Episode Number: 120
Episode Title: Emotional Intelligence +10 (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hi friends! I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Renay: You’re getting two regular episodes in a row, because life poked me in the butt a little bit more, but luckily, I’ve come to the very end of my horrific adulting business. I can now go forth into 2019 with only somewhat tedious adulting business.
Ana: Adulting is very hard Renay, so I really do understand what you’re saying.
Renay: Yep. Yep. Today we’re talking about what we’ve been reading, discussing She-Ra, the new show from our fave, Noelle Stevenson, and A Dash of Trouble, a middle-grade novel by Anna Meriano.
Renay: What’s been on your reading list the last few weeks? And most importantly: what medium have your books been in?
Ana: I love that this is now a question. I have been reading quite a lot and I have five books to talk about briefly. Three of them were audiobooks, if you believe it. I am listening to one and a half a week. Mind you, I only commute three days a week, and I only listen to audiobooks when I’m commuting, so that’s how many hours I’m spending on commute.
They are Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, which is about a girl whose best friend died. Everybody thinks that she committed suicide, but the main character doesn’t believe that. She knew her best friend wasn’t feeling anything that would have led her to commit suicide. They used to do spells and pretend they were witches, and so this girl decides to do a huge spell and see if it works and bring her friend back to life. And she does it! Along with two other teenage girls, who also died recently, supposedly suicide. And they together find out who their killer was, and it’s great. The main character is a Latina and she’s fat, unapologetically so. It’s fun and somewhat dark towards the ending, especially when the killer is unveiled.
I also listened to Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett. It had been a while since I’d read or listened to a Terry Pratchett novel, and this one is the first in the Witches mini-series that introduces Granny Weatherwax. And everybody always talks so much about her and how wonderful a character she is and I really, really enjoyed this. I was laughing as I was walking—which is one of the parts of listening to audiobooks while walking to work that has been a learning curve, because I have found myself both laughing out loud and crying and walking at the same time. It’s so weird. [laughs] It’s like people must think, “What is that girl doing?” Girl? I’m 42 years old, Ana. Grow up. [sigh]
I also read as a ebook, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, and I really, really loved it. It’s a heist novel—YA fantasy—with a group of six characters who all live together. It’s kind of like a found family and they are such great characters. And one of them is white, the other are all people of color from these different parts of the world. And a couple of them also queer; one of them’s bisexual; and I think there is a polyamory relationship in the works here? I will be delighted to see in the sequel.
I also listened to The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, which is one of the ALA book winners of the years. Have you ever read The Westing Game?
Renay: Yes, I have, because KJ loves that book.
Ana: Did you love it, too?
Renay: I liked it a whole lot. I think I read it a little bit too old to have a deep abiding love for it, but I really did enjoy it. It was really neat.
Ana: This book pays homage to the same time that it is in conversation with The Westing Game. The characters actually use it to help them solve puzzle because it’s a puzzle book—they need to find this Parker Inheritance. But behind it there a lot of history of African Americans in the South. The book is #OwnVoices, the two kids are Black, and as they find out about this money that has been donated to their town, they need to figure out who are the people involved in this history that relates to the Parker Inheritance. As you can imagine it’s not an easy story to read. There’s a lot of really sad things that happen in the past in that town, but there is also a lot about identity and family, and love and forgiveness that I really loved to read.
I also read Farthing by Jo Walton. It’s an alternate history novel that we will be talking about soon in one of our Vault episodes, so I will just leave it for later. Tell me about what you’ve been reading, Renay.
Renay: Well first up, I’m going to torture everybody because the first book that I’m going to mention is going to be one that nobody else can read until September.
Ana: I have no words because you have been torturing me about this book for weeks now.
Renay: It is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It comes out from Tor September 10th. It’s space fantasy with necromancers, but it’s also a locked room mystery.
Ana: Oh my god! Seriously?!
Renay: Yeah. And I loved it! In my review, I was like, “Okay, so here is some tags that might apply to this book. Major Character Death, lots of dead characters, murder death kill, wow that’s a lot of dead people…” It’s a book about necromancers. It’s also just deeply, deeply funny. I laughed so much when I was reading this book even though what was happening was extremely dark.
The premise is that Gideon the Ninth lives on this planet and grew up with a childhood nemesis, Harrowhark, who is a necromancer. The emperor needs more necromancers, so he is holding a challenge to create more advanced necromancers to help fight his war. Gideon has been trying to escape the planet, for years, but has been unable to do so. When the emperor makes this call, Harrowhark is like, “Here, I need you to go with me to be my second and if you do this and help me become one of the emperor’s necromancers I’ll let you go free.” And so they make a pact, and they go off to this very creepy castle where they have to solve a bunch of mysteries.
Oh my god. I love this book! [laughs] I’m so upset it’s not out until September! Here’s my position on this book: If you’re okay with a lot character death—
Ana: Well, it is about necromancers…
Renay: —then I would say pre-order this book.
Ana: I’m all in.
Renay: Request your library buy a copy of this book. Where did this author come from? I know that obviously they had been writing short fiction, because they have a pretty expansive short fiction bibliography, but otherwise I was like, “Where the hell did you come from?! You’re amazing!” And now I feel really bad because no one else can read this book right now. I’ve talked about it and no one can read it. I’m so sorry. I mean I’m only a little sorry. But I’m not sorry to talk about it because I loved it. I think it’s one of my favorite books so far this year. It’s gonna blow your fucking socks off.
Ana: Oh my god! I cannot wait!
Renay: The next book I read was Miniatures by John Scalzi. This is the Subterranean Press short fiction collection that he released a few years ago. John Scalzi’s really good at the intersection of real life, aliens, and humanity, and how they interact. The stories that I like the most from it were those stories: alien and humans interacting in mundane situations. I have the hardcopy because I am a John Scalzi completionist, however, the hardcopy is very small. It’s very pretty, but it is also forty dollars if you’re going to get the Sub Press copy. For just casual Scalzi readers, the ebook would be fine.
The next book I read was Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat. It’s about Damianos who is betrayed by his brother and sent to an enemy prince as a sex slave, and his trials at the court there. Captive Prince is the first in a trilogy followed by Prince’s Gambit and Kings Rising. However, I am still of the opinion that Captive Prince and Prince’s Gambit should have been one book. I will die on this hill. I did actually start Prince’s Gambit immediately. I went from the end of Captive Prince, put it down, opened Prince’s Gambit, and read three chapters. And I would highly recommend that as a method. I have not finished Prince’s Gambit yet because I got another book that I wanted to read called Fence.
Fence is also by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad. It is a graphic novel about young fencers. It is a comic about fencing. And it is amazing. This comic. I love it. I LOVE it. It is so good and painful.
Renay: I’ve read Fence Volume 1 and 2. There’s two out right now. Claire recommended this on her YouTube channel, and I was like, “Hmm. Really? Okay, we’ll give this a try. I really like the art.” HOLY. MOLY. It’s great! I loved it! Highly recommend.
Then I also read Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles, which is her new book that came out January 30th and I read it on January 30th. Any Old Diamonds is about a young lord who is trying to get revenge on his father by hiring some jewel thieves to steal a gift that his father had made for his stepmother. Along the way, he and one of the jewel thieves realize that he really likes being told what to do in the bedroom and it’s delightful. I got to the end going, “I’m not really sure how she’s going to fix—HOLY SHIT WHAT’S HAPPENING?!”
Ana: Does it have a happy ending?
Renay: Yes, it does. It is so, so good, I would highly recommend it. If you’ve never read a KJ Charles novel before, if you like jewel heists, if you like plucky lady private detectives. I don’t know how KJ Charles just keeps pumping out these amazing novels but guess what: it happened again.
Finally, one of the last books I read was in audio, and it was Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. This was a non-fiction book about women’s anger in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and also all the ways that women and their anger are discredited or mocked or derided as hysterical. I went into it a little dubious because we can talk about women’s anger, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be an intersectional look at anger, and how different women are treated when they’re angry, but luckily it does deal with race. She’s very much aware of the racial component of women’s anger. She does discuss it.
It’s a very depressing book, in a lot of ways, but it’s also sort of inspiring because it just shows that social change is often led by women just being pissed. If you’re looking for a book about anger because you’re feeling angry, you may find this book instructive, or at least comforting because you won’t feel like you’re alone.
I read a lot of great books. I was looking back over my list—I was like, “Wow, I don’t really have a least favorite book.” I guess if I do it’s John Scalzi’s short fiction collection. That’s not the short fiction collection’s fault. It’s just me being picky with short fiction. I didn’t read anything in January that I did not like.
Ana: Yeah, do you know, that was true for me, too. I did quit a couple of books because I was not in the mood for them, maybe we are just getting better at picking what to read.
Renay: Yeah, I tried to read Jade City by Fonda Lee. I was like, “This is so dense! I’m tired.” I put it down for now. We had a great reading month! I’m excited.
Ana: I’m excited for February now. There are so many books coming out and I already missed a couple of books from January that I should have read. Although I’m trying this year not to go with, “Oh I should do this. I have to do this.” I’m just going with the flow, but also there’s part of me that feels that sense of guilt and shame for, “Oh I didn’t read that book that was out in January.” We are not doing that to ourselves anymore.
Renay: We can read it any time.
Ana: Yes, exactly.
Ana: A Dash of Trouble, a.k.a. Love Sugar Magic by Anna Mariano. It’s about Lenora and her family, who own a beloved local bakery. Leo wants nothing more than to take part in the preparations for Día de los Muertos this year with her parents and her sisters, but her mom’s is having none of it, and being shady enough and going around Leo’s back just makes Leo want to sneak into the bakery and spy and find out what’s really happening. And what she discovers is that the women in her family are brujas and that they use magic in their baking. Leo, frustrated at being left out, steals the family spell book in order to practice magic on her own, and as you can imagine, things go really, really wrong. So, Renay, what did you think of the book? I recommended it to you. It was cute, right?
Renay: The book was very, very, very cute. I thought it was lovely. My favorite part of it of course I think was the relationship between Leo and her mom and her sisters. This book is very much about the bonds between women and family.
Ana: It was really great, and she also had a best friend, and her relationship with her was also super great. It was kind of like what starts the whole thing of her doing spells to help her best friend making amends with a boy that was maybe bullying her at some point, and things escalate from there.
Renay: My friend Anna liked this book, but she’s always very critical of dead moms in fiction, so now whenever I’m reading a book, if there’s a dead mom I’m like, “Oh a dead mom.” Now that she’s pointed it out to me, I can’t unsee it. So many books have dead moms and here, I understand why it’s part of the story, even though this is a book about magic, ghosts, and people’s connection to the spirit world, it’s also incredibly rooted in the real world. So the dead mom in this case is Caroline, Leo’s best friend, who died of cancer. Caroline is really struggling, it’s part of the story, but also once you see it you kind of can’t unsee it. “Oh, a dead mom.”
Renay: That was literally the only thing where I was like, “Awwww.” But otherwise, this book is lovely.
Ana: It really reminded me of a couple of other books and a movie, that if you liked those, then A Dash of Trouble would be really up your alley. The movie would be Coco, which is also about Día de los Muertos and about connecting with your ancestors and the power of family—the importance of family—and that is a very good connecting point between Coco and A Dash of Trouble. And in terms of families that have brujas in them, it also reminded me of Labyrinth Lost and Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova. They also focus on a family with sisters who are all brujas. So if you liked those, you will like A Dash of Trouble. If you like A Dash of Trouble you’ll probably like those, too.
I really liked that in A Dash of Trouble, things started really cutesy but kind of get a little bit dark in a way? But the family and the sisters, they talk to each other and they help each other to solve problems and then it’s a major turning point in the book, right? When she’s doing things for herself, she’s afraid of what her mom’s gonna say, and her sisters, but when the time comes and she really needs help, that’s who she turns to.
Renay: And all of her sisters are very different, and have super distinct personalities, but are also really supportive.
Ana: And it’s really interesting, too, because there are some of them that really don’t care about being brujas or doing magic at all. One of the things in the novel is that they only really learn about it when they are fifteen years old. Leonora is really young still, is not of that age yet, so keeping secrets in the family also turns and bites them in the ass. There’s also this whole conversation about secrets and whether you should keep them or not.
Renay: One thing I found both realistic and heartbreaking: Leo is the youngest of all her sisters, and because she was the youngest kid in the family, she didn’t spend a whole lot of time with her grandmother. Because of that, she doesn’t have Spanish. She can recognize some words, but ultimately, she’s just not good at Spanish. It’s a great nod to what happens to culture when you’re between two different cultures. It’s one of things that drives her to eventually spy and steal the family spell book, like, “Oh, maybe mom doesn’t want me to help because I don’t know Spanish.” She doesn’t have that in common with her family. It drives her feeling inferior and wanting to close the gap between her and her sisters. And I just found it both very realistic but also extremely heartbreaking.
Ana: But then she also learns a little bit more Spanish throughout the process because most of the recipes that are in the book are in Spanish and she has to translate them.
Renay: And her best friend Caroline helps her with that. Caroline has learned Spanish over the last year. It becomes a way for them to bond together, as well. I don’t know. I just found it very lovely and—bittersweet is a good word to describe it? Once her spells go wrong in a way that the police have to be involved, everything is a little bit off the rails. And I love how the book dealt with it, and the way that Leo went to her sisters and how her sisters were like, “Well, let’s try to solve this problem!” And they help her, but what I really liked was—and I guess this is a little bit of a spoiler but not too much—is that although they do help her, they don’t actually solve her problem for her. She solves her problem for herself.
Ana: With their help and guidance.
Renay: One of my favorite parts of this book was the emotional intelligence that runs through it. When Leo’s a jerk and knocks stuff off the table, her mom like comes to her afterwards and she’s like, “Well, we know you didn’t mean to but that’s not the best way to get attention if you’re upset.” Through the whole thing all these conversations that she has, they have this thread of more communication is always better, and a lot of her problems come because she’s just not communicating.
Renay: And it really does model this really good form of communication and ways to engage with people that don’t make them feel bad. It’s just very charming. It was a very charming book.
Ana: It was. I loved the ending, too, and the last scene between Leonora and her mom. It’s a really wonderful conversation that they had there. And funny.
Renay: This is a great, great book. Especially if you need something light and quick to read that’s not super heavy? It does get a little bit dark at the end, but everything works out. It has a happy ending! If you’re looking for something that’s sweet and kind I highly recommend this one.
Ana: I super agree with that.
Renay: Five space bees!
Ana: Five space bees!
Renay: She-Ra is 2018 reboot of the 1985 Filmation cartoon about Adora, raised serving the Horde. When Adora is suddenly awakened to her powers as She-Ra, and sees the chaos the Horde has been inflicting on Etheria, she joins the rebellion in order to reunite the Princesses of Power and bring peace back to the planet. This was produced by Noelle Stevenson, who I love. Because she was the executive producer on it I knew going in. “I’m gonna love this.” And I did.
Ana: It’s wonderful. It starts off as really cute and sometimes with very simplistic storylines, and then goes on a rollercoaster. It goes up and up and up with things being super nice and a learning curve for She-Ra. And things get really fucking dark about halfway through this, and especially towards the end. There’s like torture and really awful things happening to our beloved character because at that point I loved everybody, basically. It was interesting way of setting it up at first with this really light, comical, cutesy feel and then — surprise, motherfuckers! [laughs]
Renay: Animation isn’t always taken seriously but just because something is cute doesn’t mean it’s not dark as hell, and I think this really drives home that point. She-Ra is about war; She-Ra is about oppression; it’s about betrayal. There are several storylines in here that hurt me. Ow! I’m not actually sure what else to say but—ow! My feelings!
Ana: Like for example?
Renay: The whole premise is that Adora is going around as She-Ra to help recruit princesses to the rebellion. Obviously, Adora first befriends Glimmer and Bow; Glimmer is a princess of Bright Moon. They form like this little team. They’re like the core stable friendship of the series, but as they add princesses things get more complicated. For example, Bow and Perfuma struck up a friendship which makes Glimmer jealous, and the show really handles jealousy in an amazing way. I’m like, “Why can’t we get more of this? But specifically, they recruit a princess called Entrapta who does robotics work—tech stuff—and Entrapta joins them and one point in the series they go to rescue some characters who have been kidnapped and tortured, and in the chaos, most of the characters assume that Entrapta is killed. Except she’s not and they leave her behind. Because they leave her behind in the enemy territory, the enemies mind-whammy her and convince her that she’s been left purposefully. She starts to work for them on their tech stuff.
Entrapta was on the Rebellion side, she gets left, she believes the enemy about why she was left, and effectively joins up with them, although who knows what her motivations are here. Mostly the tech, I think? But it also creates this very interesting discussion of the ends justify the means. Entrapta really wants to understand the First Ones tech and by being on the enemy’s side she’s learned more in a short amount of time than she has with all her time tinkering with it on the rebellion’s side. Like it’s very self-serving, but it also creates this really interesting morally grey character.
Ana: Yeah, that’s really interesting because Entrapta in the original show she was a villain all along. In this one she starts off as part of the hero’s crew and I don’t think it’s solely the fact that she was left behind that motivates her into joining the enemy. I think she lives in a very amoral grey area. She doesn’t care very much; she is very self-serving, like you said, which was an interesting choice instead of just having her be the villain so there was a whole arc for her. In a way, I don’t think that would be a comeback from Entrapta the way that I think there will be a comeback for other villains in the show which is very interesting because of how she started. I think villains who started as villains will probably come to the heroes’ side before Entrapta does.
Renay: But yeah you can see that I had a lot of feelings about Entrapta because I loved her! I don’t know the original series. This was the only She-Ra I’ve seen so I didn’t know anything about Entrapta except when she was introduced, and I really liked her character. I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I’m just like, “No, don’t side with the enemy!
Ana: I remember She-Ra very much, but I think I only really watched He-Man. I think when She-Ra came along I was already a little bit older. So after watching the new She-Ra I went to YouTube to watch—oh no, I actually on Netflix, it’s on Netflix too. So I went to watch a couple of episodes of the original She-Ra and the first thing I have to say is: when I was watching the new She-Ra, for example Bow, as a character. So he’s a guy, but he’s not your typically masculine action dude. Even his clothes have a heart at the center of his chest, and I thought, “Oh, this is so progressive.” And I went back, and I saw the original She-Ra and his new costume is exactly like the old costume and the character was exactly the same. Although he was a white man, and the new Bow is a man of color. The old She-Ra was already progressive thirty years ago, which I thought was really cool.
Renay: My favorite part of the new She-Ra is that the old She-Ra spun out of He-Man. From what I’ve read She-Ra was his sister?
Ana: His twin sister, if I’m not mistaken, who was sent to a different world.
Renay: In this one, He-Man is not referenced at all.
Ana: At all, no. The first episode of the old She-Ra is all about He-Man going into that world to find his sister. He comes across Adora as the leader of the Horde. That is not referenced in the new She-Ra, and I actually wonder if at some point she will find out where she’s from and that will be another dimension and where He-Man lies.
Renay: Another of the relationships that I had a lot of feelings about—probably you’ll be on this boat with me as well: Adora and Catra?
Ana: Oh my god!
Renay: Holy shit.
Ana [laughs] I know! It was so good. First of all, Catra looks amazing. She’s so stylish; I love her clothes and her demeanor and her funny lines, although she’s a villain. Definitely on the dark side at the moment, but their relationship is amazing, right? Do you think it’s a queer relationship? Do you think that there is an allusion to it, but do you think that this is where they’re going? Or are you happy with them as just friends?
Renay: The optics of the Princess Prom episode?
Ana: Yessss, I know. Ahhh.
Renay: There was a tweet going around, which I wish I could remember who tweeted. I guess maybe it was a comedy show? The comic was making a joke about being in love with your best friend and how all the women in the room were looking at each other nervously. That is the vibe that I get from Adora and Catra’s relationship. But it’s complicated by the fact that they’re on opposing sides. Adora can’t handle the violence that the Horde is truly engaging in on Etheria, and Catra just doesn’t care. I guess it goes back to Shadow Weaver and how Shadow Weaver taught Adora to be invested in the work that she did; to care about the work that she did; to care about the effort she gave; and to Catra she was just abusive as hell. That manifests in Adora learning about the true nature of the Horde and being appalled because she cares about the effort she puts in. Shadow Weaver trained her to care and be invested in the effort that she puts into something, and she didn’t do the same thing for Catra. Catra just doesn’t give a shit. Catra sees power as something that will make her feel better.
Ana: Yeah, will make her life better. Worse than what the Horde is doing, is how she feels that Adora betrayed their friendship because Adora just left her. They grew up together as almost forced siblings, I would say, brought up by Shadow Weaver and whenever Shadow Weaver wanted to punish Adora, it was by torturing, physically and mentally, Catra. So it was like really fucked up, but at the same time we also got a little bit of Shadow Weaver’s own backstory, which was also good. This show was just very, very rich and that was a lot of depth to it.
Renay: And you know what vibe I got from it?
Ana: Absolutely! I even have a note saying “Bow = Sokka.”
Renay: Yeah! And not just that, She-Ra herself, when Light Hope is explaining to Adora about She-Ra, she talks about how the line was broken, and I’m just like, “Am I—Aang?”
Ana: “Is that you?”
Renay: The princesses have these runestones which give them magic, and a lot of them have elemental magic, which the Last Airbender vibe from this show was interesting, and I don’t know enough about the original to know if that’s how the original works.
Ana: I don’t remember.
Renay: Like who’s influencing who here?
Ana: The original was also about princesses of power.
Renay: Avatar the Last Airbender is an American show. People keep saying, “It’s anime!”
Ana: It’s American.
Renay: The creators of that show watched a lot of animation, so I’m just curious about what’s informing what.
Ana: No, in that scenario then, Catra is definitely Zuko, right?
Ana: I don’t know, there were so many great characters. I loved Scorpia and the fact that she’s also a princess, but obviously has been corrupted by the Horde and then you have Captain Hawk.
Renay: Sea Hawk!
Ana: The campest character of all time, he was so great. He and Bow together was like— [laughs]
Renay: You’re talking about how Bow was not the traditional masculine character. If we get a traditional masculine character it comes in the form of Sea Hawk, who’s also the comic relief, which is not standard.
Ana: Yeah, but he’s also very camp.
Renay: Yes, that’s exactly right. The traditional masculine character in this show is that particular character.
Ana: And they have no problems expressing their feelings for each other and how much they admire each other, which is just so wonderful. They became instant friends. I love this show so much. It was so wonderful. I love the optics of it; the colors;l the amount of pink, and purple; and Swift Wind. When the horse comes back and he starts talking the way that he talks. [laughs] Just like what the fuck?!
Renay: This is amazing!
Ana: It has all of the elements that I love about Nimona in there too. I can really see Noelle Stevenson as a creator. I’d also know that the show owes a lot to the original run. The colors are actually the same, which is so wonderful. How many times can I say wonderful in this segment? I don’t know! We will find out. Oh! Oh! I loved the relationship between Glimmer and her mom. Such a wonderful relationship there.
Renay: I’m not sure what I expected going into this, at all, but I’m in love with this show and guess what? We get more of it in April.
Ana: Yeah, I know! So soon!
Renay: Very soon for me. Because I only watched this recently, but I think everyone else watched it I think last year?
Ana: Yeah, but it came out in the second half of the year, really so they probably started production soon after.
Renay: Well, there’s another Dreamworks show that I really liked, called Voltron, that danced around “the queer issue” and then utterly fucked it up. So Dreamworks is also this show, so I’m very nervous to get attached to any queerness that might come, because I don’t think the creators of these shows, even if they do have the courage, will get the sign-off to make it explicit? Even if it’s not quote-unquote “explicit.”
Ana: Surely Noelle Stevenson came into this already with an idea in her mind, and knowing her background and her other work—
Renay: Will Dreamworks let her? I’m really concerned. Yes, there’s lots of great relationships here, but I am on the side of not getting invested in it like on a canonical level, because the last Dreamworks show that I got invested in on a canonical level punched me in the goddamn face so hard pass on that. I will enjoy the fanfic and the show can do whatever it does. I’m more confident because Noelle Stevenson is Noelle Stevenson, but also, she’s one creator against a giant company who gets to control its own property. If anybody has any Adora/Catra fanfic they would like me to read, please send it along because I need it.
Ana: One billion space bees?
Renay: Okay, final score for She-Ra is: one billion and five space bees.
Ana: It’s wonderful.
Renay: Time for some obsessions. Ana, here we go! What have you got for me this week?
Ana: Oh my god! I know that Renay doesn’t know anything about this so it’s gonna be my delight to share with her, as well as the rest of you, who for some reason were not around the internet on the week of the fourth of February. I will start with a little bit of back history. Have you heard a thriller called The Woman In the Window by AJ Finn?
Renay: I have not.
Ana: It came out last year in the US, and it was a huge success. There was a lot of money thrown at it, as you can imagine. I actually at first thought it was a book by a woman, because a lot of women write these types of thriller. They are kind of like domestic thrillers with women as the main characters and they find out that the men in their lives are terrible, basically. It’s a thing that has become the place of women authors and I have seen quite a few men assume names that could be interpreted as any gender.
This book came out. I didn’t read it at the time. When I found out it was by a man and I’m so sorry; I’m biased like that when it comes to thrillers. But I just saw the book go up and up and up—major bestseller. Here in the UK it comes out now: posters plastered everywhere. It’s on tube stations and train stations and it’s just everywhere, this book is! It’s like Richard and Judy book club, which is a major thing in the UK. A lot of money behind it, instant bestseller, apparently the author’s advance was in the region of six figures, million dollars, and it sold to twenty different countries, and it’s going to be a movie soon, with Amy Adams. This is the background for this.
Cue: Monday, and an article on The New Yorker, and it’s an exposé of AJ Finn, who as it turns out, is a very infamous editor called Dan Mallory, who started his career in publishing by lying that he had degrees that did not have; that was immediately hired to be an editor—senior editor—for William Morrow in New York for a salary of two hundred thousand dollars based on nothing at all apart from his looks and charms. Then the stories begin to roll out of that. For example, he used to lie about his mom having died of cancer. His mom is still alive. That his dad was dead. His dad is still alive. That he had cancer—terminal cancer—he actually wrote emails from people as though it was his brother writing to people about him dying of cancer in hospital. He’d skip work all the time. He used to pee in plastic cups and leave them at his boss as though he’s marking territory, and even despite of all that, in spite all of this knowledge, he never lost his job in publishing. When the time came for publishers to bid on his novel the bid was going fast and furious and then a lot of when it was revealed that he was Dan Mallory, a lot of people dropped off of the auction apart from his actual boss, who ended up buying the book for a million or two million dollars or something like this.
This exposé is super long, and it has so many details, and it actually goes into the actual work that shows that it could probably have been plagiarized. He used to drop the works that he was editing and never completed them. All the lies and deceit and I read that, and it made me so fucking angry, and it’s been four days. I am still googling everything about it, because only a white man—a mediocre white man—could get away with all this shit for so long and be rewarded for it. I just—I can’t.
Meanwhile women in publishing and people of color in publishing have trouble even getting the basest of salaries, or even a salary at all. I was so angry. You have to read it. It’s an amazing piece of work. It’s fascinating the way it escalates. [laughs] And I couldn’t believe it. And he’s not even that hot. Everyone was like, “But he was so beautiful and so charming!” and I googled it and I’m like, “Are you kidding me?! Like on top of being enablers you all have bad taste.”
Renay: [laughs] Oh Ana, tell us how you really feel.
Ana: So anyway, now this guy is infamous, and I just googled it right now—right this moment, Renay—and there’s an article published one hour ago, “Second AJ Finn novel on way despite Dan Mallory scandal, says publisher.” Nothing means anything anymore. I fucking hate publishing. Listen. Listen: do you know what the second book is about? A female thriller writer and an interviewer who learns of a dark past. Is this not revenge? A revenge book because of this exposé in The New Yorker?
Renay: I don’t know.
Ana: Yes, it is. What are you obsessed about?
Renay: I’m gonna lighten it up after that serious trip into the dark side of publishing.
Last year, early on, my mom said, “Hey, did you send a thank you card for that thing?” And I’m like, “A thank you card? No?” She’s like, “You need to send a thank you card! Send a thank you card for that thing!” and I’m like, “Okay, I will!” I didn’t send a thank you card for the thing.
Fast forward a few weeks, I sent somebody a book in the mail and like a week later I get a thank you card back. I’m having a really shitty day. It was a shitty-ass day and I checked the mail, and I get the mail out, and there was this card there with my name on it and I’m like, “Oh, okay, a card! Well, it’s not a bill, so that’s good, let me open it.” Sometimes I get tricked because spammers have learned how to create envelopes where the address looks sort of handwritten. I can’t believe we’re using computers and AI for this kind of petty-ass shit, but whatever. I open the envelope and it’s a thank you card. And there’s some stickers. And they were like, “Thank you for this thing, that was so kind of you,” and I’m like, “This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had!” and from that moment on I’m like, “Thank you cards. Thank you cards are the greatest!” I’ve created a problem in my office cause I’m running out of space.
Ana: Oh no.
Renay: I keep buying thank you cards! I’ll be in the store and I’ll be like, “Oh that’s cute, I want that,” or I’ll buy just like regular blank notecards that are cute and make them into thank you cards. Ana, it’s a problem. I have too many cards.
The problem is I go into Target and I have to buy them because they’re so cute, and it’s escalating, because now I’m just looking at cute notecards that are just blank cards they’re not necessarily thank you cards and going, “Oh my god, that’s cute, I need it.” I will be on Amazon just browsing thank you cards for like an hour. Then I’ll end up on Etsy just browsing notecards for a couple hours and I’m just like, “I need to stop! I need to stop.” I don’t—I have so many cards—listen, if I didn’t buy anymore thank you cards or blank notecards for the next year, I would not run out of cards.
Ana: So you need to thank more people.
Renay: More people need to do nice things for me. I don’t just send thank you cards for nothing! Maybe I should start.
Renay: Maybe that’s the answer. I really like cards. I like sending cards. There’s a quote that gets attributed to a lot of different people like Maya Angelou. I think I’ve actually seen it attributed to Barack Obama as well. A lot people would just share quotes online, like a quote with a picture of a person, and then people go, “Oh well, that person said that quote.” Not always. Check your sources. The quote is, “They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Ana: Aww, that’s a great quote!
Renay: I know, I really like it. It’s become sort of my operational mode in politics and I’ve now moved it over to my personal life. If somebody does something kind to me I send them a thank you note. It’s actually surprising how much it changes things on a vibe level. Sort of at the same time this was happening and I was like, “Oh, notecards, cute thank you cards, these are cute!” I also ran across another piece of advice about mindfulness. Instead of saying you’re sorry for something, like, “I’m sorry I was late,” say “Thank you for having patience with me, there was traffic.”
Renay: Or, “I’m sorry I forgot to reply to your email,” say, “Hey, thanks for the reminder about your last message. I’m gonna get to it.” Instead of apologizing, instead put gratitude out instead of an apology. Obviously you still wanna apologize when you fuck up, but you don’t always need to be apologizing because it changes the dynamic of the interaction you’re having.
Thank you cards! That’s what happening this week. That’s because I bought some this week. I shouldn’t have—but I did!
Ana: Thanks for sharing.
Renay: Fangirl Happy Hour is supported by all of our patrons. We’re so incredibly grateful for everyone who supports us. Especially our supporters at our five dollar pledge level.
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Renay: Don’t forget to drink water, contact your reps, and eat the rich. Throw the whole billionaire into the pot.
Ana: They want to be called people of means, Renay. People of means. So eat the people of means, and also remember you are not alone.
Renay: Thanks for listening to our show, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
Renay: Oh yeah? Really?
Renay: [whimpers] I’m still getting so old and creaky.
Ana: Hi, Zach!
Zachariah: Hello! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.
Ana: That’s okay!
Renay: What’s going on? Did you forget why you’re interrupting?
Ana: Goddammit Catra. So hot.
Ana: It feels so wrong.