Posts by Lawrence:

Congratulations Nebula Nominees!

Written on February 20th, 2019 by
Categories: News
Nebula Conference

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has released the list of finalists for this year’s Nebula Awards. It’s an especially powerful ballot, bearing a stellar list of incredible work and talented authors.

Congratulations to all of the nominees! I hope you’ll all be able to attend this year’s conference in southern California. All evidence suggests that the Events Team has outdone themselves and we are in for the very best conference yet.

I’ll confess, part of my delight at this year’s list of finalists stems from seeing my own name listed as a nominee for Best Novelette for “The Rule of Three.” I am exceedingly proud of this piece. I believe it’s the best thing I’ve ever written at less than novel length, and it shows the maturation of my abilities as an author over the years.

This is my sixth Nebula nomination in seven years, and my first for novelette. The competition is particular fierce, and as always, win or lose, it really is an honor to find my work listed among such incredible writers.

But I didn’t get there by myself, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and express my gratitude to the people who’s efforts contributed to my nomination.

Zangaogao Terraces

I wrote “The Rule of Three” in response to a visit to Guizhou, China. I was part of the first Danzhai workshop sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration and the Wanda Group. My experiences there will live forever in my memory, as will the incredible conversations I had with Derek Künsken, Kelly Robson, Alyx Dellamonica, Lucia Liu, Bo Jiang, Lucia Liu, Bao Shu, and especially Vera Sun, and FAA co-founder Ji Shaoting, all of which contributed to the shaping of the novelette.

Alex Shvartsman, longtime friend, convention roommate, and editor of Future Science Fiction Digest bought the story and featured it as the premiere piece in the first issue of the online magazine. His backing and belief in the novelette, basically launching the magazine with it, means more to me than I can properly express, and his continuous championing of it has been wonderful. He’s also responsible for catching a glitch in which my software (not me, I tell you, it was the software) deleted one scene and duplicated another in the manuscript. Good catch, Alex!

Elektra Hammond was my copyeditor on this novelette and she’s great. Really, it’s that simple. She’s come to know my voice from her work on other projects of mine (most notably both books in my Barsk series) and I believe that makes a huge difference. Thank you, Elektra.

Wulf Moon produced the podcast version of the novelette, doubtless providing greater saturation and allowing the work to reach more people than the print version could. He asked all the right questions and his results were excellent. Thanks, Wulf.

And finally, 脱团猫 (aka Isaac), has been handling the translation of “The Rule of Three” into Chinese. Like Alex, he also caught the twin problems of a duplicated and missing scene (and thankfully, I had the fix in hand about a day before he did so I could send it to him). His comments have been insightful and helped shaped the final manuscript before Alex published it, and will surely yield a great translation when the novelette is released in China later this year.

So, yes, my name appears on the novelette and the nomination list, but it wasn’t just me. If anyone reading this ever has the opportunity to work with any of the people I’ve listed and thanked here, know that you are in good hands and you’ve involved yourself with people of incredible talent and skill.

And again, congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Lawrence

Eating Authors: Sam Hawke

Written on February 18th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Sam Hawke

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of the founding members of Codex, an online community of authors created by Luc Reid. I’m not as active there as I used to be, but it’s incredible to see how much the group has grown over the years, and especially to see new members report in when they’ve published their first novels, or to get to know writers who live so far away that I’m unlikely to actually encounter them face to face (with the exception of dizzying and pseudo-random encounters in Helsinki and similar exotic locales).

This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest hits both those criteria. Sam Hawke lives in Canberra, Australia, or so she claims. Details of her life suggest that, at least in that regard, she is an unreliable narrator. She insists she’s lazy, but two novels sold to Tor suggest otherwise. And while her alleged distrust of ducks is certainly plausible, I feel less confident about claims of martial arts skills given some hints of wounds caused by a cheese slicer (though whether these were self-inflicted or purely defensive is unclear).

Her debut novel, City of Lies (the first volume in her Poison War series) came out from Tor Books last summer. Volume two is set for a release in early December.

LMS: Welcome, Sam. So when and where was your most memorable meal?

SH: I went on my first overseas trip, to Thailand, with my then-boyfriend in 2002, equipped with no recommendations but a Lonely Planet guide – based on these quick paragraph descriptions of places we’d decide where to eat, where to go, whether or not to accept that side trip to the temple the tuk-tuk driver swears is the prettiest in town, only can we just stop at this amazing jewelry shop he knows that is having a one day only sale?). I can’t remember what it was about this particular description that so excited me, but across the island we went to find this mysterious restaurant based on a description but no precise street address.

City of Lies

It was… not a smooth journey. Our tuk-tuk broke down part way, in the middle of nowhere; it was sauna-hot and we were hungry and anxious about how much the replacement tuk-tuk was going to charge (we didn’t have mobile phones back then so we were at the mercy of the replacement driver), then the replacement one ran out of petrol and had to refill, so by the time we did eventually make it into town the hangry levels must have been pretty high. A different person – perhaps a more rational person – might have cut their losses and just eaten at the next place we saw, but no! Let no one accuse me of being rational.

We got to the street after another long hot walk but there were no numbers. All we had was the street name and a description of the restaurant’s appearance, in what now seemed like a deliberate attempt to personally sabotage us by the book’s editor. We had, I think, walked past the restaurant no less than 6 times before one of us realized the name was hidden behind some greenery. Hurray! We’d done it! We did not need to fight to the death and eat the loser’s corpse! (I may be exaggerating the extent of my bad temper and stubbornness vector at the moment but then again, maybe not. I really, really like food).

I remember stepping inside and knowing straight away we’d made the right call despite everything. It was one of those places that just ooze charm. It was insulated from the street noise and heat by overgrown plants, and it had eclectic décor in a mix of Thai, Chinese and what seemed to be South American styles (which explained itself when the smiling husband-wife owners introduced themselves). Everything was going to be allllll right.

Hollow Empire

And it really was. I wish I could remember what we ate, exactly, but I don’t, I just I remember that the dishes were labelled like boring bog standard westernized Thai/Chinese dishes – ‘sweet and sour pork’ and ‘lemon chicken’ and such, but when they came out it was like the difference between a sun sweet strawberry picked wonky and ripe from your own garden compared to the enormous, stiff, empty ones in shops. Everything had so much flavor, so much nuance. Every dish was better than the last. But it wasn’t just the food, it was the staff as well. While we were waiting for our first course, the waiter arrived with little samplers of other things on the menu – “The Chef thought you might like to try these while you’re waiting.” Not just at the beginning but between every course. “I know you didn’t order this but I thought you might like a taste.” “Here’s a little palate cleanser sorbet so you can properly enjoy the next one.” It was like being fed by loving relatives rather than complete strangers.

Even after we had paid the bill, already tipped, past the point at which there was any possible financial incentive to keep bringing us things, we were still being given cups of thick sweet tea and hard biscuits and urged to stay longer. The owners moved the tables to the edges and suddenly everyone was impromptu Latin dancing like we were in a movie (not a musical, thankfully, because I think I might have drawn the line at impromptu group songs). We stayed there dancing ’til it closed. Afterward, we walked along the beach and Boyfriend found a mysteriously abandoned – but flawless! – rose lying on the beach to give to me.

The whole thing, looking back on it, was so ridiculously perfect it could have been scripted. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about food (aside from the fact that it’s delicious, obviously), that even if I can’t remember exactly what I ate, all these years later, I remember how it felt and the surprise and delight as our evening turned around. The turning point between ‘terrible afternoon of doom’ and ‘perfect evening of almost embarrassing levels of happiness’ was just that: one good meal.

Thanks, Sam. I’m a big believer in serendipity and paying attention when the universe sends flashing neon signs. That rose on the beach? You never had a chance.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: J.K. Ullrich

Written on February 11th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
J.K. Ullrich

Last September, I attended Capclave, much as I do every autumn (though it’s usually in October). Among its highlights, the convention gives out the Washington Small Press Award and announces the winners of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s amateur writing contest. Last year, that winner was J.K. Ullrich, for her story “Shakti.” I was chatting with her the day before and learned that “amateur” was a bit of a misnomer, or at best only applied to her short fiction. J.K. had actually already published two novels, and won LibraryJournal’s award for Best Self-Published E-Book as well as a New Apple medal for Excellence in Independent Publishing. That was all I needed to hear. I handed her one of the fancy EATING AUTHORS business cards that I bring to conventions for just such purposes. A few days later I followed up via email. And then, as happens to authors, we both got busy with other things and her appearance here was delayed. Eventually our biorhythms synched up and now she’s here!

I also need to tell you that J.K. introduced me to possibly the best quotation I’ve ever seen in an author’s bio:

“When people say, Did you always want to be a writer?, I have to say no! I always was a writer.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin

That probably tells you almost everything you need to know about her right there. Anything else can be discerned by reading her work. Seriously, a teenagers on a failing moon colony doing scavenger runs to a ruined Earth, it’s all there. Go read it.

LMS: Welcome, J.K. Please tell us the tale of your most memorable meal.

JKU: It’s amazing how just two simple ingredients can create a banquet of tantalizing possibilities. I didn’t appreciate this until I was twenty-one years old, during a summer studying abroad in Italy. The teacher leading the expedition, a part-time resident of a small Umbrian town, recruited local friends to offer her students a rich menu of Italian cultural experiences. We took language lessons in a classroom above a bakery, conjugating verbs that tasted like fresh bread; went spelunking in ancient Roman water systems beneath the town with an archaeological team; restored old paintings in a local studio; and tried our hands (literally) at traditional Italian cooking.

Syzygy

Loretta, our culinary instructor, scrounged kitchen implements from neighbors to set up an impromptu teaching kitchen in a ground-floor apartment she called her “laboratory”. Its stone walls and a cramped spiral staircase reminded me more of a medieval alchemist’s workshop. There, drinking hot coffee despite the humid Mediterranean July, she taught seven American college kids how to make pasta a mano. Something I’d only experienced as a dry box product became a gloriously messy act of creation.

Mounds of flour, with eggs cracked into their hollow tops like yolky calderas, became a glutinous paste that clung to my fingers. Wooden dowels stretched it to transparent thinness, revealing the grain of the board beneath. A fold of the dough, a streak of the knife, and ribbons of tagliatelle unfurled from our fingers. Bouquets of resting pasta festooned the lab before Loretta rewarded us with apple slices fried in a batter of flour and water. The hybrid of apple pie and French fries, simultaneously tender and crunchy with a hint of floral sweetness, stunned me with its succulent simplicity. Perhaps she really was an alchemist, capable of transforming basic flour and water into golden delicacies.

The following afternoon, our study-abroad leader invited the whole cast of our Italian adventure to a farewell dinner, featuring our freshly made pasta. More than a dozen people converged on a farmhouse with Umbria’s iconic sunflower fields waving in the distance. Loretta and her accomplices had conjured multiple courses to showcase the elegant simplicity of rustic Italian cuisine. Flour and water cast their flaky spell on a parade of exotic appetizers. Fried sage leaves melted their earthy aromas on my tongue. Zucchini blossoms, filled with gooey mozzarella and fried in crisp tempura-like batter, brought a triumvirate of textures to my lips. Breadcrumbs transformed into spicy filling for stuffed eggplant. How could our humble tagliatelle follow such a sumptuous prelude? It turned out that good pasta, like a good archetype, provided a familiar base for almost endless variation: marinara, the bright acidity of tomatoes tempered with fresh basil; a hearty meat ragù; chicken speckled with herbs and drenched in thick brown sauce. The noble noodles embraced them all, transporting every set of taste buds.

Blue Karma

Dessert brought the meal to a decadent climax with chocolates, apricot cake, and a tiramisu so delicate it felt like eating spoonfuls of coffee-infused cream. The company cleared their palates with a parting shot of the hosts’ homemade limoncello. It smelled as innocent as pastry, but when it hit my tongue, I barely had time to register citrus before the alcohol kicked me in the head so hard that I gasped. The host, smirking, claimed that the stuff was too deadly to pass through customs, and he had to smuggle it to American friends in shampoo bottles. I didn’t attempt that when I flew home a few days later, but I still had plenty to declare that autumn as I began my senior honors thesis in creative writing.

As Loretta had taught, I harnessed the transformative power of two simple ingredients: not flour and water this time, but words and imagination. Drawing from my travel journal, I crafted a narrative based on my summer in Italy. Forty thousand words later, I’d proved to myself that I had the ability write a novel (although it would be another seven years before I published my debut). More importantly, I’d captured all those incredible experiences to savor for the rest of my life. The flavors have long since faded from my lips, but re-reading the description of that dinner takes me right back to the table, memories as heady and bright as the afterburn of bootleg limoncello.

Thanks, J.K. It’s impressive what you can do with just two ingredients. Now I’m wondering what might be possible if you added a third, with the extra one being chocolate, of course.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jenn Lyons

Written on February 4th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Jenn Lyons

Last month I was attending Storming the Confusion, a wonderful convention in Detroit that changes its name and theme each year and always has a wide assortment of friends and colleagues that I want to see. This year’s convention proved no different, and if I had my druthers we’d all still be there.

Among the many people present was this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Jenn Lyons. I first got to know Jenn (and her husband, Michael) while we were all hanging out in the lobby of a hotel in Helsinki (as one does), waiting for our parties to gather so we could venture into the night to our respective restaurants. At the time, Jenn was waxing about her upcoming series from Tor Books. We shared a few stories and parted smiling, because it’s always joyful to hear of another author’s good fortune. Time passed, and the following year although we were all at Confusion, I didn’t see them until I was at the airport waiting around for my flight and they hauled me into a restaurant. We sat and had a meal and another great talk. I asked Jenn when the first book in her series was coming out and would she like to come talk about a meal when it did. She said she would, but the book wasn’t out for another year.

This year, not long before Confusion, Jenn reached out and said basically, “Hey, remember that book, it’s coming out the first Tuesday of February.” I said, “Well, what a coincidence, I happen to have an opening in the schedule the first Monday of February.” And so here we are.

The Ruin of Kings, book one in her epic fantasy series, A Chorus of Dragons, comes out tomorrow.

LMS: Welcome, Jenn. What meal stands out in your memory?

JL: I will admit to being a bit of a foodie, and as such I’ve enjoyed some amazing meals. But the one I will always remember the most isn’t because of what I ate, but because of what I didn’t eat. I’ll explain.

In Santa Monica, California there used to be a restaurant called Typhoon which looked out on to the local municipal airport runway. (Tragically, Santa Monica has since closed that airport and the restaurant with it.) Typhoon was a lovely location with a fantastic view of the planes taking off and landing, and they served some phenomenal Pan-Pacific dishes. I loved going there and I loved taking my friends.

Normally we ordered the regular dishes off the menu. But that was very much a choice: Typhoon also had an extensive menu of insects.

The Ruin of Kings

So, with that in mind I had invited a friend to dine there with me for the first time. He’d arrived early, and he’d ordered a cocktail. Actually, he’d ordered a couple of cocktails. He was feeling pretty good by the time I arrived. Good enough that, unlike every other friend I’d ever taken there, he wanted to order off the insect menu.

So that’s what we did.

And you know, it was a great meal. We’d ordered more normal fair too. Typhoon had a Chinese chicken curry dish that still haunts my dreams and their Filipino barbecue pork was always a ‘must order’ item. Then there were the insect dishes. Manchurian ants on shoestring fries were surprisingly delicious. The ants tasted like vinegar. Stir fried crickets in a very spicy sweet and sour sauce were delicate and nutty.

Then the scorpion arrived.

Now, I had expected a plate of small, fried scorpions, something like the crickets. This was…not that. Imagine a single pristine black scorpion sitting on a small white plate. No forks, no lobster crackers, no utensils of any kind. The scorpion easily measured four inches long with the tail curled tightly up over its body. The fried carapace gleamed shiny and hard.

My friend and I sat there and stared at it. He was tipsy; I was sober. It made no difference.

We stared harder. Neither of us made a move to try to eat the damn thing. The problem, you see, was one of commitment. With the other insects, we’d been able to see what we were getting into – literally in the case of the crickets. But this scorpion? We didn’t know. We couldn’t know. Would it be like lobster on the inside? Would be it something…else? The only way to find out would have been for one of us to grab the thing, bite down hard, and accept the consequences. This was a culinary leap into the unknown, a freefall without a parachute. This was looking into the abyss and discovering that not only was the little monster looking back, it made rude finger gestures. I like to think we both learned a truth about ourselves that meal.

We never ate the scorpion.

Thanks, Jenn. My sister used to live in Santa Monica and so I’d driven past that airport many times. I did not know about the restaurant though or I’m sure I’d have mounted an expedition to sample the insects. Even so, I doubt I’d have eaten the scorpion either.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Martha Carr

Written on January 28th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Martha Carr

Back in November, as part of my misguided hey-let’s-do-four-conventions-this-month extravaganza, I attended the Indie Authors’ conference, 20Booksto50K®Vegas, it was easily the smartest thing I did that month.

This week’s EATING AUTHOR guest, Martha Carr, gave a presentation on the very first day—before lunch even—that just blew me away. I’m talking five stars of inspiration. And as I attempt to immerse myself in the Indie world and reinvent my career as an author, that kind of inspiration is nothing to sneeze at. Naturally, I invited her to come here and share a meal and I’m delighted that she accepted.

Martha credits her design to be a writer to that childhood day she walked into the Philadelphia Free Library and discovered they would let her leave with books! That, and a Vincent Price film she saw when her father dropped her off at the movie theatre without first checking what was showing. From such early influences has come more than thirty books (and that’s just since May of ’87!). Co-authored with Michael Anderle, and often under the shared pseudonym of Judith Berens, she has written such series as The School of Necessary Magic, The Daniel Codex, The Leira Chronicles, I Fear No Evil, Rewriting Justice, and Alison Brownstone.

Martha’s first solo series, the Peabrain Adventures, is coming out very soon now, starting with The Peabrain’s Idea from her own imprint, MRC Publishing. Books two and three will follow quickly.

LMS: Welcome, Martha. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

MC: I’ve been very fortunate to eat in some of the best restaurants in the US and to have sat at some tables of some very good home cooks. But, every time I think about what was my best meal, I keep going back to a steak house in Little Washington, Virginia in the early 1970’s.

It was a non-descript chain steak house (I don’t even remember the name), that stuck to the basics – big pieces of beef, loaded potatoes and iceberg lettuce salads. I had my usual neon-orange dressing on top of my salad. Doesn’t sound like it would rate even a memory, much less, best ever but everything happens in context.

The Peabrain's Idea

I grew up as a preacher’s kid and money was always tight to the point of choking. We never went without a meal but there weren’t always seconds and things were pretty bare bones. Going out for fast food was a very big deal. It was always Burger King, me and my four siblings always had to say what we wanted before we got there and only one of us was allowed to go up to the counter. Mine was always plain hotdog, fries and an orange soda. Solid order.

Food for my family was generally what you ate to survive. An orange and nuts in my stocking at Christmas got me very excited and I treasured that orange in winter for a little while before I ate it.

Fortunately, there was that preacher’s kid thing. At the time, Dad was filling in at a little church in Little Washington in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Just happened to be a return visit to his first ever church but this time with a few more kids. Every once in a while, parishioners felt moved to take us all out to lunch on Sunday after the service, which was very kind of them considering how many there were of us. Best restaurant in town was that steak house.

Waking Magic

I was allowed to order whatever I wanted within reason. That last part was my mother’s instruction delivered with an arched brow – I knew what it meant. Don’t embarrass her by ordering filet mignon. Keep one eye on the prices. Even with that stern order, I was in heaven. My own steak, a loaded potato and a salad with that neon orange dressing – my favorite. To this day, over four decades later, I can still feel that first flicker of an idea that the world had a lot more to offer than I initially realized. There was an abundance to this world and I was included.

I had missed some important clues about what could be accomplished in this world, what could be experienced and just how many choices there were out there. But it was okay, this steak lunch was telling me, there’s time and there will be opportunities to go out there and try stuff. I know, it doesn’t sound like a lot to a lot of readers, but for this kid it was a great lunch and a doorway to a new way of thinking about myself. Best meal ever and I didn’t have to share with anyone. Little bit of heaven just for a moment.

Thanks, Martha. That’s a precious memory indeed, the shift from a world of scarcity to one of abundance. I’m a little worried about that neon-orange dressing though.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Alexandra Rowland

Written on January 21st, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Alexandra Rowland

In theory, as you’re reading this, I should be safely back from Detroit, deliriously exhausted from a long weekend with friends and colleagues, and smug that I did not over-indulge while away. If I’m in a particularly righteous mood, it no doubt means that I had the discipline to slip away from the festivities each day and write for a couple of hours. But of course, all that awaits me in my future because I’m setting this up to post a week or so in advance, because I’m pretty sure I’ll be too busy during the convention to even remember to do so otherwise

For the current work-in-progress, I’ve been writing a chapter involving magic drawn from the elemental plane of existence, specifically water elementals. That’s as much as a segue as I can muster to introduce this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Alexandra Rowland, who though she currently resides in western Massachusetts grew up on a sailboat in the Bahamas. As a life-long land lubber, reading that sentence fills my brain with endless questions about common events of childhood that I’m sure I took for granted at the time. Unfortunately for me, I’m only permitted to ask a single question of guests here, and we all know what it is.

Alexandra’s most recent novel, A Conspiracy of Truths, features a storyteller protagonist. That alone was enough to hook me. But then she went and added some conflict (because most of you like your books to have, you know, a plot). So, naturally enough, the storyteller is arrested for that classic one-two punch of being both a witch and a spy. I’d tell you more, but I want you to go and buy the book yourself.

LMS: Welcome, Alexandra. What’s been your most memorable meal?

AR: At the beginning of 2014, my father died–terminal lung cancer. We’d only caught it about two months before. Within two weeks of first hearing the diagnosis, I quit my job in St Louis and had moved back home to Florida, where I told my obviously distraught mother in no uncertain terms that when the worst happened, I was going to force her out of the house to have an adventure. We spent five months in Europe, from May to September.

A month or so into the journey, our paths diverged—she went to Italy to visit a friend, and I headed up into Scandinavia. I landed in Oslo very late at night (though it was far enough into summer that the sky at midnight was little darker than twilight), only to discover that the last bus to the hotel had left half an hour previously. “Well, shit,” I thought.

It was the first time I was ever alone in a foreign country.

A Conspiracy of Truths

To be fair, though, a no-darker-than-twilight night in Oslo is a pretty safe place for a female-presenting English speaker to be alone. It’s an interesting thing, aloneness—no one to tell you what to do, no one to help you, but also no expectations and no one to please or consider but yourself.

I spent almost all my cash on a taxi to the hotel, which, I discovered when I arrived at half-past midnight, was in a series of buildings that appeared to be like nothing so much as a renovated military barracks, surrounded by thick Norwegian forest. When I went to check in, the attendant told me they didn’t have my reservation in the system.

After a tedious process which I am sure you can imagine well enough that I need not explain, the reservation was found. The room I was given was tiny, the bathroom miniscule, but it was clean and the narrow, lumpy twin bed was sufficient for my purposes. I woke up again at sunrise—which was at 4am—and, blearily cursing the whole idea of latitude and discovering that the window did not have blinds, did what I could to drape a blanket across it to block out the light and get a couple more hours of rest.

At a more civilized hour of the morning, I discovered there was no hotel breakfast, nor a convenience store. I briefly entertained the idea of entering the forest behind the so-called “hotel” to become a hunter-gatherer, because the bus to the city would take nearly an hour and I was already starving. I hunted-and-gathered half of a stale, forgotten cookie from the bottom of my purse and reflected upon some of my life choices while I waited at the bus stop with the forest at my back. In the city, I couldn’t find an ATM, so I spent the last of my cash on fruit and snacks and a couple microwaveable packets of soup. I saw what sights I could, walked until my feet were ready to fall off, braced myself for the highway-robbery credit card fees to buy a ticket to a museum.

The bus back to the hotel was delayed, and when I finally got there again, footsore and very tired and once again starving, I discovered that I could not, in fact, microwave the packets of soup, as there was no microwave. Not in the room, and not at the desk. I briefly considered having a short, therapeutic cry.

In the End

But that’s the thing about aloneness—no one to please but yourself, and no one to annoy but yourself. If I’d been with anyone else, all the little inconveniences of the trip might have built up. We would have expressed our frustration to each other, building it up together into something twice as bad as it really was. We might have started thinking that this leg of the trip was unpleasant, even catastrophic. We might have even argued.

But there was no one else. Just me, frustrated and starving and alone, making choices about inconveniently located hotels and misremembering the appliances present in the room, and dealing with each new thing as it arose and bearing the consequences of my choices by myself, because there was nothing else to do but solve the problem in front of me: The taxi had to be paid for, the window had to be covered, the bus took the time that it took, the credit card fees were what they were.

And at the end of a long day, I could slurp cold, congealed soup directly out of a packet (no spoon, no bowl or cup), or I could be creative. I could fix things for myself too. No one else was going to.

I filled the tiny sink in the tiny bathroom with scalding hot water and let the soup packet float in it until it was warm, and then I ate it, sitting in the middle of the floor (no chair or table). I noticed then that the room was floored with these silvery pine boards that were, actually, remarkably beautiful. I noticed too that with the window flung open, I could catch the deep, ancient smell of the forest. The sun was warm, the breeze comfortably cool. And even slurped out of the packet, that soup was delicious.

Thanks, Alexandra. At first, I thought you were describing Franz Kafka’s most memorable meal, and then, as if by an act of will, the magic came out. Of course, being alone, no one else was there to share in it, until now.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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My Official (Accept No Substitutes) Awards Eligibility Post

Written on January 15th, 2019 by
Categories: News, Plugs

In the back of my mind I can hear my 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Golitotti, lecturing me with some variation of “and if all the other children jumped off a cliff, would you too?” which, it should be said, is not necessarily a bad thing for a teacher to be telling her six-year old pupils.

The advice may be less sound when it comes to things like Nebula and Hugo Awards, particularly in a world where authors are expected to do more of their own promotion than in past decades (and this goes quadruple for Indie authors). With that in mind, please pardon this post where I will blow my own horn. The intention here is to inform or remind you of my work from 2018, not to praise it to the moons of barsk. If you’re a member of SFWA, you’re entitled to nominate for the Nebs. If you’re a member of either the previous and/or upcoming Worldcon, you can nominate for the Hugos.

So, with that context, for those among you who nominate in the Hugos, here’s what I’m eligible for:

Best Novel: THE MOONS OF BARSK by Lawrence M. Schoen.

This is the sequel to my Nebula-nominated and Coyotl Award-winning Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard. High-concept anthropomorphic science fantasy, so, yeah, not like much else out there. Arguably the best thing I’ve ever written.

|| Hardcover || Ebook || Audio ||

Best Novella: INVASION (SEEDS OF WAR, VOL. 1) by Jonathan P. Brazee and Lawrence M. Schoen.

My big leap into the life of being a “hybrid author,” this is the first volume of a novella trilogy I co-wrote with military SF veteran and retired Marine colonel Jonathan P. Brazee. One marine battles alien vegetable daikaiju to save a world!

Best Novelette: THE RULE OF THREE by Lawrence M. Schoen.

Last June I traveled to China as part of a workshop sponsored by FAA and the Wanda Group. Along with several Canadian and Chinese authors I toured sites that were part of a poverty abatement program. “Remarkable” doesn’t begin to describe the experience. I came home and wrote this novelette. I sent it to Alex Shvartsman and he published it as the lead story in the premiere issue of Future SF in mid-December, which also means few people may even be aware of it yet. I think that’s a shame because it’s the best novelette I’ve ever written.

Best Fanzine: EATING AUTHORS by Lawrence M. Schoen.

For the past seven and a half years, I’ve spent every Monday interviewing authors and asking them to share their most memorable meals. The intention has been to give fans a glimpse at the writer behind the books they read. Whether it’s Hugo-worthy is up to you to decide.

Note: While the Eating Authors blog makes me technically eligible, please do not consider me for the Best Fan Writer category. I simply produce and edit this series, with my guests doing all the real writing. But do remember to nominate for the fan writer category, as there is plenty of good stuff out there!

Best Related Work: SUNZI’S ART OF WAR translated by Agnieszka Solska

Last summer I published the long awaited Klingon translation of Art of War. But this isn’t just a Klingon translation. It includes a new English translation from the original Chinese is loaded with pages upon pages of scholarly notes about the different versions of previous Chinese translations over the years and the difficulties of bringing them to Klingon. It’s also worth noting that none of these languages —Klingon, Chinese, or Klingon — are Professor Solska’s native language.

Best Professional Artist: VICTO NGAI

And finally, please consider the incredible Victo Ngai when you’re nominating artists. I’m incredibly grateful to have had her do the covers for both of the Barsk novels, and her work has graced so many other fine books.

The Moons of Barsk
Invasion
Future SF #1
Art of War

Eating Authors: Mel Gilden

Written on January 14th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Mel Gilden

As we close in on the midpoint of the month, I have to say that I am loving the new year. I’m sleeping better, eating better, exercising more, and (most importantly) writing a lot more. Life is good, so much so that in a few days I’m treating myself to a bit of travel and heading off to Detroit for ConFusion where, according to the current version of the schedule, I have several panels, a signing on Saturday at 4pm, and a reading on Sunday at noon. Stop in and say “howdy” if you’re going to be at the convention.

This week’s EATING AUTHOR guest is a particular delight to have. I first encountered Mel Gilden’s work back in the late 80’s when I acquired a paperback of the newly released Surfing Samurai Robots from the Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks. An alien detective named Zoot Marlowe, surfing robots, the California sun, and an industrial genius with a name like Knighten Daise — what more could you want? The book was a wacky mix of Raymond Chandler and Douglas Adams and I loved it. It was only in preparing this introduction that I discovered that Mel had returned to the series a few years later and written two more books. I’ve already added them to my overburdened To Be Read list.

Mel’s other fiction includes children’s books, various media tie-in novels (everything from Beverly Hills 90210 to Star Trek), and television cartoons. He’s been a consultant for both Disney and Universal, developing theme park attractions. And for five years he was the co-host of Hour 25, an SF radio interview show in Los Angeles. Given that I grew up there (well, okay, in Culver City), I’m a little flummoxed that our paths never crossed. But hey, I’ve got him here now, so it’s all good.

LMS: Welcome, Mel. What stands out as your most memorable meal?

MG: Thanks for asking. I do in fact recall a meal, or rather a whole set of meals:

I was going to write about the wonderful dinners my sweetie puts together, often at the last minute. But we are both still alive and healthy, and I live in hope that other, even more spectacular, dinners will appear as time goes on. So I decided to write about my grandmother—my mother’s mother—who was known to everybody as Ma, no matter how they were actually related.

Dr. Big

Back when I was a kid in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ma would invite local family members to dinner once or twice a year. She must have been 60 or more by then, but as far as I know, she did all the cooking herself. She and her husband had come from Latvia in their twenties, so everything she made had an East European aroma and flavor. This was okay with me. I love that stuff. On the rare occasions when I experience such an aroma now, I spend a lot of time just inhaling.

In those days, nobody in the group worried about fat, sugar, or gluten, so the table was loaded down with so much meat, starch, and a selection of vegetables that you could not actually see the table.

Dinner always began with chicken soup – homemade, of course. I still remember the little puddles of chicken fat floating in the soup among the alphabets and thin noodles – always both because we kids liked both. The soup was very good, but I never ate as much of it as I wanted because I knew what was coming.

The meat I liked best was the egg-shaped hamburgers, perhaps because each of them contained bits of carrot and spinach that gave them an extraordinary flavor that I still haven’t forgotten after all these years.

Surfing Samurai Robots

There were potatoes, of course, but I preferred to eat the noodles in various forms, my favorite being noodle kugel. Kugel means pudding. It was put together in a big baking pan, mostly filled with noodles that had been mixed with raisins and spices and perhaps an egg or two to hold the whole thing together, then baked until it was a solid mass. I have never been too sure about the preparation details. I only know that I loved it.

You may be surprised to learn that dessert was not my favorite part of the meal. The honey cake was all right, but Ma used to make something called teiglach. This was an enormous knot of thick pretzel-like dough that had been cooked, or at least dipped, in honey. I’ve never been a big fan of honey, and you could crack your teeth on the dough part, and besides, the honey got all over everything. I think some of the adults ate it.

Calories were not a concern. I know that I myself had seconds of my favorite dishes and occasional thirds. Nor was I alone in this. After a while, lifting a full fork or spoon to our mouths was more than we could manage.

The Jabberwock Came Whiffling

When dinner was over, the female members of the crowd gathered in the kitchen to wash dishes and make expert commentary on the food while the males sprawled in the living room with their belts, and frequently their pants, undone. There was a lot of moaning and groaning. What little conversation there was consisted of promises never to eat again.

When the dishes were done, Ma would enter the living room and announce, “Nobody ate! Look at all this food left over!” Everybody departed from the house with a CARE package full of what we liked best. The leftovers might last for days, but it was never long enough.

In later years, I tried to get my mother, and now my sweetie, to attempt some of the food that Ma used to make, but it is a difficult job. I’ve even tried it myself without much success. There are no recipes. She never used them. Though she may have made a few extra grocery purchases, mostly she just used what she had in the house.

We have had some success with kugel and beet borscht, but the secrets of Ma’s hamburger and chicken soup are still mysteries, and probably will be forever.

Thanks, Mel. I feel like we must surely be related. Reading of Ma’s cooking has stirred up memories of my own maternal grandmother’s cooking (don’t get me started on her knadles). On her first visit to Los Angeles, she got off the plane carrying two shopping bags. One contained a giant bottle of homemade kosher pickles, and the other a massive container of chicken fat (in case she couldn’t get that in California).

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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