Episode #105 Transcript: Gods & Monsters

Episode Number: 105
Episode Title: Gods & Monsters (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
Support us: If you’d like to help us with our accessibility work and compensating Susan for her transcriptions, you can support the show in a myriad of ways!

Please contact us if you spot any errors.

Renay: Hi friends, I’m Renay.

Ana: And I’m Ana.

Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.

[music break]

Ana: I am actually very happy right now. We are recording this on Wednesday the thirteenth of December, and this morning there were good news from Alabama, and then literally half an hour before we started recording this episode, we got the news from Patreon. The good news from Patreon.

Renay: Instead of the bad news. Today, we’re going to bring you some feedback and updates, which you’ve already had a preview of. Then we’re gonna discuss The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden. We’re continuing our Young Avengers read through with Young Avengers: Style Over Substance. Then we’re going to talk to the delightful Martha Wells, author of All Systems Red and then we’ll have some recommendations for you.

[music break]

Renay: Time for some feedback and updates. Ana, what do you got?

Ana: I’ve got a couple of really cool things happening, like every year we run Smugglivus, during December from December 1st to January 7th. January 7th is when we celebrate our blogiversary, and this year it will be our tenth anniversary! Woohoo! It’s amazing that we are still going. So every day this month, we have guest posts from authors, vloggers, bloggers, readers, twitterers, and everything between, and it’s been going great. I’ve already added a gazillion books to my TBR because all of these books are actually posts are actually lists, and you know those are the faves. Renay’s faves.

Renay: I love a good list.

Ana: I know! There has been so many good ones. We also have a few books coming out between now and January 7th. We will be releasing special editions—special paperback edition—of The Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Höst, which are self-published novels. And we read them a few years ago and we loved them so much we acquired the rights to publish the paperback version. So they’ll be available very, very soon, with these amazing covers by Kirby Fagan. And then we will be releasing our anthology of short stories that we published last year, well, this year, and that will be the Gods and Monsters anthology. So a lot going on.

Renay: You have a lot of stuff on your plate.

Ana: So much.

Renay: Probably everybody by now has heard about the next update, which is about Patreon. Recently, Patreon decided that they were gonna change their fee structure, and instead of aggregating pledges they were gonna start charging fees on every single pledge instead of letting us, the creators, take the fee hit. And the outcry was swift and unrelenting. We lost several patrons and we’re very, very sad that Patreon did this to them and put them in that situation because we really believe in the support of our low-tier patrons. I was pretty gutted. I don’t know how many of our listeners read our newsletter, but I wrote about it in our newsletter, where I was like, “Sometimes it’s hard to be poor because capitalism tells you you don’t matter.” Apparently my newsletter made Ana cry. Sorry, Ana!

Ana: That’s okay, Renay. Almost all of your newsletters make me cry, anyway. Your newsletters are amazing. If you guys don’t subscribe to it, you really should. I contribute very little to it. Although I included two links this time.

Renay: Well, to be fair, you have eight hundred jobs.

Ana: Eight thousand.

Renay: Are you back to eight thousand now?

Ana: I am really back to eight thousand right now.

Renay: I’m hoping to get Ana to do more, because when Ana shares stuff she shares really neat stuff and she writes really great things so maybe in 2018.

Ana: Maybe.

Renay: The big news of today as we record is that Patreon has walked back their changes to the fee structure of their site.

Ana: Yes, come back to us, little patrons! We want to welcome you back into our fold.

Renay: Of course we would love to see everybody who had to leave come back, but we also understand that Patreon really fucked this up a whole lot and there is literally no reason to trust them.

Ana: That’s the thing. I wonder how many people just lost that trust and will just not come back because it’s likely they will try to address what they see as an issue some other way and god knows what other way that will be. So people have been waiting to see what Drip is gonna do—which is Kickstarter platform that is similar to Patreon. I mean, I completely understand, too.

Renay: It’s pretty awful that they did this at this year especially. Like I’m not particularly religious, but I really like Christmas? Because I like the vibe of it. Let’s be honest: the delicious food. My mother ordered a hundred dollar prime rib for Christmas dinner.

Ana: You’re shaking your head.

Renay: A hundred dollars of prime rib.

Ana: Is that a lot of prime rib?

Renay: That’s a lot of fucking prime rib.

Ana: Is prime rib a Christmas food?

Renay: This year for Mom it is. I think we ruined things and we gave her this drive to have her fill of all the food she loves. Because during Thanksgiving we got a turkey, but the thing about Thanksgiving is that as you get one turkey you get one turkey tail, like there’s one turkey tail with the turkey because the turkey only has one tail, obviously. It’s this really fatty piece of meat and she loves turkey tails. She will fight you for them. Ana’s making this face guys, I wish you could see it—it’s great. This year while we were out buying our turkey, we found a found a frozen package of turkey tails, like plural, there were ten of them in a package and we bought them for her. And she made all of them up and then she ate almost all of them in like two days.

Ana: I don’t even know what you’re talking about exactly, but it just sounds wrong somehow.

Oh my god, it’s actually not the tail, but a gland that attaches the tail to the turkey’s body. It’s filled with oil that the turkey uses to preen its feather. It’s also cheap, but far from nutritious.

Renay: Don’t look at me, they gave me a bite of some of it, and I was like [retches].

Ana: Okay. All right. I’m not gonna judge your mother’s choices in food because that’s not nice.

Renay: Feel free, because I do!

Ana: [laughs] My father’s favorite part of a chicken was the butt. The cloaca. Which is literally the anus. This got gross so fast. [laughs] And so derailed! I don’t know how we got here. Oh, it was from prime rib to turkey, to turkey tail, to the butt crack of chickens. Somehow. [laughs]

Renay: Well, as per usual, we’re on brand with our derails. What does this have to do with Patreon? Well, Patreon is the anus of a chicken.

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: I’m still real mad at them, guys. I’m still really, really mad at Patreon for doing specifically this to patrons during this time of the year, doing this to us, and in general being rich white dudes.

So this is a great place to transition into our next update. Ana?

Ana: Our 2017 survey is now live. It will be open until December 31st and we encourage all of your to answer it. If you have answered previous surveys, it’s okay! We have different questions this time so you should totally come back.

Renay: Also we do have a whole section on Patreon, mostly so we can yell about it—let’s be real—but we also have some questions about how we might diversify our funding streams in the future to rely less on one platform, and we would really appreciate your responses on that. Especially if you don’t support us on Patreon? Look at the lists and see if there would be ways that you might wanna support us that we don’t currently offer.

Ana: Yeah.

Renay: Also you finally get to weigh in on the question of the year.

Ana: Cheesecake: pie?

Renay: Cake?

Ana: Or sandwich?

[music break]

Renay: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden is a book from Harper Voyager that was published in June of 2017. It tells the story of far-future South Africa, and features a extremely diverse cast of characters, but boy this book was bananas.

Ana: It was trippy.

Renay: In The Prey of Gods, there are several characters: one who can control your thoughts; one who can take your pain away and heal you; one who is super evil and has wings. There are a lot of queer characters in here who are heroic.

Ana: Yeah.

Renay: I was trying to think about what genre this fit in because there are both science fiction and fantasy elements to it. It reminded me very strongly of Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds In The Sky.

Ana: That’s not the one that reminded me most of.

Renay: Which one did it remind you of?

Ana: Everfair.

Renay: Also that. I would also say Autonomous by Annalee Newitz.

Ana: Oh, I haven’t read that one yet.

Renay: It has a lot of similarities. The main draw to this book for me was obviously robots. There are robots in this book. Robot pals! Like actual robot pals. People have little sidekick robots that stand in for their phones. There is a burgeoning AI uprising.

Ana: Yes.

Renay: It’s really hard to know how to discuss this book because it’s so fucking bananas.

Ana: I wrote a review of it for Kirkus and I was just rereading it and like it really struck me that sometimes I write really well, but that’s not here nor there.

I started by saying that this book was simultaneously surreal, weird, fun, and wholesome. The surreal elements, for example, there is a drug people take in this book, and the drug could be seen even as a catalyst for all the different things that start happening to people? And you have two teenager best friend who take this drug and then they see themselves as they really are. One of them is a crab and the other one is a dolphin and they have sex.

And then you have the weirdness, which is everything else else that happens in the book and how people address each other and how not only the drugs affect the people, but also how the reality of the world affects them. And that keeps changing because the more they see themselves or their real selves, they see that the world is not as they saw it a bunch at this point.

Renay: There’s also an evil demon lady.

Ana: Yeah, who is very, very ancient and is really fed-up with humans and she just wants to take over and be powerful again. But there is also a little girl who discovers that she’s also a goddess.

Renay: So the main characters here are Nomvula, who is the little girl, who discovers that she is extremely special, there’s Sydney who’s the evil demon, there is Muzi who is a teenager who after he takes this drug, realizes that he can control people’s minds, and his semi-boyfriend Elken, who is an asshole. There is Councilman Wallace Stoker, who is also Felicity Lyons. There’s Riya, who is a popstar.

Ana: And there are also This Instance.

Renay: One of my favourite characters, Clever 4-1.

Ana: So cute.

Renay: One of the great things about this book that I wasn’t expect going in was all the queer characters. I was super excited. Do you know the first part of the book where suddenly two dudes are banging each other?

Ana: That’s literally the first chapter, right? Te first few lines yeah.

Renay: And we have a trans character! And all the queer characters are heroic and they don’t die.

Ana: There was a moment where I thought that, “Is she really gonna do this?!” I’m like, “No, no,” then she doesn’t.

Renay: If you do hate watching queer characters die and not get to be heroes and survive, this would be the book for you, because it’s great. It was really refreshing.

Ana: Yes.

Renay: One thing I did get really confused by; this book is very fast-paced and the sections—because it switches perspective to each character—are sometimes very short. Because it’s so fast-paced it’s easy to get lost in the narrative. I got really confused about the whole plot line with the dik-diks.

Ana: Oh, yes.

Renay: Even though it was really funny and like Nicky Drayden, I see you, and I approve of what you’re doing with this word. I got very confused about what was happening with the dik-diks.

Ana: There’s something to do with the virus?

Renay: Yeah, I know, but what? And I was just very confused and I really do think that it’s because the book is so readable. The prose just flows really well so that’s easy to just bust through this book, and maybe miss things cause you’re going so fast because the prose is so readable.

Ana: The thing is though, there is a lot going on here. And at first I was a little bit unsure because there are so many characters, so many viewpoints, and the chapters are very short, but a lot of things happen. So at the same time, the characters are really, really, really well developed, but I’m not sure that the plot is as well developed, although it does come together really well in the end. But I feel like there was enough here for a trilogy, for example, and I understand how that sounds weird, that I’m saying that the characters are really well-developed when I’m thinking that there should have been more. But their stories are really well done and really well rounded out.

Renay: It’s the Sunshine problem. The characters get really well developed, and you have all this really amazing world building, but it’s just packed into such a tight space that moves by very quickly, that it’s almost hard to like get a grip on what’s happening. I mean, the overall plot of this novel is that an ancient goddess wants to take over the world. She has to unfortunately struggle against another goddess, who is younger and more idealistic, and also contend with an AI uprising that she doesn’t even realize is happening which changes the game multiple times. So I just really liked the way that she melded science fiction and fantasy in this book, cause you have robots and you have gene modification.

Ana: But you also have goddesses and people that fly.

Renay: And you have the afterlife.

Ana: Another thing for me is this is her debut novel. And up to this point she was a short story writer. And I could tell? I just felt every single chapter: they are so short they felt like self-contained short stories. And it’s the same thing I thought reading Everfair, like it’s a bunch of short stories creating a whole. The same way I felt about Ken Liu’s first novel, too. And all of these started as very prolific short story writers. And I’m not saying that this is a good or bad thing, I’m just, I think this is a characteristic of their writing and I kind of like really like that.

Renay: The format doesn’t preclude the book being good, it just changes the format and it sort of challenges the way we think about what a novel is and what a novel looks like.

Ana: That’s a good point, yes. Exactly that.

Renay: The more I think of Everfair and the more I consider what Shawl was trying to do in that book specifically, the more I’m just like, “This is really brilliant.” The way that she divided this up and made these different time periods and chapters self-contained to show you the growth over time. And I think that Drayden does a similar thing, where she makes these really short punchy scenes from each of these characters as they converge on each other. Because eventually they all do meet. some of them team up together to save the world.

Ana: Yeah.

Renay: I really wanted to talk about Councilman Stoker, or—

Ana: Felicity.

Renay: And her relationship with her mother, but to do that we have to discuss spoilers, so I’m going to put our spoiler tag here so if you have not read this book—and you should, because it’s bananas—and if you liked Everfair or All The Birds in the Sky or Autonomous, I really think you should check it out and give it a shot, but don’t go beyond this point because you will be spoiled.

Like around halfway through this book, we realize that Wallace Stoker, who is a politician, is also doing drag on the side and has a stage presence as Felicity Lyons. As the book progresses, we also realize that she is struggling with gender identity, but also with having, which really surprised me, a goddess for a mother.

Ana: That’s the thing. I think Felicity was always there. I think that happened multiple times, where she came out as trans and then her mother just simply erased her memory of it and she had to start over and over again until she got to the point where she comes out as trans and then boom. Goes back; becomes Councilman again, but the last time that happens, which is the most recent time, the mom finally realizes, “You know—you know what, you keep doing this, you are Felicity,” and then she no longer erases her daughter’s memory. So Felicity remains Felicity, finally.

Renay: So not only do we have somebody finally finding who they truly are, we also have this really restorative set of scenes between Felicity and her mother. Because her mother is like a tree goddess. So we get to see the mother finally protect Felicity as she is, instead of trying to change her to fit into a mold she lets her step into who she’s always been and protects her. Even though it costs her life, because Sydney, as an evil death demon, kills Felicity’s mother. But I just really thought the whole thing was just really well done, I really liked it.

At the beginning, the Councillor is running—is thinking about running for the Premier of South Africa. At this time, that’s his mother’s position, but he wants to perform as Felicity, he wants to perform, because right at this point in time, he’s not—his mind has been erased, he’s struggling to balance politics and what he thinks of as drag, so when he finally realizes “Oh, I’m Felicity,” he decides, “Oh, no, I don’t have to choose,” and so when Felicity finally comes into her own, at the end of the book we see Felicity as a councillor preparing to run for Premier, as herself. And I just really loved that it ended that way.

Ana: Absolutely.

Renay: The fact that at the end Felicity got to be a hero and also got to finally live her life without being meddled with by parental expectations, which in some ways for me stood in for societal expectations.

Ana: By erasing her memories, her mother is effectively saying, “Do you know what? You are choosing this.” And it’s not a matter of choosing. It’s a matter of who you are, and every time that happened, Felicity came out over and over and over again, because Felicity was Felicity.

Renay: I loved that whole storyline.

Ana: I loved it, too.

Renay: I also liked that Muzi, the other queer character, he got to be super heroic as like a giant robot.

Ana: And saving his boyfriend, too. I kinda really liked their romance, even though the boyfriend is a bit of jerk to start with.

Renay: I liked that as the book goes on it kinda shows Elkan softening up a little, but holy shit the scene at the end where his former bot like—

Ana: —destroys his body. And then they swap bodies. And then Muzi ends up without a body.

Renay: And inside his bot. I really did like at the end that Drayden puts a positive spin on it because it’s the future and there’s lots of gene tech and a super amazing science. Muzibot, as the book calls him, saves some of Elkan’s hair, and they take it to the super secret lab in order to create Elkan a new body that Muzi can hang out in until they can find Mr. Tau and do a swap. I was like, “Is this scene from the Fifth Element?” That’s exactly what I thought. Remember that scene from the Fifth Element, where they put Leeloo back together?

Ana: No?

Renay: At the very beginning of the Fifth Element, they like use some DNA to put her back together, bone out. And this is exactly what I was picturing.

Overall, I think I really liked this book. I, maybe for some reason didn’t expect to, but I think I just listened to too much of the commentary on it from other people instead of just reading it for myself.

Ana: Huh! Was it bad?

Renay: I just saw a lot of people get excited about it, then get like, “Oh, it wasn’t what I expected.” You had a moment like that, because the cover is a little misleading.

Ana: Those robots don’t really exist in that way in the novel.

Renay: The personal-bots are much smaller. I think that the books were trying to show was like a representation of Muzibot and Nomvula’s relationship.

Ana: Possibly. It is still a really super cool cover.

Renay: The art is still amazing.

Ana: Like her face is just amazing and I really love the little umbrella.

Renay: Poor Nomvula, right? Her mom?

Ana: Well, her mom was raped, too.

Renay: Yeah, her mom had all this trauma. Mr. Tau raped her and Nomvula was the result. Nomvula never had a chance to have a family. It was just so sad which is what makes the end of her story so wonderful to me.

Ana: Oh yes, absolutely.

Renay: Nomvula gives them all another chance and she’s so idealistic and naive, but —

Ana: Like a little child.

Renay: But also so smart, too. And sometimes when you’re writing child characters it can be really hard to balance the child versus adult characterization, but I really think that Drayden nailed it here, because Nomvula is still a kid, and she still reacts in a lot of ways like a kid, but she’s also a goddess with all this immense power she’s learning how to use.

What a great book.

Ana: Yeah, I really liked it, too.

Renay: How many space bees would you give this book?

Ana: Four.

Renay: I would also give it four, mostly because I’m still confused about that dik-dik storyline, what’s going on? I need to reread the book, I guess.

Ana: I give it four because even though I liked it because it was fragmented, at some point it just felt too fragmented. It’s weird.

Renay: Lots of great character work, but the world itself could have used a little bit more development.

Ana: I think so, yep.

Renay: But still a really great novel.

[music break]

Renay: Young Avengers Volume 1: Style Over Substance is by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. They are the same team that does Wicked + Divine now, another comic that we like. This is a reboot of the Young Avengers. We’ve been reading the Young Avengers comics for a few years now, it feels like? It feels like we’re slowly getting through it.

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: But this is the reboot that everybody got excited about when we said that we were reading the Young Avengers, because everybody seems to love this reboot in particular, and I have to say I think I agree with them.

Ana: I was so confused, Renay. I was so confused by what the fuck was happening.

Renay: Welcome to comics.

Ana: So I’m not so sure.

Renay: I don’t blame you, cause I was confused until I just went, “Fuck it!” Because I didn’t understand what Loki was doing there.

Ana: No. Child Loki! I was like “What’s happening?!”

Renay: I didn’t understand where America came from. I don’t understand where Tommy went.

Ana: Where is Iron Patriot? Nobody even mentions him. He didn’t die in the last issue, did he?

Renay: It’s a mystery!

Ana: It’s an interdimensional reboot, because America Chavez and Marvel Boy come from a different reality, or they can actually travel between dimensions.

Renay: Like I said, if there was a confusing part, I was like, “Eh, whatever.” I mostly focused on the story in the book itself, which was that Billy casts a spell —

Ana: To help Teddy, because Teddy was sad because he mom died.

Renay: And they’re not superheroing anymore. They’ve agreed to stop, but Teddy doesn’t stop, because he doesn’t really have anything else besides Billy, because Billy suddenly has like extra parents.

Ana: But he’s still moping around.

Renay: Teddy doesn’t really have anything except for superheroing so he’s out pretending to be Spiderman. So Billy tries to help by bringing Billy’s mom back from another timeline, but it doesn’t go as expected and he accidentally brings an evil parasite instead.

Ana: Which sets up a chain of events that affect pretty much every single adult? And also every single one of the Young Avengers, and it also brings Loki and America Chavez and Marvel Boy to this particular timeline.

Renay: And also we get Kate back! Kate! I love Kate!

Ana: She’s great. They are a little bit older now, right? So they look older, they behave older too. They lost so much. Yes, it feels like a little bit older Young Avengers.

Renay: So the writer took it in a more adult direction. He’s having them grow up a little bit more, but they’re still dealing with sort of irresponsible kid problems, if we wanna call bringing a interdimensional parasite into your world to ooze all over your family is an irresponsible choice. I’m just like, “That’s a little bit of an understatement I think.” I do like Billy and Teddy’s relationship here. The best part about this book for me was teenage Loki. Except I didn’t understand why he was there, but he was still my favorite part.

Ana: But it’s not really teenage Loki, it’s old Loki that killed teenage Loki, took over his body, but teenage Loki’s ghost, or his consciousness, is still there. So his newfound goodness is making its way inside Loki, so Loki can’t be as bad. It’s an amalgamation of both of them and it was so cute. I loved him. I love Loki! Sorry, I know he’s a killer! Shame!

Renay: It’s okay, Loki was redeemed in Thor: Ragnarok. You can like him again.

Ana: He wasn’t!

Renay: He’s a trickster god—we cannot talk about Thor! we will fight.

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: Anyway.

Ana: I love Loki. I love Loki.

Renay: It’s fine to like Loki. Everybody likes Loki. He was my favorite part of this comic.

Ana: I was like a little bit conflicted about Billy and Teddy’s relationship. Even though it was cute and they were so there for each other, so devoted, but it also felt really intense and I’m just gonna take it back because it felt very teenager. And that’s exactly what they are. It’s fine.

Renay: The comic did an okay joke of showing they’re teenagers in a relationship because they suck at communication and you have to communicate with your partner! You have to! You can’t like lie to them about sneaking around doing secret superhero stuff, you can’t not tell them, “Oh hey, I’m about to pull in your mom from another dimension, but oops it’s not actually your mom so I’m going to inadvertently cause you extra pain.”

Ana: It’s also part of the narrative of the specific plotline here, because Teddy’s still superheroing. It says something about who he thinks he is and that is he’s a hero. And the whole volume is about that, to the point where they go through this whole thing to the end, when they all say, “You know what, we should really go back to being the Young Avengers, because that’s who we are. We are heroes.”

Renay: That’s the goal that Loki had from the very beginning. He wanted to get the Young Avengers back together.

Ana: Yeah.

Renay: I also like the art of this a whole lot. I do really like McKelvie’s art in general. I think it’s very clean and it’s very expressive. I also like the more—the creative spread that they did where you would have Loki sneaking Billy and Teddy out of like a box prison, like an interdimensional prison?

Ana: That was my favorite spread of the whole thing. It was so cleverly done.

Renay: And then you have a scene where Noh-Varr, or Marvel Boy or whatever his name is, takes out an entire room of bad guys.

Ana: He actually uses the same sort of funny asides that Kate and Hawkeye do. So he embraces that because he’s talking about Hawkeye there.

Renay: I didn’t know where that character comes from. I think I suffered a little bit from not really knowing some of these characters’ backstories. Like I don’t a lot about Noh-Varr’s backstory. I don’t know a ton about America’s backstory. I had never read the places where they were introduced in this continuity specifically, so that can be kind of a struggle for somebody coming new to this comic. I liked it, though. I thought it was fun to read. I liked the plot of them trying to run away from their resurrected fake parents. However, I was not excited about the sudden suicide attempt.

Ana: Yeah. It was sudden and then it just went away.

Renay: Like if Billy is seriously considering suicide, to save people? Dear comic: if you’re gonna put that in this book, you kinda had to handle it better.

Ana: I agree.

Renay: As Teddy points out, Billy has two sets of parents and things are going good, and his boyfriend gets to live in his house with him, so why is he so upset? Why is he so sad?

Ana: That’s a good point.

Renay: Are we gonna explore this?

Ana: He could be depressed.

Renay: I also wanna know where his brother is. But overall I liked it.

Ana: I liked it but I was very confused and that just put me off the narrative so many times.

Renay: Well, I’m giving this three space bees and a jar of honey.

Ana: I’m giving just three space bees. And that makes me really sad, because we keep reading Young Avengers, but did we ever really love any of them?

Renay: There was one that I really liked at the very beginning.

Ana: Yeah.

Renay: But I think that’s been it.

Ana: It hasn’t lived up to it so far. I love the idea of the Young Avengers.

Renay: This particular instance maybe got overhyped.

Ana: Maybe.

Renay: Because they’re working within a certain context. I like Wicked and the Divine okay, but they’re working in a Marvel context for this so they have to follow continuity, follow certain characterizations, they probably have guidelines…

Ana: So are we continue to read them?

Renay: I’d like to see if the second volume makes things more clear. So I think maybe we should give it one more volume and then see.

Ana: I agree.

Renay: Sorry, Young Avengers fans! I feel like we let you down.

[music break]

Ana: Today we are thrilled to have Martha Wells on the show! Martha has written several novels, including The Element of Fire, Wheel of the Infinite, City of Bones, and The Cloud Roads. She’s also the author of one of our favorite novellas this year, All Systems Red. That’s right. We have the creator of Murderbot on Fangirl Happy Hour RIGHT NOW.

Renay: Welcome, Martha!

Martha: Thank you for having me!

Ana: It is a pleasure. Martha, how long have you been writing?

Martha: Since I can remember. Back in elementary school I always liked—I watched Godzilla movies then wrote Godzilla fanfic and then draw giant maps of Monster Island and things like that. So I can’t remember when I wanted to be a writer, but reading was always my favorite thing to do.

And by the time I went to college I was actively wanting to become a writer. I thought I might major in journalism, but I wasn’t really sure what to do and then I got a—there was a local science fiction/fantasy group, a student-run group at the university. And I ended up taking a class in science fiction writing from them that was run by Stephen Gould—

Ana: Ooh!

Martha: —who wrote Jumper. So that was kinda my introduction to professional fiction writing and also fandom in a lot of ways.

Renay: We have to go back to the very beginning where you talked about Godzilla.

Martha: Yeah. [laughs]

Renay: You were writing Godzilla fanfic and I was writing Mario and Luigi fanfic.

Martha: Oh!

Renay: We’re both inspired by Japan to write fanfic.

Martha: Yes! [laughs]

Renay: And I find this fascinating because I was from the rural South. That’s super, super cute. Godzilla fanfic! Do you still have that? Did you keep it?

Martha: Oh no. I don’t know what happened to all those papers. I probably got rid of them a long time ago. I know my mother was trying to save them for me for a while, but…

I was also really into Land of the Giants, because we had an independent TV station. It would show a scary movie, a monster movie, Godzilla or something, or some other kind of scary movie and then it would show Lost in Space and Land of the Giants. And Land of the Giants was like my first fandom. That was my favorite show. It’s an old—I think it was Irwin Allen, it was the same guy who did… Oh, about the submarine? And he did a lot of unusual for its time period science fiction shows, but it was one of them. It was about people who were near future on a—not really spaceship but more like—a shuttle that would hit orbit to go from place to place on Earth. And it’s on a trip with passengers and something happens and they crash land on this planet where it’s just like our world except a little more primitive, but everybody’s a giant.

Ana: Wow.

Martha: And they’re tiny little people and they have to hide and try to fix the ship and get home and—

Ana: I never heard of this! It sounds amazing!

Martha: Yeah it was great, especially if you’re like ten years old it was like the best thing ever.

Renay: Irwin Allen also created the Poseidon Adventure and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Martha: Yeah, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was the one I was thinking of! Because I know there’s actually a small fandom for that that was still around, at leastabout ten years ago.

Ana: So when you say that you were part of that fandom did you go to conventions? How did you interact with the other fans at the point in time?

Martha: At that time there wasn’t really any way to do it. There was no internet back then. And the first convention I went to I think I was a sophomore or a junior in high school and I got my parents to take me to Armadillocon in Austin. And it was very small at that point. It was probably maybe a hundred people and it was held in a small hotel. And you could buy fandom stuff in the dealer’s room, but there was no ebay or anything like, and I didn’t have any money to get to conventions any place. And I didn’t really know anything about media fandom conventions. I didn’t find out about that until Star Wars came out and I kind of stumbled on an ad for a Star Wars fanzine in the back of Star Luck Magazine. They used to have little fannish personal ads for things like that that people could get. The advertising in the back of the fanzine then leads you to other fanzines and that’s how you found other fans and start corresponding with other people and reading fanfic. It’s so much easier now where you can just now look it up on the internet!

Ana: [laughs]

Martha: It’s really strange to think about that time and how hard it was to connect with other people who were in fandom.

Ana: So is that one of the biggest changes that you have seen throughout your career and your life as a fan and as an author? And as an author is that the biggest difference that you can see? The way that you interact with other fans or there are other things that you can think of?

Martha: Well, I think it would be one of the biggest differences. It’s just having the internet and having that availability of information when you used to have to just—they had Writer’s Digest books in the library and you had to work off that and you couldn’t look up agents. It was harder to look up agents and you couldn’t go read someone’s blog and you couldn’t find fanfic.

And I think people were a lot more vulnerable. There’s a lot of new scams aimed at beginning writers online, but back then when people didn’t even know these kind of things existed I think you were more likely to fall prey to them because at least now there’s so many information things out there like Writer Beware that’s trying to help people and steer you away from the scam artists and stuff. So yeah, I really can’t think of anything else that’s changed, both fandom and the publishing landscape, as much as the internet.

Renay: What year did your first book come out?

Martha: 1993.

Renay: Have you been parallel as a professional writer as well as like a fanfic writer?

Martha: Yeah, for a while, and it’s kind of the fanfic became off and on cause you—

Renay: Time?

Martha: Yeah, time becomes a big deal and as your friends kind of go out of it and start doing other things, you don’t have as much motivation to keep up with it. I was a big Star Wars fan for a long time, and you know for a while there there was just—Star Wars fanfic was slow to get online because there was no new movies or anything. People were big fans of the books, but then when the prequels came out of course there was a big resurgence, which was kinda fun to watch.

Renay: What fandoms did you take part in?

Martha: It was Star Wars. It was Star Wars for a long time and then Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena and Stargate: Atlantis.

Renay: Ah, Stargate: Atlantis! So we shared a fandom.

Martha: Oh, really? Oh cool.

Renay: I was sorta on the edges of Stargate: Atlantis fandom. I think I wrote one piece of fandom that did sorta well, like middling well. I had gone from a Final Fantasy fanfic writer, like the video games that were not super popular to writing that one fanfic and getting like four pages of comments.

Martha: Yeah. [laughs]

Renay: I was like, “Oh my god! This is so much attention!”

Martha: Those were the heady Livejournal days when big fandoms got so much attention. It was crazy.

Renay: Yeah, Stargate: Atlantis fandom was great, though. People were so creative in that fandom and you went on to actually write some tie-in novels.

Martha: Yeah, I did two Stargate Atlantis tie-in novels. Because a friend of mine, Rachel Caine, had done a Stargate SG-1 novel and she recommended to me that I—so I ended up doing the two Stargate Atlantis ones, which was a lot of fun. It was really the first time I’d done anything like that, like getting paid to watch TV and— [laughs]

Ana: Living your best life, yeah.

Renay: How was it different than writing fanfic?

Martha: You have to stick with the canon. In fanfic I think you feel a little more free to come up with your own stuff and do—even if you’re not trying to do an alternate universe you can add your own spin on stuff and be more adventurous. And with a tie-in you have to really stick with the canon. I think you can put your own spin on it, but you have to make it so the people who are actually just watching the show will enjoy it too and will not…you have to stick with the main characters, you can’t invent as many original characters as you might. And you wanna try to get the actor’s voices right and make it feel like a much more expansive version of the show, like if the show had unlimited time and unlimited budget.

Renay: That’s super cool.

Martha: Yeah it is, actually. It was a lot of fun.

Renay: I really loved that fandom and I really loved that show. Ana has not seen any Stargate except the movie and she hated it.

Ana: [laughs]

Martha: Yeah, there was stuff they did in the movie that I wish they had pretended didn’t exist in the show. But yeah, that was a fun show.

Renay: Yeah, I prefer the television universe to the film universe.

Martha: Oh yeah, I did, too.

Renay: Except for maybe Stargate Universe. I’m not sure about how I feel about Stargate Universe even now.

Martha: I didn’t watch any of it. I was mad that Stargate: Atlantis was cancelled because of it.

Renay: I think about early days controversies and fandoms and I remember that specific controversy where the creator just basically insulted the fans of Stargate: Atlantis.

Martha: We were too old and too female to get their new vision, was the impression I got. So I’m like, “Okay, I’m out.”

Renay: And I was really sad about it, because John Scalzi did consulting for Stargate Universe. I really just wish they had let him write it, cause I bet I would have liked it more.

Martha: It would have been good then, but yeah.

Renay: Are you into any fandoms right now?

Martha: I’m kinda sorta starting to really getting into the Flash. I’ve been watching it since it’s come on and it’s got some things about it that I really like. It’s got the found family aspect, but it’s also got what I think is kind of different, is where people are going on adventures with their actual family members, which you don’t usually see very often.

Cause Barry’s adopted dad is part of the main group. And then there’s another brother, and then Iris—he was raised with Iris as his sister basically—and then they have kind of a found family group. So it’s got a lot of things like that that I really like. And it’s also lighter and more funny than Green Arrow and—it’s not lighter than Legends of Tomorrow, which is kinda doing its own unique strange thing over there, but I just really like what it’s doing and the kinda stories they do.

Renay: I watched the Flash last year in four days—the first season? It was amazing. I loved it.

Martha: Did you see Crisis on Earth X?

Renay: I did not see that one.

Martha: They did a crossover before, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. It was okay, but it was very awkwardly—the four shows, they did Supergirl, Green Arrow, the Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow—but they were kinda awkwardly put together. And the second one is four hours of crossover, they didn’t feel separated by show, where all the people are going to Barry and Iris’ wedding, they’re attacked by Nazis from another Earth. It was just great. I enjoyed it a lot.

Ana: I keep hearing things about all of these shows but I don’t watch any of them and I really do need to.

Martha: I think all of them are on Netflix now. I don’t think they have the most recent season.

Ana: They are not in the UK, though.

Martha: Oh, that sucks.

Ana: That’s the thing. At least not yet. I was actually in Prague for a conference and they were all in Prague’s Netflix. And I was so tempted to start watching but then I thought, “What’s the point? Because I’m gonna go back home and I won’t be able to.”

Martha: You know you’ll get addicted to it and then not be able to get it.

Ana: Exactly. And it’s just so weird the way that these things work, because I left here on Wednesday morning and I finished watching season one of Killjoys. And then I said, “Oh great, I’m gonna arrive in Prague and I’m gonna start watching season two because it ended on a HORRIBLE cliffhanger.” And then I arrived in Prague and no, Killjoys season two is not there.

Martha: [laughs]

Ana: And I’m like, “Auuugh, dammit!”

Renay: Yeah, you would think that these companies would realize that we are now a global international media environment.

Martha: I think it’s probably like the publishers, where they want to sell it to all the markets, but there’s just things in the way.

Ana: The other day I wanted to buy a book that was out in the US. It was Malinda Lo’s A Line in the Dark, and I wanted to buy a hardcover here in the UK. There was just no way of doing that. I had to wait for week.

Martha: Yeah, that’s one of the things authors can’t do anything about. There’s a lot of things that authors can’t do anything about but that we get blamed for.

Ana: That is unfortunate, indeed.

Martha: Yeah.

Renay: We will never blame you. We understand.

Martha: Okay.

Renay: Well, I understands because Ana teaches me all these publisher tricks and hardships.

Ana: Well, I try to.

Renay: Well, you try.

Ana: Are you a full-time writer, Martha?

Martha: Yes.

Ana: Oh!

Martha: Since about 2006.

Ana: That’s cool. Do you like it?

Martha: Yeah. It’s nice having Twitter and the internet where I can kind of—I don’t talk a lot on Twitter but I can see other authors talking. So it feels a little bit like a watercooler. Like you’re not sitting alone in a house and you have access to other people. It gets a bit weird especially around Christmas when all your friends are having Christmas lunches for work and Christmas parties and stuff and you basically have nothing except yourself.

Ana: Do you have any writing groups around you or something like that?

Martha: Not really. I don’t really have any—I have friends in town but no friends—writing friends—kind of. Most of them would be living in Austin or Houston. I see them when we do conventions, or go up there for events and all that, visit and everything, but it’s not a daily basis or anything like that.

Ana: As a lady writer that started writing in 1993: how do you see the field in terms of being a woman writer?

Martha: It kinda fluctuates a lot because in the nineties I didn’t have as much awareness of how difficult it was for women. Again, because you’re not seeing the bigger nature of things on the internet. You’re kinda more isolated in your own groups. And in Texas there was always a huge number of women in fandom and in professional writing. And most of the time when I was going to conventions or when we were running—I was running conventions in college, it was like most of the people in the fandom group who were making the decisions and doing a lot the work in women. Someone has asked me this before and my opinion is really that things have gotten worse for women writers and probably women fans, too, over maybe the past ten years or so, certainly since around 2000.

Ana: And that is so bizarre, isn’t it?

Martha: Yeah. We have this impression that things always go from bad to good. Things always get better as time goes on, and it’s kind of—it’s really not true.

Ana: And that goes with what you said in your speech recently, too, right? Because it’s about people being made invisible rather than being invisible.

Martha: Because people still believe that pulps were all male. I mean, I talked about it in the speech that hearing that C.L. Moore was like the woman writer, and no, even for Weird Tales alone there was probably… I forget the statistics. It was something like…well, I know there’s over a hundred female writers, and poets, and people writing letters to the magazine, and having their letters printed. And a lot of them were not using pseudonyms and were not using their initials. And all of them have not just been forgotten as writers, but basically erased from history with the idea repeated over and over again of, “No, there were no women writers at that time except maybe one. One or two.”

Renay: What do you think caused that?

Martha: It’s really weird. I really don’t know. The incident I’ve read the most about is the women movie writers in silent era Hollywood and how the writer—it’s Cari Beauchamp—her book Without Lying Down is about this. If I’m remembering right, what she was thinking it was is when the big money corporations came into Hollywood. As opposed to having wealthy individuals owning and financing all these little studios when the big companies came in it homogenized everything. And that included getting rid of a lot of the women who were writers and producers and directors. So I don’t know. I don’t fully know what caused it, but that’s probably a big factor. Control by a small number of people instead of having a lot of basically diverse individuals out there doing different things and having control over their own area.

Renay: It’s capitalism again.

Martha: Basically, yeah.

Renay: It’s ruining everything!

When I first got active in fantasy and science fiction and fantasy fandom online back in 2008 I was just really disturbed by some of the rhetoric that I saw. Not just, “Oh, women don’t write science fiction and fantasy,” but, “Women can’t write science fiction and fantasy. It’s not good. It’s not quality writing,” and it was really frustrating, especially to watch people who didn’t know about the history come into the field and just accept that as—

Martha: As fact, yeah.

Renay: It’s like if you repeat a lie enough it becomes true.

Martha: Yeah, they’re contributing to the erasure whether they know it or not.

Renay: And I remember just being really frustrated, and I did a project about reviews, where I would look at all the popular blogs and then look at their reviews, and the gender balance of the reviews. And what I found was that women just don’t get reviewed. And the reasons for that were nonsense, like, “Oh, well I just prefer men,” “Oh, I don’t see gender,” whatever. I really think that if I did that same project today that I would find that it would be worse.

Ana: Do you think?

Renay: Blogs don’t really exist in the same way, the conversation has been diffused across social media, but I really think it would be worse because if they weren’t getting reviewed, as social media changed, I feel like we would just see more men getting attention via whatever social media, versus women. The problem would be repeated but in the new way that we talk about books like on Twitter or on Youtube, cause booktube is a thing. And on booktube I don’t really ever see booktubers talk about the gender balance of what they’re reading. I see a lot of discussion about race, but I don’t see a lot of discussion about gender. Some platforms are making actual effort, like you have Tor and they do a lot of good work, but otherwise I just sometimes get really discouraged when I look at the field and the way that women’s books are talked about or in this case not talked about.

Martha: Yeah, I get especially frustrated when I see people who otherwise seem well-read sit there and say, “Why won’t science-fiction and fantasy ever write this kind of story?” and it’s the kind of story that people have been writing since the eighties, but the people who’ve been writing it are women. So when people say that what they mean is, “Why won’t my favorite white straight man writer write this kind of story?” And it just gets very frustrating.

I mean I thought this was especially a really exciting year for science fiction and fantasy. There were so many good books out. At the World Fantasy convention because I was the toastmaster, all the guests of honor got offered one of every book the publishers contributed, so instead of the book bag of like twelve books, we got like three boxes of books.

Ana: Wow.

Martha: Yeah, it was a lot. I kinda weeded it down to one box because we drove and I still didn’t think we had room for this box in our car. I got Jade City by Fonda Lee, which was incredible. And Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng, which was incredible. And oh my favurite was The Tiger’s Daughter by K. I think it’s Arsenault Rivera. And that was I thought one of the best single volume fantasies I’d ever read in my life. That book totally captured me.

Ana: Wasn’t it the Tiger’s Daughter? That went completely under my radar

Martha: Yeah, it was gorgeous. Everything about it—the world building and then the Tor.com novellas: J.Y. Yang: their two novellas. I think it’s The Red Thread of Fortune and The Black Tides of Heaven, is it?

Ana: Yeah, I think so.

Martha: Yeah. The world building in both of those were off the hook. It was so original and exciting and there’s been so many good novellas and novels out. A I haven’t even read that much, I feel like, but the stuff that I’ve read has been all so great and I thought this has been such an exciting year and there’s so many people standing around basically saying, “Oh no, it doesn’t exist. These books don’t exist.”

Ana: Yeah, it’s so frustrating.

Renay: But speaking of awesome Tor novellas, you wrote an awesome Tor novella.

Martha: Oh, thank you!

Renay: Yes, this is the portion of the show where we shower you with praise ,because we loved your story of Murderbot. I actually wrote a really long review, which later somebody told me I was overthinking it, I’m like, “No I’m not, it’s thoughtful!”

Martha: [laughs]

Ana: And going back to what you said that you wrote tie-in novels with Stargate. What I had read from you before reading All Systems Red was the Wheel of the Infinite and I read the Cloud Roads and all the other books in the Raksura, and of course those are all fantasy. And then I read All Systems Red and was like, “But this is science fiction?” But now knowing that you were already writing science fiction when you were writing fanfiction and the tie-in novels, so it’s really a back and forth for you, not really a from one thing to another.

Martha: Yeah, I’ve always loved science fiction as well as fantasy. And actually when I was growing up reading in the seventies, there wasn’t as much separation between the two of them. There was a lot more—they’re calling it different things now, but like science fantasy or sword and planet? Where you have basically science fiction with kind of fantasy elements to it, which is which you can make a big case that what the Books of the Raksura are.

Ana: Mm!

Martha: Or a fantasy that has science fictional world-building, which is what Andre Norton used to do a lot. That kind of book was a lot more common in the seventies and eighties. But yeah I’ve always read both and I’ve always liked both, it’s just that I kinda got pigeon-holed as a fantasy writer for a long time, but this was the idea when I got the idea, it was very much a science fiction idea. Or basically a science fiction world was the best way to tell it.

Renay: Well I’m a big fan of robot pals. I love robot pals. They’re my favorite. It’s my brand, I don’t like the evil robots that capitalism is trying to install in society, those are not robot pals. No! but I went into All Systems Red, I didn’t really know what to expect, because like Ana I had only read your fantasy novels. I was just so charmed by the narrative voice and a lot of reviews have talked about the narrative voice of this character and how both human but not, Murderbot sounds. I am super interested to know how you came up with that narrative voice in particular.

Martha: Well, I think I’d had a lot of experience—or seven books worth of experience—of writing alien characters with the Raksura, so that really helped a lot and kinda being able to get into an alien mindset. And what I really wanted to write was a—cause you see a lot of the robot that wants to be human or the AI that wants to be human, and I wanted to write an AI that did not want to be human and that almost made its own little culture all by itself.

When the plot came to me the voice just came together with that. And I didn’t have a big plan when I went into it, I just kinda started, “Oh I’ll just write this fun little robot story” and actually it was originally a short story. It was gonna have a sad ending, and then the more I looked at it the more I thought, “Well it’s gonna be at least 10,000 words and that’s not a very good length for a short story, I’ll make it longer.” And making it longer I kinda got further and further away from the idea of a sad ending cause when I spend that much time with characters you don’t wanna kill off everybody in the end or anything like that. And I thought, “Oh yeah I can submit it as a novella to Tor,” and that’s what happened.

Ana: Well ,I’m so glad and so pleased that you changed your mind.

Renay: And I don’t think that you necessarily didn’t have a sad ending, because I think the ending—which I will not spoil for people who have not read it, although if you’re listening to this: go read it immediately—it’s sad but not in the ,”Oh, rocks fall everyone dies” way. It’s sad in a totally different way, which I found realistic but not grim. This year especially, grim is just not my bag. I don’t need it. But this, I found to just be a delight. Even though it was sort of sad.

Ana: It was more like bittersweet.

Martha: There’s three more stories written —

Ana: Excellent!

Martha: Yeah, Artificial Condition is the next one and it starts pretty quickly after the first one ends and it comes out in May. And then Rogue Protocol comes out in August. And I’m actually working on the revision now for the fourth one which is Exit Strategy, which I think is also gonna come out next year.

Renay: I thought that the second one came out in January?

Martha: It originally did but because it did so well, I’m not entirely sure how they decided this but it’s going to go through the Tor Books distribution system instead of just the Tor.com distribution system, which means it’ll be available in more book stores.

Ana: That’s amazing.

Martha: It’s gonna be in hardcover instead of paperback which is gonna be a pain because it won’t match the first paperback and I know people when you get—they like to have them match. They had to move it back a little bit to May to make that happen.

Renay: I’ve just solved that dilemma by buying ebooks and then waiting until the paperbacks come out and then getting all the paperbacks. That’s how I solved the hardback dilemma.

Martha: I’d also love it if they did a single edition where they put all four of them together.

Ana: Yeah, that would be really cool.

Renay: Dear Tor: that’s an idea! Do it! I will buy it! Once we’ve figured out that it had moved, because we were all very excited about it. So in my Slack group, we discovered that it had been moved to May and there was like a period of mourning.

Martha: [laughs]

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: Because we were like, “Oh no we have to wait!”

Martha: Well it’ll be interesting, because I’ve never had three major things like that come out in one year. In this year actually I had The Harbours of the Sun came out—the last Raksura boo—came out in July, a few months after Murderbot, so that was kind of exciting.

Renay: Ana, do you have any other questions?

Ana: I have one very important question.

Renay: Oh no.

Martha: [laughs]

Ana: We have had a recurring conversation on this podcast and it’s a very important question. Are you ready?

Martha: Okay.

Renay: [laughs]

Ana: Is cheesecake a pie or a cake?

Martha: You know my first impulse is to say cake, but really it is really a pie, isn’t it?

Ana: We don’t know.

Martha: Think about key-lime pie which is just fruit basically just a different kind of cheesecake that’s called a pie.

Ana: It’s a pie, yes, but a cheesecake is called a cake.

Martha: It doesn’t have a sponge. I would think that the technical definition of a cake would involve the actual sponge.

Renay: Ann Leckie calls it a sandwich.

Martha: Yeah! [laughs]

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: That was a wrench in that question.

Ana: That was amazing, yeah. [laughs] It’s like: how? [laughs]

Martha: It’s an open faced sandwich, yeah.

Ana: It has the base, it has kinda like the bread thing, it has the filling.

Renay: When you ask that question in the future, you need to include, “Is it a pie, is it a cake, or is it sandwich?”

Ana: Maybe.

Renay: I can’t believe you ask everybody this question.

Ana: Forever, it is our question now.

Renay: So where can people find you online?

Martha: My website is marthawells.com and that’s got links to like my Twitter feed and I’m mostly on Twitter now. I have a still have a journal at Dreamwidth. I haven’t been posting much in the past few weeks cause I’m just so busy. I usually try to do a kind of a round-up of new books, especially books by women authors and PoC authors, and books that are obscure. That’s under my book rec tag. I’m mostly on Twitter and mostly on my journal and there’s links to them on the website.

Renay: Awesome! So thank you so much for coming on and talking to us about a myriad of topics.

Martha: Thank you for inviting me. I had a great time.

Renay: And we are very excited about Artificial Condition which comes out in May.

Martha: In May. [laughs]

Renay: We’ll be there. On release day.

[music break]

Renay: Time for some recommendations! Ana: hit me.

Ana: I started watching Killjoys, which is a Canadian science fiction TV show, currently on Netflix. And it’s super fun. So, it’s a far in the future, humans are travelling the galaxies and there is this planet that has this evil corporation that takes care of everything called the Company. But then you have independent people called Killjoys that take on contracts to go and collect people or arrest people. It starts with two of them working together. They are best friends: it’s a woman and a guy, and it’s super great because they are really, really, really just friends? And it’s really rare to see this in television or movies or etcetera, so they have a really great relationship and she is the leader and the super strong fighter. And he’s the tech guy. And she makes things up a little bit. They go and rescue his brother who is the typical bad boy with a tormented past. That’s my favorite trope and I’m already in love with this guy from the moment he walks into the screen. But the show really subverts a lot of things and the first season ended on a horrible cliffhanger and I haven’t been able to start season 2 yet. But it’s there! It’s on Netflix, I need to watch it. And it has just been renewed for a fourth season so it’s doing well. I think you would love it.

Renay: I should try it.

Ana: What about you? What’s your rec?

Renay: So backstory to my rec: we do show notes every episodes so like we know the order we’re gonna talk about things in. To troll Ana, I wrote in Iron Fist. And her reaction in this sheet—it’s beautiful.

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: Like “chef’s kiss” moment beautiful.

Ana: I just did a double-take when I read it and was just like “This cannot be true.” Is it true, Renay? Is that true? Is that what you’re recommending?

Renay: I’m trolling everybody, I’m not recommending Iron Fist, although I have been watching it. I know—don’t—I know. It’s bad.

Ana: It’s so bad.

Renay: My actual rec is for something much better, much more quality, and more delicious. Yes: it’s the Great British Bake Off.

Ana: Yes!

Renay: I had never really heard of this show and I was looking for some like feel good TV, and somebody was like, “Hey, you should watched the Great British Bake-Off because it’s super easy going and everybody’s supportive and there’s hugging.” And I was like, “Okay I’ll give it a shot” even though I hate most cooking shows because everybody’s so mean, and it’s too tense for me. I don’t like it. But that’s American cooking shows. The Great British Bake-Off is so nice. Everybody’s so nice to each other and they help each other. Augh it’s so great! I love Mary Berry. and Paul Hollywood’s okay, but his long silent stares just are starting to make me nervous whenever I see them, and I’m not even cooking anything.

Ana: And the two presenters.

Renay: I started with Netflix, US Netflix, and in US Netflix the first season is actually like season five in the UK so the first season I ever watched featured Ian, who threw his entire cake or whatever in the garbage can.

Ana: Mm, I remember that. That was dramatic.

Renay: Somebody told me that it became like national news and a national scandal and people were like accusing Diana of sabotage. But the show’s generally not that dramatic. But all the other seasons that I’ve watched have been really nice. Although I always disagree with who wins. Well, to all the people who recommended the Great British Bake Off to me: I’m sorry it took me so long, you were all right. It is super charming. If you like watching people make things and like watching supportive environments and get really really tense over American cooking shows where everybody is mean and nasty and backstabby to each other in the commentary, then the Great British Bake-Off might be for you.

Okay Ana, tell everybody what we’re going to talk about next time.

Ana: May the Force be with us. We’ll be discussing The Last Jedi.

[music break]

Renay: If you have any thoughts, send them to us at fangirlhappyhour@gmail.com. You can also chat with us on Twitter at @fangirlpodcast.

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: Our annual survey is live on this very internet. We would love your thoughts, and especially your recs. Also this year I fixed it so there’s no way my beautiful bell curves can be broken on the question of how many books people read per year. I planned for this.

Ana: And now that we can actually use Patreon again, for reals, why not support us?

Renay: Have a snack, drink some water, and tell one creator you love something that they’ve made. Thanks for listening, space bees.

Ana: See you next episode.

[music break]

Renay: [sigh] Here we go. Hi friends—!

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: I forgot my name.

Ana: [laughs harder]


Ana: Plus, in other good news, our annual—annnnnual— [laughs] I’m ten years old.

Renay: It’s fine. So am I.

Ana: Our—our annual sur—
Renay: No, stop laughing and then talk!

Ana: [laughs]


Renay: Do you know his name in Norse—wait, is that the language?

Ana: No Norse is—you would say Norse mythology.

Renay: What’s his name in ruins? Do you know that one?

Ana: In runes. No.

Renay: Oh. Well. I thought you might since you apparently learned them.

Ana: Oh, right, no. No, I don’t. Do I?

Renay: [laughs]


Renay: Well you failed your runes quiz, but it’s okay.

Ana: [bangs desk] Okay.


Renay: Oh no. What have I started?


Ana: I just punched myself in the face.

[beep] [beep]