Eating Authors: Steven H Silver

1 Comment » Written on August 3rd, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Steven H Silver

And lo, we have achieved August. And it’s a good thing, because the second half of July was really kicking my ass, albeit in a good way with a glorious birthday celebration and the release of Ace of Corpses (book one of a new spinoff series set in the universe of the Amazing Conroy).

We’ve also seen the coming and going of the first ever completely virtual Worldcon. With everything else going on, and because of the massive time zone difference between here (just outside Philadelphia) and Wellington, I had minimal presence at ConZealand. I appeared on one panel, held court at a kaffeeklatsch, and attended a couple of author readings. In addition, I probably spent all of ninety minutes spread out over several days chatting in a side room (aka a Discord channel) with some old friends. But that was the whole of my Worldcon experience this year.

Convention talk makes the perfect segue for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Steven H Silver only recently published his first book, but he’s been involved in running conventions for many years (including three stints as chair of Windycon and vice-chair for the 70th Worldcon). He’s also been a leader in the world of fannish publications, having racked up seventeen Hugo nominations, twelve for Best Fan Writer and five for Best Fanzine. He’s written reviews and edited several anthologies, been editor and publisher of a small press, and written more than a dozen short stories. Somewhere in there he also found time to appear on Jeopardy!

But let’s get back to his first book. After Hastings is an alternate history novel. It’s hardly surprising that he’d choose this genre for his debut book. Back in 1995, Steven founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has continued to serve as a judge for the award ever since. Is it any wonder then that he warped history by defeating William the Conqueror, thus ensuring the English language would never be the same again. The irony being that his book would read very differently in the resulting timeline.

LMS: Welcome, Steven. Please share your most memorable meal, and do not answer in the form of a question.

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal.

After Hastings

When I was fifteen, my grandmother and a couple of her cousins decided to go on a tour of Scandinavia, seeing the sights of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The tour was double occupancy, so my grandmother invited my mother to join her. While that should have solved the roommate problem, my father decided that he also wanted to go to Scandinavia. Still in need of a roommate, I was invited to join them.

The most memorable meal was one we ate in a restaurant in Stockholm. There is no reason this meal, one of the last of two weeks’ worth of meals eaten with my parents, my grandmother and my grandmother’s cousins, should have been memorable. I couldn’t tell you the name of this restaurant, although I could tell you that it was located in Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm.

I can tell you what I ate. It was the first time I tried reindeer. That actually was pretty memorable. It is good, I recommend it, although it is a little gamy. What I certainly can tell you is that even in Stockholm people will give you strange looks if you are eating a reindeer steak and humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

So, what made that meal so memorable? The restaurant’s owner, whose name I couldn’t tell you.

Wondrous Beginnings

In the middle of our meal, the restaurant owner came out of the kitchen and looked around the dining room. She saw us and hurried over to our table, speaking rapidly in a language I didn’t understand, but knew wasn’t Swedish.

When she got to our table, she very excitedly grabbed my grandmother’s left arm and started to pull up my grandmother’s sleeve, all the time speaking in his foreign language.

My grandmother always wore long sleeves. The temperature didn’t matter. It was more important to her to cover up the fading numbers that had been tattooed onto her arm when the Nazis wanted to keep track of humans as if they were cattle.

Upon seeing my grandmother’s tattoo, the woman rolled her left sleeve up to show my grandmother her left arm. A similarly faded tattoo was on her arm.

Eventually, my grandmother was able to tell us what was going on.

Alternate Peace

As we had already surmised, the restaurant’s owner was also a Holocaust survivor. Although my grandmother didn’t recognize her at first over a distance of four decade and 1,000 kilometers, the woman had quite clearly recognized my grandmother.

It turns out that they were in the concentration camps together. When the restaurant owner fell ill, my grandmother made she sure had enough food and kept her out of the eyes of the guards so she would have a chance to survive. Over the years, she remembered my grandmother’s name and the number on her arm, and when she saw her, she recognized her.

Their conversation was brief, it was in Polish, so I couldn’t tell you anything that was said, even if I wanted to. My grandmother later admitted not having remembered the woman whose life she saved in the camps.

It doesn’t really matter than I was eating with my parents and cousins. It doesn’t really matter than we were in a forgotten restaurant in Stockholm’s Old Town. It doesn’t really matter that I was introduced to reindeer steak and received strange looks. It was a memorable meal because a stranger interrupted our meal to thank my grandmother for saving her life under deplorable conditions forty years earlier. And I can’t think of a better reason for a meal to be interrupted… or memorable.

Thanks, Steven. That may be the most compelling meal this blog has seen. I mean, because of the reindeer steak. You don’t often see that on the menu.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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photo credit: Richard Man



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