Archive for October, 2016

FF: What Could Be

October 28, 2016

A little more time to read this past week, although still not quite enough!  But then, is there ever?

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

Kwahe'e Contemplates the Wild Man Motif

Kwahe’e Contemplates the Wild Man Motif

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Welcome to Golden by Rory McClannahan.  I sat next to Rory at the Albuquerque Museum Author Festival and heard him talk about this book.  Virtual reality meets retirement community meets murder mystery.  Good story marred by a need for editing, especially for tenses.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  Held up very well to a second reading.  Very much enjoyed.

In Progress:

The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett.  Audiobook.  Definitely more idea-driven than character-driven, but the ideas are interesting, especially the underplayed element of how life on Earth might have evolved without humans as a modifying factor.

Parsifal’s Page by Gerald Morris.  Continuation of his “Squire’s Tale” sequence, interesting in that for the first time the younger character has a great deal to learn, especially about the difference between image and reality.

Also:

Dipping into further issues of The Wicked and the Divine graphic novel.

TT: Time for Traveling

October 27, 2016

ALAN: This time we will have been decided to have spoken about time travel stories.

JANE: That’s the trouble with time travel. We don’t have the proper tenses for it in our language.

Stepping Out of the Time Machine...

Stepping Out of the Time Machine…

ALAN: Maybe that’s a hint that time travellers haven’t visited us yet.

The appeal of time travel actually pre-dates the SF time travel story.  For example, Charles Dickens flirts with it in his 1843 story, A Christmas Carol.

JANE: Another good example of the pre-SF time travel story is Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” (1844) which tells the story of a man who may or may not have travelled through time.  Poe (unlike Dickens) cops out and leaves it unclear whether this was a hallucination or a genuine time travel experience.

I’m sure there are many other examples, but what these two makes clear is that the idea of time travel has a fascination that pre-dates it becoming one of science fiction’s most perennial themes.

ALAN: I think time travel, in the traditional SF sense, probably originated with H. G. Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine. Here travel into the future is managed by an actual machine, not a ghost, not a vision.  The machine is as real and solid as a rocket ship or submarine, and so the reality of the experience is not left open to doubt.

JANE: Certainly Wells gets the credit for inventing time travel via machine, although many have imitated him since.  It’s been a long time since I read The Time Machine but its vision of the future of gradual degeneration remains haunting.

Time travel is an interesting theme because stories can take so many different forms.

I’d say the great divide is between those stories in which the possibility of time travel is being explored and the greater majority in which time travel is an established fact and the implications are being explored.

One of my favorite time travel stories, Time and Again by Jack Finney, provides a fascinating “device” for travel through time.

ALAN: Oh I love that book to bits. The hero travels back to 1882 where, among other exciting adventures, he falls in love. Finney captures the milieu so wonderfully that I actually found myself filled with a nostalgic longing to go there myself and I was mildly annoyed that I couldn’t…

Finney’s mechanism for taking his hero, Simon Morely, back to 1882 is actually rather similar to that involved in the stories by Poe and Dickens that we mentioned earlier. The hero is taken to a huge warehouse where people are acting out the daily lives of different eras. It is a project to test the feasibility of travelling to the past by self-hypnosis. Convincing yourself that you are in the past, rather than in the present, can actually make it so.

Simon rents a room in the Dakota apartment building and immerses himself in all aspects of 1882. And then he walks out of the door into the New York of a century ago…

Finney wrote a sequel called From Time to Time and it too is just as magical as the original novel. They truly are wonderful books.

JANE: I love both of Finney’s “Time” novels.  I will argue that the mechanism is more solid that than of Dickens or Poe.  Morely is awake, not dreaming, and there is no doubt that his experience is real.  The explanation the scientist involved gives as to why self-hypnosis would work is just as tantalizing and provocative as any machine.

ALAN: Time travel mechanisms themselves vary from the sublime to the ridiculous. Michael Moorcock had a lot of fun with the idea in his Dancers at the End of Time sequence. His hero Jherek Carnelian travels between Victorian London and the End of Time by using a variety of devices including a bicycle, a hangman’s noose and a robot nursery school teacher.

But of course, as everybody knows, the very best time travel device ever invented is a mid-twentieth century British police call box.

JANE: So I have heard, although I admit, I have never seen Dr. Who.  I’ve heard excellent things about it, but just haven’t found the… wait for it… Time.

ALAN: I just used the newly developed Time Travel add-on (TM) for my web browser to go and read this tangent next week after it has been published. And there I discovered that what I will say in response to that remark is:

Groan!

Clearly if I now say anything other than that, it will create a paradox that will destroy the universe. So I won’t.

JANE: Wise man.  It’s best to play it safe. You wouldn’t want to have the destruction of the universe on your conscience.

Once the idea that time travel might become possible (no matter how the mechanisms differ) was firmly established, SF became full of what I like to call “tourist in time” stories.  These go in all sorts of directions, but they often involve the implications of time travel, especially the question of what might change because people are travelling in time.

I’m blanking…  What’s the story in which someone steps on a butterfly and goes back to find everything has changed?

ALAN: It’s by Ray Bradbury. It’s called “A Sound of Thunder” and it’s an absolute classic. The killing of a single insect millions of years in the past drastically changes the world. It’s a very effective dramatisation of a mathematical concept known as the butterfly effect which was first formally defined by the mathematician Edward Lorenz. It describes an idea in chaos theory where very small changes in initial conditions can result in vastly different outcomes.

JANE:  That’s it!  So Lorenz is the one who talked about a butterfly flapping its wings and thereby generating a far-away hurricane or some such?

ALAN: Yes, that’s him.

JANE: Excellent!  But although Bradbury (and Lorenz) supplied the genre with a shorthand expression by which we still discuss the implications of time travel and the possibility of time paradoxes, there are many subgroups of “tourist stories.”

ALAN: I agree.  Let’s see how many I can come up with.

There are stories where the protagonist is accidentally transported through time (usually into the past); stories where the protagonist belongs to some kind of quasi-governmental organisation that is responsible for ensuring that history always follows the “proper” course so as to avoid paradoxes; stories where other times are plundered for resources or used for tourism. There are also stories where war and conflict take place across time rather than in space.

JANE: And it’s important to note – since we’re talking about time travel as a theme – that the police stories, war stories, and exploitation stories often overlap.  After all, exploitation of the past can be a reason for police to take action, war can follow from failed police action.

Basically, we don’t have a bunch of different themes here, we have ingredients for interesting recipes.

Next time maybe you can tell me about your favorite accidental time travel story?

Quiet

October 26, 2016

Last week was particularly lovely in that it was quiet.  There were no emergencies.  I wasn’t required to go anywhere.

Kel Relaxes with Ruby

Kel Relaxes with Ruby

My week may have been quiet, but it was far from dull or unproductive.  I’d been struggling to find a way to describe.  Then my friend Sally gave me the word: “nourishing.”  That’s just it.  Instead of feeling depleted by the events of the week, I came out of it feeling more creative, whereas lately I’ve been feeling drained and wrung out.

The main focus of my week was reviewing the manuscript for an on-spec project I’ve been working on.  Because I’m trying to do the review slowly, so I can focus on detail, this left me with some spare time for other projects.

One of these was working on a Halloween costume.  In the process of putting the costume together, I also seem to be developing a story character.  I won’t be sure until I actually write the story, but I keep jotting down notes.  And even if the story doesn’t get written for a while, I hope to have an interesting costume for this Saturday’s party.

Another thing I did was take the scattered notes I’ve been writing for the role-playing game I run pretty much each week and put some of them in order.  As I did so, various elements that had been hazy began to fall into logical place.

Alan and I had some great discussions that will become future Thursday Tangents.  Since we’ve been talking about story tropes, our chats dropped some new elements to swirl in the pot where stories brew.

Jim gave me an atlatl for my birthday, and the darts finally arrived, so I’ve been learning to throw them.  For those of you who don’t know, an atlatl “dart” is six feet long.  Banish images of dart boards and a smoky corner of your local pub…  Bring on the mastodons.

Produce is ripening in the garden, with pomegranates and tomatoes in the lead, though the peppers are doing well enough that Jim pickled three or four pints this past weekend.  There’s something heartening about going out to see if anything is ripe and coming in with an unexpected bucket of bounty.   (Or, as is often the case, the front of my untucked tee-shirt, which gets converted into a carrier.)

This week will be a little busier but, for now,I think I’ll go curl up with a good book.  Yeah.  It’s one I wrote, but that doesn’t make it less of an enjoyable read.  Sure, I’ll be reading it with a red pen in one hand.  But that doesn’t make the experience any less relaxing or – contrary as it might seem to say so – stimulating!

FF: Running Fast

October 21, 2016

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

Ogapoge Wonders Which He'd Be

Ogapoge Wonders Which He’d Be

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.  Audiobook.

The Wicked + The Divine by Gillen McKelvie and Wilson Cowles.  Graphic novel, hardcover edition, volume one.  Mixes the tropes of immortals among us with the “live fast, die young” ethic of rock ‘n roll to interesting, sometimes provocative, effect.

In Progress:

Welcome to Golden by Rory McClannahan.  I sat next to Rory at the Albuquerque Museum Author Festival and heard him talk about this book.  Virtual reality meets retirement community.  Sounds like a good idea.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this before but now I can concentrate more on details, less on worry about the characters (human and otherwise) than I did the first time around.

Also:

Reading about masks has morphed into decorating one, which in turn has morphed into a possible new character for short fiction.  I love creative synergy!

TT: Alan Thinks About Themes

October 20, 2016

ALAN: I’ve been thinking…

JANE:  Uh, oh!

ALAN: There’s an apocryphal story that after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, a reporter interviewed some SF authors and asked: What are you going to write about now that reality has caught up with you?

Exploration and Adventure!

Exploration and Adventure!

JANE: Ah, the great fallacy rears its head once again.  I wonder when folks will stop thinking that SF is about predicting the future?

ALAN: Or the fallacy that SF is all about exploring the moon, and other planets. There is no doubt that the idea has always had a large role to play in the genre, but it’s by no means the only thing that SF concerns itself with. I think there are several fundamental themes that SF returns to time and time again, themes that define the framework that we hang our genre stories on. I think it might be useful if we tried to pin them down. Are you game to give it a go?

JANE: This sounds like fun.  It will be interesting to see which still seem vital and which (if any) have run their course.

ALAN: OK – let’s begin with the question raised by that apocryphal reporter. Stories that tell of a trip to another world and what we find there have been a staple of science fiction since long before there was any such thing as science fiction.  H.G. Wells wrote the story in 1901 (The First Men In The Moon) and Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote it again in 1912 (A Princess of Mars).

JANE: Let’s not forget Jules Verne!  His novel From the Earth to the Moon was first published in 1865.  The second part of the story Circling the Moon was first published in 1869.  These make Wells and Burroughs absolute latecomers to the theme.

However, according to my research, there’s a story that has them beat.

ALAN: Really? Tell me more.

JANE: Apparently, Lucian of Samosata’s True History written in 1827 includes a voyage to the Moon.  He was apparently writing in response to Antonius Diogenes’ (second century CE) The Wonders Beyond Thule, which features a report of a visit to the Moon.

However, as True History was satire, there is active debate as to whether it should be classified as SF or not.  Diogenes’ piece seems to have been rooted more in Pythagorean mysticism than in any sort of science, so I only include it out of a desire to be complete.

ALAN: Goodness me – the theme has more of a history than I realised. I’m sure that must be because the idea of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no man has gone before is a story that appeals to absolutely everybody on a really visceral level. After all, the original series of Star Trek told the story in almost every episode and, probably as a direct result, Star Trek was hugely popular!

JANE:  Whoosh!  (Sorry, finishing the quote from the opening of Star Trek.  My brain always adds the sound effect when the Enterprise goes by.  I don’t care that spaceships don’t make a sound in the void.  It’s cool.)

But, momentarily being more serious…  Original Star Trek worked for me in large part because it told stories of frontiers and exploration.  Frontiers remain an integral element of the American mythos, long after the conclusion of the days of physical exploration.

(I’m speaking of the U.S. variant of “American.”  Maybe our Canadians can answer if the idea of the frontier has a pull for them as well.  I don’t know if we have any South or Central Americans reading this who can answer for the other Americas.)

I’m curious if that element works for you as an Old World transplant as well.

ALAN: I’m old and my palate is jaded but nevertheless the story of travelling to a new world and exploring it still gives me a tingle in my sense of wonder. I’m sure I’m not alone in that – it may be a very old story, but it is still being told today – Andy Weir’s excellent novel The Martian was recently made into an award-winning movie, and that’s by no means the only example of it in modern day SF.

JANE: Indeed not.  I’m currently reading a proof of a near future novel – I will tell you what it is when it’s released – that deals with an attempt to establish an in-system colony.  Part of what makes it such a good read is that it’s so firmly rooted in recognizable limitations, both scientific and social.

Two of my favorites in this theme are both by Heinlein: The Man Who Sold the Moon (1950) and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966).  The first envisions lunar exploration as it might have been if driven by private ambition and dreams, rather than as government-backed ventures.  The second focuses on what would happen after a colony was established and had a chance to build its own identity.

Do you have any favorite tales of space exploration?  Don’t feel you need to stay in our solar system!

ALAN: Despite its scientific inaccuracy, I absolutely love Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars. It was first published in 1951 and it has long been overtaken by events. We know a lot more about conditions on Mars today than we did back then. The story is a thrilling tale of colonising the red planet. Mars has been surveyed from orbit, but not yet fully explored on the ground… Among other ideas, the novel speculates about techniques for terraforming the planet – a surprisingly sophisticated idea for 1951!

I’m also very fond of Brian W. Aldiss’ Helliconia trilogy. The novels chronicle the rise and fall of civilisation on an Earth-like planet over more than a thousand years. A space station orbiting Helliconia transmits details of the drama back to Earth.

JANE: Shamefacedly, I will admit I haven’t read either of these.  However, I think I may need to do so!

There’s no way we can list every good book about space exploration without inviting the dreaded TL/DR monster into our Tangent.  Perhaps some of our readers will help fill in the gaps by commenting on their personal “don’t miss” titles of planetary exploration.

Even without listing more titles, I think it’s obvious that neither of us think that SF built around planetary exploration and colonization is in the least played out.  However, it might be worth mentioning what is needed to make a new venture in that territory fresh and of good quality.

You first!

ALAN: Don’t pad the story with unnecessary events like meteorite collisions and avoid technical infodumps about spacecraft propulsion systems. I just read a trilogy which would have been amazingly good if the padding had been removed, and as a bonus it would only have been a single novel! In other words, stick to the straight storyline of planetary exploration.

JANE: I’ll add that attention needs to be paid to characterizations.  The days when characters can be “the pilot,” “the captain,” “the astronomer,” etcetera are gone.  Readers want to believe that real, three-dimensional humans with families, friends, even phobias, can achieve these goals.

Space travel is only one element among perennial SF themes.  Would you like to suggest another?

ALAN: I know! Let’s talk about time travel last week.

Cat in Costume

October 19, 2016

Last week, the WW featured a picture of my cat, Ogapoge, sleeping in one of the guinea pig tanks.  Through various ways and sundry, it ended up reaching a friend of ours.  She in turn sent us a picture of two of her foster kittens snuggling in her rabbit’s hutch.

Persephone in Costume

Persephone in Costume

The rabbit apparently has free run of the house and only uses the hutch as place for his food and water, so was happy to share.

Anyhow, one of the kittens was a calico, and I have long had a not-so secret longing for a calico.  I mentioned this to my friend, and she told me that the litter had two calicos.  Jim and I had a thoughtful, semi-serious discussion as to whether we really wanted a kitten at this point –  especially whether it would be too stressful for Kwahe’e and Ogapoge, our two seniors.

Later that evening, one of those weird things happened that leave you wondering just how much cats (or indeed pets in general) understand what we say.

For several years now, we’ve jokingly called Persephone our “calico” because, although she is mostly white and light reddish/orange, she has two little spots of grey on her head, as well as a third one on one leg.  These are tiny, less than fingertip-sized markings, not the striking patches that characterize your standard calico.

When we were getting ready for bed, Persephone came in for her dinner.  As I turned to put her bowl down, I started.  She had apparently transformed into a proper calico, with a large dark patch between her ears and another on one flank.

What we realized almost immediately was that Persephone had pushed her way passed the fireplace screen and gotten soot on her.  But it sure looked as if she was telling us “You don’t need a calico kitten.  Look!  You have me!”

Jim promptly ran for his camera and took a couple of pictures, one of which is included with this Wandering.  Those of you who regularly read my Friday Fragments have seen numerous pictures of Persephone, sans make-up, and can testify that this is not her normal look.

In case you’re wondering, as tempting as a kitten would be, we don’t think we’ll get one.

Kwahe’e and Ogapoge are both doing as well as they are with early stages of kidney disease, in part because we are giving them a lot of attention in addition to the pills and fluids.  This means that Persephone and Kel want more attention, just because.

So, it’s not a good time for a new kitten at our house, no matter how cute, but we certainly had a good laugh out of what we’ve taken to calling Persephone’s Halloween costume.

And I am indeed left wondering if I’d better be more careful about what I say around her and the rest of the animals!

FF: Many Flavors of SF/F

October 14, 2016

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

Kel Contemplates

Kel Contemplates

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  I love “The Raven Cycle.”  Irrationally much.

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris.  Enjoyed.  And the savage damsel is indeed fierce, the dwarf small, and the knight…  Well, neither as fierce as the damsel, and much smaller (souled) than the dwarf.

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator.  A chat with a friend reminded me I loved this insane novel, so I had to re-read.

In Progress:

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.  Audiobook.

Welcome to Golden by Rory McClannahan.  I sat next to Rory at the Albuquerque Museum Author Festival and heard him talk about this book.  Virtual reality meets retirement community.  Sounds like a good idea.

Also:

Reading about masks, because Halloween is coming.

TT: Delicious Intersection

October 13, 2016

JANE: Last time you mentioned that SF fans have published a lot of recipes over the years.  I’d love to hear more about this.

Considering Options

Considering Options

ALAN: Yes indeed. Mostly these are found only in obscure fanzines and similar out of the way places, but occasionally they find a wider audience. For example, Terry Pratchett has published Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook, which is a collection of surprisingly (im)practical recipes. In many respects, this work is best regarded as a censored version of the fictional The Joye Of Snackes which was also written by Nanny Ogg…

JANE: Can you give an example of a recipe you felt worked out particularly well?

ALAN: You can find a typical Nanny Ogg recipe (this one is for for Toffee Covered Rat Onna Stick) here.

I’ll let you decide how well the recipe works.

JANE: Okay.  Just went off and read it.  Interesting…  Sounds very sweet.  And reads as if not completely translated from the British measuring system.

What other samples do you have of fannish cooking?

ALAN: The 1987 World SF Convention (which was held in England) published a fannish cookbook for its attendees. It was called Fanfoodery and it was edited by Eve and John Harvey.

JANE: Do you have a copy?  What sort of recipes were offered?

ALAN: Unfortunately, my copy is no longer on my shelves, which means that either it is packed away in a box somewhere or else it was a victim of the Great Library Purge of 2014. I strongly suspect the latter.

However, I do know that Dave Langford contributed a recipe for Sinister Langford Apple Chutney which, he claimed, would “…clear blocked digestive systems, alarm and irritate neighbours, and help interested fans become TAFF delegates. Winner of the Borgia Award, 1987.”

TAFF, by the way, is the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund which sends British fan representatives to American conventions, and vice-versa.

JANE:  That sound ominous.

ALAN: There has long been a tradition of various fan organisations sending representatives to overseas conventions. One such is GUFF, which links European and Antipodean conventions in much the same way that TAFF links America and Britain. When European fans visit Australian conventions, GUFF stands for The Going Under Fan Fund. However when Australian fans visit European conventions the meaning changes, and the acronym becomes The Get Up and Over Fan Fund.

In 2015, the GUFF delegate appealed for recipes which would be published to help fund the GUFF trip. I contributed a recipe for Venusian Chilli (Finely dice one Venusian…). I pointed out at the end of the recipe that those of a nervous disposition may care to substitute Venison for the primary ingredient.

JANE: I’m sure the recipe is too long to include here, but I’d be curious as to what you included (other than Venusians).  Chilli cook-offs are perennially popular in the American West, and the arguments about what makes a good chili (typical American spelling) reach religious intensity.  They include such things as chopped meat rather than ground, types of meat, what sort or beans, and suchlike.

ALAN: I’ve used both minced and chopped Venusians and on balance I prefer the mince. I’ve used both borlotti beans and red kidney beans. I like them both and have no firm favourite, so I tend to alternate.

However, I think that I’d be a pariah at your chilli cook-offs because I do use what I suspect might be non-traditional ingredients. I fry up a lot of chopped celery and carrots with the onions. The spices and herbs I add are chilli, cumin and oregano (which I gather are traditional) and paprika and caraway seeds (which are probably controversial). I add a chopped green pepper for the last ten minutes of simmering because I find that the green colour adds a pleasing aesthetic contrast to the orange of the carrots – so does the celery to a certain extent, but I think it’s a bit too pale to properly succeed at that job. And finally I stir in a tablespoon of yoghurt just before serving.

JANE: That does sound non-traditional.  What’s a “borlotti bean” anyhow?

ALAN: It’s a light brown bean with red streaks. It’s also known as a cranberry bean or roman bean. I find the taste and texture similar to haricot beans, though a little less sweet.

JANE: Hmm… Here typically chile (“chile” is the correct spelling in New Mexico) is made with pinto beans or kidney beans.

As to the other ingredients…  I know some winners of chile cook-offs here  win precisely because they tease the jaded taste buds of the judges – those that haven’t been burned off, that is.  So, who knows?  You might do better than you think.

ALAN: I’ll bear that in mind if I ever enter a cook-off.

There used to be a British TV series called The Clangers. It was made for children, but it was also hugely popular with SF Fans because of its gentle, surreal humour. The Clangers themselves were aliens who lived on a remote planet where they had lots of wonderful adventures. Food was very important to the Clangers. They lived exclusively on soup and blue string pudding. Soup was obtained from soup wells which were supervised (soupervised??) by the Soup Dragon. The origin of blue string pudding was never clear, though there are suggestions that it is the fruit of the spaghetti tree.

I once gave a Clangers party at which I served soup and blue string pudding. Soup was easy, of course, and was well received. But blue string pudding was much more problematic. It was just spaghetti with added blue food colouring. However a surprisingly large number of people refused to eat it. There’s something very unnatural about blue food…

JANE: Blue or not, spaghetti seasoned only with food coloring wouldn’t appeal to me at all.  And isn’t “pudding” what you people call “dessert”?  Blue spaghetti doesn’t sound very desserty.

ALAN: Generally speaking puddings are desserts, but it’s not an invariable rule. Steak and kidney pudding, for example, is very much a main meal. Onions, stock, steak and kidney are surrounded by suet pastry and steamed for about four hours. It is generally served with mashed potato and vegetables such as carrots or broccoli. It’s very yummy, but quite artery-clogging.

JANE: Ah, so blue string pudding would fall into the non-dessert pudding category.  Got it!

In addition to the To Serve Man cookbook I mentioned a while back, I know the tradition of fannish cooking is alive and well here in the U.S.  In fact, our local SF club is attempting to put a cookbook of their own together.  SFWA, a professional organization for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, also has a cookbook in the works.  If you’re interested in learning more about and maybe pre-ordering a copy, you can look here.

ALAN: By a strange coincidence, I have a pot of Venusian Chilli simmering on the stove at the moment. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and stir it. I’ll talk to you again next time.

Life As a Country Western Song

October 12, 2016

If I could write Country Western songs, the last three weeks would have given me ample fodder for one of those songs that consist of a string laments about the vicissitudes of life.

Ogapoge Takes Refuge

Ogapoge Takes Refuge

A friend had a sudden medical emergency which necessitated me taking care of his cats.  No problem with helping out with that and with other things.  He’s a good friend and his cats were very lonely – but going over to his house every day for nearly two weeks was a rupture in my routine that made it harder to settle into any particular writing project.

Nonetheless, I soldiered on and always made doing at least some work on my current project (additions to a weird book I’ve been writing on-spec) a priority.  This meant other things had to slide, of course…

I also had three speaking engagements within five days.  Two were for UNM Honors.  The classes were excellent, the questions thoughtful and intelligent.  The other was seven hours of a new Author Fest.  I sold a fair number of books, helped the Albuquerque Museum raise some money, gave a talk about writing SF/F, and met some nifty people.  But getting ready for these events, going back and forth, was a drain on my energy that made it harder to settle into any particular writing project.

Refrain: Nonetheless, I soldiered on and always made doing at least some work on my current project (additions to a weird book I’ve been writing on-spec) a priority.  This meant other things had to slide, of course…

My friend came home safely from the hospital, but peace was not to be mine.  A leak from our swamp cooler had created damage to our kitchen ceiling that really had to be dealt with.  We hired a fellow who did drywall work and, since the patch would need to be painted anyhow, arranged to have him paint the whole kitchen.  Then since the bookshelf in the kitchen (which also holds our guinea pigs’ tanks) had to be emptied out and washed anyhow, I painted that, too.  The dry-waller did excellent work and was about as nonintrusive as someone cutting a hole in your ceiling can be, but the noise and comings and goings (not to mention stressed cats) made it harder for me to settle into any particular writing project.

Refrain : Nonetheless, I soldiered on and always made doing at least some work on my current project (additions to a weird book I’ve been writing on-spec) a priority.  This meant other things had to slide, of course…

Then one of our elderly cats (who already suffers from kidney disease) got stressed by all the fuss (he is terrified of workmen, no matter how nice) and decided to stop eating.  We coaxed him back, but it wasn’t fun.  Then one of our guinea pigs got very sick and I had to rush him to the vet.  He’s still on antibiotics and whether he’ll get well is not certain.  So caring for him remains a drain on my time and creative energy.

Then, Sunday night, when I really should have been sleeping, a new character walked into my head and is now insisting that I write some new stories.  So, the next morning, I needed to find time to scribble notes, so I wouldn’t lose more than sleep – which refused to come until I had the character’s name and general description in my head.  Yes, I did consider getting up and scribbling thing down then, but it was cold and I was very, very tired.

So this new idea is going to be competing with my settling in on finishing what I’m working on but I won’t let it because, as I wrote a few weeks ago, if you let the Hot New Idea take over from the project you’re trying to finish, then you never get anything done

Refrain: Therefore, I soldiered on and always made doing at least some work on my current project (additions to a weird book I’ve been writing on-spec) a priority.  This meant other things had to slide of course….

Other forthcoming projects may include getting e-books together of some of my older titles including Marks of Our Brothers, Pipes of Orpheus, and When the Gods Are Silent.  I’m also meditating on a Kickstarter campaign as a way of testing the waters to see if folks might be interested in my self-publishing some of my current, odder projects, since right now publishers are a little chary about books that slide between categories…  Even SF/F publishers.  Weird, I know!

This week I hope to get caught up on some of the jobs that I’ve had to let slide (like filing and dealing with garden produce) while running hither and yon.  But you can be sure of one thing.  I’ll make sure I’m writing, because the stories keep clamoring to be told, and if I’m not writing, I find it much harder to sleep.

FF: Old Tales, New Stories

October 7, 2016

This week hasn’t been exactly peaceful, what with my kitchen ceiling being patched and the whole kitchen painted, but good stories have done a great deal to ease the strain.

Savage Damsel Persephone

Savage Damsel Persephone

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.

The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady by Gerald Morris.  Standalone sequel to The Squire’s Tale, which I read a few weeks ago.  Who “His Lady” is an interesting question of pronoun reference.

In Progress:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  Again, a book I read in print and am now enjoying in this alternate form.

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris.  I remember reading Malory’s original version of this and wondering if the manuscript had been incomplete.  This is a great deal more comprehensible!

Also:

Still typing and reviewing my own recent additions to a manuscript. Still enjoying.