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January 2021 Aliette de Bodard newsletter
It’s three weeks and a bit to go until the release of my sapphic precolonial Vietnamese-esque fantasy Fireheart Tiger (eep). Tor dot com ran an excerpt: go here to meet the sword lesbian and the soft diplomatic one, as well as the mysterious and ever present fire…
What people are saying:
"A beautifully written and deeply imagined story about reclaiming yourself. Highly recommended." - Kate Elliott, New York Times bestselling author
"A high-stakes lesbian love triangle in [a] tightly plotted fantasy novella... an ideal pick for fantasy fans longing for non-European settings" - Publishers Weekly
‘Sapphic yearning collides with political machinations, ancient and fiery magic, and a transparently colonial threat. The vivid world building in FIREHEART TIGER perfectly frames a brightly burning core of desire & the desperate struggle towards self-awareness, making this perfect read for anyone looking for a short and satisfying dose of Sapphic romance, intense character growth, and immersive imagery.’ - Second Star to the Right Books
Other writing news
I’m slowly finishing the draft of my queer pirates novella: it’s been going slower than I’d like but I’ve been making steady progress. Right now I have an invasion fleet, a pirate queen and a much-awaited face-off between two characters …
A look at 2020:
In case you didn’t see this (I originally published it on the website).
Well, that was a year. I didn’t expect 2020 to go the places it did (it’s fair to say that no one did).
In no particular order:
-a painful but necessary divorce
-a lot of changes as a result of above
-a pandemic and two lockdowns
-sale of a book (Fireheart Tiger))
-writing of a bunch of things (mostly the queer pirate story, and two short stories)
-publishing of a bunch of things (“The Long Tail” in Wired, “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” in Uncanny, and “The Scholar of the Bamboo Flute” in Silk andSteel, and “The Last Hunt” in The Book of Dragons).
I’m glad to still be here, and I’m even gladder that 2020 is over. Bring on 2021.
Awards eligibility and recommendations
My annual awards eligibility and recommendations post is now online: you can read it here. I hope to update it as I read (but hey, 2021 looks like it’s off to a… bit of a bang).
Recipe: Country Bread
(inspired by Jeffrey Hamelman's country bread. I tweaked the recipe heavily for a home + Dutch oven use)
The pandemic has encouraged me to try my hand at bread again (me and everyone else, or so my family tells me). One of the things I've been struggling with is getting a decent crumb, and I think I've finally cracked it. At least I'm happy with that one.
You'll need a Dutch oven for this one: I used a Le Creuset but anything that can go in the oven and seals well will do the trick (it must have a lid and the lid must be able to withstand high temperatures).
250g bread flour
1/25 teaspoon active dry yeast
250g bread flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
The day before you bake the bread, reactivate the active dry yeast for 10 minutes in warm (~38°C) water (you'll have to subtract that volume of water from the 150mL listed). Mix the salt and flour well. Then add the yeast, mix well, and add the water and mix just until it's all incorporated. You should have a fairly stiff, uniform dough. Cover with cling film, and leave to rise for 12 to 16 hours on the counter, at room temperature.
On the day: reactivate the active dry yeast for 10 minutes in warm (~38°C) water (you'll have to subtract that volume of water from the 180-190mL listed). Mix the salt and flour well. Then add the yeast, mix well, and add the water and mix just until it's all incorporated. Add the pre ferment in chunks, mixing well each time so it's spread in the whole dough (if you did this right, the pre ferment should basically be long strands, which means lots of gluten!). Knead for 5 to 10 minutes by hand.
Leave to rise for 2 hours 30 minutes. At the 50 minutes mark and again at the 1h40 minutes mark, fold the dough: spread it on a floured counter, and stretch it gently in all directions before folding all four corners back on the centre and forming a loose ball.
Shape the dough into a loose round on a floured surface: see here for instructions (you'll just want to be doing the envelope folding in the straight forward approach, and leave the dough seams up). Let it rest for five minutes (you're supposed to cover it with cling film, I confess I'm too lazy at this stage). Then flour the work surface again, and shape the dough again into a tighter round: do the envelope folding and the tightening of the dough with your thumbs. Remember to brush off any extra flour before folding, to make sure the dough doesn't get over stiff.
Take a large dutch oven, line it with parchment paper, and put the round of dough into it seams down. Open up a cross on the dough using a serrated knife (I use my spare bread knife for this): instructions here: this gets a better looking bread with a nicer crust, but it's optional, mostly.
We're going to do the proving and the cooking in a single step. The Dutch oven is going t provide the steam that's present in a traditional baking oven, because the water in the dough will evaporate and be trapped in the Dutch oven.
Put the lid on the Dutch oven, put the Dutch oven into your cold oven, and set the temperature to 220°C (you can technically set it higher but my parchment paper was only proof up to 220°C!). Set the Dutch oven as high in the oven as you reasonably can. Cook for roughly 1h-1h20 minutes. This is very dependent on the state of the crust: I usually check in at the 30 minutes mark, and again every 10 to 20 minutes (DON'T check beforehand as you don't want the steam trapped in the Dutch oven to escape). When the dough has risen and the crust is starting to turn golden, take off the lid of the Dutch oven, and close the oven again. The biggest risk with this is the bottom of the loaf burning: my first one burnt, but I can now gauge when the colour of the crust on the top is likely to be matched by a nicely golden bottom (vs the black charred one). It's cooked but not too cooked, basically (the colour I have is roughly what you're aiming for).
When the bread is cooked, take it out of the Dutch oven, and gently set it on a cooling rack for an hour or until it's cool to the touch (you're technically meant to leave the bread to rest and not touch it at all: I'm not doing this because the Dutch oven is still warm, and leaving the bread there would be like leaving the bread in the warm oven, which isn't the goal).
Enjoy! The pre ferment makes this bread keep fairly well (remember to wrap it in a cloth at room temperature).