Wednesday, March 30, 2022

April Fool's Day Sale --Jack Faust!

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On April 1--no fooling!--the ebook of Jack Faust, my radical revision of the Faust legend as embodying half a millennium of human history, goes on sale for only $1.99. United States only, alas. So if you're in the US, curious about my novel, and like ebooks... well, here's your chance.

That's this Friday--tomorrow!

Below is the information they've given me.

ISBN13 Title Author Promo Type Country Start Date End Date Promo Price
9781504036481 Jack Faust Swanwick, Michael ORM - 1K Sale Weekly US 2022-04-01 2022-04-01 $1.99


You can subscribe to the newsletters at the links below so that you will get the direct link to the deal on the day that it appears.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 7: Why Canadian Whiskey is Stranger Than You Think

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Chapter 7: Why Canadian Whisky is Stranger Than You Think

 

There is more that is strange about Canadian Whisky than the fact that they spell it in the Scottish manner. In the United States, for a whiskey to be labeled “rye,” the mash bill must be at least 51 percent rye. Canada takes a more laissez-faire approach. If Canadian whisky had a motto it might well be Blend What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law. So a Canadian rye may well be primarily corn or wheat whisky with a smaller amount of rye for flavoring.

 

But wait, it gets worse.

 

It is a peculiar but observable phenomenon that food gets spicier the closer one gets to the equator and blander the closer one gets to the poles. Similarly, Canadians prefer their whiskey smoother and lighter than their neighbors to the south. As a result, most Canadian Whisky is a blend of several grains, carefully chosen to result in a smooth, light drink. But that doesn’t mean that Canadians don’t like the flavor of rye! When distillers started adding small amounts of rye to the mash bill, the demand for rye-flavored whiskies was so great that Canadians started referring to all whiskies as “ryes.”

 

So it is possible in Canada to be served a glass of rye whisky that has absolutely no rye in it at all.

 

Nevertheless, Canadian whisky is traditionally both smooth and complex. For a long time, Canadian whiskies were the embodiment of what the sophisticated drinker wanted. And because Canadians valued the pop of rye in their blended whisky, the big distilleries in Indiana kept making it. Thus helping keep the craft of distilling rye whiskey alive at a time when it was in danger of going extinct.

 

To celebrate Canadian whisky, the American Martini Laboratory mixed two Toronto Cocktails, one with Canadian whisky and one with rye whiskey and did a taste test:

 

Toronto

2 ounces Canadian whisky or rye whiskey

 ½ ounce Fernet-Branca

½ tablespoon simple syrup or pure maple syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

orange peel

 

directions: mix, add ice and garnish, serve

 

Like our neighbors to the north, the Toronto is very complicated. The Fernet Branca is a particularly bitter aromatic spirit, originally sold as a cure for cholera and for menstrual cramps. The maple syrup (you can use simple syrup, but why give up that added tinge of flavor?)  alleviates the bitterness without turning this into a sweet drink. The rye, either Canadian or Not, gives it oomph. This is a cocktail for grownups—it is a rare college freshman who will take to it.

 

And the taste test? The American Martini Laboratory’s blue-ribbon panel of two agreed unanimously that the cocktail tasted better with American rye. Canadians, however, would probably disagree.

 

Before Prohibition, the fact that Canadian ryes need not include rye was a mere curiosity. After that great disaster, it would be decisive in changing the taste of the United States.

 

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Small But Pleasant Honor

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The Portalist included my novel Bones of the Earth in their list of best science fiction of the first decade of this century. Naturally, I'm chuffed. Those novels on the list that I've read (most of them) are books you'd be honored to have your own compared to.

 You can find the link here

This kind of list is clickbait, of course, and an invitation to argue about what should have been included. 

So, what the heck... which SF novels published in the years 2000 to 2010 SHOULD have been included? Feel free to be effusive in your praise. (I'm disqualifying my own works from this discussion.)


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...And I Was Wrong

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 A couple of days ago, I regretted that James Branch Cabell didn't share in print a formula he claimed to have:

 

 "When next I see you I shall submit a simple formula by which you can do a 2,000 word preface without the least mental stress." 


Well, a few pages later in The Letters of James Branch Cabell, he wrote:


There are just four points, I think, to be covered always: the place and the significance of the book in your complete work; [...] your own personal view of the book nowadays, as well as, if you like, of the dead person who wrote it; the book's origin and the circumstances in which it was written; and how, and when, and what happened after, the book was published--which of course gives you a free hand with the reviews and the acquaintances you may have made through it.

 

So I was wrong. Cabell did write down the formula and, while potentially useful, it is not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped it would be.


Ah, well. It's not the first time I was wrong nor, I suspect, will it be the last.


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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 6: The Elegance of Maryland Rye

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Chapter 6: The Elegance of Maryland Rye

 

Even today, Monongahela is the most prestigious variant of rye whiskey. But from early on, it had a worthy rival—Maryland Rye.

 

What made Maryland rye distinctive? Well… It might have been the terroir. It might have been the quality of the limestone-filtered water. But most likely it was the presence of corn in its mash bill. This resulted in a milder, smoother, and less spicy rye. Which proved to be a respectable alternative to its Pennsylvania cousin.

 

Just as Monongahela rye went extinct in Pennsylvania, so too did Maryland rye in the Old Line State. One by one, the distilleries shut down. Pikesville Rye, the last to go, is now made in Kentucky. There is currently a revival of the style by several new Maryland distilleries. How close their formulations are to the original to the original, no one knows. But as a general rule, the stuff from Pennsylvania is spicier and the stuff from Maryland is smoother.

 

If you’re wondering which is better, you’re asking the wrong question. The real question is: What are you looking for in a drink? Some like it smooth, others spicy. In this way, choosing a rye is like selecting a mate. Suave or rowdy? The choice is yours.

 

To get a good idea of just how suave a Maryland rye can be, there is no better cocktail than an old Baltimore classic, the Belvedere Frozen Rye.

 

Belvedere Frozen Rye

rye whiskey

juice of half a lime

a few dashes orange juice

a few dashes pineapple syrupa few dashes orange Curacao

slice of orange

slice of pineapple

 

directions: place slices of orange and pineapple in a champagne coupe, allowing them to stick out as garnish; fill glass with fine ice; mix ingredients and pour  over the ice

 

This is a sweet, festive and utterly delightful drink. But there’s no denying that it’s a lot of fuss to make at home, particularly since the recipe is vague about the proportions of rye and juices. The best way to enjoy a Frozen Rye is in one of the few bars that are still classy enough to serve it. The Belvedere Hotel, where it was invented, has been converted to condominiums, but the Owl Bar remains and it did a bang-up job of the drink the one time I was there.

 

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

A Question for the Hive Mind

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When  I was single digits years old, I discovered that my next-door neighbor and first girlfriend Susan Richards (who later beat me into print by years with Hubert, the Caterpillar Who Thought He Was a Mustache) read more than one book at once.

Back then, I read one book at a time. I asked my mother what was correct and she firmly told me to finish each book before reading the next.

Who was correct? Mom or Susie? And does that answer apply to my adult reading?

I solicit your input. Answers that simply state your preference without explaining why will be deleted. It's your reasoning that I'm most interested in.


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Monday, March 21, 2022

A Handy Formula I Wish Had Been Written Down

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The writing hustle is filled with lost opportunities. From a book of James Branch Cabell's letters, an excerpt from one to fellow Richmond-in-Virginian writer Ellen Glasgow:

 "When next I see you I shall submit a simple formula by which you can do a 2,000 word preface without the least mental stress." 

 

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The One Time I Sorta Met Fritz Leiber

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I met Fritz Leiber once. If you accept that being on a Fritz Leiber Appreciation panel at a Philcon where he was guest of honor and asking a question of him a couple of times from the dais means that I "met" him.

 Fritz was old by then and got around in a wheelchair. He died only two years later. And everyone on the panel was in awe of him. I noticed that whenever one of referred to him directly, we made a little bobbing motion, a kind of involuntary bow.

I had a theory I wondered about and I figured that this would my only opportunity to find out, so I asked: "It seems to me that the Fafhrd and Mouser stories are actually horror stories, which we think of otherwise because the charismatic heroes always get away at the end. Is this so or not?"

To which Leiber replied, "Everything I have ever written is horror."

I, of course, felt pleased. One of my fellow panelists, encouraged by my example, presented his own theory about Leiber's works (I forget what it was, but I recall it being recondite) and asked if it was true.

"Absolutely not!" Leiber said, very firmly.

My fellow panelist blinked. Then, returning to the rest of the audience, he said, "Nevertheless, unconsciously, Fritz Leiber..."

Some people just can't take "You're full of it" for an answer.


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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 5: The Mystery of Monongahela Rye

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Chapter 4: The Mystery of Monongahela Rye

 

For good and sufficient reasons, Monongahela rye was the gold standard for American whiskey. (The name came from the Monongahela River, which runs through the region of Pennsylvania where the rye was grown and the distilleries located.) But exactly what was Monongahela rye? What did it taste like?

 

So far as I have been able to learn, no one knows.

 

Various accounts agree that Old Monongahela Rye, as with age it came to be known, was bigger, spicier, denser, chewier, and more aggressive than ryes distilled elsewhere. Perhaps this was due to the terroir of the rye and malt—the only grains used in making Old Monongahela rye. Possibly, it had something to do with the limestone-filtered spring water that was used. It also may be that a mechanism no longer employed because it requires constant tending, the three-chamber still, contributed to Old Monongahela rye’s unique flavor. It’s a complicated question.

 

With the revival of rye’s prestige, craft distilleries across the nation have taken to creating their own takes on that grand old whiskey. Those located in Pennsylvania are, of course, anxious to claim the Monongahela title for their own. But while they have been responsible for many fine versions of rye, there is no agreement as to what elements are required to stake a claim to the prestige of the name. Particularly given that many of the distilleries, bowing to contemporary tastes, include other grains in their mash bill.

 

Which of all these worthy ryes comes closest to Old Monongahela? Until the glad and unlikely day that a dozen century-old cases of Old Overholt are discovered in somebody’s barn and a swarm of chemists and master distillers are allowed to taste and analyze, we will never know.

 

Meanwhile, let’s raise a glass to the mystery with a classic Old Fashioned:

 

Old Fashioned

2 ounces rye whiskey

1 sugar cube or 1 barspoon simple syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

orange twist

 

directions: muddle sugar cube and bitters with one barspoon of water (or else drop in      the simple syrup), add rye and stir; serve with ice and a twist of orange peel for garnish

 

The Old Fashioned is one of the oldest cocktails in existence and, it must be said, is nowadays usually made with bourbon. Any whiskey works splendidly. But preparing it as above recalls the era of our great-great grandfathers when whiskey was by default rye. You don’t get much more old-fashioned than that.

 

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

An Interview With Me

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John Grayshaw who is the Director of the Middletown Public Library in Middletown, PA, conducted an interview with me late last year, for their Online Science Fiction Book Club. This Facebook  group has some 8,000 members worldwide. Yet, inexplicably, I haven't blogged about it until now. Mea culpa.

 

The group, which collects questions from its members, has also interviewed--taking a deep breath here--"David Brin,  Neal Asher, C.J. Cherryh, Julie Phillips (a Tiptree and Le Guin biographer), Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Samuel Delany, The Ray Bradbury Institute, an Arthur C. Clarke panel, Lois McMaster Bujold, the Heinlein Society, an Asimov panel, Brian Herbert, a Robert Zelazny panel, Jem Roberts (a Douglas Adams biographer), Dan Wakefield (a longtime friend of Kurt Vonnegut), and Jess Nevins (a historian of Victorian Era science fiction). Paul Kincaid (expert on Iain M. Banks), William F. Nolan, John F. Carr (and expert on H. Beam Piper), Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, Kim Stanley Robinson and many others."

 

Here's how the interview begins:


Eva Sable: Who are some of your favorite books and authors? You don't have to confine yourself to science fiction for this one.


Tolkien, of course, though I doubt I’ll ever travel through Middle-earth again. A. S. Byatt—a tie between Possession and The Children’s Book. Vladimir Nabokov for almost everything he’s written. In genre, I’d begin with Gene Wolfe, Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Chimera John Barth and The Maze Maker by Michael Ayrton. Mary Stewart’s Arthurian trilogy and T. H. White’s series as well, The Sword in the Stone in particular. Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. That’s just off the top of my head. I could go on for hundreds more.


Looking over the list, I see that these are all magisterial writers and ambitious books. I suppose that says something about me.


John Grayshaw: You’ve said before that it takes ten years for a writer to become an overnight success. Can you tell us about how you started out writing and at what point you felt like you had made it as a writer?

 

In 1967, my junior year of high school, I finished my homework at 11 p.m. and picked up The Fellowship of the Ring, meaning to read a chapter or two before bed. I stayed up all night and finished the last page just as the home room bell rang. That made me determined to become a writer. Twelve years later, Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann took apart an attempt at short fiction I’d made and showed me how to turn it into a real story. From then on, I sold everything I wrote. And ten or so years after that, I won a Nebula Award for Stations of the Tide. That convinced me I was getting somewhere as a writer at last.


John Grayshaw: What do you know about your novel when you start writing it?

 

I know how it begins and I know how it ends and I have some idea of what I hope to accomplish with it. Everything between the opening line and the closing paragraph, however, is a mystery to me.

 

The interview is up on the group's facebook page, which can be found here


It's also on the library's webpage, on a list of all their interviews here.


Or you can go directly to the interview here.

 

Above: Photograph copyright 2022 by Marianne Porter.

 

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

A Letter from Ukrainian Artists to World Artists

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I received the following letter from Bohdan Stasiuk, a science fiction and fantasy writer from Ukraine who tells me it was created by the Ukrainian science fiction community. It looks to be the real thing. But, as always, you should check the validity of the links before contributing any money. It's easy enough to do. 

 

A letter from Ukrainian artists to world artists! 

 

On Thursday, February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation started the  war against Ukraine and attacked our country. As we write this letter, the  army of the aggressor country kills our children, bombs cities and  civilians, and already turned more than 1,700,000 Ukrainians into  refugees. In an attempt to further occupy our lands, Russia at the same  time uses aggressive propaganda to justify its war crimes. Russian  citizens are consistently being lied to about what is really happening in  Ukraine. 

 

We believe that not all Russian citizens are fans of Putin’s regime and  not all of them justify this war. We know that plenty of Russians feel  scared to use their voices and speak up against Putin’s regime. Many  believe it is none of their business. Yet, there are also many who believe  in the righteousness of Putin and his propaganda. 

 

So, we plead with you — writers and visual content creators that have  big audiences of readers and followers in Russia. To them, your opinion  and your words matter. Your stand on the war in Ukraine matters.  Please, stand by us as we fight for our values, our democracy, and our  freedom. For the right to be Ukrainians and live in Ukraine. Your  powerful voices can influence these Russian readers and followers. To  encourage them to be brave, connect with their values, and take a stand  on ending this ruthless war. 

 

Please, take this message to your platforms and address your Russian  and Ukrainian audiences. The first ones need your encouragement to  believe in the power of their voices against Putin’s regime. The second  ones are in desperate need of support and kindness. 

 

We encourage the international community of fans of science  fiction & fantasy, writers, artists, editors to boycott the Russian book  market until the war in Ukraine ends and the country is free from  Russian occupation. Until Putin’s regime is condemned as criminal and  Putin and his closest allies are punished. As Ukrainians, we are working  on this to happen day and night but there are bureaucratic procedures 

that make the process so much slower in critical times where every  second counts and can save Ukrainian lives. 

 

Here are the ways in which you can help our country: 

 

1. Please, reroute the funds received from Russia to either of  the Ukrainian charity foundations that take care of refugees and  restore what was ruined by Russia: 

 

https://eu-ua.com/ 

 

https://donate.redcrossredcrescent.org/ua/donate/~my-donation?_cv=1 https://ua-aid-centers.com/#features 

 

https://tabletochki.org/ 

 

https://mirco.com.ua/ 

 

The National Bank of Ukraine has opened an account for humanitarian  aid to Ukrainians affected by Russian aggression. The account will be  used to credit charitable assistance from Ukraine and abroad. The  Ministry of Social Policy will use the funds raised to provide support to  the citizens of Ukraine who suffer the most from the war.  See below. 

 

2. If possible, terminate contracts and collaborations with  Russian publishers. Do not let them use the money they earn on  publishing your work to fund the war in Ukraine. 

 

3. Publicly denounce any further collaboration with Russia until it  stops its aggression. 

 

I will add that the following writers have already supported us by  announcing a complete refusal to cooperate with the Russian  Federation: Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joe Abercrombie, Rebecca  Kuang, Michal Cetnarowski, John Crowley, Jakub Cwiek, Piotr Gociek,  Piotr G√≥rski, Jaroslaw Grzedowicz, Marcin A. Guzek, Anna Kantoch,  Marta Kladz-Kocot, Tomasz Kolodziejczak, Jacek Komuda, Rafal Kosik,  Maja Lidia Kossakowska, Marta Barbara Krajewska, Pawel  Majka,Tomasz Nizinski, Lukasz Orbitowski, Michal Protasiuk, Adam Przechrzta, Marcin Podlewski, Radek Rak, Magdalena Salik, Arkady Saulski, Wit Szostak, Robert M. Wegner, Cezary Zbierzchowski,  Wojciech Zembaty.  

 

It is of paramount importance for these actions to be made public. This  will allow your readers to learn about your stand on the war in Ukraine  and help those content creators who are still hesitant about condemning  Russia’s aggression to take a stand, too.  

 

It goes without saying that either of these actions is an act coming out of  free will. We are grateful for any support. We are sure that the war that  currently unfolds in the middle of Europe is not only Ukraine’s war. This  is the war aimed at undermining and destroying the values of free  civilizations. In times of peace, we guard these values via our novels, art,  songs. Alas, this is not enough in times of war.  

 

If you are not sure you have enough information to make an informed  decision on taking a stand on what is currently happening in Ukraine,  please see these resources.

 

https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/

 

https://kyivindependent.com/ 

 

https://t.me/ukraine4world 

 

If you have any questions we are willing to provide you with answers.  There can be delays in answering as many of us are often hiding in  shelters from active bombing. Others rely on very unstable internet and  phone connections while keeping in touch in these days of the war.  There can be delays in responses, we apologize in advance. 

 

Also, it is important to note that neither of us, the authors of this letter  need any urgent help. It is our country that is in a state of a  humanitarian crisis, desperately seeking support and allies. 

 

When taking to your platforms and speaking about Ukraine and war in  our country, please use these tags. 

 

#SFaccessdenied 

#StopBusinessInrussia

#StopFundTheWar 

#StandWithUkraine 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Thank you for your  support. 

Volodymyr Arenev, writer 

Olena Hlushchenko, social activist 

Sergij Legeza, translator 

Alisa Lindeman, writer, screenwriter 

Myhajlo Nazarenko, literary critic 

Olena Odynoka, Head of International Cooperation Department,  Ukrainian Book Institute 

Daria Piskozub, writer 

Anatolij Pityk, translator 

Kateryna Pityk, translator 

Marija Shahury, translator 

Bohdan Stasiuk, translator 

Svitlana Taratorina, writer 

Ksenia Tomasheva, writer, co-founder of LITavytsia 

Alona Silina, culture manager 

Oksana Pronko, Fantasy & SF fanzine 'Svit Fentezi' (World of Fantasy),  Editor, Reviewer, Book Blogger 

Olha Cheryba, Blogger 

Andrii Novikov, Writer 

Kateryna Pekur, Writer 

Olha Tkach, writer 

Nata Hrytsenko, translator 

Iryna Hrabovska, Writer 

Ules Skela, writer 

Daria Kononenko, writer 

Vera Balatska, writer and teacher 

Maria Panfiorova, writer, editor  

Usmanova Olexandra, reader 

Pavlo Derevianko, writer 

Mia Marchenko, writer, translator

Yulia Syromolot, translator, writer 

Borys Sydiuk, producer, translator, nominated vice-chair of ESFS (2004- 2006) 

Katya Natalenko, Editor 

Darya Grebelnyk , writer & founder of arkush.net (ukrainian epub  platform) 

Andriy Baglay, programmer, co-founder of arkush.net (ukrainian epub  platform) 

Nata Yureva ,writer 

Andrij Ghorbunov, writer 

Nataliia Matolinets, Writer 

Iia Novytska, Editor of fanzine Das ist fantastisch! 

Hanna Lytvynenko, Translator 

Diana Semak, marketer, publishing house "NK-Bogdan" Iryna Pasko , Philologist, writer 

Maria Galina , writer, translator 

Kondratenko Nataliia, writer 

Katarina ,Writer 

Andriy Yurkiv , Software engineer 

Anastasia Trofymenko,literary critic 

Anhelina Drachenko ,Student, illustrator 

Ivan Sirchenko, book blogger 

Viktor Hundiak, Sculptor 

Serhiy Krykun , Artist, translator

Onim Alek , operator 

Olexandr Ihnatenko, writer 

Shvets Viktoria, Teacher 

Sofiia Rudenko, Bookblogger 

Ksenija Sokulska , translator 

Pavlo Cherepiuk ,writer 

Ilchuk Lyudmila, copywriter 

Maxym Lytvynenko, Writer 

Denys Solomonyuk, engineer, PhD, writer 

Skriplyonok Kateryna, Writer 

Olha Melnychuk , Student 

Anastasiia Posukhova (Kvitkova),student, translator, tutor Oksana Skyhar, Student 

Olga Migel, Writer 

Kateryna Yakobets , student 

Yuriy Boyko , Writer 

Natalia Lutsyshyn , Software engineer  

Vasyl Fedorii, Reader 

Illia Prokopenko, Journalist, proofreader, reader 

Dara Korniy, writer 

Ianina Lymar, Head of scientific and technical activities group of  scientific research and technical development deparment of  V.Shimanjvsky Ukrainian institute of Steel construction 

Victor Voitenko, Artist

Tanya Kondratiuk, Teacher 

Maryna Dubyna, Editor-in-Chief, Boryviter publishing; literary translator Maria Pukhliy. translator 

Vus Nataliia, Managing editor, reader 

Olena Sheremet, Translator 

Andriychuk Volodymyr, writer 

Olexiy Myhailiuk, Teacher 

Oleksandra Stepanishcheva , Freelance Copywriter  

Iryna Bilyk, Student 

Vitaliy Genyk, Writer 

Dasha Luneva, editor 

Oleh Silin, writer 

Valeriya Malahova, writer, translator 

Svitlana Patra, Writer, blogger. 

Kateryna Lysytska, bookseller 

Lusutska Ludmila, manager 

ALINA ZAVHORODNIA, QA engineer  

Sokol Iryna, Arist  

Iryna and Taras Fonrud , writers 

Larysa Dundiy , Writer 

Olena Krasnoselska, writer 

Larisa Illyuk, writer 

Daniel Woolf, teacher

Elizabeth Khoptynska , Student  

Oleg Korniichuk, writer 

Viktoria Yakowchuk, Student 

Solomia Bzhezinska , Psychologist  

Olena Krasnoselska, writer 

 

 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 4: The Miracle of Brown Whiskey

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Chapter 3: The Miracle of Brown Whiskey

 

The Whiskey Rebellion—which, remember, was all about rye whiskey—was a devastating failure. Instead of a loose confederation of semi-anarchic local governments doing pretty much whatever they chose, George Washington wanted a strong federalist government. And the great hero of the American Revolution had the prestige and, more importantly, the army to enforce that preference upon the citizen-moonshiners of Western Pennsylvania.

 

Fewer than five rebels died in the rebellion and no soldiers. Two men were sentenced to death for treason but pardoned by President Washington before they could be hanged. But that does not mean the Whiskey Rebellion was not significant. It established the principle of a strong central government, sent thousands of rebels westward over the mountains into what is now Kentucky (we’ll be hearing more about them later) and established a system of taxation that made distilling rye more profitable for large companies than for farmers with a part-time still.

 

Big Rye prospered. Wagonloads of rye whiskey—or, more properly, white dog—jolted their way from the birthplace of the rebellion (Washington, PA, ironically enough) to Boston and hence up and down the coast. It was also put onto boats on the Monongahela River, which joins the Allegheny to flow into the Ohio, which eventually empties into the Mississippi. In this leisurely fashion, it made its way to New Orleans. It was still nothing that you’d want to put in your mouth. But then…

 

God provided a miracle.

 

The easiest way to transport rye whiskey was in barrels and the cheapest way to obtain barrels was to buy them used. In a previous life, the barrels might have carried pickles or molasses or sixpenny nails, nobody much cared. But then, one of the commercial distilleries got a good deal on old wine barrels. (They may also have been charred to clean them out). The barrels were filled with white dog. They probably waited for months in the distillery’s unheated warehouse for winter to end and the roads to New York and Boston become passable again. They certainly spent a long time on those slow boats to New Orleans.

 

By the time the boats got to their destination, the rye was brown.

 

Somebody opened a cask and poured a glass. Eyed it dubiously. Took a cautious sniff. Then an even more cautious sip.

 

Word came back from New Orleans, Boston, and New York: Send us more of the brown whiskey!

 

The wine-saturated oak barrels had worked an alchemical magic on the white dog. It was no longer merely raw spirits distilled from rye. It had aged. It was now, by God, whiskey. And it was something that a self-respecting sot would happily drink.

 

Thus was born the prestige of Monongahela Rye.

 

The best way to celebrate this gift from above is with a Sazerac, one of the most elegant drinks ever devised.

 

            Sazerac

            1 sugar cube

            3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

            a few drops of water

            2 ounces rye whiskey

            1 slosh absinthe or anise liqueur

            lemon twist

 

            directions: soak sugar cube with bitters and a little water, then muddle; add          whiskey; toss a slosh of absinthe into a chilled empty drinking glass, swirl, and       discard; pour the sweetened rye into the glass; squeeze twist over the drink to express      the oils and then use it as a garnish

 

The Sazerac was invented in New Orleans and is famed for being the first cocktail. However, all accounts agree that it was created by substituting rye for the cognac in an earlier cocktail. Which just goes to show how slippery things get when dealing with the folklore of alcohol.

 

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Nirvana or Bust--the Podcast!

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Analog Science Fiction and Fact has put up my story on their latest podcast. For free!  "Nirvana or Bust" is a strange short story about the conflict of species and the future of humanity and mechanical life both. I'm proud of it.

The story is read by (cough) myself. 

 What a strange voice I have, I say wonderingly. But it's a good story anyway.

You can find the story here.


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Monday, March 7, 2022

Launch Pad Workshop -- Last Day to Apply

All the former participants of the Launch Pad Workshop have been asked to spread the word that today is the last day to apply. So, okay.

This is a free week long astronomy workshop, a crash course in the basics of the science. For me, it was all worthwhile for the afternoon/evening jaunt to the university's telescrope, where I got to stargaze and see satellites flying overhead before sunset using a night scope that Mike Brotherton owns. Then, in a bit of serendipity, the International Space Station flew overhead. I saw it with my own unaided eyes!


 Here's the boilerplate.

 2022 Workshop Announced 

Our 2022 workshop will run from May 22-28 at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Guests will stay on campus in the dormitory and dine in the Wakashie center. We ask that all accepted attendees have received COVID-19 vaccinations and are fully immunized by the start of the workshop. We are currently reviewing applications.  

 What is Launch Pad? 

Launch Pad is a workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a “crash course” for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes. We generally cover all workshop expenses including meals and lodging. Launch Pad has in the past been supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation, Uwingu, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and generous individual donors. We currently enjoy funding from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  

Who is Launch Pad? 

Launch Pad was created by science fiction author, astronomer, and University of Wyoming professor Mike Brotherton, PhD, and Jim Verley, PhD. Joining us is Christian Ready, an astronomer whose work experience includes the Hubble Space Telescope and is now a professor at Towson University.

 

And here's the link: https://www.launchpadworkshop.org/ 

 

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Once and Future Rye, Part 3: The Revolutionar Spirit

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3. The Revolutionary Spirit

 

The War for Independence changed everything for Americans. If you were an American of the Canadian or Mexican variety, it provided you with an admittedly difficult neighbor. But if you were a citizen of the United States, it meant giving up on tea—John Adams called it “the traitor’s drink”—and taking up the drinking of coffee. This identification of tea with tyranny began with the Tea Tax, continued through the Boston Tea Party, and became more and more universal as the war progressed. By the time the smoke had cleared, coffee was the drink of the brave and free.

 

As was rye.

 

Americans did not give up rum for symbolic ideological reasons, however. Rather, they were forced to live without it because of the British embargo on trade. You simply couldn’t get the stuff in the quantities you were used to—and wouldn’t until the war ended.

 

Meanwhile, a patriot had to drink something.

 

To fill this need, up stepped the hard-working and industrious farmers of western Pennsylvania. Who were, at the time, in a bit of a fix. The roads from Pittsburgh and environs to New York and Boston were rudimentary at best. So the cost of shipping grain to their major markets was prohibitively expensive. If, however, you converted that grain to whiskey, it could be shipped far more economically and sold for much more money. Patriotism and profit! It was a winning combination.

 

Because of the soil and climate of western Pennsylvania, that grain and consequently that whiskey was rye. It was not, however, the spicy amber fluid that we drink today. It was White Dog Whiskey, raw and unaged, exactly as it emerged from the still.

 

In flavor and effect, white rye whiskey is very much like white corn whiskey or “moonshine” as the romantics among us (pretty much all Americans) like to call it: a rough, abrasive, vile-tasting, and occasionally poisonous glug whose single virtue is that it will get you drunk.

 

From the consumer’s point of view, there is absolutely no need for bottled white rye. For the start-up rye distillery, however, there is a reason and it’s a compelling one. Once your rye has been distilled, it takes several years to age. In order to keep the lights on, it only makes good sense to start selling some of the stuff the same day you distill it—provided you can find a market for it. And you can!

 

Because Americans, remember, will drink anything.

 

To test just how American I am, I bought a bottle of “Small Batch White Rye Whiskey” from a trusted distillery and had a snort. It tasted a lot like Randolph County’s (that’s in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia) finest. Which is to say: for teenage boys, broken-down alkies and people with an overdeveloped sense of vicarious nostalgia only.

Determined to be fair, I made a White Manhattan using white dog whiskey. Here’s the recipe:

 

White Manhattan

2 ounces white dog rye

1 ounce white vermouth

2 dashes orange bitters

orange peel for garnish.

 

directions: make, taste, and discard


 As expected, it tasted like somebody tried to turn moonshine into a cocktail. Anyone desperate enough to drink white dog is advised to mix it with Fresca instead. Or Orange Crush, Pepto Bismol, whatever comes to hand. It’ll cost less and couldn’t taste any worse.

So the Revolution had been won and the great American experiment was underway. But the whiskey was still terrible.

Fortunately for our nation, a miracle was about to happen.

 

Above: I've sampled all these ryes so that you don't have to. You're welcome.

 

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