to create superheroes have appeared around the world? Where different countries take different routes to figure out who gets to use it, and the machine decides what they’ll be like? Seriously. Someone get that woman a contract and option the TV rights. And Roberts setting this in Sydney, casually mentioning the indigenous superhero who refused the media’s attempt to make him tribal, and our soon-to-be-superhero lacks a hand and it’s not the focus of the story… everything is right about this story. Up to and including the ending.

There are other stories in the anthology too. Sean Williams throws in a story set in his Twinmaker world, and it’s mighty fine. Gabriela Lee’s “End of Service” is a bit creepy both for the SF elements and for its real-world elements. Faith Mudge’s “Signature” is wonderful and not only because it reminded me strongly of The Changeover which is a pretty sure way to my heart. I hadn’t read a new Dirk Flinthart in a while, so finding “Vanilla” in here was a delight. The title suggested one thing, especially with the discussion around identity and what being a ‘proper’ Australian, or Somali, or Somali-Australian actually means… and then it turned out to have another meaning as well. Karen Healey’s “Careful Magic” is a bit Holly Black, and all awesome. I should not have read Sofia Samatar’s “Walkdog” in public – let that be a warning – I love her use of footnotes, and the eccentric spelling works beautifully, and the format does too. It’s not often you see Celtic mythology get utilised in a story, and Amal El-Mohtar does so wonderfully in a story about owls and displacement.

This isn’t a complete list, by any means. There’s also Jim Hines, Ken Liu and John Chu, Shveta Thakrar and Alena McNamara, and a bunch of others coming at the notion of diversity in YA from different points. As a reader, therefore, thanks to everyone who helped get this anthology off the ground – this is a great book that should do the rounds of every YA reader you know.

You can get this from Twelfth Planet Press direct – Australian release coming in October!

Snapshot: Sean Williams

Sean Williams is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over forty award-winning novels for children, young adults and adults. His latest include Jump and Missing, Presumed Evil, with Garth Nix. For more information, please visit twinmakerbooks.com.

1. You’ve recently completed a PhD – congratulations! – and you’ve published a few stories connected to the topic of your research. How did your fascination with “d-mat” start, and do you think it’s a concept you’ll use in future stories?

I’ve been obsessed with matter transmitters for about as long as I’ve been obsessed with stories. Where the obsession comes from isn’t hard to identify–it’s Doctor Who (not Star Trek)–but it’s taken me forty years to work out why I keep coming back to it. And boy, do I. Before Twinmaker, I had over two dozen published novels and short stories featuring the trope (plus my very first, unpublished short), and the number of Twinmaker-related stories just passed twenty-five. I’m currently working on two more, and I have an unsold novel featuring matter transmitters that I co-wrote with a friend last year. It would be fair to say that there’s no sign of the flood easing any time soon.

But why keep coming back to it? Because the matter transmitter is a trope that allows an author to tackle any aspect of society, identity, physicality, and spatiality she wants. It is the perfect SFnal trope, in fact: there’s literally nothing about the present world you can’t interrogate with it. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

2. Some of your best known work is your Star Wars novels. What was it like working in a shared universe like that? Has it had much of an impact on your other writing? 

It’s both fun and extremely hard work. I enjoy doing it because it takes me out of my own worlds and into a much larger collaborative space than the one in which I normal operate, where I’m working on my own or with another author, with the help of my agent and editors. Tie-in work is massively constrained in lots of ways, but that forces you to be more creative. I find that kind of thing immensely stimulating.

3. You’re in the midst of a children’s series, with Garth Nix, called Troubletwisters. Do you already have an idea of where the story will take the twins, and how many more books are there to go? 

Yes and yes. We have always known pretty much where the twins would end up, although the journey there has brought its share of surprises, as with all writing. As with all journeys, I guess. I feel like we could write about Jaide and Jack forever, but sadly all stories must come to an end, and Garth and I are even now looking into the stories we’ll be telling next.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m way behind on everything, including, most shamefully, the work of my friends and peers. Here’s some I’ve read this year, in no particular order:

These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Beauty’s Sister, James Bradley

Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs, Tim Molloy

The Bride Price, Cat Sparks

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

As I mentioned earlier, Garth and I are mapping out our post-Troubletwisters series, while at the same time I’m looking at what will come after Twinmaker. There have been no radical changes to the way this falls into place, for me, anyway. I still work pretty much the same way I did when I sold my first novels, ie drafting stories in a word processor (no Scrivener), delivering through a traditional publisher and an agent, and selling books mainly in paper form. That doesn’t mean I have a problem with e-books. Quite the contrary! They’re all I read, and most of my earlier novels are available that way now. The only reason I haven’t gone down that road yet is because I have no interest in being a publisher myself, not to mention the time to learn the skills required. But that could change if the right project comes along.

What do I think I’ll be writing in five years? Five years ago I thought I’d be writing adult crime novels, and here I am loving every moment in YA and MG, so what do I know? Whatever it is, I’ll be totally invested, and totally loving it. That’s the only way to be.


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:

Galactic Suburbia 104

In which we gaze into the World of the Future with a double dose of Culture Consumed and Culture Yet To Consume. Get us at iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.

Culture We Are Looking Forward To

Alex: new James SA Corey; Isobelle Carmody’s last Obernewtyn novel; every TPP; Guardians of the Galaxy; Snowpiercer; Saga.

Tansy: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison; Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire; Ben Peek, The Godless; Sailor Moon

Alisa: Extant

Culture We Have Consumed

Alisa: Twinmaker, Sean Williams

Alex: holidays!! Diaspora, Greg Egan; The Reluctant Swordsman, Dave Duncan; James Tiptree Award Anthology 3

Tansy: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.

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!

Galactic Suburbia 98

In which we approach Fringe from multiple sides, rant about Game of Thrones, muse about cake lit and Alisa is a PhD student again! Bonus supplemental awards chat (but not in depth about the Hugos because we recorded before the shortlist went public) and an invitation to CAKE OUT for our 100th. See you there…
You can get us from iTunes or over at the Podbean site. I should warn you that I felt entirely off my game for this ep, but Tansy and Alisa keep the ball rolling very nicely.

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Fringe season 1; A Million Suns, Beth Revis; The Crooked Letter, Sean Williams;

Tansy: Game of Thrones rant, Jenny Colgan novels, Jago & Litefoot 7, Yonderland!

Alisa: Game of Thrones; Generation Cryo; The Cuckoo by Sean Williams, Clarkesworld Issue 91; the PhD Report

Aurealis Awards were awarded.

(sidetracked: Before the Internet from XKCD)

Hugo nomination (!! third time running!!)

CAKE COMPETITION! For our 100th episode, we would like to have a new logo. On a cake. Designed by you. Send a picture of your creation and you could win… something… and you can eat the cake, too. (This is episode 98, so you’ve got 4 or 5 weeks to plan your creation.)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, 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!

The Crooked Letter

I’ve read this as part of my great Read Everything I Own but Haven’t Read Yet pledge, which I’m hoping to make serious inroads into this year. We’ll see…

UnknownI got this a number of years ago as part of a show bag at a Swancon. I had read some Williams before, but not much. Since then I have read large chunks of his SF, but – until now – none of his fantasy except for the Troubletwisters books with Garth Nix. (It’s actually been a while since I read much fantasy at all, which is curious to realise.)

Slight spoilers!

Williams clearly has a thing for twins. In this, the twins are mirrors of one another, down to one of them having his heart on the righthand side of his chest. Their names are Seth and Hadrian – and I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed with the name choice, given that both lend themselves to some nice tricksy name-association, just not with each other. Moving on… Seth and Hadrian are on holidays in Europe. They end up travelling with a girl, Ellis, and then everything gets weird when one of them is stabbed. That’s not the weird part, though – the weird part is the non-stabbed one waking up and realising that the world is very, very different from when he last had his eyes open. And then things just get worse. For both of the twins.

There are some really nice elements to this story. Overall I thought the twins’ relationship was a well-developed one, nearly perfectly balanced between love and… not hatred, but perhaps despair at being tied to this same person in so many ways for so long. Occasionally I got a bit bored by the whinging, but perhaps that’s teenagers for you. The cherry-picking of mythology and characters from all over the world was a nice touch – it certainly avoided being eurocentric, which is always nice to see, and plays into a bit of a Jungian idea of the great subconscious with these commons themes that can (maybe) be seen. And I especially loved that Hadrian’s adventures mostly took place in a city – THE city, the great underlying city, what every city dreams of being. While I do love me some epic horse-riding and camping out, grand fantasy played out on city streets also has a lot of appeal.*

There are, though, some aspects that grated. Hadrian’s absolute insistence on finding Ellis – and that people are willing to help – strained credibility: HELLO, everyone ELSE appears to be dead, so how exactly are you planning on finding one probably-dead girl in the great uber-city? I was hoping right from the start that Ellis was going to turn out to be more than just a girl, and that all of the non-humans knew it, since that would excuse it to some extent. The first was correct but not the second, so my annoyance with that plot element still exists. Sometimes the mashing of multiple mythologies did not gel for me, and the explanation of the Three Realms really didn’t work for me. I can’t explain why; I don’t think it’s my faith getting in the way, since it rarely does with this sort of fantasy (that is, the sort that’s clearly playing with pagan ideas, rather than Crystal Dragon Jesus types).

I did finish it, which means I did enjoy it even if I didn’t adore it. I own the second Books of the Cataclysm, The Blood Debt. While it’s not next on my list, I will definitely be reading it at some point… and from there I’ll see whether I get around to the other trilogy that this is actually a prequel to, the Books of the Change.

You can get The Crooked Letter from Fishpond.

*Hmm. Do I need to read Lord of the Rings again sometime? I’m getting an itch…

Troubletwisters: a review

I am a long-time fan of both Garth Nix and Sean Williams (more so the latter’s SF than fantasy), so the idea of a collaboration between the two – aimed at children – is exciting indeed. And I was fortunate enough to hear Sean Williams speak about the act of collaboration at Natcon50, where he discussed the different things that each brought to the writing: that (I think!) Williams wrote the first rough draft, then Nix added bits and changed bits, and sent it back again… and so on. I was particularly amused to hear that the two got into some serious brinksmanship over who could be the most gross, since they are both little boys at heart, so I intrigued to read and discover what this looked like in practice. (The answer: they do indeed manage to be quite gross. I am not a fan of rats or cockroaches.)

Troubletwisters harks very strongly to the classics of fantasy written for younger readers. The main characters are twins: Jaide and Jack. (In talking about the story, Williams admitted that he has long been intrigued by twins and their use in fiction. As I see it, it’s almost like you’re getting a character for free – and it means that you always have the opportunity for your characters to discuss things, disagree about things, or be worried about someone.) Their father is away a lot, and they know nothing about his side of the family… until a disaster means that they have to go and stay with their mysterious paternal grandmother, where they begin to learn about some strange abilities. These plot devices could have felt hackneyed and stale, being by no means original; instead they feel familiar, but by no means comfortable. Williams and Nix use the twins as a means of exploring different reactions to scenarios and individuals, and there are indications that the two will have different experiences of their abilities that will be explored in later books of the series (there will be another four). The trope of leaving home and going to an alien place is as old as fiction itself; it can be, and is used here as, the catalyst for self-discovery and learning about the world. The strange relative and slightly intimidating new environment – Grandma X and her weird house – are perfect for the target age-group: visiting unknown relatives can be a very scary thing indeed.

The plot moves quickly: the twins arrive at their Grandma’s house and soon things start to go wrong. Additionally, weird things happen when they are around: a sign their mother can’t see, a freak whirlwind, talking cats…. There is, of course, a reason for this – it’s their nature – and the narrative is largely concerned with the pair beginning to learn about their abilities, and what it means to use them. Of course, they can’t simply do this is peace and quiet. Instead, they are confronted with a rather nasty villain, and it’s in dealing with this villain and its impact on their environment that they really start to learn about what it means to be “troubletwisters”. While the twins are allowed some breathing space – Williams and Nix don’t pretend 12-year-olds can simply go on throughout the night – the main action takes place over only three or four days, so it does feel a bit relentless. Since this is certainly how it feels for Jaide and Jack, that’s a perfectly reasonable feeling for the reader.

As with Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series, which shares a certain tone with Troubletwisters, it’s unclear what country this book is set in. Grandma X lives in Portland – but not the one you’ve heard of. Reading as an Australian, I could well believe that this was set on the Victorian coast. Having visited the UK, I can imagine it set there, too, and I imagine that setting it in America would be as easy for readers there. This ubiquity is no doubt good for getting international readers; it also gives the book a certain Everyplace vibe. This could happen to anyone, anywhere.

I have two, fairly minor, quibbles with this book. The first is the naming of the twins. I quite like the names Jaide and Jack… but those names are short for Jaidith and Jackaran. These names simply do not work to my ear – Jackaran in particular seems too complicated, and I am not a huge fan of made-up names in a real-world context. I really hope that there is an explanation for the names in later books. On the same topic, but in the opposite direction, I was disappointed by the lack of originality in naming the villain (which I won’t reveal here). It seemed too mundane for something that so threatening.

Overall, then, this is a marvellous opening to what promises to be a very interesting new children’s fantasy series. It sets up the main characters as attractive and interesting, although not without their problems, as well as introducing some supporting characters who will no doubt go on to be important (did I mention the talking cats?). There is clearly a problem to be resolved – what to do about the villain – as well as a quest, in learning to use and control their abilities. Plus, of course, there’s the issue of their slightly fractured family, which will no doubt continue to be an issue that the twins have to deal with. I have faith in the two authors that this series will continue to be enjoyable, without being predictable.