Eating Authors: Eric James Stone

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Eric James Stone

The upcoming massive Blog Tour for Barsk has taken over much of my life of late, as I respond to Q&A, requests for topical essays, and my thoughts on various aspects of the writing process. Most of these don’t go public for another week or more, but one that has burst on the scene is a piece for the Powell’s newsletter that I think came out rather well and is worth directing you to.

In the midst of all this chaos, it’s been both refreshing and gratifying to prepare this week’s EATING AUTHOR post for Eric James Stone. I’ve known Eric for a very long time, since the earliest days of the online writing community known as Codex. I had the privilege of watching him craft stories for the group’s various contests, and I knew early on I was in the presence of a unique and powerful voice. Which is why I put on my small press publisher hat and in the midst of a worldcon some years back I pitched the idea of producing a collection of his short fiction. The book, Rejiggering the Thingamajig and Other Stories, came out the same weekend that Eric won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and seeing Eric climb the podium to accept his prize was one of the happiest moments I’ve had at an awards banquet.

Eric’s been busy having other happy moments. He and his wife just welcomed their first child into the world (I won’t be surprised if some time goes by before either of them manage to surface long enough to see this post on the internet). Almost anti-climactic by comparison — but a significant professional milestone — comes up in just over three weeks, as on January 5th, Eric makes the jump from short story writer to novelist with the release of Unforgettable. A fitting title for a book that’s going to firmly establish his presence on the SF map.

LMS: Welcome, Eric. It’s such a pleasure to have you here. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

EJS: Back in November 1986, I was serving as a Mormon missionary in Terni, Italy. I love Italian food, as did most of the other missionaries, but for the most part we fixed it ourselves, which meant it was amateur-level cooking. What the food lacked in quality, we made up for with quantity. About the only restaurant food we ate was pizza, which was sliced off a giant sheet of pizza, folded in half, wrapped in brown paper, and sold by weight for us to eat on the go. It was good, but it was the pizza equivalent of a fast-food burger.

My dad had given me a little extra money that month, specifically so that my companion and I could have a good Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, a traditional Thanksgiving feast of roast turkey, stuffing, and so on wasn’t easy to come by in Italy, so my companion and I decided that the best thing to do was to go to a nice, sit-down Italian restaurant and order a real Italian meal.

Unforgettable

As it happened, a young couple in the local congregation worked at a very nice restaurant: Mario as a waiter, Daniela as the head cook. So we decided to go there for our meal.

When Mario sat us at our table, he said we shouldn’t bother with ordering off the menu — he would just bring us food and if we liked it, we could eat it, and if we didn’t like it, he would take it away and bring us something else. Later that night, I wrote the following in my journal: “We ate a huge meal — first pasta with red sauce, then h’or-d’eurves (or however that’s spelled), then melon with ham, then toast with tomatoes, then toast covered with mozzarella, then pizza, and finally ice cream. All of it (except some of the h’or d’erves) was great.” [Frankly, I doubt I could spell hors d’oeuvres today without looking it up. At least I knew at the time I was getting it wrong.] I’m pretty sure that’s the only seven-course meal I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant, and it was excellent.

When we were stuffed so full we couldn’t eat another bite, Mario brought us the bill, which came to only 18,900 lire (about $14 at the then-current exchange rate). We argued that we could afford to pay more because my dad had given me extra money for a nice dinner, but Mario insisted that was all we needed to pay. So I gave him a $20 traveler’s check, and when he went to get change, we snuck out of the restaurant. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve snuck out of a restaurant after a disagreement about the amount of the bill.

Thanks, Eric. It’s never happened to me before, but if it should pass that I’m outside the USA for Thanksgiving, I vow to honor your precedent and eat pizza. Because… pizza!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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