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On Blacklisting

When you’re a new writer you’re very afraid. You worry. You’re putting in all this time, you’re putting in so much mental and creative energy, and likely the folks around you in physical space kind of admire that in a vague way but they have no real idea what it is you’re trying to do or what you’re facing. But you could grind your self to nothing writing and writing and come up empty–no sales, or maybe a couple sales, but let’s be honest, just between you and me, you dream big. Don’t you.

And if you’re serious, and do your research–start watching the field, keeping an eye on who’s editing what, what they like, what they don’t like, in that last interview did they mention something they wished they’d see in slush that you can turn into a story that will surely knock their socks off and get you an acceptance?–if you’re paying attention (and you should, I recommend it) you see just how small the field is.

And editors seem like gods. They hold the keys to everything you want. Or that’s what it seems like. One of the first, most basic lessons you learn–or should, anyway–is how to handle dealing with editors. Follow the guidelines! Learn proper manuscript format! Learn to write the proper sort of cover letter! Never argue with a rejection! And all of that is good advice.

But the flip side of that is fear that if you somehow piss off the editor, you will never work in this town again. Anxiety that if you italicize instead of underline in your ms formatting, or if you make one step wrong in your cover letter, that’s it, baby, rejection city. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who didn’t at one point or another spend serious time going back and forth over whether they ought to send a query about a story that had been on submission an unreasonable amount of time. When that’s a perfectly fine thing to do, to ask if the story you submitted three years ago (or whatever) actually made it there? Or was it still under consideration? Or had the editor responded but the response got lost somehow? When by and large, most editors don’t mind getting these at all. After all, sometimes subs get lost, or fall between the cracks. Sometimes responses do get lost. Sometimes editors take a long time, and if it happens a lot at a given venue, you maybe want to think how long of an average wait you’re willing to deal with, right? But just a polite “hey did my sub get there & is it still there? Thanks!” isn’t the least bit offensive. (Well, it’s offensive the day after you sub, or any time within reasonable return times, and of course what those reasonable times are changes from editor to editor, but you’ve been doing your research, right? There are resources for that.)

Most editors will tell you straight up that there’s no reason to be afraid of them. They’re perfectly fine to deal with.

But there are always a few. A few who enjoy that power dynamic a bit too much. The ones who tell you that if you don’t do things the way they want, or write the kind of things they want you to, you’ll never have a career. The ones who publish you a few times and then assume you owe them loyalty beyond the first rights to the stories you sold them, and who make dire pronouncements about your disloyalty ultimately wrecking your career, you ungrateful wretch, why, I’m the reason you’re where you are today! The ones who respond with abuse when you ask to be paid–you greedy person, don’t you know the editor/publisher has bills to pay, and terrible financial problems???

And there are writers like this, too, writers who appear to think that ruthlessly networking will get them the career (or the prestige) they want. I’m not talking about people who enjoy or are good at networking and the social stuff. I’m talking about people who put major energy into associating with the right people (or at the very least, looking as though they do), and throw anyone else under the bus. Someone who looks like they’re pals with big names, well, maybe if you tick them off you’ll ruin your prospects! You won’t–but a certain sort of person would like you to think that.

There are always a few. But I’m here to tell you that barring really outrageously obviously bad behavior–and sometimes not even then–no one’s going to blacklist you. No one person holds the keys to your potential career. Anyone who tells you they do is lying, and trying to manipulate you. Run. Do not deal with such people.

In fact, by and large the people who tell you how much power they have (or imply strongly they have some sort of power to hurt or help you) are actually not all that powerful. Oh they want to be, you bet, and to that end they’re going to use any tool at their disposal to convince you of their power and manipulate you into helping them get more, (and some of them are very, very good at doing that) but ninety percent of the time someone says something like “if you cross me your career is over” or suggests that the way to get ahead is to curry favor with them, that person is generally no more than a medium sized frog in a very small mudpuddle. (They don’t want you to look past the edges of their puddle, no, to see how small it is, and how insignificant compared to the pond that’s a few meters away. They want you to think their puddle is the pond. And it’s so hard to have perspective, when you’re new and anxious. Medium Frog knows this, uses it for their own benefit.)

And anybody pulling that shit, you don’t need. Zines come and go. Editors move around. It’s rare that a story can’t possibly sell to anyplace but Grandiose Editor’s Power Trip Quarterly. I know when you’re new, anyone ahead of you on the track, or in an editorial position, seems like they have so much power, but honestly, you don’t need them. Walk away, do not buy into that bullshit.

Now, it sometimes happens that an individual editor has a problem with a particular writer–the writer has treated them badly, been a jackass to them, or done something else the editor can’t stomach, and can’t separate from the writer’s work. You can argue all you want that an editor should only be about the work, but people don’t reliably function that way. But you know what? There are other editors who have a different relationship with that writer, or are adamant about that separation of art and artist and don’t care if a writer ate live kittens in front of small weeping children every Sunday morning for the past month. They’ll publish the work of that person, provided they think it’s good enough.

You, new writer, do not eat live kittens. Whatever your supposed transgression–wanting to be paid in a timely fashion, or at all? Not jumping to back or promote someone’s kickstarter? Daring to contradict or disagree with an editor in public? Refusing a request that you take advantage of some connection you have to blatantly further someone’s career?***–they do not even approach the sort of behavior that leads well-intentioned editors to ponder the difference between art and artist and just how they’ll handle that. You won’t be blacklisted for any of that. Your career is not on the line over it. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it is. And notice it’s always the person who wants something from you (free stories, free labor, emotional or otherwise, career advancement, obedience generally) who’s feeding you that line.

Oh, and big name writers can’t sink or make your career either. Trust me on this.

I’ll tell you honestly, there are some people in the field who I do not want to work with, for various reasons, some of which are personal and idiosyncratic. I’d bet nearly everyone has a list of such names (though generally not a formal list, right? But you know who you really don’t want to deal with) and the fact that the list exists tells you that those people are still working. They don’t need me. They’re doing perfectly fine. This fact does not bother me.

I’ll be honest, I am not down for calls to close anyone out of the field for bad behavior. I mean, for myself, bad enough, or bad in specific ways, and yeah, I don’t want to work with you. Maybe quite a few people don’t. But it’s not my call to make for anyone but me, nor should it be. No one should have that power, to shut anyone out of SFF. Behave badly enough and quite a few editors will prefer not to work with you–but that’s not the same as a field-wide blacklist, and I don’t think there should be one. Ever. Each editor gets to make the call for their venue, end of story. And yes, there will be editors who are all about the purity of art apart from artist, editors who don’t care one way or the other about kittens. You may disagree with those editors’ decisions, but they get to make that choice. You may prefer on balance not to work with such editors–again, that’s your call. You choose where to submit, and you get to have whatever reasons you want for that choice.

I am down for being open about serious problems, though. Someone who’s a really bad actor, who’s strewn destruction in their wake? Yeah, let’s know about that. We can all make our decisions about how to react to that, going forward. Concealing things to whisper networks and private chats just lets the bad actor continue to harm the unwarned.

At any rate, when most editors say that if they had a choice between two equally good writers, they’d rather work with the one who isn’t a jackass, they don’t mean writers who aren’t sufficiently deferential when asking “how high?” or writers who have the audacity to disagree with them about something. Or, editors worth working with don’t. They mean the actual, real jackasses, people who have caused honest to goodness harm to others.

The fact that those people–and if you’re paying attention, which as a serious new writer you have been, you can probably think of one or more–can in fact still sell stories should be a sign to you that you, who have merely had the bad grace to demand to be paid for your work, or to be treated with respect, or have refused to agree that when you signed over first rights to a couple of stories you also signed over your soul and perpetual loyalty, will be okay.

This is, incidentally, a small part of why I’m so adamant about not worrying so much about what everyone tells you you’ve got to do (or not do) in order to be published–what sort of thing to write, or how, or how long, or with what structure, or whatever. I think it feeds into a kind of anxiety about whether or not you’re ticking off the right list items, and they all seem so minor and arbitrary and yet there they are, the things you need to do to succeed! It’s not a big step to add other things to that list (never disagree with an editor, never even mildly annoy big names in the field, never question weird things in the contract, never complain never never never), and it’s so, so easy for a manipulative, abusive asshole to use all of that to twist you in knots. But all you need is your writing. No guarantees, right? There never are. But that’s all you need, you don’t need to contort your work into the One True Form, you don’t need to take a particular path, you don’t need to avoid themes and motifs that are of deep personal interest to you because “readers/editors won’t like it,” and you don’t need that asshole trying to convince you of their power. Better, in my opinion, to go into the game knowing you can do it on your own terms.

No one person has the power to destroy your career. I’m not joking about this. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise, tell them to fuck off. Break off contact, don’t work with them.

You don’t need them. All you need is you and your writing. Just do the writing, and send it out. It’ll be okay.

***Just to remove all ambiguity, none of these things are actually transgressions. They are all perfectly reasonable things to do when the situation calls for them.

Clarification: October 18, 2016

I would like to clear up a thing that might be ambiguous in this post: For any writer who has found themselves ensnared by someone setting themselves up as being able to make or break them, to blacklist them–it was not your fault. You did nothing wrong. Folks who successfully pull this sort of power trip are very, very convincing, and manipulative as hell. They take skillful advantage of the idea that one can be blacklisted, of the social connections in the field, of your willingness to trust, to help others, to be kind, to be grateful to people who help you. All good qualities that they twist for their own ends. It’s them, not you.

On Apologies

I want to talk about apologies. And yes, there are a few actual recent events that have prompted these thoughts, but the thoughts are not directed at anyone in particular, or meant to be direct commentary on those situations.

So, let’s say a person does a thing or things, we’ll call them Person A, and Person B is hurt or offended by it. Or frightened, or upset, right?

And let’s say B calls A on their behavior, whatever it was that hurt, offended, frightened, or upset B.

We all know at this point (or we should) that the first thing A should do is apologize. A real apology, not a Sorry-If-You-Were-Offended-Why-You-So-Oversensitive Notpology, but a real one. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I will try to do better.”

Now, it’s true sometimes B doesn’t even want to hear that apology. They’re that upset. And sometimes, Person B will hear the apology but still be hurt and angry and want nothing further to do with Person A.

Every now and then, when this happens, Person A will react…unproductively. They will insist that it’s super important for them to make an apology! That’s all they want! Of course Person B said “don’t talk to me any more, ever again” but this is an apology!

Or Person B will hear the apology and then respond with some version of “Nice story, bro. We’re still done.”

And Person A–or possibly their friends, or onlookers who have not been party to the less public aspects of the situation–will cry indignantly “But Person A apologized! What more do you want?”

So, these reactions are coming from a set of assumptions that I think folks would do well to ponder. Here’s the question: Who is the apology for? Why does one apologize? Now, you probably instantly replied that the apology was for the person who was wronged, but why is it so often the case that when someone doesn’t react to an apology with public forgiveness, people ask that question, “What more do you want?” as though the automatic, proper response to an apology is to pretend the thing being apologized for never happened? That expectation, that having received an apology Person B is obliged to accept it and forgive Person A, that tells you right there that the apology was actually made for the benefit of Person A all along.

This assumption is more blatant in some cases than in others. The scale goes from a good apology and then a “wait why didn’t you hit the reset button on our relationship” reaction, to a long abject apology that’s still somehow all about the offender and how bad they feel and how they want you to take some action to help them keep from offending again so they can stop feeling horrible and you can hit that reset button, to the person who you’ve asked to please stay the fuck away from you but they keep getting up in your face because I NEED TO APOLOGIZE IT’S JUST AN APOLOGY WHAT KIND OF BITCH ARE YOU IF YOU WON’T EVEN HEAR MY APOLOGY LOOK HOW MEAN SHE’S BEING COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW I JUST WANT TO APOLOGIZE.

I think a lot of folks have this basic assumption about how apologies work and what they’re for–that having apologized, they’re due forgiveness, and the person they’ve apologized to should now stop being angry. Perfectly decent folks, who mean well. Onlookers who don’t recognize that the long apology email that is somehow all about how the offender is hurt by the situation is straight out of a habitual emotional abuser’s playbook and only see how abject it seems. Perfectly decent people, who may not even realize they have this assumption (so many of our assumptions are invisible to us, and yes, contradict the things we say and think we believe).

So I want to say this straight out–the apology is not for the apologizer. The person offended against has no obligation whatever to accept any apology at all, or to forgive, or to stop being hurt or angry, or to pretend they’re not hurt or angry any more. I mean, if they want to, if they can, if they think it’s proper, sure. But the apology is for the person who was offended, and they have no obligation to respond in any particular way. Or respond at all, frankly.

Of course, some folks aren’t well meaning. Some folks use the assumption about apologies to malicious advantage. Make your apology sufficiently abject and manipulative, and suddenly your victim is the bad guy here for being so unrelentingly mean and refusing to be understanding of your ordinary human frailties, your oh-so-kind-hearted inner soul. Most of these I’ve had personal experience with are expert in turning out an apology that makes the victim into the real offender, thereby eliciting reassurance from the person they’ve hurt, and making them feel guilty for attempting to refuse to be victimized again. (It’s not my fault I’ve had traumas that make me prone to thoughtlessly offend! I can’t help it! Do you want to be just like those people who made me into this pitiful creature who can’t help but offend you? What sort of terrible person are you, to speak up and hurt me this way? Really when you look at it, I’m the victim here!) It’s not always that blatant, but I’m going to tell you right now, folks, when you get the sort of apology that makes you feel bad for being hurt or upset, or that’s mostly about them and their feelings, you want to run from that apologizer as fast as you can. That’s a red flag.

So, but the well meaning offender does really want to do better going forward, and they’ve apologized, but lots of folks are still critical. What to do?

Well, do better going forward, for one. And no, that still won’t guarantee that everyone stops with the side-eye when your name comes up, or whatever. That’s the breaks. You’ve still got to do better going forward because it’s the right thing to do, because you really do regret the offense and don’t want to repeat it.

This isn’t always easy. It might mean stepping voluntarily out of situations in which you know you’ll be prone to offend. Say, places or positions where you’re going to run into a person who wants no further contact with you. Or positions of authority–official or otherwise–over people who you’ve had a habit of treating badly. And every day, trying to do better. All the time. You won’t get public rewards for it, and some people will never take you off their list of bad actors, but that’s not the point, is it? The apology wasn’t for rehabilitating your reputation or making you feel better about having treated someone badly. It was only the first step in your effort to be better to the people around you.

The apology isn’t for the apologizer, and it’s not going to magically wipe away your offense or repair your reputation. It’s only the simplest, most basic beginning. One you’ll need to make good on with your actions in the future.

Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park

As I said yesterday, MAC2 had a thing where you could sponsor a “mini park” and a park bench. The dealers room and the exhibit hall and whatnot were all in a huge open space in the convention center, and there had to be some way to close off the dealers room at night, so they put up the Swanwick River and…a volcano? Yes, a volcano, to cordon that area off. There were benches and little “parks” alongside the river.

I figured it might be fun to sponsor a park. And it turned out, I was absolutely right, it was tremendous fun! Here are some pictures!




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Nice and simple, right?

That’s how it started out, anyway. I’d had a vague idea that pens and post-its might come in handy in case people wanted to make or leave notes–to me, to other visitors, to themselves, whatever. And the post-its kind of took on a life of their own:





Even the No Fishing sign got into the act!


I put out some buttons, including these:

(picture by Foz Meadows)

I also played some Cards Against Significant Species:

(picture by darling-child-tisarwat, I think, or at least on their phone)

I’m told that at some point I’ll have a link to the file that will let folks print out their own hardcopy of the CASS deck, by the way, and when I do I’ll definitely blog it.

Oh, and the awesome cosplaying darling-child-tisarwat as Breq!

So the park was basically a smashing success! I got to take the bench home, and it’s in pieces in my car trunk right now, though I also have the plaque which I might well hang on my office wall (next to the File 770 “Ancillary Bench” plaque, which was kindly given to me on Sunday!).

Thank you to everyone who stopped by–it would not have been even a small fraction of the fun that it was without you all.

Fashion Information

At first I was just going to put this on Tumblr, where I post the most frivolous of my ramblings, but then I thought, no, why not blog. But, fair warning, this is pretty frivolous.

So, I am at the stage of con recovery where I’m hoping the scritchy feeling in my throat is the dry air in the house plus a weekend talking nonstop, and not oncoming Con Crud: Martian Death Flu Edition. And the stage where I’m unpacking things and doing laundry. Which reminds me.

So, the dress I wore to the Hugos (and also the Nebulas) was from Holy Clothing. Y’all know about Holy Clothing, right? Super comfortable clothes. Anyway. Every time I get something from them it’s fit well and been easy to wear, so I didn’t bother trying on the dress I bought for the Nebs, I just put it on that afternoon. And discovered that its lovely big square neckline meant that it was going to slide off my shoulders, or sink six or seven inches forward. I had not come prepared for this, and did some partially helpful stuff with my nominee pin, but it was still a problem.

A few days after I got home I was walking through the drugstore and saw a thing called “Fashion Tape.” This is a thing that exists! It’s for exactly the kind of thing I needed it for, and also for blouses that gap between the buttons and whatnot. (Gods forbid clothing designers actually make clothes that just stay on your body, that might lead us to have realistic expectations for ourselves and we can’t have that, right? Nope, better to have a whole industry and associated fashion hacks that address this kind of thing and let those who aren’t in on the secrets feel inadequate.)

Anyway. I’m here to tell you that the fashion tape did exactly what it was supposed to do–it’s clear, two-sided tape, as you would expect, and it held my dress in place all evening. It was also pretty comfortable, so much so that when I went back to the room to change for the Losers Party, I could not get my dress off easily and panicked for a moment before I remembered that my dress was ACTUALLY TAPED TO MY BODY.

So. If you find yourself needing it, Fashion Tape is a thing that exists.

The 19 year old wanted to know if it was the same thing as another fashion thing I’d run into years ago–I was going to wear a dress to a fancy thing, but the dress was…not made for wearing a bra with. And I pretty much always need a bra. I had asked a co-worker for advice and she said to me, “Oh, that’s easy, just go to the department store and get some titty tape. No, really, that’s what it is.”

So I went to the department store and looked but could not find it. A salesperson saw my confused wandering and asked me if I needed anything, and I was forced to explain that I was looking for something that my co-worker called “titty tape” but I was pretty certain it wasn’t called that.

Turns out, it’s just called, blandly, “stick-ons.” And they don’t quite do the job a bra would do, but it’s better than nothing. So, if you find yourself in need of such a thing, that’s what it’s called.

Anyway, I explained to the 19 year old that, no, “fashion tape” was not “titty tape” but they do kind of exist in similar spaces.

And if you find yourself in need of them and didn’t know they existed, well, now you do.

Gearing up for WorldCon: Park Edition

So, as I posted just the other day, I will be at WorldCon, and I will be on some panels!

Here’s slightly more information: MidAmericon, apparently having a nice large, open space in the Exhibit Hall, is, I gather, planning to have some sort of “river” with “parks” alongside, and park benches. This is meant to be a place where folks can sit and chat, or gather, or whatever, kind of like the awesome Fan Village at LonCon. People or groups could sponsor parks, or benches, or combinations thereof.

I couldn’t resist sponsoring the Lieutenant Awn Memorial Park. I don’t know exactly where it will be located beyond “somewhere in the exhibit hall alongside a fake river with the other parks.” I plan to spend at least some time there, so if you’re trying to track me down that’s likely a good place to start.

Depending on logistics, I will also try to leave some buttons and ribbons and maybe even pins for folks to take, in case they don’t cross paths with me. But I hope I see you!

A couple things I’ve read

When I was a child, I had several Dream Jobs. I wanted to be an astronaut, of course, and I also considered careers in paleontology and archaeology. But high, very high on my list was “any job where people will pay me to read, or failing that, give me lots of free books.”

Reader, it turns out that I now have such a job. And in some ways it is exactly as awesome as I had dreamed. More awesome! And yet. Now that I get books sent to me for free on a regular basis (nothing like Scalzi gets, but still, it’s a couple a week in my email or in my PO box), I do not have time to read them all.

I do try to read them! Because, I mean. It’s just, it takes me a while, because I have so much other job-related reading to do.

Anyway. I get books. And I read them, if slowly. And sometimes I enjoy them quite a bit! Like for instance.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker. This is I think what the kids call urban fantasy. Which mostly isn’t my sort of thing–I’ve got nothing against it, but it usually doesn’t do a lot for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not its target audience. But I enjoyed Borderline quite a lot. And this is the part where I should say why I enjoyed it, but I am remarkably bad at doing that. I can talk about things that caught my eye–the protagonist has Borderline Personality Disorder, which is treated pretty matter-of-factly, without romanticizing or demonizing the character or her illness. The other characters were nicely drawn as well, I thought, and I enjoyed the Hollywood setting (though to be honest, Hollywood might as well be Faery itself as far as I’m concerned). If you enjoy urban fantasy, you should check this out. If you aren’t a UF reader, well, maybe check it out anyway, because it’s a lot of fun.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If you’ve read any of Yoon’s short fiction, you know he’s fabulous. I confess myself partial to “The Winged City,” which I bought for GigaNotoSaurus several years ago. Now he’s got a novel coming out, and it’s (unsurprisingly) excellent. It’s out June 14, but I got an ARC and boy am I glad I did. Here’s a blurb I found at the Amazon listing:

“I love Yoon’s work! Ninefox Gambit is solidly and satisfyingly full of battles and political intrigue, in a beautifully built far-future that manages to be human and alien at the same time. It should be a treat for readers already familiar with Yoon’s excellent short fiction, and an extra treat for readers finding Yoon’s work for the first time.”

Every word of that is true. I know because I wrote that blurb myself.  Honestly, you should read this as soon as you can. And you should check out Yoon’s short fiction as well.


I just spent an awesome week in Japan, and an awesome weekend at Hal-Con, where I was a guest of honor! It was pretty excellent. It’s a fairly small convention, well-run, and they took great care of me. Which was extra-important considering I speak about two words of Japanese; I can, if pressed, say “Hello” and “Thank you.”

The convention put together a book of several pieces of my short fiction, translated into Japanese:

The Endangered Camp

With a fabulous dinosaur on the cover, and lovely illustrations inside, all by my fellow GoH Nozomu Tamaki.

It was an honor and a pleasure to meet everyone. The convention staff did a great job–I know even for a small con there’s a lot of work involved, and most of it will be invisible if you do it right.

The convention was the perfect finish to a week of doing touristy things–I wanted to see at least a little of Japan while I was there. I highly recommend the Edo Tokyo Museum, if you like museums, which I do. And I stayed at an onsen in Gora and took hot spring baths and ate wonderful food (and leveled up my previously more-or-less adequate chopstick skillz). By the time I got to the con, I could eat without (mostly) embarrassing myself, and my sleep schedule was on the verge of adjusting to the fourteen-hour time difference (just in time to fly back home and do it again!), though not quite there.

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:

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And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:

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Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough.

I will close out with some frozen coelacanths, from the aquarium in Numazu, which was one of the venues for the GoH dinner on Saturday night:

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If your mind works like mine does, you will want to know that the tour guide at the aquarium informed us that coelacanth doesn’t taste like much of anything, and is very oily and gristly (ISTR the exact description was “like chewing on a toothbrush”). That wasn’t firsthand information, but the guide could tell us from her own experience that giant isopod, when cooked, tastes like chicken.

Thanks again to the folks at Hal-Con, for inviting me and for all their hard work to make the weekend such a success!


I had a fabulous time at Vericon last weekend! I got to hang out with some wonderful folks and have some great conversations, and it was just overall a wonderful weekend. Some highlights! First off, the hotel bar had an interesting drink menu:

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I decided to try the Pear-side-in Adventure, which was actually quite good.

the Pear side in Adventure

That was Friday night, and I’m not much of a photographer so I figured that would be the extent of my convention photos. But I was wrong. So, so wrong. Citizens, I give you this team of Interdimensional Cosplayers:

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It’s obvious what’s going on here, right? That’s Hamilton/Breq in the middle, and she’s recruited Agent Carter, Lieutenant Peepsarwat, and Translator Zeiat in her search for the Presger gun. That case Agent Carter is carrying?

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Holds Presger bullets. Delicious, chocolate Presger bullets.

Look at them. I mean, just look!

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It’s kind of difficult to see, but in the cup there’s a tea infuser in the shape of an orange fish.

Anyway. I had a fabulous time–the Vericon volunteers took great care of me, the panels were fun, I got to hang with friends of mine and I had some great lunches and dinners with new people who I’m glad to have met, and my plane left Boston ahead of predicted bad weather. It was about as good a time as a convention can be.

Special Teas

I am cleaning and organizing my tea cupboard because SHUT UP I DON’T HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE YOU HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE that’s why. Also, it had gotten to be quite a disorganized mess and I wasn’t sure what I still had. (Yes, the cats are up next, just gotta remember where I stowed the dust buster.)

Anyway. I came across a sad reminder of They were an online tea seller, and they had an East Frisian Broken Blend that was my go-to super nice and chewy for putting milk in tea, and they had a lovely, very grapefruity earl grey.

And they had something called Thé Blanc de Cassis. The ingredients label says “Organic white tea, flavoring, cranberries, mallow flowers.” It was the best. Very subtle–slightly flowery, slightly fruity. So one day, when my supply was low, I went to the website to order more.

And discovered that Teavana had bought them. And shut them down. And, of course, not picked up any of the stuff they’d sold. I did look into Teavana’s offerings, and the folks at the nearest one did try to help me, but with very few exceptions Teavana’s flavored teas are all so freaking sweet and fruity that I wonder sometimes if anyone who buys their stuff actually likes, you know, tea. Maybe they’d be happier with some juice or flavored bottled water? I don’t know, whatever makes them happy I guess, and perhaps the answer lies in the way, when they ring up your Teavana purchase, instead of saying, “That will be [outrageous sum],” they say, “Your investment in your health and wellness comes to…” Um, no. Please, just don’t.

Of course, I might be more tolerant of such foolishness if they would sell me some more Thé Blanc de Cassis. I just came across the last little bit of it, that’s been in a cannister since I discovered I couldn’t get more. Maybe three or four cups worth. It’s been ages since Specialteas closed, and every time I would look at it I would think “but I can’t get more so if I drink it it’ll be gone for good.” I suspect it’s completely flavorless by now, and not drinking it isn’t changing the fact that I can’t get more. So I guess I’ll have a cup now and drink the rest up soonish and free that space on the shelf. And nurse my continuing resentment against Teavana.

Any folks who blend and sell tea, though–if you’ve got a white tea/cranberries/mallow flower blend that’s not super sweet and fruity, or might offer one in the future, well, I might just be your target customer.

*And yes, if Adagio offered mallow flowers as a possible custom blend ingredient I’d have done that and bought the hell out of it.

Yak Butter Tea

So, the other day I tweeted that I was in possession of some Instant Yak Butter Tea.

So, yak butter tea. It’s a Tibetan thing. I’ve actually attempted to make something approximating it before, only with cow’s milk, since that was all I could get my hands on. I did have a cake of pu ehr, though, so I didn’t use Lipton (though to be honest if I hadn’t had the pu ehr I wouldn’t have gone with Lipton, I’d have grabbed whatever loose leaf black tea I had on the shelf that I thought would hold up to a long steeping). It was…well, it was not appetizing. Part of that was the salt. Part of it was, I think, the thought that I was drinking butter.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before. And it was entirely likely that my attempt at butter tea was not a good (or even acceptable) example of it.


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The tea is a powder that comes in little packets. Kind of like serbat wangi. (You’ve never had serbat wangi? It’s good! Very sweet, too sweet for me to drink it often, but it’s good. Kind of spicy.) Or like the “chrysanthemum beverage” I found on the shelf near the serbat wangi (but that, I did not like).

There are English instructions on the package, which basically say to dissolve a packet in a cup of hot water. The Yunnan Sourcing page also suggests adding it to a cup of pu ehr tea.

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So, how did it taste? Well. Hmm. It’s…it’s not goaty exactly, because goat milk is a pretty distinctive flavor, but it’s sort of similar. Kind of. Sort of cheesish? Kind of? Which, I like cheese, but I’m still undecided how I feel about cheese in my tea. Or salt. It’s…I don’t know. I really don’t.

Who knows, it may turn out like Marmite did for me. One of my college roommates brought some Marmite back from a trip she took to the UK, way back in, gosh, this would have to have been the very late eighties? And she told me that the first time she encountered Marmite, she picked up the jar, looked at what was in it, smelled it, decided it had gone off, whatever it was, and threw it away. So she would understand if I didn’t like it. She put some on toast and gave it to me. And I was like, “Yeah, wow, I see why you threw this in the trash.”

About a week later I was walking to work and was suddenly struck with a desire to have toast and Marmite. Seriously. It’s delicious. In fact, I think I need to get myself a jar of Marmite soon.

So, maybe next week I’ll be walking along and suddenly just need to have a cup of yak butter tea. But, hmm. Yeah. I don’t know.