April 2020


Antero strode through the mists of battle, bearing in his arms the Bloodblade. He kept it limber, his fingers tight at the top but loose at the bottom, to enable swift and brutal strikes with the dull red metal, suffused with runes that glowed a bright ochre.

“360 men died to make this blade,” Antero said.

Marjatta did not stir beneath her cloak, even as the furious winds of combat raged about her and Antero approached armed and menacing.

“We drained them of every last drop of their blood, boiled it down, and forged it into steel.”

“Then it’s true what your masters say,” said Marjatta. “A man can be forged into anything with the right tools.”

“Quite so,” said Antero. “But the Blood God is not merciless. He demands sacrifice, but not slaughter. You may submit to him and yet live. Or if you prefer, you may flee.”

“Very kind of you. But I choose the third option.”

“To die?” Antero was a handful of paces away now. “Well, I can oblige you if that’s your wish, but I had rather hoped you might live.”

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Bushmill™ Irish Whiskey

Writing Irish: Selected interviews with writers from the Irish literary supplement by James P. Myers.

It’s been said that great sadness and great libations make great writers, which may explain the many titans of literature that have come from Ireland, both Northern and Republic of.


Chardonnay

A New Ballad: The Bottle of Wine and Butler, author unknown.

Drinking songs have been big for ages, but after the invention of the printing press, songs of all kinds became big business, and were printed and sold in huge numbers. The actual musical notes were published starting in the 1850s, and were the most popular entertainment you could buy until recorded music arrived.


Hummus

Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel by Yael Raviv.

Who owns a food? Who gets to say what is, or is with it? Everything, from humble chickpea spread on up, comes from somewhere and says something in someone’s eyes. But who decides?


Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South edited by E. Patrick Johnson.

Many northerners have never heard of sweet tea, never seen it, but it is there all the same, visible or invisible. The same is true of our people; you may not see them, or hear of them, but they are there, and they are worth celebrating.


Pinto Beans

New Border Voices: an Anthology edited by Brandon D Shuler.

We say that certain foods and tastes are “south of the border,” but the plants themselves know no borders. They grow where they grow, and it’s up to us to make meaning, and meals, from them.

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Red wine

French wine: a history by Rod Phillips.

People enjoy wining about how nothing quite stacks up to a snifter of Merlot from Bordeaux, but how is it that France developed its mastery of sour grapes? And can any of us Yanks really tell the difference between a good red wine and melted popsicles without reading the label first?


Coffee with Italian Sweet Cream

Popes, peasants, and shepherds: recipes and lore from Rome and Lazio by Oretta Zanini De Vita.

What makes Italian cream, Italian cheese, Italian bread worthy of that designation of origin? History, religion, and a healthy heaping of traditional recipes, that’s what.


Chocolate

Chocolate: A Global History by Sarah Moss.

How did a bitter drink of Native American kings become the world’s favorite sweet? What steps lie between the humble cacao bean and the processed bar of chocolate we smoosh into a s’more? Unwrap these questions and more with this handy volume.


Mashed Potatoes

The Vortex: A Novel by José Eustasio Rivera.

The Irish are most associated with potatoes in pop culture, but few know that spuds are native to South America, which has the most spudiversity of anyplace. But like the rubber trees of this epochal Columbian novel, the natural riches of South America ferment a potent brew of exploitation.


Coffee and Pie

A Broad-Side Against Coffee, corrected and published, as very proper for this age by J.H.

Once upon a time, coffee was extremely controversial and seen as a moral and religious failing—something blamed in no uncertain terms on far-off and dangerous foreigners. Who knows what we, today, turn up our noses at in righteous indignation that may one day be accepted? Preachers on their second cup of the day would do well to take note.

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Golden Flake™ Vinegar and Salt Chips

Crunch: A History of the Great American Potato Chip by Dirk Burhans.

While eating them is a snap, the history of everyone’s favorite sack of spuds is as warped, twisted, and green as the weird chip left in the bottom of the bag. Remember: you can’t read just one.


Crab Legs

Fishing Yesterday’s Gulf Coast by Barney Farley.

Scuttlebutt has it that this legendary fishing guide had claws for alarm when he realized that the commercial shrimp and crab fishing boats were destroying his beloved waters. Follow his journey from consumer to conservationist as he tackles a problem that’s even worse today than in the 1960s.


Orange

Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice by Alissa Hamilton.

Dive into this pulp romance and learn the sweet and sour truth about the ‘healthy’ beverage that is America’s main squeeze. Just don’t blame us if it’s a seedy story.


Tacos

The informal American city: from taco trucks to day labor by Vinit Mukhija.

The best tacos come from unregulated street trucks; the best bargains come from untaxed garage sales; the best Gucci purses are fakes spread out for sale. But why is this, and why is the trend accelerating in large American cities? We’re in a time of uncertainty for these very cottage industries, and if we’re not careful, the venerable taco truck may go the way of the dodo truck.


Vegetarian mezze

The vegetarian crusade: the rise of an American reform movement, 1817-1921 by Adam D. Shprintzen.

While we tend to view leafing meat off the table as a recent innovation, many utopians in the 19th century were all-in on their own form of green movement. What brought on this first wave of vegetarianism, and why did so many vegetopias fail within their first few years? We know you’ve bean curious.

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Taro Milk Tea

Polynesian mythology & ancient traditional history of the New Zealanders as furnished by their priests and chiefs by George Grey.

Most people know taro root as a health food staple, but it’s also one of the oldest staple crops in the world and a key food source in the great Polynesian migrations. Read about this history of these epic voyages as filtered through the stodge of a late-1800s British aristocrat.


Ginja

The Relic: A Novel by José Maria De Eça de Queirós.

Ginja is a potent Portuguese spirit, and so was José Maria De Eça de Queirós. His novel “The Relic” is as intoxicating as sacramental wine but far funnier, and if you didn’t ask its age you’d have no idea it was 133 years old.


Cheesesteak

The contagious city: the politics of public health in early Philadelphia by Simon Finger.

The city of brotherly love looms large in American history, but even in its early days the city needed to clean up its act. The roots of public health and sanitation have never been more relevant, and the politicians involved are just as dirty then as they are now.


Earl Grey Tea

The Little Tea Book by Arthur Gray.

While we may associate tea, Earl Grey, hot, with a utopian vision of the future that may never come to pass, Prime Minister Charles Grey boldly went where no host had gone before when he served tea with bergamot. This tea book by Arthur Gray (no relation) can help with the steep learning curve.


White Claw™ Seltzer

The legacy of carbon dioxide: past and present impacts by Paul J. Karol.

While fizzy water makes for sparkling conversation, the molecule behind the bubble has a checkered past. Necessary for life, but hardly an ideal gas.

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Matt leaned toward the microphone. “Explorer’s log, entry 1171. Our mission continues, with no end in sight. The confines of this vessel, which once felt so spacious, are now beginning to be felt. My copilot’s quirks, which were once so harmless, have taken on the aura of chalkboard nails. I remain confident that we will be able to disembark eventually, but I hope our supplies last to that point.”

Kevin looked over, annoyed. “Copilot?” he said. “You think you could upgrade me to ‘roommate’ at least, if I can’t be ‘brother?'”

Turning away, Matt continued. “Supplies, especially toilet paper, must be carefully rationed for the duration of the voyage. Any resupply trip runs a fraught risk of a hostile environment and native life, and even those few we have been able to undertake have proven largely fruitless.”

“Yeah, I’ll just steer the apartment down to the grocery store for you,” Kevin said. “Land on the roof. It’ll be fun.”

Picking up his computer, Matt retreated to the balcony. “The one bright spot has been the establishment, by me, of a hydroponic farm on the recreation deck,” he said. “It is my hope that soon it will be able to feed us and free us from dependence on trading with dangerous, and desperate, and toxic, alien worlds.”

Kevin, who had followed, leaned on the doorframe. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “That sad little cherry tomato plant and that baby jalapeño are the solution to all of our quarantine problems.”

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Upon arrival, you will be sorted into one of our five societies:

The Gearsworth Society
Founded by Professor Gertrude Gearsworth, this society prizes mechanical aptitude and the music of fine, interlocking parts. Gadgets are the order of the day, and any force is multiplied many times over.

The Difference Engineers
Founded by CALCUVAC-2, this society favors software approaches to problems and trusts to the infinite wisdom of The Cloud. If you can’t upload your consciousness into a computer mainframe a few times a day, what are you really doing with your life?

The Applied Phlebotinum Group
Founded by Dr. Hans von Kabaum, this society is intensely interested in physical chemistry and is constantly inventing new, useless, and dangerous compounds. Learn to brew molecular acid in your dormitory coffee pot!

The Glow
Founded by Chancellor [REDACTED], the Glow takes an interest in high-energy physics and only high-energy physics. If it can’t be used to end all life on Earth as a side-effect of weaponized use, why bother?

The Splicer Circle
Founded by Lady Catherine Pavlova, the Splicer Circle is all about biological engineering through hybridization, selective breeding, and good old fashioned gene-splicing. Your octo-parrot will agree that this is a growing–one might say enveloping–field!

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“You are always traveling. Why is that?”

The man was seated on an airliner as it lifted off, and Pathosis was with him as he did so. He did not feel well enough to travel, but felt that he had no choice.

“When I was younger, I would have said that it was to see the world,” the man said, with a pained smile. “But the truth is, it all looks the same. The same buildings, the same boardrooms, the same suits. The only thing that ever changes is which side of the road people drive on.”

“Then why continue?”

This sobered the man, and he was quiet for a time as the sun set outside the airliner’s porthole. “I suppose,” he said at length, “my job has become my identity. My life. I could stop. I could probably live on what I already have. But I wouldn’t have anything to live for. I’d be rattling around the house at loose ends.”

“Is that so bad?” Pathosis said.

“It is for me,” the man sighed. He tugged at his lapels. “This suit is as much to convince the guy in the mirror as it is the people across the table. I never married, you know. Never had kids. This job, a cat, and an apartment is that there is to me. I couldn’t stand to lose it, because that would mean…”

He trailed off again, coughing drily.

“That would mean?”

“That is was all for nothing.” The businessman smiled. “I have ten years to go before they make me retire, and I might be able to string them along for a little bit even after that. I’ve still got time to make my mark.”

Pathosis did not respond. She could see the armor the man had built up around himself, the shining crystal plates deflecting what he did not, or could not, confront. She could not crack it, even as the end approached.

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“Well now, that’s more like it.” Pobblebonk chewed greedily on the jerky, pausing only to spit a little gristle here and there.

“Now,” said Thistlethwaite. “There’s more where that came from if you follow through on your end of the bargain.”

“One moment, good captain.” Juices still running down his chin, Pobblebonk trotted off and returned a moment later with an oilskin. “When your schooner put in, they built a cairn with this and a few supplies in it. I took the supplies as a little rent against their charges for the use of my harbor, but I suppose the message is yours now that you’ve settled up.”

Thistlethwaite took the oilskin and unwrapped it, revealing paper–the torn out front and back leaves of some books, by the looks of them. The first note was written in ink and a bold hand:

LANDFALL 30 JUNE 1805
Ten Men from a Crew of Fourteen
Bound for the Antipodes
Stopped here for Repairs and Provisions

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Q: Why do you always need to make sure that a vampire is dead?

A: You’re just checking for mistakes.

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