Touch Grass (Transcript)

Raquel: Welcome to Rite Gud, the only podcast that helps you write good. I’m R. S. Benedict, the most dangerous woman in speculative fiction. We’ve talked about bodies on this podcast, but today, we’re talking about spaces. A sense of place can ground your story, or create a mood, or give it something really unique.

Unfortunately, in an era in which we are all way too online, it’s easy to neglect this [00:01:00] and stick our characters in a weird featureless void. So how can we escape the set design from THX 1138? One way is by engaging with nature. Here to talk about this is Ashely Adams. Ashely, you, you know about nature.

Tell us about your connections with nature.

Ashely: Yes. Hello. This has been kind of a long time coming, right? Cause I think I remember when I was first getting into your, but you’re like, “someday we will talk about a nature thing.” And now we’ve done it. Which I’m, I’m super excited about. So my background is, I’ve formally studied English and creative writing. I have an MFA in it, whatever, but by, but my bachelor’s was in fisheries and wildlife. So, or as some people called it, “Oh, so you got to–” our wildlife management in, uh, Michigan, where my home state was the Department of Natural Resources, so DNR, and they’re like, “oh, you got a degree in DNR,” and I was like, yeah, sure, whatever.

So, my first love has always been kind of the land and wildlife. I’ve worked at bird sanctuaries, I’ve worked with the park service and the forest [00:02:00] service. I feel like I’m interviewing for a job right now. This is giving me horror flashbacks right now. Uh, oh, no, no, I’m joking. Uh, it is a little… Because I’ve definitely said a few things in, like, job reviews, but, I used to volunteer with, like, Wildlife Rescue, so I’ve wrestled some animals, and I still love nature, even if it’s maybe not, the thing I’m pursuing, professionally as much anymore.

I will say, as an artist, it’s still something I write about. My thesis as a creative writing person was very centered in nature and science. I think there’s still a lot of, there’s a little crossover. So that’s where I came as I, as someone that’s worked in the natural resource field and still really loves it and has a mission to, uh, we’ll discuss later, but I’m going to get everyone out, Aldo Leo-pilled, as I call it,

we’re going to get you all you motherfuckers to read Sand County Almanac, um, but we’ll discuss that later, so yeah, that’s a little bit about my background.

And specifically, I say I have a Fisheries and Wildlife degree, but I, it was Wildlife Biology, because people would be like, oh, what do you [00:03:00] know about fish? And I’m like, not a lot. I’ll be quite frank. Um, fish people are weird. I was a wildlife person, which is also weird. But anyway, uh, so that’s, that’s the story of Ashely.

Raquel: Very nice. Very nice. Now, let’s talk a little bit about how nature is approached or depicted in a lot of contemporary speculative fiction. I, I feel like a lot of contemporary speculative fiction has a real problem with, bodies and spaces in that you kind of feel like you’re in a white void populated by disembodied consciousnesses and people don’t seem to have a body.

And people don’t seem to really exist in places. We’re all, we’re all, I guess we’re all just too fuckin online. You know? We’re too online, and it’s nerds who are especially online writing this stuff. And I admit that this is something I have a little bit of trouble with too, I, talking to you I start realizing like, Wow, I don’t really engage with nature very much in my writing.

That’s, that’s not [00:04:00] good.

Ashely: Yeah, I think, I think that is something I definitely noticed in general is, at least in speculative fiction, this kind of reduction away from place. This is not universal. We could talk about, like, the trends of how spec fic has approached, like, nature and place. Then there’s the current, which I have problems with the term, but it does exist, climate fiction or cli fi, which I find, oh, uh, uh,

  1. I hate that! I’m like, climate fiction, like, eh, fine, but, when they say cli fi, I’m like, eh, barf, barf, barf. Um. So, yeah, I think a lot of it comes from, I think, stuff we’ve talked about in the past, that kind of, like, cine cinematographication, just came up with a word,

Raquel: Yeah.

Ashely: of writing, um, I think which places an emphasis a lot on dialogue and not so much on place.

Um. Just yeah, I just noticed that there is like not as much or as much as I’d like place again Not universal because somebody might come and be like well this thing You know did wrote a whole was a whole thing about trees and I’ll be like cool awesome [00:05:00] Just kind of general trends. I notice is that there’s a definitely a reduction in place and I think yeah From this, the kind of movie ification of everything.

And so maybe some other features. I think we’ll talk a little bit about kind of the way we relate to nature and place when we are maybe not in an area that is, traditionally perceived as a natural spot.

I think there’s a lot to talk about there, not to jump ahead of myself, but yeah, the idea that we don’t see because we may be in a more human dominated environment or a suburban or an urban, we don’t necessarily see that as a cool place to talk about, but it totally is.

Um, so, yeah. That’s stuff I’ve definitely seen. I would say it’s some of the stuff that pisses me off the worst. That is like my bugbear in bad spec fic is that I’m like, Where’s the sense of place? This is the whole point of like this genre is that you can do crazy things with place, right?

And then

you’re all like,

I don’t know, man.

Raquel: Yeah, it kind of makes me think of a lot of MCU movies and that it’s all sort of filmed in a, in a [00:06:00] green cube. And no one’s really interacting with anything around them, you’re not filming them anywhere, and it’s just a background put in. And weirdly enough, they always put in very generic backgrounds, which is another thing that drives me crazy.

Like, okay, you got the technology to put in to, to put your heroes in anywhere cool, and the places are like, Warehouse. Airplane hangar. Parking lot. Sorta, sorta… Some sand somewhere. That’s really… You could, you could put this someplace cooler than that. You could put it on the Great Wall of China. You could put it in like a really cool jungle.

Or something, and you’re just putting it

Ashely: Dude, we gotta bring back fucking jungles in stories. Like, I feel like there’s so many stories I read, I’m like, this should be in a jungle.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jungles rock. I, I kinda get why. Which is that a lot of jungle adventure stories come from this era of very racist and colonialist and imperialist, [00:07:00] uh, attitudes. So, there’s probably an association with that. But jungles are really cool, also.

Ashely: Yeah, jungles don’t have to be racist, but I

Raquel: They don’t gotta

Ashely: but I think you went to, I said we were, we’re like, same hat, same brainwave right now, because I was thinking one of the reasons too, I think people may be resistant to kind of, uh, richer environmental settings is one, there’s a cat yelling at them,


Raquel: there is. Hi, Harley.

Ashely: and two, there is that history of, I don’t I’m thinking of like our early kind of Golden Era pulp stuff, which is still, which is very tied into, and again, the trends I’m going to be describing is very Western, Anglo based, so, yeah, you know, and again, not everything does this.

And I want to talk a little bit about some exceptions, which I think is cool. But basically, yeah, there’s a lot of the idea of… Again, the jungle will be on Venus, but it’s literally just, it’s just like a Manifest Destiny story, but on Venus, with

some Gleep Glops, in place of,[00:08:00] problematic depictions of indigenous people.

Gleep Glops, in this case, mean aliens. And so you get these really lurid, lush descriptions of place, but it is, very exotifying and titillating, so I think some people are always a little bit worried about falling into that, which is fair, and, and it still happens to this day.

Raquel: hmm.

Ashely: I think some interesting trend is, in speculative fiction, I think especially towards the science fiction side, there is, and I think also towards the dystopia side, is the, this kind of emerging like, there’s kind of a flip side of a very emerging and persistent Climate and ecological based writing, so around the 50s, 60s, 70s, when we’re starting to see our kind of modern, environmental movement, you know. You get lots of writers like Ursula K

Le Guin pops up a lot, John Bruner is another guy that I know does a lot of like, he did a lot of ecofiction, um, that you kind of see addressing the environment, usually, Pollution was the big thing back then. It’s the whole thing, obviously, but that was their

[00:09:00] fixation.

And then, of course, we have our kind of contemporary analogy is the climate fiction, cli fi, blah. Um, and I would say I even see it sometimes. I think an interesting thing I’ve noticed, especially in near future science fiction, is that the world building and its execution is sometimes good, sometimes bad.

But there’s a very interesting trend of like… They’re writing the future where climate, the effects of what we predict will happen when climate crisis happens, so like rising sea levels. One example I put in notes is I was reading, How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu.

Great short story collection. I could go on all day about that short story collection. It’s kind of about climate change, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily like a climate book, but it kind of is. Anyway, it’s more about grief. a lot of the stories are like,

a lot of them are set in Japan and eventually by the end, uh, not to get too spoilery, but literally Japan is now a series of, well it’s a series of islands, but it’s a series of a lot smaller islands now because the water levels have come up.

So, and there’s seawalls everywhere and there’s [00:10:00] actually talking about like how depressing these seawalls are and like you don’t see the ocean anymore. So I think that’s something you, you do see kind of on the flip side is that there is, there is a small but significant, I think tackling of at least the climate crisis in speculative fiction.


Ashely: You raised the point that like nature is really cool. We were talking, I was talking sci fi fantasy, but You also have like horror, and how like,

Raquel: Oh, yeah. Horror and nature. I mean, I feel like horror’s a little bit better about this because people tend to have bodies a little bit more in horror, but, the use of nature in horror, there… it’s a cliche for gothic stories to take place on a spooky cold mountain for a reason.

Ashely: [00:11:00] Right? Like,

Raquel: It works!

You’re isolated, you’re far away from shit. The, the height kind of emphasizes that very often these are gothic stories about, about aristocrats, about rich families looking down, but also isolated from the ordinary village. The terrain is treacherous, so you can’t just leave. The forest is not your friend.

Nature can make you feel very small and vulnerable as a human being because this is a space that was not designed for your personal comfort, and it will remind you of this very, very often.

Ashely: At least kind of what we see in horror contemporarily, I mean, even past is nature as a place for exploring our thoughts and fears and hopes and wants. And that I think the rest of spec fic could really embrace that as well. Really

everyone can. Yeah, you can make the land a metaphor.

Do it.

Raquel: Do it! Fuckin do the shit out of it! It rocks! I love that

Ashely: Don’t do it as Manifest Destiny. That was fucked up. I’ll give you [00:12:00] that. But like, do it as I don’t know, a metaphor for depression or something. I don’t know. Figure it out. Do whatever. It doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re doing something with it. You can do

that. You can do nature as a metaphor for exploring things.

It’s not, that’s a thing you forget. But you can do it. I’m telling you you can. It’s free.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. And also, consider animals too. Something that kinda drives me crazy is fantasy writers who’ve never ridden a horse. I am not a horse girl. I am not a horse expert. But I did take horseback riding lessons as a kid. Yes, Harley. And it’s really striking to me. You can kind of tell who has actually ridden a horse versus who hasn’t by how they describe horseback riding.

Like a horse isn’t a car that you just sort of get onto and go. If you’ve ridden a horse, you know that they’re very finicky, very emotional, very vulnerable creatures. They have surprisingly delicate ankles despite being these massive, like, thousand pound fucking beasts. They’re very emotional. They have severe anxiety.

They’re all [00:13:00] Bojack Horsemen, basically, where they’re very large, but very emotionally unstable. They’re constantly throwing a shoe, getting hurt. They get tired. They get hungry. They need to shit and piss all the time. And they can be temperamental. Some horses are much more difficult to control than others.

Some horses are a lot wilder. Some horses

Ashely: Well,

Raquel: aren’t friendly to you.

Ashely: I, I totally, I just remembered this. Something, I remember, people critiquing, fantasy stories specifically because they would all ride non fixed male horses a lot.

Raquel: wow.

Ashely: So that’s because it’s like a cool thing to be like I got on like the Mustang or

Raquel: on my stallion. Yeah.

Ashely: and stuff and no most people ride a gelding right or

maybe a mare even. I mean, that’s George RR Martin actually made that a point in uh the first Game of Thrones the Song of Ice and Fire book Game of Thrones that was actually a big plot point in like What the hell do they call that thing where they like have their lances and they’re, they’re running [00:14:00] at each other?

What the hell is that thing called?


Thank you. I’m here for nature. I’m not here for medieval, time, leisure time. So yeah, that was actually a thing where like the, it was the mountain and then one of those other guys, there’s so many guys in those books and he wrote a specifically because he knew the guy was riding a non,

and not a gelding. He was riding a stallion and the horse was like, people definitely don’t know what to do with horses. Um,

Raquel: Yeah.

Ashely: and

Raquel: I don’t expect people to be fucking cowboys, but… Horseback riding is not that inaccessible. It is not that hard to sort of take a little horseback riding lesson or something on a ranch. Just, if you get, spend an afternoon, pay the money, ride on a horse for a couple hours, kinda get a feel for it.

Ashely: well, and I think that could go extend to one of the things I was interested is when you brought that up is just in general, how we view animals in the environment? How easy is it? Like, you have your cool fantasy story, right? And [00:15:00] you ride some creature and it’s how easy is it just to be like, I don’t know.

It’s like a horse. Doesn’t matter if it’s a

dragon, it’s a horse.

Just in general, why people have the relationships with the animals they do and why they use them or don’t use them. You don’t see a lot of thinking about that. And again, I know that’s a higher level, world building like woo thing.

I love that stuff ’cause that was like all I did in my fisheries and wildlife degree. That was the

whole thing we were obsessed about is , how do people in the environment actually relate and use each other? I’m not sure how related, but I think an interesting thing to think about in the real world, an example of how animals shape what we do is our relationship to the wheel.

A lot of

people, um, a lot of people, a lot of idiot, shitty racist people will be like, ah, the Meso Americans were not as advanced because they did not regularly use a wheel as a tool. And a lot of people theorize the reason that is, again, this is a theory. So we’re not quite sure, but one of the theories comes along is they didn’t have anything that could be a [00:16:00] pack animal.

Realistically, in most of these places, they didn’t have horses were,

I mean, horses were wiped out like thousands of years ago, during the ice age. So, you know, they had a wheel they had as a toy, in a lot of places. So that’s something to think about as your spec fiction writer is like, okay, if I have this thing here, this animal here, or this plant here, how is that actually shaped the way people?

People do. And I’m not saying you have to, become, a scientist, like, if you want a potato in your, your old fantasy story, I don’t, I don’t care, I’m not going to come to your house and stuff, but it’s


Raquel: fine. Put a potato

Ashely: You put a potato in there, but it is something to think about, and again, I’m a dork, so I love thinking about that stuff, but it is something, something to think about if you, especially if you, you brand yourself as a big world builder,

and you just end up writing a world that looks basically like ours, except sometimes the plants are, like, Purple or whatever, like, okay, cool.

That would, change the way society functions radically, probably, but it’s fine, whatever, it’s the same.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it feels a [00:17:00] bit like people, it feels as though a lot of writers are a little too suburban and maybe a little too computery, so they don’t spend all that much time outside. And granted, I’m not a rugged outdoorsman myself, but… Man, go on a hike or something. Every once in a while, please.

Go outside. Uh, because it is really, really striking and a little frustrating to me to see a genre that advertises itself on, on being imaginative and bringing you to exotic, exciting places and it all just kind of feels like you’re in a suburban parking lot still.

Ashely: I think some, maybe in some reason we see, this place and setting kind of dissolve in later works is Uh, we’re becoming incestuous in our genre, while, your classic genres, like, obviously they read, stuff with spec fic, but they would read outside the genre, they would pull from a lot of their experiences.

I’m thinking, like, Tolkien, [00:18:00] who Read a lot and did a lot and then now everyone’s writing. They’re not even writing

from Lord of the Rings They’re writing from the like the simulacra of Lord of the Rings You know the D& D campaign of the D& D campaign of the movie of the book of Dragonlance or whatever the fuck, you know That was based on Tolkien somewhere. So that is why nature can get very reductive and also everything gets reductive It’s because

they’re they’re just taking a classic and they’re just writing from it, or writing from the derivative of the classic five times removed down the chain.

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about how we might approach nature and place in interesting ways as speculative fiction writers. We might talk a little bit about some examples of, of specfic that, approaches nature or sense of place in interesting ways. I’ll bring up first in sci fi, we recently had a book club episode about this, The Demolished Man by [00:19:00] Alfred Bester.

It has some really neat settings. There’s a psychedelic melted… I think paint factory, where a psychic fortune teller runs a burlesque house. There’s a nature preserve in space, where people go camping in a swamp, but it’s like a space swamp. There’s a lot of really fun, weird settings that actually affect the way the characters act, and… There’s, there is this real fun sense of adventure, and it is a very well packed novel.

Ashely: Okay, I have a whole crackpot theory now. I kind of came up with the last few days. I think one of the worst things that happened to science fiction was us figuring out you can’t live on Venus. Realistically. Like, I’m

like, like, um, I’ve been reading, uh, me…

Raquel: sci fi was better when it had zero science in it, when it was just, go to Venus in a hot air balloon, Venus is populated by tall, merciless women. That was the good shit. We need to go back to that.

Ashely: me and a friend were reading this really popular dystopia science fiction, and it’s like, it [00:20:00] has a little bit of a throwback, Planetary romance, space opera thing, and they’re like, Oh yeah,

we’re on Venus and stuff, and we eat clams and stuff like that. I’m like, YES!

Go, go to Venus, baby! Like, yeah! Yeah, I know you can’t live there, but, like, Sometimes, uh, scientists…

Raquel: fix it. Figure it out.

Ashely: Scientists are wrong sometimes, so, like,

Raquel: Yeah, yeah, let the scientists be wrong.

Ashely: So that’s my crackpot theory, is that, uh, science fiction has really been on a downward turn since ever we’ve, since the Venera missions, basically.

Raquel: Yeah.

Ashely: Uh, write a paper about that.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, I, I know it’s, this is the obvious one, we already mentioned him, but Tolkein. He described the shit out of those forests, man. He, he loved describing forests. He, he loved it. He loved that shit. There’s so much forest in it. But it’s great. It’s giving you the sense that these are people on an adventure.

They’re far away from home. They’re, they’re in some trees that are being weird. They’re hunting [00:21:00] venison. It’s beautiful. I love it. Mm

Ashely: I’m gonna tell, I, I remember I was in the discord and I, I don’t know if you saw, but I was freaking out. Cause I hadn’t like, when I revisited Tolkien, that was kind of one of my summer projects. Cause I hadn’t read it since I was a teen and I did not have patience for it as a teen. I was like, these aren’t the movies.

So, if you read it as a kid, go read it as an adult if you haven’t, cause you’ll have more patience for it, hopefully. but the scene where, where they first start introducing Shelob, Holy shit, that’s some good shit. And,

the tension there, and the way the animal is described, I don’t know if Shelob’s even gonna be considered an animal, it’s like a being, it’s a force, and the tension, I was like, Tolkien can fuckin write some horror when he wants to.

God! Damn, Yeah, it’s a big spider, but the way he describes it is just, it’s so good. Honestly, the movie could not capture this feeling of tension, because in a movie, you’ll just see big spider. You’re like, wow, that’s fucked up. It’s a big spider. But in the book, it’s

like, oh, such a fleshed out experience.

I know I’m babbling, but I’m [00:22:00] like, God, it was so fucking good.

Go, go back and read, uh, If Nothing Else. I mean, all of the cool places, there’s like Moria’s, even the scary places are so fucking good.

Raquel: Mm hmm. Yeah, Moria’s cool. The Mines of Moria really gave me the creeps as a kid.

Ashely: And then I also put, uh, well we gotta talk about our classic on the sci fi side is, uh, motherfuckin Dune. Dune

Raquel: Dune!

Ashely: Dune is so good with place. I always say Dune is

Raquel: It’s really good!

Ashely: he was inspired by the landscape around him. He was inspired by the Pacific Northwest, uh, sand dunes. And so like the sense of place in there is so strong and that’s actually not to go out too off topic, but it’s one of my gripes about the movies.

Ah, it’s really like kind of makes it a little gray. But that’s just the French Canadians. That’s what are you going to do?

Raquel: Yeah, yeah, they’re cold people.

Ashely: Yeah, Dune, for as problematic as it is, it really does nail place. I always say Dune is the best book that can not be written today, and that’s a good reason.

But it fucking nails Arrakis. [00:23:00] If you want to write, like, good sand dunes and stuff like that. Dune’s

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. Uh, here’s another one that we read for the book club. The Elementals by Michael McDowell. It’s very interesting. It’s a southern gothic novel, but whereas a lot of gothic novels like darkness and cold. Instead, this novel uses the oppressive southern heat at this beach house. It’s bright, it’s sunny, there’s fucking sand everywhere.

Sand plays a very important part of this book. And it’s this overwhelming oppressive heat and sun sets this brain killing southern gothic mood. It’s really, really interesting and really effective.

Ashely: Yeah, that book was, I mean… Like I said, so much horror. Yeah, Southern Gothic is just in general, I’m just gonna, I’m thinking of that King of the Hill, when Bobby, when they go

to New Orleans, and he’s like, “I’m a flower wilting” and stuff like that. Southern stuff. Southern writers know how to write a [00:24:00] good wilting story.


Raquel: the, the way southern writers, southern gothic writers use heat is terrific.

Ashely: I feel like the best writers for place are from places that are either really hot or really cold.

Raquel: Really fucking

Ashely: that’s the problem. There’s too much of this, middle latitude, like,



Raquel: too much California!

Ashely: there’s too much, elite coast liberals and stuff like that. We need to get someone that lives in shittier places to, to write.


Raquel: some, some, some people from the Midwest where it snows way too much.

Ashely: Uh, dude, if we want to talk about stories, I, I, if we’ll get to it, I have a whole reading list and I got some things to say about my, my northerners and how they whip ass at writing place.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. So we got The Elementals, again from a previous… book club. The works of Horacio Quiroga. He’s a short story writer from Uruguay. He was a mix of Edgar Allan Poe and Rudyard Kipling. This man loved the jungle, but [00:25:00] had a healthy fear of it. And his stories are full of jungle body horrors, carnivorous bugs, big mean snakes, fucked up ants.

It’s really, really good. It’s super interesting, because some of his stories feel a little bit like proto body horror. Uh, uh, kind of pre Cronenberg type stuff, in that, in that, yeah, it is just jungle animals doing stuff, but it’s doing stuff that’s really, really, really gross, and really fucked up and upsetting, and it is terrific.

Ashely: that’s, that’s, I saw it on the list and I was like, that’s an author I’m not familiar with, which I will definitely need to check out. I’m always up for, especially reading more Latin America works for sure.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we did do a book club on him and I think it was, uh, what was it, Julio Cortazar? It was called Latinx, it was like Latinx Horror Double Feature or something like that,

Ashely: yeah, well, and then speaking of more wet and hot places on our list that we were going down, I have to include my man, [00:26:00] Jeff Vandermeer. If

you read anything about climate fiction.

Which he has a hilarious article about why he doesn’t like climate fiction as a term. I think it’s worth checking out.

But I won’t get into it. Jeff Vandermeer, I think if you’re looking for contemporaries, especially in that climate fiction zone, he’s one of my favorites. He’s a guy I always go back to. I’d say Florida is like one of the most, this is the most place a place can be, I think.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anybody but me, but it just has such a strong definition, It has such strong imagery associated with it, and I think Jeff Vandermeer does a really good job. I think he makes a really, a lovely place out of places that are hard to love, and he can do

kind of those, those horror elements, but also I don’t know, I think I actually think, um, I saw a tweet that did a really good job of saying this.

I won’t, I won’t say who I saw it from, but it was, uh, that Jeff Vandermeer just loves a place for the nature of itself. He doesn’t feel compelled to make it beautiful. which I think is something I really resonate with [00:27:00] is that an ideal place can be beautiful and powerful and doesn’t need to be shaped necessarily under human aesthetics.

Which Florida is, I think that’s. Something very key also to understanding Florida. Um, so yeah, go read, uh, Southern Reach Trilogy. Bourne is great too. I mean, he’s got a whole bunch of stuff. And I actually visited the place that inspired Annihilation. I went to St.

Mark’s, uh, National Wildlife Refuge. It is amazing. It is also very, I went there and I was like, Oh, I see why you would write, a fucked up, eco horror, uh, about this place because it feels vast and, overwhelming to a single human in some spots of it. So I was like, yeah, that makes sense.

Raquel: Mm.

Ashely: There’s also a flamingo there. His name’s Pinky.

He’s not, he’s not in the books as far as I know. Well, I think Jeff Vandermeer is actually writing a new Southern Reach book, so maybe Pinkie will be in that. I should ask him if he’ll put Pinkie, send him a DM because I think we might be mutuals now.

Because I tried to see if he would, uh, if he knew where some birds were up there when I was up there

birding. So, [00:28:00] she’d be

Raquel: Pressuring him to go to Sandals.

Ashely: PINKIE PIE PINKIE PIE PINKIE PIE It’s right over there. It’s like we’re in Florida. It’s just right over, just go,

it’s right over

Raquel: over there. Go to Sandals Resort. Okay.

Ashely: And, and of course, Ursula K. Le Guin, um, any of her works basically have a really strong sense of place. Of course, classically is like Earthsea. Earthsea’s one of my favorite, just like, like good fantasy stories.

Um, just, I love, I love when shit’s on the ocean, has islands and stuff. I love that.

Raquel: Oh yeah. Ocean stories are

Ashely: I’m a water bitch.

Respect to my dry place bitches, but I’m a water bitch for sure. I like when the stories have


And I put friend of the pod Andrew F. Sullivan, has a great sense of place in both of his kind of big works that I’ve read. I haven’t gotten to some of his other ones, but, uh, Waste, which is not specfic, but does have a heightened sense of reality, I’d argue, is the most, Rust Belt city story I’ve ever read, which I appreciate as someone that grew up in the Rust Belt.

And of course the [00:29:00] Marigold,

which I think, you’ll see that you, I’ve seen pop up on some of those climate fiction lists, which, like, good for him. So he has great sense of place, which I love.

Raquel: Mm hmm.

Ashely: And then, I’ll just say too, reading outside the genre of speculative fiction, please, please do it. Especially poetry and non fiction are great. One recommendation I have is, Damn it, my copy of Sand County Almanac, it’s all the way over there. I was actually going to grab it and I’ll read a copy to you all so you all can finally Got you under my control.


Raquel: can, you can go get it. I can, I can edit that out.

Ashely: No, leave leave leave this all in leave it all in no, I’m joking, uh, okay, I’m gonna grab it just a second

Raquel: Yeah, go ahead. Mm.


Ashely: Okay, I’m back I have my copy. actually at one point owned like three copies of this book. [00:30:00]

I don’t know why I own three copies, but I did. So, I thought it was really interesting. So, a little aside, I always thought it was very interesting when people get upset about the classics and required reading lists and stuff.

Cause literally, there’s literally only one time in my life I’ve ever been, pressured into reading a book to prove my intelligence and competency in the field and it literally was Sand County Almanac and like conferences, they’d be like, have you read Sand County Almanac and it’s a fisheries and wildlife conferences, it’s like, you need to, what are you doing?

Since the

only time I’ve been bullied into reading a book was a bunch of people that are wearing camo and go fishing on the weekends and stuff like that. like I said, there’s lots of really good non fiction that really has a good sense of place. And if it’s alright with you all, I’d like to read just a short section from Sand County Almanacs.

You’d kind of see, like, how you can really live in a place. I think this is one of the best place based books in existence. So,

Raquel: hmm.

Ashely: so, and I’m going to, of course, um, no relation, I’m going to read this short [00:31:00] section. From a chapter on March. So, before I start, background is, this book is a rumination, of observations this guy made.

Um, Aldo Leopold, who was a wild land manager on his farm in Wisconsin, just kind of going through the seasons, being like, here’s what I see. And writing really beautiful things about it. And also some very devastating essays about killing wolves and stuff like that. So, this is from March, and it’s The Geese Return.

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese cleaving the murk of a march thaw is the spring. A cardinal whistling spring to a thaw, but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk emerging for a sunbath, but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed, but a migrating goose staking 200 miles a black night on a chance of finding a hole in the lake

has no easy chance for the retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges. That’s so good. Uh, A March morning is only [00:32:00] as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaimed the revolving seasons to her well insulated roof.

Is education possibly a process of training awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers. And I have one more paragraph. Um, March geese are a different story. I’m going to skip ahead a little bit. Although they have been shot at most the winter, as attested by their buckshot, battered pinions, they know that the spring truce is now in effect.

They wind the oxbows of the river, cutting low over the now gunless points and islands, and gabbling to each sandbar as to a long lost friend. They weave low over the marshes and meadows, greeting each newly melted puddle and pool. Finally, after a pro forma circling of our marsh, they set wean and glide silently to the pond.

Black landing gear lowered and rumps white against the far hill. Once touching water, [00:33:00] our newly arrived guests set up a honking and splashing that shakes the last thought of winter out of the brittle cattails. Our geese are home again. So that’s a little passage from Sand County Almanac, so you can really see, like, what you can do with place.

I just love this book so much.

Raquel: Yeah, yeah. Alright. So, something you brought up previously is… Specificity. The importance of specificity when you’re… Describing your setting. In other words, If you mention that someone sits Stops beside a tree, What kind of– Fucking cat, stop it. Don’t attack my fucking chair. Okay. Sorry about that. Um, Say if a character stops beside a tree, What kind of tree is it?

Ashely: Specificity.


Raquel: of tree?

Ashely: of tree is it? Yes. Who knows? It’s just the way it is. Yeah, so I was thinking of ways to be like, okay, so let’s say you’ve heard all this. You’ve been moved. You’ve been Aldeld [00:34:00] Leopilled. Um, how do you incorporate better nature writing and place space? So one of the things I always pushed with my students.

And myself, um, is specificity. So one example I, I’ve been saying is, what kind of tree. So imagine you’re writing your fantasy story, going through a forest. It’s really easy to say they’re going through a forest. But I think what you can do is if you say just what type of trees are they, like, is this forest made of, you don’t have to like get into Latin means or anything like that, but you’ve already

created such a deeper sense of place with a, actually a pretty good word economy too.

Cause saying like a forest instead of saying it was a forest of pines and aspens or whatever, that says a lot, without necessarily having to say a lot in your words, so I think, or what kind of animal being specific, I just push plants because they’re everywhere and it’s really easy for people to ignore plants. So I think that could be a really good way if you want to elevate the place in your thing, being specific. I always tell my students too, [00:35:00] I’ve been pushing them to be more specific with their papers. I’m like, you ever told, heard a story where you’re like, I don’t think that’s true, but also the details are so specific. I kind of have to believe it’s true. I think it also works for when you’re writing a fantasy novel too.

It just sounds realer if you’re really specific. Like, well, I can’t be made up because he said it was an elm. Elms are real. It’s very specific. Why would he bring that up if it was false? So.

Raquel: hmm. Mm. Yeah. Yeah, cat! He is a real pain in the ass

Ashely: I was gonna say, what type of cat do you, you have?

Raquel: don’t He’s a He’s a loud cat. That’s the type of cat he is. He’s a jerk. He’s currently yelling at me to throw his toy, but when I try to reach it, he snatches it away, and hoards it, so that I I just give up. And when I give up, he comes and starts scratching at my chair.

Because he’s angry at me for not throwing the toy that he won’t let

Ashely: Do you think we could get

Harley addicted? Maybe he needs to get less involved in his environment? You think we could get him addicted to like an iPad or something? [00:36:00] Maybe he’ll

Raquel: Yeah,

Ashely: chill out a little bit?

Raquel: He has no chill. This cat has no chill.

Ashely: No he does

Raquel: None. None whatsoever. It is unreasonable.

Ashely: my friend.

Raquel: He’s

Ashely: ha ha ha! ha! Um, So, other things you can do is just set yourself for observations, that’s what Sand County Almanac is. Just sit in a spot and observe what you see. This is something I also carry from my wildlife classes.

So, um, while you all were studying either the blade or I guess, which was the last episode, right? Uh, the blade, or if you were, uh, I guess studying, I don’t know, math or whatever, in my classes they told, one of my homework assignments was like, go to the pond with all the ducks in it and just watch them for like a couple hours and write down what they do.

And that’s your homework. I know I got that degree ruled so much. And it could actually make you a better writer. Just sitting and observing the nature around you. How does an animal move and react? How do the plants [00:37:00] move when the wind goes through them? Keep a little journal. What’s the weather like?

Like, just sitting and observing and making note of it. I know it’s very basic and it sounds super obvious. But it works. That’s why it’s super basic and super obvious.

And I think it’s really easy to lose sight of that, when you live a busy life, obviously. So just finding even like 5 10 minutes to sit in a spot and just be like, What’s going on out here?

I think can really potentially help out your writing. And also, probably, your soul. A little bit.


Raquel: Yeah, go touch some grass.

Ashely: um, what if I’m allergic to grass? Oh no. That’s ableist. Anyway. Um.

Raquel: Yeah. Canceled.

Ashely: Cancel. Oh baby, yeah, just


Raquel: John Scalzi’s gonna get real mad at us again.

Ashely: Oh yeah, I was gonna say, we made a note here of books that didn’t do it well. If you want to know an example of a place that doesn’t do setting well, uh, you can go over to, uh, A friend of this pod, other pod, pod side picnic, and I did a whole episode about, uh, Kaiju Preservation [00:38:00] Society, and how that one drove me nuts as a, as a nature writer.

Um, I’ve already let it, litigated that at length, but it, whoa, whoa,

Raquel: It is really shitty to write a book about kaiju and refuse to describe any of the kaiju in any way, shape, or

Ashely: Buddy, don’t even get me, like I said, I

I did that, I’m

Raquel: his description of the kaiju is, “it looks like every kaiju you’ve ever seen,” which is the laziest possible way to describe it. First of all, I’ve never myself seen a kaiju because I live in the real world, but secondly if you’re going off of movies There’s different kinds of kaiju.

They’re not all the same.

Ashely: I mean.

Raquel: They’re, they’re not, they’re not all the same. They’re very different from each other, in

Ashely: Well, my first thought is, I’m like, so I’m assuming these are like Godzilla kaiju and not like, uh, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Angels, which I would classify as a type of, like, kaiju, which are big, psychological, fucked up monsters, you know?

I assume that he’s like, it’s not like every kaiju, and I’m like, you mean the screaming [00:39:00] prism?

I don’t think it’s like, I assume that it’s not like that.

Pretty, that’d be pretty cool, though. , Yeah, the book sucks. Uh, anyway, I’m not gonna do the haterate thing. I’m gonna talk about cool stuff. Um, let’s see. Uh, I also say this research and get curious is a great thing you can do.

An example of what I did is called up my friend and been like, yeah, how are you, what are you doing? And I was like, yeah, I just spent the last two hours looking up fish scales. Cause I just wanted to know like, what’s a different type of fish scales. I’m describing a character in my story that has like fish scales on her body.

And I was like, I need to look them up and see what types, so I described them right. Even though I’m not gonna use the word for them. I’m not gonna say, like, Ganoid scale in my high fantasy story, cause that doesn’t exist. But I need to know that they are. The classic metaphor of, like, writing is the, you know, the iceberg.

There’s if you ever read my story, you’re gonna see, a line that’s like, She had scales on her arm, and it’ll be like a 90 percent of it hidden about, alligator gar scales or something like that.[00:40:00]

Raquel: Hm. Alright. Yeah, get curious. About nature. About, about flora and fauna.

Ashely: Absolutely.


Raquel: Hello, Harley. Speaking of fauna. Yeah, you’re in rare form tonight. You’re unusually rude. You’re unusually obnoxious tonight.

Ashely: you can

Raquel: What do you have to say for

Ashely: listen to this podcast, observe what you hear, it’s a cat.

Raquel: Yeah. Getting spanked and kissed. How do you feel

Ashely: I was gonna say, are you spanking, are you, are you giving your cat a hearty slap and kissy?

Raquel: Yes, I am.

Ashely: That was incredible.

Raquel: Because that is how we treat naughty boys who whine too much in this house.

Ashely: Um, if you do go out in nature, this is not an

advised method of connecting with most um, animals. Please don’t do this. You’ll get a

Raquel: Yes, do not spank or kiss an alligator.

Ashely: Um, you will get zoo most. I was like, uh, that’s true. I was thinking that. I was thinking mostly like, do don’t do it with like a squirrel.

That’s how you get a zoonotic. We already had covid, we don’t need whatever.

Raquel: Yeah, we don’t need another one of [00:41:00] those fucking

Ashely: They just, they

Raquel: You don’t want to be the guy who somehow started a new plague by spanking and kissing an

Ashely: Don’t do it in Florida, we got armadillos, and they got leprosy, remember that, you know?

Raquel: Oh, wow.

Ashely: yeah. So there’s a nature fact for you, you could put it in your book. You could be like, um, just, I’m just imagining this boring speculative fiction story, and then it just like suddenly diverges into like, oh yeah, here’s some armadillo facts, they have leprosy.

Anyway, back on topic.

Raquel: Yeah, you could do a Moby Dick, but it’s armadillos. And just every other chapter is armadillo facts.

Ashely: No, that.

Raquel: questionable armadillo facts.

Ashely: I was going to say, I don’t know. I mean, sure, somebody’s neurodivergent enough to come up with enough facts to do a Moby Dick on armadillos, but I’m sure not. I’m like, I don’t know if there’s that much to know about armadillos. I mean, there could be, but

Raquel: I’m sure there is. An entire chapter, multiple chapters about armadillo phrenology.

Ashely: I measured the skull of this [00:42:00] armadillo.

Um, you know, fun armadillo fact, here’s another one I can give you, is that they are very, very blind. And I’ve scared them so many times going out hiking in Florida. I’ll just almost walk on them all the time. Cause if we’re not paying attention to each other. Ugh, just a silly, silly creature.

Um, they said go out into nature, you’ll see so many types of guys. You’ll, you’ll, you’ll meet a friend and a pal out in the bog.

Raquel: Yeah.

Ashely: Some other things you can do is obviously the classic, like replicate what other authors do. Um, obviously don’t do a plagiarism. I don’t know why I feel the need to point it out, but, um, don’t do that, but you can see what they’re doing and model off of, um, one example I put in our notes and reading and we can link to, maybe is one of the things I had my students do is there’s this short, piece by, uh, Aimee Nez who it’s The Soils I’ve Eaten.

So it’s just less than 750 word essay about like, Here is all the taste of the different soil of places I’ve been. And I think that’s a really good exercise. And it gives [00:43:00] you a way to think about place in different ways. Sensory details. Could have done a whole episode about sensory details.

That’s also a thing. Tied to place. Also missing a lot. Taste the dirt,

guys. Don’t taste the dirt. That’s how you get anthrax. But taste the

dirt. Metaphorically.

Raquel: No. I want our listeners to go out and eat

Ashely: Eat some


Raquel: Just grab a fistful of it, put it in your

Ashely: You heard it here, Rite Gud.

Raquel: You heard it here, go fuckin put it in your

Ashely: You heard it here,

RightGood. com slash twitter slash jpegs dot mp4 said go eat some dirt or you’re a pussy.

Raquel: Yeah, do it, bitch.

Ashely: Eat some dirt. Eat some rocks.

Raquel: the dirt, eat some rocks, lick some

Ashely: Do you know the geology thing where they lick, uh, stuff to figure out if it’s bone or not?

Raquel: No, I did not

Ashely: Yeah. That’s the thing that they’ll do is they’ll lick a, lick something if they’re not sure if it’s a bone, like a fossil it because bones are porous and so your tongue will kinda like stick on it a little bit more.

Supposedly. [00:44:00] I’m not gonna say I’ve tried this or I have not tried this and I didn’t notice a difference. But theoretically this is things people say, I’ve, uh,

Raquel: Oh, this is theoretically, you have

Ashely: I’m, I’ve.

Raquel: have clearly done

Ashely: I mean, it is a thing people do in the field, and I may have tried to lick, uh, one of my fossils to see if this was true, and I didn’t really notice a difference.

Maybe I needed to do it with a rock on hand to be like, oh, I see now.

Raquel: Yeah, you gotta compare it to a rock, you gotta lick some fossils and some

Ashely: Yeah.

Um, so, um, licks, licks rocks. What is even going on anymore? Oh my god.

Raquel: Yeah. Lick the fossil.

Ashely: Uh.

Raquel: Eat some dirt. Lick a lick a lick some

Ashely: Yeah, you wanna, you wanna write nature, you need to become nature.

Raquel: Yeah. You gotta, you gotta lick it. You gotta put it in your mouth.

Ashely: Oh my god. This is all being, this is all being cut right, right? Uh,

Raquel: No, all of this is

Ashely: Every bit of it’s,

Raquel: All of this is

Ashely: alright. Um, so, uh, I’m [00:45:00] so sorry, cause this essay is really nice and lovely and I’ve just been like, yeah, eat some dirt, pussy. Um. So anyway, uh, other things you can play with, This is, I I call this Advanced Zone, uh, But it’s one of my favorites, is Speculative Evolution.

It’s super fun to play with. Play with

  1. Play with it. If you’re not familiar with Speculative Evolution is, The concept is basically, It’s kind of in its name, is that you just imagine, what life could look like under different conditions. So, this could be on other planets, this could be on different versions of Earth, or in different conditions.

You can get really wild with it, like there’s one of the classic, like, speculative evolution things is like, what if life had a different chemical makeup? Like, instead of carbon, we had silicon, cause silicon is a really common element in the world. That would mean life is, like, really slow, and

bullshit or whatever. Um, it looks like rocks, I don’t think that’s true, but it’s stuff that people do. And one guy I recommended as Wayne Barlow, um, who’s also famous for his depictions of hell. [00:46:00] He did a really, really good art book, um, called Expedition. That was basically a speculative evolution, art book, on a, about a planet.

And just came up with all sorts of different life, based on it. So you kind of go with science heavy as you want on that, you know, you will. If you play around with that, you will run into insufferable nerds. But you can have a lot of fun with that. And it can be a good way to kind of engage with the science, too.

I love speculative evolution stuff. Good and bad. So, or more science heavy based and maybe a little bit more relaxed. I think that’s a better way to put it rather than good or bad. Cause if it’s fun enough. Oh, another great example of speculative evolution, um, is the movie, uh, Troll Hunter. It’s the movie, not like the…

Raquel: Oh, that’s a great

Ashely: Yeah, that’s some good, that’s some good, that’s some really fun Speculative Evolution. I think it does a really good balance of, uh, explaining things in like a kind of like, that makes sense way, but also not losing the fun of, of a troll. So, um, it’s just a super fun, super fun movie. Also has a great sense of place.

Cause it’s in Norway, there’s lots of great

Raquel: [00:47:00] Yeah, it’s, it’s a cold as ball place. Cold as balls place.

Ashely: so play with Speculative Evolution, why not? It’s not?

it’s not?

a crime. not?

yet. I don’t know, I live in Florida, so it does have

evolutions. Yeah, it’s like

Raquel: will definitely illegalize it

Ashely: You made your Gleep Glops too woke You’re going, you’re going to like super jail now or whatever. God, every day I wake up in Florida He sucks. You want to talk about a deviation from nature, no speculative evolution can figure out what’s, what’s going on with him Him and those eggs at the county, at the state fair in Iowa.

I don’t, I don’t even know how to explain.

Raquel: Wait, what? Eggs?

Ashely: I definitely, I definitely posted this in the discord. But there is a clip. I could send it to you. But there is a clip. Let’s put this DeSantis at the Iowa State Fair. Cause all those little freaks were running out there for primaries, like you know. And, uh, he was at this booth, and they had a bunch of peeled, hard boiled eggs with like, uh, popsicle sticks stuck in them.

And he

was [00:48:00] just handing out these like, eggs on a stick to people.

It was…

Raquel: Yum!

Ashely: And then people are like, oh, this is the fair, and I’m like, no, no, I’ve never been to, I’ve, I’ve been to a lot of fairs, and I’ll give it to you that there’s some, there’s some fucked up food that happens at the fair, but I’ve never been to a fair where there was just like an egg on a stick, and so you have to live in that reality, which is a lot to begin with, and then you’re, so you’re getting, let’s imagine so this is nature, this is place, I’m doing it for you guys right now, here’s a, like a model, um, imagine your protagonist goes in and is like, wow, that’s weird, there’s like an egg on a stick, It’s Iowa so it’s like 90 degrees and corn smelling and then you look up and it’s just like a Ron like Florida governor Ron DeSantis is handing you an egg like on a stick.

Raquel: Can I offer you an egg in this trying

Ashely: didn’t even do that he’s just like here you go because he’s weird

Raquel: Yeah, he thinks this is normal to hand people eggs on sticks. He doesn’t know that that’s not a normal food to give people. A normal person might give people like lollipops or something,

Ashely: yeah just just a weird weird thing like

I [00:49:00]

Raquel: a hard boiled

Ashely: Yeah, just, and people are like,

oh, that’s like a Midwest fair thing. I’m like, no, no, no,

this is,

Raquel: it

Ashely: no, it’s not. I’ve been to Midwest fairs, but never got an egg on a stick. We’ll give you like a deep fried Oreo, and I know that’s like really decadent in American, but it’s like, it’s an Oreo.

It’s like a real

Raquel: Okay, but deep fried Oreos taste

Ashely: They’re so fucking, deep fried, like,

Raquel: They’re really tasty. They’re, they’re, they’re immoral, but they’re very delicious. I

Ashely: egg. This is an egg from the governor of Florida.


Raquel: egg. This is a fuckin egg.

Ashely: just a fucking egg.

Raquel: Yeah, go reenact that scene from Cool Hand Luke. Go do

Ashely: Yeah, so just…

Raquel: Go eat 50 eggs in an

Ashely: yeah, and just, it’s… Anyway, so there’s place for you. Think of that. There’s, there’s a good speculative fiction, like, story in, I’m gonna make my, um, squeecore, uh, Eggs into Ferris story. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. Weren’t we talking about Nature


Raquel: We were talking about nature. We were talking about Ron DeSantis. We were talking about Florida probably banning

Ashely: Yeah, um…

Raquel: weird little guys [00:50:00] in

Ashely: Dude, they’re, yeah, they’ll, they’re gonna build over nature, but then don’t worry, the ocean will complain, claim that, so.

Um, yeah,

oh, I put, I said this earlier, but yeah, using nature as a sense of place, to set a mood, it’s cliche, but it works, goddammit, so just.

Raquel: It works. There’s a reason people do it. It’s a good idea. And I mean, nature does affect your mood. It does. There’s a reason why we go to certain places on vacation. Because it’s easier to be kind of relaxed when you’re on a beach than when you’re not on a beach.

Ashely: And this could be a great place too, if you, if you want to play with expectations, do that. Find, like I said, find the love and the beauty in places that don’t, you know, expect it. You could, you could really zoom in and you see like a, a weed patch, but that’s full of life and could be very diverse.

So like zoom in on that, you can play into or defy expectations, but you gotta do something with it, right?

Raquel: Yeah. Yeah.

Ashely: and so and I mean in general humans relate to nature I think something we talked [00:51:00] about a little bit earlier is kind of the And maybe this can be a good segue into why should we even care about nature?

Like, this is all well and good, but why would I give a fuck? And there’s lots of great stories that don’t talk about trees, which there are. They would be better if they had talking about, like, what’s the sexiest tree. Um, I, I, I hope. Um, but, they don’t need to, always, necessarily. When we were talking about, that western model of, like, not only manifest destiny, but I think also this idea of nature as this really I think a lot of people still hold this idea that nature can only be, is only valuable, or can consider nature even if it’s a place that’s completely untouched or very little impact with human society.

And that’s a very western, it’s definitely in a very kind of problematic Western association with nature, um, and also just not the reality of the world, um, because every place is touched by human impact. Um, specifically they’ve been, I mean, kind of in grim ways sometimes, I think I [00:52:00] saw it read somewhere, it was like, yeah, they keep trying to find ants that don’t have microplastics in them, and they can’t find any ants that haven’t been like, plastic.

But also going farther back, just like, Indigenous people, people lived on the land and worked it. That’s the reason America looks the way it does. It’s not because some pioneer came in like, Whoa, I built it all up. No, it’s because some indigenous groups, some nation of people build a trail there.

Mostly roads are based on indigenous trails. So to act like the land wasn’t, you know, there’s humans weren’t working with the land is, just false. And so I think that’s something spec fic can really explore. Um, And, like, you brought up the example of, like, uh, cyberpunk stories or, like, cities and stuff like that.

Like, that could be a really way to challenge our understanding of, of what is natural and what should be cared about.

Raquel: Yeah, cyberpunk stories tend not to have any kind of animal of any kind in it. There’s no, there’s usually very little in the way of plants or [00:53:00] animals in any way, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ashely: One example you brought up, too, is, like, what if you’re doing a space opera on a ship? What if you’re doing a generational ship story? I think it’d be worth thinking of people like looking at outside and nature and what do you do when you’re in a story that that is not a possibility, and how do you deal with that?

I think could come up with some really interesting things. And maybe they don’t actually solve that because it’s an Elon Musk generation ship, so they’re just like, it’s fine. And then it catches fire and then also kills a bunch of like alien children and ambulance

workers, you know,

um, so epic bacon.

I think like using nature in your spec fic stories also, I mean, writing is the great empathy exercise, right? That’s why I think a big reason why we read, and I think this can be a great way to like, just get empathy with the non human world around you, which I think is. Really critical in these times, uh, for many reasons.

Um, if you haven’t looked outside, there’s a bit of a climate crisis going on. [00:54:00] And, not to say reading a book about the climate crisis is going to solve it, or change the mind of the Shell executives, but I think it’s still important, it still can create that empathy. I also think it could give you a place, especially when you get, like, good, um, speculative fiction that’s discussing the reality of climate change.

I think it can… It can help you with, kind of, what to expect, and also, honestly, like, I know something we’ve all been talking about recently, kind of, in our social groups, is, grieving, and dealing with what’s going on in climate. So, I think these, these art, these expressions of art can be a place to, to do that, and just, at least, if nothing else, be like, yeah, I hear you.

This sucks that the world is becoming worse and lesser as time goes on. So, I don’t know. That’s kind of why I think it’s important to, to approach it. Also, it’s just like good craft and you should just do that. But also again, more, I guess, more esoteric, like why should we bother doing it?

That’s kind of my reasoning.

Also, it’s just fun and cool, you know.

Raquel: Yeah.[00:55:00]

Ashely: You get to appreciate the world around you a little bit if you learn, you get really into, like, I want to learn the plants for my story and all of a sudden now you can go out and you’ll appreciate what’s around you and get to see a lot of cool stuff that you didn’t realize.

I always think about the first time I, when I was first birding, the first time I would see a bird that I didn’t know what it was, like, let’s say a red winged blackbird. I’d be like, oh, that’s my first red winged blackbird. And then I’d notice, like… This bird’s everywhere, and it’s doing all these

cool things, and I never even noticed it.

I think, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a really cool experience to, like, uncover this knowledge that just because you identify it, now it’s like, Wow, I’ve unlocked this cool knowledge about the world that was always here, but I unlocked it. It feels like, I don’t know, leveling up in a video game or something like that.

I don’t know, I put my, uh, knowledge stats in and now I know, uh, red winged

black birds are out there.

Raquel: Mm. Yeah. Okay. So, it has been about an hour. So why don’t we start winding down? Before we go, what do you have to promote?[00:56:00]

Ashely: Nothing too official, like I said, uh, read, Andy, uh, Andy, Andy County, Sand County Almanac. Hyping up this man that’s been dead for like 30 years. If you want to follow me, I’m on social media. It’s still on Twitter. I ain’t calling it X. It’s stupid. So that’s WeatherGoose1. And then I am on BlueSky and I’m kind of shifting over there.

I think a lot of us are. I believe my username over there is GooseGloriosa. I will warn that, um, I am, I don’t know if you found any of this conversation insightful, but I will be less insightful, especially because it’s football season.

Just keep that in mind if you do it. But yeah, and also I’ll plug, go out and take a walk.

Go look at a bird. Have a fun time.



Raquel: Eat some dirt.

Ashely: Eat seeds.

Lick it.

Raquel: Pick up a handful of dirt from the ground and put it in your mouth.

Ashely: And make sure there’s lots of glass

and plastics in it.

Raquel: do it.

Ashely: Oh.

Raquel: Do it. Don’t be a puss.

Ashely: that’s it.

Raquel: don’t do it. Don’t sue us if you get sick[00:57:00]

Ashely: This is, uh, parody,



yeah, parody,

in Minecraft, in Minecraft, um, you know.

Raquel: Minecraft. Yeah, but in conclusion, go out and touch some grass. It’s good for your writing. So, thank you for coming on and talking about this.

Ashely: Well, thank you for, for having me, and uh, Yeah,

Like I said, you can hit me up on social media if you want to. Like I said, I love this shit, we can talk more about it. Like I said, we, we just scratched the surface, you know, of this. But, yeah, again, just thanks for, thanks for having me on.

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