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Book Report ii

Intro to the Book

Do you long to escape to a universe where you can fight facism with a loving chosen family as you travel the galaxy in a ship whose EverySpeak translator makes sure no one is ever misgendered? Look no further! Charlie Jane Ander’s Victories Greater Than Death is the funny, exciting, queer space opera we’ve been waiting for! Book one in The Unstoppable Trilogy, this book takes us into a universe packed with fascinating aliens with well developed cultures and evolutionary histories, epic space battles, friendship, love, and unique futuristic technology unlike anything seen in the genre before. We get to see the characters have deep reckonings with who they are, and how they can be a source of good and kindness in the midst of violent forces pulling them in different directions. A beautiful example of emotional intelligence and support, the friend group that the book focuses on asks for consent before hugging each other, and helps push each other to grow in healthy ways.


Author Bio:

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) is an ever becoming enby, whose work focuses on promoting human and environmental wellbeing through design and education. They work for Play Out Apparel as a Marketing Assistant. They strive to spread love and healing in the world through connection and education. They also design eco-friendly needle felted packers. They earned a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, where they worked as a Peer Health Advocate for four years, and created and led Gender Venting, a group for transgender students.


Author Bio:

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) is an ever becoming enby, whose work focuses on promoting human and environmental wellbeing through design and education. They work for Play Out Apparel as a Marketing Assistant. They strive to spread love and healing in the world through connection and education. They also design eco-friendly needle felted packers. They earned a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, where they worked as a Peer Health Advocate for four years, and created and led Gender Venting, a group for transgender students.



INTRO TO THE BOOK

Do you long to escape to a universe where you can fight facism with a loving chosen family as you travel the galaxy in a ship whose EverySpeak translator makes sure no one is ever misgendered? Look no further! Charlie Jane Ander’s Victories Greater Than Death is the funny, exciting, queer space opera we’ve been waiting for! 


Book one in The Unstoppable Trilogy, this book takes us into a universe packed with fascinating aliens with well developed cultures and evolutionary histories, epic space battles, friendship, love, and unique futuristic technology unlike anything seen in the genre before. 


We get to see the characters have deep reckonings with who they are, and how they can be a source of good and kindness in the midst of violent forces pulling them in different directions. A beautiful example of emotional intelligence and support, the friend group that the book focuses on asks for consent before hugging each other, and helps push each other to grow in healthy ways.


Chatting with Charlie!

We got to chat with author Charlie Jane Anders about Victories Greater Than Death on Play Out After Dark. Check out our Instagram videos to hear it all! Here are a few highlights of things she had to say about some of our favorite aspects of the book. 


As someone who is super queer, trans, and also a sci-fi fan, I’ve longed for a good space opera with an abundance of queer representation. It never made sense to me that aliens would all fit into the gender and sex binaries, especially seeing as that is not even the norm on planet earth. I was so delighted to discover that one of the first aliens we meet in Victories Greater Than Death, Yatto the Monntha, is nonbinary, and even more delighted to find that in this universe it is a normal part of introductions to share pronouns, and that throughout the galaxy there is diversity of gender, sex, and relationship structures. There are some common challenges that sci-fi authors often fall into when writing queer aliens, and in our conversation with Charlie Jane Anders, she described how she approached this. 


“If you are not careful you have the aliens that kind of represent trans or nonbinary people. Or you imply that being a trans or nonbinary person is in some way alien, or that that is a thing that isn’t part of human society. It’s that thing where you use aliens as a metaphor for groups of people on Earth. And that’s a huge pitfall. … And so I tried to address this in a couple ways. 1) Making sure that there are plenty of queer and trans and nonbinary and gender fluid characters from Earth in the book so you can’t just be like ‘Oh, well it’s a thing that aliens do.’ But also, you know, when we meet Yatto the Monntha, it’s very clear when you meet them that being nonbinary is their identity. It’s not a thing that’s because of their species. It’s not like everyone on their planet is nonbinary. In fact, I was pretty careful in that they’re the only nonbinary person we meet from their planet, just because I didn’t want it to feel like ‘This is the planet of the nonbinary people’.”


Re-imagining Space Travel

Unlike most space travel universes that use either a shuttlecraft or teleportation device to go back and forth between a planet and a spaceship in orbit, in Victories Greater Than Death they use platforms similar to elevators which carry people back and forth. 


“What I like about the elevator platforms is that they’re fast compared to taking a rocket, but they’re actually kind of slow. Like to get from the surface of the Earth to a spaceship that’s up in orbit takes like two or three hours. Which a) gives people time to have a kind of emotional intense conversation while they’re traveling from the planet up to the ship or the other way around. But also b) it’s not easy. It’s not like ‘boop we’re back on the ship! Oh boop now we’re back on the planet.’ It takes a little bit of effort. It’s a little hard to get back and forth. And you can’t really steer those things. Once you’re off you’re just going. … It makes it a little more complicated in a way that gives the characters more to do.”


One of the things I loved in reading this book was the moments of pause that these elevator platforms gave the characters to be together in the moments before and after being in a new, exciting, or potentially dangerous situation. It allowed excellent opportunities for heartfelt connection.



Kindness and Queerness in Sci-Fi

We could all use a little more kindness in our lives. Something that bothers me about a lot of fiction is when the main point of tension and drama in the story comes from lack of emotional intelligence or communication, and it was so refreshing to read this story where the main characters have excellent communication, support, love, and work together accomplish their goals, each uplifting the unique skills and talents of their friends. Charlie Jane Anders put it perfectly: 


“Part of what makes something a good escapist story for me right now is getting to see people being kind to each other.”


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One of my favorite parts of the book was reading about the main character, Tina, who is the clone of a war hero and inherited her fighting abilities, go through a deep reckoning about the kind of person she wants to be. In our conversation with Charlie Jane Anders, she described her process for writing this plot point. 


“I wrote this part where she goes on this ship with her friends, and it was like she has to take Yatto’s gun and Tina has to kill some people for the first time in her life and she’s all like ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be an action hero. I’m gonna shoot, pew pew pew’ But then she kills these people and she completely breaks down. And she cannot deal with the weight, the kind of aftermath of having taken a life. And as I was writing it I was like, yeah, actually that is a really big deal, and it would be a really intense thing to deal with. It wouldn’t just be like ‘Oh yay pew pew pew’ And I just started to think that that was something that she needed to grapple with because it felt like a big deal once I was writing it. And it kind of changed the whole rest of the book, because it’s like she wants to be this epic hero, she wants to kind of step up and take on this legacy of this amazing hero that she used to be in her previous life, but she doesn’t really know what that means or what that’s going to cost and what that’s actually going to take from her. And that turned into this thing where she has to make some choices about what kind of hero she wants to be.”


This book was fast paced and always kept me on my toes, but in a way that didn’t feel rushed, and that allowed for the characters to experience genuine connection and growth. Packed full of ideas and in depth world building, this rich universe was a delight to explore! And there was a sense of mystery that pulled me along throughout the story, and I can’t wait to dive into the next book in the trilogy, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak.

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