Posts by Lawrence:

Eating Authors: Robert E. Waters

Written on January 13th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
RobertEWaters

My days this past week have been very full. I’m done with my chemotherapy and I haven’t yet started the pre-treatments for the BMT. Nor did I have to run off to any medical appointments for a whole week. My cold has been slowly improving and I’m feeling pretty damn good. Basically I’ve been free to work on all the things I’m trying to get done before I head into the hospital in two weeks. The main contenders for the rest of the month include writing a short story for a Kickstarter anthology that I’m committed to, editing the third book in a series, and finishing the first book in a different series. It’s all very Whoosh!

Which is why it’s good to be able to pop in here and write up the introduction for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because over the year’s Robert E. Waters and I have shared the ToC of several anthologies, most recently Chuck Gannon’s incredible Lost Signals.

Robert is likely best known for his work in gaming, a field he’s been working in for more than twenty-five years. He’s been the Managing Editor at Avalon Hill, back when it was The Avalon Hill Game Company. He’s also been a producer, designer, and writer for several computer game studios, and is currently a designer at Breakaway LTD.

But he’s no stranger to writing fiction, both short (as the reference above to our mutual anthologies indicates) and long. His most recent novel is barely two months old. You should pick up a copy.

LMS: Welcome, Robert. Let’s talk about your most memorable meal.

REW: My first “real” job out of college (circa 1991) was with AutoZone in their corporate office in Memphis. I worked as a document design tech and technical writer. One of the things that they used to do periodically is conduct these so-called “Travel Weekends” where groups of employees from the corporate office would go out to various regions of the United States and tour the AutoZone stores in that area. It was a way to connect with the workers and customers on the front lines, and to understand their needs and problems, etc., and then in our capacity as corporate heads, take their grievances back with us and solve their problems, or if we were lucky, solve their problems right on the spot.

In my time there, I went on two of these travel weekends: one to West Texas and New Mexico (God! Texas is a big place!), and one to New Orleans. It was on the New Orleans trip that I had my most memorable dining experience.

Devil Dancers

I was traveling with a couple guys from corporate and a couple local AutoZone managers. They took us to a restaurant near New Orleans (the name of the place escapes me at the moment). We sat in the corner of a very loud, very active room. Piles upon piles of crawfish were brought in and people were diving into them like crazed dogs. But the first dish they brought us was fried alligator. The alligator is a powerful beast that can roll you to death at the bottom of a muddy river, so it was kind of strange to see one cooked and fried on my plate.

Alligator is a greasy, chewy meat, kind of like a mushy rubber. Good but not great. I could have done without it. But all the while I was eating it, the AutoZone managers at my table kept saying, “You have to suck the head! Make sure you suck the head when the crawfish come.” WTF is ‘sucking the head’? Did I stumble into some perverted food/sex dungeon or something? Everyone at the table seemed to understand what they were talking about but me, and of course, they were not giving me the full story. They were just giggling and winking at each other at my expense. I was a country boy, you understand, but not a true country boy. I was from Tennessee. In their eyes, I might as well have been from New York.

Then the crawfish came, all steamy and covered in spicy juices. Basically, a crawfish is a small lobster, with a thimble-sized piece of meet in its tail, if that much. Most people just eat the tail and discard the rest, but not these guys at my table. No. they insisted that, after I ate the tail, that I needed to “suck the head.” One showed me how it was done. You put the so-called “head” of the crawfish into your mouth, and then take a long, hard suck. They did it and seemed to weather it just fine.

The Masks of Mirada

Now it was my turn.

So, I did. The next thing I experienced was what Jefferson Airplane was talking about in “Go Ask Alice”

That rush of all that cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano and other herbs and spices went right to my nasal cavity and didn’t stop (quite frankly) hurting until about an hour later. To hell with over-the-counter drugs to clear sinuses: just suck the head of a well-cooked crawfish and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I never experienced a burn like that in my life.

I tried it again a couple more times, but that was all. This “country boy” didn’t need any further schooling. The meal concluded and we left, and I’ve never forgotten that trip or sucking crawfish head. It was, indeed, an experience.

But I think I’ll stick to less adventurous foods. Until, at least, I stumble into another well-disguised trap.

Thanks, Robert. You know, New Orleans is my favorite city when it comes to food. Whether grabbing a Po’Boy at some corner Mom & Pop shop or scoring a perfect brunch at the Court of the Two Sisters, I love it all. That said, I have never — and have no intention to ever — suck the head of a crawfish!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Lisa Goldstein

Written on January 6th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Lisa Goldstein

Welcome to 2020, or as I like to think of it, the tenth year of EATING AUTHORS. Seriously, that’s a lot of meals under the bridge (or something like that). You’d think I’d have run out of people to invite, but no, I have plenty of folks lined up in the weeks and months to come, and every confidence that others will arrive as needed to share their tales of incredible repasts.

To kick off the new year, I invited Lisa Goldstein to drop by. Lisa has taken home quite a shelf of prizes including the National Book Award (for The Red Magician), the Mythopoeic Award (for The Uncertain Places), and the Sidewise Award. She’s also racked up multiple nominations for the Astounding, Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and other awards besides. She’s also written two novels of high fantasy (Daughter of Exile and The Divided Crown) under the pseudonym Isabel Glass.

Her latest (and fifteenth) novel, Ivory Apples, came out back in October, a book about a book, or more specifically, the author of a book. And also magic, of course. She and her husband and their Labrador retriever live in northern California.

LMS: Welcome, Lisa. Thank you for starting the year for us. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

LG: The most memorable meal I ever had was in Rome, at a restaurant called Grappolo d’Oro. I knew that food in Italy was good, of course, but I didn’t really know how good. I ordered ravioli with cheese and something called tartufi, which turned out to be truffles. Not only had I never had truffles before, I had barely heard of them; if you’d asked, I would have said it was a play by Moliere. They were deep, earthy, full of dark, delicious flavor. And the rest of the ingredients were great too, each one in perfect balance with the others, and tasting as if they’d been created just that morning.

Ivory Apples

After that, I ordered truffles at every restaurant that listed them on the menu. Another restaurant, in Perugia, had truffles in something called scamorza, a kind of baked cheese. This was my second-most memorable meal — the place was called Il Settimo Sigillo, which means “the seventh seal,” and had something of a Knights Templar motif. We never found out why.

When I got back I looked around for more truffles.

Unfortunately, they’re phenomenally expensive here. Black truffles, the kind I like, mostly grow in France and Italy, and they’re hard to farm; usually they’re hunted with truffle hounds. The only solution, I guess, is to go back to Italy.

Thanks, Lisa. This of course brings up the question: can a labrador retriever be trained as a truffle hound. Empiricism demands that you return to Italy with your dog. Keep us posted.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Marion Jones

Written on December 30th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Marion Jones

Christmas has come and gone, Hannukah ends tonight, and the year follows suit tomorrow. This is the last EATING AUTHORS post of 2019. I will spare you any retrospective summaries of the past twelve months, and I’ve long since already filled you in on what the next several weeks is bringing my way. Instead, I think I’ll simply encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what you hold dear, to treat yourself well, to leave the world a little better at the end of the day than when you began.

This blog series has had that last bit at its core from the beginning. Whether you call it “Paying It Forward,” or something else, it’s been my pleasure to use it not only to share with you some insight into many friends and colleagues (and their meals), but also to introduce you to new writers who are at the very start of their careers. It’s a nice thing to give a platform, however small my blog may be, to folks.

One of the quirks of social media is that I’m often stumbling across people I wouldn’t likely meet (or they stumble over me, it can be hard to tell which way the flow runs). Which is how I met this week’s guest, Marion Jones. It happened on some comment thread on someone’s post — the particulars are a distant blur to me now. But I remember thinking, “hey, why not invite him to talk about a meal?” and so I did, and he was kind enough to oblige.

His most recent book, Clipped Angels, continues his Golden Feather Saga.

LMS: Welcome, Marion. Tell me the tale, if you would, of your most memorable meal?

MJ: I was strolling through Manhattan, NY and saw a small queue in front of the Motown Café. I was so blown away by the atmosphere I had to get in line and take a look at the menu. Luckily the wait time was only thirty minutes. I overheard someone behind me say that the establishment was partly owned by Boys II Men.

Clipped Angels

At first, I glanced at the menu, but when my section of the line moved inside, my eyes widened. I looked up and saw a huge spinning record on the ceiling.

To the right of me stood a gift shop that had memorabilia of Motown. The host was very friendly and told me to stick around for two more minutes. Little did he know, I wasn’t going anywhere! Then it happened, the lights dimmed, and four fantastic voices emanated from male singers coming down the spiral stairs. They were singing a Motown song, “Baby I Need Your Lovin.”

I actually thought it was the actual artist, but the artist would probably be in their 50s. These young guys nailed it. And no, it was not lip-synching. They were actually singing. I was blown away by their skills, and so was everybody else in the restaurant.

I saw only one booth that was unoccupied. The host, Ricky took me there. I was very confused as to why there was chicken and waffles on the menu, together.

I asked, “Why would anybody want to buy breakfast and dinner?”

Black Feather

The smiling waitress told, “They got the idea from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in California. People came out of the club late at night and wanted to eat but they weren’t sure if they wanted breakfast or dinner, so they had both.”

I looked at all of the records, posters and paintings around me. I decided to take a quick tour after I ordered eggs, chicken and waffles. I was so excited that I took my camera out and took pictures. Afterwards, I sat down at the table. Time flew by quickly.

By the time my food arrived, a female quartet made their way to the stage singing another Motown song. They wore sparkly red dresses. I almost fell in love.

My waffles were already buttered, and my chicken seasoned to perfection. I said my grace and cut into the chicken. The aroma made my mouth water as I bit into it. My heart skipped a beat. I had apple juice as my drink of choice.

The Order of the Golden Feather

Even the juice tasted like it was freshly squeezed in their backyard or something. The place blew my mind from the food to the customer service to the memorabilia. Everything excited me! All my senses were tickled. I thought the syrup was made in heaven.

I had no choice but to apply for a job. I wanted to work there until I could taste everything on the menu. I worked as a host there for eight months. I met many celebrities. I even entered a contest for best customer service and became the winner. I was allowed to choose anything from the restaurant store that I wanted, so I chose the most expensive thing I could think of; a leather Motown Café jacket. I still have it.

I was very sad when all of their locations eventually closed down. That was somewhere around 1999. I will never forget the memories I had, the dancing my taste buds did and sometimes I even grabbed the host microphone and sang with the groups!

Thanks, Marion. Like you, I was puzzled by my first encounter with Chicken & Waffles. I never got over it.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Clark Thomas Carlton

Written on December 23rd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Clark Thomas Carlton

The year winds down. For me that has meant lots of medical appointments, a physical therapist kicking my ass twice a week, writing nonstop like I was Alexander Hamilton, and stealing hours and minutes from all of the above so I can still have time to spend with my wife. Stress levels have been high, but also productivity. And as others have noted, I’d rather have too much to do than too little.

Looking over his resume, I suspect the same can be said of Clark Thomas Carlton, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest (by golly, that was a real segue this time). I invited Clark to share his most memorable meal here because he’s a novelist (check out his Antasy series, Prophets of the Ghost Ants and The Prophet of the Termite God), but he’s also a playwright (having won the Drama-Logue Critics Award for Self Help or the Tower of Psychobabble), a screen and television writer, a singer/songwriter (currently working on a pop opera about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon), and a painter.

None of which explains his current fascination with insects, but he’s on record as appreciating the use of science fantasy novels as the means of illustrating the human condition. Some folks do this going big (e.g., elephants), others take the opposite perspective. Go figure.

LMS: Welcome, Clark. What can you tell me about your most memorable meal?

CTC: Nine of the ten worst meals I have ever eaten were in Russia, and that includes the very worst and certainly the most memorable.

I was in Yeltsin’s Russia, a few years into Glasnost, and about to see Schindler’s List for the 400th time as a quality supervisor in Lucasfilm’s THX program. The first part of my stay was in Moscow at a modern hotel that had just been acquired by an American chain. The hotel’s restaurant served edible western dishes, but as someone who has worked in the industry, I know when I’m being served a boil-in-the-bag. Craving a pizza, I asked the waiter if they were any good and he assured me it was “the best in Moscow.” After serving it to me, he announced, “Your pizza by the Red Baron.”

Near Red Square, I found a Chinese restaurant, but it was Chinese in name only. A chicken dish featured some tiny bits of meat mixed through a mass of cooked cabbage. The dish was devoid of anything like spices or even soy sauce. Some spaghetti at a so-called Italian place was topped with a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree. Parmesan cheese was not a possibility much less fresh burrata or focaccia. I loathe McDonalds, but I came to understand why there were three new ones in Moscow with very long lines because food in Russia was terrible. Under Yeltsin, Western products were flooding the country and Russians were rejecting everything made by their state industries, even their own vodka. Bananas were the latest, exotic arrival, and every trash bin in the city was piled high with their peels.

Prophets of the Ghost Ants

The Russian film lab, also of poor quality, was an hour outside of Moscow in a woodsy village that was a mix of industry and farming. The one and only hotel was bleak and boxy and built in the Stalin era, but it was surrounded by izbas, the little country houses made of logs bound with river mud. These were on tiny family farms with livestock, vegetable gardens and a few fruit trees. Perhaps here I might eat some genuine native dishes. The Russian food I had enjoyed in New York and San Francisco included pelmeni, the Slavic cousin of the ravioli, as well as Veal Prince Orlov, and good soups like barley mushroom and root vegetables with dill. My own dinner parties had included blinis with creme fraiche and caviar as well as that standard go-to, Chicken Kiev, which was always a crowd pleaser with its gushing puddle of chive flavored butter.

The food served in this hotel was both strange and awful and was not selected from a menu. The restaurant was a barren hall with wooden chairs, wobbly tables and grease stained table cloths. My first meal was a breakfast that I shared with my interpreter, Vasily. At some other tables, we noticed men dressed in running suits that smoked Benson and Hedges as they counted piles of pink Ukrainian money. When I asked who they were, Vasily told me they were “gangsters” and we should not make eye contact with them. “Russia is now like your Chicago in the Twenties,” he said, referring to an epidemic of gun violence.

I was served my first of a daily bowl of milky gruel, the ingredients of which I never identified. The table had two kinds of sliced gummy bread, white and brown, neither of which had flavor or a crust. Unstrained tea, swirling with leaves, was poured from a pot into glasses instead of cups. I watched as the gangsters poured Swedish vodka into their gruel, stirred it, then ate it up. “They are drinking vodka in the morning,” I whispered, but the interpreter shrugged. “We have Russian expression,” he said. “A drink in the morning and you are free all day.”

Dinner that night was difficult. I was the only diner and arrived to find the gummy bread and a plate with a thick smear of ground mystery meat. Next to it were some hard, greenish tomatoes that were blemished and irregular, like troll noses. Beside them were some juiceless and stunted cucumbers, popping with rubbery warts. I tasted the mystery meat and found it gritty and greasy, a throwback to my high school cafeteria. I went back to my room and ate some of the Snickers bars I had been advised to bring as gifts for the Russian people.

The Prophet of the Termite God

On weekends, I was back in Moscow and my host and his lovely daughter, Nadia, were kind enough to show me Gorky Park. At that time, the park was a spectacular mess that had never seen the likes of a lawn mower. It stank from subterranean bathrooms with broken toilets that still had to be used for the usual reasons. My hosts had been informed that I wasn’t eating and tempted me into trying shashlik, the Russian version of shish kebab. They promised me it was delicious.

We picked a shashlik vendor whose grill and tables were in a circle of unkempt bushes. I offered to pay for the meal but never bothered to ask if it was lamb or beef. As we waited for our meat to cook, I saw the first of the feral dogs of Gorky Park. They weren’t a threatening pack, but were shy with sad eyes and they seemed in need of a handout. Nadia brought us paper plates of shashlik and on the side of each was a glop of sauce that stood on end that was the color of a fresh scab.

I tried to bite through the first chunk of meat and could not — it was like trying to chew through a bicycle tire. I gripped one end of the chunk with my fingernails then tugged the other with my teeth, and still it would not tear. “This shashlik is not fun,” said Nadia, a frown on her face, as she gave up. We had been served lumps of gristle that none of us could eat much less enjoy. The dogs, looking at us longingly, were waiting for just this moment. They gently took the meat from our fingers and quietly wolfed it down. As I wiped my fingers clean, I pondered that Communism had been a noble, maybe even necessary experiment in human progress, but clearly it had failed as badly as our shashlik.

A few days later, I learned what kind of meat we had eaten when I picked up the English language newspaper and read the headline: Shashlik Vendors in Gorky Park Arrested for Serving Dog Meat.

Thanks, Clark. Clearly Russia was not kind to your palate. I’m afraid to ask what that 10th worst meal might be, because is something exists more horrible than gobbets of dog gristle I don’t want to know about it.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Obligatory Award Eligibility Post (Delayed, But-Not-Too-Late)

Written on December 17th, 2019 by
Categories: News

Hey there. You’ve all seen posts like this before, from both the “cool kids” and those of us with less swag. I suspect that’s because we all suffer from imposter syndrome and award nominations give us a sense of validation, even if we have to go out of our way (with posts like this one) to remind people to love us for what we make.

And yes, I see the irony there.

The second half of 2019 is proving to quite chaotic as unanticipated health issues devour my time and energy. Life? Meh. I’m taking it day by day. Anyway, here we go.

Most of my effort this year was spent relaunching all the titles in my Amazing Conroy series. That said, I did sneak in a few new tales. Two of these, a novelette and a short story, represent the best of my original work this year. I’ve provided links to the appropriate SFWA Forums where members can download them (after first logging in).

Both works were published in obscure books that you’re probably not going to encounter in the normal course of things. Hence this post so you’d learn of their existence and have the option to look them over as your time and interest dictate.

Please note: I am not asking for your nomination or vote. That would just be wrong on so many levels, and even I’m not that crass. But I do hope you’ll choose to read one or both of them because I believe the works will speak to you more eloquently than I can. If either does so, I’d welcome an acknowledgment of it on the Nebula Reading List.

Mind Din

“Mind Din” (approx. 15,675 words)
NOVELETTE (https://www.sfwa.org/forum/topic/14101-mind-din-by-lawrence-m-schoen/)

This novelette appeared in my short story collection Buffalito Bundle in July of 2019. The rest of the pieces in the collection had been published before, but “Mind Din” was new to the collection. This tale is set in the Conroyverse and features the Amazing Conroy and his alien companion animal, Reggie, as well as a deadly virus that causes telepathy, government agents, a possible descendant of a world famous Sri Lankan cricket player, the use of pool balls as brutal projectiles, the Atlanta Zoo, and some very long medical words scattered to your unconscious mind.
Nebula Reading List link: https://www.sfwa.org/forum/reading/work/3945-mind-din/

“Crossing the Line” (approx. 4360 words) SHORT STORY
(https://www.sfwa.org/forum/topic/14314-crossing-the-line-by-lawrence-m-schoen/)

Crossing the Line

This story appeared in The Expanding Universe 5 anthology edited by Craig Martelle, released in September 2019. Some clever commenters have said it “puts the LIT in LitRPG.” Maybe. The story’s about a humanities professor competing as a piece in an alien civilization’s chess game. If she wins, she could gain access to a long lost piece of literature. If she loses, her memories are at risk and her life is over. Much like last year’s Nebula nominee “The Rule of Three,” there’s very much an ‘old school’ feel to this story. I hope you like it.
Nebula Reading List link: https://www.sfwa.org/forum/reading/work/3946-crossing-the-line/

Both works have already received a bit of love on the Nebula Suggested Reading List (indeed, “Crossing the Line” has crept up into double digits!). I hope you find them to your liking as well.

And that’s it. Thanks for reading this far.

Eating Authors: Anthony Fucilla

Written on December 16th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Anthony Fucilla

The year is winding down, but the pressure to “do all the things” continues unabated, and if anything is ramping up as the specifics of next month’s hospital stay solidify. Last week I lost a day to about ten hours of medical tests (who needs to draw twenty vials of blood? Seriously?) including having my third bone marrow biospy of the season. Also a long and very informative conversation about how the transplant process will go, what to expect during my time in hospital, and what to prepare for after discharge. It’s all taking on real weight. There’s the list of possible but unlikely complications as well as the list of likely and unpleasant side effects associated with procedure. So, in that sense, busying myself with the push to finish another book right now is probably a very good thing. As is the diversion of bringing you regular installments of EATING AUTHORS.

So, a big thanks to this week’s guest, Anthony Fucilla, for proving some much needed distraction. And yes, that was your official segue.

I confess, I was completely unfamiliar with Anthony’s work until just a few weeks ago when a social media post about his next book, Androids and the Gods, purported to “redefine metaphysics.” So, yeah, that caught my attention and fueled my imagination. Alas, that book won’t be out until next year, but I was hooked. Naturally, I reached out to him to learn more.

He’s primarily known for his short stories, which have appeared in collections such as Quantum Chronicles In The Eleventh Dimension and Silent Earth. But what really caught my attention is that he approaches his fiction from a perspective of philosophy, focusing on questions of metaphysics and epistemology, A.I. and theology. Seriously, all he needs are elephants.

Start with his short fiction but don’t stop there. His latest novel, The Mars Time-Project, came out from Swirl two months ago.

LMS: Welcome, Anthony. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

AF: To be honest it is so very difficult to come up with a single most memorable meal. I’ve travelled all over the world extensively, Europe, Asia, America, South America, Australasia and experienced many magical moments when it comes to food. I love food and enjoy a vast array of different cuisines. However, one memorable meal was after the 2014 LONCON-3 72nd World Science Fiction convention in London, my home town. After a very busy day at the convention (book signing / talks… etc) my wife and I went to central London and found a fabulous Chinese restaurant. One that we had never heard of… Upon entering you instantly felt as if you had just been teleported to China. The classy oriental decor, Chinese ornaments and soft sounds of China – the music, create a unique atmosphere. In the dim light of the resturant you immediately feel relaxed. The soft lights create a warm inviting ambience and the background instrumental music was enchanting to say the least. The delightful aroma of food was rich and constant.

The Mars Time-Project

As for the staff, they were very gracious, all dressed in traditional Chinese costumes. This in turn added to the atmosphere greatly. The restaurant itself was very large, elegant to say the least, with neatly arranged tables positioned accordingily. As for the drinks menu, they had a large selection of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages to choose from; Chinese beer galore like Tsingtao, Yanjing Beer, etc… Now for the food! Well the food was simply sublime, absolutely exquisite. The menu itself was a mini-book. It had a vast array of dishes to choose from: sizzling King prawns in black bean, crab in oyster sauce, lobster with ginger and spring onion, crispy seafood balls with sweet and sour sauce, traditional Chinese drunken Chicken, and every type of noodle dish you could possibly think of and of course, dim sums galore! In the end we ended up ordering a mixed selection of dishes, seafood, chicken, noddles, rice, dim sum etc! As for the service… well, it was fantastic! They were all so polite, precise and efficient. All in all, it was one of the best Chinese restaurants we’d been to, simply majestic in every sense… a memorable meal indeed after a wonderful day.

Thanks, Anthony. Having been to China three times now, I’m still stunned that what I find at so-called Chinese restaurants here in the states is nothing like the food I experienced there. On the other hand, dim sum is proof for God!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Jeffrey A. Carver

Written on December 9th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Jeffrey A. Carver

As has been said before, Tempus fugit. I mention it here because I have entered the fourth (and presumably final) cycle of my chemo therapy. It all wraps up on January 2nd, and then I’ll have a few weeks to get ready for my bone marrow transplant and three weeks or so in the hospital. Too fun.

In the meantime, I’m working frantically to get a significant subset of all the things done because I’ve been assured I won’t feel like doing bupkis once I’m in hospital. That’s included reaching out to lots o’ authors so I could front load upcoming EATING AUTHORS posts so you don’t have to do without while I am otherwise indisposed.

Say, that looks like a segue (of sorts) to introduce you to this week’s guest, Jeffrey A. Carver.

So, here’s the thing I like best about Jeff: it’s not that he’s a Nebula Award finalist for Best Novel, or that he wrote a book in Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway Universe, or even that he wrote the novelization of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. Nope. What makes him so cool is that back in 1995 he developed and hosted a live, interactive TV series on writing science fiction and fantasy that was beamed into middle-school classrooms all over the country. Seriously, how many of us even come close to that kind of street cred.

I’m just sorry it’s taken me so long to get him here.

LMS: Welcome, Jeffrey. You know the drill. Recount a meal, please.

JAC: When you first asked to talk about a memorable meal, my mind went blank. Was it that really good pizza, or maybe the meal at the Spanish restaurant that someone treated us to? Or maybe a meal paid for by a publisher? Or that marvelous meal in France? No… none of those stands out enough. What about the Surf & Turf I used to serve my family when the girls were young: a delectable meal of fish sticks and hot dogs? Maybe. Maybe not.

Neptune Crossing

Then my wife reminded me: Perhaps the most memorable eating experience was not so much about the food as the entire experience surrounding it. How about that memorable dining experience in that wonderful city, London? We were in London for Loncon, the World Science Fiction Convention in 2014.

We had made a late decision to go, and by the time we signed up, all the hotels were filled. Allysen went online to find a solution via Air BnB. “Hey,” she said, after a bit. “Do you want to stay on a houseboat on the Thames? It has all the amenities. Kitchen. Onboard bathroom. It’ll be an adventure.”

I agreed enthusiastically. It would be a bit of a hike from the convention, but so what? It was a houseboat! On the Thames! What could be more romantic and exciting? We signed up.

Following a trip across the Atlantic, we arrived, weary, and even wearier after our half mile walk from the Tube station, at our home-away-from-home. It was not… quite… what we had expected. Not exactly a houseboat, if we were to be honest. It was a small, admittedly charming, sailboat. Still, it was on the Thames, right? That was exciting in and of itself. Except, no; it could get to the Thames, if it moved far enough. But it was actually moored at a huge marina, some ways up a tributary, surrounded by a high, chain link fence and the sounds of construction. We needed to memorize a passcode to get through the chain-link gate. More on this later.

The Rapture Effect

Our host greeted us jovially, but reacted with alarm when he saw our suitcases–three small carry-ons. “I’m not sure how well those will fit,” he said, as though it had never occurred to him that visitors from America might arrive with suitcases. No matter; we stepped carefully over the gunwale and made our way into the cabin for the short tour. There were several cramped bunks, and a pervasive smell of mildew. My daughter started sneezing on the spot, and immediately decided she would sleep in the open-air outer cabin and hope it didn’t rain.

But hey, this is about meals. We eagerly looked forward to the coziness of simple meals cooked in the little boat’s kitchen while we rocked gently on the Thames. Well… kitchen was perhaps too grand a word for the little sink, littler cooktop, and a toaster and electric tea kettle which, because of the boat’s wiring, could not be used at the same time. I think there was a micro-fridge. True to our host’s promise, he had provided makings for a morning pick-me-up: a jar of old instant coffee, and a box of stale teabags.

Panglor

We would make it work! I saw at once that we needed more electric, and brought out the power strip and UK plug adapters I had cleverly thought to bring. I plugged in the strip. Snap! Poof! Alas, my cleverness had not extended to checking the voltage capacity of the power strip.

But so what? Come hell or high water, I was going to make a meal in that kitchen! And indeed, for breakfast I managed to cook a couple of eggs in the toy skillet, made some toast, and—alternating use of the outlet with the kettle—heated some water. I am no tea drinker, but after spitting out my one and only cup of Jurassic-era instant coffee, I loved me my cuppa Liptons. We sat in the outer cabin and breathed in the marina air, exhaust fumes and all, and reveled in the fact that we were in London!

So that’s my most memorable meal—worldcon in all its glory! Ask me sometime about the access code to the entry gate changing without warning at midnight, when I’d gone to the bathroom building in a thin t-shirt and shorts. (Bathroom on board? Yes, there was one. But we couldn’t use it, because, well, the boat had no holding tank). Or ask about my belt breaking at the con, and how I had to walk around holding my pants up with one hand while searching in vain for a dealer who might have a belt for sale*.

Sigh. Of events such as these are some of my most vivid recollections made.

Thanks, Jeff. Further proof that context is king, and the power of reframing a situation to — as the song goes —accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Personally, I’d have probably been vindictive on my last night and made use of the head, holding tank or no. Clearly, you’re a better man than me (or you just left that part out).

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

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Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Julia Huni

Written on December 2nd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Julia Huni

If you’re reading this in the USA, then the odds are good that you’re emerging from a four day weekend of culinary overindulgence, credit card abuse, and too much televised sports and/or Netflix bingeing. Somewhere in there, I hope you took a few minutes for self-examination and reflected on the good things in life and appreciated all that you’ve got. There was probably a spare moment to do that, somewhere in between reaching for another slice of pie and discovering the third can of spray whipping cream was empty and getting the fourth can out of the fridge.

As for me, I had lots to be thankful about, including your tolerance for what I laughingly refer to as segues on this blog. Oh, look, there’s one now. Ahem. Last month while attending the 20Books conference in Las Vegas I met Julia Huni in person. She was in the company of A.M. Scott who also recently shared a meal here, and that’s when I discovered the two women were sisters. Sneaky.

Julia’s done a little bit of everything: nine years in the US Air Force, worked at both NASA and NATO, done IT, been a professor, and even a stint as a stay-at-home mom. As for her fiction, she’s probably best known for her Funny Sci-Fi Mystery Space Janitor series. On a more serious note, there’s also her Recycled World books, set on an abandoned Earth.

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

JH: When I was in my late twenties, I served in the US Air Force. After four and a half years on active duty, I was transferred from smoggy Southern California to Sembach Air Base in Germany.

I was assigned to a NATO air operations centre, along with military folks from the US, the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. According to the organization chart I worked for a German, but in reality I reported to the senior US officer, a Vietnam veteran and fighter pilot named Colonel M.

The Vacuum of Space

The colonel had been a POW at the end of the Vietnam war, spending ten months in captivity before being liberated. He didn’t care much what others thought of him, he didn’t worry about the future, and he loved good food. He was a foodie before the term was coined. Although he rarely referred to his experience in Southeast Asia, the occasional comment about pumpkin and rat soup gave me a good idea why he savored every meal. He thought nothing of driving across the border into France for a $300 meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, but he also didn’t hesitate to say yes when a co-worker invited him home for dinner.

One day at work, Col. M. asked if my fiancé and I would like to go on an adventure for lunch—in Luxembourg. It’s not often you drive to a foreign country for lunch, but that was exactly what he had in mind. At some point during his seventeen years in Europe, he and his wife had discovered a little place that served prawns. Only fifty Deutsch Marks for lunch. Each.

For a junior captain back in the day, that was a lot of money. Hell, for a science fiction author today that’s a lot of money for lunch. 50 DM in the mid-nineties is about $52 today. For lunch.

Saying no to Colonel M. was difficult. After all, it was just money. What was that compared to an adventure with friends and excellent food?

Recycled World

So a few weeks later, six of us climbed into two cars and drove to Luxembourg. The morning was sunny and cool, with the promise of warmer temperatures ahead. The drive—about two hours on well-maintained autobahn—was delightful. Luxembourg, a city of about 90,000 people, is situated in a network of deep gorges, and is famous for its medieval fortifications. But we didn’t tour them on this trip. This trip was about the food.

We parked a half block up from one of the rivers, and crossed a busy street. The narrow sidewalk fronted a row of unremarkable buildings. We found the correct door and walked into a small room. Two square windows looked out at the street. The tiny space was crammed with four rows of wooden picnic tables covered with strips of white paper. You can imagine my thoughts. Fifty marks for this?

It looked like an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, European style.

The six of us, Col M, his wife, another couple, my fiancé and I sat at the end of a table against a roughly plastered wall. The colonel ordered a couple bottles of Spanish white. The waitress brought the wine and we toasted. We sat and chatted, while others filtered in, filling the long tables, sliding in next to strangers. As the wine went down, the volume went up.

The Dust of Kaku

I don’t remember what else they served. I believe there was bread—there’s always bread. And perhaps a salad. But the piece de resistance—the reason we’d driven 175 kilometers—was the prawns. The waitress brought out a heavy pan for each pair of diners. The scent of garlic roasted in butter filled the air, and the sizzle could be heard over the conversation. The pans were about four inches deep and the size of an iPad. Inside, resting in what was probably an entire stick of bubbling, melted butter, were six enormous shrimp.

To this day, I’ve never seen prawns that size again. Each was the size of my hand—larger than the “rock lobsters” at the Red Lobster. (It’s an insult to even mention them in the same sentence.) I don’t know where they came from, or exactly how they were cooked, but they were ah-mazing. Buttery, garlicky, sweet and salty at the same time. Nothing short of fantastic. With the Spanish wine, the crusty bread and the company of good friends, they were the most incredible meal I’ve ever eaten.

After lunch, we took a walk through a German cemetery, then stopped in a pub for a beer. I don’t remember the drive home. I’m a bit of a light-weight. But I will never forget that meal. I only wish I could find that restaurant again. Or maybe not. Sometimes, it’s better not to revisit the past. It can live on in glory in my memory.

Thanks, Julia. Oxymorons of “enormous shrimp” not withstanding, it’s hard to go wrong with giant prawns. Except when they’re so big that they threaten to take over the city, mostly because of how much butter you need to really take them down.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro