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Renay: Hello friends! I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: Today we’re going to discuss Mirror in the Sky, Zodiac Starforce, and Binti: Home, but first we’re gonna give updates on our media challenges and discuss some culture. Ana, how political will this episode be on a scale of one to ten?
Renay: That is true. Here we go.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: Earlier this year, we set out some media challenges for ourselves and now we’re going to update everybody on how we’re doing. It is gonna be embarrassing.
Ana: I made a note about this, and it says “Ha ha sob.”
Renay: That’s pretty accurate.
Renay: How are your challenges going?
Ana: I had two main challenges, too. One was the time travelling project, the other one was read more middle grade. I can say that I read one novel that was both middle grade and time travel. Kudos to me.
Renay: Good work on combining some challenges!
Ana: Yeah, it was called A Traveller in Time, but I really didn’t like it? I was very underwhelmed and didn’t even write a review because it would have been composed solely of, “It was okay, I guess.”
Ana: I guess because it’s an older story, it’s an older novel from the thirties? It just didn’t appeal to me very much. I didn’t have the nostalgia factor going into it. I was much more into reading the author’s biography. That sounded amazing. So the author’s called Alison Utley and she was born in 1884. And she not only published hundreds of children’s and YA novels, but she also was the second woman ever to graduate with honors in Physics.
Renay: That’s super cool!
Ana: That is super cool! I really like this woman! It’s a shame that I didn’t like her book as much. She also like published cookery books and then she got a degree by Manchester University in recognition of her literary achievements. She died at 91 years old, basically one month before I was born.
Renay: Maybe you are her incarnated.
Ana: Mm, I’m not a good writer and I don’t like physics so maybe not.
Renay: I disagree with you on not being a good writer and in fact I’m going to tell our Slack group that you were negative self-talking yourself.
Renay: Before the episode comes out so then they’ll lecture you before the like episode comes out, and then when the episode comes out they’ll lecture you again once they hear it.
Ana: Okay let me rephrase that. I’m not a good fiction writer, not that I even tried that much, but I know that I would not be good at it because I don’t have the vivid imagination needed to write actual fiction. I do think that I am a good writer in general. Is that better?
Renay: That’s better, maybe Jenny and Ira will allow it.
Ana: Okay. All right.
Renay: We’ll see.
Ana: [laughter] I’m so sorry for the negative self-talk. I shan’t do it again during this episode, ma’am.
Renay: Thank you. Well, my challenges, and I added some, of course I did, because it’s me. My first challenge was my woman writer’s challenge, and I wanted to read thirty unique women writers. And I’m at five of thirty, which I think is pretty okay because it’s only February. I’ve read Parable of the Sower, You Can’t Touch My Hair, Six of Crows, Timekeeper, and Mirror in the Sky. And all of those authors are new to me.
Ana: That’s pretty awesome! You did so much better at this challenge thing.
Renay: Well, I’m also not doing 800 jobs like you are. Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
Ana: Okay, I’ll allow it.
Renay: And then my non-fiction challenge, because some of my challenges overlap, I have two out of ten because I want to read ten non-fiction books. I’ve read the You Can’t Touch My Hair book which is by Phoebe Robinson and Get Your Shit Together by Sarah Knight, which is a follow-up to her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, which was one of my favorite books last year.
Ana: Oh, I remember that.
Renay: And although I liked How To Get Your Shit Together book, it’s mostly a book about time management. And I am aware of the ways in which I fail at time management, keenly aware, so I didn’t really need a book to tell me that. But I really liked the framework she used cause she talked about Alvin and the Chipmunks, and I know a lot about Alvin and the Chipmunks so it was good.
Ana: Okay, we need to stop here and I need to ask you in what way do you know a lot about Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Renay: They were a cartoon I grew up watching.
Renay: Like that movie where the chipmunks and the chipettes, whatever the girl version of the chipmunks was, go on like a balloon race around the world. That movie was fucked up but I watched it like a zillion times. Anyway. Derail.
Ana: I’m so sorry. That was my fault, but it was— I had to know.
Renay: I don’t like the movies, like the live-action movies, I—mmm, no. If I’m gonna have some chipmunks, it’s gonna be Christmas songs or the cartoon. I don’t need none of this new-fangled live action crap.
Ana: Oh my god, you sound so crochety.
Ana: Gold stars!
Renay: My other challenge was to read my own books because I have eight zillion books. I think I gave you a list of books sitting on my shelf the other day and—
Renay: —there’s a lot and I’m out of shelf-space. Like I have those little cubby shelves with the—the shelves with the little squares, and I have two of them. and those shelves have nine little cubbies and all my cubbies are full. I cannot add any more books.
Ana: How many did you read, then?
Ana: Which one?
Renay: Parable of the Sower.
Ana: That’s not even that thick.
Renay: I know. I’m supposed to be read ten of my own books this year, and I’ve only read one and it’s terrible. I’m embarrassed. But the most embarrassing thing is that I wanted to read more space opera this year and this challenge is dead in the water. January was awful and I read no space opera. I’m gutted. I’m so disappointed in myself.
Ana: So we need to find a way of helping you with this challenge. Let’s add at least one to our roster in the podcast.
Ana: I will help you get there, Renay.
Renay: So yeah, that’s how we’ve been doing on challenges.
Ana: Well there’s still time. It’s only February. Come on.
Renay: That’s true. And the world has been on fire.
Ana: Yes. Too many news alerts. Every time one of those shows up in my timeline I end up spending about like half an hour at the very least just going “Oh my god, no, really? Again? No, please god no. Please no, what is—the fuck is going on, what the fuck is this shit? Will somebody help us, please help save us god, please.”
Renay: Well I’m not religious so I’m just sitting there going, “Well we’re all fucked!”
Ana: I’m not religious either, but.
Renay: The world is turning you religious because—
Renay: Because it’s so bad. So on the plus side, we still have time to stop getting distracted by the news and read some books. That’s a good mental health thing.
Renay: Every time you feel yourself get distracted by the news, by like “I have some challenges, I can go work on them right now,” and you can read a book.
Ana: That’s the spirit. I like it.
[Music: The Great by Broke for Free]
Renay: We’re here again to discuss culture and I’m sure that this is gonna be a totally politics-free space, right Ana?
Renay: No, not at all, not even a little. What is your first thing that you found, exploring the world of news?
Ana: I found that the world found me.
Ana: Is that outside the echo chamber enough?
Renay: It’s not a competition, but yes.
Ana: I had a tweet gone viral.
Renay: That’s amazing.
Ana: So, one of my favorite pastimes lately is to troll Donald Trump on Twitter. I feel it’s very cathartic and it’s one of the few ways I’ve—I can honestly say that 45 truly inspires me. And he was tweeting about the Muslim Ban and how “look at what’s happening in Europe! We should act!” and I was like “I don’t know, dude, I live in Europe and I’m like, look at what’s happening in the US with all the mass shootings by white dudes.” And then it started to get a lot of retweets. And then: the most amazing thing happened on that very evening: J.K. Rowling read that tweet and thought to herself, “This woman is amazing. She’s wise. She knows things. She’s trolling Donald Trump, just like me. I’ll retweet.” And then guys, it just went EVERYWHERE. I have never seen anything like this. It’s still going, Renay, it’s still going. Every day I get at least a hundred retweets on that. Right now I’ve had three million impressions, forty-four THOUSAND likes, and twenty-three thousand retweets. and the most interesting things is a lot of people think I’m a dude.
Renay: Wait, how?
Ana: I’ve got a lot of offers from women to fuck them, addressing me as a man. Cause I mean they could offer me the same thing thinking that I’m a woman, of course, but, you know, they go “Hey guy, hey sir, hey man, come and…fill me up,” and I’m like “I cannot do that at the moment.” And then a lot of people disagreeing with me, but in a very civil manner, which I can only surmise that it’s because they think I’m a man. If thought that I am a woman, I guess I would be taking a lot more abuse. I only had to block one person and that’s because they called me racist.
Renay: I remember when you told me that Rowling had retweeted you, and I’m like “What?” and I went to her page and I looked and was like, “Holy crap!” That is not something I ever thought I would see, but congratulations on going viral!
Ana: Thank you, I can also tell you something really interesting that I found out, that a tweet going viral does not books sell. [laughter] At least, not the books that I publish.
Renay: We’ll see. We’ll give it a few weeks and we’ll check back in with you in a few weeks.
Ana: Okay. I have earned a new—a thousand new followers too.
Renay: Market to them.
Ana: Yes. And I took a screenshot of J.K. Rowling’s tweet page with my tweet at the top of it, right under her beautiful face.
Renay: Yeah, well, you’re not the only one. I remember when one time, Scalzi liked one of my tweets, and it popped up on my phone, and I screenshotted it and I still have that screenshot. YES, I am a loser! I can feel people judging me from here, from out there in the void.
Ana: We are both losers then, if taking pictures of our idols or the people that we truly admire when they are admiring us back is being a loser, then I embrace it.
Renay: Okay, so we’re not losers. I will defer to you on this.
Renay: After I yelled at you for negative self-talk, now I’m gonna get busted at for negative self-talk.
Renay: Perfect. Okay, my first thing is of course political!
Renay: For a while this is gonna be political, I’m sure. I’m sorry, we’ve launched this feature at a very awkward time, Ana.
Ana: Everything I do is politics right now.
Renay: Tishaura Jones, who is the city treasurer in St Louis, Missouri, declined an interview with the editorial board of a local newspaper. She’s running for mayor of the city, and the election is in March? I accidentally stumbled across this story, but it caught my eye because Missouri is the state that is right above me. But I’m thrilled that I found it because Tishaura Jones wrote a letter to the paper explaining why she declined the interview and she drags them. Full on naming and shaming. The letter is a beautiful thing to read. It’s smart, it is full of facts, it’s wonderful. And I really want leaders who are outspoken and critical and know how to use the tools available to burn institutions who are attempting to uphold an abusive the status quo, and I’m pretty jealous that I can’t vote for her now to be honest and that my city mayor is like a sentient eraser.
Renay: Everybody look up Tishaura Jones’ letter and read, and print it out and use it inspire you to go forward and take down some Republicans. What’s next on your list?
Ana: I love musical theatre, and I love James Cordon’s show. I also really like Neil Patrick Harris. I was on Youtube the other day, just going through videos as you do. And I found that Neil Patrick Harris showed up unannounced—or maybe it was announced but it was rehearsed, but it looked it wasn’t—and he showed up on James Cordon’s show and dared James to do a Broadway riff-off. Cue ten minutes of adorableness, some great songs, it was really funny, it was fun, I loved it, and it ends with the Hamiltune. It was really nice. I highly recommend to people, if you like theatre, if you like musicals, if you like those two people, just go on Youtube and watch the Broadway riff-off between Neil Patrick Harris and James Cordon.
Renay: In reality, this segment is often just going to be an excuse for us to rec extra things. You’re all welcome.
Ana: Probably, yes. [laughter] What’s your next pick? You’ve seen that mine was not political.
Renay: Yeah, well I’m taking us back to politics, I’m sorry, I apologize. There is a great article by Daniel Wenger in the New Yorker about Kate Brown, who was the governor of Oregon, where I so desperately want to move. I have much to say about the article, just that it’s comforting to read these articles about progressive states and their leaders because all my leaders here in Arkansas are legit the worst. I wanted to quote a bit because I’m convinced this will of cheer anyone up.
Wenger writes: “After Brown stepped into the government mansion from the Oregon Secretary of States Office—her predecessor, John Kitzhaber, resigned amid a crushing scandal—Portland Monthly published a list of her upsides and downsides. Among the former, not entirely possible to imagine that her morning motivational speech in the mirror includes the words ‘You slay’. Among the latter, still hasn’t apologized for her pastime of following her favorite folk band around Oregon.” She sounds so great.
Ana: She does.
Renay: I want her to be my governor. My governor is a white dude who thinks men should own my uterus.
Ana: Oh my god.
Renay: Well, my whole section today was all about fierce lady politicians, so that says something about where my mind is at these days. I just really want to be able to vote for someone I believe in, not just someone I’m settling for because the other side is full of supervillains. Ugh.
[Music: Our Ego by Broke For Free]
Renay: Mirror in the Sky is a 2016 novel by Aditi Korana about a girl who is going to a school with a bunch of white people and she is mixed-race and she’s having a lot of trouble fitting in. Meanwhile, NASA discovers a planet across the universe that is a mirror planet of Earth and it changes everything about Tara’s life. What did you think about this book? Did you like it?
Ana: This is not really a space book.
Renay: It is not a space book at all. No.
Ana: And I thought it was going to be a space book.
Renay: I don’t know why you thought it was gonna be a space book.
Ana: Because there is a thing about a new planet? And I thought it was going to be science fiction. And it is in a way, but it’s much more, ehhh…. It has less of a speculative bent and more of a contemporary YA feel.
Renay: Yeah. The speculative conceit of the mirror planet where things are almost the same as on Earth, but just a little bit different is pretty pasted on.
Ana: So you take that up along with the title of the novel Mirror in the Sky and then you feel like it works more as a conceit as a mirror for people looking at themselves and then having excuse to behave differently than they usually would.
Ana: Right, this is a really interesting from an emotional and philosophical perspective, but I think the book tried to do a lot of things at the same time and didn’t come across as a cohesive whole. Half the time it wasn’t sure what the author was trying to do.
Ana: I’m not even sure if the quantum physics mentioned in the book even works as it is so I wouldn’t approach this as a speculative fiction novel. I would completely disregard that aspect of the novel because it really is about high school mean girls, fitting in, finding one’s self, but not done that well.
Renay: I hated this book.
Ana: Eyy, okay.
Renay: I mean, I hated this book.
Ana: You hated it.
Renay: I hated it.
Ana: I don’t think I felt enough to actually feel that much for it. Why did you hate it?
Renay: Because the speculative element is completely divorced from the main character. The closest you get to the main character having any interaction with the speculative element is the fact that her mother turns into a cult nut and goes across the country to commune with people who are a cult. So white lady loses her mind.
Renay: And none of these characters were likeable at all. I didn’t like Tara that much, I was you are a spoiled asshole. If somebody treats you badly that doesn’t give you an excuse to treat them badly, that’s not actually great behavior. I just found all of these people immature and childish and I guess it fits because they’re all teenagers. The person that I had the most sympathy for was actually the person meant to be the antagonist, Halle, who—
Ana: Who was amazing!
Renay: I wanted a novel about her! I wanted the book to be about her!
Ana: Yeah! But, spoiler alert if you don’t wanna know just stop listening right now because I’m about to spoil the end of this novel. What the fuck, Renay? What the fuck just happened with Halle? Who was the most amazing interesting character, really driven, ambitious, competent, intelligent, into fashion but still a top student, and everybody seemed to hate her and in the end she kills herself. What the fuck. I hate the way that this book dealt with mental illnesses.
Renay: I hate the way this book fat-shamed people.
Ana: Oh my god there was so fat-shaming in this novel. Right at the start.
Renay: When I read over it, my first thought was great, it’s gonna be one of Those novels, where I just have to grit my teeth and push through it because this author apparently does not like fat people.
Ana: No, really really doesn’t.
Renay: The reason that I say that she doesn’t like fat people is just because of how the narrative treats those characters. Treats characters with eating disorders, or mental health issues related to eating disorders. Because I don’t know if it’s accurate but Alexa definitely had some problems.
Ana: Yes. All of them had, which I think it was the point of the novel, to show the discovery of this new planet allowed for the characters to show their true selves and do things that they were hiding. So all of them had, to one extent or another, mental illnesses: anorexia, depression, and somehow that conflates as well with one of the character being a lesbian, last minute lesbian, what I—what I would like to last minute lesbian, because, literally, it’s one of the last things in the book, oh by the way I’m a lesbian. Where was this throughout this novel?
Renay: I mean, I got it really early on, the reason that Veronica got so angry at Halle over Nick. I was like “Oh, I realize what’s going on here, she’s wants to fuck Halle, and that’s what happening.”
Ana: You were a very perceptive reader, which I’m not, apparently, then.
Renay: I don’t really know it’s perception, it’s just that I used to read a lot of YA back in the day and put a lot of it down not finished. And I don’t like that trope, and I don’t think it was handled well here.
Ana: I don’t think so either.
Renay: I don’t think anything was handled well in this novel.
Renay: It was disjointed, and then you enter the fact that the science fiction part of it was often so distant from what was happening in the book that the parallels that we could maybe see between the characters in the book and the speculative element just never fused together. They were not cohesive.
Ana: No, absolutely not.
Renay: Oh, oh talk about the Virginia Wool thing.
Ana: So, in this planet which is called Terra Nova, it’s basically a mirror world of Earth, but things happen differently there. And one of the things that they find out, is that Virginia Woolf did not commit suicide in that world because she was found by her husband who saved her, and then kept saving her throughout her life, so she never killed herself and she became this really amazing person. I can’t really quite figure out why that made me so uneasy. Again, it goes together with the way that mental illnesses are addressed in this book. Like, Virginia Wool really only needed the help of a man to keep her going? And look at what could have happened if she had survived. And that just— I found that so gross. I was so grossed out by that. Did that make you feel similar?
Renay: I felt weird about it, but I don’t know how to verbalize what about it makes me so uncomfortable.
Ana: I tried a little bit, but I’m not sure if that’s it exactly. But there was something about this just made me so uneasy. And it’s the same thing with the mother character, right?
So the mother was someone who had issues: her parents died when she was very young and she obviously missed them very much throughout her entire life. And she would show us someone who was dissatisfied, who was not very happy with the life that she has, was not very happy with the path that she’s chosen. And then when Terra Nova appears she decides to take off and join a cult, so that she can try to commune with the people on the other side, on this other planet, so maybe she can contact her parents again.
But this whole thing it’s because she’s deeply dissatisfied with her role as a mother and as a wife. And she’s completely vilified by that. Completely. To the point where she leaves the house to try to find herself and then she has to be brought back because the people that she was trying to find help with were actually cultists that then killed themselves and were trying to kill each other. and it’s just so ridiculous and so out there that this character who was simply unhappy about her life, which is a very, you know, why not? But she’s so vilified and then she has—she’s brought back at the end “No, I will never do this again, I’ll stay with you forever.”
Renay: She was punished, basically.
Ana: She was punished for having feelings.
Renay: And not that it’s right to just up and leave your family—
Ana: No, but there is a, a different way of dealing with this.
Renay: But the fact that it ends so badly, to just justify the way that Tara treats her, I guess, made me super uncomfortable. This novel just made me super uncomfortable I guess, was is my takeaway.
Renay: I – oh well.
Ana: I really didn’t like either.
Renay: You win some and you lose some.
Ana: There was a couple of things that I liked about it, like for example, there’s an exploration of racism and microaggressions that Tara receives as a mixed-race Indian girl.
Renay: I found that part really strange, like you’d you’re gonna yell at a white lady and get away with it? Because man she lets that white lady have it, which was good because the white lady super deserved it, but you’re gonna swear at your teacher?
Renay: And get away with it?
Ana: That’s what finding these new planets made people do. Behave like themselves. Say the truths that they were hiding.
Renay: And so the new planet appeared and everybody turned into an asshole.
Renay: What an interesting premise for a novel.
Ana: Mm-hm. I can’t—I can’t explain why this novel made me so uneasy. Everything about it made me uneasy.
Renay: Tara really wants to be friends with these people. She acts like she doesn’t but she really does want to be friends with this people. And then when she gets the chance she basically undermines that friendship at every turn because all the people in the group are undermining their friendships at every turn. Sometimes I try to remember being a teenager and being as petty and cruel as some of these teens in this book are but I can’t get there. I was never this type of teen and so this novel just comes from a place where I guess there are teenagers like this and some teen out there might really need this book. So I’m glad it exists but holy shit was it not for me. I did not like it and I’m glad that I will never have to read it again.
Ana: On that note, how many space bees do you give that novel.
Renay: Two. I’m giving it two because one thing that I really did like about this novel was the relationship between Tara and her father Sudeep. He was portrayed as super kind and super supportive, and I thought it was one of the best drawn relationships in the entire book, considering the rest of the relationships in the entire book were a hot mess.
Ana: And that dog that gets killed.
Renay: Yeah, the dog doesn’t survive
Ana: I’m giving two space bees, too.
Renay: We’ve been having some bad luck with books, Ana.
Ana: Oh my god so much, Renay, so much.
Renay: We need to reassess.
Ana: Or maybe move to the next segment because I think there’ll be happier times.
[Music: The End by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra is a 2016 comic from Dark Horse Books, written by Kevin Panetta and drawn and illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau. It tells the story of a group of teenage girls who used to be an elite magical fighting force that defeated monsters and two years before this book starts, they defeated the ultimate villain and then disbanded, but now monsters are back.
This graphic novel was super cute. The first thing I wanna say is that if you are looking for a comic with a super adorable queer romance between girls, you need to pick up this comic immediately and put it into your eyeballs.
Ana: It’s very much for Lumberjanes fans.
Renay: I agree.
Ana: And Squirrel Girl fans.
Ana: That same type of levity, that same type of, you know, inclusivity and diversity that is just naturally there? If you want something that is light, fluffy, fun, and adorable, this is it.
I was a little bit lost in the beginning, because it starts in the middle of the story. And I was like, “Wait a minute, did I miss something?” because it starts with them regrouping so obviously there was a story before, and they broke up, then they need to get back together.
Renay: Also it might help to go into this graphic novel with a knowledge of how magical girl teams work. Ana, did you watch Sailor Moon?
Renay: Oh, boy.
Ana: But, I did edit a series of novelettes based on magical girls, featuring, actually, five magical girls. It’s called Hurricane Heels by Isabelle Yap.
Renay: So that’s your experience with them.
Ana: No, I read other stuff with a magical girls. I had just never actually engaged with Sailor Moon before.
Renay: And I grew up with Sailor Moon. I was obsessed with it. I want to make you watch every episode of Sailor Moon with me.
Ana: Oh, let’s do that!
Renay: Ana, there’s two hundred episodes.
Ana: I’m sure we can do that little by little.
Renay: Two hundred episodes! And three movies. And a few television specials.
Ana: Just give me what like a rundown of the best moments and I’ll watch that.
Renay: No! That’s not how you do it! That’s cheating!
Renay: Anyway, so I went into this comic with that as my basis and I compare every single magical girl story to that. And I really think that they took this trope and did something really neat with it. The story does throw you in the middle, you pretty much have to get through that first issue and then half of the second before you probably feel grounded in the world.
Ana: I agree.
Renay: But it has a really really good pay off. I really liked the way that they got the team back together, and I really like the way that they built the story around the team coming together to protect their leader andI also really liked the super cute queer romance.
Ana: Yeah, I loved that the leader is Emma and Emma is the Gemini, and i’m Gemini and I am a leader. That those are the extent of my deep thoughts about…
Renay: Well there’s not a lot here to have deep thoughts about. It’s a very very standard story and it has a happy ending. It’s just a really fun heart-warming story where girls are friends and supportive of each other. And then two of them make out a little.
Ana: And each girl was different, they were drawn different, they had different body styles they had different— they had very specific individualities. I loved the hot-head Kim, she was my favorite I think.
Renay: Emma was my favorite.
Renay: Yeah, I really liked Emma.
Ana: Was it because she was a Gemini and she reminded you of me.
Ana: Good answer. Correct answer. Well done.
Renay: And I wanna comment on the art here because I loved the art.
Ana: It’s really great.
Renay: It is gorgeous. It’s almost like watching a TV show. It such great motion to it.
Ana: Plus the imagery of magical girls is really awesome, too. Because each one of them has a uniform, each one of them has a different power, and that appears behind them or around them when they are fighting and the art really captures that.
Renay: The colors are super vibrant, that why I say it reminds me of TV. Because the colors remind me of Saturday morning cartoons. They’re so cheerful and vibrant. And there is apparently going to be more of this comic, and I didn’t realize this until I finished this comic and was looking up what other work that the writer and artist had done. And then I discovered there was gonna be more.
Ana: I am there for it, too.
Renay: Cause this is a very short comic, there’s only—is it four issues in this trade?
Ana: Yeah, and it’s very short, they’re very short, too.
Renay: So having more is gonna be great. How many space bees are you giving this?
Renay: I’m also giving this four space bees!
Renay: We liked something!
Ana: Yeah! [laughter]
Renay: It happened, we liked something!
Ana: Fangirl Happy Hour, back on track!
Renay: We’ve returned from the abyss.
[Music: Mornings by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Binti: Home is a 2017 novella from Tor.com by Nnedi Okorafor continuing her series that started with Binti in 2015. After a year at Oomza Uni, Binti is returning home to see her family. There are some wrenches thrown in the gears though, because Okwu, her Meduse pal, is going to go with her. And that summary is actually a tiny tiny sliver of all the world building that Okorafor manages to put into Binti: Home. There’s a lot going on here.
Ana: But, unlike Mirror in the Sky, I felt like it was actually cohesive.
Renay: It all feels rooted in the same place. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Ana: It’s because these novellas, they are about identity, right? Like, at the center of it all. That’s what the first book was all about, was about Binti trying to find herself by going away from home and trying to keep the parts of herself that made her who she was while at the same time trying new things. Trying this new way of life that was so alien, ha ha, to her family and the people in her village. Cause they never went away. She was the first one from her tribe to go to the university. And it was so far away and then all those horrible things happen and she had to find the internal strength to keep going and to survive. In doing that, she changes herself in many ways, including genetically speaking because now she’s part Meduse.
Renay: The story opens and we discover that Binti and Okwu have this mental connection because the Meduse are a hive mind and she has to leave her class very suddenly because Okwu is going to kill its professor. Which talk about a really dramatic opening. You got me, Okorafor, good job.
Ana: Mm. [laughter]
Renay: Good work. I’m—I’m in. I was in before, but now I’m extra in. And all the relationships, from Binti and Okwu to Binti and her family are really, really complicated. And not all in negative ways. There are a lot of positives to a lot of these relationships too, even when the people are fighting? And I just really like that nuance.
Ana: It’s families, right?
Ana: It’s not about disliking or hating but, there is an element of disapproving. And sometimes the disapproval is worse than the outright hatred in many ways, especially when it’s coming from someone that you love and loves you back. And that sense of disapproval is something that she gets from a lot of members from—of her family from just daring to do different stuff.
Renay: Yeah, it was very fascinating to watch Okorafor deepen the culture. And it’s not a monolith at all, and I don’t know why I assumed it would be. I mean in Binti we learn about the Himba a little bit but in the sequel we really, really see some of the differences between the culture that were not visible in the first novella.
Renay: This really, really deepens Binti’s family, her family history, her future within her family, and I know I’m missing a lot of cultural references but even if something confused me it didn’t feel out of place.
Ana: One of the main things about Binti herself is how rooted she is in tradition, right? How important it is that she feels the things that does. So the use of the otize that she carries with her and how deeply rooted that is in her very sense of self. The question of foundation: of where she comes from and of things that she carries with herself is kind of like overturned here. Because she learns that she is not really completely what she thought she was? And there are other elements to her tradition, to her genetics, to her past, that she was not aware of. and that comes with a lot of tension and internalized racism that’s so well done here, because it takes the first book what made Binti so strong and because she had such a strong root and it kind of like just takes that away from her in a way. So where does she go from here?
Renay: Also neat about this book was her friendship with Okwu which is really intimate but also way more formal than I expected because they don’t talk about serious issues very much. Like they don’t talk about Binti’s experience on the ship when Okwu’s people kills all her friends, and they talk about how she struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety and panic attacks, but they still feel like really really close friends. and one of the best parts of this novella I thought was when they went to this lake that’s salty and Okwu just goes into it and Binti watches it communing with snails.
Ana: That was one of the few moments of levity in this novella.
Renay: Yeah, it’s kind of like Okwu gives Binti a place to just be herself without having to put on a mask or be outwardly strong. That’s how it felt to me. Cause we see her get very tense around her family, but then she goes to Okwu and she can relax a little because Okwu just accepts Binti as she is. When they arrive at her family and her father has made Okwu its own little tent —note how it describes Binti’s father, it’s like “You are Binti’s father.” It defines him by Binti.
Ana: That was very cool.
Renay: I wanted this book because of friendship and I got it! I got exactly what I wanted!
Ana: Yeah, and then it ends on that horrible cliffhanger.
Renay: Oh my god. Okorafor what are you doing, are you trying to kill me?
Renay: Where is the next novella? I need it.
Ana: Is—is it gonna be like in two years?
Renay: Oh god I hope not, oh my god.
Ana: Oh I was not expecting that to be like this. I did not realize it was going to be a trilogy. I thought it was just a sequel without it actually being a cliffhanger of intergalactic proportions waiting for me in the end.
Renay: I knew there was going to be another book, but I got to the last like five pages and I’m like “Nothing is resolved, everything is up in the air, holy shit, what’s gonna happen?” And then I hit the cliffhanger and that cliffhanger…I’m talking Knife of Never Letting Go levels of screaming when I reached that end. I’m like WHAT. WHAT, you can’t— what, what are you doing you can’t stop it there! What! I was so upset, Ana.
Ana: Yeah, I was so upset too. I was like—
Renay: I need to know what happens. But overall I got everything I wanted from this novella, I’m super excited I wanna also give eight thousand awards, that’d be great.
Ana: I was really pleased. I thought it was as good as the first one.
Renay: Okay, so how many space bees are we giving this novella?
Renay: I had to top you.
Renay: Okay, we know how many space bees we’re gonna give it, but how many space bees are we giving that cliffhanger?
Ana: Oh my god, it depends. It depends how—how do you approach a cliffhanger? Do you like it or do you hate it? Like, do we give it minus space bees because it’s a cliffhanger? Or do we give it like a million space bees because it’s an amazing cliffhanger.
Renay: So great but so painful on a scale of one to ten.
Renay: Yeah, how many space bees do we do that, how many bees are we giving this? I’m giving this 10,000 bees.
Ana: A whole beehive. Nnedi Okorafor is queen bee.
Renay: I think she’s like, “I know what you guys want, you wanna be tortured for a few months, here you go.” Or years, ugh, god, Ana what if we have to wait years?
Ana: I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
Renay: You know how people are like “George R.R. Martin, where’s your next book!”
Ana: Oh no.
Renay: I do that but with this series. Congratulations Nnedi Okorafor you’re now the next George R.R. Martin of my heart. I’m coming for you on Twitter. “When’s your next book? I need it, I need it.”
[Music: Moody by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Okay, it’s time for some recs. Ana, hit me with your rec.
Ana: I am gonna recommend a TV show that I just caught up with. It’s Westworld. I really, really loved this. It’s Lost meets Battlestar Galactica. It has tons of AIs. Its female characters are amazing; I love them to bits and they are the main characters of the show. It’s everything I wanted it to be and it was—and it was better than I thought it was gonna be given the reviews that I read, and I just completely loved it. I’m completely obsessed about it. The soundtrack is amazing. So I highly recommend it.
Renay: I haven’t seen Lost or Battlestar Galactica in full.
Ana: [creepy whisper] I don’t know what I’m gonna do about you.
Renay: [laughter] Put me in the naughty corner for not watching your favorite media.
Ana: Well I haven’t watched Sailor Moon, so.
Renay: That’s true. That’s a moral failing right there.
Ana: Excuse me. Not having watched Lost or Battlestar Galactica is a geek failing and that’s worse.
Renay: Oh my god. This got vicious really fast.
Ana: Wow! [laughter]
Renay: I see what you really think of me now.
Ana: [laughter] Sorry, I just wanted to get back at you for saying I was a moral failing.
Renay: Good work.
Ana: What about you, Renay, what’s your recommendation?
Renay: Mine is another political rec. People are like, “Goddammit I’m ready for her to go back to fanfic recs now. This is terrible.”
Renay: So, it is a site and/or mailing list called What the Fuck Just Happened Today.com, where you can get a summary of the day’s news. And I subscribe to their mailing list and I pair it with a subscription to the Washington Post and that’s the news I take because otherwise I would be like Ana, sinking into the abyss of Twitter every single breaking news story. I can’t handle that. I can’t handle it. It’s too much, I gotta take a break sometimes for my own mental health.
It’s a nice summary if you’re looking for a place to just pick up headlines. They also provide links. It puts all the shenanigans into one thing so you can schedule some time to look at it without having to be inundated with it on twitter and it may be for you if you need that kinda thing. It’s been really helping me so it might also help you.
And they also have a website so you don’t have to subscribe you can go on the website too, because I know some people don’t like to give out their email. Apparently I just give my email out to whoever wants it. It’s like, “You want me email, sure have—sure, give me some actionable items, give me some news, hit me.”
Ana: Desperate times, man, desperate times.
Renay: All right Ana, tell everybody what we’re going to be discussing next.
Ana: On our next Friday episode, we’ll be discussing: dun dun DUUUUUUUN! The King of Atollia by Megan Whalen Turner, also Black Panther Volume One: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze. We will also be reading Viscera by Gabriel Squalia. Also in a few weeks we’ll be doing a deep dive into Sunshine by Robin McKinley so if you want to join in grab your copy and get reading.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by BoxCat Games]
Renay: It’s the end of episode 73! This episode was brought to you by the “supposed to come out last Friday but Renay was diseased so now we’re in this reality” death plague.
Ana: I’m glad that you’re feeling better now Renay.
Renay: Yes, thumbs up. Follow us on twitter at @fangirlpodcast because we’re way more likely to cut loose over there with a proper tickle. If you don’t Twitter we’d still love to hear from you, our email is email@example.com. You can subscribe to the show if you new or tell us a friend if you’ve been here a while. We’re cool folks and we’ll treat them right, promise.
Ana: Our music this week is by Boxcat Games, Broke For Free, and Chuki Beats, our show art was made by Ira and you can find links to their work in our show notes plus information about the books we discussed. Susan has been creating excellent transcripts of episode 68 onwards, and you can read them on our website. Everyone please send thanks to Susan on twitter via @Spindilly for being super great and helping us out with that.
Renay: Drink some water. Get some sleep. Call your reps.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Hey, hey, stop licking yourself.
Renay: You’re just sitting here beside me here going [slurping noises]. That’s what you sound like, Loki. Give me a break.
Ana: Oh god, it’s gross. [laughter]
Renay: Can you hear him?
Ana: I could hear my stomach. Are you sure it’s him and not my stomach?
Renay: No, it’s definitely him.
Ana: Cause I’m very hungry.
Renay: Oh my god, Ana, maybe you should go get a snack.