The Way to Write the Other is Not To Make the Other Into You (Transcript)

[Listen here]

Raquel: Welcome to Rite Gud, the podcast that helps you write Good. I’m Rs Benedict. That’s my cat Harley, the whiniest cat in speculative fiction. Okay. Okay. Let me throw it. I’ll throw it, I’ll throw it. I’ll throw it for you. You little, you little jerk. Hey. No, he just slapped it outta my hands. Just slapped it right outta my hands. Go get

Karlo: Well, may, may, maybe that’s, that’s the new game.[00:01:00]

Raquel: Yeah. There’s a long tradition in western literature of exoticizing other cultures, particularly the east and the global south. And recently there’s been a major effort to undo all that, to de exoticize the way we depict other cultures. And that’s a step in the right direction for sure.

Stereotyping and dehumanizing people from other cultures is bad. However many writers, particularly in genre fiction seem to think that the way to fix exoticism is to homogenize every culture from every part of the world and every time period. Here to talk to us about this is Karlo Yeager Rodriguez, writer and nonfiction editor at Seize the Press Magazine.

Karlo: Thanks for having me

Raquel: you for joining me and my cat.

Karlo: Yes, thanks for having me back. And also, hello Harley.

Raquel: Hello. He’s in rare form this morning.

Karlo: yeah, I’m, I’m throwing stuff mentally in your direction, Harley, I’m sending the most [00:02:00] amount of toys in your direction, arcing, imperfect arcs, so you can chase them. But, we’ll see how well that works.

Raquel: We will see. So why don’t we get off the bat and try to define our terms on exoticism. What is exoticism? What does it mean to exoticize a person or culture in a work of art?

Karlo: I don’t have a, a great according to Hoyle definition of it. But in general, to your earlier, point in the intro, the way I’ve seen it is a steady moving away from, descriptions, like food descriptions for people’s, color of skin, like caramel or cinnamon or chocolate colored skin.

All of these things, put a certain frame on a, a marginalized person, which is that they’re consumable, right? Uh, what do you do with food? You eat it.

Raquel: you eat it and you poop it out.

Karlo: Yep. Pretty much.[00:03:00] There’s some homogenization for you. I think that the issue becomes, are these characters, are these representations of

a marginalized group, uh, are they being approached as people of them for themselves or are they sort of like an instrument to be the fulcrum that the, the usually white main character back in, silver and Golden Age fiction used to have, they become like the instrument for the, the main character to then act.

And I, I know that there’s, there’s older, stuff like I think that we’re probably gonna see, a ramping up again of this type of thing, the white savior complex as Dune part two comes out, because we, we got, we got plenty of that in the, the release of the movie. And, you know, it’s, it’s always been at a simmer within certain, groups of the Sff fandom.

I think that there’s [00:04:00] some merit to thinking of Paul Atreides, for instance as a white savior type of character. There, there’s an interesting thing to, I think it’s interesting to think about and to be cognizant of those traps. Do I personally think that Paul Atreides is a quote white savior?

I’m, I’m not so sure about that, but that’s another, that’s a, that’s for another episode. That’s for, that’s for your DUNC episode.

Raquel: Yeah. We should eventually do a DUNC episode, I suppose. Anyway, so yeah, some features of exoticization. Of exoticism. It’s reducing other cultures to shallow stereotypes and consumable objects, consumable items. There’s projecting weird fantasies, often sexual fantasies onto other people or other cultures, and fetishizing them.

There’s presenting other cultures as inherently alien and inscrutable as compared to our own [00:05:00] rational, normal, superior culture. So these are some features of exoticism and. These are super common features in, in art, in literature, in film. This is, this is not a new thing. This is not a new feature of literature.

And it’s ongoing since, since the beginning probably, and it’s not great. And so in response a lot more recently, there’s been a lot of discourse and an emphasis on not exoticizing people and on not portraying other people as these ooh, mysterious, strange, inscrutable, alien beings. And I definitely think like, yeah, that’s a good impulse, that’s a good thing to look at. Stereotypically portraying people, that’s, that’s shitty.

It’s, it’s really, really shitty. But I think a lot of writers, especially in these sort of geek fandom type areas, in, in, in pop culture have had this overcorrection, or their way of [00:06:00] correcting it ends up being more like, homogenizing

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: is where instead of exaggerating differences to the point of absurdity, you downplay them for fear of offending people.

And as a result, you have a lot of media where everybody everywhere kind of talks the same, thinks the same, acts the same. And by same, I mean they act like the, the boring, suburban, probably white author.

Karlo: I I would say, that this feels a lot like it’s, second wave intersectionalism. That sort of overcorrection that you’re talking about feels a lot like, the lingering effects of good rep. You can’t have, you can’t have, a person of color that’s a, that’s a villain unless you also have a sort of a good representation, a representation of a good person or a, you know, not villain, uh, on the other side of it and so on and

Raquel: need a Goofus and [00:07:00] Gallant.

Karlo: Pretty much. And, and that seems so, I mean, on the one hand, I think you’re right. I think it is a good, impulse. I think that the problem is that sometimes even within some of these stories, you end up getting, very much a token representation. Instead of, because then the rest of the cast, like you have to have, just to give an example, if you have a Latinx villain, you have to have exactly one, Latinx person in your team and, the rest of the team could be white or white adjacent enough, but, but there’s no other, representation on the good column of things, if you will.

Right? Everyone else is sort of white, and that’s not great either, right? You gotta, you gotta sort of, navigate that a little bit better. And, and part of that I think is easily solved by just making the rest of your so-called cast different marginalized [00:08:00] people. And that way you don’t ever really fall into that sort of, as you said, Goofus and Gallant, pros and cons, column type, uh, representation, which is not, not so great.

It’s a little ham handed.

Raquel: Mm. Yeah. Yeah. So there’s a fear. I’ve noticed something, and I think you’ve noticed this too in a lot of film, in a lot of sort of pop culture literature, there’s also a fear of even visiting other lands and other cultures, which is, it’s bad enough in literary fiction, but in sci-fi fantasy, it feels even weirder

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: where, I mean, these, these are genres that are supposed to be really imaginative, but they’re not really taking us anywhere or everywhere they take us kind of feels the same.

I, I guess my one example maybe might be Pixar movies where everything is an office, everything is like a software company office.

Karlo: Yeah. Hey,

Raquel: fun and cute at the, in the beginning, but now it’s like, [00:09:00] okay, another fucking thing where it’s just a white collar workplace setting. Again,

Karlo: look, uh, Raquel, reality as, as per Pixar in all of these movies is, it’s really just an interlocking set of bubbles, of workspaces and, uh, we just have to sort of live with that. That’s the way it works, you know? Life and death? Both workplaces with paperwork that you have to fill out.

Actually I wish that they would actually focus on paperwork, but, but that’s never really something that’s, that’s developed.

Raquel: Video games are workplaces

Karlo: In the inside to video games or

Raquel: the inside of a video game is a big workplace.

Karlo: Yeah, like Wreck It Ralph has to go to work. You know,

Raquel: Yeah. Just, oh, I, that’s cool. What if something that was fun wasn’t fun anymore?

Karlo: what if, what

if you, what you, what if your hobby was a job?

Raquel: Yeah. What if fun wasn’t fun? Like, no, but I like fun.

Karlo: Look, I gotta

Raquel: games [00:10:00] are.

Karlo: Raquel. We gotta, we gotta cut this short. I gotta go clock into my fun time. Okay.

Raquel: I gotta go work at the podcaster office. Oh boy. Yeah.

Karlo: Could you, oh my God. Could you imagine your HR department for your fun? Ugh. God.

Raquel: Yeah. Harley behind a desk wearing a little neck tie, yelling at me for throwing the toy insufficiently.

Karlo: Look, that’s adorable. But also, uh, Harley seems to be a really harsh boss.

Raquel: Yeah. He’s tough. He’s a micromanager.

Karlo: Or worse, he’s one of those managers that wants to do everything himself. But he wants you to do it.

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: No. You’re not throwing it the right way. I can’t give it to you. I don’t, don’t trust you enough to throw it.

Raquel: So, so a lot. I think a lot of getting back to it a little bit, but a lot of cozy fantasy definitely has this emphasis where instead of doing second world fantasy, it’s just like, well, what if, I mean it can, at the beginning, it can be kind of a cute idea. Like, oh, what if, you know, we do [00:11:00] the men in black thing where we’re, where we’re dealing with these strange creatures in a familiar setting.

But, but we’ve done that enough.

Karlo: Mm.

Raquel: We’ve done that enough and I’m tired of it

Karlo: Well, I

Raquel: and it’s not notable anymore. I’m thinking of like House in the Cerulean Sea where we’re just, okay, we got these fantastic creatures, but we’re dealing with it through mundane bureaucracy,

Karlo: Mm-hmm. Well, I, I also, I also think that, um, uh, one of the strands that touches and, and runs through this is the general, tenor of a lot of sff writing that assumes a very entry level approach. There’s so many writers that are writing for someone who’s never touched, for some hypothetical reader that’s never approached science fiction and fantasy.

So, so then you end up having these[00:12:00] i ideas that have been filtered and distilled to the simplest aspects of it. And never really trusting the reader to really put things together.

Raquel: Yeah, not, not getting real weird with it and compared this into something like Ursula K LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which just throws us right the fuck into this very strange alien world and just lets us go in there. Just, here it is. Here, here’s the planet. It’s made of ice. Everybody’s, everybody’s gender. Everybody’s got, A gender that we don’t got. The king’s pregnant. Here you fucking go. Or

Karlo: they, they use,

Raquel: before. We mentioned it before, Dune. It just, here’s some weird fucking shit. Here it is.

Karlo: Yeah. And, and, uh, I think Left Hand of Darkness is also a great one because it’s like, oh wait. They use, they, they sacrifice people to, to make mortar for a symbolic building. What, what’s going on here? What a [00:13:00] horrible place.

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: but it’s not approached with a moralistic view, right?

That’s sort of like thrown out there as a thing that this culture does and is the main character there. Genly Ai, who, who actually, to our previous sort of point, or adjacent to it, is that a lot of that sci-fi and fantasy, approaches things as sort of almost a travelogue type of, approach to adventure, right?

You’re visiting an exotic place. But LeGuin has sort of the chops to approach it from a anthropological viewpoint where she’s not casting any type of moral judgment on how the king of, what is it? Is it Karth? I forget the, anyway, the, the, the king there, you know, what he does and so on and so forth.

His goal is to just sort of be an ambassador and try to figure out how these people work.[00:14:00] And in that sense, he is not trying to impose anything. He’s in, in fact, receiving a lot of this culture. And it shows in the book because every other, like more or less for a great part of the book, every other chapter is interspersed with

sort of, uh, local folklore and how the, the culture approaches and how the culture talks to itself, right? These little folk tales and how, kemmering works and weird cautionary tales about, well, kemmering can happen between siblings and so on and so forth. And it’s, it’s sort of left for you to piece together exactly how that culture works.

Raquel: Right.

Karlo: so I, I do, I do find that, that, like, I don’t think that Left Hand of Darkness is without flaws, but I think that she does a good job of giving you a sense of place and a sense of who these people are.

Raquel: I think it’s worthwhile too that [00:15:00] the main character, or at least our viewpoint kind of human character, earth ish character, is not a, this perfect person. He, he gets frustrated with the culture because anyone experiences culture shock when you travel. That’s just what happens. But he’s kind of a dumbass sometimes himself.

He makes a lot of mistakes because he doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings very well. And there are some features of this Gethenian society that are kind of better than ours. Like they don’t have war, they just, they don’t have it. What? That’s pretty cool.

Karlo: It’s an offshoot of the fact that the, the two main actors on the planet do not really have a, a, a sort of monolithic state with a capital S. So therefore they, they don’t have war, they have these border skirmishes, if I’m remembering correctly. And as the, as the book progresses, as you [00:16:00] go through it, they’re sort of reaching a tipping point that has actually been, to a certain extent, been triggered by, uh, Genly Ai’s arrival.

Because the, the existence of something out there that they have been forced to now contend with, a larger force has sort of forced them to coalesce both of them into proto states. And now they’re sort of starting to gear up towards what Genly Ai would recognize as war.

Raquel: So there’s an example any way of sci-fi that is second world, going to another society, another culture that’s actually kind of interesting and playing it up and well, what, what are our big sci-fi fantasy stories today? We’ve got Legends and Lattes, which is what if a fantastic second world society ran a Starbucks?

Karlo: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Raquel: What if everything was Starbucks? Isn’t that exciting? Like, no, I find that actually pretty [00:17:00] depressing, to be honest.

Karlo: Well, if you want, you could check out the second one and the th I think there, uh, Baldry got like, three more books,

Raquel: yeah. That thing’s selling like hotcakes. I’m sure he got a very good deal, uh, for, to write more of ’em because


Karlo: There you go. That,

Raquel: selling great.

Karlo: Yeah, that, that’s another one. He opens up a breakfast joint, uh, Hauntings and Hotcakes. There

Raquel: Opens up an IHOP in Mordor.

Karlo: Well, you know, those orcs, they, they really like their flapjacks. What can I say?

Raquel: Yeah. They love ’em.

Karlo: but yeah, I, I do, I do think, like, I think, uh, Legends and Lattes for, for all that I, I don’t find Travis Baldry to be like an annoying,

Raquel: Yeah. I don’t think he’s a bad person. I don’t think he’s like a malign influence radiating evil, but his work doesn’t really, it doesn’t thrill me.

Karlo: Yeah. The comparison is, oh, it’s like a D and [00:18:00] D, uh, D and Deification, and, and that’s half true. I feel like it’s more, the feeling I’m getting is, is a lot more like, this is like World of Warcraft, which in itself, itself is a distillation of D and D ness, if you will.

It feels very sort of cartoony and cutesy, and trying to be funny and stuff like that. And, and I’m sure, I’m certain that some of the, those books are probably okay aggressively, okay. In fact, uh, but not, definitely not my thing.

Raquel: Like Starbucks. It’s okay.

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: It’s very okay. Your latte good? It was okay. All right.

Karlo: It’s got a lot of sugar in it, much like this plot.

Raquel: yeah, yeah. And again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with writing a a Starbucks orc story or something like that, but what I find a little worrying is this general tendency creeping in toward homogenizing every [00:19:00] culture, real and fake.

And there’s this idea that ho homogeneity is the ideal and in the real world, the idea of making cultures homogenous, like that’s not a good thing. That is extremely not a good thing. Complete assimilation is not really what we want. It’s, it’s not the same thing as diversity, because consider, okay, what are we assimilating to?

What are we becoming homogenous like? Well, we’re being homogenous like the dominant culture and what’s the dominant culture? Well, we, we know which one that is. So I find that a little troubling to see that tendency in, in so much of pop culture, some, so much of genre fiction. There’s a, even a fear of visiting other countries.

Not bad in, not just in the literature, but in real life too. Like Sff really avoids translated and foreign media while lauding white American [00:20:00] guys’ shallow takes on, say, a certain Japanese genre about giant monsters to, you know, I’m sorry, but to give Kaiju Preservation Society like a Hugo nomination while not giving a Hugo nomination to any Japanese kaiju media is kind of like, all right.

Really what’s going on there? Is, is, is Godzilla too exotic for you? Is it too inscrutable? Oh, this, I can’t handle these foreign avant-garde films like Godzilla versus Megalodon? I don’t know. It’s too hard.

Karlo: I feel like that book is a perfect example of what we’re sort of talking about, right? Because, in, in part, there’s no description of the, I’m presuming a, a diverse cast of characters, right? I think that there’s like a, I I, I forget if it’s like a Maori, there’s like somebody that’s

perhaps from the Indian subcontinent or Indian American or [00:21:00] whatever, several Asians, of different areas of Asia Southeast and, and whatnot. But there’s no description of them. They don’t have any specific personality quirks.

Nothing there that would necessarily give me a description. Anything that to sort of latch onto. We’re just given their names and, and that’s why I say I presume that they’re diverse because the only thing that I have to go on is their names that sound sort of, like Indian or Asian or you know, Japanese or Maori or what, what have you, and you’re sitting there going like, well, are they? Because I mean, you know,

Raquel: Or are they just like white suburbanites with hippie parents?

Karlo: That.


that’s my, yeah.

Raquel: “I’ll name my daughter Sati.”

Karlo: Right, right. And Sait is a great character choice there because as we discussed in our Pod side episode on Kaiju Preservation

Raquel: did not read this book. Fuck that.

Karlo: yeah. The perennial narrator for all of Scalzi [00:22:00] books, Will Wheaton decided to go? I, I don’t know why, but he decided to give him a, a strange accent.

And I’m like, but he’s like, from Montreal. What? you just give him a Canadian accent?

Or, or, or or, or No, no. I’m sorry. Not Montreal. Uh, from Quebec, I believe. Uh, but anyway.

Raquel: oh, what if, what if he’s a a virulent Quebec separatist?

Karlo: Right. Well, y that would be an interesting, that would be an interesting

Raquel: that would be a character trait. There’s no room for that in this book.

Karlo: oh. Could you imagine if he decided to, to plant his flag, on that other dimension and claim kaiju land in the name of Quebec?

Raquel: That would rock, but that would be interesting. So we’re not gonna fucking do that. Um,

Karlo: No, no, no. We, we, we need, we need to make sure that everything’s the literary equivalent of pink slime, so it can be made in many things.

Raquel: so we do have an allegedly diverse cast, but everybody talks the same. Everybody acts the same. As far as we know, everybody looks the same. Everybody has the same cultural touchstones. Everybody has the same sort of [00:23:00] interests. The, the same thing that they’re into. There’s no idea of different

media or anything like that. Everybody’s watching the exact same TV shows, listening to the exact same music, watching the exact same movies. Everyone’s the same. I don’t, I don’t really consider that diverse and I understand doing that because you’re afraid of stereotyping people. I get that. I’m not exactly interested in watching Scalzi at attempt to write in a African-American vernacular English. It,

it’s probably best that he avoids to try doing that,

Karlo: Oh,

Raquel: I’m not impressed.

Karlo: Yeah. Yeah. You wanna, you wanna, you want to hear something that, that’ll probably make you lose your mind.

Raquel: hell yeah

Karlo: So, so, my buddy is a big, super fan of everything, like Star Wars, MCU, all that good stuff. So he, he insists that I stay up to speed. So he put on, uh, what is it, Guardians of the Galaxy Three the other day, whatever, it’s, it’s again, aggressively fine.

Raquel: [00:24:00] Yeah.

Karlo: But, so one of the main plot points in the entire movie is the fact that there’s, there’s a villain called the High Evolutionary who is trying to make a new society. Brief aside, the High Evolutionary is played by I believe a Nigerian actor. Let me, let me look him up.

I’m hoping that I’m pronouncing that correctly. So he is a, a black man who is now the villain. And the High Evolutionary, if the name doesn’t tip you off, is basically a eugenicist, but he’s a eugenicist slash Dr. Moreau type who’s trying to make animals evolve into a perfect society, like animal human ish hybrids.

Right? Or not hybrids, but just simply evolve them fast so that they become human-Like. And so he, his whole thing is that he’s trying to make a new world that will be better than what we [00:25:00] have. Right. Okay. Setting all that aside, when they visit the new world, guess what it looks like? Raquel?

Raquel: Does it look like our world exactly?

Karlo: It looks specifically yes, but specifically it looks exactly like street upon street upon street of ranch houses that you’d find in middle American suburbia.

Raquel: Okay.

Karlo: This is the new world. They, they could have

Raquel: that, I’m being very generous and asking, could that be a commentary on suburban blandness? Like I’m being extremely generous in good faith here.

Karlo: I think there is, uh, there is something to be said about the uniformity of it. But also you could have gone with any, like, they spend so much time on the High Evolutionary’s quote base is basically just biotech. It, it’s, it’s all made of gooey, slimy, [00:26:00] fleshy stuff, uh, that they make, it’s a constant thing and

I guess they, they wore out their weirdness tokens.

Raquel: Uh, too bad.

Karlo: When we get to the new world, it’s just sort of like, well, yeah, that’s… but I mean also I think that the other commentary there is, the other thing that drove me up the wall was the fact that the High Evolutionary wants a planned society, but it’s obviously shown as bad.

You can’t do that. And it’s like, okay, what, who’s this for? What are we doing here?

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: It just seems weird. Uh, an odd choice. Let’s put it that way.

Raquel: All right. So there’s this overwhelming sameness in genre fiction where everybody kind of sounds the same. It’s, it, it creeps into dialogue too. I get that a lot of the old fashioned fantasy dialogue of like fake olden times English can be a little cringe, but I prefer it to having [00:27:00] a, a primary character in a second world fantasy

use words like “yeet” as as our friend of the pod, Mattie Lu Lewis likes to gripe about. Or reference memes in dialogue and cute little things like that, it kind of takes me out of it. And to me, the idea of wanting every character to be just like me is very anti diversity and kind of anti-empathy. It’s this idea that I cannot empathize or put myself in the shoes of someone unless they’re me, unless they’re the way that I am.

And I find that a little bit troubling. It. I, I don’t think that’s progressive at all. I think it’s very, very much the opposite. And this isn’t just genre fiction. I, I felt that I saw this in that movie, Women Talking. Like I was really hyped for the movie. It sounded really good. And then I watched it. This is a movie, Women Talking,

it’s loosely based [00:28:00] on a true story about women in this basically sort of super Amish separatist religious community who realized that the men of their community have been drugging them and raping them. And coming together and trying to work out, okay, what are we gonna do? What are we gonna do about this?

Are we going to stay with them and try to change the society we live in? Or are we just gonna leave and join the rest of normal, modern society? And I mean, great premise. I’m, I’m super into it. But the way the women characters in this movie talk, they spoke the way that a sort of mainstream American woman who’s been to therapy would talk. There’s a lot of talk about language causing harm.

They use the word harm to, “oh, I hope the way I speak didn’t harm you.” And these women are like mega Amish. They’re not gonna fucking talk like that. What was very odd is that they spoke very little in religious terms at all. [00:29:00] And again, this is a super religious community. They’re going to see everything through that lens of their particular subset of Christianity.

They’re going to see everything through lens of like sin and God and atonement and grace and forgiveness. And there’s very little of that in the dialogue. It’s all therapy speak. And it just took me out of the movie because I was excited to like get this weird sense that you’re peeking in on people who are, who are a bit different from you and see the world differently than you do because women in an isolated religious community will see the world quite differently from the way that I personally see it.

And they didn’t. And it was such a letdown

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: because, while I understand that it’s not great to exaggerate and exoticize differences, I think there’s beauty in seeing another culture, learning about another culture, getting to experience another culture, [00:30:00] visiting another place vicariously through art.

Seeing, seeing a different place that has a different mood, different atmosphere, different ecology, different way of life, different rhythm. is this a hot climate where people take siestas? Is this a brutally cold Scandinavian climate where people are emotionally icy as is their landscape? I wanna see more of that. And what I find beautiful is finding the commonalities against that difference. Of being able to see a commonality, not homogeneity, but seeing something in common in someone who has this very different culture and this different way of life and different way of looking at the world.

And that’s what I find exciting,

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: not just, ” we, we talk like suburbanites, but we eat different food.” There’s always the emphasis on food because it’s something that’s reasonably easily accessible to all of us. Anyone can order a burrito

Karlo: Or, or make or make really bad

Raquel: or make an abysmal [00:31:00] burrito. Hm.

Karlo: I think that, to, to your point, it’s, it’s one of these things where, I feel like it, it, it lacks specificity. It, it feels like, to a certain extent, like something like I, I have not seen Women Talking. But from what, what you’ve described, it makes me think that the process of even selecting who to interview for that, uh, was.

Done in a way that reflects some sort of resonance with whomever is on the writing, in the writing room and if the writing room doesn’t have a good slice of race and class and all those other intersections, you’re gonna end up having, a very, like you said, homogenized, upper middle class has at least one degree type of, feel like a tone to [00:32:00] it.

And perhaps even like you said, like the therapy speak and stuff like that. And I think there’s an, there’s a, a line, a, a very thin line to walk between on the one hand, exoticization and homogenization where you can sort of navigate it by offering very, lots of specificity in limited doses here and there.

I think I’d mentioned it in our, our Orc Gusano episode, but like it’s that weird Thomas Friedman. Who is awful, idea about like, anywhere that has a McDonald’s can’t go to war with the US or whatever. I’ll say that, to use that as a jumping off point.

Lots of places have McDonald’s. I mean, you can watch actually, YouTube videos of people trying out McDonald’s menus in different countries. And the thing about that that’s really interesting to me isn’t necessarily that there’s a [00:33:00] McDonald’s. It’s the fact that each one of those McDonald’s has sort of adapted itself to the local flavor.


Raquel: uh, the McDonald’s in China, they had ice cream that was like red bean flavor and cucumber flavor and stuff. Like, just little things like that.

Karlo: I believe there was a McDonald, I forget which city in India. I’m thinking of Mikey Chen. He visited a McDonald’s in India and they had like the ra, the, the McRaj or something like that. I loved it. It was so good. And also like a vegetarian type of patty and, you know, like just really great stuff.

I think that that’s fascinating because it is showing, yes, there is a McDonald’s in this place, but also that McDonald’s understands that these people like these types of things and they’ve sort of gravitated towards, yeah, we’re gonna give them a McDonald’s experience, but also a

with flavors and foods that they will actually like. That’s an interesting way to approach it.[00:34:00] I don’t think that everything needs to be the American McDonald’s way, where it’s just everywhere has a quarter pounder with cheese, like no.

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. Yep. So what I find exciting in art is not seeing one protagonist after another that’s basically me, but with a sword

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: or me, but with a really big gun or something. I get excited when I can share a weird feeling or sense of relatability with a character who’s wildly different from me in a wildly different context and a wildly different culture.

Someone who’s radically different from me and still get that sense of, ” I, I get it. I, I feel you.” I did not expect to feel any kind of kinship with a 19th century sailor aboard a whaling vessel, but I’m getting it. That feels really cool. And to me that’s a lot more exciting than, “ah, this character is me”

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: and talks [00:35:00] like me and has the same cultural references and the same social values that I have.

Like it’s a joy to watch a Kurasava film about a feudal era thief pretending to be a warlord and getting the feeling like, “oh, he is just like me for real! Oh, he’s just like me!” Like it is a really fun

Karlo: Yeah, well, I mean, uh, did you ever see, what is it, the Cave of Forgotten Dreams documentary? So, so they go to, I it’s not Lascaux. It’s the, it’s the other caves. And, it’s one of these things where you, you see these paintings and you go, “wow, that looks so modern. It looks like somebody today could have, could have done that.”

And like the idea that the many legged, uh, bison or, or whatever, that they, they drew on there, the idea that this is actually almost a modern art type of thing. They’re, they’re trying to portray motion and in, in fact, with the flicker of like torch or [00:36:00] firelight, you could actually, the, the play of light and shadow could actually give you like that almost animation feel to it, right?

Raquel: Right.

Karlo: you’re looking at it. These people also, especially women, I think is what they’ve determined, had all those little hand prints where they’d blown like ochre dust over their hands, so their hand prints stand out. Like all of these things, it’s such a human thing. And I feel like it was one of those moments where you’re moved because you can feel that connection to someone that lived, you know, 15, 30,000 years ago. And you’re like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I would do that.” You know, like you would want to tag your cave and say, “I was here, bro.

This was me.”

Raquel: yeah. “I drew this Birdman with the boner on the wall. What?”

Karlo: Yeah. “I, I, I crafted this insanely hippy and large breasted figure out of clay. What about it?”

Raquel: [00:37:00] Yeah, but you lose it when you turn it into the Flintstones, where it’s basically suburbia, you

Karlo: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, and, and I, I like, I, I understand that the Flintstones, was trying to go for that, basically it’s the cavemen, honeymooners, they’re riffing on it, but you know, like when people take that at its face value, you’re like, no, that’s, no. There’s too much of this already.


I gotta look for other books, man.

Raquel: right. So there’s something I wanna stress too. This homogenization doesn’t just apply to other contemporary cultures, it also applies through time with presentism. Presentism is a form of this. It’s viewing everything in sort of present day terms. Seeing everything through the lens of the present.

So one example is the way we might talk about the history of human sexuality and gender. A lot of, I think, well-meaning progressives talk about [00:38:00] gender and sexuality in ancient cultures, in the exact same terms we would talk about it today and they just didn’t see it back then. Like, you can’t really talk about queerness in ancient Greece or Rome because they, they didn’t have a concept called heterosexuality,

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: like it didn’t exist.

Their idea of sexuality as being “here is your orientation.” They didn’t have that. And it’s a little bit faulty to, to talk about, “oh, this, this guy was this way, this guy was that way” when like, they didn’t, they didn’t think in, in those terms. And their ideas of sexuality, of, I guess you could call it queerness, were so different

from how we are. So looking at an ancient Roman guy and going like, “ah, this guy is a, is a bisexual, chaotic bisexuals.” Please don’t do that. Please just please stop doing that unless you’re kidding. I mean, if you’re having a little bit of fun, that’s fine, but if that is your actual analysis, please fucking [00:39:00] calm down.

Which is why I get a little annoyed when people talk about the epic of Gilgamesh as like, “oh, they were gay.” well, gay didn’t exist exactly in ancient Sumer– which isn’t to say that men never had sex with other men. Like, come the fuck. Of course they did. But the concept of of being gay was just not some that, that, that’s just not how they saw things


Karlo: Well, yeah, I, I think that there is probably a lot more fluidity, to whatever your, your sexuality was back in the day, and it, it became much more, my, my impression is that, what is this, like the Victorian from the Victorians onward? I don’t want to place all the blame on, on England, but fuck them.

Raquel: Fuck England man. It’s okay.

Karlo: I hadn’t really thought of it until recently that a lot of this idea of identity only really ossifies and coalesces around ideas of markets and who you can sell stuff to, right. [00:40:00] This isn’t to say that identity is like a sham or anything like that.

It’s just simply to say that it can be used in very specific and not, helpful ways simply because somebody wants to sell you specifically X identity a, a thing that will appeal to you and only you.

Raquel: Right, right. And this, um, this applies to our approach to art and not identity too, like the very, very, very shallow idea, “superheroes are just modern myths.” Like, oh, shut the fuck up. Or “Dante’s Inferno is fanfic” when the concept of fandom, the concept of I intellectual property did not exist 400 years ago, or whenever the fuck Dante wrote that, like, no, shut the fuck up.

Karlo: The main thing that people using that as sort of like a little gotcha, failed to grapple with is the fact that. Okay, sure. Okay. If we wanted to approach it seriously from that point [00:41:00] of view, right? It’s not the same thing because, the way that fanfic is happening now is very different than what Dante was doing, which is basically like a, a cultural export, right?

And that cultural export could be permeable within, within limits, right? So that you do actually get stuff from the outside affecting the quote canon of, of stuff and people arguing about what, what goes in and what goes out, and so on and so forth. Or going, well, who knows? Maybe both. But now because there is a definite monetary advantage and it’s all about enclosure of these ideas so that you can’t really express anything

that can make money and challenge the, the holder of this intellectual property rather than an idea specifically. You really can’t challenge anything like… i,

Raquel: Yeah, it, I, I [00:42:00] think the part about it that bugs me a lot is that it, it’s almost like a, a thought ender. It’s presented as, ah, “I’m making these deep connections, between the past.” But what it actually does is by saying, “oh, this thing is this thing that I already understand.” It’s deciding, “well, I don’t need to learn what this other thing is.

Then I don’t need to examine it. I don’t need to engage with a mindset, with a, with a way of looking at the world that’s different from the way I understand it. I don’t need to learn anything. I don’t need to learn anything. This thing is already this thing that I understand. Ah, this xiaolongbao, that’s a hamburger.

That’s all that is. I don’t need to learn, understand anything more about it. It’s this thing that I already understand. It is a subcategory of my thing that I already get.” and I, I, I find it, it seems like almost a thought killer, like a way to prevent fear, further curiosity or deeper engagement.

Karlo: And sort of embedded in that is the [00:43:00] implication that there is a, a, a myth of progress. You know, the arc of history only moves in one direction. It can never sort of cycle, there’s always progression to newer and more importantly, better things.

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: That, that where we are now is the best thing, and everything in the past has been moving towards this moment. And if you actually study history, it’s like “Mm. Does it though?”

Raquel: yeah. it’s, it’s more, more complicated.


Raquel: So let’s move on and talk about a topic that no one will get mad at us for discussing at all: interracial relationships in fiction. So this is definitely not a thorny subject, and I’m sure a lot of people won’t get mad, [00:44:00] but I, I think it’s worth examining this exoticism versus, homogeneity in terms of the way writers portray interracial relationships.

Now, the, the old way is usually very like conquistador white guy ends up with exotic disposable woman, and it’s fucking gross and shitty. But how much progress have we actually made? Because a lot of times I find the way that interracial relationships are portrayed in these allegedly progressive, present day stories kind of leaves me feeling like, eh, less than, less than excited.

You and I have both noticed this. When we, when it comes to mixed race relationships or mixed race characters, so often it’s the person’s half white or the relationship’s half white. The idea that two non-white people who are different kinds of non-white might get together is like, no,

Karlo: Mm-hmm. I, I, I wanna say that when [00:45:00] I’ve seen it, seen the two non-white, or non-American white, if you will, uh, characters, get together, whatever, it’s presented as sort of problematic or, or an example of how that culture, that other culture is bad,

or, or or wanting. I, I’m thinking specifically of, um, Oh shit.

Is it Tia Carrera who’s in, Rising Sun, the amazingly xenophobic and, and, anti-Asian film Rising Sun? She is presented as a Japanese, the daughter of a Japanese and a black serviceman who was stationed there.

She is also, if I’m remembering correctly, disabled, like she has a, a physical disability on, in one arm.

She’s there only to show that, that for all the, the love of Japanese culture and Japanaphilia, which is, sort of like the flip side of what we’re talking about. It’s, it’s sort of like being too too [00:46:00] much of a weeb can actually be a, as, as bad as being a bigot.

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: She’s there simply to show that this Japanese culture isn’t as great as everyone thinks it is, because they treat her badly because they’re anti-black, as if, and this is, this is happening on US soil. So, sort of a bit of irony there. Mr. Crichton. Thank you. Thank you for that.

Raquel: I’ve noticed this is very striking when it comes to Indigenous characters. It’s so common when an Indigenous character is in a book written by a white author. They’re often like half white, quote unquote, which the idea of being half white, half Indigenous is kind of questionable too. Most Indigenous nations tend not to think of membership in terms of like what percentage of blood is

this, what percentage of blood is that? It’s more about what community you, you belong to. There’s this phrase, uh, “blood quantum” that most indigenous nations reject . It’s a very eugenics [00:47:00] based way of determining your identity. And it was kind of designed by these majority white governments to end up slowly eliminating who gets to be called Indigenous in the census in order to weaken this identity as a political movement.

So first of, first of all, the idea of like half Indigenous, half white just kind of like, eh, I don’t, a little iffy in the first place, but there’s this, I, I think it carries this idea that someone who’s full Indigenous is going to be too exotic and inscrutable to like connect with

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: almost, which a, again, we’re talking about people raised in, in modern North America, like, “oh no, they listen to too much Fleetwood Mac. I can’t understand them.” Like it’s fine.

Karlo: It, it reminds, it reminds me of that scene that, that little dialogue scene in Big Trouble Little China, where Kurt Russell’s character, Jack Burtons goes like, “uh, do any of these guys savvy English?” He’s like, “what’s up with this guy? Yeah, of course I do.” Well, [00:48:00] Chinese guy goes, “of course. I live in America.

You dumb ass.”

Raquel: And again, I’m not saying that you are, I’m not, I’m looking at tendencies and not every instance, I’m not saying that every time you a white writer, writes a character who’s like mixed Indigenous white, “ah, you, you did a, you did harm by writing this character this one time.” No, it’s just, it’s a tendency I kind of notice in books written by white authors and I think this is worth examining as a trend.

Not on an every single case of this is bad, but, okay, why is this such a tendency?

Karlo: Yeah. Yeah. It is strange because, one of the more prominent authors right now, Rebecca Roanhorse, is, is, black and indi Indigenous, if I’m remembering correctly. And forgive me if I, I, I get this slightly wrong, but I believe she was adopted by, by an Indigenous, tribe and raised that way.

And, and to your earlier point, yes, the whole point [00:49:00] here is not who your mom and dad were. It’s about connections and continued relationships within that community. Because if, if you leave the community and don’t ever really, don’t ever really sort of engage with it, then

they, they’re not gonna recognize you either. You know? I believe that



Raquel: doesn’t really matter what your skull is shaped like.

Karlo: Yeah,

Raquel: That’s not really what it’s about,

Karlo: that was one of the points that I, I would concede in, you remember the, the whole thing about the Frida Kahlo, a couple of years ago where, she was wearing indigenous clothing and so on and so forth, but she had never really had a continued relationship with those indigenous communities.

There is room to talk about, like, well, is that appropriation? What, what was her point there? And is that a good one or a not? And in general, like, if you’re not really related and you have no continued relations with those [00:50:00] communities, yeah, I, I would probably argue, yeah, it’s probably appropriation.

Although, you know, like.

Raquel: Although there’s a different historical context, I think, too, to the time when she was doing it,

Karlo: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I, I think that her project was slightly different and, and, but, but not, not without its problems, let’s put it that way.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. But I, I like, it’s different from, I, I think like a suburban woman named Karen buying like a dream catcher to hang on her, to hang on her rear view mirror and be like, “I’m a, I got a Cherokee great grandma.” Like

Karlo: Her,

Raquel: specifically it’s always the Cherokee great grandma. It’s never any other,

Karlo: Well, uh,

Raquel: and it’s the woman too.

It’s, it’s never like a male ancestor cuz those are too scary.

Karlo: it’s, it’s your, it’s your, uh, Juicy brand Kente cloth. Uh,

Raquel: Yeah, it’s.

Karlo: I don’t know. It, it’s, it’s weird and I think that, Especially in a lot of audio visual media, like TV shows, movies and stuff like that. You do actually have, have that [00:51:00] tendency to see that most mixed race pairings are a lot, a lot of the times half white, uh

Raquel: and a lot of times it’s like a white dude and still we, we don’t get a lot of pairings that are white woman, black man. I don’t know why. I have no idea why. It is a mystery,

complete mystery to me.

Karlo: I, or let me, let me ask you. Um, I can’t seem like I’m blanking right now, but Asian man, white woman.

Raquel: Um,

Karlo: Yeah. I’m not so sure

Raquel: I’m bla I’m sure there’s some, I’m sure there, there’s gotta be. But, but,

yeah, there’s a lot, a lot in terms of how these cultures are stereotyped as like either hyper masculine or there’s this way people kind of stereotype Southeast Asian cultures as being a little more feminine.

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: like, oh, uh, an Asian man with a white woman, he’s not man, kind of is the stereotype a little bit, which is, which is some real bullshit.

Or, oh, this, “this culture’s too manly. It’s, [00:52:00] it’s too scary for the white woman.” Like

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: the, the conclusion is that white women are too precious to be with anybody else. Um, but very a feature of these that I noticed too, a lot of the times in these portrayals, the interracial relationship does not deal with the reality, which is that you are going to be dealing with your partner’s culture and family.

They kind of, “here we’re gonna stick a diverse character in here,” but there’s no confronting the fact that hey, these two people might have different expectations for a relationship, different expectations about how a man is supposed to act, how a woman is supposed to act, how a married person is supposed to deal with their family or their, their in-laws.

Like your partner might be from a culture where you have these very big, rambunctious extended families and there’s a real sense of interdependence and there’s a real sense of everybody’s kind of together versus the very waspy, everybody’s [00:53:00] hyper, hyper individualized. Here’s the nuclear family, you don’t really meet your cousins, so on and so forth.

And it, the non-white character just sort of cleaves to the sort of white culture’s expectations. And that’s that.

Karlo: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Or it’s, it’s, it’s handled as like a “ha ha. Isn’t that funny? They do this in this strange way.”

Raquel: Yeah, “isn’t that crazy?” And not like, “wait, actually this fucking rocks. Why don’t we do it?” Like, uh, we’ve got a, a family friend, a a white Jewish guy who married a Chinese woman. When they had their first kid, his mother-in-law moved in with them for a year because that’s what you fucking do when you have a grandkid.

Grandma moves in and, and helps raise the kid because it is terrifying and difficult to be a new mom. And there’s a culture of interdependency and interconnectedness. And grandparents play a huge role in raising the grandchildren. So they, he had his mother-in-law [00:54:00] living with him for a year, and he fucking loved it.

It was great. Why don’t we do this?

Karlo: I think that that’s, that’s an interesting thing about current, I would say US and US adjacent, or maybe even Anglo culture, is this idea of the nuclear family. When I think the rest of the, the rest of the world mostly is perfectly fine and quietly have continued to adopt extended family where you, you have older generations or like an old uncle or maybe even somebody that’s a little, like they’re too old to take care of themselves or they’re a little too sick to take care of themselves.

They move in with you, but they also help out, in, in certain ways. So yeah, it, it is, it is a very strange thing, a very artificial, in especially the US the idea of this nuclear family, because it, it, it totally atomizes you. And, and like you said, the immediate thing that I thought of when, you have [00:55:00] your, your mom’s mom, uh, move in or whatever, she teaches her daughter how to be a mother through that phase of her life, right?

This is how we did it. This is, take what you want, leave the rest, that type of thing. Of course, sometimes there’s a, there’s some bickering. It’s, it’s fine.

Raquel: Oh, of course. I mean, yeah, there, there’s, there’s gonna be, you know, generation gaps and, and, and things like that. But, that sounds really, really nice for a new mom to have somebody who has been through this before to just help out and be like, “you go lie down. Go lie down. I’m I’ll cook. It’s fine.” Just take care of it.

It’s, that sounds really nice versus the hyper isolating way that women are expected to raise children in, in North America where it’s like, “bye, fuck you. You’re alone now.”

Karlo: Yeah, yeah,

Raquel: Not, not, not just alone raising your kids, but also if you were a career woman, you went from someone who [00:56:00] spent all day talking to other people, doing things to , it’s just you IN a house with a person who can’t talk all fucking day and you’ve got shit on you now.

Like, yeah, no sh no shit. They’re not handling it well

Karlo: yeah, who can’t talk and depends, like their life depends on you

Raquel: and cannot articulate their needs.

Karlo: Well, they can articulate it in one way.

Raquel: Just by screaming

Karlo: yeah. Oh, it’s like, Harley.

Raquel: Like Harley, basically.

Karlo: What, what we’re, what we’re having here is a, is a struggle to communicate between you and Harley. Uh,

Raquel: Like it just the, the idea that actually maybe the way this other culture does things isn’t just wacky and silly and funny. Like maybe they, maybe they got the right idea there. Man, that sounds pretty fucking good. Maybe they’re onto something here.

I, I find that that’s not often present in these, uh, interracial narratives. And I wanna really wanna stress that queer narratives, queer feminist narratives [00:57:00] are not free of this. Oh boy. They’re not free of this. A lot of queer white women feminists almost see themselves as rescuing women of culture from their quote unquote inferior, you know, ‘far more misogynistic and queer phobic cultures and families’

a little bit. There’s this expectation that like, well, if I’m a queer woman, chances are I might not have a great relationship with your family. Which, which I’m not blaming. That’s not just purely cuz of Anglo culture. Yeah, if you’re queer, you might not have a great relationship for your family cuz your family might be really intolerant.

So I, I find that a lot of queer white women authors tend to write these interracial relationships where it’s just a given that like, oh yeah, the, the other person also doesn’t have family ties. Well, maybe they do. Like maybe they have a fraught relationship with their family, but they still have a strong tie to their family, because that’s just what you fucking do in their culture.

Even, even if you, your parents are not super on [00:58:00] board, maybe you still remain really, really strong ties to them because that’s just what you do. You do not cut off your parents. You, you just fucking don’t do that in some cultures unless they, even if they like try to murder you, you do not go no contact. Um,

Karlo: Well, I hear, I hear visitation rights at prisons, uh, are, are still open. So

Raquel: yeah. Yeah. Like, you do not, it’s just not done. But I, I. I don’t think there’s an awareness of the fact that you might still be dealing with their culture and, and you have to kind of figure out a way to navigate with this. It it’s almost like, “yeah, I have this really cool thing that shows how I’m racially as well as genderly and, and sexually progressive and I don’t need to deal with the inconvenient parts of it.”

It’s like I “look at this Pokemon I collected” almost. I’ve definitely seen that in a couple of book. I’m not gonna name names cause I don’t fucking need that, people screaming at me over [00:59:00] that. But I’ve definitely seen that more than a few times and unfortunately that, that the author is a queer woman can be used as a defense shield against this issue that… or, or, And, and this is something that’s kind of personal to me too because I, I’ve mentioned this before, mom’s Puerto Rican dad’s a super, super white guy, so Yeah, you will, it is a very interesting contrast of how one side of the family deals with each other versus how the other side of the family deals with each other, or, or even just interacting, like how common it is for a Puerto Rican family to just roast the shit out of you.

Karlo: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I

Raquel: they just roast each other so much in ways that like, I’m, I’m just thinking, the dad’s side of the family, you’re, you’re not gonna fucking do that if you do that. It’s like, “this is abuse. I’m calling a therapist.” There it’s just take taken as a given. Like we will roast the shit out of you.

Karlo: Also, if you visit your, your, [01:00:00] uh, Latine, uh, relatives expect to be fed almost against your will.

Raquel: Until you cannot move. You’re gonna, you’re gonna roll out, you’re just gonna roll outta there. If there’s not food in your hand and your mouth, like there will be food in your hand and your mouth.

Karlo: Just, you know, or they’ll, they’ll, they’ll press a plate into your hands as you’re leaving. Even if you didn’t like,

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: expect to be sitting there and like, do you, do you want, do you want some wings? No, I’m good.

Raquel: Are you eating? Have you eaten? Have you eaten? You want some? You want some food? I’m fine. I just ate. Jesus Christ. I just ate,

Karlo: yeah.

Raquel: I just ate a, a portion of pernil that’s bigger than my head. I can’t, I, there’s no more mo room.

Karlo: No, no. Come on here. Little, little fruit cup.

Raquel: Yeah. A little more. A little

Karlo: they, they, they just keep on going down the list to make sure that they’ve checked off every No, and even then here’s a plate.

Raquel: yeah. Like,

Karlo: Also, uh, to, to a cultural thing that, that [01:01:00] also ties in with, the whole climate thing that you were talking about earlier. Like I’ve mentioned it before on Pod side, but a lot, there’s so much, I, I’ve seen a lot of people roll their eyes as like, “oh, look at those weirdos.

There’s a hurricane coming in. Instead of getting ready, they’re out having a party and giving food, cooking up food.” And it’s like, yes, because one, they’re probably expecting electricity to be out for several, you know, like a week at least. So you better cook up everything that you have in your freezer.

And since you can’t eat it all yourself, you might as well throw a party and give it to your neighbors because you might need, need to depend on them to

Raquel: Oh yeah. Yeah. If you’re, if you’re in, in deep shit, you, you sure hope that you gave your neighbor some tasty snacks last week. They’re way more likely to help you out. God.

Karlo: And, and that’s just like such, such a weird thing. It, it didn’t dawn on me, how expensive living in Puerto Rico [01:02:00] was,

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: that it’s a tropical climate. I mean, apart from like the, the taxing and all that good stuff, I’m just talking about just the general climate is subtropical climate.

It’s 80 plus degrees throughout the year basically. And if you, you can leave fruit or any food on the counter, it’ll be rotten by the end of the week.

Raquel: Yep. Yeah. You do not leave. You do not leave a butter dish on the counter.

Karlo: oh, no,


Raquel: You put that shit in the fridge, it’ll be rancid in an hour.

Karlo: it’ll, yeah. Or, or you’ll just end up with melted butter with a bunch of fucking, yeah. Like a puddle of butter plus a bunch of fruit flies and other gnats and shit in it. So you can’t cook it. You gotta just throw it away. Go buy yourself some more butter. You dumb ass.

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just in, in general, it’s if you are in an intercultural or an interracial relationship, [01:03:00] you’re going to have to deal with these different expectations. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s a wonderful thing. But I, I find it frustrating how rarely that’s portrayed or how rarely that’s portrayed.

Well, it’s just, look, “we got this person who’s different, pat yourselves on the back. We’re progressive. Here’s an interracial relationship that doesn’t engage with any of the realities of it.” And I mean, like, not just, oh, dealing with family gatherings. There’s this TikTok trick, uh, TikToker I like named Uyen Ninh. She’s a Vietnamese woman living in Germany and she has a German, fiance and she does a lot of videos.

They’re really cute and really kind of sweet about the different expectations for men and women and for relationships. Like when in the relationship do you tell some the other person that you love them?

Karlo: Mm-hmm.

Raquel: For her it’s super early on. And for a German, you don’t fucking say, “I love you” within like, uh, two months of meeting someone.

It’s like, what? No, Jesus, you no,

Karlo: you [01:04:00] do not say that until 10 years have

Raquel: don’t, you don’t do that. And or the Vietnamese background for her. The fact that you don’t say that early on, it suggests like you’re not serious about the relationship, that you’re just a Playboy or something, or “Oh yeah, we’ve been together for a little while. It’s time for you to meet my parents and talk about your future.”

Like, “but, but we haven’t, we’ve only been together a few mo–” “you just have to fucking do it. Also, pretend we’ve never had sex.” ” But we’re in our thirties.” “Just pretend. Just, just pretend we sleep in separate rooms.” “We live in a one bedroom apart–” “Just fucking just do this for me. I need you to do this for me, please.”


Karlo: We, we are the fucking Brady Bunch my parents. We are the Brady Bunch. Okay.

Raquel: We sleep in separate bedrooms. Tell them this. Like,

Karlo: that’s, that’s actually not a, not, that’s not an actual good example. The Brady Bunch, I think was the first televised show that had, the parents sleeping in the same bed.

Raquel: Ooh. And it was a second marriage too, so like, I don’t, wow.

Karlo: Both

Raquel: How [01:05:00] radical. Yeah. Um. Please, for the love of God, I’m, I’m begging you white queer women to stop seeing yourselves as the saviors of, of queer women of color. Please stop fucking doing this. Oh, please stop doing that. It, it’s not progressive. It’s very much a continuation of that old Victorian idea of uplifting, quote unquote inferior cultures and doing missionary work and shit like that.

It’s just phrased in a more progressive way. And, and I, and I think in general, the way that white queer women talk about women of color as it’s, it’s, it’s a little fucking weird. I, I don’t like it

Karlo: mm. I would also say that perhaps last little point, I guess is this also this idea that, and, and you get this a lot in, in fantasy where you have half fantasy race, half human,

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: and, [01:06:00] and somehow the half, whatever, half orc, half elf, whatever, has to then sort of decide whether they’re one or the other.

And it’s like, what if they’re both? And that’s great.

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: Like, it’s such a weird thing too. I, I, I, thankfully I haven’t seen that often now, but it is something that, that’s, that I think about a lot, especially in these fantasy, like high fantasy narratives. It’s such a weird thing. You can be both, it’s fine.

Raquel: Yeah, it, it’s fine. It’s fine. It it, it comes across as this idea that cultures can’t really integrate in a way, which is very strange.

Karlo: Or, or synchronize, right? This idea that you can create an almost third culture from the two that have joined. Right? And I think that that’s sort of what we’re, what we’re talking about now, is this idea that you can, as I was mentioning earlier, you [01:07:00] can take what, what works and you can leave the rest and you can make your own culture that’s made up of parts of the two. Right.

Raquel: yeah.

Karlo: Uh, and, and that’s actually, like you said, it’s, it’s, it’s actually a beautiful thing. You’re, you’re creating a new thing

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: uh, is not necessarily beholden to I to the strictures of either of the other cultures,

Raquel: Yeah.

Yeah. And in, in in general, failure to recognize that, I think a lot of the issue is coming from the way we kind of see identity as this unchanging category you slot people into and not something a little bit more messy and permeable and, and shifting. And that’s the way we view race and culture as well as sexuality, as well as gender.

It’s seeing people as “this is a type, this is the slot I put you into” and not as, okay, you’re a person. Here’s how you interact with the world.

Karlo: Yeah. And, and I think that that sort of [01:08:00] definitely talks to that whole idea of like, oh, well now you, you clicked into place, into your identity. No, but it might change later.

Raquel: Yeah.

Karlo: It might move and shift. It’s not a Lego piece that has hard corners and edges that fit neatly into everything else.

Raquel: Yeah. So, uh, winding down. In conclusion, homogenizing anything, homogenizing everything is not better than exoticizing everything. You need a more nuanced approach to identity of every kind, and I’d really like to see a little bit more of that in art and especially I’d like to see more of that in genre fiction and less of a fear of the other.

The way to write the other is not to make the other into you.

Karlo: Yep. Yep.

Raquel: So, uh, winding down, we’ve been talking for about an hour. Before we go, Karlo, what would you like to promote?

Karlo: I am vibrating, waiting for, I believe it should be out [01:09:00] at the end of this month , a story that will be appearing in Strange Horizons. Perhaps by the time this comes out, it’s already out, called Up in the Hills She Dreams of Her Daughter Deep in the Ground. Truly, truly a feather in my cap for that one.

I thought that was gonna linger amongst the rejections for much longer. Thankfully, it got picked up. Also, I am the non-fiction editor at Seize the Press. So, uh, anyone out there, if you are hearing this and you have a, something that you wanna say that is anti-capitalist, dark, cyber punky, what have you, uh, but mostly anti-capitalist and, off the beaten path

about science fiction, fantasy, horror, and or media in general. Feel free to pitch me at And for the Hat Trick, I am the host, the main host over [01:10:00] at Pod Side Picnic. So if you’ve enjoyed me talking here and want to hear my ramblings of questionable merit over there about science fiction, fantasy and horror works, uh, and the literature of the fantastic, feel free to check us out. side picnic, uh, or just look us up on SoundCloud. We have several, several, free episodes that you can peruse before you decide to commit.

Raquel: Nice. Well, thanks for coming on.

Karlo: Thanks for having me, Raquel. Returning champ. Uh,

Raquel: Yeah. Returning Champ Karlo. Alright, well thank you all for listening. If you like what you heard, head to and subscribe. Until next time, keep writing good.