Sci-fi and Fantasy for Peasants — Transcript

Rite Gud – S02E07 “Sci-fi and Fantasy for Peasants”

Podcast: @RiteGud

Host: @benedict_rs

Guest: @these_qualia

Producer: @KittySneezes

Transcript by: @bee_blackburn


[♪ Rite Gud intro theme ♪]


Raquel: Welcome to Rite Gud, the only podcast that helps you write good. I’m Raquel Benedict, the most dangerous woman in speculative fiction. Science fiction and fantasy can imagine many things: impossible worlds, unthinkable technology, fantastic creatures, magic, gods, and monsters. But, for some reason, a lot of SFF authors have a hard time imagining stories about poor people and working-class people. [00:01:00] Fantasy stories often focus on royalty. Sci-fi protagonists tend to be middle or upper class, tenured professors, scientists, white-collar astronauts, federal agents, military officers, that kind of thing. And even when a story starts with a poor protagonist, by the end, they’ve usually achieved knighthood, or become captain of a spaceship, or something like that. But what’s wrong with writing about poor people or working-class people? Don’t they have stories worth telling? Talking about that with us tonight… is returning champion, Qualia.


Qualia: Hello.


Raquel: Hello, again. Now, the reason I brought you on to talk about this is because I saw that you made a post on social media saying something to that effect of: “hey, it’d be cool, if we had, like, a fantasy series like Game of Thrones or something that focused… exclusively on poor, working-class characters.”


Qualia: Mm.


Raquel: And I think that’s a reasonable thing, but people went fucking crazy on you. [00:02:00] People got really mad; they flipped out, why do you think that is?


Qualia: It seemed to be a lack of imagination for the most part. There were a lot of people who agreed with me; and then named books that were not about that, which was really strange; or they would say, “actually, this already exists,” and then name The Witcher. The witcher is not a peasant; he’s not stuck—not that The Witcher is set in a medieval setting; maybe anthropologically medieval, sort of—but he’s not stuck on a plot of land. He’s probably, if you had to classify him, like merchant class. He provides a service and travels around. He’s just not… a peasant, specifically a peasant. And people just had… trouble wrapping their heads around it. They named Pillars of the Earth, which is an excellent book, but is mostly about clergy and craftsmen, who are not peasants. [00:03:00] It’s just… I don’t know why… people had such trouble with it. And then, they would talk about, “Uh, well, why would I want to read about this? These people don’t have any agency.” 


Raquel: Ehmm.


Qualia: I’m getting a little worked-up about it, it’s upsetting (Raquel: Yeah.) to me.


Raquel: Yeah, which seems to define agency in a very narrow way.


Qualia: Yes. It really does, um.


Raquel: Like, if you don’t have the command of an army, you have no agency.


Qualia: Right?


Raquel: What? What the? Okay. Well, most of us don’t have a pet dragon we can ride on, but I would say that most of us have some degree of agency in our lives.


Qualia: Right. I think a lot of litfic focuses more on that, that smaller agency, as opposed to genre fic, which often does talk about the fate of worlds, although this is a really broad stereotype.


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: But, I don’t know, a lot of people treat those… [00:04:00] I won’t say smaller, more personal stakes as if they’re boring or inconsequential, and I just, I deeply disagree.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s a little sad to treat a story that way, because, for most of us, that’s what our lives are. 


Qualia: Right.


Raquel: So, is that saying, “well, is your life not really important?” And, for me, when… I find myself more invested when the stakes are smaller than when they’re huge, because when they’re so huge, I kind of can’t wrap my brain around it; when the fate of the entire world depends on this one man, it just makes the world feel really small to me.


Qualia: It really does. Not that we’re huge fans of Marvel movies, but the Marvel movie I enjoyed the most, past ten years, was the tiny neighborhood Spider-Man movie. (Raquel: Huh.) It was Spider-Man: Homecoming, because it was about his friends and Pete, and the villain was his girlfriend’s dad… [00:05:00] (Raquel: [laughs]) and that was it. Those were the stakes, were his neighborhood, not the world; and it worked for me so much more. And then the subsequent movies, it’s now the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and it’s like, okay, I’m bored again. [laughs] (Raquel: Yeah.) Because there, it was this sort of thing where the fact that this is his girlfriend’s dad, that made it personal.


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: I think people mistake stakes for the world now hangs in the balance; no, raising the stakes is, now it’s personal… in any story.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely, it’s raising emotional stakes. I feel, if you’re counting it as raising the stakes only when there are more people involved; just: “oh, a bigger normal that—oh, a bigger number—that means I care more,” no, not really.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: This isn’t a math problem.


Qualia: Yeah, exactly. 


Raquel: I don’t care more, just because the number’s bigger.


Qualia: Absolutely.


Raquel: And, for me, I kind of find it more compelling when a character has less agency, and that the stakes are [00:06:00] narrower; your chances of success are narrower, your powers are really limited; how can you manage this? For me, seeing someone with very limited, if you want to call it agency, or limited influence, or all these limitations on them; that’s really, really, compelling.


Qualia: It is, and often, at least for me as a writer, the fiction I’ve written, it forces me, as a writer, to be a lot more creative about how they get the hell out of this; and often, as a pantser, I improvise stories. Often, the characters I write end up being way more resourceful than I planned them to be. Which is, it’s always for me, that’s the point in which a character come alive, is when I sit in the moment and write and go, crap, this character is going to make a decision with the resources they have, the limited resources they have, to do something absolutely batshit that I (Raquel: Right.) didn’t plan out.


Raquel: Right, there’s this movie I really like, [00:07:00] speaking of limited agency. It’s called Wait Until Dark. It stars Audrey Hepburn. It’s from the sixties, and it’s about this woman who’s recently gone blind, and she’s being terrorized in her apartment by these two or three criminals and she’s this small woman who’s blind, so she’s at this massive disadvantage, and that’s what makes it more compelling.


Qualia: Right.


Raquel: Like, seeing how she has to deal with this, when she can’t see, and this is recent, so she hasn’t really adapted well to being sightless. So, she’s at such a disadvantage and what’s exciting is seeing her figure her way through it and being… resourceful; and there’s this great bit at the end, where she seals up the windows, and kills the lights, and just starts attacking them in the dark. 


Qualia: Oh, hell yeah.


Raquel: And it’s so good. It’s so fucking good. And, for me, that’s so much more exciting and compelling than watching someone with superpowers, because there is this [00:08:00] vulnerability and the ability to sort of—hi, cat (Qualia: [laughs])—to triumph despite that, and use it to your advantage is so cool.


Qualia: Yeah. Yeah, and I do think, as progressive as science fiction and fantasy sometimes wants to be…


Raquel: That’s a good way of putting it.


Qualia: Yeah, when it starts talking about how it’s just not interesting, it’s just not interesting to hear about these people; like, yeah, these people exist, but are they protagonist material? And then you (Raquel: Yeah.) actually analyze who’s marginalized. Well, we’re talking about the poor, we’re talking about the disabled, we’re talking about people who have, historically, had a lot of agency stripped from them on maybe a larger scale, but their lives definitely still mattered, (Raquel: Yeah!) and they’re still making decisions.


Raquel: Yeah, there’s something kind of gross, to me, to take this attitude that only [00:09:00] the stories of rich people matter, only the stories of kings and queens matter. Well, that’s some shit. That’s like, that’s kind of a fascistic viewpoint, almost, (Qualia: Incredibly.) you know?


Qualia: And it’s ahistorical.


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: We don’t know as much about medieval peasants as we do kings and queens, and a topic where I’m like very amateur historian, know enough to be dangerous, maybe don’t know as much as I’d like to, but they had extensive court documents from the time, because they were very litigious peasants. 


Raquel: Ohhh.


Qualia: They would have their plot of land that they were supposed to keep, and it would be right next to other people’s plot land; and I don’t think they invented fences until later than you think.


Raquel: Right.


Qualia: So, there would be a lot of things like, “your cow wandered over onto my plot of land and ate some of it. And that means I shouldn’t have to pay taxes on that, [00:10:00] at the very least. And I need to be compensated for that.” So, stuff like that, we have records of, did these people repeatedly sue each other? Did they like each other? And it wasn’t a punitive court system, they didn’t really, they had punitive laws, but people mostly worked through civil courts.


Raquel: Mm.


Qualia: And it was mostly sort-of informal town hall meetings, where people sit down and argue amongst themselves and then, the lord or somebody representing the lord would make a call on who was right and who won.


Raquel: Mm.


Qualia: And it’s just fascinating, that they knew the law so well that they would pull shit like, everybody would pretend to have communicable madness to prevent King’s Road going through their town because it would raise their taxes.


Raquel: Oh, that’s cool!


Qualia: Yeah, just shit like that. Or, they would know where their loan documents were at a local castle; and they couldn’t read, but [00:11:00] they knew what a loan was, and they knew what a loan document was. So, they would all get together, bowl over the couple of guys guarding it, and then burn their loan documents, and nobody would know who it was.


Raquel: [laughs]


Qualia: And then they’d all be like, “well, I wasn’t there.” It was like—


Raquel: Wasn’t me.


Qualia: Yeah, wasn’t me. It was like, well, I saw—


Raquel: Well, there’s no IDs. There’s no fingerprints. You don’t fucking know.


Qualia: Heh, yeah, you don’t know.


Raquel: You can’t prove shit!


Qualia: Yeah, and it’s like, “well, how do you know it was me? My buddy over there says I was in the field with him.”


Raquel: [laughs] That’s awesome.


Qualia: Yeah! Like, they pulled that shit all the fucking time. They didn’t—they tended not to like the monks, because the monks would be all secluded and doing their own thing, and they would mostly be like the third or fourth sons of nobles, so they would do things like moon the monks. Chaucer would write about the Wife of Bath, who’s this hilarious woman who’s had like five husbands.


Raquel: Yeah, she rocks.


Qualia: Yeah! And, I think, if I recall correctly, I don’t see any indication she was a merchant’s wife or [00:12:00] anything. I think she was probably a peasant, and she was just somebody who had a lot of ideas about how men were equal to women, and the text doesn’t treat this as ridiculous. It treats her as kind of a fucking badass.


Raquel: All I remember about her is that she was cool, and she wore red stockings. Did she wear red stockings? I might be misremembering that.


Qualia: That sounds familiar, but there—


Raquel: I remember she wore kind of flashy clothing or something (Qualia: Yeah.) like that.


Qualia: Yeah, cause I think she was a bigamist. [laughs]


Raquel: Nice.


Qualia: And it’s just, it’s this bawdy tale and…


Raquel: She rocks.


Qualia: Yeah, she rocks, and the idea that these people are boring, Chaucer didn’t think they were boring. He was there! And, you know, I only bring this up, of course, history is not fantasy. Like, they’re not interchangeable, but…


Raquel: But, I mean, a ton of fantasy (Qualia: oh, a ton.) is based on history. 


Qualia: Right.


Raquel: And based on old literature.


Qualia: And even science fiction often draws anthropologically from [00:13:00] specific periods in time.


Raquel: Oh, totally.


Qualia: So, it’s just, there’s no excuse to find these people boring.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, they had interesting lives, and it’s frustrating because I’ve noticed that in contemporary short sci-fi/fantasy, poor people, especially rural poor white people, when they’re portrayed, they’re sort of the quick shorthand for bad reactionary types. They’re the shorthand for Trump supporter. And, for me, it rings a little hollow, considering how so many reactionary neo-fascist movement people are kind of coming out of the affluent suburbs? 


Qualia: Absolutely.


Raquel: Like, a shitload of those rioters and the January 6th thing were bougie; a lot of these people were business owners and stuff. These were not poor people. I mean, if you were able to take time off of work to do this silly thing, you’re probably not that poor. A lot of these people had, didn’t the fucking [00:14:00] vegan MAGA shaman guy have a family lawyer on retainer or some bullshit like that?


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: I… he’s bougie! These people are bougie! Proud Boy types kind of come from well-to-do suburban neighborhoods, and those school shooters are usually not poor. I mean, an AR-15 is not a cheap gun! It’s a couple thousand bucks.


Qualia: Yeah, there are a lot of people who would, you know, if Ted Cruz is not a senator, look at his ostrich-skin boots and his cowboy hat, and think he was a working-class man, and his wranglers. He’s got like six hundred dollar boots and twenty dollar jeans. Idiot.


Raquel: Right, it’s the suburbanite with the pickup truck, but that pickup truck costs like thirty thousand dollars. That guy’s not poor.


Qualia: Yeah, that guy’s not poor. There are a lot of, weird number of pool cleaner business owners (Raquel: Huh.) at January 6th. Like, weird number of those. But (Raquel: Huh.) the Tucker Carlson guys who are sunning their perineums; these are, a lot of these are like Californian tech guy [00:15:00] types, new Age-y (Raquel: Oh yeah.) dudes. And, a lot of people will say that these are not conservatives, the guy who tried to kill Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer was a nudist and all this. There’s this… conservatives, and I would say most people, don’t fit into these neat boxes, where you can tell what they are, based on one or two things, because most people don’t think through their politics enough (Raquel: Right.) to have a huge, coherent ideology.


Raquel: Right, and it feels like a socially acceptable way to dunk on poor people.


Qualia: Absolutely.


Raquel: It’s always these poor people who are bad. It’s this specific type of poor person that’s white, so you can kind of, you can dress it up as being anti-white, but it’s a poor person, it’s not a rich person, it’s not a suburban person. 


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: It is specifically a rural, poor person, and it feels kind of gross, and it feels a [00:16:00] little bit also like it’s borrowing from 1980s movies. I’ve seen multiple kinds of award-buzzy short sci-fi/fantasy stories—I’m not going to name them, because when I name them, I get in big trouble—(Qualia: [laughs]) in which our hero encounters some bad things from rural rednecks at a redneck bar. You know, they walk in and it’s “boy, we don’t like your kind, we’re going to beat you up,” and it’s just, I think I saw this scene from a 80s movie.


Qualia: Absolutely.


Raquel: It feels really phony and hollow. 


Qualia: Yeah, and it, I don’t know, there’s definitely a tendency in some of those circles to sort of draw endlessly from things that aren’t real; from maybe this thing once referenced a real thing, but it’s been referenced and referenced and referenced and, in some ways, it is; in some cases, it refers to a world that doesn’t really exist, and I’m not sure you see a lot of redneck bars around [00:17:00] here anymore.


Raquel: Not that many. (Qualia: And, and—) And, if there is, why are you stopping there? If you’re frightened of these places, why are you pulling over here?


Qualia: Right.


Raquel: When has the author of this story gone into a lo—a redneck bar in the boonies? Like, probably never.


Qualia: Yeah. My grandpa was a hillbilly, an actual hillbilly from Tennessee, from Tennessee Valley. Poorest area in the country during the Great Depression. Like, poorest, he didn’t own shoes.


Raquel: Whoa.


Qualia: Yeah, he went to Church on a wagon, pulled by a donkey. He was bow-legged because he was malnourished. He had dirt floors, and his politics were complicated because he went to the Korean War. Which, of course, comes with some major sins, but on the other hand, when he got back, he went to work for the Kinsey Institute (Raquel: Whoa!) as an orderly; [00:18:00] and, as part of that, he went through a bunch of training on, if you’re going to work here, you need to be able to work with these people and you can’t hate them.


Raquel: Whoa!


Qualia: So he watched videos on gay people. He watched videos on trans people, and when he was basically a father-figure to my sibling, who was, is very gay and possibly trans, he would sit us down, both of us, and say, “if you love women, or if you feel you are born in the wrong body, there’s nothing wrong with you.” And you have to understand, this man had the thickest rural Tennessee accent there was.


Raquel: That’s beautiful.


Qualia: Yeah, and it’s like, people are sitting there, saying, “well…” When people talk about, “why would you want to tell stories about poor people?” You just have to have a bigger imagination than just imagining the poor person you have in your head. That story I told you, that guy is a protagonist!


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: You know what I mean? And (Raquel: Yeah!) he was [00:19:00] a major influence on, only voice, the only adult voice I heard growing up said being queer was okay, and not just okay, but beautiful. So, yeah.


Raquel: Yeah, wow. That’s cool. I’m thinking… you’re making me think of that, in the 80s, the unexpected, but really beautiful alliance, between striking coal miners and the LGBT movement.


Qualia: Mhmm.


Raquel: Because both kind of held hands and said, “fuck you, Margaret Thatcher,” together. And… I don’t know the full story, but I know the queer rights movement sort of stood up for miners during the strike, and… when it came time to stick up for them, miners had their back. The idea that, oh, if you’re poor, you have to be hateful and ignorant. It’s bullshit!


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: And I think it’s a lot of transference of a person’s own sins and ignorance onto an easy target. I mean, one [00:20:00] thing, what I’ll say about wealthy people is they’re better at disguising their prejudice, better at wrapping it up in euphemism, but are just as bad, if not worse.


Qualia: Absolutely. And… yeah, for some reason, there’s this blind spot, where, I’m just going to say his name, Jesse Singal, he’s just a plain reactionary, but his dad is a prosecutor. He was raised well. And, for a while, until very recently, a bunch of people on the left really gave him a pass, because he presented himself in a particular way. Because it would be improper to see him in a bad light, because he presents himself so well, he presents himself so rationally, how can you say this is a reactionary?


Raquel: He has the right mannerisms and the right vocabulary.


Qualia: Right, I feel (Raquel: Yeah.) deeply uncomfortable sometimes in upper-class circles, because I’ve got, my father came from sort of a professional class background, but my [00:21:00] mom came from a deeply working-class background, and I spent way more time with her family. And I myself, I didn’t graduate high school; I had to get my G.E.D. And then I only got my degrees because I needed to make more money, just to get by. But that was a real struggle, I had to work through my entire—through full-time while going to college full-time—both degrees. So, it was, and then I got Pell Grants because I was poor, and I’ve been poor, I’ve been homeless. It’s… so I go into situations where… I have to deal with upper-class people, because I can sort of put on my very prim voice and sort of pass. And it’s a deeply uncomfortable situation because… sometimes, I feel like I fit neither place, because I read as a little bit privileged to poor people, and I read as a little bit podunk to really well-off people; [00:22:00] (Raquel: Yeah.) but I fit more into the working class, I think.


Raquel: Mm. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, writing off working-class and poor people or contemporary peasants as reactionary—I think, in the face of our contemporary strike movement right now, too, is especially, like… Okay, some of the most optimism-inducing, hopeful, hope-inducing gains I’ve seen in politics lately have not come from politicians, they’ve come from the bottom, they’ve come from people who are going on strike and winning. And winning unionization efforts, and over and over again, you see part of these union wins involve treating minority co-workers equally or fairly.


Qualia: Mhm.


Raquel: Among their many, many, many demands. Also, a lot of them is, hey, our supervisors’ fucking racist, and you need to do something about that, or being, I don’t know, better to workers with [00:23:00] disabilities.


Qualia: Absolutely.


Raquel: And this is coming from people striking at Starbucks.


Qualia: Yeah, Amazon.


Raquel: Or Amazon. These are not—this is not upper-class people. I remember… the Amazon lawyers, there was a… memo from within Amazon that got leaked to the press or something; it’s some Amazon executive saying “let Christian Smalls be the voice of the movement because, you know, look at him, who’s going to take him seriously?”


Qualia: Right.


Raquel: Because he had this very sort-of working-class black… look and mannerism to him, so they underestimated him, and he turned out, he’s a fucking brilliant organizer, he’s amazing! And, just cause they wrote him off, because he doesn’t strike them as affluent, as upper crust.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: But hey, guess what, that’s not what you need to run a fucking labor movement, is it?


Qualia: Right, and (Raquel: [laughs]) John Fetterman. Not everything, not every policy, I’m a fan of. [00:24:00]


Raquel: Right.


Qualia: But, he was a union guy, and he’s got some aphasia, following a stroke. And… It just feels like there’s been this turning point, where the common wisdom is that people are going to take that sort of person seriously and maybe it’s just because he’s Democratic. Although Pennsylvania is a purple state, but, it’s more than a purple state, it’s a working-class state.


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: It’s a prideful working-class state, and he presented himself as the working-class guy who’d gone through some setbacks the way working class people do. Like, being working-class, I delivered groceries, I was delivery driver, like commercial delivery driver in my early twenties. It uses your body up.


Raquel: Oh yeah.


Qualia: Just completely uses it up eventually, and I knew a lot of people—[00:25:00] thankfully I was young—but I knew a lot of people who, by their mid-thirties, turned to meth just straight, because they needed to be able to do their sixteen-hour shifts. And your body just can’t do it anymore; your mind can’t do it anymore.


Raquel: Right.


Qualia: And… the expectation, you know, if you tell people about this, if you tell upper-class people about this, middle-class people about this… That’s, to them, that’s just the way it is.


Raquel: Mmmmm.


Qualia: What else are you supposed to do, are you a bit sad, but, you know, are you a real person with dreams and a brain? These people think we’re idiots, that you must’ve done something to deserve it. It doesn’t occur to them that there are only a certain number of spots in this slot where they are; and (Raquel: Right.) more people capable of doing that. And, not like that, but in a utopia, somebody’s going to have to clean the fucking toilets. Why is it, (Raquel: Right!) that the person who does that doesn’t deserve some dignity, doesn’t deserve to be happy?


Raquel: [00:26:00] Right, doesn’t deserve a decent income and a nice home.


Qualia: Right? And even, I’ve been wanting to write a short story for a long, long time and it was so, oh my god, don’t steal, but (Raquel: [laughs]) I’ve heard that Twitter and Facebook moderators, that is a miserable job. 


Raquel: Oh, it sounds horrific. You see the worst fucking shit all day (Qualia: Right.) and get paid garbage.


Qualia: It’s, yeah, it’s minimum wage. You work in sort of a call center type situation, and you repeatedly see images of death and worse. And I’ve heard that PTSD levels are high, drug use is high, and I feel like sort of a vulture going, this would make an incredible setting for a story.


Raquel: Oh yeah, you could get an amazing horror story or something out of this.


Qualia: Yeah, anything like that or just, there’s all sorts of things people don’t know about delivery driving. Whether it’s Instacart, which I’ve done or (Raquel: Mm.) just commercial delivery driving. This sort of, I used to [00:27:00] listen to coast-to-coast AM, which is sort of full of conspiracy theories, and it would be one in the morning, and it would be completely silent in the middle of an empty city. And it’s such a—I’m almost nostalgic for it—just sort of the extreme fatigue, feeling all my muscles just cramping up, and listening to somebody talk about how aliens are real while I’m drinking, well, I’m like shotgunning an energy drink, and something liquid with some calories to keep me going. I don’t know why, but it’s such a fucking vibe.


Raquel: Mm.


Qualia: And I feel like… people are not curious about what keeps their lives going, all the little invisible labors.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, I think a whole lot of sci-fi and fantasy just get rid of that, and it’s magic or it’s a replicator. 


Qualia: Right? [laughs]


Raquel: The person, a person doesn’t make this anymore. [00:28:00] You wave a fucking wand.


Qualia: Isn’t that kind of—


Raquel: So that person is gone.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: And that’s the fantasy, that is the escapist fantasy. It’s escaping from the idea that, I don’t know, cleaners and fry cooks and shit exist. Something Kurt pointed out, Kurt Schiller of Blood Knife said, when he grew up, he loved stories about inventors and explorers, those Victorian or Edwardian adventure stories were often about an inventor or an intrepid explorer. And he got so depressed when he grew up and he realized that those aren’t actual jobs. That’s just shit you do when you’re a rich, idle failson (Qualia: Yup.) and you don’t have a real job, and it’s always, it’s funded, probably, by your family’s diamond mine in South Africa or something equally evil. And, thinking about that, I’m thinking about how many steampunk stories, that they borrow from these adventure stories, and they’re about this kind of person, they’re about an explorer, or an inventor, or an adventurer. Fake rich person/ [00:29:00] idle person jobs. They’re not about a factory worker, they’re not about the steampunk factory workers trying to organize. They’re not about [sighs] I don’t know, something like that! And I think that could make just a good story. There’s the big optimistic story, the fantasy story everyone loved, The Goblin Emperor, the protagonist is an emperor.


Qualia: Mmm!


Raquel: [laughs] I mean, yeah, okay, he’s a marginalized person, but he is an emperor. And poor people and working-class people in that story are really not very well-portrayed. Karlo Yeager Rodríguez wrote a really, really good article, a really, really good review of it in Blood Knife. House in the Cerulean Sea, the protagonist is a white-collar bureaucrat. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the protagonist is a cop who eventually gets enough money to buy a real goat, which is a totally expensive luxury item. Even at the end of Neuromancer, I know the guy’s like a pizza delivery guy, but he ends up getting to be a hacker again, so it’s like this not [00:30:00] being a poor working-class person is restored. You either start off middle or upper class, or you end up there.


Qualia: Mm.


Raquel: But you don’t end there. And I think a lot of writers, especially if you’re middle class or upper class, the idea of ending working class strikes them as very frightening or depressing or “misery porn,” quote unquote. But it (Qualia: Yeah.) doesn’t have to be that way?


Qualia: No! Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know, I think there’s definitely more to being happy, philosophical about it, then ending up with everything you ever wanted. 


Raquel: Right. Right, and there’s something [sighs] something I’ve seen coming out of fandom a lot is the coffee shop AU. The cozy coffee shop AU, it’s this idea of a slice-of-life story that’s people just hanging out in a coffee shop, and it’s considered this wonderful, warm haven community. And, all I’m thinking is, if you’re writing—if [00:31:00] that’s how you think of it—you probably haven’t worked in a cafe. 


Qualia: Mhmm.


Raquel: Or in food service.


Qualia: [laughs]


Raquel: Cause being a barista kind of sucks. It kind of sucks shit. It’s really tiring. Your customers are dicks a lot of the time, people are really uptight. There’s always such a rush (Qualia: It’s also probably dangerous?) Yeah, you can get burned on that fucking… you can get burned on the—you’re blasting hot steam, it’s very easy to burn yourself on that.


Qualia: Yeah, and slipping and all kinds of crap.


Raquel: Slipping on the floor. You do a lot of prep work. You might do prep work, if you’re in food service, so there’s a good chance of cutting yourself. (Qualia: Yup.) In general, small mom-and-pop restaurant owners are really, really bad with safety. So, instead of a proper step-ladder in the store-room, you are using a chair with one broken leg.


Qualia: Yeah. Yeah, done that.


Raquel: There’s a very good chance you will fall down.


Qualia: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of glossing over the difficulties of being working class. [00:32:00] Which, I would invite people to see as, instead of misery porn, that’s conflict, the thing that drives your story! [laughs] You know?


Raquel: Yeah, amazing!


Qualia: Uh, um. 


Raquel: Just, I don’t know, “oh, coffee shop AU, it’s a magical cozy place,” not for the person making the fucking coffee, it’s not. Most of the time, it’s not. I mean, I wrote my restaurant story, my food service story, but it’s not a cozy story, it ends with a waitress poisoning all of her customers. 


Qualia: Good for her!


Raquel: And I needed to write that story to get it out of me, after working in food service for years and years.


Qualia: Well, I hope she got away with it. [laughs]


Raquel: Well, she didn’t, but it was okay.


Qualia: [laughs]


Raquel: Still, it was very cathartic for her. She had a great time.


Qualia: Good.


Raquel: I guess it doesn’t fit into the juvenile escapist power fantasy, I find, I think, maybe it challenges the just world fallacy too, (Qualia: I get that.) when the hero [00:33:00] is not rewarded with wealth at the end; the idea that people can be good and smart and hardworking and still be poor is very uncomfortable.


Qualia: Incredibly. People have a lot of, I think even beyond just world fallacy, you tell people that you’ve been poor or you are poor, their thinking is on rails, they have a whole ideology built up around why people are poor. It’s often a meritocracy of some kind. (Raquel: Right.) And it’s nonsense.


Raquel: Yeah. Like, you deserve, you’re bad, you deserve it in some way. Maybe you made bad choices, or maybe you’re just a bad person, and that’s why you’re poor. And that’s why redneck characters are always bad people. They’re always, always, always, always bad people. There’s no gay rednecks. What, that doesn’t exist. There are no gay poor people, it’s not like there’s a disproportionate number of low income people who are queer, what? [00:34:00] No.


Qualia: I never.


Raquel: No, of course not. Queers are all rich, anyway. But it is frustrating, I mean, I think, just from a political standpoint, obviously, it’s worth writing about lower-income people, because they’re people; and I find it striking that there’s so much talk about representation, but not much in the way of social class (Qualia: Mhm.) representation. And, throughout history, the vast majority of human beings were not noblemen. The—(Qualia: That’s right.) cat, get off the back of my chair—majority of people were just kind of working class or poor.


Qualia: Yup.


Raquel: And always have been. And, also, rich people kind of suck. And we don’t need to glamorize them.


Qualia: We don’t. Like that’s—


Raquel: We don’t, they’re grubs.


Qualia: That’s worth talking about, we have to sanitize the hell out of what rich people do. Except for, you know, Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, where they largely don’t do that. But, in order to make them [00:35:00] protagonists, often you have to make a good king or a good queen, and there’s just no such thing.


Raquel: Mhm.


Qualia: No such thing as a good, you get a lot of… I love Jane Austen, but often, the nicest thing she can say about somebody, one of her shorthands for “somebody is a good person” is that he’s a landlord, and his tenants love him.


Raquel: Yeah, (Qualia: [laughs]) I remember when she sees Mr. Darcy’s house, and she realizes he’s a great guy because he doesn’t beat his servants.


Qualia: Yes.


Raquel: Like, it’s great, it’s great working for him!


Qualia: Yeah, it’s great working for him!


Raquel: That’s a pretty low bar, man.


Qualia: It’s a real low bar, like all of his tenants love him. He takes good care of them, and it’s like, well…


Raquel: You’re supposed to do that.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: He’s not a slumlord, hooray!


Qualia: Yeah, hooray.


Raquel: Which, I guess for the 19th Century, was about as decent as you can be, if you were wealthy. 


Qualia: Yup.


Raquel: That is the best you can do, [00:36:00] back then. That was above and beyond the norm, unfortunately.


Qualia: It is weird that the shorthand for being a great guy is nice to the waiter, and it’s like, wait a minute…


Raquel: You should be that by default.


Qualia: Right, and also, why is the waiter the sort of recipient of whatever morality anybody else has? (Raquel: Yeah.) The waiter is the object in all this. 


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, but from a craft or creative standpoint, let’s talk about that, and why it’s worth talk—writing about peasants, writing about working class people in speculative fiction. And, that is, as you’ve touched on earlier, the lives of common people are interesting, and have been interesting. Medieval peasants got up to some crazy shit, I remember reading a little bit about medieval football. The only rule was, get the ball to the place where it’s supposed to go. That was the only fucking rule, and an entire village would play, like hundreds of people at a time.


Qualia: Yeah. Sometimes versus another—


Raquel: The [00:37:00] goals were miles apart.


Qualia: And it’d be like—


Raquel: The only, literally the only rule is try not to kill anyone.


Qualia: Mhm.


Raquel: And it would kind of turn into a days-long riot? It sounds sick. It sounds like a fucking great time. People would come from miles away to either play or to observe.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: Because it was just a crazy shit-show for days. It sounds amazing.


Qualia: People would camp out, and have picnics on the roofs, to watch people do this, because you wouldn’t want to be on the ground. People would fucking bowl you over.


Raquel: It sounds great.


Qualia: Yeah, they were about to do this because they had more days off than you might think, and they were fucking bored.


Raquel: Yeah, there was no tv, no video games, you gotta do something.


Qualia: That’s—


Raquel: Like, let’s play riot ball, let’s do it. And upper/middle/wealthy-upper/middle class people are kind of boring, honestly?


Qualia: They are.


Raquel: They’re really not that interesting?


Qualia: And we’ve definitely heard their stories before, and we don’t need more of them. We’ve got, (Raquel: Yeah.) we’ve heard that, for the most part.


Raquel: I [00:38:00] don’t know, village-wide mob football sounds more interesting than croquet.


Qualia: Yeah, or like the feud between the local monastery and people who live there. Like, monastics wouldn’t even fucking talk! Imagine! [laughs] Assholes.


Raquel: Bunch of nerds.


Qualia: Exactly. That’s what they thought they were like, these are fucking nerds.


Raquel: [laughs] Yeah, these fucking nerds. Like an 80s slobs vs. snobs movie.


Qualia: Mhm.


Raquel: Just with monks. Peasants and monks. And, plus, we’ve seen enough noblemen. I’m interested in shit I haven’t seen before.


Qualia: Right.


Raquel: And, I mean, in some ways, the agency or lives of noblemen are also really, really restricted, especially if you’re a woman. You’re very limited to these certain spaces. You kind of, supposedly, they have greater agency, but they kind of really can’t go wherever they want. (Qualia: Yes.) You kind of stick to these predetermined castle [00:39:00] monastery, cathedral, maybe battlefield, but you can’t really roam that much.


Qualia: I do feel, you’ll see movies about Versailles, like stuff like that, that really don’t, for some reason, even when people write about royalty, they don’t portray royalty? Which is very strange, like Versailles, they didn’t have enough toilets, so people shat on the stairwells.


Raquel: Whoa!


Qualia: Yeah, people would just shit in the stairwells, hundreds of people. (Raquel: [laughs]) Because a bunch of people showed up, they didn’t have any privacy to have been at Versailles. It’s a shotgun, the top floor is the royal rooms, and it’s everybody’s room, people could just wander through. There would be, I think the king had a hernia at one point, if I’m remembering right? It was either a hernia or piles. And he needed surgery [00:40:00] on it, on his ass. (Raquel: [laughs]) So, dozens of people came to watch the king get surgery on his ass.


Raquel: Oh my god.


Qualia: I think it was hemorrhoids, it was hemorrhoids. And, from there on, this was a big political thing, because surgeons vs. doctors was a big historical conflict.


Raquel: Right.


Qualia: And surgeons were not… looked well-upon, but the surgeon fixed his piles. And, so, he had a bandage on his ass, and everybody started wearing bandages on their ass. It was like a fashion statement, and getting their own hemorrhoid surgery, to be like, “oh, I’m just like the king, I had an ass problem.”


Raquel: [laughs]


Qualia: Like, come on. Nobody’s writing that fucking story. We’ve got all these kings, like, who is writing that story? And, it’s really weird that even the stories about kings and queens make kings and queens so much less weird and interesting.


Raquel: Yeaaah.


Qualia: Than (Raquel: Yeah.) the real thing.


Raquel: Like, sanitized and [00:41:00] glamorous, and not the fucking insane inbred freaks they really were.


Qualia: Absolutely.


Raquel: The king had a guy to wipe his ass for him.


Qualia: He sure did, and (Raquel: That is never in fantasy.) they’d always be around. Yeah.


Raquel: There’s never the Royal Ass-Wiper.


Qualia: Yeah, and he had an important thing, because people didn’t have a lot of health indicators. So, somebody would need to be able to look at the stool and see… does he have health problems? One of the kings, I think King George the III, and a lot of his relatives had porphyria, which would mean purple urine, would be a sign of an oncoming attack. So, there was a… health reason why they had somebody there who they trusted to be able to give the king and health advisors like feedback on, hey, you’re eating well, stuff like that.


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: But, it was—


Raquel: Oh, yeah, and I think physicians would test for diabetes by just tasting the urine. 


Qualia: Yeah, they sure would.


Raquel: And, it’s like oh, it’s sweet, okay, you got [00:42:00] the honey sickness, you gotta cut back on honey.


Qualia: Right, so it’s… I don’t know, for some, I feel like there’s a classism to it, because it’s so sanitized that it’s very much this—


Raquel: Yeah, rich people don’t shit.


Qualia: Yeah, rich people don’t shit. They don’t… have the illnesses that they had from inbreeding, they don’t, a lot of kings and queens were remarkably cruel. And not like (Raquel: Yeah.) “Oooh, it’s so glamorous, this evil queen is cruel.” They were bullies. A lot of them became kings or queens at eleven or twelve. 


Raquel: Yeah.


Qualia: They were just nasty people.


Raquel: Yeah, they were nasty. It’s kind of striking how people complain about Game of Thrones for being so grimdark, but real life kings and queen were fucking disgusting. And, something I find kind of interesting is that, there’s this perception that child marriage was normal throughout history, but it’s not; it was mainly an aristocrat thing.


Qualia: Yup.


Raquel: Peasants [00:43:00] didn’t marry children, because number one, that’s gross. And number two, if you’re a farmer, and you’re looking for a wife, you need a woman who can help you milk the cows, and pluck the chickens, and help you run a farm, and a little eleven-year old can’t fucking do that shit.


Qualia: Yeah, and if you made it past about five years old, you were going to live about sixty, sixty-five. So, people married… twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-six. Like, normal (Raquel: At a normal age.) times to get married. Yeah.


Raquel: They married at a reasonable age.


Qualia: Yup. And (Raquel: Good for them!) child marriages were mostly because they needed to secure; they also had betrothals, so, a lot of marriages weren’t as young. And it’s—


Raquel: Yeah, (Qualia: And it’s—) they weren’t consummated then. Like, (Qualia: Yeah.) okay, you’re getting married, quote unquote at age eleven, but you’re actually not going to do anything for at least five years.


Qualia: Right, exactly. But, it was still “we need to get this alliance in the fucking bag right [00:44:00] now.”


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, which that’s something that strikes me, that child marriage was mainly a creepy, rich person thing. (Qualia: Yeah.) And that peasants fucking did not do that shit. And, I’m thinking rural, a lot of peasants throughout history, it kind of seems like women had, maybe, more agency or, I don’t know, more freedom, cause… Like, with farming communities, I’m thinking an age it happens—I know this isn’t medieval any more than fucking old—but, in Athens, well-to-do ladies, well-to-do Athenian ladies were expected to stay home (Qualia: Mm.) and weave, and that was it. You could go out in public like twice a year, (Qualia: Bleh.) and that was it. But peasant women, these were, they were the ones who were bringing the goods to marketplace.


Qualia: Mhm.


Raquel: So, peasant women had relatively more, I don’t know if freedom’s the right word, but more of an ability to live in public life, because you were taking the goods to market; and you were the saleswoman; and you [00:45:00] were handling money; you were haggling with people, these were really, really tough women. They had to be tough, these were actually pretty fucking strong and hardy women, there’s a scene in Lysistrata, where Lysistrata calls in for back-up, and it’s basically the market women who just come in and beat out of everybody because they just had a reputation for being tough-as-nails, these people. So it’s very striking, if you want to tell a… tough woman story, there they are.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: They’re just not rich. They’re probably selling porridge and yelling.


Qualia: Yeah, wom—


Raquel: But they’ll kick the shit out of you.


Qualia: Medieval gender roles are kind of interesting, because a lot of our ideas about medieval gender roles actually come from Victorian Era, which had its (Raquel: Right.) own very restrictive gender roles, but Victorians were absolutely obsessed with the Middle Ages. There would be like (Raquel: Oh yeah.) these medieval revival architecture because they were very, very interested in it; so they had [00:46:00] a sort of reconstructed image of the Middle Ages that we sometimes think of as… authentic. Women in the Middle Ages were considered more sexual than men.


Raquel: Right. (Qualia: And—) The idea of women as sexless is a very, very recent belief.


Qualia: Yeah. Yeah.


Raquel: That was not the norm throughout most of human history. Women in Ancient Greece too, women were believed to just be hypersexual, (Qualia: Yeah, insatiable.) ludicrously promiscuous, so you had to keep them locked up, or they’d just fuck everybody they could.


Qualia: Absolutely, but in the Middle Ages, this was considered fairly normal. It was, of course, sinful, but normal, it was more normal. So, women didn’t, you know, weren’t necessarily locked up. People had sex outside of wedlock all the fucking time, it was not… It was (Raquel: Right) frowned on, but it wasn’t abnormal?


Raquel: No.


Qualia: And, especially after the plague, a bunch of people died, and it—you needed [00:47:00] a bricklayer, you didn’t care who did it, women would do it.


Raquel: Right.


Qualia: Everybody, in general, was more free to go to a landlord or a lord who paid better wages, gave better terms, whereas before, they were kind of stuck on the land. And women started doing things like… pioneering the profession of lawyering or becoming alewives, just all kinds, starting businesses, stuff like that. And then, it wasn’t until the Renaissance, which was fairly shortly after the end of the plague, where there was this backlash against these new gender roles where that’s when you’ve got the witch burnings. A lot of people think of witch burnings as a medieval thing, but no, it was a Renaissance (Raquel: Right.) thing.


Raquel: You think of them as a Dark Age thing.


Qualia: Right. Yeah, no, it was Renaissance Era. I forget what it’s called, I think it’s the… Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of the Witches by, by a king (Raquel: Mm.) It was [00:48:00] James who wrote that, about how you could recognize witches and all of these Enlightenment thinkers came from this era. So it’s very weird that we think of the Enlightenment as the birth of the modern age, which it is, but it came with all of this backlash against the freedom of women and their agency. And the freedom of peasants and their agency.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that, cause my perception of the Burning times is like, okay, it was the dark ages.


Qualia: No, no, the (Raquel: I didn’t really associate it with the Renaissance.) Dark Ages was 700 years before that.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: Wow.


Qualia: And the Dark Ages refers to, there weren’t a lot of surviving texts. It does not refer to the progressiveness of the—the paper, and the scrolls didn’t hold up well.


Raquel: Oh, oh. Oh. Yeah, that makes sense. It’s made out of paper. It’s not going to last too good.


Qualia: [00:49:00] Right. So it was just way more progressive. There were female vikings. I’m not going to say that it was a great time to be a woman, cause (Raquel: ho, no.) very few places in the world at very few periods of time are great places to be women, but there’s definitely a lot of cultures to come up with these stories about how much worse it used to be, as sort of a way of talking about how much better we are now. And, sometimes, it’s just not true, the stories we come up, to that effect.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Hmm, alright. So, why don’t we talk a little bit about some examples of stories about broke, or poor, or working class, or peasant people that are cool and good? Just because we’ve talked about, no, that it can be interesting, but let’s talk about some stories—maybe speculative, maybe not, but fictional—about broke people that are fucking great. I’m going to start with a lot of Nathan Ballingrud’s protagonists. Nathan Ballingrud, he wrote North [00:50:00] American Lake Monsters, he’s a sort of a horror short story writer, and a lot of his protagonists tend to be salt-of-the-earth kind of working class guys, because the author himself, he had kind of an interesting background. He was a, I think he was a bartender, I think he worked on an oil rig, he’s had these sort-of salt-of-the-earth type jobs and experiences, and that’s reflected in his protagonists, and they’re great and they’re really compelling, because there’s this extra layer of vulnerability, of, okay, you’re kind of a regular guy, you know, a regular sort of beer-drinking construction worker, and now you got to deal with a fucking werewolf? (Qualia: [laughs]) Jesus Christ. Goddamn, man, I’m not up for this. And they’re really, really good.


Qualia: Sounds great. Of course, Alien, and, to a certain extent, Aliens. Like (Raquel: Yeah) Aliens’ union, a union shop.


Raquel: Yeah, yeah. (Qualia: They’re mining.) They’re truckers in space. It is not white collar space. This is blue collar space travel. [00:51:00]


Qualia: That’s right.


Raquel: And it’s great. It’s awesome.


Qualia: Yeah, it’s incredible. It’s very much a “everything goes to shit because nobody listens to the Quality Control lady.”


Raquel: Right, no one listens to her, and it’s the PMC fucking nerd science officer who gets everybody killed.


Qualia: That’s right.


Raquel: It’s that fucking guy, and then, in the sequel, it’s a weaselly little corporate guy who’s fucking shit up for everybody.


Qualia: Absolutely, and, of course, the soldier class doesn’t take seriously what the working-class person says.


Raquel: Right.


Qualia: So even that has kind of a class element to it.


Raquel: Right, and also, you’re a civvie, what do you know?


Qualia: That’s right.


Raquel: That kind of thing there too. But yeah, yeah, there, yeah, and it’s great. I mean, we love Alien, we love Ridley Scott’s Alien. It’s so good. So, okay, Alien. For another movie, that Eggers’ [00:52:00] film, The Lighthouse. It is about a guy with a really shitty job. He’s going fucking crazy in a lighthouse, it’s quite good. 


Qualia: It is. It is an incredible movie. It’s one of my favorites of the past ten years, but you know—

Raquel: Oh, it’s great. It is a big hallucination and you’re—I love how they don’t explain things—not sure, is William Defoe even real, or does the protagonist have a split-personality? There are these hints that maybe he’s not real. But they never 100%, there’s never a scene where you really find that out.


Qualia: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s, yeah, it’s definitely very, it works on more than one level. Except, I think it’s a retelling of a myth. I think it’s Prometheus. That myth is (Raquel: Yeah, there’s a lot of—) I read it that way. 


Raquel: —Prometheus in it, and it’s also based partly on a really upsetting incident of, it was a guy who had that job, and his partner died, but he [00:53:00] wasn’t able to… properly bury the body or something, and I don’t—


Qualia: Oh.


Raquel: He was tied to a rope in the storm, just sort of dangling for weeks or something really fucked up.


Qualia: Oh, wow.


Raquel: Yeah, it’s just some crazy hear—I don’t remember the details, but it was based very loosely on a true story, that just sounds like an extremely bad time for that dude.


Qualia: Well. It’s over now. [laughs]


Raquel: Yeah, well, well, it’s not his problem anymore. He’s been dead a hundred years.


Qualia: That’s right.


Raquel: Let’s see, J—per J.R. Bolt—friend of the show, J.R. Bolt, he mentioned Trailer Park Boys, “imagine a medieval fantasy Trailer Park Boys, that would slap!”


Qualia: It would slap so hard.


Raquel: It would be so much fun, young Ricky telling Sheriff Lahey, like “Prithee, I will give thee a hay penny to fuck off.”


Qualia: A lot of Nick Mamatas stories are, he’s very working class, a lot of his are from a very working class point-of-view. And he, of [00:54:00] course, does a lot of science fiction, fantasy, Lovecraftian stuff.


Raquel: Oh yeah. A lot of Abbey Mei Otis’ stories, she’s more sci-fi, I think, than fantasy. We also covered her book of short stories, Alien Virus Love Disaster, on a bonus episode. She has a lot of kind of hard-scrabble protagonists, and they’re really really terrific stories.


Qualia: Mm. Of course, Terry Pratchett. Of course, Terry Pratchett does a lot of…


Raquel: Yes, Harley. Calm down, buddy.


Qualia: His characters often do sort of change circumstances, but they often don’t really necessarily change classes over the course of a story, which is really interesting.


Raquel: That’s pretty cool. I still haven’t read Terry Pratchett. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about him, though. [laughs]


Qualia: He’s, you know, he’s really, how to put it… Like, I’m not a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, don’t tell anybody, I’m going to get my nerd card revoked. [00:55:00]


Raquel: Oh nooo.


Qualia: But he worked with Neil Gaiman a few times, so he often gets lumped into together with him, but, yeah, Terry Pratchett definitely. He’s got his Witches series, I’m not what class the witches would be.


Raquel: Yeah, who knows?


Qualia: but, uh, but his—


Raquel: I feel like they’re kind of merchant class or something.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: Artisan class.


Qualia: Yeah, but, his books set around the witches, in a small country called Lancre, which is maybe the size of, a few, you know, a handful of football pitches, and has, and it parodies and it has a king, but he’s a king of about 70 people. [laughs] So it’s definitely, it’s silly, it’s very silly. And, he has a Wife of Bathesque type character called Nanny Ogg, and I wrote to him that I wanted to be Nanny Ogg when I grew up, when I was six. (Raquel: Awww.) And, again, she’s like a [00:56:00] Wife of Bathesque, several husbands, constantly doing body jokes. And he wrote back to me, and he said he hoped I didn’t fully understand Nanny Ogg.


Raquel: That’s so good. That’s lovely that he wrote back to you too, that’s so sweet.


Qualia: He did, and when I met him at fourteen, he remembered my letter. It was very kind of him!


Raquel: Oh my god.


Qualia: He died of—this is a huge tangent—but he died of Alzheimer’s, which was such a loss because he had an encyclopedic memory of anything he’d ever read and anybody he’d ever met. It was incred— (Raquel: Oh god.) it was incredible talking to him, and hearing him talk, cause he could just, he’d read most of his local library, like all of his children’s section, all of the adult section, by the time he was fourteen. And he could quote (Raquel: Wow.) you where he knew stuff from. 


Raquel: Wow.


Qualia: Yeah. (Raquel: That’s extraordinary.) Incredible guy.


Raquel: That is so cool. So, recommending him, I’ll recommend something, a suggestion from the discord, I [00:57:00] haven’t read this one. The Alchemy of Stone, I haven’t read it. (Qualia: Me neither. [laughs]) But, many, many people in our discord said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a really good one.” So, The Alchemy of Stone. There it is. It is a fantasy novel by Russian writer, Ekaterina Sedia. It is an urban fantasy/steampunk novel, dealing with an automaton’s involvement in a proletariat revolution in the fictional city of Ayona. So, that sounds pretty cool.


Qualia: That does sound cool.


Raquel: Yeah, that sounds cool. It’s a robot uprising, I’m in favor. That sounds neat. Let’s see, oh, a book that I read in high school, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. It’s from the 1970s. It is a queer genderfluid utopian novel that that goes to some dark places. It’s good, and the protagonist is sort of a lower-income Latino woman. Latino woman, Latina, durr. Oh yeah, members of the discord also [00:58:00] recommended Dorohedoro. It is a Japanese manga series.


Qualia: Hmm!


Raquel: And it is about an amnesiac, reptilian-headed caiman, working together with his friend to recover his memories and survive in a strange and violent world. So that sounds cool.



[♪ Rite Gud outro theme ♪]




Raquel: So, why don’t we wind it down? It’s been about an hour. Before we go, please plug your work. Where can we find and support you, I know you’re on Youtube.


Qualia: I am on Youtube. I’m on Youtube at qualiaredux, one word. I’m on Substack. At Substack, at mkanderson, all one word. You can find me there, and, of course, I’m at these_qualia on Twitter, for as long as that lasts. (Raquel: Yeah.) [00:59:00] And you can find me in the Rite Gud discord, come hang out.


Raquel: Nice. Yeah. Yeah, shoot the shit at the Rite Gud discord, it costs a dollar, and that’s it. (Qualia: Hm.) It doesn’t cost eight dollars like Twitter soon will, apparently. [laughs] 


Qualia: Right, and, and it—


Raquel: You know what drives me crazy? Elon Musk keeps printing that meme of, oh, eight dollars, that’s the cost of a Starbucks drink. No, it isn’t.


Qualia: No, it isn’t, that would be a crazy cup.


Raquel: Frappuccinos are less than eight dollars, significantly less!


Qualia: Even the fancy drinks are less.


Raquel: Unless you’re doing that secret menu bullshit, where it’s like, add thirty-two pumps of dragonfruit, it’s not going to cost eight dollars.


Qualia: No. It’s [laughs] too much money. And, plus, can you imagine, what kind of freaking nerd I’d have to be to pay eight dollars for… anywhere. (Raquel: Yeah.) Oh, I did do a video recently on why Youtube is—not Youtube—Twitter is in huge financial trouble, so you might want to check that [01:00:00] one out. And, (Raquel: Yeah.) think about, if you’re a writer, diversifying your means of connecting with your base.


Raquel: Oh yeah, I’m doing that. We’re trying to look at, okay, where else can we go? We also have a Kittysneezes has a Youtube, and we put Rite Guds there; we also have a Substack, we’re putting this podcast up on Substack too, so, if you want new episodes in your inbox, just follow it. It’s part of my monthly newsletter, it’s R.S. Benedict at Substack, just cause, I figure, okay, Twitter’s gonna collapse, and I need a way to keep in touch with people. This seems like the logical next one, because I don’t want to do TikTok dances. I’m too old for that shit.


Qualia: Yeah, I need to, ugh. Anyway, that (Raquel: I’m too camera-shy for Instagram.) might be a whole different aspect of—


Raquel: I don’t want to go to the tomb that is Facebook.


Qualia: God, and you know Mastodon has downsides. [01:01:00] Cohost (Raquel: it’s too hard.) is very flawed.


Raquel: And you toot? I’m not going to toot.


Qualia: You don’t toot. Just—


Raquel: I’m not, I’m not tooting. You can’t make me toot.


Qualia: They also have this culture, somebody talked about how they used to be on Mastodon. Somebody would retweet, or retoot her (Raquel: Retoot.) picture, her picture of her dog with content warning: dog.


Raquel: What the fuck?


Qualia: And in one of them, there was just her dog’s shadow. And this person retooted it with content warning: concept of a dog.


Raquel: That’s incredible.


Qualia: It’s just a very different culture.


Raquel: That’s art.


Qualia: It’s art.


Raquel: That’s amazing.


Qualia: It is.


Raquel: I don’t think I could handle it. I couldn’t, I can’t go to Tumblr, Tumblr’s way too fandom-ish.


Qualia: Yeah, and it’s PV, PVP. 


Raquel: And that, I clash with that pretty bad.


Qualia: It’s very fandom-y and, you know, everybody’s fighting all the time, as bad or worse than [01:02:00] Twitter, which is just (Raquel: Oh god.) the worst of both worlds, maybe.


Raquel: Yeah, and you can type a lot longer posts on that, too. So it’s like, oh god, I’m just trying to imagine like a thousand words.


Qualia: I’ve—


Raquel: And I said, noooo.


Qualia: Somebody did a thirty thousand word callout of me on Tumblr once.


Raquel: Holy fuck. Was it for an incredibly minor thing?


Qualia: Oh, it was incredibly minor.


Raquel: Or just inscrutable fandom drama?


Qualia: It was…


Raquel: Like, “you shipped the wrong characters!”


Qualia: I, I think, I think one of my sins, and maybe I did fuck up on this one, I’m not sure, but Daisy Ridley, Star Wars thing, she was avoiding paparazzi, so she was in some sportswear and wraparound sunglasses, and all that. And I joked that she was wearing a sport burka, cause (Raquel: Ah.) she was just completely covered. (Raquel: Right.) And this was apparently the worst possible thing I could ever say about anyone.


Raquel: Ehhhhh.


Qualia: And it’s like, it—


Raquel: I don’t think that’s the worst [01:03:00] thing you could say about a person.


Qualia: Yeah, it just looked terrible.


Raquel: There are significantly worse things you can say.


Qualia: Yeah, but her face was completely covered by a sweatshirt and all that, and it was just… yeah.


Raquel: Yeah, that’s taking things a little too seriously then, I’m sorry.


Qualia: Yeah. And sometimes I put snarky, like when I reblogged stuff, sometimes I would put snarky tags on it. And this is, you know, terrible, how dare I?


Raquel: Oh no.


Qualia: Heh.


Raquel: Oh no! We’re on Cohost, but apparently, Cohost is also terrible in some way, and we’re not allowed to post yet, anyhow, so.


Qualia: Yeah, they need to, they need—


Raquel: Apparently, their TOS has some really janky clauses in there, which is not great. 


Qualia: Yeah, they are claiming they’ve accidentally claimed copyright on everything that’s posted on it.


Raquel: Oh, I don’t, like—


Qualia: Which, they acknowledge is a problem, and they’re going to fix. (Raquel: Oh, okay.) And there have been people who are like, how dare you, you know. They’re doing [01:04:00] their best. And it’s like, I don’t want people to do their best. I don’t want to think about it.


Raquel: Yeaaah, yeah, you just don’t want that clause on your website, that’s ridiculous.


Qualia: Yeah, but.


Raquel: I don’t know if it’s enforceable or not, but it’s not a good thing.


Qualia: It’s not a good thing, and I’m sure they’ll fix it. And I don’t mean anything bad against them, it’s just… it really is about me as a writer, who has to make a living, mourning (Raquel: Yeah.) the fact that, that we had a terrible horrible website that was very good at one thing, Twitter.


Raquel: That was useful, it was very good for finding followers and getting your work seen. (Qualia: Yes.) It was good for that. (Qualia: and in a way that—) For all its many drawbacks.


Qualia: Yeah, a—yeah, it was the place where people were open to reading you as a writer, and it, not to dunk on people who are trying their best to make something that’s different, that doesn’t have some of those downsides, who are really trying to do something new, [01:05:00] and maybe don’t have the resources to do it perfectly all at once, it’s just, when we lose this, it’s going to be… it’s going to be horrible.


Raquel: Yeah. Yeah, it’s kind of a bummer.


Qualia: Yeah.


Raquel: But, at least, we’re losing it in the dumbest possible way, for the dumbest possible reason, (Qualia: Yeah.) which is pretty funny.


Qualia: And we might, and Elon Musk is having to file a bunch of forms to disclose that he’s selling Tesla stock, which keeps crashing.


Raquel: Yeah, that’s pretty funny.


Qualia: Yeah, so Twitter might go down, but Elon Musk might be, very shortly, not the richest man in the world anymore.


Raquel: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.


Qualia: Yeah, and he was like eighty billion dollars ahead. He’s going to lose that in a month or two, and I’m…


Raquel: Hell yeah.


Qualia: If I can find a way—


Raquel: That’s pretty sweet.


Qualia: Yeah, so, if somebody’s going to mark that event, I’m going to set some time aside, and have a little party. [laughs]


Raquel: [laughs] Yeah, absolutely, that sounds pretty sweet. I’ll break out [01:06:00] my tiny bottle of champagne for that.


Qualia: Hell yeah.


Raquel: Okay, so why don’t we sign off then? Thank you so much for coming on the show and talking about this.


Qualia: Yeah, absolutely. Good to talk to you.


Raquel: And thank you all for listening. If you like what you heard, head to, and subscribe. Thank you, Harley. Until next time, keep writing good.


Matt: This has been Rite Gud with Raquel S. Benedict. Hosted by Raquel S. Benedict and produced by Matt Keeley for K.S. Media LLC. Theme song by OK Glass. For comments and concerns, please write to us at RiteGud at That is R-I-T-E G-U-D at kitty sneezes dot com. If you’d like to support us, please visit our patreon at This has been a KittySneezes production.


[♪ Rite Gud theme ♪]


Jeremiah Aulwurm: [01:07:00] in… COLOR.