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I’ve been putting off this post for a while. It’s the “Say it out loud” task on the 12wbt preseason tasks. The one where I’m supposed to say my goals for the next 12 weeks in a place that makes me accountable etc. Because, I *am* a woman of my word but I also like to believe I can do more than I really can. Because sometimes I can pull rabbits out of my hat. And because I push myself beyond breaking. And because I feel bad because I really didn’t/couldn’t stick to what I committed to last round.

But I signed up for the next round. And I want to complete all the preseason tasks. And I do want to be accountable.

On a sort of tangent. I’ve been diffusing essential oils for a few years now. I used lemon and grapefruit for morning sickness when the taste of ginger started to make me feel ill. I use lavender a lot for headaches and for insomnia. And I use a bunch of blends as well. After I started wearing the blend “Transformation”, I applied for my Phd and quit my job and got married. Maybe I would have done all those things anyway, maybe choosing that blend was a subconscious action acknowledging a suppressed feeling of wanting to change. Maybe wearing it was giving myself permission to actually pursue it. Anyway, I was at the airport recently and I decided to buy myself one called “Focus” in the hope that it would dispel the cobwebs, the heavy weight of feeling tired all the time and help me to just get on with working one task all the way to the end, not forgetting my handbag places etc. The whole time I was standing there looking, I couldn’t shift the feeling that what I actually should have been buying was “Relax”. The feeling stayed with me so long that last week I finally got myself that one too. And really, it makes sense, that you just can’t keep pushing yourself to work longer and harder and better and think that the productivity/efficiency graph is hyperbolic. That if you could only create more time, you could get more done. I know that’s not how it works.

And the same goes for this whole 12wbt goal setting. This time round, I’m challenging myself to focus (wow that oil really works!) on the REALISTIC element of ACHIEVABLE. And I think that is being the most honest and accountable to those who will be reading this. In the same way that sometimes you need to take time out to relax in order to be more productive, you need to know when to step off being tough on yourself and be kinder to get yourself to do more.

So that’s going to be what I commit to for the next 12 weeks – working out 3-4 days a week, following the nutrition programme, drinking more water every day, taking my vitamins and fitting more yoga in. And to take some time out to just breathe.
I’m not going to set a weight goal and I’m not going to even pretend that I can find time to work out every day.



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One of my favourite events in the week these days is going to Mother’s Group. People close to me will recall how stressed out I got about whether I would actually be assigned one (M was born in November and they didn’t form new groups then til February) and also if I would fit in (I never really felt at home where I live and wasn’t sure I would meet people who would get me). As it turns out, those Child Health Nurses have some whacky superpower whereby they match people up in some way that most people cling tight to their group like it’s their oxygen machine. And as it turns out, I love my mother’s group more than I’ve loved many many things in life (not more than Tim Tams though, Tim Tams are for life). Anyway, we hang out, often for more than several hours on mummy’s group day, and laugh and debrief and all those things, and take photos of the bubs playing. Yesterday, I caught sight of myself (checking Twitter on my phone) in the background of one posted on our FB page. And … it made me sad.

I’ve signed up for the last two rounds of Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT programme to lose my “baby weight” – truthfully I lost weight during my pregnancy as I felt sick for pretty much all of the time. But that weight has not stayed off since. My plan was to – meh – it was probably to be someone else entirely in those photos for the Hugo nominees. This plan of course has not been successful and Loncon is next month.

This plan, by the way, has not been successful because it was completely unrealistic – not the programme, which is fantastic and has been really life changing for me. And not necessarily unrealistic that a new mum could follow it. Just. Not this new mum. In my feedback for the last round I did note that you know, the one mother of a newborn who manages to lose a bunch of weight whilst learning this parenting gig on the job and not sleeping is truly amazing and deserving of much kudos but for the rest of us, who basically feel like zombies dragging themselves through mudflats in a thunderstorm whilst wearing heels and having been slammed up the side of our heads, and already feel like losers and failures, don’t feel encouraged by the “I/She did it so can you too” bullshit.

You see, I’m having to admit that even Wonder Woman couldn’t juggle fighting crime, flying an invisible plane and wearing pants all at the same time.

Yes, that’s right. I’m currently exploring this question: “What is reasonable?”

SMART goals ask you to set measurable, achievable, timely goals that are *reasonable* and in my head I always think that the first three therefore imply the fourth. Yeah, no.

I feel like a total failure because I don’t feel like, don’t have time for and can’t make myself exercise. Oh yeah, and I’m still suffering from carpal tunnel from my pregnancy so some days I hurt so much that I can’t walk on my feet and hold a cup of coffee. (And when you’re the stay at home parent, noone can hear you scream from RSI from baby lifting and noone cares either).

Could I carve out time in my day, maybe when the baby is sleeping or after she goes down for the night? I’m supposed to answer yes to this – sure I can! But I’m supposed to be studying full time right now and running Twelfth Planet Press (which now is perpetually behind and slammed). I don’t really get that much time to do any work uninterrupted during the day so I work a full day from about 6/8pm (the baby currently woke up from her late afternoon nap that she never normally takes and is drinking a bottle – it’s 7.21pm) til 2.30am. Sometimes I work a bit later, sometimes I go to bed at 1/1.30am and read (reading is not always for leisure though it’s for staying in touch with the genre or reading submissions and manuscripts).

What is actually reasonable?

I’m working pretty hard to keep my business running and towards a career change so that when I come out the other side of this full time parenting gig, I’m not tossed aside for being out of date and therefore unemployable. And, you know, so that I don’t lose all that money I’ve invested into my small business because it stagnated and therefore lost its profile, interest and brand. I don’t want people to say “hey, remember that small press thirteen? ten? some number something? Whatever happened to that?” When I have “down time” I go to the toilet, get a hot cup of coffee (OMG remember those?! You’re sipping one right now, aren’t you?) and then I go and do work.

Oh and I am bone tired *all* the time. If I stand still, I can pretty much fall asleep. Any time.

So what *is* reasonable? What *can* you actually expect of yourself. Or more importantly for me, what can *I* really expect of myself? And what can I put on the to do list for later? What can I be ok with just letting be? What’s truly important?



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This week’s blocks were a breeze to make simply because I’d done all the planning weeks ago. How GTD of me! I made one whilst mainlining Emma Approved on YouTube and the other I made during our regular Kaleidoscope Skype meeting on Monday night.

First up, the blocks.

City Life Holds No Glamor is this title of this week’s letter by MRs A. B. D.

This block is called “Flock” and is block 34. And it was one of the hardest ones for me because after, gosh, 10 years or something, I finally cut up this fabric. I’ve been admiring it for years and so unsure what project to use it in but so scared to cut it up. It’s so so pretty. But. I don’t think I am a fabric collector. Or if I am, it’s ok to collect the fabrics inside of my finished quilts. And. There’s never going to be the perfect project for fabric you swoon over. There will always be the fear of cutting it up. Something can be finished or perfect but not both. And this project is a bit about just sucking it up and getting on with it. About progress. About consistency. And about working on something towards the end point. Therapy, if you will. I have a lot of fabrics I’ve collected over time that I want to just have large squares of it framed and I realised that the number of quilts you can make and have like that is one. So … you know … Get Things Done already!

This block is called “Hill and Valley” and is block 46. The lady in Paris fabric I bought at the craft fair trip just gone. So that has barely hit the sides of my stash. The other thing I’ve realised is, you can’t buy more fabric if you’re busy not using the fabric you already have. And there’s so much more beautiful fabric out there to buy and own …

This week’s letter from Mrs A. B. D. is all about how she loves good honest moral hard work having previously lived in Chicago and how she doesn’t miss it. I dunno that I am looking forward to the day America tires of jazz, as she yearns for, but I do agree that there is much to enjoy about watching the slowly changing landscape. That’s something I realised my soul misses, living in the suburbs of Perth which are flat and boring. And I only discovered this after visiting Tasmania and finding so much to drink in from the surrounds.

In other things I finished this week, Block 9 in the Solstice Quilt:

This one nearly broke me because of the lack of a good white pencil on black which meant all the pieces weren’t marked quite right. I bought a chalk pencil at the craft fair but I’m not loving that much more.

And something else.

I’ve been working on this sock for quite some time. I cast it on straight after I finished the socks I made for Deb. And … yeah. So, the sock knitting project for the year (knit as many as I can) was basically about picking kinda mundane sock patterns and the yarns I’m happy to gift away and then knit in the dark whilst I catch up on reading. I would both move theough my stash, make yummy socks for people I love and also get some reading done every day. I have carved out some time in my day for reading by, ahem, getting into bed at about 1am, a bit early for me, and then reading for about an hour in the dark whilst knitting. I can do pretty straight forward knitting without looking at the work.

But it turns out for me, that a lot of the enjoyment in knitting comes from playing with the yarn as it unravels and turns into the fabric. The enjoyment comes in watching the pattern of the colourplay reveal itself. And you miss all of it when you knit in the dark; you become completely disengaged from the piece. And I guess I’m a process knitter. So I stopped working on the sock completely for ages. Which is a ridiculous response. Lately I’ve been grabbing the project as I run out the door in case I have the opportunity to work on it somewhere else. And it’s progressed. I’m packing the sock for the weekend away and I’ll be finished with it pretty quickly.

And finally, my travelling projects. I am going to be travelling and this is what I’ve packed. I hate to be bored or to find myself in any moments where I have nothing to do but could have done something if I’d planned for it. So here are all (some) of my current projects all GTD’ed up. I have to say that in sitting down and cutting out all the blocks for the Farmers Wife ahead of time a couple of weeks ago was a bit of an epiphany for me. The envelopes in the top right hand corner are the last of those but when I get back I’m going to sit down and do another month ahead again. The ability to just grab one and have everything in there for the block ready to go has been awesome. And having it made me realise the value in planning for crafting.

I’m really a fly by the seat of my pants crafter, cutting materials up as I need them because that end of crafting is not the fun part. It’s the chores and it doesn’t feel like recreation or down time. But there are moments when you aren’t up to crafting, like if your eyes are tired, and they make good times for prepping ahead. So for travelling, I prepped little ziplock bags with everything I need for the project. So above, I have the pattern, the yarn and the needles/hook and any other tools, all in there for easy grabbing. And all the pieces have been precut for the quilt blocks as well. And there lies a week or two of happy crafting because all the thinking is already done for me! I’m going to start setting aside some time each week to do this regularly. It’s the “think and plan” bit of GTD and means projects won’t stagnate going forward! I can’t wait!

Happy Friday!



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This post is late not because I have fallen behind but rather because I haven’t had time to post an update. Ahh how times have changed. Right now I’m grateful for having sat down last weekend and planned out a bunch of weeks ahead as I was able to just grab envelopes with precut out blocks both last week and this week. Most helpful as I might be offline next week.

Anyway, this last week’s blocks and letter! Week 2′s letter was written by Mrs E. M. L. who is very pro marrying a farmer. I have say though, all her reasons are really similar to marrying into the Navy, living an hour from your family and running a small press from home, well apart from the bit about the satisfaction of hard work on the land and providing for one’s own dinner from the fruits of said labour. Apart from that, it’s exactly the same.

Reading matter? All you want and any kind, brought by the rural carriers. [Australia Post]. Music? Classics and comics, any and all kinds for Victrola and other”players”. [iTunes and Comixology - see what I did there?] Clothes? Ordered from a dozen catalogs [Modcloth, The Iconic] and a world of pleasure in ordering [Oh yeah!] Over the telephone [Internet] and also close connection, with any needed aid in the event of illness….And there are picnics [Coffee in Perth], camping trips, and the “going-to-see” more distant friends [We'll call this conventions]

Work? Plenty of it and this is the best part…

Children? Of course…

See what I mean?

Except she does lose me at enjoying getting up early in the morning. Probably I couldn’t really marry a farmer at all.

The blocks this week were, Country Path (number 24)

and Silver Lane (block 79)

This one looks crooked only because of the angle of the photo.

I also have started quilting as I go. Last weekend I went with my mum to get sashing fabric and also wadding. I’ve decided that it’s perfectly fine to start out with the thinnest wadding there is. Perth is hardly cold and I can always use several quilts if it’s really cold. And if the thinnest wadding helps me skill up on quilting such that I actually finish the job? Well finished is always better than perfect. And so I actually started this:

I watched a couple of Youtube vids on how to quilt and I’m working on the rocking motion as well as consistently sized stitches. At first I was trying to get the smallest stitches and the closest together but I’ve realised that since I’ve bought fancy coloured variegated thread, it’s ok to make the thread and stitching a feature not a bug.  And that’s allowed me to have a bit more fun. I actually did quite a bit of quilting on this first block – quilted a bunch of the stripes and then also outlined each of the objects in this block. It was not to bad – kinda fun, didn’t take as long as I thought and I think I got better as I went. Making it small by just being this small block is definitely a real incentive and also in no way daunting!

My goal will be to sew the 2 blocks per week of the project and then also quilt the two blocks of the week before. That way when I finish sewing all the blocks, I’ll almost have finished the quilt. And if I get good enough at this, I’m thinking of doing the Solstice Quilt quilting of each block before I piece the whole thing. Speaking of which, I did manage to finish Block 9 of the Solstice Quilt this week as well:

 



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And so I have begun! My intention was to post finished blocks on Fridays and I was really determined not to meet that goal on the first week. Which was really good because it’s pushed me to finish off one of the blocks in time for this post! The format is working!

So first up, the excerpt from the letter for this week, titled “Living in God’s Open Air” is by Mrs J E F, from Valley County, Montana. In her letter, Mrs J E F says that had she been asked the question (if she had a daughter of marriageable age, would she encourage her to become a farmer’s wife), 50 or even 20 years ago, she would have said no. But she says yes for having been asked in 1922. Firstly she cites the healthy lifestyle and also that the town lifestyle can be [well she doesn't say bitchy but that's what she means]. But then she goes on to say that she loves living on the from because it gives her an opportunity to make her own money from her eggs, from churning butter and from having her own veggie patch. She feels like this enables her to contribute by buying almost all the things for the house. Bit of a feminist answer out of the gate. I especially like the closing:

How beautiful our home was! It was only of logs, covered in summer with a wild clematis vine. I told out doctor that after five o’clock on winter nights we became New York millionaires for we had our easy chairs, a big fireplace and good books. We could not have had more in a mansion.

Indeed that does sound cosy!

So my plan for the quilting was that I would print out the templates I need as I go (there are 100 or so and are provided as PDFs on a CD that came with the book – 1 template per PDF. That’s a lot of paper. Definitely a downside to being provided this way). Anyway, I’ve seen that these little blocks are nice portable projects so I thought that it would be great to set up the 2 I needed for this week’s goal and then perhaps get ahead and set up a few blocks going forward.

You know what happened next. Yup, I started working on the third block cause it looked more fun than finishing the first two. This means I don’t actually have any in reserve either! Posting on a Friday with the week’s work is good for me because it forces me to actually finish two each week!

And here they are (excuse the lighting, I tried to get them done before the sun moved, didn’t happen).


Block 26: Cut Glass Dish


54: Kitchen Woodbox

I am hoping to get wadding this weekend so that I can experiment with Quilt As You Go and also so I can see how much fabric I’m left with after taking out for backing, as I go. Sadly I do not have as much fashion fabric stashed as I led myself to believe. That will need to be rectified …

One thing missing from the book is why Hird chose the blocks to go with the letters. I think that would have made a nice addition.

I’m now thinking I might like to read up on the history of quilt blocks. Do you have a recommendation of a book I should read?



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I promised myself as reward for finishing publishing projects X and Y, I could start playing with a new project. Well … I finished project X yesterday and maybe setting myself the goal of finishing two books in one day was a tad overreaching. So … I’m going to play with this new project anyhow.

On the weekend I popped in to the Perth Quilt and Craft Fair (and by that I mean that my husband shoehorned me out of my pjs and dropped me at the train station to make me go). I had a quick race around all the stalls – a lot of them are the same each year and this year I’m not feeling the buying things without a project intent. I grabbed some tools and ok, maybe some fat quarters just because.

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I then wandered through the quilt exhibition and enjoyed quite a few quilts. I really liked this one, which looked like a really example of the kind of version of Farmer’s Wife Sampler that I want to try (more on that in a bit).

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And then I had a chat to a friend who pointed out one of the special quilts on display – a Dear Jane quilt. And this is possibly the thing that made the whole event for me. The Dear Jane quilt is very similar to the Farmer’s Wife – it’s a pattern of sampler blocks, in this case it reproduces an original quilt made by Jane A. Blakely Stickle, and finished in 1863. The one on display at the Quilt and Craft fair was made by Angela Davis and made out of a collection of Liberty Fabrics over time and using a technique I’d never heard of before called Quilt As You Go (QAYG). This is quilting each block as you finish it and then sewing them together at the end and voila quilt is done! She had used the fabric she used in each block as the backing for it. This meant that the back was a gorgeous display of the collection of fabrics. This really appealled to me in the sense that if you use fabrics you’ve been specially collecting, it’s a nice solution to the cutting it all up to use it problem. Also, I LOVE the idea of QAYG because I hate quilting so much that I not finished any of my quilts yet. I have a nice pile of finished tops. I think I could attack quilting just one block at a time and also I assume this would give me the chance to improve across the project.

You see where this is all going, don’t you?

The eagle eyed will have already noticed I went and bought myself some fancy quilting thread before I left the show.

Some time ago, I bought myself a copy of the Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt. I loved the idea of it – a sampler quilt with a block each dedicated to a letter that was written to the competition run by the magazine The Farmer’s Wife: A Magazine for Farm Women in 1922 to answer the question, if you had a daughter of marriageable age, would you want her to marry a farmer? I’ve never actually been particularly interested in sampler quilts, they look so busy to me. But I love the idea of a quilt with a story and I thought it would also be a good opportunity to try a bunch of traditional blocks (yes, that is the point of a sampler quilt, ahem). And so the book has been on my shelf for a year or two as I’ve wondered how to make this project work.

On the weekend I decided that it might be fun to actually do this quilt. And do it with intent – as a blogging project. I also think it might be the best solution to try and use my fashion fabrics I’ve been collecting which I don’t want to cut up, and would rather have displayed in some way, yet don’t want to do straight blocks with borders with them. But they also don’t really all work in one cohesive colourway. The sampler quilt might get around that. Plus I get to keep the pieces whole for the backing and maybe improve my quilting.

The fabrics I’m thinking of using (funny how the collection wasn’t actually as many fabrics as I had thought I had, in my mind).

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In 2013, I picked up the Jinny Beyer Block of the Month project in 2013 with the idea that I would like to have a project where I finish one block on a regular basis. At the time I was knitting more than I am now. But when I’d been part of quilting circles, they had kept me honest about working on a smaller project and finishing it each month. And I really liked that.

So here it is. The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt Project – it’s about 111 blocks, each 6 inches. I’m going to work on finished 2 a week which makes this a one year long project. And I’m going to post the finished blocks every Friday (is the goal) and read the excerpts of the letters as I go along.



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Alisa, Alex and Tansy invite all our listeners to join us as we celebrate our 100th episode of Galactic Suburbia in time-honoured tradition, with cake!

Alisa is eating Golden Gaytime cheesecake. Tansy is eating orange sour cream cake. Alex combined them both to create chocolate orange cheesecake! Let us know what kind of cake you ate while listening to the podcast! If you’d like to enter our cake logo contest, please send a picture of your Galactic Suburbia themed cake to us by email or Twitter by the 27th May!

 
NEWSThe Norma Shortlist includes some Twelfth Planet Press books!

Alisa recently announced the Kaleidoscope TOC, and may be launching Rosaleen Love’s book Secret Lives of Books at Continuum.

Hugo Packet – Orbit UK not including the novels.
Tansy news: upcoming Tor.com reread column & web serial
The Galactic Suburbia scrapbook available soon for download.Listen to the episode for giveaway codes. Free books!

Limited editions second print run for Love & Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Let Alisa know now if you want one of these – she’s printing them for London.

What Culture Have we Consumed?
  Alex: Hav, Jan Morris; Graceling, Kristin Cashore; so much Fringe. And Orphan Black. No more Comixology for me.
  Tansy: Captain America: Winter Soldier; Gravity; Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Saga 3
  Alisa: OMG I AM IN EDITING/PROOFING ARMAGEDDON – Kaleidoscope almost ready to drop and Secret Lives of Books! And …. Tea and JeopardyGalactic Suburbia highlights.

We love you all, thanks for listening to us!
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!
You can subscribe to through iTunes or stream from galacticsuburbia.com


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Spoilerific Special – Orphan Black

Alisa and Alex welcome you to Clone Club! That is, an incredibly spoilerific discussion of the first season of Orphan Black. If you haven’t watched it yet (it’s only 10 episodes), we’ll be right here when you’re through.

Things we discuss: the clones themselves (and we do use the c-word); representations of motherhood; whether and how the show is SF; the various characters – and their diversity – as well as a rather large amount of gushing love for the show overall.

We really mean it about the spoilers.

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!

Download the episode from here

 

 



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As Galactic Suburbia approaches our 100th episode – that’s about 150 to 200 hours of talking about specfic publishing news and chat! with a feminist bent – we’ve been working on a thing. Last week I found myself reviewing our Spoilerific Book Club episode on Joanna Russ, recorded way back in July 2011. In that episode, on discussion on a chapter in How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I made this comment about gatekeepers:

…  other than when a lot of the male gatekeepers are actively pushing women – for example the Science Fiction Mistressworks or when they’re actually talking about it – I’m still listening whether or not you’ve forgotten to talk about women, I’m still listening as a woman and I hear you not talking about women.  And I hear those gatekeepers and they meet and they review, they talk about what was brilliant this year and unless they actively switch on that “Whoops!  We better talk about women!” they actually revert back to Paolo Bacigalupi and Ian McDonald and blah, blah, blah, and you forget about women.  “And I know, … Mary Robinette Kowal she’s really good better mention her.” It’s what she talks about in The Female Man, where it’s lip service and it’s not real and I think she talks about it in this book too: unless you actually push yourself beyond your own boundaries you will stay in the centre, the dead centre.  And it’s not true that women aren’t writing, it’s that you don’t notice them because you don’t think they are as good, and that’s not changed in forty years.

We’ve been talking about this subject for a long time – I’ve been actively involved in the ongoing discussion since, I dunno? 2005, maybe? I didn’t invent it. I didn’t invent the arguments. Joanna Russ wrote The Female Man in 1970. Women have been writing letters to the editor since the beginning of the pulp magazines way back in the 30s.

At Swancon this year, I took the opportunity to have a little celebration about the Twelve Planets project. I spoke about it on the night and talked about the political motivations of the project. Back in 2009/2010, we were really having a lot of conversations about the gender imbalance of awards ballots. Here some graphs I prepared earlier.

The Ditmar novel winners by gender is perhaps the most damning. In 2009, when we were having this discussion, 4 women in the history of the award had won. And then another woman won in 2010 to make it the first time a woman won in a consecutive year. This is particularly interesting given that the Ditmars are a popular vote, determined by the community. This is what we as a community think. That in 50 years there were only 4 novels written by women that were worthy of winning.

Ditmar novel winners column

Here’s a different pie chart. This one looks at lifetime achievement awards. These can be awarded by a panel or by a single person. There are a few awards mixed up in here and each award is independent of the others.

Population of Achieve Awards

Or another way, let’s take say the Peter McNamara Award, here are the winners by gender:
Peter Mac Winners

And here is the breakdown of gender of the judges (one person is asked each year to choose a worthy winner):

Peter Mac Judges

From this, we might deduce that men really dig the career achievements of men. But actually some years a female judge has awarded a male winner.

The breakdown of the Chandler Award is even more profound:

Chandler

This gives some of the context of finding myself sitting in a Mt Lawley cafe one fine day in 2009 with Jonathan Strahan discussing such things – the lack of women winners, whether this pertained to the quality of their writing or perhaps how much they write.  Maybe it’s just that men write more? The discussion has a lot of aspects to it, but on that day, this is how this discussion went, below is an excerpt from the speech I gave last month at Swancon:

This project has been quite a ride. It was conceived way back in 2009 when we were having many discussions on the male dominance of awards shortlists and whether this related to how much new fiction by women was or was not being published. Jonathan said to me, well, if you really believe in Australian female writers, why don’t you publish a whole lot of it in one go and see what happens. If you don’t think there are enough women being collected, why don’t you release a collection a month? This is when I realized I needed to stop drinking so much when I hung out with him.

And so the Twelve Planets project came into being. I chose a variety of female writers for it – well known writers, writers I had enjoyed working with before, writers I wanted to work with, talented writers I wanted to draw attention to. It’s been a really interesting project for a whole lot of reasons. Each writer was given 20 – 40 000 words that were to be in 4 stories. Some wrote to the minimum and some to the maximum word count. Some wrote a suite of interconnected stories, some wrote to a theme, some wrote entirely unconnected non-themed collections. What was interesting was what each writer wrote when given the opportunity to write *anything* they wanted and know it would be sold. Novellas that are really hard to sell became a bit of regular sight (I love novellas). Margo Lanagan gave me a very Australian work taking the chance to write something that would be less sellable to overseas markets. Someone asked me at Swancon when trying to choose a volume, which ones weren’t horror and I have to say, actually only a few. I had to coin a sales phrase of “soft horror” :P

So then, what of the experiment? The original idea was to publish all 12 in one year, one a month. I pulled back from that because I was still doing short print runs rather than POD and the whole project was costed at about $25k. It also turns out that life happens and writing takes time (who knew?). We’ve published 9 so far. And here’s the awards results tally:

  • 14 Aurealis Award nominations and 4 wins
  • 16 Ditmar nominations and 3 wins
  • a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award
  • a World Fantasy Award nomination
  • 2 Shirley Jackson Award nominations and 1 win
  • 2 15th placings and 1 7th placing in the Locus Awards
  • 5 Australian Shadows Award shortlistings and 2 wins
  • 1 Tiptree Award longlisting
  • and 1 ACT Writers and Publishers Award

Though the full awards cycle relating to volumes 8 and 9 has not yet played out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means, in the context of the original dare, I mean conversation, with Jonathan. The project itself, when I stand back and view the stories of all 12 volumes as one project – 50 stories in all – is a really interesting narrative.  It’s one I’m very proud of. And at the same time, we’ve seen a shift in the way the awards play out. Perhaps voters and readers became more conscious of their habits? Perhaps women suddenly started writing. Perhaps women suddenly started getting good at writing? Certainly my own project suggests that if you support women and provide avenues for their fiction, they write at a very high standard.

But I still didn’t really know what it all means.

And then yesterday, I came across an article that was written about the State of Play in Australian specfic. It was split in two, one section dealing with SF and F and the other dealing with Horror. This latter half of the article was presented as an authoritative snapshot of the Australian Horror scene right now. It listed several Aussie small presses and talked about some of the writers. However, it omitted Twelfth Planet Press completely.

My response was to raise this, via a medium I regret – Twitter. I regret that as in order to get your point across you need several 140 character tweets and that is cumbersome and confronting. I’ve had great multiplayer conversations on Twitter before. I don’t think I’d rate this as one of those.

There’s long been discussion about the gender imbalance in Horror, not just in Australia, but I’ve certainly been keeping an eye on it at home. Here’s an example, Midnight Echo is the flagship magazine to showcase the writers belonging to the Australian Horror Writers Association. Here’s the gender balance of the fiction they have published. So far, no woman has edited the magazine solo and only two women have edited it at all. (However, Kaaron Warren is to edit the next issue.)
MidnightEchoFiction

But you know, maybe women don’t write great horror? Maybe they don’t submit? Here’s some other stats from Midnight Echo,

MidnightEchoNFcorrectionMidnightEchoArtcorrectionMidnightEchointerviewees

But this is very interesting, if we look at the Aurealis Awards winners for Horror Novel over time, only 1 ballot has ever had more novels written by women than men on it:

Aurealis Horror shortlists column

Yet, the women who do make it onto the shortlist seem to write ok:

Aurealis Horror Novel winners

However, my response of pointing out that I found it “interesting” that my press and the Twelve Planets were neglected from the state of play of the current Horror scene was a kind of shock at watching exactly how women just go unmentioned and the goalposts get moved to work around them, quietly excising them from the discussion. The Horror portion of the article in quiestion has since been updated by the author to include TPP and also this particular paragraph has been reworked:

The Australian genre literary scene is full of nationally- and world-renowned Australian horror writers such as Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Lucy Sussex, Sean Williams, Rocky Wood, the wonderful Will Elliott, Sara Douglass (vale), and Amanda Pillar.

My issue with this paragraph, and with the article itself, is not that it failed to namecheck women, many women were in fact namechecked. But what was interesting to me was when the adjective “horror” is omitted from the above sentence, as it originally was, it renders all the names after it as outside of the pool of “horror writers”. It’s an example of this moving the goalposts. I’m always incredulous to see that done. It’s just one word but completely changes the meaning. And sure, call me sensitive, narcissistic, ambitious, a case of sour grapes, attention seeking, (all words we like to use in the direction of women we don’t like and never used in the direction of men for similar actions) and emotional (which interestingly was how my response was characterised – decide for yourself) etc but this piece and this conversation don’t exist in a vacuum, don’t exist without a history and context.

The thing is, I came full circle back to that conversation I had with Jonathan that day in 2009. Because the argument had been – well you need to publish more women and then they will win more awards – and I set out to do and achieve that and then … women were still omitted from the discussion. In other words, it didn’t matter what I did, or maybe how many or how prestigious the awards were that women in Australia win, they are still going to be written out of/forgotten about in the conversation. (It occurs to me that Jonathan’s suggestion might work in a patriarchal world order for men.)

My discussion with the author of the article revealed that he did not do it intentionally, and I believe him. He had not in fact read our work. It’s not like this was for Wikipedia or for an academic journal or an historical assessment and recording of the scene for all time. But actually, both these things are exactly the point. The way women are rendered invisible from history is by this unintentional omission from the narrative we tell each other about ourselves and our history. Gatekeepers pass on the information and it’s heard and repeated down the line. And when someone asks you off the top of your head to name your favourite author or a great work, you’re likely to grasp at something easy to hand. And what’s easy to hand is what’s repeated over and over, from one person to the next, in one retelling of our scene to the next. (Quick name a famous brilliant SF female author that’s not Ursula K Le Guin! – Now, how long did that take for you to do?)

I decided long ago that if I wasn’t part of the solution, I didn’t get to complain about the problem. I consider myself a gatekeeper and I hold myself to this bit of what I said in that Galactic Suburbia podcast: “I’m still listening whether or not you’ve forgotten to talk about women, I’m still listening as a woman and I hear you not talking about women” and I gotta stand up and point it out because otherwise I’m a silent participant.

I’ve apologised to the author of the article for the way I went about speaking out. I’ve spoken on GS before about the limitations of Twitter and I feel I should have acted differently. I do though feel icky about feeling like I need to apologise for my tone in some way. The author and I have had a chat and I would like to consider us having walked away as friends. He has already reworked the article. And I appreciate that the publisher was open and willing to make those changes.

I feel sad that in the end, the whole thing kinda came full circle.

 Edited: Please note that the editor of Issue 9 of Midnight Echo let me know that there was one female writer of nonfiction in his issue which I had incorrectly attributed. Additionally, the cover art of Issue 9 was by a female artist. This was not previously captured. Both figures in this article have been updated to reflect those changes (originally the Nonfiction in Midnight Echo showed to be 100% by men and the artwork as 81% by men). I also added in the chart on the gender breakdown of the interviewees as this is not included in the Nonfiction chart. I’m interested in who is chosen to be interviewed, across magazines. That will be data I intend to present at a later date.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have my data scrutinised and errors pointed out. I consider this process integral to the robustness of my work and as part of the peer review process of my PhD and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to correct these as I proceed.



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The latest block in the Jinny Beyer Solstice Quilt kit was a long time in coming. I must admit that I don’t enjoy the circular sewing as much (this does not bode well for my project sitting on the design wall to be finished – the New York Beauty). The other reason it took so long is because I’ve become obsessed sewing the log cabin alternate blocks. I’m driven to do nothing but sew them til they are finished. *shakes fist* The will be finished! I’ve completed 3 of the 12. 9 to go and I don’t seem interested in working on anything else really.

These fabrics photograph so well, I don’t think they look quite as spectacular on the design wall.

Course when I said I’ve been doing nothing else, that wasn’t entirely true.

MINISKEINS! OMG I LOVE miniskeins, I can’t get enough of them. So I’m making this blanket, each miniskein makes just over one of these granny squares. So colourful. At some point, I will have enough squares and I will have to stop collecting miniskeins (though once you get into a collecting jag, it’s so hard to stop – I keep forgetting I’m no longer collecting for my monochrome quilt for example). The rule is that miniskeins must be converted to squares as a top priority so that I DO NOT amass a miniskein stash.

I managed to get a pair of socks for the baby out of the leftover sock yarn from Socks #2. They don’t spend much time on baby’s feet, however.

And there this is this quilt. It’s a scrap quilt and it’s going to be the map of the Tokyo Subway from Oh Fransson. But this first block has such a long story! I thought I would be able to easily sew this without marking the squares, if I cut them all correctly with a quarter inch seam and sewed straight. I took the pieces of the first block with me to Conflux last year and then on to Tehani’s house afterwards, where I stayed for a bit of a rest up. Well, I realised about halfway into this block, at Tehani’s, that I was not in fact sewing straight and that the squares didn’t line up. So it went into the suitcase and then into the back of a cupboard for a while. A long while. Until I was doing some GTD around the house and realising that really the next action was to unpick the sewn block so far and start over. To cut out a proper template, suck it up, mark each square and move on with my life. Which I did. And then voila, block 1 below, I sewed the two halves the wrong way round. Sigh!



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April 24   Hugo Nominations 2014

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This is the podcast you’re having when you’re not really having a podcast. Don’t think of it as a new episode. Think of it as an additional appendage. If we’d recorded the last episode further down the timeline, we’d have discussed the Hugo ballot in full. And when you think of it that way, aren’t you glad we split those 4 hours into two?

Galactic Suburbia the John Campbell Memorial not a Hugo Episode 

In which we do discuss the Hugo shortlists both Retro and Current, but this is not an episode. Not at all. For… administrative reasons.
Retro Hugo Shortlist 1939.
Hugo ShortlistBrandon Sanderson says interesting things about fandom groups, and the Wheel of Time nomination. 

Some gender notes on the Hugo shortlist
Tansy’s Hugo links post
Tansy & John DeNardo of SF Signal discuss the shortlist on Coode Street Podcast
THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO NOMINATED GALACTIC SUBURBIA FOR BEST FANCAST, WE LOVE YOU TOO. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH WE WOULD GIVE YOU FIVE STARS ON ITUNES.
Download the latest not a Hugo Episode Hugo Episode Additional Appendage HERE


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Heads up: there’s a bonus Hugo edition episode incoming.

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…

Culture Consumed:
Alex: Fringe s1; 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
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!
LISTEN TO US HERE!


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One of my favourite greetings at a convention is “How is your con going?” I love the implication that everyone is experiencing the same event differently, from their own perspective. I love that it’s implied that one person can be having a terrible time and that be completely unrelated to someone else’s ie a great convention is one that offers a diverse group of people that which they each need to have a good time. Not such an easy task to complete when you run a con and a very easy thing to attack when you attend. It also means that you can be hearing a lot of complaints about a con being boring or disorganised yet be having the best time yourself.

We just came off of Swancon 2014 (39 for those who talk SwanconGeek). It was the first con I’ve attended with my child in tow. That had its drawbacks – I didn’t manage to get to the Art Show for example, which I really wanted to (I think there was some work there I might have wanted to buy.) I couldn’t have done the con at all without Terri and Shani who did a lot (most) of the baby wrangling. The baby didn’t really want to nap too much, what with all the people and things to look at and process. So we had quite a grumpy baby by the end of each day and yesterday was painful trying to get her back into her routine. My favourite grumpy baby moment was when she just gave up on Friday night and sat in her highchair at a restaurant and squealed over and over and over like she was on total overboard (her daddy removed her from the situation and we went home).

But for me, a good con starts and ends with a good dealers room – decent size space for the traders who will be there, nice mix of traders offering different things, enough chairs for each table, access to power, aircon (that can be adjusted) and a good steady flow of people coming in to see us! This year Margaret was the dealers liaison and she was hands down the best liaison I’ve ever dealt with. She sent out regular but not too often emails ahead of the event with relevant information (and information gathering about our needs). She organised traders to bump in at 15 min intervals allowing only one of us to be unloading and using the hotel trolley at a time. She was hanging around and available to assist us when we arrived. She organised menus and took lunch orders, our money and then sent up the waiters with lunch for us at lunchtime. We DID NOT STARVE. And she did it in a calm, take charge authoritative manner. She made it an enjoyable breeze. The room was a good size and overall pretty pleasant.

Being a trader, my con basically looks like the inside of the dealers room. Hopefully trade is brisk and constant so I have things to do (and I sell my books to enthusiastic readers!). But also, hopefully everyone eventually comes past and says hello. I definitely feel like I got to have good chats with lots of people – new friends I’ve made in the last year on Facebook and old friends too. It’s also a good chance for writers to come past and talk about stuff, pitch projects or touch base on work we’re working on and so on.

We had a small Twelfth Planet Press event. I was quite worried I’d overcatered and that noone would come. Terri spent hours and hours conceiving, making and icing 450 macarons. I helped a bit with some oven management but basically that was all her. She made 9 kinds to match the covers of the Twelve Planets published so far and flavoured them according to themes within. (I’ll be posting more on that over on Pinterest). Shani kindly looked after the baby during this. As usual at Swancon, some lovely people popped in early to help me set up – thank you to all those people, I greatly appreciate your help. And I had Cat there who made sure all the champagne was served and drunk (I definitely was worried I’d overcatered). So many people came along and it turned out to be a really lovely event to celebrate the books we’ve done so far and the four more to come (yep – FOUR!).

And finally, for me, a good con has attracted some of my friends along so I get to catch up and hang out with people I love. That definitely happened this year and I can tell because I got given homework by Stefen, Nick and Jonathan as well as Cat and Bec. Should keep me busy for a while!

When you leave a good con you feel inspired to do something, be it consume or create. I came away with some ideas to mull over and a lot of reading to do. And I think we managed to feed everyone some Twelve Planets coloured and flavoured macarons thanks to Terri’s creativity! So I’m calling it a Good Con.

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Photos taken by Cat Sparks

 



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Spoilerific Special – Veronica Mars

 Veronica_MarsIn which a long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t heard from you lately at all – come on now, sugah, bring it on, bring it on. Just remember me when
It’s the Kickstarted Veronica Mars Movie Squeeful Spoilerific Special!
With Alex away stargazing, Alisa and Tansy dig into the nitty gritty of the recent release movie we had been waiting YEARS for. We talk about the history of the show (SPOILERS FOR ALL OF VERONICA MARS, NOT JUST THE MOVIE), the writing, the characters, the love stories, the murders, the stars and the in-jokes.We also talk about the Kickstarter campaign and its ramifications for a TV industry teetering on the brink of a total rebirth.

Are you Team Logan, Team Piz, Team Mac or (most importantly of all) Team Veronica? Does a soundbyte of a certain Dandy Warhols song make you break into a smile? Were you so disheartened at the end of Season 3 that you watched all of Party Down to get over the sad? Come on down to Galactic Suburbia.
People say we’re a marshmallow.
Listen here or subscribe via iTunes
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!


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For my birthday, I allowed myself to buy a yard of a bunch of fabrics at the Fat Quarter Shop that I’d been leaving open in tabs in my browser.

So uh, yeah. I have a Paris thing going on. I’m adding these to a stack I already have. For a um, as yet non defined project. And quilt shop fabrics – it’s so meta I had to get it.

Ballet fabrics. Also a theme I am currently unable to resist collecting. I’m hoping the pinks work together so I can just make the one ballet themed quilt. Two is probably overkill.

I had to do a big thing and unpack the fabrics for these photos. It took me a couple of days of “can I really do that?” but  think I’m ok about it now! And I might even start thinking about what I’m going to do with these! I suspect a long time ago I made a rule about not starting new projects when the textiles came in because I might have a tendency towards startititis. You’re shocked to read this, I know. But the rule seems to have set in so hard that I now am leaning towards scary hoarder who buys stuff and then just never unwraps it or looks at it but stacks it in the ballooning back room.

I have a cute idea for the fashion fabrics I’ve been collecting which may or may not extend into using some of these. I’m going to let the idea percolate.

Meanwhile, my March KnitCrate finally arrived, and a little worse for travelling as it looked like customs had to pack it into a plastic bag, it having come apart at a seam. I was sad because a couple of my friends had already got theirs and I couldn’t yet agree that I loved the pink yarn but not the shawl pattern (now I can agree on both). The indie yarn this month is from Hazel Knits – a new dyer to me. And I can’t believe we got two skeins – that would make two pairs of socks if I went that way. Instead, I’ve cast on a little sweater/shrug for the baby. I’m going to think about what I will do with the second skein later. And MINI SKEINS (10) in Hazel Knits various colourways too.

The baby yarn is LanaMundi Yarns and is spun with a thread of silver which is exceedingly cool! I don’t fancy the little baby slippers, especially after seeing how quickly baby socks got schlepped off this morning. The kit came with ideas though – apparently silver threaded yarn makes mittens that can still navigate an iPad! Goodies in the kid included some boiled lollies and these two lovely knitting needle rulers. Can never have too many of those!

My finished piece this week has been the first (of 12) of the alternate blocks for the Solstice Quilt. They are log cabins with a fussy cut centre. 6 will look like this and the other 6 have a different centre. I’m sewing these sort of in batches but the lead block is finally done!

photo(98)



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March 31   Coffeeeeeeeee!

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For my birthday, Kathryn got me this from Three Thousand Thieves! How is it that I had not heard of this?! We are such huge subscription box people in this house too! So Three Thousand Thieves will send you every month a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans from an artisan underground Melbourne coffee roaster. What an awesome world we live in that this exists!!!

The March batch is The Governor from by Contraband.

Since we’ve been a bit picky with study location cafes, Amanda came and worked at my place last week and I offered table service and this coffee freshly roasted and espressed! This coffee is “rich, clean and exceedingly complex complex coffee with a bright raspberry aroma and flavours of milk chocolate caramel and hazelnuts, and finishes strongly with a crisp and refreshing citrus.” It will be no surprise to you that our household do like our limited edition boutique stiff. So yeah, major hit – can’t wait for next month!

I’m also very happy that I opened them right away and tried them – I also made some coffees today so the bag is nearly finished. Normally I do not do this – I think I worry about using it all up or enjoying all the fun out of the New Thing (craft fabric, yarn, tea, book, whatever) all in one go and not having any saved for later. Which means that I usually stash New Thing and end up never enjoying it. I’m trying to break this habit in 2014. It being coffee, and me being a coffee snob and thus not wanting the beans to go stale is really helping with that! I can also happily report I opened the March Monstrositea tin and am enjoying this month’s teas too!





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Peacemaker Tour Banner

Why Westerns Appeal

Peacemaker-CR_webAt 14, when I started out reading Westerns, I wasn’t much of a critical reader, so I devoured them with an enormous but undiscriminating reading appetite. I didn’t understand the inherent sexism, or the fact that many of them were formulaic. Teenager me, was totally seduced by the landscape and the romance and the action. The notion of the male hero was appealing and entrancing. So was the tradition of courtly love – men prepared to die for their women, defend their honour, and ride to the ends of the earth to rescue them.

Reflecting upon that now makes me very uncomfortable. What was I thinking? And why does my attraction to the traditional Western still remain?

Well, there’s definitely a sense of nostalgia at play, a wistfulness that comes from the knowledge that the young, wide-eyed reader from those days no longer exists. But that’s not all. See, I love a sense of purpose and a sense of place in a novel. I’m really not one to meander around in someone else’s fictional world, content not to know where I’m going. Westerns get me somewhere. They also, in my experience, always have a deep connection with the landscape. The West itself, is a major player in the story, just like The City is often the silent protagonist in urban fantasy. In Westerns we not only get to look at the scenery, we get to experience how it makes it makes our hero’s life better, or worse, or sometimes both.

Then there’s the lawlessness. I’ve always been a fan of anarchical tales. In destroying or ignoring one set of rules, do we just build another? What’s the higher connection between morality and the law? How do we organise ourselves in times of chaos? All these are questions I’ve been exploring in other genres for a long time. It was only a matter of time before I re-visited them in the Western format — but with a brand new set of eyes.

GR author pic_web Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis and award winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She’s also the author of a bestselling teen dark fantasy series entitled Night Creatures. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. Marianne writes award-winning crime under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt.

 



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wallpaper-s5-bill-and-wives-1600I recently finished a full rewatch of HBO’s Big Love. I’d recommended it to my sister and so I watched a long with her, mostly for her reaction to the ending, which was totally worth it. I really love this show, especially what they did with the ending and the way it empowers 3 women in a very interesting way.

Spoilers for the entire show below.

I can never remember if I’ve actually seen this show from the pilot or if you really are just thrown into the action. Bill Henrickson is a self appointed Priest of his own church having returned to polygamy and being kicked out their LDS church and also have been kicked off the compound he grew up in, Juniper Creek, as a 16 year old boy. We don’t see a lot of the history and background that brings this family of 3 wives and 8 children together but can only glean it over the full four seasons. And that picture that we put together ourselves is a complex and complicated one. In many ways Bill is a good man, a well intentioned man. He was a “lost boy” – kicked out by his father at 16 and left to fend for himself in a world that he didn’t grow up in, with rules that he wasn’t schooled in. Presumably Bill (and his brother) was kicked out much like young male lions are from the pack by the dominant male – the threat to his power and virility. On Juniper Creek, women are possessions that can be traded for favours, the Prophet can reassign wives if it pleases him to reward and punish. It seems that most of those wives are not treated very well, most live in what looks like abject poverty, with little power, and the power they do have is through the hierarchy of their sister wives. Not only this but girls are placed in the Joy Book at 15 or 16 to be perused like shoes a catalogue and traded across borders and between other compounds. Not all women are of the age of consent when married off.

Bill is essentially a good man. But that doesn’t mean he’s without flaws or that he does not always do well even when with the best of intentions. He spend his life fighting for freedom for the women on the compound, by way of wanting more for his mother but also in pursuing through legal and governmental policy means, as well as developing a program, to assist women to leave abusive situations. And in trying to help prosecute paedophiles and the peddling of young women through the Joy Book.

As I watched the show this time round, I started to wonder if this show is feminist. Bill has 3 wives. He is the head of his house. He consults with the women and looks for family decisions *unless* they disagree with him. He often makes decisions on his own. Two of the four (one doesn’t work out) wives that he marries he sleeps with before marriage even though he is staunchly against sex before marriage. He absolutely cannot deal with Barb’s (his first wife) declaration that she holds the priesthood too – I loved that whole logic, she couldn’t possibly hold the priesthood because noone had laid hands on her and it was just impossible because its passed down from father to son. (That sounds more logical an argument, even if I disagree with it but in the show it was a lot more circular in that basically he was choosing not to allow her to feel it therefore she couldn’t feel it.). Only Bill’s testimonies from Gpd were real and funnily enough they always involved either him getting a new wife, setting up his own church, deciding to run for office – they always involved him getting more sex or power. I kinda decided in the end that even though he means well, he is a bit of an arsehole. A kinda well meaning arsehole, held back by his frame of reference but kinda sexist and self serving. Basically I found his biggest flaw to be hubris – he never ever took a moment to step back and look at his weaknesses as something to overcome. He never ever addressed ideas like, maybe if I continue to cheat on my wives, then have a testimony that I’m supposed to take a new wife, that maybe my current wives might feel – jealous, betrayed, angry, ignored etc. I feel like he really got in the end what was coming to him – in so many ways he really did try to resolve conflicts but he also conveniently ignored lots of ticking bombs and then was shocked when people reacted in human ways.

Really, I feel like the show is not about Bill at all but about his three wives and that’s what has always drawn me to this show. Bill takes his second wife – Nicky – when Barb is (I presume) sick with cancer. He had a testimony I guess, that he needed another wife to look after his first one but also to look after his kids should the first wife die. In this context, it’s kind of extreme that a woman who did not grow up in polygamy to accept this as the obvious solution but it *is* sort of understandable. If you squint. Barb follows Bill into polygamy I think firstly because she thought she was going to die (and her kids were little, you would want someone to love your kids the way you do so if you could groom that replacement? I dunno). But mainly she follows him because she loves him and accepts him as her head of house. What is interesting though, is how much of Barb’s character we see throughout the four season as a result of this. How much resentment, jealousy, anger and so on she swallows and how she makes the best of this situation.

Nicky is the least likeable woman you would ever want to share a family life with. She’s mean, jealous, spiteful and very prickly. She hates hugs. She will always point out the bad in the situation. She will always expect the worst and remind you of that when it happens. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to learn to love this woman as your sister wife. To share not just your husband but your house, your children, your life. Nicky grew up on Juniper Creek so for her polygamy is the natural way of things. Her jealousy is not about sharing Bill but in all kinds of other ways. We learn though that she was a child bride, her father, the Prophet, traded her via his Joy Book and married her to a man older than her. Bill must have rescued her from the situation of living on the compound – though he did not know of much of her personal history or that she had a child in that union, which must have happened well before she comes to care for Barb. (We learn her father relented and let her divorce her husband, as an indulgence … )

Margene is the third wife and the newest on the scene. She’s young and peppy and not a Morman. She was the babysitter – I guess Barb went back to work and Nicky needed help, this is never really explained much – and Bill had an affair with her. We learn in the final season that she was totally not of legal age when he married her. And so the whole story comes full circle. What’s so interesting about that is even though it’s Bill who is responsible, Barb and Nicky are implicated because they consented (though Nicky did vote No – Of course she did!) to the marriage. And Barb of course was in the house the whole time so she becomes an accessory to statutory rape. And the women feel just as betrayed by Margene as Bill is responsible for sleeping with a minor.

These women have strength of mind and commitment to the vision of their family, both now and in the afterlife where they believe their family will be reunited, to want to work on making it work. It’s so interesting to watch their relationships and they evolve and interact – they must absorb the waves that Bill is constantly making. They must make it work and they work to move past jealousy and pettiness to do so. They raise each other’s children as their own. They have their own politics that are outside of their relationships with Bill. Some favourite moments are when one wife kicks him out of her bed on their scheduled night and he wanders next door to another wife who sends him back to the first. That doesn’t always hold true – later on things do break down. But when Barb leaves Bill, briefly, I love that Nicky and Marge feel like she has left them too, they feel that they are married to Barb as well and that they didn’t deserve to be punished for Bill’s mistakes. There very much are 4 people in this marriage.

What I love most is the evolution of each woman across the series. Barb struggles to find meaning in her life between losing her affiliation with the LDS church and in some ways having to move over and share her husband after I think it was 16 years of marriage. She wants to have her own spiritual path and hold the priesthood – give blessings and take a greater role in the church. I wonder a lot about what might have happened if Bill could have loosened the reins and felt he could share his church with his wife rather than pass it down to his son. He felt very threatened by her desire to have a greater role as though it was commentary on his ability to lead or the job he was doing. Sometimes, it’s not about you, dude, sometimes someone else is just walking their own journey. (Sorry, I did a lot of yelling at Bill this time).

Nicky becomes liberated. She goes from a very traditional woman, living in a suburb but with her head still on the compound. She’s the work horse, she can fix anything that’s broken, isn’t really very materialistic (though amassed a $20k debt before we begin following the story) and cares a lot about the insulation of family against the world. Through various circumstances she goes out to work to a day job, meets other people, falls for someone in her office (which does make her have to address the fact that she’s kinda married to someone she doesn’t actually love and what kind of choices did she have in getting to there), takes contraceptives because she doesn’t want more children (really interesting thread because it’s seen as a betrayal to the vision of the family if she’s not contributing more children yet Margene is allowed to not want more children eventually too with much less contention, though she does have to fight for that somewhat.), changes the way she dresses, eventually falls for Bill and then kinda doesn’t want to share him anymore (interesting …) and runs the underground train for helping women escape Juniper Creek. Really though, what hope did Nicky have given both her parents were amoral, self serving, manipulative, selfish people who kinda didn’t love their kids. Nicky probably does really well with what she has and there are some great moments when she is the parent of choice to go to with problems.

Margene grows up. Basically. She was a child going into a marriage with three adults who in some ways parented her but mostly just tolerated her. She had very little say in things in the beginning and was kind of a sex kitten come babysitter. It’s very hard for Barb to see and treat her as her equal. She was a child who got distracted by having children – three in a very short period of time. I think she was about 21 either at the beginning or the end of the show. In that time, she finds herself. She discovers she’s good at business, setting up her own, and then when that gets harpooned due to them coming out about being in a plural marriage, she gets involved in a pyramid scheme company. But through all this she finds her own voice and her abilities. She starts to earn her own money and see life goals she might want to pursue. That’s a bit difficult when you have kids at home and your husband thinks your family should be your life goal. She agitates a lot for pursuit, and Bill tolerates it where it doesn’t mean he has to give up anything. But clearly that is not going to be a sustainable situation long term. I very much love a conversation between the wives where Margene says that she didn’t get to have a life between being a child and a parent and Nicky points out her childhood was taken from her, thus Margene is better off!

There is much talk about love and family and the vision of their family in the after life. And in the final episode, Bill gets killed. There is this healing scene where he begs Barb to give him a blessing as he dies. Well, healing or infuriating cause he’s ever the hypocrite, anyhoo. And you think, well, did these women really share his vision of family? They are all young women with a long life to live. We get a flashforward to not quite a year ahead and we see that Barb has taken over Bill’s church. And Nicky and Barb are raising Margie’s kids whilst Margie is off on three month stints doing volunteer work in South America. She looks vibrant and energised and happy. And she looks older, more equal to the other two. And Nicky and Barb are at home, in a sisterwives marriage with each other. Living the life Bill envisioned.

I do wonder though. Will those women really live the rest of their lives like this? Surely they will want to meet other men and maybe have other romantic relationships? What will Bill think if they rock up in heaven as a marriage of 7 people! “It’s just not the way it is, Barb! It’s not *right* for a woman to have more than one husband!” But you know, they do like to seal people after they’re dead so … Bill better prepare himself for reality :)

 

 



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March 28   Cafe Review: Brew-ha

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For reasons that make sense to me, pretty much all my doctors are up north of the river, in and around Subi. So I kinda spend a bit of time killing time or grabbing food before and after appointments. Brew-ha is conveniently located very close to my new GP and with babies, you’re kinda at the GP a bit. Last week I finally did the second lot of baby vaccinations which I required my mum to come along and help me with :) Poor bubba cried her heart out, and then was smiling and laughing like nothing happened.

We met for lunch at Brew-ha beforehand and I grabbed this very pretty flat white and a raspberry and white choc muffin.

I’m in two minds about this cafe. It *does* have free wifi and quite a bit of space for wheeling a pram in and around. The coffee is fine. And I think the food we’ve had there has also been fine. It doesn’t have table service, you usually have to wait for the staff at the counter to finish their chat in order to order and they only take cash at the register. I’d complain about that but there is a bank ATM just down the street so I spose I could use that if needed (I never have cash on me).

 



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I’ve just started watching a doco series on MTV (Foxtel) called Generation Cryo. It’s about a young woman called Bree from Reno Nevada who goes in search of her 14 half siblings and her sperm donor father.  Best quote so far, “my mom blames my lesbian mom for why I’m gay…” (yes her mums were in a gay relationship when they conceived her.)

In the first episode, Bree visits her first set of siblings in Georgia who are Jewish and she has Shabbat with them. The family is really lovely and welcoming and open. Their father is really honest about how he felt about his own infertility and his hesitations with Bree’s quest to find the donor – that he feels threatened by it. It was very moving. Bree forms a bond with her two half siblings and her half brother agrees to give her his DNA so she can search databases to locate their father. (They do get a match and a few of the half siblings send an email but it’s a dead end.)

In the second episode, Bree travels to Boston and California to meet several other siblings. And we learn that many of them have already met each other and their parents have kept in touch with each other over the years. Not something I knew was possible with anonymous sperm banks. In a sense, I think Bree realises she’s missed out a bit by her mothers never being curious about the idea of other people out there related to Bree and that maybe she would have liked to have had some siblings or at least know of them. Some of them take a visit to the Cryo Bank where they learn that they can write letters, when they are 18, to the donor and the bank will pass them along. He may choose to ignore the letters entirely or may communicate back to the bank. Several of her siblings are 18 and so write letters. Afterwards, she learns her half brother Julian had written his own letter more than 8 months ago and had no reply, and she feels a little disappointed. It seems that the donor wishes to remain anonymous. She then recruits one of her other half brothers to help her further in her quest.

There were some really crunchy discussions in the first two episodes – Bree has lesbian mothers who have since split, one family is a single mother, one is where the father was infertile, and another where the father was originally infertile but later on was able to father a child so those two siblings are half siblings and thus related the same was as the donor sperm kid to Bree. And these bring up such interesting discussions about how the men feel. So interesting to see how open and inclusive all the parents seem to be, both with welcoming Bree in to their fold and also with how comfortable the other half siblings feel in some of the other homes. And what constitutes being a parent.

Not all the kids feel the same way either – some want to meet their father, some just want to know who is and some still have no connection at all and want nothing to do with it. Julian, who himself had already gone on an expedition to find this guy, argued that it was immoral for Bree to try and find him – that the conditions that these men donated sperm under was that it was anonymous and that it’s not ok to now try and find them. Bree doesn’t see it that way – it seems incomprehensible to her that someone would donate sperm to create people and then never ever think about it again or never want to know who they are (I wonder how anyone would feel if 16 people suddenly showed up and said, “hi we’re your children”. So many interesting sides to the situation. I’m assuming that they find him because it doesn’t make an interesting arc if not. Though watching Bree be awkward and yet feel kinship with basically strangers is fascinating.



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