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March 3, 2023

Jennifer Hayashi Danns: Adventures with Gender

Jennifer Hayashi Danns: Adventures with Gender

Where is the best place in all the fantasy worlds for diversity?

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Today we present you with something very different! Jennifer Hayashi Danns tells us about her journey to being an author and describes her innovative fantasy novel Beneath the Burning Wave. This book breaks new ground using neutral pronouns for the first half before evolving into a kind of 'fallen' split language, this gives Jennifer a chance to invent a pre-history for civilisation. As Jennifer is a black British writer, we discuss her experience of representation both on and off the page.

[Music] Hello and welcome to Myth Makers. Myth Makers is the podcast for fantasy fans and fantasy creatives brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. My name is Julia Golding, I'm an author but also I direct the Centre and today I'm so excited because I am being joined by Jennifer Hayashi Danns Ableton who is about to bring to the world her new and very interesting book which is called, let me get this right Jennifer, Beneath the Burning Wave, that's it, which is the first of a trilogy. But I'll leave Jennifer to tell us more about that in a minute. And she's got quite an extraordinary mind and very different kind of fantasy, which is why I'm so excited to meet her. Right, so Jennifer, Hello. First of all, would you like to tell us a little bit about your journey to being an author and you might want to mention any particular things that you read along the way that inspired you into this mad world of trying to make a living by writing? So in 2011 I published a non-fiction book and that was actually based on my thesis at university. So it was a feminist book critiquing the sex industry in the UK, specifically about black dancing. So that was published with an independent publisher. And then after that came out, an agent approached me and she said, "I feel like you have another story to tell." And that just, it opened up this, well, the publishing world to me because I've always loved books, I've always loved literature, I would love to be an author and of course I now am. Of course you are, yes. But at that time it was, yeah, it always just seems very risky to do as a job. I had a lot of responsibilities, different commitments. seem like a profession that perhaps was out of my reach for various reasons, mainly socio-economic reasons. I mean, that's still a problem. - No, no, that is so true. That is so true. I mean, let's just pause there because people may, I've done various public events around the country on, you know, kids' prizes and things. I remember driving to one in Leeds. They got a driver to take us from the station to the hotel and the driver said, "Oh, I thought you'd all come in chauffeur-driven cars." And I think basically he thought all authors were like, I don't know, as rich as J.K. Rowling or something. And he's had to think, "No, so keep the day job." He's probably the best advice that most authors can be given. Anyway, back to you thinking, "Maybe I could do some fiction." - And I suppose I had a perception that you, as an author, you're rich before you're an author, and then you're richer after. And yeah, as you said, there's a whole range of people publishing. So yeah, so then that opened up the publishing industry. So what I tried to do was just write a novel as fast as humanly possible. And when you try and do that, you just end up, well, for me, it was just a very thinly veiled account of my life. So it wasn't very good and it was just a partial that I submitted and the agent was lovely and she said and I really clung on to this for years, she said you have a natural talent for writing but yeah this is not the story and that was yeah that was absolutely true but something very interesting came out of our exchange and our encounter because the first book that I published it really broke through into the media so at that time a lot of people were talking about this like, is lap dancing empowerment? Is it this? Is it that? That whole conversation was going on. 2011 and then that kind of wave of feminism and you had like the, what was that book called? Like female chauvinist pigs and you had all like the, is it Natasha Bard and stuff. It was, it was a whole time of this type of nonfiction book. So yeah, I was, I had a feature and the Guardian, the BBC did lots of things, even sent a poet to my house to write a poem about the experiences in the book. I was on Women's Hour, I was on ITV this morning, Phillips held the book up. But despite all of this media coverage, the book's still in print now, it's been in print, so what we are now 12 years, and I would say it's sold less than a thousand copies. So it's just such a wild industry, isn't it? Because you would think that level of publicity that it would just sell so many copies and it didn't. And so I was talking to the agent about this and what we were speaking about was, so in the nonfiction book, obviously it was a lot of experiences of women, but it was also a lot of statistics, excuse me, statistics and figures. about, yeah, about like gender violence, violence against women. It was really looking at it from, yeah, from that feminist perspective about the objectification of women and looking at the lap dancing industry from that perspective. And we were just saying that literature is so powerful. So you can present people with statistics about things. But then if you can put that same content into a novel or a story, it can really resonate with people, with the average person a lot more. Because what seemed to happen with that first book was it went into kind of an echo chamber of people who already thought that way, were already... so they were just reading something that was reinforced in what they were thinking already. where my intent with that book to really try and, well, especially reach young women who would enter the sex industry in various forms and just make them just think a little bit more about it and think more critically about it. That was the intent, but I think it went into the feminist and academic group who were already feeling that way. And something, though, when we were talking about this with the agents that it really made me think about was like, You know, we have all of these statistics like in America about like police brutality, all things about violence against African-Americans, African-American men. But you can have all of these statistics, but still we see these things again and again. But if you give people like a book like To Kill a Mockingbird, next minute they're like crying and like calling the birth-born Atticus because it just really resonates with them in a different way than a list of facts and figures, which are horrifying. But there's something about when you bring it into fiction, that really, I really believe opens up empathy and really opens up. And that to me is the only way to equality. I don't think that you achieve equality by having people like basically feel sorry for you or read a list of statistics and think, oh, those poor women, oh, those poor black people. it just doesn't really, I think it doesn't resonate as deeply. So this was something that I just really started thinking about. And instead I just tried to knock out this very fast novel that I suppose would have been more like, yeah, literary fiction, I suppose. It would have been like that and yet touching on themes of race and class and gender. But it just wasn't right. So then I spent a decade in Japan after this, and that's where this idea of Mu really came alive. So Beneath the Burning Wave is set on a fictional ancient island called Mu. And I would describe the story as it's forbidden twins on an ancient island. They both have secret powers, but only one can ultimately rule the island. But it is certainly full of, It's not about race and that is actually, that's something intentional. Maybe we can talk about that a little bit later, but it is absolutely about gender and it's about power. That was the story that was brewing inside me. That's the story that came out. And it's interesting actually, because, oh, I wrote it, I wrote a lot of it. And then I was like, what is this? Because it wasn't so similar. At that time, I thought it's not similar to anything I'd really read, But since then, I've really like educated myself on modern fantasy. So say things like the Children of Blood and Bone and books like that. I'm just like, I mean, this is what it is. It just fits in. This is what genre it is. But I that's the way that I came about it. It was how to. Yeah, explore these themes that I'm very, very interested in, but put it into a story that is, well, what I hope is, it's exciting, it's an adventure, it's apocalyptic, it's all of those things, but those themes are within the narrative. - Yeah, and I think one of the things that struck me about it is, well, is some very interesting sources that you name at the end, but there is this feeling of a, it's kind of almost like a garden of Eden, except it's not. It's a sort of state of nature place, stripped away of any kind of technology. It's a group of people trying to find a way of living on an island with limited resources. And of course, that becomes a microcosm for society, doesn't it? And I often think about fantasy as a bit like a laboratory where you can run an experiment of things that you see in real life, but you can shift it into a fantasy setting and say, "Well, how does this work?" And that's a way of exploring things which are perhaps too encrusted with other things in our society. So the obvious thing to ask you about and the thing that strikes a reader immediately is that you are in the first half using neutral pronouns. I wanted to ask you about that's the first half until there's like a fallen moment. I'm putting that because I don't know if you call it a fallen moment but anyway it changes. There's a change in that society. How difficult was that and how did you go about writing a a language to communicate without using familiar pronouns? - Well, I didn't find it so difficult because I knew I wanted to explore the origin of gender. So then for me, the logical thought was before there was she and he, her and his, what would have been before that? So if it's something that's evolved or something that had changed, what would have come before? and that led me to an island that was agender. So they use the pronouns, mu, me, men, so everyone. However, because I am exploring the origin of gender, I don't want to misrepresent this because I think there is, at the moment, there's a real passion, a real hunger for non-binary characters, for fluid characters. But I would say my book is not that. it's very much an exploration of gender. So yet by the second half, we're onto the binary. And also a question that's being posed in there is within this agender society, there's still the requirement to procreate. So something's happened on the island where there's been a dip in the population and the current ruler of the island, they're called the experienced and the head experienced is Takenori. and he is obsessed with repopulating the island. And what I'm gonna do here is so said it's "Mu Mere Mere" but by the second half, everybody is gendered. So I'm gonna use the gendered pronouns for you. - Yeah, yeah. - And it's kind of pushing you to then start speaking in "Mu Mere Mere". So if you want to explore that part, please pick up the book. And that's what the first half is. But by the second half, you do know, by current standards, who's a man, who's a woman, you do know that they become gendered the second half of the book, you do know that Takanori is he, whereas in the beginning. Well, how did you find that when you read it? What did you think without the gendered pronouns? - It was a very interesting reading experience because I found myself looking for other signals in order to categorize people, which was a kind of working against what you know, it's that, so for example, something like I was looking at names thinking, ah, is there a clue in the names as to whether or not somebody is a carrier, you know, like female or not. So the twins are Kairi and Kaora, is that right? - It's Kairi and Kaori. - Kairi and Kaori, okay. So I was thinking, oh is there something, you know, so I was felt probably not, but just I'm so ingrained that I found myself looking for it so I could relax and think, oh I understand who they are. But actually what's interesting is trying to hold yourself in that suspense where you don't answer that question. And I think what was most interesting for me about that, and I think where it was really a great way of introducing characters is because, as you say, you've got... You're trying to write a place where there is no set idea of gender to start with, which means that people are welcome to fall in love with whoever they want to fall in love with and have relationships. So it's a good way of introducing a romantic queer relationship because you don't know, oh, it doesn't matter, I should say, rather than you don't know, who they are affectionate towards, because you've set up that relationship and then after the fall or the break where you get the he and the she, and you think, oh, okay, so that's the same sex relationship and that one's a not, but you've already got used to them being a couple. So it was quite a good way of stripping out up any kind of residual prejudging that you might do of, you know, social roles or whatever it might have been that go along with that. So you can see, so the two things for me worked in parallel, the relationships plus the gender neutral pronouns. That's what the effect they had on me. Yeah, yeah, that's good. That's, that's great. Tick result. I'm glad that that came across. And I do understand that it does involve a little bit of work if you're not familiar with that. But again, I suppose that's where the, in terms of, I suppose, where fiction is that, this would be defined then as experimental because of that element. But at the same time, there is a very clear story going through. I do feel that if you took those pronouns out, it would be like a fairly straightforward story actually. It's about family, it's about, 'cause something that I was thinking about, because I mean, I have children and I had children fairly recently. This idea of, you know, it takes a village and that being a positive thing. But I did think, well, it depends on the village. I don't think that should be taken for granted. It depends on the village. And as I said, the main antagonist in this, Takanori, absolutely does have an agenda and is extremely zealous, is extremely dominating, is extremely manipulative. So they are to a certain extent, because of the hierarchy that exists in this society, the mercy of him. And it's about that as well. There's all of that going on as well as yet there's romantic relationships, yet the relationship between the twins, the relationship between authority. I think it's like an exploration of various relationships. - And it's not just, clearly it's about affection rather than romance in some relationships. and you mentioned in your epilogue material that you wanted to talk about cuddling, affection between people because they don't know who their parents are or that relationship is removed by the structure of society in the first half. They have close relationships with other people which kind of feel a bit parental but it's not specified in that way. And so you can feel really close to somebody without it being a romance or a sexual relationship. And I thought that was a really interesting way of looking at a society when there are lots of forms of love between the people in it. So moving on to looking at it as a craft and the structure of your book, you've got twins. So it's, you can see how you're led to doing two points of view as a result. But also your book breaks in half as well, with a sort of moment. And then, so how much did you, did you sit down and plan your structure, or did it just flow naturally in that way? Is it something that you had a grid of your story, or did you just sort of explore your way through it? Yeah, so the ancient island is called Mu and then the mythology of Mu is that it's an Atlantis, it's the Atlantis of the Pacific. So the idea is that there was a continent called Mu that, well, yeah, the myth is that pretty much overnight collapsed under a twin catastrophe of fire and water, of volcano and of tsunami. So, I mean, and this is all, you can find this on Wikipedia, you know, this is like the mythology of Mu. So I suppose that was a starting point for for the story. So immediately this, these polarised elements, this idea of twins, two, and although we've now decided on a trilogy, it was, I was thinking it to be like a duology to really. - Yeah, to get the two there. - Yeah, to get the two, two, two, two, two, and then the book is split into two. So yeah, I have taken that twin thing, I've really, yeah, I've run with that, very, very far down the road. But yeah, it did give quite a firm structure then to the novel. So I did feel that third person wouldn't really work. Obviously I could have done it very, very, very close. But because this mythology, and I said this mythology is publicly available, it is, I think it's kind of known as you begin the book that it's leading to catastrophe. So I think that has a much greater dramatic effect in first person. And then I think it's interesting because the twins eventually split and they split in terms of gender. I think it's quite interesting to be writing their minds about how they're experiencing this. So how they're experiencing the catastrophe, how they're experiencing the pressure from Takanori, from society, how they're experiencing, especially for Kari, the pressure of being a carrier. And she doesn't want to be, it's not something, a role that she wants. And Kairi's attitude towards Kairi as the kind of illegitimate power he has for not having the responsibility to repopulate the island. So I thought that, yeah, so that immediately gave, yeah, first person. And I feel that, yeah, I think because, because within one novel, to start with neo-pronouns, I thought that if we... I had to really make a decision about how the language then was going to evolve into she and he and go from them to she and he. And I tried it, I tried it so like where the language is changing and then they're fumbling over it a little bit because it's evolving for them as well And it was just, it was too confusing. I just think it was, it was just, it was too confusing. So it was, I've made the decision to do that split. It's something, yeah, very dramatic happens to Kaori. We're not going to give the plot away. But she essentially disappears from the narrative. And it's within, and then it's in Kairi's narrative that we see that language has changed and a period of time has passed. And I think this is always, I'm sure other people have this who write fantasy. I do get a bit stressed out and I always forget that I'm writing fiction because I'm just a bit like, is that enough time for language to have changed? And I mean, of course not. It's fiction and it's driving and propelling the story forward. And I mean, it's not. I'm not writing a historical document, of course. language would, it would be a bit more subtle how it would change. It is a, it's a key point of the narrative about this split and I suppose I did really go for bang split rather than dragging it out because it could have done another 20,000 words I suppose of really... No, no, no, you don't need to do that. Just a, yeah, it worked. I didn't actually have that question when I was reading it. I just accepted it on the terms that you gave it because Kyrie is enforcing it in a way because he's quite a violent character, quite a sort of dictatorial character as well. So you could imagine somebody in that atmosphere enforcing it and you're too scared to get it wrong. So another thing, Jennifer, because of as well as the book there's a really interesting things that you write at the end, which is you were writing about yourself as a Black British author and you mention a dialogue in December 2020 between Reni Eddo-Lodge and Bernardine Evaristo which really kind of inspired you. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that and the effect it's had on you as a writer? (EP): Yeah so at that time I think it was that Bernardine Evaristo was like the first Black woman or Black British author to, was it, take the number one slot? Both of them achieved something that Black British female authors hadn't achieved. Have you got the exact? Yes, they were the first Black British women to top the non-fiction and fiction paperback charts. Yeah, which I mean is extraordinary. So on what year was that? December 2020. Yeah, I mean well that's like outrageous really isn't it? I mean as a starting point it was unbelievable that that was an achievement that has come so late. And so the Guardian was just asking them about their, I suppose, their hopes for future black female authors and at one point like Berazine Evaristo says her hope is that that authors are able to write, well, and specifically black authors are able to write whatever they want to write. And I think this is, I think it's quite clear if you go into any UK bookshop, there are, now there is a significant number of books being published by black British authors, but they heavily skew towards being about race and being about anti-racism, or if the, it's, we're all within fiction, that there are elements about race and racism. And I don't believe that that's what every single black author wants to write about. It's about what's being commissioned, about what you can get published. And I suppose in an industry where the gatekeepers are predominantly white women and the people who are at the top of the publishing houses are white men, that's who you interact with, that's the gatekeeper that you have to get past. And even people who are very well intentioned, it can be of course perceived as a positive thing. It's a published book about anti-racism, it's important. I've read these books, some of these books, they are spectacular, but I am concerned about the lack of black authors within genre fiction, because I do think there's an enormous amount of freedom for black authors, for queer authors in genre fiction, and particularly in fantasy. You can write whatever you want, you can dream up whatever you like, and I'm very interested in Afrofuturism, and an enormous part of Afrofuturism is this, there's like a place called Rexion and the idea of this is that slaves who were cast off the slave ships, the pregnant slaves at the bottom of the sea, like their children survived and that there's this whole alternate universe which is free from any kind of empire slavery, any kind of that oppression. And that's why I do find it extraordinary that there are not, that there's just not a, that there's not an enormous canon of writing by black authors be in fantasy space. I just think that's extraordinary because it can be a space that's devoid of all of these things. So, I said I'm passionate about women and I mean I just despise violence against women, it's something that's very important to me and in terms of that's my feminism, I'm absolutely not on any level a gender-critical feminist. I believe that trans women are women and we're all included in this. So I wrote a non-fiction book about those things and kind of, so you can do that, but then now I wrote a fantasy book and I think that you should be able to do that. I think you can, as a black author, you can write the anti-racism book, of course, and if you're passionate about that, of course, but then I also think then what do you write next? And whatever your colour or ethnicity, this industry, it does kind of like, that's your lane now. So you've started on the non-fiction, that's your audience that will keep going on that. So it's a problem anyway. And that is why it's a problem with the over-commissioning of these anti-racism books, because it's very hard to change. It is very hard to then rebrand yourself in another way. - Oh, it's exhausting having to be a banner carrier for a particular cause, be it racism or feminism or whatever it is that you're interested in. You have to always carry that banner and not be able to say, "I just want to write a story about exploring Mars or whatever it might be. Just do something completely different." It ends up as being a form of prejudice, doesn't it? Even though it's coming from the good intention of trying to readjust the balance of representation? - That's what I was talking about earlier, that there is a, unfortunately human nature, there is a limit to how many statistics people can read about this. I mean, we know about this, like the under-representation of black authors in publishing across various industries in the UK, We know about the discrimination from the police. I mean, we're speaking now, what is it, February 2023. I just saw a horrible video with a girl being attacked outside a school. And the theory behind this is that she'd be racially abused and that she's being attacked by what seems to be like a white family, including adults. And there's videos of these things we can see in America, that all of these injustices that are being documented, you can literally watch them. And maybe there's something even in that now way, you just watching black people be attacked and be abused and be humiliated and again it's like you end up with, well okay, it's kind of important to say but it is dehumanizing. It ends up like, it's like a trap. Sometimes it feels like a trap because it is like, no I don't think you should share these videos But I know from my experience that if I speak to people about racism and experiences I've had, especially when I was younger, that is almost, people are almost a little bit incredulous, like a little bit like, well it's not like that now, or like almost a bit like it can't have been like that bad. But then you watch these videos and that's how bad it is. And so, do you understand what I mean? It's very powerful. So I do think that if you had Black characters or people of colour characters in a book who were just... So I would love to see a character who's a black character who's a scientist, they destroy the world, change the mind and decide to save it. And it doesn't have anything to do with race, they didn't do it because of racism, they just did it as a human being, as a flawed human being. That's what they did. That's the type of literature I would like to read, especially in genre fiction. I think it's just, it's so, so important. And the same in fantasy and in science fiction, that it's just, it's just the black person in the rocket and that's just it. And then the story just continues on. And you start to see this, like I spoke to an author recently, Grace Curtis, she's publishing a book called Frontier. and it's like a space opera. And I don't think she'll mind me saying this because we're doing this talk at Waterstones, so we're talking about this publicly anyway, but she would identify as a queer writer and as another queer writer, so I'm bisexual. As I was reading her novel, I just knew. I just knew because it was like the protagonist was queer and they're facing all different kinds of obstacles but at no point was anyone horrible to her because she was gay, it just was not there. So every other type of problem you can imagine, it's a great story, really interesting, but that discrimination is just not there and I think that is the difference. It does just get really draining sometimes where you have the representation but then the reason is about that you still, even in this fantasy universe, you're still worthless, there's still people who are going to put you down. I just don't think it's healthy at all. Yeah, there is a role in fiction to model what we could be, you know, so we could be past or another society can be past these things and it's something to aspire to as opposed to always be fighting the same battle again and again. Well, you can do it more as an allegory. I mean, you could do it so you know that's really what it's an allegory of, but it doesn't have to be so literal. Again, especially just in fantasy, I mean, there's just the whole space to do that. It's extraordinary to not take that, the opportunity to do that. Absolutely. Right. So, thank you. That was really interesting. I'm very pleased we talked about that. And I was saying to you just before we started recording that one thing I wanted to ask you because it's been a little bit of a Twitter media flurry or whatever, wherever we're getting our news from these days, is there's a question around at the moment about whether young adult fiction has gone too dark recently. And I would say that Beneath the Burning Wave could be read as a young adult novel. I mean, it also has adult themes, but it might be read by young adults. And you are dealing with darker themes in it, it's quite violent in places. And you mentioned up front about warning people, it's very responsibly portrayed. So, you know, do read the whole thing. Do you think that's true that we've gone dark recently? Or is this just one of those media, you know, they've got themselves in a tizzy about something that's not really happening? Yeah, well, I mean, if you look at something like, yeah, like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, all of the, I suppose the Jeopardy, the conflict, it's not as graphic as certainly something that's in my novel. So yes, there has been a change in what we depict in novels. novels and I think of course TV and movies has had an enormous effect on that. So you, given descriptions, the... Yeah, yeah, I think, I think, well, yeah, of course it has. Like I was born in 1983, so I can definitely see in terms of literature that things have become more graphic, more graphic violence, I would say, and certainly more graphic violence in TV and film. And there are things that I just choose not to watch. Like I'm not a big fan of horror films. Like I just could not watch something like, I know that's directed at adults, but films like S.W.O.R.D. and things like that, I just can't. It's just not for me. I just choose not to consume that type of media. So I do think that, yeah, I think that I think there is a valid argument for the young adult fiction has become darker, but it is also a reflection of that young adults are exposed to darker material outside of literature as well. So again, what I was mentioning before, now on the news you will see the video of somebody before they die, and that will be shared on social media, it will be on the CNN, it will be on BBC, these really violent, disturbing videos. It exists and I feel that that you can't really, we don't live in a vacuum, so maybe if I was living in yeah, like a quiet cottage somewhere, then yeah, I wouldn't feel so compelled to write about violence, but that's not necessarily my experience. I live in a city. That's my life. That's my life experiences about conflict, about violence. And I feel that, so like Beneath the Burning Wave is extremely violent, and I would describe it as extremely violent, I wouldn't recommend it for 13, 14 year olds, I would say 16, 17 into adults. And at the beginning there's a content notice which lists the types of violence there. There's a link to the Samaritans and to Childline. But something that was important to me and something, I think perhaps the reason I don't like violent, some violent movies is because I do feel what's missing is the consequence of violence. I think it can be, it either ends so everyone's just like dead, but there's not really any kind of, yeah I don't see that there's a lot of like consequences. and one of the first books actually that it did have an enormous influence on me was the Hunger Games and I feel like I have quite an unusual view of this because I just don't know how anyone can watch that film as entertainment. I find it really, really disturbing and then when I read the books I thought they were really disturbing and I think that they are overtly political but what I I do like about them as the trilogy goes on and as the stories go on, you see the consequence of participating in violence. And I think that's very, very important. I think it gives a fully rounded story. And to me, that is the difference between gratuitous violence or otherwise, I feel it's very important that at least somebody acknowledges the consequence of this fact, the impact that it's had on them, that it's not just a wooden, so like on me, like a wooden this ancient, you know, pre-civilisation so we can just be violent. No, like of course not, you're still a human being, you still feel pain, you feel all of those responsibilities that we have as human beings. I don't think you can just hide behind like, oh it's like ancient, so they can just be really violent and obviously it's really drawn on ancient Egypt. It's because the mythology of Mu is then after the catastrophe on the continent that the refugees essentially of Mu became the ancient Egyptians and then the early, I was going to say early Mayans, but I'm calling them Mayans. So it's something different. But, and again, we know there's lots of, there was violence in those societies and sacrifices and things. And you could really just zoom in on that, really gratuitously write about that and then just leave it. And then everything just continues. and I personally don't think that's right. I think that, so I think within Beneath the Burning Wave there are absolutely moments where they're completely overwhelmed, the shell shock, they're looking back on it and with regret and they're upset about it, they're upset about things that have happened and at the moment I'm just finishing the edits for the second one and Yeah, all the repercussions of the first are very much being felt. I think perhaps there was violence in earlier YA fiction, but maybe it's just couched a bit differently. So one book which I was thinking of as I was reading this was of course, Lord of the Flies, which a lot of children are given to read, the William Golding piece, which has no women in it, which is one of the discussion points. And I thought this is really fascinating to put this alongside your book because it's about how we treat each other in extreme situations. In fact, in a way yours is... That's definitely been an influence I would say, Lords of the Flies and also you know the short story by Shirley Jackson, The Lottery. I love that short story. Oh I don't know that one. Oh yeah, it's extraordinary. I must look that one up. Right, so thank you. That was a very fascinating take on why there is so much violence around in books. We have, on a lighter note, we have two regular sections that we look at at the end of our podcast. One is where in all the fantasy worlds that we've sort of read or watched or come across is the best place for something. And this time, to celebrate the positive side of the fact that literature is finally becoming a bit more diverse, we will say, where is the best place in all fantasy worlds for diversity? Where is it actually best represented? Do you have a view? Have you got one which models it really well? Yeah, a book I enjoyed recently, it's by Sara L. Arihi, it's called The Final Strife. And yeah, there's representations of a wide range of people. So there's people who use they/them pronouns and actually also outside of race/sexuality. it's very interesting like the protagonist it becomes quite apparent very quickly they're very flawed and they're actually a drug addict and I thought that was an interesting take on diversity because I think it's really moving away from the yeah the perfect character of colour as well because then that's another thing you don't want to be criticizing people yeah yeah it's like Yeah, I thought that was, yeah, I suppose it was very well done. And it's just a fantastic story. It's populated by diverse characters and it's a phenomenal story. >> I was going to choose, not as a perfect example, but one that's having a big impact sort of culturally, globally, is Star Trek, which has always tried to push the boundaries on this, particularly from the second, not second, next generation onwards. And I was thinking of the, I don't know if it's, there's so many of these, I don't know if it's the latest iteration, but the one that has, is it Star Trek? Discovery, where the main character is Michael, who is, first her name is kind of, obviously fairly androgynous, and it's not about her gender, and it's not about her race at all. It's about the fact that she makes a mistake. She makes a mistake at the beginning, or something which is perceived as a mistake, and that sort of kicks off the rest of it. And I just like the way, and there's same sex marriages and basically it's all normalized. - That just is the world. - It's not about problematizing something, it's just these characters are showing a range of human behaviors. And of course you've got your aliens to push it even further to the days when we're gonna have to work about diversity with aliens among us, who knows? They're already here, I don't know. Anyway, so I think Star Trek has been trying to do its best to explore these issues in a way which will change people's minds and make it so you're freed up to not have to be a certain kind of writer just because of your sexuality or your race or your whatever it is. Also, we have a second thing, which is we ask our guests for a fantasy tip they might want to share. feel free to think about this any way you like, maybe it's something that helps you as you write or a life hack that you want to recommend to people. Um well I mean first there's a couple of books I would recommend so I would yet strongly recommend The Final Strike by Sada El Arifi, it's amazing. I also love Natasha Bowen, Bowen, sorry if I'm mispronouncing that, and that's Skin of the Sea. I think that's a duology that's, and the second one's called Soul of the Deep. They're really beautiful books if you want to try perhaps a different type of fantasy that's really based on African mythology. I would say, my fantasy tip is, especially if you were born after 2000, is you must watch David Bowie's Labyrinth. I'm obsessed with that film. I just think everybody should watch it. I am horrified if people don't know what I'm talking about and if they haven't seen it. So that's my instruction. You need to Google this and find a way to watch this. And I have two versions, that British version and the Japanese version. That DVD. - Absolutely. Now I'm a fair bit older than you, so I remember that when it was originally, the original flavour of it in the cinemas. But yes, absolutely. Oh, so that's an interesting thing about a must watch film. For me, carrying on my Star Trek little thought, my must watch film for fantasy writers is Galaxy Quest, which is the best ever affectionate parody of something, which is actually almost better than the thing it's parodying. It's just such a classy film, that one. There's some great performances and many laugh out loud moments, definitely. So that's my tip if you want, after you've watched Labyrinth, line up Alex and Chris. Thank you so much Jennifer and when is the book actually coming out? So Beneath the Burning Wave is out now, it came out in September 2020. Oh okay. And it came out in America in November and yeah I'm just working on the second one now which is called Across the Scorched Sea and that will be available by the end of the year. We're just getting that all sorted out now. Brilliant, so we'll put a link to where you can get these books in our show notes. So thank you very much Jennifer and all the best with the next two parts of your duology that's really a trilogy but we'll think of it as a duology just to keep the two. Thank you very much. But there is a third one and that's called Beyond on the blood tide and that'll be in 2024. - Thank you. - Thanks for listening to Myth Makers Podcast, brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. Visit to join in the fun. 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