If you or anyone you know would like to learn heaps about writing science fiction and fantasy, including getting intensive feedback about some of your/their writing, you/they should sign up for the course I'm teaching at WEA on Tuesday evenings starting July 27. Click here to find out more.
A motley coat
As You Like It, Act II Sc. 7
O worthy fool!
...in his brain,
Which is as dry as the remainder biscuit
After a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd
With observation, the which he vents
In mangled forms. O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat.
Cons, as in conventions, not as in swindles. For those unfamiliar with the term, cons are meetups of fans and enthusiasts, usually involving presentations and panels of varying degrees of academic rigor by professionals and other leading figures in the fandom in question, social events, workshops where skills may be imparted, art shows, and vendors' rooms. There is also lots and lots of informal interaction, sometimes resulting in professional collaborations, sometimes in romantic liaisons, and (more often than you might think) in more permanent relationships, such as marriages, parenthood, and three-book deals.
For some, the informal interactions are the whole point; others take advantage of the mix of activities. Occasionally someone will make the big leap from attending panels to speaking on them (having made that leap myself at last year's Conflux, I can say that it's quite a buzz).
I don't attend too many cons, not least because the expense can add up pretty quickly. But the big con on my calendar this year is rapidly approaching: Aussiecon, which is this year's World Science Fiction Convention. And I'm starting to get all giggly.
I love science-fiction and fantasy cons. I love the latitude to be unusual (and we're talking serious latitude. How many standard deviations from the mean are there, exactly? Find out that number, and tack another couple on either side of the bell curve. That's how much latitude). And, paradoxically, I love having so much in common with everyone there. I love the meeting up with old friends. I love the casual chats in passing with writers whose work you've loved for years. I love realizing that, actually, I do know something about what I'm doing as a writer of science fiction and fantasy. I love the buzz of hundreds and hundreds of excited people immersed in something they love.
If you're reading my blog, you, too, may have an interest in science fiction and/or fantasy. If you're in Australia, or if you're absolutely swimming in cash you have no idea what to do with (or both), you might consider attending Aussiecon.
If you would like more information on cons and how they can be a very beneficial and productive, as well as fun, time for the writer or fan, read this and this.
This one only takes a few minutes to assemble, and then it cooks mainly by itself. And it's pretty cheap, especially if you use store-brand coconut cream.
Coconut Rice and Vegetables
- Two cups of rice (I use jasmine)
- One large can coconut cream
- One cup shredded coconut (if you're in America, the coconut will have sugar clinging to it oh, so good, but it means you must slightly reduce the amount of brown sugar called for below)
- One quarter cup brown sugar (or palm sugar if you've got it)
- One teaspoon salt
- One tablespoon powdered turmeric (or I guesss you could use grated fresh, but I've never used the fresh stuff myself so I don't know what the equivalency is)
- A pinch of saffron if you've got it, but don't stress if you don't
- A big double handful of chopped vegetables, whatever you've got, except for lettuce, ew, no
Put everything except the vegetables, coconut cream, and water into a rice cooker or pot-with-lid.
Measure how much coconut cream you've got, dump that into the rice (make sure you take the lid off the pot first!), and add enough water so that you've got four cups of liquid (maybe five if you like your rice moister). Please don't guess on this, actually measure. It's really easy to get wrong. Ask me how I know.
Stir the pot so that everything (except the vegetables, they're still waiting on the cutting board) is all mixed up, and cook according to how you normally cook rice.
When it's nearly done, chuck the vegetables in on top and let them cook in the rice steam (don't forget to replace the lid).
When the rice is fully done, stir the now-fairly-steamed vegetables through and let them sit for a minute to finish cooking.
Eat. Tastes great, very subtle and rich, which is nice considering it's so frugal to make. Leftovers will microwave well for tomorrow's lunch when you're in the middle of that chapter where the plot is stuck and all your characters have suddenly become fatuous and feebleminded and you can only spare a minute to grab some food before returning to the absolutely time-critical and vital work of sitting at the computer and staring at the last paragraph you wrote for another hour. Stare! Stare, and eat coconut rice!
Too fiddly for Writin' Rations™, but one of the best sauces I've ever made. We had it tonight on penne, with a side of garlic bread. (Does my family know how lucky they are?)
Mushroom and Cinnamon Sauce
- About a pound/500 grams of mushrooms (any ol' kind of mushrooms will do), cleaned up the way you like to clean them, and sliced
- A couple of tablespoons of olive oil
- One fresh chilli (I used a jalapeño because that's what I had), seeded and with the white stuff cut out (you're aiming for just a little bit of heat) and chopped finely
- A 1-inch/2.5cm-square piece of REAL CINNAMON BARK* if you can get it; one "cinnamon" stick (really cassia in most cases) if you can't, a teaspoon of the powdered stuff as a last resort
- A half-cup or so of tomato paste
- Some salt
- Some pepper
- A tablespoon of paprika (the mild stuff)
- A handful of raisins/sultanas
- A cup of chopped red pepper/capsicum
- A handful of pistachios (although I suppose you could use walnuts if you wanted)
- Water, maybe two cups or so
- A half to three-quarters of a cup of cream ("pure" cream, as the Australians disturbingly call it. "Pure" as opposed to what?)
Add the paprika, salt, pepper, cinnamon, tomato paste, raisins, red pepper, and water, and cook very gently for quite a while, maybe even a half hour. Maybe even more. It should be pretty thick by then.
A few minutes before serving, take the cinnamon bark/stick out, add the pistachios and cream, and heat through. Check to see if it needs anything, and if it does, meet its needs.
Like I said, we had it over penne, but I bet it would be superb over rice. It was pronounced "weird" by one family member, who nevertheless cleaned her plate. If you were Hungarian or Georgian or from somewhere Adriatic-esque, maybe it would taste just like what you're used to. Try it!
*Wollongong readers may be interested to learn that I purchased mine yesterday at Wollongong Nut & Deli, the very best shop of any kind whatsoever in all of the Illawarra.
(Thanks to Aidan Doyle, who posted this to Facebook.)
In the leadup to the September launch of the anthology Baggage, a number of kind folks have set up a blog tour where authors, instead of going from bookstore to bookstore (although that's nice, too), go from blog to blog. Usually this takes the form of interview questions from the blog owner, and so it is with this installment of the Baggage blog tour: Alan Baxter's "The Word."
I bring this to your attention because I am one of the authors on the tour.
And isn't the cover for the anthology the coolest thing ever?
Gorgeous, no? Adventure magazine debuted in November 1910, and clearly was filled with exactly the sorts of stories I love to read. You can look at most of the covers at this site. I don't know where you can find the magazines, unless you become an obsessive collector something I have neither the time, the money, nor the patience to do. Does anyone know whether there has ever been anything like a facsimile collection of this magazine? If not, would any kind millionaire mind making one happen?
...and fighting evil. (Such a fabulous name could only belong to a true superhero. Moreover, it's actually her true, real, parent-given name. So she was BORN to be a superhero.) I'll let her tell you about it in her own words:
Many of you will be familiar with this story already but for anyone who isn’t:
Last year Canadian marine biologist and science fiction writer Dr Peter Watts underwent a terrifying ordeal at the hands of over zealous border crossing guards in Port Huron, USA. While leaving the United States on December 8, 2009, he was subject to an exit search, then beaten, maced and arrested when he tried to find out what was going on....
Note: this is not a photo of Cat Sparks
Even though all he did was fail to promptly comply with border guards’ instructions, he narrowly escaped a prison sentence and is now officially a convicted felon and therefore no longer able to attend US conventions.
Peter’s short story ‘The Island’ from The New Space Opera 2, edited by Gardner Dozois and our own Jonathan Strahan has been nominated for a Hugo award. What with Worldcon being on Aussie soil in September this year, I thought it would be a good thing if he could fly out here for both the Hugos and Aussiecon itself.
To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novel State of Grace. Peter says:
“make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end. And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”
The Aussiecon committee has very kindly donated Peter’s membership. The rest is up to us. If you think the guy deserves a break, how about taking part in the raffle or making a donation?
I’ve never met Peter face-to-face but we’ve been email buddies since I sent him a gushing fan letter after reading his first novel Starfish some years back.
He is well known as an excellent value panelist and would be a fantastic asset to the ‘hard science fiction’ end of the con’s literary stream. He has also consented to participating in Dudcon where he will hand out the Ditmars and generally partake of other silliness as required.
To participate in the State of Grace tuckerisation raffle send AUS $10 via Paypal to email@example.com
Email me privately if you’d prefer to buy a ticket via some other medium: cat at catsparks.net
If you’re not into tuckerisation but would like to sling a few bucks into the pot, that’s awesome too.
Any funds raised surplus to requirements will be donated to a reputable charity of Peter’s choice.
Feel free to re-post this message on your own blog if you consider this to be a worthy project.
There you have it. Repost, contribute, spread the word. I as an American am humiliated at Dr. Watts's treatment. Rather than tsk tsk-ing and being glad I'm living overseas, I'm attempting to counterbalance the actions of the evil few by contributing to the actions of the good many. And I am gratified that the good many are an international many. The more we can disempower the idea of nationalism, the less this sort of crap will happen to anyone.*
*You may spot the inconsistency: I decry nationalism and yet consider myself responsible on a nationalist level for the sins of my people. I figure it this way: I'd rather take responsibility for righting American wrongs than conveniently shirking this responsibility by saying nationalism doesn't matter. It does, and while it does, it can at least minimize its own evil works by also motivating people to step up to the plate (as we say amongst my people) and do something worthwhile.
Margaret reckoned I would like these (you can find them all at the artist's site). She was right.
(Note: I have the artist's permission to post these.)
Houston happened to find a link to my last year's Gone in 60 Seconds play, "Three Feet from Doom" this saves you going to the all-in-one-sitting clip and fast-forwarding through an hour to find it. Thanks, Houston!
By the way, if you find the dialogue hard to follow (and no, the sound quality isn't the best), you can read the script over at my story blog, Dry as the Remainder Biscuit.
I am aiming for fame in one-minute increments. My 60-second play "Tiles in the Night" has been accepted for performance in the Gone in 60 Seconds play festival (see also Facebook page).
Performance is NEXT WEEK, June 11, at The Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, Halifax, UK! (You can, apparently, book tickets through the venue.) All UK buddies and blog-readers are urged to phone them up right now and get tickets!
This is my second time as a GI60 playwright ("Three Feet from Doom" was performed last year; I've posted the script on my story blog, and from there you can find a link to the YouTube video). I absolutely love the concept: a night of one-minute plays rushing past you as you grab delightedly at the stories. And I love the form: it's a genuine challenge to pack setting, characterization, plot, and resolution into 60 seconds of stage time. You should try it; it's fun!
For my non-UK buddies, as soon as they post the YouTube videos of the performances (and it did take them a while last year, so I don't know when that will be), I'll give y'all the link.