Guest Post: Food and SF in Jewish Australia – Part 3 by Gillian Polack

Part Three

The recipes in The Wizardry of Jewish Women are Jewish food, but not as most people know it.

In the novel, two sisters (Judith and Belinda) are sent boxes that were stored in a garage for two generations. One box is full of culinary recipes from their great-grandmother Ada. The other box is also full of recipes, but for spells.

Belinda, the cook, takes the box with the recipes. She sends food parcels to Judith as she tests the recipes. In one of the parcels is feminist biscuits, because Belinda believes profoundly in teasing her feminist sister. The recipe box was terribly important. I wanted to show readers that lost culture could be fascinating and familiar. Also, I wanted to balance magic with memory.

Ada’s recipes are mostly from Belle Polack, my grandmother, because Ada and Belle are from near-identical cultural backgrounds. Jewish cooking followed a really interesting historical path from London to Australia and that is the path I used for Ada’s recipes.

Now for some recipes. First, the feminist biscuits (which would probably be called ‘cookies’ in North America) and then, some of my grandmother’s recipes.

Anglo-Jewish Australian cooking has some significant differences to other Jewish foodways. Ask me sometime, because this is one of my favourite subjects. I often start by saying something like, “My people cook, but we have no family bagel recipe.” The family lost many recipes for a generation. Only my first cousin believed we had family recipes for Christmas until my grandmother’s notebook was found hidden in my father’s study after he died.

The only metric recipe is the one for feminist biscuits, because it’s the only modern recipe. All the other recipes use British Imperial measurements. The cups are pre-metric Australian cups: a cup of sugar is 6 ounces and one of flour is 4 ounces. Here is a conversion tool for some of the rest.

I admit, I use a table at the back of a 1970s cookbook when my memory fails me, or I do conversion using my family’s classic “By guess and by G-d” technique.    

 

Feminist Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 150 g butter or equivalent amount of oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 small cup sugar
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 drop vanilla (optional)
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Green food colouring
  • Purple food colouring (red and blue combined)  

Method

Melt butter. Add everything except the food colouring. Mix well. Swirl the food colouring through the mix. Drop a teaspoon at a time on well-greased trays. Bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes. Try not to eat them all at once.  

 

Christmas Pudding

This is my grandmother’s recipe, transcribed. I haven’t modernised it or translated it at all. I did, however, add a comma. Note: Do not even think of making the milk variant of this Jewish Christmas pudding for anyone who keeps kosher.  

(Medium Rich) 1 lb suet, ¾ lb fine breadcrumbs, ¾ lb brown sugar, ¼ lb flour, 1 lb sultanas, 1 lb currants, ¼ lb mixed peel, ½ teaspoon mixed spice, a good pinch salt, 1 lemon, 4 eggs, ½ pt beer or milk, ½ gill brandy. Prepare all the ingredients. Sieve flour & mix with crumbs & finely chopped suet. Add fruit & chopped peel & grated rind of lemon & sugar. Mix in the beaten eggs, beer or milk. Stir well. Cover a clean & put away until next day. Add the brandy, turn into greased basins & cover with the greased paper & pudding cloths. Boil for 8 to 10 hrs. Remove the paper & cloths, let puddings cool & recover with fresh paper & dry cloths. Store in a cook, dry place. Boil for a further 2 hrs before serving.  

And now for a few more less contentious recipes.  

 

Belle Polack’s Honey Cake for Jewish New Year  

Ingredients

  • 1 lb honey
  • 1 ¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 small cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small cup oil or melted butter
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda  

Method

Melt the honey and sugar over a low flame. When they are cold, add the eggs (which should be well-beaten first—a form of domestic discipline), the oil and the remaining ingredients. Put the bicarbonate of soda in last.

Pour into a well-greased cake tin and bake in a moderate oven for 1 ½ hours.    

 

Madeira Cake  

This cake is from Belle’s maternal grandmother who left London in the 1860s.  

Ingredients

  • 5 oz butter
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 6 oz self raising flour
  • 2 oz plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½-1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla  

Method

Cream butter. Add vanilla. Beat in eggs well, one at a time. Add flour then milk and vanilla. Bake for 1 ½ hours in a moderate oven.


BIO: Dr Gillian Polack is a Jewish-Australian science fiction and fantasy writer, researcher and editor and is the winner of the 2020 A Bertram Chandler Award. The Green Children Help Out is her newest novel. The Year of the Fruit Cake won the 2020 Ditmar for best novel and was shortlisted for best SF novel in the Aurealis Awards. She wrote the first Australian Jewish fantasy novel (The Wizardry of Jewish Women)Gillian is a Medievalist/ethnohistorian, currently working on how novels transmit culture. Her work on how writers use history in their fiction (History and Fiction) was shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Guest Post: Food and SF in Jewish Australia – Part 2 by Gillian Polack

Part Two

I have ten published novels. I’ll talk about just five today. Even five is too many, however, Judaism slips quietly into five, so I’m introducing five of my novels today. There are two novels I couldn’t write without being Jewish Australian. I’ll save those two for last. Let me give everything numbers, to make it easier.

1. In Langue[dot]doc 1305 (a time travel novel) I have a single Jewish character. That’s all. When I did my MA and PhD in Medieval History, I discovered many fascinating things about the Middle Ages, and some even more fascinating things about how we see the Middle Ages. I wanted to smash together our knowledge of the Middle Ages and how we interpret it and to make it explode. Also, I wanted marauding peasants. That single Jewish character is one of the pieces that led to the explosion.

I can’t tell you more without spoilers, but I can say that scientists checked my depiction of my bunch of scientists and said, “Scientists behave like this. How did you know?” That’s another story.  

 

2. My space opera novel, Poison and Light, tells of a society that reinvents the eighteenth century for all the wrong reasons. There are three Jewish towns on New Ceres, and they quietly rebel against the rule of the eighteenth century. Also, there are Jewish puns. The novel is set in a big city and the towns are a tiny part of the whole. The puns, the “I’m not what you think,” and the tendency to overeducation reflect my relationship to my own cultural relationship with my own country (as an Australian Jew). That’s the surface Jewishness.

Poison and Light has sword fights and balloon rides and gourmet food and much politics, but it’s actually about how Grania (the protagonist) deals with impossible loss and change. Her efforts are part of my personal response to the Shoah.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to learn how pogroms and exploitation and massacre and throwing people out of their homes and homelands affect survivors and I’m not even close to understanding. In Poison and Light, I built a society of colonisers and bigots because I wanted to understand the vested interests people have in defending what they know, even if it means hurting people. Poison and Light is one step towards me understanding, and none towards acceptance.  

 

3. I used a different Jewish history in The Time of the GhostsThe Time of the Ghosts is a contemporary fantasy set in Canberra. Three women (the youngest is sixty) and their sidekick fight supernatural threats. There aren’t nearly enough novels with Jewish fairies, so their sidekick reads a memoir written by a Jewish melusine. These three women are all heroes of the tea-drinking, dinner party, and stock-whip using kind.  

 

4. My most recent novel (The Green Children Help Out) is totally about Jewish superheroes. My background is Australian Orthodox (somewhere between Modern Orthodox and Conservative) and I wanted to create an alternate universe where people could kick ass their personal work towards tikkun olam. Tikkun olam is more balancing the world and bringing it to rights than saving it, and it’s informed my whole life. It was about time it informed the lives of a bunch of superheroes who are, as the title suggests, the Green Children.

The Green Children Help Out is set on an alternate Earth (with magic) so that I could look into how to write people from cultural minorities. Also, I wanted a world so real that I could step into it in my mind.  

 

5. The very first Australian fantasy novel that incorporated Australian Jewish culture was my own The Wizardry of Jewish Women. It uses the Anglo-Australian Jewish culture I come from and it includes my grandmother’s recipes with their London Sephardi origins. There are many novels about ultra-Orthodox Jews, and very few about secular Jews, and I wanted to even things out a bit.

What happens when secular Jews rediscover lost culture and a lemon tree becomes demonically possessed? I began building the family culture with food, so I’ll tell you more about The Wizardry of Jewish Women and give you some of the recipes in Part Three.


BIO: Dr Gillian Polack is a Jewish-Australian science fiction and fantasy writer, researcher and editor and is the winner of the 2020 A Bertram Chandler Award. The Green Children Help Out is her newest novel. The Year of the Fruit Cake won the 2020 Ditmar for best novel and was shortlisted for best SF novel in the Aurealis Awards. She wrote the first Australian Jewish fantasy novel (The Wizardry of Jewish Women)Gillian is a Medievalist/ethnohistorian, currently working on how novels transmit culture. Her work on how writers use history in their fiction (History and Fiction) was shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Guest Post: Food and SF in Jewish Australia – Part 1 by Gillian Polack

This essay has three parts. The first tells you about who I am and why I find ways to put Jews and Judaism in my fiction. The second tells you about my novels and the Jewishness of them. The third is the good bit. When I build worlds for my novels, I make sure that there is food in the world. I will talk about some of that food and, of course, there will be recipes. Recipes are worth waiting for. If you want to start on the fiction before you read the first post, then my most recent novel is The Green Children Help Out. I explore what a superhero looks like when created by a Jewish Australian woman with disabilities. Hint: there’s no Superman. And now, on with the posts.

Part One

I’m Jewish Australian. It used to take courage to say this in front of strangers, and it still takes a moment and a deep breath. Things are different in Australia. It’s not just the big spiders and curious streetlife. I’d rather talk about the curious streetlife, because kangaroos are a traffic hazard where I live and our magpies attack people. Also, it’s easier than talking about being Jewish.

Officially, I’m classified as CALD (Culturally And Linguistically Diverse), but until recently I was NESB (from a Non-English Speaking Background). Unofficially, I’m called many things. I often call myself a giraffe (an exceedingly short one).

Why a giraffe? Strangers tell me after panels or papers or talks,  “I’ve never met anyone Jewish before” or “You speak very good English for someone Jewish.” People with more worldly knowledge ask when I left New York or Israel or, if they’re less tolerant tell me, “You should go back to where you came from.”

I usually ask, “Do you mean Melbourne in general, or specifically Hawthorn?” Melbourne is my home city and Hawthorn my home suburb. I’ve been away for nearly forty years.

The conversation continues, “Go to where your parents came from.”

“That’s difficult, because my father lived in country Victoria and my mother in Melbourne—you need to choose.”

The conversation seldom stops there. Most of these people expect me to turn into some mythical being from somewhere they never quite identify, and are very disconcerted when they find out my father’s mother’s mother’s mother was born in London, as was her mother, and her mother’s mother. The rest of me comes from all over Europe. My family has been in Australian for well over a century.

Most Australians expect Jewish Australians to be exotic. The most common terms are “Exotic White” or “Near White.” During the infamous White Australia policy, Jews were Honorary Black.

These days, I describe myself as “off-white.” It stops all the questions before they begin.

The writer I’m most often told about when people discover my profession is Arnold Zable. He wrote a fictionalised account of his family’s last days in Białystock during the Holocaust. He was one of the last people to escape this far, you see. Another member of his family who escaped married a cousin of mine and a couple of years ago I finally met Zable.

“You know my mother,” I said, “And your cousin married one of my cousins.”

“Which cousin?” he asked.

“Feivel, the carnival guy.”

This tells you something else about Australian Jewry. Prior to World War II, we were few in number. Many of us are related in some way, if we come from an older family. Or our parents went to Sunday school together.

We are culturally different to Jews who arrived after the Shoah. I call us the scones-and-committee branch of Judaism. Our branch has writers and musicians and dentists and teachers and shopkeepers and lots of people who worked in the garment industry. I have a cousin who specialises in lipstick and a sister who specialises in wine. My great-aunts ran a shop that Phryne Fisher would have gone to for her haberdashery. My family fought in World War II. We are, in our way, quintessentially Melburnian.

And yet… I’m off-white. It took until my third novel for strangers to stop telling me my English was very good for someone Jewish.

All these descriptions roll out as if I’ve said them a thousand times. I have. They’ve been my defence against bigots and those who assume there are no Jews in Australia and against all those people who don’t see me unless I shout.

My fiction helps me shout. I hold the pinpricks I face up to the light so that a picture shines through. I don’t write literary novels. I write science fiction and fantasy. Every now and then I stop and ask, “Why don’t I write like CS Lewis or “Doc” Smith or, in fact, any of the writers I grew up reading?” I have things to say about myself and my culture, I suspect, that don’t fit into a classic SF story. There are scones, there are committees, and there’s a lot more.

Next post: Meet the novels in which I say these things.


BIO: Dr Gillian Polack is a Jewish-Australian science fiction and fantasy writer, researcher and editor and is the winner of the 2020 A Bertram Chandler Award. The Green Children Help Out is her newest novel. The Year of the Fruit Cake won the 2020 Ditmar for best novel and was shortlisted for best SF novel in the Aurealis Awards. She wrote the first Australian Jewish fantasy novel (The Wizardry of Jewish Women)Gillian is a Medievalist/ethnohistorian, currently working on how novels transmit culture. Her work on how writers use history in their fiction (History and Fiction) was shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2021

It’s that time again! Once again I have created this post for consolidating fantasy and science fiction award eligibility round-ups. If you are an F&SF writer, editor, podcast, or publisher working in comics, fiction or games, I hope you’ll let people know what you have that they should be reading.

Past things I have written about why writers should do this include On Awards: To Be Pushy Or Not To Be Pushy (2014), The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated Awards Process (2015), and To Eligibility Post or Not to Eligibility Post? (2016).

Want a sample post? Here’s mine for this year.

Here are the previous such round-up posts from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Continue reading

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2021 Publications, Appearances, and Other Notable Things

Text reads "2021 Publications, Appearances, and Other Notable Things."It’s been a great year. Here’s some highlights. I have tried to identify what length and genre everything is, as well as where you can get it. The podcast I work with, IF THIS GOES ON (Don’t Panic), is eligible for Hugo nominations.

In January, my story “Shot Through with Shards of Light” appeared in SPACE: 1975, SPACE OPERA STORIES, 70S STYLE edited by Robert Jeschonek. This story is set in the same universe as my space opera, YOU SEXY THING, and grew out of thinking about a particular aspect of that universe.

March of 2021, my short story “Crazy Beautiful” appeared in The Magazine of F&SF as part of Sheree Renee Thomas’s inaugural issue. This story is very important to me, speaking about something that I deeply care about, and I’ve been stoked that so many people liked it. It is my only story that starts with a Bob Ross quote. Rich Horton said of it, “Perhaps my favorite story from early in 2021.”

In April, Jennifer Brozek and I turned in the manuscript for our co-edited anthology, THE REINVENTED HEART. So exciting! I got a piece of game writing in, with “The Sisterhood of the Shovel,” which appeared in THE WELL from Shoeless Pete Games.

My Beneath Ceaseless Skies novelette, Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer, also appeared in April. This is a Tabat story, and features the protagonists of “Hoofsore and Weary” and “Brittle Are My Boughs, And Sorrowful My Heart.”

Some things reviewers said about Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer

In May, the third book of the Tabat Quartet, EXILES OF TABAT, appeared from Wordfire Press. In it, Bella, Teo, and Lucy all adventure outside the city, with very different results. The final book, GODS OF TABAT, will appear in 2022.

In July, a story that my spouse Wayne and I wrote together, “Stand and Deliver,” appeared in DARK MATTER magazine. It’s a story of fatherhood and time travel…sort of.

In August I actually did some traveling. I went to Laramie, Wyoming, and was part of the Laucnh Pad workshop, an effort aimed at getting more science into one’s science fiction, and I learned so much that I’ve got an entire notebook’s worth of notes.

In October, my flash piece “A Tourist’s Guide to Terror,” appeared in Jennifer Brozek’s anthology, 99 TINY TERRORS.

In early November, my collaboration with Jermaine Martin, “Riders of the Void,” appeared in GUNFIGHT ON EUROPA STATION, edited by David Boop. We took one of my favorite westerns, “Shane,” and used it as the spark to start our story and I’m pleased with the result!

In mid-November, my long-delayed space opera, YOU SEXY THING, appeared finally! Amazon named it one of the 20 best F&SF books of 2021 and there’s been some great reviews. Here’s some of what people have said.

  • “…a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi romp” – Publishers Weekly
  • “A romp. If you’re the kind of person who likes Mass Effect, or enjoyed Valerie Valdes’s Chilling Effect and Prime Deceptions, or fell head-over-heels for Tim Pratt’s Axiom trilogy… then this book is definitely for you. This is a fast, zippy novel that hides some surprisingly substantial emotional heavy lifting under its hood…. Cozy-with-a-soupçon-of-suspense hoot-and-a-half.” ―Locus
  • …a delightful, action-filled space jaunt, packed with engaging alien species, a bioship that learns emotions, and witty references.” – Library Journal
  • “Rambo absolutely nails it.” – BookPage
  • “Fun, fantastic, and delicious―I loved it!”―Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice
  • This action-packed space opera is loads of fun.” ―BuzzFeed

I did a lot of other stuff, like teaching for the Norwescon Writers Workshop, Cascade Writers, Williamette Writers, and Clarion West. I read for Older Writer’s Grant for Speculative Lit Foundation as well as for a middle grade contest. I did a holy crapton of readings, and plenty of panels, which I should have tracked better in order to include here.

The school did nicely again this year and I added several on-demand classes of my own:

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Upcoming Launch Events for You Sexy Thing

Cover of the space opera novel, You Sexy Thing, by Cat Rambo, published November 16, 2021

Preorder now!

Only a few more days until the book launch and I am super stoked. This Sunday is my birthday and we’re going out for a special festive dinner, and then I launch into a week of frenzied activity in which I will be book shilling right and left for a bit.

Thank you SO much to everyone who’s pre-ordered or reviewed an ARC. If you would like a signed bookplate, this post has info on how to get one as well as preorder links for Powells, Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what’s coming up next week for the book launch!

Have you entered the GoodReads giveaway for a special copy?

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Guest Post: The Best Halloween Ever by Wendy Wagner

Halloween has always been my very favorite holiday. I have a brilliant memory of being four years old and dressed as a bat, holding hands with my sister (dressed as a Rubik’s cube) eating powdered sugar donuts at the local fire station. We stood beside a fire burning inside an old metal barrel, and the flames lit our faces up more beautifully than sunshine. Looking at my sister’s multi-colored smile, I realized that Halloween was the best, most terrific day of the year, and I wished it could be Halloween every day.  

But of all the terrific Halloweens—Halloweens when I partied, Halloweens when I dressed up, Halloweens when I trick or treated for charity, all the many glorious Halloweens of the past forty-plus years—the best Halloween was the first one I spent in Ash Valley, Oregon. I was a first-grader, and my family had only moved to town in August. “Town” was a strong word for our community; there was no grocery store or gas station or post office there, only a two-room schoolhouse and a pre-fab shed sheltering the volunteer fire department. About sixty-five people lived in the immediate vicinity, and every holiday they came together at the school for lavish potlucks.  

I’d been excited about Halloween right up until the moment it was decided that instead of making me the costume of my choice (I’m pretty sure that year I wanted to go as a mermaid), we were just going to borrow a costume from our neighbors so my mom would have plenty of time to prepare for her first-ever Ash Valley potluck. On Halloween, I sulked around all day, only brightening when my mom let me lick out the mixing bowl. Although when I learned she was making cupcakes—a food that I’d never gotten to eat before—my day was transformed. As was I when I tried on the borrowed costume, which was a perfectly adorable raccoon suit that I looked cute in.  

When my sister finished painting on my raccoon mask, I saw the cupcakes my mom had created and nearly burst into tears. Orange frosted and decorated with mini-marshmallow ghosts, they were the single most amazing thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t wait for my friends to see how brilliant my mother was. We did a cursory round of trick or treating (in the car, because the houses were all miles apart) and made our way to the school.  

With lights blazing and Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow whirring on the film projector, the school looked nothing like its day-lit self. After dinner (my first potluck, and the first time I ever got to eat two kinds of lasagna in one meal!), adults dressed as witches urged me to go into the basement to check out the haunted house. I held sweaty hands with my best friend and managed to wobble downstairs. More witches attempted to convince me to touch hideous, slimy things. Pirates grabbed at me. A vampire rose from its coffin, making us shriek and run toward the faceless monster rattling in the closet. At the exit, a head on a plate invited us to join them for dinner. I was so terrified I nearly puked.

“Did you recognize my dad?” another student asked, and I nodded. It hadn’t mattered that I’d recognized every face; it had been too much fun letting myself get so scared while I also knew I was perfectly safe. It was the best feeling, and one I’ve spent the rest of my life chasing.  

Then Mom gave me one of her cupcakes, and the night got even better. I’ve recreated her recipe below, although I’ve taken the liberty of jazzing up the frosting a little. You’ll notice that the recipe is vegan; it’s supposedly from the Depression, when eggs were often in short supply. This version might be a touch healthier: I’ve swapped out half the oil for applesauce, which lowers the fat a bit, and I use half as much sugar as some versions of the recipe.  

Trick or Treat Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; prepare your cupcake pan with liners (or by greasing and flouring). I made 6 regular-sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes.  

In a mixing bowl, whisk together:
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
6 tb cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

In another bowl, whisk together:
2 tb applesauce
2 tb light-tasting oil, like corn or canola (honestly, I used part melted vegan butter & part olive, and it was fine)
1 tb vinegar (balsamic is actually a nice touch!)
1 tb Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey (or vanilla)  

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir to combine. A few small lumps is okay. Fill pans 3/4th full, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean: 12-15 minutes for minis and 15-18 minutes for full-sized.  

Halloween Peanut Butter Frosting

This tastes like a spreadable Chick-o-stick.  

Combine 2 tbs peanut butter with 2 tbs butter (vegan is fine). Add 1 tb vanilla creamer, then add enough powdered sugar to make it smooth and spreadable (about a cup, maybe). Add enough orange food coloring to look seasonal. If the frosting looks too thin, just add a bit more butter and powdered sugar; if it’s too thick, add a bit of milk–make it the texture you like!  

Marshmallow Ghosts

I used Dandies vanilla marshmallows, which are vegan and very vanilla-y. Use scissors to make two or three small snips at the bottom of your marshmallow, giving it a “cute but ragged death shroud” look. Use a toothpick dipped in black food coloring to apply eyes.  

Assemble to your liking! My mom just put the marshmallows on top of the cupcakes, but it’s also fun to create a haunted cemetery tableau, using graham crackers as headstones and chocolate ganache as fresh churned grave dirt (a sprinkle of crushed chocolate wafers adds a nice touch). Do note that if you put these in a sealed container, the moisture in the air might make your ghosts’ eyes bleed a little, so if you make them in advance, maybe toss one of those moisture-absorbing packets in with them, or leave the lid ajar a bit.


BIO: Wendy N. Wagner is the editor-in-chief of Nightmare Magazine and the managing/senior editor of Lightspeed. Her short stories, essays, and poems run the gamut from horror to environmental literature. Her longer work includes the novella The Secret Skin, the horror novel The Deer Kings,  the Locus bestselling SF eco-thriller An Oath of Dogs,  and two novels for the Pathfinder role-playing game. She lives in Oregon with her very understanding family, two large cats, and a Muppet disguised as a dog. You can find her at winniewoohoo.com and on Twitter at wnwagner.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!  

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New On-Demand Class! Writing Non-Romantic Relationships

Now that I finally turned in DEVIL’S GUN, I had the time to finish pulling together another on-demand class, this time a version of my Different Kinds of Love: Writing Non-Romantic Relationships workshop. It expanded in the making, and I added sections on things like academic relationships, work relationships, and neighbor/community relationships.

After checking with my Patreon peeps to see what their preferences were, I ended up doing mp3s of all the lectures, but not videos. I may do some videos for the Youtube channel but overall this seemed like a much more efficient approach. Let me know what you think!

I would love to finish up a couple more on-demand classes and get them added by the end of the year, but I’ve also got plenty of writing projects stacked up, and three currently fighting for attention. Right now I have rough outlines for the All the Punks, Writing Stories that Change the World, and Twenty(ish) Types of Terror, but they all still need a lot of work. If you’re interested in the live version of that last class, I’m teaching it this weekend and still have room. Other classes are Horror in Gaming, Writing Gothic Fiction, and Demystifying Outlines.

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Guest Post: Food and Politics by Juliet Kemp

I’m a city person (despite the occasional dream of country solitude), and a crucial part of the worldbuilding for my Marek series of fantasy novels has been the city of Marek itself. It’s been a lot of fun to create. As well as having its own unique form of magic through its cityangel, it’s a port city and the only outlet to the Oval Sea for Teren, the country to which Marek notionally belongs (in practice it’s largely independent, which becomes an issue in the latest book, The Rising Flood). Marek’s trade is lucrative, especially for those belonging to its founding Houses, who act as middlemen between the craft Guilds and the ships from the islands of Salina who monopolise sea transport. Marek grows little of its own food and relies heavily on imports—basics from Teren shipped along the river, more expensive options from elsewhere around the Oval Sea.

At one point in The Rising Flood, Marcia, Heir of House Fereno, is seeking votes in the ruling Council to block a bid to censor some political newspapers. She asks Andreas, Head of House Tigero, the father of her forthcoming baby and also her co-parent-to-be (two slightly different things in Marek) to host a political dinner. As well as providing an opportunity for political debate and canvassing, the menu for dinner gives Andreas an opportunity to demonstrate the strength and prosperity of House Tigero…

Dreaming up the menu for this was a lot of fun!

To drink: Exurian wine or fruit juice

Fertile Exuria grows many of Marek’s fruit and vegetables; they have grape terraces around the base of the mountains between Exuria and Teren. The Vintners’ Guild imports wine from Exuria and from the grape-growing regions inland of the Crescent Cities east of the Oval Sea, as well as making more complicated beverages of their own.

First course: salted rice dumplings, pickled vegetable rolls, honeyed goat’s cheese with rosemary crackers

Andreas is terribly on trend: this Salinas-style course, with several dishes on the table from which guests help themselves, is a current fad. The Salinas eat this way because it’s practical on board ship, and their cuisine is heavy on finger food. Andreas’ version wouldn’t all be at home on a Salinas ship; the Salinas grow rice but don’t trade it, so these are Crescent-style rice dumplings. Pickled vegetables are eaten on Salinas ships, but would be wrapped in flatbread rather than thin pastry as here; the goat’s cheese comes from the herds on the precipitous far side of Marekhill.

Second course: barley stew with whole new beets and broad beans, spiced with cumin

Balancing the modern first course, the soup course is very traditional. The barley and vegetables are Teren (and thus Marek) staples. There’s a twist, though: cumin is a brand new spice from beyond the Oval Sea. The Salinas have only recently begun to bring it in, and the Spicers charge through the roof for it. Andreas is showing off.

Third course: hot-pepper lamb skewer, summer squash and peppers fried with wild mustard, wheat rolls

Teren soft wheat rolls, tasty if predictable, with new Exurian lamb (born early spring, best eaten at the start of summer) and summer vegetables, brought by a fast Salinas ship. (In another month there’ll be a glut of summer vegetables in all the markets, but right now, they’re expensive.) Wild mustard is another popular Exurian herb, which has recently come down in price after Marcia sent a team to find a new route over the mountains to Exuria. The route is too narrow and challenging for anything large, but will work for some mountain herbs and spices (culinary and medicinal), and for other small luxury goods. Andreas is giving a subtle reminder of Marcia’s competence.

Final course: preserved berry pastries

Pastries are sold from carts on every street corner, and even the Houses love them (though theirs come from their kitchens, not the carts). These are sweeter than the street versions at this time of year (they’ll be selling goats’ cheese pastries instead), as the berries are preserved from last year’s Exurian crops. A popular note to end on with a touch of luxury; then apple brandy or hot infusions afterwards.

Even the place settings have something to say: Teren porcelain (from the clay deposits in parts of the river basin upstream of Marek); cutlery of Crescent silver; the pastry-platter from the Woodworkers’ Guild, of Exurian wood with silver inlay; and Marek glassware with its unique blue tinge and inlaid copper wires. Andreas is keen to demonstrate his House’s links with both Guilds and foreign traders—the cutlery was a gift from one of their Crescent trading partners, though unfortunately he doesn’t get a chance to mention that.

So, does it all work? Do Andreas and Marcia get the support they need? And how does Marcia handle Andreas having invited his friend Daril Leandra-Heir, wielder of no small political power, and long Marcia’s nemesis (not to mention her ex)?

Well, you’ll have to read the book and find out.


BIO: Juliet Kemp is a queer, non-binary, writer. They live in London by the river, with their partners, kid, and dog. The first book of their Marek fantasy series, The Deep and Shining Dark, was on the Locus 2018 Recommended Reads list. Their short fiction has appeared in venues including Cast of Wonders, Analog, and Translunar Travelers Lounge, and they were short-listed for the WSPA Small Press Award 2020. They can be found online at julietkemp.com. The Rising Flood is available now from your preferred e-book retailer or in paperback from December.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Guest Post: Writing Uplifting Stories by Casey Blair

A few years ago, I decided to try writing a fantasy book as a web serial. It was a project I came to for a lot of reasons, but one of the keys was that I wanted to have a way to put a little joy out into the world on a regular basis with my writing.

That idea spawned a whole cozy fantasy trilogy, which is now complete! And I am Kickstarting funds to officially publish them as books.

That starting seed, that fundamental goal to bring joy with story, shaped the whole trilogy in ways I didn’t initially predict. After all, what does it even mean to write fiction that is “uplifting?” As with anything, people have different tastes for what brings them joy or makes them feel validated.

When it comes to uplifting fiction, I think of this along an axis of “escapism” to “realism.” To be clear, I don’t consider either of these a value judgment: tastes vary, and we all crave different kinds of stories at different times.

For some people, what they want is fantasy that takes them away from their problems. They want to read about other worlds that don’t have the same micro and macroaggressions—or even just the minutiae of daily life—that they have to deal with every day of their actual lives.

For others, those fantasies are unrelatable at best, or erasure at worst, pretending real-world problems don’t exist rather than giving us characters who grapple with them and triumph in some fashion, empowering us in our real worlds thereby.

Fantasy authors have the power to invent the entirety of what goes into our worlds, what’s explicit and implicit. Do we choose to carry over the sexism, racism, queerphobia, ableism, and all the rest from our world and tell a story where characters find happiness despite their oppression? Or do we imagine a world where those oppressions don’t exist, and in so doing invite the reader to imagine other ways of being worth striving for?

Both approaches can be radical. Both can be triumphant, validating, and uplifting stories—though not necessarily for the same audience, and that’s fine.

In Tea Princess Chronicles, I tried to find a balance between them. I wanted to write about people who care about other people, and lifting up everyone around them, and gutting oppressive systems who prevent that; people who do the work, without the feeling it can be too easy to drown in while doomscrolling on social media that caring is a necessarily joyless slog. I wanted to tell stories about people who find ways to make things better, in small ways and large, that don’t feel like wallowing in awfulness but instead inviting joy.

More like the feeling of drinking a warm cup of tea in front of the fireplace on a chilly day.

Whether I succeeded, whether any story succeeds, is a judgment for each individual reader. But I think living with joy, and spreading joy, can be fundamentally radical, and storytelling is one of the most powerful mediums for it. For me, that’s what “uplifting” fiction does, in whatever form it takes.


BIO: Casey Blair writes adventurous fantasy novels, including the cozy fantasy series Tea Princess Chronicles and the novella Consider the Dust. After graduating from Vassar College, her own adventures have included teaching English in rural Japan, attending the Viable Paradise residential science fiction and fantasy writing workshop, and working as an indie bookseller. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest and can be found dancing spontaneously, exploring forests around the world, or trapped under a cat. Find out more at caseyblair.com or follow her on Twitter @CaseyLBlair.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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