Posts by Lawrence:

Eating Authors: Jim Meeks-Johnson

Written on June 3rd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Jim Meeks-Johnson

In theory, I have returned successfully from being a GoH at APSFcon and staying on for a few days to explore Beijing. It’s only a theory because I’m using the internet as my personal time machine to write this post in advance because I anticipate being swamped when I get home (not to mention severely jetlagged).

Speaking of time machines (he said, segue-ishly), I’ve been reflecting on certain events in my past, among them the two weeks I spent at 10,000 feet under the tutelage of Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress as part of the 2010 Taos Toolbox masterclass. In addition to teaching me the value of hydration at high altitudes, that workshop gave me the skills of plotting and storytelling that made it possible for me to write Barsk and I’ll be forever grateful.

Which is why that as soon as I learned that another graduate of the Toolbox had just published his first novel my immediate reaction was to invite him to EATING AUTHORS. Please say hello to Jim Meeks-Johnson. He lives in Indianapolis, and as I’ll be there next month for the annual KLI conference, maybe I can lure him over to learn a little Klingon.

Like so many of us, Jim got sucked into reading SF courtesy of the works of Robert A. Heinlein. He’s used his degrees in psychology and mathematics to write software for medical research and for the past decade has been taking curious ideas from contemporary science to spin SF short stories. About five weeks ago he released Enemy Immortal, and if you like ten-ton blobs, immortal aliens, equine dance communication, sapient plantlife with laser vision, or superpowered heroes with their own rock band, then this is the novel you’ve been waiting for.

LMS: Welcome, Jim. Congratulations on your first novel. Let’s celebrate by you telling me about your most memorable meal.

JMJ: I like to travel and try new food. I’ve had many great dishes–from Fettuccine ai Frutti di Mare in Venice, to Cowboy Beans at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, to fresh-from-the-oven Crème Brule at Binkley’s in Indianapolis—but the best meal I’ve ever had? Nothing has ever surpassed Thanksgiving dinner on my grandparents’ Iowa farm.

Looking back, I can see that the preparation for Thanksgiving began before the snow thawed in March, when seed catalogs flooded the mail and farmers selected the varieties of each vegetable most loved by their family. Spring, summer, and fall, they watered and weeded the garden until the vegetables were picked at peak ripeness and canned the same day.

Enemy Immortal

Grandpa raised chickens, pigs, and cattle mostly, but he would fatten a turkey or two every year. And on Thanksgiving morning their house was rich with the steamy, mouth-watering goodness of roasting turkey and homemade sage dressing.

After everyone sang the doxology together, we sat down, and grandma sliced the juicy turkey and distributed it according to everyone’s preference–light or dark meat. I chose the dark. It always seemed to me to have more flavor and a smoother texture than the breast, and I was more likely to get a generous portion of the crispy brown skin.

The vegetables were from the garden outside. Heirloom gardeners understand more than most of us how much difference in flavor the variety of potatoes, corn, and green beans makes. The mashed potatoes were served lumpy, hearty, and flavorful, with a dollop of cream and butter from the cows in the barn stirred in. The gravy from the turkey drippings had a delightful roast turkey flavor. Acorn squash baked golden brown with butter and brown sugar was mashed and served beside the potatoes.

The salad consisted of the old Midwestern favorite, 7-layer Jello. The medley of colors and flavors was fun, as was the contrasting flavor and texture of the alternating transparent and creamy layers. Even more though, I loved the tart, crispy deliciousness of limed pickles, a rare treat because they were labor intensive even for our clan, requiring multiple baths of pickling solution.

Dessert was pumpkin pie, of course, with a heady clove smell and topped with plenty of homemade whipped cream from the cows outside.

I suspect all great chefs know this, but a lot of the goodness in food comes from selecting the perfect ingredients. Nothing beats great farm food prepared simply.

Thanks, Jim. Thanksgiving on the farm sounds like the perfect meal. Well, maybe not for the turkeys, but maybe they got to sample some practice pies before the big day.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Neal Asher

Written on May 27th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Neal Asher

As has been the case with the last few posts, this one is being prepared in advance because on the date it goes live, I’ll be traveling. Specifically, I should be recovering from my time as a GoH at APSFcon in Beijing. That ended yesterday, and I need to rest up because now it’s time to play tourist and tomorrow the plan is to visit the Great Wall, something which I suspect this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Neal Asher, could certainly appreciate.

Neal is probably most known for his Polity Universe and the multiple novels and series he’s set there (some sixteen books, to date), including his Agent Cormac series, his Spatterjay trilogy, and the Transformation books.

Much of his shorter fiction (including many novellas) can be found in six collections. He also has several fantasy novels and series that he’s still tinkering with, which we can but hope will surface in bookstores soon.

His latest novel, The Warship (the second book in his Rise of the Jain series) came out from Night Shade Books earlier this month.

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

NA: The meal was memorable not because of wonderful food but circumstances, perspective and background. First the background: It had been decades since I’d dreamed of being a writer, of seeing my name on lurid covers like the copy of A Princess of Mars I held in my hand as a teenager. I had nearly twenty books to my name, had completed to first draft a trilogy before I needed to hand in the first book, and my wife and I were embarking on another extended and enjoyable Summer on Crete. Life was good and, even when she turned round and told me, ‘I’m bleeding, down there,’ this being some years after her menopause, life had yet to descend into a nightmare. The trilogy written was called ‘Transformation’ and to some extent concerned people undergoing nightmarish transformations. Synchronicity I guess.

The Soldier

I’ll be brief, and it was all quite brief considering how these things often run. Steady blows at doctors and in a hospital on Crete: the mass of black blobs under ultrasound, the MRI showing a growth the size of a baby’s head, the Greek oncologist never quite saying the truth, the hideous hospital where relatives cleaned down the beds and all around them before their loved one took that place, and the subsequent escape and flight to the UK. All steps ever down. In the UK: emergency rehydration and feeding through the arm, the massive operation and the news of ‘Bowel cancer, stage four’, vomited green bile measured in a jug, and recorded, another operation and the ileostomy bag, carrying my 5 stone wife to the toilet, the decision to stay at home and that final, ‘Oh no,’ as she threw herself across the bed to escape something, and did not. Seven months from that bleeding, to a coffin sliding into a crematorium.

Dark Intelligence

I came out of the other side of this walking. They say that people try to handle grief in four different ways. They take pills, hit the bottle, work excessively or exercise excessively. I chose the last of these, along with ceasing to drink to excess, as I had before, and having quit smoking using an ecig. I walked every day to try and keep the black dog from my door, starting with just a few miles and getting up to about seven miles every day. I shed weight, helped by the fact that I ate infrequently, and toughened up. Returning to Crete I continued with this, now walking steep paths in the mountains and finally settling on an eight mile walk to a place called Voila (pronounced voy-la). I considered writing a strange book incorporating SF and my experiences called ‘Walking to Viola’ – something I started then found too painful to go through with.

I added swimming to my regimen, often walking in the morning then swimming for a mile in the afternoon from a local beachside bar. How much this had toughened me I only truly realised when I started gorge walking there. Meanwhile, I went through days when my body registered its objection to running on empty. I would wake up feeling incredibly hungry, eat something then fall asleep for a couple of hours, then repeat this sequence all day. Food obviously being a necessity I could not ignore I resorted to the giros. This is pork sliced from a skewer (a giro) and along with salad and chips wrapped in a pitta bread to form a cone. They are a meal in and of themselves.

Prador Moon

One particularly hot day I went on a long gorge walk. I think this might have been ten miles through rough terrain in the mountains. Returning to the coast I swam for a mile, then relaxed. However, a Greek guy I had been joking with at one time about a swimming race, chose that day to challenge me. We raced for a mile and he won (he was 20 years younger). Afterwards, as I cooled down, I decided I really needed food so ordered in two giros. I went for another short swim and on the way back cramp hit me first in one calf and then in the other. It felt like being hit there with a hammer and I finished the swim using arms only, then limped out of the sea up to the bar. My giros had arrived and, after sipping a beer, I dived in. I ate a chip and it just did not taste right. Adding salt improved the next chip, so I added more. At the time I remembered a gym instructor once ranting about how extra salt is unnecessary and we have too much. Laughable in the circumstances. By the time the giros tasted right I could hardly see its contents for the salt, and I could feel my body sucking it up and saying thank you. I enjoyed it immensely.

My memorable meal.

One would have hoped this marked a point of transition, of transformation, as would be the case in any story well told. Perhaps now I would stop pushing myself so hard and make my peace with the past. No. The bar owner introduced a new plot element when he told me he had a kayak I could use, and the story continued in a similar vein for years, and continues still. Life can be a story, but infrequently has a satisfying denouement, I know.

Thank you, Neal. I usually close out these meal posts with some attempt at a clever remark. Not this week though. I think I’ll just sit with this one for a while. Peace.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Maurice Broaddus

Written on May 20th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Maurice Broaddus

As I’ve previously noted, May is an especially hectic month for me this year. This post is being prepared a couple weeks in advance, but if all goes as planned these words will go live mere hours after my return from the Nebula Conference in L.A. and I’ll already be repacking to travel to Beijing in another 48 hours. And yet, I’m already thinking ahead to July, which also promises to be a hectic month, beginning with the NASFiC in Utah and the qep’a’ cha’maH javDIch in Indiana soon after.

Stream of consciousness being what it is, thoughts of Indiana—and particularly Indianapolis—stir up other associations including GenCon, Starbase Indy, and this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest Maurice Broaddus who has long called the city home.

When not writing, Maurice devotes his time to community development, enhancing the lives of local residents. You likely know him for his short fiction and his Knights of Breton Court trilogy, though I first stumbled across his work with his brilliant novella Buffalo Soldiers.

Maurice is also the creative genius behind Mo*Con, which is less like a typical convention and much more like a gathering of industry professionals and über fans coming together for fine food, tasty beverages, and excellent conversation.

His latest Middle Grade novel, The Usual Suspects, comes out tomorrow.

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

MB: We as a people have notoriously short memories and notoriously hard hearts. We need rituals to drag our imagination back to certain things, to stir our affections, and to serve as reminders to what is important in life. Rituals around food play an important role in my faith (from Communion to Easter), culture (Kwanzaa), and family (especially my parents’ tradition of Sunday dinners), even going on to shape my writing community (with Mo*Con, the writing convention I host in May).

Buffalo Soldier

Writing this, I can’t help but reflect on our family meals. My dad was not one quick to say “I love you” when we were growing up. Nor was he an especially huggy person, that was just not how his generation expressed things. But he would make BBQ chicken wings. Our Sunday dinners, no matter how poor we were, were spectacles. We’d usually have a couple different meats, assorted side dishes, and something either from Jamaica or England where my family has its roots. Not all of these culinary adventures would be a hit with us kids (because, seriously, why is steak and kidney pie a thing?) However, my dad always made chicken wings and would set them in front of me for me to get first dibs on them because he knew I loved them. I always took that as him saying that he thought about me and loved me. In fact, the BIG display of love would be if any of the kids finished our plates and had eaten all of the food, but were still hungry. My dad would share the food from his plate. It was like a ritual of love and remembrance. So I obviously take meals quite seriously.

With food holding such an important place in my heart, it was more difficult that I thought it would be to choose just one memorable meal. On one occasion, the family (which included a close friend of mine, since we don’t distinguish between close friends and family) took a trip to England which culminated with a weekend excursion to Paris where we had a three-hour long meal. It started with cheese, bread, and wine, and … well, there was a lot of wine. I have a vague recollection of frog legs and something in a luscious cream sauce. There was the time me and some family went to New Orleans, where we had a meal involving crayfish, beignets, Hurricanes, and … well a lot of Hurricanes. I have a vague recollection of something spicy.

The Usual Suspects

But the meal that stands out was only a couple years ago at Palimino’s, in downtown Indianapolis during GenCon. Me and some fellow game writers had wrapped up a project. We had just finished a live performance of our game, playtesting it in front of an audience and decided to go out to eat to celebrate a job well done. Paid for by the publisher. Who started us off with two bottles of wine and by ordering all of the appetizers on the menu, so we knew we were in for a time. My meal included calamari misto, fettucine frutti di mare, chocolate tiramisu and crème brulee. That was the food I remember because the evening blurred into a flurry of shared plates, the way family does. It also marked the first time I became food drunk. No, seriously, the next day I had a food hangover so bad I couldn’t even look at a plate because I was still so full.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the relationship of food and community as Mo*Con is almost upon me again and I’m choosing the right caterers for our meals. To create the atmosphere, to set the table, for a memorable occasion. But such an affair boils down to a simple mix of family/friends (an occasion to deepen the important relationships in your life), drinks (which lowers guards, loosens tongues, thus fueling the sharing of), stories (the shared history of who we are). All on a stage set by great food.

Thanks, Maurice. One of these years I will make my way back to Indianapolis for Mo*Con. I can’t think of a better setting to become food drunk.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: E.M. Foner

Written on May 13th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
E.M. Foner

One of the things I’ve been working on this month (along with way too much travel) has been a relaunch of my Amazing Conroy series, complete with new blurbs and covers, all being handled by an experienced professional I brought in for the purpose. Along the way, I’ve been getting a good education. As part of her market research she introduced me to a number of works of light, humorous SF by Indie authors. Which is both explanation of how I discovered E.M. Foner, and a segue into his being this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest.

He’s most well known for his Earth Cent Ambassador series which he began in 2014. He claims to have started the first book as a break from his efforts on an SF epic that he’d been hacking away at for years. I’ve been unable to find any indication that he ever went back to the epic, and so we’ll all just have to wonder what might have been. It’s understandable though, he’s clearly been busy. The quiet humor and PG plot lines of the series has led to some seventeen titles!

A second series, A I Diaries, is up to three books. He’s also tried his hand at fantasy with Meghan’s Dragon, a stand alone novel. E.M. lives in Northampton, Massachusetts and is rumored to have an imaginary German Shepherd. How that rumor factors into the author photo he provided is left as an exercise for the reader.

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

EMF: Back in 2001, I was sitting in a Jazz bar that had recently been opened by a Russian friend on Helene HaMalkah street in Jerusalem. Somebody entered and asked for a volunteer to come next door to the Swiss restaurant for a minyan, the ten Jewish men required by the orthodox for certain pubic prayers. I’m not a big fan of social occasions, but I figured they must be pretty desperate to be asking in a bar. In fact, the streets were empty for some reason I don’t recall, perhaps a recent bombing.

Date Night on Union Station

The only people in the restaurant were all part of the same party, sitting around a single line of tables that had been pulled together, and it didn’t take me too long to figure out that they were celebrating Sheva Brachos, the Seven Blessings that are said under the wedding canopy and in many traditions, repeated at a series of meals the following week. Friends at these dinners tell stories about the joys of married life, assumedly to convince the new couple that they haven’t made a terrible mistake.

I took the only open seat and ate a cookie at somebody’s urging, maybe I drank a coffee as well, and then they began benching, or singing the grace after meals. This I can manage without going too far off key thanks to having heard it enough times over the years. Then they got to the part where the guests actually start singing, the seven blessings. A full glass of wine is passed from hand to hand for the singer to hold, and I should mention at this point I’ve had a bad action tremor ever since my teen years, when I discovered I couldn’t keep a soldering iron steady.

Turing Test

As soon as the first blessing began, I had a premonition that they were going to give the last one to me as an honor for being a good sport and showing up. In addition to the tremor, I’ve always had a problem sight-reading Hebrew, especially if the vowels are included. This runs the opposite from most American Jews I know, who are taught to read with vowel markings (nikudot) and don’t necessarily know what they’re saying. In keeping with my idiosyncratic personality, I learned Hebrew primarily through reading newspapers, which are published without the vowel markings.

So I flipped ahead to the seventh blessing, which unlike the previous six one-liners, runs into a full paragraph of joy, and started muttering it over and over again under my breath to try to iron out the tricky words. Fortunately, the party also followed a tradition of adding a little nigunim, or wordless singing between each blessing, which bought me some extra time.

Independent Living

Sure enough, I ended up with silver wine goblet in my shaky hand, singing a paragraph-long blessing I’d never seen before in a tune I’d just heard to a group of French/Morrocan Jews who I’d never seen before either. When I got to the end without splashing anybody with wine, they gave me a round of applause, and I have to admit that for the rest of the night, I imagined myself moving on to bigger and better things, like maybe finally getting married myself since it looked like so much fun.

Alas, my participation in the meal that I didn’t eat represents the pinnacle of my social development, but I did learn my lesson about volunteering when a stranger comes into a bar asking for a Jew.

Thanks, E.M. I’m not sure what confused me more, having difficulty finding ten Jewish men in Jerusalem, or celebrating Sheva Brachos in a Swiss restaurant. Stranger than fiction indeed.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: R. R. Virdi

Written on May 6th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
R. R. Virdi

Welcome to May, or as I call it, Crazy Month.

Every year I say I’m going to cut back on my travel, and then opportunities fall in my lap. This month it’s two trips. First, next week I’ll be heading to Los Angeles for the annual Nebula Conference and my sixth trip to the nominees’ circle. This is my first time up for Best Novelette, so who knows? I’ll fly home the Sunday after the banquet, arriving just enough past midnight to make it count as Monday. Some time on Wednesday, I’ll get on a longer flight and head to Beijing, China, where I get to be one of the Guests of Honor at Another Planet Science Fiction Convention (aka APSFcon). I’ll linger in Beijing for a few days after the convention. Watch my social media feed for pics of me on the Great Wall and other touristy venues.

But before any of that can happen, I need to run another author’s most memorable meal past you. The timing being what it is, it seemed appropriate to introduce you to R. R. Virdi, one half of the team of Wijeratne and Virdi, whose novelette “Messenger” is vying with mine for THAT big, shiny, paperweight next week.

In addition to his recent Nebula nom, Ronnie has twice been a finalist for the Dragon Award. He has two urban fantasy series out there, The Grave Report and The Books of Winter. This past March he expanded into the sub-genre of space westerns with Star Shepherd, which should resonate with fans of Firefly, Han Solo, and even a bit of Cowboy Bebop.

If you’re going to be in L.A. for the conference, come on by. We’ll be drinking milkshakes together.

LMS: Welcome, Ronnie. Spare a few words regarding your most memorable meal.

RRV: Honestly, the most memorable meal of my life happened this year a few days before my birthday as an early treat. A dear friend took me out to a surprise birthday dinner along with my hero, Jim Butcher. They treated me to an amazing night out. It was a little hole in the wall, a bit literally, as we had to enter through a narrow phone booth like entrance and go underground. The place was Alice in Wonderland themed. Down the rabbit hole we went to find a charming little place. You couldn’t ask for a better place to eat if you were a book lover. Well, maybe an abandoned library, but part of that idea seems a bit sacrilegious. Maybe sacrilicious? Anyways, I ended up ordering a rabbit pot pie. It seemed fitting. I know the idea of rabbit might turn people off, but I was a French student in high-school and learned long ago that Peter Cottontail can be taste pretty nice.

Dangerous Ways

A perfect flaky and buttery crust gave way to this thick and creamy pie filled with tender rabbit meat. I tore it apart. But it wasn’t just the food. It was the company. I had people really close to me, and the person I look up to most in the world. We shared hilarious talk. Wonderful creative ideas. And, I got to celebrate my birthday with people who cared about me, believed in me. That meant the world to be honest. Everyone has a different story. Mine, for most of it, meant forgoing my birthday, at best, maybe just ordering something out to sort of pacify a family that’s never been to supportive of my dreams and ambitions. Here? I got to spend it with people that wanted to see me succeed. And at the end of the night, I was told a secret, something I’m still holding on to… that’s a dream come true. Even if it hasn’t happened yet.

I’ll always remember that Alice in Wonderland restaurant, that rabbit pie, the people, and what happened there. Best meal, and the best birthday.

Thanks, Ronnie. Who doesn’t love a bit of rabbit on their birthday? Now, about that secret. You can tell me…

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jennifer R. Donohue

Written on April 29th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
AUTHORNAME

Some weeks back, I was a day away from finishing a draft of a new Amazing Conroy story to round out a collection. I needed it to be between eight and ten thousand words, but it was coming in longer, a lot longer. I realized I might have a new novella on my hands. And just like that an idea for a separate story popped into my head, as if my unconscious mind was saying “Yeah, baby, novella time! Oh, and here, you can use this to write a different story.” Ultimately, that’s what I ended up doing, but before I put in that final day finishing the draft, before I started on the new piece, I shared this odd predicament with social media.

In response, over on Twitter, Jennifer R. Donohue, this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest, responded with support for the strategy of doing both stories even before I’d mentioned that solution online. That reminded me that Jennifer was a member of Codex, the online writing community, and that in turn led me to realizing that she’d published a book late last year. So, clearly, the obvious thing to do was to send her an invitation and find out what she considered her most memorable meal.

Jennifer grew up in New Jersey and now lives in central New York with her husband and a Doberman named Ulrike. Her short fiction has appeared in venues such as Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, and Mythic Delirum. She’s hoping to release a sequel to her first book before the end of 2019. She works at her local library and also facilitates a writing workshop there.

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

JRD: One of the best meals I’ve ever had, I cooked myself. It wasn’t the “best” because I’m a chef (I’m not), but because of the experience that went into it. See, historically I’ve been a very picky eater. Like, a pasta with butter on it kid. Or American cheese, as cheddar was too much for my palate. Boxed mac and cheese, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly, pierogies. Chicken fingers at restaurants (okay I still do this). But as I got older, I started to branch out, and by a teen, I was pretty cool with Chinese food in general. The ubiquitous takeout style, just to be clear.

My family, though, edges into foodie territory. A lot of us have traveled, a lot of us have just branched out into other culinary cultures to see what things were like, and this latter is where my best meal came from.

Run With The Hunted

I think it was my fifteenth birthday or sixteenth birthday. My Uncle Tim and Aunt Lisa lived near Philly, so they’re the ones who had to travel a little to the New Jersey party, gave me both a physical birthday gift, and also the gift of an experience. They gave me a little wok (to this day I’m not sure of the exact size. Eight inch, I guess? Ten inch?), a three-tool bundle of Joyce Chen bamboo cooking utensils, a Chinese food cookbook, and a hand-drawn certificate for one cooking lesson! They brought me back to their house, and we went into Philadelphia to go to the market there and get the ingredients for the meal that I would cook.

I chose fried wontons and pork stir fry, with carrots and snow peas. Vegetable pickiness still plagues me, and I do not like onions or mushrooms, things that tend to figure in dishes without actually being listed on menus. Under their watchful eye, I did my first meat cutting of any kind, and learned the pro tip: put meat in the freezer for a little bit, to make it easier to handle. I used the ingredients we purchased to make a marinade. I learned how to blanch vegetables. I saw my first rice cooker (and as an adult, I bought my own, though still mostly just cook rice on the stove). I learned how to fold wontons. I minced garlic and ginger, using the ulu knife that every household in my family has after my grandparents’ first Alaskan cruise.

And then, we heated the wok, and added oil, and I heated the aromatics. I added the pork and stir fried for the very first time. I don’t remember cooking the wontons, though I know we didn’t deep fry them, anyway.

Few things compared to sitting down to a meal you’d followed the steps for so meticulously, and I remember replicating it for my family once I was home, and my husband (then boyfriend) in the college dorm.

Thanks, Jennifer. Those wontons sound pretty tasty. I’m heading to Beijing in a month, my third China trip in three years. I’ve yet to eat anything there that resembles anything I find in “Chinese restaurants” here in the US. I’ll make a point of looking for fried wontons.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Richard Fox

Written on April 22nd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Richard Fox

The roller coast of life has picked up speed in the last couple of weeks. Less oblique references and more details can be found in posts to my social media feeds, but suffice it to say that I have been on the receiving end of a nonstop series of highs and lows. I’ll mention two in specific here, at either end of the spectrum: On April 14th the world lost Gene Wolfe, one of the greatest authors in our field. Over the years, I had the great pleasure to spend some time with Gene, even sitting down to a couple of meals with him. The man is gone, but the residue of his genius remains and if you haven’t read his work stop what you’re doing and go pick up a copy of my personal favorite, Soldier of the Mist. On the other side of roller coast, in a month’s time I’ll be headed back to China to be a Guest of Honor at Another Planet Science Fiction Convention (APSFcon) in Beijing. I’m blown away by this invitation and the chance to spend time with authors and fans on the other side of the world.

Closer to home, amidst the emotional rise and fall of life’s thrill rides, some things continue along more normal lines. That’s my official segue for introducing you to Richard Fox, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Like me, Richard’s up for a Nebula Award at next month’s conference (though fortunately for me, he’s been nominated in the Short Story category and I’m in Novelette). He’s also a past winner of the Dragon Award for Best Military Science Fiction, which he received for his Ember War saga.

Richard is a graduate of West Point and spent ten years on active duty in the US Army as a Field Artillery and a Military Intelligence officer, receiving the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star, and Presidential Unit Citation. Unsurprisingly, his fiction tends towards military SF, with forays into space opera, thrillers, and military history.

He’s a card-carrying member of that growing group of Indie authors (c.f., Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle) who’ve distinguished themselves with successfully financial careers, large back lists, and a talent for bringing other authors along for the ride as co-authors.

Last week he released Gott Mit Un, Book 5 in the Terran Strike Marines (co-authored with Scott Moon). I think that brings his total number of titles to around thirty, with at least one more due out soon.

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

RF: There I was, no kidding, at Camp Doha, Kuwait, in 2004. I was a 1st Lieutenant in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd squadron, Wolfpack) and we had just crossed the border from Iraq after fifteen months in country.

The Ember War

We didn’t know it was going to be a fifteen month tour. We were the second wave of troops into the country and we secured parts of Baghdad as best we good. The original plan was for us to be there just a few months—or home by Christmas!—then head home. A couple months turned into six, which turned into a year. After the year, a new unit took over our old mission but did we go home? No. We were extended for another three months to put down a rebellion through central Iraq.

After fifteen months, we finally were sent south to Kuwait to load our gear up and send it back to the United States. We spent a dusty day on a road march out of our base in Diwaniyah and crossed the big berm into Kuwait, handed off some equipment and slept in the desert, the next morning we drove to Doha, where we parked our gear and were given a brief break as the senior leaders figured out what we had to do next.

I don’t know if you’ve ever done much off roading, but after a whole day and another night in the sand, we were filthy. Hours of sweat in Iraq summer heat and a fine coating of dust made for some foul soldiers.

Terra Nova

Another lieutenant friend of mine named Rob Brown had been stationed at Doha many years ago and knew his way around. We had a few hours until the brass got a plan together. While our soldiers hit the showers, Brown grabbed me and took me over to the PX (Post Exchange, the Army’s version of Walmart) where there was a food court. There had to be two of us, as one couldn’t take his rifle into the PX.

So, Brown leaves me at front of the PX to watch our rifles while he went inside to get us food. Real, honest to god, food. The last fifteen months had been MREs (Army meals in a bag), the best Army mess halls could manage in a combat zone and whatever we could get off the Iraqis.

I sat out there waiting, feeling rank from days of congealed sweat dried against my skin and through my uniform, and it took me a while to realize that me and my unit were really on the glide path home. We’d be back in the states in another few days, but this was the first time I was willing to believe it.

Brown came back with a whole pizza and a couple of these nasty Diet Cokes that are bottled in the Middle East and never tasted right. He sat it down and we proceeded to eat. Now, Anthony’s Pizza (which is the PX brand of pizza restaurant) is not going to win any quality awards on most days, but then…then it was something magical. It was a taste of home, of freedom and escape from the war.

Iron Dragoons

Brown was just as dirty as I was, but we didn’t really care as we sat there scarfing down grease wedges. Doha was home to thousands of soldiers that didn’t deploy to Iraq: logistics and support soldiers who would never see combat and would spend their entire tours on a base with plenty of creature comforts.

Some of these soldiers and USAF types walked by, and we got some looks. Very clean individuals, chubby from mess hall ice cream and regular trips to the PX for snack food. They looked at Brown and I like we were Mongol barbarians, sitting in the Chinese emperor’s court.

He and I had just finished a long combat tour, and we had that air of alertness and this ‘fuck around and find out’ attitude we needed when dealing with potentially hostile Iraqis all the time. No one complained about the two of us, with our rifles, polishing off a whole pizza between the two of us.

But that meal was something else. It was a victory celebration for finishing the fight. It was our chance to be almost normal after fifteen months of ‘the suck.’

I still love pizza.

Thanks, Richard. There’s something iconic about pizza as a metaphor for victory. But I have to ask, what were the toppings?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Suzanne Palmer

Written on April 15th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Suzanne Palmer

How is it already mid-April? Seriously, I don’t understand it. Every day I get up and go off to write, and little by little the books take form as I scatter my intention across half a dozen different projects. Possibly because I work every day, I often lose track of what day of the week it is, only being reminded when my wife asks me what movie I’d like to see that day (which means it’s Tuesday) or texts me to say that I need to drive her to a hair appointment (usually a Friday). But that doesn’t explain how we’re suddenly halfway through April. It is a puzzlement, some mystical working of the universe that, like the wind, we cannot observe directly but merely experience its effect on the things around us.

Let’s go with that notion as a kind of literary segue to introduce Suzanne Palmer, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Suzanne does art. By which I mean, she doesn’t merely write fiction — she does, and she has a shiny Hugo Award from last year for her short story “The Secret Life of Bots” to prove it. No, she also draws. And paints. And sculpts. And creates clothing and coins and manuscripts in made-up languages of cultures that have never existed. She also has been seen building stone walls (which could be seen as kind of ironic, given my earlier wind analogy). As someone who works almost entirely in words, I am envious of others who can create art in other medium, and I’m agog at those who do it across many.

Suzanne’s spread of her art continues. Having demonstrated her skill at short fiction, she’s graduated to long. Two weeks ago, her debut novel, Finder (book one of a trilogy) came out from DAW. You should probably pick up a copy.

LMS: Welcome, Suzanne. I’ve invited you here to talk about a meal that still sings in your memory. What comes to mind?

SP: While I have had better meals in a truly objective measure, the one that stands out as by far the most memorable was in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1995.

I had spent the summer that year living in a castle studying art in Mandelieu-La Napoule, France. There are many wonderful things one can say about living in a castle, from bats swooping through the rooms at night to the gorgeous gardens you could get lost in every day in a new and different way, but the biggest downside of this life was the food. Our cook, who was also American, seemed to have a one word philosophy to all his meals, and that word was “bland.” At that time in my life, I lived for spicy food, and the lack of anything in the offing either in the Chateau or in town nearby with a spice level any higher than “meh” really began to get to me by summer’s end.

When the program ended, my best friend met me in Nice and we took the train up to Paris, the ferry over to Dover, England, and from there up to Glasgow just in time for the 1995 Worldcon. And that very first night there, I went out looking for something fast and cheap to eat, and found some random hole-in-the-wall bar that was selling curry potatoes.

Finder

And it was a BIG potato.

And the curry — smothering an enormous pile of cooked onions — was a hot and gloriously spicy vindaloo, and I ate THREE of them.

I would have eaten ten. I would have eaten them every day we were there except my friend declared if I didn’t stop eating so much onions and curry I was going to have to spring for my own hotel room, and I would have considered that a fair trade if I wasn’t too broke to call her on it.

It has been nearly twenty-four years, and I still think about those curry potatoes. Attempts to recreate them at home never, ever, quite captured the taste, and maybe some of the magic was the environment, or the long, preceding drought filled with macaroni-mayo-and-peas dinners as an immediate, experiential contrast. And over the last ten or more years, that fond recollection and longing has had a sharper edge, in that I have now become deeply allergic to peppers, and the vast majority of spicy foods are now permanently off limits if I want to continue breathing.

But damn, those were some really excellent potatoes. And the Worldcon was good, too.

Thanks, Suzanne. Worldcons can often be relied upon to add spice to meals. The rest of the year, it’s comforting to dream of potatoes.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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