Crafting Asexual and Disabled Characters in Historical Fiction ft. Carly Heath

Today we’re joined by Carly Heath, author of The Reckless Kind, to discuss writing asexual and disabled characters in historical fiction. Other themes we discuss include queer-platonic relationships, veganism, fanfiction, and even hair jewelry!

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Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are The Ace Couple. And quite some time ago I picked up a fabulous book called The Reckless Kind. I went in not knowing too terribly much about it. That was by my own choice. I like to go in and get surprised by whatever I might find, but it was recommended to me because I was told there is a disabled ace character, and if you have been a fan of the podcast for any amount of time, you know that is extremely up my alley. But I was very, very thrilled to find, in fact, that there were just so many other topics and themes that were so oddly hyper-specific to me that I had just such a fun time reading this book. And we are thrilled today to actually have the author with us here today. So please introduce yourself and then let’s get into it. I’m so excited.

Carly: Thank you so much! My name is Carly Heath. I’m the author of The Reckless Kind. I am a writer, artist, enthusiast of many things, and I’m so thrilled that you like my book. And I really appreciate you having me on here.

Courtney: Well, thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited for this conversation because I feel like we have just so many things we’re going to be able to talk about here. But first and foremost, so– To let you know, I read the book kind of two-ish times. I actually listened on audiobook first and then I purchased the physical copy because I wanted to make some notes about it, to remind myself. But Royce has actually not read it yet, and I imagine there may be some of our listeners out here who haven’t read it yet. So how would you describe your book? What’s the elevator pitch?

Carly: Okay, set in 1904, The Reckless Kind follows three queer teens who live in a rural Scandinavian village and they defy the expectations of their little village in every possible way. They leave their homes, they go off on their own to the mountains and eventually have to – in order to maintain their way of life – they have to defeat the town patriarch in the region’s annual winter horse race. It’s about love. It’s about being true to yourself, despite the oppressive town/society situation. And it’s about three friends – really four friends, because Fred’s kind of in there too – who are all very, very different, with all very, very different forms of trauma, who cope with their trauma in very different ways. And, despite the prickly edges that each brings to the situation, they tolerate, they appreciate, and they strive to be as supportive as possible to each other.

Courtney: And that really, really came through. And when you say that it’s about love, what I especially appreciate about your book is that it’s about different sorts of love. Also, it’s not just one narrow definition of a romantic love, even though that is a bit present there too for a couple of the characters.

Carly: Yeah, Asta is struggling– trying to, struggling, and find her way towards what she wants out of life. And you come to realize that what she wants is a queerplatonic relationship. She really does– she says it pretty much in the first chapter but she doesn’t have the language to say it. But you can feel her yearning for a queerplatonic relationship with Gunnar, who is this boy who she’s had this really strong connection with since she was a small child, and Erlend, who is the second point of view character. It’s– Asta is kind of like the main point of view, and then you get Erlend’s point of view throughout the book as well.

Carly: Erlend is romantically in love with Gunnar, but there’s also the friendship, love affair, love story that develops between Asta and Erlend, as Asta and Erlend become closer. And so there’s Asta forming that platonic relationship with him and then Asta forming another platonic relationship with Gunnar’s brother, Fred, and then her love for the pig, who is her child.

Courtney: Oh, yes. The pig.

Carly: Which– I relate to completely because, as someone who has farm animals and who loves animals, my animals are my babies, I love them. I definitely feel a connection with animals more so than any human. I feel a connection towards, like, a random raccoon that, like, is walking across a fence. [Courtney laughs] I’m like, “I love that raccoon more than I can ever possibly love another human,” and I see it for like two seconds. And so that strong, intense love for an animal is also prominent in the book.

Courtney: Yes, oh, Carly, you are speaking our language. First of all, farm animals: yes, love them. I was a zookeeper for a number of years and I had so many just really special relationships with some of the more farm-esque animals in our petting zoo. Because, oh my goodness, the goats were so affectionate. They were like, “I love those goats more than most people love their dogs.” Someone’s going to be fighting me on that.

Carly: Yeah, we have time to talk about that, you and I, because I have a flock of sheep and I love sheep so much. Sheep are my favorite thing. But also have wild animal experience. I fostered raccoons for a few years, and raccoons are like little humans, little insane little humans– insane is an ableist word, I’m so sorry that slipped out of my mouth. Apologies. But yeah, I love wild animals because they are just absolute– like they’re little celebrities of the forest. [Courtney laughs]

Carly: Whenever you see them, you feel like the paparazzi. You’re like, [whispering] “Oh, it’s–” you know–

Courtney: It is very exciting!

Carly: “That’s a raccoon, oh my god!”

Courtney: Yes, we have intimate relationships with the wild animals that live around our house because we feed our birds exceptionally well, to the point where we will have families of birds who come to our house year after year after year. So we know that we’re getting the same birds over and we’re seeing them have new nests of babies, and that’s just so fun. But so– we’ll also, we pretty regularly get possums that just, like, hang out and, like, live under our deck for a while. So we’re like, “Oh, there’s our possum!”

Courtney: I love them. I love them. Yes, it’s interesting because, you know, every time we see animals and we feel that, like, intense connection to them, I can’t help but think of the few people out there who are like, [aggressively] “Oh no, skunk! There’s a skunk in my yard. There’s a possum in my yard.” It’s like what the heck is wrong with you?! There’s a skunk in your yard! That’s amazing and beautiful.

Courtney: Curtney: You have been blessed! [laughs]

Carly: You have been blessed. The skunk god came to you! You know? And then they call the exterminator. It’s like what are you–? What’s wrong with you? Anyway, also, capitalism ruined everything. Imagine before capitalism, we could just, like, go out into the forest and make friends with the animals.

Courtney: Yeah, and it is true. Actually, right now this is a true story, a bit of a headache but kind of an interesting one. We had, at the start of this spring, a woodpecker was pecking a hole in the side of our house every single day, and we were like, “Well, you can’t do that, you can’t destroy our house, please go find a tree.” So we’d, like, knock on the wall to try to scare the woodpecker away. But the hole developed and then a pair of invasive starlings found this hole and they saw an opportunity. So they tore the hole even bigger, started building a nest and we were like, “Oh no, the siding of our house!” So we need to re-side our entire house now, but we’re doing it after the babies are gone.

Courtney: So the babies just hatched, like a week ago, in the– in the side of our wall in our house, and they’re very loud, chirping at us every single day.

Carly: So cute.

Courtney: And this, this sort of love and respect for animals and this need to have a relationship with animals that isn’t abusive, in things like horse racing, is a prominent theme in your book. So tell me about how, how you incorporated that into the book amongst all these other themes of queerness and disability.

Carly: Yeah, you know it’s one of those things that it’s a lot of– When I write, it’s me, so it’s not even something that I’m conscious about. It’s just like when I’m writing, I’m writing me and my personal thoughts, and worldview and everything. So, I am vegan and I’m– I have a rescue horse and I’m very much against the mentality that you dominate and, you know, force your animal or your horse to do your bidding. I’m much more into the spiritual, positive, like, encouraging, nurturing sort of relationship that horse-people form with their horses. And so I’m very much a fan of basically the principle of horse training that is– that really goes back to the days of Xenophon, like thousands of years ago, who is the original horse trainer, who wrote on horsemanship and he was trained by Plato.

Carly: The idea is you basically just give rewards for when your horse does what you want it to do and then you ignore if your horse is doing something that you don’t want it to do. And everything is about your horse wants to be with you and work with you because you are a nice individual to be around and it likes you, and that is the relationship that you’re forming. And I think that carries over a lot towards every aspect of life. I’m not a child person. Personally, I tell people primates are not really my species, that I get along with. But I am told that people who raise primates and children that the best way is not by scolding them and not by criticizing them, but by being encouraging and validating their feelings, and talking things through, and rewarding positive behavior, and ignoring negative behavior.

Carly: So I think that whole idea comes across in all of my work just being an encouraging, tolerant, nice person. Then, you know, your relationships will be better, your friendships will be better. You will then attract and connect with other people who have your positive mindset. And of course then the negative, the Adamsons, which are the family that is your classic very conservative, very authoritarian family who doesn’t really care about anyone else, you know, those people, karma will eventually come to them. But I think it’s really important for the positive vibe people to radiate their light and they’ll attract their other positive vibe people.

Courtney: Yes, absolutely, and I didn’t actually know that you also were vegan, we are too. So–

Carly: Yes! Oh, my God.

Courtney: I’m just, like, adding more to my list of things that really jived with me in this book and with you as the author. [laughs]

Carly: Yeah, it’s kind of subtle in there, but the Fuglestads are vegetarian. It does say that they’re vegetarian. I – in my head cannon – made them vegan because they have for generations been the farriers of the town and worked with the town’s animals. And farriers back in the 1800s/early 1900s, were basically veterinarians. So I imagine the family that for generations and generations were the veterinarians of the town were vegetarians. I’m just also based on my historical research about vegetarianism, which I would love to eventually write something about. But there’s this myth that vegetarians are like city people and that’s not true.

Carly: A lot, a lot, a lot of people, especially in the 1800s, were vegetarian because they grew up on farms and they had a love for animals. And vegetarianism was hugely, hugely popular from like 1847 to like the early 1900s, prior to World War. And really going into like the 1920s too, where George Bernard Shaw was like, “People don’t even eat meat anymore, I cannot find someone who eats meat.” But he had a problem with, like, the self-righteousness of vegetarians a little bit, which is understandable as well.

Carly: But then, you know, in the 1920s, kind of with the rise of the KKK and the rise of this whole conservative thing in Europe, and also with the rise of Cargill and the rise of factory farming, and these major corporate monopolies, milk and meat and eggs became very profitable. Because you can’t– I’m going to go off on a tangent now, but because as a corporate– as an industry, as a corporation, you can make more money if you feed food to farm animals rather than humans. So if you build a market for meat and dairy and eggs, you will make more money because you’re making food for all of those animals. And then you own the food, you own the animals and then you be rich anyway. So I want to write a whole book about that, but I’m overwhelmed at the moment.

Courtney: Oh, please do, please do. Because then all the other consequences of that, like the carbon footprint of all of these animals and all of these factories– There’s a lot to it. And it is true, a lot of people don’t understand that there were historical vegans. And, as someone– We’ve been vegan a couple years now, two or three, but prior to that I was vegetarian for like 15 years, so I haven’t eaten meat in goodness knows how long. And it’s so much easier to be a vegetarian and a vegan now versus when I went vegetarian. Because I also lived in South Dakota, like 20 years ago, not eating meat, and so our grocery stores didn’t even have ordinary staples like tofu very often. So it was difficult back then, but now there are substitutes for everything and it’s great. But I’ll still run into the occasional person that’s like, [guttural] “We have been carnivores for centuries.” And is also– not carnivores.

Carly: And it’s also just not necessarily true. Because this 20th– 20th/21st century meat eating, the just amount of it in the average person’s diet has been cultivated and developed by these corporations who are funding this huge ad industry complex. Where they’ve even said in their papers they try to make pork into like a toothbrush, something that you would use every day. So if you’ve ever noticed why there’s pork in literally everything, salads… there’s pork in every sauce, there’s pork in every frozen food thing. Despite the fact that, like, I want to say, it’s like three billion people on the planet can’t eat pork because of religious reasons, the pork industry is so huge. And they do this same with milk, even though, like, only basically a certain percentage of white people can drink milk and everyone else is, like, lactose intolerant. The dairy industry just fuels this huge advertising campaign and the huge marketing campaign that makes people put milk in everything, schools from an early age to get everyone addicted to milk and cheese. Oh my gosh, I’m going off topic here!

Courtney: No, this is great. I mean, I love the history of things like this and you’re right that pork gets into things that like it shouldn’t be in and that was really hard to navigate, like nearly 20 years ago. Like a can of vegetable soup, like turn around, read the ingredients: pork. Why?!

Carly: Why is there pork grease in here?!

Courtney: This is kind of a funny story because the first time I was– Actually it was the first time I was out of the country, period. I was at the University of Winchester at an academic conference. I was giving a workshop on hair work, which we’re going to talk about that today too. But they had all these, like, you know, the British breakfast sort of buffet, and I didn’t eat the beans on toast. First of all, I was like, “I’m an American,” so that sounds like a weird breakfast to me, but also I probably can’t eat it because there’s probably pork in it.

Courtney: And on my last day there all of the locals were saying, “Well, have you tried beans on toast yet?” And I said, “No, I’m a vegetarian.” And they just gave me this look. They were like, “Why- why can’t you eat beans on toast if you’re a vegetarian?” I was like, “Well, because beans have pork in them.” They were like, “What is America?! No, our beans do not have pork in them!” They are different beans. They’re Heinz beans, it’s more like a tomato sauce, and I couldn’t even find those beans over here in regular grocery stores. I had to literally go to our British store that’s called Redcoats to get these beans that don’t have pork in them.

Carly: Yeah, the pork board will literally fight and get funding from the government to put pork in everything. And so I’ve even – in desperation one time – went to a little vending machine, snack vending machine. I’m like, “Peanuts! I’m going to get some peanuts and I’m going to be good!” Came out of the vending machine, had gelatin in the peanuts!

Courtney: Oh… gelatin… Why?! Why do peanuts need gelatin?

Carly: Why! And they also go to the airplane industry. What is it? The airlines, and they make sure that there’s little cubes of pork in the salads. And in the healthy meals they make sure there’s little strips of pork. So they get the pork in everything.

Courtney: Awful.

Carly: Wild, yeah.

Courtney: Awful, awful! It’s the worst. All of the, like, non-vegetarians and vegans are probably going, “What’s wrong with gelatin?” Look it up.

Carly: Yeah, just google gelatin. We don’t want to talk about it because it’s really gross.

Courtney: Oh, my goodness, this is great. So I want to put a pin in the hair work and the hair jewelry. But one thing I really, really want to talk to you about is the fact that this is a historical fiction. So there are always going to be elements, especially when you’re doing representation for marginalized identities, for disability, for queer identities, I imagine there’s a natural impulse to want to, like, really do right by them and do good representation, but sometimes you might be conflicted by the time period you’re setting something in. One of that can just literally be the language, they might literally not know the word for this thing. But also it could be bigotry. It could be, in a small Scandinavian village, it could be really bigoted ideas about where disabilities come from. And so what was it like navigating that for you and where did you decide your balance was between accuracy and positivity?

Carly: Yeah. So it was really hard in the early, early drafts of the book. As I was writing some of it and then sending it out to critique partners and beta readers, I kept getting feedback like, “Oh, Asta’s in love with Gunner.” And I was like, “Ah, people are expecting this to be a romance between Asta and Gunner.” And that’s not what’s happening here. So in one way it forced me to become a better writer and get really, really specific on the emotions and the– and finding the wording to describe Asta’s experience in a way that other people who might not be tuned into what’s driving Asta would get. Because the aces who would read it and be like, “Ah! I know. I know exactly what’s going on here.” [Courtney laughs]

Carly: But the general, you know, the general hetero reader, and even the cis gays reading it, were like, “She’s in love with him.” Or even worse– This is a huge problem with the publishing industry right now, and also just a problem, I think, in the queer community right now is the misogyny, and it’s, “She’s fetishizing him.” And I’m like that’s a big problem that that’s the first place that you go when you’re seeing a female character talk about how she loves and admires and thinks he’s so handsome, and that you go– and that he’s gay, and that you– you’re like, “Fetishizing.” Okay, so we need to unpack all that. And I definitely go into – in the next book I’m writing – like I’m unpacking that whole thing there. I’m trying to unpack the misogyny in the queer community. I think that’s– that’s something that we need to, as a writing literature book type space, really like dive into.

Carly: But so, yeah, it forced me to get really really specific, get really really put it on the page. But I can’t– I can’t say asexual, I can’t say queerplatonic, because it’s 1904. So finding the way to do that and being tricky about that was– was a good exercise, good, like, you know, working my writing muscle a little bit. But then there was a lot of research. I just can go and research queer stuff and disabled stuff and medical stuff in old, old books for ages because it’s like so fun. And Google books makes it so easy, because you can just go on, you can search specific time periods like 1800 to, you know, 1895 and look for random words like vegetarian.

Carly: Or in the case of looking for queer stuff, they didn’t use homosexual, they use like uranist, uranism. And then later, Edward Carpenter, who is this early animal rights activist, queer rights activist, from like the 1880s to, like, 1910s. He wrote a lot about gender and sexuality, and– and he used the phrase homogenic love and wrote a pamphlet on that, so– So kind of pulling the wording from that, you know, getting into that mindset, and all of that was kind of like part of the process. But it took many, many drafts to get it to a place where the average person could– could read it and then feel and know what Asta is feeling and go, “Oh, this is what she wants,” not, “Oh, she’s in love with Gunnar, she’s fetishizing him,” or something stupid like that.

Courtney: Yes, well, that’s– I’m so glad that you went through that process of obtaining feedback and reworking it so that there isn’t any gray area in the interpretation of it. Because I have had the critique with other books, other types of - quote - “representation,” that I have kind of felt like it’s a cop out. Because I’ve seen other creators say, “Well, if there’s an absence of romance then that’s just good enough,” but maybe it’s not a romantic story to begin with. So what we’ve noticed is that allosexual people, be they queer or not, just interpret things in a romantic and often a sexual way, even if it’s not explicit. So that’s sort of the default baseline assumption is that something will be heading towards a romantic and sexual relationship simultaneously. So if you do not make it absolutely explicit by either, in something more modern, using the word asexual, using the words queerplatonic, you need to do something more to make it so that there isn’t really an argument. Because that kind of manifests in fandoms and whatnot, of saying like, “Oh, well–” Sometimes if it’s, you know, two men who aren’t in a romantic relationship and if an ace says, “Well, they aren’t in a romantic relationship and this isn’t sexual,” sometimes we’ll get accusations of, “Oh well, you’re just being homophobic.” It’s like– no, not really.

Courtney: So I did notice that, more so than I think any other book I’ve read to this point, without using the words there was no question about it to me. And I think that was just very, very cool. I want more people to be able to learn from that and implement that, because it was very first chapter I got the impression, I knew who the ace character was. That– that was kind of another thing, because when someone says there’s ace representation in this book or this TV show or this movie, I intentionally do not go to look up who the ace character is, because I want to know if I can even determine who the ace character is on the page. But there was no question about it here and it came up multiple times. And so are there any– any sort of scenes or writing tricks that were sort of your favorite to play with to get this idea across to readers?

Carly: Oh gosh, you know, I wrote the book like 10 years ago. So [laughs] I mean, I wrote it 10 years ago but it came out in hardback two years ago now. And so I’m like, “Oh gosh, you’re asking me to remember things?” [Courtney laughs] But I will say that someone who is ace, didn’t realize I was ace for a long time, the experience of looking at someone and finding them beautiful, but in an aesthetic sense as I am an artist, I want to draw them. Like oh, or I could just, “Oh, look at that picture. That’s like a gorgeous person.” And then thinking in my head, “Oh, is that–? Am I finding them beautiful, gorgeous because I’m, like, sexually attracted to them?”

Carly: I had just assumed that was what sexual attraction was. That if you look at a beautiful person, you find them beautiful, oh, you must– that– that’s what that is. No. Like, unpacking the difference between aesthetic attraction and sexual attraction. Which I realize I don’t feel sexual attraction, I definitely feel aesthetic attraction. And like friendship– Gosh, I would have caused– I would have, like, avoided so many problems in my life if I interpreted friendship as friendship. That’s just what it is. And like that friendship was validated. Instead of like, “Oh, I like that person as a friend. I think they’re– I enjoy being around them. I don’t–” You know, just because I enjoy being around someone doesn’t mean I’m sexually attracted to them. Of course they might interpret that that way and then push someone into a sexual relationship.

Carly: But so I just wish– This is why I think it’s really important for this sort of representation to be in books, especially for kids who are growing up. So that they don’t get into the brainwashing which is what, like, hetero allonormativity is doing to so many kids. Which is like, “Oh, if you like being around someone, that means you’re sexually attracted to them. Oh, if you like looking at someone, that means you’re sexually attracted to them.” We need to– we need to dismantle that. Because that’s not what’s happening. I think a lot of people allos and aces alike are getting themselves into relationships that are not accurately, you know, what both parties think they are. Because they’ve been kind of brainwashed and programmed by society to think that certain experiences equal sex, marriage, children. I just think how many people have probably gotten married and had had kids because they just happen to like being around someone. And that doesn’t– Just because you like being around someone doesn’t necessarily mean you should raise offspring together.

Courtney: Yeah! And it might. I mean you can certainly co-parent even if you don’t have romantic or sexual feelings for one another, and that’s fine. But it is this sort of expectation that your life is going to have a certain projection. And that starts so young too. I mean the number of adults who will look at, like, two and three year olds holding hands and be like, “Oh cute, you’ve got a little boyfriend.”

Courtney: [mockingly] “They’re gonna get married!”

Courtney: It’s like, of course young children are going to hold each other’s hands. Because every adult in their life holds their hands. That is one of the main forms of just, like, walking together, walking across the street, having any sort of physical touch, like ever. Everyone grabs a child by the hand to usher them somewhere. So of course three year olds are going to hold each other’s hands too. It doesn’t mean they’re romantically in love, what are you talking about?!

Carly: I know. And then like, let’s say, you go down that path and– and the kid says, “Oh, I must be going to– maybe I’m going to get married to this person. And maybe I’m going to have babies with this person.” And then they end up getting married and having babies– babies with that person and being miserable because that’s not what they really wanted, that’s what society told them they wanted.

Courtney: Yeah.

Carly: And they end up causing trauma to their kids because they are unhappy and they never really wanted to be a parent in the first place. And it’s draining, and they’re tired, and they’re– and they take out their anger and their aggression on their children. And then the cycle continues. So I think it’s really important from an early age, for kids, this is why queer books are so important. We need to have queer books in elementary school, middle school, high school. We need to show people that– that there are many, many different options for relationships, and heterosexual marriage and children should only be if that is truly, absolutely what you really want. Because if devoting your life to raising children is not what you are burning with desire to do with your life, you will ruin your life and ruin your child’s life. I just can’t.

Carly: You know, I remember in a school that I was teaching at, a girl was wonderful actress and ended up getting pregnant. And because it was Nebraska, just ended up having the kid. And I follow her on social media and all day long she’s just posting about how miserable she is and she hates her life. And this was a vibrant person who had– Just so full of life, so talented. And now miserable, in the pits of depression, because she was pressured into doing something that she probably didn’t really want to do. And raising a child was not her passion, was not something that she wanted, but that’s what she ended up doing. And I just hope that we can eventually stop that cycle of heterosexual expectations. Because it’s for a small percentage of people, but not for everybody.

Courtney: Yeah, people need to be exposed to other options for how their life can look. Because if you only know of one type of life, you’re gonna kind of be put in that box. But if you know, well, marriage is an option, you can have a relationship without having sexual attraction, you can have a queerplatonic relationship without sexual or romantic attraction, or you can just have none of that, and– It’s really so helpful and that’s why we do need queer books. That’s why we need to really fight back against these bookbans that are growing.

Carly: And we also need to actively dismantle the heteropatriarchal expectations that everyone is being put under by advertisers, by media, by – you know – our social circles and everything. And every time someone makes the assumption that marriage and children is for everyone, we need to push back against that.

Courtney: Yes, and it’s so, so disheartening that over the last few years especially, there’s been an exponential increase in our political opposition, the bigoted people of this world, who are calling queer people – be they asexual, be they trans – just calling us all groomers for trying to indoctrinate children. And it’s like we’re not trying to make children queer, we are trying to tell every single person that there is no one way to be a person, there’s no one way to live this life. And, truly, if they don’t have representation for other types of life that they can pick the one that fits best for them, that’s the real indoctrination of society. Because it does start so young, like I said with the handholding example. But think about how romanticized the concept of childhood sweethearts is. It’s almost a form of social capital to be able to say, like, I married my high school sweetheart, or I married my childhood sweetheart. “We’ve always known we’ve been destined to be together,” whether it’s true or not, whether it could ever be true or not, that is kind of, in a way, something our society tells us you should aspire to. So even children who might not have these feelings yet, kind of sense from the adults around them that if I pick my life mate right now and it does end up working out for us, that’s going to be better for me in the long run.

Royce: Well, it is the plot of a lot of movies that at least we grew up watching.

Carly: Yeah, but it’s like, not– Usually– It’s usually the other case. It’s usually if you wait until you’ve had a lot of life experience and you’re in your 30s or 40s, chances are you’re going to have a much better relationship, if you want that. Because you know what you want and you know what kind of negative relationship situations have– can be, than if you get married when you’re 17.

Royce: On that topic. You just made me remember a few situations that Courtney and I have been in, where we’ve talked to cis-het people who are much later in life, who’ve had the self-awareness to sit and reflect on what happened in their teens and in their 20s, and regretted feeling forced into what ended up being bad relationships or messy divorces, or things like that. That in retrospect they’re realizing, “I shouldn’t have made that decision, but I didn’t feel like I had any other choice at the time.”

Carly: Yeah, yeah, we just gotta give– let kids know that there’s plenty of options available and not just the one. And it’s ridiculous, when you think about it, just how much emotional baggage sex and gender has. Like, what is that? It probably has to do with the patriarchy, a lot of it unpacking there.

Courtney: Yeah.

Carly: But imagine if there was that much emotional baggage in something else that was completely as equally random, like chess. Like what if there were protesters at school like, “Take chess out of schools. Chess has no place in schools. Kids shouldn’t know about chess until they’ve graduated.” Because– It’s– Anyway, I’m probably making a bad metaphor, but it’s like there’s just a lot of emotional baggage around. We must promote this type, this narrow, narrow, narrow type of life. And why is that? Maybe because people want to feel validated by their own choices? And they don’t want– And whenever someone says, “Oh, actually you could live another way, oh, actually you don’t have to be one gender, oh, you don’t have to be the gender you were born into,” they’re like, “Wait a minute. This is making me question everything that I’ve always felt validated about. I’ve always, you know, performed my feminine identity really well. I’ve always performed my masculine identity really well. You’re saying that’s not valuable then, ah, you know, my whole identity is crushed.” I don’t know there’s something around– I don’t know what the exact situation is, but it’s wild. And a school that I was just giving like a talk at, like a year ago, and giving out free books and everything, now the Proud Boys have descended on it and there was like a huge–

Courtney: [sighs] I saw the videos of that and it got physical. It was brutal.

Carly: Yeah, yeah.

Courtney: I’m going to– for any listeners out there, I’m going to put a link to that in the show notes if you want to watch it. It’s not the easiest thing to watch because it’s, you know, it’s depressing, it is violent, but we’ll have a link to that. We’ll also, of course, have a link to the book we’re discussing, to places you can find Carly and whatnot. But as usual, we’ll have all of that down there. But it’s a very scary political climate that we’re in right now.

Carly: Yeah! What a difference a year makes. You know, just last year, like– or maybe it was two years ago, but it was like no big deal. It was like I’m going to school, talk about my queer book, have a stack of other queer books by other queer authors, and we’re just going to give them out to the kids and it was fine. And then– And I think it’s a small minority, who are just– who’ve been really empowered and who are getting funding from someplace and who are making it seem like there’s this backlash. Because it’s strange, it’s odd, it doesn’t feel right.

Courtney: Yeah, they have been empowered, and I mean part of it is the, you know, previous political leadership in this country. But I think a lot of it also comes from the– You know, I always say that bigotry always comes from the same place, and more so than a lot of people realize. A lot of acephobia, for example, is just ableism. It’s like, [aggressively] “Oh, there’s something wrong with you, fix that!” Like there is strong, strong overlap between acephobia and ableism, and there’s strong overlap between acephobia and transphobia. It really all comes from the same place.

Courtney: And when we are coming off of – not the pandemic, because the pandemic is still here, I would like to remind everyone – but as we’re coming off of all the mask mandates, all of the state of emergency, as everybody’s starting to move on, so many people got away with overt ableism that really affected people’s health. People died, people have become disabled from long-COVID, because a certain percentage of people just did not want to wear a mask, a certain percentage of people just did not want to get vaccinated, but they got away with it. And now there are– I know there are some places local to us, some certain cities that are trying to create ordinances for, like, “In the next pandemic we have, nobody can require us to wear masks.” And like that’s being put into legislation now. So these people got away with harming disabled and immunocompromised people. They got away with their dangerous ableism. And now they are emboldened. They think they’ll be able to get away with all the other forms of bigotry that are sort of all coming from the same place. So I think the history books are one day going to start making a connection between all these, you know, once in a lifetime events that we’ve been living through.

Carly: Yeah, I mean, I think the answer– and of course there’s not just one answer, but I think media and books that promote kindness and empathy is going to be really, really important to push back against this. Because before this call, I was talking to you about, like, my internal, like, love, like my chest just wants to break open with talking about how my love for Our Flag Means Death. And I think that’s like such a great example.

Courtney: We needed that. We needed Our Flag Means Death. Like, thank goodness it came when it did. [laughs]

Carly: It’s– yeah. And Ted Lasso follows into that category too of like a kind– just such a kind, sweet, endearing, big-hearted, makes you, like, just want to hug your computer screen. And the– So I’m gonna be, like, totally annoying and talk about, like, my absolute love for this. But I have recently gotten into Our Flag Means Death fanfic now to fill the gaping hole in my heart from the first season being over and not having anything to fill it. And there is this fanfic I just want to tell, like, everyone to read. It’s called All You Left Me Was A Pearl, and it’s novel length. It’s 87,000 words. It’s like season two, like. As I’m reading this, I’m like, “This is season two.” Like I– this is season two of Our Flag Means Death. I’m experiencing it right now in this book. I just want to make sure I get the name of the– the thing and the author right. All You Left Me Was A Pearl, and let me see if I can get the author name. I want to say it’s JustStandingThere, is the author name. I’m sorry if I got it right– wrong, but this is my favorite thing in the entire world right now.

Carly: I’m obsessed with this fanfiction. It’s so well written. It feels like the characters. It feels like as you’re reading it, you’re watching the show. It’s so absolutely sweet and funny and sexy. And like it’s not like fanfic where it just, like, goes straight to a story and then there’s porn for like 30 pages it’s– It’s not really a porn fanfic. It’s– So far there isn’t any, like, sex. Yeah, there’s no sex so far. It’s all just like the character development, and the main story is like Stede has tracked down Ed, and Stede secret of– On the Revenge is he had built like a secret door and a secret passageway, on the Revenge. So he, like, sneaks in there and he leaves little presents for Ed. Because Ed is not ready to accept that Stede is alive and returned and– because he still has a lot of anger. So it’s just like he’s leaving little presents for him. And then I’ve kind of finally got to the part where they’re, like, had a conversation and they’re, like, kind of starting to make amends. And anyway it– My heart, like, every time I’m reading this, it feels like it’s like a ray of light expanding inside my chest. It’s so sweet, I love it.

Courtney: Oh my gosh, well, we’re– Well, shoot, we’ll pop a link in the show notes to that too.

Carly: Pop a link to it.

Courtney: Absolutely. I mean, I– Now, I want to read it and–

Carly: Yes, it’s my favorite thing right now.

Courtney: I have not read a lot of fanfiction, a couple things here and there, but I am always so worried that– You know, I am on the side of the ace spectrum that I skew very much sex repulsed, so if I just get like hit in the face all of a sudden with like a huge porn scene, like, I’m worried about that in fan fiction. So if I read it I always want to make sure it’s one that doesn’t go in that direction. Perfectly fine for the folks that do like that, but I’m not that kind of reader myself.

Carly: Yeah. I’m 99– You know, I’m only part way through this one, I’m 99% sure this one is probably not going to have, like, a sex scene in it. It seems like if they do it it’s going to be like the variety of sex scene that would be on the show, which is kind of like a– I imagine if there was ever sex on Our Flag Means Death, it would be kind of a fade to black sort of situation. Or like you know, it would just– it would not be very explicit.

Courtney: Right.

Carly: But– so that’s kind of– It feels– It feels like the show, just everything about it feels– the characterization, the dialogue, the– the way everything is worded is very funny, and it like just has the same amount of jokes as the show, where it’s constantly like, like joke, joke, joke, joke, joke, you know, sweet endearing scene. I think someone described the show in this perfect way, which is like it’s plotted like a sitcom and the jokes are absolutely ridiculous, but then the character development is like a drama, and that’s why the show is so good.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s– it’s got a lot of heart. It really does. So I– Man, I want to read that fanfiction now, but I also want to go back and watch the first season.

Carly: Yeah… I have– I– I’ve never been much of a show rewatcher, but I just have that show kind of constantly on in the background just repeating while I’m doing my work. Just because it fills me with so much joy.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. You know, shortly after the first season wrapped – if I can find this article, it’s been some time now, so if I can find it I’ll put it in the show notes as well – but someone wrote an op-ed making the case for having Blackbeard be asexual

Carly: That makes sense, yeah.

Courtney: And having that be a plot point in the second season. And I thought it was very interesting. I thought that would be like, this is such a widely beloved queer show that I think having an ace character, one who is a main character like Blackbeard, could be so very cool. And I’ve been very pleased with the other types of representation they’ve had. The gay representation, the non-binary representation has all been done very, very well in my opinion, so I thought that would be very cool. I shared it on our Twitter when I read that article. But the number of hate comments from people saying that it would be homophobic if he’s asexual and– and how dare we aces try to take away their gay representation. It’s like you can be gay and ace at the same time!

Courtney: Carly

Courtney: I know!

Courtney: And one does not negate the other. There is just– there was a lot of heat and pushback from it, which– which makes me hope all the more that they’ll do it.

Carly: I know!And because they could do it so well, and the– You know, there’s clearly a romantic connection between Stede and Ed, and they– they could have their relationship blossom and bloom and go in all sorts of wonderful directions that all of the fandom wants it to go into, and Ed could be ace. And then people would be like, “Oh, ace isn’t just Sherlock.” I don’t know. I’m thinking, but just terrible ace representation.

Courtney: Yeah! Well, it would– it would be so interesting for his character as well, which is very much in line with the conversation that we were having about the societal expectations. And– and really it’s– it’s the compulsory sexuality that everyone grows up thinking that they must have a sexuality, usually heterosexuality, but sometimes it’s like heterosexual or homosexual. Pick between the two, because those are the only two options, which we know is not true. But with Blackbeard you have this character who, immediately when we’re introduced to him, society has this expectation that he is this, you know, forced to be reckoned with. He is this big, scary, frightening, like very mythologized person and when Stede says, “Oh – not knowing who he is – oh, do you work for Blackbeard?” He just has this moment where he’s like, “I do work for Blackbeard.”

Carly: Yes!

Courtney: And so much of his character development was learning how to shed this persona that in some ways has been crest upon him, and living up to his own mythology.

Carly: Yes, and which is such a deep, also, metaphor for queerness, for like the queer persona, stripping away the heterosexual expectations and the allo expectations that have been placed on you by society. The show goes so many places that are so complex with their characters that I just have never seen in, like, a funny ‘haha’, you know, show. Even like, you know, you think of a show like Schitt’s Creek – which I love, I love, I think it’s great – and it goes kind of with a little bit complex with the characters, and so that’s kind of why a lot of people like it. But like Our Flag Means Death just goes childhood trauma, [Courtney laughs] you know, masculinity, the expectations of masculinity, you know, colonialism, like. It goes so– And it goes so deep into, like, the core of each character and not just like the main characters but the side characters, like Jim and Oluwande, and even Buttons.

Carly: Who in my– I’ve been working on a Our Flag Means Death fanfic so, Buttons plays a major role in my fanfic. But like, even, like, the most ridiculous character has, like, so much complexity in the core of them and it’s also brought to life by the actors. Anyway, I love the show.

Carly: So, listeners, if you haven’t watched Our Flag Means Death and you want to laugh, you want to, like, have your chest explode with love, you need to watch the show because it’s the absolute best show on television. I think it’s like going the best shows of all time. And it’s– it’s going to be amazing when it comes out, season two. I’m excited.

Courtney: Mm-hmm, yeah, and signed off on that. Because we both watched it when it was first released too, and– and we– we loved it. It was very good. So co-signed.

Carly: Yeah.

Courtney: So this is actually really great because we thought, even though there aren’t any – as of yet – explicitly asexual characters, we were like, “Well, this is really queer. Should we do an episode on Our Flag Means Death?” Surprise! The Our Flag Means Death episode is actually The Reckless Kind episode. [laughs]

Carly: Yes! [laughs] I would be glad to come back for another full Our Flag Means Death episode where we could talk about it and analyze each character, because I could talk about that show forever.

Courtney: Forever! Yes, there– there is a lot to talk about it, there really is.

Carly: So many layers.

Courtney: So many layers. And speaking of layers, I do want to get back to The Reckless Kind also, because I mean, it’s not every day that we have the author of a book that we appreciate right in front of us. It’s only every other day. I kid. I kid. But so we talked a bit about the– the queerness and navigating what it was like writing that without the word. I also wanted to talk about sort of that same journey, but by the disability, the disabilities you represented, because we have Asta, who’s a character who was born with her disability. We have a character who has become disabled through injury. So we have sort of a couple of different journeys and different accessibility considerations for them. But it’s also still 1904, so medical science isn’t what we’re used to today. So, tell us a little bit about what it was like writing these disabilities in a way that felt real but also respectful.

Carly: Yeah, so my– A fascinating thing for me, I think ’cause it unlocks some ideas about our perception of reality, is reading old medical journals, which is like a favorite pastime of mine, and finding these doctors who are describing a disease or a condition or a disease or an illness that nowadays we know what that is, but at the time they don’t have– they don’t know what it is. They’re like, “This is weird. This whole family, they have a white forelock, one eye is blue, one eye is brown and the kids are deaf. What’s– what’s going on here? This is weird.” And you know, the trend towards old-timey medical is either demons, [laughs] you’re not god fearing enough, or you know, they must have some vice, they must have some vice that is manifesting as this– this illness or strangeness. And that they are – especially as eugenics starts to become a thing that – oh, this is a negative trait that is, you know, an undesirable whatever. And so in Asta’s case, she has Waardenburg syndrome, which is a genetic condition that has– that leads to someone having an atypical appearance, usually like a white forelock, one different colored eyes, one blue eye, one brown eye. Or in the case of Asta’s, one kind of greenish eye, one bright blue eye. Instead of having, like, a cupid’s bow, like, kind of a flat upper lip. And either losing your hearing progressively or having no hearing in one ear. And so she is, you know, as a woman in a society where society values women based on their appearances, that was a whole thing. I wanted to go into it.

Carly: The idea of women being receptive has always been a little thing I wanted to push back on in literature, and so receptivity in the form of hearing, not being able to hear. Oh, I think there’s something extremely feminist about a woman who’s deaf, I don’t know. There’s something very like gendery that I want to explore about a woman who cannot hear. Because, you know, men like to say things and men like to give their opinions, and so I love the idea of, like, a woman not being able to– to hear the, you know, the man’s, you know, thoughts. So that’s something. There’s something delightful about that, I don’t know. So I’m– I’m also hard of hearing, like Asta, I– I, gosh, like, I haven’t worn hearing aids in like a while, just because I don’t care anymore. [laughs] Fine, whatever. I can’t hear, I don’t care. Talk louder if it’s really important to you. But– So that is a whole thing I like to explore.

Carly: The whole idea of a woman not being– not looking the way that’s desirable is a thing that I like to explore. So her betrothed, Nils, tells her that she should be grateful that he has chosen her. He wants to– he wants to marry her. And she feels a certain way about that, and she doesn’t know initially how to describe how she feels about that, but she’s definitely in her– inside herself feeling a certain way about the idea of gratitude for this guy, because it’s not doing a thing for her. And so, um, pushing back against all that, pushing back against the: you should look a certain way, you should get married, you should be grateful that someone has chosen you. She dyes her hair in a way that doesn’t hide her strange hair forelock, but emphasizes it more. And so that was kind of like a little moment of, “Um, you know what? Fuck society,” that sort of thing.

Carly: Then there’s the second pov character, Erlend, has anxiety, anxiety and stomach ulcers from having anxiety and that invisible disability is– you know, that Erlend should be cared for and that his disability is just as valid as everyone else’s. That’s sort of a– a thing that’s– that’s explored in there. And then also, Gunnar has multiple disabilities, which is something that is extremely common in the, you know, 19th century, early 20th century. Because, like, literally everyone had multiple disabilities, because working on a farm you get – with animals around and also with lack of medical stuff – so many people were disabled at various points in their life. And it’s wild to me that even in old-timey literature, just disabilities are not really covered in characters other than like either they get magically healed or they die. And you know–

Courtney: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Carly: It’s like a lesson of some sort. So I wanted to explore like, no, people get to have multiple disabilities. I– In my personal life, even though I’m not like a 19th century person, I’m just a person in society, like me and every person I know has multiple disabilities. Like I cannot think of anyone who doesn’t have multiple disabilities in my life. Like, yeah, no one, no one I know. And– But when you watch tv shows, when you read books, like, disability is so rare.

Carly: And so when I was sending this out to get published, I did get a lot of feedback like, “Aren’t you going a little bit overboard?”

Courtney: As if it was too much trauma.

Carly: Yeah, and I’m like, “Dude, are you not like living in the world right now?” Like, I have many of the things that Gunnar has. I broke my arm and now my arm is kind of bent, and I have broken back and so– I have kind of a lot of the things that are in the book, and the characters are also inspired by people I know. And concussions, Fred has concussions and everything. And it’s like that’s life, that’s reality, that’s– And it’s weird that we think that it’s rare because it’s not.

Courtney: Mm-hmm, oh yeah, there are so many more disabled people than anybody thinks.

Carly: Yeah! And also this, people don’t– don’t– don’t label themselves. And I find I struggle with this too, because I struggle with labeling myself disabled. But, like, when I think about it, there’s so many things, like I have, you know, kind of lingering post concussion things. So, just taking the drivers test was hard because there was someone, like, talking behind me and I realized, “Oh wow, since my concussion, I cannot write and have noise at the same time.” Because I cannot focus on, like, answering this driver’s test question because there’s noise in the background. And I, you know, I wear hearing aids so I’m not going to be able to–

Carly: Oh, I had this situation actually happen at a conference where they had like this mix– this author meet and greet thing at these different tables, and prior to the conference, you know, I let them know I’m hearing impaired. And they’re like, “Oh, do you want a sign language interpreter?” And I’m like, “That will not be useful for me,” because I do not know sign language and I’ll wear my hearing aids. And they’re like, “Hey, can you have, like, captions around or something?” Like no, it’s not going to really work like that, it’s going to be like tables.

Carly: And so I went into the conference hall and there’s like 80 people in this very loud echoey conference hall and we’re all at like little tables, and there’s like five people at, like, each table, and we’re supposed to, like, talk to the people at the tables. And all at the same time. And I’m like, I have no idea what’s going on right now. I hear noise and no words. And I do not– I’m not able to do this. And– But that’s just kind of like an example of, like, no one would think, “Oh, we’re just going to have like this huge, like, author meet and greet thing for educators, room of like 80 people and that’s– We’re just going to assume everyone can hear and process this.” And yeah. So I think the world is, by default, kind of ableist. Not kind of, but very.

Courtney: Yeah, it is, and unfortunately not a lot of event organizers know how to accommodate a wide range of disabilities. Because, much like queerness, disabilities are also themselves a spectrum. People can have different amounts of– of hearing loss, and so if someone says, “Oh well, you know, I need some kind of accommodation because I am hard of hearing,” it doesn’t surprise me that they offered a sign language interpreter. But that is not going to be the answer for everybody. It’s not a one size fits all answer. It’s great that they had that as an option, but it didn’t help you and it wouldn’t help a lot of others. And same thing with anything else: blindness, mobility considerations, it is different for everyone. And that’s why it is also refreshing to be able to read in fiction we have multiple disabled characters, we have multiple disabilities represented, so it’s not just sort of the one token character that this is our disabled character, and they can always 100% be taken care of in this one specific way and then they’re good.

Carly: Yeah, and I think this is like my– my plea and my call out to other authors and creators, is like– It also, when you put multiple disabled characters in your story in a way that represents reality, it allows you to show that, you know, the disabled character who’s messy with– like Gunnar is very messy about his emotions. He is not a– He is not a– What’s the word? You know people like their clean characters, who are so– who are nice and good in spite of everything. But you have to let your characters be messy sometimes too, and you have to– So you have to show those different experiences and coping mechanisms. And– and it frees you up when you make your worlds representative of the real world, as far as diversity goes. Because then you can go lots of different places emotionally.

Courtney: Yeah, and same is true for any type of marginalized identity: disability, queerness, race. If you only have one character represented from a minority community, then of course people are going to be upset if that one character is the bad guy.

Carly: Yes.

Courtney: Or if that one character is annoying and nobody likes them. But you know, disabled people have character flaws, queer people have character flaws. And sometimes those character flaws are needed for really impactful character development in the long run too, which further fosters empathy, so.

Royce: I was also going to say if that one character has their label but not their experience, or their experience but not their label. Your mention of the conference reminded me, like I don’t have any physical disabilities to speak of, but the way that whatever combination of neurodivergence I have manifests there are also times that I’ve been in conferences – which conferences are often in a large, high ceilinged room with awful, like, noise cancellation.

Carly: It’s awful.

Royce: It’s just a bad place to gather a lot of people. I don’t know why it’s done, it’s just the place we decided to have lots of people. And I struggle with hearing as well, but it’s kind of from a– I guess this is more of a processing than a hearing thing from what you were describing, but similar circumstances from a different place. Because sometimes, particularly when my anxiety’s high, my hearing elevates to the point where I could hear a loose light bulb in our house yelling. [Courtney laughs] But the– the end effect is the same, is that I can’t really participate in the space because I can’t process the conversation that’s happening right in front of me.

Carly: Yeah, it’s so weird that, like, that, you know, conventions, like, you know, like Comic-Con and WonderCon, tend to draw the neurodivergent crowd but that is, like, literally the worst place for us. Like– like the lights, and the noise, and the crowds, and– The ideal, at least for my thing, it would be like small rooms, small quiet rooms where, like, seven people could gather and talk about a thing. [laughs] If there’s ever like a small room comic con or small room fandom thing, sign me up.

Courtney: Yeah, and I do think there are more events that are starting to get more aware of accessibility accommodations. I have heard of some events that will bring on an accessibility coordinator and if it is an environment with a lot of people, a lot of noise, they might designate a sort of quiet area or a low light area, scent free areas, places for sensory stimulation with the fidget toys and weighted blankets. And those are all so necessary for probably a lot more people than anybody realizes. So I just want more. More accommodations for more people.

Carly: And a microphone for every speaker, please. [laughs] I just can’t tell you how many times, conventions I’ve been to, where I’m like I’m on a panel and I’m like, “I cannot hear the person who is asking these questions. I’m going to pretend like I know what they’re saying.” And then questions from the audience and I’m like, “I have– I need someone to tell me what that audience member just said, because I have no idea. I’m just going to pretend I know.”

Courtney: Oh goodness, yeah. So accessibility. And that goes for virtual events too. Virtual events and in person events, they all have their own considerations. I am always in favor – if you are an event planner of any kind listening to this – I am in favor of hiring a disabled person who is educated on a variety of accessibility accommodations and have them not only advise you every step of the way, from the very beginning. You can’t bring them on at the end and say fix what we didn’t think about.

Carly: Yes!

Courtney: Because there’s no time for that. They are going to try to overhaul things that you have done, that you didn’t consider, and you’re going to get annoyed at them because you did all this work for nothing. Bring them on from day one.

Royce: Sometimes the venue you booked was the problem.

Carly: Yeah.

Courtney: Yeah, bring them on from day one and then have them available leading up to the event and the day of the event, so that disabled participants can contact them specifically if they have an individual accessibility requirement, so that they can be aware. Because even the most educated accessibility coordinator isn’t going to know absolutely everyone who is coming. So they can do their best to cover a wider swath of the disabled communities, but it helps to have that contact person. And I love every time I have a conference when there’s that contact person, because then I can reach out to them and say what have you already done? This is the kind of thing that I’m looking for and they’ve always been great and they’ve always been able to work with me. So that’s like– That is the pro tip for organizing events.

Carly: Definitely. I love it, love it! Thank you, solving the world’s problems.

Courtney: Well, I say that also as someone who has been brought on as accessibility coordinators like way too late in the game. So I also know the frustration of this event is in two weeks and you haven’t hired an interpreter, you haven’t even thought about this group of people, you’re using what venue now? So I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

Carly: And similarly for authors and creators. Sensitivity readers – I use and hire them when I’m writing – are fantastic and there’s many you can find just by going on Twitter and doing a little search for sensitivity readers. But I hired many different sensitivity readers for the various experiences that are represented in my book. And you want to hire them as you’re drafting, as you’re, you know, getting those early drafts in because they can point out, “Oh, there’s a whole problem with the way that you’ve crafted this plot and it would be more empowering if you did it this way.” You don’t want to just pull, you know, after you’ve finished all of your edits with your publisher, you bring in a sensitivity reader at the end and they’re like, “Hey, actually, so your whole plot is around curing the wheelchair character, using character so they can walk again. That is a problem.”

Courtney: Yeah… Yes. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So yes, sensitivity readers.

Carly: Yeah, have them early on in the process and think of them as authenticity readers. Think of them as readers who are going to create more nuanced, more depth, more– just make your work higher quality and not cliche.

Courtney: Oh yeah, and think of them as a partner too, and not someone who’s like going to, you know, nitpick you or bully you into changing your story. Like they are there to make everybody’s experience elevated in your art. So, yes, 1000%. Especially– especially if you’re writing about identities that are not your own, that you don’t have personal experience with, because every single one of us has our own– we have our own gaps in knowledge for other groups of people. Because there’s only so many people that we know personally in our day to day lives, and some of us grow up in areas or time periods where we’re a little more sheltered than others. And as long as we’re open to that feedback and willing to grow then that is– that is a beautiful thing.

Carly: Definitely. Are we going to talk about hair art?

Courtney: Let’s talk about hair art! Yes. My turn to geek out about things. So to–

Carly: Yeah, tell me your hair art experience.

Courtney: So to paint a picture for you about the first time I experienced this book via audio book, I was literally listening to it while I was in my hair room making hair art and hair jewelry.

Carly: I love it.

Courtney: I went in knowing there is a disabled ace character and I was like, “Enough for me, buy it, gonna see what’s up with it.” I was like, “Well, I’ve got a lot of work to do right now, so I’m going to pick up the audio book so I can listen while I’m working.” And every step of the way I was, like, calling out to Royce and I was like, “Oh, this is set in Scandinavia! And– and they’re– they’re drinking glögg and they’re using Kroner to purchase things!” Because I’m also, as part of my research, I’m learning Swedish. I’ve been learning Swedish for years.

Carly: Nice! Awesome.

Courtney: I’ve been to Sweden for research. And so I’m like, “Wow, this– this is so interesting.” And then I was like, “And they’re theater kids! Royce, I was a theater kid!” And– and just like more and more things were getting ticked off. And I was like, “Yep, there’s the ace character, love an ace character.” But then when the hair jewelry came up, I just about lost my mind. Because I don’t see this very often, and I’m going to– for anyone who hasn’t read this will be minor, minor spoilers, a little bit of spoilers, but I’d like to read a couple of passages from the book, because I marked them off. Because this is literally what I was reading as I was weaving a hair ring in my hair studio.

Carly: Synchronicity! The universe is talking to us, this is amazing.

Courtney: I was just like, this is so weird! How did this happen? That I am just literally doing this thing now. But so, yes, the hair jewelry was done in such an interesting way for me. Because I am a historian, that– my full time job is making custom hair art and hair jewelry for people and doing historian work on the history of hair work. So, that is literally my job.

Carly: That’s amazing.

Courtney: And that has been my full-time job for like eight years now. So, yeah, when I was like, “Oh yeah, I was in the UK,” I was literally teaching people how to make hair art while I was there. So I’m weaving a hair ring, listening to this lovely like queer book set in Scandinavia in 1904. And what I loved the most about it is that the hair ring used here is very sort of true to the history of the area. Because rings and bracelets in Scandinavia were sort of the earlier iterations of hair jewelry and then it evolved from there. But I have never, I don’t think, read a fictional account of a gay couple using hair jewelry as a romantic gesture.

Carly: Woo!

Courtney: So, my little queer heart was aflutter. So I’m gonna read this and then I am telling you all the things I love about it. But then, if I may, I would like to really geek out and tell you a little more about how these rings were actually constructed.

Carly: Tell me, tell me, yes.

Courtney: Okay, I will. So here– This is your time to step away if you don’t want the spoiler, you can always come back after you’ve read it. [reading] «But to be lawful in Muskox Hollow, both parties signed their name in the church registry. As you know, the Fuglestads have never stepped foot in a church. Sigrid joined our family with an old custom: Papa Fuglestad held up his massive hand and showed us the dark brown braid around his finger, a lock of each other’s hair. Erlend gasped, “Holy hell. So a Fuglestad and I wear each other’s hair around our fingers will be perfectly lawful?” Emerging from the kitchen with a knife in his grasp, Erlend sawed off one of his black curls, the hair splitting and coiling like fireworks. Dropping the knife and clutching the frayed lock he made for Gunnar’s room. I scurried after him»

Courtney: And this is for those listening, this is Asta talking in first person right now, [resumes reading] «I scurried after him, grabbing Erlend by the back of his suspenders. “Wait, wait, wait. I think you can improve the presentation.” I took the lock from his hand and sat down, running my fingers over it, flattening the ringlet and then braiding it, the tiny strands together. – Braiding the tiny strands together, pardon me – Using some string from the hem of my coat. I tied it up more securely. “See how nice it’ll look when it’s braided and coiled up into a little ring?” I tightened down the knots. “Sigrid’s is sealed with hoof cement resin or something,” Papa Fuglestad said, pointing again to his own ring, “Lasted 18 or so years that way.”

Courtney: I nudged Erlend, “I’ll go get some Venice turpentine from the barn and seal it, like Papa Fuglestad said.”» Then they exchanged the rings of hair and I was like, I love it. I love a gay couple essentially getting married with hair rings in 1904, Norway. My– I love it. This queer hair worker was like, “I’ve never read such a thing and I’m literally weaving a ring right now.” So–

Carly: It was made for you! It was like the universe–

Courtney: It was like: disabled, ace, theater kids, hair jewelry, Norway… So, so strange. But I want to talk about the construction a little bit, because as I’m reading this– and this is not an issue for historical fiction, so I’m not nitpicking, I’m just geeking out about how these are actually made.

Carly: Totally. Yeah, tell us.

Courtney: So, when I was weaving my hair ring as I was listening to this– I still can’t believe that that happened that way, because just a couple days earlier I was working on a totally different project of hair that wasn’t even jewelry. So I– it all came together.

Courtney: They were actually woven, usually in Scandinavia, around this time and earlier, on a table, and it’s like a round table with a hole in the center, that kind of revolves like a Lazy Susan.

Carly: Yeah.

Courtney: And all the hairs are first of all counted out individually by numbers so that you get the strands the same width. So every pattern kind of calls for a different number of hairs. But say, one pattern says, “Take 16 strands of hair that each have 80 hairs in a strand.” You’d count out 80 individual strands of hair that are perfectly the same length as one another and then you’d do that 16 more times. And you would tie them together and string them through and over top of this braiding table. And each strand would then be attached to weighted bobbins and then you’d be able to braid it sort of like a kumihimo.

Carly: Okay, yeah.

Courtney: And so I’m like sitting over my table and I was like, “She was just able to grab that hair and just whip it up real quick.” I was like, “I think not!” [laughs]

Carly: Yeah, I know. As I was writing this, I’m like I’m not quite sure how this is possible, but I’m just like, well, it needs to happen, so...

Courtney: You remember at all– I didn’t realize you wrote it 10 whole years ago, but do you happen to remember how you came up with the hoof resin and the turpentine for sealing it?

Carly: Oh yeah. Well, I’m a horse person so I have a Venice turpentine around and it sticks to everything.

Courtney: Ah…

Carly: So I’m like, “We’ve got to make this something that’s going to stick together and not fall apart.” So I’m just like, well, what do they have? They have something horse related, like the Venice turpentine.

Courtney: The really interesting part is because I get this question a lot. This is one of my number one questions, is like how does it stay together? And like what glue did they use and what is this? And did they coat it in resin? Especially in modern day, a lot of people like there are so many Etsy stores that are just like resin artists and everything’s made of resin. So that’s like, “Oh, do you use resin?” Actually, there is no adhesive in the process.

Carly: Oh, that’s amazing.

Courtney: The way the hair gets stayed together, once you’ve finished weaving it together and you have your pattern finished, you have it as long as you need it to, you actually boil the hair in hot water for like 10, 15 minutes and then you bake it until it’s dry. And that can be in front of a fire, it could be in an oven, if you were in a period of time where you had access to an oven. And the process of heating and boiling the hair, and then baking it until it’s dry actually stiffens the hair enough that it will just stay in the pattern.

Courtney: And the only time you actually need to bring any adhesive into the equation is if you’re fixing it to like a metal jewelry finding, for like a clasp or something. But oddly enough in Scandinavia, in Norway and Sweden, most of the hair workers while they were in their home countries didn’t even use metal findings. They would just take sort of like a thick paper bead and just wrap the hair around the bead and that would sort of be the clasp in the finding. And they didn’t really use metals until they would travel more to like England, and some of these hair workers did travel far and wide to make this hair jewelry for people on a custom basis.

Carly: So that’s amazing! Well, if I ever write it again, or write something with hair jewelry again–

Courtney: Please do!

Carly: I’m going to. Now I know who I can ask for, like, all the specifics.

Courtney: Oh please do I! Because I’m– I’m always just so tickled every time I see that in media. Because I always get one of two reactions when I tell people what I do for a living. It’s either just complete and utter shock, maybe even horror, or disgust, because someone has never even known that hair jewelry is a thing that exists, period. Or someone knew that hair jewelry and hair art exist, but they didn’t think anybody in the world was still doing it. So they’re like, “You’re doing that thing that they did in the 1800s?” And it actually does go a lot earlier than the 1800s.

Courtney: The reason why I liked that it was a ring so much was not only the sort of marriage implication of it. But since Sweden is sort of my main country of Scandinavian focus, since they had a very unique culture of hair jewelry. The other Scandinavian countries also had it. I’ve seen some Danish braiding tables, for example, and other countries around there. But in 1592, there was a Swedish town called Vadstena that had a sort of like book of proverbs I almost want to say, and in Swedish at that time they said ‘armband och hårringar for föröka kärleken’, which means bracelets and rings of hair increase love.

Carly: Aw!

Courtney: So they actually believed that by giving a loved one a bracelet or ring out of your hair– which could have been romantic like this, but also could have been a family piece. So I also love that about hair work. It was used for multiple kinds of love. It was used for romantic love, for marital love, for family love, and for like mourning and grief love to commemorate deceased loved ones. So all these different kinds of love. But at the heart of it it’s a literal part of your loved one. It is their hair, it is a piece they’re giving to you.

Carly: I love that!

Courtney: So I’ve always loved the romance of that. And when I have done research in Sweden and Denmark, I have actually seen rings from the 1500s. Which, back then in the 1500s, it was a very, very simple braid and actually might have been something that you could have just braided. Because it’s kind of just like a three string braid, like, under metal of a jewelry. And these were normally– if there was metal and gold, it was normally a royalty at that period of time. So in Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen you can see some of these really old rings. But by the time the 1800s rolled around, these patterns were so intricate, they were things that you can’t just do by hand. They are highly, highly skilled, like, workers who would even travel and make things for Queen Victoria. And just like wild, wild history that I just– I love so much. And so anytime I see something like that in fiction, that’s at least getting to like the emotional heart of it is so, so cool to me. Because I want more people to know about it.

Courtney: And sometimes people who have never heard of this– I have to kind of– when they’re saying like, “Well, why, why do you make things out of hair?” I have to kind of find the emotional tick for them so I can be like, “Oh, it can be to commemorate a deceased loved one.” And if they shudder like, “Oh, that’s creepy and morbid,” I’m like, “Okay, it’s like giving your loved one a lock of your hair.” And sometimes they’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s still kind of weird.” Then– then I have to take it, like, even more like traditional allo, because then I’m like, “Baby’s first haircut?” And then usually that’s the last– that’s the last one I go to. But then everyone’s like, “Ooh! Okay, I get it now.”

Carly: [laughs] Oh, my God. But just as you’re talking, I’m like getting so many ideas. So I feel free, universe listening to this, to steal some of these. But like, like, it would just make such a nice, like, historical fiction story of like a hair worker traveling around and the little stories of like the different people that they are making hair for. But then I’m also thinking of, like, Our Flag Means Death fanfic. And I’m like Ed, you have to make some hair jewelry for Stede.

Courtney: Yes!

Carly: When they get married. Oh my God!

Courtney: I would like to think that, as, like, a former gentleman, he’ll have, like the whole, like, professional hair worker make a very intricate piece of hair work to give to Blackbeard. And then Blackbeard, who’s just been this gruffer pirate, is just, like, rough, like, cuts off a piece of his beard and just like hands it over sloppily.

Carly: I know!

Courtney: Like that’s beautiful, that’s brilliant. I love that and I want to see more of that. I think it’s so cool.

Carly: This is our call out. This is our prompt for the Our Flag Means Death fandom. Please write some fan fiction involving Ed giving hair jewelry to Stede, and vice versa.

Courtney: Yes, I love it! Well, and the thing is too, because this – in your book – another facet of this that just had my heart feeling so warm, was the fact that Asta, this, you know, this asexual, but, you know, very, very important person in their life, this queerplatonic partner, is like the one who is braiding the hair for them to exchange so that they can be seen as an established, like, legitimate couple is so cool to me. Because that’s– that’s kind of the equivalent of having, like, your queerplatonic partner, like, go online and become an ordained minister to, like, marry you today. Which, if we got married in a more traditional route, that was the plan. That was what we would have done. Because I had a queerplatonic relationship and she’s essentially the reason why Royce and I met.

Carly: That’s amazing.

Courtney: And we live in Kansas and common law marriage is just as legal as any other marriage. So one day we were just like, “We’re married!” And it was legally so. And if we had to go through the actual minister thing, that would have been what we did. So I was like, “Oh, this is like the 1904 version of that! I love it”

Carly: Aw! So wholesome, love it.

Courtney: It’s so cool. So yeah, and then I was like, “Royce, I know I’ve been coming to you about all these things that apply to me in this book that I study, or I like, or appreciate, but you’ll never guess what! They made a hair ring!”

Carly: Yay! I’m so glad that– You know, hearing this it warms my heart, because it does, you know, reminds me that, for whatever reason, an author feels compelled to, like, devote a huge portion of their life to the story and, like, I’m obsessed with the story, I’m going to, like, work on it for years and years and years and years.

Carly: And then it goes out there, and you’re like, you know, you’re going to get some people who are like, “Didn’t do anything for me.” And then you– but you also hear from other people who are like, “This is precisely the variety of weirdness that I needed in my life. And I wanted this. This did a huge thing for me, thank you.”

Carly: And so it reminds me that everyone, whenever you– as– if you’re a creator out there and you’re wondering, like, “I’m obsessed with this thing, and will anyone else out there be as obsessed with the thing, or will, will they value this thing that I’ve been working on for so long?” You will find someone out there.

Courtney: Yeah, and it is so interesting how that works out.

Carly: Who connects to your work.

Courtney: Because I’m sure there were probably a couple of people who read that passage and were like, “Ew, a ring made out of hair.” Because oh, trust me, I’ve gotten that reaction from my literal hair work many a time. So I’m sure there were people having that. But then you had me who was literally braiding a hair ring as I was listening to the audiobook. So that– that could not have been more perfect. It was– It was so interesting. And I found that there have been a couple of books that have just been so weirdly niche but have fit me. I’ve led a very versatile life, because I had this hair jewelry one, and I was a theater kid, and the disability, and the ace rep. But I also read, actually pretty close to back to back with The Reckless Kind, I also read One For All by Lillie Lainoff.

Carly: Oh yeah! Lillie, yeah.

Courtney: And that was interesting for me because– I mean talk about people who have multiple disabilities, I also have POTS. My POTS is likely a comorbidity of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and kind of like connected to all these other things I have. But I was also a fencer, and I do also–

Carly: [laughs] That’s amazing!

Courtney: I do literally only wear floor length gowns and I have fenced in period dresses like that as someone who has POTS. And I was like, “What is it with these books that I’ve read lately? Why are they so hyper specific to me?”

Carly: Do you want to have Lillie on the show? I’m friends with her. I can message her and tell her to come on your show, if you want.

Courtney: Yeah, One For All– Actually like, One For All and The Reckless Kind have both been on our masterlist of, like, episodes we eventually want to get to. And we haven’t recorded one for One For All yet. So that would actually be really cool. So, listeners, stay tuned. We’ll have Lillie next time.

Carly: Definitely.

Courtney: Oh, that’s so cool. Because, yes– And I noticed too the one thing that both of you did in your books, which I really appreciate– because both of you had the sort of like, well, we now have language for what this thing is, but didn’t necessarily back then, and so both of you put sort of like historical medical notes in the back as a postscript to say, “This is the condition that we’re talking about. Here’s why they didn’t have that word back then. And here’s why I chose to do things the way I did.” And I think that little extra note at the back, for me as someone who has like for the POTS, I had that condition, so I appreciated seeing that on the page so that there isn’t the gray area. And for just for, like– Also, I didn’t know all that much about a Waardenburg syndrome before I read this, so being able to see that in the back of the book, that gives me something as someone who loves going on research tangents. Listeners, I don’t know if you’ve got that impression about me, but as someone who loves to go on research tangents–

Carly: Love a good research tangent.

Courtney: Yes, I love to have that vocabulary so then I can go do my own research and learn about, you know, the non fictional side of it after seeing it in a fictional context. So I love that both of you did that. And I also love that for yours in particular, you ended with a paragraph about the limitations of language, where you did also say the word asexual. You said, well, let’s see here, [reading] “Asta, a young woman finding her identity in a society that centers the heteropatriarchy, has no language to define key parts of her identity, her Waardenburg syndrome, her asexuality, and her desire for a queerplatonic relationship.” So those words still got there. So, even though people might be reading this, if they’re someone who isn’t familiar with the asexuality spectrum or QPRs, they now have those words and they can do with that what they want. And I think it was so beautiful that you also went on to say that language is always evolving and we’re always working with language constraints. So you sort of encourage readers at the end to look at our current language constraints and recognize what restrictions we might have even today. Which I love.

Courtney: Especially when speaking to people in the queer community, we have people who use micro labels, we have people who use neo pronouns, and sometimes even the broader queer community might look down on those people and say, “Well, those aren’t real words.” It’s like, well, queerness is so expansive that the best any of us can do is pick the word that’s closest to conveying what we have, and if there isn’t a word that fits, like well, that’s what poetry is for, that’s what music is for, and dance, and performance. And that’s how we get so many other types of art. But actual textbook dictionary language and vocabulary is also very important, because some people never know that they’re asexual until they hear that word and then they say, “Wait a minute, that word, let’s investigate that.”

Carly: Yeah, so many of the kids in science class when they learn about asexual reproduction they’re like, “Wait a minute. It’s me!” [laughs]

Courtney: Wait, just a hot second. So, yeah, I thought that was a beautiful note to end on, because that’s something that I’m always thinking of too. Because, even though the word asexual is not a new word and there are people who have been using it for longer than we’ve even had our online ace communities, there are still some people who haven’t heard it. There are some people that don’t understand it very well, and there are even more specific labels under the ace umbrella that, I would dare to say, the average person knows nothing about. And they can be very valuable.

Carly: But are so helpful. It’s so helpful to know if you are aromantic, are you proromantic, are you panromantic, are you demi, gray… like have all these words.

Carly: And it’s really disappointing when I hear people, especially in the queer community, especially in the publishing community, who seem to put a little bit of a higher value on the cis gay experience. And you know, I– Should I say this, should I deliver some tea?

Courtney: Say it, say it!

Carly: There’s someone in the publishing industry of an older generation, who is a gatekeeper, in a gatekeeping situation, who wanted to test my right, I guess, to write queer stuff, asked about my identity. And I’m like, “Well, I guess maybe I would be a kind of panromantic ace sort of thing.” And he’s like, “Well, I’m just a simple gay man.” Because, you know, and there’s this idea that the cis gay it’s a little, oh, it’s because it’s so simple, it’s a little bit higher, pure, than all of the other queer identities.

Courtney: It’s simple! Straightforward!

Carly: And I– You get this, I think, it’s especially in an older generation, because I was at a West Hollywood gay bar and the woman, lesbian, who I was with said you know– Okay, this man started coming up to me, “You’re so pretty, you’re so beautiful, I love–” you know. And he started touching me. [Courtney makes disapproving noises] And I was like, “Nope, no. I do not feel comfortable with that.” And though the woman who I was with said, “This is their space, you have to accommodate their space.” And I’m like, this is the problem! The idea that cis gay people own queerdom and we have to accommodate that. Because our identities are not as marginalized or not, as you know, are not as valid, because– and it’s just misogyny. It’s just like we always have to prioritize the needs of the cis men.

Carly: We always have to– you know, they are the most important, we have to accommodate them. And it’s so disappointing when it pervades the queer community and it’s so disappointing when it pervades the publishing industry, which is about language. And it’s about, like, finding the words for things. And so if you’re only saying this is valid and this is not valid, ah, it’s a problem. And we need to stamp that out.

Courtney: Yes, we really, really do. And it upsets me that someone even felt like they had to ask, like, what are your credentials for writing a queer story.

Carly: Yeah. What are your credentials? Or certifications. [laughs]

Courtney: Because, because– Yeah, well, that can also– I mean not only the fact I do really love and appreciate a good own voices story, because I think they’re important. But if you truly have a diverse cast of characters in a novel, you’re going to be writing something that is outside of your own experience, and that’s where sensitivity readers really help to come in. And you can still do it in a very, like, sensitive, respectful way.

Courtney: But there’s actually an ace author – I lost it. I have the book, I can’t think of the title right now – but a bunch of people just, like, slammed her online for writing about this, this ace experience and not writing about it well. And she was actually, like, felt forced to come out. She was like, “I wasn’t planning to come out, but hey, i am ace. I hope you’re happy.”

Carly: Oh God, it’s happened to so many authors.

Courtney: It’s really disturbing because a lot of authors like this is their artwork, this is their craft, and some people use their artwork as a way to explore elements of their own identity. And that doesn’t mean that you, as a reader of their book, are owed every single personal element of their life. If an author does want to say, “Hey, yes, I am an ace person, I’m writing ace experiences. I’m a disabled person, I’m writing disabled experiences.” That is very good, that’s great, and we love that. But it really is this, like, putting people on trial. Like do you have any right to be talking about this? That is really, really detrimental.

Carly: Yes, yes, oh God. It’s happened to so many authors. And it’s awful. And it’s– Yeah, there was a situation where that same publishing professional said– turned down a book because the author was bisexual woman in a– married to a man, and she was writing about lesbians [Courtney groans] and two girls falling in love. And he said, “Oh well, you’re not really–” you know. So that’s sort of–

Courtney: Oh wow, [mockingly] “You’re too straight for that!”

Carly: You’re straight, imagine.

Courtney: Oh the bi-ereasure of it all…

Carly: Yeah, And without– you know, and bi-erasure– If bi-erasure were allowed to, you know, persist, then we wouldn’t have Ed and Stede because, right?

Courtney: Yeah!

Carly: Rhys Darby is married to a woman and Taika Waititi is married to a woman. Like…

Courtney: And we love them! [laughs]

Carly: We love them! We need them! They heal us. So that– that– you know. So the biphobics, you’re ruining it for everyone. So stop. Stop.

Courtney: Yeah. Which– the irony of the sort of culture of putting people on the spot like that is really– It’s so at odds with other talking points that we have in our community. Because, you know, as of the time that we’re recording this, it is Pride Month. And every Pride Month I’ll see all these posts like the day before Pride, or the first day of Pride, where people will say like, “Hey, if– if you’re not out yet, that is okay. I don’t want you to feel pressured to come out, you take your own time. But all of you who are still in the closet, I’m still wishing you a happy Pride because you’re still valid.” And you’ll see all these, like, happy, feel good posts like that. But it’s almost like we’ll say you’re valid as long as you don’t actually engage with any of us ‘real’ queers, any of us ‘out of the closet’ queers. Like you can’t be visibly engaging with anything queer culture unless you show your queer card.

Carly: Yeah, yeah. Oh, God forbid, you try to write a book, you know? You know, while you’re still in the closet. Oh no.

Courtney: Yeah, well, and the weirdest thing is too, because I think, and I hope, this is a slightly older talking point at this– at this time, I see it sometimes, but not as often as I used to. Where some of the more broader queer community members will fight the fact that A is for asexual and aromantic and agender, and some people will still, to this day, which baffles me, make the argument that, “Well no, the A means ally, but we don’t mean ally to mean just straight people that support us, we mean ally as in that’s how people who are still in the closet or aren’t safe to come out can still identify as part of the community. And how dare you, aces, try to take away these, like, good closeted gay people who are just on their own timeline.” And it’s like you’re telling me now that you care about them, when you– when you’re forcing authors to come out left and right when they aren’t ready? Like, you know, you’re just lying. You just hate aces.

Carly: Yeah, yeah, you just– with any community, you just want to find a reason to exclude people.

Courtney: Mmm that.

Carly: Yeah, and there’s a big push to exclude aces. I saw President Biden made a statement on Twitter and it said–

Courtney: Every time.

Carly: –LGBTQI+.

Courtney: Every time! Every time! I was actually pretty disappointed too, because our local congressperson, Sharice Davids, we normally very much love her. Indigenous queer woman, we voted for her, will do it again. She started doing that too LGBTQI+ and I was like, “Please, Sharice, as aces in your district, please just put the A on the acronym. Why are you cutting it off?”

Courtney: I know so many people will cut it off after, like, LGBT+. That’s kind of what we grew up with, so sometimes I’ll still just – talking in shorthand – say LGBT. And some of our younger listeners have actually, like, asked me about that. They’re like, “When you’d say LGBT is it– do just mean those or is the rest of the acronym implied?” I’m like, “Oh no, the rest is implied. That’s just what I heard growing up, so it’s just in my head.” But people either cut it off at the T or it will just be the Q. LGBTQ+.

Carly: Q is kind of inclusive, it feels like.

Courtney: Because people say like, “Well, queer. Will just– we’ll just say that’s, you know, encompassing of everyone else too, rest of the acronym implied.” But then what is with this new wave of just cutting off the A and nothing?

Carly: It actually happened at my work and I didn’t really catch it until someone pointed out. Because I was copying and pasting from another statement onto a thing and I’m like, “Oh wait, the A is not there.” And then our organization uses AP Style, and AP Style just Q+. So I’m like, “Okay, well, I have to use the AP style anyway, so I’m just going to use that.” But yeah, I’ve noticed this trend. I’m not quite sure what it’s– what it’s from.It’s kind of–

Courtney: It seems intentional. And–

Carly: Yeah.

Courtney: Because if it’s just cutting off the A like, uh, you sure got that I in there and people don’t always do that, but you could have taken it one step further.

Carly: Yeah. Wait, I would love to hear what are you two loving right now as far as media and or books, because I’m always eager to get recommendations from other people who are in the same vibe.

Courtney: Oh my goodness. Ah, the tables have turned. Royce–

Carly: I know, I’m asking you.

Courtney: What are we loving right now? I feel like a lot of things we were just watching have recently wrapped, so we’re kind of between things.

Royce: Yeah, we don’t– We don’t really have anything going on right now and we have a list of potential ace recommendations that we tend to go through. And we’re kind of in between that right now. So I feel like we haven’t just sat down with something of our own inclination for a while. For one thing, I– Reading is a lot for me, sometimes. Reading novels, novelizations is a lot for me. We do it sometimes. Sometimes we read books together, like, as an end of the night sort of thing. But generally I tend to go to story driven video games, or something like manga in my own time, if I need some downtime. And we just finished a round of, you know, ace created video games and we’re yet to pick another one that’s very heavily story driven up.

Carly: Right.

Royce: Courtney, you go through books constantly.

Courtney: I do. I read hundreds of books in a year, so. Sometimes when people ask like, “Oh, what books do you like?” like, I don’t know, I’ve read so many. As far as just like really really good shows, I mean, they aren’t really big narrative ones, but the ones that just sort of give us the really like happy, supportive vibes, we really like watching The Great North and Bob’s Burgers by the same creator. Because it’s such a subversion of the traditional sitcom where so many, so many families just like, hate each other and so much of the comedy comes from like, “Oh, I hate my wife. I hate my kids. The kids are fighting.” And so it’s just so nice to have these families that just like always love and support each other. We really, really like that. What are some…? We recently watched Poker Face. That was an interesting one.

Carly: I’ve been meaning to start that.

Courtney: That was a really really interesting one. I think that was our last major, like, “We are watching this every week as it comes out,” kind of a show. So we really, really liked that one. We’re currently rewatching– So we are just monumental fans of Bojack Horseman, and by some of the same creators and kind of the same art style roughly, with like the anthropomorphic animals, is the show Tuca and Bertie.

Carly: Yeah, yeah, same– same artist.

Courtney: Yeah, same artist.

Carly: Yeah, Lisa Hanawalt. She– It’s funny, she and I, we both have horses. Lisa and I.

Courtney: Oh, really?

Carly: Both board our horses across the street there. So I see her all the time.

Courtney: Do you? Great!

Carly: I’m kind of a fan. I see her like, like all the time, and I’m a fan. And I’m very, like– but I try– but I– And I’m always like, “Hi.” And I’m– I hide my love. [laughs]

Courtney: Stay cool, stay cool!

Carly: But when I– when I find someone who also likes Lisa Hanawalt’s stuff, I’m like, [fake whispering] “I see Lisa Hanawalt every day.” [laughs]

Courtney: She’s brilliant. And the thing is too– Because we– we were devastated when we heard that Tuca and Bertie got canceled, we were. We were devastated. And it was probably last summer that we– was the last time we watched it, but.

Carly: An interesting little crossover with The Reckless Kind, Lisa Hanawalt has a Norwegian Fjord horse.

Courtney: Really?

Carly: Yeah, named Juniper.

Courtney: Aw!

Carly: And so like, basically the horses in my book are like her– the horses that she rides.

Courtney: That’s so cool! I love that.

Carly: Random. That’s just totally random.

Courtney: That is totally random! But yeah, we– we just– because we– we’ve kind of gotten through some big shows, we’ve gotten through some big video games recently. And we’re also just really busy because Pride Month, and I’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ve– we’ve got birds nesting in the side of our house, so we’re like signing contracts for getting our siding fixed once the babies move out. [Carly laughs] But so we were just like, “Let’s not start anything really new that we think we’re going to love and just want to like breeze through right now, because we don’t have the time to afford it.” But Royce just the other day said, “Should we go back and rewatch Tuca and Bertie?” And I was like, “Yes, yes, we should go back and rewatch Tuca and Bertie.” So we’re rewatching that now. What are– Royce, you keep the list of, like, things that are coming out that we are waiting for, like the next season of Our Flag Means Death we’re waiting for…

Carly: Are you guys– Are you guys Good Omen fans? Because that’s coming out. The season two is coming out.

Courtney: We did watch that actually. I didn’t–

Carly: Okay, so I’m not hearing, you know, an explosion.

Courtney: No, I liked it. I did really like it. That was a good one. What We Do In The Shadows?

Carly: And then–

Courtney: What We Do In The Shadows is on our list. We’re waiting for that one to come out. I heard there’s a new season of Black Mirror coming out, which I was surprised, because it feels like it’s been so long since we’ve had any episodes of that. Some of those episodes are great, some of them not as much, but that happens when every episode is a new story inevitably.

Carly: We’ve been talking for over two hours.

Courtney: We have! And before we wrap, I want to get your recommendations too for queer rep, for ace rep, for historical fiction. I mean, obviously Our Flag Means Death, and we’re going to check out that fanfic now, but–

Carly: Yeah, so I want to remind everyone, if you are– One, if you haven’t watched Our Flag Means Death, you need to watch it now. Is the best show ever made in the history of television.

Courtney: So good.

Carly: And then I think, if you love Our Flag Means Death and you then have a hole in your heart and you’re awaiting season two, you need to check out this mind blowingly good fan fiction called – Oh God, I got to look at the title again on my Kindle – All You Left Me Was A Pearl by – I want to say the title is, the name of the author is JustStandingThere on Archive Of Our Own. Oh my, oh my God. Okay. So then for ace rep books. Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor: is a science fiction YA book. One of the main characters is ace. The word asexual is used on the page. Then, also by Rosiee Thor, Fire Becomes Her, which is a 1920s fantasy, 1920s magic fantasy. Beautiful queerplatonic relationship is at the center of the book. So that’s absolutely wonderful.

Carly: KJ Charles, who might be one of my favorite authors now, of all time. Because I– now I think I’ve reached a point where I’ve read almost everything KJ Charles has– has written, and I’m like, “Okay, I think KJ Charles might be my favorite author of all time.” [Courtney laughs] Wrote this book called– It’s very, very small, like, almost like a novel, like a novella that’s what I meant to say. It takes place in between two other books and it’s called The Rat-Catcher’s Daughter and it’s– The main character is… It’s been a little while since I’ve read it, I think trans woman. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s like on the page, trans woman, and she’s ace and she’s in a relat– the love story is between another ace character. And it is like, honestly, the most heartwarming, beautiful, like, love story. It’s super short, like you’ll read it in one sitting, and it’s– I love it. It’s like probably one of my favorites. And what else? I have like a whole book over here. I’m making sure that, like, I’m not leaving something off. Because my problem is I read so much and then people are like what do you recommend? And I’m like, my mind just went blank.

Courtney: That’s my problem! That’s my problem. Yes.

Carly: Is what I’m reading right now. Okay, if you’re open to some sexy stuff, with you– and you just want your heart to be full: Cat Sebastian. My favorite book from Cat Sebastian is Peter Cabot Gets Lost, which is– I would call it Kennedy fan fiction, Kennedy family fan fiction.

Courtney: Okay, I see.

Carly: It’s about the kind of black sheep in the Kennedy family, and it’s a really good exploration and healing from childhood trauma. The– the son of this rich Massachusetts political family doesn’t want to go home from college – which is a very universal experience – because he hates his family. And so he kind of makes an excuse to drive this other boy across the country to Los Angeles, to his new job, and they fall in love on the way. And it is so– I love it so much! It’s just such a one of those books, too, that’s super short. And that’s one book that I read over and over and over and over again because it’s just so good.

Carly: Let me glance to my shelf, hold on. If you’re into some history: Slumming by Chad Heap and Gay New York by George Chauncey. Which is some good queer history and will give you a little taste of the underground queer world in 18– 1890 to 1940. Amazing. Like you’ll– you’ll– your mind will be blown at how, especially in the 1890s, just how prevalent gay culture was, how everyone whether you’re a five year old kid or, whatever you knew, gay culture existed, it was normalized, it was fine, it was part of life. And then the 1920s happened and the KKK rose to power, and then gay culture got pushed underground.

Courtney: Oh, thank you for all those recommendations. My– my list is expanding, as it always does. [laughs] Oh well, Carly, this has been amazing. I really, really appreciate talking to you.

Carly: Thank you for doing the show!

Courtney: Absolutely.

Carly: It’s been so fun.

Courtney: Please tell everyone where– where all they can find you after this.

Carly: I’m on Twitter @carlylheath and I’m on Instagram. I always forget my Instagram profile. If it’s carlylheath or… No, it’s carlylynheath. I just looked it up. C-A-R-L-Y-L-Y-N-H-E-A-T-H on Instagram. And I’m on TikTok too. I think I’m like carlylheath on TikTok. You’ll find me on if you want to go to my website, which has links to all my social media and stuff. And you can find The Reckless Kind anywhere books are sold. And also, hopefully, your library. It’s at most libraries and definitely, if you don’t see it at your library, ask them to order it. And I hope you like it. The audiobook is– I actually haven’t listened to the whole audiobook, but I was very impressed with the audiobook narrators.

Courtney: Yeah, I enjoyed the book both ways. [laughs] Yeah, oh, thank you so much.

Carly: Thank you guys so much for having me.

Courtney: It was a pleasure and I’m sure we will talk more in the future, and we’re excited to get to talk to Lillie as well so–

Carly: I’ll hook you guys up.

Courtney: This was just awesome, so thank you again. And for all of you listeners, please make sure to check out Carly on the social media. Check out the book if this sounded interesting to you. I love it, as a historian, and as an ace, and as a disabled person, and as a hair worker. I love all the things. [Carly laughs] So, full endorsement from me. And, other than that, give us a rating or review on whatever platform it is you’re listening to us on, and we’ll see you all same time next week. Bye.