Friday, May 19, 2017

Think Galactic- Kelly Sue DeConnick & Amal El-Mohtar

For the May meeting of Think Galactic, we read selections from the Guests of Honor at the upcoming Wiscon: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Amal El-Mohtar. For DeConnick, we read Bitch Planet, and for El-Mohtar we read a selection of short stories and poems.

Think Galactic's original formation was inspired by Wiscon, and there's usually a good number of us in attendance, and these two creators have a lot of interesting work.

Brief notes and discussion below:

Speaking first about Bitch Planet:
  • Generally we quite liked it.
  • About half of us had only been able to read the first collected volume in trades, so it still felt like mostly set-up for us.
  • Those who'd been reading it issue by issue brought some in to share; they have a lot of supplemental material (essays, extras at the end) that make it feel a lot more far-ranging and nuanced (the comic as kind of just one element of a larger project).
  • (Incidentally, one of the essays is by Angelica Jade BastiĆ©n, whose essay about Keanu Reeves I will never tire of recommending to people.)
  • "It isn't subtle, but that's not a bad thing." The concept of this series as good propaganda.
  • Talked about the genre of "women in prison" exploitation film, which Bitch Planet draws heavily on, which some of us were completely unaware of.
  • We liked a lot of the details and side-stories here more than the main plot—the inmates' crimes displayed as just one more sports statistic, the creepiness of the Haley/Kaley holograms and the muffin shop scene. We really liked Penelope's story (that mirror scene!)
  • Talked about this in relation to Orange is the New Black, and how the show kind of smuggled in/evolved into a much more intersectional work than the original premise indicated.
  • We definitely liked the '70s coloration/art style, the humor, the "non-compliant" & "flipping the bird" logos.
  • Appropriately, talked about some of Bitch Magazine's material on Bitch Planet, like this interview with DeConnick.

For our El-Mohtar selections, we read a smattering of material available online:
 We really enjoyed these, a few of the short stories in particular.
  • We really liked the trope-flipping and fairy-tale re-interpretation of Seasons of Glass and Iron. A lot. Probably our favorite story overall; we really liked the way that the two different character viewpoints see and correct each other's blindspots.
  • Madeleine's dealing with loss, memory loss, not trusting one's own mind, connecting with someone else—very good.
  • We liked the coming-of-age bits of The Truth About Owls but found it a little too simple/convenient in points.
  • Anabasis was interesting, topical—the Warren-inspired "she persisted" project, references to the dangerous Canadian border crossing by American residents fleeing persecution or possible deportation.
  • Really mixed reviews on The Green Book—some of us really loved it for its style and unexpected horrific effects, others found it too experimental and hard to follow.
  • We didn't discuss the poetry at length, though a few of us really liked them—we all noted that her short stories have a lovely sound to them, really nice turns of phrase and lingering images, befitting someone who is also a poet.
Good, somewhat brief discussion on both authors (I completely failed to bring up some connections to Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time that I was making with both), and then we launched into some Wiscon discussion—Think Galactic is hosting a party Saturday night, some of us are on panels and other projects, and there's also a group of us going up on bicycles. Wiscon will be fun!

We had to do some book-schedule rearranging due to availability/length issues, but! For June, we'll be reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, as well as picking our next slate of books, and in July we'll be reading The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. Keep up with Think Galactic on their website and Facebook group.

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