Episode Number: 95
Episode Title: Nostalgia Heart (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends, I’m Renay.
Susan: And I’m Susan.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Renay: Today as you can hear, I have a special guest: Susan!
Renay: Yeah, so we’re gonna talk about feedback and updates, then discuss Final Fantasy VIII, Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce—Susan chose this.
Renay: And then sequels that we love. And also recommendations.
Renay: For feedback and updates today, we have a pretty short news segment. Our December Vault suggestion post is up for three dollars and up patrons. If you have something that want us to discuss on a Vault episode, you should hop over to Patreon and leave your suggestion in the comments. As soon as we get enough suggestions we’ll put the actual poll up. Two dollar and up patrons get to vote in the poll, as well.
We do realise that we are extremely behind on Vault episodes. This is because I forget that Ana goes on vacations and Ana forgets that time passes because she has eight hundred jobs. So then we get to August and we realize, “Oh crap, when are we gonna record our Vault episodes, we’re not going to be together for two and a half weeks!” But it’s fine, we’re gonna catch up. They’re gonna be great episodes.
The other news is that we have a bunch of new transcripts, up, available on the website by Susan! So if you can’t listen to our episodes, although I don’t know how you’re listening to this if you can’t listen…to…
Renay: I’m having an existential crisis right now. If you were to prefer to read what we say instead of listening to what we say, you can find them on the website through episode eighty-seven.
Renay: Final Fantasy VIII was released September 1999 in the US and it is about a military school called Garden filled with military cadets who are children called SeeDs and tells the story of what happens when an evil sorceress tries to take over the world. I feel like that is the most succinct and accessible explanation of this game for people who have never played Final Fantasy VIII.
Susan: It misses out like, 99% of the batshit, but we’re trying to be accessible here, we’re not trying to explain the time travel. Or the sorceresses. Or…
Renay: Or the memory loss from giant beasts that you put into your brain?
Susan: That let you drink a potion, yeah. Those. You can’t drink potions when you’re not junctioned.
Renay: You can’t?
Susan: All you can do if you don’t have a GF is attack.
Renay: Things I did not realize.
Susan: I literally booted it up yesterday to restart it because I was excited and it’s, “Oh god, have I forgotten literally everything” and it’s like nah, you can’t do anything without a GF in the back of your head going, “Hm, your memories are delicious. Now you can drink potions.”
Renay: Oh no! Everybody is very confused right now, about this intro.
I think of Final Fantasy VIII as my first Final Fantasy that I fell in love with—that made me like get really deeply into the genre. A lot of people will claim VI as theirs, or VII, but VIII was mine. I got really invested in this franchise because of Final Fantasy VIII. To explain and give context to our listeners who are not familiar with Final Fantasy: these are not a string of sequels. Every single Final Fantasy number is a new game, until you get up to like, Final Fantasy X and they start doing sequels and spin-offs.
Susan: Yeah, Final Fantasy’s kinda like the macro fandom, and then the numbers are not micro fandoms, but individual. You don’t get any characters from Final Fantasy III showing up in IV or…
Renay: Unless you go play Dissidia.
Susan: Unless you go play Dissidia. Or Kingdom Hearts. Or read the Ultimate Guides? Is that what they were called?
Renay: Yeah, I think so. Wow.
Susan: Was that just a blast from the past?
Renay: Yes, I’m just—having like nostalgia bubble popped in my chest.
Susan: Aw, you know what I realised? We met because of Final Fantasy X fandom.
Susan: And then we bonded over VIII as well. The Final Fantasy fandom as a whole is just to blame for this.
Renay: Yeah, we can technically blame—although is blame the right term?
Renay: Friendship is great, Susan! Friendship is good.
Susan: We can credit it.
Renay: We can credit it. Okay. I’ve only talked about Final Fantasy VIII in the context of this podcast when I recently talked about my inability to discuss Rinoa Heartilly with anybody.
Susan: Aw, Rinoa!
Renay: The characters in Final Fantasy VIII are kids.
Susan: The oldest one’s nineteen.
Renay: And they are members of this military school called Garden. In the very beginning of the game, one of your first missions after you become one of these SeeD, is to go and help a group of freedom fighters. And in this group you meet a teenager named Rinoa. Looking back to my childhood when I would just spend hours and hours and hours playing this game or rewatching the recorded animated movies from the cutscenes? I just realize how much of my love for Final Fantasy VIII comes from Rinoa herself?
Susan: She is great. I know she is one of like, the least appreciated characters because internalized misogyny is a thing. Regular misogyny is a thing. And, “oh, she’s not a SeeD therefore she’s useless.”
Right, Rinoa’s backstory. Without too many spoilers: she has run away from home to join this group of freedom fighters in Timber. She’s not military trained? Everyone else that you pick up as a party member is military trained at least. They are child soldiers, except Rinoa. What she does is she tries to keep up with the rest of this team, in terms of planning, in terms of the duties, and the fighting, and she’s not trained for this. She is a seventeen year old girl who’s been thrown in at the deep end, and she is going with it. She’s taken charge of a freedom fighting organization and she’s in charge of a group of trained killers! And people are just like, “Oh no, there’s interesting there…”
Renay: I gave up discussing Rinoa after a while because the misogyny was just so bad. And to be clear the misogyny often came from people who were shipping the main character of the game, Squall Leonheart, and Seifer Almasy together?
Susan: Which is not our ship, really, either.
Renay: I don’t mind it. I’m also not the kind of person who was ever into…
Susan: Throwing the female characters under the bus…?
Renay: Yeah, because you can still ship those characters without denigrating Rinoa. And I totally see why people ship those two characters together. There/a is a long long history of shipping white male characters who have an antagonistic relationship together. So to anybody wondering who some of these characters are and the fact that these are kids and they’re fighters, you can go watch the opening to Final Fantasy VIII without spoiling yourself for the whole game because it’s obviously the opening, and you can see a lot of these characters. And they are these weapon-wielding kids! And they’re kids! And that’s a thing that I think often gets lost when Final Fantasy VIII comes up, because these are children taught from a very, very young age to fight and kill people they were assigned to fight and kill.
Susan: The youngest age you could join Garden was nine and you get kicked out at twenty. That is a very young age. From the characters we see, a lot of them are orphans, have no other place to go. This is literally all they’ve got: school, that is teaching them to kill people.
Renay: And then they become adults and get booted out. Where do they go?
Susan: Armies, I believe is the canon thing. They go join the armies of various factions. You’ve got a lot of people who don’t know anything else roaming loose on the world.
Renay: If you just look at Final Fantasy VIII on that level, you’re like, “This is fucked up.” But this kinda has a really long tradition: military schools for kids. When I was a teenager I read Speaker for the Dead, which is a sequel to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. But I think it’s really useful to compare these two things.
And I know there is a tradition of military schools for kids, and kids as fighters, as revolutionaries, Final Fantasy VIII perfectly slots into that tradition. Final Fantasy VIII feels like it’s fitting into an already-existing genre of fiction about what it does to kids to be placed in these violent situations. What’s really funny is the game never really explores what that means at all.
Susan: No, it doesn’t go into it, it’s just, “Oh, well this is how it happened, and this is how it’s always to happen.” So obviously, there’s no other way it can go.
Renay: One of the many storylines in Final Fantasy VIII is that Squall, our main character, has a team of various characters. You have Zell, who is your brawler-slash-ninja character. Then Selphie, who uses—
Susan: Nunchucks and explosives.
Renay: Then Quistis, who has a whip. Irvine, who uses a shotgun. And then poor Rinoa.
Susan: Not a boomerang. She’s got something that straps onto her arms that just launches projectiles.
Renay: And it is the weakest weapon. Poor Rinoa. Trying to work so hard to keep up with these people.
Susan: And training her dog.
Rinoa: I can’t remember cause I get the Limit Break system confused with all other systems with all the other systems in the other games, but in Final Fantasy VIII, is it if you take a bunch of damage you get a Limit Break? Is that how it works?
Susan: Yeah, you get down to I wanna say ten percent health, maybe a bit less? You get your Limit Break and can do whatever it is. Or you cast Aura and cheat.
Renay: Some of us did not do that.
Susan: I didn’t know that’s what Aura did until I think Sev wrote a fic where it was like, “Oh, and then, you cast Aura and everyone goes Limit Breaks on stuff” and I’m just like, “Wait what, you can do that? That’s a canon thing?!”
Renay: Yeah, because there’s so many secrets in this game; I think on purpose. I’ll come back to that. So, in the game, if you get a Limit Break, one of Rinoa’s Limit Breaks is that she’ll get on her dog and projectile launch herself and her dog into enemies.
Susan: I never got that one! I got that where Angelo jumped onto her arm, and Angelo’s a collie, so this is not a small dog. Like, firing a collie off her arm.
Renay: As a projectile.
Susan: Like, that’s arm strength.
Renay: Okay, apparently we’re gonna make this the Rinoa Heartilly hour. Which is fine with me, because I love Rinoa.
Susan: I was assuming that’s why we were talking about it, because otherwise we’re just going to be there, “So, Zell. Second-most under-appreciated character in this game.”
Renay: Agreed. Part of the plot of this game is that the characters, to have power, they junction these spiritual creatures to themselves through their brains, somehow?
Susan: There’s technology involved, you can get the same effects with something called para-magic, but that’s less effective.
Renay: So you junction these spiritual creatures and you can summon them and they will attack your enemies. Part of the plot of the game is reading some research that this professor called Odine had done about the effects of GF on human memory. And so when you junction GF, you start to lose your memory, because they eat your memories.
Susan: Which is horrifying.
Renay: So our characters don’t remember their childhoods. Even though they’re still teenagers, they don’t remember their childhoods because the GFs have started to consume their memories because they use them so much.
Susan: GF stands for Guardian Force, because I don’t think we mentioned that earlier. They’re like protective spirits, kinda.
Renay: So you can use magics if you junction these Guardian Forces, but the price is that they’re going to consume your brain meat.
Susan: And it’s a cost-benefit thing. You can go through the game without using them. Except for like really specific points where you have to use them. But yeah, you can go through the game without, but you are infinitely weaker and you can’t do anything, except attack. Which is not helpful when you are trying to walk across the world and punch fish for their delicious magic.
Renay: That is an accurate statement, in fact. That is an accurate description of what happens in that moment. When you’re on that beach. You punch fish for their magic.
So going back to the point that I wanted to make. A lot of the game is about memory and secrets, and I really think that they were trying to mirror the things the characters were going through for the player. Sometimes you just have no fucking clue what’s going on, and I kinda think that was a little bit on purpose because of the way that the characters don’t have their childhood memories. So I think looking back on it they were trying to mirror that.
Susan: Which would make sense, and be really interesting thematically. I choose to believe.
Renay: Yes, because I have to. Because otherwise I’m just like, “Japan, what were you doing when you put this game together?” [laughter] “What was happening?”
Susan: Well you see, Renay, we wanted some plot holes that you could drive a bus through, and then we decided that those were too small so we made them a bit bigger.
Renay: Right, right. Out of Final Fantasy VIII characters, because we have established that we both love Rinoa and Zell a whole lot, what was your favorite part of this game? What brought you back to it, because obviously this game is hella old now, but we still love it and we still talk about it and some of us still write fanfiction about it.
Susan: Everything in my brain has been found and replaced with the dance scene? Where Squall meets Rinoa. There is a party to celebrate all of these kids passing their final exams, and becoming SeeD, officially, and not being SeeD cadets anymore. And Rinoa gets smuggled in as a guest and ends up teaching Squall to dance in the middle of this party. And it’s just a really nice little character moment cause he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Rinoa has her own goals that he is unknowingly playing a part in. It’s just a really nice thing. That and every moment where Zell gets to be like, “I know I look like I’m the idiot character, but hi, I’m actually the one paying attention in class. Did you know this fact about the world?”
Renay: I think it’s really funny that in fic Zell is stupid.
Susan: I get so mad.
Renay: And I’m like, “Did you guys play the same game that I did, because if you’re going somewhere, Zell’s like, “Did you know this interesting but niche fact about this place that we’re going to!” I’m like, “Okay, so Zell’s the stupid character. All right, whatever.”
Susan: I think even the Deep Sea Research facility, he knows something about that. And it’s literally an oil rig in the middle of fucking nowhere with a giant monster in the bottom and he knows something! Zell’s the one that read the mission briefing!
Renay: Listen, you know why that happened. It’s the same reason that people denigrate Rinoa.
Susan: Because Squall and Seifer’s true love. We understand if you ship it. They literally left their mark on each other. You can’t see the hand gesture I’m doing but Renay can.
Renay: That’s a great way to put it, because in the opening scene of the game, they are duelling and they both like use gunblades—I’m not going into the gunblade thing, look it up—and they both cut each other from different directions so that they have matching cuts across their faces. I’m like, “Okay, game, I get it.”
Susan: We understand.
Renay: So my moment that sold me was—because this was the first Final Fantasy game I ever played completely and utterly by myself—my moment was when I played the game for the first time and during the beginning of the game, that tutorial section, when you’re on your SeeD mission and you had to defeat this giant robot thing.
Susan: The one that rolls down the hill after you.
Renay: Yeah. Somehow during the first playthrough of this game I managed to kill this thing. It’s really hard to do, apparently, but I was so intent on being the best at this game that I did a bunch of levelling. I had all this magic. I was junctioned to the hilt. I think I already mid-magic spells at that point because I had gotten a skill from one of my GFs to upgrade my magic and I killed it! I’ve never been able to repeat that by the way, but my first playthrough on this game, I killed it. I’m like, “Holy crap, I can play video games, and I’m not bad at them!” and I was in. Because I was like “I can beat this game.” I was right, by the way, I could beat it.
Susan: And you did! And here we are!
Renay: It doesn’t really have so much to do with the game itself, but it’s really hard to kill that robot when you’re at that level; at that part of the game.
Susan: Yeah, you’re not supposed to be able to beat it. You’re supposed to get chased down to the beach.
Renay: But you can. You can beat it. I was in a culture that really made video games a boy’s thing. Ugh.
Renay: So, Final Fantasy VIII is about a time loop. Which just makes me really sad, because I would really like Ana to play this because I think she would like it because of the time loop. But Ana doesn’t play video games so, whatever.
Back when I first played this game, I didn’t really realize that’s what was happening; the time loop. Here’s my question, and I guess this is a spoilery question because we’re gonna talk about the villain and the identity of the villain.
The ultimate villain of Final Fantasy VIII is called Ultimecia. And Rinoa, who is our character who is not trained, who is stumbling along behind these trained mercenaries trying to keep up with them, eventually becomes the most powerful character in the game because she inherits the power of a sorceress. And the SeeDs ultimately travel into the future via Time Compression—another thing we’re not gonna go into here.
Susan: Aw, does this mean we’re not going to tell them about the monsters falling from the moon?
Renay: No, if they—they can look it up. There’s a whole video. So they go to the future to fight Ultimecia, and they defeat her, and they come back and everybody’s happy. And at the very end of the game Squall smiles and he and Rinoa make out on a balcony. Okay. Does Rinoa become Ultimecia? I know what the developers have said, but what do you think?
Susan: I didn’t think Rinoa became Ultimecia, but I think that she could? In Ultimecia’s future, it’s a barren wasteland, right. That’s not Rinoa’s style. Rinoa is specifically an eco-terrorist. Her group in Timber is specifically because the military are there doing something really shady to the environment. I can’t see Rinoa—who likes people, and specifically fought to save the world, save Timber, save the environment—choosing to live in a blasted wasteland where everyone else in the world is presumably dead or enslaved. I can’t imagine her choosing that. I know it’s super far in the future, but I don’t think she’d do it. She’s been to the future. She has seen it. I think she has probably more self-awareness than the rest of the cast, because Rinoa is the token functioning human being. She’d notice if she was heading down that route. You may disagree.
Renay: I think when I was younger and came across this theory, I was more into it because of the connections between Griever, which is a monster that Ultimecia controls, and Squall’s necklace which has a lion head and Griever is like a lion-based monster. When I was younger, I was way more into the theory that something happened in the future to turn Squall into a monster and then Rinoa lost her mind and became Ultimecia. But I think as I’ve grown up I have kinda let go of that because I feel like it’s a more nuanced reading of the game to treat them as separate characters.
Susan: Especially because Ultimecia does try and take over Rinoa at various points in the game and it doesn’t take. It’s more interesting if they’re separate people, not, “Oh I’m your older self.”
Renay: Another theory that I came across: a few years ago, but Final Fantasy VIII was pretty old at that point even then. Somebody suggested that Ellone was Ultimecia?
Susan: All right!
Renay: And I was like, “Well, that’s an interesting theory.” Listeners are like, “What the fuck, who is this, we have never heard this name before.” So in the game, Ellone is this special character who has the power to…
Susan: She links minds.
Renay: And she can send people back in time to experience the past. So it’s a really interesting power. There is so much in this game, it’s hard to discuss this game, in like one segment because there’s so much going on.
Susan: And do you have the problem of it’s been a part of your life and your brain for so long, and you’ve built so much of your own theories and stuff, that you have sit down and go, “Wait, is this canon or this a theory that I have had, or someone else has had?”
Renay: Yeah, going back to that, and using Rinoa since we discussed her so much. We talk about her as this character who struggles to keep up with these trained soldiers, and how she doesn’t have a lot of her own power until later when she is given the sorceress power. The thing that I have a lot of trouble remembering that’s not canon is the fact that when Rinoa is given these powers, the game sort of suggests that they were forced upon her, but Sev wrote a fic called Yes.
Susan: That’s exactly the fic I was thinking of.
Renay: It argues that Rinoa said yes, that she had a choice and she made her choice. She wanted to have power so she could keep up with her friends and so she said yes to it when the sorceress tried to give her these powers. I have trouble remembering that’s not what happened!
Susan: That’s so much part of my internal landscape for this game. Yeah, that’s canon. What do you mean Sev wrote that fic? Oh, oh yeah.
Renay: So yeah, I still love this game. Even talking about it now I’m like, “Wow, I’m gonna go replay this game right now.”
Susan: It’s just downstairs. I can go play it, but I still miss it.
Renay: This game was released in 1999. So all these years later how many space bees would you give it today?
Susan: I would give it four, because I really like the characters, and I really like the story, and then you get monsters from the moon and everything gets a bit weird.
Renay: Funnily enough, I would give it three, because I don’t think that the story itself holds up, unless you go to fandom and fill it in yourself.
Susan: But I have gone to fandom and I feel like it gets an extra space bee for you fuckers, that I like.
Renay: [laughter] You’re giving the game an extra space bee for bringing you friends?
Renay: That’s a good reason. I’m not giving it a four, because I’m still really mad about some of the plot holes that you can drive a bus through, but I would give it three space bees and a jar of honey.
Susan: I might drop mine down to three space bees and a jar of honey, because I just remembered that Triple Triad exists.
Renay: Oh my god! If I start ranting about Triple Triad we’ll be here for the next four hours, so we have to end it before we start talking about that stupid card game.
Renay: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce was published for the first time in 1983. And it tells the story of Alanna of Trebond, who wants to become a knight but she’s a girl, so her and her twin brother trick their guardians and lie to their father and switch places so she can go off and become a knight and he can go off and become a sorcerer. Alanna goes to the capital, becomes a page, and disguises herself as a young boy called Alan, and eventually discovers not only does she have the strength to become a knight, she also has the strength to become an excellent sorcerer as well. Because she’s super special.
Susan: The most special. You can tell. She has violet eyes and bright red hair. I think you messaged me at one point going, “She has violet eyes!”
Renay: I was like, “Susan, her eyes are purple!”
Susan: You see why I was a bit nervous, shall we say, coming into this segment.
Renay: A little bit. For the people wondering why her eye colour matters, that was a thing in fandom when I was younger—I guess when we were both younger—where if you gave your character specially coloured eyes, your story was going to be a little self-indulgent. I don’t really mind it at all. Younger me just had a moment of, “Wait! This is published fiction!”
Susan: I picked this so I should give context for why I threw at you.
Renay: Besides the fact that you bought it for me like two years ago.
Susan: Yes. I bought Nay a starter pack of Tamora Pierce. In The Hands of the Goddess, the sequel to this book, was the first proper fantasy novel with a female lead I ever read. I was eight or nine, and this was my intro to fantasy. I read these books and it’s like, “This is my nostalgia, this one of the things that has got me here.”
I completely understand if you look at it and go, “Oh god no,” but I have a lot of fondness for it. If you are the sort of person who believes in a fantasy canon, I go, “Here is Tamora Pierce, Tamora Pierce is where I came into this, let’s throw this at other people so they know where I’m coming from when we start talking about women in fantasy.”
Renay: Well, it worked out. I missed Tamora Pierce completely as a kid. This is apparently where a lot of women I know started with fantasy, with Tamora Pierce, so you’re not alone there. I just missed out, thanks a lot, culture. Thanks a lot, society. So here’s the surprising part: I thought I was gonna go into this book and be super bored and like, “Oh god, this, I can’t handle it.” But, surprisingly, I thought this book was super charming.
Susan: I was so prepared for you to hate it! I was reading it like, “Oh god, Nay’s gonna have this. She’s just gonna drag it from here to the other side of the world,” so this is a relief!
Renay: Obviously it’s a very dated, but ultimately I don’t think it’s a super bad book to hand to kids. It’s obviously a children’s book, it’s obviously very dated, but I don’t think as a fantasy novel it’s any worse than any other novel that you would pick up from 1983. And I think it holds up! Because there are really familiar tropes that are still popular today. The trope of a girl disguising herself as a boy to achieve her goals is still really well liked. I thought here it worked out really well and another thing that I did not expect this book to do was handle periods. I thought this book was going to skip over that and maybe do it offscreen or deal with it between books or do it in a sequel. I did not expect that to happen in this book and it went there and it was very explicit about it. I mean, as explicit as it could be, I guess for 1983, but I was, “Wow, okay, I’m onboard.”
Susan: Yeah, this was also the first book I read that actually mention periods as a thing, and it’s like, “Holy shit, this is a thing that you can actually mention in fiction! That doesn’t happen!”
Renay: Right?! Also thought it was lovely that the book gave her another woman to talk to via George’s mother and gave her another relationship with a woman to fall back on when she needed it. I don’t know why it surprised that the book did that, but it did. I was super surprised, I was like, “Wow, this is really nice.” I was just super super charmed by this whole book; all her friendships with the boys.
Susan: I quite like that everyone was not necessarily protective over her, but wanted to stand up for her and appreciated that she could and preferred to stand up for herself.
Renay: They let her have her own agency, and that’s really refreshing. And as I read this book, I can hear the internalized misogyny churning away in the back of my head, because you know how that works when you’re a woman, where you’re like, “Oh, so she’s super great at learning to fight by herself, oh she’s super great learning to fence by herself, oh she’s super great at magic now too, right,” and you’re like “Oh she can’t be so good at all these things.” Well, she works at it, the book shows her working at it, so of course she can be good at all these things. It’s really interesting to read the book in that context and have to shut my own brain up as I tried to devalue the book. I read books all the time where men and boys are super special and talented, and half the time you don’t even see them doing the work. But here in this book you see Alanna studying in her free time, doing extra work in her free time, asking for help.
Susan: Specifically going to people who know more about the areas she’s weakest in.
Renay: I actually think I like this book a lot. More than I thought I did at the beginning. Like I think I gave it three stars because the writing irked me sometimes, which I think is natural for older books. But the story and the way the world is built out and the characterization, I’m just so—I like, I really liked this, it was great.
Susan: I’m really glad you liked it.
Renay: Were you were very worried? Were you like, “I’m gonna have to sit here and listen to Renay drag my favorite book!” [laughter]
Susan: It’s not my favorite book. It was formative, so it was like ,”Okay, I’m braced for her to hate it. I’m really hoping she doesn’t hate it.”
Renay: Okay, for one second I wanna talk about some spoilery stuff so if you have not read Alanna: The First Adventure, you know, like I hadn’t, but you might be ahead of me in fantasy canon. Feel free to skip to the next segment and don’t get spoiled. So this is our spoiler tag. The reason I gave it three stars is because of the ending, that came out fucking nowhere and was super racist.
Susan: Yeah, the Alanna quartet has a real white savior theme. Book three is the worst for it. You’ll notice I didn’t send you book three.
Renay: Ah, yeah, I did notice that.
Susan: It’s very white savior.
Renay: They were like, “Oh, we’re going on a trip to this place.” She went though, she went immediately to anti-Muslim sentiment and went, “Oh yeah, there was this monster that kills in one of their cities and they can’t take care of it. Oh look, Alanna and Jonathan, now, are gonna go and just easily, you know, discard like eight bad guys.
Susan: They’re the prophecized heroes!
Renay: Okay book, whoa. Whoa.
Renay: On the plus side, the kids have this whole conversation with one of the leaders of the place that they’re at, but have this discussion and he teaches stuff and they listen and they trust him and I thought was nice. But then it was kinda undermined by the fact that, “Wow, this is really racist.”
Susan: Do you want me to tell you what happens in book three?
Renay: No, it’s fine. I’m gonna read it, but wow. The book went from like, really great dynamics across all the characters to just totally falling on its face when it came to race. And I understand, I’m coming from this from a 2017 perspective, and this book was written in 1983. And as we’re learning the past was very racist. But I still really liked the whole book.
I’m also really curious if Pierce is going to start attacking the binary ideas that’s she putting forward. Alanna keeps going, “Well I wanna be a warrior maiden. I don’t wanna fall in love. I don’t wanna have sex with men,” and I’m kinda curious if Tamora Pierce is going to undo that, because right now she’s positioning Alanna in a place where she is forced to choose between these things when there’s not a binary choice here. You can still have all those things and be a warrior.
Susan: Book two is what you’re after, friend.
Renay: Well, good thing you sent that to me, huh?
Susan: Yep! I do wanna say one thing, on the topic of interrogating this warrior maiden thing. The thing I took away from this reread, because I’ve not reread this quartet in many years. Not since I read Protector of the Small, which is I think the last of her quartets, before she started going into, “Oh people will buy single volume books from me, okay, that’s nice.” She actually interrogates a lot of the stuff she sets up in Alanna, because Protector of the Small is about a girl call Kel, who was inspired by Alanna becoming a female knight, and goes off to become a knight herself. Not disguised as a boy. And it’s really interesting to look back at Alanna and compare it to what she does with Kel, because Kel isn’t a chosen one. She’s not particularly magic. The two things are definitely in dialogue which each other, because it’s women inspiring other women and Kel has much more of a female support network around her. So it’s all the stuff that I liked about Alanna and the stuff it sounds like you like about Alanna gets explored a bit more in the Protector of the Small quartet. It’s still a bit funny about race.
Renay: That’s a very small part of otherwise really great book; has great relationships. I don’t think that if you spend your time reading like extremely intense fantasy novels written by adults that you’re gonna come to Alanna and be like,”Wow, this is great.” No, mm-mm, that’s not gonna happen. This was a kids book! But if interested in like seeing where a lot of young girls got into fantasy, I think this is a really great place to look.
Susan: Yeah. I agree with you.
Renay: Okay Susan, it’s the moment of truth, when you tell me how many space bees you’re gonna give this book.
Susan: I’m gonna give it three.
Renay: I’m also giving it three.
Susan: Three space bees all round!
Renay: It could have been a garbage dumpster fire, but it went okay.
Susan: It did. Phew.
Renay: For our last discussion segment I thought that we could talk about the sequels that we love. And Susan, you’re our guest so I’m gonna make you go first so please tell us all the sequels of things that you love the most in the whole world.
Susan: This was almost really ropey because I went, “Oh, yeah, obviously Hatoful Boyfriend sequel,” and then went, “Hang on, Susan, you’ve not actually played that yet.” Because it turns out that all of these sequels where I’m like, “Oh yeah, this was super great!” I never actually finished.
Renay: Oh no!
Susan: It’s okay. I thought of some things. My first pick is Crooked Kingdoms by Leigh Bardugo, which is a sequel to Six of Crows set five minutes after the team come back from their impossible heist. And it’s the team trying to pull off another job with, if possible, fewer resources than when they were on the other side of the world doing their impossible heist. It’s my favorite because of the character stuff that’s going on. Canon queer romance, you know you want it!
Renay: I know I want it. Yes I do, but also time.
Susan: We’re just gonna have to build time turners, Nay, I’m sorry. Okay, pick two. Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat. Or Captive Prince Two depending on which title your ebook had. The best description I saw of the original Captive Prince book was, “It’s two thirds a kink meme fill and then suddenly politics happen.” It’s not wrong, but like book two is entirely politics and scheming and the characters trying to form an alliance, and other alliances and I really like that level of scheming. Plus, I think it actually does the relationships better, cause book one is…book one is sure A Thing. I don’t know if you’ve read the Captive Prince trilogy.
Renay: I have not but I have heard about it.
Susan: It’s sure a thing.
Renay: It definitely is a thing that happens.
Susan: Definitely is a thing that expected me to buy that there was going to be a romance there, yeah. But book two went a long way to fixing my misgivings about the relationship.
Renay: That’s fair.
Susan: And third pick is going to be slightly off-theme: Uncharted 2. I really like the Uncharted trilogy. The first one is awful. It took me forever to play. The critiques of it being kinda racist: deserved! But I think Uncharted 2 does a lot better. The reason I actually stuck with the franchise to Uncharted 2 was the relationships between Nate and Sully and Elena, who are the three main characters. The things it does with them and the new cast members is really good. Plus, it completely the flips the ratio of gun battles to platforming and puzzles, to my favor, because I am absolutely shite at gun battles. But give me a platformer and I will fail at that for days. Quite happily. Pick four. Bitch Planet Volume 2 by Kelly-Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, and Valentine De Landro? I think Bitch Planet is a thing we like on this podcast.
Renay: Yes. It is.
Susan: We get to meet the sister! That all of this has been in service of! But things happen! And I am really sad about at least some of the things that happen and then other parts of it make up for it with political shenanigans. I really, really, really want to say the spoilers, but I’m being good.
Renay: Don’t say the spoilers! Just tell everybody to go read it!
Susan: Please read this book, and then maybe I can convince Nay and Ana to come and talk about it. Yell at them on Twitter. It’ll be totally effective. And my last pick is Ancillary Sword, because I read that yesterday. I’m behind the curve. I think everyone else in the universe has read this book but me. I blitzed the last two books of the Ancillary trilogy in like two days? Maybe three? Because it’s really good! The focus of the stories is pulling in a lot more from Ancillary Justice, but the repercussions are getting bigger and Breq is the force for justice we deserve. Honorable mention I think goes to Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 because they are my favorite of their respective franchises, but I’ve not finished my playthroughs so saying it would be cheating.
Susan: But it’s okay because I got you to finish it before I did, so you know. What are your picks, Renay? Before you, you know, get vengeance on me.
Renay: Okay, my first pick is The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s a sequel to The Raven Boys. Although I love the whole trilogy, I’m pretty sure The Dream Thieves remains my favorite of all four of the Raven Cycle books, because it focuses on Ronan and Ronan and I have some similarities. I identify with him quite a lot. The series is set in Virginia, it’s very much about magic and magical realism and mythology. What I love about this series is that you think it’s about one thing but it turns out that it’s about another completely, and I think the whole series is great. Dream Thieves is really important to understanding how the whole series functions and so I highly recommend it. I know it’s four books, but they’re all out so you can read them any time!
My second pick is the sequel to Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2. Final Fantasy X-2 features one of the main characters from Final Fantasy X, two years after the first game, and tells the story of how she moves on with her life, finds new friends, and goes on an adventure to resolve some issues in her past that she has not yet fully dealt with. It is a game full of great female friendships. It’s wonderful.
Susan: Those friendships. Those relationships.
Renay: They’re so good.
Susan: We should not get started on X-2 because we could do an entire segment on X-2 and people going, “Oh, but it’s just about dresses and singing,” and then us just ripping that to shreds.
Renay: Yeah, no, do not come to me with Final Fantasy X-2 is only about dresses and fanservice and whatever else, because we will have a fight. We get into a fight. Final Fantasy X-2 has so much more going on. It’s super political.
Susan: Yep, so many factions, so much balancing.
Renay: Okay, we have to stop, here we go.
Susan: We do, because otherwise we’re just gonna go.
Renay: Yeah, we’re gonna have another segment here about X-2. Well you’ll just have to come back in the future and talk about X-2 with me.
Renay: My third pick is Star Trek: First Contact. I’m counting this as a sequel because of the Star Trek movies I saw, I saw Generations.
Susan: I don’t collect these Pokémon.
Renay: The one where there’s some kind of solar flare and some dude was using it to time travel, I don’t—whatever. I don’t know. I saw that one first, but then I saw this one and this was my favorite one. This is the one where some of the crew gets like tossed back in time or something and they have to like help some guy make a spaceship so he can rendezvous with the Vulcans, and then there is a side-story where Picard is dealing with the Borg and he gets to like kick some Borg ass. And Data gets to deal with feelings. I love First Contact, it’s so good. So my next pick is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Susan: I am shocked.
Renay: I know. Everybody is super shocked. It is a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. I’ve talked about it here enough that everybody knows how much I love it. I was in that fandom and I’m still in that fandom, and it’s super great. It’s a wonderful political thriller. it has super great friendships, I’m still really bitter that Civil War did not have more like, Steve, Natasha and Sam shenanigans.
Susan: We would’ve just watched the film that was those shenanigans, right?
Renay: Yeah, I would totally have watched a buddy cop film with those three just going on adventures and solving crimes.
Susan: The more Marvel movies come out, the more I’m just like, “Yeah, Winter Soldier’s still my favorite.” I think it’s still the best one.
Renay: So far, yeah, I agree. Next is Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey, this is the second book in the Expanse series, it comes after Leviathan Wakes. There is also a TV show called The Expanse and the last season that aired dealt with some issues from book two, they’re not done yet, season three will also probably contain some issues from book twp. Book two is my favourite because it contains two of my favourite characters from that series, Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie Draper. They’re super great characters and I love them so much. They’re so good!
Susan: And you always recommend that people start with Caliban’s War, right?
Renay: I always recommend that, but people are like, “No, that’s a terrible idea,” I’m like, “Well I don’t see why it’s a bad idea.”
Susan: Well we know that I disagree because I quite like Leviathan Wakes.
Renay: In you don’t mind noir in space, you will like Leviathan Wakes, but if you are tired of objectified women, sexist misogynist narrators, you’re not gonna like Leviathan Wakes. So I always say that if you like noir, fine, if you don’t, skip it, read a summary on wikipedia and go to Caliban’s War and read Leviathan Wakes later as like a prequel.
Susan: Which makes sense.
Renay: My next pick is The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. this is the second in her first trilogy that came, it’s after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and it’s about a blind woman who is caught UP in the politics of the world after meeting a strange man that she calls Shiny. I really really loved this book, and I loved Ori. I love all N. K. Jemisin’s books. it’s really hard to choose a favourite one so obviously I can’t be like, “This is my favorite N. K. Jemisin book ever!” no, because I love all of them, so much.
But this one especially for a follow-up to the first book was really really great, it gave you new characters but it also followed up on things from the previous book. I love it. It’s great. If you haven’t read this trilogy and you’re preparing to, or finished with The Stone Sky, feel free to just go back to the beginning. It’s great.
And my honourable mention, because I haven’t read it in a while but I remember loving it when I did, is In The City of Coin And Spice by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s the sequel to the book called In The Night Garden, it’s part of The Orphan’s Tales duology. These books are so rich and complicated. They are a series of nested fairy tales. The language is beautiful, the voice of the book is lush and wise and tempting, is a good word, the book feels very tempting as it asks you to go deeper and deeper and deeper into the stories. If you like fairy tale, highly recommend this series. And those are my choices. We both like a lot of great things. We have great taste.
Susan: Exceptional taste. Even when we disagree with each other.
Renay: It’s time for recommendations! Susan, you’re the guest, so you go first.
Susan: My recommendation is We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant. It’s about a gang of queer women in Central Manchester, who are selling drugs, committing crime, attempting to get vengeance for the death of one of their founding members. It’s really good. The voice it’s written in is so good, and so accurate to how I talk when I’m at home, to how people I know talk from where I’m from, because I’m from Central Manchester. You can’t tell from this accent, but when I read We Go Around In The Night my accent jumps a hundred miles north, straight back to Manchester. People who haven’t been to Manchester, aren’t from there, might not get as much of the sense of place as I do, but it’s got such a great sense of place and it felt really true to the people I know. Plus, it’s just a really good revenge story and it’s got a really solid network and community of queer women supporting each other, working together, cracking skulls together, which is something I look in my fiction. What about you? What was your pick?
Renay: Mine is Monstress Volume Two: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takada. I just finished this recently and it is fantastic. I loved the first volume of Monstress and I thought the art was gorgeous, but they just keep levelling up. Volume Two is Maika and her companions Ren and Kippa getting on a boat and going to solve a mystery on an island that her mother visited before Maika was born. This is also a book about Maika dealing with the monster inside her from volume one and how they start to become less opposed to each other. And in this one, Kippa, the little fox girl, still comforts herself by hugging her fox tail.
Susan: She’s so adorable and so stressful because every new issue that comes out—because I’m reading it in floppy—I’m just there like “Please let this not be an issue where something terrible happens to Kippa, I can’t deal.”
Renay: I also like the parallels in this one between Miaka’s mom and her, and then Maika and Kippa. And this continues to do really fascinating things with the world building. It’s very much like an epic fantasy comic. There is a lot going on. There’s a lot of history. There’s a lot of mythology. If you like really dense comics this is gonna be perfect for you. If you’re into epic fantasy and complicated, dense narratives, but you haven’t really got into comics yet because you feel like they’re too light, I feel like Monstress is a great place to start and Monstress Volume Two is just as good as the first one, so highly recommend this series. Monstress Volume Two just came out. Hit up your comic book shop ASAP.
And so that’s recommendation out of the way, so next time, Ana will be back. We’ll talk about the Clarke Award, which was awarded back in August, we’ll discuss The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by McKenzi Lee because, yes, Ana convinced me to read it. And we’ll air Ana’s interview with the fabulous Ann Leckie. And I’m pretty jealous that Ana got to talk to the Ann Leckie. PS, Ann Leckie please come talk to us on our show. Both of us at the same time.
Renay: Susan, thank you so much for filling in for Ana.
Susan: No problem. Thank for having me! It’s gonna really weird to transcribe though, I’m not gonna lie.
Renay: Find us on Twitter and everywhere else at fangirlhappyhour, lowercase with no spaces. Our music is by Chuki Beats and Boxcat Games. Our art is by Ira. Our production is by me. And my cat. Who repeatedly walks across my laptop and deletes tracks while I’m editing because she likes to pain me.
Susan: Fangirl Happy Hour’s transcripts are by me! I am the transcription fairy. You can find all of the available transcripts at fangirlhappyhour.com and you can often find me livetweeting my transcription adventures at @Spindilly on twitter.
Renay: Okay, water: drink it. It’s important.
Susan: And Ana and Renay will see you next episode. Bye space bees!
Renay: This happens to me and Ana all the time. We’ll be ready to record and then technical difficulties will just come out of nowhere.
Susan: But Naaaaay.
Renay: But Susaaan.
Renay: We’re ending it! It’s over!
Susan: Yep, super graceful, don’t mind me.
Susan: I’m not gonna chase you for it.
Renay: You need to, no, that’s my point. You need to be like “Renay, where’s my fucking money!”
Susan: Because I was just listening to you saying fanny pack and it’s like “Oh my god please stop saying that word.”
Renay: No I think it’s super funny and I’m gonna say it a lot on the next episode when we talk about it. [laughter]