Eating Authors: Spencer Ellsworth

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Spencer Ellsworth

Yes, it’s another Monday, and I know what you’re thinking: time for the latest installment of EATING AUTHORS. And yes, that’s coming, but we get 52 (sometimes 53) of them each year. This past Saturday marked an annual event that needs to be acknowledged. I refer of course to the August 12th celebration known as World Elephant Day.

I observed the day with a signing session as part of the 75th annual World Science Fiction Convention (which just concluded in Helsinki, Finland), pushing Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard.

But that was last week and as already noted it’s a shiny new Monday, so I should get around to introducing Spencer Ellsworth to you. I don’t know him well, but I have known him a good long while, as he’s been a part of the Codex Writers community for more than a decade.

In all that time I’ve only seen him write short fiction, but that’s the past. He’s sold a trio of novels (aka the Starfire trilogy) to the fine folks at Tor Books and the first volume, A Red Peace, comes out next week on August 22nd. It’s a classic space opera written with gigantic insects, an ancient artifact, cyborgs, and a kick-ass heroine. Okay, so it lacks elephants, but you can’t have everything.

LMS: Welcome, Spencer. What do you consider your most memorable meal?

SE: My most memorable meal was three pints of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, not just because it was delicious, but because it came with (deep breath): Head injuries! Butt injuries! Poison ivy! Public urination! A rescue mission!

And hobbits!

Starfire: A Red Peace

In 2002, I worked at a wilderness survival camp for troubled teens. Most of the time, I worked in the teen groups, hiking around the gorgeous Arizona creeks, below massive red rock cliffs near the tiny town of Young. However, I would sometimes take a turn helping out at “backup,” meaning the truck that was parked a few miles from the group’s location at any time. Backup would anticipate emergencies and run supplies into the group.

I was halfway through a three-week shift, with backup, hanging out in the truck when we got news that one of the girls had suffered a serious head injury, falling onto a rock in the creek.

A head injury in a wilderness camp is a huge deal. The kid in question was showing some dangerous signs of head trauma, so we had to get down to the creek and immobilize her head, then carry her out. It was my job to carry the surfboard-sized stretcher from the truck, down any number of cliffs.

I’d been hiking the Arizona backcountry for ten years now, but never with something the size of a surfboard. At top speed. Down steep hills.

Starfire: Shadow Sun Seven

I became aware that I was moving too fast to stop right above a batch of prickly pear cactus. I tried to stop. The surfboard didn’t stop. Wham. Down I went, butt-first into the prickly-pear cactus—and then slid further down the hill, trying to get my footing in the wet, crumbly shale until I ended up in a batch of poison ivy.

I got the stretcher to the group, and staff, students and backup all helped strap the girl down… then all six of us maneuvered her up the cliffs back to the truck. At one point the poor strapped-down girl had to pee, and since there was no way to unstrap her without moving her head, we had to give the classic advice: “just go.”

The pee went everywhere, including all over those of use carrying the stretcher. By then, I cared less about getting pee on me than I did about whether or not the pee might be an effective deterrent to poison ivy.

She was okay! And (important for a kid eating roots and berries for six weeks) she got to visit a hospital and eat Jell-O.

When Stars Are Scattered

I wasn’t okay. Pee doesn’t cure poison ivy (The More You Know!). By the time I got off the trail, I was an itchy mess.

After a baking soda bath, I headed straight to Blockbuster Video to pick up the newly released Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, and stopped at the grocery store to get two, no, let’s-make-it-three pints of Ben & Jerry’s, including the short-lived flavor Honey I’m Home. (It was good. Like honey and cream on oatmeal.)

I sat down with what was, I’m sure, the only movie in existence that would draw my attention away from the itching. I watched every moment, all the special features, and by 6 in the morning, I had finished the trek to the Argonath, and all three pints of ice cream. I even felt a little bit of solidarity with those hobbits on their dangerous journey, given what I’d gone through, and how much I had eaten.

Thanks, Spencer. I can now cross off “post an Eating Authors meal that references hobbits, urine, and troubled teens” from my bucket list.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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