Every year, we have a colonial Christmas tea, where I cook a combination of Sri Lankan traditional party food (rolls, chicken patties, mackerel cutlets, ribbon sandwiches, milk toffee, marshmallows, love cake, and arrack sours) with British traditional tea party / Christmas food (cucumber sandwiches, roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, mushroom sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, berry trifle, fruitcake, mulled mead and mulled cider). Plus some extra sweets. I feel that I should get something good out of colonialism, after all, and traditional British holiday fare is delicious. Cooking a feast is an opportunity to put my day job as a professor aside, and even the SF novel I’m writing, and sink deep into food and domesticity, some of my own enduring sources of joy. Especially when I get to share the cooking (and then the eating) with my partner, children, and friends! [Read more…]
Every December, a holiday-themed zone opens up in Star Trek Online: Q’s Winter Wonderland, a place where players can forget about spatial anomalies and chroniton fluxes and enjoy themselves in a place where no one ever dies, where the only enemies are made of snow and candy, and where it’s always winter. I found myself spending a lot of time there in 2017, even if I no longer have any real in-game reason to, and not just because it was 2017. I wondered why until it clicked — winter, a proper northern winter, is one of my sources of joy.
See, I grew up in Central Ontario, in the snowbelt south of Lake Huron. I never thought to wonder what “lake-effect snow” was; all I knew is that every year, regular as rain, the snow came down and buried the world. There’s a certain perspective, I think, that comes from living in a place where the snow is thick and reliable. It doesn’t just deflate arguments about how settling other worlds is ridiculous, since for a good chunk of the year Canada is a hostile environment — it teaches humility. It reminds us that we’re not all that. It hides our works and reminds us that we have limits. [Read more…]
There is a particular smell to corn that has been soaked in wood ash lye, then washed and hulled and ground into a fine meal.
It is the aroma of freshly made tortillas, of tamales as they steam, of my mother’s huipiles.
Really. No matter how freshly laundered, no matter how many cedar balls or lavender sachets have been thrown in the drawer to keep the moths away, the distinctive hand-woven Guatemalan blouses my mother wore retain the smell of a grain turned more aromatic, more flavorful, more nutritious by the nixtamalation process. [Read more…]
Something that has brought me a great deal of joy over the years — but particularly in 2017, a year that has us grasping for crumbs of joy among the embers and the schrapnel — is sharing pop culture with my kids.
My eldest turned 12 last January. It hit me that I remembered exactly what I was reading at 12 — Stephen King’s IT, for one, along with a whole bunch of other adult texts. So… my policy on reading matter, always fairly casual, meant that I removed all filters and left R to it. My policy on other media shifted a bit too, especially when I realised that 12 is an awesome age to experience teen media that didn’t come along until I was… well. Older than 12. [Read more…]
I’d like to talk about one of the main things that got me through 2017. Beyond all of the horrible real world shit that was going on in the real world, I was diagnosed as bipolar in March of 2017. It wasn’t a huge surprise; I had been dealing with depression and anxiety for years up to that point. It was nice to have a firm diagnosis though. It helped narrow down the possible medications I could take to help me. And, after maybe six months, I finally hit on a combo of meds that have significantly improved my life.
But before that, and still to this day, I’ve used art both to escape my own mind, as well as to help control my moods. Of all the art forms that I consume, that one that provided the most consistent relief was: podcasts. [Read more…]
I am excited that Zumaya Thresholds released my short story collection, Agents, Adepts, & Apprentices. This is an expanded version of the collection previously published by Amber Quill Press, with a few more stories about my interplanetary agents, as well as additional fantasy and science fiction stories. Some stories appeared in anthologies by other publishers, and I’m really excited to have those – as well as four new stories – gathered together in one place.
I am especially pleased with the new cover by the wonderful April Martinez. She really captured my wizard Salanoa. [Read more…]
We know joy in contrast to sorrow, and my past two months have been a blur of sorrow. My sweet cat Porom succumbed to kidney failure in late October after blessing us with over 17 years of purrs. Yes, she was named for the character from Final Fantasy IV. Her twin brother Palom died from cancer in 2012.
For the first time since I was seven, I have no cats.
But I am here to celebrate Porom, and to look at January 2018 as a month where I will find new joy. I am adopting new cats. I write these words in December, and truth be told, I have never felt so impatient for the holidays to be over. I want January. I want new furballs to love and cherish for decades to come. [Read more…]
I live in a cold part of the world, so you might think that at this time of the year I’d be looking for escape in stories set in the tropics. But I find the books that bring me joy in the winter tend to be set in this season, in the Middle Ages in Europe.
One of them is Connie Willis’s 1992 time-travel novel, Doomsday Book. Another is Umberto Eco’s first novel, The Name of the Rose, published in 1980.
I say “books”, but one of them is a play: The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman, published in 1966. The 1968 film version, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, is one of the best movies ever made. (There’s also a later version with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, two fine actors, but it can’t hold a candle to the first). The published play makes excellent reading; every line of dialogue is perfect, and the stage directions bring an extra joy you can’t get without reading the original. [Read more…]
There were a lot of things that brought me joy in 2017. N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy’s conclusion, Bojack Horseman, the movie Baby Driver, and WorldCon in Helsinki (with a side trip to Stockholm) were all wonderful parts of last year. In addition, my writing community and my furry community remained strong, positive parts of my life last year. I went to two writing retreats and taught at one workshop, and all of those were overwhelmingly joyful experiences. And, of course, my two partners and our dog brought me unending amounts of joy, as I’ve become accustomed to. I’d be happy to tell everyone about them, but I think I want to highlight a more unexpected source of joy (if not quite as much as my family): Furry Fandom vs. the Nazis.
Furry fandom, in case you don’t know, is a community of people who like animal-people, like Disney’s Zootopia (2016). In most cases, members have an avatar (fursona) that reflects some aspects of their identity. For example, I’m a fox. Probably this was heavily influenced by playing the story record of Disney’s Robin Hood about a million times over my childhood, but it also reflects my smaller physical stature and reliance on my wits that got me through middle and high school. And nazis (lowercase) here refers to a group of people who espouse white supremacy, vilify other races and religions, and often identify with Nazi (uppercase) iconography and philosophy. [Read more…]
One thing that brings me joy is making food and feeding people. December is my favorite month accordingly: I bake cookies and make candy to send off in packages and plan a grand open house with all the care and deliberation (and spreadsheets) with which I would undertake a military campaign.
My cookbooks, many of which have been companions of decades now, have plenty of notes to say which dish and accompaniments I served when, and to whom, jottings about what worked and what didn’t, and substitutions and tweaks. The binder which holds all my handwritten recipes, including ones from my mother, grandmother, and grandmother-in-law, also has a sheet of food likes: no eggs for Nona, Mom hates garlic, Sandra likes the lentil soup, Wayne hates pineapple and olives but loves squash. [Read more…]