Category: Discussion

On Monday night, Avid Reader bookstore in West End held its monthly Science Fiction and Fantasy Bookclub. Fittingly, July’s book is set in Brisbane, with a several major events happening in the heart of West End. Vigil is the first book in Angela Slatter’s Verity Fassbinder series. If you haven’t heard of this series yet, take a look at my review of the first novel – linked below. If, on the other hand, you’ve already read the epic first novel, book two, Corpselight, is in stores now.

Hosted by renowned speculative fiction author, Trent Jamieson, the Avid Reader SF&F Bookclub is held on the last Monday of each month. I’ve been meaning to get to one for some time now, but have been hampered by work, life and everything in between. Monday night was an insight into how much I’m missing out. I was lucky enough to start my bookclub experience with the author present, which gave a whole new perspective on the series. With a couple of bottles of wine and an intelligent circle of readers, we delved into the intricacies of Verity Fassbinder’s Brisbane.

Trent Jamieson is a wonderful and organised host. He had done enough research to know about Angela Slatter’s myriad of awards, but was shrewd enough to stop listing them all before the dawn. Instead, we acknowledged that Angela Slatter’s shelves are more likely to bow under the weight of literary appreciation than the weight of her books, and moved on.

Important questions were asked. Like, ‘Where can we obtain our own personal David?’ Answers to that question, sadly, were not forthcoming and we had to resign ourselves to David-less lives.

For anyone wondering whether the Brisneyland setting was always meant to be, the answer is yes. Before Vigil fledged into a novel, Brisbane was a part of it. In the final version, Brisbane is the lifeblood of Vigil, a character that acts as glue for all other characters. And, for fast readers, the big question of the night was when the third book, Restoration, would be out. Mid-2018, guys. We’re going to have to find another series to tide us over.

Vigil is a wonderful and highly imaginative urban fantasy novel that sweeps a reader along on an epic adventure. Sometimes when caught up in that rush of a fantastical novel, it’s difficult to think of the process it took to become the final polished product in your hands. Talking with Angela Slatter about this process both disabuses and reaffirms this idea.

On one hand, you can see the depth of thought that has gone on behind the scenes. Especially in working with an understanding of cultural appropriation. Vigil may be wholly Australian, but Slatter makes it clear that she doesn’t consider Indigenous stories hers to tell. There’s also the difficulty of working in a supportive love interest who doesn’t take over the story but isn’t a damsel-in-distress trope either.

But then, on the other hand, there’s that aspect that’s just the magical way synapses fire up on new ideas, catching and holding them until a story demands them. Discovering that a person believes that a glass of water under the bed will snatch away nightmares might fuel a story for Slatter. A name on a headstone – imaginary at that – might spark the heart of an entire collection of short stories.

Corpselight was already the next book on my reading list, but with the fascinating tidbits I found out at bookclub, I’m that much more anxious to get to it.

Review: Vigil by Angela Slatter

 

13cameras1The existence of a camera in every household, via smart phones and i-”whatevers” definitely increases the presence of security violations both private, and communal. 13 Cameras reignites the fear of most women regarding the prevalence of video surveillance, and the minds behind their operation. This film doesn’t just highlight and romanticise the phenomenon of voyeurism as a pursuit of the most unlikely people, but it also furthers the antiquated idea that women are more “spy-worthy” than men.

13 Cameras is a rough-shod thriller in virtual perspective that focuses on the fetish-driven mind of building superintendent Gerald (Neville Archambault), and his interaction with tenants Ryan (PJ McCabe), and Claire (Brianne Moncrief). Gerald has set-up hidden cameras in the property that Ryan and Claire have decided to make their home. From this arrangement it’s easy to infer how a superintendent with certain ulterior motives could create the core of a situational thriller. What this film lacks, however, is a clear insight into the video voyeur’s desire. Is it purely the thrill of peering into other people’s lives, or is it gender specific? In short, does Gerald seek an opportunity to view Claire in her most private moments, or is the act of viewing alone the goal?

This film poses a situation where female voyeurism is put under a social microscope. How is it that Claire is automatically the subject of Gerald’s voyeuristic desire instead of the couple’s interaction? There is no argument that men and women spend equal time using modern media tools to parade their bodies to perfect strangers. Both men and women have set themselves up to be targets of people who would use video equipment to peer into the private lives of individuals. Why is it then, women are still the overwhelmingly most popular subjects in any video voyeur’s plans?

The answer could be as simple as the thought that women spend more time in the bathroom than men. Though near-sighted, this could explain why video voyeurs set-up cameras in home bathrooms instead of other areas. Women are traditionally thought-of as being more helpless in situations where they are alone. What better place to install a camera than a private bathroom to catch a woman in her most vulnerable moment? This precludes a video voyeur’s predisposition toward capturing images of women only.

There are equal opportunities in 13 Cameras for Gerald the superintendent to fulfil his fantasies that include female and male moments. Ryan, the husband, is caught on secret film as many times as Claire, but the movie makers choose to shift focus whenever male-centered voyeurism begins to arise. During the movie, Ryan has an affair with a beautiful mistress, but it elicits far less camera time than Claire’s private moments.

Had Ryan been kindling a same-sex affair, or one that involved several other females, it’s likely the focus of Gerald’s video antics would have shifted from the singular lonely female to the taboo acts in other spaces. 13 Cameras is highly dependent upon the traditional notion that the lonely female subject is the most available source of fodder for any forbidden on-screen material. The rage in Gerald’s character that is revealed in the last sequences of the film illustrates a deranged mind that is obviously searching for stimulus regardless of the gender source. It is the film maker’s choice to continue the outdated narrative that beautiful women spending time in a bathroom are more of a target for voyeurs than anyone else.

Modern women are smart enough to understand that the same technology they use to socialize on a daily basis, has the potential to invade their lives. 13 Cameras shines a light on the worst that can happen when a women doesn’t take the time to know her environment. Check nooks and crannies for cameras when moving into a new place. Arm your security system and make sure it’s encrypted (try here for advice) to prevent personal details from being leaked. Act on instincts that say a new landlord looks creepy and behaves erratically. Make sure there are only two keys to a new place—one for her, and one for him only. Secret voyeurism is real, but no strong woman ever has to be the victim!

 

Soylent_Green_quad_movie_poster_lAlthough Soylent Green premiered over 40 years ago in 1973, many of its environmental and political themes are even more applicable today than they were then. With extreme class division, environmental ruin, food shortages, and overpopulation, viewers will find much to empathize with, especially in today’s world.

Though there are some additional environmental protections in place now versus when the film came out, the problems of overpopulation and global warming are more critical and threatening than ever.

In fact, according to Alberta Energy, about 5500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into Earth’s atmosphere every year due to human activity, which in turn is contributing to the progression of climate change. This theme runs rampant throughout the film, but perhaps even more telling of this dystopian future is the treatment of the female characters in the film and how this degradation is considered so commonplace, it is barely even discussed.

harrison_make roomIn Soylent Green, 2022 sees a world with severely limited resources due to overpopulation, which is at 40 million people in New York City alone. The middle class has disappeared and what remains is the ultra-rich, who are able to continue to live luxurious lives while the rest of society barely scrapes by. Even food is a restricted item.

The film’s Soylent Corporation begins to release a new nutritional product called “soylent green” and in the course of investigating the murder of one of the wealthy scions of society, a detective discovers that soylent green is made from humans. Things have become so dire, that cannibalism has become necessary in order to survive although most don’t know what they’re really consuming.

A lesser and more overlooked theme, however, is the treatment of the women in this film, who are ultimately seen as disposable and their value is primarily as objects of pleasure for men.

By treating its female characters as furniture and disposable chattels, Soylent Green might have been making the point that in societies with extreme class divisions, women are more vulnerable to mistreatment, as definitely seen in the real world today and would be doubly true had the Soylent Green world been made reality.

In times of distress, it’s been seen time and time again that women and children often get the short end of the stick, which is what may have been the statement this film was intending to make. But, it may also be that with a male director, male producers, and a male writer (even the author of original book, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, was male), the creators of the movie simply viewed this treatment of women as atmospheric given the generally dark tones of the film.

Whatever the case, the result is a distinct lack of female input into the creation of the movie, and it is a fact that the environmental themes are focused on much more directly than the overtly sexist themes. Perhaps discussion around Soylent Green centres on environmental warnings rather than sexism because women’s problems are often overlooked.

soylent gree-hestonAnd yet, Soylent Green hardly hides the fact that this world is sexist. The two main female characters in the film are both concubines. Martha is the concubine of a lower class man – indicating that not only the wealthy are able to “own” women; and Shirl is the former concubine of the aforementioned murder victim. Both are identified in relation to the men in their lives, and Shirl in particular is only valued for her beauty and her status as a sex object. She is young, but already resigned to her position in life, although there are moments when she displays distress at the role she’s been forced into.

The men in the film are shown to be much stronger characters. They are the owners, the rulers, the detectives, and even the primary victims. They are able to have a more complete destiny. Women are replaceable pieces of furniture. In could be inferred from Soylent Green that with environmental degradation could also come with female degradation, if we do not do anything about it any time soon.

Sadly, much like the environmental themes, the patriarchal themes also ring true today. Though times have changed and in many ways things have improved for women, there are still countries where women are not even allowed to vote or drive. Women are paid less and expected to do more in the home. It is still difficult for women to be taken as seriously as men in many industries and films made today still reflect the male gaze more strongly than the female gaze. Progress is being made, but there is still a long journey to go. Soylent Green remains as much a cautionary tale today for feminism as it was the day it was released.

 

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

Categories

Archives

Search

Follow

Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on Pinterest
  • Follow on Google+
  • Follow on GoodReads
  • Follow on Tumblr
  • Follow on Flickr
  • Follow on YouTube