Posts Tagged ‘Eating Authors’

Eating Authors: Michael Johnston

No Comments » Written on July 31st, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Michael Johnston

If things are going according to plan, then I’ve just returned from the 24th annual conference of the Klingon Language Institute, having survived numerous linguist and alien challenges, charted out some of the milestones of the next year for the world’s Klingon speakers, done a couple interviews for television and print, and made some real progress on my edits for the BARSquel.

This week I’ll attempt to log plenty of hours at the DayJob, but also to complete my work on the novel so I can send it to my editor so I can leave for Europe with a clean conscience. The housesitter has been briefed, but I still need to have several long talks with the dog to make sure he understands that I’m going away but that I’ll be coming back too.

The trip is probably the grandest excursion I’ve ever planned, chock full of amazing experiences and unique research opportunities (because these books don’t write themselves). One might almost go so far as to describe the trip as “epic,” which is a nice segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, architect turned novelist Michael Johnston.

I think there’s something sublime about using the grandeur of architecture as a metaphor to inform speculative fiction, and that’s exactly what Michael does in Soleri, his first solo novel (though I’d be remiss not to note that he’s also co-authored several books with Melissa de la Cruz).

Michael says he found inspiration in the history of ancient Egypt and the tragedy of Shakespeare’s Leer, producing an eternal civilization and a family of gods, all described with the clean lines that you’d expect from an architect. What’s not to love? I’d tell you more, but you’ve probably already clicked a link and headed off to buy the book (which came out just last month).

I hope you remember to come back and read his memorable meal below.

LMS: Welcome, Michael. What lingers in your mind as your most memorable meal?

MJ: Without question my most memorable meal was at the Four Season restaurant in the Seagram’s building in New York City. For those who are not familiar with the building and the restaurant, Mies van der Roe, one of the principle figures of minimal modernist architecture, designed the Seagram building. The tower, often dubbed “the brown-booze building” for its bronze façade, was so expensive that it prompted the city of New York to change the way it taxed buildings. The restaurant itself was no exception to this excess. Philip Johnson, who had himself once worked for Mies and was famous for pilfering Mies’s design for the first “glass house” and building it for himself, designed the restaurant.

The Four Seasons was built in two parts, both of which elegantly straddled the office tower’s lobby. The grille occupied the south side and sported a large bar and small seating areas. A fantastic chandelier hung above the bar, hugging its perimeter. The chandelier was less light fixture and more light sculpture, a series of bronze tubes suspended in the air and designed by Richard Lippold. It floated, shimmering amid the buzz of the room. A hallway separated the grille from the other half of the restaurant. I say hallway, but it was more of a gallery, a grand passage between two modernist shrines. A two-story tapestry by Picasso hung on the wall of that hallway and it was breathtaking to behold.


In its prime, the Four Seasons was as much a temple to art as it was to architecture. Mark Rothko was famously hired to produce the first murals for the space. He immediately replied that he would create “something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room.” He didn’t get the job, but many other famous artists did install their work in the restaurant. The pool room took its name, obviously, from the large body of water at its center. The pool was majestic. So much so that the tables were arranged so that dinners sat side-by-side facing the water.

Now, I’ve provided a little background on the restaurant; so let me explain that I came to all of this as a twenty-two year graduate student of architecture at Columbia. My then girlfriend and now wife had received a rather large Christmas bonus and we were determined to spend the entire thing on this one meal. So I arrived at the Four Seasons as a somewhat financially challenged student, a kid from a nowhere town in the Midwest who had come to one of the most storied and fabulous rooms in New York City. The restaurant itself sits high above street level. So we entered at the street level where my coat was taken, where I admired the walls and floor, all of which were clad in travertine, in traditional modernist fashion, and where a tapestry from Miro hung on the wall, the chairs designed by Mies, the carpet too. From there we were ushered up a switchback set up stairs. Visitors literally ascend into the Grille Room where they first catch sight of that scintillating chandelier. It truly dazzled the eye (I’m not exaggerating, the chandelier is amazing). We had a drink that cost more than most folk expect to pay for a respectable dinner. We waited for our names to be called. Then we were ushered across that gorgeous hallway, past the towering Picasso and into the pool room.

We sat and were immediately set upon by an army of servants. Not only did we have our own waiter but that waiter had a set of subwaiters (probably not a word, is there a word for this?). I don’t recall the food, which might disqualify me for this column. I only recall the experience, the elegance of the place, the pageantry, the size of the bill.

It’s easily my most memorable meal. Sadly the restaurant closed a few years back and much of the art was sold off by ruthless real estate folk. Recently an effort was made to restore the grille, which has now reopened and I understand that the pool room will also reopen. Both are landmarked, so they can’t be destroyed or significantly altered. I’m glad they are both returning to service. After almost twenty years I’d love to go back and perhaps this time I’ll remember if I liked the food.

Thanks, Michael. Despite the passage of more than 30 years, my meal-spending sensibility is still rooted in the poverty of my graduate school years. I dine out nowadays and spend way more than I’m comfortable with, but your meal sounds at least an order of magnitude beyond anything I could relax enough to enjoy. I wouldn’t remember what I ate either.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by Cathryn Farnsworth


Eating Authors: Gray Rinehart

No Comments » Written on July 24th, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Gray Rinehart

The NASFiC is barely two weeks in the past, and yet in a couple days I start off on a month of travel and research and writing that threatens to chew me up and spit me out. It should be glorious, and it begins this week with a trip to the greater Chicago area to hang with Klingon speakers, much as I’ve done every summer for the past 24 years. Somewhere in the midst of all that I’ll also celebrate my 58th birthday.

All of this talk of decades is as good a segue as I’m going to get for introducing Gray Rinehart, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. I’ve known Gray so long that I don’t remember where or when we actually met, which makes me think it must have been a virtual meet (cute), as he joined the Codex, the online writing community, back in 2004. Our paths don’t cross too often in the physical world as he’s down in North Carolina and I’m here in Pennsylvania. I rarely go south and if he comes north it must be under cover of darkness because I don’t see him.

Gray has a complex and lush background, including a career in the US Air Force that concluded with him retiring as a Lt. Colonel, an ongoing sideline as a musician, a political speech writer, and a contributing editor (a.k.a the slushmaster) for Baen. A few years back he even put his hat in the ring for political office with a campaign of “if I don’t make a promise, I can’t break a promise.”

As long as I’ve known him, Gray has only written short fiction. Then a few weeks ago I learned he’d sold a novel to Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. Naturally I wasted no time and immediately asked him for his most memorable meal and he quickly responded with the piece you’ll find below. Walking on the Sea of Clouds lands in online bookstores everywhere on Wednesday. Pick up a copy and be prepared to find yourself transported to the moon.

LMS: Welcome, Gray. I’m sure that with your Air Force career you’ve been around a bit more than most. What stands out as your most memorable meal.

GR: I know that other “Eating Authors” have written about “memorable” meals as opposed to “best” meals, and in some respects that might be easier. A number of my most memorable meals have little to do with the quality of the food: for example, the outrageous expense of the steak dinner I had at the Polo Club restaurant in the Marriott in Moscow; the international camaraderie of the multi-course, multi-toast “state dinners” at the Top of the World Club at Thule Air Base, Greenland; the mix of high-class elegance and rocket-themed engineering tomfoolery at the Air Force “Dining In” aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach; and so on.

But the “best” meal, the meal that I hold up as the standard against which I judge all other meals, was our 20th anniversary celebration supper in Baltimore. The memory has dimmed a bit, since that was a dozen years ago, and unfortunately I couldn’t find the restaurant in a Google search so I fear it no longer exists — but, trust me, it was marvelous.

Walking on the Sea of Clouds

It was Memorial Day weekend in 2005 — a couple of days before our anniversary, in fact — and I had taken Jill on an excursion to see Cirque du Soleil. Neither Jill nor I recall now how we ended up at Ray’s for supper (not to be confused with “Roy’s” in Baltimore today): maybe the hotel recommended it, maybe we were referred by friends, maybe we happened across it while we were exploring the harbor area. And I can’t say exactly why I decided to order the lamb chops; I don’t think they were listed as a special, but it was a special night so I think I just wanted to order something I wouldn’t choose on a normal night out.

Being so long ago, all I was equipped with was a camera-less flip-phone, so I have no photographic evidence of the chops arranged artfully on the plate, succulent little bulbs of meat at the ends of slender bones. (Not that I’ve ever gotten into the habit of documenting my meals.) But even if I had pictures, they would not convey how tender and flavorful those lamb chops were. Each one was juicy and robust, and fell off the bone as if they had been slow-roasted for hours.

Of course, it’s possible that my memory of that meal is supercharged because it was, after all, with my beautiful bride as we celebrated two decades of married life. Maybe the romantic atmosphere was less because of the restaurant itself and more because of my dining partner. Maybe those lamb chops were no different than any others, and I’ve just elevated them in my imagination because the occasion warranted it (though Jill says the scallops she had that night were also amazing, and the best she’s ever had). But even if my memory and imagination have enhanced the experience, that’s fine with me.

(One final note: Readers may notice that we were in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend but I did not mention Balticon. I was still on active duty in the Air Force in those days, so we were not in the habit of attending conventions. However, during our explorations of the Baltimore area we did stop by the hotel and see some con-goers and some displays in the public spaces. And hopefully we can make it back up there one day!)

Thanks, Gray. I’m a big fan of anniversary dinners, not least because my own wedding happened in late August. I’m often celebrating it during the Worldcon, that frequently means fine dining in a restaurant of a city I’ve never visited before, which only adds to the delight.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


Eating Authors: Rajan Khanna

No Comments » Written on July 17th, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Rajan Khanna

As you’re reading this on a Monday morning, I’m catching my breath. This is my week to do that, a brief span of presumed normalcy as I recover from the glories that were the NASFiC in Puerto Rico even as I prepare for the 24th annual conference of Klingon speakers that begins next week outside Chicago. Or as I like to think of it, transitioning from Spanish to Klingon.

Amidst the unpacking and repacking, the sorting through piled up correspondence, thinking about the sounds of language provides a good segue for this week’s guest. Rajan Khanna, in addition to writing fiction both long and short, has built himself a reputation for his narration of other authors’ work in venues likes Beaneath Ceaseless Skies, Lightspeed, and PodCastle, to name just a few.

I’d been pursuing Rajan for the better part of two years, trying to lock him in for a visit at EATING AUTHORS, but the timing was never right. That happens a lot with authors’ schedules which are a whirlwind of deadlines and obligations. But I’ve learned to be patient, send the occasional follow-up email, and wait for the right time or circumstance. In this case, a trip up to New York last month triggered the necessary cascade and here we are.

Rajan’s latest book, the third volume in his Ben Gold series, is entitled Raining Fire. It comes out tomorrow from Pyr. And, if you want to catch him performing his own fiction, you’ll find him reading at KGB (alongside Greg Frost) on August 16th.

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Eating Authors: Sam J. Miller

No Comments » Written on July 10th, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Sam J. Miller

If things are going according to plan (stop laughing!), this will automatically post on Monday morning, I’ve survived the NASFiC in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and right this very minute I am trekking through the tropical rainforest known as “El Yunque.” Seriously, my life is pretty freaking blessed.

Part of that blessing includes providing a weekly dose of EATING AUTHORS for you, bringing you both familiar and new authors, and doing my part in the great karmic wheel of the speculative fiction community to pay it forward and celebrate the work of others. Case in point this week is none of other than Sam J. Mill. You probably already know Sam from his breathtaking short fiction, and justly so. His work has earned him a Shirley Jackson award, a Sturgeon nomination, three Nebula nominations, and a World Fantasy nomination.

All things come to those who wait (or so the saying goes), and so it often is with authors going from short form to long. Sam’s debut novel, The Art of Starving, comes out tomorrow from Harper Teen. Clearly you should click the link and buy a copy right now. Don’t do it for me or even for Sam, do it for “El Yunque.”

LMS: Welcome, Sam. What stands out as your most memorable meal?

SJM: I was eighteen. I was coming out of a long struggle with disordered eating. For the first time in my life I had a gay friend — a brilliant, older painter I’d been paired with in a mentoring program for at-risk youth. He was a vegetarian, and I was hanging out with a trio of super-hot vegan punk rock vegan boys. All three of whom I was hopelessly in love with. And desperate to impress.

March 2nd, 1997. I’m working the night shift at a bookstore for minimum wage — $4.25 an hour at the time — and my hot vegans come to hang out there and talk shit and be generally intimidating. And it’s my coworker Alison’s birthday, so we decide to all go out to dinner afterwards.

Understand: I am angry. I am a miserable knotted-up mess of unrequited lust. My father’s butcher shop just closed, thanks to a Wal-Mart/supermarket combo’s arrival in town. Eating meat meant buying it from the same store that put us out of business. And thanks to my bookstore job – and my commie vegan hardcore straight edge crushes — I’d been reading Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, had sharpened my critique of global capitalism, the exploitation of workers, the death of small businesses and the rise of corporate superstores, factory farming, the suffering of animals. I’d tried, several times, to go vegetarian, and failed repeatedly. I had already come out to my father as gay, but for the son and grandson of butchers to stop eating meat felt like too great a betrayal.

The Art of Starving

The waiter comes. I stare at the menu for a second and then decide, “I’m not going to eat meat anymore,” and order broccoli with garlic sauce. That was twenty years ago, and I’ve never looked back once.

Back then, I didn’t realize one very important fact – and I wouldn’t realize it until I started writing my novel, which is about a bullied small-town gay boy with an eating disorder (all of which I was) who believes that starving himself awakens latent supernatural abilities (which mine did not). Now, I can see that becoming a vegetarian was not separate from my eating disorder. Both were born of rage and sadness at what a fucked-up world we have… but that night, at the Spring Garden in Hudson, New York, was the moment when I took hold of my rage at the world – at injustice, at homophobia, at corporate hegemony & toxic masculinity & suffering – and ceased to turn it in on myself. Instead, I turned it outwards. I sat next to other people who were just as angry as me, and I joined them.

The line ended up on the cutting room floor, but at the end of The Art of Starving, the protagonist realizes “There are no Chosen Ones. Saving the world, righting every wrong, is no one’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s.”

For the past fifteen years, my day job has been as a community organizer. I’ve organized hundreds of protests, seen dozens of legislative and policy victories. I’m still working out that broccoli-with-garlic-sauce epiphany, the idea that people can achieve anything when they come together. That turning our anger outwards will transform the world as well as ourselves.

Thanks, Sam. And hey, don’t give up on those latent supernatural abilities. It could happen any day now.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


Eating Authors: Stephen S. Power

No Comments » Written on July 3rd, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Stephen S. Power

Things are a wee bit hectic just now. With the NASFiC (aka NorthAmeriCon’17) just around the corner, a Klingon conference at the end of the month, a European vacation wrapped around a Worldcon a few weeks after that, my editorial letter for the BARSquel about to drop, and a DayJob that’s becoming a bit more demanding as a grant that’s been partially funding me for the past two and a half years just ended, I’m feeling a little frazzled. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Independence Day.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to get ahead by lining up the guests for EATING AUTHORS further in advance than I normally do. That’s a nice plan, but… reality happens and sometimes people slip through the cracks, making a mockery of my attempts to feature authors in a timely manner to support their book releases. This week’s guest, Stephen S. Power, is a case in point.

Stephen’s latest book, The Dragon Round, came out in paperback on June 13th (the hardcover was published last July, but that flew completely below my radar). In a perfect world, I’d have been able to fit him into the rotation three weeks ago to boost the signal on the paperback release. Ooops. Clearly, this is no way to treat an editor.

Yes, that’s right, Stephen isn’t just a novelist, prior to writing his first book he’d already logged more than 20 years editing books in NYC. It’s always fascinating to me to see editors make that transition (another fine example is my friend and past guest here, Laura Anne Gilman). Stephen eased into fiction with dozens of short stories and, as if that weren’t enough, he’s also a poet whose poems have earned him Pushcart Prize nomination.

Anyway, if you haven’t read his book yet, perhaps the following meal will convince you to mend your ways.

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Eating Authors: Steven Barnes

No Comments » Written on June 26th, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Steven Barnes

Back in 2013, Larry Niven visited EATING AUTHORS to share his most memorable meal, and in my introduction I noted that he’d collaborated with many other authors — most notably Jerry Pournelle, but also Brenda Cooper, Edward M. Lerner, Gregory Benford, as well as this week’s guest, Steven Barnes.

It’s through his collaborations with Larry and Jerry — like the Heorot and Dream Park series — that I first encountered Steven. Of course he’s no slouch on his own as more than a dozen solo novels attests (as well as his own collaborations with his wife, Tananarive Due, and actor Blair Underwood). He’s also written episodic television as well as media tie-in, kicks ass in several martial arts (including kickboxing), and like myself is a certified hypnotherapist.

Seriously, why have I waited so long to invite him here? Wait, that’s rhetorical. Instead, let me distract you by saying his new novel, Twelve Days, comes out tomorrow.

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Eating Authors: Dave Creek

No Comments » Written on June 19th, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Dave Creek

Whenever I’m scheduled to attend a convention, I like to review the list of other program participants to see who’ll be there. Who I know and who I’ve never met before. And who I might check out as a possible invitee to EATING AUTHORS. I tell you this because it’s how I came to meet this week’s guest, Dave Creek.

You may already know him from his short fiction (he’s sold more than twenty stories appear in Analog alone), or from his novel-length fiction (including the epic The Great Human War series — of which Book 3, The Unmoving Stars, came out just over a month ago).

Dave’s bio includes details like being retired from a career as a television news producer, and living in Louisville with his a wife and son. But to me, he’ll always be the guy who showed up at the Nebula Conference and handed a few copies of his work to a relative stranger for a prison library project that I was running. That probably tells you all you need to know right there.

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Eating Authors: Bradley W. Schenck

No Comments » Written on June 12th, 2017 by
Categories: Plugs
Bradley W. Schenck

I first heard about about this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Bradley W. Schenck, when my editor was waxing delirious at having acquired the novel Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom. The title alone hooked me, as did the editor’s quick description of what it was all about. He taunted me though, that what tied it all together was the illustrations.

Months would pass, but eventually my (and now Bradley’s) editor reached out to me with an ARC of the book, asking if I had time and inclination to perhaps provide a blurb — full disclosure, I blurbed it. And that’s when I saw the drawings and was completely blown away.

Although tomorrow marks his debut as a novelist, his illustrations have been around for decades. Much of his earlier work was done under the name Morno, and I’m tickled to discover he did the cover art for some issues of the D&D apa Alarums & Excursions back in the 70’s that contained my own contributions.

The evolution of his work has ranged from Celtic knots and warriors to the gleaming future of mad scientists and killer robots. I can’t encourage you enough to pick up his new book; you’ll be utterly charmed.

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