Posted on September 29, 2020 Posted by Athena Scalzi 25 Comments
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for (since last Monday)! I have picked a handful of questions from all your lovely inquires. If I didn’t pick yours, I’m sorry, there were seriously a ton of really good ones that I did not pick simply because I didn’t have a solid, clear cut answer, or because I wouldn’t be able to answer them in just a paragraph or less. Anyways, without further ado:
jeffbaker307 asks: Do you write any short stories?
Yes! Short stories are like my specialty. That and poetry, especially haikus, because writing long things is kind of proving to be harder than I thought it would be. But, yeah, I love short stories! I used to write a lot more of them when I was in high school and had to constantly write short stories for creative writing class, but I definitely still enjoy it. In fact, I shared one of my short stories on here back when I was writing in 2018!
Susan asks: What is your favorite dinosaur?
I have always really loved long necks, aka the brachiosaurus. Just really seems like a gentle giant, you know? I love that they’re so huge and yet they’re herbivores. They’re always portrayed in dinosaur movies as the super friendly nice ones, and I think it’s made me biased. But honestly their design is just so cool, I mean they’re just ridiculously tall! Like their head had to have been twenty degrees colder than their legs at all times.
David Karger asks: It sounds like you live in an area where your neighbors are rather more conservative than your parents. Has growing up there pulled your politics to the right of your parents as well?
Oh lord no. I’m super far left. Which, in my opinion, anyone who is “radically left” isn’t really that far left, they just want basic human rights afforded to everyone, which isn’t that radical, but some people think it is. I guess I’d say I’m liberal, but I agree with a ton of socialist type stuff, too. In my mind, everyone should have access to a home, a hot meal, and a shower, no matter what. Homelessness and starvation is a failure of our government to serve its people. Growing up here has made me experience Trump supporters and their hatred first hand, and I’m more left than ever.
AlexaJade asks: What is your favorite flower?
I love all flowers! There’s so many fantastic, beautiful, colorful ones. But I’ve always been partial to tiger lilies. There’s something about seeing a big patch of them growing wild in a ditch and swaying in the breeze while driving down a country road. I first saw one when I was ten, at my friend’s grandparents’ house, and her grandma gave me some bulbs, so I could plant them, too. But they never grew. I wish my yard had them, like so many naturally do around here. Any bouquet is automatically enhanced by lilies. They’re show stoppers. It’s funny, orange is my least favorite color, and yet tiger lilies just really take the cake.
mopiegirl asks: I’ve always loved the name Athena; how do you feel about your name (and/or nicknames)?
Thank you! I actually really love my name, I’m so glad my parents named me it (shoutout to them and their awesome name skills). I have always loved Greek mythology, which may or may not be a result of narcissism because of my name, especially since Athena has always been my favorite and I adore her. I also like my name for more vain reasons. I like when strangers tell me my name is pretty, when people say it’s such a beautiful name. I dislike nicknames.
The Wooglie asks: What’s your favorite TV show you’ve watched in 2020 so far?
I don’t watch a lot of TV shows, it’s hard for me to have patience to watch like, nine seasons of something, especially if it’s one of those shows where seasons 1 and 2 are pretty good and then the rest absolutely blow. But I do really like Lucifer, especially since Netflix took over and they only have like ten episodes per season instead of like twenty-five. However, I think The Boys on Amazon Prime is the winner here. It is quite the show. I highly recommend it. I’m currently keeping up with the episodes of season 2 they’ve been releasing weekly, and it’s getting wild. Who am I kidding, it was wild from the get go! I adore it.
Hillary Rettig asks: Which college course to date has had the biggest impact on you, and why?
I would say my favorite so far, and the one that has been the most impactful, was Children’s Literature, aka ENG 262. I passed with a B+! I took it in the spring of my freshman year. It was wonderful! My professor was this lil’ ol’ lady who wore sweaters and skirts everyday and read us picture books. In the class, we started off the semester with picture books like Where the Wild Things Are, and then worked our way up through books such as Charlotte’s Web, Holes, The Giver, The Outsiders, and The Hunger Games. I had to do a report over The Outsiders and honestly, digging deeper into a children’s book I had read in seventh grade was kind of eye opening. There’s so much more packed into these books than you realize. Children’s authors are tasked with taking a great story and making it accessible for young readers, and that is an incredible talent. Children’s authors are shaping the minds of the future, and that’s no small feat. I had never considered being a children’s author before, but now I’m kind of considering it. I want to be a lot of things, y’know? Literature has a lot of variety.
Chris M asks: You were a vegetarian and stopped, weren’t you? What are your reasons then and now and what are your opinions on the ethics of meat consumption?
I was vegetarian for five years, starting when I was eleven, almost twelve, and ending on my 18th birthday. I went to Minicon when I was eleven and met a vegetarian named Isabel, and I had a conversation with her about vegetarianism. I couldn’t imagine not eating meat, but our conversation enlightened me. I started thinking about how utterly fucked up the meat industry is. Factory farming is an abhorrent thing, one of humanity’s cruelest creations, and after doing what meager research an eleven year old can do, I became too disgusted and sad with the idea of eating meat, so I stopped, cold turkey. I stopped for no good reason other than that I grew tired of it.
It’s not super hard to be vegetarian, but it does take more effort than not being vegetarian, especially when you live in rural Ohio. I just try not to think about it anymore. I try not to think about the mass suffering of animals, the nonstop slaughter of creatures who don’t deserve it. It’s just like the consumption of clothes from Old Navy or buying iPhones. You know they’re made overseas in sweatshops and you know the behind the scenes aren’t pretty, but you just don’t think about it. It’s so easy to just pretend to be ignorant to the suffering of others as long as it benefits you.
Our world is so very “City of Omelas”, and meat consumption is a part of that mindset of “just turn away and pretend like it’s not happening” for me. But in those moments you get a steak that’s just a bit too rare, or the heads are attached to the shrimp you’ve ordered, it comes flooding back; the guilt, the disgust, the abhorrence. I used to think hunting was cruel and harshly judged those who could go out and kill something themselves like that, but I see now that buying Tyson Chicken Nuggets or Oscar Meyer Bologna is far worse. I’ve been thinking of going vegetarian again lately.
Dean Rabo asks: Do you believe in life after death?
No. I’m not religious and I don’t believe in an afterlife. Once you’re done, you’re done. It’ll be just like before you were born: nothing. You will have no consciousness, no awareness, there is nothing but the void, forever. I don’t like thinking this way. I wish I believed in something nice, like Heaven, but I don’t. And even if I believed in Heaven, that’d mean I’d believe in Hell, too, and that’s where I’m going, if it exists, so I guess it’s better that there’s nothing. There is no soul, no pearly gates awaiting you upon your inevitable demise. Just the unyielding darkness. This fraction of existence if all you get, and then you will never exist again for all time. Enjoy it the best you can.
peggyleslie asks: What gives you joy?
After that super depressing answer above, I’m glad to end on something lighter! Things that give me joy include (but are not limited to): rainbows, baking cookies, flowers, kittens, eating a ripe cherry tomato right off the vine, the smell of rain, chai lattes, reading a good book in a hot bubble bath, the beach, farmers markets, bubble tea, picking out a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch, making apple cider and hot chocolate from scratch, smelling candles at the grocery store, getting pedicures, aaand spending time with my family.
Bonus question from glinda: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Cotton Candy! Now and forever.
I had fun doing this. I liked a lot of your questions! Thank you to everyone who participated. I’d like to do this again sometime, so if your question didn’t get picked, you could try asking again next time. Have a great day!
I found your answer about growing up in a conservative area but being far left, interesting, but not surprising.
I grew up with liberal parents in a very conservative area and I got ask this question a LOT. I always found it not surprising. It makes a kind of sense that that could happen (that you could be more conservative) but I found it strange, because, like you it never entered my mind as a possibility. Maybe that’s because of the experiences I had with those people that were much farther to the right? I dunno…
Anyway, I found the parallels interesting. I enjoyed your response.
When I see hatred, it makes me want to be more kind. Being a smart-ass like I am can make that a little harder sometimes.
I think these were all good choices and interesting answers. Thank you for sharing these with us
I remember not loving the idea of hunting, before I learned more about how conservation works. On any square mile of land, you’ve only got so many trees, so much water, etc. which can only sustain, say, twenty deer. If there’s twenty five deer that live there, well, five of them won’t make it to the next year. That’s when hunters can get five tickets to hunt a deer and take it home to feed their family.
That said, I’ve still never hunted. I’d like to try it sometime though.
Big applause for referencing “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” I’m haunted by that story and think it’s more relevant every day.
I always thought it odd (well, always since I was 6) that brachiosaurus was named for its long front legs rather than its neck. Brachiosaurus means “arm lizard.”
Not everyone who believes in heaven also believes in hell.
I too loved my children’s lit class, although mine was philosophy-based. I looked at humane education based on Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe.
I love children’s literature! I considered taking an equivalent course in college, but didn’t manage to fit it into my schedule. A shame! I’ve read a few popular books on the subject and enjoyed those, though.
Athena – or anyone reading this – if I can answer any questions or supply any info about going vegetarian or vegan I’m here for you. Don’t be shy! There’s lots of new products and it can get confusing. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve been vegan for 15+ years, and founded and organize our town’s local vegan group, Vegan Kalamazoo. Our recommendation is to swap in one veg meal or ingredient at a time, get comfortable with it, and then move onto another. Every meal counts!
Since this is a literary crowd and it’s almost October, I’ll mention that I recently learned that Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelly were strict vegetarians, and Frankenstein’s monster was vegetarian! It’s been ages since I read Frankenstein, will have to do it again.
Big kudos for the “Omelas” reference. Well done indeed.
Thank you for answering my dinosaur question! And also for posting this tonight; checking in here is a nice break from following the debate.
Anyone that name checks both Lucifer _and_ The Boys gets the nod from me. Though disappointed you didn’t also mention Umbrella Academy. ;)
Can you please share a link to the short story you posted oh so long ago? Thanks.
I get my meat from Blue Valley Meats in WA state. The have humane slaughter methods and their beef is all grass-fed. If there is someplace in Ohio that is similar, that and a big freezer could help out with meat issues.
I enjoyed reading that very much Thank you, Athena for answering those questions
Love your choices, and great to see your answers. I’d never even thought of cotton candy ice cream. Is it pink?
there is a link to the story at https://sites.asiasociety.org/asia21summit/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/3.-Le-Guin-Ursula-The-Ones-Who-Walk-Away-From-Omelas.pdf
Tiger lilies aren’t my *favorite* flower, just because I don’t think I could pick A favorite, but I love seeing them, too. I live in PA, so similar growing conditions as you, and one of the best parts of summer is seeing the huge masses growing along the roads in so many places. I have a very small patch in my yard, from my grandmother’s farm, and I’m hoping they’ll spread with time.
Vegetarians in the midwest and south are cutting edge righteous in my view…storyfrom my daughter who attended Earlham College in Indiana:
As a vegetarian ( from Portland, Oregon before Portlandia turned our home town into a carnival but that is another story)she always asked “ is there meat in this?” So in a small cafe when she chose green beans off the menu she asked and the waitress assured her, “ oh, no, meat in those.”. Green beans arrived. Bacon was liberally sprinkled over the beans. My daughter spoke up to the waitress: “ You said there was no meat in this…”
“ Honey that’s not MEAT.”
Heh. I assume it’s only meat if you get a whackin’ big chunk.
I agree that the ethics all round of meat and dairy production is dire, so cutting down,( meatless Monday!) is part of life and relatively easy on the West Coast.
We aren’t full vegetarians, but made some changes: switching to flax milk and oatmilk for most cooking, revisiting our menus learning to cook well with vegetables, legumes, and especially using the fabulous pea protein as a protein source, makes it easier. Really, a lot of us are not fishing in the north sea for a living, are plowing a field with oxen or are lumberjacks, so all this animal fat and protein is wasted on us anyway.
I will be interested to hear how you make changes and if your friends also achieve reduced animal diet dependance.
Thanks for reminding me of my daughter’s story about Indiana no meat green beans ;)
These are great! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Plus, it feels like you covered my question within the other answers, so thanks for that, too!
Re meat eating and hunting:
For quite a few years, we lived in a remote area abounding in wildlife (and with 38 days between killing frosts in an average year, which isn’t conducive to gardening), and were also quite strapped financially. Basically, I couldn’t afford not to put a year’s worth of high quality protein into our freezer with a 50-cent bullet.
FWIW, once I could hunt elk, I never hunted deer again. If I have to take a life to feed myself, it might as well be one large enough that one per year suffices. (Full disclosure: we liked elk a lot more than venison, too.) It may well be that my hunting days are now behind me, due mostly to living elsewhere plus chronic TMB (Too Many Birthdays), but back in the day, every time I killed a deer or an elk, I instantly burst into tears, and I long ago vowed that if that ever didn’t happen, that would be my last hunt. Back then, my wife and I always did ritual the night before I went hunting, asking whether an elk was willing to offer itself to sustain us…and I was almost invariably successful the first day out. I might add that having to field-dress, i.e., butcher, a large animal while it’s still warm really brings home how very much alive it was moments before.
I think that if you’re going to eat meat at all, you should–at least much of the time–accept and deal with the karma of killing it yourself.
Here’s one to think about: “catch-and-release” fishing (although my own technique seems to be more often “hook and almost immediately lose”): if you’re not going to eat the fish, what right do you have to bother it just for your own amusement?
This was super fun, thanks, Athena! I immediately had to answer all of your questions myself, like the Proust Questionnaire. Hang on to these answers and look at them again in ten years.
My favorite class in graduate school was Young Adult Literature, for many of the reasons you mention. I started reading SF very young, so I missed a lot of classic YA novels like The Chocolate War or any Judy Blume book. It was fascinating to read them as an adult, to see how much these authors packed into 300 pages or less and then have wide-ranging discussions about them.
I am also giggling at the green beans with bacon story in the comments. “You’re a vegetarian? I’ll make lamb!”
Thank you for your answers. I really enjoyed your writing. I didn’t mean to stress you out but things of that sort give meaning to my brain (the thing I couldn’t silence) and I wanted to see your point of view.
w/r/t your thoughts about an afterlife, heaven and/or hell:
I share your idea that it’s unlikely any individual consciousness will persist after physical death, any more than it existed prior to birth–more likely, “from the void we come, to the void we return,” although as a Buddhist I suspect that the void may not be entirely…er…void. That said, when I was a kid–say, six or seven–and another kid put the fear into me by convincing me that I was bad and was going to hell, I ran to my wise old grandmother (the first person I’d seek out if there _were_ an afterlife), and asked her if I was going to go to hell.
“Well,” she said, after a moment of reflection, “it’s a _dry_ heat.”
Something to bear in mind during the height of the Ohio summer…
I also have long ago memories of room mates offering to share some sausages with me. But you know I’m vegetarian I said to which they replied “But there’s no meat in the sausages nowadays” :)
Here are my best wishes that you’ll be able to pick up the vegetarian ways again. A lot of it is about habits and practice, it gets easier every year I find