Transcript: Valentine De Landro and Sarah Wendell

AD READ:

This episode of Recommended is sponsored by Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

In her stunning debut, Tomi Adeyemi builds a tight, believable and wholly absorbing world. Fans of YA heavy-hitters like Sarah J. Maas, Marie Rutkoski, and Game of Thrones will fall in love with this rich universe where magic has disappeared and the gifted are persecuted.

More about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi later in the show.

SHOW INTRO – JENN:

This is Recommended, where we talk to interesting people about their favorite books. This week we’re joined by Valentine De Landro, who picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick:

VALENTINE DE LANDRO:

I think in high school my fantasy was grounded more in comic books. It doesn’t disqualify me as a sci-fi fan, but I wasn’t really reading a lot of sci-fi literature. I think that this was one of the things that got me into reading a little bit more as far as sci-fi goes.

JENN:

And Sarah Wendell, discussing The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston:

SARAH WENDELL:

It’s the degrees to which everyone in this book, I’ve… despite the whole part where they work for a goddess and then when they get mad and go to war, they wear, BAM, wings to make them fly! I’d totally believe all these people are real.

JENN:

Valentine De Landro is a Canadian comic book artist, illustrator, and designer. His credits include titles from Marvel, DC Comics, IDW, Valiant, and Dark Horse. Together with Kelly Sue DeConnick, he’s the co-creator of BITCH PLANET, a feminist riff on the women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation trope. Bitch Planet Volume 2: President Bitch, published in June of 2017, uncovers clues in the history of how this patriarchal future came to be.

DE LANDRO:

My name is Valentine De Landro, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick is my recommended.

I picked this book up, it was last year of high school. We had the option of finding a book that we wanted to read that was outside of the curriculum that they were offering. So, this was one that I decided to try. I didn’t know too much about it, except for the movie before that. Even the movie itself I didn’t really have a clear recollection of, but again, it was a nice change of pace for reading some books that I found sort of dreadful in high school as well. I didn’t enjoy Heart of Darkness.

I didn’t mind Lord of the Flies, but there were some really rough books that were just making me angry. Is angry a good word?

I started thinking a lot after this book. I don’t know how else to explain. There’s just this cascade of thoughts that I started questioning a lot of different things from there. And it got me to exploring philosophy a little bit more. And there was something about that, there was something striking about that, that chain that started after I read this book. Where your perceptions of reality, your ideas of empathy, of who has a soul, who doesn’t have a soul, what is a soul? All of those questions.

I think that I started really just looking for answers for that, or just even exploring those themes a little bit more, which was kind of interesting. That took up a fairly large chunk of my last few days of high school, and going into university.

I like to think that I’m … That my thinking is a little more critical now because of reading this book. And being able to see how it has just sort of influenced other, you know, stories that I enjoy now. I think that this was really it. More of his novels, things that are based on Total Recall and what not. I mean, Total Recall is one of my favorite movies of all time too. Just because of that, the idea of reality and how your perception influences that. That’s something that I always get a kick out of.

I didn’t read too much after this. I mean, I did look into … What is it? A Scanner Darkly. And what’s the name of the on that Total Recall is based off of?

Yeah, I read those. Again, just because you want to explore those, the foundation where those ideas originated from. So, those are the things I looked into, which was all great.

It’s all amazing sci-fi work as far as I’m concerned. You know, as loosely as some of the movies are based on the original writings, I think that the writings are still really compelling for what they are.

From a movie standpoint. I guess from a story telling standpoint, he tends to have that twist that people like. You know, that sort of … The point where everything shifts, there’s a lot of … I don’t know. I’m speaking of this, and I have no idea what it’s like to be someone who writes a screenplay. But, to have something like that, just buried in the actual source material already is … That’s pretty significant, I think.

You can build other characters, and make it a little more cinematic in certain places. But, to have that hook is … That’s pretty valuable I guess. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why they’re able to continuously just leverage from his work, and make more movies from it. Yeah.

I think that that may be one of the reasons. Other than the fact, that again, they’re really good stories and there are so many different themes. Maybe that’s another thing too, the layers of themes that are in a lot of his work as well.

The questioning reality, and the nature of real versus what’s not real. There is a lot, I think, to build some really great stories around, some really great movies around TV shows. Whatever it is they’re doing now.

I think I do want to revisit it. At the same time, I feel as though the whole desire of sequels to try and rehash things, and sort of repackage things that didn’t need to be repackaged because they were just fine in the first iteration of it.

There’s a part of me that, maybe, will watch it, maybe won’t. I don’t know, I’m conflicted.

This led me into a certain genre of sci-fi movie, I guess. Which, I think, has influenced the work I do now. If I wasn’t as into this book, I don’t think I would have, again, ranked movies like Total Recall as highly as I do. Total Recall is a huge influence on what I’m doing on Bitch Planet, right now.
A lot of those ’80 sci-fi movies are sort of that’s the vibe I’m trying to at least reach for in my visuals. So, I think this led me towards a certain class of sci-fi, which yeah that’s definitely directly influencing. I didn’t necessarily think of that until you asked. But, I think that you could draw some sort of correlation between the reading this book and how that’s influenced what I’ve been doing going forward.

It’s a great book, I highly recommend it. Anybody who is into any of those stories, that you are challenging reality and perception, and want to explore themes of empathy. I mean, it’s a solid book for that.

I think everybody I generally, you know, you approach somebody like, “Hey, have you read this book?” And it’s, “Yeah, I’ve read that book!” So, I’ve never had to necessarily recommend it to anybody. I’ll probably slip it in front of my kids one day when they’re ready. That’s about as high as the recommendation will get at this stage.

That will be when they’re old enough to tell me whether or not they enjoyed it or not. So, that will be cool. But they’re pretty voracious readers right now too, which is nice.

JENN:

Thanks again to Valentine De Landro for joining us and recommending Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. You can pick up Volumes 1 and 2 of Bitch Planet, published by Image Comics, wherever books are sold. You can follow him on Twitter at val_delandro.

AD READ:

Fierce Reads is the exclusive sponsor of this season of Recommended, and they are hosting a huge giveaway for Recommended listeners, so go to FierceReadsRecommended.com to enter for a chance to win a bunch of great books.

Included in that giveaway is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

The struggles of race, class, and oppression that the main characters face reflect powerful themes that resonate strongly in the real world. The high-stakes adventure of this story is beautifully offset by the fierce romances. Following the characters as they fall in love, even as they risk losing everything, is enthralling and cinematic.

Our thanks to Children of Blood and Bone and Tomi Adeyemi for making Recommended possible.

JENN:

Sarah Wendell is the co-founder of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, a site dedicated to romance reviews and the romance community. She’s the author of the novella Lighting the Flames and the book Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels. She’s also the co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels, and is the creator and host of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books.

WENDELL:

My name is Sarah Wendell, and ‘The Unleashing’ by Shelly Laurenston, is my recommended.

I believe I encountered it after book 2, ‘The Unyielding’ came out in March of 2017, and half my Twitter feed was just typing vowel sounds with excitement, like “Oh my Gosh!” And then I was like “Okay, well, it was book two.” and I’m terrible at series. Like series and I, we are not good friends. They were like, “No, no, no, read book one, trust me, and then read book two, they are totally worth it.” So I was like, alright, I trust you, I’ll follow your vowels, I will listen. It was incredibly worth it. I’ve since read the series, twice. I’ve listened to the audio narration, twice. I think I walked my dogs for maybe three or four extra hours, just so I can spend more time in this world.

The thing about Shelly Laurenston is that her books are very much, over the top, almost campy story telling, and they are, but, at the same time they are grounded in an incredibly accurate reality.

So, in the first series you learn that the Viking gods have earthly teams of warriors, who act on their behalf. Laurenston’s research totally shows, because on the things that happens in all Norse Mythology…The gods constantly lose their stuff. Like they lose a golden apple or they lose a bracelet. They never keep track of their stuff. One of the things that happens is the stuff ends up on earth and these warriors, who have a long, like multi century history of alliance and, for the most part, resentment. They got to go find the gods stuff or do whatever the gods say.

Each group of warriors has a different skill set. And then there are the Crows, and this is why I love this book. The Crows are the team, or the earthly warriors of the goddess Skuld, and none of the gods like her, because the other gods, they prefer, well, white guys; Norwegians, Scandinavians, people who are directly descendant from previous warriors. Skuld chose for the Crows, the women who were slaves or kidnapped or were kept as captives. So, her warriors are not all white. Most of them aren’t. The thing that I love, and was perfect for me find this series and to keep revisiting it, is that, the Crows focused phrase or their motto is, “Let rage be your guide.” So much horrible crap has happened to these women over the centuries, that rage is what gives them their powers, and there is something so incredibly enjoyable and indulgent about reading women, whose power comes from rage. It’s so satisfying.

I mean, I don’t know that many women right now who aren’t angry on a very visceral level about a whole mess of stuff. This particular world, the rage is what makes them fearsome. It’s what makes them incredibly difficult to defeat.

The heroine, Cara, is a military veteran, who’s working in a coffee shop and just regularly met the hero, who is a member of the team who works for Odin. She has no idea that he’s connected to a god. She thinks that he is a disabled veteran. She has a dog, that she adopted. The dog had been abandoned without her teeth and tied to a post, in a vacant lot, and Cara adopted the dog. The dog’s name is Brodie Hawaii.

And when something happens to Cara, and Skuld, the goddess appears before her and says, “Okay, I can give you a second chance at life, and you’re gonna be on my team.” And Cara says, “You can’t take me without my dog. I need my dog.” And Skuld’s like “What?” Cara’s like, ” Sorry, no dog, no me. I will just, I will die, that’s fine.” So they end up bringing both Brodie and Cara into the Crows, and the way Brodie becomes a Crow, is as satisfying as Cara’s journey into becoming a Crow, and understanding who it is and what it is that she does.

The thing about Brodie is that she’s a pit bull, and Cara is constantly worried about the reputation of pit bulls. “You put that down! You are a representative for pit bulls all over!” And then, one of the other sister Crows is like, “Oh my god, I love your dog!” A lot of the Crows are actresses and models and so they’re like, “We want to dress her up and take her for a walk!” And Cara’s like, “No! Do not put a pink collar on my dog” Eventually she gives in, but her, very fierce, adamant position against retractable leashes, which is a position I happen to share. It gave me so much joy. “Those leashes are BLEEP and you will not walk my dog with them!” Yes!

The romances are great. At one point, they, you know, go through all the realms of the Underworld. That’s pretty rad, to have that reinterpreted by an author of color. But at the same time, the relationship between the different women in the series, is so incredibly satisfying.

It made me reconsider, “Okay, in my real life, where I don’t fly and I don’t work for a goddess, who are my Crows? Who are my sister Crows? Who are the people I can rely on no matter how much we disagree with each other, to always have my back? Who are those people?” I think it’s important especially for women, to identify who their sisters are because we’re taught very early to turn against each other and to tear each other down. When you can identify who your sister Crows are, who are my Crows? It’s a very life changing question. Because, in the context of battle and war and defending yourself and coming from a place where you’ve been marginalized and abused. The idea of finding a sisterhood that supports you unilaterally and also has wings, which is also pretty cool. That can be life changing.

That’s one of the reasons I picked this book. The idea of saying, “Okay, who are your sister Crows?” Makes you accountable for the way in which you are a friend and the way in which you cultivate your friendships.

I recommend this book with a couple of caveats. Shelly Laurenstons’ writing can… It sometimes doesn’t work for people. It works great for me. It is all of my catnip, but it is unlike any other writing in paranormal romance. One of the reasons I love it, is that it doesn’t take it’s self seriously, even though it’s dealing with serious topics. So, I usually recommend, with a warning, expect the writing to be interesting and different and expect people to really talk the way that people talk to each other.

The other thing I love about this series is that the focus is on the power of the women. So usually I recommend this to people who are really stressed and really unhappy or really angry about something. Because, there’s nothing better than saying, “Listen, the whole point of the series is, ‘Let rage be your guide.’ Here you go, see you in a week”

So, the thing that I look for, after reading this book is, I look for and I expect better relationships between women in stories and I gravitate toward romances, where there is a group of supportive women friends who don’t just exist in each others eyes as sequel bait. Who regularly interact with each other, in supportive and loving ways and in silly ways and real portrayal of real female friendship and relationships. Even if you have a romantic relationship with a partner, you also need friends. The world doesn’t exist for just you and a romantic partner. There are other people in your life that help you create happy existence, I think.

So, when I look at romances, because of this series, I’m more attuned to the idea of, “Okay, does this character have her Crows? Does this character have women in her life who are her friends, who will always have her back? Beyond and not just as accessories to the romantic story.”

If she doesn’t have Crows, I’m a lot less interested.

JENN:

Thanks again to Sarah Wendell for joining us and recommending The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston. You can find Sarah on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, follow along on Twitter at smartbitches, and visit smartbitchestrashybooks.com.

EPISODE OUTRO – JENN:

Thanks to Fierce Reads for sponsoring the show on behalf of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Be sure to check out the Recommended Season 1 giveaway at FierceReadsRecommended.com.

Next week on Recommended, one author talks about the book she just can’t stop rereading:

UNNAMED AUTHOR:

I have so many pieces of the book that really I’ve underlined, my book is completely wrecked. It was a beautiful hardcover, kind of. But it’s really wrecked because I have read it every few years for the past twenty years.