Episode #116 Transcript: Hello, Darkness

Episode Number: 116
Episode Title: Hello, Darkness (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Ana: Hi friends! I’m Dark Ana.

Renay: And I’m Renay.

Ana: And this is Fangirl Happy Hour.

[music break]

Ana: I discovered that I am becoming a cranky old lady. So therefore I must embrace the new me that does not seem to love a lot of things lately and have mild negative feelings about pretty much everything that I have been consuming. And then I end up reading tons and tons and tons of crime. I’m Dark Ana.

Renay: [laughs] Hello everybody. We’re back, in a timely manner. It’s gonna be a fantastic episode. Although now that Dark Ana is here…

Ana: Who knows? Anything can happen.

[music break]

Renay: Before we hop into our media discussion, what have we been reading? What have you been reading, Ana? What have you just finished and what are you currently reading?

Ana: I finished yesterday: Nine Perfect Strangers by Lianne Moriarty and I really enjoyed Nine Perfect Strangers. It’s a thriller, about nine people that end up at a health retreat and they have ten days to change their lives. The person who is running the retreat is a little bit bananas and things just really escalate in a way that is really tense and suspenseful. But I really liked the characters and what they were going through in their personal lives. 

Then I started reading another thriller by Tana French, who is a favorite author. She writes crime novels, usually in a series, set in Dublin. And they all have detectives from the murder squad, but this novel that I’m reading is her newest one that just came out last month. It’s called The Witch Hour and it’s actually a standalone. And the protagonist is this really self-absorbed, privileged white dude, and so far the novel has been about that. I dunno where it’s going to go, but so far he’s just an awful person and I’m not sure I like to be inside his head. But we shall trust Tana French, to do something cool with that. 

What about you?

Renay: I just finished Band Sinister, which is about a brother and sister duo who’ve been banished to the countryside due to scandal. The sister writes a gothic novel based on a scandalous group of men who live nearby. While snooping around the guy’s house, she falls off her horse and breaks her leg, and has to recuperate at the scandalous guy’s house, and of course the brother and the scandalous guy bang. It’s actually a very nice novel. There’s not a high body count, which is what I’m used to from KJ Charles novel. It’s lovely. And there’s like poly relationships in it, and there’s a lady in it who writes books, which I’m always there for. 

I’m currently reading the sequel to Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, called Windwitch. I don’t know why I’m doing it; maybe I hate myself? Because when I read Truthwitch, I was really mad. Truthwitch is about two girls and they’re as close as sisters but they’re not sisters, and what I really expected from this book is some super gay lady adventure. That’s not what happens at all. One of the girls is gonna like get with the prince, and then another one is gonna eventually hook up with some evil assassin dude who changes his tune or whatever. No. This is not how this goes. I’ve been in fandom too long.

Ana: So I think you’ll be disappointed.

Renay: I know I’m going to be disappointed, already.

Ana: I’m really sorry. Just so you know, this information is provided to you by Dark Ana.

Renay: Thanks, Dark Ana.

Ana: Do you like the writing? Do you like the world apart from that, and the characters?

Renay: I like the politics. And I like the mythology of the world itself; there’s a bunch of mysteries and I wanna know the answers to the mysteries. I find the racial politics pretty questionable. This might be the last one in the series that I read. It’s okay as a book, but it’s not queer and clearly it should have been queer.

Ana: This would be like an ongoing blurb that you could offer to books. Or a hashtag. #ItShouldHaveBeenQueer

Renay: I really think most books can benefit from a strand of queerness. So reading-wise, that’s where I am. I am curious to see what everyone else is reading, so you should tell us! You can send us a message on Twitter at @fangirlpod, let us know what you’ve been reading, what you’re currently reading, and maybe what you’re looking forward to reading.

[music break]

Renay: In 2018, one of our goals was to read a story every episode of an anthology called Robots vs Fairies, edited Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe. Needless to say, the year got away from us, we did not read a story every episode because we stopped having episodes, but we’re back, so now I guess now in 2019, you can look forward to us reading a story from this anthology every episode of the year.

Ana: Literally. [laugh]

Renay: I feel like I need to send Saga Press an apology letter. Listen, I’m sorry.

Ana: Come December 2019 we will be celebrating the end.

Renay: “Dear Saga Press, very sorry. I didn’t realize that I was going to go work on a political campaign. Ana didn’t realize that her life was going to explode. We didn’t see the things coming.” We have read four stories, so now we’re on story five, and story five is Bread and Milk and Salt by Sarah Gailey. It is a fairy story.

Ana: And it is the best story so far. It is very dark.

Renay: Dark Ana approves. Renay over here is like, “Are you sure?”  I mean, it’s a very good story. How much of Sarah Gailey’s work have you read?

Ana: Only the first hippo novella. I feel like I have read another short story. I can’t remember which one now.

Renay: The vibe I’m getting from Sarah Gailey’s work is darkness, which Dark Ana can approve of. I don’t need darkness. I worked on a political campaign. I’m done with darkness for a while.

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: But this story is about a boy and a fairy, who meet when the boy is young, and then follow each other around until the boy grows up. This story took a turn that I did not expect. I was sort of impressed.

Ana: Because it starts in a fairy-tale-like tone: the fairy observing the boy; seeing him grow up; and it felt like a benign thing at first. But obviously it wasn’t from either side. The fairy was not a good fairy. The boy was most definitely not a good boy.

Renay: Yikes.

Ana: So the boy’s a psychopath, who likes to experiment on living beings, and he captures the fairy at some point, completely surprising the fairy, and from then on it was just really really heavy and dark.

Renay: The man is researching how to combine animals and robotics?

Ana: Yes, so there’s an element of robots here, too.

Renay: Yikes, dude, yikes. What? Yikes! I like how I don’t really have a lot to say except “Yikes!”. This story! It was so dark.

Ana: Like the darkness comes from several things. One, there is the boy’s—well, the man’s —psychopathic behaviour. He entraps the fairy; removes their wings. By doing so, it strips the fairy from their powers, and makes it turn into a girl, that he makes into a wife of sorts. So we would have the elements of enslaving a human being, but you also have the elements of enslaving a woman and abusing the fairy when in the body of a woman. So there’s a lot of commentary there and I dug it.

Renay: Dark Ana was a fan.

Ana: You weren’t a fan?

Renay: I don’t know if I was a fan. It was a good story. I really liked it. I liked the way it was told. I liked the way that the story draws from cycles of abuse. The kid grows up into this dude who is super abusive and doesn’t value life in general, and that is really driven home when you look at the way he was raised. As for liking-liking it, uh…you know how it is. It’s pretty dark.

Ana: I liked it. There was an element of revenge that I really enjoyed when the fairy turns the table and regains their power and uses it, not to escape, but to entrap the man into his own hell. And the fairy then assumes the face of the boy, so the boy or the man or whatever, it’s always looking at himself in that situation that he cannot escape. So it is really dark—incredibly dark—and I loved it because that’s where I am at the moment.

Renay: I’m definitely the person who likes nice fairies, but historically when we have fairy fiction, fairies aren’t generally nice? They’re inhumane, and immortal, and they can’t value lives of humans like humans value their own lives, and so it makes them a little separate and a little dark. Apparently, I am the person who likes nice fairies and not dark fairies.

Ana: The idea of nice fairies is something that comes from Disney, I think. It has taken the idea of the fae pople and turned into benign creatures in their fairy tales. Even Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell in the book is a bitch.

Renay: The one that kind of changes Tinkerbell is Hook.

Ana: That’s Julia Roberts, right?

Renay: Mm-hm!

Ana: Oh my god. I just remembered that! So, in literature and urban fantasy has a lot of fairies, and it’s always the inhuman.

Renay: I dunno. Good story! Too dark for me.

Ana: Good story. Dark enough for me.

Renay: Dark Ana is like yes, more of this please. I’m going to give this one of my points, that I have for robots or fairy stories, even though I don’t think it was for me. It’s a really good story.

Ana: I’m definitely giving fairies another one of my points, too. And five space bees.

Renay: Both!

Ana: That’s how much I liked it.

Renay: So if you like dark fairy stories, you need to read Bread and Milk and Salt. If you have thoughts about this story, let us know! Is it too dark for you, just dark enough, not dark enough? Are you going to go even beyond Dark Ana?

Ana: How could this story be even darker?

Renay: Don’t ask! Somebody’s gonna tell us!

Ana: I hope so.

Renay: Listen, if you tell us, please make sure to address the email FOR ANA’S EYES ONLY. Thank you.

Ana: [laughs]

[music break]

Renay: Published in June of 2018 by Tor.com, Witchmark by C.L. Polk is about Miles Singer, who ran away from his family to go to war, and came back to serve as a psychiatrist in his home city while still hiding from his family. But of course, secret identities don’t last for long. He is outed when another witch finds him and basically dies in his arms and gives him his power. After that, everything changes. 

Okay, Ana, what are your thoughts about Witchmark?

Ana: I actually first read it when it came out, because I work with Fran Wilde and Aliette de Bodard on their podcast, Cooking the Books, and I send them questions to ask the people that they are interviewing. They are special Book Smugglers questions and a little bit silly, but also I still have to read the books, obviously, so that I can ask at least two questions that are insightful. I haven’t reviewed it. I don’t know! I was a little bit lukewarm about it. Not that I disliked it. I actually really enjoyed it. I just didn’t have a whole lot to say so I’m curious to hear your thoughts because you also had feelings.

Renay: Yeah, I wrote a whole thread on this book on Twitter as I was reading it, and I’m not sure what the caused this. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been reading a lot of fiction. I’ve been listening to a lot of fiction but I’ve not been reading it. I’ve also been doing a lot of non-fiction reading, so I don’t know if I’ve been away from my normal way of imbibing fiction, but every chapter in this book felt like it had a fucking cliffhanger at the end of it. I was super tense the whole time, but it was also a really nice book. It made me feel like warm and fuzzy. It was kind of like The Goblin Emperor for me in that way, but this book was fucking dark because it’s about war and power, both figuratively and literally.

Ana: Slavery.

Renay: Yep.

Ana: Terrible parents.

Renay: Very terrible parents. So Miles is a doctor who can do magic, but he has to hide that because in his country, witches like him are used as basically batteries for stronger witches to pull power from and he ran away from that. He didn’t want to be bonded, I guess, to the stronger witch, which is this case was his sister, and he is currently working in a hospital where a man brings in somebody who’s dying, saying he was poisoned, and it just opened up this huge mystery that Miles then joins up with the man to solve. The man, Tristan, and Miles, eventually bang, so in case you’re curious: that happens.

Ana: And it’s a lovely romance.

Renay: I literally bought the book because the guy at Borderlands was like, “Oh you’re thinking about buying that book?” And I was like ,”Yeah.” I’m like “I just have one question: is it super gay?” He’s like “It’s super gay.” I’m like “Sign me up. I’m buying it.” Thank you, Borderlands dude.

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: But there’s a lot of other stuff going on here, like power dynamics between Miles and Tristan because Tristan has some secrets of his own. Then obviously power dynamics between Miles and his sister who find each other again due to shenanigans. At one point I made a comment that I think that C.L. Polk is secretly a writer on The Good Place, because at the end of every chapter, she would set things up to be a way and then she would knock em down.

Ana: That’s interesting. It didn’t feel like that reading.

Renay: It’s very tropey, and it goes in the way you would expect, but it also does it in a way for me, as a reader, where it feels like it could go a different way at every moment.

Ana: I didn’t feel that tension when I was reading it. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the world building considering it’s a novella, or a very short novel, and it was well developed.

Renay: This is a novel. This isn’t a novella. My copy of this book has 318 pages. That’s a novel.

Ana: Why did I think it was a novella?

Renay: Because I guess Tor.com published it?

Ana: Yeah, that’s true. But it reads really fast.

Renay: After this point there’s gonna be some spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, please go and read the book. I don’t think you’ll regret it. 

I figured out what was happening, like a little bit before the book figured out what was happening, where they’re using witches to power their cities. [laughs]

Ana: Well, there is a difference between witches and wizards, right, so wizards are the ones which belong to the privileged class, and witches are the ones that are the poor, so basically they are treated as second class citizens and used to fuel, literally, the city.

Renay: That sucks!

Ana: Yes, and this is all done by Miles’ family. His father primarily is the leader of the Invisibles, the high class, the rich people really, in this world, that happen to be the most powered wizards. And his father at one point in the book manages to trap Miles and his sister and forces their bond to happen. His sister is also being forced, but is complicit in it, and I thought that relationship between Miles and Grace was really well done, considering all of that tension and power dynamics that happen between them that he felt disappointed and he felt resentment but never—that never crossed into hatred. To the point where they were able to settle things between themselves and forgive each other. Well actually, he had to forgive her, she didn’t have anything to forgive him, as she enslaved her own brother.

Renay: She enslaved him under duress, but then wouldn’t let him go.

Ana: Exactly. Because she believed what she had been told her whole life, too. She was living under that lie. It didn’t make her any less complicit in the situation, but she was also lied to in many, many ways. And to her credit, once she learned the truth, she let him go.

Renay: Although she kind of like outed them, at the end there. She didn’t realize the extent of what was happening so she sort of gave up that they would be going to the place where they were going to discover the truth, so the father was there and almost like fucked things up. 

So I have a question about the end. I was very conflicted. This book is all about powerful people bonding slaves to them, magical slaves, and these bonded people are—they’re trapped. They can’t leave, they spend a lot of their time high or drunk because they’re so miserable, they don’t have any say over their lives. 

At one point during the novel when Miles actually goes with Grace to an event, Miles is passed around between women who want to marry him, i.e. breed with him, because they realize that he ran away, he was able to get away for some time, so they would be able to follow their dreams and do things they want because he would be an easy-going husband. And at the end, Miles tries to basically break up this system of magic that is pulling souls into a system that powers the city. He almost dies, and at the very end of the book we find out that the reason that he stayed alive is because Tristan bonded to him. I was very conflicted, Ana.

Ana: The ending conflicted me in different ways, because you have all of these witches sacrificing themselves and actually dying. Meanwhile, the heroes didn’t lose that much, and I just felt that the ending was not earned. It just felt very easy.

Renay: Yeah, Miles lost his mom, so I guess I had a little bit less problem with him, because what does that mean for Miles’ power if he no longer has those two stars, those two marks, because he tapped their power to bring down the network his father had built.

Ana: Well, he’s still super powerful because he has bonded with one of the Amarathines.

Renay: Yeah, but is he powerful or is he powerful because of somebody else?

Ana: Well, the same question could be applied if we think that maybe his power came from his mum.

Renay: Dark Ana!

Ana: I mean, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, because I don’t think that maybe that’s the point that I would make. I think it is the actual topic of bonding itself.

Renay: Listen, I’m from fandom, and I’m all in for some like soul bonds so I’m real weirded out by the end of this book, because I liked it, but I’m also like, “Wait, this is complicated!”

Ana: But Tristan can read his mind, he knows what Tristan is feeling all the time now that they are bonded so that is the creepy side of this kind of bonding.

Renay: From fandom, which I love.

Ana: Yeah, I know, but that well—I remember the fanfic that had hundreds of thousands of words that you made me read for Star Trek and it was literally about this. [laughs] And I loved it, so I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Renay: I’m just really—so I’m conflicted about that part.

Ana: Well to me the biggest problem is how easily it felt that they solved this hugely complicated, systemic problem that this city had. Let’s just use magic to bring everything down and now what? What’s gonna happen?

Renay: So now we’re gonna have to deal obviously with—

Ana: The weather. It’s climate change. This whole novel is a metaphor for climate change.

Renay: One of the other things that we were going to talk about was the war. Aelanders was at war with Laneeri and had subjugated them, but the Laneeri were like, “Fuck y’all” and had established this awful plan of attaching souls—really angry souls—to living soldiers going home to Aeland so at any time these souls could just take over and kill Aelanders all over the place. Even ones that probably never had any control over the war to begin with.

Ana: Terrorism, basically. They were sending time bombs. And then in the meantime, you have these fantastical beings, that are pretty much fae-like, the Amaranthines. They’ve like observed things from afar, and don’t get involved, and are rumored to be unable to love, and to leave their lovers behind broken. Tristan is one of those people. But he turned out to be really nice and he fell in love with Miles and he was shaking the first time they had sex. It was so adorable.

Renay: I like good fairies, Ana.

Ana: Yeah, I guess he was a good fairy.

Renay: Yeah, but we don’t know much about the others so I’m really curious to see what the other fairies are like, because there is a sequel to this book coming out, but it does not feature Miles. It features Grace.

Ana: I knew you were gonna say that. It’s gonna be her redemption story.

Renay: And one of the characters that we meet who knew Nick—the person who was murdered that Miles and Tristan were trying to solve the murder of. One of his friends, Avia Jessop, is trying to deal with the changes in Kingston, in the city, after Miles and Tristan and Grace take down the network, but she’s also doing it by journalist skills and researching, and every single time she finds a way to find answers, it leads her to Grace. So they’re gonna bang and I’m excited for it.

Ana: I’m curious. I’m gonna read it because I want to know how exactly things stand in that place. And hopefully we’ll get to see Graces’ full redemption story.

Renay: She’s not unredeemable. I’m just not sure I like her as a person right now.

Ana: I do, because I like awful characters at the moment.

Renay: Dark Ana strikes again!

Ana: It’s a thing.

Renay: Okay, how many space bees are you going to give this?

Ana: Three space bees and a bottle of honey.

Renay: I’m gonna give it four.

Ana: And Tristan’s gonna live forever and Miles is gonna die soon.

Renay: Dark Ana! Why you gotta be this way?

Ana: Reality check.

Renay: Witchmark by C.L. Polk is out now from Tor.com. We’d like to know what you thought about it.

[music break]

Renay: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was directed by Susan Johnson based on the 2014 novel by Jenny Han. It is a Netflix summer romance, because this summer Netflix went all in on the romantic comedy. I slept on this film. It came out, everybody was talking about it. I was just like, “What the fuck is this?” and then finally somebody was like, “You have to watch it!” and I feel really mad that I missed it because I was busy working because I would have loved to be around when everybody was first discovering it and talking about it. I loved this movie, Ana.

Ana: I watched it the day it came out, I was very, very charmed by it, and then I rewatched it again.

Renay: Oh no.

Ana: A couple of hours ago.

Renay: Dark Ana strikes again.

Ana: And I had some feelings.

Renay: Please elaborate.

Ana: We should probably just talk about the movie generally first, before I talk about my feelings.

Renay: Okay. So they agree to fake date.

Ana: That’s my favorite romantic trope too. In that case this movie is brilliant. The chemistry was out of this world. They were so good together, the two actors, I felt. No? Your face is a bit dubious.

Renay: No, I agree with you. I was just distracted thinking about how attractive Peter was.

Ana: Well Lara Jean, too. But this is another problem right? Because I felt really skeevy watching this movie, especially the hot tub scene, because I was just like, “This is really hot!” and I was like “Oh my god but they are sixteen.” [laughs] “This is so inappropriate, Ana Grilo!”

Renay: I know that feeling, but then I remember that everything’s fiction and nothing matters anymore, so whatever.

Ana: But as a high school romance movie it is miles ahead from anything.

Renay: Yeah, I was thinking back to some of the romantic comedies I liked when I was younger and I was just like, “Holy shit.”

Ana: Ten Things I Hate About You was amazing and it’s also about fake dating. I think that’s probably my favorite.

Renay: I think my favorite relationships in this film, even though I really liked the romance part, my favorite relationship was between the sisters.

Ana: It was great. It was super super nice.

Renay: It was like the anchor relationships. The biggest drama was not between Peter and Lara Jean. It was between what Kitty did to Lara Jean, not realizing the problems it would cause, or Jean lying to everybody in her life, most importantly: her sister Margot. Like, everything tilts around Lara Jean and Margot’s relationship. How close they were, what the distance between Lara Jean and Margot does, complications about how Lara Jean feels about Josh and I just really enjoyed how much the film centred those relationships.

Ana: Yes. I agree, And Lara’s Jean’s best friend, Chris, too, was super cool.

Renay: I also liked how Peter and Kitty got along.

Ana: I know, that was so adorable! They had really good repartee moments. 

Yes, I guess there is no Dark Ana in this segment. Apart from the fact that upon this rewatch, I noticed a couple of things that gave me pause. So for example, Kitty takes the letters that Lara Jean kept hidden and posts them. Right? She has the best intentions at heart. She’s a child. She makes a mistake. When Lara Jean finds out, she is understandably angry, and she’s yelling at her sister. And then Margot tries to make the peace between them by giving a little bit of psychological insight into Lara Jean’s real feelings about the letters, which is, “You really wanted them to be sent, because you put the address on them.” And that’s a little bit bullshit. Even though I understand what Margot is saying, that maybe Lara Jean wanted to put her feelings out there, sending her letters without consent is a no-no-no and there is no, absolutely zero excuse for that. And I thought that in that moment they were trying to create an excuse, “Oh you know, Lara Jean really needed to get this out.” 

Same thing, there’s a conversation between her and her dad, which is a super great scene, super great scene, but the dad is like, “Oh, I saw how you changed so much because of this boy, and I’m really impressed and I’m really happy for you, that you put yourself out there, because of this boy.” And I’m like, “Hmmm.” She didn’t feel like she was really that closed off before. Maybe she was a little bit scared, yes, of having a relationship with someone, but are we giving too much importance to the boy in her life, rather than to her feelings evolving because of a number of circumstances?

Renay: Dark Ana returns!

Ana: Do you know what I’m saying?

Renay: I do. Perhaps it was the format. The medium is romantic comedy so the medium is going to center the dude and the girl who are having the romance. Maybe that’s just a problem in the medium?

Ana: Maybe. I’m saying all of that but I really did love this movie. It’s so cute the two of them. That boy;he’s too cute to be true. When he says that “I’m falling in with love with you,” and she looks at him, and then he just gives the best smile! It’s just so cute! My god, I could die.

Renay: Farewell, Dark Ana. Light Ana has returned. 

Netflix made like a lot of different romantic comedies and I’ve seen some of them, but this one—it just took women’s feelings so seriously. So much of the time we have to deal with like casual racism, casual sexism, bigotry. You didn’t have to navigate in this film, like you do in older romantic comedies. 

And there’s a lot of commentary about how romantic comedy mid-budget films are not doing so well in the theater anymore, and so romantic comedies have been sort of relegated to the sidelines or romantic comedies get shunted to TV and some of this I think is because number one people don’t know how to write romance, but also this summer there was Crazy Rich Asians, which a lot of people told me that was a romantic comedy but I didn’t realize it was a romantic comedy?

Ana: I haven’t seen that one yet.

Renay: If somebody had told me it was romantic comedy I would have gone to see it in the theater! Well, I mean, I say I would have gone to see it in the theater. With what time, Renay? What time would you have used to go and see it in the theatre? Hmm? By really leaning into diversity in these films, you get better romantic comedies, cause you can’t really fall back on some of the more harmful tropes that romantic comedies used to use to make comedy.

Ana: Well, it depends, because Sierra Burgess is a Loser completely fails.

Renay: Yeah, I heard really not-good things about that one.

Ana: I couldn’t even continue watching that movie. It was so bad.

Renay: But also there’s a bunch of white people. And non-queer people?

Ana: Mm-hm.

Renay: I don’t know much about that. And not the main cast?

Ana: I think so, yes.

Renay: I was thinking about that in the context of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Lara Jean sends a letter to this guy she has a crush on, and he returns the letter and he’s like, “Listen, I’m gay. Don’t tell anybody, but I’m gay.” But the movie doesn’t demonize him or make that a thing. He doesn’t want Lara Jean to tell anybody, but he returns her letter. It’s like a very kind and honest interaction.

Ana: Mm-hm. They even become friends. Closer after that.

Renay: So much of romantic comedies and comedies in general relied for so long on using marginalized populations to punch down to make jokes. I think that was really what happened to the romantic comedy. Because if we look at romance novels, romance novels haven’t gone anywhere, romance novels have exploded. Romance isn’t going anywhere, and a lot of these books that I read as romance novels, they’re funny and charming and the comedy there is just natural to the characters. It comes from the characters.

Ana: Yeah, not making fun of them.

Renay: Part of the problem here is who’s making the romantic comedies and who is the perspective of the characters in the romantic comedies themselves. Because this one is from a girl of color. It changes everything, and I want more like this. What else did you Jenny Han do that Netflix can turn into a movie? Get her on the phone right now and turn her entire backlist into movies right now.

Ana: There are two more Lara Jean books.

Renay: Listen I don’t wanna do that, because I did that with Bridget Jones’ Diary and it did not end well.

Ana: [laughs] But I went and spoiled myself for the books.

Renay: I don’t—is this a Dark Ana moment? Is it like a thumbs up or thumbs down situation?

Ana: Thumbs up, I think.

Renay: That’s good, then. But don’t tell me. I might actually go and read these books now. I’m actually curious, because for some reason I didn’t know this author existed before this movie.

Ana: I am really into contemporary YA and I hadn’t seen them before, and I’m sure they were popular because otherwise they wouldn’t have acquired it? So where were those people reviewing those books in my life?

Renay: I don’t know. I still need to find a bunch of people who are reviewing romance and like romance for women of color, or just books in general by women of color because I need some different perspectives. 

I thought about this in the context of a book I liked this year called The Kiss Quotidien by Helen Hoang. The trope was fake dating, there was a bunch of family drama, but the entire thing felt fresh and new because the main character, Stella, was not white and she not neurotypical. She had Aspergers, a form of autism. The different perspective changed the whole trope and I just really think that we need more of that.

Ana: Do you know how her family loves this yoghurt from Korea, and then Peter falls in love with it. Yakult. Is that something that you know or have heard of?

Renay: Nope.

Ana: That yoghurt, Yakult, was a huge hit in Brazil when I was growing and as I was a child. Everybody loved Yakult. It was just so part of our lives, like, before going to school you’d just drink one Yakult. Aand then I watched this movie and I’m like Yakult is KOREAN?! Like I had no idea! I always felt it was just like this thing from Brazil!

Renay: Yeah, I was curious about that. I went looking at it at our local Asian food market, but alas. It was not meant to be. 

How many space bees are you going to give this?

Ana: Four and a bottle of honey.

Renay: I’m giving it five because I love it. Five space bees to Lara Jean Covey. I love her. I will fight for her.

Ana: Aww, I love her. She’s lovely.

Renay: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before can be streamed on Netflix. It’s super charming and cute. If you need a pick-me up you should go watch it. If you’ve already seen it you should go watch it again. If you’re like me and you’ve seen it six times, it’s fine. I give you permission. You can see it a sixth time. No shame.

[music break]

Renay: We’re starting a new segment which I have named Obsessed, but listen, I’m not married to that title. If you have suggestions for what we could call this segment, suggest something. I’m apparently out of creativity. I’ve used it all. I have none left. 

In this segment we’re gonna talk about something non-fictional that we can’t get off our minds. Ana, what is the thing that you can’t get off your mind?

Ana: A white supremacist has become the new President of Brazil, and although he doesn’t start his—I don’t wanna say reign— [laughs]

Renay: If it’s true…

Ana: In January, from January first. But already he is making proclamations and setting up his ministers of the different departments of government. He’s already decided to join—there are three ministries, one of sports, one of culture, and one of education, he has joined all those three together. 

So what I keep doing is going to Facebook and finding all of this news, all of this what the fuckery, and then I just share them. Laughing out loud. And then I send them to my mother, and to my aunt, asking, “Is this what you wanted? Is this what you wanted? Have you regretted it yet?” I am trolling my family. I resent my mother so much. I couldn’t speak to her for two weeks after the election. That was the hardest thing. How can you love someone so much and also resent them so much? And that was a very confusing two weeks for me. As you can see, I have reasons to become Dark Ana.

Renay: Dark Ana has a very dark origin story and the dark origin story is fascism.

Ana: So this is what I’m obsessed with at the moment. Just finding all of these news, all of the horrible things that he is doing, and then sending them to the people that voted for him, expecting to hear, “You were right; I was wrong.” [laughs] I’m gonna die on this hill. I will not be satisfied until I hear this from every single friend, family member, and close acquaintance that has voted for this person. 

Tell me your obsession, Renay.

Renay: My obsession is also political because why quit following politics because your campaign has ended? That’s silly. Take a break? What’s that? 

In New York they elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to represent them in Congress. If you don’t know who Ocasio-Cortez is, she is a twenty-nine year old former bartender who turfed out one of the most powerful Democrats in House leadership, like from his—she came hard from his left and kicked him! Kicked him into orbit! 

She’s not my representative, My representative is still Rick fucking Crawford, noted asshole, but I’ve been following her. Because on her instagram stories, she’s been like showing you behind the scenes of becoming a new member of Congress, showing you like the process, what their training is like, and she does these little like instagram live things where she cooks and she talks about policy notes and she answers questions. It’s amazing to watch her engage with people about politics and policy. 

Of course the right wing press and moderates or centrist Democrats have been flipping the fuck out over Ocasio-Cortez for months. She is their socialist democrat nightmare. They hate her. And what’s really creepy to me is that I’m watching this happen; I’m watching people demonize her, or drag her over like really simple mistakes or things she said that she was just talking in the moment and misstated something and just corrected herself, and then they’ll obsess about it for a week. 

Some press outlets wrote an article about how much money she should have in savings, and I’m just like, “You’re fucking creeps, what are you doing?! Leave her alone!” Like, for example, two weeks ago or something, there was like a sit-in in Nancy Pelosi’s office for climate change. Ocasio-Cortez went to talk to those activists to thank them for being involved and putting their bodies on the line, and Pelosi—she was for it! The people were advocating Pelosi to push her left, and Ocasio-Cortez went to support them, and they had Pelosi’s approval to be there, right? And the right wing media turned this into some kind of fight slash protest between Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi, and I literally a progressive dude who I know like sit around being like, “Well I didn’t appreciate that she went against Pelosi,” I’m like, “That’s not what she did, you’re repeating right wing talking points, what are you doing?” 

And what I’m watching happening now is what I watched when I was kid and saw how the GOP demonized Hillary Clinton, and it is so weird to watch it happen in real time, and I’m obsessed with it. I need to take a break from politics, but I can’t look away. I have to be online to defend her honor. She’s so smart. If you do not follow her Instagram story I highly recommend it.

Ana: I can tell this segment is gonna show a side of us that is very unhealthy.

Renay: No, sometimes we might be obsessing over good things. Not today, though!

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: But, following her engaging with her constituents is so inspiring that it makes me want to be a better organizer.

Ana: Ah, cool!

Renay: That’s a good side. We really have to pick a better name than Obsessed. There’s gotta be a better name. Come on, guys, come through for me here.

[music break]

Renay: It’s that time when we do recommendations of things that we have loved. Ana, hit me with what you have on your mind this week.

Ana: I have two things that I have consumed. One was a super great recommendation from our friend Meineke from A Fantastical Librarian. I met with her in Amsterdam, and I asked her for book recommendations of true crime podcasts, and she recommended me In the Dark. 

It’s an investigative reporter looking at either cold cases or in the case of season two, which is the one that I’m recommending, about the case of this black guy from Mississippi who has been tried six times for the same crime because the prosecutor, who is a white man, will not let it go. And there has been so much prosecutorial shenanigans—that’s a good word for it—but it’s even worse than that. This guy should be in jail. The DA, not Curtis Flowers. I have never been so convinced of a person’s innocence. 

His sixth trial was over in 2010, and his lawyers have been putting on a request for appeal. The case has gone to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court has as of last week agreed to hear the case. But what I wanted to say is that it’s very, very similar to Serial, but it never felt as exploitative because the person who is doing the narration and the investigation of this case in In the Dark is an investigative journalist. They found so much things that they turned over to, that the defense lawyers are actually using. I just wished everybody would listen to it, it just shows how fucked up this Mississippi town is in terms of racism. 

The second thing that I’m going to recommend is something that I finished watching last night. I was sobbing my eyes out. I never thought I would say this, but it was brilliant. It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve watched in the past few years and it’s Agents of SHIELD season five.

Renay: I didn’t see that coming.

Ana: It is amazing. And all the characters; I love them so much, that is a new character, I don’t think you ever actually met her before, it’s Yo-yo Rodriguez. She’s so great and she’s so badass; she’s amazing, the actress is just superb. I loved it, guys, so much, so much, so much, so much, so much, so much! 

And I thought it was going to be the end, but they renewed it for two more seasons! At the same time, which they are filming back to back apparently, so it’s gonna be great. 

What about you? What are your recs?

Renay: I have two that are games. Reigns: Her Majesty is apparently a sequel to a game I didn’t play called Reigns, and it is a game of diplomacy that is basically copying Tindr. I don’t know how much you know about Tindr but you swipe left or swipe right if you’re interested in somebody. You play as a queen of a medieval kingdom, and you rule by swiping left or right on cards that have choices on them. So your choices will reflect your popularity with your people, the church, your army, and also like your money people. And if you get too low in any one category, they kill you! Like you can be like burned at the stake, eaten by wolves…

Ana: Shiiit!

Renay: Dismembered by your subjects. One of my favorite deaths, that I got a lot actually, is that you can get too popular and your subjects will trample you to death trying to give you presents.

Ana: Oh my god!

Renay: It’s just a very fun game that’s center women and women’s leadership.

Ana: Maybe when I start commuting I can play that on my ipad.

Renay: It’s not like a game that you’re going to get like super sucked into. It has endings. I mean you can play it through and get an ending and you can play it through again and get a different ending. I mean once you’ve played through it a few times and got all the different endings, I’m not really sure that you wanna play through it again. It’s not Candy Crush, Ana, but it’s super charming. 

The second is an iOS game. It’s called Frost. It is a physics game. So basically you have little streams of coloured sparks, and you have to draw little rivers with your finger to lead the sparks to a location. As you progress in levels, it gets harder and harder, but the music is beautiful, the graphics are amazing; it’s so calming. It’s got a finite number of levels. So obviously again, not like Candy Crush where you’re gonna be sucked in for eight hundred years. Highly recommend both of those games. Can’t make you play Mass Effect, but I can get you into iphone games!

Ana: [laughs]

Renay: Okay, what are we going to discuss next time?

Ana: Next time we will be talking about the sixth story in Robots vs Fairies anthology, we will be finally talking about Spiderman: Homecoming, and Ms. Marvel Volume 8.

[music break]

Ana: Thank you everybody for listening to Fangirl Happy Hour. You are all great.

Renay: We are finally back to a regular schedule, congratulations us.

Ana: Our show art is by Ira, and our music is Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games.

Renay: You can find us on Twitter at @fangirlpod, and elsewhere as Fangirl Happy Hour. Shoot us an email with any thoughts you’ve had to fangirlhappyhour@gmail.com. Thoughts only, no questionable content, unless it is Venom fanart.

Ana: You can drop by fangirlhappyhour.com to read the transcripts that Susan the transcript fairy types up for us, and send us recs, sign up for our newsletter…

Renay: My advice to you this week is to please is get some sleep.

Ana: Dark Ana will return.

Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees,

Ana: See you next episode.

[music break]

Ana: Where’s your new microphone? Didn’t you buy a new microphone?

Renay: I did but but my thing is in pieces, my office is a mess, I haven’t put any of my stuff back together yet.

Ana: Hm.

Renay: Listen, I just caught up on laundry this week. The election ended on November 6th, for us, and I only caught up on laundry like a day ago, two weeks from the election. As I keep saying on Twitter, The West Wing is a documentary.


Renay: What the fuck! Are you guys sleeping on some Kate Elliott?


Renay: I did notice that my reading sorta got kinda white there in the middle of the year, like ugh. Whoops!

Ana: It’s just because it’s so easy. It’s everywhere. It’s got more marketing push behind. It’s what gets featured in bookstore. So it’s just easier for you to find, and it’s not work.


Ana: I loved it. It’s going to be one of my top ten this year.

Renay: But you have enough books in there that you have a top ten! I see you! Dark Ana may be at the top —

Ana: Listen —

Renay: Light Ana’s still in there.

Ana: Don’t do this! Don’t try it!

Renay: I see it! I see a glimmer of Light Ana!

Ana: Nuh-uh.


Ana: Margaret Thatcher is the devil, the most hardcore Tory Prime Minister that the UK has ever had and everybody hates her.

Renay: She died!

Ana: What?! Yes!


Renay: If you don’t wanna be spoiled for happy endings, you’re listening to the wrong podcast.


Ana: Yeah, let’s talk about this movie, and I don’t know if Dark Ana will actually take over.

Renay: Oh no. Here we go.


Ana: Oh my god! Oh my god; the whole thing with the babies, oh no!

[beep] [beep]