Episode Number: 80
Episode Title: H U M A N (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends! I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
[B-3 by BoxCat Games]
Renay: Today we’re here to talk about The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, Squirrel Girl Volume 3 by Erica Henderson and Ryan North, and the first season of The Expanse, which airs on SyFy and is based on the book series The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. But first, a reminder that Ana is soon going to be going far away from us, across the world.
Ana: Don’t cry! I’ll be back.
Renay: I hope somebody makes that into like a ringtone or a notification sound and sends it to us because I need that as like a text notification.
Ana: You’re welcome.
Renay: And also I have two shout-outs to give. The first one is to Charlotte, who you can find on Twitter at @tambourine. Charlotte is a very, very strong supporter of our show. And I really, really appreciate how often she shouts us out and lets people know how much she likes what we do here. So Charlotte: thank you very much!
Ana: Thank you!
Renay: The second is Aly, who is on Twitter at @kyrietree. I’m gonna mispronounce your twitter name. I’m so sorry. I’m the worst at pronouncing things.
Recently Aly gave us a nice shout-out as part of the March event called #trypod. It was a month-long event that a bunch of mostly professional podcasts I think — who get paid to do this — did to spread the word about podcasts in general, because apparently a lot of the regular population doesn’t know about podcasts? Which is sad because podcasts are great.
Ana: You should hear me trying to explain to my mother and my sister what I do on these days where I am mysteriously recording. I was like, “It’s like a radio show, but online.” That’s the closest I could try to explain to my mother.
Renay: I just say it’s online radio.
Ana: Exactly. Yeah.
Renay: I really appreciate that Aly included us in her rec. It was the first #trypod rec I think we got this month, with the hashtag attached, anyway. I’m sure other people rec us all the time, but I just wanted to give her a nod for including us on the hashtag because it’s going all around the internet. So with that out of the way, let’s get into the show.
[Music: B-3 by BoxCat Games]
Renay: It’s been a few weeks, so it’s time to revisit the media we have consumed in the last little while. Ana, what have you been reading and watching?
Ana: Usual caveat, I don’t watch or read as much as you do.
Ana: Lately though I have talked about it already. It’s Vikings. I am a little bit obsessed. We finished watching seasons three and four and we have nothing left. I am so bereft. I walk around the house, and then I bump into Russel, my partner, and we look at each other and both go, “Ragnar Lothbrok.”
Ana: And then we keep repeating the names. Athulstan, Rolo, and we try to use like the accents they use in the show, and we just keep repeating the names around the house. I just miss it so much, guys. It’s just such a good show. The acting’s superb, I just—I can’t wait for season five.
Renay: When does season five start?
Ana: We don’t have a date yet. But I know it will be twenty episodes.
Renay: Which you will consume in like two days.
Ana: It depends. Do I watch as it airs? Or do I wait until everything has been done and then just binge it? I think I’ll probably wait and binge it because that’s just the way I do it now.
The other thing that I started last week is a new podcast, and I found this recommended by a Brazilian friend of mine. It’s four Brazilian women, who live who in the UK, and they are from Ceará, which is in the north east of Brazil and it’s hilarious. Today I was walking home, I was just almost rolling and falling on the road because I was laughing so much I had to stop walking because I couldn’t anymore. It was so hilarious. It’s called Chá com Rapadura. Unfortunately it’s in Portuguese, so it means that most of you would not be able to listen to it. But to our Brazilian listeners—Taissa, to falando com você—definitely listen to it. It’s really good. And it’s all about like politics and life in the UK and it’s really good. Anyway.
The other thing that I’ve been doing is reading pretty consistently The Night Watch miniseries within Discworld by Terry Pratchett. I’ve read the first two: Guards, Guards! and Men at Arms. And I’m going to continue it non-stop because I realized life is too short and why am I saving the books that I most want to read for a time in the future that might not come? Thank you 45, this is on you.
Ana: I’ve been enjoying that. I’m going to read Feet of Clay very soon. The other thing that I watched—I went to the movies to see Logan, the new X-Men movie with Wolverine. Well, it’s not in—it’s not new anymore. It’s been out a few weeks. And it was brilliant. It was everything that I loved about those characters of Wolverine and Professor X and in a way that was a really good way of saying goodbye to an era. And it’s bittersweet. It’s very violent, probably the most violent X-Men movie, but I loved it to bits. And the last thing: I gave Iron Fist a try. But I do not wish to talk about it.
Renay: Well that’s a — review.
Ana: It’s bad. But anyway, I slept through a couple of episodes so on top of everything it’s also boring.
Renay: I mean, I don’t know what they expected.
Ana: The reviews are pretty bad for it. Pretty consistently bad.
Renay: Well, you know what they say about that, that once you have an aggregate and you look at the average.
Ana: On Netflix, it’s two stars. That’s pretty bad. Anyway, those are my stuffs. What about you? What do you have for us?
Renay: I’ve been reading a lot of One Piece because I’m doing a readalong at Barnes & Noble for the 20th anniversary of One Piece — yes this manga has been running for twenty years, and it’s still going. I read the big omnibus editions which have three volumes in them, so because they have three volumes in them, I’m sort of burning through a lot of One Piece. The most recent one I finished was volume 16.
Ana: It’s volume 16 out of?
Ana: That’s a commitment.
Renay: It is. I love One Piece, though. It’s so good. I also took a rec and read Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Riess. I don’t remember who recced this to me. Was it you?
Ana: No, I don’t even know what that is.
Renay: Who recommended me Space Battle Lunchtime? I need you to email me and tell me because I need to talk to somebody about that cliffhanger. Holy moly. Space Battle Lunchtime is about a girl who’s a baker on earth and aliens come down and take her to perform in a cooking show? On a space station? So all the other contestants are aliens and she’s cooking with alien foods, and it’s basically like Iron Chef in space.
Ana: Hold on, is that a book…?
Renay: It’s a graphic novel by Oni Press. It is super cute. You would love it.
Ana: Oh my god. I haven’t heard of it. Thank you, and to the other person who recommended to you, too.
Renay: I got to the end and the cliffhanger just got me me. I was like, “What?! It can’t end there, I need to know what happens! It’s so sad!” I need to know what happens! I need to know how they’re gonna resolve everything, I’m so— yeah, anyway. This is a comic for kids. But I love the art; it reminded me of like watercolors. It’s so pretty. So the second volume comes out soon and I’m there.
I finished a whole bunch of books. I read The Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson. He is a preacher and a political commentator. He wrote this book that is basically a sermon to white people about our treatment of black people in America. It was really good and really visceral and if you want to read, like, a personal account from a black person, I would definitely point you toward this. Even though it’s couched in a lot of religious language, I think it’s really accessible. It was accessible to me and I’m an atheist so I didn’t have any problems with it at all. And I’m definitely to read some of his other stuff too after because he’s several books.
And then I was on Goodreads and somebody I follow added this book called The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian. And this was basically a regency romance with men. And I was like, well, I need to break up the monotony of all my science fiction and fantasy stuff. It’ll clear my palate. So I went and I bought this book and I read it in like six hours. I blew my sleeping schedule. It’s not good sleep hygiene guys. Bad news. It’s about this rich lord who is kind of a hermit and how he hires a secretary to come help him get his house in order, and how his secretary is actually like a crook and how the secretary ends up redeeming both of them.
Ana: That sounds wonderful.
Renay: I definitely recommend it because immediately after finishing it, I bought the other one, called The Soldier’s Scoundrel, which is about characters in the universe and read that one too! So now I have to wait until July for her to publish something else. I’ve read everything she has. So because I got on this little romance kick, I went ahead and read some other romance, too. I read two Tessa Dare novels: When a Scot Ties The Knot, and Do You Wanna Start A Scandal? I definitely appreciated Do You Wanna Start A Scandal more. I found When A Scot Ties The Knot to be really badly written, which was sad because I love the premise, which is this girl makes up a boyfriend so she doesn’t have to go to her Season. She writes him all these letters, and then years and years later he shows up.
Renay: But she made him up, so how is he there? So anyway, the premise was great, the writing left something to desired even though the story itself was pretty cute, but Do You Wanna Start A Scandal was my favorite of the two Tessa Dare books I’ve read. So now I’ve read four romance novels. Also Kay gave me like eight zillion recs so I’m good for a while.
I also read Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda which is a super cute queer YA novel by Becky Albertalli. And then I read two nonfiction books, one was Pandemic by Sonia Shah, which I don’t recommend if you are, you know, squicky about germs, because this book was all about cholera and how it spreads.
Ana: Cholera can be a huge problem in Brazil from time to time.
Renay: And it talks about the history of cholera around the world and how a lot of governments just didn’t give a shit. So in case you’re like, watching the current government in the US like roll back environmental protections and stuff, well, I guess maybe prepare for some outbreaks of things because we’re not taking care of our environment or regulating our companies. Mmm, capitalism.
And then I also read Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt and I was not impressed with this book. I like to read about the history of the space programs, but this one did not do it for me. It’s a good place to start if you’re beginner, though, if you need a light-touch, story-telling type of book to get you into the history, to give like an introductory path for it, I think this is a really good book. But it wasn’t good for me because I read too many like heavy histories that are very academic already, so to me it was just kind of like fluff. I’ve read a lot of stuff!
Ana: This is amazing.
Renay: Well, to be fair, the romance novels read really fast for me.
Ana: When I used to read only romance novels I would get through one per day and that’s how I could read three hundred in a year. They are so delicious, though. Those ones that you mentioned, by Cat Sebastian, is that the name?
Ana: I love — I love that trope, of the reclusive lord and the secretary that’s a scoundrel. Ah, it’s the best.
Renay: I loved both of her books. I really cannot believe I have to wait until July.
Ana: Maybe we should read one of them for the podcast. Because if they are independent like romance novels usually are, like it’s — it’s a couple, it’s a new couple per book, right, we maybe we can read the new one!
Renay: SIGNED UP! I’m on board, let’s go.
Ana: Okay. [laughter]
[Music: Torn by Chuki Beats]
Renay: The Stars Are Legion is a 2017 novel by Kameron Hurley, released by Saga Press. I found this novel really hard to summarize.
Ana: It’s about a plot to save the universe where these two people belong. They have a plan. One of them is following through her side of the plan, the other one has no memory because as part of the plan she needs to keep throwing herself at one of the ships, but every time she comes back she has no memory; has to start over. And this is another of the mysteries of the novel, why does she lose the memory and how. But she knows there is also a plan and she has to do something.
Renay: Okay, first, I wanna talk about the marketing for this book. Because this was marketed as space opera. And I am now that pedantic asshole who’s like, “this is not space opera.” Like the only time everybody goes into space is to die horribly.
Ana: Right. It’s a difficult one.
Renay: Okay, let’s start a fight. This is planetary romance. At best.
Ana: This is for me grimdark fantasy in space.
Renay: It’s not even in space, though. They’re in space like three times, four maybe.
Ana: Well, I guess. I guess…
Renay: I mean, fantasy is technically in space, because they’re on a planet that’s in space.
Ana: To that point, so are we, we are also in space.
Renay: It’s not much about space as it is these worlds. So that’s why I’m calling planetary romance. To compare, Kate Elliott also has some planetary romance like Jaran. It’s set in the far future, there are space ships, there’s space travel, but the majority of that book is on a planet with these people who don’t know that space travel is a thing so it becomes planetary romance. Planetary romance is what I call like fantasy in space.
Ana: And this is why I think it’s grimdark fantasy. It reads much more as fantasy than it does as science fiction to me. Especially because of the trappings. It has very specific trope-tastic fantasy trappings: there is a quest; there is a mission; there is the ragtag team of misfits that assemble to go on a mission together to do X thing.
Renay: And there’s the magical objects.
Ana: That they need to find on their quest in order to save the world. And because it’s very dark, to me it reads much more like fantasy than it does science fiction even though it’s very much in the future. Or is it though? Or is it just in a galaxy far far away? Are these people humans, even? Is it so much in the future that humans have mutated so much to — to something else, or were they never even humans in the first place? Although there is one point in the book that they actually mention the word human, so I would think that they probably are.
Renay: I’m not sure I would agree with grimdark. This book reminded me a lot of a book we read before called Viscera. It also reminded me of a book called The Vagrant by Peter Newman, which I loved. Which was definitely like super dark, super gory, but there was this core of optimism and hope at the middle of it that kept it from being grimdark. The character who leads the book is just a really good person, so that saves it from being grimdark, because I associate grimdark with kind of like an asshole main character, which I guess maybe you could argue that Jayd is, but Zan isn’t.
Ana: No, this is why I was saying that maybe it could argued that it isn’t grimdark.
Renay: It’s crapsack for sure.
Ana: Yeah, because I agree with you. Because there is an element of hope there is a very specific arc that follows Zan through changing, through becoming a new person, through this whole thing of losing her memories and have to start over and every — and this last time that she’s doing it, she’s just becoming a new person, and aggregating new people to her small family. At the end of this book there is a very strong element of found family there in which she has found love and loyalty between people and she wants to keep that. And that I found was really uplifting and hopeful and this how I maybe I agree that this is not exactly grimdark fantasy although it’s very, very, very dark.
Renay: Yeah, it’s just a super gory book. It’s about, like organic material, there’s fluids, and blood, and shit, and it’s just real gross.
Ana: Yes, because the ships are organic, they are made of a — of a living thing. And the people that inhabit those ship-worlds, they are able to get pregnant and give birth to whatever the ship needs. And that could be…a gear, for example, and that was a—a really interesting part of the world building because there are only female characters in the book, and there is no mention whatsoever of any other gender.
Renay: I have read a lot of reviews for this book and a lot of the people just didn’t seem to realize that parthenogenesis was a thing, but I think maybe a mistake is thinking the women in this book as women in the human sense. Because there’s a symbiotic relationship between the women in the Legion and these world-ships. They’ve developed this symbiotic relationship where the women need the worlds to survive; the worlds needs the women to create parts for them.
Renay: So that’s what triggers —
Ana: The pregnancies.
Renay: The women survive because the world survive, therefore the women produce for the world.
Ana: I can’t not think about it, okay, so then, do we see them as female? In the very binary sense of female? Do we see them as something else? What happened to other genders, what happened to guys, what happened to trans people, what happened to non-binary people? Is this a development, is it like a mutation, were they always like this? And is everybody a lesbian? What about other possible sexualities?
Renay: Yeah, that’s where the marketing for this book kind of fell down for me. Lesbians exist because there are other sexualities, so the fact that there is no other sexualities in this book means that this whole “Lesbians In Space” thing that’s going around, I’m like okay. I mean, I see where you’re coming from because we’re reading this book from our perspective and our knowledge of culture so we going to read that relationship between Zan and Jayd, and Jayd and Rasida, as a lesbian relationship. But I’m not quite sure if I would say internal to the world building that that would be how they have self-identified. So you have the reader would identify them that way, but the characters I don’t think would identify themselves that way.
Ana: Because that’s the only thing, right?
Renay: I just think it’s a really interesting piece of world building.
Ana: Okay, when you say it’s an interesting piece of world building, do you think it’s a problematic piece of world building? Because I can’t make my mind up. I can — I can’t tell if there is erasure going on there.
Renay: I don’t think so. I don’t read erasure, specifically, because maybe if we saw anybody else, but we don’t. I read it as the evolution of this world that has these ships in it and the evolution of the Legion itself has led to this culture. If there’s erasure happening it was evolutionary instead of cultural. So you have cultural erasure, which is a dominant culture erases, oppresses, subdues, a different part of the culture that they don’t want to have power, be dominant, but here I think where you have evolutionary erasure it just means that the people on the Legion evolved to be female because the worlds needed females to produce parts to maintain the worlds.
Ana: There is a really interesting discussion about choice and freedom when it comes to that as well, cause Zan’s constantly fearful that, “when am I gonna get pregnant, what’s gonna happen to me, am I gonna get pregnant?” and because to her everything is new, because remember she has no memory. In many ways she works as a conduit for the reader because everything is new to us, too. So she’s able to ask those questions that we are asking ourselves. So how much of a choice is there? Because these people they just get pregnant whenever. They’re walking, they, “Oh, whoops, I’m pregnant, I’m about to give birth” and she gives birth to a gear. And there is this really awful thing with people getting attached to whatever they give birth and then having to give it away. And then we go back to the topic of oppression and if it’s evolutionary then it’s still oppressing women in a way. And that’s why what Zan and Jayd are trying to do, which is to break free from the Legion, it’s so important because in a way they are breaking free of oppression.
I really loved this book, Renay. I really, really, did. I thought it was beautiful. [laughter] I realize that I just said that someone just gave birth to a gear and had to give it away and people are fighting oppression, and dying. Lots and lots and lots of people get killed in this book, like, lots. But I really loved it! And it’s actually the first Kameron Hurley book that I’ve been able to finish, and like. And I loved the romance that turns out to not be a romance anymore.
Renay: Yeah, I liked that part a whole lot because the reading I took away from this book is that even if you care for someone, once they hurt you you can break that cycle. You can choose to break the cycle. And I liked that Zan kept throwing herself back into the cycle over and over and over and over again, until the end, and then she chose at the very end to step out of that cycle with her and Jayd. That seems really familiar to me, as somebody who’s survived a lot of abusive relationships, because you can keep going back, you can keep making excuses, you can stay, but what’s gonna happen if you keep doing that? Like, is there ever a point at which it’s too much, you’ve been hurt too badly to ever make a space for that person in your life anymore. And I really, really liked that angle? Because it felt very much like, “Yeah, you can leave.” It was very empowering: you can step out of this cycle of abuse and choose to say no.
Ana: So, even though Zan and Jayd share the viewpoint narrativ — there is alternating chapters — would you say that Zan is the real protagonist of this novel? Because she’s the one that went through a bigger change?
Ana: Yeah, me too.
Renay: Jayd lies a whole lot and she’s also overconfident, so much so that she gets herself into a lot of trouble and costs the lives of a lot of people just because she’s so arrogant. She’s so attached to this goal that she has that the ends justify the means no matter what. And because of that she’s kind of unreliable, which I know is your favorite.
Ana: It is.
Renay: Did you just break your mic saying it is?
Ana: I just broke my mic. It is, it’s so my favorite, it’s definitely one of my favorite things about this novel.
Renay: So Zan doesn’t have her memories, so that’s how she’s unreliable, but Jayd does and I still can’t tell as I read through, like, what politics were true, what motivations were true, because hers were so…
Renay: And lacked so much empathy for other people.
Ana: She was just thinking about survival and the plan. That was her goal and there was no room for anything else. And that was the lesson that Zan learned that Jayd didn’t at this point at least. Zan reached the point where no one’s left behind, and Jayd is like, “Everyone is expendable.”
Renay: I like how this book played with memory even though that was a big trope: the amnesia-suffering protagonist. But I liked how this book pulled memory apart. One of the questions I came away from this novel with was: does memory create who we are, and what does it mean when you choose to forgo your memory? Can you create yourself anew without it? Or can you create yourself anew even if you have it? Like, how much does memory make us who we are?
Ana: I would say all of it. I think that the greatest example of this is Peter Pan. Hear me out.
Ana: You remember in Peter Pan how Peter never grows up. He’s the boy that lives forever as a boy. But he also doesn’t remember things. He keeps forgetting that he goes back for Wendy, and in the end, Wendy grows up and he never realizes because he doesn’t remember her. And this is why he never grows up: because he has no memory. And if you don’t have any memories you don’t have a strong sense of self. You don’t mature. You don’t learn from lessons. So that was my biggest take-away from Peter Pan.
Renay: Okay, so how does that apply to Zan who chooses over and over and over it seems to return to her and Jayd’s plan without her memory? Because obviously it’s a choice, isn’t it?
Ana: Yes it is. Yeah.
Renay: She just keeps choosing not to get her memory back.
Ana: Because if she keeps her memory she will grow out of it and that’s why she always chooses Jayd over herself. That’s what she effectively does every time she chooses to lose her memory. She chooses Jayd; not her. In the end, she chooses to keep her memories, to know everything that happened, and then she grows. She grows! She becomes a better human! Because she’s able to retain all the memories of what she has done during that life that she lived. She decides that she doesn’t want to forget the experiences she had, during her trek, her journey, the friends that she made. And she didn’t want to forget the betrayal as much as it hurt. And then she grows up. She grows out of it. I am loving this book more and more.
Renay: It was sure a book! It exists as a book. It sure is a book.
Ana: Oh my god, you don’t like it. How many – ohft. I don’t even want to ask.
Renay: How many space bees are you gonna give it?
Ana: Five. I was gonna give it four, but after our discussion and the realizations that I just made I’m giving it five. [laughter]
Renay: I’m giving it three.
Ana: So you didn’t like it that much.
Renay: I mean, I liked it okay. I think I need to come to accept that I don’t like fluids. I don’t like gore. I don’t like body horror. I’m not into wombs. And Kameron Hurley apparently that’s her thesis. In lots of her books, let’s talk about wombs. All right. Yes. Sure. But I’m not into it.
Ana: It’s not a thing for me to be into. But if I come across it, as we have recently in Viscera and now with this, it appears that I’m not too bothered with that type of horror.
Renay: Now I’m really curious for you to read The Vagrant and see what you think of it.
Ana: I do have a copy staring at me.
Renay: It’s very long, but I still think maybe you should read it and tell me what you think because although I ended this novel really liking Zan and the fact that she chose a much less cutthroat future for herself, I had a lot of trouble just getting past the gore in this book. There’s a reason I did not go into like nursing or veterinary school. There’s a reason and it’s not just because my mom banned me from going into the medical field.
Ana: Are you not able to skim or not visualize?
Ana: Because for me it is very easy to… Not necessarily skim but I’m not very visual reader, so I don’t create things in my mind so I don’t like…
Renay: I don’t know how I would read like that. I visualize everything. Everything.
Ana: I can see how that would be a problem with this novel and Viscera.
Renay: There was this scene in this novel where they climbed into an artery and all this stuff in the artery came pouring down on them. Ugggggh.
Ana: Chocolate. Just picture it as chocolate. [laughter]
Renay: And now I’m gonna picture eating bodily fluids. Thank you.
This is the first novel of Kameron Hurley’s that I’ve read since God’s War, so I really liked the writing here. How it was really well done, which is probably why I was so fucking grossed out the whole time. Uggggh.
Ana: I really liked it, I think it’s possible it might be one of my favorite books of the year at the end of 2017.
Renay: That’s a really huge surprise! [laughter]
Ana: I am surprised too, yeah.
Renay: No, I’m not surprised because you loved Viscera and I got fifty pages into this book and I’m like, “Fuck, Ana’s gonna love the shit out of this.” I knew it! I called it!
Ana: I did. I really did love it.
[Music: Feel by Chuki Beats]
Renay: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 3: Squirrel, You’ve Really Got Me Now by Erica Henderson and Ryan North is the third volume of the super popular — and excellent — Squirrel Girl! This volume was about time travel.
Renay: Right up Ana’s alley. I’m Tippy Toe, this entire volume. I’m the massive downer, like lecturing people about paradoxes. [laughter]
Ana: I like how self-aware it was and made fun of other time travel stories; picking up on tropes and things that tend to happen and just rolling with it. That was really fun.
Renay: Time travel never makes much sense to me if I focus to hard on it, but I am okay with it in this case because Doreen defeated time travel — time travel against her will in fact — with the power of friendship. Her and Nancy are so great!
Ana: And of course other Squirrel Girls.
Renay: That was my favorite part. If you have been reading Squirrel Girl for any amount of time. There was an old appearance of Squirrel Girl, her first appearance, that they reprinted as part of a previous volume, where Squirrel Girl defeats Doctor Doom by covering him in squirrels, like a big ball of squirrels. They mirror that in this one by Doreen time travelling over and over and over again until there’s just a huge balls of Squirrel Girls.
Ana: It’s so good. And herself as an older lady which was just so brilliant when she showed up! And they were so cool! She was still the same.
Renay: The first issue of this is not about time travel specifically, but it is about Nancy meeting Doreen’s mom, and fighting a robot, which basically ends up with them having a robot pal. Okay, listen: there’s a robot pal in this. I don’t know how I’m not supposed to love it, because they make a robot pal out of Nancy’s phone. They restore him to life and then they send him to college. One of my favorite parts of that issue was the fact that they put a little badge on him that says, “H U M A N.”
Ana: I know.
Renay: The little touches that Erica Henderson puts on her art in this is so brilliant. There was the H U M A N badge, there was the small touches on that big spread that we got where the future has changed because Doom has taken it over and all the Doombots are around the city, but there’s a little tiny Waldo.
Ana: Yeah, I was gonna say, did you notice Waldo there! Yes! [laughter] That was brilliant. Which is why, I think, because at the end of this volume, you have a crossover event with Howard the Duck and the art is not by her, and you can tell the difference. And I really did not like those. It didn’t seem like Squirrel Girl.
Renay: I think I’m just really too attached to Erica Henderson’s art at this point. When it comes to Doreen I don’t know how I’m going to survive when she’s no longer the artist.
Ana: Inevitably there will be a change, right, because these people just keep just changing. You change artists in comics all the time and I don’t know how I’m gonna cope with that when that eventually happens with Squirrel Girl. But I loved this volume; not sure about Howard the Duck. Did you ever watch the movie? I used to love that movie so much.
Renay: Yeah, I did. Mm — it was my cousin’s favorite movie.
Ana: I used to watch it so many times.
Renay: I was confused about the romance in that movie as a kid. And I would watch the movie and at one point I turned to my grandmother and I was like, “Grandma, how the duck have sex with the lady?” Not a good question for your grandmother.
Ana: What did she say? Do you remember?
Renay: She made us turn off the movie, and then she confiscated it from my cousin, and so my cousin got real angry at me.
Ana: Always asking the wrong questions, Renay. Or should I say, the right questions.
Renay: I know. So yeah, this volume of Squirrel Girl had all the things I loved about it. It had Nancy and Doreen being great friends. Iit had Doreen solving problems. It had Doreen, like, launching people into swimming pools from atop tall buildings.
Ana: Yes, and there was time travel.
Renay: I didn’t even mind the time travel! I didn’t mind it!
Ana: And very gloomy Doctor Doom which was hilarious. I always find Doctor Doom hilarious for some reason. And awesome chats with Tony Stark.
Renay: I think this comic is underrated for the friendship it has at the center of it between Nancy and Doreen. I don’t think it gets enough attention for that friendship. They’re like such good friends and Ryan North and Erica Henderson just bring it across so great because they tease each other and they have these in-jokes.
Ana: And they support each other! Like the fact that Nancy was the only one who would remember Doreen, it was the power of friendship, totally.
Renay: Nancy was so close enough to be caught in the field and only Doreen’s best friend would be that close.
Ana: Exactly! So there you go.
Renay: And I just wish this got more attention for the great friendship between ladies that it has in it. I don’t know if a lot of people know because I think this comic kind of comes off a little campy, and the humor is not everybody’s cup of tea. But even if the humor doesn’t work for you, I just really think this friendship is worth reading this comic for. Because it’s so good! It’s so good!
So how many space bees would you give Squirrel Girl Volume 3!
Ana: I really didn’t like the crossover; the two issues at the end. And because this is a volume I feel like it needs to be judged, too. So, I’m giving four space bees.
Renay: I’m giving it seven.
Ana: I’m gonna time travel you back to the moment where you made this decision so that you can think it over and then. So how many space bees, Renay?
Renay: Seven. Still seven.
Ana: It didn’t work. Shit.
[Music: Memories by Chuki Beats]
Renay: The Expanse is SyFy series based on the book series The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. We watched the first season!
Renay: Because I peer pressured Ana! Into watching it!
Ana: Yes, you did.
Renay: Okay, moment of truth: did you like this show?
Ana: I did, very much.
Renay: Okay, this is the point at which I admit I liked the books way better than the TV show. Haha!
Ana: Ha ha ha haha, so that was gonna be one of my questions for you, like how do they diverge, but I guess we can get to that a little bit later. The show’s a little bit slow, but that’s okay. I often like slow moving shows and I appreciated how this one built up all the different threads separately until there is a huge convergence of the storylines towards the end. I thought that was really well done. I kept thinking thinking like when are these people gonna meet? How do their stories converge? And they do in the end, it was really well done.
I like that there is parts space opera, part futuristic science fiction, there is a lot of politics, there is a lot of politics of oppression, there is — and then there is also a side of hard boiled detectives and noir mysteries with Miller. And overall I really did enjoy it and I like the two female characters in the whole show.
Renay: Mm-hm. I guess if you count Tavi you could have three.
Ana: Oh yes, that’s true, yeah, she appears here and there.
Renay: Avasarala does not appear in the first book at all.
Ana: Oh wow! So are you telling me that in the book, there is only one female character?
Renay: I mean, no, there are other female characters because the book works a little differently than the first season of the show, but Naomi is the major female character in the first book.
Ana: Naomi’s awesome. I love her in the series. And I really like Avasarala too. That — I love that actress. I find her so beautiful.
Renay: I know, she’s great. And I was really excited when they put her in the first season to improve the gender balance because —
Renay: — looking at the book, that first book is awful on representation. When I have people read this series, I have a lot of trouble getting them past that first book. They read it they’re like, “This is trash, this is garbage” and I’m just like, “Okay, I mean I know it’s frustrating, but just try the second book” and then they read the second book and they’re like, “Wow, this is great!”
Ana: What you’re saying is that the first season does not equate to the first book.
Ana: Things from further books in the series — in the first season?
Renay: No, the first book they haven’t even finished.
Renay: There are huge pieces missing.
Ana: It have something to do with what the girlfriend who died tried to say to Holden before she was exploded?
Renay: No. I don’t know why they did that, because that’s never gonna get resolved.
Renay: Unless they just invent something for this series.
Ana: That’s not in the books, okay, I thought that was major. I kept waiting for that to be explained. But okay, fine.
Renay: Yeah, I have no idea why they did that. I mean, I guess to give something Holden to angst over?
Ana: Well, I actually liked Holden better than Miller in the TV show, because Miller to me was just like, “Why is this guy just so obsessed with this woman that he never knew?” and it’s all about this dead woman, who’s not dead, I know, but he doesn’t know.
Renay: Who’s not dead?
Renay: She’s super dead.
Ana: Isn’t she gonna be brought back to life?
Ana: What do you mean no?!
Renay: No, Julie is super dead.
Ana: So that makes it worse. I thought she was still alive. I thought when they were reading out the thing that is in her body, I thought it had created like a symbiotic kind of thing, and she would become Julie plus this thing. That’s — that’s what I thought was happening.
Renay: I mean, that’s another reason that I struggled to get people into the first because it’s basically they kill a girl in order to motivate a dude.
Ana: Yeah, exactly.
Renay: And so that’s why I have a lot of trouble getting people through the first book, because people are real tired of that trope. It improves later on because more things come out in later books that I’ve no clue how the TV show’s gonna handle them. But in the first season you have Julie basically getting stuck on Eros and waiting for someone to come help her and nobody comes to help her. She is basically a host for these scientists. They just use her. I mean it’s not the last time you’re going to see Julie, but you won’t see her alive.
Ana: Oh my god, okay. Is she gonna become a zombie?
Renay: I cannot say. So the first season of the series ends before they deal with Eros. The first book deals with Eros. The first book wraps that storyline up.
Ana: Right, okay.
Renay: I don’t know how they’re gonna handle it in season two, I haven’t seen season two yet. I’m waiting for it to finish to I can just binge it all at once because like you I find the TV show too slow. And I also find some of the tv show things they do to like, create tension and drama kind of silly? In the books, I did not get this whole, “the team was against each other” vibe that they put into the show. Like they keep the characters at odds way longer than I think is useful.
Ana: What’s up with Amos? Is he a psychopath? Because he reads to me like he’s like, really dangerous crazy psychopath who is obsessed with Naomi.
Renay: [whispers] I’m not gonna spoil the books.
Ana: Fuck. [laughs]
Renay: Nice try, though. Nice try. You will just have to read the books.
Renay: They’re only like six hundred pages each.
Ana: Ugh, god.
Renay: I wanna go back and read the whole series because I think that the seventh book comes out this year unless something terrible happens.
But going back to my point about the characterization of the main team. Half the reason that I love these books so much is because this team is like super, super tight knit and in the books their relationship becomes way more close and full of trust that it does in the TV show. And they keep them at a distance from each other for way longer in the TV show than they do in the books. I understand why they do that, because on TV it’s a visual medium, it’s different, you have to handle your characterization differently. But for me it makes the show feel tonally way different. I never can tell when the characters are gonna explode at each other again.
Ana: I was hoping for more friendship, a clear, like, “These people are going to become this cool found family.” Kind of like The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet or Firefly, for example. I was expecting to get that vibe and I didn’t.
Renay: The first book has it, the first season does not.
Ana: I also keep seeing essays and news talking about, “Is this the best show nobody’s watching?” which just raises alarm bells that it might get cancelled pretty soon.
Renay: No, they’ve already ordered a third season.
Ana: Oh, all right. Okay then.
Renay: Also, is this the best show that nobody’s watching, well I don’t — I would not call it the best show, no.
Ana: I see — I saw so many essays saying that, “Oh, this is the best science fiction show that nobody’s watching,” “This the science fiction that you wanted”, and whatever, and I’m like “Meh.” I don’t think so.
Renay: Lower the excitement guys, just a little bit. If you lead with that, people are gonna go into this show and I don’t think they’re gonna find the same emotional connections if they’re coming directly from the books. Maybe if they’re not coming directly from the books it’ll be okay, but I think that there’s something missing from this show, and I can’t put my finger on what it is.
Ana: The two — the two main leads are boring.
Renay: Ah, Miller gets way more interesting. I cannot wait for that. Of course I think I have to wait until like book three or something so I have no — it’s gonna be like season four or something at this point or something, who knows, but Miller gets way more interesting. [laughter]
Renay: Cannot wait.
Ana: So do we recommend this show to people?
Renay: I mean, I think it’s a good space show.
Ana: How many space bees would you give?
Ana: Yeah, I would give three and a pot of honey.
Renay: It’s really well cast. I really do love the cast; I think they did a great job. I was not sold on Wes Chatham at the beginning, when they announced him for Amos, but I think he’s really come through, it’s been pretty great to watch him and I’m like, “Yeah, you get him, you get his character really well.” I love the actress they Avasarala, whose name I will not pronounce so I don’t mangle it, and Naomi.
Ana: She’s great.
Renay: I have no feelings about the guy who’s playing Holden? Thumbs up generic white guy. I mean, I don’t know why I’m assuming he’s white, he has eight parents and it’s never been clear who all his parents are, so he might not be a white guy.
Renay: He might be mixed-race and I’m really curious about that because he’s got eight parents! So we don’t know who’s part of his genetic mix!
Ana: That’s true.
Renay: And they’re actually doing a really great job characterizing him on the show as this like righteous asshole who just like leaks information, without considering the consequences of what his information’s going to do.
Renay: That’s not the last time he does this by the way. But he’s so earnest and because I’ve thought a lot about why I don’t like Holden, and I think some of the reason is that obviously I’m tired of having like big space adventures where the generic dude gets to be the hero.
Ana: That was my feeling, too.
Renay: And I say that if you like space shows I would definitely check this out, it’s very — it’s very near — it’s like near future, a hundred, couple hundred years, and it’s extremely diverse in the background characters.
Renay: A lot. Like, you notice and it’s great. And they’ve finally done what I think that all shows, all movies, need to do. You can kill your people of color in your show if there’s not a problem of scarcity. And they do not have a scarcity problem in this show.
Renay: So they’ve addressed it. So now you get this really rich, diverse world, and yeah people are dying cause a war is about to start, but you don’t feel like it’s as oppressive because there’s so many characters who are diverse and so that’s one great thing that this series has finally addressed.
Ana: It could use more women, though.
Renay: Yes. Don’t worry, it gets better. That’s why I tell everybody to make it to the second book. On the women and sexuality front, actually.
Renay: So yeah, that’s my reading of this. I’m gonna go read the first book instead of rewatching the series. Sorry first season! I’ll see what I think when season two gets into my eyes.
[Music: Help by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Okay, it’s time for recommendations. Ana what’ve you got for us?
Ana: I read A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab and it’s the last book in her Shades of London series. This book was amazing and it also ends the trilogy really, really well, so I want to recommend the whole series because it’s so good. And it has fantastic characters, full of queer characters, and lots of magic, and it ends superbly. Not in a dark way. I don’t want to spoil, but things do really end well. I hugged the book in the end. You’ve already read the first one, right?
Renay: Yes, I’ve only read the first one.
Ana: But you liked it.
Renay: I liked the first one. I’m just not sure if I’m gonna be happy with what she does to the ships in the book?
Ana: Do you want me to tell you?
Renay: No?! Don’t tell me! That’s a spoiler! I guess I’ll just have to read this series and see. I do have the second book with me and maybe I’ll get to it, you know, in the next eighteen zillion years.
Ana: [laughter] So what do you recommend?
Renay: So recently, John Scalzi released a new novel called The Collapsing Empire, and he went tour. I went to see him on his tour stops in Nashville. It was a four hour drive, it was a very long drive. That’s dedication, okay.
Ana: It is. It’s love.
Renay: And at the event, he read from the upcoming book that he’s going to publish next year called Head-On, which is the sequel to Lock-In. And obviously I can’t share anything about that, because obviously that’s not cool. I will tell everybody who has not read Lock-In to go read Lock-In and then put Head-On on your to-be-read list right now. Just do it. Just go do it.
So as part of Lock-In, apparently the worldbuilding, because the Hayden’s all live inside their bodies, they invented a sport specifically for Hayden people who have the syndrome? He created the rules for the entire game.
Renay: And because he created the game, he said I have to use it somehow, so he’s going to write a sequel. And that’s all I can say without like ending with red dots from the snipers that he sent after me. I almost fell out of my chair at the reading because I was leaning forward in suspense when he was reading from the first chapter. It sounds so good. I cannot wait to read it. However, that is not my recommendation.
Ana: Oh! You sneaky, sneaky Renay!
Renay: My recommendation is actually for The Collapsing Empire, the new book that just came out. The Collapsing Empire is about the interdependency and how they get round the interstellar space is by the Flow which is a little river of time, I guess, that they can hop in and out of, and travel because they don’t have faster than light travel. And the book is about what happens when the Flow starts to disappear. It has amazing characters. I loved Kiva so much. I really think if you like really fast-paced political science fiction, this will be right up your alley. If you never tried a John Scalzi book before, this will be a great place to start because there’s a not a lot to — there’s no other books before this. This is a brand new thing and a brand new series, you have to have no other context, and you can hop right in. Highly, highly recommended.
So that’s recs, and normally we’d tell you what we’re going to be reading and watching and discussing next time, but unfortunately this is Ana’s last regular episode before she goes off on adventures to Brazil. We can’t tell you yet what we’re going to be discussing, but I will say that I will have a few guest episodes coming up, so you can watch out for them and we’ll have a Vault special some time in late April, which is Stargate. So you can go watch Stargate right now to get prepared.
Ana: And you should really get prepared, because that episode got INTENSE.
Renay: Yeah, I think we made each other cry.
Ana: So intense.
[Music: Happy Summer Love]
Renay: It’s the end of episode 80 and we reached this point without having a fight. I’m counting it as a win.
Ana: That’s because I travelled back in time, but you don’t know that because you don’t have a memory of it.
Renay: Of course, of course. Our music this week is by Boxcat Games and Chuki Beats. Our show art is by Ira, our transcripts are by Susan the Transcription Fairy. You can find links to all of their work in our show notes, plus information about the media we discussed.
Ana: You can follow us on twitter at @fangirlpodcast. Our email is email@example.com, and you can write to us any time. If you like the show, tell a friend, share our show on your favorite social media, or support us on Patreon.
Renay: Drink some water and contact your reps.
Ana: And if you decide to go on a quest to save the world, please remember to be kind to your companions so that they can save your ass when you need it.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s pollen season, like if you look up at the trees you just see these huge globs of pollen just waiting to go somewhere and —
Renay: Fall on my face, and ugh.
Ana: It’s my hair.
Renay: Your hair is making that noise?
Renay: Hey, how – what are you barking at, dog? We’re trying to have a discussion here.
Ana: We got so philosophical.
Renay: Gonna end that segment right there! End, over, it’s over. [deep breath]
Ana: [moving away from the microphone] I’m gonna get the Vagrant right now from it’s shelf. Right now.
Renay: So here we go, here we go, we gonna talk about Squirrel Girl!
Ana: With Donald the Duck. [laughter] No. With Howard the Duck. I even wrote Donald The Duck.
Renay: Listen, Renay, you gotta start working out again, this is not a good — this is not a good situation. [despairing laughter]
Renay: I mean, yeah, this will be real fun for me to edit.