Newest Episode of MRAH with Liz Gorinsky

I’m listening to the new episode of our podcast that just dropped, episode 11, where we interview the fabulous Liz Gorinsky, editor at Erewhon Books.

Writers, this particular episode of the podcast is chock-full of nitty-gritty details from someone who edited books for many years at Tor, and now runs a brand-new boutique small press that I, personally, would love to be published with someday. (Benjamin Rosenbaum‘s debut novel, _The Unraveling_ is launching from them tomorrow, and I am so happy for him, and only a tiny bit jealous. 🙂 )

We talk about a lot of the business of being an editor, and also about issues like wrestling with your own internal editor. Get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in publishing! I wish I’d known this stuff when I was starting out as a writer.

Podcast: Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans:

https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/#ep-11

Intellectually Stimulating

I’m re-listening to the episodes we’ve released of the podcast recently (great company for weeding & mulching!), and I have to say, it’s just so intellectually stimulating talking to Cory Doctorow.

I mean, his mind moves a mile-a-minute, and he’s deeply read in his areas of expertise, so I honestly was struggling a little to keep up, but nonetheless, it was just super-fun talking to him. (And luckily, if I got too overwhelmed, my co-host Benjamin Rosenbaum was usually keeping up just fine and could step in.)

In the first part of the episode, we start with his _Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom_ and talk about scarcity, utopia and dystopia, the problems inherent in reputation economies (like Kickstarter)…

…then transition to positive / negative reputation, what happens when someone gets cancelled and why, struggling to find integrity between an author’s public platform speech and what their work seems to be revealing (and navigating that complexity as writers ourselves)…

[touching on Harlan Ellison, Trumpists, Haman, truth and reconciliation, Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, C.S. Lewis, the Problem of Susan, and virtuous pagans]

…and then transition to monopolistic large networks (like Facebook), the dangers inherent in those commercial structures, how we might combat those dangers by stopping criminalizing interoperability (and if you think I had to pause and look up words periodically while talking to Cory, you would not be wrong), how that relates to governance, like my service on the school board…

…and that’s just the first 45 minutes. Whew. This episode is recommended to those of you who enjoy a little meaty political discussion mixed in with your science fiction. 🙂

https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/#ep-8

Conversational Cultures With Ben and Jed

Have you ever been frustrated by trying to get a word in edgewise in a conversation, with everyone else talking over you?

Have you ever been frustrated by people who expect you to read their minds, instead of just telling you what they want?

I’m listening to episode 6 of the podcast while gardening; this is the episode when we first bring Jed on as a guest, and we talk (often over each other) about conversational styles (surely of interest to anyone who hosts or listens to podcasts) and segue from there into gender dynamics, Ask vs. Guess culture, etc.

I admit, I find this topic sort of endlessly fascinating. How we communicate, how we make space for each other’s voices (or fail to), how we navigate complex and touchy social dynamics, how we learn to actually listen to each other…all of this seems essential to building a better world.

In these early episodes of the podcast, I think Benjamin Rosenbaum and I were still mostly feeling our way towards our main topics, and in not too much longer, we’ll mostly be talking about writing, editing, story. But that isn’t to say we’ll leave the cultural conversations behind — they’re interwoven with everything we do professionally and personally…

…and in fact, the second half of the podcast has quite a lot about constructing alien cultures in this context. 🙂

https://speculativeliterature.org/…/slf-podcast…/

Podcast Pandemic Processing

Are people tired of pandemic processing? I actually found it kind of fascinating listening to episode 5 of our podcast, recorded when we were two months into the pandemic (in May 2021).

On the one hand, as Benjamin Rosenbaum notes in his intro, he was way more optimistic about Switzerland’s response than ended up warranted, alas. I feel sort of validated that my estimate of how long it would likely be until America started heading back towards ‘normal’ — after vaccines, and probably at least a year, turned out to be fairly accurate.

But mostly, it’s just kind of fascinating listening to us talk, hearing just how stressed I still was, climbing out of a serious panic and bad mental health state, still trying to navigate risk with Kevin and the tensions of that, etc.

Also fascinating how different Ben’s experience was — he had much more personal / familial fear of disease, and found going out to the grocery store, for example, really stressful. Whereas for me, it was making myself stay inside that was incredibly difficult — I did it, but it chafed mightily. (Still does. Thank you science, for vaccines. THANK YOU.)

If you’re still processing your own thoughts about the pandemic, maybe this would be interesting, if only to see how different people’s experiences of this has been.

Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans: Episodes

When Good Podcasts Go Wrong

I kind of want to retitle episode 4 of our podcast: When Good Podcasts Go Wrong. Gah.

I spent a fair bit of time this weekend (while pruning trees) listening to the last few episodes of our podcast. It’s a little surreal, listening to myself argue with Benjamin Rosenbaum for an hour or two at a time. Part of it is the general self-consciousness of listening to yourself, but sometimes, it’s also realizing that you can be very stubborn, or thick-headed, or possibly anti-Semitic…

For example, in episode 4, we were supposed to talk about ‘What are humans?’ The podcast is titled “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans,” after all. But listening, I’d say that the first 45 minutes or so of this really went kind of badly awry. 🙁

See, we were trying to talk about the term ‘secular humanist.’ I may or may not have referred to both of us as that; I can’t quite remember, but Ben thinks I did. And that troubled him, because he identifies as religious (specifically Jewish), *not* secular.

And so we went into a LONG discussion, where I spent quite a while kind of rigidly trying to explain that for me, ‘religion’ meant, among other things, belief in some kind of supernatural being. We had a long sequence in here about science fiction and fantasy and what counts as ‘supernatural,’ which honestly maybe just muddled things further.

I think I was so focused on trying to clarify that distinction (a distinction that Ben completely understood, by the way, it’s clear in retrospect), that what I was having trouble hearing at the time…

…was that for Ben, the big problem was that I was essentially erasing / denying the “religious” state of Judaism (which doesn’t necessarily require a belief in a supernatural being, if I’m understanding things right, which at this point, I have no confidence that I was, but anyway).

Additionally, this is the kind of erasure that tends to come out of a Christian viewpoint, and I was raised Catholic, and those views and values have colonized much of the world; it’s honestly hard for me to separate out which bits are Christian-thought-dominance.

So the point is, I was trying to have a kind of abstract definitional debate (and one that as an agnostic, I’m not even particularly invested in), and Ben was experiencing an attack on a fundamental and really important aspect of his identity — and further, an aspect that has a long and bloody history of being under attack.

Honestly, it’s super-embarrassing, listening to it all now. But maybe it’s worthwhile for others to hear, with this framing, seeing just how badly these conversations can go awry, even between two people who are very good friends and who are trying to have a calm and rational discussion.

In the second half, we mostly talk about ethics of causing pain to animals, about hierarchies of value (should humans be above others? why or why not?), why I’m not a vegetarian though I think I should be, why Ben goes to great lengths to try to reduce his carbon footprint, etc., why we might prioritize saving our own families over the greater good, etc. So that part is pretty interesting, I think.

You could just skip over the bit where I’m blithely ignoring Ben’s pain (and totally valid points) if you like. Sigh.

Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans: Episodes

Is It a Good Story?

I’m a little behind on listening to my own podcast — I started listening to episode 2 again (I think it’s episode 2, we had some numbering difficulties early on), the one that’s called the Toilet Seat Con Hook-up, and the whole first chunk is me and Benjamin arguing pretty vehemently about genre boundaries — talking about Jane Eyre and Delany and Rushdie and Gothics and magical realism and religion and you can hear how passionately engaged we both are in this debate…

…and listening to it now, it’s sort of funny, because if you’re not an academic, I’m not sure how much it matters?

Is it a good story?

Maybe we can just stop there. 🙂 Although it’s still funny listening to me arguing vehemently with Ben.

https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/

Ep. 2 of MRAH Out Now

Ep. 2 of MRAH is out now! In this podcast episode Benjamin Rosenbaum and I start out arguing about genre definitions, and end up talking about marriage and polyamory, and I swear, it all connects eventually? Sort of kind of? It made sense to us at the time, anyway….

(Side note — we’re slowing down release a little bit, because we realized we were being over-ambitious re: editing time. So expect the podcast to drop on Mondays, with occasional Thursday bonus episodes.)

https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/

Friday of Spring Break

I didn’t get all the writing done that I’d hoped to do over the break — I did almost no writing. But the house is cleaner (due in no small part to Jed helping), I’ve caught up on most of the urgent things I was behind on, and I feel overall less stressed, which I suppose is what spring break is really for (rather than trying frenziedly to finish a novel draft). So it’s all good.

Random photos from the week:

• I felt very granny chic somehow yesterday, since it’s been a while since I added color to my hair, and when I pull it back, it’s dramatically silver. When I am old, I shall wear white lace? Maybe.

• Arya sitting on my lap and contemplating the garden, making it impossible to type.

• The cutest little Murasaki pepper seedling — I adore the coloration in the leaves, so striking.

• Happy little spring cups for the March/April Patreon boxes. (See how I snuck April in there? That’s just in case I don’t quite ship them out before the start of April….)

Plans for today — try to keep working in the morning, writing up recipes and sewing and making chocolates, while listening to this week’s bonus episode of the podcast (which we dropped yesterday).

I’m honestly a little nervous about this episode (“The Capitol and the Cafe”), because we recorded it right after the capitol insurrection, and we used the opportunity to talk about some hyper-local events, and in the context of the upcoming election, I’m a little afraid that I wasn’t nuanced enough and it could get taken badly, gah. I don’t think I said anything too problematic, but it was recorded a while ago, and I just don’t remember.

Still, we can’t be so afraid to speak that we just stay silent, right? That’s how the Nazis win. If I messed up, people will let me know, and I’ll take my lumps and apologize if needs be. Okay, then. (Podcast: Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans, available wherever fine podcasts are downloaded.)

In the afternoon, Jed is off work, and so he’s planning to teach me some new board games, which seems like a fitting activity for the end of spring break.

Benjamin Rosenbaum and I Made a Podcast!

It’s a little surreal, somehow, seeing our podcast on my phone. Benjamin Rosenbaum and I made a podcast! How bizarre. I think it will be of interest to writers and editors and teachers and anyone who is trying to make positive change in their community, but we won’t really know for a while whether anyone will actually listen to it. 🙂

I do wonder how many people will check it out, see the first episode is 1 hr and 42 minutes, and scroll right past. It was tempting to try and do something quick, in keeping with this age of short attention spans; we had a lot of discussion of length in the early days of recording.

But I’m afraid the essence of what we were trying to do would be lost if we’d aimed for a terse format — we wanted to offer a long, rambling conversation, with time for exploring nuance. (Although I admit, I’m tempted to ask Darius Vinesar if he wants to make a ‘short take’ version of the episode for those who just want a taste of it. I’m not sure it’s really possible to do that in any kind of coherent way, though.)

I’m listening to the first episode now, and it’s even more surreal, somehow, listening to something we recorded early last summer. We’re trying to introduce ourselves, and it’s kind of amazing how much we wander in that process. After all the strict 2-minute candidate introductions of the last several election forums, this is almost a shocking contrast.

Jed Hartman’s show notes do offer a sort-of-highlights reel, I suppose. This is what he has for the first episode, which at least makes it easier to skip around to the parts that interest you? Online magazines, and science fiction and racism and the time I said the n-word on a panel (GAH), and forgiveness and Dr. Who / Star Trek….

Contents:

0:10: Introduction to the podcast.

0:30: Starting to introduce Ben: Youth and Clarion West.

2:30: How Mary Anne and Ben met, in Seattle.

3:50: Strange Horizons, and staff not getting paid.

5:15: Identities, and gendered differences in how people identify themselves.

6:45: Parenthood, Switzerland, parenting paradigms.

9:55: Religion and community.

14:55: Starting to introduce Mary Anne. “This is not going to be a long intro.”

31:05: Mary Anne’s role and voice in the community, including Strange Horizons.

33:20: One area where Mary Anne and Ben overlap: a strong interest in community.

34:20: “When I see a problem, … my immediate impulse is to fix it.”

39:05: More differences in Mary Anne’s and Ben’s approaches, such as their different reactions to MoonFail.

46:45: Forgiveness and recovery and redemption after failures and mistakes. Also racism in sf and horror.

52:35: Brief intermission, featuring an ad for the Speculative Literature Foundation.

53:15: Continuing the discussion of forgiveness and redemption.

1:08:00: What you’re likely to hear in episodes of this podcast, and some possible titles for the podcast. (This episode was recorded before the podcast had a title.)

1:13:50: Approaches to science fiction vs literary fiction, and plausibility, and Dr. Who.

1:23:20: Star Trek: Picard: realistic characterization and fantastical plots.

1:27:30: Ben’s rule of thumb about things persisting into the future; also cognitive estrangement and operationalizing strangeness.

1:40:20: Wrapup and credits.

Full show notes are here: https://speculativeliterature.org/episodes/

Listen wherever you like to listen to podcasts (and if it’s not there, please let us know, so we can fix that!) — Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans.

If you’d like to support the podcast directly, you can join us on Patreon here (there are even some little rewards, so check them out!) — https://www.patreon.com/mrahpodcast

Our Patreon Tiers for the Podcast

I adore the Patreon levels that Benjamin Rosenbaum came up with for our podcast. They make me smile. 🙂

$2 / month: Scorpions of Bellona — While you’re smashing things in the ruined, irrational city of your dreams, why not join our gang? This level comes with membership in the Speculative Literature Foundation, and Show Notes sent directly to you.

$5 / month: Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet — It is a rough life between jumps, with a couple of erratic tricksters calling the shots; you need to stay on your toes. You get early access to episodes, as well as membership in the SLF and the Show Notes.

$10 / month: Earthseed — “All that you touch you Change; all that you Change, Changes you.” Maybe we can shelter together in these dystopian times, and plan something new? Once a month, you’ll be invited to an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with Ben or Mary Anne (or sometimes both!) Bring your writing / editing / speculative fiction questions. (Parenting questions? Communal organizing questions?) Plus early access, membership to the SLF, and show notes.

$25 / month: Ekumen — “In a certain sense the Ekumen is not a body politic, but a body mystic.. it proceeds by subtle ways, and slow ones, and queer, risky ones.” It is not an invasion, but a traveler coming alone, bringing gifts, willing to learn. In addition to the previous rewards, we’d love to send you a physical object — your choice of an exclusive celestial bookmark, unicorn garden tea towel, or a unicorn/dragon chess match scarf, all designed and handmade by Mary Anne. You’ll also get a physical copy of Ben’s The Unravelling, and Mary Anne’s Jump Space, when they’re released later this year. Thank you for your powerful support!

*****

That’s Samuel Delany, Lois McMaster Bujold, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin — probably the authors we reference most often on the podcast, as they have inscribed their ideas into our BRAINS….