S00E01. Binti Transcript

Josh Woodward (singing) 0:00
Let’s pretend it’s the end, of this whole ugly story
We vanquished the foe and we triumphed in glory
There’s nothing but rainbows and blue skies ahead
Hallelujah, amen, it’s the end

Melissa Avery-Weir 0:22
Welcome to Before the Future Came, temporarily not a Star Trek podcast. We’re looking at the ideals of utopian science fiction as we voyage from one work to the next following a breadcrumb trail of motifs. This month we’re talking about the novella Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, a winner of the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novella, the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novella, and the 2017 Nommo Award for Best Novella. I’m Melissa. And all I could do is smile and think, “How did I not know?”

Gregory Avery-Weir 0:59
I’m Gregory and the more I speak, the less monstrous my voice sounds.

Lucy Arnold 1:04
And I’m Lucy, who like Binti’s new otjize, I am thicc and ready.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:11
Wow! That is not what was written in our document.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:28
We have already recorded a general intro to the show. But in solidarity with the writers and actors who are striking in Hollywood, we’re delaying the Star Trek part of our Star Trek podcast. So instead, we’ll be talking about other utopian sci fi works and what ideals we see in them plus just stuff we find cool. At the end of each episode, we’ll find out what we’re discussing next time. We’ll take turns picking and each time it’ll be a work that somehow relates to what we discussed this time. Since this is our first, our first podcast episode effectively, there’s no sort of link between what we’ve read and, and any past episodes. So today, we are talking about Binti. Gregory picked it so please give us a summary of the novella in your own words.

Gregory Avery-Weir 2:26
Sure. Before I start, I want to note, there’s some Herero and Arabic words that are important to the book. I’ve done some research on pronunciation; we might get some wrong, but we’ll do our best. Now:

Gregory Avery-Weir 2:41
Harmonizer’s log: stardate: the far future.

Gregory Avery-Weir 2:46
Binti, a mathematically gifted 16 year old girl from the Himba people in southwestern Africa, runs away from home after being accepted to Oomza University, one of the best schools in the galaxy. She wears otjize on her skin and hair, a red cosmetic made from fat and the clay of her homeland, which prompts a lot of bigotry from the Khoush, an ethnically Arab group that is the dominant Earth culture in the book. She also carries an edan, a mysterious ancient device made of unidentifiable metal. On the living ship Third Fish, she makes friends among her fellow new students, but the ship is suddenly attacked by Meduse, jellyfish-like aliens who are at war with the Khoush. They murder almost everyone on board, but Binti survives because her edan somehow makes Meduse flesh wither, killing one of them. She seals herself in her room for a few days and as she’s getting hungry discovers that the edan allows her to communicate with the Meduse somehow, and also makes leaves grow from her door, which is made of gold. The Meduse they say that humans can only commit violence, they break down her door, but the edan hurts them if they come close. The most bold Meduse is Okwu who has a withered tentacle, some sort of disability. When it touches her and gets her otjize on it, it seems to heal. Okwu brings her food and water and asks more questions, noting that her otjize-covered plaits are like its okuoko, or tentacles. She realizes it’s young like her.

Lucy Arnold 4:15
Can I ask… Can I ask a clarifying question before you keep going? Just because I thought that… maybe I just misread it, but I thought Okwu hurt his tentacle on Binti or Binti’s god stone? I didn’t realize it was already hurt.

Gregory Avery-Weir 4:37
Yeah, I looked for that, but I wasn’t able to… to tell. So, so one of them, the one that touches her and its tentacle shrivels up, I think ends up falling to the ground.

Lucy Arnold 4:56
In the cafeteria scene?

Gregory Avery-Weir 4:58
Yeah, I think the one that touches her in the cafeteria dies.

Lucy Arnold 5:02
Yeah, it does.

Gregory Avery-Weir 5:02
But maybe that one is Okwu. I didn’t, I couldn’t find anywhere else were Okwu actually touched her before it mentions its withered tentacle. But I’m not sure. It might not be—they… I got the impression that, I don’t know maybe Okwu is just young, but I got the impression that, that it is… that it’s one of the reasons why people kind of treat it as an inferior is because it’s disabled. That was my impression, but I might be wrong. So.

Lucy Arnold 5:32
Thank you. I just wanted to understand.

Gregory Avery-Weir 5:35
Yeah, I’m not… I can see either reading.

Gregory Avery-Weir 5:39
So Okwu tells her that they’ve left the pilot alive so that they can trick Oomza University into letting them land and launch a surprise attack to recover their chief’s stolen stinger. She opts to give the Meduse her otjize and help negotiate a more peaceful result in exchange for her life. They take her on board their ship, where the chief insists that she put down her edan if they’re going to work together.

Gregory Avery-Weir 5:59
She does so and gets stung, but recovers. The ship lands and she goes with the Meduse to negotiate with Oomza Uni. Oomza Uni is a university the size of a planet and possesses sufficiently advanced technology that they can actually make a decision at a faculty meeting. Binti makes a speech and the university agrees to return the stinger and make amends on the condition that Okwu join Binti in attending Oomza Uni. As she collapses in relief, Binti realizes that when she was stung her hair plaits were replaced with okuoko.

Gregory Avery-Weir 6:01
She is declared a hero by all parties and takes a bit to recover from the trauma. She searches a forest at the Uni for red clay and mixes a new batch of alien otjize. She’s nervous that it won’t be right, but it heals a burn Okwu got in class. She makes a call to her family at home. And that’s the end of this story.

Melissa Avery-Weir 6:51
They packed a lot in. A lot… It’s a lot in the story.

Gregory Avery-Weir 6:55
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, it’s a short novella. It’s… my copy is 90 pages with not particularly small font. So yeah, it’s pretty brief. I think the other two books in the trilogy are a little longer, but I don’t recall.

Lucy Arnold 7:15
Well, we’ve each brought a topic for discussion. Mine is the concept of violence in empathy. So I’ve been listening to a podcast called The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks by Dylan Marron, in which Marron explores the internet’s hatred of Jar Jar Binks when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out in 1999. I promise I’m going somewhere with this. Marron especially focuses on the impact of all of this hate on Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar. Marron’s other podcast, Conversations With People Who Hate Me, focuses on a similar theme. He started the podcast by booking, booking interviews with people who said hateful things to him on social media. He believes—like I do honestly—that by talking with folks and hearing their stories one lessens hate. Not unlike Marron, Binti offers us a spectrum with violence on one end and empathy on the other. Movement from violence toward empathy means less harm. Okwu hates Binti and is ready to murder her until he learns her story. And she fears the Meduses until she can speak their language. Once they know each other’s stories, it’s a short journey to them becoming friends, which is wild when you think about the way the initial scene with the Meduses is described with Binti covered in the blood of the boy she had started to love.

Gregory Avery-Weir 8:44
Yeah, she… the, that scene is incredibly vivid. Like—

Lucy Arnold 8:45

Gregory Avery-Weir 8:45
It’s really suddenly really gory.

Lucy Arnold 8:53
It’s a… it’s quite violent, right? And, and I think—and I have more thoughts about this—but I think it has a lot of, like, that sensory imagery with the smells and the food being described and the tastes and then that, like, carnage kind of that happens. So when you really think about the short amount of time that happens between this… massacre that happens on the Third Fish, and then Binti and Okwu becoming school chums, like… I would say that, that spectrum of violence and empathy is what marks Binti as a utopian text. Other types of futures in science fiction imagine villains as being motivated by self-interest, power, capital, etc. Binti suggests that there aren’t villains. There are just people who haven’t scooted far enough on the empathy spectrum yet. I think thats a real sort of idealism that marks this text as being utopian, even though maybe there are aspects of it that you would say are not utopian.

Gregory Avery-Weir 9:57
Yeah, I guess I was thinking of the utopianism as like, strictly like: there is a political entity in this story, which is a utopia, which is Oomza Uni. Like they’re this multicultural, incredibly generous… They’re, you know, a university that has someone’s body part on display in a museum. And when the person comes in and is like, That’s my body part, and you need to give it to me. They’re like, Oh, sure, yeah, we’re sorry, we didn’t realize, like, that just doesn’t happen in our world. And that’s, that’s utopian. But yeah, also, there’s just a utopian world view of the idea that, like, you can forgive someone for such a massacre.

Lucy Arnold 10:32
Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s amazing when you think about it, and like, I’ve been listening to that podcast and hearing how, once people start listening to each other… I mean, you really do hear that movement, you know, it’s a real thing. You can see it and others other contexts for it, too. But I do think it’s interesting that you don’t see it all that often in texts, you know, you often do have a villain. There’s, or at least sort of a villainous culture. And I think what does strike me about Binti is that sort of idealism about people. I also think that it’s very interesting to me the way the book represents, or the novella represents the sensory perception of difference in hate. The Khoush whisper about how the Himba smell bad, right? When Binti is walking originally, when she’s on the ship, and then she is really struck by the bad smells of the Meduses. And then even, there’s sort of a grotesque element to the tentacles, the okuoku and, and that’s paralleled, with the way the Khoush seem to perceive Binti’s hair, and her, her cultural practices. It’s sort of grotesque until you know it, and then it’s appreciated and familiar.

Gregory Avery-Weir 12:04
I mean, the Khoush are kind of the closest thing to a villain in this book.

Lucy Arnold 12:07
And even they aren’t, right? They’re her friends. She says, “I became friends with them. We had this in common. We loved… doing whatever math declensions are.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 12:20
“Treeing” is like dividing math in two repeatedly until you get closer to God.

Melissa Avery-Weir 12:25
Like I started doing a bit of research and then did not want to get into treeing. There is some sort of link between trees and fractalness and a way of looking at fractals as trees and vice versa. So it’s not… Yeah, so it’s not completely divorced from reality. But I never took any sort of coursework on fractal stuff. It wasn’t my ball of wax. I think that something, something this book, does that kind of lets it get away with this, and this, you know, this utopian viewpoint, is the fact that we don’t see a deep culture of either the Meduse or the university. Like, we see a faculty meeting, which again, absolutely—

Gregory Avery-Weir 13:19

Melissa Avery-Weir 13:20
—wild that this faculty meeting of multiple professor types—and presumably administrators—got together and decided something in a reasonable amount of time. And it was good.

Gregory Avery-Weir 13:30
It takes… I mean it does take forever. They talk about how they are just like arguing for… I feel like it might be a day? It’s some wild amount of time.

Lucy Arnold 13:39
But a small amount of time when you think about how long it really takes us in faculty meetings.

Gregory Avery-Weir 13:44
Yeah, I mean, it would, it would take us, like, it would take any Earth organization much longer to decide on repatriating an artifact.

Melissa Avery-Weir 13:51
There would need to be limited duration committees and all sorts of stuff. But the fact that we don’t get… you know, we were handed a sample of the Meduse. We’re handed a sample of the university. And it’s different from the way that Khoush are treated. Because with the Khoush we’re getting a lot of different viewpoints on them. They’re, they treat the Himba as if they’re slaves or near slaves, right? Like we get lots of sort of cultural things there. And it lets us say, the Khoush are almost villains because we have more context to say, here’s a broader sample of their behavior and multi-generational because the parents believe this. And it gets passed down through the, you know, the life of folks in the town. Where we don’t get that…

Melissa Avery-Weir 14:41
And it allows us to just say, “Oh, if you talk—” this is… I don’t want this to sound dismissive, but, “Oh, if you talk to each other, you’ll understand and have empathy for each other.” Which I think, you know, just thinking like, real world context, I feel like we’re in a place where we talk about politics, there is a there is a notable segment that’s like, “Hey, don’t… you can miss me with this compassion/empathy business for people who want to kill me, right? For bigots and so on.” And it was interesting to read this and be like: this is, this is nice. This is a nice utopian idea that you can talk to each other and stop wanting to kill each other.

Gregory Avery-Weir 15:29
In part, because like in this book, there’s no like, there’s not a sense, at least to me that like, there’s a preaching going on. Where it’s like someone saying, “Hey, you oppressed people, you need to be empathetic.” Instead, it’s sort of like coming, it feels like it’s coming naturally and internally, and Okorafor is, is African American, but I think reasonably close, I think some of her recent family is from Africa. And so like, she’s got a particularly particular context on both being Black in the US and being, you know, what African culture is like.

Lucy Arnold 16:08
Yeah, well, though, I would say, I do think that the empathy… I think the empathy is required for survival, right? It is the only way that Binti is able to survive being the events of the Third Fish, is by her capacity… In the book, she’s a harmonizer, right her capacity to harmonize and to understand is how she survives. So—

Gregory Avery-Weir 16:40
We’re gonna talk about that later.

Lucy Arnold 16:42
Well, that’s good, but I just think that it’s different than just empathy naturally bubbling up. It is crucial to her survival for her to gain that empathy.

Gregory Avery-Weir 16:53
It’s a deliberate practice that she has practiced.

Lucy Arnold 16:57
Yeah, exactly, right? She’s a harmonizer. And she’s real good at it, and has worked at it. And her dad was one before her. And it’s, you know, her blend of cultural perspectives and experience that leads her to be able to do that work, because it is work. And I think the novel, the novella, successfully represents it as work, too.

Melissa Avery-Weir 17:22
But it is under duress. I think we—

Lucy Arnold 17:26

Melissa Avery-Weir 17:27
Like, it’s not that, like, she sat and med-meditated for 72 hours, and then was like, “Oh, let’s see if we can talk.” It was like, “I’ve run out of food and all my friends are dead.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 17:39
It’s deliberate, but it’s not a free choice.

Melissa Avery-Weir 17:42

Lucy Arnold 17:42
I guess the last thing I would say about it that I thought was fascinating was that, the literal transformation Binti experiences with her hair becoming okuoku, it seems to suggest to me that empathy and experiences with other people does literally change us, right? That we become different because of that experience, I guess. And I think that’s interesting.

Lucy Arnold 18:19
And for the record, because I don’t know if I’ve been clear about it: I love it. I fucking love it. I love this kind of idealistic thinking. I, you know, I had a dream, was it two nights ago? That I tried to persuade Ron DeSantis that he shouldn’t be like a fascist dictator. And my dead grandmother, like, woke up to tell me that that was a bad idea. And she was probably right. But I did call my mom just to let her know about it as well, so.

Gregory Avery-Weir 18:54
It’s a nice thing to imagine. And it’s it’s a cool thing to have, like, shown in fiction as an aspirational thing. Even if it’s not practical in everyday life.

Lucy Arnold 19:04
Yeah. I mean, I was bringing that up to say that I do feel like Melissa was saying before, like, I feel that is a very real tension in my life, you know, that I try really hard to empathize with all kinds of people. But then, you know, when you hear about some of the things happening right now, it is really difficult. It is… although my brain… something’s wrong with me, and somehow I can imagine being on a train with Ron DeSantis and thinking, “I’m gonna talk to this person.” Like, that is not like, that’s not real, right? Because he’s not probably on this spectrum of violence and empathy. I mean, maybe I’m wrong, but.

Melissa Avery-Weir 19:40
I don’t know. I mean, I think that… I think I have to hold multiple truths in this, on this in my head, I have to be the person who is interested in and invested in things like Nonviolent Communication, but also a person who understands that it is less productive in a conversation about Ron DeSantis to be like, “We should just love him into not hating people,” right? Like, those are two things that are true. And I want the world to be the sort of world where we can all have frameworks for having difficult conversations and meeting people and having certain kinds of conflict in, in healthy ways. And this is partially probably a lack of my own knowledge and education. But how do you make that writ large? Like how do you, you know, make that scale? I don’t know. And I think that’s kind of a tough space and a fun one to play and a good one to play in.

Lucy Arnold 20:53
Just to be fair to my brain, I didn’t try to love Ron DeSantis into changing.

Melissa Avery-Weir 20:57
No, no, no.

Lucy Arnold 20:57
I tried to, I tried to logic and rational… I had a book of 51 maps depicting the power structures of the states. It was poured in blood. So it wasn’t love, it was logic and rationality, so.

Melissa Avery-Weir 21:17
This is true.

Lucy Arnold 21:18
I don’t know that that would work either, though.

Melissa Avery-Weir 21:21
Probably not.

Gregory Avery-Weir 21:24
So speaking of rationality: I’ve got a thing that I want to discuss, which is just like, what, what actually happens in this book? Like, this book has just straight up magic in it.

Melissa Avery-Weir 21:40

Gregory Avery-Weir 21:41
It is solidly sci fi. But there are things that happen that are, that are both technological things—which I’ll talk about later, I think in our in our Ten Forward section—there’s like technological things that are magical, but also like… the otjize heals Meduse flesh. And it’s not a chemical process, right? Like, the, she takes clay and fat from her homeland, and it heals injured Meduse. And notably, it doesn’t heal humans. It’s not a healing mud. It’s not a healing cosmetic. It’s, it’s a, like, it’s specific to Meduse, but then when she makes it on Oomza Uni, it also heals the Meduse. So like, there’s something inherent to Binti? that makes that happen. And there’s… it’s not, and it’s not like, it’s not like Binti is a special girl that, like, has something magical about her specifically. Because like, she’s not surprised that otjize has this power. And she’s used to, like… she can harmonize… She seems to be able to make electricity appear by doing math.

Melissa Avery-Weir 22:59

Gregory Avery-Weir 23:00
Like the, the edan. She doesn’t understand the abilities of the edan. But she’s not surprised that when the like weird blue lines come from the edan and go through this golden door, which is a good… What’s, what’s the line?

Melissa Avery-Weir 23:14
It’s a good conductor and a waste to have as the doorframe?

Gregory Avery-Weir 23:20
But it’s not a good electrical indicated inductor. It’s a good… “gold was an information conductor and its mathematical signals were stronger than anything.” So like, she knows that she can do math and like, cause electricity to come into being and this is just a thing that people know how to do in this universe. But also… and, and when that electricity hits the door, it causes leaves to grow. And I think those are literal leaves.

Melissa Avery-Weir 23:49
That was my impression. Yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir 23:52
It just literally… like, and that’s not a surprise. That’s not unexpected.

Melissa Avery-Weir 23:56
I thought she was a little…

Gregory Avery-Weir 23:58
She was like, like, “Oh huh, leaves have grown.” Yeah, but it’s not like, “How could that possibly be true?”

Lucy Arnold 24:06
The ship is a living being too, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 24:11

Lucy Arnold 24:11
Like, the Third Fish is alive.

Gregory Avery-Weir 24:15
Yeah, it’s got big ol’ air bladders that contain a bunch of plants to provide the oxygen for the journey. And it’s like the first time Binti has ever been in humid air is in one of those air bladders. But like, do y’all… What do y’all think is the, like…

Gregory Avery-Weir 24:33
How does the otjize heal the Meduse?

Melissa Avery-Weir 24:39
I’m going to give a too-rational answer, which is that we don’t know because we don’t have enough data. We know that she made this, these two batches of otjize. We don’t know if a batch her father made would also have the same effect. It could. There could be something about the creation, especially from someone who can make informational currents, right? There’s all sorts of things happening and processes involved that are not described, and presumably just things that one does that we don’t see laid out. So I don’t know that we can say whether it’s her specifically or not.

Gregory Avery-Weir 25:23

Lucy Arnold 25:24
I think I could give a sort of science fiction explanation, which is has something to do with math. That, like, if you could just do enough math, you can, like make sense of it kind of like The Matrix, I felt like that was kind of where it was, reminded me with the way she talked about math and harmonizing is being able to sort of make reality make sense in a different way, kind of matrix see, like, so I could think of it like that. But my textual evidence for an alternate reading, maybe a more magical reading would be the line when she says… I think she says it directly to Okwu, I may have it highlighted. But she says, “I can’t give that to him. It’s my culture,” when she’s talking about it, right? It… And so to her that suggests that it doesn’t represent a sort of rational mathematical Matrix-y process, but instead is something about her herself and her experience and her, her background, that is able to heal maybe because she is a special magical girl. Because she’s the only one of her people who’s gone to space, right? To go to this university. So, I mean, she’s, she is special and unique and different. And I think the story of the book is about that. So, I don’t know.

Gregory Avery-Weir 27:00
Yeah, there’s a, there’s a part where she says—and this is kind of a throwaway line—that says that she knows how to do both soft equations and hard equations, and that the hard equations can do more than the soft ones somehow. And I’ve… so I’ve read the the full trilogy. And I won’t go into too much detail, but the edan is revealed to be alien technology. So, the edan is not a magical thing, literally, like, from our perspective as sci-fi readers, but there is magic continuing in the trilogy. There’s, there’s kind of the, the traditions of the Himba have a magic to them, where it’s unclear, to the sci-fi reader—to the skeptical reader—whether it’s just a thing they kind of all agree is true about certain things, or whether there is something more transcendent going on that could be observed by say, a Khoush.

Lucy Arnold 28:06
There’s another book series—it’s written by a white person, so you know, keep that in mind—but Tad Williams’s Otherland also concerns African characters who are immersed in science and studying at a university. Very similar to Binti in a lot of ways. And one of the characters is from sort of a more… and they’re, they’re from a more “our version” of Earth future. And one of the characters is though, from a place similar to where Binti is, Binti is from. And the book explores that sort of tension between science and belief in these sort of cultural beliefs about the Dreamland that, that those characters have to reckon with. And I saw some similarities to that in Binti, too. Maybe more carefully and thoughtfully explored, although I think Tad Williams does an okay job.

Gregory Avery-Weir 29:10
Yeah, I think it’s interesting that often people approach sci-fi, and especially Star Trek—which we’re not talking about—from a perspective of like, everything has to make sense. And there needs to be a motivation behind everything. Which is often applied weirdly selectively, right? It’s like if you can give a, if you can do technobabble, if you can give a… put a technological name on something, then it suddenly becomes okay, right? Like, you can imagine a version of this book where when she initially makes otjize, she’s like, “And we mixed in the nanoparticles that we’ve been putting in our otjize for the past 200 years,” and then you’d be like, “Oh, well, there the nanoparticles healed them.” But the book specifically doesn’t do that. Even though that’s exactly the same, right? Saying “the clay of my homeland” versus “nanoparticles”, those are exactly as explanatory. But we’re just not used to sci-fi—stories with spaceships and aliens—just being like, “Yeah, it’s magic.” The closest we get in popular, big popular stuff is like the Force from Star Wars, which is, sort of feels psionic or psychic in a way that that makes it more acceptable.

Lucy Arnold 30:25
And maybe in a way, I think this way of thinking that we see in Binti is, is more helpful. It’s more generative, because a spiritualism that makes space for things we just don’t fucking know, right? Things that are unknown to us, is more real and right, because we actually don’t know, we don’t know that much about how the universe works. There’s so much that’s unknown to us. And so a way of thinking that embraces our limitations, and all of the things that we just… we’re sort of guessing about gravity, really. Good guesses, maybe, but we don’t totally get it.

Gregory Avery-Weir 31:08
Guesses that have worked out so far, but.

Lucy Arnold 31:10

Gregory Avery-Weir 31:10

Lucy Arnold 31:12
So I think I think that it’s really very Western to argue that we have these facts that we know. And this is unchallengeable, right? And I think maybe books like this, you know, make a little bit more space for a different kind of knowing that is more inclusive.

Melissa Avery-Weir 31:32
I would say there’s a, I think there’s… when we talk about that difference between science and let’s say spirituality, I might say that the difference is—in at least Western world, etc.—religion is just as rigid as what you were proclaiming science is, right? Like, religion has the answers that science doesn’t. And this isn’t doing that either. This is a third space that is as a softer space that doesn’t have to explain itself. Because it doesn’t need to, right? It doesn’t have to have all the answers. It just is. And I think that is, I think it’s, it’s useful to remember that the way spirituality manifests in our society (real world) is often in a rigid, organized religion that also proclaims to have answers and fails to do so. So yeah, I think that’s another thing that makes the book interesting is that it’s not playing in that space either.

Lucy Arnold 32:40
Yeah, I didn’t say religion, because I don’t think this book has a lot to do with religion. I think it is interested in a spirituality. That is not the same as religion. But I think you’re right, that in like, especially in Western culture, we generally conflate the two.

Gregory Avery-Weir 32:54
There’s a little more of what I would call religion in some of the later books when we get to see more of Binti’s home culture.

Melissa Avery-Weir 33:03
Oh, interesting.

Gregory Avery-Weir 33:05
But this, this sort of reminds me a little bit of Babylon 5, which is probably also struck work, and so we also aren’t discussing. But it’s a, it’s a show that has like, advanced technology and technomagic and things that just seem to be magic and aliens that might just be angels? And a bunch of other things. And like those things coexist in tension, but the show never seems to, like value one perspective over the other.

Lucy Arnold 33:36
I’m 100% confident that wherever he is Bruce Boxleitner is supporting the strike. So I think it’s okay to have a brief reference to Babylon 5.

Gregory Avery-Weir 33:45
J. Michael Straczynski better be. Boy, he would disappoint me if he wasn’t.

Melissa Avery-Weir 33:51
Yeah, so I want to talk about how well this book handles being someone being alienated, being ostracized through… I would say, like every inch of her skin and being and still finding a way through. And I guess I should say: I guess I assume people can tell things by voices, but I’m a Black woman, and I’m a queer black woman. And I also can’t help but think about my own educational transitions in reading this story. So I went to college at a very small engineering school that had about 1800 people. There were 40 Black people, of which I was one of them. In the entire school, all, all years. And I was in computer science, instead of where a lot of the femme folks were in that, the college were in the hard sciences like biology, chemistry, like, not the engineerings, necessarily. And so stepping into that space, it was like…

Melissa Avery-Weir 35:12
Okay, let me let me say this first: my queerness is in the form of being panromantic and asexual, right? Like, it’s in these things that are pretty invisible. I cannot hide my skin, I cannot hide my hair, my body shape, the way I talked, the rituals… Like there was this whole thing about when I washed my hair and how often, because…

Gregory Avery-Weir 35:39
Like, people would ask you?

Melissa Avery-Weir 35:41
People would notice and then they would ask, yeah, they’d be like, “Oh, you only wash your hair once a week?” And I was, you know what I mean, me and the other two Black girls on the floor in freshman year, like.

Lucy Arnold 35:51
It’s probably what they should have been doing, too.

Gregory Avery-Weir 35:53
Yeah, white people get on this “don’t wash your hair too much” train. That’s why your hair is like that, white people, because you wash it too much.

Melissa Avery-Weir 36:02
All these little, all these rituals, like the smell of your hair is a real thing when you put product in your hair, right? Like, I can smell like the smells of, of like shea butter and coconut butter. And like the things that we put in our hair, identifiable like across the room, like, oh, there’s a Black person here who puts oil in their hair, like this is the thing that many of us do. And it’s inescapable. I felt like, for almost all of my freshman year, I was just like, walking around naked. I just felt like, every inch of me was on display for critique all the time, including intellectually, because there’s that, right? Especially—

Gregory Avery-Weir 36:51
The people assuming that you are somehow less intelligent or whatever, because of your race.

Melissa Avery-Weir 36:55
Especially being in the class where we read the Bell Curve—

Lucy Arnold 36:59

Melissa Avery-Weir 36:59
—which became a whole thing.

Gregory Avery-Weir 37:02
Relatively uncritically, right?

Melissa Avery-Weir 37:04
It was pretty critical. But I mean, the professor and I were pretty critical. Was the rest of the class? I don’t know. Didn’t feel like it. But I… also, this… When I when I read this story, and I was reading about the edan, right, and how this, or the, the edan, and how it is, becomes this communication device and a shield from violence. And this is probably a more common experience other than just, you know, being Black. But the idea of having a device, having something that you shove in front of you, it’s like, “Hey, look, here’s the thing. Why don’t we all look at this thing? Why don’t we let this thing sit between us and allow us to communicate?” And for me, that was computers, I could go into, I could go to that college, and people would look at me weird. And then I could be like, “Look at this thing I programmed,” or, “Hey, let’s program this thing together.” And we have this language that wasn’t good at first, because we’re all 18 and have all learned different programming languages, or none at all, or whatever. But like, I begin to have this little space that’s like, “Hey, don’t hurt me too bad. I’m enough like you. I have a thing that we have in common that you respect.” Good or bad, like, there’s this thing that you can just put out there. And so computers, comp sci.

Melissa Avery-Weir 38:29
And this is cross-cultural, too, like, beyond, you know… Sometimes when I meet, I don’t know, folks out in the, in the wild and other circumstances, there’s some of this, this friction to like, you go to like a LARP or roleplay group, or something like this. And you’re like, yikes, because that’s where I think it’s probably also more common, but that just really resonated with me. And also the ways in which this softens as I’ve gotten older. Where I do have that, like if I start a new job, or, you know, move into a new space, I definitely still have like, “Oh, hey! We’re here to do a thing! Hey, here’s a, here’s the thing.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 39:12
But I have much less fear. I’m much more comfortable knowing that people are going to look at me and put me in a bunch of different boxes. When part of why it bothers me less Is that is that I have also changed, right? Like, just like, like you can’t not absorb some of what is happening that you have steeped yourself in… like a good tea. It’s, it changes you; it does change you physically. It changes the way you talk. It changes you know, though, the ways in which I can mode switch now are different than they were 10 years ago and way different than they were 20 years ago. And so it’s, it’s all very, it’s all very material. It’s all very physical and very real. And it’s inescapable when it is your skin. At the scene where she describes how a bunch of them washed off all the—

Gregory Avery-Weir 40:20
That’s a beautiful scene.

Melissa Avery-Weir 40:21
Yeah. So they all go to a lake or something like that. And they all—

Gregory Avery-Weir 40:24
Yeah, this is a flashback to her childhood.

Melissa Avery-Weir 40:26
Yeah. And they wash off all their otjize and look at themselves, and they’re like, “Oh, God, we’re naked! This is… What is happening? Like, no one can see us like this, we would be—”

Gregory Avery-Weir 40:36
They’re like, “We would get beaten if someone knew we did this.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 40:37
Right. Never get married or something like that. And that… there’s… There are times and to varying degrees at which you sit and you, you, you examine yourself in your own body in your own culture, and you strip it away, and you go, “what, what is here? What is it? What would I be if I changed this? If I started perming my hair again? If I started, you know, if I wore it in certain ways that white people find more acceptable? Like, what would be left if I did that, and would I recognize it?”

Melissa Avery-Weir 40:42
And sometimes the answer is: it’d be fine. I’ll grow tentacles and, and share my otjize. But you know, other times, it’s not. Other times it’s like, nah. This is… turns out, turns out this is deep. It’s not just habit.

Lucy Arnold 41:40
Lissa, what did you think about the scene at the end when, when Binti makes the new otjize, and a applies it and Okwu says, “Oh, good, you were fading”?

Melissa Avery-Weir 41:56
I liked it. I wish I had a friend like that. Um, that moment was one that’s like… It’s always nice to have a moment where you, people recognize that they are seen. And not just for things they did, not just for things they perform, services rendered, but also for what makes them a whole person. And I think that scene highlighted that, “Oh, okay.” You know, you’re not, it’s not a matter of moving back, you know, to oneself or a sense of forwardness or backwardness but sort of whole… being whole. I thought it was cute.

Gregory Avery-Weir 42:45
I want to circle back to your mention of hair and scent, because there’s—I didn’t mention in the summary because I didn’t get that low level, but there’s there’s a several times throughout the story, there’s… someone touches Binti’s hair. And touching Black people’s hair, big deal. Very problem… People always want to do it. And it’s super rude and kind of invasive. And in the, in the book, the first time it happens is a bunch of Khoush women and they’re talking very rudely about her and Binti has scented her otjize with jasmine flowers, I think? And, and they, like, one of the women reaches out touches it. Doesn’t address Binti at all; is just completely treating her as if she’s not there or is subhuman. And one of the people is like, “I hear it smells like shit.” And the woman’s like, “Huh, it actually kind of smells like flowers. Huh, weird. Looks like shit, though.” And it’s like this, like, utter disregard for her personhood is very contrasted against like, the first words we hear I think from the Meduse, they are like, “You were shameful.” Like, they, from the very beginning, even though they, they don’t really consider her a person yet, they’re still talking to her as if she’s a person, even before they’re like, “Oh, she actually can communicate using the edan.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 44:25
Right, right. They grant her more personhood immediately than ostensibly, you know, a group that she rubs up against far more often.

Lucy Arnold 44:37
Yeah, when they talked about the shameful part, I mean… It’s, I thought that the Meduse says… Their, their culture… It was okay for them to kill like the humans who were on the Third Fish, but it wasn’t okay for people to not have their needs met, right? Like even I think if Binti had been, I don’t know a plant, right? I mean, that would, they would have wanted to meet her needs. Because for people to suffer was not okay with the Meduse. So like, yeah, killing if it had to be done. I mean Okwu says “We don’t like stinging,” right? But if they decide to have to do that. But they don’t want to see suffering. So I thought that, I thought that what they were saying there was that they didn’t want to, they didn’t want to be leading to suffering, even though they were okay using violence if they felt like it was necessary. I don’t know.

Melissa Avery-Weir 45:39
Yeah, there was not really any negotiation over the food and water, right? They were like, “What do you need?” She was like, “Food and water.” And they were like, “Cool beans.”

Lucy Arnold 45:48

Gregory Avery-Weir 45:49
Yeah. And, and she’s not really like… they didn’t have to do that, right? They could have just left her in there.

Melissa Avery-Weir 45:56

Gregory Avery-Weir 45:57
And it’s not just like, Okwu clearly takes a liking to her, but you don’t get the impression that it is kind of sneaking her food.

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:09

Gregory Avery-Weir 46:09
It’s just kind of like, it’s fine for it to hang out with her.

Lucy Arnold 46:13
I thought that’s what they were saying. I have to try and find that part was they… It was not okay for them. That part of their culture was it was not okay with him for her to suffer.

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:23

Lucy Arnold 46:24
It would be fine killing her, but not for her to be hungry.

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:28
Yes, they say, “‘Girl, you will die,’ the voice said slowly. ‘Soon.’ I heard more voices, but they were too low to understand. ‘Suffering is against the way. Let us end you.'”

Gregory Avery-Weir 46:43

Melissa Avery-Weir 46:44
That is how… that is obviously, as you can tell from the sentence structure there, early in the ability to sort of translate and understand what’s happening. But yeah, suffering is against the way.

Lucy Arnold 46:59
Well, there turned out to be more kinship, I think between the Meduse and Himba, right? cultures, than maybe some of the other cultures that we get tertiarily touched on in the course of the novella.

Gregory Avery-Weir 47:16
Yeah. Oh, quick pronoun note. I think we’ve all been doing great. The book consistently refers to Okwu as “it” even after Okwu is a friend with her, but on the very last page—

Melissa Avery-Weir 47:32

Gregory Avery-Weir 47:34
Okwu gets one “he”.

Lucy Arnold 47:36
There’s one previous to that, too.

Gregory Avery-Weir 47:38

Lucy Arnold 47:39
There’s, I actually looked at it multiple times, because I couldn’t figure out if it was a typo.

Gregory Avery-Weir 47:45
Yeah, right.

Lucy Arnold 47:46
But then it reoccurs at the end, so I don’t know. I’ve been saying “he” because I don’t like to assume error.

Gregory Avery-Weir 47:55
Yeah, where was it the first time?

Lucy Arnold 47:58
I’ll have to find it real quick. Hold on.

Gregory Avery-Weir 47:59
Because the last instance is, “He held up an okuoku. ‘Show it to me tomorrow,’ I said doubtfully. ‘Tomorrow will be the same,’ it said.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:11

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:12
So like, we stan a he/it queen, but like, that’s interesting—

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:18
Yeah, it is.

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:18
That that we get like, it’s not that “finally he is a he.” Is that like, both pronouns seem to be correct for Okwu. Or, like, sometimes Binti thinks of it as a “him” in moments of extreme empathy. I don’t know.

Lucy Arnold 48:35
I’m looking for it now. But I think the other part is in the sort of climactic scene when Okwu and Binti go before the head of the Meduse.

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:50
The Chief? Is that what they call him?

Melissa Avery-Weir 48:53

Gregory Avery-Weir 48:53
Yeah, the chief. Which I like how, regardless of how like callous, the Meduse are, and the chief is, when the chief… When they first step into Oomza Uni, the chief kind of coaches Binti a little bit as like, “Hey, come on. Go, go out and talk to them.” It’s good. Like kind of reassures her. It’s, it’s cute.

Melissa Avery-Weir 49:14
All right, so with the main topics covered, it’s time for a quick lightning round of other interesting things we spotted.

Lucy Arnold 49:22
Well, this will… Mine actually, I think, flows very nicely from Melissa’s topic. Because, you know, I’m in education. So I study young adult literature, and this sort of story, which is a classic coming of age story, which some people would call a Bildungsroman. Not me, though.

Melissa Avery-Weir 49:48
Oh, not you?

Gregory Avery-Weir 49:51
That’s what it says in the doc, Lucy.

Lucy Arnold 49:52
Yeah, that’s weird. Maybe a chatGPT musta got in there, you know.

Gregory Avery-Weir 49:57
It better not have. Might have to do some sort of Butlerian Jihad on it.

Lucy Arnold 50:04
Well, we’ll just do some sort of, what do you call that? When you purge a demon? Exorcism?

Gregory Avery-Weir 50:10

Lucy Arnold 50:11
An exorcism. Yeah, that’s what we’ll do. I, I liked reading this is that kind of coming of age story. It follows a lot of the classic patterns, which is not, that’s not a critique; that’s a good thing. I like that is following that kind of story where she’s young, you know, and she thinks, “I’m just gonna go to college and I’ll be able to come back and get married and do all the things that, you know… I’ll take over my dad’s business.” All the things that, you know, her family is expecting her to do. And she thought idealistically as a, you know, as a child, that she would be able to go to university, and then come back and things wouldn’t be different. But, you know, that even I think if the massacre on the Third Fish had not occurred, and she hadn’t met Okwu, that wouldn’t have been the case, right? Because going to college and going away from your home, it changes you inextricably. I mean, you, you can’t, you can’t not change.

Lucy Arnold 51:10
And it made me think, you know, I teach college, and I see it all, I mean, I just, I see it all the time, and every human that I have the privilege of interacting with… It, it’s, it’s tragic and beautiful, because they all think when they come to college, “I’m the same,” you know, “and I’m gonna be the same, and I’m gonna be go back home, and it’s all going to be the same.” And you know, like, as their professor, it’s not possible, right? Like you are changing, because you’re here, and this is different, right? And you’re going to be different after this. And there, there’s a spectrum, like, some people are going to be able to go home in some ways. And it’s going to feel more normal for them. Other people—and I think like Melissa’s story suggests—I mean, you know, you told your story about your experience at college. But that also, I am certain impacted, like, how you interacted with your family and your home, too, right? Like, you’re also like, you’re also changed, right? You don’t have the same relationships. You don’t have the same… You’re not the same person, after like, you have this sort of… You know, we don’t all go through a traumatic experience in the way that Binti does, thankfully, but we do, we do all change, when, like, especially at that time, that sort of going to college.

Lucy Arnold 52:39
And I did—I was charmed, honestly, that the book was so literal. Like, she’s literally going to university, right? It’s space university, but she’s going to university, and she’s literally changed. So I found that to be charming. And, um, and it was tragic at the end to you know, when she said, the, the professor who, that you referenced before said, “Your culture doesn’t like outsiders,” and Binti doesn’t understand because she thinks, “Oh, no, I’m not outsider.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 53:09

Lucy Arnold 53:10
But whether her hair had turned into okuoku or not, she wouldn’t have been able, you know what I’m saying? Like, she wouldn’t have been able to go home, either. She’s an outsider now, because she’s gone to university. And she didn’t understand that. And, and it is, I mean, it is, it’s… I’m sorry, it makes me cry. I guess it’s sad. It’s genuinely sad. Because, you know, it’s, it’s hard to think about how things won’t be the same again, especially when like Binti… You did have a supportive environment. She did I think, come from supportive family, who cares for her. And that is going to be challenging for her to go back. Oh, and yeah, I guess the other thing I was gonna say about it is—and I think Binti also points this out—one of the inequities of our current system is that this difference, this change is going to impact certain kinds of people more than other kinds of people, right? Like people from historically oppressed communities are going to be more outsider-y after these kinds of experiences than people who maybe are somewhere else on those, the matrix of oppression, right? So you can’t, you can’t go home again. And I thought that moment, when she realizes it, there talking to that professor, it was just, it was—

Melissa Avery-Weir 54:40

Lucy Arnold 54:40
It was real good.

Melissa Avery-Weir 54:41
It landed really well. And I’ll admit, when I, when I started reading the book, and it became clear, you know, kind of what her family was like and how this was, you know… You could tell immediately right, like, she’s not gonna be ever come home again. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a reveal that she wasn’t the first one to go, right? Like, if a society, if there were some hints that like, if you… You know, if you ostracize someone enough, you can pretend they don’t exist. And so I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a twist of like, you know, in that room were gonna be two more folks from from her home that just weren’t talked about and, you know. But I’m glad it went this way. Like no, no preference one way or the other, but.

Gregory Avery-Weir 55:32
Another tempting amuse bouche of the rest of the series, the second book is called Binti: Home.

Melissa Avery-Weir 55:41
Yes, I read the first sentence of the description and was—wanted to scream. I almost started reading it immediately.

Lucy Arnold 55:52
I have “Sacred Fire” before I have Home in my book.

Gregory Avery-Weir 55:55
That’s right. There’s a there’s a short story in between the the first two books in the in the omnibus.

Lucy Arnold 56:01
Oh, yeah, that might be why I thought the other ones were also short. So maybe you shouldn’t listen to me because I was looking at “Sacred Fire”.

Gregory Avery-Weir 56:08
I just don’t remember. Something that I thought was cool is another kind of geeky literature thing, which is that this book has interesting nonlinear narrative to it. It’s, it’s not like totally nonlinear and disjointed. But there’s a pattern that happens several times where… So this, the, we haven’t mentioned, I don’t think at all, this book is narrated in the first person. It’s all “I”—Binti’s referring to herself as “I “throughout the narration. And she’ll like, gloss over a really important event. And then like, go back and fill in later. So like, but like, immediately, so that, that like big massacre in the cafeteria, which is like that, that initial violence when just about everyone on the ship is killed. I don’t think we even ever meet the pilot. I don’t think we see how the pilot turned out after all this. Presumably had a maybe a worse time of it than Binti.

Melissa Avery-Weir 57:07
Probably not okay.

Gregory Avery-Weir 57:09

Lucy Arnold 57:09
Well, they don’t believe in suffering. So he probably—

Gregory Avery-Weir 57:13
I mean, maybe they treated them well.

Lucy Arnold 57:14
I mean, if they are ethically consistent, he was at least as fine as Binti.

Gregory Avery-Weir 57:20

Melissa Avery-Weir 57:21
Yeah, but psychollogically, you know, they can’t…

Lucy Arnold 57:24

Gregory Avery-Weir 57:24
Yeah, it’d be rough, especially because he didn’t… Like, Binti’s like, “I’m gonna figure out a way to do this without violence.” As far as the pilot knows, the Meduse are forcing him to let them invade Oomza Uni and kill a bunch of people. And that’s probably what he thought until they landed.

Melissa Avery-Weir 57:42

Gregory Avery-Weir 57:43
Which is rough. But in that cafeteria massacre, it’s like they come through and they kill everybody is basically this initial narration. And then like she’s confronting the Meduse… Yeah, she’s confronting the Meduse, and the edan, the edan protects her. And then it goes back. And it’s like, “Let me tell you about my childhood, where I learned about the great wave, this military technique that the Khoush say the Meduse use, and like how terrible the Khoush say the Meduse are.” And then she remembers her friends. And then she… Like this is literally two pages after the initial massacre summary. She’s like, here’s what the massacre was like in more detail. And then everyone was dead. And then it bounces back even further and says, “My family didn’t want me to go to the university.” And it goes into more of her backstory, and how she’s alienated from her own culture now, and then it finally, finally resumes with her back in the cafeteria. Kind of negotiating her way out, grabbing some food, heading to her room.

Gregory Avery-Weir 58:52
And that sort of thing happens a few more times where incredibly important events will just be like, tossed out in a chunk. And you’re like, “Wait, what just happened?” And then it goes back and talks about something else entirely with you kind of this constant tension of like, “Didn’t you say those jellyfish killed everyone? Why are we talking about your father?” And like, of course, because that’s sort of like, especially as a young person panicking in a in an alien environment, you’re gonna like be like, that’s the experience Binti is having right? Binti just sees blood and death, and is like, “holy shit”, and distracts herself and then is like, “Wait, what did just happen? What situation am I in?” And like, it’s sort of mirroring her thought process and also like giving us good, good tension, or where we don’t get a resolution until we digest what this is actually like for Binti. Cool stuff.

Lucy Arnold 59:47
I really liked the nonlinearity of it. I think a first person narrative is often more successful when you can have some of that. I mean, this is not stream of consciousness, but it’s got some of those elements of stream of consciousness because that’s how brains work.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:00:03
Right. It’s not just a recitation of what happened and how I felt during it. Yeah, it’s… I like that. When …Greg, you mentioned that the the moojh-ha ki-bira, the great wave attack method, the Meduse move like water when at war, and I don’t know if it will be earlier in the page or the previous page. Before the massacre, there are students Olo and Remi are seeing a traditional song from their city, because they missed home, a song that had to be sung with a wavery voice, like a water spirit. And I had not even noticed that those two things were right next to each other basically. Damn.

Lucy Arnold 1:00:53
They told it.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:00:55
Yeah, and, and like, even Binti is, is from a place where there is so little water that they wash with, with, or they keep clean with otjize. But there’s a story of her skinny dipping and washing away the cosmetic and then before, before reapplying it and then she then does that again at Oomza Uni before applying the new alien otjize.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:01:20
And like, I get the… My reading—and I don’t know how, I don’t know that this is definitive in the text—is that the Khoush are just making shit up about the Meduse. Like, “They move like a wave!” Like it’s a way of of depersonalizing them to say, “Oh, well, they’re just jellyfish. They don’t act. ..They don’t they don’t have tactics, they just do this thing.” And there’s a line in the, but… And then on the on the counterexample, the Meduse are like, “Humans can only do violence,” something like that, and…

Lucy Arnold 1:01:56
I wrote it down. It’s “humans only understand violence.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:02:00
Yes, and no Meduse has ever spoken to a human except long ago. And there’s this implication that the Khoush are kind of the gatekeepers of Earth. And so the Meduse have only ever interacted with the Khoush who are this, this like… more hegemonic, more hierarchical, more interested in normalcy… they considere the Himba to be “other than”. They teach their kid… they indoctrinate their kids about how awful the Meduse they are. And like, the people at Oomza Uni don’t… They’re like, “Oh, hey, you talk to some Meduse, good for you.” They’re not like, “Holy shit, the Meduse are intelligent!” They seem to disregard the… They seem, you get the vibe that kind of nobody in the universe thinks the Khoush are cool. Everyone’s like, those guys are kind of jerks.

Lucy Arnold 1:02:52
Or they’re, they’re provincial.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:02:58

Lucy Arnold 1:02:56
I just found the part where they use “he” pronouns early on. It’s when they go before the chief, like I thought. “‘Tell the girl to sit up’ the Chief said. ‘Binti,’ Okwu said, his voice, his voice was hard, flat. ‘Get up.'”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:03:00
It’s kind of in both in moments of intimacy, I guess.

Lucy Arnold 1:03:16
In that, yeah, I don’t know. It was weird to me too.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:03:22
So my lightning round—you know, as quick as this lightning round has been—is, is related to the nonlinear narrative in the sense of like, I thought it was really interesting and how stories are being retold for different audiences. And so we see it in the micro in that sort of processing of retelling a series of events to herself, to a certain degree of sort of processing. We see a repackaging of, of this whole narrative to the university. We see a repackaging of self and of story of self to the Meduse, right? Like there’s these, these little repackaging, there’s this retelling of culture of re…, you know, repackaging of all of this stuff that I think is interesting and is… I think part of the sort of coming of age narrative, right, is to like very actively what you are doing as a young person in these stories is relearning what you have lived to a certain extent.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:04:30
And then also, as her world is broadening the story means something. You mean something different. You omit parts that people are going to care about, or you tell too many parts and people are like, “Why did you tell me all this?” And so I just found it interesting to see the way she’s moving through time and learning how to tell these stories as she’s… not learning a new language really, but communicating with a different type of being who has very different interests and priorities than hers. So, yeah, that’s all.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:07
One specific example that I think I remember is that I think we get the discovery of the edan story three different times, I think.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:14

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:14
I think we get a narration to us the reader of how she found it. And then like, she’s, it’s very, it’s a very brief to the Meduse and then I feel like it’s even briefer to the professor that’s going to do research on it. Maybe that’s just summarized in narration and so we just don’t get the full story. But I think we get those three times? There might also be one… She might explain it again to the chief.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:39
I thought she explained it to the students, too.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:43
She explained it to the—

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:44
The ones that come to her room.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:48
Yeah, and she also does it to the, to the customs people.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:50
Oh, right.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:05:51
The people at the spaceport she tells she’s like, “Oh, it’s a, it’s a ceremonial object.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:05:57
There’s that cop that… That was a moment.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:00
Even though she knows it’s not.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:06:01

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:01
Like she, she, she thinks of it as… She might not necessarily know it’s alien technology. But she knows it’s Godstone?

Lucy Arnold 1:06:09

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:12
And, and says that it is said to have come from the sky. Which… she knows that aliens exist. So she knows that that’s like, yeah, it could be, could be spirits, could be aliens. I don’t know. She knows that’s a possibility, at least.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:06:29
I was looking for and going to describe the scene with the cop. But I’m not sure… Because there’s the person who reads the astrolabe perfectly. It’s got to be after that.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:41
Oh, yeah, I was wrong. Oh, yeah. By the way, phones are called astrolabes in this universe.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:06:48
You say “phone.” I don’t think I believe that’s a phone.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:06:52
I mean, it’s a phone, tricorder. It’s a, it’s a little handheld electronic device that lets you make calls.

Lucy Arnold 1:06:58
But it’s also sort of a passport, right? And…

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:02
Yeah, it’s got all your identity information on it, and…

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:07:04
But it also has, it doesn’t just have your identity information out. It has your history and your future in it.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:13
Yeah, you know, just like my phone’s got my calendar in it. My phones got.—

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:07:16
No, no! That’s not what that means. It is more significant than that.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:23
But I was I was wrong. When she describes her edan to the guard—who by the way, guard, Khoush guards only get up to, only get educated until they’re 10.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:07:38

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:39
Like cops, cops in Khoush society have an elementary school education, which is rough.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:07:46
But she says, “It’s just an old, old thing. It has no math or current. It’s just an inert compute, competative apparatus that I carry for good luck.” So she knows, even though it’s sort of a magical device to her, she knows it’s a computer also, which is interesting.

Lucy Arnold 1:08:04
And she minimizes it there on purpose.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:08:07
Yeah. She’s like, “Oh, don’t worry.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:08:09

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:08:10
“Shut the fuck up Friday.” It’s good.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:08:12
Don’t talk to cops.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:08:13
“It’s inert. It’s fine.”

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:08:13

Lucy Arnold 1:08:14
Yeah, no, she’s right. Don’t talk to cops.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:08:19
Theme of the podcast: don’t talk to cops.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:08:22
Not the theme of the podcast. Just good advice.

Lucy Arnold 1:08:25
Just a sort of truth, or maybe just some solid advice.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:08:30

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:08:31
All right. So in addition to the deep stuff, we’re also big utopian sci fi fans. So let’s head to Ten Forward to talk about stuff we geeked out about. And I am going to start with food. Because I have a very silly thing that I love, especially in sci fi, but also in fantasy. When an author feels like they have to come up with another name for a basic thing. And here it, there’s a cultural element here of the… the thing that stuck in my head was the white milky desert. Which—

Lucy Arnold 1:09:09
Yeah, I loved it.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:09:09
I think… yeah, the three of us probably immediately went “ice cream,” but also it could have been a yogurt or custard or any number of things that would not do well—

Lucy Arnold 1:09:16
Or cheesecake. I thought it was probably cheesecake.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:09:19
That’d be delicious.

Lucy Arnold 1:09:20
Yeah, it made me want cheesecake, so.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:09:23
Yeah, it, it’s a gelatinous milk based dessert with slivers of coconut. I didn’t look it up. The Khoush are ethnically Arab, I think is the, is the strong implication. And so I don’t… maybe that’s just a real dessert. But yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:09:37
I mean, I know that a lot of Middle Eastern desserts tend to be like, kind of rich and simply sweet. Not, not hugely, just like… That, that sounds vaguely to my uncultured ear to be like, yeah, that sounds like something maybe some people from an Arab culture would make as a dessert.

Lucy Arnold 1:09:58
I spent a long time pondering whether it was ice cream or not. But then she says, “I slid a slice of white milky dessert onto my tray,” and I have never slid a slice of ice cream anywhere.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:10:08
You’re right.

Lucy Arnold 1:10:09
But I have slid slices of cheesecake or something like a creamy pie or something.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:10:16
But on the other hand, it does melt on her tongue, which you know, doesn’t need to be literally like phase-changing on her tongue, but it’s something… It’s not, it’s not as dense, I think, as cheesecake.

Lucy Arnold 1:10:29
It could be like a real light cheesecake or like that lemonade pie that’s really creamy.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:10:36
There’s a category of cheesecake that I have had from a particular restaurant—it was the only thing we got from there—and it was an extremely soft cheesecake. It was basically a puddle, the consistency of, like, Greek yogurt. With a very good—

Lucy Arnold 1:10:52
Mmm. Did you say you’re going to be in the mood to make some cheesecake?

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:10:55
I want to learn how to make that cheesecake. So you could, you would technically kind of take a slice of that, but it would not stay a slice on your plate. Gah, I gotta figure out how to make that kind of cheesecake. It’s not even in my cheesecake cookbook. It’s whatever it is super weird, but I know the restaurant that makes it so I can look it up by that. I’m not going to advertise for them because they’re probably weird.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:11:19
So I was looking for some of the other other foods and I found the first mention of Okwu’s tentacle. “I clutched my edan to my chest now as I opened my eyes. The Meduse in front of me was black and translucent except for one of its tentacles, which was tinted pink, like the waters of the saltylake beside my village and curled up like the branch of a confined tree.” And then she holds up her edan and he pulls back, or it pulls back. So… and her edan turns people white and gray. So I think that he, that it is indeed some sort of congenital tentacle situation that it’s got.

Lucy Arnold 1:11:58
I buy it.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:11:59
Preceding conflict.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:02
But I’ve I’ve got the list of the dinner that’s out in the cafeteria during the, during the massacre.

Lucy Arnold 1:12:09
Although he could, or it could have tried to touch her while she was resting. And you know, but, but the, it drew back maybe before it got dead.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:12:22
Yeah, I don’t know. But the food is “roasted and marinated meats; brown, long grained rice; spicy red stews; flat breads; and that rich, gelatinous dessert I loved so much.” Which sounds like a great dinner to me.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:12:39
It does. It kind of reminds me of like when I traveled to like Iceland. And it would be like, when we were doing like a bus tour, you’d stop at gas stations, convenience stores and just have dinner there. And it was like yeah, fish soup everywhere. Lamb stew. Like, what’s in it? Who could say? Tastes good. So, but so this, this whole, you know, unspecified dessert in particular made me think of… There, there are two works that came to mind. One of them is Julie Czerneda’s Trade Pact Universe. The first book is called like, I think Thousand Words for Stranger where instead of coffee they have some a it’s clearly coffee or tea like it’s the thing you have with caffeine in it. And then Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksennarion—which strange, strange big book—it had “sib”, s-i-b was its coffee-ish beverage of choice. And I, I don’t know. I’m just so tickled pink every time I’ve like, “You, you could have just called it coffee. You honestly could have. No one would have been offended or felt like we were less in fantasy world or space world if you didn’t raktajino it or whatever.” So anyway, I love that sort of thing. It making this sort of very common thing, slightly alien and strange and foreign without going so far as like to indulge in a weird exoticism, I think. This just tickles me pink.

Lucy Arnold 1:14:21
I also loved that scene and had already had it highlighted because it was… I mean, I liked the book and I liked Binti but I knew in this part, we were good, because this is the part where she, she keeps the chicken wings and the turkey leg and the three sticks of beef and the bread and the oranges and the bladders of water. And then, “Then I slid a slice of milky white milky dessert on my tray. I did not know its name, but it was easily the most wonderful thing I’d ever tasted. Each bite would fuel my mental well-being and if I were going to survive, I’d need that especially.” And I was like, girl, you get your dessert. Nobody’s judging you. You do not have to rationalize this.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:15:01
It’s good.

Lucy Arnold 1:15:02
Loved it.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:15:03
Did, did y’all note down the smoked fish? So the meal that Okwu brings her is smoked fish. And it describes the fish as the color of the Khoush, which is interesting to me.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:15:26
And she, when she gets on board, she asks—this is all in flashback, all that nonlinear stuff—she asks the chef’s what their killing process is for the fish. And they’re like, “Don’t worry, we killed it humanely,” which apparently is a thing that Himba care about but the Khoush don’t. Which is an interesting inversion because one could assume that the Khoush are Muslim and would have, you know, Muslim—

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:15:54
Like halal?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:15:55
—meat slaughtering techniques. Yeah. And, but they’re like, for her, they make sure to kill the fish humanely, but they don’t… they’re not as good at removing the bones as the Himba are. The Himba have a mathematical process for identifying where all the bones in every fish are to remove them without disturbing the body.

Lucy Arnold 1:16:21
Is it time?

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:16:22
It’s time.

Lucy Arnold 1:16:27
When I was a wee girl, a teen…

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:16:34
Wow. We’re getting a flashback right in the episode.

Lucy Arnold 1:16:39
I have a very vivid memory of the first time as I was perusing the Monster Manual for the first time, when I was in high school. I had just started playing—

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:16:51
The D&D sourcebook?

Lucy Arnold 1:16:52
Yeah, the D&D Monster Manual, and the page with the beholders. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, this is… I love this. This is, yeah, this is my jam.”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:17:07
You want to describe what of a beholder looks like?

Lucy Arnold 1:17:08
A beholder is like a giant eyeball with… I’ll say, little arm/tentacles all around it. I think there’s eight of them.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:17:18
They’re like eyestalks, right? Like, they’re tentacles with an eye on the end of each one.

Lucy Arnold 1:17:21
Yeah, well, I mean, you know, most, like Earth, jellyfish, or cephalopods have some kind of sensory device, element on the end of their tentacles, which is also true in Binti.

Lucy Arnold 1:17:39
Anyway, all of that is to say, I’m really love tentacle shit. And so this book was amazing. I mean, it was really gory with all the murders and stuff, but I love, I love Okwu, and I love all the descriptions of the Meduse.

Lucy Arnold 1:18:01
And just so I can avoid just, I don’t know, talking about hentai or something, I’ll just say that there’s a history of cephalopods in science fiction, and this kind of representation of the nonhuman other. So this emerges from I think, a sort of science science fiction tradition. You can think about Jules Verne, which I think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea isn’t exactly science fiction, but it’s kind of science fiction. HG Wells also had, in fact, I think they may use the word “Medusa” in describing the aliens in War of the Worlds. Then there’s, I mean, HP Lovecraft is racist as hell, but Cthulhu, I think, figures into our cultural imagination. And it’s because there’s tentacles. And then, you know, even in more modern representations, my favorite movie—which I’m sure is struck—is Arrival, which is also about cephalopods, that are that nonhuman other. So I think there was just… I think tentacles are perfect. They, like they, in science fiction, like represent a body shape that is nonhuman. It’s very noticeably and distinctively nonhuman, but also is very sensory-focused. In Binti you know, you see the way they… I think she says they smell with their tentacles, they see her through smell through their tentacles. They also can use them violently, which we see in the massacre, massacre scene. And, and, and they’re really just swell, so I loved… I loved the tentacles.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:19:57
The, the scene in which she discovers that her hair has become tentacles is really cool. So because like, the implication, I guess, is that she’s sort of been in denial about it because there’s there’s a few brief mentions in the narration of, like, her hair tangling weirdly. But like, it’s like, after she’s given the speech, after everything, she kind of like collapses in relief. And that’s when maybe she accidentally rubbed some of the otjize off her, her hair, and they’re like, blue, pulsating, moving on their own, able to sense, able to feel, tentacles in place of her hair.

Lucy Arnold 1:20:40
Can you imagine? Aaaah!

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:20:43
And if you look at Himba, modern day Himba hair, they… It looks interesting. It looks distinct from a lot of the locs that you’ll see people wear, a lot of the plaits that you’ll see people wear in other cultures. Because the ones that I’ve seen, they’re… The way people wear their hair seems to be based on social standing from what I can tell from modern day folks. In the book, they plait their hair in weird, like, geometric mathematical patterns that are implied to be part of the kind of the Himba ability to harmonize and do cool math. But it, from what I’m able to gather, young Himba women will have most of the plait covered in otjize. And then at the end of the plait, at least for some of them, there’s like this spray of hair that’s like this almost fan-like bush of hair at the end of, a few inches. And it’s interesting to me to think about, like, how that is distinct in structure from a tentacle. Like, the tentacles presumably end in… They’re jelly fishy tentacles, right? So they might have like ruffles and stuff on them, but they probably end in a point. And the distinction between how her hair would have been with the, you know, the end of a plait—she doesn’t have locs, she has plaits that are braided. And so there there would be that end, that fringe that’s on any plait. And that maybe is like some modern day Himba where it’s, it’s this spreading bush, and then that’s gone. When, when you’ve got a tentacle there. Is, is, it’s interesting to think about, like the intricacies of that change.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:22:29

Lucy Arnold 1:22:32
And wouldn’t Okwu be such a nice friend?

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:22:35
I mean, once you got past the initial murders…

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:22:40
Yeah, he did kill her first crush, and some stuff like that.

Lucy Arnold 1:22:43
Not personally.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:22:48
I don’t know, maybe? I don’t, I don’t know that it’s clear how many of the kids Oklwu killed; the other kids, because Okwu is, is a teen also. So you talked about how tentacles are classic sci-fi. I want to talk about another thing of classic sci-fi: Clark’s three laws. So Arthur C. Clarke, classic sci-fi artist, classic sci-fi author. Probably problematic in some ways, as all those old men of sci-fi are.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:23:17

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:23:17
But a whole lot of people know about…. So he did… 2001 is probably his best known work. That’s some cool stuff. I like Rendezvous With Rama. But he has a set of three laws, a third of which a lot of people have heard: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Which we talked about magic and mysticism a lot. But that’s the third law. And these are all kind of like these aren’t like, recommendations. These are just observations of tropes that appear in in sci-fi.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:23:50
The first two have to do with the possible and the impossible. So the first one is: when a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something’s impossible, he is very probably wrong. So that’s, that’s talking about the classic like if a scientist like, “Well, it just may be that we can adjust the harmonics and cause us to be able to communicate with these people,” like, scientist is always right about that, or usually right about that. But if the scientist is like, “That’s impossible! You can’t communicate with people using that ancient device,” the scientist is wrong. And that happens here in an interesting way, where the professor comes up to her and is like, “What you did is impossible.” But the professor isn’t like, “You were lying about what you did.” The professor’s excited. The professors like, What you did was impossible and I really excited to see how it happened!”

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:24:42
And then the second law is: the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. And we talked about like utopian ideals and the idea of somehow being able to empathize with people enough to make violence stop. And as a pacifist, I am very conscious of the fact that like, boy, howdy, pacifism doesn’t always work. And sometimes it feels like violence must be done. Is necessary and definitely is tactical in some situations, right? Like, sometimes, in order to prevent violence, you must commit violence, because in that moment, or you know, in that war or whatever, there’s not an opportunity to talk it out. But with the empathizing that happens that, that Lucy talked about like, that is an attempt to do the impossible. Like this book is about Binti, a 16 year old girl who has just seen all of her friends killed, is thirsty and starving, and has no way of communicating with these people that she’s been told her monsters her whole life, tries to communicate with them, tries to do the impossible, succeeds, and then keeps trying to do the impossible and keep succeeding. And it’s just like, this is a classic structure of sci-fi.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:26:06
And we didn’t mention this, I don’t, at any point, because I think we all agree, fuck them. But this book was the subject of a lot of people talking it down when it was up for awards. This was the season of the “sad puppies” and the “angry puppies”. Where a lot of… a lot of racist and sexist people were like, thought that there were too many—I’m high level summarizing here—thought that there were too many women and brown people and queer people that got stories in. And, and, like, you know, all their criticisms was like, “Why was this story picked?!” and so on. And like Binti is just a classic sci-fi story about a kid who goes off into space, and figures out how to talk to aliens and makes friends with them and then gets to do cool sci-fi shit. Like, it’s such a, like, the cultural stuff is interesting of her being from the Himba people, and, and the sort of interesting cultural intricacies of all that. But like, from a narrative standpoint, you know, it’s just, she tries to do an impossible thing and figures out how to do it like a plucky youngster. And it’s cool.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:27:22
So why shouldn’t it be up for all the awards, right? Like… I don’t know.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:27:25
I mean, it’s a great book, like, right? Like, it’s, it’s, it absolutely is deserving of, of all sorts of awards now. It’s kind of one of those perfect novellas where it’s like very digestible, very readable, a lot to dig into and think about and remember, and all that good shit.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:27:47
This makes me think of something. When we were talking earlier about sort of what is magic in this book and what isn’t… There are people who, for whom the distinction between sci-fi and fantasy is science or magic. And this story is having none of it. And it makes the… whatever is happening, the mechanisms, so intrinsic to the story, that you don’t get to pretend that it’s… It’s not useful to pretend—the book doesn’t let you pretend—that it is all just one or all just the other. And you don’t get to try and slice it in some sort of hyper-rational way. Like, whether it’s sufficiently advanced technology, or magic. You can’t, you can’t pull those out of the story. That’s that is what makes it not just a classic coming of age, is I think those cultural elements are core to this particular narrative. Like, obviously, the narrative structure is one thing but, and the archetypes involved, but… This story, you can’t pull those things out and, and have it be the same type of thing.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:29:08
Yeah, if you try to draw a line in the sand and say, like, well, all of these kind of Himba, traditional cultural things are the magic, the otjize, the edan, all of this, but then you’re confronted with the fact that like, she’s on a spaceship with a bunch of teens, and they all seem to be able to do hard equations that make electricity happen.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:29:28

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:29:29
Like they can all tree they can all do these these weird mathematical practices that seem to just be like magic spells, except math.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:29:41

Lucy Arnold 1:29:42
I’m sorry, I don’t… That’s what math is, right?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:29:45
I mean, yeah, from a certain point of view.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:29:49
Get the incantation right and…

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:29:51
Understanding the fundamental mysteries of the universe. I mean, Pythagoras certainly thought so. Like, math has only recently become not a universally mystical practice.

Lucy Arnold 1:30:03
I’m a literature professor. Just wanted to make that clear.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:30:09
Two computer scientists and the literature professor, and we all think math is magic. So that’s Binti. You want to take us away, Lucy?

Lucy Arnold 1:30:21
So what we’re gonna do is at the end of each episode, we’re going to pick the next thing that we are watching or reading based on a connection to what we talked about today. So that’s me. And I had a very difficult time with this. This has been 48 hours of lots of, of turnarounds and reversals. And I was going to… we were going to read a 250 page novel, but I’ve changed that.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:30:58
That’s not too bad. We could have done that.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:31:00

Lucy Arnold 1:31:01
Well, I mean, okay, well, I can still change. But I think I’m, I’m decided. So I was really interested in Binti about how, how people had to change in order to survive. I think Binti did, Okwu did, like, cultures do, people do. And, and I think a thing about this book that is fascinating is that relationship between language and thought.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:31:38

Lucy Arnold 1:31:38
Yeah, like, Vygotsky, Lev Vygotsky, a psychologist, talked about how the way we, we, that our thoughts, and then the language that we use, are, are inextricably related. It’s not like you have a thought, and then produce some language, which I think like, that’s sort of the way a lot of people think it happens, right? You just have some thoughts, and then boom, you produce some language. And Vygotsky argues that actually language and thoughts are… they have a really complicated recursive relationship. And I think Binti really gets at a lot of that in the way that Binti learns to communicate with the Meduse in this book. And I, at any rate, have chosen something I have not read, but I have heard a lot about it. And I have been wanting to read it for a long time. It is for a younger audience. It’s YA, so this is not for grownups and I don’t know if y’all are gonna like it. But I have selected Peter Brown’s, The Wild Robot.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:32:54
Interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard of it.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:32:56
I haven’t either.

Lucy Arnold 1:32:57
Um, check it out. Well, yeah. And then if we if how, depending on how long the writers strike goes, next time it comes around, maybe you will be reading a 250 page novel.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:33:10
Excellent. So that is presumably available from your local library or any online purchaser?

Lucy Arnold 1:33:19
If you can get it, because the kids love it. So you’re gonna have to probably get in line.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:33:24
Virtual line.

Lucy Arnold 1:33:26
The virtual line.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:33:27
So yes, next time—that would be October—we will be discussing The Wild Robot on Before the Future Came… unless the strike ends?

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:33:39
Yeah, if the strike somehow ends super quick, we might not. We’ll see. We’ll play it by ear. You’ll hear on this feed.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:33:45
Yeah, we do have a Star Trek episode recorded. It will sit until it is appropriate to publish. So you can find links in our show notes over at beforethefuture.space. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, you can comment there or write to us at onscreen@beforethefuture.space.

Lucy Arnold 1:34:09
I’m Lucy Arnold and I sometimes blog at intertextualities.com

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:34:15
I’m Gregory Avery-Weir and you can find me at ludusnovus.net Or on cohost, which I post to more often, at cohost.org/gaw.

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:34:27
And I am Melissa Avery-Weir. And I live at irrsinn.net. And on Mastodon at melissa@irrsinn.life. Our music is “Let’s Pretend” by Josh Woodward. It’s used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Thanks for listening.

Josh Woodward (singing) 1:34:46
I’m sure we’ll all live happily ever after
Surrounded by butterflies, children and laughter
It’s a fairytale story, so let’s just pretend
Hallelujah, amen, it’s the end
Happily ever after, the end

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:35:11

(raucous laughter from all the hosts)
Holy fuck!

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:35:13
That’s good though. That’s a very good…

Melissa Avery-Weir 1:35:17
Strong opener on the first episode.

Gregory Avery-Weir 1:35:26
Coming in smeared up, tentacles out.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai