Eating Authors: Bradley W. Schenck

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Bradley W. Schenck

I first heard about about this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Bradley W. Schenck, when my editor was waxing delirious at having acquired the novel Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom. The title alone hooked me, as did the editor’s quick description of what it was all about. He taunted me though, that what tied it all together was the illustrations.

Months would pass, but eventually my (and now Bradley’s) editor reached out to me with an ARC of the book, asking if I had time and inclination to perhaps provide a blurb — full disclosure, I blurbed it. And that’s when I saw the drawings and was completely blown away.

Although tomorrow marks his debut as a novelist, his illustrations have been around for decades. Much of his earlier work was done under the name Morno, and I’m tickled to discover he did the cover art for some issues of the D&D apa Alarums & Excursions back in the 70’s that contained my own contributions.

The evolution of his work has ranged from Celtic knots and warriors to the gleaming future of mad scientists and killer robots. I can’t encourage you enough to pick up his new book; you’ll be utterly charmed.

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

BWS: You know, that’s a much more difficult question than you think. At least it is for me.

I’m a guy who gets so interested in what I’m working on that I forget to eat. And, no: I’ve never seen the evolutionary advantage in this.

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom

On the other hand, I don’t usually think in terms of bests or favorites… of anything. It’s not a competition: there are things that are really good, and things that are significantly less good, and there are other things that you run from in outright terror.

You just hope that none of those last things were meals. Because, honestly, what a horrific concept.

One morning I had a bowl of oatmeal that was incredible. It was the only thing on the menu I could afford. This restaurant’s least expensive breakfast arrived on a tray crowded with bowls of coconut and raisins and brown sugar and nuts. It was like a little cornucopia, just for me. There was a bowl of every good thing you might want to put on oatmeal, and that’s just what I did with them. With pretty much all of them. Okay. It was exactly all of them. It was fantastic.

Yeah, oatmeal. I’m not ashamed.

Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves

So there are meals that I thought were really, really good, when I remembered to eat them. But this was often because of other circumstances—like, I’d forgotten to eat, and therefore I was famished. Or because of the people who were sharing that meal. The company makes all the difference.

But the truly memorable meals I’ve eaten (or fled from)? They were the ones that went wrong. Like the night I had a terrible meal in Florence, which is a thing that modern science tells us is not possible unless you’re trying really hard; and to make this even more awful, it was on my birthday. There was the night when I had an entire bowl of guacamole dumped on my head —and I had made the guacamole*. Or the night a Polyphemus moth flew in and attacked the lamp over the dinner table. That moth was so huge that we thought it was a bat. I don’t think dinner ever recovered.

The Lair of the Clockwork Book

I once sprinkled what should have been poppy seeds over a salad, and the poppy seeds turned out to be the tiny black beetles that had eaten the poppy seeds. I’d finished my salad by the time my girlfriend noticed the poppy seeds were moving**. And I mentioned birthdays, right? Because one year a birthday cake lit my head on fire.

Then there was the time a pressure cooker full of octopus exploded, leaving little bits of tentacular shrapnel all over the kitchen walls. It was a commercial kitchen; I had to do the clean-up. (And while we’re on that subject: don’t ever come to work with a hangover the day after the freezer breaks down. You might have to chop fifteen pounds of raw fish for ceviche. Yeah, technically not a meal. It’s more like advice.)

Hey, Doc, look at that clock! I think our time’s about up. Do you think we had a breakthrough here? Maybe I forget to eat, sometimes, because I’m repressing all the terrible memories that I associate with food.

I like that much better than the previous explanation. That one had something to do with “a special kind of stupid”.

* In retrospect, I had it coming. But just try to get that stuff out of your hair.

** They weren’t bad. If you were wondering.

Thanks, Bradley. Years from now, when I think back on this week’s post, I’m going to conflate things and remember that among the oatmeal’s cornucopia of fixings was a bowl of tiny black beetles.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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