Transcript: Not Now, I’m Reading Ashwin by Kit Rocha

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Chelsea: Welcome to the first ever episode of Not Now, I’m Reading, your one stop shop for all things genre. My name is Chelsea.

Kay: And I’m Kay.

Chelsea: And welcome to our first episode!

Kay: Yayyyy.

Chelsea: Our inaugural podcast. Um, thank you for those of you who followed us over from Sisterhood of the Traveling Paperbacks or from our other various internet homes. This podcast is basically just going to be Kay and I’s place to come talk about all the genre and fandom things that are making us happy. We acknowledge that nothing is perfect, but we can still love the things we love really hard while talking about the issues we have with them. So basically we are here to talk about books and we’ll do some movies and comic books and other things as they pop up —

Kay: But mostly books. [laughs]

Chelsea: Mostly books. Mostly books.

Kay: Mostly.

Chelsea: Every other week will definitely be books. Maybe three out of four, depending on how the reading’s going.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: The general rules of the podcast are: we are sweary and we are proudly feminist and this is a space that is going to be free of cishet white men in publishing. There are plenty of spaces on the internet for you to find those various things, uh.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: This is not that spot. We wish you well.

Kay: This is not the place for you. Happy trails, friend.

Chelsea: Yes, we wish you well. You will find somewhere on the internet to be. But we are here for everybody else who’s ready to talk about diverse things, and intersectionality and fandom and pop culture and all of the things we love to read and consume. Yeah, so on that note. Let’s talk about what we are reading and consuming. Kay, I’m gonna make you go first cause you always have so many things that you’re reading.

Kay: I do always have so many things that I’m reading. Let’s see. We’ll just do a nice little rundown. I just reread for about the millionth time Act Like It by Lucy Parker.

Chelsea: Mmhmm.

Kay: Which is one of my go-to recommendations for new romance readers. It’s a contemporary romance. There’s fake dating. It’s set in the London theater scene and it’s amazing.

Chelsea: So good.

Kay: I don’t really wanna spoiler it too much, but it’s definitely one of the things that I say: it’s not super long, it’s contemporary, it’s very cute, there’s just enough twists and turns without it being like ‘really, really? That’s the twist you were going with?’ Which can happen sometimes. Cause contemporary romance can. We’ll just not go there. Some of the tropes that people decide to throw in, I’m like, maybe this should’ve been a fantasy. I don’t know.

[laughter]

Chelsea: Maybe. Just throwing that out there.

Kay: And I’m also rereading Emma. Because of course I am. I almost always read all of Jane Austen’s books in a calendar year. Um, and I have most of them on audio as well, so I’m doing the audio right now and it’s read by Juliet Stevenson. Who’s a phenomenal narrator.

Chelsea: Fabulous.

Kay: Really great. So those are the books that I’m reading. Also, I just finished rereading The Martian, but everybody has heard of The Martian.

Chelsea: That’s always a solid choice.

Kay: You don’t need to hear me talking about that. Since I just, like, speed reread The Martian and also watched the movie the other day, I was rereading some of my old favorite fics from that fandom and one that I recommend to anyone that has seen the movie or read the book, even if you’re not a fanfiction person, it’s really great. It’s called You Know You Have a Permanent Piece of My Medium-Sized American Heart. It’s by tricatular. But this fic  is really great. It’s basically about Mark coming back with the crew on the Hermes and it’s sort of a social media fic? I don’t. How do you explain those? There’s a lot of tumblr posts and twitter posts and also there’s like people asking questions at press conferences where it’s just dialogue. Um,  but it’s multimedia fandom fic. I dunno how else to describe this. It’s great. It’s really funny. It’s actually like really surprisingly poignant there’s at one point in one of the data dumps they get a bunch of things that fans of Mark Watney have said or written cause you know, obviously Mark Watney would have rabid fangirls on the internet. And one of them is this really lovely, like, fake tumblr post about how Mark Watney’s, it’s this lovely little thing saying that if anyone was going to get stuck on Mars it was pretty great that it was Mark Watney. But it ends with ‘So let’s not treat these logs as just the latest show to bingewatch. Mark Watney wanted to live, and he didn’t want to be alone. He’s not alone. None of us are alone. That’s what these logs mean.’ And I remember the first time I read this just being like ‘okay, yeah, I’m getting really emotional about a fictional tumblr post about The Martian.’ [laughter]

Chelsea: But it’s so good, though.

Kay: But it’s so good, though. And yeah. You should go read it. It’s hilarious. Mark Watney, cinnamon roll. Too good for this world. Too pure. [laughs]

Chelsea: Too pure. And of course, we will have all links in the show notes.

Kay: Yep, yep, yep.

Chelsea: So click on over and definitely give that a read. Well, I reread Every Heart A Doorway.

Kay: Nice.

Chelsea: For the SFF Awards, and it was just as delightful as the first time.

Kay: Obviously.

Chelsea: And made me really excited that the second one is getting ready to come out because Jack and Jill are my favorite characters from the first book.

Kay: And that’s by Seanan McGuire.

Chelsea: Yes, by Seanan McGuire. For those of you who haven’t heard, it’s about what happens to the kids who go through the magic doors into faerieland, what kind of happens to those kids who go on adventures, what happens when they come back to our world.

Kay: Poor returned portal fantasy kids.

Chelsea: And Eleanor West opens basically a home for them. She is looking for her own magical door back to the world she visited. And while the parents of these kids might think that they are crazy or depressed or suffering from real life mental illnesses, they have in fact been traveling to different fantasy worlds and so it’s kind of about that and about them. The next novella in the series is getting ready to come out. It is called Down Among the Sticks and Bones and it focuses on two characters from Every Heart a Doorway. It’s fantastic. It’s only like 130 pages long or something like that. 150 pages. Super short.

Kay: She’s really killing it with the novella length stuff, recently.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: Like always.

Chelsea: She’s just been killing it.

Kay: Also she wrote, as Mira Grant, Final Girls that came out recently. And that’s one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

Chelsea: Also A+ to Seanan and also her publisher because they included pretty much literally every Toby Daye novel and short story in the Hugo packet.

Kay: I think they did. I think they included all of them.

Chelsea: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s every single one.

Kay: It would cost you almost $100 I think to buy all of them.

Chelsea: Which is crazy. And that’s just one part. If you have more interest in the Hugos stay tuned. We have a special episode coming. But that was really exciting to see that it wasn’t just excerpts, it was everything. I was like holy shit.

Kay: Yup.

Chelsea: That’s a lot of books. But then I also read a middle grade novel called Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. And I don’t know if you saw any of the dustup around this on twitter when it happened.

Kay: Mm-mm.

Chelsea: But basically Barbara Dee was asked to come to a school to give a talk and when she got there to give a talk, Star-Crossed is about a young girl named Maddie who basically realizes that she might be bisexual. And that she might have a crush on or in fact does have a crush on one of the new girls in school. And they’re performing Romeo and Juliet as their eighth grade play and it’s adorable. It’s incredibly cute. But it deals with sexuality and burgeoning sexuality as you’re kind of growing into your identity. And the school had asked her not to speak about that.

Kay: What?!

Chelsea: To talk about the book without talking about the sexuality parts of it. Which. You know.

Kay: I think you can guess our feelings about that. [angry buzzer noise]

Chelsea: Which is total bullshit. It is total bullshit not to put too fine a point on it. And so I had not actually heard about this book until I read her article about it and what is both incredibly endearing and makes the situation even sadder is that she wrote this with her daughter in mind.

Kay: Awwww.

Chelsea: I think her daughter is now in ninth or tenth grade but at the time was in eighth grade and was beginning to identify as bisexual. And to kind of explore that about herself. And so the author wrote this so she could see herself in books and help her work through that and she consulted with her daughter on a lot of it.

Kay: Oh my god, that is so precious.

Chelsea: So precious! And incredibly sweet and the book is adorable and it’s actually really cute cause as the book is going tis’ doing this summation of Romeo and Juliet. Which as an adult you would think would kind of getting annoying.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: Because you know what Romeo and Juliet is about. But also it’s, it’s actually very cute because it requires you to realize there was a time when you didn’t necessarily know what that was about.

Kay: Yep.

Chelsea: Before that story had entered your consciousness just as a story. So I really enjoyed it.

Kay: That’s lovely.

Chelsea: Yeah, it was lovely. Go pick it up. Go give the author some dollars or find it at your library. It’s really cute. It also moves fairly quickly because it’s middle grade. And then the last book we’re gonna talk about — [laughs] We’re gonna talk about A Court of Misty and Fury for like five seconds.

Kay: Yikes.

Chelsea: Because I don’t know how to feel about this book.

Kay: I say this as someone who’s read all of one Sarah J. Maas book: I’m not reading any more of them.

Chelsea: But this is the things, here’s the thing, I’ve never had an experience where I’ve so hated the first book and then turned around and really enjoyed the second book.

Kay: Really?

Chelsea: Which is kind of throwing me for an existential loop because it’s never happened before.

Kay: Here’s the thing about that: if you hate a book really badly you almost never read the second book.

Chelsea: And that is very true. And that is kind of what makes me sad. I can never recommend this series. The first book is such utter trash fire it is about —

Kay: I remember you texting me about, like, some of the word choices that were made.

Chelsea: It’s really bad, yeah.

Kay: And almost falling down laughing.

Chelsea: It’s really bad. Like, Sarah J. Maas includes sex scenes in these books which, I think, on the first hand is commendable because these books are for older teens and, just in general, I am in favor of accurate depictions of healthy sexual relationships in teen books.

Kay: Hallelujah.

Chelsea: I am pro that. However. These are really bad.

[laughter]

Chelsea: They’re just really bad.

Kay: Just real bad.

Chelsea: So I can’t really endorse them because of that but like yay for trying, Sarah.

Kay: A for effort. [snorts]

Chelsea: But I just loved the second one so much. And it’s a Hades and Persephone retelling.

Kay: I am always down for a Hades and Persephone retelling. I’m weak to that.

Chelsea: Yeah, it’s pretty good. And my thing is that the shipping is whatever. Like, you can feel how you feel about Rhys kind of her new love interest and there’s a lot of emotional development and some retconning of some really shitty stuff he does in the first book into the second book so like that is what it is. But the character of Feyre her character arc of development is amazing it is aces. I loved it. She is such a badass character that I want to see al o these young adult books trying to do. That’s something that Sarah J. Maas is getting right here. So I really enjoyed it, but I have complicated feelings about it. Y’all should come and find me on social media and talk to me about it.

Kay: I feel like if you wanna read a Hades and Persephone retelling you should just go read Alisha Rai’s Hot as Hades and be done with it.

Chelsea: Also yes. That’s cause Alisha Rai always has a stamp of approval rec.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: Anyway. So that’s the last book I’ve been reading. That left me with some complicated feelings.

Kay: Yeah. [laughs]

Chelsea: So I decided to go and read a fanfiction that left me with no complicated feelings. It’s a reread. It’s And Never Been Kissed by thehoyden and twentysomething.

[Kay sighs happily]

Chelsea: Which is —

[laughter]

Kay: Just, like, happy sighs and swooning.

Chelsea: — from hockey RPF fandom. Which is just so good. It is the slowest of slow burns. It is almost 167,000 words long. Just shy of that.

Kay: I basically threw Chelsea really into the deep end of this fandom with my first couple of recs.

Chelsea: Aw, this, like, I almost feel like you did me a little bit of a disservice because this shit was so good. Like. That bar got set real high. And I’m not saying I haven’t super enjoyed a lot of other hockey RPF fiction that I have read. But damn.

Kay: But you know. I would 100% buy that as an original novel. Just file the serial numbers off. I would 100% buy it.

Chelsea: That’s what I was just thinking. If this were about fictional hockey players and fictional hockey teams, just like you said, I would pay money for this.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: I would buy this and I would enjoy it and would recommend it just as a romance novel. But yeah, I will link that in the show notes. Like I said, be warned it is a super, super slow burn.

Kay: Aren’t you 100k in before there’s, like, any actual romance stuff?

Chelsea: Before anything happens, yeah.

Kay: It’s like a bildungsroman that turns into a romance.

Chelsea: But it is so worth it.

Kay: But they are building up to it the whole time.

Chelsea: Like, that’s the thing. If you can make the commitment and stay in there for the long haul it is super worth it.

Kay: And you don’t need to know anything about that fandom to enjoy that.

Chelsea: Oh no, nuh-uh.

Kay: At all.

Chelsea: You don’t even need to know a thing about the sport of hockey, about anybody. No.

Kay: You’ll enjoy it slightly more, maybe, if you know who the people are, but you really don’t need to know.

Chelsea: Yeah, you really don’t need to know.

Kay: Chelsea didn’t know.

Chelsea: I had no, I had no idea.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Chelsea:  Well, I think that’s everything, so we will go ahead and talk about the book that we picked for our first book which is Ashwin by Kit Rocha. This is the first book in the new Gideon Rider’s series which actually follows their Beyond series if you’ve read any of those books. But this is a new book, a new series, a perfect, great starting point for hopping in if you’ve never read any work by them before. This book is basically about Ashwin. Ashwin Malhotra is a genetically altered supersoldier who’s been engineered not only to be a lethal killing machine, but to be feeling less and to have no feelings and to work for the super oppressive capital. Only there’s been war against the capital and now he’s infiltrating essentially the first family of District 1. The royal Rios family who are royalty, they are gods, they are prophets, there’s a lot of complicated family dynamics there and the only person that Ashwin’s really concerned about is Kora. Kora Bellamy is a doctor. She use to take care of him on the base when he was a soldier. And now that she is helping the Rios family he’s torn between his mission and his heart and he has to learn how to feel and it is super great and super hot.

Kay: Full disclosure, Chelsea and I are both online bros with the writing team here.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: So we did receive advanced reader’s copies for review consideration, we did not pay for these. Thank you Bree and Donna. They are both awesome. And that’s not generally–

Chelsea: For those of you who don’t know, they’re Kit Rocha.

Kay: Yes, they’re a writing team. They’re best friends. They met in X-Men fandom, which, I’m not fannishly outing them, they’ve talked about it repeatedly. And that just makes me really happy. [laughs]

Chelsea: It’s super adorable.

Kay: I do wanna mention we’re not generally gonna be reading from advanced reader copies. This just happens to be a case of we had them for this and we love this book so much we wanted to tell you about it. I did actually have this preordered when Bree asked if I wanted an advanced reader copy, so. [laughs]

Chelsea: I did as well. Yeah. And I was actually turned on to Kit by Kay reccing me some of her books and then I went to buy the whole first thing so that’s another interesting thing I want to mention. So I read the series that came before this one very, very recently. Within the last couple of months. And I read it all in one go. It’s like eight novels and five novellas and two short stories or something like that. It’s a crazy amount of writing.

Kay: It’s a great bingeread if you want to bingeread.

Chelsea: It’s so good. It is incredibly easy to read that quickly. It’s super great. But it’s been a little bit since you read them and you read them as they were coming out.

Kay: I read them as they were coming out and I did not meet Bree until last fall, so as they were wrapping up the series. So I had already been a longtime fan and I got you turned onto them, but I read the last book of the last series and then it was several months until we read this one and I haven’t read most of the books in ages.

Chelsea: In a while, yeah.

Kay: So I’m coming to this more as a new reader would be coming to this not remembering a ton of details or outside stuff. And I think this is eminently readable from a new reader perspective. But as a fan of the other books I like seeing the occasional glimpse of previous characters and also the worldbuilding was already there and in place and super solid, but I think you definitely get enough information that you’re not coming into this blind if you haven’t read the first series.

Chelsea: Yeah, it definitely stands well enough on its own as an introduction to understand what’s happening. It’s a little tricky to talk about setting up the worldbuilding for this book kind of spoils the last book of the previous series. In a way.

Kay: I feel like we can just go there. We’re gonna have time stamps and you can if you don’t want to be spoiled that Kit Rocha has written in this universe. You need to stop listening now and go to this timestamp.

Chelsea: Yeah. So at the end of the Beyond series there’s a war against basically the capital and the capital falls and all of the surrounding sectors are rebuilding from war, basically. So that’s where we are when we re-enter into book one. Previously in the Beyond series we were hanging out in Sector 4 with the O’Kanes. But now we are hanging out in Sector 1 with the Rios family. And if you read the Beyond family there are some Rios family members in the O’Kane clan so there is definitely, like Kay said, some crossover and some familiar faces and familiar names floating around.

Kay: And both of the leads of this book have appeared previously, but fairly minor. I think Kora shows up in a couple of scenes. Same with Ashwin.

Chelsea: She shows up to save my dear sweet baby.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: My babies. And it’s so good.

[laughter]

Kay: Cause she’s a doctor.

Chelsea: The other thing that’s really nice is their introduction is recapped in this book as well. It’s handled really nicely, it doesn’t read like an infodump, but there is almost a little flashback to the first time that if you had not read the Beyond books they do kind of provide that context. But so, let’s talk a little bit about the plot and kind of how it interacts about the Beyond book, but let’s talk about this as an erotica book and as a romance novel.

Kay: And also, it is definitely speculative fiction. This is, it’s not post-apocalyptic except it is. The apocalypse has already happened. They are rebuilding.

Chelsea: I like it because it’s a very interesting look at tech versus not-tech, versus having to rebuild when you know what technology is but you just don’t have the tools to access it. So there’s, like you said, a lot of really cool speculative worldbuilding stuff, but there’s also a lot of really cool focus, in this book particularly, on religion and how religion can work in building community and building power structures and gender structures and —

Kay: And it’s super interesting sociological cultural anthropology type stuff when they’re talking about things that are signifiers of status where it’s almost reverse of what you would think. In the sort of palace where they live they use candles and that’s a symbol of status, because instead of using solar-powered or whatever lights they’re using handmade fucking candles. Cause they have the money and time to do that.

Chelsea: Enough to light the house.

Kay: Enough to light the house. And it’s just really interesting even from that perspective.

Chelsea: And it’s really interesting stuff in the book about souls and the emotional burden one bears when it comes to murder even if that is murder in defense of one’s family or home or country. So the Riders themselves get these tattoos, these little basically ravens, right? Or birds?

Kay: Yeah, so they start out with the tree. With bare branches. Except for Ashwin, who gets some budding leaves.

Chelsea: Except for Ashwin. [gasps]

Kay: I know. I know. [laughter]

Chelsea: Which is just one of those little details that once you’ve read the book and you’re like oh. OH.

Kay: Because there’s a tattoo artist Del? Is that her name?

Chelsea: It’s Del, yeah.

Kay: This tattoo artist can…they’re not saying it’s mystical, but they’re not NOT saying it’s mystical. Where she can see into you and know what tattoo is right for you.

Chelsea: She’s just super intuitive? It’s not like…yeah.

Kay: She’s intuitive. Maybe empathic. We don’t know. But so most people, you don’t pick your tattoo. She’ll pick your tattoo.

Chelsea: She gives it to you.

Kay: And all of the Riders get the same, at least one of the same ones. Where it’s the tree and then for every kill they have a bird tattooed on them. And it’s not a mark of status, it’s ‘you are marked by the deaths you have caused.’

Chelsea: And it’s a burden. That’s the interesting thing. As opposed to being a notch on your belt as we would  normally think of it, it’s like a memorial, almost. And it’s a visual representation in, as Sector 1 views it, as all of these sins they are taking into themselves so that the innocent don’t have to.

Kay: Yeah. They believe they go to purgatory. When you sign up for the Riders you are giving up your place in the afterlife that they collectively believe in and they think  they’re all gonna be in purgatory. Yeah.

Chelsea: Yeah. Which is also an interesting point to talk about the Rios family, is basically the family of the prophets. And Sector 1 has formed a religion around the Rios family. So there’s a lot of really cool and interesting things about the responsibility that one bears to their community when one is seen that way and also how being seen that way can put a burden on a person.

Kay: And he’s not quite a god-king or a prophet but he’s seen sort of like the chosen leader. Whereas previous members of his family were, it sounds like, megalomaniacal —

Chelsea: Purposely forming, the leader we have in the book, his grandfather purposefully formed a cult around himself. He was this kind of enigmatic guy who purposefully cast himself in this godlike role. And now his family and his descendents are kind of, not stuck in that, but also stuck in that kind of place in their community. So it’s just a very interesting aspect to something you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in an erotic novel or a romance novel.

Kay: I would not call this erotica in the way that I would…

Chelsea: Like you would the Beyond series?

Kay: The Beyond series I say is definitely more erotica and this may have some of that, but I think.

Chelsea: No, I definitely feel like that’s accurate. I think the first ones were far more explicit and erotic than this one.

Kay: This one is very tonally different in a way that I actually quite enjoyed.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: And the environment that these characters are in is just very different, despite it taking place in the same universe. And the way that they interact is very different, also.

Chelsea: Yeah. They do a really good job balancing that. Of giving us glimpses of what we’ve already established so it feels familiar, but also Sector 1 is very tonally different. The leaders in charge have created a very different environment from what we’ve known previously. So I think that’s part of why it works so well in forming a new thing that’s happening.

Kay: Definitely.

Chelsea: So let’s talk about Kora and Ashwin a little bit.

Kay: [whispers] I just love them so much. I just love them so much.

Chelsea: Can we just say that the plot is literally about a supersoldier who is dead inside and learns to love again, but that is what it is about and it is so good!

Kay: Yeah, so Ashwin’s a supersoldier, but less Captain America, more Winter Soldier.

Chelsea: Yes, it’s very dark. [laughs]

Kay: They’re genetically designed and then raised on a military base and basically told they aren’t really human and don’t have feelings.

Chelsea: They’re forbidden from feeling.

Kay: And if they ever display feelings they’re basically put in a cell and periodically taken out to be tortured until they stop having those feelings.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: Which, at the start of this book, Ashwin has just finished six months of that.

Chelsea: Of voluntary torture.

Kay: Of voluntary torture so he will stop being obsessed with Kora.

Chelsea: It’s. Yeah.

Kay: So many feelings.

Chelsea: Yeah. It’s explained, well, yeah. The Makhai project, which that’s the name of the kind of experiment or whatever that’s producing people like Ashwin.

Kay: It’s their supersoldier program.

Chelsea: It’s super dark. Yeah. Super dark. And it’s interesting because we learn at the end of the book that Kora is also a product of this same experiment, but the opposite. So whereas Ashwin is made to not feel and is raised and programmed to think he has no feelings, Kora is preconditioned to have high levels of compassion. And intuition.

Kay: Almost an empath.

Chelsea: Yeah. Like an empath. And so her part of the program was created to be a counterbalance to his part.

Kay: They didn’t really want those.

Chelsea: Everyone who was in her part of the program due to their high levels of emotion and empathy basically has breakdowns and.

Kay: Could not handle it.

Chelsea: Couldn’t handle it.

Kay: Couldn’t handle having to patch up these poor emotionless automatons. These poor soldiers.

Chelsea: Because the people in charge are monsters. It’s such good worldbuilding.

Kay: Right, prior to the book there was a coup so there’s new leadership now. So we don’t really know if the people who are in charge now are as monstrous. And we think probably not, because one of, basically, this whole book is kicked into action when Ashwin is supposed to go undercover and ingratiate himself with Gideon’s Riders. And he finds out later that he was probably meant to make sure that their leader wasn’t gonna go crazy like his granddad. And that doesn’t sound like a bad mission to me. But also, you know, they’re still not great people.

Chelsea: Well, I mean, you know obviously they’re still using their supersoldiers and they aren’t above putting Ashwin through seven months of…

Kay: Torture, yeah.

Chelsea: Torture. But there’s still that part of it operating. But yes. There’s new leadership in charge and there are reasons to think that there is, if nothing else, a battle between kind of the old and the new leadership as to what path things are gonna go down. So there is potential to shift just how awful that leadership is. I just really like Kora. I just really, really like her.

Kay: So good.

Chelsea; Like, not only is she incredibly empathetic, she’s very smart.

Kay: And strong.

Chelsea: She’s incredibly strong in this way that is an alternative strength. And that’s one of the things I love so much about Kit Rocha’s books, their books in general, is they explore various kinds of strength as it relates to being female.

Kay: Yes. All of their heroines are so different.

Chelsea: So different.

Kay: So different. And their heroes, too, but I’m especially always impressed with how different and amazing their heroines all are.

Chelsea: Well, I’ll go out on a limb and say that these books are all about the ladies.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: They may be named for the men and the men definitely get their storylines, but these books are about the females in them and the way that these females interact with everything around them.

Kay: And I just, can we take a moment to talk about how amazing their descriptions of emotions are? Because emotions are such a weird intangible thing to try to describe and they do it so well.

Chelsea: They do it so well.

Kay: And they do it so constantly in all these beautifully quiet moments and in so many different ways. Not just in the middle of a love scene. Just in tiny gestures between characters. It’s so good.

Chelsea: Well, that’s the thing, though, it’s beautiful. Is that it’s beautiful. And it’s not just…it’s all of the things we’ve already said. And it’s also super hot. And it’s all of that but it’s also just really poignant. And a really good meditation on so many things that you might be surprised to kind of find it meditating on. The difference between nature versus nurture. And can you change the person you’ve always been and how does that change affect the other people in your life. And like you said, it does all of those things beautifully in these smaller details. The leaves on the trees. THat’s the thing. The little details like that. And I love that this whole, the Beyond universe, everything. The tattoos in them and body art is super important.

Kay: Art is very important.

Chelsea: And it’s super metaphoric and symbolic in ways that are great.

Kay: And also it’s utilitarian and part of everyone’s daily life regardless of class and circumstance. Which I love. I love that so much.

Chelsea: And like we said, the tattoo artist, and also Ace in the Beyond books, the tattoo artist, there’s always something about them that’s sort of borderline magic. There’s something about them that’s able to sort of see into people and sort of pull something out of that. And that’s just another thing that’s so great.

Kay: I have so many fucking things highlighted in this ebook. So Ashwin says, ‘How do you know if something is beautiful?’ ‘Your heart races, or it’s hard to breathe. Or you just have to stop for a minute and marvel at how perfect the universe is, to have created something like that.’ And Ashwin says, there’s some other stuff in there. ‘Then I never saw beauty before I say you.’ And then Chelsea cried I am sure. [laughs]

Chelsea: Ahhh, it’s so good!

Kay: [laughing] So good! There’s also this really good one about, there’s a point where Ashwin is sparring with Ana, who is the first woman to be a member of the Riders and this is Ashwin thinking: ‘From a historical standpoint, he understood the cultural prohibition against hitting women. It was an erroneous conclusion springing from good intentions–the idea that the powerful shouldn’t perpetuate violence against the weak. The flaw was insisting that physical power followed arbitrary gender lines inherently, instead of systemic lack of access to training, opportunity, and encouragement.’ Yessss. Just yes.

Chelsea: So good!

[laughter]

Kay: The relationship discussions in Kit Rocha’s books are always amazing. There’s always really frank talk about consent. Enthusiastic consent.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: Always frank talk about relationship expectations and what each person is bringing to the relationship, baggage-wise, because we all bring our baggage with us to our relationships, romantic and otherwise. Which they touch on the non romantic relationship baggage as well, which I so appreciate. The friendships in these are just as important as the romantic relationships.

Chelsea: And usually that’s what’s at stake for a lot of these characters.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: That if they make a certain decision they will lose out on so much of their social relationships and so that conflict, there’s just a lot of found family feelings in these books.

Kay: Yesss.

Chelsea: And that is a thing for both of us. So.

Kay: You’re gonna really notice it in most of our book picks. That’s a thing.

Chelsea: Most. That’s. Yeah. Recurring theme. But lots of really good stuff in here with that and that comes across both in the brotherhood of the Riders but also of all the females in Sector 1. And just kind of across the Beyond universe. There’s a lot of, we saw a lot of in Sector 4, micro financing of businesses by other females and super rad educational opportunities and life skills and just. Really awesome feminist stuff.

Kay: The worldbuilding in these books is amazing.

Chelsea: And worldbuilding and economics and stuff?

Kay: Which is another reason I don’t understand why people don’t read romance, because the worldbuilding is just phenomenal.

Chelsea: And on that note, I think we’re good? Did you have anything else?

Kay: No.

Chelsea: Any favorite parts? Anything? Okay cool.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

 Chelsea: Well, in that case, coming up next, our next episode is gonna be a super special all Hugos episode. We are just gonna jump right into talking about the nominees, so tune in for that. And then the week after that we will be back with another book talk and we will be talking about The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: Much excitement for both of those things. Thank you so much for stopping by for our first episode. As always, you can come find us all over the internet. Come look at the show notes. Come check out the transcript. And we are always looking forward to hearing from you guys. We’ll see you in a week!

Kay: Buh-bye!

Chelsea: Bye!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Bloopers!

Chelsea: Please do not get murdered on our podcast recording. Our first one.

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