Gingerbread Bricks, Cherry-Stealing Cats, and Other Culinary Disasters

I’ve been asked if I cook as well as I write about cooking.

It’s a fair question: I’ve been cooking almost as long as I’ve been writing. Writing was something I fell into, much like Alice down the rabbit-hole, when I was fourteen. I sat down one day to write myself a story instead of reading one, and thirty-two pages later—pencil and lined paper tablet—I finished my tale and realized that my predictable world had expanded wildly, enormously, with endlessly diverging and intriguing paths running every which way into an unknown I suddenly knew existed. Having ended one story (which is locked away, guarded by dragons and evil-eyed basilisks, and will never see the light of day if I have anything to say about it), I wanted to start all over again on another.

When or why I decided I needed to inflict culinary disasters on my long-suffering family and others, I don’t remember.

[My most vivid cooking memory is setting my brother on fire with my Cherries Jubilee.]

Foolishness and Wickedness Mixed Up: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (Part 5)

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we continue with Chapter 4 of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, first published in 1959. Spoilers ahead. TW for continued discussion of historical suicide.

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Series: Reading the Weird

6 Perfect Episodes of MST3K to Help You Really Just Relax

Imagine this: a person stuck inside, all alone with nothing to do but watch movies (while occasionally receiving confusing and misleading reports from the people who are ostensibly in charge). That might seem to describe most people in the world right now, but it’s actually about the future. The not-too-distant future, in fact…

It is, of course, the premise of the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show in which robots Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot join a human host to make fun of terrible movies. Inspired by the 1972 Douglass Trumbull film Silent Running, series creator and original host Joel Hodgson created a joyful, scrappy celebration of humor and comedy in the face of loneliness and powerlessness. Even as the series changed channels, casts, and hosts over the years, that basic hopeful message remained consistent: Even in the direst situations, you can try to keep your sanity with the help of your (synthetic, if necessary) friends.

For that reason, MST3K is the ideal comfort watch for times such as these, when we’re all scared, stuck, and alone, together.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — Rules of Accusation

Rules of Accusation
Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann
Publication Date: July 2016
Timeline: 2371, December 2385 (after The Missing, before Sacraments of Fire)

Progress: In a Prelude set in 2371, a Kalpazan forger and art collector by the name of Bartleby creates a duplicate of what we will soon figure out is the original Sacred Scroll containing the legendary Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, created by Gint ten thousand years ago. The identity of Bartleby’s client is not revealed.

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Netflix Settles Choose Your Own Adventure Lawsuit Over Black Mirror Film

Netflix and the company behind the Choose Your Own Adventure series has finally come to a settlement in an ongoing trademark lawsuit over the interactive nature of the Black Mirror film Bandersnatch.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the settlement comes after a lengthy and aggressive fight between it and Chooseco LLC. To find out more, turn to the next paragraph.

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Searching for Books in Which No Bad Things Happen

A friend was asking the other day for books in which no bad things happen, because sometimes you want your reading to be all upbeat. But yet, there aren’t many books where nothing bad happens. Myself, when I want comfort reading, I’ll settle for “everything all right at the end” which leaves me a much wider field. Nothing bad at all is really hard. I mean, you have to have plot, which means conflict, or at least things happening, and once you have obstacles to defeat there’s almost certain to be something bad.

Keep reading, because I do actually think of some.

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Five Books That Leave You With Hope for Humanity

I gotta admit—I really struggle with dark, morally gray stories with heavy, bleak endings. I have to ration those kinds of books, limiting myself to one every 4 or 6 months. Most of it is because of depression, my constant shadow—past experience tells me that I’ll take on all those heavy emotions, and it’ll make for a pretty unpleasant week or so afterward. The rest? Personal preference for the shinier side of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think darker stories are important, especially as a way of processing trauma and addressing big issues. And hell, some people just like them! That’s cool. You do you. For me, though, I want to leave a book feeling like the world isn’t so bad, like there’s hope for us all if we can just keep going. And so, this list was born!

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There’s No Better Time to Watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks

So, you know how at the start of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a family of British kids are sent into the country to stay with an old recluse, which ultimately leads them to all sorts of magic shenanigans? Imagine that same story, but this time, instead of Jadis being the villain, she’s the aforementioned recluse and the hero—and she fights Nazis.

That’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

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Combatting Book Shame and Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

As a person who grew up reading books with elves, vampires, wizards, and scantily clad ladies on the cover, I am well versed in book shame. I read voraciously and well above my level as a child, according to whatever arcane and mysterious forces that decide such things as reading levels. You would think that would be enough to make adults happy, but it never was, for some. Sure, I read, but I wasn’t reading the “right sort” of books. The funny fact was that the “right sort” differed wildly depending on the person doing the judging. I feel like all of you out there in Whimsy Land have probably found yourselves on the receiving end of this sentence:

“Sure, you read, but _____ isn’t real literature.”

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Reading The Wheel of Time: Darkfriends Clash in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 12)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, I’m going to do that thing I like to do, where I jump around within a few chapters and group my responses thematically rather than chronologically. This week is covering Chapters 18 and 19, but we’re only going to be talking about the Darkfriend stuff, about Liandrin and Moghedien and Padan Fain and Alviarin. Then next week we’ll cover the bulk of Chapter 19, which is everything that happens to Morgase.

I’m tackling the read this way because I have too many things to say about the Queen of Andor, and I just couldn’t fit it all into one post! But that’s not what we’re doing today, so let’s move on to the recap and check in with the remaining members of Liandrin’s company. They’re… not doing so great.

[The heavens above Shayol Ghul are black at noon with his breath.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

A Brief History of Dragons Throughout Western Literature

In 1504, a copper globe was built somewhere in Europe. It stood only 4.4 inches in diameter and 13.6 inches in circumference, so it was nothing terribly overwhelming. Tiny ships and monsters adorned its seas—also commonplace at the time. But there was a small inscription, near the eastern coast of Asia, that made this particular globe one of a kind: it became the only documented ancient map to quietly go on record saying, Hic sunt dracones. Here be dragons.

Like a siren, the promise and danger of that single phrase called out to Western storytellers. Yet the dragons found on that globe, and the dragons found in literature today, are enormously different creatures. We should know: we’re the ones who re-wrote this mythical beast time and again. So just where be Western dragons at the beginning of their story? And how did they grow into the icons we know now?

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Living the Arizona Dream in Andre Norton’s Ten Mile Treasure

First of all, apologies for not giving my usual heads-up at the end of the last Norton Reread post. It’s been a uniquely distracted few weeks on all levels, from the personal on up.

In any case, I felt I needed something light, something bright and simple and escapist, and Ten Mile Treasure seemed like just the thing. It’s a middle-grade book as we call such books now, published in 1981, and it’s set more or less in my backyard. The setup is classic: Four kids move with their parents to an old ranch. They deal with a family crisis. They find hidden treasure. They face off against a bad man and his nasty daughter. They solve a century-old mystery, and save the day.

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