It’s time to begin our discussion on April’s fantasy book of the month club selection: The Empire of Ice Cream. But rather than subject you all to my rambling thoughts (Trust me. There will be plenty of time for that in tomorrow’s post.), I‘m going to turn today’s entry over to author Jeffrey Ford who has come bearing some truly awesome gifts: 1) a brief introduction, and 2) an exclusive unfinished story he would love to have you weigh in on. Take it away, Jeff…

“First off, I want to thank Joe and the members of the reading group for having me over to discuss my collection, The Empire of Ice Cream. I promise to answer all of your questions, whatever they might be about, myself or my fiction, as honestly as possible. I hope everyone got some reading pleasure from the book, but to think that all of you liked every story would be foolish, so I hope you as well will be as honest as possible in letting me know which ones you thought stinkers in addition to the ones you thought good. Believe me, I won’t be put off. I wanted to have some kind of introductory blog post to kick things off, so I decided to present to you a piece of a story, unfinished, that I’ve been working on for years. This has never appeared anywhere else. I’ve only gotten this far with it, and now I’m stumped. I was wondering if you might like to throw out some ideas as to where you think it could go. I’m not looking for a formal exegesis, just whatever kinds of thoughts strike you about it. Instead of me rambling on about my snore-inducing biography or “writing process,” I thought, amidst the discussion of The Empire of Ice Cream, we could engage in something creative. If you’re not into it, no sweat. It’s up to you. ”


Recipe For a Journey to Quibo

I had seen it in a book once, a recipe for a dish that when consumed one hour before retiring would invariably make the sleeper dream of visiting a beautiful city called Quibo. Each time the individual would eat of this food, they would return to that mist rimmed metropolis in some far flung north country of the mind nestled between two mountains, facing the sea. There was an illustration, a lithograph, accompanying the recipe and it showed a scene from the municipal zoo — a cage holding a winged creature situated amidst a stand of flowering oleander. The name I have since substituted for the creature, Zasheel, a kind of flying cat with a human female head, is not right. I know I have adopted that name from my neighbor’s wife. The mistake, though, is persistent and no matter how often I try to banish it in order to make room for a true memory I can not.

When exactly I first saw the recipe, I am not sure, but I imagined It must have been about twenty years ago when I began my position as subordinate librarian. Back then, it was my job to catalogue the new volumes that were flooding in from all of the villages and towns and cities that subsequently fell to our advancing armies. The empire was in high gear then, and the Emperor would sooner kill a thousand people than their culture. Paintings, sculpture, mechanical devices, musical instruments, and books, theological, philosophical, scientific, poetic, left their scorched dead lands and journeyed great distances to finally rest in ours. Those who had once owned these items would not surrender themselves, and since he could not have their souls, the Emperor took the physical manifestations of their imaginations. Sometimes, at night, in the catacombs of the library, I could hear the ghostly voices of the true owners of those stolen volumes reading in whispers the words of all that was left of them.

It was summer, I believe, that I came upon the book in question. We had had a great trove of tomes come in from a palace discovered in a jungle near the equator. No battle took place in the procurement of this batch, though. Jungle vines and monkeys had long since replaced any human population there. I was told they were found in a sealed vault within a stepped pyramid embellished with the faces of angry gods. The thing that interested me about them was that they were written in an ancient yet understandable version of the language of our own empire. This led me to believe that in their long history they, themselves, had been pilfered in a forgotten war waged against our ancestors.

They were huge, lovely volumes, bound in a thick leather, perhaps the hide of the rhinoceros or elephant, and inlaid with gold lettering on the spine. The end pages were pliant thin mirrors that could be bent like paper and rendered a perfect reflection. The hand that transcribed them was obviously that of a great artist. Amid all of the gyring and looped flourishes there was total clarity in the reading and not one noticeable mistake. I was dissuaded from taking time to peruse any of the volumes I catalogued and repaired (all the subjects of the empire were to be merely compliant automata, rendering service devoid of opinion or thought), but with these I could not help myself. I waited until the stillness of late afternoon, when my superiors would retire for an hour or so to take a brief nap, and then I laid them open and marveled at their covert mysteries.

Many of these books recounted ancient history, some of which I was familiar with. There was an epic in two volumes dedicated to the tale of Relkin’s tragic war with the animal kingdom. There was one concerning the funerary practices of a secret society, whose members were interred in live trees, and another dealing with the movement of heavenly bodies. Then, I came upon a book of recipes — a volume thinner than the rest, bound in some soft reddish brown hide still retaining its fur. I made out the language without much difficulty and discovered that the concoctions of foods listed therein each had a purpose either medical or sexual or spiritual. The last one I was able to peruse before I heard my supervisor calling for me, was the recipe for a journey to Quibo. Not wanting to lose my position, which kept me from serving in the military, I quickly closed the volume and left it on my work table.

When I returned later that afternoon, I found the book missing. One of the other subordinates had most likely catalogued it and delivered it to its place in the library. I was not allowed access to the catalogue, and when I was sent to look for a particular volume, I was given only its number without a description of the work. In my travels through the stacks, I searched for it in order to get another glimpse of that recipe that, if my memory served me well, was not very involved. For weeks following, in my daily travels through the palatial library, I kept my eyes open for a thin length of reddish brown fur wedged in among the other upright spines of the hundreds of thousands of volumes, but to no avail. Eventually more books came flooding in and my interest in it was supplanted by the necessities of my life and duties of my position. Still, occasionally, I would picture the lithograph of that caged beast, recalling the sight of the column of instructions and ingredients that could take me to it.

It was well after I was wed, well after the births of my sons that the memory of it returned. I could trace the reoccurrence of my recollection of it to the very day I was awarded the post of chief librarian. That day I was initiated into the secrets of the library, allowed to view the hundred volume catalogue that contained descriptions of each of the texts now under my care. My predecessor sat with me for two hours and related to me my new duties. I had always thought him a rude and self-important prig, but on this day he was warm and friendly, taking time to warn me as to which were the administrators of the empire who might try to give me trouble. He whispered to me the hidden politics of the library and the empire in general. Then he said, with a smile on his face, “You have at your fingertips now the incredible power of the world’s knowledge, from the most remote cultures, from humanity’s earliest age.” When he finally handed me the keys to the enormous oaken door of the place, he breathed a sigh of relief as if he were freeing himself from irons. He appeared very old and frail on that day, and when he pointed his long index finger at me his hand shook uncontrollably. The last thing he said was, “Remember, you can dictate the course of the empire by what volumes you suggest the Emperor and his retinue read.”

Later during the celebration at my house, a party attended by powerful dignitaries, I danced with my wife to our wedding song. As we turned in circles, I remembered what my predecessor had said, and the weight of this responsibility made me slightly dizzy. When the dance was over, I stepped out on the veranda for some air, and it was then, as I gazed out over the distant marshes glimmering with moonlight that the memory of the book of recipes reawakened in me. That night, I had a dream that I was in a small boat, traveling through tight waterways in the dark, searching to no avail for a passage to Quibo.

The years passed and I performed my duties as chief librarian without reproach, but as my eldest son began to mature toward the age of military inscription, I decided to work through words to try to bring an end to the empire’s bloody devotion to expansion. I had taken pains to learn the contents of the books within my care, and so slowly, imperceptibly, I began suggesting certain volumes, like ingredients in a complex recipe, to the Emperor and his counsel. The Emperor was a reader and valued books as a child does for the adventure and imagination contained in them. He was also very near the end of his days, and so through the certain works I mentioned, suggested, foisted upon him, I brought him to a realization that peace was the greatest gift a monarch might give to his people. With this the tide of the empire began to receed and the importance of the military to diminish.

I thought myself very clever when I began to notice the changes wrought by my plan. My son escaped military service as did his younger brother. A great lull of quietude settled over the empire and for a few years a contented happiness reigned. In this time, I searched relentlessly through the catalogue and stacks for the book of recipes. To all my subordinates, I offered a reward for the one who might locate the thin volume sporting reddish brown fur. I racked my brain for details from that one time I had read about the city of Quibo, and this is where my memory and the facts of my life began to mingle together with things I had read in the thousands of other volumes I had peered into over the course of twenty years.

The incident of having fleetingly glimpsed my neighbor’s wife, naked in her bedroom window one evening, became grafted to my memory of the winged creature in the cage and it borrowed her name. Facts I had garnered about actual cities and towns crushed by the empire became the un-truths of Quibo. Streets I traveled from the library to my home became the streets of the dream city. And I knew as sure as water is wet that it was all wrong, all maddeningly fallacious. Those frustrating nightly attempts to find passage to that city nestled between two mountains became more frequent, and I would wake in the morning, my arms moving the phantom oars of a dream boat, or I would be calling out for help as I was hopelessly lost in some night bound mountain pass or a searing desert where flying reptiles circled above in a pink sky.

Irony, a device well used by many of the writers whose work was now in my charge, grew wings and flapped about my head, for it came to pass that I began to suffer from insomnia over the lost recipe. Sleep had become so arduous, what with my nightly impossible journeys, that I no longer had the strength to close my eyes and dream. I tried to ignore my inability to escape the waking world and adopted the routine of going out for a walk once the household was silent. On these moonlit journeys, I kept to the alleyways and little traveled paths of the capital city as it would not do for me to be seen…



69 thoughts on “April 21, 2008: Author Jeffrey Ford drops by to say hello and get your opinion on a work in progress…

  1. Mr. Ford,
    The new story sounds fantastic and while I let it mull in the back of my mind I will make a couple of comments about The Empire of Ice Cream. First off I thought the book was great. My favorite story hands down was Botch Town. You captured the feeling of being free and sometimes fearful that comes with childhood. The story made me laugh out loud (mostly the comments of the older brother) and I love that in a story. I also really enjoyed The Empire of Ice Cream although the ending made me sad. And Man of light which had a great concept. Jupiters skull was probably my least favorite. It was kind of creepy and a little gross and I’m not really sure I understood the ending. Finally my question, Is Higbee (did I spell that right?) Street a real street and did you grow up there?
    Thanks for a great read!

  2. Hello to Jeffrey Ford!
    Unfortunately, the library hasn’t got The Empire of Ice Cream, and I haven’t had a chance to visit the bookstore. I may read this one a bit late, but it will be read.
    The Short story posted would be easier to comment on if I had already read the book, but since not, I was wondering how it came to be in the first place?
    Was it an idea which came as a means to an end, and you’re just not there yet?
    Or was it a beginning that caught your fancy and you’re not sure what you’re working towards?
    Or was it an idea that came to you, and you’re trying to form everything else around it?
    It seems like it’d be easier to know how to get somewhere when you know where you’re trying to get to. You don’t need a map, just a compass.

  3. Quibo. I wish I had something brilliant and insightful, but my mind doesn’t work that way. I have to think about things, in fact, I have to sleep on ideas, which invariably means dreaming. I often have traveling dreams, seeking dreams, and tonight that which is sought after will have a name. Quibo. Shall it be a place where one might find all knowledge, or where peace reigns, a surcease of sorrow, or will it be a chimera which can never be grasped save by the dreaming mind? An illusion of accomplishment, drawing the dreamer in so deeply that they are to be consumed by the caged beast and take its place, yearning to be set free by the next soul who consumes the dish? A dream, or ultimately a nightmare?

    While I do have a lot to say about the Empire of Ice Cream, I need to get my response to Jonathan Carroll’s introduction off my chest. As my friend Genius said, “Speak for yourself, buddy.” Mr. Carroll writes that adults lose the ability to say Wow, to let their imaginations fly free; adults are consumed with control and responsibility. I beg to differ. I do say Wow aloud, and often. My life is full of wow and wonder; we may inhabit the same planet, but Mr. Carrol and I live in very different worlds.

    Wow comes in many shapes and volumes; there is the wow of the Grand Canyon, the wow of miles of deserted white beaches in the Indian Ocean at sunset when all the sky is aflame. There is the wow of Time, when you trace your fingers over the figures on the grand staircase at Persepolis, or look into the face of Daibuhtsu in Kamakura. There is the wow of 15,000 people singing the chorus of Bye Bye American Pie a capella, the wow of fire spinners crating beauty with whirling fire. There is the Wow of monumental art and infrastructure, the Hoover Dam or Mt. Rushmore. But I get to wow a lot more than that, I get to wow at the monumental effort that goes into the creation of Burning Man. (yea, you folks knew I’d get there). Art in the desert, ephemeral, grand, standing only for a week on the playa in the Black Rock Desert and then gone. A pair of Big Rigs dancing in the air, solar cornfields, illuminated pools of dragonflies, funhouses and SteamPunk Treehouses and giant vipers breathing fire, Alien Semaphores talking to the dark night. More, so much more! I get to do that every year, I get to participate in magic and wonder. I fingerpaint and wear costumes all year, I build adult versions of blanket forts, I play. Genius says he thinks burners are different, we never lose our ability to say wow. My Inner Child is an Honor Student at Black Rock Elementary; Mr. Carroll’s inner child seems to be in a coma. Wake up! All of you, wake your inner child and teach yourself to Wow! again. The Empire of Ice Cream is a grand beginning, or return, but there’s so much more to wow about, do it! Wow now!

    My story comments will be in another post, but in the meantime, what are the tarot cards in your portrait? I see The Fool and The Hanged Man, is that The Moon and The Magician? Is there a story in those cards?

  4. Wow…I want more. I am intrigued not only by the search for Quibo but the character’s place. He has power and purpose and a desperate need to find this dream.

  5. Hey Joe, someone brought up an interesting question on the GW forum. From the outside the Ha’tak ships look 3 sided, but on the wall displays, they are 4 sided. Everyone had a different opinion to this, and I was wondering if there is any diffence in the shapes?

    I havn’t noticed, but……….

  6. Dagnabbit, no edit function …. I meant: A dream or a nightmare, but even when he finds the recipe, prepares the dish and is sated, given the insomnia, how will he escape his sleeplessness and make the journey? Not a nightmare at all, a trap of madness?

  7. Welcome, Jeffrey Ford!! *applause*
    Wow, what an honor for you to share with us a piece of your work as of yet unfinished…and to be open to OUR input?! Amazing.

    I’ll start by saying I LOVED the imagery conjured forth by this sentence: “Sometimes, at night, in the catacombs of the library, I could hear the ghostly voices of the true owners of those stolen volumes reading in whispers the words of all that was left of them.”

    That being said, what if the narrator’s night-time wanderings lead him back to the library’s catacombs, where he finds himself once again surrounded by those ghostly voices? Out of the whispers comes the name “Quibo”…did he really hear it, or was it simply a figment of his sleep-deprived mind? Curiosity peaked, obsession indulged, he follows the whispers and eventually finds the missing volume of recipes.

    He decides to take just one trip to Quibo, to see if it really is as beautiful as the recipe book suggests. One trip becomes two, two trips become three, and after a short while, he finds he’s spending more and more time in Quibo than in the real world of the Empire. The wonder and beauty of this far away land is all that he’d hoped for…and more.

    Suddenly, his duties as Chief Librarian, husband, and father become secondary to his trips to Quibo—trips that he makes daily, now. In his absence, the aged Emperor has died, and his successor to the throne is ready for change, determined to take the Empire back to its glory days of conquest and dominance. Without our Narrator’s influential reading suggestions to guide the new Emperor down the path of peace and harmony, the future of the Empire (and the surrounding towns and villages) looks bleak.

    Our Narrator thus is forced to decide between the beauty of the land of Quibo, and the fate of the Empire, hanging in the balance. What will he choose?

    Well, anyway…that’s my $1.25, for what it’s worth. Thanks again for sharing!! 🙂

  8. Welcome, Jeffrey Ford!! *applause*
    Wow, what an honor for you to share with us a piece of your work as of yet unfinished…and to be open to OUR input?! Amazing.

    I’ll start by saying I LOVED the imagery conjured forth by this sentence: “Sometimes, at night, in the catacombs of the library, I could hear the ghostly voices of the true owners of those stolen volumes reading in whispers the words of all that was left of them.”

    That being said, what if the narrator’s night-time wanderings lead him back to the library’s catacombs, where he finds himself once again surrounded by those ghostly voices? Out of the whispers comes the name “Quibo”…did he really hear it, or was it simply a figment of his sleep-deprived mind? Curiosity peaked, obsession indulged, he follows the whispers and eventually finds the missing volume of recipes.

    He decides to take just one trip to Quibo, to see if it really is as beautiful as the recipe book suggests. One trip becomes two, two trips become three, and after a short while, he finds he’s spending more and more time in Quibo than in the real world of the Empire. The wonder and beauty of this far away land is all that he’d hoped for…and more.

    Suddenly, his duties as Chief Librarian, husband, and father become secondary to his trips to Quibo—trips that he makes daily, now. In his absence, the aged Emperor has died, and his successor to the throne is ready for change, determined to take the Empire back to its glory days of conquest and dominance. Without our Narrator’s influential reading suggestions to guide the new Emperor down the path of peace and harmony, the future of the Empire (and the surrounding towns and villages) looks bleak.

    Our Narrator thus is forced to decide between the beauty of the land of Quibo, and the fate of the Empire, hanging in the balance. What will he choose?

    Well, anyway…that’s my $1.25, for what it’s worth. Thanks again for sharing!! 🙂

  9. Thank you, Mr. Ford. for honoring us with your guest appearance, and especially for the treat of the unfinished story. As far as ideas on “where it should go”, the immediate thought is that the Librarian should never find the missing volume. Perhaps he could encounter someone who has read, and tried the recipe. Perhaps, as an old man, failing eyes and mind might succeed in transporting him to Quibo where the missing recipe never could. However you end the tale, I look forward to seeing the final result.
    Onto The Empire of Ice Cream. It was available only in hardback, but I don’t regret the investment. The book opened with what for me was the most powerfully emotional story in the volume, The Annals of Eelin-Ok. The image of a world inhabited by magical creatures, living their lives with their own set of natural laws, was intriguing. And how Eelin Ok was fleshed out in less than 12 pages, in a series of “photographic time-shots’ was very effective. It was this story that had the most emotional impact on me (though I’ll deny that it was tears in my eyes; obviously it some eyelashes were irritating them).
    Jupiter’s skull was all the creepier a tale, for its placement immediately after the opening tale. The reader is forced into trying to decide what was fantasy, and what was reality, in the narrator’s “biography.” And my imagination was gripped by the Bolukuchet and the people who found themselves mired there. Another thumbs up story. A Night at the Tropics ended up being another “I Like” tale, though it wasn’t until late into the story that I really felt my interest take hold. How can one resist a cursed chess set, especially one with such delicious conditions to the curse? Next came the title story of the book, Empire of Ice Cream. From the very beginning this story had my attention. Using the unusual condition of synesthesia piqued my curiousity. The narrative was vivid, and was almost enough for me to imagine what it was like to “see” the world through cross-wired senses. Then the mystery girl, the use of coffee in its various forms to forge a link, and the final payoff. Supurb. My second favorite story in the book. Alas, The Beautiful Gelreesh failed to engage me, emotionally, or intellectually. One of the rare “I just don’t get it” stories one sometimes encounters. Boathman’s Holiday. While this one never “grabbed” me emotionally, I loved the story on an intellectual level. The whole idea of writing influencing the “reality” of the Afterlife really appealed to me, as did the concept that a mortal might take advantage of that fact in preparing for his own fate in the afterworld. And the use of Charon as the central character, the mixing of theologies, was like biting into a hot fudge sunday. The bliss of different tastes, temperatures, and textures really made me enjoy this tale too. Next came Botch Town. Besides being the longest story in the book, I must admit it’s also my least favorite. I didn’t find the horror elements to the tale particualry interesting, and the non-horror aspects of the story simply aren’t what I’m looking for in a fantasy story. I don’t know if reading the story “Present from the Past” might have made a difference here. I suspect it might have. A Man of Light was another creep-fest. The mystery of “the Man of Light”, his manipulations not only of physics but people, the “eww” factor of trepanning… while not one of my favorites in the collection, one I did enjoy reading. The Green Word. A well constructed story, that flowed smoothly, but…it didn’t engage me. In fact, of all the stories, this one I actually had to read a several lines before i could recall the story. Perhaps it’s the close parallels to historical events that puts me off this offering. Next was Giant Land, a story that most definitely falls into the fantasy catagory. Another story that didn’t pay off for me for the investment in the time of reading it. Normally I enjoy whirlwind/twisting/turn-you-on-your-head rides, but this one just sort of left me going “whaaa?” Coffins on the River was an improvement. I have to admit the idea of a series of paintings showing superheroes laid out in coffins made me chuckle, and actually distracted me from the main narrative. Another story leaving me wondering where reality ended and fantasy began, resulting in a feeling akin to that of the sense of weightlessness as one goes over the first drop on a roller coaster ride. The Weight of Words was another strong entry. For millenia now people have pondered and commented on the power of words. Here we have a tale where someone manages to tap into that power in a rather terrifying way. It was nice to have a story that ended in a rather upbeat way, the bad guys done in by the methods they utilized to gain their influence, power, and money. And this story does leaving you going “what if”, which is an excellent reflection on the abilities of the author to invoke a reaction from the reader. Finally, the Trentino kid. Like Botch Town, this story FEELS like a quasi-biographical offering. Unlike that story, I found this one to be more engaging. Here I found the elements of fantasy/horror to be subtle strokes that gave the story a delicious flavor that brought shivers at just the right moments. A good tone to end the book on. As I stated previously, I don’t regret paying hardcover price on this book, and I expect that it will be one of those I re-read periodically.
    I’d like to close with a couple of questions. Which do you prefer to write, short stories or novels? Do you have any particular conditions to write in, such as quiet/sunny room, particular music, or do you write as the Muse strikes? Hmm. that makes two. I’ll (finally) restrain myself and thank you once more for interacting with us in this venue, and thanks to Mr. M. for making it possible.

  10. WOW – that’s a great intro to a story (I think). It sounds – Incan? Mayan? That’s what it brought to my mind by the descriptions. Thoughts – poor random thoughts – does the emperor get insomnia, the librarian finds the book, the emperor reads it? Maybe Quibo is the “real” place and the librarian is the “story.” Heck, it almost sounds like some kind of writer’s challenge that I had in literature classes.

    I’d love to read it though, whenever you get it done. Definitely a vivid picture, but I felt like this was a first chapter and we’d be reading about the years in between – how the Empire started, the man became a librarian, the wars, the poor defunct civilizations…

    *waves at Joe* hi Joe! *waves at everyone else* hi everyone else!

  11. Hello Mr. Ford,
    Recipe For a Journey to Quibo…
    I am intrigued as the little bit you provided wet my appetite for more. Where could you go with it? Crazy, I think! It sounds like your librarian is in for a mind twisting adventure while his waking and sleeping moments are consumed with the endless search for a book containing something he thinks will set his mind free. The story is interesting, and I would love to read the rest of it, but alas, I have no real suggestions as to where you can go! But, thanks for sharing! And do let us know when it is finished as I look forward to seeing where you end up with this adventure.

    Thank you.

  12. Hmm…interesting setup. First, a few questions raised in my mind:

    Is the book bound in the fur of that winged animal? That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I read about the binding, and it could lead to some interesting connections, perhaps.

    Where is the backlash from this new peace? It seems to me that, with this idea of an empire that has been expanding and waging war on its neighbors for decades (at least), I quite expect for the neighboring countries to take advantage of this new peace to attack them in return.

    Is there a connection to Earth? I know this is just my own personal preference, but I like it when it turns out in the end that the ancient, mysterious civilization is, in fact, something familiar to the reader, rather than having every civilization be completely alien.

    I find this idea of a vast library which is only actually available to a select few rather interesting, because it seems kind of counter to the entire point of a library.

    As I went on reading, it seemed less and less that this actual recipe was important, that the major idea had more to do with what the idea of it was doing to the main character, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he never found the book. Maybe it turns out that he finds this mysterious dreamland, only in real life. Or maybe he finds the recipe and it turns out it’s just some very simple recipe for a common food, so that its magical properties are completely fictional, or the writer of the recipe was delusional or something.

  13. Maybe the book is not in the library maybe it was stolen by the subordinate who escapes nightly to Quibo.

  14. Hello Jeffrey Ford,

    I haven’t finished The Empire of Ice Cream yet, but I’m entranced so far.

    I found myself wishing the Eelin-Ok’s sandcastle had been built above the high tide so that he could have lived longer, but isn’t that what we all want – to live longer?

    Jupiter’s Skull creeped me out and left me confused.

    A Night in the Tropics was good and left me wondering who had drawn the mural since it related to the cursed chess set.

    My fave was The Empire of Ice Cream. To live you’re entire life thinking you were real and what you were seeing was a hallucination only to discover that you were indeed the hallucination. It makes you wonder: Am I’m awake or am I’m dreaming I’m awake? Some dreams (or hallucinations) are so vivid that you actually think they are real until you wake up and I have on ocassion had to sit in my bed and convince myself that I was indeed awake and not still dreaming.

    As far as “Recipe For a Journey to Quibo” does the peaceful nature of the empire leave it open and vulnerable to conquest itself? Will the son he saves from the military end up dying or enslaved by conquerers? Does he find Quibo only to discover that he has to replace the caged creature looking out over the city but never free to enjoy it?

  15. I had planned on writing a long (probably boring) piece on how much I loved “The Empire of Ice Cream”, but instead, threw my notes away and tried to wing it – I almost finished and then hit a key on my laptop (I’ll never get used to this keyboard) and promptly erased everything I wrote. I’ll now try to re-create it.

    First of all, I just want to thank Mr. Ford for writing such an enchanting group of stories that I fell in love with reading all over again. I hadn’t read a book from beginning to end in a very long time (and me, “an English Major”, as McKay would sarcastically put it), but I just could not put the book down, nor stop thinking about it. I loved the book so much, that I have bought several more of Mr. Ford’s books.

    My favorite stories were the enchanting “Annals of Eelin-Ok” (probably my favorite), “The Empire of Ice Cream”, “Weight of Words” and “Botch Town.”

    “Botch Town” particularly evoked in me the feeling of another time and place – specifically, the time and place where I grew up – Long Island in the 1950’s, early 60’s (I really hate to admit that, but there you are).

    The stories that I liked the least were “The Green Wood” and “Giant Land”, for no particular reason except for the fact that they weren’t as enchanting or magical in my opinion.

    The question that I want to ask Mr. Ford is this:

    Since you write in both mystery and science fiction genres, and have won awards for both, do you prefer to write one over the other, or do you prefer to blend them as you did in “Botch Town” and “The Shadow Year”?

    I also want to thank Joe for his BOTM. It spurred me to action and I started reading again. The first book I read was definitely a winner – now onto “The Android’s Dream” (I can already see why David Hewlett loved it after reading only about 100 pages!)

  16. Mr. Ford:

    Interesting premise so far.

    I don’t know what types of stories you normally write (since I’m bad and didn’t read The Empire of Ice Cream – although I just may have to now) but here’s my two cents:

    The people of Quibo are the founders of the city where the ziggurat containing the recipe book was located and are the ancestors of the Empire. They, too, were acquisitive types but were defeated and banished to an otherworldly realm by a now extinct culture; however, before their final disappearance, the “recipe” to free them was added to the book.

    Eventually, the Chief Librarian locates the book and “cooks up the recipe” taking him to the realm where the ancestors were banished and creating a gateway for them to return. Which they do.

    Unfortunately for the Empire, the Chief Librarian, in his quest to keep his sons from serving in the military, has caused the Empire to lose its focus and become a much more benign society, but the ancestors not only retained their acquisitive nature, they are also vengeful for the millennia they spent “locked away” from their own world and are very militaristic.

    The ancestors initially reappear in their former home and are really not happy to discover it has been “looted”. They begin to expand their territory and influence to neighboring lands and to conquer or destroy all that stand in their way. In particular, they are looking to wreck vengeance on the looters.

    It is left to the Empire to resurrect its military to fight the ancestors and the Chief Librarian and his researchers to find the means of stopping the ancestors once and for all before they destroy everything and everyone not of their society.

  17. I think my life long interest in sci-fi & fantasy has played a big part of never letting the “WOW factor” get away and because of the exposure, I don’t think my kids will let it go either. So they’ll never hear it from me… almost half a century later I’m still being berated by my parents “Oh, grow up!”, whom I can only pity at this point, that they spent most of their lives without it.

    Mr. M thanks for lending the space and Mr. Ford, thanks for posting, its a pretty good idea, I think Recipe For a Journey to Quibo has a very “Arabian Nights” flavor to it, so I think it deserves some kind of “moral to the story” twisty ending. I’ll let ya know if I think of something more concrete.
    Tomorrow we go Power-Free for Earth Day (no computers) but I’ll be back on Wed.

  18. Being the anal proofreader that I am, my first reading of Quibo had me holding the proverbial red pen in my hand (i.e., I would never spell “un-truths” with a hyphen; I would eliminate some commas and insert others in places they weren’t). My second reading was more like, “damn, can this man write!” I love your use of descriptive language and I would never presume to lead you in a direction that I’m sure your mind will eventually take you, just as I would never want anyone else to provide me with notes for a song I was writing.

    Having said that, let me throw my two cents in. Perhaps he never locate the recipe, can’t find Quibo in his dreams, and thus goes mad because he tries too hard. Perhaps in his world of madness, there is his Quibo. How ironic that would be.

    Just a comment on The Empire of Ice Cream. I commented in a post a day or so ago that I haven’t had a chance to read the whole book yet. Real life has gotten in the way, but I’ve read the first few stories. (I love the short story format, by the way, since it allows me to read portions and still feel like I’ve finished something!) Anyway, my favorite so far was the first, The Annals of Eelin-Ok. I’m a Jersey shore frequenter and I’ll never look at a sand castle the same way again. I think that’s a good thing – we should never look at anything the same way twice. That way we can experience a little “WOW” every day.

    I’m looking forward to reading the remainder of Empire.

  19. Ooh I loved “Quibo”. Knowledge is power and I found the justification of the wars by preserving the culture and texts very interesting. While reading it I wondered if he were living on Quibo already but it had been destroyed by millenia of war and greed.

    I think he would turn mad from the power. He is virtually the Emperor’s advisor. His choice of reading material could change the course of history. I hope he never finds the book, perhaps someone could find it after he died. Is that mean?

    Anyhoo, thanks for sharing. Power to the librarians! 😀

    Cheers, Chev
    Geek Librarian

  20. Quibo–that’s an intriguing beginning. I think it would help to know more about the motivations of the narrator–who is he? What does he want? What motivated him to want to try to change the course of the Empire through the books he offered? That he talks about “escaping” conscription through library service, and about his sons escaping it, tells us something about him and gives us one possible motivation for his actions, but I want to know more. I want to understand his obsession with the book, something that might suggest what happens next–should he find the book, and should the rest of the story deal with his successful or unsuccessful use of it, or should he not find it, and the story would then deal with that failure? What does Quibo represent for him? What’s lacking in his life that fuels his obsession? I feel like I know of him, but I don’t know him, that there’s a distance between us and him that keeps me from understanding him–possibly because he doesn’t understand himself, but even an unreliable narrator will often give enough clues about himself that we can extrapolate from them. I want to know more about him, both so that I can imagine what might happen to him next and also so that I’ll care about what that is.

  21. What an incredible treat to get a peek at your work in progress(?), not to mention the surprising honor of requesting ideas?! I offer two thoughts as perhaps useful as they were the ideas that popped up once I latched onto the story and began to try to “guess” what would happen. Of course, this may provide you with exactly the two ideas to avoid at all costs!

    1st – Irony. The speaker’s quest for the book leads him back to the Emperor, where he uses his influence to convince the leader to start more war, and conquer more villages in the hope of finding the lost book. Unleashing the very thing that drove him to the library in the first place to avoid conscription.

    2nd – Well, Irony again. Quibo does in fact become the man’s city in reality. The speaker finds the book at the very end and the recipe says something like: Read the book, lose the book, dwell on the book for 40 years and you will find Quibo.

    I’m wondering, though, what the caged beast could represent, or what the speaker may learn/regret etc. by this process. What compells him about Quibo? Perhaps there are hints in the existing text that I’m missing. The mirrored pages of the books hint at a story of self examination. The books found lost among a dead society hint at danger of owning/ignoring them. Perhaps both versions of the irony are here? Desire to posess leading to ultimate destruction and the realization that one had all they wanted all along?

    Or perhaps, the speaker will find the book in his coat pocket after all, along with a lost mitten and an old movie ticket stub from 40 years ago.

    I would love to know what you are thinking to this point, after you get your comments from fresh eyes.

  22. Really the whole story brings to mind the journey for
    Utopia? Abit of Gulliver and the Odyssey? Funny we still go back a forward with the idea, even in a dictionary it’s described as an imagined place.

    Really only two thing’s need to be answered in this tale. Is Quibo real or not? Will are hero make it there?

    If real? Is it a place of the past, future or now? I do like the idea of his action’s shaping, making and maybe even destroying Quibo, that said if it isn’t real his mind can still do the same.

    In the end do you what this to be a tale of dream or maddness, or more a fancy of Gulliver frame where it’s believed to be unreal until the end? I think a mix is need here, a could be? The tale hero need’s to have more impact and the idea of him changing the course of the nation could always be more fleshed out. The whole story could become a real epic, so how much detail and time are you wanting to put in this?

    So alot of question’s, with no real answer’s I’m afraid, but really I want to see where you are going to take it and so I hope this help’s you to move forward with the idea! A great concept that may be just to big to really finish on?

  23. Typo’s!!! Anyway I really like what tepring said, really good idea’s.

    “The books found lost among a dead society hint at danger of owning/ignoring them. Perhaps both versions of the irony are here? Desire to posess leading to ultimate destruction and the realization that one had all they wanted all along?”

    Too true! I really get the feeling of only bad thing’s to come with this story!! A possible unhappy ending for all?

  24. Thank you for guest posting on Joe’s blog, Mr. Ford! I wish I had elected to read “Empire of Ice Cream” out of Joe’s selection of books for April after reading “Recipe for a Journey to Quibo”. I will definitely pick up the book when I get the opportunity.

    And thank you for sharing “Recipe for a Journey to Quibo”; I hope that you finish the story because I really want to read the rest of it. I think it is very true that the books we read influence and guide our thoughts. In reality (most times, at least) not to such an extent as to cause such a drastic shift in behavior and national policy, but enough to put the notion in our minds that things can be different, can be better, and that we can work toward making the changes necessary to bring about a better world.

    I also hope that the librarian comes to realize that it was his influence through the books he suggested that helped to bring about the changes necessary to make the empire a better place. That he was, metaphorically speaking, the chef who made the dish which brought the dream of Quibo to the entire empire. It would be horribly sad if he continued to search for the recipe he had already made and remained unsatisfied and unfulfilled despite his success. Unfortunately, it would definitely be closer to most people’s reality.

  25. After reading that bit of short story, I’m really sorry I didn’t have the chance to read The Empire of Ice Cream in time for this discussion.

    I love maggiemayday’s comments and my inner child would like a playdate with hers!

    But my thoughts about the story take me in a rather different direction. Sorry that this got so long, but the story got me thinking. If you get bored, just move on to the next person’s post.

    There are mysteries within the tale I think could lead the narrator, perhaps not to the recipe book, but to Quibo itself.

    The first mystery is the source of the books — an abandoned pyramid in a jungle far to the south, which is at odds with the language in which the books are written — an ancient version of the language of the empire. But the bindings of the books lead me to think that they truly were created there in the far southern land, not pilfered and taken there as our narrator believes.

    The mirror endplates in the thick hide-bound books make the reader see himself as *part*of the book. But this book was different — thin and with a different binding – so perhaps instead of the reader (or at least his reflection)becoming part of the book, this one book was enchanted in such a way that it becomes part of the reader. And the narrator, simply by reading the book has begun the journey to Quibo. But he will not have to travel any distance to get there. It will come to him in time.

    The book has been working its magic, gradually, imperceptibly transforming the narrator over the years — and causing him to act as he does to influence the Emperor and his counsel. The book has a purpose: to restore peace to the Empire.

    I think that in the distant past, the people of the Empire were divided. Some sought expansion through conquest of their neighbors, while others longed for peace. The military gained dominance and those who wished for a peaceful existence left and established a kingdom in the jungles far to the south. They died out or moved on, but left a gift for their northern brothers to find: the books contained in the pyramid one of which would restore peace.

    One thought that keeps coming into my mind is that Quibo is a legend to the people of the south, so its geographical description is probably not completely accurate. Maybe the ancestors of the empire who migrated south and wrote the book merged their favorite images of their homeland, far to the north, into one ideal city and called it Quibo

    The final mystery is: how can he reach Quibo? To complete his journey, the narrator needs to seek knowledge of his own people and their history. He knows that words have great power, but he has limited his search to books.

    Words are not found only in books. In the rarified circles of the Library and Imperial court, he will not find what he needs. Maybe some of the knowledge he needs is in verbal histories and legends from other parts of the empire.

    But he has been forced out of his dreams and out of his usual haunts, and into the city at night by his insomnia. His nightly wanderings will lead him to parts of the city he has never seen before. And now that the empire is at peace, perhaps in a tavern there will be a wandering storyteller who has bits of history never consigned to paper. He may even meet someone there who knows of Quibo.

    He will know that he is finally heading in the right direction when he looks up into a window and sees, instead of his neighbor’s wife, the Zasheel in a gilded cage.

    That’s as far as I got.


  26. Hello Mr. Ford, (Hi Joe)

    While I am still waiting for my copy to arrive and desperately trying to avoid spoilers, I was delighted at the chance to read a piece of your unpublished work and slightly flabbergasted that you would be asking us for opinions. I can only hope that we will be able to grace you with some insight if not some inspirational pose for the muse.

    At first glance I was immediately dragged back to a childhood memory of “The Neverending Story” and eagerly read on hoping to go on another grand adventure with new characters. As I continued to read my mind continued to expand along the different lines in which the story could go.

    Needless to say I read it a couple of times and then to be honest debated about even posting a comment (gun -shy here). However, the more I thought about it and as I read a few of the first comments…one line really struck a resonate chord “The end pages were pliant thin mirrors that could be bent like paper and rendered a perfect reflection.” and that is when the geek in me wondered what if he was already there. What if he had already traveled to Quibo and was playing out one possible future, a future of many depending on his choices. But that could just be the geek in me seeing a quantum mirror for a page.

    Needless to say I am truly intrigued by what you have written thus far and would love to see your muse get you back on track for this is one adventure I would surely like to make with you.

    Weather, it be through time manipulation or a recipe that brings you to place only in your dreams.

    Thanks for sharing.

  27. Firstly, thank you for Mr Ford taking the time to speak with us (and to Joe for the loan of the blog).

    Unfortunately I can’t participate in the Empire of Ice Cream discussions as I am yet to get my hands on a copy (damn Australian book stores – shakes fist at them).

    I don’t get a lot of time to read, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it when I get my hands on a great book 🙂

    When I read the opening to a book, what is contained in each line stimulates my mind to think of where the book might take me. Next thing you know, 10 pages in, and my head is one big “Choose Your Own Adventure”. Tacky reference sorry! However, then with these new thoughts I delve back into the book to see where you are going to take me.

    Reading this passage gives me two feelings of where it might take me:
    1. A Narnia style place – it’s real if you can find the way there or;
    2. A spiritual place similar to Shangri La which requires you to learn and develop so you are ready to go there.

    Then I would ask the question, if you make it to Quibo, and depending on who makes it to Quibo, would it be a place you want to stay, or escape?

    Both options would continue me to read at a frantic pace, and it would really depend on why I am choosing to read this book as to which direction I would like it to take. Do I want absolute escape?, or do I want to read a story with an element of self-examination?

    The place that the book was found has me fascinated. I want to know more about these people. So many possibilities are presented just by those few sentences.

    I like that this short excerpt has raised more questions than answers. I would be interested to hear which direction you have contemplated taking this, or is it because there are so many different possibilities that to continue seems overwhelming?

    I would like to have another read when my brain is in a non-work environment. It’s amazing the difference it can make to the way you interpret the exact same words.

    If you are stuck for ideas, I can always send you my Grade 5 food inspired classic, “The Day My Cocoa Pops Swollowed Me Up”. A truly brilliant read for anyone aged 8 and under 🙂 And after they swallowed me up I ended up in a beautiful place of waterfalls and warm water – so that would be taking the Option 2 route.

    Thanks again.

    ~ Narelle from Aus

  28. Mr. Ford, THANK You!, for the collection of stories and for joining with us on Joe’s blog, and the honor of asking for our comments, thoughts, and opinions for your new story.

    First – comments for The Empire of Ice Cream

    A comment or two on the Introduction.
    It grabbed by attention because I think we, meaning Joe’s Club, the Stargate Fandom, Science Fiction aficionados/fanatics (I am a fanatic), and generally those of us who are young at heart – are – still in control of our ability to be affected by “wow potential” events and do invariable think, mutter, say, or shout the equivalence of WOW! Some may prefer to be more sedate, moderate, or conservative in the expression, but we ultimate do have the feeling of “WOW!”

    Which leads to the second comment on the Introduction which was the statement that; “Unfortunately, we have been taught control, control, control all of our lives by parents, by society, by our education. If you cannot control something then get rid of it or get out of it or get away from it.”

    I think our group has not given up the “control” of the wow factor.

    Unfortunately, I do think Carroll’s comment is evident in other aspects of life. I think there are examples we have experienced on a regular basis but perhaps without thinking of the underlying reason that it is happening. Thus, “those” people are not quite as “young/vibrant” as the rest of us.

    Now comments for the rest of the book

    Initially I did not realize this was a collection of stories and after I got started it was strange to seem to jump from one theme/story to another. I know there were a couple that I wanted more and there was no more. There were a some “darker” stories that gave me the sensation of watching a Twilight Zone Marathon; Jupiter’s Skull and A Night in the Tropics come to mind.

    I have to admit avoiding some of the darker selections after it became apparent that they were dark. This is a personal bias and should not be taken as a reflection on the quality of the writing. Each of the entries is well crafted and starts to grab the reader almost immediately…which is why I hung on to a couple of the dark stories.

    What is the foundation for the creation of some of the titles? The choices are quite enticing as fantasy and not typical non-fiction. When seeing “Eeling-ok,” my brain started to make that “Feeling OK. Similar with the Twilmish, which I started to see Twilight Mist. Of course with this thought, the selection “Weight of Words” had added meaning thrown into the mix you provided.
    It seemed that all of the stories I digested had elements of darkness; was this deliberate for the book? Or, is that part of your style/format?

    I had to start the reading with The Empire of Ice Cream since it was the “title story.” This was intriguing for a number of reasons – the level of fantasy that became apparent only after you got into the story. I loved the concept of synesthesia. But the ending was sad.

    I loved The Annals of Eelin-ok. The story line developed slowly but very nicely. This one had me a bit mesmerized to be so involved in the story that it was more like watching it than reading it. It was almost mystical – ended on a with a good thought – meaning looking forward to take in the next new experience; but also a bit sad to with the demise of Meiwa.

    The Weight of Words was fascinating in that there is meaning you intended as well as related to a number of other interpretations linked to our day to day lives. From the simple framing of a sentence or concept to convey a thought or emotion to the more deliberate cause/effect formulation; words can be powerful.

    At first, I found the notes for each story a little distracting in that it almost immediately changed my personal environment of the story I just read. Then, I found I wanted to know more of the foundation of the story. Sorry to waffle on this.

    Recipe For a Journey to Quibo

    Another person commented and I totally am in sync with the imagery conjured by the sentence of hearing the ghostly voices of the true owners of those stolen volumes. This can be applied, particularly to someone like me who is learning, again, about the magic of words as I “learn to read again.”
    Thanks to Joe and his BOTM club.

    The story is a great start and a tease to whet our appetites. If possible, certainly would love to read more as it evolves or is finished.

    The description of the illustrations made me think of some of the computer technical books that feature a picture of an animal. And, looking at it without reading you would not know it was a techy book.

    It was intriguing to read of the two volume epic of the war; one detailing the funerary practices and the other the movement of heavenly bodies.

    Some random thoughts:
    – find the two volume epic and read them in detail for clues
    – the recipe is of mystical ingredients – hallucinogenic
    – the heavenly bodies may be the keepers of the secrets of the recipes
    – the heavenly bodies affect any person who has read their literature (he did even though he was not supposed to)

    – any private papers from his predecessor especially noting the statement “…as if he were freeing himself from irons.”
    – look for any thin book of recipes since the “old” cover may have changed over time.

    I did not understand the statement:
    “Facts I had garnered bout actual cities and towns crushed by the empire became the un-truths of Quibo.”
    Seems as though he is making his town/city into the dream city of Quibo.
    Perhaps Quibo is in reality his city.

    I’m afraid these random thoughts may be of little value, but it was fun to think about it.

    Thank you, I enjoyed the book and our “test” of Quibo.
    Looking forward to hearing more about Quibo.

  29. Marsha, I apologise for the torture that every single one of my posts would have put you through. I hang my head in shame. Can I send you some more red markers and probably a new monitor as compensation?

  30. Thanks much to both Mr. Mallozzi and Mr. Ford for collaborating on this project. It’s great to have the chance to give feedback and get replies, and the bonus of checking out a work-in-progress is a very nice surprise.

    First, I got pretty close to liking all the stories in Empire of Ice Cream: the few that didn’t captivate me still had parts that I enjoyed very much. And I agree very strongly with earlier commenters who said they haven’t lost their sense of wonder, while acknowledging that a number of these stories helped reset my interest in the fantastic to a higher level.

    Kudos to John Picacio and Golden Gryphon Press for doing a lovely job with the graphics in your book.

    Overall, I’m struck by how smoothly you make the transition from tales of the fantastic with just enough familiar elements to keep the reader grounded (e.g. “Giant Land” and “The Beautiful Gelreesh”), on through the spectrum to stories that read as nonfiction – except for an intriguing thread of mystery and surreality that drives the story (“Botch Town” and “The Trentino Kid” come to mind.)

    What I really love best about your stories is your obvious love of language, and your careful choice of unusual words for otherwise prosaic sentences, which made my ears perk up and reminded me to pay close attention to everything you were doing to create excellent character portraits and a great deal of incredible atmosphere that made me feel almost as if I were inside a different world, looking on as the action transpired.

    I thought “Summer Afternoon” was a very nifty vignette of a writer with writer’s block. And I enjoyed your afterword – in fact, I appreciated all of them, and wish that convention would be employed more often for story anthologies. Your mention of Henry James made me wonder if you have been (or still are) an admirer of his work, just as “The Green Word” and especially “Giant Land” gave me the impression that you’ve read a great deal of Celtic mythology, or works based on it. (One passage in “Giant Land” made me think of Yeats’s “The Song of Wandering Aengus,” and I loved the story for what, to me, was a poetic feel to your writing – or maybe the air of a tale told long ago by an itinerant storyteller. Not to get too carried away with my own impressions.)

    One quibble: There was a lot I liked about “The Green Word”; but ultimately, the story seemed somewhat pedantic to me, especially for a YA book. That’s similar to how I felt about Susan Cooper’s excellent series, The Dark Is Rising. I love the writing in both cases, but feel the readers should have more latitude in judging the issues involved.

    I was intrigued by the premise of “The Empire of Ice Cream,” and loved the story. The twist at the end was enough to make me a little nervous about what my dreams would be like that night. But, out of this outstanding collection, my favorite was “Jupiter’s Skull.” Did you have a particular place in mind when describing the Bolukuchet? It seems like it could be an amalgam of a hundred different run-down waterfront hangouts with their lolling, lingering artist-types in varying degrees of debauchery.

    The atmosphere and the characters in this story in particular completely drew me in, to the point where I just enjoyed the leisurely, sort of hazy feeling in my mind – like the narrator with the ubiquitous mind-altering tea – while I waited to see what you would do with the storyline. Having the plot acted out by people who felt themselves to be the characters (and to some degree were), was, I thought, a very nifty device. The brief but strong sex scene emphasized the atavistic nature of all the emotions and the motives for action we saw portrayed. Then, like the narrator, I felt something was missing from life when the catharsis of the experience led to him returning to “decent society” and taking up writing again. The story’s ending was weird in the deepest sense, and to me it was very satisfying despite the substantial mystery that remained over the whole thing.

    — After all that, I think I’d better pass on offering suggestions for your story fragment. It seems to me like you have enough elements there for a long and complex novella. – Well, two more things: 1) It felt to me like you need more exposition on what happens while the subordinate librarian rises in his field, both on the personal level and in regard to the Empire. 2) Since you’ve introduced the theme of pacifism vs. belligerence, I hope you’ll go easy on the philosphical issues. (If that isn’t too presumptuous.) 3) Did I say two? Somehow I get the feeling that the Chief Librarian is going to have to become a sacrifice, voluntarily or not, to attain his ends; but as to how to do that in a unique way . . .? If the creature in the first paragraph is really a human/animal hybrid, maybe the introduction of more sci-fi elements would help maximize that character’s potential to be a major player (since you’ve got the foreshadowing). I imagine that Joe and some of the incredibly creative commenters here will have some excellent ideas.

  31. I’m guessing that I should read The Empire of Ice Cream. Because the beginning of the Quibo story is really good! I guess, Mr Ford, if I were to suggest something to continue the Quibo story, is that maybe the idea of Quibo as a utopia could be a metaphor for the way the narrator wishes to shape his city and empire. Rather than Quibo being a real place or an hallucination, it could be the ideal that the narrator is trying to achieve by shaping the Emperor’s reading and public policy from that. Maybe that could be a fitting climax, that the narrator realises, at some point over time, that his own city has become Quibo, and the utopia that he sought at Quibo. Just a thought, anyhow. Thanks for the good story.

  32. Hello Mr Ford,
    My 2 cents is in line with what Kelly already suggested. Nothing but a very classical outcome.

    The sound of his superiors coming back from their nap awakens the narrator. He finds himself with the book of recipe in his hands. He had fallen asleep in his work table. He quickly put the books he has read on a side of the table and resumed his repairing of damaged books, hoping that no one has seen him asleep and wondering what exactly happen, and why his day dreams were so vivid, so real, why he has decades worth of memory. He promised to himself to try to consult the book one more time.
    Later this day, he finds himself alone and reached for the book of recipe. He quickly jumped to the pages of the Recipe For a Journey to Quibo, but saw nothing there than yet another recipe for a strong and healthy sexual life. No traces of the pages he read, no dream city, no caged Zasheel.
    One month later, the war between the empire and a ferocious kingdom from the south became so intense that the emperor needed all the valid hands. The narrator and his colleagues were forced to join the army. The great library was closed down for the first time in the history of the Empire. It was the beginning of the end.

    I know it is kind of anticlimactic, but it’s all I have found. Interesting exercise !

    I hope to read “The Recipe” when you will turn it into a full-fledged novel (or in another form), and see the direction where you develop or conclude the story.


  33. To begin, a huge thank you to Mr. Ford not only for agreeing to visit the blog, but for coming over twice! Alas, I was unable to find “Empire” in any bookstore near me (or far, actually), but it is on my Amazon wishlist for reading some time in the future.

    As for asking for input and debuting your wonderful story, well, I know I am very flattered that you would do so. I can’t imagine I have much to say that would be worthy of its lovely imagery, but when faced with a creativity challenge, I find them hard to ignore (and I certainly know that writer’s block feeling).

    I must say, the world we are presented with is wonderful. Even with that short bit, I feel fully immersed in the society, and while nothing is outright stated about the main character, we still come to learn quite a bit. It is truly wonderful writing.

    Many thoughts swirl through my head regarding the Empire, the main character, the consequences of war, why the former chief librarian didn’t encourage peace via books before (or was it simply the Emperor’s age making him willing to listen to such ideals? The desire for a different legacy than his predecessors?), how books are such a powerful (almost secret and certainly guarded) weapon in this society. The mirrored pages certainly stick out. The idea of a “real” Quibo and the animal make for a truly intriguing concept. But perhaps what stands out most to me, is the main character’s dreams. He only ever glimpsed the page, could not remember the recipe, but thought it was simple. Perhaps it was not a recipe exactly, but the idea of it that caused the “journey”. It seems to me he’s already found a Quibo in his dreams, and it now haunts him. It could be the book was intended to inspire dreams (maybe in the book of medicine, the recipe’s real effect was to cause peaceful dreams for someone), rather than making it to a real place. Or perhaps, the books were locked away for a reason. The history books because they spoke of a civilization that the then-ruling party wanted forgotten, and the recipe book because it had mystic properties and either imagined evilness or perhaps the book really does have a dark side, meant to drive a person crazy if they can’t handle the power. Or maybe, Quibo is a state of mind (someone mentioned Shangri La).

    I suspect that has not been very helpful, but I certainly appreciate the opportunity and should you ever finish the tale, I will be on the look out for it. And I look forward to your Q&A!

    Thanks to you also, Joe, for sponsoring this.

  34. Hi Mr. Ford,

    As a new(ish) mother, I barely have time to shower and eat, much less read anything much longer than the instructions on a bottle of baby Tylenol, so unfortunately I am unable to join in the BotM discussion. But as a librarian, I have to say that your unfinished story was beautiful to me. I hope you take this as the compliment it is, but it reminds me a lot of The Name of the Rose. Not in any superficial way of course, but in the hunt for a missing book and more specifically, the narrator’s assertion that books contain knowledge that can change the world as we know it.

    I’m wondering, since you captured so wonderfully the awesome power (yes, it’s power!) shared by the keepers and organizers of knowledge, will you delve further into the difficult responsibilities as well?

    I also wonder if the librarian ever finds the recipe for the journey to Quibo, because isn’t it always supposed to be about the journey and not the destination? Does that make any sense at all?

  35. Mr Ford,

    For my part…I’m sorry to say that I returned to the BOTM too late to acquire a copy of ‘Ice Cream’ but I shall certainly be seeking one out after reading that taste of your writing. However, I would like to comment of ‘Quibo”.

    I’m getting chills. Those little shivers that chase back and forth over my spine. It’s that tiny indicator to me that I’m about to go in paroxysms of awe and giggles. That’s what ‘Quibo’ has done to me.

    Personally, were I to receive a start such as that for a challenge, my first thought would be that the book was merely a physical manifestation of the remembrances and dreams of a lost civilisation. It strikes me that a supernatural twist could easily lead from that chance encounter – the Librarian, tormented by the rich memory of holding the book and the continued broken dreams where he searches for the city, finally realises that Quibo does not exist and gives up his search only to find the city upon his dying breath.

    But then…the book could also be an instrument of the old gods, from a time before the Empire when they still had power. Its purpose is to bring devastation upon those who defeated then supplanted the previous age through the best means. In this case the Librarian is in the perfect position to bring about the slow degradation of the Empire as he influences the Emperor through literature. The old gods gain their revenge for a dead people and the Librarian suffers the emotional torment of learning that he was but a tool and the ‘Recipe for a Journey to Quibo’ was nothing more than a means to a particular end.

    Whatever happens, however you choose to continue, I look forward to reading the rest of the tale – I have twitching fingers all ready!

    Joe…there’s a new company over here in the UK called ‘Filthy’, who are telling us to ‘Sin and Be Proud’ when it comes to chocolate. I have a feeling there’s a few people who’d agree with that ideal!!! (For anyone interested, chiller cabinet, deserts – I found them in Sainsbury – the creme brulee is delightful!)

  36. Hi Mr Ford, unfortunately I was unable to get hold of a copy of your book ‘The Empire of Ice Cream’. So I will have to wade in with the unfinished story ‘Recipe for a Journey to Quibo’.

    I loved the story there were so many ways it could go. I have tried not to ramble but that would be going against my nature so massive ramble ensues…!

    The poor narrator, all those books and not allowed to read them, it must have been torture and then to find out about Quibo, for it only to be snatched from him. That world that appeared so serene while his was in turmoil.

    Written in an ancient form of his own language maybe the loss of the recipe or its capture started the war. The book had been around a long time and changed hands perhaps the book brought peace to which ever peoples owned it

    ‘The book was found in a step pyramid on the equator in a jungle sealed into a vault
    No battle took place in the procurement of this batch, though. Jungle vines and monkeys had long since replaced any human population there. I was told they were found in a sealed vault within a stepped pyramid embellished with the faces of angry gods.’

    Had the book brought about the extinction of that society?

    Does war keeps a society in flux and alive and consequently can peace bring about the decline of a society?

    ‘I began suggesting certain volumes, like ingredients in a complex recipe’

    Only when the war threatens to take his sons does he decide to use the books to influence the Emperor why did he take so long after the retiring chief librarian told him of the power he held?

    Recipes come into the story twice the Quibo recipe and the recipe for peace by giving certain books to the Emperor and his people. Recipes like stories in our society tend to be handed down verbally but these where set down by a great artist. I like the use of the word gyring when describing the flourishes (having studied neurobiology the gyri being the ridges of the convolutions of the brain) the picture of a medieval manuscript comes to mind. Which of the three purposes was the recipe intended medical, sexual or spiritual? I’ll go with a mix sexual/spiritual.

    There are certain psychosexual overtones to the story the caged beast with the face of the naked woman who lives next door and using her name as the name of the beast. The city of Quibo nestled between two mountains, and don’t get me started on the oars of the dream boat!!!

    If he can’t go to Quibo his mind fills in the blanks, the beast is the symbol of the unobtainable the alley ways are the catacombs he works in still seeking the book. His own mind defeats him never letting him get to the city. It stays out of reach a utopia a sort of Shangri-La, he longs for but needs to find the recipe to get to.

    So what should happen? In my humble opinion the narrator by influencing the Emperor and bringing about peace has set the empire on a destructive path.

    Edward Gibbon when describing the fall of the Roman Empire placed part of the blame thus “Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight,” The Empire once it was at peace could not support the Empire it had built it’s economy was one based supposedly on a ‘Raubwirtschaft’ or plunder economy based on looting existing resources rather than producing anything new. The Empire relied on booty from conquered territories with this source of revenue ending, the Empire may well fall

    I think the Empire will fall and the library be destroyed, taking with it all the knowledge plundered from the known world, a just penance.

    As the narrator brings about the decline and fall of his people may be he should be allowed to rescue the book and in some way vindicate him self by making the recipe and giving it to his people. A parallel may be with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and the Soma drug. A people caught between two worlds would they repeat their mistakes again?

    I would love to know what was in the recipe to transport the person to Quibo.
    Hemp (cannabis) some seeds have hallucinatory effect and are edible. The grain, rye can sometimes develop the Ergot fungus, a widespread parasite of cereal grains. This theory explains that people would hallucinate from eating ergot infected rye, and is blamed for werewolves stories. Or it could be cheese in the recipe?

    Then we come to the big question which world is the illusion?

    I apologies once more for my ramblings and in doing so am rambling again…damn!


  37. Joe, since you’re on set this week… remember to take some pics of Mr. Flanigan 😀 *puppy eyes*

    @ Morjana [about your Leo Awards question]

    Check Mallozzi’s entry on July 4, 2007 (I just searched for Leo awards entries. My memory isn’t THAT good to remember things like this. LOL)

    Taken from that day’s mailbag:
    Anonymous #4 writes: “I was wondering why you guys don’t participate in the Leo awards anymore?”

    Answer: I can’t speak for the production and it’s decision regarding the Leo’s. But just my personal opinion – when a huge sequence like the one at the end of Lost City loses out to a simple eye glow in the visual effects category, the awards lose a certain amount of credibility.

    So it seems not participating in the Leo Awards is a production’s choice and therefore SGA will never be nominated for a Leo Award.

  38. Ah, the stories. First, I love your style, Mr. Ford, very powerful visuals, the stories feel drenched with color and life. I can see the beating heart of Charon’s boat, the poor dead SuperHeroes floating away, the sly painted smiles of the hula girls grasping at a man’s soul.

    Many of the stories felt like fables and fairy tales I should have known in another life. The Green Word, The Beautiful Gelreesh, some part of my brain recognized half-forgotten messages and cautionary tales. Don’t nibble the candy house in the forest, don’t eat the seed from the fruited heart of the green man. Giant Land should have been the same way, but try as I might, I couldn’t hear the giantess sing. Eelin-Ok, I loved it, and in a nice bit of serendipity, I was working on my fantasy BnB doll house. As a kid I always wondered what it would be like to move into my sandy creations; now I know. Kinda sad.

    A Man of Light, I liked the premise, but again, I wasn’t hearing the voices. I did like your note at the end, I find the artist known as the Man of Light mass produces what should be delightful art, but instills a mechanical terror in me that I should be told what is art and how to appreciate it. Art isn’t the stuff you can buy in installments in the Sunday coupon flyer.

    Jupiter’s Skull, I envisioned sleepy trading towns and Humphrey Bogart at the bar losing himself slowly in Lime Plunges. A place trapped in a time loop of sticky amber, pulling in participants who must act out the same scene over and over, unaware they were repeating the set past. Hapless souls crawling away like flies with their wings off, wondering what mad nectar they’d been plunged into.

    Botch Town and A Night in the Tropics were excellent, both had a similar feel to them, almost as more lyrical, more beautiful Stephen King stories with their dark underbellies and blurred worlds of hard reality and fantastic realms. I could have nightmares about the hula girls if I half-tried. Oh, Halloween in Botch Town, I’m old enough to remember trick or treating before it was sanitized into a stroll through the church parking lot getting hygienic wrapped candy from serious parents out of the trunks of their cars. Trunk or treating they call it in Utah, and it is killing the wild children hellbent for destruction with eggs and toilet paper.

    Later in the collection I felt as though the stories shifted from fable to auto-biography, an interesting change in perspective, intriguing. I had to laugh though, “Pot’s okay for watching television with the sound off and the stereo on ….” Ah, 70s flashbacks. Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster set to The Beatles’ Octopus’s Garden, seriously. Serendipity then, serendipity now. A good thing I’m allergic to smotpoke; or I’d be out by the garden shed seeking inspiration for my paintings and wondering which river my life floated away on.

    Thank you, Mr. Ford, thank you.

    Oh, and Moe Jacuzzi, didn’t we date in college?

    My inner child is available for playdates in Black Rock City, Nevada’s fifth largest metropolis for one week. I’ll be curating Anti M’s Home for Wayward Art in Hushville. If you care to donate works of art, this year’s project is “Godzilla enhances any art.” Serendipity now!

  39. You grab hold of a reader with no problem at all. As always, you are effective at setting character and place almost immediately.

    I am fascinated by the idea of a lowly librarian able to steer the course of an empire. The age-old gatekeeper of knowledge. (makes me think of how news organizations pick and choose the news and thus have inordinate power to frame how the public might think).

    I could believe the influence over time, but it’s a bit difficult to believe that the writings could have such an immediate impact on decisions made by those who lived by different sets of codes and modes of thinking for decades.

    Still, I like the ‘recipe’ conceit as you apply it to the librarian’s careful selections of books. It’s almost a kind of magic.

    In confess I don’t understand the librarian’s obsession with the idea of Quibo. There isn’t enough in this snippet to explain why he is so fixated on finding the recipe. He doesn’t even sound perplexed by his own obsession. Given what’s here, this reader sees something sinister at work. It could be a mystical quality to the book (it was locked away), something that calls the reader back to the city so it can be reborn. The book awakens the yearning only when the librarian achieves true power, so now it can influence his and his empire’s action. Bring them to him.

    I will be curious to see what you have in mind. Given how complex and surprising many of your stories are, I’m sure most of us won’t guess correctly

  40. Thank you, Mr. Ford, for your visit and for reading our comments and answering our questions.

    Before I comment on “The Empire of Ice Cream”, I would just like to say that I especially like reading short stories. I think it’s partly because the author has to engage the reader so quickly. It also seems to me that short stories tend to develop a particular mood (joy, horror, sadness, etc.) much better than a longer novel. When I read a short story, how it makes me feel is as important as what it makes me think. I think that’s why I enjoyed “Botch Town” so much. It made me remember how it felt to be a kid; the way that kids live in their own little world and the adults are sometimes totally oblivious to what’s really going on.

    I also really liked “The Empire of Ice Cream”. (I already liked it before I read it because of the great title.) The fact that synesthesia is a real condition made it even more interesting, and I loved the twist at the end.

    The only story that I really disliked was “The Beautiful Gelreesh”. It seemed kind of confusing to me (maybe I read it too late at night). I might change my mind if I re-read it.

    I noticed that in two of your stories, “Jupiter’s Skull” and “Giant Land”, there seems to be a certain similarity. Am I the only one to think so? They are both kind of convoluted and paradoxical (kind of like a moebius strip translated into short story form). The end was the beginning (or was the beginning the end). For some reason, I much preferred “Giant Land”. I liked the way it tied my brain in knots. It felt like one of those dreams where everything keeps changing in mid-stride.

    Thank you for a very enjoyable read!


    Oh, and as for “A Recipe for a Journey to Quibo”:

    Really cool idea, I like it so far. I’m going to have to take some time to think about it. Be back later………………….

  41. Hi Mr. Ford,

    first about that unfinished story “Recipe For a Journey to Quibo” (and btw: I’m no native spaker so excuse me if things come over a bit weird!) The following is no real concept of how the story could go along, there are also a lot of questions that should/could be considered which might or might not be of interest to you:

    But at the beginning, I have to say that I really love this piece of yours and I do hope you’ll finish it one day! Now on to my musings:
    I’d imagine that, let’s call him X to make things easier, would not only walk through the night but would also go and wander through the library, hoping to find the book again. Of course, only if he can access the library at night but well, if he’s the chief librarian he might. then, one night he finds the book again (only that it will sounds far more exciting than this) because it would be very unsatisfying if he never found the book. He then either is so excited that he goes straight to prepare the dish or has first a lot of doubts and worries etc.
    Once he eats the dish, he’ll be transferred to Quibo but the question is how and what of him. Is he transferred with all his body or only his spirit? What doe the others think? Does he tell his wife and sons? Personally, I doubt it.
    Now, the world of Quibo? Is it that paradise that it had been for the people of those ages long past? Maybe it once was a paradise, only that it was destroyed. The inhabitants might be the Zasheel-creatures or others (and is the narrator human at all?)
    Some questions: one might think about what it would mean for a civilisation to have acces to such books as were described. Why have the vanished? Have they all gone to Quibo or killed themselves by constant sexual activities? Maybe if Quibo is such a paradise all of them went there and caught the real inhabitants, the Zasheels, to show them in zoos. Maybe X finds the one(s) who wrote the book there? But does he return or stays there? Is teh world of Quibo just a hallucination or real, and in that case, what reality would that be?
    Maybe the concoction works in teh way that it kills the body of the person that’s eaten it and then brings the freed spirit to Quibo?…although, somebody must have come back and written the book…maybe the recipe doesn’t really work for X as he has a differing metabolism from the other people who wrote the recipe. Maybe he can only have visions of it but never truly get there? Or he’s just eaten by a Zasheel on his arrival *lol*
    Yah, that’s as much to that.

    Now on to “Empire of Ice Cream”, or to what I’ve been able to read so far (shipping from oversea just took too long! It only arrived Saturday!)
    They come in the order in which I read them
    – “The Annals of Eelin-Ok”: I really, really, loved that one. It had something of a fairy tale, which falls together with the presumably infant audience. It was good that it was mainly written from the viewpoint of a Twilmish as humans would have problems of catching the length of a couple of hours that is presented to Twilmish. As always with these stories, it’s a bit odd that people speaking another language have the same words for such things as reed but not for humans/laughing architecturers but even with this incontigency which you have always, i think, I liked it that way as words always carry more than their obvious meaning and you get another perspective on things if you give them other names. I think a normal Twilmish’s life is pretty lonesome as there is always only one Twilmish taking possession of a sand castle, right? I liked the whisper-barking of Phargo, that was great. The whole story was really touching and it captured the “whole life in a moment” so well. You have the gift of telling stories that you can’t immediately forget after finishing them. one has to put the book down, at least for a moment, to go and think about what one has just read.
    – “Boatman’s Holiday”: I loved the ending an the meaning of that story. Words create…right. The beginning took off a bit slow in my opinion but t’was okay. You said the idea was partly born and inspired by Doré’s pictures. That was quite interesting for me as I am a bit familiar with his paintings, having read a book that was created along some of his pictures (Walter Moers: A Wild Ride Through the Night). The author is German so you probably don’t know him but that one might be interesting for you to check out as the idea of using Doré as an inspiration resembles your own.
    – “Botch Town”: I’m afraid, that one didn’t work so mcuh for me. Maybe it was it’s lentgh that contrasted so much to the other, shorter stories. Personally, I got into a really short stories mood with your collection so a longer, and therefore slower developping story, confused me. Maybe it would have been more interesting if I had read the “Present of the Past” story, I don’t know. But even though there’s always a lot left open in a storie’s ending, especially in short stories, with this one I really had a feeling of unsatisfaction (if one can say that?)
    – “The Empire of Ice Cream”: Now that one I loved again. It got me hooked right from the start as I already heard about the phenomena of synthesia before and it interested me immensly. But still I wonder how that influences your life. In the story, the synthesia aspect only seemed to pop up in certain places but I wonder how it can work if you’re eating something, then seeing some colour that instantly gives you another taste! It must be confusing, or not? A lot of things might be completely unbearable like some terrible smell that you sense by seeing a colour or hearing a piece of music.
    But the ending was great, though a bit confusing 😉 Of coures, one wonders how it worked that he was able to live his life while she wasn’t watching if he was only part of her imagination. Still, I liked the idea of coffee, linking them together. I felt a lot of sympathy with him about his sufferings and understood him very well. The desire for the pleasant moment is so much stronger than to worry about the terrible after effects.
    – “Summer Afternoon” Great, strange…duno, I guess I have to read that one again. Not being native speaker I do have the feeling that I miss out on something here, must give it a bit more time.
    – “A Man of Light”: This was really good. It was like some bizarre dream in a dream kind of thing. Still there are bits confusing but I don’t really want to solve them as it’s a nice feeling of confusion. And I liked the pseudo-science stuff in there with the light. My film professor would have been delighted, she always repeats that light is the author of a film, not a director or someone else..and it’s true light shapes our perception and nothing really is as it seems. I wonder how a society looks like where everyone appears young and attractive! Although Larchcroft didn’t seem to use his own makeup, right? Appearances are really deceiving!

    Now, that’s as far as I got up to this point. But maybe I’ll be able to go on reading and write a bit more about the other stories.
    Some random questions though:
    – how do you come up with names?
    – do you have a concept or just a vague idea in your head when you start writing? Or does it depend, and what is more often?
    – what do you use as inspiration? Music, smells, words?
    – at what time do you write and where do you write?
    – do you always have full knowledge of the things you refer to in your stories (such as Thomas Mann and classic music in “Empire of Ice Cream”)?

    Okay, that’s really it for the moment. Just want to tell you that I enjoy reading your stories. It gives a lot of food to the mind! thanks for that!


  42. First let me say I found what you’ve written so far very interesting, it definitely made me want to know what happens next. I particularly love the idea that a librarian is using books and reading to influence government policy! Revolutionary. 🙂

    As far as where the story should go next – At this point I want him to find the recipe – he’s already spent a significant part of his life looking for it. And I want the recipe and the dreams of Quibo to somehow be connected to his ability as Chief Librarian to influence government policy – because that element of the story intrigues me. Seems like dreaming of Quibo is going to play a significant part in his life at this point – or take his life in a new direction, so I want to get to it. (By the way, I also want to know why, according to your last sentence, he had to keep to “little travel paths of the capital city as it would not do for me to be seen”. )

    Since you’ve got him walking the back streets of the city at night, maybe something happens that helps him find the book and start his adventure/journey/transformation or whatever it is. Maybe he sees the book in a storefront window…or maybe he comes across some back alley café, stops in for a light snack, goes home and then dreams of Quibo. Now he’s got to find that café again, find out who made whatever it was that he ate and how they got the recipe, and how they got the book. And maybe it’s more than just curiosity at this point. Because of something that happens or that he learns in his dream he’s now anxious to experience the dream again to find out more.…or to actually go to Quibo because it turns out it’s a real place… or… well you get the idea. Not sure that’s where you ultimately plan to take the story, but – you asked. And thanks for chance to give input on a work in progress. 🙂

  43. The first thought that came to mind when I read about the Recipe was that the more you dreamed about Quibo the more taken in you were with the place until you never wake up. That is what happened with the race of people who originally had the book. Then with the thread about how “I could hear the ghostly voices of the true owners of those stolen volumes reading in whispers the words of all that was left of them” made me think that those who are now in Quibo want out and when the main character read the recipe he linked himself to those people and now they will not let him go till he makes the recipe and dreams of Quibo. Those in Quibo use those who dream of the place to “get out” but when the person wakes up they are sent back until finally the person who was dreaming is now trapped with everyone else in Quibo.
    That is pretty much what was running threw my head as to what would happen. I didn’t read the Empire of Ice Cream so this is the first time I have ever read any of your work. I am intrigued though and now want to read the Empire collection. Thank you for doing a guest spot ;0)

  44. Hi, its me again. I’ve been thinking about Quibo and the strange furry covering on the receipe book. That stood out to me a important. Maybe even a clue to where it is or came from. How about a startling revelation discovered somewhere outside the library?
    Something to do with the critter the cover came from.

  45. Curious, you have an episode Whispers with an all female team and Teyla is not a part of the team. She would seem like a natural fit to be a part or even lead it. What was the reasoning for leaving her out?

  46. Terry Said:

    I am fascinated by the idea of a lowly librarian able to steer the course of an empire.

    Lowly Librarian? Do you believe that in general or just in this story? Librarians assist people every day. They introduce children to the magic of books. They help school kids research their assignments or business people locate statistics for their work. They select books and audiobooks for those not able to visit the library. They don’t know everything, they just know where to find it. They may not run a country but they are an important part of society. Here endeth the rant 😀 .

    Cheers, Chev

  47. First Mr. Ford I’d just like to say I greatly admire your interest in taking part with a book club like this regarding one of your works. Having worked with writers for the past few years I’m always in awe of how professional writers can take suggestions, criticisms and praise for their stories (one’s labored over and undoubtedly with great personal attachment) using it to better understand how other’s experience their words. I still find my defenses going up the second someone suggests anything other that what I had originally conceived myself. But I digress.

    I really enjoyed your short “Recipe for a Journey to Quibo” as it highlighted the very qualities that pulled me into both “The Annals of Eelin-Ok” as well as “The Empire of Ice Cream”. You have a great way at letting the stories unfold and uncovering the worlds without the words coming as obvious expository. “Quibo” in particular had me hooked the second I read the line “the Emperor would sooner kill a thousand people than their culture”. It evoked not only the character of the emperor but the many stories of cities under siege for treasure not of gold but that of their culture. Really that idea alone I’d happily read a thick novel to follow, so you had me hooked. It was in a similar way to “Eelin-Ok” that the mechanics of the characters existence along with the rules of his world came about in such a natural organic way that my mind accepted them without bringing me out of the story. That’s probably one of the main reason I rarely find myself reading fantasy anymore because I feel there’s such a large dedication I must give to reading long paragraphs and chapters “bringing me up to speed” with what the rules of this world are. Actually a book that Joe Mallozzi recommended a while ago called “The stars my destination” did exactly that in a sort of short story that set the ground work for the rest of the book. So again kudos in what I found throughout the stories I read to be a wonderfully organic way to explain the world to the reader without it feeling like a school lesson.

    While “Eelin-Ok” held me the right to the end I found myself struggling to make the same transition to the very final parts of both “Empire” and “Quibo”. For “Quibo” it begins at the second last paragraph where I see the twist your adding of the character beginning to question what’s real and what’s not much in the same way “Empire” does but maybe it’s the wording, or the amount of focus of the information within each sentence that begins to bring me out of the story. I start to find myself trying to make sense of what I’m reading (understandably because both sections are about the characters being caught in confusion of their own) and the result is being pulled out of the story. It was similar confusion that never really let me get into “Jupiter’s Skull”. Now the obvious disclaimer here is that I don’t read Fantasy that often to it’s very possible that the problem understanding is a deficiency in yours truly but none the less I thought I’d at least let you know this reader’s thoughts.

    Please keep up with “Quibo” because as I said the world you’ve created is really interesting to myself, causing my mind to spark with the stories that it could produce. I agree that the best one is in fact what you’ve focused on, a simple man who has the ability to steer the sail of an empire simply by the reading he suggests to it’s emperor and people.

    Cheers, and thanks for the opportunity you’ve given us all to give feedback,

  48. Questions for Mr. Ford:

    In writing “Botch Town,” which I loved for how adroitly you brought an entire community to life in its pages, was it difficult for you to deal with subject matter that was painful for you as a child? Or has it been helpful to get some things out in the open? Also, if you have the time and inclination, could you talk a little more about how you progressed from penning character sketches as a boy to writing full-fledged stories? Or a bit about how your tastes in reading evolved over time?

    (If this is all covered in your LiveJournal, I’ll be happy to read it there.)

    Also, what do you like best to focus on as a teacher?

    Thanks again for your excellent stories. I think a lot of people appreciate the efforts of talented and skilled authors who are helping to keep the short story a vital part of English lit. I feel very strongly that they’ve made me a much better reader, and it’s good to see them evolve.

  49. Mr Ford,
    Though I have never read your book, I am definately going to now, You new story is wonderful. The way I see it so far, is that we are all searching for that one elusive thing, that at one time we thought we had found, but as our memories fade, we are unsure where it was we had seen it.

    I am unsure where the story should go from there, but the piece where the spirits of the once owners of the books, stood out for me. I read further up, a post from Shana, and I agree with some of her points. He could hear the spirits talking in low whispers, calling. His sleepless body being drawn to where he is hearing the voices of the past. There he could find the book…Finding it would lead to Shana’s idea.

    Well, thats all I have so far. I will surely find your book and read it! It sounds like it will be a great read!


  50. Chevron7 Said: Lowly Librarian? Do you believe that in general or just in this story? Librarians assist people every day. They introduce children to the magic of books. They help school kids research their assignments or business people locate statistics for their work. They select books and audiobooks for those not able to visit the library. They don’t know everything, they just know where to find it. They may not run a country but they are an important part of society. Here endeth the rant

    I was a ‘lowly librarian'(s assistant) for 4 years. I saved the world once! :mrgreen: (well, actually…it was a bee, and I let it out the window…)

    But the job? Loved it. Love books. Still hate to read though. So I have a house full of books, but they’re all reference books and encyclopedias and such. Just never had patience for novels – except Agatha Christie. Only author I’ve ever managed to read – and all of her works, too. Go figger. Hubby loves sci fi books and Clive Cussler, though, so that kinda balances things out.


  51. Hey Joe,

    I just wanted to say how refreshing these book discussions are. For years I hadn’t picked up a non-IT/Management book, but since discovering your blog it is now the reverse. I now take a lunch break to read and the feeling of relaxation after a half hour with a book gives me new focus for the remainder of the day.

    So I’m not carrying around a lump of book that is adding to my chiropractic bills (and more importantly it will hopefully mean easier access to BOTM) I’ve decided to get a Sony Reader.

    There is an inscription that can be engraved on it and I’m stuck for ideas!

    “Carpe Diem” is too cliche. I thought of the more practical “Nathan, put this back where you found it”.
    There is an amazing quote from Buffy (Season 2, Becoming Part 1) which sums up life, but I was wondering if you (or anyone else) has any suggestions?

    Sorry Chev, as a librarian you must hate hearing people are buying these things. I will still buy a classic book to have on the shelf, but for the practicality of every day reading, the Reader seemed like a solution.

  52. So many great and varied ideas about Quibo! There are so many tantalizing little threads in those opening paragraphs… I know I posted once about the story, but as I thought a bit more about it, a darker turn came to mind.

    Pickin up where the author left off: As the narrator (N)roams the alleyways, he sees a familiar figure leaving a shop, furtively clutching a package to his chest. It is the former head librarian. N. feels compelled to follow him and does so, eventually arriving at a modest house in a well-to-do neighborhood. Rather than announce his presence and speak to his old boss, N. stays in the shadows and watches as the librarian unlocks the door and goes in. After a few minutes, a light appears in a window. Just before the curtains are drawn, N. catches a glimpse of a large bird-cage occupied by an exotic bird. Was it the Zasheel he saw? Perhaps, but he could not see it well enough to be certain. Did the old Librarian steal the book and find the recipe to reach Quibo?

    Retracing his steps, N. finds his way back to the shop the old man had visited. It is an apothecary, but the door is now bolted and all is dark.

    The next day N. visits the old man who denies any knowledge of the book, the bird or of a place called Quibo. N. of course, does not believe him. N. must have the book and is sure the old man has it. He stalks the old man, watching his house at night and following him, eventually discovering what he is purchasing at the apothecary. Are they ingredients for the recipe to reach Quibo? For N. obtaining the book has become an obsession bordering on madness. And since he no longer sleeps, he has ample time to pursue his obsession, and opportunity to do what he thinks is necessary to obtain his Grail aided by the cover of darkness.

    And that is as far this train of thought would carry me.


  53. Just saw this Top 50 worlds best restaurants list.

    Have you been to any o the restaurants listed here? Do you agree/disagree with any that made the list? (I note Fuel doesn’t rank here. From your description of it, I’m seriously considering a trip to Canada just so I can sample some of the many delicious dishes you have shared with us)

  54. …”CthI:Atlantith…..” that comment back a couple of dayth had me laughing tho much I burnt my tongue on my Thpinach and Feta roll. It doethn’t help when the pathtry ith of the flaky variety!!!

    It’th nithe to thee that Shepard ith thtill very much part of the team, even if he doethn’t get any ‘tholo’ thtorylineth until the thecond part of the theathon.

    No, if you will excuthe me, I thhall go ‘Wraith-ify’ a creme egg, medithinal purpotheth only, of courthe.

  55. Hello Jeffrey Ford,

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read The Empire of Ice Cream … yet. If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t read any of this months BOTM club selections.

    I did however find Recipe for a Journey to Quibo fascinating, so I do hope you are able to get unstumped.

    My thoughts on Quibo – while not entirely similar, it does remind me somewhat of Revelations 10:9-11 “So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”

    That being said, perhaps the recipe is an SOS, written in the hopes that whoever eats it will come and save Quibo from some dark force that has held the land captive. Or maybe, it’s prophetic – i.e. the sleeper who dreams of Quibo learns that some dark, sinister force is about to invade their land … or maybe a combination of the two.

    With that in mind, here are a couple of other things to consider …

    If two people dined on the recipe would they dream of visiting Quibo together?

    Would an army feasting on the dish be able to invade Quibo?

    Is the book missing or has it been stolen? Perhaps by someone (an agent of the dark forces) who doesn’t want the recipe to be eaten.

    Obviously, the book needs to be found and the dish made and eaten in order for the story to go any further, but maybe the page has been damaged (is that 7 or 9 seeds of a Ryu flower?) or a key ingredient almost impossible to obtain.

    Don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, but hopefully someone has given you something to work with here.


  56. To Narelle from Australia How about Lord Byron’s quote?

    “But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”

  57. Narelle from Aus Said:

    <p.There is an inscription that can be engraved on it and I’m stuck for ideas!

    “Carpe Diem” is too cliche. I thought of the more practical “Nathan, put this back where you found it”.
    There is an amazing quote from Buffy (Season 2, Becoming Part 1) which sums up life, but I was wondering if you (or anyone else) has any suggestions?

    Fish of the day? LOL

    I’ll have a think about inscriptions for you


    Sorry Chev, as a librarian you must hate hearing people are buying these things. I will still buy a classic book to have on the shelf, but for the practicality of every day reading, the Reader seemed like a solution.

    Not really. We actually have a great relationship with bookstores. If you want the latest book right now then it’s perfect. I haven’t checked out the Sony Reader. Let me know if you need any new sources of ebooks.

    Cheers, Chev

  58. Hi Mr. Ford! Hi Joe! Hi everyone else!

    I want to add my thoughts/ideas on Recipe…, but it’ll have to wait a couple of days while I go do a bunch of stuff and think about it. I love what you have written so far. So many cool ideas have burst forth so far! I’ll try not to take unintentionally(!) too many ideas from those before me.


  59. Hello Joe,

    It’s 21:15 and no April 22nd post. I hope you are okay!


  60. Oh my goodness, I just saw the Continuum preview! It looks fantastic! Like the old Star Wars movies! Wow!

  61. Mr. Ford,

    What can I say? I feel much like the main character of the story who is searching for Quibo. If you don’t finish the story I will always wonder how it ends.

    I think I might dream of Quibo tonight.

    The story has shades of both Narnia and Twilight Zone for me. I mean that in a good way. I’m a huge C.S. Lewis/TZ fan.

    It would be very sad if the main character never finds the book and never tries the recipe. It would annoy me, in fact. So he MUST! Without question he must be able to get to Quibo.

    Maybe he finds the book somewhere (someone else suggested NOT in the library and I think they are on to something there). He tries the recipe and it doesn’t work for him at first. It seems simple but he’s not understanding a part of it. (I hate it when this happens to me. Unfortunately, it happens quite often.)

    Maybe after he figures out what he had wrong with the recipe he is still unable to complete it because he needs something that would arouse suspicion.

    And maybe you should not take my advice at all. I have no idea what I’m talking about. I am by no means an author. I’m just a reader. And a lowly one at that. However, I loved the little morsel you’ve been kind enough to share with us! Your writing is so descriptive I can picture the world this man lives in and even Quibo. And I long to learn more.

    Hopefully someone on here will have sparked your imagination. Good luck!


  62. Okay, more thoughts. And I’m sorry for the veery longish post!

    First: I’m rather inclined to think you’re not so much kind to show us this little piece of unfinished work but very clever! So many people commenting they haven’t read the Empire but will buy it now. Lots of people buying your new book sin the hope that Quibo will be part of it…that’s just strategy, confess! 😀

    And how about a secret, shadowy club of Quibo eaters? Maybe they stole the book as one of X’s subordinates belongs to them…they spread all through the Empire and are descendants of this society that vanished…they work on bringing ruin to the Empire. X is drawn into the circle like a drug addict and has to choose between loyaility to his Empire and to Quibo. Just a random thought.

    On to the other Empire again 😉
    I thought a bit more about why “Botch Town” didn’t work for me as so many people here seemed to like it quite a lot, including Joe M. but I guess it’s just that I’m too young and unamerican/Canadian. People who liked it seemed to like it mostly for their own recollections of their childhood. For me that definitely didn’t work. The creepiest bit for me was Halloween. Has it really been so brutal and cruel? This Nair thing sounds terrible! Sorry if I trample any toes here but I come out of a family that is still trying to remember St Martin when we would go around with our lanterns, sing and collect sweets when we were young. That was before Halloween was imported from the US.
    In the meanwhile I read “Jupiter’s Skull”: I rather liked it and I think, or rahter, I have the feeling that you like circles. They pop up in many of your stories. at least that’s how I feel. Your description of the city was great and it reminded me of a very cool book I once read (Christoph Ransmayr, “The Last World”, a terrific kind of fantasy book about Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I can only recommend that!) because in that book there was this little mountain town Tomi with it’s strange inhabitants and this…rusty feeling, if you get what I mean. Somebody mentioned Humphrey Bogart and I liked that idea.

    I hope to be able to read the other stories in time to comment on them as well but lots of work is waiting for me.

  63. Hi Mr. Ford,

    I like the way you’ve incorporated the imagery of recipes into the story. Not only do we have a book with a recipe for getting to the dream place, Quibo, but the librarian is using the collection of books at his disposal as a kind of recipe to shape his land’s future.

    If Quibo is supposed to be a better world, then the librarian has, in some measure, already made his own real world more like Quibo just by suggesting/foisting/suggesting the idea of peace to the aged Emperor through the librarian’s choice of reading material. Knowing which books to suggest at just the right time makes the libararian a sort of politico-literary masterchef.

    And yet, for all the success in life that he himself has attained, the librarian is haunted by one missing ingredient — a red-covered book he once read which contained the recipe for getting to Quibo.

    One wonders, if he did find the missing recipe, if the Librarian would choose to mix it up and travel to Quibo…or if just the act of finding the recipe book will allow him to sleep again, and possibly in doing so, find his own way to Quibo.

  64. Mr. Ford, I must say I love Recipe for a Journey to Quibo. I hope you finish it. I want to know what happens to our hero. When I read a book my mind is always jumping ahead & reaching conclusions before I get to the end. I like to see if the autghor & I go to the same place. In my mind two things occured to me:1.The cheif librarian looks old & frail because of all the trips he has taken to Quibo!(hence HE has the book) 2.Zasheel IS the winged creature from Quibo who is traveling to our hero’s world. This is why he is so captivated by her. I think on one of his nightly jaunts he will meet up with the old chief librarian & recover the book & then his adventures begin!!! Anyway however you see it I am sure it will be just as entertaining & real as the part you have shared with us………Good luck!

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