Transcript: Not Now, I’m Reading The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Chelsea: Welcome back to episode three of Not Now, I’m Reading, your one stop shop for all things genre. This is our second book chat episode. Today we’re talking about The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Kay: Yessss.

Chelsea: But first, of course, we are going to talk about what we are currently reading. My name is Chelsea.

Kay: I’m Kay.

Chelsea: And I’m gonna let the lovely Kay go ahead and take it away.

Kay: Okay. We are recording on the 25th of May and it is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, today. So I’m gonna hit you up —

Chelsea: So many feelings!

Kay: — with some great tie-in recommendations and also some of my favorite Star Wars fics.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: So for official materials, things you can actually buy from Star Wars, I’m gonna go ahead and recommend Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. I have read all three of them, really enjoyed them. They are, they’re very much a you’re gonna love it or you’re gonna hate it thing. And it’s third person present tense with lots of narrators. And I love that. Lots of people hate that. That’s fine. I really enjoyed it. My dad hated it. And it does a lot of cool worldbuilding stuff and you see a lot of minor characters and I really enjoy that. It’s not gonna be everyone’s bag.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: The other one, which I think everyone has to read, and which I know that Chelsea also loved.

[Chelsea gasps]

Kay: Is Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. Which is —

Chelsea: It’s so good.

Kay: — a fucking masterpiece. And I really highly recommend the audiobook for that one.

Chelsea: Yes, yes.

Kay: Star Wars audiobooks just as a whole tend to be very, very —

Chelsea: Are great. They all do this similar production thing —

Kay: Very good. Yes.

Chelsea: — where they’re not necessarily full cast readings, but they’ll put subtle background noises behind things that’s very worldbuilding.

Kay: Special effects and music transitions and yeah.

Chelsea: Just enough that it sets a scene without getting radio play, kind of campy. Almost.

Kay: Mmhmm.

Chelsea: Sometimes that can go a little too far, but.

Kay: Good balance.

Chelsea: The Star Wars books on audio seem to do really good job and also, be prepared. That book in 2017 will —

[Kay makes sad wheezing noises]

Chelsea: — give you some feelings. [laughs] And it’s a great book just in general.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: But between the politics of right now and losing our beloved Carrie it is just, because it’s about Leia —

Kay: [sighs] Cause it’s a very Leia-centric story. It takes place between the end of the original trilogy and the start of The Force Awakens. It kind of helps bridge that gap.

Chelsea: And Claudia Gray just manages to capture Leia, which in turn is also capturing Carrie, because so much of the two of them are tied up in one another that just. It really, it was kind of surprising. I wasn’t necessarily anticipating having as many feelings as I had about it.

Kay: All the feelings. All the feelings.

Chelsea: Cause I definitely had some feelings. [laughs]

Kay: It’s wonderful.

Chelsea: But yes, that one I’ve read so I can fully endorse that recommendation.

Kay: Okay, and then we’re now transitioning to fanfiction. This is not officially sanctioned. I will link, I have several really long fanfiction rec lists dedicated just to Star Wars material, so I’m only gonna recommend a few right now. Just a couple of sort of different ones. This one is called Dark and Bright Meet in Her Aspect by imaginary_golux, who I just generally recommend as a The Force Awakens fic writer. It is a fic about Rey pretending to be a Dark Side apprentice and basically single handedly taking over the First Order from the inside.

Chelsea: [gasps] I’m super into that.

Kay: And it is also a Rey/Phasma fic. So you get awesome Phasma POV also. It’s great. I really love it.

Chelsea: Which, can we just take a hot second to talk about how good she looked on the cover of those goddamn Vanity Fair magazines?

Kay: I want the job of adjusting Gwendoline Christie’s cape.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: You don’t even have to pay me. I would just come and do it for free.

Chelsea: You’ll do it for free. Which, unfortunately, she’s on the villain cover which the other two thirds of that cover is the most generic white man evil ever in the whole world, but Gwendoline Christie is looking fucking fierce in her space plate armor.

Kay: I love her forever and ever amen.

Chelsea: Not to mention, my brown space boyfriends looking so good standing next to each other. Not to mention an entire cover of people of color. Anyway, that entire cover of the resistance crew.

Kay: We’re gonna go ahead and link you to my tweet threads about the Vanity Fair stuff that came out this week, cause they’ll just kind of give you the rundown of everything. Okay. Next fic is a thing that I swore I would not like or read —

[Chelsea laughs]

Kay: — it is called Generational Mistakes by owlet. And it is —

[Chelsea gasps]

Kay: — it is a Ben redemption story, but it is not an apologist story. And Ben accidentally Force bonds to Rey and there’s a whole lot of fallout. And it’s actually a Leia character piece and you get lots of feels with Leia and Chewie and Luke and there’s also background Poe, Finn, and Rey figuring their stuff out.

Chelsea: Interesting.

Kay: It’s just ohmygod. I just. The summary alone will break you. It’s ‘With all the loss Leia Organa has known, she did not expect to feel so completely gutted by the sight of her son in chains.’ So just start from there.

Chelsea: Oh, it’s SO GOOD.

Kay: I know!

Chelsea: I don’t want something like that to sound as good as it sounds, but it sounds really good.

Kay: I know. And I implicitly trust owlet. That writer is great. Just kinda blanket recommend. Okay, I’m gonna do two more and then I’m done. Next up, this one is gen. It is road trip playlist by magneticwave. Again, another writer I just blanket recommend. It is Rey kind of immediately post-The Force Awakens. And it’s a great character piece. It’s about what happens, basically, between the end of the film and her going to find Luke. And about how she ends up the captain of the Falcon. Basically is what happens in this fic. And it’s amazing. And I —

Chelsea: That sounds super great.

Kay: — did not actually expect to have this many feelings about Chewbacca because I don’t normally have this many feelings about Chewbacca, but dammit. Magneticwave is just that good. [laughs] And my last rec is The Sun in Your Eyes and Starlight in Your Hair. And Chelsea, I’ve already recommended this to her. And I think she loved this.

Chelsea: It’s so good. It’s so good.

Kay: Okay. It’s by victoriousscarf, again, blanket recommend victoriousscarf’s fic. It is basically about young Luke Skywalker, intergalactic cat lady. [laughs] And Han falling in love with that loser.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: It’s post-Return of the Jedi and kind of ignores the rest of the extended canon from there. And it is a Luke/Han story.

Chelsea: Which, part of why I love it is because for some reason Luke/Han was a ship that did not occur to me —

Kay: [disbelieving] What?!

Chelsea: — until it was pointed out to me.

Kay: [higher pitched] What?!!!

Chelsea: Girl, I don’t even know. Man.

[Kay laughs]

Chelsea: I don’t even know. I don’t even know.

Kay: I’m pretty sure that was —

Chelsea: I was just completely blind.

Kay: — my first slash OTP other than from Star Trek.

Chelsea: I’m sure it was for most people, who would have the same reaction of what are you even talking about, but it just never. I don’t know, man. It just never really occurred to me. And then it did and I fell real hard.

Kay: I’m gonna just send you a bunch of gifs and Luke and Han later. Remind me.

Chelsea: Okay. I do have one Star Wars thing to recommend. I have a piece of fiction, it’s called Your Carbon Makes a Star and After All That’s All We Are by wolfhalls. And this is a Chirrut and Baze fiction, from Rogue One. I fell so deep into that ship after I saw Rogue One and I had so many emotions because of the way that that movie ended.

Kay: I firmly believe that ship is canon, by the way.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: That’s not even my slash goggles. I firmly believe that ship is canon.

Chelsea: No, and I think that’s part of the reason I love it so much is because I felt like I didn’t have to put on my slash goggles to make it happen.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea:  It felt like it was on the screen, pretty clearly expressed.

Kay: Even if that is not a romantic relationship, it, they’re old marrieds. You know? They’re, they’re old marrieds.

Chelsea: They have some sort of intimate relationship. Whether or not there’s a sexual component to that or not and you want to read that into it, they clearly have some kind of emotional life together.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: With one another. And so this it’s just, it’s essentially young Baze and Chirrut as they mate and then it literally just is snippet fictions, like flashes of their life together up until they meet with the Rogue One team and complete all of that. And I can’t even talk about it without, just emotions. It’s just so good. It’s not super long, it’s only 5000 words. You can read it super fast. So. That’s my contribution to Star Wars day.

Kay: I lied I have one more. Cause I wasn’t even thinking about all the awesome Rogue One fics that I have read. When we were like hey let’s talk about our favorite Star Wars fics. So this is called The Last Poem of Jedha by schweinsty. I’m so sorry. The Last Poem of Jedha is an alternate universe, everyone lives, nobody dies. Except it’s everyone lives, nobody dies in the canon cast.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: There is an important character death of, of someone who is not a canon character, but is important in the book. I don’t, I don’t wanna spoil this, but I’m just gonna say all you need to know about this fic is, ‘The Rook children, everybody says, are destined to be the greatest poets of their generation.’ And then we’ll just break down into hysterical sobbing, because this fic is.

Chelsea: So good.

Kay: An amazing piece of worldbuilding. An amazing character piece. And also it’s just beautifully written. So.

Chelsea: It’s got the tags for space husbands and space dads and it’s just. My heart.

Kay: Right?

Chelsea: It’s so good.

Kay: Bodhi Rook needs a hug. Needs a hug.

Chelsea: Bodhi Rook always needs a hug.

[sighs]

Chelsea: And it’s hurt comfort which, full disclosure, you guys, you will learn very quickly I have a soft spot for hurt comfort fic.

Kay: And that’s not normally my bag!

Chelsea: I know.

Kay: But I still love this.

Chelsea: I love it. So I was here for it times a million.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Chelsea: So, okay, this is a good point then to transition to another piece of, not Star Wars related, but still science fiction media that we loved, which of course is the book that we’re talking about this week, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Kay: Yessss. Yes.

Chelsea: Kay, tell us what the book is about.

Kay: Okay, I’m just gonna hit you guys up with the Goodreads summary, here, because this book is impossible to just plot summarize in any kind of coherent fashion, even though there’s not that much of a plot.

Chelsea: Exactly.

Kay: Okay. ‘Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there. But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war. Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each one on a journey of their own.’ And that explains the book without explaining anything. This book, I would not call it episodic in the way that I think a lot of people mean.

Chelsea: Cause it’s not, it’s not. In the traditional way people use that word.

Kay: It’s not episodic in any kind of a choppy way. It’s not like it’s interconnected short stories. It’s not a mosaic novel. It is one coherent narrative, but there’s not one giant overarching plot other than this crew gets a job, they’re on a journey to do the job, and then the job happens at the end of the book.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: That’s the plot. But the book is about the characters and everything that happens to them over this year that is basically takes for them to complete this journey.

Chelsea: Yeah, and that’s the thing. Not a lot happens, but a lot happens between these characters and between their interpersonal relationships.

Kay: Which is not going to be for everyone.

Chelsea: No.

Kay: I know a number of people do not enjoy that type of story. My dad hated this book. Abigail Nussbaum, I believe, is really not a fan of this. I’m gonna link to her review of this, cause she had some really interesting things to say. And also I think our friend Jenny from the Reading the End podcast was not wild about this book either.

Chelsea: That seems to be the thing. It seems to be kind of a, a one side of the coin or the other kind of thing.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea:  Is it’s either much love or not a lot there for it.

Kay: Yeah. Which, we want you to get those other perspectives so we’re gonna link those in the show notes, but we’re both pretty much just gonna gush about this for the rest of the episode.

Chelsea: Yeah. We are both pretty firmly in the love category, because this book is about the characters and the characters of this book are everything. This is the future liberals want.

[laughter]

Chelsea: This is the beautiful, loving, diverse future galaxy space world that I love.

Kay: I mean, I laugh, but also it’s true.

Chelsea: Also, yes. And it has its wars and its prejudices and its problems, but it also has come a long way in terms of a lot of things of humanity

Kay: Absolutely.

Chelsea: And for understanding relationships. So, yeah, I really, really love this book. So that is kind of our disclosure going in up front, to say that we, our opinions may not necessarily be unbiased, but we will link you to some other opinions in the shownotes.

Kay: Yeah. I mean, I can start out with a couple of criticisms of just. There’s a couple things that I’m like eh. It doesn’t mean I didn’t give it five stars. I know people are like FIVE STARS, but I’m one of those people who will read 150 books in a year and maybe give four of them five stars. As much as I love how long and contemplative and just kind of winding path through life this is, you probably could’ve cut out a hundred pages of this book.

Chelsea: Yes. Yeah. And it’s a lot of internal reflection and sociological reflection on how societies are built, which, if that’s your jam.

Kay: Not that I didn’t love those hundred pages, but you could’ve gotten rid of them and the story would’ve been fine.

Chelsea: Yeah. I also wanna say that I met Becky Chambers at WorldCon and she is a fucking delight.

Kay: So jealous.

Chelsea: She is just a wonderful person and she is so fantastic. I just wanted to throw that out there. She signed my book and she let myself and Bree and Rachel go and just be fangirly and probably super obnoxious, but we. She was a delight. So. That’s always fun.

Kay: That’s lovely.

Chelsea: It’s always nice to like a work and then meet the author and the author also be a fun person.

Kay: Agreed. My other criticism, well, okay. So there’s a character in this who has an ability —

Chelsea: Ohan? Are we talking about the medical stuff with Ohan? Yeah.

Kay: I just have some interesting feelings about the medical ethics in this book. And I think that you’re supposed to question the medical ethics, but I didn’t love that aspect.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: I say that as the child of a physician who has heard and read a lot about medical ethics. So I just have a lot of personal feelings about that. So that was probably just one of those things —

Chelsea: Yes, that’s incredibly fair.

Kay: — that was not ever gonna fly with me. And I also, I know that there’s the big MacGuffin thing, basically there’s not really a plot, they’re going to do the thing and the thing is going to happen, but that’s not what the book is about.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: When the thing actually does happen —

Chelsea: It’s very. The pacing is weird.

Kay: The pacing is weird.

Chelsea: It’s very jarring.

Kay: It happens very close to the end and it’s very abrupt.

Chelsea: And it happens and then they wrap it up and everything’s just done very quickly, which contrasted to like you said, kind of the meandering pace of the first —

Kay: I think you have 400 pages or something of the meandering story and then 50 pages of you getting to the final rundown and then it’s 15 pages and then you’re done. And I was like oh, okay. Still loved it.

Chelsea: If you didn’t pick it up from the Goodreads synopsis, this is about a ship space crew who dig space wormholes, basically. They dig space highway ramps between places. And so they’re working on a mission to do that and to go to this new territory that’s kind of joined the galactic federation or whatever this book happens to call it. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, it’s been a second.

Kay: It’s the GC and I never remember what that stands for. [laughs]

Chelsea: Yeah, but basically, so they spend the first 90% of the book traveling to this place where they’re supposed to punch this wormhole, and then in the last 10% they get there. They do it. Shit goes awry. And the book wraps up. So it’s very action heavy, but only in the very end of the book. Which does make the ending feel rushed.

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: Which was sad, because I was a fan of that slower storytelling and I feel like there was, I dunno Something about that didn’t finish as well as I kind of hoped that it would. I mean, I loved the ending. The ending broke my heart.

Kay: It’s very much, just, a first novel problem.

Chelsea: Yes.

Kay: You know? It’s not awful. It’s not terrible. It’s just, it was clearly a first novel pacing issue.

Chelsea: Exactly, yes.

Kay: Having read her next book I think the pacing is better.

Chelsea: Well, good. I’m glad to hear that. I have not yet read her second book. I’m picking it up for the Hugos.

Kay: I didn’t like it as much just cause it doesn’t have the found family feels as much to me. And I didn’t like the main narrator characters in that one.

Chelsea: Okay, so should we talk about the characters? Since that’s pretty much what this book is about?

Kay: I mean, yes. So Rosemary is kind of like us. I love Rosemary.

Chelsea: Yeah, she’s kind of like the self-insert aspect of the story. She’s not written that way, but she is the human onboard the ship. She’s the newcomer. She is clearly —

Kay: She is the outsider coming into the wider galaxy for the first time.

Chelsea: Yeah. So, you know, everything is explained to her on the ship and of course through that to us. That’s her, kind of, function. There’s also the captain, Ashby.

Kay: Who is this amazing pacifist character, in an interspecies relationship.

Chelsae: It’s fantastic. And his girlfriend, she just —

Kay: She is a contractor. And it was one of those things that they fight about, but she’s not actually in the military so even though he’s a pacifist he can kind of get over it.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: But she is a member of, they’re not xenophobic in any other way except interspecies relationships. So that’s an interesting dynamic, there. They have to meet up in secret and they’re not publicly a couple even though his crew knows about them. None of them have met her at the start of the book, even though they have been —

Chelsea: Together for years. And then there is Kizzy and Jenks, who are both.

Kay: They’re the techs on the ship. Cause they run on algae. Which is fabulous. FTL is illegal in this universe, by the way. There’s no faster than light travel. You have to travel by these inter, you know, they’re wormholes. They’re wormholes. Okay?

Chelsea: Yeah, wormholes between things. Don’t ask us to explain the science, we just like the characters.

Kay: Even Kizzy could not explain the science. She had to use oatmeal and then a napkin and it still doesn’t make any sense.

[laughter]

Chelsea: And she still couldn’t do it.

Kay: There’s a really great quote, hold on.

Chelsea: That’s such a cute scene.

Kay: Hold on, I’m pretty sure I highlighted that. ‘It’s like a doorway connecting two rooms, only the rooms are on opposite sides of town. Physics is a bitch, right?’

[laughter]

Chelsea: Which, like, it is. Accurate.

Kay: It is. That’s accurate. And then you’ve got Corbin, who’s their algaeist. And you’ve got Lovelace.

Chelsea: Yes, Lovelace, Lovey. Who is the AI system who powers their ship.

Kay: Who’s definitely sentient, just FYI.

Chelsea: Yes. Which I know we have lots of listeners and friends who like sentient robot pals.

Kay: [singsongs] Robot pals!

Chelsea: And then we have Ohan, who is, they are one body, two minds via a virus that infects their particular species. The resolving of that kind of split identity or dual identity is, plays into what Kay was talking about earlier with some of the medical ethics that’s kind of the, happens towards the end of the book, but because of that virus and because of that dual identity, they are actually one of the few people, or the only species who’s able to work as a navigator and actually punch the wormholes and mentally do the physics fast enough and accurately enough to actually do the work. So he’s incredibly important. [laughs]

Kay: Yeah.

Chelsea: To their crew. But at the same his species is one that is incredibly private and incredibly isolated and incredibly socially…

Kay: They believe this gift is something they should be sharing with the wider world, but also they’re not going to help anyone do what they do.

Chelsea: Yes

Kay: They believe, it’s part of their religion. They believe that it’s a gift from a higher power. It would be heresy if they taught an AI to do it, you know? Yeah. They actually have a discussion about this, about why wouldn’t you just teach an AI to do it, and it’s because it would be heresy.

Chelsea: Exactly. Which is super fascinating, again, that intersection between science and religion in space and faith and all of that is super rad.

Kay: They’re so many cool sociocultural anthropology things happening in this.

Chelsea: It’s so cool, man. It’s so cool.

Kay: You learn so much about all these different races.

Chelsea: I’m trying to find my favorite quote from Chef, because it’s…it’s one of my favorite quotes from the whole thing.

Kay: There’s so many great Chef quotes. I think that Doctor Chef might be my favorite character. Whenever you learn something more about a character you’re also learning more about where they came from and their culture and their species and their relationships with people and sentient beings of other species. And it’s just really cool.

Chelsea: It’s just really cool.

Kay: And even if the worldbuilding and everything wasn’t really cool, and the characters weren’t really cool, and the word cool is going to stop having any meaning —

Chelsea: Sounding like a word.

Kay: — in a moment, here. The prose in this? Is so beautiful and clean and spare and not in the [gruffly] ‘Hemingway has clean prose’ way.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Kay: It’s just really lovely. Doesn’t ever get too showy, but is very elegant. I don’t even have a good way to describe it. It’s just lovely, clean prose.

Chelsea: And it’s just so incredibly beautiful and it’s spare, but it’s…the way that…the pacing in the way she reveals her details is just something that I think works incredibly well.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: And I think that’s something that lends itself to the kind of episodic nature of it. But it just, I feel like, works really, really well. I would love to talk about Rosemary and Sissix for a hot second.

Kay: [sings] Yes!

Chelsea: [laughs] Because they, they are in my constant battle for figuring out who is my ship. Because I love Jenks and Lovey a lot, but there’s something about Rosemary and Sissix that, just, I find so vastly appealing.

[Kay sighs]

Chelsea: So Sissix is just kind of the captain pilot when they are in general space, so not when they’re punching wormholes, not when they’re doing the actual mission, but just kind of in all the inbetween times. She comes from a race of alien that is lizard and birdlike?

Kay: And they’re one of the founding, most powerful species, but never warlike.

Chelsea: Yeah. They’re very pacifistic and they’re also, they rely on touch a lot. This is a society that communicates entirely through touch and through physical embrace and all of that.

Kay: And they live in large polyamorous family groups, so their social norms are very different.

Chelsea: Very different. And so Rosemary, as a human, is coming into this, obviously, I mean I don’t want to say that she’s necessarily coming from our same background, because it’s in the future, but also she is because Becky Chambers is writing right now, so that is all built into how we understand Rosemary’s social norms and the world that she comes from. But she goes with Sissix, the whole crew goes with Sissix to Sissix’s homeland. And her home and kind of they stay with her and they hang out —

Kay: They visit her family.

Chelsea: They spend time with her family and all of that and so. Rosemary is able to kind of interact with her family and understand more of Sissix’s species. Hoo. That was a tough one. [laughs] But so they leave her planet and Rosemary kind of confesses that she has, essentially, fallen in love with Sissix and understands that their two species are very different and that it might take time and communication and understanding for both of them to get used to that, but that Rosemary is willing to have those conversations and stretch her own beliefs and understandings about families and relationships and love and intimacy and what all of those things mean. She’s willing to, kind of, reach out and branch out and understand that because of how she feels about Sissix. And it’s just so goddamn good. It’s just. So good.

Kay: It’s real good. It’s just real good.

Chelsea: And it’s another one of those things where it’s such a cool, sociocultural and sociological look at family and romance and how we understand that and I’m, while I’m normally not a huge fan for using aliens to stand in for members of marginalized communities that exist in real life, I definitely think there are definitely bigger lessons that can be drawn there for how we interact with and reflect with people whose norms may be different from ours, which is essentially to say that you don’t have to understand it, you just don’t have to be an asshole about it. And that’s a big thing in this book and a thing that I really, really love. So. It’s why I think it stands up so well to rereading so many times, is because at the heart of it, what it’s saying is so, I think, fundamentally true to so many people. Right now, especially.

Kay: Hallelujah. [laughs]

Chelsea: Amen. Mic drop. Done.

Kay: That needed some kind of emphasis and I had nothing.

[laughter]

Chelsea: Oh man, okay. Do you have any other?

Kay: I have a favorite scene slash quote. There are, there are so many really lovely lines and small, beautiful moments in this. Which, I think, is the advantage of having this kind of long, meandering not a ton of plot book. But one of my favorite scenes is, I think it’s in the first 20% of the book, when they’re having one of their first conversations. You see the crew really kind of interacting for the first time. And it’s Sissix and Doctor Chef are talking about some of the herbs and plants that he’s growing? Okay, so it’s ‘How’s your ginger?’ Sissix said. ‘Fat and happy,’ he said, tying back the tall stalks. Doctor Chef puffed his cheeks with pride. The ginger had been Jenks’s idea and few things made Doctor Chef happier than meeting the crew’s culinary requests. ‘Although, I have to admit, I like eating the flowers much more than the root. Far too potent for my taste. Nice and crunchy, though.’ Ashby turned his head. ‘You know ginger’s an accent, right? Like, a spice?’ ‘What? No. Really?’ ‘Did you try to eat it whole?’ ‘Oh, dear, yes.’ Doctor Chef rumbled a laugh. ‘I thought it was some sort of spicy potato.’

[laughter]

Kay: Which just, you, so you have these —

Chelsea: [still laughing] Oh my god.

Kay: — species living together for years and cooking for each other and being friends and you’ll still have these moments where you’re like wait, what the fuck, you thought it was a spicy potato?

[laughter]

Chelsea: And it’s just those kind of things where it’s like, you don’t even think about it, but then yes, you  understand how somebody who’s unfamiliar with ginger, who’s literally an alien, could not understand that it’s its own thing and not a spicy potato.

Kay: So great. I also —

Chelsea: It’s funny. This book is funny.

Kay: So funny.

Chelsea: This book is absolutely hysterical. Jenks and Kizzy, especially together, their dynamic is perfect on the page.

Kay: It’s great.

Chelsea: It cracks me up.

Kay: I do want to throw out there that all the food stuff in the book is really great. One of my favorite aspects though is the repeated talk about bugs as a staple protein.

Chelsea: Yes. This is true.

Kay: Because they are in many, they are in parts of the world, here. And they’re a very good source of protein. Just cause you think it’s gross.

Chelsea: It’s easy to act like it’s kind of squicky, but at the same time it’s, is it really all that different, necessarily, if you cook it and spice it than it is from eating animal meat? The meat of something else that was alive?

Kay: I love how grossed out they are by the idea of eating a cow. [laughs]

Chelsea: Yeah. [laughs] Cause they’re like, why would you kill an animal that also gives you milk and is so large and you could just kill bugs and there are a bajillion of them?

Kay: Right?!

Chelsea: And that’s the, this book does a really great job of imagining future foodstuffs, algae and bugs and all of that kind of stuff, which is a really interesting and sometimes underlooked part of SFF and imagining futures and those kinds of practicalities.

Kay: Yes. Cause you’ll be reading an epic fantasy and there’ll be a fifteen page feast talking about the food, but you don’t get as much of that in science fiction. And I think it’s a really cool part of worldbuilding if you have something interesting to say. And Becky Chambers obviously did.

Chelsea: So my favorite quote, I love all the Rosemary and Sissix stuff, but my favorite quote actually comes from Doctor Chef. So he’s talking with Rosemary, and part of Rosemary’s backstory is that she’s kind of running away from her family name because her father’s being indicted on charges of war crimes, basically. Of war crimes and —

Kay: Weapons trafficking, I think?

Chelsea: Yeah, weapons trafficking to enemy combatants during this kind of multiplanet war that’s happening in the background of the book. So she’s trying to get away from that and for good reason she’s trying to dissociate herself from that reputation and her name and doing that. But Doctor Chef’s species is one that suffered the most at the hands of the people her father sold guns to. So his planet and his species was essentially wiped out by these violent rebels that Rosemary’s father ran guns to. So they’re having a conversation where Rosemary is kind of trying to apologize to Doctor Chef about that. And Rosemary says, ‘That’s not the same. What happened to you, to your species, it doesn’t even compare.’ ‘Why? Because it’s worse?’ She nodded. ‘But it still compares. If you have a fractured bone and I’ve broken every bone in my body, does that make your fracture go away? Does it hurt you any less knowing that I am in more pain?’ And I just. That’s a really awesome and powerful sentiment, I think.

Kay: Yes.

Chelsea: When it comes to forgiveness and to understanding. I think, kind of, this knee jerk reaction to have, to say, well I have my sufferings but so many other people have x, y, and z happening. And I’m not going to say I’ve never necessarily thought that, or is not necessarily an invalid thought, but there does not have to be a competition of suffering and we can all acknowledge the pains that we go through, both for ourselves and as a bigger world without it invalidating anything. And I just think that that’s a really awesome sentiment. And I just think that that particular relationship and the conversation between those two characters gets at some things for tolerance and forgiveness and understanding that, uh, we maybe, the world at large could use a little bit of in this day and age.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Chelsea: Okay, well, I think on that note, unless you have anything else?

Kay: I think we can close this out on an Exodan proverb. What do you think?

Chelsea: I think we can close this out. Yeah, I think we can. I think we’re good.

Kay: From the ground we stand, from our ships we live, by the stars we hope.

Chelsea: Boom. Alright. Join [laughs] join us next week. We’re actually gonna be talking about a movie. We’re gonna be talking about Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

Kay: Dos.

Chelsea: And alongside that all of our feelings about the MCU. As you can imagine there are a lot of those feelings So join us next week to talk about that. Until then, I guess, bye guys.

Kay: Bye!

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

Chelsea: It’s alright. Remember how I’m writing that Boy Meets World fanfiction and you send me Boy Meets World gifs all the time? It’s totally fine, appreciated. It’s not a problem. Every time.

[Funin’ and Sunin’ by Kevin McLeod plays]

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