From The Great Round Table of Fantasy Bloggers
Let’s talk about food in fantasy. We eat when we’re depressed or lonely. We eat to celebrate holidays and rituals. Eating is a part of life just like seeking shelter and intimacy. And, though we often do it just for the fun of it, it’s definitely listed in the category of things we must do to survive. Quite simply we eat to live.
My favorite authors are the ones who manage to create men and women with the most human characteristics–men and women who enjoy roasting a yam over an open fire or sharing a pot of gumbo with a friend. These are the authors whose work I enjoy and the ones I take notes from to improve my own writing skills.
Food, I’ve realized, is part of the mosaic of a character’s life. Food in fantasy, in all fiction, is an extension of one’s plot–an extension of what is driving the novel.
To illustrate my point here are two excerpts from my first novel, Immortal.
At exactly 8:00 he knocked on her door.
This time, Karla had dressed more casually in jeans and a sleeveless shirt, trimmed to reveal her ebony midriff. She wore hoop earrings, and a silver chain was wrapped about her belly. Joseph was dressed in jean and boots, his hair hanging loose about his shoulders.
The flat was decorated with paintings and glazed pottery, but little furniture. There was a futon, and a coffee table. Just outside the kitchenette, stood another table with two chairs. Colorful rugs decorated the wooden floors. Beyond the living area, he glimpsed a four poster bed.
“Did you have any trouble finding me?” Karla asked.
He shook his head. “Nope.” Especially since I spent last night across the hall.
One of her paintings drew Joseph’s eye: hanging on the wall beside the console, was an oil rendition of a dark woman: her eyes were closed and there was a look of rapture upon her face. An arm was wrapped about the neck of the Copper man standing behind her, his intertwined about her waist, his face bent towards hers.
She’s got good taste.
“You like it?”
“Very much; I can’t wait to read your stories.”
Karla averted her eyes. “The food’s ready.”
The table was loaded with vegetables, protein sautéed in buttered garlic and fresh bread. As Joseph sat down, Karla emerged from the kitchen with a carafe of red wine.
“I don’t drink. I’m sorry, I should have told you.”
“No problem, somebody in the building will drink it.” A tiny smile played about her lips. “I don’t drink either. I haven’t for years.” She put the wine back in the cold box, extracted two glasses of cold tea from her liquids machine, and placed them on the table.
Both could feel the tension mounting between them. They were moving into deep waters. Karla knew she must tell him about her dreams.
There was a knock at the door and she jumped. Get it together girl, that’s the twins.
She walked into the living room, picked up her remote and pointed it at the entrance. It slid open and the eight-year-old twins,Carlos Jr. and Ashley, small and brown like their mother, ran inside. Ashley’s shoulder length braids were tied off with ribbons.
“Good morning Karla,” they sang in unison, hugging her.
“Good morning love bugs. What do you want for breakfast?”
”Waffles,” said Ashley.
Carlos Jr. flapped his hand at his sister. “You always want waffles. Make mine French toast.”
When Karla and the twins’ mother had first become friends, Tatiana and Carlos were both working nights, and she’d offered to make breakfast for their children during the week. That was two years ago. Now Tatiana worked as a beautician, although her mate still worked evening shifts at the metal emporium.
But fixing meals for the twins had become a habit Karla didn’t want to break. She was crazy about them, and Topaz’s food prices were next to nothing.
“Coming right up.” The dark woman took milk and breakfast pellets from her cold box, and slid the nuggets into a diamond shaped oven. In twenty seconds, they expanded with heat.
“Done,” the oven announced. The children sat at the table, just outside the kitchenette.
In these two very different passages food is one of the metaphors used to bring my characters together on a very basic and ultimately human level. And are our characters not human? If we prick them do they not bleed upon the printed page? So why shouldn’t they eat? Why shouldn’t they come together to celebrate life, to work out their problems, to enjoy each other’s company?
Indeed they must for the story to become real. For food, in life, brings us together for so many reasons. And art, real art, imitates life.
Valjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novels Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books 1 and 2) and the space opera, Colony.
Valjeanne is a knight in the Traveling Round Table of Bloggers. She is also a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She has been published under both Valjeanne Jeffers and Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson. Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First Family, from the Editors of Essence, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Pembroke Magazine, Revelry, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award.
Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine,Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press), and Steamfunk! (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q & V Affordable editing.
Preview or purchase her novels at her personal site.
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