Monday, November 30, 2015

The Phantom Menaces Us

Get bomBAD with us this week as we start our Star Wars Sexology rewatch with Episode I: The Phantom Menace! Plus, news and we check out the hottest new movie trailers! Oh no! The hyperdrive is leaking!

Get a bucket!

Friday, November 27, 2015

From Heck

Well, it's a long one but, I think, worth it. Join us as we deep dive into Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell and Kal breathlessly spills out years of preoccupation with this amazing graphic novel. Plus, news and oh yeah...CIVIL WAR!

What's so civil about war anyway?

Monday, November 23, 2015

AKA Just Enough Trope

This week, Kal and Mika investigate Netflix's Jessica Jones! Listen to find out if Marvel has nailed it again (hint: what do you think?). Plus, news and a whole mess of info about what we'll be up to for the year's end! Sweet Christmas!
Click here and get the show!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Prometheus: Epimetheus

On this show, Kal looks back on the news of the week and looks forward to Ridley Scott maybe landing one this time. Don't forget to check out Worldbuilders' charity page which is still going; tell 'em Just Enough Trope sent you!

We have the POWER!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Name of the Show

We get a little closer to Nerd Heaven this week as we share our Pop Culture Confessions! Note: pee and hating certain Pixar films may be involved. Plus, we do news, talk Master of None and w/Bob and David and we interview Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicle! Holy show!

Show's here; after listening, please check out Worldbuilders! (link below)

More info on Worldbuilders at

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why We Cry

Get MILE HIGH with us this week as we talk MST3K, Robin Williams and the feckless steaming pile that is Terminator: Genisys! Plus, Kal's Komic Korner returns with our dive into Waid and Ross's Kingdom Come! I need your clothes, your boots and for you to hear this show!

Click on me if you want to hear the show

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Interview with Nalo Hopkinson

Below is one of the interviews we conducted with the fabulous featured guests at Nerdcon: Stories 2015 in Minneapolis, MN. Originally, there was audio for all of our interviews but our engineer (Kal) is a schmuck and some of them didn't turn out very good. So, transcribed here, is the text of our interview with Nalo Hopkinson, which Kal was forced to type in pitch blackness as punishment. You can check out some of the interviews that *did* work elsewhere on the site or on iTunes @ The Just Enough Trope Podcast. Enjoy! (whip cracks) Keep typing, Kal! Home row! Home row!

Mikanhana: We are joined today by Nalo Hopkinson, science fiction author and editor. Welcome, Nalo.

Nalo Hopkinson: Hi.

M: Thank you so much for joining us today. You grew up in the Caribbean and moved to Toronto, Canada when you were a teenager and recently relocated to California. Can you talk about what the biggest challenge was adapting to those cultural shifts?

NH: Well, I was born in Jamaica, lived in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana, a little bit in the West when my dad was going to Yale, in Connecticut, then moved to Canada when I was 16 and I think, in the interim, I had forgotten winter.

M: (laughs)

NH: Because when you’re 5, it’s…

M: “Ooh, fun, snow!”

NH: Sort of…snow and cold but 11 years later, you forget just how profoundly cold…I had prepared for winter, I thought. The first Toronto winter…I sew, so I went out and bought some wool and made a pair of pants.

M: Sure.

NH: I thought “Wool is warm!” I bought wool jersey, which is the equivalent of making a pair of pants out of t-shirt material…

M: (laughs)

NH: …and went outdoors the first time the weather hit freezing and my bones froze. I just could not believe it could get *that* cold. So that was a big shift, but then I did 35 years in Toronto, moved to southern California just about 4 years ago and now it’s full-on desert.

M: Sure.

NH: Which means it sort of looks like where I came from, but the palm trees have the wrong fruit on them, the lizards are the wrong color, and yes, there’s sand, but where I come from, if you’re near the beach and sand and there’s holes in the sand…there’s crabs in there, not snakes or gophers. (laughs) So, you keep having these moments of dissonance…”Wait, there’s not a beach around the corner” because sand means ‘beach’ to me. “We’re in the desert”. That’s different. “Don’t poke anything down that hole. Dinner’s not coming out of there.”

M: (laughs) You’ve been teaching at the University of California-Riverside since 2011…how has teaching affected your own work?

NH: Well, I’ve been teaching from the beginning, since I started being published. This is a regular teaching gig, which has its own effects. Because I was lucky enough to be given tenure just off the bat, it means that my teaching load is reasonable, quite reasonable, so I find it additive more than anything else because I know where my next meal is coming from and I’ve spent a few years not doing that. So, it’s all good.

M: (laughs)

NH: Students are amazing and UC-Riverside students are particularly amazing and I don’t think a lot of them realize it. It’s a university that’s one of the more diverse universities in the country. For instance, a couple of years ago, I wanted to teach the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky which is made up of words which Carroll invented. I was talking about how to make words up so I wanted to show it to them in different languages and at first I tried picking languages I knew I could muddle through. But then I thought, “Wait a minute; a 72 person class…I can just pick any language I want and somebody in the class will be able to read it!”

M: (laughs)

NH: So, I took in a stack and said, “Who speaks German? Who speaks Korean? Who speaks Urdu?” and had them read it out and explain how the made up words were working. It’s glorious.

M: That’s got to be kind of freeing, too, to be able to have all that different cultural background…

NH: Yes.

M: …and just a great learning experience for everyone.

NH: It is wonderful.

M: You’ve spoken about how you have Non-verbal Learning Disorder as well as Attention Deficit Disorder…how has that helped or hindered your work?

NH: On top of that, I have Fibromyalgia, which is why I’m moving a little slowly today…you get moments with all three of brain fog or things you knew five seconds ago are gone forever. But along with Non-verbal Learning Disorder comes high verbal ability…

M: Right.

NH: …so words and story make a lot of sense to me in ways that it’s hard to explain. There’s that advantage: I can turn the hell out of a phrase.

M: (laughs)

NH: The disadvantage with something like ADD is, of course, I don’t like to do anything twice. So the sitting down and making yourself write once it becomes a job is very difficult to do and I’ve had to find ways to convince my brain that this is still fun, to tell it that “you don’t have to sit here for 17 hours, you can write a sentence and then get up and walk away”. In science fiction, we like to boast about what our daily word count is so I like to go the other way. “I wrote a sentence. It was a good sentence.” (laughs)

M: Sometimes I feel like when you’re given fewer things to work with it makes it more challenging but it also makes it more creative.

NH: Yeah. My brain isn’t balking as much; it’s not saying “Oh, my God, I can’t deal. There’s too much!” I write a sentence…I can write another sentence!

M: (laughs) Right!

NH: Woo-hoo!

M: Small victories!

NH: Exactly!

M: (laughs) A lot of your work is inspired by poetry and song…could you talk about how you take an idea from an established work and create your own out of that?

NH: Come to think of it…I do use poetry and song a bit…I use folklore a lot…

M: Yes.

NH: My last novel, there were a couple of songs in there that were actually songs that I dreamt. Every so often I dream 3 or 4 lines of a song complete with a tune.

M: And you’re able to recall that when you wake up?

NH: I’m singing it when I wake up.

M: That’s amazing!

NH: So a couple of them are mine, but with pre-existing material like folklore and ballads, the trick is to not retell the story but to tell your own story and find the piece of folklore or ballad that has reflections of it, that resonates, or to tell it in a new way. One of the first times I did that, it was a writing assignment by Pat Murphy when I was still at Clarion studying and it was to write “The Beast with the Heart of Gold”. I thought, “Who’s a ‘beast’ that we think of as evil?” and I came up with Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf and I ended up writing the Little Red Riding Hood story not from the point of view of the Wolf so much but from the point of view of the grandmother. Because the grandmother’s story never gets told and I thought there were hidden depths there. I ended up making this weird sort of almost…I don’t want to say *love* relationship because it is abusive, but the Wolf comes to represent a sexual coming of age. That’s a difficult thing but it’s a thing that happens to everybody. So the grandmother and the Wolf have this relationship where he was her sexual coming of age; he’s sort of an archetype.

M: Right.

NH: So you tell the story or you take the story apart and you find the things in it that are the most disturbing…

M: (laughs) Or the most interesting!

NH: …writing a sexy story about a grandmother and a wolf who tried to kill her. (laughs)

M: According to your bio in the Nerdcon: Stories program, you’re currently working on Nancy Jack, a graphic novel. Can you give us a brief synopsis of that and also, are you a comic book fan in general?

NH: Yes; I do like comic books. I don’t much read the Big Two anymore; I like graphic novels more than comic books, but I don’t make a difference between them. I do read a fair number of them. Nancy Jack has been percolating in my head for about 15 years now…and my synopsis hasn’t…

M: (laughs)

NH: …but, basically, I have a creature working on the railroad in the US between the two wars as a porter, because he looks like a black man. What he *is* is a creature from West African folklore called an adze who looks like a ball of fire in his natural form. He can become something that looks human to come into villages and towns and feed on blood. His village, the village he thought of as his flock (in the most disturbing way you can think of), was taken in slavery 500 years ago. So he followed them because they’re “his”. So now, you have a ball of fire travelling on the ocean to follow these human beings…he’s kept track of them and of people with the same bloodline (because he can read blood) by becoming a porter on the railroad. So that’s how he keeps track of the descendants of his flock and he’s starting to kind of lose it. Imagine a creature that we would already think of as over-the-top, because he’s a predator…now, he’s going a little crazy.

M: That sounds really fascinating. I have to check that out.

Kaliban: What’s your favorite graphic novel or something good that you read lately?

NH: There are a couple I like…Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat) by Joann Sfar. He’s a Moroccan-French artist and he has four books about the cat of a rabbi living in Morocco at a time when’s there’s lots of pogroms against the Jews. There’s a cat and a parrot living in the house with the rabbi (the cat’s telling the story) and the cat says “the parrot is stupid but it can speak; I have brains but I can’t talk” and it goes on from there. That’s one of my favorites. Also, Bayou by Jeremy Love, he started by winning an award, I believe through DC, to have his comic made as an online comic and later to be published. It’s got two in the series, based on the folklore of the American South. It’s a story of a little black girl whose father has been arrested and is probably going to be lynched and she’s trying to save him. But it’s infused with all these humanized…Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear, creatures from the American South and it’s beautiful and it’s terrible and it’s gorgeous…it’s just lovely, lovely…he’s got two stories in the series and people who love it are waiting for the third.

M: I briefly looked at a blog post that you wrote about the first two Blade films…I, too, am a Blade fan…

NH: (laughs) Excellent!

M: (laughs) Do you want to discuss that at all? Would you like to see another Wesley Snipes Blade film?

NH: It would be hard, because what they did with the third one was to make him into a mythical creature…

M: Right.

NH: So he zooms off on his motorbike…he barely speaks through the whole thing…I gather there might have been contractual problems…

K: Online, there’s a very interesting…the comedian Patton Oswalt worked on the movie and…I don’t know if it’s tweets or a blog post, but it’s his story about what it was like to make that film, because at that point Wesley was having a lot of trouble with the government and just not taking it seriously and it’s a hilarious story about how they basically pieced this film together *around* the absence of Wesley Snipes because he wasn’t really into it.

NH: Yeah, you can tell and when the director said “I’ve made him mythical”, that’s exactly what happened but when you realize *why* that is…no, I think the series is over…

M: OK.

NH: …as that particular vehicle for Wesley Snipes. I think it became a vehicle potentially for the other actors in the third, Ryan Reynolds and Jessica whose surname I never get right…

K: Jessica Biel. (ed. note: HUGE surprise Kal got that one)

NH: …Jessica Biel and Parker Posey. I mean that third movie was all hotness, all the time. (laughs) (ed. note: nevermind, Kal; you’re in good company)

M: (laughs)

NH: And then there’s *another* beautiful person on the screen not wearing very much! But the character of Blade as he gets characterized in the movies has always interested me because what you’ve got is a biracial vampire…he’s black and he’s a vampire, he hates the vampire side so it becomes almost a metaphor for hating his blackness. The way he gets over it is basically to become a drug addict…and so you have these metaphors working their way through and in each movie, it seemed to me, defining evil as a different thing. In the first movie, evil was young club kids; that’s how they characterized the vampires. In the second movie, the vampires have their own cultural consciousness and Blade’s problem is that he’s not down with the program. He’s got this internalized racism going on that he can’t see the power of vampires as a community. You can keep mapping it onto blackness. So, Blade’s not a good black man…(laughs) He just doesn’t seem to like himself…and all the reasons why that happens are playing, at least in my mind, to that. He meets the perfect vampire girl and he has to kill her…like, how horrible is that?

M: Yeah…

NH: ...and the vampires become this metaphor for vagina dentata in the second one, there’s teeth and teeth and teeth…

M: (laughs)

NH: In the third one, even the Pomeranian is a vampire! That line where Ryan Reynolds says “You made a vampire Pomeranian!?” (laughs) I find when I go to that kind of stuff, which is pop culture as a funhouse mirror on what we think about things we really should be thinking about more deeply, I find it fascinating for that, just what it reveals about us or about the larger culture, what we think are acceptable themes and stories or how our own conscious fears get worked through…how you take this vampire creature, who is part black, and you completely disappear him for reasons that have to do with contracts…

M: Right.

NH: …but the way you deal with it in the story is to make him actually go away after having killed half his race.

K: And then white heroes and a white Dracula jump in and…

NH: Yeah and…y’know…hot (laughs) but…I’m not hatin’.

K: If they were to do a reboot and I’m sure they will pretty soon…would you have a pick for someone to play Blade or a direction you’d like the series to go?

NH: It’s hard to say, because I don’t read the comics much…I discovered the comics after the film; I went back and read one of the early comics and thought “eh…” (laughs)

K: They’re definitely rooted in a…I mean, the whole character is rooted in that 70’s blacksploitationesque kind of thing…

NH: Yeah.

K: …and there’s never really been a really good run on Blade, I don’t think, just because he exists as that sort of token character and that’s something that…now I’m getting on my Comics Soapbox™…

NH: (laughs)

K: …that’s something that I would like to see. They made him so popular; it’s really one of the first real Marvel movies. I’d like to see them do a serious take on it. They tried to take on Luke Cage and did him pretty well; I’d like to see someone really get behind Blade.

NH: Yeah yeah yeah! They’ve done it with the Hulk; they kept rebooting him until they got it right…

K: (laughs)

NH: …and because I don’t any longer read Marvel and DC stuff, I don’t have a problem with them breaking the way the story worked. A lot of times those stories were made by people that were younger artists, the medium was younger, the stories weren’t very well told!

K: There was the pressure to do them every month, continually…

NH: Yeah, exactly, and so there’s lots of richness there that can be explored by breaking away from the kinds of stuff that fans often complain about, “it’s not authentic”…well, I kind of like when they remake the stories. “Authentic” is what the director wants to make it. So, I see a Blade that thinks about himself more.

K: (laughs) That’s not a characteristic that he has! He’s not gonna ice-skate uphill…

NH: (laughs) No; I love him kicking butt and taking no prisoners. As the CGI got better, staking vampires just became more and more fun! But I’d also like him to every so often stop and take a minute.

M: (laughs)

NH: “I just killed off my whole race…what else…” There’s gotta be something more than just messing up every vampire…

M: (laughs)

NH: …just because a vampire ate your momma once.

M: Thank you so much for joining us today, Nalo. It’s been such a pleasure. Where can people find you online?

NH: I am nominally at I am more often on Twitter @nalo_hopkinson. That would be the best place to find me.

M: Thank you so much!

NH: Thank you!

(ed. note: we went on for another 10 minutes after the mics shut off talking more Blade, his adoption of Eastern philosophy and practices and the idea of the Daywalker’s ‘passing privilege’ among humans. If Marvel is looking for a comics or screenwriter for a new Blade project, I know who I’d send them to!)

Nalo can be found at on the web and @Nalo_Hopkinson on Twitter. Nancy Jack is currently in development; check out for updates. Nalo’s latest books, The Salt Roads and Falling in Love with Hominids can be found on

Monday, November 9, 2015

Critikality: Fallout 4 Later

Abjure the Wasteland with Kal on this show as he tells you why it'll be a while before you see him in a Vault jumpsuit. Instead, he gives a few video game suggestions the non-Apocalypse-minded! Bethesda...Bethesda never changes...

Radroach Attack!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Television is Furniture

Tune in, turn on and drop dead with us as we review Ash vs Evil Dead, One Mississippi and Master of None! Plus, we talk the Muppets, Spectre, Snoopy and Agent Carter! Good...bad...we're the ones with the show!

Give us some sugar, baby

Friday, November 6, 2015

Castle on a Cloud (of Blood)

JET goes back to the issues as we talk Hollywood sexism! Not cool, Jurassic World guy...not cool. Plus news, Star Trek, Princess Leia and Mr. Belvedere! You bring the parkour, I'll bring the grenade launcher!

Welcome back, Frank

Show notes

The original LA Times piece with Trevorrow

Variety stats on Women in Hollywood

Women generally represent a larger percentage of moviegoing public

Trevorrow comments further on Twitter

Related Vulture commentary

Government investigation of Hollywood bias


Lexi's interview with Vulture

Lexi's essay

And a study from 1977 

Matthew Hammett Knott, friend of Lexi's

Blame Canada

Trevorrow emails to SlashFilm

How Did This Get Made Episode

Monday, November 2, 2015

3,629 Seconds on Mars

JET is back to do what we do best! This week, it's talk about Mars movies! We review The Martian, John Carter and Uncle John's Ghosts of Mars! Plus, news on Neil Gaiman, Prometheus, Guillermo del Toro and more Uncle John! UNCLE JOHN

Get your ass to this show!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

An Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Below is one of the interviews we conducted with the fabulous featured guests at Nerdcon: Stories 2015 in Minneapolis, MN. Originally, there was audio for all of our interviews but our engineer (Kal) is a schmuck and some of them didn't turn out very good. So, transcribed here, is the text of our interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, which Kal was forced to type with 1000 monkeys as punishment. You can check out some of the interviews that *did* work elsewhere on the site or on iTunes @ The Just Enough Trope Podcast. Enjoy! (whip cracks) Keep typing, monkeys! Rehearsal for Hamlet starts in an hour!

Kaliban: You have a theater background, don’t you?

MRK: Yes.

K: So, you must have taken improv classes before…

MRK: Not since high school.

K: That’s a little while.

MRK: Yeah.

K: But do you find those muscles…I have an acting background, too, and I find that, when I’m doing improv or doing it often, it comes really easy.

MRK: Yes.

K: But, I don’t know if it’s the day after or the week after, but those muscles begin to immediately get stiff.

MRK: Absolutely.

K: And when I have to do it again, it’s like “…all right, ok, ‘yes and’…”

MRK: (laughs)

K: But then you work it out and it’s like “Oh! I remember this!”

MRK: Yeah, that’s very much it, which is why I’m so glad that I *just* had taken a workshop.

K: Because it made the show better.

MRK: Yeah. “Look at me being able to draw these skills in from other places!”

K: Did you go to the open mic (ed. note: on Thurs. night @ Nerdcon) at all?

MRK: No.

K: Yeah, I didn’t either, although I kind of wanted to.

MRK: I wanted to but I had puppet rehearsal.

K: Oh! What are you rehearsing for?

MRK: We have a show here at Nerdcon. (ed. note: which was *awesome*, btw)

K: Oh! Of course. Ok. And you had to rehearse.

MRK: Yes…you know. It’s a thing we do.

K: (laughs) I should say that we are here with Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo award-winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey amongst other works. You are a voice actor and a puppeteer; how did you get started with puppets?

MRK: The short story version is that I was already doing puppets in high school and by the time I got to college, I was one of those kids who wanted to do everything, so a career in Art Education with a minor in Theatre and Speech was the closest I could come to doing everything I wanted to do. I was doing Little Shop of Horrors as the giant man-eating plant and a professional puppeteer came to see the show and I was like “Wait, people give you money to do this?!” and pretty much changed career choices on the spot. Because it does combine everything I want to do. You have to sing, you have to act, you have to lift giant heavy things…

K: (laughs)

MRK: …there’s sculpture, there’s painting, there’s writing, it’s everything I want to do.

K: I had a similar experience; I was pre-med in college but I had acted as a kid and it wasn’t until I got to college and saw other kids who had gone to arts high schools and who had thought about this and done it their whole lives, that I realized, ”oh, this is a career, people actually get paid to do this!”

MRK: Yeah!

K: My mom would drive me in on Saturdays, just to be in a little show or something like that…of course, I’m not an actor now, but those tools…I enjoyed that sort of thing and that world.

MRK: Yeah.

K: Tell me more about puppeteering in general. I understand performing, but when you’re being a puppeteer or you’re being a character, how do use those acting skills?

MRK: One of the things about puppetry is that a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that it’s not acting and it totally is. It’s just that we’re using a different tool. A “meat” actor or “fleshie”

K: (laughs)

MRK: —uses their own body. Whereas a puppeteer is using an external thing. Because of that, one of the advantages that we have is that we can see the body language of our character very clearly. But the other thing is that we cannot do things on instinct quite as much as a fleshie actor can. Like we have to sit down and break apart “what is it that makes a person look scared? What is the body language?” So, because of that, in a lot of ways, we’re able to use our tools much more deliberately and make more conscious choices…not always, because there are some fleshie actors who think about it that deeply. But it’s something that is just inherent in puppetry.

K: What’s Iceland like?

MRK: Iceland is amazing! Everyone needs to go to Iceland.

K: You worked on a show there.

MRK: I worked on a show called LazyTown…it’s still on television. I’m not on the show anymore because my writing career took off, which is lovely. Iceland is the most magical place I have ever lived. It is like stepping out of Earth and into another realm altogether. The landscape is ethereal; there aren’t trees, so you can see the raw, rugged power of the land and you can see to the horizon line.

K: But it isn’t just blasted landscape…

MRK: No, no…it’s…well, parts of it are. Some of the inland is, but the other places are like Middle-Earth. There’s this area that I call the Land of a Thousand Throw-Pillows.

K: (laughs)

MRK: It’s a lava-scape, so it’s old lava but it’s all been covered over with moss and the moss is four knuckles deep. So you can stick your hand into it all the way, so all of your fingers are completely hidden and it looks like someone has come and upholstered the entire landscape with green shag throw-pillows.

K: Luxurious!

MRK: Yes.

K: How did you get set up with LazyTown? How did you get the job?

MRK: I auditioned!

K: Oh, really?

MRK: Yes, I know it’s a strange thing…

K: When you auditioned, did you know that it was—

MRK: In Iceland?

K: Yeah.

MRK: What happened was, I had auditioned when they were originally casting and to do an audition, you send in a tape and then you go and if you get to the next level, you do a live audition. I was not picked for one of the parts but they had to do a mid-season replacement and so they called me on a Thursday and said (Icelandic accent) “Hello. We would like to ask you to come. Can you be here Monday?” And I was like “YES. Of course! Absolutely!”

K: “I’ll start swimming now!”

MRK: Yes. “Iceland? Check!”

K: (laughs)

MRK: But it was a two week trial, so I had to pack not knowing if I was coming back at the end of two weeks or if I would be there for another six months.

K: Right.

MRK: So it was six months…we had about a year off and then we went back. So it was a year and a half in Iceland.

K: Nice.

MRK: The second time, my husband went with me.

K: I hear the upholstered rocks are *lovely*.

MRK: Yes. The hot springs are better, though.

K: Oh, yeah!

MRK: Yeah.

K: Let’s talk about writing: when you write…I’m sure you get this a lot, having started so recently and having been so prolific in such a short time…what aspects of your process have helped you accomplish that? There are authors who struggle to push out one book within a certain amount of time.

MRK: Honestly, coming from a theatre background.

K: Oh, good! That’s good news for me…

MRK: Yeah, isn’t it?

K: (laughs)

MRK: Because one of the things about working in theatre, is that I can’t wait to be creative. I have to be able to turn it on on demand. There are deadlines in which I am collaborating with other people, so when I’m designing something or creating anything, it’s like “Nope. I have to be creative right now.” And as a result of that, I learned a different work ethic which is “I’m in this place and now I will sit down and do this creative thing. Because it’s due.” I’ve spent my entire adult life as a freelancer, juggling multiple different projects and different deadlines, so that has been enormously helpful. The other thing…again, because I had to actually, consciously think about how to convey an emotion with an inanimate object to an audience…and I’ve spent 20+ years honing that audience/storyteller relationship. When I went to go translate that to prose, I found that a lot of the puppetry skills translated directly into prose, in terms of the ways that you manipulate an audience, in terms of the body language a character uses to convey things, how you use focus, what your character is thinking and looking about to convey stuff to the audience. A lot of that translated directly across.

K: That’s a very particular sort of tool or set of skills or sensorium. People who act are used to probing their own emotional spectrum and reactions to things. Whereas, somebody who just wants to write might set the scene or the plot but wouldn’t think about that. The few times I’ve tried to write stuff, I feel like I focused on the dialogue a lot, how people talk back and forth and people’s emotions. But then I have to write…”The trees were…something. I hate this part!”

MRK: That was the other thing that, again, coming from not just the performance background but also as an art major in college, the process was always about layering things; you never jump straight to the finished product. For me, it’s very natural…there’s times when I will, in fact, just write the dialogue in a scene and then go back and add the action. Because, I’m like “ok, I can follow this emotional through-line straight through the scene” and then when I go back in and I’m using the description, part of what I’m doing with that is not just setting the scene, but I’m also using it to control the pacing. I’ll have a spot where it says “she paused” and I’ll take that out and put in a physical pause. “What is she doing in that pause?” and I can use that to describe the scene. So, for me, I wind up layering stuff, which is also, I think, what allows me to write fairly quickly because I don’t labor over each individual word as I go along. I go back and I polish the ones that need to be polished.

K: How do you edit? Now that we’re talking about process…

MRK: The way my process works is I do an outline first and the reason I’m mentioning this in response to the editing question is that my first layer of editing actually happens then; it’s where I’m getting my structure right. After I’ve got that, I write the thing and I write it fairly quickly. When I go to edit, the first thing I do is I’ve had beta readers reading along and I incorporate the notes that I’ve been given from them that I know how to fix. Then I go through and I read, making notes in the manuscript about changes that I need to make but I don’t immediately make them. Because, sometimes I’ve found that I will make a change and there will be an unintended cascading effect…

K: Sure.

MRK: …and sometimes I’ve found that if I get farther into the work, that I can fix it later much easier than an earlier fix. So I just make notes and then I go back through and fix those. Once I have that structural pass, I give it to a different set of beta readers to make sure I’m structurally sound. Then, I go through and do a language pass where I smooth out the language.

K: So, the readers are an integral part of the process…

MRK: For me, absolutely.

K: How early do you give it to the people and say “check this out”?

MRK: I give it to the people in the raw. And again, this is because I come from a theatre background. I’ve tried not doing that and that is the only time I go into the ‘neurotic writer head-space’.

K: It’s like rehearsal.

MRK: Exactly.

K: You’re not just going to see the finished show. Let’s get notes.

MRK: Exactly, and I train my readers…“I’m going to be giving this to you in the raw. All I’m worried about is the structure. Is this playing for you? Do not give me any notes about dialogue or about line-level stuff.”

K: “Oh, this is spelled wrong” or whatever.

MRK: Yeah, none of that “this sentence is awkward” because I will obsess on that and that will stop the forward…it’s like you don’t go into someone’s rehearsal and say ”well, I don’t like your costume very much” and you’re like “I’m wearing my street clothes”.

K: Right. “Get a haircut.”

MRK: “I don’t wear a costume until dress rehearsal.”

Mika: A lot of your books, like Shades of Milk and Honey, are based on Jane Austen but with a magical, sci-fi bent to it. How did you come up with that idea in general? I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, I love the stories and the premise and adding magic to it is just awesome.

MRK: Well, that’s basically why.

M: Ok. (laughs)

MRK: I was a huge Jane Austen fan; Persuasion is my favorite. I had just finished reading a giant, epic fantasy and I’m a lifelong science fiction and fantasy reader. I was doing a reread of Persuasion as a palate cleanser and get to the proposal scene and I’m weeping, which I do every time I get to that scene and I’m like, “why is it that Jane Austen can move me to tears when nothing is at stake here except ‘are these two people going to get married?’’’…

M: (laughs)

MRK: Not even Anne Elliot…she’s got another marriage offer on the table, she’s beloved of her family, she maybe doesn’t have the best father, but nothing is at stake for her except is she going to get married to that particular guy. And yet in fantasy, the fate of the world is at stake and evil overlords! I enjoyed that but it didn’t move me in the same way. So, I was like what I want to see is “can I take fantasy, which I love, and shove it into a Jane Austen plot mold and have an intimate family drama, which is what I want. I also started trying to think of intimate family dramas in fantasy and I was striking out and I’m like “is there something inherent about fantasy that doesn’t allow that?” or is it just that we love our evil overlords so much?

M: (laughs)

MRK: The second book was great because I had Napoleon so I did get to have my evil overlord AND my Jane Austen. It was great. But that’s basically why; it was a book I wanted to read and it didn’t exist and so I wrote it. Now I’m finding other books that are kind of in that vein, but it was a book I wanted to read.

K: You’re a podcaster as well on Writing Excuses. Your shows are 15 minutes long…

MRK: In theory.

K: How? How do you do it? Our shows go on forever and ever.

MRK: We pre-plan a little bit. We use a timer.

M: We tried that a couple of times…

MRK: And we’re also only dealing with a single topic, a single question.

K: Ok.

MRK: If you picked one of the questions we’re talking about and we just spent time drilling into my life as a puppeteer…

K: Right.

MRK: But that’s basically what we do is we pick a single, very specific, very tiny point about writing and drill into it.

K: And there’s 4 hosts?

MRK: 4 hosts.

K: But that’s 4 people…15 minutes…is it like one of those cable news shows? Does everybody have to have their blurb?

MRK: We don’t always all chime in on every single point, but it’s a conversation. We do it live, not in front of an audience all the time, but we don’t do it over Skype so we can see each other and can jump in and over the years have learned “someone has already made this point so I do not need to”.

K: We’re coming to the end here…we had a bunch of questions about the SFWA flap (ed. note: covered by us at and but I’m sure you’re sick of talking about that and I can throw them away. But I did want to say that, with everything that went on, how composed you were and I admire your poise and how you dealt with it.

MRK: Thank you. Which “flap”?

K: Everything that went on with the controversy over the Bulletin—

MRK: Oh, that.

K: —yeah, and everything that lead into what was going on with the Hugos this year…

MRK: That’s why I wanted to check, because the Hugos have nothing to do with SFWA.

K: Right, but the whole conversation of Diversity in SFF.

MRK: Yeah, let me talk about that just a little bit.

K: Please.

MRK: The thing for me about this that I really think is important for people to understand is that the sexism, misogyny, racism…all of these things are part of the larger fabric of society. They are not any worse in science fiction and fantasy. The reason it is so vocal and prominent right now is because in science fiction and fantasy, that behavior is no longer acceptable and it’s being called out. People who have been getting away with behavior for a really long time feel like the rules are being changed and in some ways it’s true but in other ways it’s like “no, it’s actually never been acceptable to grope a woman”. It’s just now you’re getting caught and you’re getting called out.

K: The light’s being shined on it.

MRK: Yes, and that is the thing that I really want, especially women, to understand and people of color who feel like science fiction conventions are not safe spaces for them, that we are in a transition period right now and that the reason that they’re hearing so much really ugly stuff is because it is being called out and because it will be called out and it is not acceptable and that these spaces are in fact safer than a lot of other spaces because we won’t let that happen anymore.

K: Yes. I don’t know if we’ve earned it but…I hear you have a story about Sting?

MRK: (laughs) I do. It’s not nearly as…

K: (laughs)

MRK: I will make it sound fancy.

K: Dress it up.

MRK: (adopting affected English accent) So…

K: (laughs)

MRK: Back when I was in college…

K: Here we go…

MRK: I met Sting and taught him a song…

K: (laughs)

MRK: …and then later I saw him again…I went to the opening night cast party after the premiere of his new show “The Last Ship”…I’ll just say that Sting has very warm hands.

K: (laughs) *ahem* You heard it here…

MRK: So, the way this story actually goes is that I went to go see Sting’s show when I was in college and knew somebody who was working on the show and went backstage with them afterwards and was waiting for them to get ready to go. And Sting was standing like, right there. (mimics wide-eyed surprise)

K: (laughs)

MRK: And I’m like “I’m cool. I’m cool. Totally fine.” For his curtain call, he had done…this is in North Carolina…he had sung “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning…” (as Sting) “Next time I’ll know the rest of the lyrics when I’m here.” And we all laughed because that’s a good way to pay homage and not have to actually sing the entire song. But he’s backstage and he’s going (sotto voce) “nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning…nothing could be…da da da dum da da…nothing could be…da da da dum…” And so I just turned to him and I said “Nothing could be sweeter than your sweetie when you meet her in the morning.” And he sings it back to me and he says “thank you”. And the warm hands is that I did get to go to the cast party because I had a friend, again, who was working on the show and I shook Sting’s hand. And he had, obviously no memory of meeting me before. But it sounds much fancier…

K: “I’m the Carolina girl!”

MRK: Yeah! “Don’t you remember? ‘Nothing could be sweeter’? We had a moment!”

K: “I helped you!”

MRK: “I taught you a song…”

K: I feel like you have to…if Sting is struggling, you have to help him. I’ve seen…I love The Police and Sting’s one of my favorite artists and I’ve seen so much film of him and I feel like so much of that film has been him screwing around or trying to ‘work through’ something…

MRK: Yeah.

K: So I almost feel like “I have to help him” but then “Maybe I shouldn’t help him”. Let him learn. Let Sting learn.

MRK: That’s why I only gave him that one line.

K: (laughs)

MRK: I stood there and let him struggle with it for a while until it was obvious he was not going to get the next lyric. And this was in the days before google so he couldn’t just pull out his phone.

K: He’s at a cultural disadvantage.

MRK: Exactly.

K: Mary, thanks so much for talking with us today.

MRK: Thank you. This was a great deal of fun.

Mary's most recent novel Valour and Vanity is available online and wherever books are sold. She can be found online at