Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/23/19: Ice Cream Flavors

Charcoal flavored ice cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Fifty years ago, when you walked into a grocery store, you did not see the many flavors of ice cream available these days. No, fifty years ago, there was only chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, or all three of them packaged together, in a cardboard box striped like the Mexican flag, in a flavor known as Neapolitan. You might also see Butterbrickle, Maple Nut, or Pistachio if you were lucky. Exoticness then was strictly for sherbets.

When Chocolate Chip ice cream was introduced to the masses in the mid-1970s, it was a like gift from God. Followed soon by Chocolate Fudge Ripple and Chocolate Mint, the stage was set for ice cream flavors to diversify fully. When boutique ice cream came along with Haagen Daz and Ben and Jerrys, well, things never were the same again. No longer was one confined to dull Neapolitan at birthday parties where one had to leave the Strawberry serving untouched on one’s paper plate.

Since that revolution, a second one has happened in which flavors unimaginable before are being concocted in boutique stores like the Portland chain Salt and Straw, which boasts flavors like Beecher’s Cheese with Peppercorn Toffee.  Independent ice cream shops have coming out with flavors like Sweet Corn, Honey Lavender, and Whiskey Maple Bacon for a while now, and all this isn’t even considering the Japanese market, in which flavors like Squid Ink and Cedar Hot Tub are sold as delicacies.

Need a spur of the moment ice cream flavor? Here are some.

Ice Cream Flavors

Mangosteen Raspberry

Cherry Margarita

Spiced Heath Bar Crunch

Goji Berry Green Tea

Apple Strudel Macadamia Nut

Coffee Peanut Butter

Rum Butter Gelato

Baked Butterfinger Pudding

Spiced Peach Schnappes

Sweet and Sour Basil Ice

Honey Black Cherry

Cantalope-Fig Shave Ice

Ginger Papaya Sherbet

Macadamia Nut Brittle Milkshake

Cucumber-Ginger Sherbet

Rum Almond

Irish Creme Gingerbread

Salted Cashew Crunch

Creme de Menthe S’mores

Nutty Malted Milk Cookie Crust

Gingersnap Fennel Espresso

Southern Brazil Nut Birthday Cake

Lime Ginger Shave Ice

Amaretto Roast Chestnut

Cashew Wafer

Italian Walnut Poppyseed

Cookie Crumb Salted Caramel

Pina Colada Tea Biscuit

Espresso Cream Cheese

Lemongrass Italian Ice

Apple Lavender

American Diner Cinnamon Roll

Salted Hazelnut Truffle

Crunchy Sugarplum Stripe

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie

Sweetmint Torte

Alaskan Chocolate Rumble

Sweet Cappuccino Delight

Baked Blackberry Strudel

English Lemon Curd Confetti

Hot Cocoa Eggnog

Guinness n’ Lime

Almond Gooseberry

Sour Cherry Clotted Cream

Pecan Cake Batter

French Vanilla Truffle

Kentucky Bourbon Mochi Ball

Peppercorn Cheddar

Vanilla Bean Honey Pudding

Lemon Thyme Cheesecake

Mocha Mascarpone

White Chocolate Lemon Curd

Black Tea Brownie

Chocolate Hibiscus Candy

The Pit and the Pendulum

The Japanese always take horror to the max, including Edgar Allen Poe.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/16/19: Exotic Vegetables

Some of the many varieties of potatoes cultivated by the Inca people.

What is the difference between a fruit and vegetable, anyway? Traditionally, fruits taste sweet, and vegetables savory, that is, not sweet.  But this doesn’t account for the tomato (sweet) being in the vegetable section of the supermarket, or the melon family being divided in two, with some members (cantalope, watermelon) being fruits, and others vegetables, even if, like certain squashes, they taste sweet.

Another definition is that fruits are the mature ovaries of plants and thus contain seeds (except for varieties developed by humans to be seedless) while vegetables are the other edible parts of the plant, like its leaves, stalks, roots, and flowers.  Yet peppers and eggplant and still classed with vegetables and not fruit.

My definition is that a fruit is most commonly eaten raw, while vegetables are most commonly cooked. But, again, this doesn’t account for salad greens and apple pies!

Confusion aside, here’s some randomgenned veggies that can be used to provide nutrition in your fantasy world.

Exotic Vegetables

Chabais: A thin, elegant tuber that grows in bunches underground like the fingers on a hand, Chabais is zesty and crisp, with pale flesh speckled with scarlet. The skin is brown and ridged with “eyes.”  Chabais prefers moist areas to grow in. Its flowers are often harvested to make a healing tea.

Ylan: A  foul-smelling, leafy vegetable that softens and sweetens when cooked. It is only the leaves on the upper stalk that are eaten. YIan stores a lot of salt and has natural sugars, and so does not need seasoning in the pot. It is often pickled for later use. Also known as “Fairy Food.”

Zhath pod: This tropical tree has an edible seed pod that is delicious when poached. The pods grow in clusters of five and are shaped like flat disks. They must be picked when green. If they have turned brown, they will be too bitter to eat.

Alkaday: A fist-sized, starchy vegetable with a bright blue peel that is removed before cooking. Alkday is very filling, though bland. The peel is used as a dye. Alkaday stores and travels well, leading many farmers to grow it as a cash crop.

Izbo: A leafy stalked vegetable with dark, curling, blueish-green leaves. The stalks have a magenta tint, and are steamed and eaten separately. The taste is reminiscent of cauliflower.

Aeva: A small, contorted root used to flavor stews and soups with its unique spice. The tough gold skin must be peeled completely away to reveal the carmine interior. Aeva is often chewed when raw to sweeten one’s breath. The taste is like lemon, turmeric, and cinnamon combined.

Jajrasilla: A tuber that grows in a shape resembling a human foot, jajrasilla is salty and crunchy when eaten raw. It has smooth gold skin and an ivory interior. When cooked and mashed, it makes a fine custard.

Chphosis: A large root that is found only in swampy areas and must be dug out of the mud. Chphosis has a thick, smooth red skin and a creamy interior. It is labor-intensive to gather and thus very expensive, being eaten mainly by the wealthy.

Yubric: A soft vegetable similar in size and appearance to a cherry tomato, but dark reddish-brown in color with a fuzzy skin. It spoils very easily and must be eaten fresh.

Morvia: One of the most versatile and tastiest tubers around, with rich, buttery flesh. Morvia grows in the shape of a lopsided crescent and its skin ranges from lavender to blue. It may be baked, boiled, or fried.

Jizbol: The flower buds of this large desert succulent are gathered in the spring. They have little taste, but stain the foods they are cooked with a bright orange.

Vendha: A robust vine whose large, circular leaves may be steamed and eaten. The leaves lose their bright green color when cooked, turning black. They are full of important nutrients. Vendha is easy to grow and blooms with spectacular orange-yellow flowers in early summer.

 

Those Savage Queens

These days, you can’t spit in fantasy art without hitting some variant of a beautiful, barely clad female lounging on a throne, pasties on her nipples, a pout on her pretty face. The strong suggestion is she rules by whim and her power is absolute, a thing which, I’m sure, many of the male artists and male viewers can relate to in their romantic histories.

“Yeah, I’m the Queen of the Moose People. You gotta problem with that?”
(Artwork by Alfonso Azpiri )

But where did she come from?

Before the 20th century, Savage Queens existed only in myth or as characters from the Bible, that repository of culture-sanctioned myth in the Western world. As such, they appeared in oil paintings for the wealthy.

Semiramis Called to Arms, by Giovanni Francesco Guercino, 1645

This painting makes no effort to depict Queen Semiramis of Assyria in anything resembling Middle Eastern garb or period dress of the 8th century BC. Instead, she’s dressed like an Italian noblewoman of the mid-17th century, which may be exotic to us now, but certainly not to the viewers of the time. It would take the Enlightenment, with its curiosity about ancient cultures, for more authentic garb to appear. Yet she is a Savage Queen — lounging about (on a fancy chair if not a throne) as a servant fixes her hair, she is interrupted by a messenger bearing news of a revolt, so she rises, uncoifed, to go to war.  The 17th century being what it was, I’m sure the painting was an allegory intended for some noble.

Depiction of Françoise Marie de Bourbon as Juno, by François de Troy

Once the Enlightenment was underway, we start seeing more patently exotic garb. This painting of Juno, Queen of the Greek gods and wife of Zeus, shows her in toga-like drapes, on a throne, while petting a peacock. But the face and hairdo is that of Françoise Marie de Bourbon, an illegitimate daughter of Louis XIV,  whom the depiction was designed to flatter. I’ll guess the portrait was created at the start of the Neoclassic Age, as the side table her arm is resting on has that ancient Grecian look. Europeans had started poking around in Mediterranean ruins at the time, unearthing many wonders.

 

Salammbô, by Alphonse Mucha, 1896

Czech artist Alphonse Mucha is widely known today for his much-imitated style and JOB cigarette papers girl, a popular poster in the late 1960s. But his artwork was shockingly revolutionary when it first came out. This lithograph depicts Salammbo, a high priestess of Carthage, from the novel of the same name written by Gustave Flaubert — he of Madame Bovary fame.  Though Salammbo stands tall and dignified in Mucha’s depiction, she is clearly a sensual heathen by her bared breasts, elaborate jewelry, and peacock feather crown. And she’s not entirely nice, going by how her lyre-playing slave is shrinking from her.

Orientalism, an art movement popularized by another Gustave, Gustave Moreau, clearly had a hand in this depiction. Orientalism was a wide, European-based art movement that began in the 18th century and had its roots in earlier ages of exploration and colonization. It had a fascination with all things non-European (Japanese block prints, Grecian columns, Polynesian carvings, etc.) using those design motifs and subject matter for the titillation of European minds. One of the most popular in fine art was the idea of the Harem… naked and/or exotically dressed women lolling about amongst pillows and draperies. Another was a fascination with the Near East and the more savage Biblical stories, such as the one of Salome, who has become a potent symbol of female danger and seduction. As a Savage Queen, she is petulant, beautiful, savage, and cruel.

Left to right: Tanz der Salome, Leopold Shmutzler, 1914; Dancer Shafiga Copta; Salome, Anonymous

By the late 1800s ethnic jewelry and costumes were beginning to find their way into European markets for artists to find inspiration from, hence her garb.  Alternately, costume items could have been sketched at their source by painters doing their Grand Tour of the Levant. Notice how peacock feathers appear in Salome’s costume, as they have in Mucha’s and de Troy’s paintings.

A burlesque dancer from the early 20th century dressed in a Salome-inspired costume holds up her hands  in a “pagan” pose.

Like Salome, Mata Hari too became the epitome of the man-eating femme fatale in her “Oriental” costume (this one standing in for Malaysia) even though the truth of her life was far different.

Cleopatra’s first appearance in film was, for the time, shockingly sexually forward. Silent movie actress Theda Bara designed many of the costumes herself, which while not authentic, are interesting for their mishmash of Arabic, Indian, and Central Asian sources. Bara might seem too plump and homely for today’s taste in Savage Queens (compare her to the Joe Jusko version below) but at the time she created a sensation. Her depiction of a Savage Queen was also one of the first to reach a mass audience. (The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 led to more accurate costume depictions.)

But it took the pulps for Savage Queens to really make a mark.

Pulp literature had its heyday in the early decades of the 20th century and was named for the cheap paper the magazines were printed on; later “pulp” also referred to the subject matter, which was lurid, exploitive, sensational, and imaginative… perfect for science fiction and fantasy. This mass-market fluff regularly featured stories of heroic adventurers in exotic lands, the fertile ground Steven Spielberg paid homage to with Indiana Jones. Writers didn’t have to look far for inspiration, as tombs were being found and lost cities discovered at a high rate. H. Rider Haggard’s She was perhaps the first Savage Queen in print, in part inspired by the apex years of the British Empire when Africa was undergoing colonization.

Ursula Andress as Ayesha,1965.

Ayesha in many ways set the template for a Savage Queen: she ruled a lost, barbaric kingdom in the jungle, was incomparably beautiful and powerful, and, most importantly for pulp fiction, harbored an attraction towards the male adventurer of the story.

When the British Empire began to crumble, the Americans took up the reins. Among them was a  young writer named Edgar Rice Burroughs who created not one but several pulp series featuring lost worlds and fantastic adventures. Tarzan of the Apes is Burrough’s best-known hero, and he had run-ins of his own with a Savage Queen named La, ruler of the lost city of Opar.

Queen La made several appearances throughout the series. She ruled over Opar as its high priestess and became attracted to Tarzan because the males of Opar were, unfortunately, ugly and deformed. True to form, her dangerous nature emerges (she attempts to sacrifice him, and then Jane, with a knife) and later weeps with frustration when Tarzan rejects her.  It’s interesting to trace her depiction over the years.

An early book cover. A rosy-cheeked Queen La stands in a typical flapper pose. Tarzan looks very young here, maybe nineteen, and his legs are impressively muscled. The artist was not afraid to depict nipples.

A later illustration. Both Tarzan and Queen La have curly, movie-star hair; Tarzan resembles Buster Crabbe, and Queen La, Myrna Loy. As per the movie code of the time, she shows no cleavage or nipples and her navel is hidden. Tarzan has lost the wiry savagery of the earlier depiction, appearing more like an office worker who occasionally plays golf.

From a 1960s comic. Tarzan has certainly met his match! Queen La’s headdress of linked disks seems inspired from the fashions of Paco Rabanne.

From a 1970s comic. Queen La wears what is basically a bikini. Her headdress has increased in size to showgirl proportions.

Joe Jusko’s version. More muscles, more undress, and… pasties! One with a dangly thing. Tarzan is freshly oiled as if from a posing session at Gold’s Gym. His physique is truly excessive for an ape-man that makes his bread and butter swinging through the trees. No vine could hold the weight of those massive pecs and thighs.

Humor here from cartoonist Gary Larson, showing how far the trope has penetrated.

By the ending decades of the 20th century, Savage Queens were well established and featured regularly like  this cheesecake, but very worthy, depiction by Chris Achilleos. This Queen is a ballbuster and will clearly take no quarter from an undeserving man.


I’ll leave this photo essay with one of the many modern depictions. Note the recurring elements of throne, peacock feathers, and  exotic headdress.

Queen, by Studio Smugbug on DeviantArt

Sideways Roller Coaster


This unique sideways roller coaster was the only one of its kind produced. It was abandoned, along with the amusement park, after the final cataclysm hit the city.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/9/19: Fantasy Fruits

Buddha’s Hand, a relative of the citrus fruits

To come up with some exotic fruit for a fantasy kingdom it is not necessary to look beyond this world. The strange-looking fruit above, known as a Buddha’s Hand, is a cultivar (a genetic variant encouraged by fruit growers) of the citron tree, and in the same general family as oranges and limes. It looks a bit like a lemon that has exploded. It contains little pulp or juice, but the skin is highly fragrant and can be used to make candy. You’ll probably never see it in your local supermarket, but it may occasionally be found in specialty Asian grocers.

Other odd, exotic fruits may be found closer to home. Take the Osage Orange. Never heard of it? It’s a native of North America that was once restricted to East Texas. When English colonizers discovered it (the Native Americans, of course, already knew of its uses) it was decided to be an exceptionally nifty tree for wood and landscaping use and thus disseminated all over the US. The fruit is large, green, and wrinkled, with a dry texture and cucumber-like flavor. It doesn’t taste too good to modern humans or livestock, but in the Pleistocene, some scientists say, it was very appealing to the fauna of the era like ground sloths and woolly rhinos.

If real-life examples are too mundane for you, here are some randomgen ideas.

Fantasy Fruits

Thurzle: A scarlet fruit that grows only in the tropics. It has a  squat, almost lenticular shape and its skin is heavily creased. The flesh is sweet and crunchy. The inside is studded with small black seeds, giving it a slightly gritty quality. Thulze must be picked off the tree; by the time it falls, it has begun to rot.

Jarten: A small, oval-shaped melon with ridged skin raised in a hexagonal patten. Its flesh is a dull orange in color and very fibrous. When cooked, the fibers dissolve and form a thick pudding.

Servia: A globe-shaped melon with a  green rind and pale interior spotted with pink seeds. The flesh is stringy but very sweet.

Mafakla nut: Medium-sized, round, smooth nuts that grow on dense bushes in the evergreen rain forest. The shell of the nut is tan with beige speckles, and is very hard. The nut itself has a cheesy, sour taste. It is not eaten on its own, but prepared with other foods.

Sangra: A long, tapered citrus fruit with yellow-green, heavily wrinkled skin. On the tree, it is covered with a papery husk. The flesh is orange and has a sweet, slightly salty flavor.

Jidnaberry: Smooth-skinned, reddish-purple berries produced on a low bush in late summer. The berries are tart, and need sweetening if eaten raw. They are full of vitamin C. They are often dried and pounded into fruit leather with the addition of some honey. Jidnaberry is common in woodlands.

Zhaczva: A small, round pine cone that is edible when green.  Its taste is like spiced, sugared rosemary.

Vilsang: A pear-shaped, heavy fruit grown on a relative of the ginkgo tree. It is sweet with taste of lemon and lime combined, though it is not a citrus fruit. Its thin skin is a shiny pale gold in color. It is most prized when fully ripe as it takes on a soft, custard-like texture.

Cendhaz: A large oblong melon with a tough rind that hides a sweet, refreshing interior. Cendhaz are usually red with irregular white stripes. The flesh is pink. Some have been known to reach 30 pounds in weight.

Tulanj: A hard-fleshed tree fruit that ripens in late fall. Tulanj has brown, hairy skin and a pale orange interior concealing a single large seed.

Dragon’s Brain: A globular, wrinkled fruit with a noxious odor that disappears when it is soaked in vinegar. It is usually dark green in color. It grows on a mountain cactus.

Rujujia: A large tropical nut with a reddish-orange shell that must be sliced open with a machete. Its flesh is oily and dense. The nuts grow in clusters and fall from the tree when they are ripe.

Reading Challenge 2019


It’s the time to clean out my To-Read drawer and boxes for this year’s Challenge. Mostly the drawer and the first box I got my hands on. I’m hoping this year’s list will be easier than last year’s. One of the attributes I have to keep in mind for these 12 months is that a book must not be a torture. I read on my lunch hour, and I need that escape… something to look forward to, not dread. The torture happened with Twilight. I don’t want to repeat it. So here are this year’s selections!

Cobalt Jade’s 2019 Reading Challenge List

4. What you will read to your grandchildren: A children’s book (middle grade or younger).
A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L’engle.
Picked because it’s been hanging around for a while and I want to see what’s going on with the Murry kids.

5. East meets West: A book taking place in Asia (Turkey to Japan, Siberia to Vietnam)
The Last Samurai, the Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori, by Mark Ravina.
Japanese history.

6. Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history.
The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
What if all of Caucasian Medieval Europe had died during the Great Plague?

9. Best friend: A book with a dog on the cover.
Being a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz.
Loved her previous book, Inside a Dog.

14. Crossing the (color) lines: A book about a person of color (PoC), any variety, written by an author of the same variety.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemison.
Wanted to read this author for a while.

17. Back in the day: A historical of any genre.
A Murder in Thebes, by Anna Apostolou.
Alexander the Great turns amateur detective!

18. Do you deliver?: A book where food, cooking, restaurants, chefs, etc. play a major role.
American Pie, by Pascale Le Draoulec.
A gift from a now-deceased friend.

25. Flights of fancy: A book in which airplanes figure prominently.
Jet Age, by Sam Howe Verhovek.
The rivalry between the British Comet passenger jet and the Boeing 707.

28. Keep up with the Joneses: A book everyone else seems to have read but you have not.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson.
I don’t know what I will find in here.

39. Tuesdays with Balaam’s Ass: A book with a non-human (animal or fantastic creature) main character.
Tales from Watership Down, by Richard Adams.
Talking rabbits.

48. Matryoshka books: A book mentioned or discussed inside another book.
Reading Lolita in Teheran, by Azar Nafisi.
Self-explanatory.

49. What you read: A book you loved as a child.
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin
How will this one hold up through my adult eyes?

Leviamoth

Life on other planets follows rules we may not expect, like this filter-feeding leviathan-behemoth from the Cygnus 3 system.

Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/2/19: Savage Queens


Lost kingdoms and hidden cities are a staple of pulp adventure fiction — and SFF! — as are their rulers, which, most of the time, are gorgeous, powerful, scantily clad women. Often they serve as foils for the male adventurers and, occasionally, romantic interests. The magazine cover above illustrates Phorenice, the ruler of Atlantis. With her hypnotic Claudette Colbert stare and Tamara Lempick curls, she’s a worthy opponent for the characters of Cutcliffe Hyne’s “The Lost Continent.”

(Fantasy writer Richard Adams paid homage to this character by naming the evil, sexually deviant Priestess-Queen of the Beklan Empire Fornis after her.)

Other powerful ladies include Ayesha, of H. Rider Haggard’s She, Queen La of Opar from the Tarzan books, and Princess Yazmela and Queen Tamaris, creations of Conan writer Robert Howard.  Even C. S. Lewis played with the trope in The Magician’s Nephew, where Mage-Queen Jadis of the dead world of Charn emerges amusingly into Edwardian London, charming and dominating the old Magician of the title. (Later, she winds up as the White Witch in the original Narnia tale, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.) Fantasy art abounds with these ladies because of their dramatic and photogenic qualities, for which I’ll do a later post.

For now, I’ll include a list of suitable savage names for these characters, which are at once exotic and a little unpleasant, full of sibilant S’s, soft J’s, hard T’s, K’s, and V’s, and open-mouthed Ays.

Savage Queens

Shandazis

Shödna

Chalna

Jumanza

Tasza

Phosphania

Sadanza

Iphis

Kabrana

Shenlaz

Thurna

Velza

Gadamrija

Sochosis

Senra

Shulza

Diralva

Vaszina

Penangra

Aycha

Aytes

Mudhazya

Chunda

Tryphna

Lakaytes

Oceansa

Ailata

Kurvia

Angklar

Jekasia

Sungma

Arhoë

Lutrene

Byrolis

Mari Lwyd

Mari Lwyd an original painting by Laura Zakroff

Mari Lwyd was a Welsh Christmas and New Year tradition in which a group of male singers carried a hobbyhorse — a horse’s skull mounted on a pole, cloaked and decorated — to houses around the village, with singing and refreshments. Happy New Year!