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Renay: Hey friends, I’m Renay
Ana: And I’m Ana Grilo.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: Welcome to episode 75. We’re going to be talking about recent media and culture, and then we’re going to dig into The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner and Viscera by Gabriel Squailia. We were going to discuss Black Panther this week but we changed it because Ana finally got to see Hidden Figures. Finally, after all this time, it reached the UK and we wanted to discuss it before the details faded from both of our memories. We’ll definitely be discussing Black Panther soon so if you’ve read it, hang tight, and if you haven’t: it’s out now to put into your brain.
Ana: Yes, I finally did see Hidden Figures because the UK for some reason just show us Marvel movies before America but historical relevant movies months after it comes out. Bad UK. But I finally did see it. I can’t wait to see what you thought about Viscera.
Renay: Oh, Viscera. Well, here we go.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: It’s been a few weeks so I thought it was a good time to recap our media adventures. Ana, what’s on your list?
Ana: A couple of things only. I haven’t been watching or reading a lot because of things happening back home in Brazil. But I did manage to see a few documentaries that I loved on the BBC. One of them was about Easter Island and it was a documentary that’s one hour and a half long presented by Doctor Jago Cooper. This is the best name for an archaeologist TV presenter. And he has done a couple of other documentaries about pre-Columbian civilizations in Latin America, and they were great and when he did this one about Easter Island I was super excited I used to be obsessed about Easter Island. I totally believed it was aliens when I was a teenager. I was super into lost civilizations of the world, Eric von Dannikan, and all of those sorts of books that say that the pyramids were built by aliens and the continental Flimuria was a continent of people who escaped from Antarctica and they are all aliens who together built our civilisations.
Renay: So if you liked that why don’t you like Stargate?
Ana: I don’t think Stargate was ever in Brazil and I never had a chance to watch it.
Renay: Wow, if you like “the pyramids were created by aliens” you gotta watch Stargate, we gotta watch that movie together.
Ana: I think that I did watch the movie?
Renay: We need to rewatch it because it’s amazing. Okay, back to your media.
Ana: I also watched another documentary on the BBC. It was about the SAS, the Special Air Force, that was created during World War II. And it’s basically Band of Brothers but on speed. Because it was these highly intelligent, smart dudes that wanted to about the war in a different way, but couldn’t handle the discipline of being part of an army.
So these dudes just got together, went to Africa, created this group of paramilitary operations that basically destroyed the Nazi operation in North Africa. And then they won—then went to Europe to join the war effort there and kind of like things changed a little bit. But the stories were amazing, what these dudes did with just a bunch of people. Like, really amazing hijinks, getting inside jeeps and just attacking airfields. This documentary is three episodes and it’s highly recommended. I really need a TV series about this, I would love it.
And I also started watching The Man in the High Castle and I really enjoyed the first season. I love Rufus Seole. I have a thing for Rufus Seole so it was kind of like a given that I would like this. But it’s alternate reality and it kind of like has an element of time travel. It was like it was meant to be.
Renay: Kind of?
Ana: I’m not sure yet. I think there is. There is definitely timeslip or parallel universes. What about you?
Renay: Well, speaking of time travel.
Renay: I finally watched Alice Through The Looking Glass, which I was putting off even though I love Mia Wasikowska. It has Johnny Depp in it in one of the main roles. He plays the Mad Hatter, which is a character I love by the way, so I’m really upset that it had to be him.
Renay: But I finally watched it, and it was about time travel and I didn’t hate it. In fact, I liked it a lot.
Ana: Wow! And now I wanna watch it! I had no idea!
Renay: Like a whole lot. I wanna own it.
Ana: Wow! I’m surprised!
Renay: Me too. I’m very surprised.
Ana: Should I watch it?
Renay: Yes, you should definitely watch it! Have you seen the first one? You need the first one.
Ana: I didn’t—I didn’t see the first one no.
Renay: You see the first one.
Ana: I’ll see if I can find it here.
Renay: So it helps that Johnny Depp in the movie looks like Elijah Wood because of the make-up that he wears for his character so I can just pretend that it’s Elijah Wood and not Johnny Depp.
Ana: Oh my god, but they look so different.
Renay: You need to go look up a picture of the Mad Hatter in these movies. It looks like Elijah Wood because of all the make-up, it doesn’t look like Johnny Depp at all. In fact, when I first saw the poster for the movie, I was convinced that Elijah Wood was in this movie.
Renay: Pretending it’s Elijah Wood is in this movie is great, he’s so wonderful. And the story is very sweet. The friendship in this movie is so intense that kinda feels like how I experience romance. It leans towards romance but it never goes in on it and it is perfect. The romance by the way is between Alice and the Mad Hatter.
Renay: It’s great. I love it.
Ana: What?! But isn’t Alice a child?
Renay: You have to watch the movies because it’s like fanfic of the original stories.
Renay: Okay, I’ve convinced you.
Ana: [unconvinced noise] I’m worried.
Renay: It’s got time travel in the second movie.
Ana: All right, I’ll give it a go.
Renay: Okay, thank you. I also read some books. I read a bunch of One Piece because I’ve been doing a readalong of One Piece for Barnes & Noble. If you don’t follow One Piece, why? And I don’t know if we can be friends if you haven’t tried it. Don’t you still have your copies, Ana?
Ana: I do! I have three more volumes here. Who has the time, Renay?
Renay: You need to make some time and read some One Piece. I’ve read the beginning of One Piece so many times I lost count. Not even Goodreads knows how many times I’ve read them. And even now after reading them so many times, when I reach the volumes that I’m at now which is 7-8-9 I’m just on my couch, leaking, crying. It’s like ugly, snot-nosed, sobbing. Ugh, god I love this manga, it’s so good. So I’m having a lot of fun with my readalong although I just want more people to come and read along with me but I realize asking people to read three volumes of a manga per week is maybe a little intense. It’s okay, guys, I understand.
I also finished another non-fiction book. I read The Tetris Effect by Dan Ackerman. It’s the story of the business of Tetris and how it emerged from Russia. A spoiler: a man’s greed basically set up a situation in which a bunch of men who hadn’t created Tetris profited from it before the original creator. Surprise! The narrative is interspersed with asides about how Tetris changed the world, how it was used in research, and I thought it was a really nice history. Except the author slides into hagiography quite a bit. He just basically really wanted to set protagonists and antagonists for this book, but surprise! The Russians aren’t the bad guys. In fact it’s the western businessmen who are the bad guys.
Renay: So anyway it was a really interesting book and I really liked it. If you were into Tetris as a kid, which I definitely was, how many hours did I waste in front of a television playing Tetris? SO MANY.
Ana: Me too!
Renay: And then I read Revenger by Alastair Reynolds which is about two sisters who decide to go on space adventures to earn money to bring home because their father lost it all on bad investments. And everything is going fine until they run into a very nasty pirate who all the crews are terrified of. Everything goes wrong, and both sisters are kidnapped in opposite directions. It was pretty good, but when I wrote my review I talked about how the narrative punishes women for wanting autonomy and I’m completely unimpressed the entire storyline. And it also needs a sequel because it had all this info dump at the end of the book and it just leaves it on the table and the book ends. But that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna get a sequel? And it’s really long too, which is really confusing. This book was 425 pages and it felt like double that in some parts. And then at the end you get all this extra information and it just does nothing with it, it just leaves it there and you’re like “What? Where’s the next book? Where’s the next book? Where is it?” It doesn’t exist~
Ana: How bizarre.
Renay: On the plus side it was one of my first space opera, space adventure books.
Ana: What it your first novel by Alastair Reynolds?
Renay: Yep, first thing I’ve read by him.
Ana: I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by him.
Renay: I thought it was pretty well-written, although it was—I really wanted you to read because it’s, I said on Twitter that it was like a far-future science fiction novel banged a victorian steampunk novel.
Renay: So I wrote it on Twitter. Yeah because it’s far future but it sounds like it’s a 19th century steampunk novel. And they use all the language they use and the way this society seems to be set up. So you’re reading it and it sorta sounds like it’s steampunk, but you have to like step back and realize oh, it’s actually really super high tech. The people have just adapted all this old technology from previous societies into this mass of society that they’ve made work this way. It’s very strange—the tone, it’s really hard to explain the tone.
Ana: It sounds very different and interesting.
Renay: But it’s also 425 page.
Ana: Yes, so, hm.
Renay: You’re like, “When am I ever gonna have time for that?”
Renay: Exactly. And that’s all the things that I consumed. I feel like I’ve been consuming more but I guess not. One Piece is taking up a bunch of my time. It just feels like I’ve been doing more, but…
Ana: You have been doing more, that’s a lot of things that you just said. It’s not easy to read nonfiction, it’s not easy to read adult science fiction, hardcore science fiction that’s, like, almost five hundred pages long. I bet the font is super small so it’s really really a thousand pages.
Renay: I don’t know how big the font was because I read it as an ARC and I always crank the font on my ARCs up to the highest size I can.
Renay: If I don’t I get headaches.
Renay: We’ve actually consumed a lot of stuff! This was awesome, wasn’t it? Yes.
Ana: Yes. Yes.
Renay: Good job us!
Ana: Yes, high fives.
[Music: Feel by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s time to explore culture. Ana, what is your first?
Ana: Today is Monday 22nd of February. Yesterday was the Oscars. I woke up today to find out the clusterfuck that was the Best Movie being presented and what happened with La La Land and Moonlight. The best thing of course is that Moonlight won the Oscar and not La La Land. I’m so glad I did not watch it live because that just sounds so embarrassing, so awful, in every possible way.
But also, the theories about how it happened it’s my favorite thing so far. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway got the envelope. They opened it, he looked at it, he looked at her, and then she went and she read, “La La Land.” And then La La Land people came on stage and then people start running around themselves, the producers came on stage to say, “Whoa, actually, sorry, it was Moonlight who won,” and then the producer from La La Land presented the Oscar to Moonlight and everyone thought they were joking and then Warren Beatty said, “Well actually, what happened was that we had the card for Emma Stone’s Oscar for La La Land.” But then Emma Stone gave an interview saying that no, she was holding her card the whole time. So what the fuck happened?
And I start thinking about it, is it a conspiracy theory? Is it like, they decided last minute to give it to Moonlight because of the way the politics are? But I think what happened is that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway thought La La Land would win and just said La La Land without actually reading the card.
Renay: You do realize what actually happened, right?
Ana: No, what actually happened?
Renay: The envelopes are made by a company that counts up the Oscars and then prints the envelope.
Renay: You can go look up so it’s a company—you can go look up articles about this because there’s like a zillion at this point. But probably what happened is the company had a duplicate card. Instead of handing the presenters the Best Picture card they handed them a duplicate of the Best Actress cards. Yeah.
Renay: So your conspiracy theory is sure, but Occam’s Razor here is that the answer is much more simple. It was a printing error.
Ana: Fuck, man. You’re fired.
Renay: I’m sorry to ruin your conspiracy theory.
Ana: Okay, but that’s fine. And I loved that Moonlight won. It was a beautiful moment for them to realise what had happened.
Renay: I’m mad that they are getting overshadowed by the talk about the error!
Ana: I haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s not—I don’t think it’s out here. But I really wanna see it. Oh yes, you’re absolutely right, no one’s talking about the actual movie. Maybe that’s what they wanted…no sorry, okay.
Renay: Oh here we go, we’re back, we’re back to the conspiracy theories.
Ana: [laughter] Renay, ALIENS. Remember that.
Renay: You and your conspiracy theories, oh my goodness. My first thing is: there is a meme going around Twitter. It’s this white guy blinking, you’ve seen it right?
Ana: No, I don’t think I have.
Renay: People will say something and then they’ll add this gif, this white guy like blinking incredulously.
So basically all it is—it’s this white guy and he’s staring forward, he’s staring off-screen, and suddenly he just blinks like he’s surprised or taken aback. And so people make these little statements on twitter or on social media, and then they’ll add this gif. The one I saw is remixing two gifs together it was—I think it was one of the first ones I actually saw. It was the Arthur Fist meme, you know where they just post an image of a fist? Have you seen that one?
Renay: Your meme education is bad.
Ana: I know.
Renay: So this is a great moment, so you’re going to learn something. So there’s this cartoon and they’ve taken a gif of the character’s first and so people will post it like for when they’re mad about something. This meme takes that meme and the white guy blinking meme, which is what they’re calling this, and they put the gif of his face blinking in Arthur’s fist. And the tweet that I saw it on the first time was by Jen Lewis and she attached this gif and said, “When you’re at a fight and they make a good point,” and it’s just this first blinking at you. It was so funny and it’s—I’m just like “Where did this come from?” and I saw that tweet and I started seeing it everywhere. You know that thing happened you see that thing the first time and suddenly it’s all around you?
Renay: I was super fascinated so I googled white guy blinking meme and finally I found something that explained it, because Buzzfeed did an article about it. It’s this guy, who’s name is Drew Scalan, and he works for a gaming company called Giant Bomb. And way back when he was on this live stream with some friends and one of them his fellow streamers said, “I’ve been doing some farming with my hoe.” And he makes this expression, this blinking expression because he’s surprised, he’s reacting live to this guy’s statement. And it’s just sat there until someone pulled it out of the video and made a gif out of it and now he’s famous on the internet.
Ana: So obviously I need to look it up as soon as we’re finished recording this podcast.
Renay: Yes, it’s great. I love the internet sometimes, it’s so—because this meme isn’t, this is a feel-good meme. It doesn’t have a bad origin. The guy who is in it isn’t gross, in anyway that we know of, and it’s just fun and people are being really creative with it and I love it so much.
Ana: That’s really cool.
Renay: So now if you see this white guy blinking on your twitter timeline or tumblr timeline, you know what his name is. His name is Drew Scalan and he is super excited that he is now a meme.
Renay: What’s your next thing?
Ana: My next thing is an instagram that I even shared with you. It’s by a photographer from Japan and it’s called Hot Dog Kenobi. So he does action figure art, and he takes a picture of action figures posing to great effect, but the action figures that he has is like Marvel and DC characters and it’s just adorable in many ways. Yes, he has a few of them fighting, but most of them is just hanging together. And there’s tons of Tony and Steve—photographs of them, just like helping each other out, hunting Pokemon, that is my favorite by far, and then the two of them dancing, and then in the rain, and then Captain America using his shield to protect Tony. It’s just amazing I really really like them. It’s just put a huge, huge smile on my face.
Renay: I love fanart.
Ana: You know, I’m so not used to this kind of thing but of course this is fanart. Of course it is, what else would it be? I didn’t think about it.
Renay: Because mainstream culture strips fan credit from fan creations. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people do action figure fanart for ages and ages back in the early 00s even I saw people doing this kinda stuff. It’s always been really fascinating.
Ana: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.
Renay: Congratulations, welcome to the club. Now that you’ve seen it you’ll find lots more, I promise.
Ana: Oh cool.
Renay: My next thing is a Go Fund Me. This young woman who apparently goes by Peaches Munroe, but her name Taylor Newman, created this called “on fleek”. And I’ve heard this slang, “on fleek” and this girl invented this phrase and it was super super viral. And after it went viral she didn’t get really any credit for it. And when I found out she was doing a GoFundMe to start her own line of cosmetics and hair products, I was like, “Oh wow, that’s super great. And so I’m gonna share it because I thought it was like a wonderful opportunity for people who have heard that slang and used that slang to go and donate to this girl’s cause. Because she wants to start her own company, which is AMAZING. She is only eighteen and she wants to start her own company, her own business.
Ana: That’s amazing.
Renay: And she wants to get to 100k and as of right now she’s at $11,000 so I think it would be really nice if you have some spare dollars to go and donate to her campaign. I love this idea of young women starting their own businesses and living their dreams. She creates language and she wants to start her own small business. I’m impressed.
Ana: It’s hard. It’s very hard.
Renay: You know all about running a small business, don’t you?
Ana: Mm-hm, it’s very hard.
Renay: So it’s been another successful week of culture and finding neat things.
Ana: Yes, and no politics this time.
Renay: Eventually we had to have a break, Ana. And to end this segment, I’m going to cheat and add a thing.
Ana: Okay, I’ll allow it.
Renay: Exactly, but you’ll—you’ll love it when I tell you what it is.
Ana: Okay, go ahead.
Renay: Naomi Kritzer wrote a Hugo-winning short story called Cat Pictures Please, and it’s becoming a YA novel.
Ana: [gasp] What!
Ana: When did you find out about that?!
Renay: Right this second, someone just sent me a text going, “Did you hear?”
Ana: Breaking news! Finally! A breaking news that won’t give us a heart attack!
Renay: I know, right, this is such great news which is why I shared it like BREAKING NEWS that’s happy! I’ll take it. Ugh, Naomi Kritzer, thank you. Thank you so much for doing good work and bringing us some optimism.
Ana: And cats.
[Music: Rolling by BoxCat Games]
Renay: The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner, is the third book in the Queen’s Thief series, and features a beleaguered Attolian guard who I loved named Kostas, who is targeted by the King of Attolia, who is struggling with his new kingship. Okay Ana, here we are. I read the King of Attolia and I liked it.
Ana: You liked it, of course you did. I’m not surprised.
Renay: Okay, no need to get smug about it.
Ana: [laughter] I’m like, I am really not surprised because I know that you have good taste.
Ana: I know that you are an intelligent person and of course you would like this book.
Renay: We just insulted everybody who didn’t like this book.
Ana: I’m sorry. It’s the truth.
Renay: 47 people unsubscribe.
Ana: Oh my god. I love this book so much. I want to hear about what you liked about it.
Renay: My problems with Megan Whalen Turner’s writing continue in this book. She doesn’t give you enough to go on, she throws you in the middle of a situation and she keeps things super close to the chest until it’s too late for you to get invested in them, and then you’re like, “Oh, okay, that’s how it ends? Great.” So there is some emotional distance for me with this story. I really liked Costas a whole lot although I thought he was kind of an asshole at the beginning.
Renay: As the novel progressed I ended up really, really, really liking him, and he was a really interestingly drawn character that she managed to give a lot of depth and sympathy to, without changing the fact that he’s kind of an asshole.
Ana: That’s an interesting read of this novel. I am not sure I ever thought of Costas as an asshole, I thought he was just fiercely loyal towards his Queen. And obviously he mistreated Gen, who is the main character of this series, because he mistrusted him.
Renay: Yeah, that’s what I mean by him being an asshole.
Ana: The other thing that you said about the way that she writes and the way that she keeps the narrative closed off? It’s my favorite thing about her writing.
Ana: It’s my favorite thing about her writing and how she just slowly reveals things. The things that because I don’t—I had already read books one and two and I knew exactly that that’s her way of doing things; she keeps under her sleeves and then she just progressively unveils them. I was already expecting this to happen here, and what I find interesting is that with every single book, she does that in a different way. So now you have a third person narrative, but the view point narrator is something completely new that we had never seen before. So before we had like we were inside Gen’s head and we are kind of like inside this new person’s head, and we don’t see what Gen is doing. Instead, we see Gen through the eyes of someone who has no reason to trust or like him whatsoever.
But we already who Gen is. We already know what he does. We already trust him. we already love him, so we know that it’s only a matter of time for Costas to learn the truth as well about who he is. So that is for me, it’s the perfect narrative. It’s the perfect novel, this is. I keep going around like, “DO I love the Queen of Attolia or the King of Attolia more?” I think that I will say that I love this one more exactly because of that. It’s someone completely new, figuring out who Eugenides is, and we’re kind of like accomplices. We are Gen’s accomplices because we know exactly who he is, and we just need to wait for the coin to drop inside Costas’s head.
Renay: Here is the part of the book that I cared most about: it was super super gay.
Ana: [laughter] Where? [laughter]
Renay: With Costas and Aris.
Ana: I don’t remember. Oh shit.
Renay: A-R-I-S, Aris. It was his friend who was another young soldier, cause remember he was going to be murdered and Costas goes to Gen and be like, “Only you can save my friend.” And I was totally into their friendship and I wanted more of that friendship, but of course this is a book about Costas coming to respect and like Gen as a person and see him as something other than somebody trying to steal his Queen’s kingdom. So you don’t get a lot of his side relationships, but I was super into that one relationship. I’m like, “yessssss thank you.”
Ana: I don’t think I have ever read a review of this book that mentioned this.
Renay: Most people reviewing books don’t go in like going, “What dudes in this book make out together?”
Renay: Probably, that doesn’t happen.
Ana: But what did you think of the romance between Gen and Irene?
Renay: It was really nicely done. I especially liked the fact that Gen fooled them for so long, thinking that they weren’t like equal partners.
Renay: And Costas, when he realizes that they are, that’s the turning point. That moment when he finally sees the truth is the point at which he’s like, “Aw, god, this guy,” and they become kind of like…not friends exactly.
Ana: Allies, I would think.
Renay: Allies, compatriots. They’re not friends yet, but he was just like, “Aw, this dude.” It’s when he’s—you can start to see the fondness start, which I thought was really nice.
Ana: I remember my heart beating so fast in my chest in that scene where he has been hurt, and she enters the bedroom and he’s like, “Irene”. And it’s the first time that we hear her name. And she goes and she kisses him, oh. And then even though you knew that that was happening but it’s right there on the page.
Renay: There’s a lot of subtext in this book.
Ana: The whole—the whole story here, I think it’s partly that the expectations, right, it’s what they expect of him, as their king. And him being like, “Oh, shit! What have I done?” He—his role has been that of a someone on the sidelines, almost, or stealing the thunder as a thief, and now he has this responsibility. And he doesn’t want to be king and he’s not gonna steal her kingdom. She is still the effective ruler but he needs to be her equal companion. And I thought that was really well done too.
Renay: Most of this book is about Gen embarrassing everybody for underestimating him.
Ana: Not only because he’s younger than her, he’s shorter than her, he doesn’t have a hand. So you have all of this like, “What is power? How do you determine power?” and of course you have a side of people underestimating this young disabled person.
Renay: Part of the novel that got me emotionally was when Costas got dismissed from service and he was just waiting around to see what was gonna happen. I was like, “He got dismissed from service, something bad’s about to happen.” I know Gen can take care of himself and it’s fine, but something bad’s about to happen, and I was right!
Renay: That was the most, like, emotional this narrative managed to get out of me.
Ana: I’m—I’m sad to hear that because this whole book made me so emotional.
Renay: It’s too—it’s too distant. I don’t get enough of the facts to care. They all come out too late for me to get invested in them.
Ana: So you definitely don’t love this as much as I do.
Renay: I do not. I’m sorry. I mean, it’s a good book, I thought, I thought it was much better than The Thief, which—anything could be better than The Thief.
Ana: Oh my god this conversation is going downhill so fast.
Renay: I think if you wanna feel closer to the characters, this isn’t the book. This isn’t the series where you go in feeling super super close to the characters. Not only because of the way she writes, but also because the third person narrative makes it even farther away.
Ana: Oh, I completely disagree with that and I know that this book has such a huge following of people who literally love these characters so much.
Renay: The narrative is too distant. It’s too far away. I can’t get close to it.
Ana: That pains me. I’m sad.
Renay: So, the character that I cared about the most in this book was the character we spend the most time with. It almost felt like Irene was a non-entity. She didn’t have any presence except for what the characters gave her. So we weren’t experiencing her, we were experiencing how the other characters felt about her. And it’s really weird to me, especially in the third person narrative because I’m—I expect to get that kind of read, that kind of feeling, that kind of tone from a first person narrative. So it was really weird how close to Kostas it was, and how far away everyone else seemed, for a third person narrative.
Ana: That’s just what I love the most about this series.
Renay: I think it’s just a problem that I just don’t get the emotion from Megan Whalen Turner’s writing that everybody else does.
Ana: [whisper] Oh my god. This conversation’s killing me.
Renay: I’m real sorry.
Ana: I did not expect this conversation to turn this way. I’m dead. [thumps]
Renay: I didn’t dislike the book?
Ana: A space bee just died somewhere in the distance.
Renay: Oh my god. I didn’t dislike this book! I gave this book a really high rating, in fact!
Ana: I am crying internally!
Renay: Oh my god!
Ana: Did you read A Conspiracy of Kings?
Renay: I did.
Ana: Do we dare talk about it? I don’t know if I can.
Renay: We can some other time, sure. Not this time. We’re not talking about it right now.
Ana: No, we’re not.
Renay: We’re having enough trouble talking about King of Attolia and how I only gave this book four space bees and apparently it’s a tragedy.
Ana: After everything you said, I can’t—it doesn’t sound like a four space bee book to me. A space bee has died on top of my heart, dying, and then now like stars are collapsing in on themselves.
Renay: Oh my god.
Ana: In space, because my heart has been broken. So. Much.
Renay: If you’re done with dramatics…are you finished? Do you wanna keep going? Do you need to add something else?
Ana: I don’t know, do I? Do I need to go on? How do I even go on?
Renay: Oh goodness.
Ana: How I can I go on?
Renay: I think the problem is that she uses subtext in a way that I don’t like, and that I can’t connect to. and it’s not that it’s bad or wrong it’s just that I can’t connect to it. And I’m not the only one. There are other people that I have talked to about this book that have said the exact same thing, that the emotional distance is too great because the subtext that she uses and the way that she puts it into her books means that you don’t get anchored in the narrative until the end when everything is put into place for you, and laid down. And that’s going to alienate some readers. That’s just how it is. I can appreciate how well she plots her books, which I think are—is very well done, but I think that for me, I need more feelings in the beginning and less mystery. Also, I want some fanfic for this. I wonder if it exists. Are you okay over there?
Ana: No, I’m nursing a broken heart.
Renay: I’m sorry. I gave this book four space bees! I don’t know what else you want!
Ana: I want unreserved love.
Ana: Oh my god, silence, there is no love. [sobs]
Renay: The only unreserved love I have for this is at the end of the book, where Gen goes and beats everybody’s ass with a practice sword. And also all the parts with Costas and Aris. Unreserved love. Love for that great relationship. Two thumbs up.
Ana: Well I give this book six space bees so that it can—
Renay: Only six?
Ana: Have ten altogether. Six million space bees.
Renay: Well actually, not six million space bees. You have to take one off because it died.
Ana: You’re making things worse now.
Renay: [laughter] Sorry!
Ana: This is one of my favourite books of all times. And it’s great. And I’m not listening. LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA [laughter]
[Music: Tears by Chuki Beats]
Renay: I have no idea how to summarize Viscera by Gabriel Squala. Ana, do you know how to summarize this book?
Ana: It’s a secondary world fantasy that’s built upon the viscera of gods that have been gone. And those viscera literally sustain the bowels of a great city, in which these characters live. You have people that worship these gone-away gods. Two of them are called Rafe and Jessa, and those two people are drug addicts, and they need to get their fix all the time. They work for a man called the Puppeteer that gives them the drugs in exchange for the viscera of people that they can kill and gather their innards for the Puppeteer to use in his evil schemes. One of the people that these two kill turns out to be an immortal that can come back to life. The novel opens with them killing her, disemboweling her, she comes back to life, she sides with a mannikin, which is kind of like a puppet that has been given life in the past and who is looking for his maker. He thinks his maker is the Puppeteer so they will follow these two people to try and find this man. And things just go downhill from here.
Renay: That was a summary!
Ana: [laughter] It’s just impossible to give—to do that with few words because there is so much going on here. And it’s such a weird, different novel. It’s unlike everything I’ve read recently or ever? There are a lot more to it than I just said.
Renay: Yeah, actually, it’s really complicated. This book was full of gore, body horror, and organ harvesting. And these things don’t gross me out. Body horror in prose doesn’t bother me, but I think the problem was that I was bored.
Ana: Oh, okay.
Renay: I almost did not finish this book, I got halfway through it and put it down until yesterday when I finally decided I was gonna finish it. And I don’t know why I was so bored, because there is a lot of stuff that in theory I should like in this novel. This is a novel about running away from your past, about being honest with yourself and the people around you. And also kind of about fate and whether fate is something that you can control. Like can you control your own fate? Or are you destined to end up in a place where you don’t have say in it? What choices do you actually get to make in your life? I don’t think I agree with the book because I think the book comes down on one side of that equation for this world in particular, and I don’t think I agree with the book.
Renay: Yeah, the book seems to be like pro-fate, like you are always gonna circle back to where you belong even you try to run away from it.
Ana: I didn’t read it like that. I read it as people just making choices for themselves.
Renay: Well, what are the choices they end up? Most of them end up back at the beginning of their stories.
Ana: Oh—really? Because Ashlan wanted to die, she got that. Rafe wanted to just live as who he was, as a trans man. And he got free of the drugs, because the thing that he wanted to do was to be the religious figure to help people get through which was, you know, part of his heritage that was denied to him because of who he was. And he just kept to who he was as a trans man, and near the end he managed to not only survive but get on top of things, victorious. I thought this book was so hopeful, the way that you described it with the fate and everything, every time I hear that, I feel hopeless, right? And I felt that this book was so hopeful. There is revolution, there is bad people dying, the good people surviving?
Renay: I don’t think fate has anything to do with hope.
Ana: Well, this is probably me making that association.
Renay: I wonder why you associate fate—being attached to a fate to hopelessness. That’s interesting.
Ana: Because then you are stuck to a path where you don’t have a choice. That’s how I interpret fate.
Renay: Well I think the problem was just that I was super bored with this book. I found the focus on all the like gore and the body horror, I’m just like “I get it, this world is real—is hard, I get it. Oh look, let another scene where we’re doing some carving on people. Awesome. Oh great, one of our main characters is having her organs harvested. Again.”
Ana: Well, she can survive everything.
Renay: I mean I know she can survive everything. I’m just like it got to the point where the gratuitousness of the gore and the body horror—it just felt like too much, I was just like, okay, I get it.
Ana: I liked how she used it to get what she needed. Because she—at one point she was kidnapped to have her organs harvested to feed into a monstrosity, a Frankenstein-like creature, and she allowed herself to be taken so that she could learn about it. And then change things.
Renay: But the problem is that she doesn’t change things, she goes with the flow.
Renay: Pretty much her whole life she just goes with how things happen. This is kind of why I feel about fate. She gets what she wants at the end.
Ana: The problem is that she has lived for such a long time that she forgets – she forgot who she was, if she ever knew exactly who she was. And she has lived so many lives, has done so many things that she hated herself for doing, including SPOILERS creating the mannikan, Hollis.
Renay: And I don’t find the end particularly hopeful in her case, cause I know that at the end we see her making a choice that puts her back on the quote-unquote “correct path” with assurances that happened to her this time, where she forgot who she was, won’t happen again. But I’m like, “Really? Are you sure?”
Ana: Well I—I have a more generous reading of that. I am hopeful that things will get better in the end. I was hopeful that there was a huge change of everything at that city and that things would get better for everybody.
Renay: Well, all that happened it got buried, and Ashlan makes a point that eventually people will dig it all up again. So this book is kind of about cycles and how—-how do you change a cycle that is detrimental to a culture? The book ends very hopefully, but I’m not sure I buy it in the long term.
Ana: Even though I do, there is a point that is made in the novel that for example every time there was a new ruler or a new king, things changed completely because every person’s a new person, right? So it might well be that the next ruler will be a tyrant or they will be a good person.
Renay: Years before trans people had been welcome in society, and then the ruler changed and they were all—most of them anyway—executed and if you were trans, and the books describes these people is bent and/or crosswise which for them is just language that they use to describe themselves. The word trans is not used in this book. They were hunted down and killed and marginalized. And when the book ends, this seems like it’s gonna be an issue anymore. Like they’ve gone back to being accepted.
Renay: But they were accepted once before as well so, hm. You see—I mean you can see where I’m getting my dubiousness, right?
Ana: Yes, I can.
Renay: I think maybe if this little team-up that happened had been more united? But at the end Rafe doesn’t know what happens to Ashlan. Ashlan doesn’t know what’s happened to Rafe. It kinda feels splintered therefore I actually have trouble believing in a cycle that’s not going to end up cycling back to all this horror.
Ana: I choose to believe.
Renay: Ana believes in optimism and I’m just having a moment of pessimism, I guess. I did like the writing a whole lot. I thought it was really really good.
Renay: I really want to read this person’s other book, Dead Boys, because I really, really liked the writing in this book. I thought it was really creative and rich and, considering that most of the writing in the book was describing terrible things happening to people’s bodies, I just thought it was kinda bouncy. I’m trying to think about how—how do you describe a narrative? It just moved. You didn’t get bogged down in the writing.
Ana: I agree. I really liked this. I really really liked it. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did like it. I really liked the characters.
Renay: I really wanted a whole book about Ashlan, really. In fact I would read a whole series about any of these characters except for Tonka I think who I did not like at all.
Ana: I thought she was interesting
Renay: She was interesting, but I did not like her. But I really liked Rafe a whole lot and I liked Ashlan the most and even Hollis was interesting.
Ana: Hollis was hilarious. Isn’t this book a barrel of laughs? [laughter]
Renay: Mmmm. This book is—it’s horror, it’s a horror book that is dystopian horror, would be how—fantastical dystopian horror is how I’d describe this book. Okay, how many space bees? Hit me.
Ana: I give it five.
Renay: I’m giving it three. Sorry, book. I do think people who like Kameron Hurley’s work would like this book.
Ana: Well, that’s an interesting comparison.
Renay: I really think that if you like Kameron Hurley’s work you might like this. Peter Newman’s The Vagrant is also similar, those would be nice companion reads to see how different people are using these tropes. That’s Viscera. It’s all in the title.
[Music: Help by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Hidden Figures is a 2017 movie starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monaé, Octavia Spencer and Mahershala Ali And it’s about computers from the NACA and how they helped put a man into orbit. Ana, did you read that this was based on, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly?
Ana: No I did not, did you?
Renay: I did read it. I read it before I saw the movie.
Renay: The movie itself takes a lot of liberty with timelines. In the book, I’m pretty sure that the women weren’t of a similar age. They were spread apart more. Although that’s fine in the movie it really, really works and I totally loved that they changed it to make this group of supportive women, because that’s echoing the book in how black women who were educated, that worked for each other helped each other get ahead, helped each other look for opportunities. Like it was a tight-knit group and people wanted each other to excel. But the book itself explores the days of the NACA and the movie is itself about NASA, so it’s a little bit different so if you going into the movie first and then go to the book, which I highly recommend because the book is really, really great—it’s not like a history book at all, it’s not academic, it’s very much in a storytelling style. And Margot Lee Shetterly was really close to this area of Virginia where all these things were happening, so she had this excellent perspective and knew a lot of the people involved so it’s a really, really great book. And I learned a ton and I thought the movie did a really, really great job of turning that whole big story in the book into this really nice narrative about race and integration and how to do science and be smart when culture tells you that you should just shut up and sit down. DId you like the movie?
Ana: I loved the movie. I did not read the book. I did not know anything about the history going to the movie, so I watched it completely free from information and I enjoyed it for what it was. I cried, I laughed, I was super engaged. I loved the portrayal of the three women, their friendship, and the way that they each had their independent role within NASA as they’re doing different and going through different things as well. I loved the romance. I loved how Katherine was assertive and bold and questioned Jim when he showed up at first and seemed to underestimate her intelligence and the work that she did; not believing that women could do maths and that she wasn’t as smart as she was. And she just continuously questions him and put him into his place.
And Mary Jackson was really cool too, very audacious in the way that she wouldn’t let her husband put her down, and in the end he was a really great companion and really supportive of her choice of going back to school. And to try to go to a school that was not integrated at the time because that was the only option that was given her to become an engineer at NASA. What a great, inspiring story.
Renay: Yeah, I really loved this film. Even though I had some problems with how it handled the white people.
Ana: Yeah, that was what I was gonna say next.
Renay: I thought that it was interesting— I guess is a nice way to say it—and I pointed this out in my review that none of the white people ever apologize to any of these women. The only person who apologizes in this narrative is Jim, Katherine’s husband, when he legitimately apologizes to her about his assumptions towards women and math and science. He’s the only one to apologize. The white people never apologize.
Ana: Kevin Costner’s character comes across as a little bit of a white savior.
Renay: Yeah, and they make him into one.
Ana: Yeah, because—because he was not in the role that this movie put him. And then later I learned that that scene with the bathroom—that’s definitely a white savior moment. Didn’t even exist. She refused to go to the—to use the bathroom in the other building and she just went to the white one.
Renay: Yeah, they took it away from her and gave it to a white man.
Renay: And I understand why they did it. I mean I get how Hollywood works, but I just don’t understand why they had to go backwards like that.
Ana: Is it because the assumption is that white people will be the ones watching this movie and therefore white people will need someone to admire?
Renay: I mean, probably, yeah. When I was in the theater they were always, these white people were always clapping and cheering at these parts where they didn’t need to be clapping and cheering! I remember during the bathroom scene where she was running back and forwards to the bathroom, and people were laughing, they were laughing, like…
Ana: Oh my god, are you kidding me? I was crying every single time.
Renay: Like belly laughing over these scenes, and the music underneath it I also don’t really get. It was giving it a comedic feel. I just remember going, “This is not funny, I don’t understand how any of you are laughing at this. This is not funny.” The only way in which this might be humorous is not really a white people’s thing to laugh at. If this happened—and I’m sure in some cases this is a moment that probably happened for a lot of black women where they had to inconvenience themselves for structural institutionalized racism.
Ana: Those parts they made me so sick to my stomach. It was just so awful. And the fact that everybody just kept telling her off for not being there. And—and the fact that nobody realized what was happening. Which, you know, in a way it makes sense, because white privilege, white-centred narratives, you center yourself as the focus of the world, right, and you don’t think about what’s happening in other life.
Renay: There were other moments where something that people who had been marginalized might be able to see as universal and then more easily relate to themselves. Like the moment, where they don’t let Katherine take credit for her work. We’ve all been in that moment where you do something and then as white women a man takes credit for what you’ve done.
Ana: Or people just assume it was done by a man anyway.
Renay: As far as the movie itself goes I think these women did a wonderful job, I have never seen Taraji P. Henson or Janelle Monaé act because I don’t watch enough media. I know Henson does Empire, but it’s TV and I’m just notoriously bad at television.
Ana: I didn’t know she was in Empire. Now I wanna watch it even more.
Renay: She transforms, oh my goodness, she’s such a good actress. In Empire she plays this really loud-mouthed, super, super bold woman and she is totally different and fantastic. She plays a character called Cookie and she’s super different for this role as Katherine. She’s quiet and soft-spoken and it’s like the exact opposite of her character on Empire. I was just blown away. They were just so, so good. I wanna see them in everything.
And obviously my fave, Octavia Spencer was—she played Dorothy, she’s so great. I loved Dorothy’s story line and in the book where she goes and she learned how to use the computers. And also Mary’s this interesting as well. She wants to go and become an engineer but she needs to go to school but she can’t because schools aren’t integrated. And Virginia actually has a really awful history of public school integration, and if anyone wants to go read about it just prepare to be horrified, it’s really, really bad. Like they closed their schools so they didn’t have to integrate.
Ana: God, this is awful.
Renay: Most of my problems come back to what like the—I think that white people are going to take the wrong message away from the film. The movie does its level best to make these white heroes. They’re not heroes. They’re at basic human decency level zero. They’re at baseline.
Renay: Like the guy who knocks down the bathroom sign. Fake moment, but in the context of this narrative base level zero, that where he’s at. The woman who finally gives Dorothy her promotion, base level zero, that’s where she’s at.
Renay: The judge who lets Mary attend classes: base level zero human decency, that’s where he’s at. Like these are not heroic narratives for these white people, and that’s what I’m terrified white people are going to take away from this movie instead of how hard that these women had to work and how much bullshit from white people that these women had to put up with.
Ana: Yeah, like for example when Kristen Dunst’s character finally says Mrs. Vaughn instead of Dorothy, it’s this huge moment, right?
Renay: It’s a huge moment here because there is this problem in Southern culture which people who are outside the US don’t understand how race works. I was raised not to call black people by their first names if they’re older than me. So the fact that in the movie it’s this big moment—it should be a big moment, it should. She’s finally reached base level zero human decency.
Renay: It’s the same thing with calling black people boy or girl: don’t do it.
Renay: My dad still does and it—every time it happens I’m just like… It’s like my insides just shrivel up. And he won’t stop and I can’t make him stop but… This is a really good movie.
Ana: It’s a really good movie and it’s a really good space movie. I love space movies like this. How many space bees do you give this then?
Renay: Five! Five space bees!
Ana: Me too, I gave it five as well, even—even with the problems as we discussed at length.
Renay: Well that’s what’s gonna happen when you have a bunch of white people behind the camera. But I think that the actors in this movie took a product that some white people made and like found some amazing nuance and subtlety and just turned it like this great performance. I’m just so impressed. I want movies with these women all the time forever. Hire them for everything.
Ana: Did you see someone say on Twitter that they would love to see a remake of Hocus Pocus with the three of them?
Renay: [GASP] Yes! I saw—I saw a thing, remake Hocus Pocus, remake First Wives club, and I’m like [GASP!]
Renay: Dear Hollywood: cast these women in everything.
[Music: Joy by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s time for recs! Ana, what have you got for us this week?
Ana: I read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets The World middle grade novel by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and I highly recommend it. It’s a great middle grade novel, but it’s also a super great origin story for Squirrel Girl that captures the tone of the comics perfectly. And it has Tippy-Toes’s viewpoint narrative. Getting inside Tippy-Toes’s head is the best thing that has ever happened to me in a long time. She is amazing, she’s awesome, she’s so like fucking feisty. [laughter]
Renay: I need to read the book about the squirrel, now.
Ana: I think I’m gonna give it a ten out of ten because it was such a perfect novel. It’s a great origin story. It just has like great characters. Doreen’s best friend at this stage is a deaf Latino girl, who is super good at computers and she helps her a lot. Doreen learns sign language so that she can communicate with her and they become best friends and then there are Iron Man and Black Widows cameos.
Renay: I’m in. I need this book immediately.
Ana: Immediately! And Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy. They become BFFs.
Ana: I know! [laughter]
Renay: Okay, I’m going to the library today and finding this book. You got me.
Ana: Yeah, and it has like a super great villain, too. So what’s your rec?
Renay: So I’m back to reccing fanfic! Who’s excited?
Ana: [cheers] Oh my god.
Renay: So my rec this week is called The Heaven’s Tumble Darling And I’m by ChibiSquirt which is a soulmates AU where Steve gets a soulmark with his soulmate’s handwriting on it but all it says is CAPTAIN in capital letters. Once he becomes Captain America that’s what everybody calls him so he’s convinced he’ll never find his soulmate. But it’s fine because he’ll get to date Tony instead. And it ends exactly like you expect if you’re familiar with this trope and it’s super cheerful and wonderful and I loved it so much. I had so much fun with this story.
Ana: I am so glad to hear that. I missed those recommendations.
Renay: It’s only 8,000 words.
Ana: It’s very short.
Renay: So Ana could read it if she wanted to.
Ana: Well, I could if I didn’t have like a hundred thousand word fanfiction to read waiting for me.
Renay: It’s true. I’m making you read about a hundred and thirty thousand words of Star Trek fic.
Ana: Oh my god. Where did the extra thirty thousand words come from?
Renay: It’s a series! I gave it all to you with like a list!
Ana: Oh my god.
Renay: I told you there was one story you could skip if you wanted to.
Ana: Okay. No, I’m gonna do it properly because you didn’t skip any of the Attolia books and even though you didn’t even like it that much.
Renay: What do you mean, I gave it—
Ana: Yes, I am still—yes, I am still sour about it.
Renay: I gave it four space bees.
Ana: I am lingering.
Renay: I am so sorry that I’ve upset Ana about the King of Attolia, but this fanfic is super cute and if you like Steve/Tony. so you definitely should give it a shot. Okay, okay, tell everybody what we’re going to discuss next time.
Ana: Our next Friday episode, that will come next Friday of two Fridays from now, and we will finally be doing our super spoilery Fangirl Vault discussion of Sunshine by Robin McKinley. If you’ve never read Sunshine before this, this is the perfect time to do it. We hope you will join us.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s the end of episode 75. Our music this week is by Boxcat Games and Chuki Beats. Our show art is by Ira. Our transcripts are by Susan the Transcription Wizard. You can find links to all their work in our show notes, plus information about the media we discussed.
Ana: Follow us on Twitter at @fangirlpodcast, especially if you like cool news about bees. And it’s interesting to note there has been a lot of news about bees lately. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can write to us at any time. If you like the show, tell a friend. Write us a nice review. We like hearing from you, even if it’s just sending us random bee emojis on Twitter or just information about bees. They are very welcome.
Renay: Get some sleep. Remember to drink lots of water. Call your reps. Thanks for listening, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
[Music: Happy Summer Love]
Ana: Do you know what? Every time I listen to us saying that I don’t like the way I say it.
Renay: What do you mean you don’t like the way you say it?
Ana: Yeah I know, it just —it doesn’t have the right amount of energy.
Ana: So I’m going to try different ways.
Ana: And I’m Ana, no that sounds stupid [laughter]
Renay: I’m just killing you today, I’m sorry.
Ana: Ohhhh my god.
Renay: “Renay, do you like anything?” “No, Ana, not anymore apparently.”