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Renay: Hello friends, I’m Renay!
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour: Question Tuesday Edition.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: This week we’re going to answer some questions about SF canon and genre, we’re gonna talk about how we read so much, and also some possibly quick questions from—for each other? We’ll see.
Ana: We never know what’s going to go fast or not.
Renay: We never know what’s gonna start a fight.
Renay: Let’s go investigate.
[Music: B-3 by Boxcat Games]
Renay: Our first question is from Jonah, and he sort of cheated—Jonah, you sorta cheated, this is two questions. What’s going on? What’s happening here?
His first question is, “what’s a book or other piece of fiction that made you rethink scifi or fantasy?” And his second question was, “what’s a conversation or piece of nonfiction that changed how you think about the genre.” Ana, what is your answer to these two questions?
Ana: I am not sure I understand those questions properly. I’m not sure how to address them. What does it mean make me rethink it? I am not sure I ever thought about science fiction and fantasy differently?
Renay: Then maybe that’s your answer.
Ana: Because I know some people think about science fiction and fantasy as minor genres to be dismissed. I never thought about it like that so there was never a moment in which I turned my mind about it.
Renay: Did you ever think of science fiction and fantasy in one way and then read something that changed how you thought about the genre?
Ana: No, I don’t think so? I always felt that science fiction and fantasy could be as clever as it can be. I always thought it was fun, but with the potential to be other things, like any literature. You can find whatever you want in those genres. Or in any genre. So I would say no, I don’t think there was anything that made me think differently or rethink science fiction and fantasy.
Renay: Well, what about the second question?
Ana: Hold on. Okay. I don’t know how to place this question in relation to a genre.
Renay: Well, think about all the discussions that we’ve had.
Ana: But that’s not in relation to our genre that’s in relation to me as a human.
Renay: I think you’re overthinking it a little bit.
Renay: Because there have been conversations over and over and over the last five years that have shapped how we think and engage with science fiction and fantasy as an organized thing. And I know that eventually you had to come to a moment because you became a publisher and that is a totally way of thinking about genre than, like, as a reader.
Ana: I’m not sure that’s true.
Renay: I don’t think—I don’t think about genre as a publisher at all. I don’t think about trends, I don’t think about money, I don’t think about any of that.
Ana: I always thought about it even as a reader.
Renay: Really? Oh, wow.
Ana: Yes, especially like my blog has always been—I mean we always tried to review things that we knew people wanted to read about. we always had that view. Our move from bloggers to publishers was so natural because that was always who we were. like Thea went into work into publishing. I never wanted to be a writer or anything like that. I always wanted to run the blog and grow it. And for that to happen I had to have the view of what my readers wanted. And in that way it is the same thing with the publishing. How would you answer these questions then?
Renay: Well, his first question about what book or piece of fiction made me rethink scifi and fantasy, that would probably be God’s War by Kameron Hurley. If I had to think of a marker between how I stopped thinking of them as two different things instead as genres that were intimately intertwined and that built each other up, that’s the book that I look at. That or maybe also Kraken by China Miéville. Reading that book made me just stop thinking of it as two separate things. There—they’re two different genres that are ultimately linked. It’s really hard to decouple them in larger discussions about genre.
And the second question, I wrote a column for Strange Horizons called Communities: the Weight of History. After I wrote it I got a lot of feedback about it and Galactic Suburbia had a discussion about the essay. It was episode 123, and it was really eye-opening because so far up to that point, and putting that essay out and having people react to it the way they did, I had been really stressed out by this idea of SF canon. And I had tied my approval as a critic to people who valued SF canon. And listening to their discussion just really gave me permission to stop caring so much about how other people saw genre and to instead focus on how I saw genre and how I formed opinions about genre. I still do care, obviously, about the SF canon, because I think earlier book are our example of how limited the imagination about the future was back then especially on a social level. And so I think they’re useful to look at so we know how and where we can do better and reach farther. But as a measuring stick for who gets to count as a critic I think that episode Galactic Suburbia was when I broke away from a pretty harmful position that I was trying to jam myself into, and it was a good move.
Ana: That’s really interesting how we approached those questions differently. But then again we are different people.
Renay: Yes we are.
Ana: But this is why we are so awesome.
[Music: Heart by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Our next question is from Addie and they wanna know, “How do you read the volume of books that you do each year?” This is when you’re gonna drop some knowledge for us, right?
Ana: No, because remember that I used to read 130 books a year, and now I dropped to 60. So clearly I’m doing something wrong. So, you are the one who needs to tell us.
Renay: 60 is still a lot of books.
Ana: Well, the answer for me is simple. I just make the time and I force myself… I don’t know if forcing is the right word because it implies something that you don’t want to do. I’m happy to make the time to read. So I wake up earlier than I could, so that I could read before work. I take a couple of minutes during my lunch break to read. I—if I’m on the bus, I read. I make time for reading before going to bed. I usually can fit about one hour’s reading time every morning before work. That’s usually very helpful.
Renay: Yeahm I think it’s just a matter of prioritizing and also if you don’t have a job. Like, I’m a freelancer. I don’t have a regular go-to-a-job-work-for-eight-hours-come-home and part of my freelancing is that I read books. So I mean I guess that one way to read more books is to get a freelancing job, but just FYI, you’re not always gonna read the books you want to be reading. You have to get real lucky. I tend to get lucky because I am very very picky about the jobs I take on because I just don’t have enough time to be reading stuff I hate just for money. I am not gonna do that to myself. So that’s one way you could do it: is to get a job reading and writing about books.
But otherwise I still read a lot of other things that aren’t for work and one of the good ways I do it is to set aside time specifically for reading. I schedule it in so it’s going to be an hour where I sit there and do nothing but read for that hour. And it’s also about finding out where your dead time is. Do you have dead time in the morning when you’re waiting for breakfast, do you have dead time when you’re waiting for dinner to cook? Do you have dead when you’re in the bathroom? People are going to be like, “That’s gross Renay,” well guess what? If you’re in a bathroom that’s twenty-five minutes that you might be able to use for something else.
Ana: I do so much emailing at that time.
Renay: Oh well, see?
Ana: I use it very well.
Renay: So you have where your dead times are, like I don’t recommend like reading at red lights, that’s not smart. I had a friend that used to do that; that was not intelligent. But there’s also trying different formats so if you’re in a car a lot you should look into audiobooks because a lot of library now, public libraries, have Overdrive and you can get audiobooks through your public library on your phone. If you have a phone or an ipad there’s an app and I use it sometimes to get audiobooks. And I also tried to rotate format a lot so I’m really aware of, “Oh I just read a book, let’s try a graphic novel. I finished a graphic novel, let’s try some non-fiction.” I’m bouncing around a bunch of different things and because I’m making time for a bunch of different things at different times of the day, I’m getting through a lot more. Like for instance at night before I go to bed—cause you’re not supposed to look at screen before you go to sleep, it’s bad for you and doesn’t help you sleep very well—I read for about 45 minutes to an hour of nonfiction from whatever nonfiction book I have. And if you get a nonfiction book that’s not very long and you’re reading two chapters a day before you go to bed then by the end of the week you’re gonna have finished that book. Do that for a year and you’ve finished a bunch of nonfiction. That’s a lot of nonfiction. And that’s how I sneak in all my nonfiction reading. If I talk about nonfiction book I’ve mostly read them at night before bed because you can do a lot in an hour before bed, but if you’re not doing anything on a screen it means no phone, it means no TV, no computer, nothing with a screen, so pretty much your choices are pretty much sitting staring at a wall, reading a book, or listening a radio show or a podcast so if you’re treating your body well and not looking at screens before you sleep reading is a great activity. The reason I choose non-fiction for, is if i choose fiction for that I’m going to be up until four am finishing the book.
Renay: Because it’s really easy to put down a nonfiction book after reading two chapters than it is to put down a fiction book where you read two chapters and now you’re just getting to a good part and you have to know what happens.
Ana: That is so true. Just one chapter more! It’s kind of like a recurring figure in my bed at night.
Renay: Don’t do it. Nonfiction only.
Ana: Let me just finish this chapter! Three hours later…
Renay: You gotta sleep. If you’re really well-rested it’s easier to get up in the morning and end up reading in the morning. If you’re well-rested it means you have more energy in the afternoon to do reading. It’s just about finding those empty moments and filling them with reading. And scheduling your time really well so you know where it’s going and then you can prioritize because it’s just really about—if you wanna read more you prioritize reading more.
Renay: But I wouldn’t worry so much about numbers because one you start worrying about numbers you can really drag yourself down. Like I’m always gonna be able to read more than a lot of people in the world because I am a freelancer and I don’t have that 9-5 job. I’m sitting on a lot of time that’s unstructured, so if you don’t have that you can’t beat yourself for not having it. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about enjoying what you’re reading.
Ana: That’s also very true.
Renay: Yay books!
[Music: Classics by Chuki Beats]
Renay: So recently I have started tutoring somebody in English and it’s really fascinating to me how complicated it is to learn another language. And Ana you know languages and I’m curious about what languages you can navigate easily, what languages do you struggle with, and if there’s a language that you don’t know that you would like to learn.
Ana: My mother tongue is Portuguese, so obviously I can navigate that and English. I do pretty well in English. I can get away with Italian and French. I may have the barest conversations if I talk to someone in French I can—or Italian, I can go to France and Italy and basically get around in those languages. I can also read pretty well in them.
Spanish is very, very, very close to Portuguese, and reading it it’s very easy but I really struggle with speaking in Spanish. Probably cause it’s so similar, but yet so different? That I end up wanting to speak Portuguese instead of Spanish. The language that I don’t know that I would like to learn and in fact, I have already downloaded an app so that I could start learning, is Greek. Because one of my best friends is Greek and she just had a baby, and I am to his godmother and I need to learn to communicate with him.
Renay: That’s a good reason!
Ana: I can only say a handful of words in Greek even though I go to Greece pretty much every year and stay with this friend. And her family only speaks Greek. I only know how to say food stuffs, and good morning and good night and hello.
Renay: Hopefully she speaks something else, right?
Ana: Oh yes. English. Also she’s—this is her second son and her first son, because she’s an English teacher she’s been speaking English with him since he was born and he’s three and he communicates in English very well. She’s gonna do the same thing with my godson but I would still like to learn the language to, you know, return the favor.
Renay: That’s so nice! Aww. I’m learning Spanish right now.
Ana: How you doing? Como voce está? See, I just spoke Portuguese but with a Spanish accent.
Renay: I can say la araña es miya.
Ana: Why do you have a spider?
Renay: That’s just what it taught me to say.
Ana: Aw, fucking bullshit. I would refuse to have those lessons.
Renay: Sometimes if I go in and do a practice on Duolingo it will pick a word and just like hammer that word at me with a bunch of different sentences. La araña—
Renay: Araña, I can’t roll anything or do the ñ sound it’s fucking terrible. Southerner trying to speak some Spanish.
Ana: So you see that very same sentence.
Renay: La araña es miya.
Ana: Yeah, so that’s Spanish.
Renay: Yes, that’s Spanish.
Ana: A aranha é minha. That’s Portuguese.
Renay: Ugh, that’s so confusing.
Ana: It’s exactly the same thing, basically. [laughter]
Renay: But it sounds different.
Ana: No it doesn’t! Does it?
Renay: It does to me. Well, it’s because I say everything in Spanish in my stupid Southern accent so everything sounds weird. And I’m still bad at vowels. I can’t seem to get Spanish only has like five vowels. It is not English with eight hundred zillion vowels that change depending on what order the word is in.
Ana: English is stupid.
Renay: I agree. This guy that I’m teaching English. Like, listen: I don’t know grammar. I don’t know how to diagram sentences. I don’t know parts of speech. This is why I failed at Spanish so bad because they were like, “What’s a direct object pronoun?” and I’m like, “What the hell is a direct object!?” And you’re supposed to know those things from English, but I didn’t know them, so I struggled with Spanish because they want you to know the parts of the sentence to speak Spanish so you can identify what things are. But if you don’t know them from English you’re fucked. Anyway.
Ana: Our Question Tuesdays are never easy.
Renay: Why do we always make them hard for each other?
Ana: I don’t know!
[Music: Slow Down by Chuki Beats]
Ana: What’s the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
Renay: Okay, this is going to be really boring probably for most people who live outside the US and have fairly interesting food choices. But okay, in sixth grade.
Ana: I’m scared.
Renay: We did this project where we had a lot of different bugs cause we were doing some kind of science thing.
Ana: Nooo, oh noooo. Why I did I ask this question?
Renay: I don’t know what we were using the bugs for, but when we got done we had all these leftover grasshoppers. The teacher brought some chocolate and we covered these grasshoppers in chocolate and then we ate the grasshoppers that were covered in chocolate and then we rated what they tasted like. And then he brought out mass-produced professional chocolate-covered grasshoppers and we tried those and then we rated those to see which ones were better. PS ours were better.
Ana: I have never regretted asking a question so much in my life, because you no idea how much I hate grasshoppers. Not the taste of them, because I am not…
Ana: I would NEVER taste a grasshopper in my life. But they terrify me so much, those fucking insects. Oh my god. And I wish I had an araña to just kill them all. Oh my god, no, noooo. Were they crunchy?
Renay: They had more texture than flavor. It was crunchy chocolate.
Ana: [horrified laughter and shrieking]
Renay: It was like eating chocolate with nuts.
Ana: [shrieking continues]
Ana: [craughter intensifies]
Renay: At one point, some of the guys—
Ana: [horrified noise]
Renay: Were like scooping them up in big handfuls and putting them all in their mouths and chomping them and then smiling and then you would see like legs.
Ana: [screams like a siren]
Renay: —sticking out of their teeth.
Renay: Aren’t you glad you asked this question?
Ana: Listen, this question was started because I was looking for a recipe that had tacos, like, lettuce tacos, lettuce. What on earth?
Renay: We went from tacos made of lettuce to chocolate covered grasshoppers.
Ana: Please no more insects.
Renay: What do you mean no more insects I have like five—no I don’t have any more stories. So what you’re telling me is that if I send you a package of chocolate covered grasshoppers—
Ana: I would never talk to you again.
Ana: It would be the end of our friendship
Renay: Okay, good to know.
Ana: There is no other animal on this planet that I fear the most as a grasshopper.
Renay: But they don’t look like grasshoppers. They’re all like balled up and covered in chocolate so they don’t even look like it.
Ana: Oh my god I’m gonna vomit. I literally just threw up inside my mouth.
Renay: We have to end this.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s the end of a very emotion-filled Question Tuesday. Thanks to Jonah and Addie for sending in questions. and Ana thanks to you for answering questions with me, Grasshopper Anti Fan #1.
Ana: I will have to think about some really mild question for you next time.
Renay: Oh no, now I’ve scarred you for life. Our show’s art is by Ira, you can find them on Twitter at @itsjustira. Our transcripts are made for us by Susan, who you can find on Twitter at @Spindilly. Please send her a lot of love for helping us level up in accessibility. And I mean really, go send her some random bee and heart emojis with no context and blame us if she question marks at you. Our music this week is Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games, links to all these awesome folks will be in our show notes at fangirlhappyhour.com.
Ana: We really want to hear from you. Are you learning a new language? How do find time to read? Let us know via Twitter at @fangirlpodcast or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like the show you can give our episode announcement a retweet or a reblog, or write your own rec on social media about us and you can rate us! In space bees.
Renay: Can people use infinity space bees on social media? I guess we’ll find out.
Ana: And if you want to ask a question you can ping us on social media or use the handy form on fangirlhappyhour.com.
Renay: Remember! Drink water, sleep longer, and call your reps. And thanks for listening to our show, friends.
Ana: See you next episode.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]