Episode Number: 99
Episode Title: Anything Can Happen (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends, I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Ana: We are back. I know it hasn’t been that long, but it feels like it was a million years ago, but this is I think a side effect of being alive in 2017.
Renay: I agree. Well, today we’re going to talk a little bit about the feedback we got and a bit we have, then we’ll do media consumed, then we’ll talk about Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian, and finally: we read, and we’re going to discuss, Ms Marvel Volume 7: Damage Per Second, and then of course we’ll do recommendations. And hopefully by the time we finish, we won’t be in the middle of a global thermonuclear war.
Ana: Well, who knows. Anything literally can happen.
Renay: So time for some feedback and updates. Over the last few weeks we’ve got a lot of emails, and I’ve been not as responsible as I normally am with following up on them, but I thought some of them would be nice to share with people.
We got an email from Kshitij, and he was just replying to our episode about The Handmaid’s Tale. In his email he wrote about his country; he said:
“The talk about keeping money and gold stored away reminded me of something my country’s government did just recently. I live in India and on 8th November 2016, our Prime Minister announced at around 8pm that cash denominations of 500 and 1000 would no longer be legal tender. An already bad day, for reasons you’ll already know, got a lot worse for us. And my sister’s wedding was in two weeks. With one public broadcast, all that carpet money would be essentially junk. Old currency could be deposited into banks in exchanged for new currency, but there was a huge cash shortage, so there were daily limits on withdrawals and exchanges. There was a push towards depositing your money to your account and transacting digitally which I have mixed feelings about. As for gold, in India any sales or purchases you need to provide a government ID, so they know how much gold you have. In fact, any purchases in cash above a certain amount need a recorded ID. Recently we’ve found some old notes in nooks and crannies, under mattresses and old purses, but they were just paper now. Just goes to show that if the government wants to really screw you over there are few things you can do.”
If people can remember, Ana at the end of that episode advised people to invest in gold.
Ana: i.e. we are all fucked.
Renay: Food for thought! In the wake of reading the Handmaid’s Tale and how easily governments can screw you over, and for a lot of people in the United States and also in the world, governments are not your friend.
Ana: Well right, the now the situation in the Philippines for example is atrocious. It’s definitely not a friend. And I’m sure there is a case elsewhere in the world, too.
Renay: If you wanna be terrified, read The Handmaid’s Tale, because it’s still terrifying.
Then we got another email from Paul, and part of his email said:
“I understand that you don’t have a lot of shops”
—and he’s referring to comic shops, because he’s talking about my experience with a terrible local comic shop—
“in your area, which is unfortunate, but have you considered getting your comics shipped from a shop that’s a little farther away? The shipping isn’t usually too bad, especially if you don’t place an order every week, but can hold off and do it biweekly or monthly. I don’t know if you’ve investigated the prices on Midtown, but it’s pretty reasonable.”
I have considered using Midtown, but after my comic guy was a such a dick to me, I ended up slashing my pull list. Then, of course, the dude in question, he stopped working on Wednesdays when I went to pick up my comics, cause he’s going to retire, so now there’s another dude and he’s very nice, so the comic shop is no longer a horrible place to go.
Ana: Oh, that’s good.
Renay: But I really like the idea of Midtown. I went and looked it up. I think I might use it in the future, it seems really neat, and the prices are pretty doable. When I went to Portland there were so many comic shops. I visited like two, out of a zillion. When I move there, I’m gonna need time to decide what comics shop I’m gonna use, so I’ll probably use the service when I’m transitioning from my local comics shop to a new one. So dear space bees: if you are a foolish person like me, and into issues—which I still don’t recommend, I just can’t give Kamala and Doreen up yet. I can’t do it. Anyway if your shop owner is a jerk butt, here is a potential solution from Paul. Thanks Paul!
Ana: I don’t have any local comics store. I have a local Forbidden Planet, I guess? But I haven’t been buying comics at all lately. One I can’t afford it and second who has the time?
Renay: Yeah, I only pull Ms Marvel and Squirrel Girl now. And also I get Monstress, but Image is so laid back with how they release their comics, it doesn’t feel like I’m spending tons of money, so pulling three comics I think is probably my limit. I don’t think I’m ever gonna go back to pulling more than three floppy comics. The other comics that I wanna read, if they don’t survive they don’t survive. I’m just gonna have to buy them in trade. I’ve decided.
And then JD sent in a link to a New York Times article: Rebecca Tullock founded the World War II Girl’s Baseball Living History League, and reformed the Peaches. We talked about League of Our Own earlier this year. This article talks about how and why this woman decided to reform the Peaches and it’s so so lovely. If you’re a fan of A League of Their Own, you will really really dig this story and I highly recommend it, and I want to thank JD for thinking of us and sharing it with us.
Ana: Yes, thank you!
Renay: And now it’s time for some updates. Ana, do you have any updates for us?
Ana: I do have an update. September has come and gone, and so has my first ever Kickstarter! We, The Book Smugglers, had our first kickstarter campaign in September to help us level up and do more stuff. And you probably remember how terrified I was that would not meet our goal to raise $16,500. But it went even beyond my wildest expectations, and we raised $24,100, and met all of our stretch goals.
Ana: Yay! We were so happy! I was laughing and crying because the last ninety seconds were wild. If anybody was following that closely, we were, with ninety seconds to end, we were at $23,000, and within the ninety seconds, I just refreshed and was like “No, that’s okay, $23,000 is more than okay. We are perfectly fine even if we can’t do our third stretch goal it’s fine, no problem.” And lo and behold! $24,000! [screams] Renay you were amazing throughout, I know you were as stressed as I was.
Renay: Only a little bit. I developed the refresh finger, I guess you’d call it?
Ana: Kickstarter hand! You can’t control it, right? “I’m not gonna check for the next half an hour! I’m just gonna do other things!” And then your hand is already there refreshing the freaking button to the point where it ended and I still had the urge to go to the Kickstarter app to check it. For about at least a week afterward.
Renay: No Ana, it’s over now. You can relax.
Ana: Yeah—well, I can’t relax because there is so much work to be done now to fill out the rewards and to do the work…
Renay: I get to make some scarves!
Ana: You do! One for me. Can I say that I backed my own campaign? Well, of course I backed my own campaign and I got a reward—the reward that Renay offered because I always, always wanted a Harry Potter scarf and I’m finally gonna have a Slytherin scarf.
Renay: I’m really excited about getting to make this scarf. I’ve never made a Harry Potter scarf before. I’ve made scarves like it, but never actual Harry Potter scarve so I’m excited. I’ve never done fringe, so I guess I’m gonna learn how to make fringe. so that’s gonna be neat.
Ana: What else do we have as an update?
Renay: If you follow us on twitter you may have seen me freaking out about recommendations because I did a survey with our newsletter subscribers about what they wanted the newsletter to have. A lot—a lot—a lot of people came back in that survey and they were like, “More recs!” I don’t know if I – I don’t – Friends. I don’t understand how you are reading as much as you demand recs for. Where are you finding the time. What’s happening.
Ana: Listen, the fun thing about recs is to add things to your TBR. Making lists is as much fun as consuming the lists.
Renay: Everybody’s getting their wish, because I have brought more recs by you guys, the space bees, to our newsletter. We have a form, we’re gonna do themed rec lists. we’ve already done one themed reclist. We did one for talk like a pirate day, and we got a lot of great pirate recs, it was super fun. So now our newsletter will contain lots and lots of recs and they will be exclusive to the newsletter. So if you want to get the recs that we have when every new episode drops, you should sign up for our newsletter. It is excellent.
Ana: It’s so cool, I love it, every time it lands in my inbox I’m like, “Yay! Newsletter!” and it’s like, it’s from us.
Renay: Yeah and I’m going to make Ana write more for it. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she’s going to write more things for it.
Ana: I need a time turner.
Renay: Don’t worry. I won’t make you write a whole a whole lot.
Ana: I wrote a little bit for the last one!
Renay: You did! See, that wasn’t so hard!
Ana: No, it wasn’t.
Renay: So if you want some extra special Ana thoughts sometimes, definitely sign up for our newsletter. That’s where you’re gonna get them. Exclusive Ana thoughts.
And then finally, the last update we have is Question Tuesday changes. We like Question Tuesday, don’t we?
Ana: We do.
Renay: But it’s kind of hard to get questions for it. We’ve run out of questions several times. So what we’re going to do with it to keep doing it, is to do it once a month, and that way questions can build up over the month, and then we can answer them all at once and release an episode. It will be the same as it is now except only once a month which is not a huge change from like twice a month that happens now.
Renay: Do you have anything else, Ana?
Ana: Fuck 45.
Renay: It is time for Media Consumed. What have we been watching and reading and listening to? What’s your list?
Ana: I watched the entire first season of The Good Place, and I love it so much. It’s funny, it’s smart, and it’s nice in the way that Parks and Recreation was nice, because it has a great team of characters and I love them all. I love Tahani the most. She’s my favorite character, along with Chidi. Chidi is hilarious with the options that he has to make, it’s like sometimes it’s me, but I love everybody. It has such a great cast. Their timing and chemistry with each other is super great. And I’ve already watched the first four episodes of season two and they are great, too. I love how it ends: season one.
I also read and loved, like anybody would be surprised by this fact, Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner. I finally read it! It was actually a promise I made to Jenny from Reading The End because I said to her, “If we get funded on this kickstarter, I will read Thick As Thieves immediately after as a present to myself for all the stress.” And I did it and it was great and it was super gay, like everybody had told me it was going to be? Nobody will convince me otherwise. Yeah it was super great.
The other one I read was A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, so basically in September I read books by all my faves. It was also brilliant in the way that only Frances Hardinge books can be brilliant. Renay would know this if she read one of her books, but she hasn’t yet.
Renay: Do you really have to read me like that in front of everybody?
Ana: The other thing that I’ve read was Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. It’s one of the National Book Award finalists and it’s a collection of short stories—there are novellas, too. And they are so good, so disturbing, thought provoking, and very feminist and queer.
I read a terrible book, I can un-recommend it?
Renay: What book did you read?
Ana: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.
Renay: I don’t even know what that is.
Ana: Okay, I’m going to tell you what it is. It’s a cozy mystery. It’s by someone who is related to the creator of Downton Abbey and she wrote books kind of like tie-in novels for Downton Abbey, too? The amount of marketing in this book in the UK is immense. It’s being touted as the best Christmas mystery, blah blah blah. And everything about it is wrong. From the title The Mitford Murders—there’s nothing. There’s like one murder, not murders. They are not related to the Mitford family at all.
Basically the idea is to get an unsolved crime from the past and write about it, and I thought, “Oh, this is really cool!” But! It’s unsolved crime. She’s solved it. She came up with a solution for the crime, and it’s gonna be like six books, each one of them with one of the Mitford sisters. They were real women from the twenties in the UK, who were known for their extravagant lifestyles, so she’s connected this family with these unsolved murders. And it’s so badly written, there’s so much head hopping within sentences, Renay. I have never seen anything like this. Terrible.
But! The thing that really pissed me off the most: this is an unsolved crime of a nurse, who was actually the goddaughter of Florence Nightingale. She died—she was murdered, found dead on the train—and nobody solved the mystery. In real life what happened after this was that her best friend, another nurse, a woman, got her money and helped charities and was a really cool person who developed her name and her memory. In this book, she made them a couple which is cool. It’s possible that they were a couple in real life, even, we just don’t know. But she made the lover a crazy person who in a fit of anger killed her and therefore is arrested for the murder. So she made it like a queer tragedy that never existed and I—I —I can’t! I can’t!
Renay: That’s awful.
Ana: Why would you do something like this. Rant over. Unrecommendation.
Renay: So I should not read that one is what you’re saying.
Ana: Nobody should. There is head hopping. Within sentences. I have never seen anything so shoddy in my life!
Renay: Ana got to go first. So she stole my rec for The Good Place. I watched The Good Place before Ana did, and then Ana was on Twitter going, “What should I watch, should I watch this?” and everybody was like “YES!”
Ana: How did you all know about this for the past year? And nobody told me.
Renay: I didn’t. I learned about it last week and just watched the whole thing in three days. Which is not hard to do. The episodes are short—they’re like 25 minute—and there’s thirteen of them. I don’t wanna say too much, because it’s so – it’s just great to experience, but I will say that it’s a story about how Eleanor Shellstrop dies and goes to The Good Place. All the characters are super charming and well-drawn, and even though it’s a comedy it’s not that kind of comedy? For those of you who are like me who get hellacious second-hand embarrassment? The flashbacks can be a danger zone, but they’re very obvious when they’re about to start and I got through them mostly by muting and just using captioning. Do not look up spoilers for this show unless you are definitely five hundred percent okay with spoilers. If I had been spoiled for this show I would not have watched it. And I’m really glad that I watched it when I did, because two days after finishing this show I read a spoiler on Twitter.
Then I read The Dispatcher by John Scalzi. This is a very neat urban fantasy story, which is Scalzi’s first foray into the genre. It’s pretty short, it’s a novella, but it has two really, really great main characters. And it has a lady detective who is super rad. He read the first part of this at an event that I went to and the very cool detective did not feature in the part that he read, so it was a really nice surprise to get this book and read it and discover that this is kind of like a, “cop teams up with citizen to solve a crime in dubiously legal ways” kind of story. It’s really tons of fun and I highly recommend it.
And then I finally sat down and watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I really don’t know how to describe this movie. It’s a spy movie. It was great and I want all the spies to bang. If you like spy movies with lots of action you’ll like this movie. And I’m still really bitter that there’s no sequel to this film? Meanwhile the garbage Kingsman thing is now like a franchise or something and it’s got a sequel and it’s gross.
Ana: I haven’t seen this movie. I was not expecting it to be good.
Renay: I really liked it. I thought it was very, very well done. I liked all the actors. It was very weird to see Armie Hammer doing this Russian accent. That might have been the only that I would be like, “Hm,” but yeah I liked it, it was good.
Next I read The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire, this is like the eleventh book in the October Daye series. I liked this one more than I did last years, which was a locked room mystery, and so it didn’t really do much for me. Even though I’m always excited to see the characters cause I love all her characters, something happens to a character in this book and five books ago I would’ve been like, “Good! That’s a good decision!” But of course because Seanan McGuire is so good at characterization and making you feel things, this book changes everything about that and it makes it really hard. So I really enjoyed this one. If you are not yet reading the October Daye series and you like urban fantasy you’ve gotta get on this ship. It’s so great.
And then I finally, finally finished White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. Jenny recced this to me ages ago, and it is about a xenophobic house and witches and legacy. I was left a little confused? Because I can’t decide how unreliable the house is as a narrator, and how much to trust it? But ultimately if you like gothic novels and psychological horror, this would pretty much be right up your alley. Jenny: congratulations, A+ recommendation. You love unreliable narrators.
Renay: So I definitely think you should read this book.
Ana: And it’s a house. That sounds amazing.
Renay: It’s really, really good. It’s also a family drama as well and so you get these characters, but you also feel like you don’t really know them? It’s very interesting that how she characterizes them and makes you constantly question their motivations.
And then my last one is Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. Robot pals!
Ana: there’s so many robot pals in this book.
Ana: Should I read it?
Renay: Yes you should read it. You should read it, definitely. It’s excellent. It’s about a patent pirate who pirates some medication from a corporation that is meant to improve efficiency. When she pirates it everything goes wrong and it starts killing people. And so she’s on the run from people trying to stop her and capture her; she’s trying to fix the mistakes she’s made, there are so many excellent pieces of worldbuilding, this future is fascinating. There are so many robot pals, Ana! There are so many robot pals.
Ana: I really wanna read this. I have it.
Renay: You should read it immediately because it’s great. I highly recommend it. I think that it is super cool and thoughtful, and really digs into control of drugs, control of patents, who deserves to be well, who doesn’t deserve to be well, and as the title would suggest, autonomy, because in this book robots after serving a certain amount of time as indentured servants to somebody they can get their autonomy key and become like people, just autonomous by themselves. It’s super fascinating how that happens, and what kind of economies this brings to the world. And I just can’t wait to see what else Annalee Newitz is gonna write, this was superb. And that’s what I read and watched over the last little while.
Ana: So we had really great watching and reading months.
Renay: We did. I’m extremely happy with all the stuff that I read.
Ana: Apart from The Mitford Murders.
Renay: Set it on fire. I’m getting better at looking at books and telling whether I’m gonna like them, right off the bat, based on the summary and by reading some of the text and so I’ve saved myself from a lot probably bad reads.
Ana: Yes. I’m getting really good at that, too. I used to keep reading books that I disliked, because I had more time, and then I could write negative reviews, which I find are useful to our readers. But these days because of my lack of time, I end up not—if I’m reading something that I find it’s terrible I’m just not gonna continue reading. Apart from Mitford Murders, because I’m gonna write a review of that. Because it’s just incredibly bad. I’m gonna give like a three! Or two!
Renay: Can you give things zeroes?
Ana: Yeah! I’m pretty sure I gave Heinlein a zero.
Renay: I think you should give this a one. Leave Heinlein on his zero pedestal.
Renay: The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian is about the redemption of Lord Courtenay. He is an outcast in society, he is unable to see his nephew, who he loves very much, and so he pairs up with Julian Medlock, who is respected, in order to rehabilitate his reputation. And of course: they bang.
Ana: They bang so much. And so beautifully.
Renay: Cat Sebastian is like a happy place for hard times.
Ana: It was my first romance in a couple of years, since we read that science fiction romance that we read for the podcast. I loved it. I love it so much.
First of all, it has my two favourite romance tropes. It has a redemption of a rake, and it has the uptight man who seems to be in control of his emotions, but really isn’t. I love those, so much, and then of course it’s two men, how do these tropes play in a male scenario? So for example, in het romances, those tropes—of course there are exceptions to this rule—but usually the rake is redeemed by the innocence of a woman, or by a woman who is not charmed, at least not overtly so and is able to face to his bullshit. That’s what more or less what Julian does? But of course Julian is no innocent virgin. Reading that dynamic was really interesting to me because in het romances what happens—this is a historical novel, so what happens is usually that the woman is a virgin and therefore there is the problem of their reputation to take into consideration. They need to make a good marriage, so not being a virgin anymore is a problem, so the sex therefore becomes a problem unless they get married early in the novel. This is not a problem here. They literally are able to have sex very soon in the novel, and give in to their attraction to each other so the conflict here is elsewhere. It’s of course in that they are gay men in a historical society that oppresses gay me and it’s also in the things that they keep from each other.
Renay: This is the third book in a series. The first book was The Soldier’s Scoundrel, and the second was The Lawrence Browne Affair. And this third book features characters from both those novels and so it’s fitting into a structure that we’re already familiar with if you read the other books.
So as the book opens, Julian Medlock is going to see his sister, who is married but her husband isn’t with her. He is still far away and he hasn’t come to spend time with her since they were married. She is kind of roaming with the wrong crowd, and he doesn’t really like who she’s hanging out with. When he goes to confront her he meets Lord Courtenay, and of course sparks fly immediately.
After that, once he confronts his sister she’s like, “Well, now his nephew’s guardian won’t let Lord Courtenay see the nephew anymore, because of his reputation, and you have a great reputation, so why don’t you help him restore his?” And that’s how it begins from the very beginning: his sister basically guilts into helping Lord Courtenay redeem himself in the eyes of society. Because men like inherently have the ability to spread their—
Ana: —privilege and their position to others, yeah.
Renay: When you first read this book, you came to me and you were just like, “I read half of this book before sleeping. It’s too addictive!”
Ana: This is my problem with romance novels. Thhis is why I can’t read them, because I can’t stop. I have to at least get through the first sex scene, because otherwise I get too anxious. Once that major hurdle is out of the way, then I say, “Oh I can relax now, they’ve had sex. It’s okay.” They have released themselves! [laughs] I can relax now! [laughs] But of course, I read way beyond the first sex scene. And then I woke up at six a.m. to finish reading it before work.
Renay: But it was worth it this time! It was so worth it, right?
Ana: It is always worth it though. Romance novels are delightful.
Renay: Even when romance novels aren’t the greatest for me, when I don’t like the writing or I don’t like the characters or I think the conflict breaks my five-minute rule, which a lot of them do: I still end up feeling happier after I’ve read one.
Ana: Yeah. It’s about love and feelings and conflict solving. What’s your five minute rule? Let’s go back to that.
Renay: My five minute rule is if your conflict hinges on an argument that would be resolved in a five minute conversation I don’t believe it as a conflict.
Ana: Eh, for me I think it depends…
Renay: Sometimes I can let it go. Whatever, I let it slide, it depends on the characterization that the author has used in the rest of the book. Even if romance novels break the five minute rule, I end up still being happy. I won’t judge them as harshly, because they still make me happy—all the other parts of the book make me happy.
Ana: But they are also like some romance novels that are very angsty and I don’t like those as much.
Renay: I don’t think I’ve read any of those.
Ana: Oh there are some that are just so [gasps] that I can’t cope.
Renay: I think when I asked for recs I should tell to people to not include as much angst, because listen if I want to read angst I can go read some grimdark fantasy or something.
Ana: Like old school romance. It’s just so much angst and people that can’t be together. They are apart for years and then of course there is a lot of rape.
Ana: I read so many old school romance novels with rape in them. Like the heroes raping the heroine. And then redeemed somehow because of the grovelling. This book has none of these things!
Renay: No, this book is lovely and charming and funny.
Ana: Their dialogue is really well done. Yeah, especially Julian. He’s just so deadpan.
Renay: And Courtenay, he’s funny but he’s also… He doesn’t care what people think of him, and he doesn’t care about his reputation, so he just lets his mouth run and says what he thinks. And he ends up being really funny because of the context, and I love that, I thought that was super, super charming.
I do wonder, because obviously I come from fandom, and I read a lot of slash. In fandom over the last ten years, this conversation we’ve been having about women writing slash about white dude has become like a thing, that gets discussed a whole lot. Especially when new pairings come up. The last time we had the discussion in like in a long way where you could actually follow it sort of, even though Tumblr is hard to follow, was when Star Wars came out, and you thought that Finn and Poe were gonna be the biggest pairing. Oh no. They’re not the biggest pairing.
Ana: Oh my god. It’s Kylo Ren and a dude –?
Renay: Yeah, which is fine, I don’t mind that people ship these things, but I just think that there are longer conversations about internalized misogyny, internalized racism, that it’s important for fans to, you know, come to grips with. So when I was thinking about that it also came to me with this because this is an m/m romance written by a woman.
My problem with slash and fandom is that penetrative sex became the gold standard. That was your end goal. That’s such a really strange and divorced from reality situation for me? Maybe it’s just because I grew up around a lot of gay men, but the focus on anal sex in romance novels by women sometimes wigs me out? Number one, it’s like just a lot of fucking work, there’s a lot of prep involved that you never see in romance novels, and it seems to like ignore how men engage with each other’s bodies. Sometimes when I read m/m romance novels I often will skip some of the sex scenes because I’m so often weirded out by them? When women write two men having sex they focus really heavily sometimes on penetration, rather than blowjobs or handjobs or things that are all often just really central to how men interact with each other’s bodies. So you’ve heterosexualized a queer relationship by focusing on penetrative sex.
Just in case, I’m not saying that gay men can’t enjoy anal sex, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Every time I pick up an M/M novel, the end-game often seems to be that penetrative sex. That’s always like end goal. You never end with like mutual blowjobs and you’re done, when that’s actually probably more common sometimes?
What do you think? I know you don’t read fanfic, but you might have some thoughts.
Ana: I have been part of the romance community for a while, well I’m not that into it any more, but I have seen a lot of conversations about this very subject. Especially in erotica? There is a lot of M/M novellas and novels, and usually written by women, and the conversation around those is that it’s very much written by and for the female gaze, rather than for the male gaze. As it is, as it stands, of course if you go to LGBT publishers usually you can find M/M pairings for the male gaze, and from what I understand they are more…I wanna say authentic but I don’t—I don’t think that that’s right, the right word either, because I don’t want to negate any perspective or any experiences.
But I know that this conversation surfaces quite a lot within the romance community, too. But I don’t know to the answer that, I really don’t know what if—if there a right, if there is a wrong. I know that I’m a woman reading a romance novel written another woman about two men, and I don’t know where the demarcation of limits are. And if there is one. If there is supposed to be one.
Renay: Some other reason that I am drawn to slash and M/M romance for me specifically is that I have certain feelings about male emotions, because of my history with men in my life, about how men engage in conflict resolution and compassion, and physical intimacy, that sometimes I think it’s kind of wish-fulfillment. But then, my experiences with like gay friends kinda get in the way of that. And so when I read romance novels or slash fic that focuses so heavily on unqueering the pairing via penetrative sex acts, that I kinda get thrown out? And I also think that’s interesting from another point of view—women basically what amounts to porn for other women—where the end goal, penetrative sex, when there are plenty of women who don’t like penetrative sex? Right? It just doesn’t, it doesn’t hit home with me like it might for other people. Probably this has something to do with me being ace, too.
Ana: Would you say then that you read those more for the emotions than for the sex?
Renay: I really think I do. The sex scenes aren’t as important for me; in fact if the sex scene is one that doesn’t include any penetrative sex I’m way more likely to like it? So I think it’s a really fascinating question. I’m certain that we’re gonna continue talking about it and it’s gonna keep coming up as we grow as a culture.
Ana: I read for both. I like the sex scenes.
Renay: All right, so if you don’t want spoilers for Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian, you’re going to need to skip to the next segment and come back to this one after you’ve read it, because we’re gonna spoil it!
Ana. Holy shit! Julian wrote the book! He wrote the book and I didn’t see it coming and I was—I screamed out loud!
Ana: I didn’t see it coming and also the revelation that he had written it came a little bit further apart from this motivation for having written it. The motivation for him having written the book kind of like broke me. It was so fucking sad.
Renay: I know.
Ana: But I really loved that it kind of like threw a wrench in the relationship, but Courtenay was so lovely and understanding. He realized why he had written the book without Julian having to explain completely, and I feel like that was such a great emotional payoff, which again I’m not sure how that reads from an M/M versus an M/F relationship perspective because this is very much what happens in M/F romances too, right?
Renay: Well, I liked how the eventual resolution did not break the five minute rule. I was very pleased. But it comes framed in a very much of-the-time situation with like a duel and a bunch of political behind-the-scenes machinations between Julian and Courtenay, and at the end, the thing that really got me was when Julian bought Courtenay’s horse back.
Ana: I know.
Renay: So all my favorite parts of this novel have nothing to do with physical intimacy and are all like the actions that they take for each other? At the party, when Courtenay carries Julian out of it, or the part where Julian is going to frame himself for shooting at Courteney and points the gun, and Courtenay doesn’t move? So many parts of this novel destroyed me.
Ana: I know. It was really lovely. I also love that what kept them apart was not the fact that they were gay. The main conflict wasn’t, “Oh we can never be together because we are gay in a society that doesn’t approve of gays because it’s illegal.” They found a way around that very easily quote marks, but that was not what was keeping them apart, if there was anything keeping them apart, it was not that thing. I really loved that, and I loved that in the end, there was that garden party where other gay couples came, and I’m assuming they were from previous books? It was just such a lovely meeting of people that had things in common.
Renay: The super queer garden party with kittens!
Ana: And also the Indian dude who was also not completely accepted by society.
Renay: When Standish comes back, the way that the servants react, like one of them was like, “I didn’t know he was brown!” I really liked that secondary romance in the background. What I really wanna read is their book. Dear Cat Sebastian: please write a small novella. I know they’re already married, but—
Ana: No, there are so many romance novels that are about married people. It’s one of my favorites.
Renay: I loved this book. I thought it was super great. I loved all of the characters so much.
Ana: Yes, thank you so much for the recommendation.
Renay: How many space bees are you giving this book?
Ana: I’m giving it five because it make me so happy.
Renay: I’m also giving it five space bees.
Ana: Happy is what we need right now.
Renay: Ms Marvel Volume 7: Damage Per Second is by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Mirka Andolfo. It’s the volume directly after Civil War II. Kamala is starting her life over after all the drama that Civil War II brought to it. She’s lost her best friend, she’s struggling with who she is and who she wants to be, and of course there are new bad guys. So this was an improvement over volume 6.
Ana: But it wasn’t one of my favorites. I dunno, I think there was something very in your face about this volume. Overtly preachy.
Renay: Maybe, but then I like those parts.
Ana: It’s not that I am against it, but maybe it wasn’t the right time for me.
Renay: And I also think that this is aimed at younger audiences.
Renay: We’re also already enmeshed in the things that this volume is dealing with, especially when it comes to civic engagement and the toxicity of game culture, because we’re very familiar with that already, so we’re already into it. Whereas people, especially young kids who might not be—it might be newer to them.
Ana: Yeah, that’s a good point actually, because I never thought about who is the audience for this. Ms Marvel to me, reads very firmly YA and I love YA, but it felt very much aimed for that specific audience. Much more than for a crossover audience.
Renay: So where would you say this volume stands for you, compared to like the other volumes? Because I know you really liked volume 5.
Ana: This and volume 6 were my least favorites. I mean, there are super great moments in it.
Renay: And I still really liked this one, because I think this one deals with some of the fallout from volume 6 by creating more connections between characters that had to take a backseat because characters who were in previous are no longer here, they had to bring other characters forward to fill the gap, and the characters they chose to bring forward were women and girls.
Ana: Yes, absolutely. That’s the one thing that I really liked about it. Especially we got to see Mike and her reaction to Bruno leaving, and we got to see Mike and Kamala working together and becoming closer friends, but also I really loved the whole thing with Zoe and Nakia, as heartbreaking as it was.
Renay: I struggled a little bit with the art. I thought some issues were less vibrant than they normally were, like they were darker, the lines and the art were darker, and I don’t know if that was a new artist or just something to do with the printing, but it was very odd. It wasn’t all the issues, just one or two of them.
Ana: Yeah, maybe the last one, which is set in Wakanda definitely feels more Black Panther than Ms Marvel, for example.
Renay: Yeah, and maybe that was on purpose to change the tone which I didn’t think of till this moment.
Renay: This volume opens with issue 13. You thought issue 13 was over the top.
Ana: Yes, I did.
Renay: Because issue 13 deals with the fact that there is an election and Hydra is messing around in Jersey City trying to get elected to office by cheating. It deals with several things: gerrymandering, cracking and packing, and they actually use these terms in the comic, which I love. But of course you probably read it and went, “what the fuck is cracking and packing?”
Ana: Yeah maybe that’s one of the thing, because it felt so divorced from my own reality because of course your voting system is not the same as our voting system, so I was like, “Uh? Okay?”
Renay: Yep. So it’s going to be a little off-putting for people who are not Americans, also off-putting for people who don’t understand how our system works. Because we’re governed based on population, so we have districts based on population. Cracking and packing – I was trying to think of how to explain this to you, because I was going to explain it to you no matter what. You’re getting an explanation of cracking and packing. Are you excited, Ana?
Ana: I am so excited. Go on.
Renay: Take two parties. You have the party animals and the party poopers. The party poopers are in power. Are you with me so far?
Renay: Packing and cracking dilutes the voices of voters who identify with the party animals. Packing fills one legislative district with party animal voters, so they only affect that district, leaving all of the other districts open for party poopers to control. And then cracking involves splitting the party animal voters into several different districts and minimizing the power of their vote. When the party animals are spread thinly across multiple legislative districts, they can’t influence their legislative districts, so once again the party poopers will take those districts. So with gerrymandering, even though the party animals have the numbers, they can’t overcome the skeevy behavior of the party poopers.
Ana: I don’t understand how this is a good system.
Renay: It’s not. It’s a terrible system. Because the state legislature gets to draw all those lines. If the party poopers are in power—PS the party poopers are definitely in power right now, in lots of state legislatures—they get to draw the lines. So there is a Supreme Court case being argued right now called Gill versus Whitford that is challenging these awful maps in Wisconsin. If you’re not a Wisconsin space bee you should go listen to the recent 538 podcast by Galen Druke who digs into what happened after the 2010 election in Wisconsin because it is gross. This case pretty much has massive implications for gerrymandering across the country, too.
And if you’re like, “Renay, how can a case about Wisconsin district lines affect Arizona?” you need to go back to Shelby vs Holder. That a case where the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Once they gutted part of the Voting Rights Act, pretty much the next second, racist GOP legislatures were on the move gutting protections that had been in place since the Voting Rights Act was signed in the 1960s. So if the supreme court decides to go, “Hey, extreme partisan gerrymandering is fine!” then everyone across the country without a GOP controlled state legislature better fight like hell to keep as much of it as progressive as possible and flip as much as you can, because after the 2020 Census it’s gonna be the free-for-all. Because Wisconsin is a test, and if they get the Supreme Court stamp of approval, you can pretty much kiss fair representation goodbye.
And as part of the Supreme Court case, the plaintiffs—the people that are good guys—they’re using this test called the efficiency gap, and it’s a test that can measure the number of like wasted votes for a party, such as when voters are placed in the party pooper or the party animal distracts for example when you crack and pack them where they have no chance of influencing the outcome of an election. So the test was developed by two political scientists, and it basically provides a way to measure extreme partisan gerrymandering. And this is what Justice Kennedy said he wanted, in a past opinion that he wrote. So if there’s a way to measure extreme partisan gerrymandering, it sounds like he’d be willing to strike down these type of gerrymanders.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff on this topic, so I’ll put a bunch of links in the show notes, too, but the fact that Ms Marvel did a political PSA issue is so relevant and timely, and a little bit charming because this sort of in-your-face.
Obviously in our universe we cannot undo things with superhero powers overnight. Ms Marvel is a fantasy story, showing what happens if you show up every single time and get engaged, not just one time. We can do really hugely terrific things, with regular people powers, over time. Even if you don’t read Ms Marvel regularly, if your library has a copy of this volume, check out issue 13 in volume 7. It’s really feel-good and great if you’re a US space bee, and I think it’s really important that she wrote this issue, especially since this is aimed at YA audiences, because this really matters for the future: the future of representation, the future of votes, actually being able to count.
It’s really hard to explain the ways this works. I mean, I just explained it to you, and you’re probably like, “I still don’t get it,” because it’s not easy to understand. It’s very complicated.
Anyway, Ms Marvel volume 7 has a lot of things that I like and I’m gonna talk about some of them now but they’re full of spoilers so if you don’t wanna be spoiled this is your warning.
Okay. The premise for the second story in this volume was that this computer virus had all of Zoe’s love letters to Nakia and it was gonna release them and embarrass her, so she has to go tell Nakia the truth about her feelings. Ana, I cried a lot.
Ana: That was awful. It was awful. That’s a really weird outing storyline. I think maybe that’s one of the things why—I also didn’t like about it, because it’s such a forced outing. Was it necessary?
Renay: I don’t know if it was necessary. It’s maybe meant to show the consequences that Kamala was gonna have to face when people around her were put at risk? It’s not Kamala’s fault, but the people who she’s close to and cares about will always be at risk.
I also think that it was another part of the kinda the PSA thing? People, in general, can be very lackadaisical about their security, especially their digital security. If it’s not tangible, you forget that it is still your thoughts and your feelings and if you don’t protect it, anybody can take it. Because this whole arc was about the toxicity of game culture and the toxicity of people online, the whole outing storyline was kind of like a heads-up being like, “Your feelings and your secrets and your dreams and your hopes, if you put them online, they’re still real online, it doesn’t make them unreal if they’re online. And they’re still at risk of being taken and used against you.” And I think that’s why it possibly didn’t bother me as much. It’s nobody’s fault except for the computer virus that did it, right? It’s not Zoe’s fault, it’s not Kamala’s fault, it just was a thing that happened, because our culture is moving more and more to being digital, and because of that, we’re more fragile in ways we can’t see. And so I think that was part of the PSA. That, funnily enough, was not as overt as some of the other stuff.
Renay: Even though I think that was the more important takeaway from that arc, and I feel really bad that they did at the expense of Zoe’s…
Renay: But I also like that they showed how Zoe had changed and grown and become a better person and learned more about herself. There’s a scene in the hallway where Kamala’s like, “Why is being compassionate so embarrassing?” Why is it so embarrassing to be nice?
Ana: And they all hug and it’s so lovely. I cried buckets.
Renay: Yeah this whole arc just made me sob. It’s very close to home. Because yeah I do see where you’re coming from it’s a shame that all her secrets had to be revealed, all of them, but I liked that they didn’t put the blame on her. They didn’t put the blame on Kamala. And both of them had good support networks. So I think in the end it all comes out in the wash, but I also thought it was very funny that they used this game framing? That’s a poke in the eye at Gamergate.
Ana: That was clever. And then the last issue I was also not very much into it. What did you think of the last one?
Renay: I thought it was neat that we are still seeing Bruno and his adventures, because I’m hoping that what that means is that he’s going to come to terms with what happened…
Ana: To come back, maybe?
Renay: Because I still think that Civil War II forced him into a situation characterization-wise that he wouldn’t have otherwise taken.
Ana: Exactly. Or Kamala.
Renay: Yeah. So I definitely think that this is going to be the start of him growing as a person and finding new social connections, and allies that are his and not extension of his relationship and alliance with Kamala. And I think they’re going to fold him back into her story, but in probably maybe a little bit more of a healthy way.
Ana: But how did you think about the first few scenes in this issue—was him daydreaming about Kamala? In a way that felt very romantic to me? Even though he seemed to be very much into Mike and just left her – I’m still bitter about that, and I felt like, “What is happening here? Why is he daydreaming about Kamala and not Mike?”
Renay: But I still think Civil War II just completely ignored that Mike existed.
Ana: Yeah. Bullshit.
Renay: Hopefully this is—I mean I don’t think it has to be necessarily romantic. I think it can be; I hope they don’t go there. He’s obviously still really upset with Kamala, but I also think he possibly regrets not staying connected to her. If we go back to his first time in school, she befriended him and he wasn’t alone, but in this new school, you know, there’s no Kamala to come and be his friend and it’s a little hard for him to adjust. So of course I think it makes sense that he would be daydreaming about Kamala in that scenario specifically. I really wish that the narrative had dealt more with Bruno and Mike. He had a girlfriend. And Civil War II completely ignored that he had a girlfriend!
Renay: It’s like they didn’t even care! It was very upsetting to me, Ana.
Ana: Me too.
Renay: I mean I guess it’s cool that he’s in Wakanda and he’s gonna get to learn to do stuff and get a robot arm.
Ana: And he got a new friend and his new friend was doing shit for him which was really nice.
Renay: And his new friend is related to Black Panther.
Ana: Extended cousin. From extended family.
Renay: Everybody’s related to everybody’s else in the Marvel universe! You are only three degrees removed from a superhero at any time.
How many space bees are you giving to Ms Marvel Volume 7?
Renay: Yeah, I’m gonna give it four. I like over the top stuff in this case. Listen, G. Willow Wilson, if you wanna do more about voting, I’m all in! And then I can talk to Ana more about gerrymandering!
Ana: Awesome. Yay.
Renay: That was the most lackluster yay I’ve ever heard.
Renay: It’s time for recommendations. Ana, what do you have for us this week?
Ana: I have a collection that I just finished reading. It’s called The Long Past And Other Stories by Ginn Hale, and it has one novella and two novelettes included in this collection. All three stories are set in the same world, two of them are gay couples and one of them is a lesbian couple. It’s very romantic-centred, but also within the scope of this world building. The way that I would describe it is, “Queer Pacific Rim, but not science fiction, fantasy instead. With magic and dinosaurs, and lots of lovely romance.”
It’s interesting what we were talking about, during our Ruin of a Rake discussion, because sex scenes here, they are not as graphic but they don’t have any penetrative sex. It’s all cocksucking. That just clicked for me. And it was really lovely, too. I loved it. All the couples are really nice. It’s set in the 19th century in America, and due to some magic—which gets explained in the novel; it’s a spoiler, I don’t want to say how or why—but rifts open in three points in the world that basically brings primordial waters from the past and it opens for dinosaurs to invade Earth again. When that happens, the great powers of the time—China, England, France and the United States—get submerged in water. So they basically they just disappear. In the United States doesn’t disappear completely, but the Southern states, the plantations and slavery is all gone like this, and how does that affect the rest of the country? The main country of the first novella, which is the longest one, it’s called The Long Past, it stars a gay black man who has a pet dinosaur called Betsy. Please go read this book!
Renay: Okay, I will!
Ana: What do you recommend?
Renay: I recommend a podcast. It’s Politically Reactive with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu. I really love finding podcasts where the hosts have really excellent chemistry and great interview skills? Politically Reactive is one of my favorites right now. They interview tons of relevant writers, activists, and scholars, and they ask super great questions. I really wanna be these interviewers when I grow up. I’ve learned a lot from them in the last six months, about activism and about public speaking, about the universe. Their guests are also diverse, and not just people-wise but also in where they come from, the industries they’re in, and the work they do. So I really highly recommend their show. You’ll know Hari Kondabolu probably because he’s a comic and then W. Kamau Bell is also a comic and he has a show on CNN called United Shades of America. You might have heard of them in their other work, but their podcast is super great and I highly recommend it.
So that’s our recommendations out of the way. Tell people what we’ll be discussing next time.
Ana: Our next episode will our hundredth episode. We have some exciting announcements to make, a giveaways, some reminiscing to do, we’ll probably talk about books and feelings, and history. Also coming soon, another Vault episode in which we’ll be talking about Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
Renay: If you take anything away from this episode, please take a recommendation for The Good Place and go watch it. Immediately.
Ana: And space bees, thank you so much for waiting for this new episode to come your way. We know we’ve been a little bit late, but you know. Life.
Renay: Also go bookmark our new rec form and help us put together awesome rec lists. Use it whenever you find something you love.
Ana: If you have any thoughts, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also chat with us on Twitter at @fangirlpodcast.
Renay: If you wanna help support our show, you can become a patron for as little as one dollar a month at patreon.com/fangirlhappyhour. Your support helps us keep doing the show and bringing y’all great recs.
Ana: Our show art is by Ira and our transcripts are by Susan. You can read all the available transcripts at fangirlhappyhour.com. Our segment break music is by Chuki Beats and Boxcat Games.
Renay: Drink some water and contact your reps. Also, a brand new request: if you love a book or a movie or a fic or a fanvid or anything that brought you joy, find a way to drop the person who made it a thank you for it. Creation is really hard these days and getting harder, and I promise that creators can really use the good vibes.
Ana: And on that note and giving everything that is happening in the world, find things that make you happy. Like The Good Place.
Renay: Thanks for listening space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
Renay: So, hello Ana welcome back to our podcast.
Renay: We’ve taken a three zillion year break.
Renay: I’m not lying to you.
Ana: Did you just wink?
Ana: Did you just wink?
Renay: Ana did you say you have no first aid kit in your house?
Renay: Fun fact: gerrymandering is named after a guy who gerrymandered a district and it was shaped like a salamander, so they called it gerrymandering. Useless facts about America!