Eating Authors: Jeffe Kennedy

1 Comment » Written on May 22nd, 2017 by
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Jeffe Kennedy

If you’re reading this on time then you know who won which Nebula Awards over the weekend, something I don’t know yet because I wrote this up prior to the conference and awards banquet. All I know with any certainty is it’s wasn’t me (I had no dogs in this race, thus ending my four year streak of nominations — hey, maybe next year).

What I can tell you, by way of a nice EATING AUTHORS segue, is that this week’s guest Jeffe Kennedy has been elected to the SFWA Board as one of our new Directors-at-Large. She takes office on July 1st, and I’m looking forward to having her join the Board as she continues her history of service.

But let’s talk a bit about her accomplishments as an author. She has dozens of published novels, including her award-winning Fantasy romance series Twelve Kingdoms. Last year she started two new series.Sorcerous Moons has already spawned four volumes in just six months. And her Uncharted Realms series has released a more modest two books in seven months, with a third due out this summer. It’s an impressive — and intimidating — pace, but one that her fans surely appreciate.

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Eating Authors: Paul Levinson

No Comments » Written on May 15th, 2017 by
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Paul Levinson

There’s a hectic week ahead. I’ll be driving out to Pittsburgh for the annual Nebula Conference and spending all day on Thursday in a meeting of the SFWA Board making authorial sausage. Please believe me when I tell you it’s not as glamorous as it sounds (and it doesn’t sound glamorous). But it provides a good segue for this week’s EATING AUTHORS because Paul Levinson is a past president of SFWA.

He’s also a classic example of an author who has split his time between academia and fiction, often blurring the line between them. After earning his doctorate back in 1979, Paul bounced around a bit and taught at half a dozen colleges and universities before settling down at Fordham University in New York, where’s he’s been a professor of communications and media studies since 1998.

Both his novels and his nonfiction (a full shelfload of each) explore concepts and themes not just of communications media, but also space exploration, technology, and philosophy. His work has been nominated multiple times for the Hugo, the Nebula, the Sturgeon, and still other awards, while The Silk Code brought him a Locus Award for Best First Novel.

But my favorite thing about Paul’s fiction can be found in his book The Plot to Save Socrates, a time travel novel that opens with a character in the future reading an unknown Socratic dialogue in which the philosopher is given the chance to escape his own death and flee to the future. How could you not love that?

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My 2017 Nebula Conference Schedule

No Comments » Written on May 14th, 2017 by
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In a few days I’ll be driving (yes, I said driving) to Pittsburgh, PA for the 51st annual Nebula Conference.

2017 Nebula Conference

The event has been transforming itself in the last few years, taking on more of the feel of a professional conference and not simply a showcase for the nominees of the Nebula Award and the banquet during which some of them will go home with a pretty trophy.

Here’s where I currently expect to be found, though of course this could change.

Thursday, May 18th
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. | TBA | SFWA Board Meeting
Sorry, not a spectator event. This is the room where it happens.

1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. | Hospitality Suite | Convention Mentor Meet-Up
During the Board’s lunch break I’ll slip away to participate in this meet-up. The SFWA mentor program pairs established writers with early career writers, or people attending the Nebula Award Conference for the first time. Then it’s back to the boardroom.

8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. | Grand Ballroom | Welcome Reception
The first reception of the conference, with more to come!

Friday, May 19th
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. | Grand Foyer Lobby | Pittsburgh Stroll
Stretch your legs, get your blood flowing, chat with colleagues, or just admire the local architecture.

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. | Grand Ballroom | Office Hours: Hypnosis!
3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.| Grand Ballroom | Office Hours: Hypnosis!
That’s right, two — count ’em, two — opportunities for you to schedule an appointment or just drop in. I’ll answer your questions and concerns about how hypnosis works and how trance is a natural part of daily life. And yes, ignore what you may have been told — everyone can be hypnotized!

7:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Grand Ballroom | Nebula Nominee Presentation
Meet this year’s nominees before heading into the Mass Signing

8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. | Grand Ballroom | Mass Signing
Bring me your copies of Barsk or Calendrical Regression (both past Nebula finalists) to sign!

Saturday, May 20th
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Grand Ballroom | SFWA Business Meetin
Cat Rambo and the rest of the Board will entertain you with committee reports, etc., and in the second hour answer the question “what can SFWA do for you?”

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. | Grand Ballroom | Nebula Reception
We clean up pretty good. Come, mingle, pose for selfies, and wish the nominees luck!

7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. | Grand Ballroom | Nebula Awards Banquet
Chicken or Beef? Neither? Okay, I’ll be having the veggie entree personally. But it’s not about the food. Come celebrate friends and colleagues as we honor the best of our best.

When I’m not otherwise attending programming (I don’t currently have anything scheduled for Sunday), I’ll likely be hanging out in the SFWA Hospitality Suite, chilling at the bar, or typing away frantically on a tablet in the lobby. Drop by and say “howdy.”

Eating Authors: Kelly Robson (Campbell Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on May 8th, 2017 by
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Kelly Robson

After a week off, we once again resume our annual tradition of highlighting this year’s Campbell nominees. Already reporting on their most memorable meals: Ada Palmer, Sarah Gailey, and Malka Older. Still no word from either J. Mulrooney or Laurie Penny, but their names are on the ballot so please check them out all the same. Meanwhile, for this week’s EATING AUTHORS entry, let’s focus on Kelly Robson.

You should know Kelly for her short fiction. More to the point, unless you were living under a rock last year, you’ve read her novella Waters of Versailles which appeared at Tor.com and won the Aurora award, as well as picking up nominations for the Nebula, World Fantasy awards. In addition, Kelly also took home a nomination for the Sunburst and Sturgeon awards last year. So, yeah, you kind of get an idea of why she’s up for the Campbell this year.

And, regardless of what happens in Helsinki, Kelly returns to Tor.com in a few months with a brand new novella — heads up, nominators! Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach promises to be a time travel tour du force. Don’t miss it!

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Eating Authors: Robyn Bennis

No Comments » Written on May 1st, 2017 by
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Robyn Bennis

Hello. We interrupt this year’s regularly scheduled posts of Campbell Award nominees’ meals (already in progress) to bring you debut novelist Robyn Bennis‘s most memorable meal instead because, well, her book comes out tomorrow! And — full disclosure here — I blurbed it, so naturally I want you all to check it out. Don’t worry, we’ll return to Campbell nominees next week, but right now EATING AUTHORS is all about Robyn.

Despite breaking into the novel business with a book all about airships and military protocol, Robyn actually has a Day Job in the biotech field. She’s worked with human gene expression, gene synthesis, genome sequencing, neural connectomics, cancer diagnostics, and rapid flu testing. It’s only a matter of time before she realizes she can combine her two areas of expertise and when she does one of two things is going to happen. Either she’ll grow her own living airship (likely using DNA from something found trapped in an ancient piece of amber) or her next book is going to be a kick-ass bio-tech thriller. Either would make for a worthy successor to Michael Crichton.

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Eating Authors: Malka Older (Campbell Award nominee)

2 comments Written on April 24th, 2017 by
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Malka Older

I’m still shaking off the travel fatigue from the excesses of 2016. Don’t get me wrong, last month’s two conventions (the GOH gig at VancouFur and the Roastermaster spot at Albacon) were glorious but I’ve been really happy having no travel obligations this month, allowing me to focus on matters closer to home like health and family and writing. I suspect these are priorities that most of you can appreciate.

And speaking of things to appreciate (see what I did there?), it’s time once again for me to shill for this year’s Campbell Award nominees. Last week Sarah Gailey dropped in to share her most memorable meal. And as has been previously noted, Ada Palmer did the same back in May. In two weeks time I plan to share Kelly Robson‘s recollections on her meal, and with some luck I’ll have answers from J. Mulrooney and Laurie Penny as well. But for now let’s focus on today’s EATING AUTHORS guest, the fabulous Malka Older.

Malka first novel, Infomocracy topped the charts of Kirkus‘s Best Fiction of 2016, and the Washington Post dubbed it one of the best science fiction and fantasy novels of 2016. And this book was just the beginning of her Centenal Cycle series, with book two, Null States, due this September.

But as incredible as her fiction is, her nonfiction life stikes me as just as powerful. Malka is a humanitarian worker. In 2015 she was named a Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. She’s worked in humanitarian aid and development, specializing in disaster and post-disaster issues in places including Darfur, Japan, Indonesia, Mali, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. Right about now she’s finishing up her Ph.D. at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations where she’s been studying governance and disasters.

LMS: Welcome, Malka. What stands out for you as your most memorable meal?

MO: It took me a while to figure out what to write for this. First of all, I hate superlatives in general – “who is your favorite author?” may be my least favorite interview question. Then, I’ve had so many amazing meals. Should I write about the fried scorpions in the Beijing street market? The grilled river snake on the banks of the Tong Le Sap? The fish eaten minutes after it was caught on a fishing platform in Maluku?

But what I kept coming back to was something not extraordinary at all. It was not even one meal, but an amalgamation of many. It was also not just the eating, but the whole process of entering a calming sanctuary, selecting from an impossible range of items, and unwrapping to eat. It was comfort food, strange new options, and perfect service. I’m referring, of course, to Japanese convenience store meals.

Infomocracy

Convenience stores are everywhere in Japan, and from them you can buy anything from socks to stationary. You can use the bathroom without making a purchase, ship your suitcase home if you don’t want the bother of carrying it, make a photocopy. You can buy ramen and they will add the hot water, buy a pre-made meal and they will microwave it for you, or you can select what you want from a range of vegetables and starches bubbling on a constant simmer by the cash register and they will serve them to you in a take-away container with a helping of broth and a smear of super-spicy mustard.

I ate from convenience stores pretty regularly when I first lived in Japan. I was in a rural area and spent a lot of time in my car, so convenience stores were my oases. But now my memories of コンビニ御飯, as it’s known, are tied to the time after the 2011 tsunami that devastated the northeast coast of Japan.

I arrived in Tokyo around a week after the disaster, and other then the blinking red “empty” lights on the drink vending machine in the airport, a convenience store was the first indication I saw of the disruption. I had arrived late at night and exhausted, and so my obvious move after checking into the hotel was to find a convenience store to grab some quick snacks rather than dealing with a restaurant. I walked down some quiet clean streets to a main drag following instructions from the hotel, but when I arrived I was shocked to find empty patches on the shelves, adorned with – and this might have been more shocking still – hand-lettered signs apologizing for the inconvenience.

The rest of Tokyo seemed to be functioning more or less normally – the just-in-time delivery systems of the convenience stores had, for once, not worked in their favor – but when I got up north a few days later it was a different story. In the towns where we were working there was often nothing left, just piles of rubble and roof-tiles and hastily cleared roads, and in the towns that were only partially destroyed nothing was open. Normal life had been stripped away by the waves. Everyone was in mourning or in emergency mode, or both.

Null States

Since there was obviously nowhere to eat, let alone stay, in the affected area, we slept in a town about an hour’s drive inland. Even there, unhit by the tsunami, the earthquake had caused blackouts and some minor infrastructure damage, and when my colleagues first arrived the only restaurant open served the local delicacy of grilled entrails. (I’ve tried it, and it’s probably not as bad as you imagine, but there’s nothing delicate about it). By the time I got there more options were opening up, and our long days in the field were usually capped with boozy, complicated, long, and communal izakaya meals, but to fortify ourselves during the day our first stop was invariably a convenience store. We would stock up on snacks and portable meal components, each person to their taste, and refuel gradually throughout the day during the drives past long stretches of farmland and of debris, and the searching for alternate routes when our GPS, not yet updated for the disaster, failed us.

As economic activity started to revive in the affected towns, chain convenience stores – backed as they were by powerful corporations – were some of the first shops to reopen. They set up temporary buildings, flimsy prefab on the outside, but on the inside they looked just like convenience stories anywhere in Japan: bright, even fluorescent lighting; shelves lined with the colorful labels of dozens of instant ramen brands and tiny trays of shrink-wrapped pickled vegetables; freezers stocked with every imaginable variety of tea, along with coffee, juice, soda, and drinkable yogurt. It made days in the field much easier: at least we knew there was a place we could stop, even if it was just to use the bathroom – although that, in some of the temporary convenience stores, might be a portapotty.

Eventually the frenzy of late night drinking and camaraderie wore off. Between exhaustion and the slow, reluctant return to some kind of normalcy we were all realizing that we couldn’t feast and get drunk every night. I enjoyed the izakaya nights, but I didn’t mind the change. When I look back on those meals I have an impression of strange and delicious food, ordered en masse and eaten family style. I remember laughter, sometimes grim and sometimes raucous, and I remember toast after toast with beer and sake, but I find it difficult to capture specific episodes (although that could be because of the sake).

Tear Tracks

Instead I remember walking home alone on dark, quiet streets. I would stop by a convenience store on the way for a plastic bag of neatly wrapped foodstuffs and carry back them back to eat alone in my tiny hotel room. After the days of looking at destruction in the field, the evenings of paperwork in the office, eating alone felt like a kind of sanctuary, a sanctuary centered around the calm, glowing certainty of convenience store food.

I remember walking the immaculate aisles, ostensibly to scan for overlooked goodies or new seasonal treats, although the real reason had more to do with soaking up the feeling of normal, clean, ordered life, demonstrated through the easy availability of an exemplary range of consumer products. I was partial to senbei rice crackers, and I tried all different kinds: puffy deep fried, soy sauce marinated, speckled with dry beans. I made an effort to eat some kind of vegetable: pickled daikon, or kimchi, sitting in a tiny cardboard tray and tight-wrapped in plastic. For dessert I picked a large cookie, wrapped in its pink-printed plastic: caramel or white chocolate chip.

But the centerpiece was always the onigiri, thick triangles of rice with some kind of filling, the basic unit of a Japanese take-away meal. I picked two or three, pickled plums or marinated seaweed or a slice of grilled salmon. Back in my hotel room I peeled off the sequential tabs: #1 bisecting the wrapper from the top angle and #2 and #3 pulling away from each corner, carefully so as not to dislodge the folds of nori. And then I would take the first mouthful of rice.

Every time I took that first bite, I remembered the scene in 千と千尋の神隠し (Spirited Away) when Sen – whose reality has fallen away so desperately that she no longer has a name – is given an onigiri as a tiny, insufficient morsel of comfort. She takes a bite, and you can almost taste the rice, plain and starchy and sustaining. The tears start to run down Sen’s cheeks. She takes another bite, and another, stuffing the rest of the rice into her mouth, and the food lets her finally cry.

Thanks, Malka. The miracles of convenience stores in Tokyo and Yokohama are some of my best memories of Japan, from endless and mysterious varieties of “meat on a stick” to those perfect hardboiled eggs that were somehow salted inside the shell.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Sarah Gailey (Campbell Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on April 17th, 2017 by
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Sarah Gailey

The Hugo finalists were announced this month, which of course means I immediately began scrambling to continue this blog’s time honored tradition of contacting all the nominees for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer — something I’ve done for seven years now — and invite them to share the telling of their most memorable meal. And, as sometimes happens, one of this year’s nominees, Ada Palmer, has already been here (last May, in fact). I’m still waiting to hear back from nominees J. Mulrooney and Laurie Penny and I hope they can spare the time for us all. Nominees Malka Older and Kelly Robson have already responded to my queries and will be featured here over the next few Mondays (with a possible break for another author with a debut novel), but we start with today’s EATING AUTHOR guest, Sarah Gailey.

You’re more likely to know here for her nonfiction — she’s a frequent essayist for Tor.com and a past nominee for the Best Related Work Hugo Award — but that’s probably going to change when River of Teeth comes out next month. And check out her website where you’ll find links to a wide assortment of her shorter fiction.

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Eating Authors: Dan Koboldt

1 Comment » Written on April 10th, 2017 by
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Dan Koboldt

Here on the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA, it appears that spring has finally sprung. The snow has melted, the daylight hours are lengthening and albeit it reluctantly the temperatures are averaging a bit warmer.

Along with the annual season of rebirth and renewal, I’m taking better care of myself. I’ve gone more than a month now without drinking any Diet Coke™ (or similar beverages, as opposed to my daily habit of a gallon or more) or consuming any fried chicken (which used to be my default lunch, four to six times a week). My intake of land-based protein overall has dwindled to almost nothing. Instead I’m eating lots of seafood and vegetables. So, look for changes when next you see me.

Meanwhile, here at EATING AUTHORS we’ve got Dan Koboldt today. He’s a genetics researcher (which I think is really cool), but that’s not what caught my attention. Rather, it’s because the protagonist of his Gateways to Alissia series is a stage magician working in Vegas. As I’ve dedicated a million or so words to my own stage performer protagonist, I feel a certain kinship to Dan. Please note, this is not a prerequisite to enjoying his work.

Dan’s second book, The Island Deception, comes out tomorrow from Harper Voyager Impulse. And while what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, what happens when you cross through a dimensional portal is another story altogether. But don’t take my word for it, go pick up a copy of the book.

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