Yes, we all have a certain nostalgic attachment to the Harry Potter series and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But let’s be honest: It’s a little odd that children are offered up as sacrifices in JK Rowling’s magical world, that they’re expected to save everybody, and that everyone is just kind of fine with that arrangement. However, in the first two installments of her celebrated Scholomance series, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, author Naomi Novik creates a much darker and much more violent world of magic, monsters, sorcerers, and survival—a world that takes the premise of Rowling’s series to a darker, more violent, and dramatically complex conclusion. Following the central character El as she navigates the treacherous world within and beyond the Scholomance, a school for sorcerers without teachers or a governing body, Novik’s innovative novels not only make for great reading but also probe deeply human and political questions about the choices we make to survive in a darkly unjust world—and the fights we must wage in order to create something better.

In the newest episode of Art for the End Times, host Lyta Gold convenes a lively panel of writers, philologists, editors, and haters to discuss the Scholomance series and the important lessons Novik’s magical world can teach us about surviving our own monstrous world. Panelists include: Dan WaldenAllegra SilcoxAdrian Rennix, and Jessica Lam.

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Pre-Production/Studio/Post Production: Stephen Frank


Transcript

Lyta Gold:     Hello, and welcome to Art for the End Times. I am your beloved host Lyta Gold. This week, we are bringing you a very special episode. Okay, yeah, they’re all very special episodes of course. But this one has an afterschool special vibe because we’re going to be talking about a magical school. So you’re thinking, oh, shit, it’s a Harry Potter episode. Okay, I would not do that to you guys. I wouldn’t. Fear not. We’re going to talk about a different series, a new series. It’s a trilogy by Naomi Novik. It’s called the Scholomance Series. The first two books are out. The first one is called A Deadly Education. The second one just came out, it’s called The Last Graduate. The third one’s supposed to come out next year.

So the way I usually sell these books to people – Because I love Naomi Novik and I have a different pitch for every single book of hers – But for this series, the way I sell it to people, I say it’s like a dark Harry Potter. Or it’s like, what if Harry Potter was good instead of being super disappointing? So this series, the Scholomance Series, it’s about capitalism, it’s about inequality, it’s about our broken educational system, it’s about solidarity, it’s about friendship, [cars honking] it’s about horns beeping outside, and it’s about monsters.

So to help us talk about this, I’ve brought on some of my absolute favorite monsters in the world. So let’s introduce them. First up, we have a writer, an academic, a philologist. He knows more than you. He’s read more than you. That’s right. It’s Dan Walden.

Dan Walden:     Oh, hi, Lyta. It is wonderful to be on with you again.

Lyta Gold:     I know. Same. And the next up we have got one of my very favorite people in the world. She’s a writer and a tech genius, a true nerd girl, so [fake] nerd boys can step it off. It’s Allegra Silcox.

Allegra Silcox:     I didn’t even know who you were introducing for a second. Hello, it’s me.

Lyta Gold:            Because you’re too modest. You’re a tech genius, and you say, that can’t be me.

Allegra Silcox:      Can’t be me.

Lyta Gold:         Right. or that can’t be me, even though I wrote a bunch of brilliant articles. Can’t be me. That’s you, that’s you.

Allegra Silcox:     It’s me.

Lyta Gold:         Our next person really needs no introduction at all. They’re a writer, an editor, a lawyer, a hero, a scholar. It’s Adrian Rennix.

Adrian Rennix:     Hi, guys.

Lyta Gold:      The face, you can’t see the face, but the face that Rennix just made was a work of art. Very last, but not least, a very good friend of mine, fantasy fan, higher ed professional, hater extraordinaire, it’s Jessica Lam.

Jessica Lam:     I mean, when you say hater, it sounds unfair. It’s just a lot of things deserve it. You know what I mean?

Lyta Gold:            That’s what makes you such a good hater, because you fairly apply the hate to the things that deserve it.

Jessica Lam:     I’m an equal opportunity hater.

Lyta Gold:             So yeah, we’re going to do a panel. But before we get going on the panel, a quick rundown of what the Scholomance books are about. We’re going to do a lot of spoilers if you haven’t read them. But just here’s the basic overview, if you haven’t read them at all. They’re definitely written – And Novik has said this – They’re written as sort of critique or reaction to Harry Potter. They also draw on this Eastern European legend I didn’t know about, a legend about a school of magic where Satan claims the soul of the last graduate to leave, which I don’t know how that works. If your name ends in Z, are you fucked? Is that how that … Who’s the last? Is it merit? I don’t know. I guess it depends on the school.

Yeah, my husband’s name, we went to college together, his name ends in a Z. So he was always at the end. So I’m like, oh, God, would he be eaten by Satan? Dang, it would be rough. Sucks to be him, I guess. Anyway, the premise –

Jessica Lam: It explains a lot.

Lyta Gold:         I know. Right? It kind of does. Jessica does him well. The premise of this world is a little bit similar to Harry Potter. We’ve got a wizarding world that exists alongside the regular one, but this wizarding world is extremely dangerous. Magic is performed with mana, and mana is very tasty to monsters around the world, and there’s tons of monsters. The word for monsters in the book is Maleficaria, or it’s called mals for short. So we’ll use that. People who are most at risk from mals are wizard teens because they’re brimming with mana and they can’t really protect themselves.

So the safest option, which is even safest even if you’re a wizard with a lot of resources and you live in a fancy enclave, you send your kids to the Scholomance. The school’s supposed to keep out the mals. Of course, plenty of mals get in, anyway. It’s not a great system. Graduation is extremely dangerous because a lot of mals just hang out in the graduation hall, waiting for the teens to run up and get eaten.

So usually, only about a quarter of the class will make it out of the Scholomance alive. Everybody’s fine with that. I mean, they’re not fine, fine, but it’s like the best available option. It’s the lesser of two evils. It’s the best possible chance for the kids. So if you are from a wealthy enclave, your kid in the school, you will have more resources coming in, more allies. You’re more likely to make it. You’re more likely to survive. If you’re not rich, then you need to make some alliances with the rich kids or with some others or you’re fucked. You’re probably fucked anyway, if you’re not rich.

So real quick, main characters just before we go into it. Protagonist is a poor kid whose name is El. It’s kind of a strange – So it’s short for Galadriel, which is like The Lord of the Rings character. It’s a little strange. I don’t know if Naomi Novik is trying to make it unadaptable for the screen, which I would extremely respect if that was the move. I also think that it puts El in this position of always being stuck in the moment of making this choice whether she’s going to be a good person or a powerful evil queen.

Lyta Gold:          Different kinds of magic, like natural affinities, El’s affinity is for evil, dark sorcerous shit. She’s all about that. She doesn’t necessarily want to be all about that but the school gives her spells to make super volcanoes and just kill lots of people all the time. So that’s fun. She’s a lot of fun. She hates everybody, and I really like her.

The other character kid who’s up top is Orion Lake. Orion is an enclave kid so he’s a rich kid. He’s kind of Harry Potter-ish. His affinity is for being a hero, basically, but he’s really just good at killing monsters. He’s not really good at being around people or doing anything normal. He’s so good at killing monsters though that in the opening of the first book he’s created this power imbalance. Way too many of the kids have survived way more than usual, and it’s created some problems and it’s also opened up some really interesting possibilities.

So that’s the basic setup. Yeah. Let’s dive in. Did I leave anything out that anybody wanted to talk about up top?

Jessica Lam:         All good.

Dan Walden:         I think you covered it.

Lyta Gold:             Yay. Okay. Well, the reason that I got into these books, I mean, I love Naomi Novik in general, but I avoided these because wizard schools, I’m tired of that. But Allegra read them, and Allegra’s like, these are a great critique of capitalism. You need to read them right now. And she threw them at me. I mean, digitally, but you know how it goes. So Allegra, if you want to start off talking about these books, how they function as a critique of capitalism.

Allegra Silcox:     Yeah. So about, I don’t know, maybe a third of the way into these books, I’m reading it, I’m really digging the goth school vibes. I’m digging all the scary monsters and all the gruesome ways that these children die. And I realized that the way that Naomi Novik has laid out almost like an economy, that mana is actually quite hard to come by. You either have to generate it with your own sort of sweat and effort, or there’s kind of a way to cheat. Yeah, there’s a way to steal it from other people which is an interesting dynamic that she explores.

But essentially she’s created this school that feels like there’s a zero-sum game that only some people, some of these students can survive. So each student has to be extremely callous about how they go about surviving in this world. And what is ultimately explored is the fact that some people enter the Scholomance with an advantage. They’re part of a group of essentially rich people who share mana through these power crystals.

So El is on the outside and she’s working super, super hard. She’s literally doing circuit workouts in her room after barely surviving every day in order to generate mana to survive on her own, and there are some kids who have it comparatively very easy because they share resources, but only amongst themselves. I have a lot more to say about how it’s actually a beautiful radicalization journey for her, that she starts off very resentful of the rich kids, but also wanting to join them. She accepts that this is the only way that she can really survive outside of the world. And I’ll stop there because we might want to get into what happens in the second book a little bit later. But yeah, metaphor for capitalism.

Lyta Gold:      Anybody want to add onto that?

Dan Walden:        It does a really excellent job, I thought, of staging the kinds of choices that someone has to make. Because as Lyta said in these books, El, the main character, the books, it’s first person narration. It’s all inside El’s head. She knows absolutely that she could quite literally level the place and it wouldn’t even be difficult. She demonstrates to Orion once that in order to demonstrate that she wasn’t doing black magic, that she wasn’t cheating, she showed him just how easy it would be for her to do it, and she just casually starts to rip out his soul. And she doesn’t. She makes the very deliberate choice not to take the easy road every single day.

Her mother is a significant figure in this even though she’s absent from the books because it’s only the kids who are at the school, but El’s mom is this hippy dippy dropout who’s this legendary healer that people go to all the time. But she lives in this hippie commune full of just normal people hippies. And she begins as sort of like El’s conscience in a way: I can’t do this bad stuff because what would my mom say? And she really does love her mother. It’s honestly very sweet.

But as Allegra said, there’s a change in her reasoning over the course of the books. Suddenly it’s not, I can’t do this stuff because it would disappoint my mom. It’s, oh, wait, actually, maybe mom was on to something because actually the only way out of this is for all of us to actually give to each other. I remain really impressed in how few pages, frankly, she manages to stage all of this, going to show once again Naomi Novik’s a fucking pro.

Lyta Gold:              Yeah. It’s not –

Allegra Silcox:      She’s such a pro.

Lyta Gold:         She’s such a pro, dude. We –

Dan Walden:  She’s turning out a book a year, and they’re –

Lyta Gold:        And they’re –

Dan Walden:     …Tight, and well plotted.

Lyta Gold:            …Bangers. They’re bangers. Yeah. In this house, we respect Naomi Novik. We are very fond of her on this pod. Yeah. She really gets at why solidarity in this situation is difficult, and she’s not spending a lot of time morally condemning people. Because her protagonist is who we’re hearing from her own point of view, is having a tough time initially with exactly that and initially is very cynical. Solidarity is hard and it’s a hard thing to build, and yeah, I think these books do a great job of it.

So El has a lot of trouble making friends. She’s a big hater. And then she starts to, in ways that I think are actually kind of interesting, because people are… She mutually bands with some other people to survive but they also start to really like each other, which is charming. And then Orion has a thing for her, and maybe they’re dating but maybe they’re not and it’s cute because they’re still teens. And yeah, I think that’s an interesting vibe for how these alliances, these emotional bonds form even in these terrible situations.

Allegra Silcox:     Yeah. I think one thing that really struck me about these books is that they really feel, as compared to Harry Potter which is sort of like in some ways a fantasy about what if school were interesting and fun, these books are like a… It’s a fantasy, but it’s also actually a very emotionally realistic depiction about how much school sucks. And obviously, in most people’s schools, they’re not fighting for their lives, but there is that.

And I think even the aesthetics of the way she describes the school, because the idea is that the school doesn’t quite exist in reality. It’s been created in this void by wizards and it doesn’t really exist in space. So different parts of it appear and disappear. But when we get descriptions of it it seems very kind of stark and inhospitable. The words that are used to describe the parts of the school, it’s not like, oh, the dining hall, the potions dungeon, and there’s fantasy type terms. It’s like shop, gym, auditorium, all the classic –

Lyta Gold:         Everyone’s dirty and smelly.

Allegra Silcox:      Yeah. It really struck me. That, and the whole just she goes to the cafeteria and agonizes, like, how am I going to find a place to sit? And that’s both actuated by like, I don’t want to get eaten by monsters who live in the terrible food we’re given to eat. But also I can’t sit somewhere where people won’t accept me. And there’s also this element that in modern schools the school is also like a prison because the children, to some extent, it seems like their parents barter for places for them in some cases. But also, they’re also inducted involuntarily off the street into the school. They just get snatched magically by the school, transported to the interior, and then they can’t leave unless they graduate.

And so there’s that dynamic that they’re also imprisoned in the school, and it kind of reminded me in a weird way of… In the third season of Arrested Development there’s a really funny moment where George Michael and Maeby, who are two teenagers, are walking around inside this prison, and they say, oh, prison’s not so bad. It’s just like being in high school. And the joke is that the set that they’re using for the prison hallway is the same cinder block set that they use for the hallway of the high school in an earlier scene. And there is that just sending children in this, which we do in real life, at this very formative and emotionally high key moment of their lives to these aesthetically depressed, repressive, confusing, anxiety-producing environments.

So it’s just like she does such a good job creepily describing that and really setting up El’s alienation at the beginning. Which then when she starts to make friends it then feels very joyful and satisfying because you remember what it felt like at those moments in school when someone accepted you. So it’s really, really well done in that way.

Adrian Rennix:       Can we talk about the lack of adults for a second? I’m not sure if we’ve said it explicitly, but it’s children only. There are no teachers. They have no, literally no outside contact with the outside world, aside from this once a year opportunity to get one tiny slip of paper from your parents hoping that you’re still alive because they do not know. And as a contrast to Harry Potter… A lot of the Harry Potter books, there’s some positive things to say about this, but they look toward the adults to solve problems a lot and the adults normally fail and it relies on the children to actually take the action. But there’s something really interesting about the way that El and Orion ultimately creates solidarity in a way that says, we can’t look outside of ourselves in order to save ourselves from this situation.

I don’t know. There’s just something really interesting there, and it’s also nice to prove that children don’t actually need outside authoritarian forces. One, they can become authoritarian on their own if they want, and two, they also have the capacity to overcome that and band together if they want.

Lyta Gold:       Yeah. There’s a particularly interesting thing about the school and it’s coming to [sentience]. So the school’s imprinted with this idea that this is a place of sanctuary for all wizard children and El goes on a tear about nobody fucking believes that. Obviously it’s not really safe for anybody but it’s safer for enclave kids, whatever.

But the school, given that it has been imprinted with the idea that this is supposed to be a safe place for children and higher learning, and protect children. So the school believes that and it’s like in its own weird way trying to protect them. And I think there’s something very interesting in that because it’s like the school’s in this void, it’s kind of held together by belief in what magic is. Magic is something you believe in. So you have to sort of… One of the bad things that could happen is if you could stop believing in the parts of the Scholomance. Then suddenly you see the void and it’s terrifying. But the idea of an institution is held together by the belief that it both exists and is trying to help you, it’s a really interesting idea, I think.

Allegra Silcox:       Wait, side note about what you just said. I completely forgot. Yes. Sometimes if you’re dreading the walk down a hallway the hallway will last longer, and that’s just, again, metaphors, puberty, adolescence. Love it.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah.

Dan Walden:        Especially in the second book when the school becomes much more of a player. And like Lyta said, the school actually does take the idea seriously, but it’s the magical equivalent of a machine. It’s dumb. All it does is do the math. Okay. If this one kid dies these three other kids are going to live, and it doesn’t give a shit who they are, it doesn’t care if they’re enclaves or normal kids, all it’s doing is running the numbers. I mean, I think there’s a lot of productive ways you can read that whether it’s talking about market distribution of resources or the way that various kinds of targeted affirmative action programs, if you’re not doing something comprehensive with it behind the scenes you’re going to end up with more benefit to people who are advantaged in ways that you’re not targeting. Class-based affirmative action programs end up disproportionately benefiting white people.

Allegra Silcox:      Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean, the school itself is kind of a dumb machine that’s just doing these equations that on the outside look very opaque. But actually, even El in the first book as she’s going through this journey that starts off as very personal, how she’s able to form alliances that then become friendships, which I think is very telling that in order to maybe be a good socialist to do good solidarity you might actually have to have some sort of wellspring of love for humanity inside you. I’m not sure those thoughts are still forming. But it actually shows her struggling with this equation that she says, if I do X, some kid might die. And she starts spitting that out broader and broader until she says she knows that it’s not a direct line that says, If I get a spot in an enclave, then I am murdering somebody in the Scholomance. But she says, just because it’s a 46 order derivative equation, doesn’t mean that she can’t work out which side is right and which side is wrong and I think that’s how we all feel living under capitalism.

Another example would be The Good Place, which part of its whole arc would be saying, oh, it’s impossible to actually calculate what your actions are, the impact of your actions are and what would be truly right or wrong if you try to turn it into an equation. But at the end of the day we all pretty much know what should be right and wrong. We just save ourselves from knowing that by not interrogating the assumptions that we’re operating under. And that’s how you feel, is that a lot of people in the Scholomance, they’re really just trying to survive, and El has so much compassion for them and that’s what makes you root for her through this, is that she doesn’t look around and say, these people suck. They’re not as good as I am for trying to save the school.

She has so much empathy because she was there, that all they’re doing is trying to survive and they’ve been given a really, really shitty hand. But ultimately, the only way that they are able to have their entire class graduate is by working together to blow up the Scholomance.

Adrian Rennix:      And El’s, in addition to being the main character, is also the narrator of the book. And she’s a very fun, and to me charming narrator, because she has this constant low-grade just annoyance bordering on murderousness towards almost everyone around her. And I listened to it on audio book, so I had this very just constantly irritated British girl just giving this endless monologue about how furious she is all the time.

But at the same time she’s in this very crotchety way, a very thoughtful and morally serious person. And so even as she’s sort of like, oh, God, I don’t want to think about this she’s spinning out, as Allegra was saying, all these different possibilities. So she’s kind of charming because she has these anti-hero qualities because she’s struggling against this predestined villain arc that she’s on. But she’s also not one of those a little bit tedious, morally gray characters you have sometimes where they do horrible things all the time, and then they’re like, what have I become? She’s very different from that, which I like.

Jessica Lam:     Yeah, I love that –

Adrian Rennix:     She’s doing good things all the time and thinking, oh, what have I become?

Jessica Lam:    Yeah, exactly. And I love that she makes mistakes, but you see her rationale behind it, and you can understand it. And I prefer to read works where people are good at what they’re doing and are just put in a bad situation. And she’s a teenager. I 100% don’t expect her to make the right decisions all the time and that wouldn’t make for a very good book, I think. But yeah, the author does a really good job in helping us understand why she does what she does.

Lyta Gold:          I want to talk a little bit more about her villain arc because I think it’s a really interesting idea. N.K. Jemisin made this point about where a lot of fantasy novels go where they’re like things start good, and then a bad thing intervenes, and then the good guys have to fight off the bad thing, and then things return to normal. It’s a very reactionary kind of thing. Or maybe you get a dystopian story where just bad things are happening and the heroes can maybe do something or not very much at all.

And Allegra actually wrote a great article about Cyberpunk, which does a lot of exactly that where it’s a dystopia but heroes can’t really do much so nothing really happens. Heroes are antiheroes really. But what’s neat about El is, again, she’s fighting against this instinct and this affinity for being a villain. But what does it mean to be a villain in an evil world? And what she finds, especially in the second book, is that being a villain means, as we’ve sort of already hinted at, means destroying the school, is destroying this evil place. But it’s not so simple to just destroy it because you have to destroy it in such a way that doesn’t just immediately open up every kid to get eaten. So yeah, so I wanted to explore that a little bit more, if we could, what good and evil means because it’s a complex thing.

Allegra Silcox:       [crosstalk].

Jessica Lam:     [crosstalk].

Lyta Gold:          No one’s ever had this discussion before.

Allegra Silcox:    Well, the villain arc is, one, just her proclivities which are for death magic, which is awesome and she’s hot and I want her to be my girlfriend. But her relatives are known for prophecies, and they prophesy that she’s going to destroy the world or destroy the enclaves. So you could read that as very murderous, she’s going to ruin the world. But what beautiful, beautiful, wonderful El is actually working towards in the second book is she has this burgeoning hope that she’s found this really rare tome that would allow her to create her own mini enclaves.

So you could also think of this prophecy as meaning a destruction of the status quo, that instead of having these really harmful rich people enclaves are quite exclusive, the only way for people to survive against the hungry, hungry mals. But instead, she wants to traipse across the world and make her own little mini enclaves for people that would otherwise have no protection. She is destroying the evil status quo for something better?

Lyta Gold:         Although I do wonder if those mini popup enclaves are like mini houses, like the mini houses that were like, oh, these people live in a 100-square foot house. [sings made-up jingle tune].

Allegra Silcox:   Do you think [crosstalk] .

Lyta Gold:          [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:   Yes. [crosstalk].

Jessica Lam:      Listen, El’s, going to – Just hashtag van life for El.

Dan Walden:      Just nothing but building tiny houses on condemned San Francisco property.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah.

Jessica Lam:       I mean, if we want to talk about a villain arc I think a really interesting one, I mean, I would argue that the main villain in the first book is the school, right? I mean, that’s what everyone is trying to fight against. And yeah, I don’t know. I got real emotional in the second book as the Scholomance became a character and you look back to all of the actions that they’ve taken. It, they, I don’t know how the Scholomance identifies. But yeah, that they’ve taken in the first book in terms of helping El realize her power, even though it was really painful, the fact that the Scholomance could just kind of tap into what a student’s affinity is and help guide them is so useful.

It would be extremely useful for literally any advisor, any teacher to just be able to look at you and be like, all right, I think you’re on this reading level. Have a personalized, customized learning plan for each student, right, based on where they are to offer proper challenge and support, having remedial education available if you can’t pass a certain level. If you can’t speak the language to do the spell you have to keep learning the language, and it’s going to suck, and you’re not going to want to do it. Yeah. In my most dictatory kind of moments, it would be a good power to have and that is my villain origin story, to bring it back to the villain.

But of course then the school also misses out on the really beautiful parts of… Not watching the students struggle. Again, I don’t want to watch students struggle, but watching them figure out what they actually like to do, versus what they may be good at. But I think that they start to explore that a lot in the second book. People are just bringing their talents to things that they’re interested in and they do really start to find themselves in this plan to, again, blow up the school. So yeah, there’s a lot of education-type feelings.

Lyta Gold:          See, the language thing is super interesting, Dan, if you want to get into that a little bit, since that’s such a feature of the storytelling.

Dan Walden:        Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was one of the things I… At some point in the first book, she says she was really gunning for a proto Indo-European seminar in her senior year. And I lit up.

Lyta Gold:              Nerd!

Dan Walden:        But no.

Lyta Gold:            Boo.

Dan Walden:       One of the really interesting organizing principles that she uses in this world, and one that she’s caught some flack for, I think most of it undeserved, is that the students basically sort themselves into communities based on what languages they speak. And the two biggest ones are English speakers and Mandarin speakers. And basically, everybody speaks one of the two, at least as a second language. But there’s a very substantial community of Hindi speakers, because the spells are done in various languages, and she says, if you’re going on a spell casting track, there’s basically two options. You either go languages. So if you have more languages, you have access to more spells.

And if it’s a very well-known, highly developed literary language, there’s usually a lot available. The other option they have is the creative writing track where they make up their own spells, which El attempted once and wound up with a spell for a super volcano.

Lyta Gold:           I just want to say how much I love that the creative writing kids suck. That’s just a completely useless track. It’s like, that’s what my school was. Yeah, that was the track that I went on in school. Yeah, look how that helped me. Great.

Dan Walden:  The way that Novik works out is, basically if you’re working on a language, you’re going to start getting spells in that language from the school to learn and the school –

Lyta Gold:         Yeah. You have to avoid even reading too many flyers in Sanskrit.

Dan Walden:         [crosstalk].

Lyta Gold:              Otherwise the school will be like, oh, you know Sanskrit? Sick. Here’s a bunch of books in Sanskrit that you’re now going to be tested on.

Dan Walden:          Right. Yeah. Yeah. The school’s definition of working on a language is extremely broad. I found that really amusing. At one point, El gets a book of like 99 useless household cleaning charms in old English. And she was like, well, fuck, I guess I have to brush up on this now. It comes in handy. This is a major plot point when she uncovers this old Sanskrit grimoire that was apparently copied in the enclave of Baghdad. So it’s in Sanskrit, but the script is Arabic, and it’s the grimoire of the original enclave building spells, and that becomes the basis for her big plan because she’s one of the only people who can pack enough power to actually pull that off.

Adrian Rennix:     To make these tiny houses. The tiny houses book, and I love it.

Lyta Gold:         Tiny houses book.

Adrian Rennix:       The languages thing is terrifying.

Lyta Gold:          Terrifying.

Adrian Rennix:  Yeah, that you could even look at a book wrong, and you have to learn that language. As someone who’s terrible languages, there’s even a part where she says in the book where El’s describing, basically, if you have a kid who’s bad at languages, you’re better off not sending them to the school at all because they will die and you might as well try to protect them at home because that’s how it’s going to go. So it’s kind of just like, there’s just these various barriers to entry that people have to get in. And as someone who is very bad at languages, I was like, oh, that would’ve been me.

Allegra Silcox:    Oh, I had two major reactions to the languages stuff that we’re talking about. One, Dan, you said you nerded out when she was doing her final seminar and she gets a special award for the extra effort that she puts into this translation work. And everyone’s very confused by this because basically, if you’re trying to survive, you are doing constant mental calculus for the exact amount of work you need to put into X, Y, and Z. Then you need to go home and do your pushups to build mana so that you can survive the graduation bloodbath. So every single thing that these kids do is extremely calculated to allow them to survive.

And I thought about this, Jessica, when you said a lot of educators are just trying to get through the day, and that’s what the book really drives home is that all these people are just trying to survive the day and then make plan for how they can survive the next year while also having this distant eye toward, if I make it out of here alive, how am I going to continue to survive? So one, obviously very applicable for all of our memories of high school, thinking about how to get through the day, how to get into a college that is then going to allow you to have a career that allows you to survive in the world. But because El actually had a passion for understanding this particular tome because of her beautiful Johnny Appleseed tiny house plan that she has, something good comes out of that.

So a lot of these things, she’s just incredible. Naomi Novik is just incredible, and there’s so many layers to everything. Because then I spent this time thinking about if you accept the status quo and the mental calculus that you’re supposed to do, it’s a risk, and it takes a lot of bravery and a lot of effort in order to try and think about doing something differently. Thinking about, I think that this book has something really incredible in it, so I’m going to put in the extra effort, even though I don’t actually know what the reward is going to be, I’m going to try and convince all these people to join my crazy plan to lure more dangerous, scary mals into the school so that I can then use my fun, super volcano spell that I accidentally made up one time to blow up the school.

It makes it extremely clear exactly what the cost of deviating from the accepted patterns of behavior in the school are, just by making it obvious how crazy it was that she did extra work on her dissertation. Weird. I love her. I love her so much.

Jessica Lam:       I will say that. Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Lyta Gold:          No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Jessica Lam:        Oh, I was just going to say, well, before I forget, I do want to just quickly note that Naomi Novik does a really great job explaining a lot of stuff, including the fact that El is hot because she does a lot of workouts, just like labor is hot, and Orion is kind of explained in the same way. So sure, I’ll take your word for it.

But I actually really dug the way El’s entire first half of the second year turned out. So basically she’s given this schedule where it’s a lot of extremely difficult seminars, and she has a free period, which is kind of fake because she spends it practicing spells to save younger students. And she spends a lot of time instead on that Sanskrit grim that Dan mentioned earlier, because she knows that there’s value in learning those skills. And some of the other classroom assignments kind of fall by the wayside, and she gets help from students and passes those classes.

And all that is to say that, I think grades are fake, and I think that we shouldn’t use them. What you should get out of college and school is the skills that you can get out of it that’s actually useful to you and you shouldn’t stress out about classes that you just have to take because the school thinks you should.

Lyta Gold:           There’s a really big question throughout of why any of the kids are going through the motions of school, or doing any of the things. And I think in the hands of a lesser writer, this would just be like Lord of the Flies. They would just be like kids attacking each other. But people really think like, if I do these things, if I just do what I’m supposed to do, what I’m told, and obey the rules, and I learn how to avoid the monsters in the cafeteria line, then I’ll be okay. Then I have a good shot at making it.

And that fear is such an effective form of social control. It’s actually really… Again, there’s no adults. I mean, there’s really nobody forcing these kids to do anything. But their belief that, if I just obey the rules I’ve got a shot is sufficient to make them… Again, you would think, again, they’d be horrible to each other. They’d physically hurt each other. And other than the kids who go sort of dark wizard track and drink other’s mana, there’s really not much in the way of harming each other. There aren’t fights, there aren’t rapes, there aren’t things like that at all.

Allegra Silcox:     And there are interesting things too though where they almost… in some ways when the kids kind of subvert the school’s intentions it’s because of these larger enclave dynamics and politics. There’s a whole thing that’s talked about a lot in the first book that because it’s not easy for wizards to enter from the outside to perform maintenance on the school, each student gets assigned a certain amount of maintenance tasks that they’re supposed to do. And in practice it’s supposed to be spread across the entire student body, but in reality what ends up happening is that the poorer kids, or the kids who are not part of the enclaves take and do all the maintenance in return for favors from the more well-off kids.

I mean, if you want to be super literal about it, it’s kind of like what kids at your school had to work a part- or full-time job in order to make ends meet while they were going to school. But it is also just another example of how class dynamics play into everything that’s happening in the school, especially in the first book, and then in the second book about how some of those things start to be more acknowledged and broken down in some respects as they realize that they all actually do have to put in work together.

Dan Walden: Yeah. Let’s talk about the kids sort of sticking with the status quo as a survival instinct. I mean, during when I was in graduate school, I mean, I taught undergrads for I think, combined, 10 semesters. And I would see this all the time, that you have young students, most of the time my students were first years who were one, conscious of the fact that they got into the University of Michigan. And so they got a leg up that a lot of people didn’t get, but they’re also extremely conscious of the precarity of their position, of the fact that post-2008, we are not living in the same economy we used to live in and it’s entirely possible and indeed likely that they will end up poorer than their parents.

And the amount of anxiety that creates and the amount of stifling of their impulse to maybe do something that they might like in order to have a steady income to go with something safe in order to have a steady income and health insurance, something I saw over and over and over again. And it’s the same phenomenon. You see that played out in very elite private schools, and you see that played out at Harvard and Yale, the playing it safe is what leads people to go work for iBanks or work for McKenzie. This is how you make it, this is how you get comfortable, this is how you get a $200,000-a-year salary and not have to worry about things anymore.

And yeah, along the way, all you did was just the stuff you were supposed to do, and you don’t see the harm that that does because that harm is removed from you. It’s out of sight. The whole system has been created to keep it out of sight. The other thing Novik does really well is that most of the enclave kids have no fucking idea what it’s like for other people. They don’t know –

Lyta Gold:         Yeah, they are so clueless.

Dan Walden:           Yeah. Novik’s very, very good. And this is one of the things I love about El’s realization. She can’t hate these people because it’s not their fault. They didn’t build this, and they’re totally clueless about, like Allegra said, totally clueless about how it works. She concludes very reluctantly they have to be part of the solution too.

Lyta Gold:                 This is why El’s path radicalization is so simple and pure and perfect. It’s like, I will join the status quo. So she’s like, I will earn a path in an enclave spot. Then she goes to, I simply cannot. It’s immoral of me to even consider this, so I will reject the status quo. And then step three, I will moonraker the status quo and rebuild a new world from the ashes. I’m not saying I’m an accelerationist, but…

Jessica Lam:    Would that be your villain origin story? Moonraking the status quo?

Allegra Silcox:      Some days, I would dearly love to, some days, particularly today. And vibes are bad out here, you guys.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah. It’s a weird time. Yeah, getting back to the point that the enclave kids have to be brought in, and in the end, they’re not left behind, and they do learn to work with everybody which is actually very great and helpful because they have all these resources. There’s a great line in the second book when she’s talking about why this happens. This is in El’s narration. She says, “The enclave kids had been told, just like the school itself, that Manchester and London and their heroic allies who had built the Scholomance out of generosity and care trying to save the wizard children of the world. And maybe just like the school, it had sunk in more than their parents might have wanted. Or maybe if you only gave someone a reasonable chance of doing some good, even an enclave kid might take it.”

So it’s kind of an interesting… Very often, the way that these things are set up is like, well, people misbehave and people are terrible to each other because they’re very poor, and they’re desperate, and they’re fighting each other to survive. This is the idea that the enclave kids, the rich kids are not… The enclave kids have the opportunity and the possibility of being good also. They’re set up to manipulate other people, they’re set up to hurt other people, they’re set up to just take the maintenance kids’ work, and not think about it, just think like, oh, that’s the way it is. You’re an enclave kid, then maintenance kids do the work for you.

But if you put them in a position where they can actually take and feel solidarity with other people, they might go for it. And it’s a pretty radical proposition, and I want to think a lot of socialists would be very upset about me. We have all these fights all the time about who’s really working class and who’s really rich and all of that. But I think a lot of that gets away from the point of what incentives are you offering people? How do you incentivize solidarity above hierarchy, above survival? And it’s a complicated thing, but you actually can incentivize solidarity, and make that be the more… You give people the chance and the opportunity to do good. I don’t think everybody would go for it, but there’s certainly a lot of people who would go for it.

Adrian Rennix:           Yeah. And it’s kind of funny too that even though in the second book, especially, El and Orion, who are these unusually gifted once-in-a-generation talents, they have this integral role in the plan that the student body is forming. But it’s interesting that every person has to contribute something or it won’t work. For example, there’s this one I really like. There’s this one character named Liesel who initially seems like she’s going to be kind of a villain character because she’s the gunner valedictorian who then gets kind of shown up by El because El’s been secretly doing this Arabic translation project that no one knew about [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:         Also very hot, Liesel.

Jessica Lam:      Yeah.

Adrian Rennix:     Yeah, Liesel, very hot. And they have some kind of contentious run-ins. And then it turns out that because Liesel’s super organized and has a real eye for knowing what people’s talents are, is an incredible organizer, and she’s the one who’s kind of like, what we need to do to make our plan successful is have everybody do the thing that they’re really good at and look for places where they can be helpful. And so even though she kind of like… El’s like annoyed by her constantly because she’s super pushy, but she also has really great ideas, and there’s this similar energy throughout the entire book that you can’t…

Obviously, there’s always going to be people who are at the front of movements, who are the faces of movements, or who have really special skills that make them important to movements, but also that every single person in the movement has something that they have to bring, and that no one can sit it out. So it’s a very kind of cool progression. And again, unexpectedly, you think that things are going to be simpler than they are, that it’s going to be kind of a simple hero narrative and that it ends up being this more like everybody has to try to find heroism in themselves in order to make it succeed.

Allegra Silcox: I want to make it clear too, that if you haven’t read the books, we’re making it sound like… I think it’s still very fun to read even if you didn’t give a shit about capitalism or socialism or anything. There’s some books that I read and I’m like, wow, the heavy hand of the author trying to make me care about this allegory. It’s not it at all, and Naomi Novik’s a gem.

Lyta Gold:        Yes. It’s really not allegorical in its way. It’s really like the stuff is below the surface, to be sure.

Dan Walden:      Yeah. Or I would say the relationship is clear, but it’s not at all heavy-handed.

Lyta Gold:               Yeah. That’s fair.

Allegra Silcox:     Yeah. It’s just very interesting to me, and it feels extremely organic. So Lyta mentioned that I am the one who said this is a good capitalism metaphor, you should read it. On page 10 or something, I wanted to send that DM to Lyta. But because it wasn’t so obvious, I was like, oh, what if I say this, and she’s like, don’t see it, you’re an idiot. I spent my whole life avoiding Lyta calling me an idiot.

Lyta Gold:          No. I would never.

Allegra Silcox:         It’s just the deep need for her approval that I have. And then that’s why it’s so successful, and I feel this way about actually all of Naomi Novik’s writing, is that you’re truly led to the water and it’s your choice what you drink and how. Great book, love it.

Lyta Gold:              So I want to close with two quick lightning rounds, if we can. First lightning round, just go around. Well, actually, maybe we’ll do three. First one is when, if you were a student in this school, at what point do you think you would die? Because I would die immediately. I would be like the first freshman killed, for sure. How long do you guys think you would make it?

Adrian Rennix:    I hate that I think I would be successful, and then ultimately probably hang myself in my room out of guilt about my success. So maybe like junior year.

Lyta Gold:             I see that.

Jessica Lam:     I think I would die in the middle of my second year. I think I would spend my first year trying to learn the rules and trying to figure things out, and then I’d get too comfortable. I would be like, yeah, I know how this works. I’m going to grind my way through this. And then I don’t know, I’m going to go to the bathroom by myself or something, and something’s going to get me.

Allegra Silcox:      My only chance of survival would be to glom on to someone with more talent who is entertained by my banter and make them protect me. Because other than that, again, the languages thing, I wouldn’t be able to learn these spells. I would start to panic. I would go to the cafeteria, I’d be super hungry. I wouldn’t check the thing. The slugs would get me. There are just so many ways that could go wrong. So yeah, I need a lot of help, probably would die pretty early.

Dan Walden:      50/50. Either I sleep in and get eaten sometime in my second year, or maybe I die during graduation because I am very, very, very good at languages.

Lyta Gold:               You might.

Jessica Lam:       [crosstalk].

Lyta Gold:           I don’t know who else would make it, actually.

Jessica Lam:        I was going to say that the only reason I’d survive till second year is because I do speak both English and Chinese, both Mandarin and Cantonese. Thank you, parents. Thank you for immigrating.

Adrian Rennix:   Yeah, my fucking parents, I’m going to badly mispronounce the spell in Spanish, and accidentally implode my own face.

Allegra Silcox:       Would any of us even have gotten into the school? I don’t think my parents could have got me a spot.

Adrian Rennix:    Oh, no.

Lyta Gold:              Oh, yeah. We’d probably just be eaten by mals in our own homes as teens.

Allegra Silcox:      Yeah, yeah.

Lyta Gold:               Yeah. You wondered if these wizards have horror movies, because what’s the point? We love our horror movies. Our teens get eaten, and that’s just their lives, that’s just their casual lives.

Adrian Rennix:       Now, you know what, I’d plan a really great day, and then just hang out, basically become a honey pot trap for mals. Just have a really great day, and end on a high note with my friends.

Lyta Gold:    I like that, actually.

Allegra Silcox:        This reminds me of a Deep Space Nine episode I just watched, but I’m going to save you guys from my tangent.

Lyta Gold:          All right, lighting round number two, real quick, what do you think your… So the Scholomance is going to figure out what your affinity is, and feed you spells that are related to it. What do you think your affinity would be? Could be for Dan as languages seem pretty obvious. Yeah, any ideas? I think I would blow things up, just a specific exploding things affinity. But again, I’m going to die very quickly in this scenario, regardless. So I might get to explode one classroom, and that’s it.

Allegra Silcox:        I don’t know. Maybe some of the potion shit. What do they call it? Alchemy?

Lyta Gold:             Yeah.

Allegra Silcox: Because that seems tedious and boring, and something a type-A person would do, which, sadly, guilty. Yeah, because artificer is too hard. You’re telling me I have to do something with my hands?

Lyta Gold:            [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:        You’re telling me I have to break a sweat. No, thank you.

Lyta Gold:             No, not good at that.

Dan Walden:         Based on my play style from when I used to play Magic: The Gathering, whatever my affinity would be, it would be extremely annoying.

Allegra Silcox:     What kind of deck do you play? Never mind. Stop it. Stop it.

Lyta Gold:            This is what I’m telling you about the ultimate nerd girl right here.

Adrian Rennix:    Yeah. I don’t know. I assume the Scholomance would just be giving me weird medieval texts that were pretty funny and I enjoyed them, but I believe there were no spells involved, so I’m like, well, I don’t know what I was supposed to do with this. Yeah. No, all of the affinities that people have seem like they require some level of manual dexterity and also a mind for how systems work. Again, this is going to go poorly for me.

Lyta Gold:            I could see getting a puns affinity, all of your spells are puns. It’s all just like [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:    Yeah, creative writing, but it’s just like all limericks.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah.

Adrian Rennix:       Okay, wait.

Lyta Gold:        All medieval limericks.

Adrian Rennix:  I figured it out. So in a lot of medieval Irish texts, satire is a thing that has magical power. If you satirize someone well enough, you can actually disfigure or kill them. So if that’s a thing –

Allegra Silcox:     Are you fucking kidding me?

Adrian Rennix: …I could probably do the satire track.

Allegra Silcox:      Are you fucking kidding? Incredible.

Adrian Rennix:  Yeah, yeah. No, you got to be careful. Actually, there’s a lot of stuff about lady satirists have a lot of power to, in a somewhat creepy non-consensual way, make kings have sex with them because otherwise, she’s going to write a satire about you and you’re going to lose your throne because people are going to think you’re a fucking idiot. So yeah, satire track, that’s mine. That’s probably it. It’ll work. No one will murder you.

Jessica Lam:         This is a build your own major school. No, I think I would want to be an artificer because I want to live my cottage core dream of just working with my hands and doing stuff. But let’s be honest, I’m a maintenance kid. I want things to work. I just want to fix things. Yeah, so I’m easily manipulated. Yeah.

Lyta Gold:          But you would be very useful. This is part of your survival strategy because you’d make yourself so indispensable.

Allegra Silcox:       Is it arrogant if I say that just whatever Liesel did, that’s probably what I would do?

Lyta Gold:            I didn’t kind of want to say it, but you’re… Liesel reminded me of you, like a lot.

Allegra Silcox:        Dan and I bet $5 that you would say I was Liesel. And you never did, and I was like, honestly, at this point I’m kind of offended that you don’t think I’m Liesel.

Lyta Gold:              I was thinking 20 minutes ago, but I was like, what if she’s offended by that because Liesel does seem like kind of a bitch at first? [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:  She does. I mean, I’m both extremely flattered, and also going to murder you in your sleep, so –

Adrian Rennix:     Liesel, the only person getting stuff done, and also taking the time to try to get laid at the Scholomance. So respect for Liesel, Liesel has it all figured out.

Dan Walden:   Yeah.

Lyta Gold:          Liesel apologist.

Dan Walden:       Liesel, one of like three people in these books whoever has sex.

Allegra Silcox:       Yeah. That’s actually what I would do, is I would start up the sex-ed program. Okay, so the background being, there’s a lot of angst about sex because there’s no way to do birth control with magic because of something, something magic. And so you’re like, if you get pregnant in the Scholomance, that’s really bad. That’s just not going to help your chance of survival. But apparently, either Naomi Novik doesn’t know, or none of these children know about hand jobs.

Lyta Gold:            [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:       [crosstalk].

Adrian Rennix:        They’re no teachers in this school except Allegra, who’s just a one-woman machine on the sex-ed track.

Allegra Silcox:        Yes. Maybe the sex-ed booth is some language that no one understands at the Scholomance so they’re like, well, I hope that lesson wasn’t important.

Dan Walden:        The angst of birth control and stuff, that’s… El is the only one who has that problem because El is the only relationship we see that’s heterosexual.

Allegra Silcox:   Yeah, that’s true.

Lyta Gold:             That’s true.

Allegra Silcox:        That is true. Yeah.

Lyta Gold:               Yeah. That’s true. El got… Her dad, there’s a tragic story with her dad, and so she’s like, oh, I don’t want to get pregnant, and then have a kid who doesn’t have a dad because they got eaten in graduation [crosstalk]. Classic teen problems.

Allegra Silcox:     Her mom was pregnant when she left, and then her dad got eaten by the graduation hall, as one does. So yeah [crosstalk].

Adrian Rennix:        I love the dead dad story that doesn’t result in daddy issues in the main character. She is just evil, but it has nothing to do with the abandonment, really, from her father. Just because her mother was really transparent about what happened.

Allegra Silcox:    Yeah.

Dan Walden:          I’d say the issues are from her dad’s extremely shitty family who tried to murder her when she was a baby.

Lyta Gold:             Because she had an evil prophecy about her, which, you know, fair.

Allegra Silcox:    Wait, you guys seriously, I checked my little Kindle highlights leading up to the podcast. Didn’t highlight very much. But all of the ones that I did highlight were insane, and she talks about like, “I’ve had that scream inside me since I was nine,” that I think was about when she thought she was going to be safe living with her family. But no, nope, she’s stuck out there. Tasty, tasty treat for all the mals that she and her mom are fighting off just in a hippie commune, just the two of them, no protection.

Jessica Lam:      To be fair, there is a certain kind of person who loves to get into competitions of strength about would you or would you not kill baby Hitler? So this is –

Allegra Silcox:      Exactly.

Jessica Lam:         …Just like they got what they think might be a baby Hitler situation on their hands. So what are you going to do?

Dan Walden:         Although they do note that, to sort of highlight how alarmed they were, and they note that this was a strict man of the Brothman family that was so committed to nonviolence that they refused to join the Mumbai enclave because the place wasn’t a strict mana.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah, strict mana, yeah, meaning that you take mana from work.

Dan Walden:         You never cheat work.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah, you never cheat by stealing it from living beings, which is evil. Yeah. I don’t know. I’d probably cheat in this world, to be completely honest. That seems real easy, and seems like what… There are people who are jerks. I think that’s fair.

Jessica Lam:        I also just hate physical activity, I’ll be honest.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. Yeah. The idea of doing all of my pushups, [I would far] rather just eat somebody.

Allegra Silcox:     Well, you can also knit, so that’s very Lyta-appropriate, but it’s like the more you hate what you’re doing, the more mana you get. So if you start liking to knit, then it’s like, oh, no more free points for you.

Jessica Lam:       But, yeah, there’s –

Dan Walden:       Although, I do like the idea of building mana by getting hot.

Adrian Rennix:       I’m just devastated by this idea of this world where I have to do a pushup, and then try to say something in another language [inaudible].

Allegra Silcox:         And get literally no hand jobs.

Adrian Rennix:   Yeah.

Allegra Silcox:      You can’t get finger blasted –

Adrian Rennix:   Apparently, nobody knows.

Allegra Silcox:      …No hand jobs.

Lyta Gold:               Nobody knows how to do hand stuff in this school at all, apparently. Speaking of hand stuff and hotness, our final lighting round, we’re going to do a fuck, marry, kill.

Dan Walden:        All right.

Lyta Gold:             All right. Ready for it. Fuck, marry, kill El, Orion, any monster, any of the monsters. Those are your three.

Allegra Silcox:     You’ve set a trap for me. I don’t want to seem like one of the other girls.

Lyta Gold:       I would marry the monster, I’m just saying it right now.

Adrian Rennix:    I feel like you’ve set a trap for all of us because they’re teenagers.

Lyta Gold:          I have. They’re teenagers.

Allegra Silcox:  Oh, shit.

Adrian Rennix:        Oh, shit.

Lyta Gold:                Assume they’re 18. Okay? Presumably.

Adrian Rennix:      Aged up. Aged up.

Allegra Silcox:        [crosstalk].

Adrian Rennix:    [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:       Age 18, and we don’t have to say what kind of monster we would marry.

Lyta Gold:   Yeah, any monster. El, love her, great character, could not marry her. Could not. Orion, probably hot, probably a good lay [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:       Okay. I would marry El. I would marry El in a heartbeat. Big titty goth GF all the way, 10 out of 10. I don’t care how miserable she makes me. It’s worth it. Would fuck Orion. Would kill the mals. I mean, I’m sorry, there is not a single appetizing mal in the entire fucking gate.

Lyta Gold:              [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:  There’s the maggot end of the spectrum, and then there’s the, if you even look upon it, you’ll be visited with a horror for the rest of your life.

Dan Walden:          Yeah, you’re right. Yeah, they range from little bug to Lovecraftian horror.

Lyta Gold:          Would you fuck the Lovecraftian horror?

Dan Walden:          I don’t think that’s possible.

Adrian Rennix:       I mean, one question I would have, again, I realize I have a one-track mind here, but I’m thinking about how to not die in this fucking school. If I marry the monster, will it be loyal to me and keep me alive? Because if that’s so I’ll marry the eldritch horror. That’s fine. [crosstalk].

Lyta Gold:               Yeah, yeah. Maybe the marriage is you voluntarily feeding it mana instead of it eating you. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.

Dan Walden:           Wait, the question is, if you marry a maw-mouth which has devoured other people, and there’s a lot to suggest that they’re still alive in there –

Lyta Gold:       Is it a polycule?

Dan Walden:        …Is that automatically polygamy?

Lyta Gold:              Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Allegra Silcox:         Yeah. You’re in a polycule now.

Adrian Rennix:   I mean, but till death do us part Dan, the maw-mouths take it very seriously. You can never leave, ever.

Lyta Gold:          You can never leave.

Adrian Rennix:       Until you die.

Lyta Gold:     Until you explode [crosstalk].

Dan Walden:          Yeah, maw-mouths have a polyamorous… Maw-mouths are a cross between poly people and Catholics, apparently.

Lyta Gold:             Oh God, it’s the worst combination of anyone [inaudible].

Allegra Silcox:     It’s going to be some really gloomy Graham Greene kind of novel about wanting to divorce the maw-mouth, but not being able to bring yourself to do it. Yeah. So that’s the next, that’s going to be the fourth book in this series [inaudible].

Lyta Gold:                I Married a Maw-Mouth.

Jessica Lam:      I think I would marry the mal collective. Right? If this is a polygamous situation with all the mals, so written contract and everything, I don’t play. And then I would both fuck and kill Orion. Okay, here’s my reason. Okay, I’d like Orion. Sure, a harmless golden retriever boy. Understood. So have a great experience, but I do have to kill you because you are incentivized to kill all of my wives, so –

Allegra Silcox:    Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got to. He’s coming for your wife.

Jessica Lam:          …I have to protect her. Yeah. I assume [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:    Mister kill your girl. Mister kill girl is coming to get your wives.

Jessica Lam:       But I just want to kill him, have a good time, and then I just leave El alone. She’s got a lot going on. Yeah.

Allegra Silcox:       Yeah. You know what? Leave El alone.

Lyta Gold:             Did we get everybody down? Dan I don’t think we had a full –

Dan Walden:         Yeah. I could marry El. She’s a busy working woman anyway. Absolutely bang Orion.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dan Walden:       And yeah, and let the Lovecraftian horrors die.

Jessica Lam:         And now we all know who played Renegade in Mass Effect.

Allegra Silcox:        Screaming. Screaming. Yes. Okay. I was full Paragon. Leave me alone.

Lyta Gold:           Oh, man.

Allegra Silcox:     I just want solidarity for everyone. Okay?

Lyta Gold:             And on that note, we will end it here and some other day do a Mass Effect episode, because we could get into it. But yeah, thank you all for coming, joining me today. Yeah. Guys, have any last things, anything you want to plug or talk about, or any more weird sex things you want to speculate on?

Allegra Silcox:   Well, I was about to profess my love for you. But on that ending, it’s going to sound a little perverted, I guess.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. Well I’m not a Lovecraftian horror though, so I feel a little… I’m not like a polycule of monster wives, which [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:       As far as we know.

Lyta Gold:              As far as we know.

Dan Walden:        [crosstalk].

Allegra Silcox:      I mean, but spiritually, you are, and that’s what matters to me, is what’s inside.

Dan Walden:          I was going to say everyone needs goals to work toward.

Lyta Gold:            All right. Yeah. So all right, next episode we’re going to work on those goals, and we’ll be in touch. But anyway, thanks panel for joining me. Thanks to all our listeners for listening to Art for the End Times. If you’d like to hear more of the show, if you’d like to hear the other wonderful shows on the Real News Network, please subscribe to the Real News Network feed, and you can get all the shows at once. Thanks again, and we’ll catch you next time.

Lyta Gold

Lyta Gold is a freelance writer and editor. She is also the host of the TRNN podcast Art for the End Times. Follow her at @lyta_gold.