Podcast

281 – The Light Brigade

The Mythcreant Podcast
Pay your corporate citizenship fees and suit up for war against the evil Martian freedom fighters, because today we’re talking about the Light Brigade, our third Hugo nominee. This book is a time-travel story, but please don’t run away: we promise it’s good time travel. It’s just a great book in general, except for the interludes. Nothing good ever happens in an interlude. Listen on to find out more!

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

The Light Brigade (Novel) 

The Light Brigade (Poem)

We Have Always Fought

Ayn Rand

Why You Should Avoid Bigoted Heroes Who Learn Better 

The Brotherhood (1984)

The Four Critical Elements That Make Stories Popular

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Transcript

Generously transcribed by Darian. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast with your hosts Oren Ashkenazi, Wes Matlock, and Chris Winkle.

Oren: And welcome, everyone, to another episode of the Mythcreants podcast. I’m Oren, and with me today is…

Chris: Chris…

Oren: And…

Wes: Wes.

Oren: And today, I have actually come back in time from the end of the podcast to tell you what it is going to be about. And it’s going to be about The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, which — spoilers — is a story about time travel and also evil corporations, two things that I dig.

Wes: [laughs]

Oren: You might’ve heard about Kameron Hurley as the writer of the essay “We Have Always Fought,” and she’s won a few awards for her other work. This is her first Hugo nomination, at least as far as I know. And this is my favorite book. I’m just going to straight up say it. So y’all better be nice to it.

Chris and Wes: [laughter]

Oren: I’m very sensitive.

Wes: I sat through last week. I took that!

Chris and Oren: [laughter]

Oren: It’s Wes’s turn for revenge!

Wes: I agree. This is a good book. I did not like the beginning, but I knew I had to get through it for you guys. So…

Chris: So this is a dystopian science fiction… I’m reluctant to give it the label “military science fiction” because I feel like that belongs to a very niche audience that I don’t know whether it fits, but it takes place in the military and the main character is a soldier. And this dystopian world is run by corporate entities. And the basic idea is that the main character, Dietz, when she is sent through these “light jumps” to go away on a mission, she sometimes gets displaced in time with another version of herself from another light jump. And as a result, she perceives the war out of order.

Wes: It’s a great premise. You don’t know that premise for a fair bit of time…

Chris: Does take a while to get there. The basic format is it’s a first person retelling by a future Dietz — that’s for the most part what it is — but there are these occasional… they could be called interludes. The dreaded interludes… They ARE the dreaded interludes, honestly.

Oren: Nothing good has ever happened in an interlude.

Wes: [laughs]

Chris: We have a future Dietz being interrogated, and they’re honestly just excuses for Hurley to put in an essay, but with less coherency than an essay would normally have? My opinion is, if you want to write an essay, go write an essay. If you’re writing a story, tell it in story format.

Oren: Because essays are great. I love to read essays. What I don’t like to read is essays badly disguised as fiction, because they don’t work as fiction but you also had to make them not work particularly well as an essay so you could fit them into this fiction guise.

Chris: Honestly, those could pretty much just have been removed and very little would change.

Oren: It’s not like you needed those. The message of this book is not subtle.

Wes: There’s this one line that I gotta share. But I just love this. And everything you’ve said is right. It’s just kind of an excuse for the interrogator and Dietz to basically swap philosophy and talk. The interrogator says, “You’re a communist, then.” And then Dietz says, “Let’s say I’m old enough not to be dazzled by Ayn Rand.” I’ll embrace that part! It doesn’t make it all worth it…

Oren: This is an explicitly leftist book in that it is anti-corporate and thinks that company towns are a bad idea. Which they are. Just, objectively. So it’s not like you need to look very far to figure out what the message of the story is. It’s very clear.

Chris: It’s heavily anti-fascist.

Oren: And I love that about it. I love that it is unapologetic. I love that it’s not subtle. I think subtlety is highly overrated. I love that it’s very unlikely that anyone on the far right is going to try to claim this book.

Chris and Wes: [laughter]

Oren: Because it will scare them. Because it has [sarcastically] ‘the wimmenz’, and a character whose gender is not immediately stated so that we could put them into the gender boxes, and also doing what the ‘daddy corporation’ says is Not Great, it turns out. It’s just got all of it and it’s perfect. I love it. I mean, it’s not perfect. It has problems. We just went over talking about some of its problems. But the first part. I love it. It’s still good!

Chris: Three for three! I liked this book. I thought it was good. I thought maybe it actually deserves a Hugo.

Oren: This is definitely the best one, in my opinion. I don’t think it’s gonna win. And the reason I don’t think it’s gonna win is that it’s pretty dark. I don’t mind dark stories when they’re good. I especially don’t like them when they’re bad, as anyone listening to me talk about the new Star Trek can tell you, but this is a dark story I think is done very well. But I don’t think it’s going to win the Hugo. It’s talked about online, but its fans don’t seem to have the kind of passion that I think is what’s really gonna make the difference in a Hugo vote.

Wes: The type of reader that would really enjoy this, and the ones that might not be willing to stick it out… We talked about the beginning being kind of rough. That would put you off. I finished this just the other night — in time for the podcast — but it was a slow start because Dietz, the narrator, gets better over time in the book, which is odd since it’s a retelling, but as the story progresses, Dietz softens a little bit. And that comes with this realization that the corporate entities are bad. But the beginning of the book is machismo, in-your-face, hyper-toxic masculine soldier stuff. You know, lines like “Let me tell you how they break you. You are shit. Everything you do is shit.” And then you get paragraphs, and then lines like — a little punchy line —  “And then I headbutted him.” Or something like this. It’s just so aggressive, and unnecessarily so, that I’m still trying to figure out “who are all these named characters?” and “how tall is Frankie?” and “how tall is Dietz to be able to headbutt him so fast?”

Oren: She has, like, a little extendo-neck!

Chris:  That made me think of military science fiction awfully, because I haven’t read tons of military science fiction, but the stuff that I have read, there IS a lot of machismo often about it. The one thing that this is missing, that I would expect from military science fiction, is intense descriptions of guns.

Wes: Ah-ha!

Chris: It’s clear that Hurley is not interested in the weaponry of the setting, which… I would expect military science fiction to be involved with that. But there’s a lot of descriptions when they go through basic training of the stuff that happens to them. And honestly, it does sound like an exaggerated version of the stories of the military members I do know. And the things that they have recounted about, like, “We drank this strange substance today and we think maybe that’s why we can’t get it up, but we’re not sure.”

Wes: [laughs]

Chris: “They just feed us things. We don’t know what’s in it.” This is definitely a dystopian exaggerated version, but that’s kind of the stuff that I expect to see in military science fiction works to a greater extent than, for instance, was in Old Man’s War, which felt a lot softer. But it wasn’t actually for military members, they weren’t its intended audience.

Oren: The training sequences that are clearly heavily inspired by Full Metal Jacket — they are exaggerated, but they also just struck me as very believable. It’s like, yeah, I could see a military unrestrained by any kind of governmental oversight doing something like this. There were some parts that I thought were a little over the top. I was never really clear what the purpose of the torture modules was. I know that they’re around and that Dietz does a lot of them. I missed the explanation where it was shown WHY it was important for their soldiers to do this.

Wes: The best guess I have at that… what Dietz learns, very near the end, with her psychotherapist… counselor… I’m not sure what that person’s title was, Dr. Chen… is: they’re recording everything. Who knows what information they wanted from them torturing themselves.

Oren: I guess I could see that. It’s like, you know, more data’s always good, right?

Wes: Or they’re like, “Oh, what torture programming settings did they pick? Hmm, maybe that speaks to some kind of fantasy that we can package up and market.” I don’t know what any of them sell by the way, these corporations.

Oren: Call it a marketing thing. I mean, you can explain a lot with “it’s a weird marketing thing.”

[laughter]

Oren: I liked a part of it that was kind of unusual — and I didn’t think about it in the moment, but looking back now, this is to a certain extent a story about a bigoted character who learns better. Now, she’s not racist exactly, but she’s certainly very xenophobic. Dietz, like, hates the Martians ‘cause they want to come and take her freedom away, and all that. And she does learn better and grow. And I generally don’t have a lot of patience for those stories, ‘cause it’s hard for me to actually like the character at the beginning, but one thing that helped here is that this character was clearly disadvantaged. Like, she was clearly a victim of this corporate system that she had bought into, even as she was buying into it, right? This wasn’t a story about the CEO of the company learning that [sarcastically] maybe they shouldn’t be murdering people in vast numbers. Right? This was someone from the very bottom who latched onto the corporate propaganda, because that was all she had. And to me, that was meaningful. That felt like it actually mattered to this character and made me sympathize with her more.

Wes: That also helped because when Dietz goes through basic training, or whatever they called it, Dietz doesn’t get a posting immediately after. Dietz has to wait like six months or something. It’s a heavy dose of spinach, despite her best efforts. She doesn’t get an assignment. She doesn’t get to turn into light. She doesn’t get to be the paladin. She has to go build bridges for awhile while everybody else she knows is on assignment. That helped, after that rough beginning, endear me more to her as a narrator.

Chris: I will say that having this first person retelling by Future Dietz means that the person talking to you is already, you know, at the end of her character arc. So that means that you’re not putting up with a NARRATOR who is a fascist. At the same time, the story clearly had… a little bit of issues with clarifying what Past Dietz actually believed. And that did make the arc weaker. It was very hard to actually track the progress of what Dietz believes throughout the story, because the Future Dietz just doesn’t clarify for you. And I think that we didn’t need to be fully in Past Dietz’s head, right, if that would have been unpleasant, but we still do need to know that Dietz is buying into this corporate propaganda to a certain extent. And there’s definitely periods when it’s like, these corporations seem obviously evil. And why does Dietz believe in them at all? And some explanation of what Dietz believed AT THE TIME throughout this would have really helped.

Oren: Yeah, I do remember being a little frustrated at certain points. There was a point in the novel where it really felt to me like Dietz should have realized that the evil corporations are evil. I swear there was, like, a meeting that she was in, that they explained their evil plan. Maybe I’m misremembering that. But I swear there was a scene like that. And afterwards I was like, how do you not realize that the evil corporations are evil now, Dietz, come on. They just explained it to you!

Wes: [laughs]

Oren: One more thing I would like to talk about, that I really love, is the time travel. Which, I don’t say that a lot about time travel. Most time travel is bad and I hate it, but I actually enjoyed this time travel quite a bit for a couple of reasons. We got to experience it WITH the character, who was super disoriented and didn’t know what was going on. A lot of stories, that will just be confusing. But to me it was like, wow, the character is also confused. What’s happening? Why is everyone acting so weird?

Chris: Things actually get less confusing when they are also confusing to the character. Things are really confusing when the character and the audience are not on the same page.

Oren: And that just really worked. I really enjoyed it. And it also really helped that Dietz wasn’t in control of her time travel until very near the end. That avoids a lot of the problems that most time travel stories have, where you’re always asking, well, why didn’t they do this? Why didn’t they do that? Because time travel, it turns out, opens a lot of possibilities. And so making it something that she couldn’t control also really helped. And it was just really creepy for her to zap to the future and be like, “wow, this is the future where nearly everyone’s dead. Oh….” And it creates this looming disaster over everyone’s head. And I loved it. With all my heart.

Wes: I’m in total agreement with you. And I like how it worked for us so smoothly. There’s the confusion element, but we get to piece it together and figure it out. A chapter opens near the end of the book, and the first phrase it says is “unstuck in time.” And I cannot help but see that as an allusion to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, because the first chapter opens with “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” And it’s the same type of story, where the character’s bouncing around and experiencing a war out of order. But Vonnegut kind of had to tell us that at the very beginning, because time travel stories were not really a whole big thing. I just liked the progression to where we flow into it and we’re like, oh my gosh, this is all happening. Like, I didn’t need it spelled out for me. I could kind of pick up on it WITH Dietz. It was fun.

Chris: The story definitely picks up once you finally get to the time travel portions. That’s when it really gets engrossing. One thing that bothered me about the time travel is that we take the time to establish later that there are actually alternate futures. Dietz is not the only one traveling through time, but strangely, other soldiers are seeing different futures. And this is kind of mind blowing and very interesting, but nothing’s ever done with it. It doesn’t matter.

Oren: I had actually forgotten about that because it doesn’t matter later.

Chris: So it really should have been removed, because it feels like it’s supposed to be important. It’s certainly interesting. But Hurley was clearly not actually prepared to go anywhere with that. I think that should have just been taken out.

Wes: They nod at that in some of her discussions with Andrea. Despite all this tech — they can atomize people and transport them at the speed of light — but they cannot create anything to predict the future ‘cause it’s always changing. She built on that by just having other Light Brigaders express that, but it felt like it was trying to support a discussion that she had, but it didn’t substantiate into anything meaningful for the resolution.

Chris: Or maybe she really didn’t want them to use the time travel to predict the future, and she was struggling to come up with reasons why, and so that was supposed to be an explanation, but it just opened up way more questions than it answered. Which can happen. You have to be careful about that. Sometimes when you have a question, you don’t have a good explanation. Sometimes it’s better just to leave it, because if you try to explain, sometimes that just makes everything more complicated.

Oren: So, also, speaking of the Light Brigade, I just love the title. I’m not much of a poet or a poetry enthusiast, but “The Light Brigade” poem is one of my favorites.

Wes: I’m so glad you like that poem, Oren. And I’m also so glad that they eventually nodded to it in the book. I was like, you can’t title this book and NOT talk about that poem!

Oren: For anyone who isn’t aware: the poem is recounting a specific battle in the Crimean War, which happened in the 1850s, in which a British cavalry unit — the Light Brigade — charged an entrenched enemy position and was just mowed down. And it was like a horrible slaughter. And it’s a really meaningful poem of critiquing how governments and militaries will throw soldiers’ lives away for effectively no purpose. And how people can get ground up in this fight that isn’t theirs. It’s not a thing that other people haven’t said elsewhere, but it’s just very well stated. It’s a very beautiful poem, and it just fits really well here. Both as an allusion to the poem, and literally, because they are turning into light. It’s a beautiful pun. And I love it.

Wes: Might be my favorite thing about the entire book. Because if they didn’t address that in the book, I would have been very upset.

Oren: One thing that I felt was a missed opportunity that I really would have done a little bit more with, or at least I would have recommended doing more with if I was editing this book, is the reveal that the Martian Resistance is actually real. Because it starts off with, “We have to go and fight the Martian terrorists because they did the Blink and blew up São Paulo and we have to get revenge!” and I’m like, okay, I’m genre savvy. I can tell that there is no Martian Resistance because the corporations are the bad guys. And if there was someone fighting them, that would give us hope, and the story’s too dismal for that. I could tell that we were doing a “1984” thing, where it’s like, “Oh, the Brotherhood doesn’t actually exist. We lied to you.” And then it turned out they actually DO exist. And that was a big moment for me. It felt important. It turns out, oh, actually there is someone fighting the evil corporations. There is hope somewhere. And I just felt like that should have been a bigger moment in the book. It felt like it was kind of blasé, like the book didn’t notice how big a thing that was.

Wes: We only knew about the cities that the Martians who came back had built and, like, saved some of the agriculture stuff. And then there’s a…. One of the Blinks, Dietz accidentally kills a Martian kid. Yeah. And then there’s another Blink where another kid dies. It’s pretty grimdark. But you’re right, Oren, when the penultimate Blink… or, close to the end, when they talk to Martians… I’m like, WHAT?

Chris: Going on, critiques: I don’t think that the end really came together as nicely as I was hoping. It wasn’t terrible — I’ve definitely seen books that have flubbed their endings much stronger than this one — but for instance, in their interviews, we are constantly talking about, I think it’s St. Petersburg? I just expected that to be a scene that would happen. Instead, it doesn’t. We just completely gloss over that. The explanation for WHY Dietz goes to St. Petersburg and ends up in the interview is…. It’s glossed over so fast that… Hurley doesn’t really give you time to find out that it doesn’t make any sense. But if you think about it for a little bit, it’s like, this is a very convoluted plan that Dietz came up with. There was almost certainly a simpler way to accomplish those goals.

Oren: I actually have a really hard time remembering the ending. Because when Chris reminded me of what happened I was like, wow, that’s hard to follow. And that’s why I don’t really remember it very well. The only part about it that I really remember is this part where the narrator is like, “Sometimes endings don’t make sense. Deal with it.”

[laughter]

Chris: Oh gosh. That was infuriating. Thinking back on the meta-commentary…. There’s one lesson to take on all of our Hugo reviews. It’s that Chris hates meta-commentary. Don’t do it.

[laughter]

Chris: You could fix your novel so it’s not confusing, instead. That would… For me, it’s an example of bad lampshading. But I should mention that if you want your end to be ambiguous, that’s not the same thing. You can have a legitimate goal to make your ending ambiguous, but it should be clearly ambiguous. And just having an ending that’s confusing is NOT a good experience for the reader, and it’s not the same thing.

Wes: I just want to try to piece it out with you too, real fast: in one of the Blinks, Dietz goes way into the future where most everybody’s dead, and raids an underground building, and then gets beamed out when a door opens and they take heavy fire. Later on in the novel, not necessarily linearly, Dietz witnesses a meeting, she realizes that the interrogator — Norberg, or something like that — is helping organize basically some… it’s like a coup, or like a consolidation, or something, with the CEO and a deadly virus that has been unleashed. And they talk about St. Petersburg. And so, I was under the impression that Dietz wanted to go to St. Petersburg to knock out the CEO, but I didn’t get that. Dietz goes to St. Petersburg because she knows that’s where Norberg is, because she knows that’s how she can get to the bunker to beam out?

Chris: It’s really convoluted.

Wes: And Dietz didn’t assassinate somebody? Or did?

Chris: As far as I can tell, no. I barely remember it at this point because it’s so convoluted and amounts to so little that what you say sounds accurate, but I can’t even piece it all together.

Wes: I mean, I just finished reading it and it is tough, especially the buildup to this kind of idea to cut off the head of the snake with the CEOs and stuff like that. But instead Dietz Blinks everybody out of São Paulo to go live on Mars.

Oren: Yeah, see, I couldn’t even tell if that’s what had happened? ‘Cause when Chris told me, it was like, okay, I liked the ending a little more, knowing that that’s what happened. One of the things about the ending, I was like, did anything get accomplished? Or was the ending just like, “Hey, I’ve been bouncing around for awhile, ‘bye!” It turns out that’s not what happened, but I couldn’t really tell because it was confusing.

Chris: This ending thing by Hurley, or the Future Dietz, about how, “Hey, sometimes things don’t make sense!” It honestly sounds like beta reader/editor backtalk.

Oren: [falls about laughing]

Chris: We’ve encountered this before. With people who give feedback, and instead of making the necessary revisions to their story, they put in… explanations, and arguments, and justifications, inside their story to try to argue with you WITHIN THE STORY about why the story is just thought…

Wes: [laughs]

Oren: Those are my favorite. I love them so much!

Chris: That’s what that sounded like. That Hurley was getting feedback about how the ending was confusing people. And instead of, like, understanding the root issue and where they were coming from, and addressing it, maybe she thought that they just wouldn’t accept an ending that was, for instance, ambiguous — which is not actually the case generally — and needed to argue with them. I don’t KNOW that that’s what happened, right. I don’t know what actually happened on Hurley’s end, but that’s what it sounds like.

Wes: It’s a retelling, but we don’t get a sense of where the Retelling Dietz is retelling FROM. That’s not clear.

Chris: That’s a really great point is, we have a future reteller. So why wouldn’t our future narrator actually make it clear to the audience? That’s not even in character really. The other thing about this ending, okay — throwing aside the fact that I was expecting St. Petersburg to actually be a scene, and the explanation is real convoluted — I do mention this in a blog post that’s coming up on backstory. There is definitely a very missed opportunity here, when it comes to the beginning and the ending. And we talked about how the beginning is… kind of slow. It takes a while to get to its premise, and it kinda just starts at a point right before she joins the military, where we have this throwaway antagonist named Frankie for Dietz to kind of beat up. But the actually emotionally meaningful thing that happens at the end is this moment that has to do with this Blink event that wipes out all of São Paulo that killed Dietz’s ex-girlfriend and her younger brother. And that’s looped back at the end of the story, on that point. All of that stuff that happened with them is backstory that is trickled in during exposition throughout the story. And I really think that we should have opened with those two characters, so that they meant something. And then we could loop back and go full circle at the end.

Oren: Yeah, I think that would have been better. I do want to just take a moment to briefly rate this story on the ANTS scale, which are Chris’s four critical components that make stories popular, and they are Attachment, Novelty, Tension, and Satisfaction, which is why they are ANTS.

Chris and Wes: [laughter]

Oren: For Attachment, I would say that the story was pretty good. I felt quite attached to Dietz, especially towards the end. You know, at the beginning, this little bit of “rah, rah, fight, man!” going on…

Chris: I would give it a Satisfactory, but not Outstanding, rating on Attachment.

Oren: So then we have Novelty. The novelty doesn’t start until a little later, which is odd because usually you want your novelty to start earlier, but the whole teleporting to deploy to the battlefield, and then adding in time travel, was reasonably strong novelty, I thought? Not as strong as it perhaps could have been, but pretty good.

Wes: You know, what I thought was novel that I liked was the idea that… what if Star Trek, but it really hurt?

Chris and Oren: [laughter]

Wes: That stuck out to me, is the way Dietz talks about it. It’s like, “They’re going to turn me into light and we can, like, send people at lightspeed.” That’s great! And then the description of that, about your whole body shakes, every muscle gets taut and contracts like you’re experiencing a full body muscle spasm centered in your core. Like it’s just agonizing.

Chris: And horrible accidents happen regularly, and the corporations know it, but it’s just the cost of doing business.

Wes: That helped the novelty factor for me big time.

Chris: Yeah, we got some dystopian teleportation happening there.

Oren: Hot take: OSHA is good!

[laughter]

Oren: So I’d say it does pretty well on Novelty. And then I think it does REALLY well on Tension.

Chris: Tension is where it stands out.

Oren: It’s clearly its highest scoring category, which we talked briefly last week about how that’s not always a good thing — some people just genuinely don’t want the tension to be that high — but if you’re like me, I love tension. And to me, this tension was great. Because we’re just constantly worried about Dietz and what’s going to happen. And also the rest of the world, since we know there’s a plague coming, so that was just very tense.

I think it’s weakest in Satisfaction, which is what we were just talking about with the ending. But it’s not like the worst ending I’ve ever seen just on this list of Hugo Awards.

Chris: It still has a better Satisfaction rating than City in the Middle of the Night. People are asking “Is City in the Middle of Night the first of a series?” No, apparently it’s not, but it seems like it should be with the ending that it has.

Wes: I want to piggyback off Chris’s suggested rewrite of the opening to this story… [aside to Chris] you should have edited it…. You learn in one of her Blinks, where they have to go post guard duty for some monument in São Paulo, that the entire city didn’t get Blinked. Just basically the place where the Ghouls live. You know, the non-residents, the non-citizens. It’s a targeted attack. And Dietz gets upset because in Dietz’s mind, the corporations had just chosen to basically engineer and eradicate non-residents/non-citizens to, like, start wars and make profit and stuff like that. But instead it’s like, it’s a targeted section, which — IF that in fact is what happens at the end, that Dietz goes and saves that particular part of São Paulo — we’d feel more of an attachment to that if we had those scenes early from the beginning.

Chris: And we’d understand the fact that she directs her grief toward serving the corporation, right? Instead of fighting the corporation. And how she believes the lies they tell her about it. Things will just be way more emotionally powerful if we actually met the people she loses ahead of time.

Wes: There was much more of an emotional connection even to Jones. And Tanaka. And Prakash… like, those other people that she has, but they’re not, like, the main ones that she goes and saves at the end.

Oren: I wonder if the reason we don’t has to do with the fact that Hurley didn’t want it to look like she was burying her gays. One of the things about this book is that the main character’s gender is actually not really stated until very near the end. And so if you’re not listening to the audio version, it’s very easy to assume that Dietz is a man. A lot of people apparently did. But if we knew that Dietz was a woman earlier, and we met Dietz’s girlfriend — I think that would have been hard to hide if we were meeting Dietz’s girlfriend — then it would look like, “Oh, here’s a lesbian couple. We immediately killed one of them.” I could see why Hurley wouldn’t want that in the novel, so maybe that’s what was going on. We were trying to obscure that part of it.

Chris: Maybe. I mean, we could still do the younger brother. That’s a tricky one, but… I would have chosen a different solution.

Wes: I mean, Dietz has all-gendered relationships, you know, with various characters throughout the story. There is a scene that I did catch pretty early… it’s during their basic, or like just after that, where — I should have written this quote down — the drill instructor, somebody talks about, you know, not coming back with all your bits or something like that. And specifically is talking about male genitalia. And Dietz is like, “Not everybody, Sir!” Ohhh, okay, here we go! I thought it was hidden well. I did like that.

Chris: It was spoiled for me [lowers voice] due to a certain person who may be on this podcast…

Oren: Hey!

Wes: [laughs]

Chris: Except for one scene. I thought it was very well handled.

Oren: All right. So we’ll end this with me complaining about that one scene.

Chris: Oren is, I know, just dying to complain about this one scene, so…

Oren: This scene bothered me. There’s the scene where Dietz gets a letter, or an electronic letter, or an email, or what have you. It’s from a woman, and Dietz’s squad mates, who have just barely met her — like, they don’t know each other very well — look over and see that this letter is from a woman and start teasing Dietz about how “oh is that your GIRLFRIEND?” That scene only makes sense if Dietz is a guy in a heteronormative environment. And they’re assuming that because it’s a letter from a woman it must be romantic. It’s not like Dietz has told them what her sexuality is. I don’t think they would be ASSUMING in the actual context, which is that this military has lots of women and lots of queer people in it. And so that scene specifically felt like it was lying to me. And it’s the only scene that I felt that way for. It was just kind of funny in retrospect.

Wes: Nothing else in the story… Like, even comments on gender, anything. Like, Jones and Tanaka have a thing. Everyone in the army is doing their own thing and nobody’s drawing any attention to that. And that was nice. It normalized all of it. It’s just like, hey, everybody’s just living their own thing. But that was a weird moment.

Oren: Felt a little dishonest. Otherwise, I love it. Great book. Definitely recommend it. I think it deserves to win. I don’t think it’s going to, but we’ll see what happens. And with that, I think we will go ahead and end this episode.

Those of you at home, if anything we said piqued your interest you can leave a comment on the website at mythcreants.com. Before we go, I want to thank a few of our patrons. First we have Kathy Ferguson, who is a Professor of Political Theory in Star Trek. Next we have Ayman Jaber; he is an urban fantasy writer and a connoisseur of Marvel. And finally, we have Danita Rambo, and she lives at therambogeeks.com. We’ll talk to you next week, with more Hugos!

This has been the Mythcreants podcast. Opening and closing theme: “The Princess who Saved Herself” by Jonathan Coulton.

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Comments

  1. Erynus

    I don’t get it. They can travel in time, but just to the future? And then they travel back but is useless because they can’t be sure that the future they saw is the one that will actually happen? Then what’s the point?
    The Light Brigade is my favourite episode of the modern Outer Limits series (nor the classic 1960’s, nor the current 2000’s one, the 1995). It was such a masterpiece in as little as 45 minutes. Also from Outer Limits and also winner of an Hugo, the first episode was The Sandkings, from George R. R. Martin, and the story scared me to the bones.

    On the topic of people being converted into light, it was done before on the 1999’s comic series The Red Star where they used sorcerers as laser ammunition turning they into light and catching them back into the cannon chambers. it’s a cool comic, too bad it is very little know (despite having a PS game)

    • Cay Reet

      It might be possible that travelling back in time is not allowed, because a small change in the past could severely change the present (Butterfly Effect and all that) and the evil corporations don’t want to risk that.

      It also makes sense that the future is in motion, because it has not yet happened. Knowing what will happen alone can already change the outcome, technically.

      • Erynus

        That’s my point, if you can’t use what you see of the future, because knowing it,changes it, there is no point on sending people to the future. It would be more useful to send them to the past.
        The strongest proof we have that time travel is impossible is that we don’t have time machines by now, since you can make the technology to evolve faster by giving current technology to people from the past and let it evolve for a couple of centuries.
        Also, by returning from the future they are effectively traveling to the past and changing it. Scouting only have value if you can take advantage of what you find out, otherwise guessing will yield the same results, and it is cheaper.

      • Flaishisa

        [The strongest proof we have that time travel is impossible is that we don’t have time machines by now]

        That we still have no technology that has any real potential for practical time travel is evidence that the future knows better than to give these idiots (ie Us) time travel tech. So, there is that to be optimistic about. Although some would say the evidence that time travel is impossible Is that what Is happening right now in 2020 is…happening. Someone should have come back in time in 2016 and fixed that shit.

  2. John Reese

    Oren, Chris, and Wes, I’m reading this year’s Hugo finalists ahead of your podcasts.

    Would you be willing to let me know what order you’re planning to cover them in, so I can, you know, line up the audiobooks in the correct order?

    Thanks for the podcast; I enjoy it a lot.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Sure thing. The upcoming order is Middlegame (07/05), Gideon The Ninth (07/12), and A Memory Called Empire (07/19). Glad you’re enjoying the podcasts!

  3. Circe

    These podcast book reviews are amazing! Is there any chance of a review of Hatching Magic by Ann Downer-Hazell?

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Glad you like them! We’ll probably be taking a break from book reviews once we finish this year’s Hugo noms, but we might try it again if there’s enough interest. The problem with this kind of review is that all three of us need to have read the book fairly recently, and we need to know there’s enough interest in that specific book, as opposed to a more general storytelling subject.

  4. Bellis

    I love that the worldbuilding excludes some forms of currently rampant discrimination (sexism, heterosexism) even though it’s a dystopian society. That way, the author can focus on some topics (antifascism, critique of capitalism) without normalising all the other problems that can’t be adressed in a single book. Plus, it gives readers more representation. Sounds like a neat way of doing things!

  5. Jeppsson

    I’m reading the Light Brigade now, halfway through, and even though I like the story, I HATE the font they switch to for the interrogation sessions. That font is just hard to read, and there’s like six-seven pages of it every time it appears.

    I get that they wanted a different font for those sections, but I wish they’d chosen a more readable one.

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