This Metaphorical Bar ep 14: Weather

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Who We Are

I’m Karen Healey,  an author and teacher living in Otautahi New Zealand, and yesterday I got hella sunburned.

I’m Robyn Fleming, a parent and writer in Tucson, Arizona. Last month I went to the Grand Canyon with Karen, and it was beautiful! But also super fucking cold and I slipped on ice and fell RIGHT on my butt. And my pride.

I’m Carla M Lee, an author, artist, and attorney living in the Midwest USA, and I had two different birthday trips cancelled do to storms that took Missouri from 70 degrees to blizzard.

What We’re Drinking

Karen: Lime La Croix because trying to stop drinking so much diet Coke.

Robyn: Plain water.

Carla: Peach vodka + orange juice.

Episode Summary

Topic: Weather

  • We were supposed to record this episode all in the same place, visiting Robyn in Tucson, but could not. Due to weather. BOOOOO.
    • Carla learned that babies have butts bigger than hands, thanks to Robyn schooling her. Good times.
  • Weather can be wild and weird and happens differently in different areas, something that authors need to be aware of.
  • Topic came about because Karen and Robyn were talking about fauna in New Zealand and how they don’t have any really big dangerous animals (just two spider species that rarely kill people), but both tectonic events and weather will kill people.
    • Weather is a constant part of our lives, it affects people everywhere.
  • BTW, global climate change: real and impacted by humanity. No debate here.
  • Types of weather (that can kill you)
    • New Zealand: Can have beautiful sunny days, but heat and sun can kill, dry riverbeds will not be dry for long, etc.
    • Missouri: Near 60s or so, but just came off negative degrees and have been back and forth.
    • Arizona: Also 60s or so, but that is cold weather for Tucson.
    • Arizona rarely has fatal animal attacks, too, but the weather can also kill, especially the heat and the flooding during monsoon season (especially flash flooding) that is not normally associated with the desert if you don’t have experience there.
    • Missouri: Cold winters, hot humid summers, tornadoes, flooding, and some earthquakes (New Madrid fault line), etc. Northern Missouri is more like the central plain states, southern Missouri is much more like the southeast.
  • Who Writes Weather Well and How
    • Most of the books we read mostly skim over weather unless they are specifically about people surviving the weather – survivalist genre (fantasy, adventure, etc.).
      • Survivalism and cli-fi (climate change dystopian fiction) pay most attention.
      • Is some of that because a big chunk of books are set in cities and an assumption can be that people living in cities are separated from the weather (though that’s not necessarily true, especially for people who use public transit and have to know what the weather is so they can dress for it whereas car culture areas can avoid the weather a lot more).
    • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen does this well, and the sequels are basically canon divergent alternate universes (which is a fantastic idea) about how the main character would deal with winter, etc.
      • Once you strip away all the protections, we are dangerously vulnerable to the weather.
    • Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series has a park ranger main character has a ton of good weather around survival
    • Weather as antagonist, weather as setting, and weather as mood (the pathetic fallacy – weather reflects what’s going on in the emotional lives of people but doesn’t have to be just weather, though that’s most common).
    • See lots of weather tropes (dark and stormy night, trapped in a cabin due to snowstorm, running through the rain to catch a person, etc.).
    • Subversion of tropes can be cool: Men in Black 2 and Storm in X-Men, weather really can echo what people are feeling because those people control the weather.
    • Moira J. Moore’s Resenting the Hero series – in one book, the two main characters travel to a different continent and it changes their lives in part because the weather influences how they see the world.
    • Karen Healey’s While We Wake and While We Run duology – fire event is a direct result of climate change, lots of focus on the future weather. It’s become a closer prophecy than she intended them to be.
    • Characters being affected by the weather is a real thing, too, and dark winters in particular can be hard on people without them even realizing it.
      • Rarely see this and the work around it (lamp treatment, etc.).
    • Weather turns up in horror, too, in different ways of tropes and pathetic fallacy, etc.
      • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King surviving being lost in the woods
      • Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child does desert flash flooding really, creepily well (but does have some difficult treatment of Native American stories and characters).
    • Science fiction, people on a planet are all identical in their culture and sometimes planets are all desert planets or all planets, but done in a way that things are silly — a planet is not a country.
      • Lois McMaster Bujold does worldbuilding around this very well.
      • Andrea K Höst’s Touchstone series has interesting and fun worldbuilding around weather and how that varies between planets and how people have to adapt to it when moving from one planet to another.
    • Pamela Dean writes good weather in all of her books — Tam Lin is one example, how protagonist judges people based on how well they can take care of themselves in the cold
    • Stephanie Burgis
    • Zen Cho
  • One of the reasons people don’t write the weather is that characters don’t really notice the weather if it’s stable and not new to them.
    • Karen and Robyn’s Empress of Timbra rarely touches on the weather because to the characters it’s all normal.
    • Carla argues that you get building descriptions and clothing descriptions, but the weather tends to only show up if it is extreme, but she wants to see it done in the same casual way that touches on the things that are normal.
      • This shows up more in romance, though, per Robyn, idle observations about weather occur because it is such a description-driven type of storytelling.
      • Karen agrees that the small-talk weather should be included, too.
  • Robyn finds it weird that few historical romances, even paranormal ones, are set during the Year Without a Summer (which happened because of a volcanic winter event).
    • Robyn then shames Carla for not knowing that it led to the writing of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Karen reminds Robyn that we don’t shame people for not knowing things. Carla reminds people that it’s okay to admit you don’t know things.
      • This is all very tongue in cheek, for the most part.
  • Robyn explains swamp coolers (evaporative coolers), which cool by blowing very dry air across wet padding and we talk about air conditioners and heat pumps, etc.
    • Robyn assumes people know that heat pumps are also air conditioners, which is optimistic of her since neither Karen nor Carla immediately jump to that reading of it.
  • Weather can also be dangerous when it gets into your home and makes perfect environment for black mold, etc. (often happens in older estate housing in New Zealand).
  • Hope that as people write about big weather events in the future, authors think about not using the very real tragedies as props for the stories they’re telling.
  • Favorite type of weather to write
    • Carla: big storms of all kinds, something dangerous and beautiful
    • Robyn: Mostly writes her characters in a blank white void, so completely neutral weather is her default
    • Karen: Fog and mist, Guardian of the Dead has a lot of that, it’s spooky, there are monsters in the fog, but you are hidden and secret in the fog, too

Things Mentioned in the Episode

Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Bartender

Karen: What did you think of your period panties?

Liked them a lot and will probably get some more. Product includes things she likes about pads, no insertions, but without stuff she doesn’t like of pads, e.g., it moves around or sticks to body parts. Loves that she can rinse them and wash with the rest of her clothes. Expensive, but worth it for her, and company is donating to period poverty in New Zealand.

Find Us Online

Carla: @carlamlee on TwitterTumblrInstagram
Karen: @kehealey on Twitter, @karenhealey on Tumblr, and
Robyn: @robyn_writing on Twitter

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