Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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I don’t read much short fiction, but —

As you know, I don’t read a lot of short fiction. But as we approach the end of the Hugo nomination period, various people have been sharing links to short stories and novelettes and novellas, and so I have Linda S to thank for sending me the link to “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer.

Linda said that she doesn’t know about nominating this story because it really doesn’t have any particular speculative elements, and that’s true. But if it seems SF enough for Clarksworld, what the heck, it’s SF enough for me and I’ll probably wind up nominating it. It’s a story in the form of a cooking blog, and honestly, THAT IS SO CLEVER.

This is a food blog, not a disease blog, but of course the rumors all over about bird flu are making me nervous. I don’t know about you, but I deal with anxiety by cooking. So much cooking. But, I’m trying to stick to that New Year’s resolution to share four healthy recipes (entrées, salads, sides . . . ) for every dessert recipe I post, and I just wrote about those lemon meringue bars last week. So even though I dealt with my anxiety yesterday by baking another batch of those bars, and possibly by eating half of them in one sitting, I am not going to bake that new recipe I found for pecan bars today. No! Instead, I’m going to make my friend Carole’s amazing roast chicken. Because how better to deal with fears of bird flu than by eating a bird, am I right?

Here’s how you can make it yourself. You’ll need a chicken, first of all. Carole cuts it up herself but I’m lazy, so I buy a cut-up chicken at the store. You’ll need at least two pounds of potatoes. You’ll need a lemon and a garlic bulb. You’ll need a big wide roasting pan. I use a Cuisinart heavy-duty lasagna pan, but you can get by with a 13×9 cake pan….

So you can see just where that story is going from this beginning, can’t you?

The pros:

The format is just super-clever.
The narrator’s voice is distinctive and charming.
The recipes are fun to read and, at least at first, sound like they’d be perfectly usable recipes.
The tone is never hopeless or grim, even as times get dark.

The cons:

Does this story actually, you know, end?

Oh, I know, you can see those last couple of paragraphs as a kind of ending, and I suppose the entire last post does provide closure of a sort. And yet I did go check and make sure I didn’t miss some other part of the story that might have continued.

If you read this, I really want to know, what do you think of the ending? Thumbs up or thumbs down? How WOULD you end something like this? After all, blogs don’t end exactly, do they, at least we hope our favorite blogs aren’t going to end. So maybe the format suggests an ending like this one: One where you can easily imagine the next post and the next as life gets more back to normal. Maybe Kritzer actually chose to end like this because of that kind of idea of how blogs don’t feel finished. What do you think?

As an added note, I also really enjoyed this brief short story by Kritzer: “Cat Pictures Please.” Sounds like Kritzer and I would have lots to talk about if we actually met! In the meantime, a google search tells me that she has written a handful of novels. Based on these stories, I think I will just slide on over to Amazon and add one to my TBR pile.

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6 Comments I don’t read much short fiction, but —

  1. Elaine T

    I just mentioned Kritzer down in the ‘handles religion well’ thread. Do check back and report which you got and how you liked it. We turn out to have five of her novels on the shelf, although I only remember reading the first two.

  2. Mary Beth

    Thanks for sharing both of those. I really like the sense of hopefulness threaded throughout both of them: for humanity in COOKING, with an ordinary woman whose love and compassion make her heroic; and for the AI in CATS, who really just does want to help.

    (I’ve run into a couple of benevolent AIs before, and I love ’em. Lovelace in THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET comes to mind, as well as Athoek Station and Mercy of Kalr. Would welcome recommendations for more!)

    As for COOKING, I was surprised at the ending, but I think it works — there’s a resolution to the immediate threat in Natalie’s home, and a sense that life will go on no matter what future challenges arise. I’d have liked the ending to be signaled a bit better, but I’m not sure how it could have been.

  3. Elaine T

    I just read the story. The ending… Thumb tilted down – no clear signal this was the end. Yeah, I know, blogs are like that, but I would have liked a bit more of something indicate a story end. Maybe another entry mentioning various supplies are getting easier to get – something more to signal an overall improvement and close out the tale.

    Otherwise it was humane and cleverly done and I enjoyed it.

  4. Rachel

    I’m glad you liked the stories!

    I kind of think I’m leaning toward ending-didn’t-really-work-for-me personally, but still, really liked both stories.

    Mary Beth, David Feintuch’s series starting with Midshipman’s Hope features various AI’s, one of which is particularly admirable (that AI is not in the first book, though). They’re all minor characters, but still.

    The first book is self-contained, but the rest of the books in the series don’t stand alone all that well except for the last, which I didn’t really like. Also, fair warning, the angst quotient is high for the series. Even so, I loved the first book in particular and have re-read the whole series several times.

  5. Rachel

    Also, Elaine, yes, I hope I get to the Kritzer novel fairly soon, but I probably won’t. The one I picked up is Freedom’s Gate.

  6. Allan

    Huh. I had the same reaction as everyone else here, which is that I looked for a link to the rest of the story. Cool set up and an interesting structure. But IMO that’s not an ending.

    I agree with Linda that it doesn’t push my sci-fi buttons, also.

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