Too Long in Cold-Sleep: A Return to the Outworlds in “This Virtual Night”

Chicago Review of Books

This Virtual Night returns us to “The Outworlds,” C.S. Friedman’s quietly intriguing science-fictional universe. The world Friedman painted in 1998’s This Alien Shore, a cyberpunk-flavored space adventure, felt ahead of its time: entire cultures built around physical and mental diversity, with strange and evocative embellishments. In this future, humanity settled distant planets using a star-drive that, unknown to the settlers, would cause great mental and physical mutations in their children. After a horrified Earth cuts off all contact with the colonies, they develop their own cultures, accepting and embracing their differences, and eventually discover a new system of faster-than-light travel that lets them reconnect with Earth and each other.

Set a few decades after the events of This Alien Shore, This Virtual Night follows Ru Gaya, who has just returned from a disastrous attempt to contact a lost colony. Because outriders like Ru are known for their adaptability…

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First Buckwheat Sourdough


Continuing to experiment with different kinds of flour. This was my first time scalding a flour, after seeing a number of buckwheat recipes calling for that. It seemed to work quite well; will probably be trying it for some ryes in the future.

Buckwheat Sourdough

  • 120g buckwheat flour (.3)
  • 280g high-protein bread flour (.7)
  • 360g water (.85)
  • 80g starter (.2)
  • 8g salt (.02)

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Chocolate Sourdough, Take 2


Tried a version of this a while ago and wanted to tweak it; this came out really nicely. “Chocolate bread” is maybe a little weird, conceptually, but I really like the mix of mildly sweet & bitter. This isn’t quite dessert-like—there’s no sugar added other than what’s in the cherries & chocolate chunks—but it’s really tasty.

Chocolate Sourdough 2.0

This is based on an 800g flour base that I split in half for two different loaves.

  • 500g bread flower (.625)
  • 220g light rye flower (.275)
  • 80g cocoa powder (.10)
  • 695g water (.87)
  • 120g starter (.15)
  • 15g salt (.019)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 170g dried sour cherries (.21)
  • 280g dark chocolate chunks (.35)

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Updates from Our Timeless Limbo

Everybody limbo!

I haven’t felt like sharing much online in a bit, but coming out of it! I’ve been officially laid off since the beginning of July, which is not that much different than being on furlough, except now I’m just in a…different strange space. Fortunately, Alison & I are in an okay spot. Still no idea what the future holds, especially as regards the hospitality industry.

Cycling a lot, baking, doomscrolling, trying to get to some protests. We’ve been trying to adopt a second dog since March–Tip needs a friend–but all the dog-foster places are finding homes for them really quickly, so no luck yet.

Going full-bore on a Cherryh re-read, and some of these covers are real doozies:



Positron Report!

Coming up for air (oh hey Ben) after a couple weeks where almost all my computer-time was going towards the project I mentioned last time—putting together a big report on reading patterns from science fiction book clubs in Chicago. Pretty excited to have this out there:

The Positron 2020 Report

For context: I’ve been running a website, Positron Chicago, since late 2014, whose main purpose is to keep track of speculative fiction book discussions in the greater Chicagoland area. The Report takes all the calendar data about those meetings, and then sifts them for info about most-discussed books, gender & race balance, how recently the discussed books were published, and more.

Well, I say “sift”; “laboriously wrestled into graphable tables” is more accurate. I’m finding it weirdly difficult to remember exactly what was going through my head when I started this project. Quaran-times are strange times. I definitely did not anticipate it growing into the size and complexity it did.


Overall my favorite chart, I think

Initially, I was mostly interested in just seeing what the most-discussed titles were. Once I had that, though, I started seeing ways to look at how much the groups overlapped. Publication date, genre, and author gender & race were all things I had to look up and add—the calendar only records things as, for example, “‘Ancillary Justice’ by Ann Leckie @ Chicago Nerd Social Club”; I had to add everything else. I kept being like “it’d be way too hard to add/analyze this thing” and then “ah, but it would be awful interesting to see”. Continue reading

Data, photos, listen to Saint Cloud already

Today I wrestled with a bunch of spreadsheets and freaked out about accidentally brewing a potato coffee, so, you know: an unexpected burst of pre-covid normality.


Working on a project I’ve been vaguely mulling over for a while. I’ve got a hefty amount of data from updating the Positron calendar (Chicagoland SFF book clubs) for years now, and have been wanting to take an objective look at that for a while. It’s a strange subset of information, and at the mercy of my own calendrical skills, but I’ve been wondering for a while what the megatext for Chicago-area reading SF fandom is like.

Also, it’s been an excuse to polish some Excel skills and get into a weird data/coding flowstate for a couple days. Tons to clean up format-wise before I can extract information usefully, additional info to look up and add. Will probably have something together to share before long. Continue reading

A Partial Long List (fiction)

img_20200421_110538200_hdrWhen I posted my personal short list of books—top-shelf, re-read frequently—Tim requested a follow-up: books that were on that list at some point, but kind of shuffled off it for whatever reason. A much longer list, once I thought about it—I’m a fairly voracious re-reader, and I’ve always tended to have a couple works that I hit up a lot for some period, trying to extract (or perhaps inject) more meaning. Some of these I still re-read a bit, some I’ve outgrown. These are just of the novel variety; I’ll have to put together a non-fic list sometime. Continue reading

Miscellaneous Updates

Time has come unmoored, and it feels like we’re all in a bottle episode. On the other hand, spring is finally feeling like it’s here for real. I’m finding myself pretty lacking in a linear narrative for the last week or so,  but there’s been some developments, I suppose.

My sister and brother-in-law made the move to Chicago. It’s a strange time to be starting in a new city, but I’m glad they got out of Florida.

I went for a long-ish bike ride yesterday. Lakefront trail is closed, but thus far most of the other long trails up north still seem to be open. There were a lot of folks out, but people seemed to be following good distancing practices. I’m also seeing a lot of masks, not sure where people are finding them—not that I’ve been out to stores to look, I guess. Continue reading

86 the bar


I apparently don’t have a single shot of me behind the bar. Anyway, here’s a Calder.

Yesterday, Intelli made the call to keep the coffeebars closed until some unknown time in the future.

Feeling a lot of things.

I was totally unsurprised by the decision, and honestly in the face of this pandemic I think it’s the smartest thing for a bit. But it still hits. Glad they were able to cover folks’ pay and insurance for a while.

Feeling…I don’t even know what. A lot of my identity’s in the coffee industry, and I don’t know when I’ll be back in it, or what it will look like. Worried about baristas and other service-industry working folks. I’m having some pretty bleak panic-visions of retail generally, to be honest—real worried that a lot of businesses aren’t going to make it through this next little bit.

Also feeling weirdly relieved to be out of the limbo of the last couple weeks. Of course, now I’m just in a bigger limbo for who knows how long.

Going to try to take some this time and energy to get some more writing and other projects done.

Feeling real weird about not making drinks for people.


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