Eating Authors: Micaiah Johnson (Astounding Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on June 14th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
Micaiah Johnson

June is continuing to fulfill its promise. Last week I managed a small getaway, the highlight of which was a five hour meeting with a co-author for a shiny new series, and I’m optimistic that we’ll have the first book out before the end of the year. I also hit a major wall of medical bureaucracy (boo!) but quickly found a workaround courtesy of members of the SF community (hooray for the Facebook Overmind). And tomorrow my latest novel, Ace of Thralls, will be available from the ’zon in both ebook and trade paperback formats.

By way of not only continuing the celebration of good things but also segueing into this week’s EATING AUTHORS post, let’s return to boosting the signal for this year’s Astounding Award nominees (Lindsay Ellis, Simon Jimenez, Micaiah Johnson, A.K. Larkwood, Jenn Lyons, and Emily Tesh). Today I get to introduce you to Micaiah Johnson.

Her bio describes Micaiah as a biracial author who was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness community in the Southern California desert. It goes on to point out that she graduated from high school at just thirteen. She has an MFA, and she just finished her comprehensive exams in her PhD program at Vanderbilt where she studies race and robots. This summer she’ll be attending the prestigious School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell.

It’s also worth mentioning that her debut novel The Space Between Worlds was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a finalist for the LOCUS Award, and took home the Compton Crook Award.

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

MJ: My most memorable meal is also my favorite meal is also my least favorite meal, depending on the year. Most of us who are latchkey-kid-adjacent can name at least one large-batch meal, born to be leftovers, that we hated not because it was gross but because we knew it too well. For me, it was my mother’s chili. Cooked in a giant black pan that intelligent people tell me is a soup pot, but I will only ever call a cauldron, the smell of chili in the kitchen meant my sisters and I would be eating it once a day for, at the very least, a week. Every I’m hungry would be met with eat some chili. Every there’s no food would result in there’s the chili. There was always — like crocodiles or horseshoe crabs or some other prehistoric creature that manages to slog forward through time untouched — the chili.

The Space Between Worlds

When I left home it was in the fashion of all Jehovah’s Witness teenagers leaving home — in an explosion and an exile. My last year at home was every cliché about teenage self-discovery conflicting with parental control, like Dirty Dancing but without Patrick Swayze and with far more quoted scripture. I was poor, living in a trailer with mold in the ceiling and the kind of landlords who are so difficult, so unstable, they are forced to keep the rent cheap because only those who have no choice would put up with them. I was isolated. I was hopeless. I was hungry.

One night there was a knock at the door, and I opened it to that familiar giant pot of chili with one hundred dollars tucked into the lid. My parents were not the kind of people for whom one hundred dollars was nothing. In three months, they would be facing another foreclosure, losing their house in the hills of Hesperia and having to move with two grandmothers into an apartment in a-less-than-desirable part of an already less-than-desirable town. But here was a hundred dollars. And a week’s worth of food. In my memory I held the still-warm pot like a buoy and cried, but that may be a trick of a decade’s distance and my dramatic imagination. But it felt like that. It felt like I was holding onto something that was the difference between drowning and not-drowning.

For the next week, every desperate, panicked I’m hungry or I don’t have any food was met by a different, calmer voice from my childhood answering: There’s the chili.

Thanks, Micaiah. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of chili, and while I’ve never lived in a trailer, I vividly recall starting grad school and only being able to afford to eat ramen noodles, three meals a day for several months. Chili tastes better, and it also keeps you warm.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

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