Episode Number: 110
Episode Title: Mispronouncing Cthulhu (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Ana: Hi friends! I’m Ana.
Renay: And I’m Renay.
Ana: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Renay: Hello again and welcome back to the show. This week we’re gonna discuss feedback and updates, we’re going to talk about Monstress Volume 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takada. Then we’re going to discuss Robots vs Fairies story number three: Murmured Under the Moon by Tim Pratt. And then we’re gonna talk about It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian. And then, of course, recommendations.
Ana: How you doing, Renay?
Renay: I’m doing good. How you doing?
Ana: I’m fine.
Renay: So Ana. Ana, Ana. What are the haps with the Book Smugglers? What’s going on? What do you got coming up?
Ana: Oh, right at the moment we are knee-deeps into edits. Just preparing for the year ahead because we had so much going on. We’re just slowly working, editing our short stories, our novels, and the novellas that we have this year. We’ve been publishing our new contributors to the blog, which is something that we raised money from with the Kickstarter. We have our regular contributors now—members of Smuggler Army—and that has been fun. And I think that’s it really. And trying to find time to read.
Renay: How’s that going?
Ana: Hard. I was hoping to read about two books a week, and I maybe able to, but it’s hard.
Renay: Agreed. What is the first thing that you’ll be publishing next year. What’s the first story that’s gonna come out, do you know?
Ana: The first story that will come out from the Awakenings is When the Letter Comes by Sarah Fox, which is a really beautiful story about a trans kid, who knows one day a letter will arrive that will allow for them to go to a magic school. And then one day the letter does arrive, but it arrives for the kid’s sister. That bittersweetness and what happens to the person left behind is what the story’s about. And it’s really, really, beautiful.
Renay: Can you pre-order it yet?
Ana: No. We haven’t even started editing this one yet. With Amazon, for self-published authors and tiny publishers such as ours you can only set-up a pre-order when you have the final file. With big publishers, you just say to Amazon, “Oh I’ll have this book in two years,” and Amazon will allow you to set up a pre-order with no cover—with nothing. But with small publishers or self-publishing authors, they don’t allow you to do that.
Renay: Amazon is oppressing the little guy!
Ana: Well, it’s also helping the little guy! I guess it’s a bigger chance that they take, right? Because big publishers: I mean what’s the chance that they are not gonna have something ready when they say they will? So the small guy: imagine Amazon will accept tons of preorder from people and then the book never appears.
Renay: Can people add it on Goodreads?
Ana: Not yet, because for you to add on Goodreads you also have to have an ISBN and we haven’t got to that stage yet.
Renay: Oh my god, Ana! How am I gonna read this story, you have to tell me about it.
Ana: I’ll remind you.
Renay: Okay, thank you.
Ana: You are also a Kickstarter backer so you’ll get an update about it too.
Renay: If anybody’s looking for a Book Smugglers Publishing story to read, you guys can all go read my favorite story of last year that they published, called Avi Cantor has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb. I love that story.
Ana: I love that story, too.
Renay: I nominated it for a Hugo. Sure did.
Ana: One day my Hugo will come. How about you? What’s the haps with you and all the different things that you are doing? I hear tell of a book club?
Ana: Renay. Where do you find the time.
Renay: I don’t! I just make it up. Yeah, anyway, I got really frustrated because my library doesn’t seem to have a very robust book club. I can never find anybody to tell me who’s a member of it or how to join it, so I was just like, “Screw it, I’m gonna start my own science fiction book club.” And I did! It’s called Jonesboro Rocket Reads. Anna, our friend forestofglory, who often does recs for us gave me the title.
Ana: That’s a really great title.
Renay: And our first book is Provenance by Ann Leckie.
Ana: Excellent, good choice. Have you had anyone sign up yet?
Renay: Me and Zach are the only people.
Ana: So where’s it gonna be?
Renay: We’re gonna have it in a restaurant that we go to every Friday, anyway. I’m just gonna have it there the last Friday of every month. I’m really excited about it. The worst case scenario is that nobody ever comes to it and I just end up reading one science fiction book a month which is not a bad thing.
Ana: No, exactly. Then you go out and you talk to Zach about it which is also not a bad thing.
Renay: I also signed up for a program called Women Can Run, which is a free program that they do in my city. I signed up for the beginning walkers program and so every Tuesday and Thursday night I go out and do a walk. Mostly it’s just about getting into the habit of walking again. Also it’s working on my fear of being in public.
We also have a few other updates! We started to do Patreon-only non-fiction discussions. We are reading Inferior by Angela Saini and we will be discussing it kinda how we’re we discussing Robots vs Fairies, one chapter at a time. If you wanna get the book and read along with us to discuss it and learn a bunch of new thing about women in science, you can feel free. We would love to have you. You get those episodes on Patreon if you donate to us monthly at five dollars or more.
And then the last thing on our update list is Question Tuesday! We’re finally gonna do a Question Tuesday. We have several questions in the hopper that we’ve had a long time. I’m really sorry it’s taken so long! But if you wanna throw more in you can go and submit some questions. I would like for you to ask Ana a bunch of questions so we can reveal all her secrets.
Ana: Secrets about what, man?
Renay: I don’t know! We’re gonna see what they come up with. The form is actually on our website you can go to fangirlhappyhour.com/questions-answers.
Renay: Monstress Volume 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda follows the adventures of Maika Halfwolf and her companions Kippa and Ren—a talking cat with multiple tails—as they search for answers about Maika’s past and her mother’s plots. Volume 2 is inevitably gonna have spoilers for Volume 1, so if you haven’t read Volume 1 yet, we highly recommend it. It was one of our favourite comics the year it came out.
Ana: And there’s gonna be spoilers for this volume, too.
Renay: It’s really hard to discuss this comic without spoilers, consider this entire segment spoilerific. When I describe Monstress to people who I’m recommending it to I describe it as an epic fantasy graphic novel.
Ana: That’s a very good way of describing it and it also kind of maybe explains my conflicted feelings about it. Because epic fantasy, by its own nature, I guess, if that’s something that you can say about a genre, is very rich. It’s very detailed. It has a bunch of characters. It often involves different characters doing different things and going on different arcs and it grows and it grows and it grows from there. I feel like maybe a graphic novel—it’s not the best way of telling an epic story.
Renay: Maybe. I like it, though.
Ana: You do. Yeah, I thought it was a little bit confusing, because there was so much to it! There was so much to it in this volume.
Renay: I think maybe the difference for me is that I read it in floppy. Every time I get a new issue, I read the preceding ones again. I read seven when it came out, and when eight came out I read seven and eight, and when nine came out I read seven, eight, and nine. And I stack em like that, I reread, and that may be how I’m making it through it easily and understanding what’s going on. I’m not sure how that would work volume-wise, because even when I went back to read it for our discussion I read it the same way. I stacked it. It took me two hours, it didn’t take me that much longer. But I felt like I had a better grip on the world and I would notice new things every time I went through it. About the worldbuilding, about some of the background art, and the way that Takeda put things to pick up in the background of the story. I think that Monstress is a comic that sort of requires close reading. It’s very different than other comics. It reminds me a lot of Pretty Deadly in the way that the story is not always explicit, and sometimes is not even implicit, you just sorta have to figure out from context clues what’s going on.
Ana: And sometimes there are no answers yet, because there are so many things that you just don’t know.
Renay: Yeah, it’s hard to keep alliances straight.
Ana: I think that’s also due to the ongoing arc because we also don’t know.
Ana: There’s no answers to that question. Who are the good people or the bad people? Who are her allies and who are her enemies? Maybe they are both and all the same.
Renay: So in this volume, Maika and Kippa go to Maika’s godfather, who is a tiger. She wants to go to an island, where her mom went years before, to figure out parts of her past and her mom’s past to solve the mystery of the monster that’s inside her now. The monster inside her, his name is Zinn— its name is Zinn? He? It?
Ana: It looks a lot the feeling that I have reading about those monsters and those creatures that came before and now one of them is inside of her, it reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft’s monsters.
Renay: I’ve never read Lovecraft, so.
Ana: I have never read Lovecraft, but I know of it, and I have read retellings of Lovecraft by other authors. It makes me think of Cthulhu and all of those many-eyed monsters that live in the sea or whatever. So I don’t know if they are getting inspiration from that, too, and being really cool about it because of course we know how Lovecraft was like a racist piece of shit considering there are two women of colour writing this story and perhaps even getting inspiration from his creatures.
Renay: Here’s a fun fact: the monster is called Cthulhu. As a kid, I read everything. I didn’t listen to it a whole lot. I didn’t have a lot of people read to me. I did most of it myself and there was nobody to tell me how to pronounce words so I did a lot of sounding out of things. Until my late twenties I called this monster Choot-loo. That’s how I pronounced this word. That’s wrong. And I still do it sometimes, I’ll slip up and say Choot-loo and everybody’ll look at me weird and I get embarrassed.
Ana: I’m pretty sure I said it wrong, too.
Renay: I don’t know. I guess Cthulhu is the right way to say it? But I guarantee if I have to say it again later, I’m gonna be like “Choot-loo!” and everyone’s gonna be like, “Aww, Renay.”
Ana: Listen, I’m not gonna be too precious about monsters created by a racist, so [raspberry].
Ana: Do we think that Maika is gonna kill Kippa?
Ana: I think she will, because they keep coming back to this over, and over, and over again. Of course it’s part, I guess, of her arc, to resist that temptation. She teaches Kippa the way that her mother used to teach her, too, which is really bordering—I wouldn’t say bordering, full-on abusive tactics, but they keep talking about over and over again. There’s gonna be a moment when a decision has to be made and either she’s gonna pass on that test, and not eat Kippa, or she will fuck up and eat Kippa. And I think this is gonna get much darker before it gets lighter, if it’s ever gonna get lighter, so we have our own fangirl bet.
Renay: The way that the monster interacts with Kippa: there were some cute moments in more recent issues that make me go, “Mm, maybe!” So I’m curious what you’ll make of the upcoming two issues and the interactions that Kippa and Zinn have with each other. As the story continues Zinn is being humanised more and more which is weird to say about a giant monster of death. We see some of his background and how he killed his friend.
Ana: Because he wanted to kill every single human?
Renay: Which I think, maybe we learn in the first one but I can’t – I’m a little fuzzy on where we learned it at this point, but there’s another monster inside one of the enemies that is chasing Maika across the world. There are two monstrum, and I’m pretty sure that that’s gonna be a thing that comes to be relevant again. The Shaman Empress held Zinn inside of her, and now Maika is doing it, because Maika’s mother wanted Maika to have this happen to her. And she went through several different tactics to get it to happen. I think my biggest question right now, because like I said this comic has a lot going on in it, there’s a lot happening, is the mask, and what the heck is going on with the mask.
Ana: I don’t know. There are pieces scattered all over, right? She only has a piece of it and she put on the mask and something happened.
Renay: We saw her father at one point. There is a man that the witches and some of the other people who are on the other side with the other monster. There’s a man that they have, they have control of him, and I think that’s Maika’s father. Because he has the eye.
Ana: Yeah. That’s how—that was the very last scene of this volume. But is her father human?
Renay: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I guess we’re gonna find out more later. I think the most confusing part of this comic for me is the alliances and the groups. So you have like the witches, and then there’s some humans, and then there’s arcanics, and the cats…
Ana: And the cats are necromancers.
Renay: And then the Dusk Court and I’m just a little confused as to where everyone fits. I think this is your point about where the comic falls down. I think prose epic fantasy is a little bit clearer about alliances, and who belongs where and who is allied with who. In the comic it’s a little harder to make clear, those lines, so you can follow along and know who belongs with who. And that’s the hardest part, I have found of the comics so far, is knowing the groups. Who’s aligned with what group, knowing what group is relevant at any current time…
Ana: It’s difficult.
Renay: In this volume they go to an island.
Ana: Where her mother had been before and other people had been before, but nobody talks about it. Then we learn why, because people forget what they see on the island. And then they meet one of the Ancient Ones? A wolf. No, it was a fox.
Renay: Who was nuts! And the whole island was an illusion.
Ana: There were people trapped there, too.
Renay: And that’s where we learned about Zinn and his backstory and how he had an ally who wanted to leave that world, because they were killing everything in it. And Zinn was like, “No, we’re gonna stay here. I don’t care what you want.”
Ana: When have they changed their mind? Because it feels like they have. I think probably when they morphed? With humans?
Renay: Zinn came to be with the Shaman Empress after being lost or suppressed. I’m not actually sure what’s going on there. They seem to have a very interesting relationship, which hasn’t really been explored, because Zinn is kinda close-mouthed about their past. I’m curious as to how Zinn and Maika are gonna continue to develop their relationship, because I think in this volume we kind of saw them start to work together. Another character whose motivations I’m really curious about is Ren.
Ana: He has a clear mission, but he also seems to be conflicted about that mission. He seems to genuinely care for the kids, and he could be on their side? But I dunno.
Renay: I’m real dubious about it. I don’t know what to expect from him. He feels like a very shades of grey character. If you asked me who the monster’s gonna eat I don’t think it’s Kippa. I think it’s Ren who’s gonna be the first to go.
Ana: Ah, that’s interesting.
Renay: Whatever Ren’s mission and whatever his fondness for Maika and Kippa is,he’s gonna find himself in conflict, and I suspect him of being a double agent.
Ana: That would make sense. There’s a lot going on here.
Renay: Yeah, and there’s a war being fought, or one side is trying to fight a war, and the other side is trying to prevent the war. Then Maika’s side doesn’t even give a shit about the war because she’s on her own mission, but it’s kind of sneaking up on her. Now she’s gonna have escaped from the queens of some country after killing a bunch of their people, so that’s gonna put an even bigger target on her back. And also a thing that maybe I knew but I didn’t really grok to is that Mariko had a twin sister who became the Wolf of the East, and so Maika has an aunt. The aunt does not seem predisposed to care very much about Maika at all, because she’s on the side of the witches and the other monstrum.
Ana: And her grandmother is alive, too, the Ancient Wolf who is fading but still powerful, and who seems to know what her mother was doing.
Renay: There’s a lot of threads.
Ana: Yes. There is a whole lot, and this is what I’m saying that maybe you’re right, maybe reading in one sitting is too much? The art was beautiful, as always, although some panels were very, very busy. There’s a lot of information there. But it’s undoubtedly beautiful.
Renay: I just really believe it cannot be read like other comics because there’s so much happening.
Ana: Maybe I’ll try a different strategy next time.
Renay: There’s just so much happening and there’s so much information, and there’s so much world building, too. They’re still giving us these little entries at the end of issues where Professor Tam-Tam gives a lecture.
Ana: It’s interesting because this is very typical of epic fantasy. You always have snippets, and most times, they are really important to the narrative in ways that you can’t guess until the very end, so I always pay a lot of attention to those snippets at the end of Monstress.
Renay: How many space bees would you give this?
Ana: Three and a pot of honey.
Renay: I would give it four. Because I still am a little confused even though I think I know what’s going on when it’s hard to explain the story to somebody else that might mean the story is a little convoluted, but I liked it. I’m interested to see where the story goes. I’m glad that the hiatus is over so we’ll finally get a new volume this year.
Ana: It must take them such a long time, more than any other comic writers. Just because like I said, it’s so detailed and so rich, both the storytelling and the art. It must take them so long.
Renay: Since I don’t read it in trade I read it in floppy, soon there will be three volumes, which means they’re gonna do a big omnibus version, with three trades in one big hardcover, which is what I’m gonna buy. I’m super excited, because imagine how gorgeous that’s gonna be. Because the trades themselves are super, super beautiful.
But I really don’t think Kippa’s gonna get eaten, even though you do. Save Kippa!
Renay: This year we are reading the anthology Robots vs Fairies from Saga Press, one story an episode. This episode we’re discussing Murmured Under the Moon by Tim Pratt, which is a fairy story. Murmured Under the Moon is about a woman who works as a librarian in the fairy realm and one day gets shut out of her library. Brutally. And then has to work with somebody from the fairy lands to solve the mystery of why she got shut out and all the books from the library are going away and being taken.
Ana: It’s a good summary.
Renay: So the problem with this is that I don’t remember it.
Ana: You don’t remember it.
Renay: I remember the broad strokes, but I don’t remember any characters’ names.
Ana: Is that a strike against it?
Renay: I think so. It’s just not memorable. And it makes me sad because this is a queer fairy story, because the main character has a girlfriend who is a book?
Ana: Yeah so it’s living books. They are part of the magic realm and they can take shape of humans, but also they get drunk on reading. That was my favorite part: the living books and I would date a living book.
Renay: I remember the beginning and then the middle, and I sort of remember the resolution to it, in that there was the fairy and the living book who teamed up to help the main character defeat the bad guy.
Ana: The fairy queen was under a spell by a man. He had control over her by controlling a book that she had written, which is something that fairies haven’t done that much in the history of fairies: which is write their own stories. Tthis lady, the fairy lady, the fairy queen, wrote a book called Murmured Under the Moon, which was a book about her falling in love with a human. Now this new human has found it and is using the book to control the fairy queen without her realizing that she was being controlled. And this is why he was shutting down, for some reason, the library. And then our main character had to stop him and she does that by using books to defeat this guy.
Renay: Like the only thing I remember about the end really is the team up between those two characters and the fact that the villain was defeated by thousands of books crushing him.
Ana: Yeah. [laughs]
Renay: I’m upset because I just don’t remember the story that well. It just faded I read it and it went away.
Renay: Even though there are some really cool things going on, like the super-neat romance and the living books and the fact that I want another story in this universe where the fairy and the living book who team up at the end go on their own adventures. Because at the end of the book they pair up and they go off.
Ana: Yeah, do you remember anything else about the other two stories that we read?
Renay: Yeah, I remember a bunch about them, but this one just faded and I’m bummed because I didn’t read it that long ago. It’s been—
Ana: A week, I think.
Renay: Less than that because I reread it to prepare. The fact that I can’t remember anybody’s name…
Ana: Yeah, I don’t remember the name either. No, I remember it well, I think.
Renay: So I’m just a bit weirded out. Are your memory issues catching, do you think?
Ana: Who knows?
Renay: Oh no.
Ana: I still think I liked this one better than the robot one that we read.
Renay: Yeah, I definitely did, because I thought the characters were better.
Ana: It’s another tick for the fairies.
Renay: I also liked that the hero was a librarian.
Ana: A queer librarian.
Renay: Who saved the day with books. So I want to give it another tick for fairy, but I also wish I remembered it better?
Ana: I really liked it. I would definitely give a tick.
Renay: Okay well, I guess I’m not giving any ticks, because I don’t remember it well enough to give it ticks. It’s only been four days, what’s happening? And also I just really want the whole book about the living books.
Ana: That was really cool.
Renay: When I come away from your story not remembering it but wanting the other story, that’s a problem I think. The problem where your side characters end up kinda stealing the show. You want to make your side characters interesting but maybe not more interesting than your main characters. You have given Team Fairy two ticks, and I have given Team Fairy one tick. Team Robot has gotten no ticks.
Ana: But maybe next time, because next time we are reading Annalee Newitz’s story.
Renay: Fingers crossed!
Renay: It Takes Two To Tumble is a 2017 release by Cat Sebastian in a new series called Seducing the Sedgewicks. It follows a sea captain who has returned home to see his children after his wife’s death, and a vicar in a small village where the sea captain lives. It is meant to be a little light retelling, adaptation thing, of Sound of Music. If there is a similarity, it’s very light so don’t be alarmed if you maybe have never seen the Sound of Music, or are embarrassed by The Sound of Music.
Ana: I thought it was so cool!
Renay: I love Cat Sebastian and I like pretty much all her books no matter what she writes, and this one was no exception. I really liked this book.
Ana: I have conflicted feelings about it.
Renay: I knew you were going to, you made that look. I saw that expression on your face, the, “Uh-oh, Renay likes this and I don’t like it as much as she does!” look, which I can now recognize. What makes you conflicted about it?
Ana: I feel like it was too similar to the previous one that we read.
Renay: Oh really? I didn’t get that feeling at all.
Ana: I did, especially with the development of the story and the steps that the characters take toward each other. I also felt like the personalities were very similar, too.
Renay: Wow, we totally read this book differently.
Ana: Possibly, and I had other issues with it, too.
Renay: Okay, what were those issues?
Ana: I had issues with the female characters. I had a huge issue with the fact that Ben, the vicar, was engaged to a woman, and she had had an illness that left her pretty much disabled or less abled to start with because it seems like she was going to do a full recovery towards the end of the novel. I felt like her story was too incidental to theirs, and although I’m very used to reading romance novels in which there’s always a fiancé or someone who is jilted so that the main couple can get together. I also felt like this character, who seems like a super cool character, she was used as a wrench between them. To just add more angst.
Renay: Wow, that’s my biggest complaint about this novel is that I don’t think it was angsty at all. I thought there was hardly any. It’s really funny that we read it completely differently.
Ana: There were parts of it that had angst, especially with regards to their future, and how they would get together, and the fact that Ben had a fiancée. But also there were other things that were near angsty enough. For example, the fact that all of a sudden there is story about his brother who had been abused by his own godfather when he was only sixteen and that story just felt like it went nowhere?
Renay: That whole story was the center of the plot of the book.
Ana: The centre of the plot of the book? I disagree.
Renay: The bad management of the estate and the abusive behavior by the lord of that estate all came from the fact that the brother and the godfather were banging, and the son of that guy who’s the godfather was really pissed off about it.
Ana: Would you describe it as “they were banging?” Would you not describe it as a boy being raped by him? By a man in a position of power? When he was only sixteen?
Renay: I didn’t read it like that at all.
Ana: Did we read the same book?
Renay: I mean, I assume we did. Because the kid slept with the guy for money and I get real nervous when we look at sex work as like abuse.
Ana: But he was only sixteen and it was his godfather.
Renay: Yeah, but sixteen now and sixteen then are two different ages.
Ana: Would Ben react the way that he did if it had been so different?
Renay: I don’t know. I just didn’t have that much of a problem with it, especially when the character comes out and tells the Ben straight out, “Well yeah, you can read it like this, but I wasn’t really doing anything I didn’t want to do.” I just read it as sex work, because his father wasn’t the best father in the world.
Ana: I read the guy as being deeply traumatized by this.
Renay: Yeah, I did not get that sense at all. From the way I read it, Ben was more traumatized. We didn’t get the brother’s perspective really, so I’m not sure that you could get that he was deeply traumatized by it.
Ana: The way that he talked about it and how he didn’t want to talk about it.
Renay: Well just because somebody doesn’t want to talk about it doesn’t mean they’re traumatised.
Ana: Well I think it’s possible that I am projecting, because I did read it as an abuse story.
Renay: I mean, it might be.
Ana: I might have read between the lines something that might not be there, but that’s how I read it. I’d be so curious to see how others—I know there are some of our friends read this novel. I’d be curious to see how other people have interpreted this.
Renay: But yeah, it was pretty important to the plot, so saying there’s no angst involved is—
Ana: Let me rephrase that. It was used to prop other characters instead of being a story of that character on its own. Considering that I read it as an abuse storyline, I felt that because it was used as an excuse to allow Ben to finally quit the church, for example, it just felt weird to me. That it was used in that way in the narrative.
Renay: Oh no, now I’m really worried that I’m excusing abuse by liking this book. That’s not great. I just didn’t focus on it that much. I mean, this is supposed to be like Regency or whatever romance.
Ana: I know, this is why I felt it was so out of place. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t like it! I’m gonna go to Goodreads and see if anybody talks about it.
Renay: It’s got a much lower rating than her other books. If I just scroll through the reviews, they’re all like four and five stars and hardly any of them mention what you do.
Ana: So bizarre.
Renay: Maybe because that’s gonna be dealt with in the next book?
Ana: Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many romance novels in which the male character is traumatized by that sort of abuse, for example, that it might be that I either projected or recognized something from other readings.
Renay: I also think that when you’re talking about abuse, especially sex abuse, when you’re talking about queer relationships it’s really, really hard. Because there are relationships in het relationships that would be abusive, but then the queer community is so different and things get suppressed so easily that you have to like adjust how you think about them? Because I think about like my queer friends who’ve had relationships with like older people, and it just operates differently because you’re in a smaller community, and sometimes you’re closeted, cause culture is different and it handles queer relationships in a different way.
I’m not saying that if that happened in like a modern romance novel I wouldn’t be like, “What the hell is going on!” but I also think I read it as Ben sort of glommed onto it as his own failing. “How can I continue on in my position when I’ve benefited from my brother having to do sex work and being abused by this other older person taking advantage of him?” and he takes all this guilt onto himself, and there was just not a lot of time for me to worry about what the brother was going through because the brother was just, “I just don’t wanna, like whatever guy, I was fine, it’s fine, it’s not a big deal, do not be a martyr!” I just assumed it would be dealt with in the next book because it’s gonna be a series. And it’s a very hard issue to tackle when it’s not the character being featured in the book. Ben had to deal with his own issues around that, and there was just not space to deal with Hartley’s feelings. And Hartley as an adult in the book that we see, he’s super easy-going and he’s friendly and he’s socialized, and he doesn’t seem otherwise harmed by it.
Ana: Yeah, but see, this is a trope in romance novels.
Renay: [whispers] I don’t read enough romance, Ana.
Renay: So I can’t just based on this book. I’d have to read his book.
Ana: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score.
Renay: There’s another brother, too, which I assume will be the third book. This one doesn’t come out till July. You really focused on like that, whereas I was focused on Ben’s struggle with his sexuality and not cheating his friend, who he cared for deeply, out of like an actual relationship. And how the Captain was not emotionally distant but sort of scared of putting down roots, which is different to me from the characters who came before. Because in the book we read before, the characters aren’t worried about putting down roots. In fact, they kind of want to. But here, Philip was definitely afraid of putting down those roots and staying and not going back to sea, and having to redefine himself based on being a father.
And then eventually Ben’s—all his angst is related not to the relationship but to his brother’s past and family situation and how his father was sort of absent and also not attentive to things going on under his roof? Because I was really focused on these other things, like things that were actually in the book, versus things that weren’t in the book that I would be dealt with later. I mean, I like the book! I gave it four space bees!
Ana: His angst over cheating on her, his best friend, and person he loves so much, he was not conflicted for that long. He just gave in very easily. also, the other thing that I thought— [laughs] I’m sorry, I’m just raining on everybody’s praise about this one. It took place within two weeks, Renay!
Renay: Don’t most romance novels take place within two weeks?
Ana: Not necessarily, no!
Renay: I thought it felt much longer than that.
Ana: I always had a problem with romance novels that took place in that short a time.
Renay: It feels like it was much longer than two weeks, are you sure?
Renay: Because wasn’t he home for the whole summer?
Ana: By the time they started banging and Ben was already kind of falling in love it had been two weeks. Then there was more time. A little bit more time after that.
Renay: Everybody’s gonna be like, “Wow, this book is not good.”
Ana: Not necessarily! People will listen to you, too.
Renay: I mean, my issues with the book were really that everything seemed too easy.
Ana: That is absolutely true, too. Because, for example, in the other book that we read I really liked in the end they created a community for themselves with other couples, other queer couples. I felt that because of who they were, and the fact that they were independent, they didn’t have children, one of them wasn’t a vicar, for example, it was perhaps I felt like that fairytale was more believable. Considering the historical times they were living in which just by being with each other that was not only forbidden but also unlawful. I felt that because they were in a house with children, I just fear for their future, basically. In a way that I didn’t fear for the future for the other characters, so it was easier to believe the fairytale and the happy ending of the other one than it was to believe in this one.
Renay: I also think that we don’t know the end yet. This is the first in the series, and with the one we read last time that was the last in the series. There was also a kid in that one, but you haven’t read that book yet. I think it’s really interesting that perspective that you get when you start—when you come to a series and you read the third book first, versus when you come to a series and read the first book first. Although I really think it’s interesting with Hartley and his godfather and it being an abusive relationship and how differently you and I viewed that, based on what we bring to our understanding of relationships; both queer relationships and relationships based in the past. I think that’s fascinating. Because yeah, I could read it as abuse, but I don’t know cause Hartley says in this book that it was wasn’t but I won’t be able to make a judgment on whether she’s telling a particular story in a responsible way until I actually read how she builds it out and explains.
Ana: With that said I did devour it, and I really liked the two main characters. I felt like it was everything around them.
Renay: There was a lot going on in the background, because the kids, and then Ben’s relationship with his friend.
Ana: With his brothers; with his father.
Renay: Philip and his grief over the relationship that he lost.
Ana: And his father’s polyamorous relationships, too, with his mother and his second wife, I guess?
Renay: There was a lot happening, which for me puts this book kind of like outside what I would like quote-unquote Regency romance and into another category of like, fantasy romance.
Ana: There are examples of Regency romance that have lots going on. Because there are so many regency romances with heroes that are, that have PTSD for example, or who come back from wars. Rhey are very much more angst than this one and this is why maybe I’m used to reading a romance that has this potential for angst without fully engaging with that. And I know that it’s not his story, therefore it’s not center on him, but it just gave me pause that I felt that it was a prop.
Renay: It’s not bad to have to pause to have to think about this kind of thing. It would never have occurred to me if you hadn’t said something.
Ana: But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m misreading it.
Renay: Your reading is just as valid as anybody else’s. I would never have stopped to think about it any deeper if you hadn’t said something. Having fun reading that’s fun and “light” is important but if you’re not looking at that reading too, as a way of critiquing what you’re taking in even doing the background critique of it in the back of your head, that may be a problem. I think it’s fine for trashy stuff, but I think you probably need to recognize in some cases it might be extra trashy and you should be like, “Mmm, okay.”
Ana: What did you think about the female characters in this?
Renay: I liked the kids and the smart-ass cook. Alice is more complicated because Ben was not being honest with her. I get real dubious about the lack of honesty in stories. I liked her character a whole bunch and every time her character showed up it was great because she was a super supportive friend, but I thought that Ben should have been more honest with her, sooner, because it was kind of cruel.
Ana: Philip invited her for dinner. That was terrible. Jesus fucking Christ. I guess another thing that I really liked about it, which is something that I liked about the first book, too, that I read. They felt attracted to each other and then they just—there was not an angst over the fact that they were queer men. Even Ben, who is a vicar. He didn’t feel shame, he didn’t feel like a huge angst because, “I am – I like men, even though I’m a vicar,” and I liked that kind of angst is not part of her storytelling at all. It is really nice. And the sex scenes were hot.
Renay: You’re like, “I can find some positive things to say about this, give me just one second, let me think about it.”
At the end, how many space bees are you giving it?
Ana: I would give it a three.
Renay: I’m giving it four.
Ana: I will wait for you to read the next one and tell me how it goes, because now I am curious about our readings, because we have such divergent readings.
Renay: Yeah I know! It was really surprising, that hasn’t happened in a while. Not since Stargate! [laughs] Was this better than Stargate, though, Ana?
Ana: Yes. It was cute. It was still cute, and the whole Sound of Music was perfect, Renay, I don’t know what you’re talking about it not being like the Sound of Music. It was totally like the Sound of Music! Everything was like the Sound of Music.
Renay: There were no songs and no mountains.
Ana: There was a tiny mountain, because they had to walk over to his father’s, there was a lake, there were trees, there were frogs, there was the vicar, who was engaged, although in Sound of Music it’s the Captain who is engaged, but nevertheless.
Renay: I’m gonna defer to you on this because you’re the one who has seen the Sound of Music and I have not seen the Sound of Music. Therefore you are the expert and I defer to your expertise.
Ana: What. How have you not seen The Sound of Music?
Renay: We’ve already gone through this, Ana. It’s embarrassing.
Ana: Have we? It’s not embarrassing! Did I tell you I went to the town where they filmed it and I saw the lake and I hugged a tree and I saw the church where they got married in the movie .
Renay: Yeah I think we’ve had this conversation on record in fact.
Ana: Okay all right, I’ll let it go then.
Renay: It’s just too embarrassing!
Renay: Allright, it’s time for some recs, and today we’re doing something different! On our closed Facebook group, Space Bee Army, we put a call out for recommendations, because it’s great to share recommendations with as many people as possible in as many genres as possible, and me and Ana can only watch and read so much. So I went and got one rec, and then I went back and got another rec from somebody else. There’s two recs here from our fellow space bees.
Our first Space Bee, Ariadne, recs All Out, “a new short story collection that tells stories about queer teens throughout history. Each story has a different tone and feel and they have various gender identities. It’s really exceptional, I wish this collection had existed when I was younger.”
And then I also had another one from our pal Jenny, she says, “My rec is for the new Book Riot podcast, For Real, which talks about new and notable non-fiction. The hosts, Kim and Alice, are well-informed and well-read. They have great chemistry together, and they talk about such a wide range of non-fiction, everything from history to memoir to science. They’re so pumped about learning new stuff, and I can already tell I’m going to have to listen to this podcast with a pen ready to jot down twenty recs per episode.”
And those are Space Bee Recs, thank you space bees, we really appreciate your help in spreading the rec love. So, Ana, now it’s your turn to tell us what you’re going to rec.
Ana: My recommendation is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and it’s a brilliant novel. It’s a mix of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Black Panther. I cannot even begin to describe how awesome this book is. I gave it a ten. It’s probably going to be one of my top tens of this year. And it’s all based on West African mythologies. Which, incidentally, the goddesses and gods of this religion are the same gods and goddesses that my family worships in Brazil and it’s the religion I grew up with. That religion arrived in Brazil with slavery so it has a terrible history connected to it, and how it arrived in Brazil, and it has complications to the fact that a lot of white people co-opted that religion throughout time, which is how I stopped being religious in the first place.
Renay: Hard same.
Ana: What’s your recommendation?
Renay: My recommendation is for a novella called The Black Tides of Heaven by J. Y. Yang. This novella is from Tor.com and it tells the story of twin siblings, one of which has prophetic visions, and how those prophetic visions change the course of their life. This novella is fascinating because in the world, kids are genderless and they choose their gender later in life in a confirmation ceremony. I just love the way that this novella treated gender and built it into the world building and it was just super fascinating. It kinda reminded me a little bit of the Goblin Emperor, plot-wise, because in this novel you have some magic users and then you have some technology coming up. It had the same feel, where you have the clash between the status quo and emerging tech. If you liked the Goblin Emperor you might wanna give this novella a try, there is also a sequel to this novella and I think they’re getting more books after the sequel, even.
Ana: Yeah, and reminder that we have also a series from J.Y. Yang coming from the Book Smugglers this year. Courtesy of our backers on Kickstarter.
Renay: So if you end up liking this novella by J.Y. Yang and also the sequel to it, there is a lot more in the pipeline from Yang out there in the world.
Renay: Okay space bees, if you’ve read It Takes Two To Tumble, I immediately need you to email us and weigh in.
Ana: Please do, tell us your thoughts and how you read this novel.
Renay: Whoever thought that a romance novel would create this amount of debate.
Renay: If you would like to support our show, you can follow us on Patreon.
Ana: And there are other ways to support us, too. You can share our episode announcements, you can leave us five space bees on iTunes, you can just retweet our tweets, and like us on Facebook. So many ways of loving us.
Renay: Ira created our show art, which is still rad after all this time. Our music is by Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games.
Ana: Susan is our resident transcription fairy and you can read her work at fangirlhappyhour.com.
Renay: We have a private discussion group on Facebook now, which lately has been mostly weekly celebrations of how awesome we are. You can search for Space Bee Army and request access, and one of us will come along and give you an approval.
Ana: If you have anything to share with us, send us an email. We are at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renay: Hey you. Yeah, you, listening to this episode. Have you had some water recently? A delicious protein-filled snack? Take care of your meatsuit, friends.
Ana: And after that go and find a book to love. Unfortunately in our world there are no living books, but there are books to love.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
Ana: History has its eyyyes on yooou!
Renay: Are you ready?
Ana: I’m curious. Okay.
Renay: You’re—oh, you’re curious.