I thought I'd rec some sci-fi as I never see anyone mention this author and he's one of my faves. I've put his books in for Yuletide twice, but no dice. Not doing Yuletide this year – trying to limit the challenge deadline pressures (*quickly flicks a towel over the sign-ups for SGA-Santa, SGA-Art-Santa and due South-Secret Santa*). Ahem, where were we?
1. Book recs. The writer's Richard K. Morgan.
I got into his stuff through the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy: Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies. Morgan calls it "Future Noir" – it's got elements of cyberpunk and noir detective novels. It's pretty bleak in places, and the futuristic worlds it depicts are harsh, but I didn't find it hard to read – in fact was absolutely gripped, because of the quality of the writing and worldbuilding. Also, it had what I need to stay engaged – a "hero" (and other friends and sidekicks) I can identify with because of their moral core and the way the protagonist's written (no matter how tough and utterly different to me he may be). A het relationship develops in the second two books but it's not very prominent, and the hero has the occasional other sexual encounter, much as in noir detective fiction. For all the grimness in parts, there's a positive ending overall and it's essentially a hero's journey structure across all three books.
It was the futuristic world and the way Morgan plays with our ideas of consciousness and identity that I enjoyed – as well as the rocking action/adventure and the cool cyberpunk elements. In this future, bodies can be cloned or reused, and an individual's consciousness can be downloaded into one of these "sleeves". Everyone has a chip that records their consciousness – their autobiographical self – so death might not be real death unless the chip's melted to slag. And as long as you can afford to be "re-sleeved", and not everyone can – this is pretty much a dystopia.
Then there's Morgan's fantasy series The Steel Remains and The Cold Commands. Might be another trilogy – at least 1 more book is pending. Again, superb, complex worldbuilding and great, flawed, believable characters. The central protagonist is Ringil Eskiath, self-destructive, reluctant aristocrat - a war hero now fallen into self-exile and obscurity. He's gay. Then there's Archeth, half-alien, abandoned by her people, an engineer and scientist, a cynical pragmatist. She's gay, too. And then Egar Dragonbane from the steppes, a warrior horseman whose brothers have betrayed him, forced to travel to the city. He's enthusiastically het. The three of them are old comrades from the War against the Lizards, forced to fight a new enemy in a complex political and religious setting where everything's stacked against them. It's the only really hard-edged fantasy series I've read, very explicit and lots of bad language, so just my thing. I especially love this series for the gay characters, and I think Morgan writes them well. It's not the core of the novels and he's not moralizing or making a point with them, but their orientation is an issue in their lives, especially Ringil's, as this isn't a very liberal civilization. As with the Kovacs series, it's very much a highly complex hero's journey plot structure.
2. A Nifty Cooking Cheat.
I'm especially fond of the Malaysian bread called Roti Canai – it's flaky and delicious, great with curry. So I decided to learn how to make it and it wasn't impossible, and came out okay. In the process of locating a recipe, I discovered that it's one of a family of stretched breads which are all basically the same – roti canai or prata (SE Asia), paratha or parotta (India) and strudel (Austria etc.) So then I discovered frozen pre-made paratha in my local grocery store – you just cook it in a very hot frying pan, no oil. It was pretty good as well. Not quite as good as the handmade roti canai I'd made, and nothing beats the real stuff from our local Malaysian, but not bad. So I thought – maybe I can make strudel with this, and yes, absolutely: it worked a treat. Recipe as below.
Easy Apple Strudel
Get frozen uncooked parathas (an Indian bread – some grocery places have them in the freezer). Make sure they're plain, not garlic etc.!
One paratha makes a strudel – separate out the frozen parathas you plan to use and thaw them. You'll probably be able to fill 4, with 3 apples. (If you can't get frozen parathas - which is of course likely! - here's a recipe (oil works fine instead of ghee, but don't use margarine - too watery).
Peel, core and slice 3 apples, layer in an oven-dish with sprinkled brown sugar, knobs of butter or marge, sprinkling of salt (tiny bit), cinnamon, nutmeg and tiny bit of powdered cloves. Plus layer in about 3/4 cup of sultanas or raisins. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Stir a bit once cooked and cool to room temp before filling the strudels.
Put a thawed strudel on a wooden board, still in its cellophane top and bottom papers. Roll it out inside the papers, until it's thinner – to about half again as wide and long. Peel off the top paper and discard. Put a line of apple filling across the middle – not too much, about 3 T. Fold over the strudel, easing it off the bottom paper as you roll it up into a tube. Pinch the ends together so they don't leak and curve it round into a U-shape. Sprinkle the top with white sugar.
Bake on baking paper on a tray in the middle of a moderately hot oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden.
The Ante Up Losers Big Bang has gone live, so go check it out.
I've got a few works in it.
Evening the Odds – about 14,000 – a spacepirates AU set in a Firefly-like verse. See the Notes for warnings. My BB story. nagasvoice recorded another Losers/Firefly-verse podfic by Brigantine as a complement, to add the the general Spacepiratey mood.
Get In, Get Out – about 7000 – a Losers/Inception fusion fic where the Losers are running an extraction mission. Again, see the Notes for the warnings. A complement for slashersivi's excellent art.
Phenomenology – 2000-3000 – a complement for omen's evocative art and maharetr's wonderful story based on the art. This one was great fun as it was definitely a 3-way collaboration with all of us inspired by the others. Cougar and Jensen are in a psych hospital together, so again, see the warnings in the Notes.
Art for "The Prince's Knight" – for a fairytale AU story by jujitsuelf
Art for "Heartlines" – a shapeshifting wolves AU by joidieanne4eva, in which Cougar's a gypsy.
The art for luzula's due South Big Bang story is all done as well – that goes live in a couple of days, \o/.
And that's more than enough from me for this week :)