Tag Archives: terry pratchett

My Christmas Culture

I always think of Connie Willis at Christmas time. One of my favourite of her books is a collection of short fiction, Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, many of which were written for Asimov’s December issues over a decade or so. The title story feels like quintessential Willis short stories, because it is a romantic comedy with speculative elements, and includes references classic pop culture of some kind. In this case, it is a debate between which Christmas film is superior, Miracle on 42nd Street (the original) or It’s a Wonderful Life. At the time I first read this story, I hadn’t seen either film. They occasionally screen in Australia, more often now than when I was growing up, but they’re not as pervasive as they apparently are in the US at this time of year!

I went out and watched both movies, as I usually do when Connie Willis structures a story around a piece of Classic Hollywood. They’re both very good movies. But neither of them, for me, has a patch on the personal resonance of, say, Bernard and the Genie, which I adore beyond all reason, or even the resonance of “Miracle” itself.

It’s all personal, though. Christmas cultural texts come from our childhood, from happy moments in our lives, or they just happen like lightning – like anything else that becomes a new, instant favourite. But really, I didn’t start thinking about Christmas texts until I read “Miracle.” So it’s rather meta that, at Christmas time, I start getting the urge to re-read that story.

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Galactic Suburbia Episode 48

The new episode of Galactic Suburbia is up, go download it, stream it, or do whatever it is you crazy kids do with podcasts these days!

In which we save the Tasmanian Devils, take on the Classics, review cars, discover that toy fandom exists, plan to read LOTS of Australian women writers, and Wonder Woman still doesn’t have pants.


Coffeeandink on The Erasure of women writers in SF and Fantasy

Mur Lafferty – My Problem With Classics

Open letter to publishers: book bloggers are not your bitches

Kate Gordon’s Devil Auction – help to save the Tasmanian Devils! (kitten pictures with TEETH)

Australian Women Writers Challenge
Sign up now

Jason Nahrung posted a list of the books he plans to read for the challenge – let us know what yours are!

In association with this, Tansy produced a list of award-winning SF/Fantasy books by Australian women.

Please keep sending in your suggestions for a Galactic Suburbia Award – we hope to have a plan for this by our 50th episode and are loving reading the tweets and emails so far.

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Pratchett’s Women IV: His Henpecked Voice

Jingo (some spoilers)
The Fifth Elephant (ALL THE SPOILERS)

Both Jingo and The Fifth Elephant missed their mark entirely with me, when I first read them on first release. Which meant that on my recent reread, I at least had fairly low expectations for them.

Jingo on the whole fared much better than the first time around, at least as far as a Vimes and City Watch novel is concerned. The prose is clever and tight, and there are many crunchy themes surrounding war, patriotism, etc. It’s one of those Discworld books that transcends the comedy to have a deeper philosophical meaning, plus as many Leonardo Da Vinci jokes as any sane person would ever want in one place.

However, the thing it doesn’t have is much in the way of… you guessed it, women.

Sybil appears in a few scenes, and is largely reduced to the role of nagging wife. I do love the bit where she chides Vimes for treating her as if she is nagging him and points out how unfair it is, but that’s Sybil for you, grasping any attempt to be awesome, in the face of difficult circumstance. She very much there to point out how awkwardly Vimes is assimilating into the upper classes, and in some cases how well he is assimilating, and to wave a few warning flags that his current workaholic lifestyle is unsustainable. This at least will be followed up in later books.

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Galactic Suburbia Episode 46

Howie needs a Hat

In which we celebrate the World Fantasy Awards, take on the Kickstarter phenomenon and why people like to support authors/artists directly, Alex is betrayed by Isobelle Carmody, Alisa still can’t finish Tansy’s novel, and we indulge in a feedback frenzy.

Hurry over to Podbean or iTunes now to get the new episode! Or just sit back, relax and read the show notes.


World Fantasy Awards!

Realms of Fantasy sinks for the third time

Graham Joyce calls BFS Extraordinary General meeting December 9th

Authors kickstarting their own projects:
Matt Forbeck – 12 novels in 12 months.
Laura Anne Gilman’s novella
CE Murphy’s novella
(mentions also of self publishing projects of Tracy & Laura Hickman, and Liz Williams)
Catherynne Valente’s Omikuji project looking for subscribers in order to keep the project going.
And Tobias Buckell talks about how just because you’re self publishing doesn’t mean you have to be a …

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts, The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

Alex: the Stone Key and The Sending, Isobelle Carmody; I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett; end of Life on Mars S2; This is Not a Game, Walter Jon Williams; Distress, Greg Egan

Tansy: Ally Condie, Matched; Lisa Goldstein, The Uncertain Places; Gail Simone, Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation; Geek Tragedy, Nev Fountain

Feedback: well overdue!

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!

Pratchett’s Women III: Werewolf Glamour & the Sexing of Dwarves

Guards, Guards
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay

I always loved the City Watch books of the Discworld series almost as much if not equally to those of the Lancre Witches. Vimes is a wonderful character, someone who has been utterly broken down by life when we first meet him, and gradually pulls himself up by his bootstraps, though he never loses his deep cynicism about the world. The books are packed with lovable, memorable characters: Nobby Nobbs who is basically a big mass of personality quirks mushed together into a smelly vest, cautious Sergeant Colon with a quip for every occasion, and the utterly adorable Carrot, a man so damned GOOD that bluebirds sing whenever he walks down the street. We also get some of the best appearances in the Discworld of the Patrician, one of the most compellingly pragmatic evil overlords ever to exist in fiction, and some of the best stories centred around the city of Ankh-Morpork. All this and some clever, airtight plots, mostly based around police procedural or murder mystery structures. All up, pretty good stuff.

But what about the women?

Guards Guards, the first book featuring the City Watch, is pretty light on when it comes to female characters. The most central woman in the whole story is Sybil Ramkin, dragon expert, whom I love deeply, though it has to be said that she emerges as a fascinating, fully realised and complicated female character despite every attempt of the narrative. Each time she appears, she has to wade through a sea of fat jokes, aristocrat jokes, lonely spinster jokes, and in some cases, all three at once. On more than one occasion she is described vividly as something monstrous or other than human, including scenes from the point of view of the man she will marry in later books.

Every time she opens her mouth, though, Sybil proves herself to be awesome. She’s not just posh and dragon obsessed and lonely and less than slender, she’s also smart, brave, funny, generous, and a good person. I don’t know how to feel about the final scene in which Vimes capitulates to her romantic expectations – it’s gorgeously written, and terribly clever, but I did rankle at him only belatedly admitting that he finds her attractive, and the fact that she is pretty much described as a perfumed siege engine rather than a person. But I love her, I love him, and I do find their later relationship one of the best things about these books (gosh I hope it still is, better brace myself for the visit of the suck fairy) so I will forgive Pratchett for giving Sybil such a problematic debut.

The rest of the women in Guards Guards are largely invisible. We are told about Carrot’s mother, his old girlfriend Minty, his new sort-of-girlfriend Reet, and his innocent friendship with the local brothel madam Mrs Palm and her “many unmarried daughters,” all through scenes in which they don’t actually appear, through dialogue or in his letters home. Likewise Mrs Colon is referenced but we don’t meet her. The entire plot, about a man who uses another bunch of men to summon a dragon and overthrow the Patrician in favour of a fake king to rule them all, and the men who stop him, is one big cockforest. But to put it into context, this is a very early Discworld book, one which had (mostly) not yet accepted that women could play roles other than sexy love interests, funny-because-not-sexy love interests, landladies and witches.

As I discussed in the original Pratchett’s Women post, later Discworld books are far more inclusive of female characters, and that holds true for the City Watch volumes.


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Pratchett’s Women: Slash! Stab! A Lesson in Practical Queening.

Lords and Ladies, by Terry Pratchett, is the best kind of fantasy novel.

For me, the best possible thing that fantasy as a genre can do is to say something important about our world and history, ideally while also commenting in some way on the traditions of the genre itself, and being a damn good read. Add to that a whole bunch of female characters who happen to be the central drivers of the plot and…

Oh, yes. Lords and Ladies is that good.

In some ways, this book is the last third of an unofficial trilogy (with Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad) featuring the original trio of Pratchett’s witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. In other ways, it’s the beginning of an unofficial trilogy (with Maskerade and Carpe Jugulum) about the mortality and power of Granny Weatherwax, with bonus Nanny Ogg at every turn (she doesn’t just steal scenes, she gets them drunk and makes them blush with dirty jokes) and the growing pains of Agnes “Perdita” Nitt.

But this is also, like so many of Pratchett’s best books, a book about stories. In this case, having taken on Shakespeare and fairy tales, he looks at the role of women in English folk songs and folklore. This is a story about cold iron and fairy glamour; of midsummer rituals and blood in the snow and dodgy jokes about morris dancers and maypoles. It’s a story about how practicality trumps romance every time, if you’re lucky.

Most of all, while it has much to say about witches and wives and mothers, this is a story about queens.

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Galactic Suburbia Episode 39 Show Notes

New episode up on iTunes! Grab it from iTunes, by direct download or stream it on the site.


In which we defend Mary Sues everywhere, point at superheroes with their pants down, plan a Hugo Twitterparti and reveal which of the three of us is secretly a hardcore horror fan. But most importantly, Alex is watching Blake’s 7 completely unspoiled and she loves Avon the best, hooray!


The Mary Sue Conversation:
Zoe Marriott
Sarah Rees Brennan
Holly Black
Elizabeth Bear
“Sometimes a book is about a female character because there are female people in the world.”

What if Male Superheroes posed like Wonder Woman?
Gender Bent Justice League
Bonus, superheroes without pants (except Wonder Woman):

Cat Valente steps down from Apex Magazine as fiction editor, Lynne M Thomas steps up.

Alex wants to be in Reno.
Watch the Hugos!
Join @GalacticSuburbs in whatever the right time zone is and Twitterparti the Hugos with us!

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa – The Hunger Games, Life on Mars UK, The Women’s Hour Podcast, Doctor Who
Tansy – Lords & Ladies, Terry Pratchett; Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Rob Shearman; Rob on the Big Finish Podcast, Xena & the mystical pregnancy
Alex – Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi; Blake’s 7; Across the Universe, Beth Revis.

Featured Feedback:

Grant Watson (as well as our producer) pointed out to Tansy that Jason Todd died in “A Death in the Family” and not “The Killing Joke.” She is very sorry.

Kirstyn McDermott took us to task over our dismissive attitude to horror, and we decided to address her concerns and chew over our complicated relationship with the darker side of spec fic.

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!

Pratchett’s Women: The Boobs, the Bad and the Broomsticks

[SPOILER ALERT for several older Discworld novels and one key scene in recent release I Shall Wear Midnight]

Some time ago, I talked on Galactic Suburbia about how I felt Pratchett was one of those writers who you can see noticeably improving and honing his craft as he goes, and that one of the elements he hugely improved in over the years was his treatment of female characters. Someone commented that they hoped we would elaborate on that at some point, and I have always intended to, though I don’t know that Galactic Suburbia is the best place for that discussion – largely because I think I’m the only one of the three who is a huge reader of Pratchett.

I started reading the Discworld books in the early 90’s, when Small Gods was the latest release. This meant that I read all the books before that in (mostly) the wrong order, and all of the books after that in (mostly) the right order. So it took me some time to figure out what was going on with Pratchett’s women, and the chronology of those early books is still a little muddled in my head.

The first ten books of the Discworld series are quite problematic in their portrayal of female characters, particularly the younger women. I certainly don’t think this was intentional on Pratchett’s part, but an unfortunate result of the fact that in these early books he was largely writing parody of various fantasy worlds and tropes, just beginning to develop the Discworld into something more substantial and complex. I also feel that Pratchett was very much aware of some of the dreadful sexism in his source material, and the female characters he wrote were often in direct response to what he saw in the fantasy genre.

His intentions to point out the silliness of the portrayal of women in fantasy, sadly, backfired somewhat.

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The Social Habits of Forsytes

Thrown into a tizzy at the lack of new Downton Abbey in my life, I fell back on one of my favourite costume drama stories of all time, by listening to the audio dramatisation of The Forsyte Saga. The down side of Audible is that there is often little/misleading information on the as to the source of the material – I guessed this was a radio production, and also that it wasn’t produced at ALL in 2010 as the copyright info suggested, thanks to the presence of Sir Michael Hordern (died fifteen years ago), Dirk Bogarde (died ten years ago) and an unrecognisably young Amanda Redman as Fleur. I eventually pinned it down as this 1990 production, which at the time was the most expensive radio series ever made. My favourite bit of the article is where Dirk Bogarde came in thinking his role as Galsworthy (the author and narrator) would just involve a bit of “topping and tailing” but it turned out to be a major performance. He is lovely in it. I adore Galsworthy’s prose, which I think is third only to Austen’s and Pratchett’s for sophisticated, dry observational humour, and it was nice that despite it being a dramatisation, an awful lot of the original text appeared.

As a side note, why is it with so many major radio dramatisations of big classic books and serials such as this, there are so few of fantasy novels? I know there’s a well-regarded audio dramatisation of Lord of the Rings, but surely the serial and substantial nature of epic fantasy, as well as the incredible popularity of some series and authors, PLUS the crazy expense of adapting them to visual media like film or TV, would make them ideal for audio? I find it interesting that there’s such a strong history of science fiction in radio/audio plays, from Hitchhiker’s Guide and Earthsearch all the way through to today’s Big Finish. I first encountered Asimov’s Foundation through a radio play… so where are the radio dramatisations of Pratchett and Gaiman and David Eddings and Mercedes Lackey and… okay, let’s scrub the Americans as they don’t have the cultural history of modern radio drama like the Brits, but where is the 24 part radio serial of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, or Lord Dunsany or HARRY POTTER?

Ahem, anyway.

I love the Forsyte Saga. Like, crazy, adoring love. I first discovered it through the 2002 TV adaptation with Damien Lewis and Rupert Graves, then read the books at least twice through, then got hold of the epic black and white “TV event” version from the 60’s, thanks to my university library. Finding another fully dramatised version was a delight, especially as it turned out to be a very good one. Old Jolyon was played by Sir Michael Hordern, an actor I came to through many classic British movies, notably A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Young Jolyon, who is my favourite and my best, was played by Anton Lesser, who also won my heart as Falco in the audio dramatisations of Lindsey Davis’ novels. Diana Quick is a gentle and affecting Irene, Alan Howard is a suitably creepy and horrifically compelling Soames, and when she finally turns up, Amanda Redman captures the caprice of Fleur with that perfect balance of adorable and oh-I-want-to-slap-her.

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Galactic Suburbia Episode 35

New episode up! Grab it from iTunes, by direct download or stream it on the site.


In which “best” becomes “superior,” Pottermore is Pottermeh, one of us wins all the awards, and we visit/revisit classic non-hard works of SF and Fantasy by Bujold, Willis and Pratchett (with bonus Russian fairytales by Valente).


Pottermore announcement made during our podcast…

Theodore Sturgeon finalists

David Gemmell Awards

NatCon professional guests for next year are Kelly Link and Alison Goodman.

Chronos Awards 😀

Sidewise Awards finalists

Translation Awards winners

Stoker Awards announced

Coode Street Horror Special with Stoker winners Datlow & Straub

Gender Spotting Tool – Naff.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Connie Willis’ Passage in progress, the next 3 Twelve Planets.
Alex: so much Bujold (Cordelia’s Honor and Young Miles omnibuses… omnibi… whatever, Fly by Night, Frances Hardinge, Red Glove, Holly Black. Series 2 of V (reboot)
Tansy: Deathless, Catherynne Valente; I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett; Wyrd Sisters audiobook, Terry Pratchett/Celia Imrie.

Next Fortnight: Galactic Suburbia’s Spoilerific Book Club Presents: Joanna Russ. Reading How to Suppress Women’s Writing, The Female Man, “When It Changed.”

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!