Eating Authors: Steve Miller

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Steve Miller

If it’s Monday, then as you’re reading this I’m probably still somewhere in southern California, but by the miracle of the internet (and our good friends at WordPress) this post has shown up on schedule anyway. Here to talk about his most memorable meal is Steve Miller, a fine writer in his own right, but most well known for creating the many Liaden stories and novels in collaboration with his wife, Sharon Lee.

If you haven’t experienced the Liaden Universe, you’re in for a treat. Blending the best elements of adventure, space opera, and romance, Sharon and Steve have written tale after tale overflowing with compelling characters, exotic settings, alien customs, and special complications that come with a family line that specializes in piloting spacecraft. Beginning in 1988 with Agent of Change and continuing nonstop, year after year, through at least three generations to their latest novel-length work, Ghost Ship, their universe fills fourteen books (and that’s not counting the many chapbooks, the two short story compilations, or the various omnibus editions). So the good news is, once you get bitten by the Liaden bug, there’s plenty to read. The bad news is, after you race through them you’ll be left with the rest of us, hungering for the next book to come from the publisher (which will be Dragon Ship, coming in September 2012).

I’ve had the pleasure to know both of them for years and years now, going back before the first appearance of the Amazing Conroy in an issue of Absolute Magnitude, which I mention only because that same issue had a Liaden story as well. Liaden fans are as enthusiastic as they come, and Steve has made a point of keeping them satisfied, going so far as to start a small press, SRM Publisher, just to put out chapbooks of short stories, giving the fans something to read inbetween novel releases. The latest of these, Legacy Systems (aka Adventures in the Liaden Universe® #19), came out earlier this month in Kindle format. That’s rather fitting too, because Steve was one of the first authors to experiment with electronic publishing, long before there were Kindles or Nooks or most of the current crop of e-readers.

I’ll always be indebted to Steve for taking a chance on my own fiction when he felt it was time to expand his small press and publish other authors. SRM Publisher brought out three chapbooks of Tales of the Amazing Conroy, which set the stage for my own novels. So it’s with particular pleasure and delight that I present you with Steve’s recollections of his best meal ever.

LMS: Steve, I think the last time we ate together was at mediocre deli during the NASFiC. I’m sure we’ve both enjoyed better repasts. What springs to mind as your most memorable?

SM: A most memorable meal? I guess I think of meals in terms of people and locations. There were odd family meals where more or less untranslatable things happened (Uncle Murph’s football season “Hail Mary” pass of a loaded bowl of mashed potatoes from one end of a ten foot dining table to the other, for example, in Woodmoor). Perhaps not those, for here.

Doing newspaper work there was dinner with Phillipe Cousteau, in Catonsville. But maybe not… I don’t recall what I ate then.

Within the SF community there was dinner with Damon Knight at the Double T-Diner in Catonsville. There was the lunch with Anne McCaffrey in Atlanta. There was sititng at the dining hall “head table” at Clarion West with Ursula LeGuin, Harlan Ellison, and Vonda McIntyre. There’s a photo from that somewhere on my Facebook I think, but it was cafeteria food, and other than a salad and a glass of Pepsi I’m not sure what was in front of me. Hmmm.

Or else this one — which was both within and without the SF community.

The year was 1980, and it was the November in which Sharon and I got married. While the me-and-Sharon part of things was going pretty well, there’d been other not so fun stuff happening, including an estrangement with my family. Money was, as they say, tight.

Our Thanksgiving plans were slender, with cash being tight. We’d be eating at home, the pair of us, and likely having a glass of wine or two out of a Gallo gallon jug. Home was 56 Lowergate Court, Owings Mills, a war-housing townhouse with 4 rooms that we’d arranged as an office downstairs, an office upstairs, the kitchen and a bedroom… there was no proper living room since our focus was pretty clear: we had writing to do, and we were going to do it. It wasn’t what you might call a good neighborhood by any stretch of the concept.

We had a couple cans of veggies to choose from, and see above cash being tight, we had a turkey roll in the freezer, and a can of cranberry sauce in the fridge. Early Thanksgiving morning though, we got a call from a Drew Farrell, who mentioned that his plans for that day had unfirmed, and that as long as we’d be home, he’d stop by. He also mentioned that he’d bring a pie, if we had turkey. Drew, if you never met him, was a friend I’d met at either the DisClave of 74 or DisCon II, in DC. We’d hit it off during a casual encounter in the artshow, and since he had ideas about publishing and i had ideas, too, and etc… we’d kept in touch, eventually beconing partners in several projects. Aracelli Karri,Inc. was one of those… but I digress.

Agent of Change
Low Port
Ghost Ship

Drew was driving in from Gaithersburg, which was several hops, skips, and jumps away… but apparently he hadn’t called from Gaithersburg or else there was no traffic on any of the roads since he arrived in record time just after noon pulling up right outside the townhouse in his bright yellow… was it an Opel? He knocked, and roused the cats, and then asked for a help for a second…

Out of the back seat came several large boxes and a cooler, the while he was talking and hauling he mentioned “Hope you don’t mind, but since I’d been cooking I brought a little extra.”

His little extra filled the kitchen table — the place was tiny! — and by the time we were finished he’d unloaded: three bottles of Riesling, two pies (one apple, one pumpkin) some cookies, two loaves of home-baked bread, a large baking dish of yams, a bowl of greenbeans with bacon, and several cans of whipped cream, for which he apologized, since he’d not had time to whip his own…

Our kitchen was just about large enough for this banquet — and after rearranging half the house to keep the food safe from the cats while things were heated and reheated, we kicked back talking over our plans and dreams. Drew’d already been to Africa — but he left that until after dinner, instead grilling us before hand on our current writing projects. After our poor little turkey roll (it was the less expensive, light-meat/dark meat combo roll, IIRC) was baked, we had a long slow meal — good company, great food. His bread inspired us to try more home-baking on our own, later, but at the time it inspired us to extra slices.

After dinner, with dessert, Drew told us about his sojourn to Africa, where he’d been on the IT side of a UN census, and taken lots of photos. He’d also dropped in on Arthur Clarke, who recieved him as if a long time friend, and oh, there was also this guy running an old IBM mainframe that….and there, somehow, went all the hours between eleven AM and eleven PM. Drew finally left about the time the cats reminded us they hadn’t been fed amid all this largess.

There were other meals with Drew over time, but that may have been the best.

Thanks, Steve. Thanksgiving meals are a recurring theme at this feature, and meals like yours make it pretty clear why. Best times, indeed.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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