Tucked away on the less-traveled 21st Street, just off the much-traveled Main Street, sits my favorite little truffle stop in Vancouver: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France. Owned and operated by former Quebecer Anne-Geneviève Poitras, it offers a delectable selection of hand-crafted chocolates, truffles, confections and beverages. With its rustic wooden shelves, glass jars, and chalkboard specials, the little shop is reminiscent of a bygone era when eating chocolate was something to be treasured – the luxurious creations carefully produced and enjoyed in measured quantities rather than shipped off an assembly line and scarfed down by the bar. The place is possessed of an Old World charm that Akemi immediately likened to Juliette Binoche’s shop in Chocolat – quaint, warm, and utterly special.
On our last visit, we split six truffles (ranging from an orange blossom bursting with intense floral tones to a rich ultra dark), and I picked up a jar of buttery salted caramel (for ice cream purposes).
It’s a little out of the downtown way but if you happen to find yourself in Vancouver (like, say, for an upcoming convention), I suggest you check it out.
198 East 21st Avenue (at main st.), Vancouver | 604-566-1065
Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel
I was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy of the forthcoming Nebula Awards Showcase 2012 featuring Nebula Award winning stories past and present – but mainly present. The collection includes a couple of excerpts from much larger works (a chapter from Connie Willis’ two volume Blackout/All Clear that continues the adventures of the time-hopping 21st century historians introduced in the 1982 short story “Firewatch”, and a chapter from I Shall Wear Midnight by the consistently entertaining Terry Pratchett), SF-themed poetry, a couple of classic entries from scifi legends James Triptree Jr./Alice Sheldon (“And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side”) and Harlan Ellison (“How Interesting: A Tiny Man”), and selected recent Nebula nominees and winners in the Short Story, Novelette, and Novella categories.
Usually, when reading collections, I may come across a handful of entries I’ll enjoy, a few that will fail to capture my interest, and everything in between. This collection differed in that there were a handful of entries I downright loved, a few I enjoyed, and one I disliked so much I actually had to set the book aside for a couple of days to ensure my surprisingly passionate response didn’t color my opinion of the other stories.
In “The Sultan of the Clouds”, Geoff Landis draws on his PhD in physics and experience working for NASA to craft a fantastic future scenario where Venus’s inhospitable carbon dioxide environment has been colonized by floating habitats, ten thousand buoyant transparent domes each home to half a million residents. Accepting an invitation from an individual within the powerful Satrap of Venus, two scientists visit the dazzling alien world – and are swept up in a conspiracy that threatens to upend the planet’s teeming settlements.
Adam-Troy Castro’s “Arvies” is a wicked little tale that imagines a future where death begins at life. It’s a fascinating read that, I’m not surprised, has courted a certain amount of controversy – and, again not surprisingly, roundly criticized by opposing sides in a contentious debate.
“The Green Book”, by Amal El-Montar, delivers a narrative that proves fascinating, heartbreaking, and altogether unique in its presentation of the titular green book, an ancient tome who’s various writers come alive in passionate, doomed discourse.
“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made”, by Eric James Stone, is a wonderful read that uses humor to great effect, telling the tale of a Mormon missionary whose conversion of a race of aliens doesn’t sit well with a human scientist – and fares no better with the alien race’s cantakerous god.
Christopher Barzak’s “Map of Seventeen” is a surprisingly sweet story about sibling relationships, acceptance, and love’s ability to transcend even the most seemingly insurmountable of social barriers.
Finally, the collection concludes with Rachel Swirsky’s award-winning novella, The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window, which is told from the POV of a long-dead sorceress whose account is comprised of a series of awakenings in which she is summoned to work her magic on behalf of various masters and mistresses. This was one of those stories that was such a pleasure to read, it made me take note of the author’s other available works (Through the Drowsy Dark: Short Fiction & Poetry) for future book-browsing reference.
Three more days until Dark Matter #4 hits the shelves. Here’s a sneak peek at the first four pages. The boys agree to disagree: