Monday, March 6, 2017

There's Coffee in That SFR!

Coffee. Yes, I'm one of those. Among the legion of writers who probably couldn't survive without it.

Coffee gets my mental gears turning and gives my muse a heady wake-up call that it's time to get to work. I can't tell you how many scenes I've written while CUIC (creating under the influence of coffee) or WWC (writing while caffeinated).

One of my favorite t-shirts is all about my coffee relationship. It says:

Instant Human
Just Add Coffee 
Yeah, that. :)

My fave brand for home brewing? Maxwell House. I know. Borrrrrrring! Though I do have access to David's somewhat more creative array--currently Laughing Man Ethiopia Sidama Light Roast Coffee, McCafe Pumpkin Spice Aribica Coffee, and Gevalia Carmel Macchiatos. And yes, we have both a Keurig and a Cuisinart home brewer that will grind fresh coffee beans when we're in the mood.
Ah, the aroma of freshly chopped beans!
But I know I'm not alone. Coffee is deeply ingrained into our culture and such an important part of our lives, that it frequently finds its way into popular fiction. And even Science Fiction with/without Romance.
One prime example is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Star Trek Voyager franchise. Captain Jean Luc Picard is known for his iconic Earl Grey tea and likewise, Captain Janeway craved her coffee. Black.
Design for products
available on Zazzle.
Probably one of the most famous Janeway quotes is:
"Commander, set a new course. There's coffee in that nebula!"
Captain Janeway even declared she'd beat the Borg with coffee.
Yes, she's a true sci-fi coffee addict, but far from the only one. Just like the Earth-bound variety our fictional coffee worshippers come in many forms.
One of the more recent sci-fi epics to come to television is The Expanse, based on a series of novels by author (actually writer team) James S. A. Corey. In case you missed my recent post, you can discover a lot more about it here:

Seven Reasons You Should be Watching This Show.
In The Expanse, one of the central characters, James Holden, is on a never-ending quest to find a good cup of coffee in the depths of our own solar system. It seems an impossible quest.
In one scene, after taking a sip, Holden deems the coffee, "Criminal." 
Ade, a female navigator on the ice trawler Canterbury shows him a trick of whittling match heads into a cup of very bitter brew because the sulphur cuts some of the bite. She then smiles at his dubious expression upon taste tasting the result. "It's an acquired taste," she tells him.
Holden and Ade end up bonding over that strange concoction, though Holden continues to search for the remembered goodness of the miraculous product he once enjoyed on Earth. He finally finds what he's looking for aboard a Martian gunship, the Tachi, that he and his crew are gifted as a getaway vehicle after a catastrophe occurs.
And what does Holden find on the Tachi-soon-to-be-renamed-Rocinante? Yes! A fully stocked galley bursting with actual brew!

Holden be like...

And of course, being the coffee appreciator that I am, coffee also finds its way into my novels.

In Inherit the Stars, the word "coffee" has evolved into "kinna" over the centuries, and a good cup of the stuff is still a sought-after experience. Here's a brief scene where hero Sair is sharing a cup with a fellow crewmember (and former nemesis) in an enemies-to-allies moment.

Sair and Zjel settled down at a two-person table, mugs of kinna in hand. He gave her a quick smile. “Having a heart-to-heart is something I never pictured us doing when I first boarded the Specter.”

Zjel took a sip of her kinna, screwing up her face. “Specter’s processor makes a damn better product.” She placed her mug on the table. “I had some misconceptions about you, Sair. I was wrong.”

He pursed his lips and rotated his cup in quarter turns on the table. “No harm done. Well, maybe one small scar.” He showed the now-healed line on his palm and grinned.
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Part I: Flight
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By the way, if you're intrigued with Inherit the Stars, I'm extending a special offering to you that was made available to my newsletter subscribers until May.
In addition to being published as a novel, this space opera adventure SFR was also serialized into three parts -- Part I: Flight, Part II: The Network, and Part III: Sacrifice.
Inherit the Stars Part I: Flight comprises roughly a third of the entire tale and ends on a terrific cliffhanger. It's currently being offered for free via Instafreebie.
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But Inherit the Stars isn't the only story that features coffee consumers.

The characters in future release The Outer Planets are on a mission aboard a planetary exploration vessel dubbed the NSS Robert Bradley when they begin to forge a cautious alliance over two cups of Joe in the vessel's self-serve coffee shop.

It's cautious because one of them knows a whole lot more about the other than she's willing to reveal.


The coffee shop was little more than an alcove off the main corridor with five small roundtops and a self-serve beverage and snack bar. Walls of soft blues and greens suggested sky and grass and blended well with faux cobblestone floors. Silk flora sprouted from plant wells to create a park-like atmosphere.

The environs had even been engineered to generate artificial weather. It seemed to be in Quiet Morning mode with artificial rays of soft sunlight falling in slanted diagonal beams from hidden projectors high on the walls. Despite the inviting oasis and not so late hour, the tables were deserted.

Lissa selected a Brazilian coffee blend from the brewer menu. Looking over the holograms of the soy-based donuts with suspicion, she decided she wasn’t hungry. Mitch seemed to come to the same conclusion. Coffee mugs in hand, they settled at a table near the back of the shop.

“So tell me more about you,” Mitch prompted.

Lissa took another long sip from her coffee and lowered the mug. “As a friend. Or am I being questioned by a member of security?”

His foot slipped back to the floor and he shifted forward. “As a friend.”

Lissa drained half her mug and set it down on the table. Why was she always so quick to go on the defensive with him? You know why.

“What do you want to talk about?”

“You,” he answered. “Tell me about your family.”

Lissa gripped the chairseat on either side of her thighs. Simple question for most people. Hot potato for me. “One brother. But we haven’t seen much of each other since…” My father’s death. Five years and I still can’t say those words. “…our father’s funeral.”

“I’m sorry,” Mitch said, with just enough feeling that she knew his words were genuine.

“I never knew my mother. She died shortly after I was born. There were complications.”

Mitch’s gaze fixed on the liquid in his cup. “That must have made for a rough childhood.”

“Well, not growing up with a mom, I never really knew what I missed.” Lissa quirked the right side of her mouth. “I would have liked the chance, though. People tell me I take after her.” She took another sip and batted the ball back into his court. “And you? Family?”

“My parents were killed in a flyer accident eight years ago.”

While on their second honeymoon in Aruba. “I’m so sorry.”

“I have a sister I’m very close to.” Renee. “A couple of nieces.” Tammy and Sarah, who you dote on. “And a brother I don’t speak to.”

Lissa straightened and pulled her feet under her. A brother? He’d never mentioned a male sibling before. From the sudden flatness in his voice, it seemed there might be a good reason. “Should I ask?”

He shook his head and dropped his voice. “No.”

So much for their conversation. “I guess family wasn’t such a great topic after all.”

“My fault,” Mitch muttered.

They both lagged into silence as they finished their coffee.


Now it's your turn.

Have you encountered coffee culture in reading, writing or viewing SF/R? Please tell us more in comments. I'm always eager to seek out new blends and new variations when it comes to coffee in the entertainment universe.

Have a great week.
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  1. Holden's quest reminds me of Arthur Dent's long search for a cup of tea after the Vogons destroy Earth in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.
    I have coffee in my SF/R, although it's kavril or capprey in some books. My 21st century heroine spends several decades trying to track coffee and chocolate replacements, and when she does her hero complains about hating the taste and smell of her beloved coffee and refuses to touch it, despite claiming he's ingested things most people throw out. Unfortunately I've had to drastically cut my intake as it was affecting my sleep and causing me to wake up stupidly early and in a panic.

    1. LOL Now that's an ironic twist! But as Ade said, "It's an acquired taste." Those who haven't been exposed to their caffeinated drug of choice probably wouldn't understand what the fuss is all about.

      And that's a good reason not to destroy the Earth. It's the only planet with coffee! I actually had a panic-attack moment when I read that climate change may impact coffee the point that coffee is no longer available! Argh! Reason enough right there to do my part to protect the environment.

    2. It was that whole acquired taste that made me think my hero wouldn't like it, having grown up without such a temptation. :P

    3. LOL Exactly! So are you a fan of Earl Grey tea?

    4. Well, tea *is* supposed to be a typically British tradition. I'm not sure what's in our general day to day tea bags, but I lean more toward peppermint tea for clearing my head or jasmine green tea for a calming effect.

    5. Peppermint is a natural antacid that works way better than Tums or other medicines for me and it's healthier, too. I'll bet it also works in tea.

  2. Great excerpts, and yes, I also have a coffee, um, problem. :) Hubs has been trying to get me to watch The Expanse, and I'll probably break down and do it once I check off a couple more to-do items. I'd need to re-watch to say for sure, but I think coffee was also a Thing in the TV show Fringe. They didn't have coffee in the parallel universe, so when folks came here from the flipside they fell pretty hard.

    1. Oh, that's brilliant. I'll have to Google that, Vivien. Yeah, that's something we all need to add to our checklist for future colonies/alternate universes:
      Breathable air? Check.
      Clean water? Check.
      Survivable environment? Check.
      COFFEE??? CHECK!

      And please do check out The Expanse and let SyFy Channel know if you love it. Great SciFi doesn't have a very good track record on the small screen (go figure) and fans want to ensure it comes back for many more seasons.

  3. I call coffee 'kaff' in some of my SF books. But I call tea (um tea. Because tea is a ubiquitous expression, simply meaning you let something soak in water for a while, then drink it. Coffee is such a song and dance in comparison.

    In my Morgan Selwood books the Manesai (Ravindra's people) drink charb, which Morgan finds quite revolting in the instant version. Ravindra's fresh-brewed version is much more palatable. But I think she just got used to it.

    1. "Caff" totally makes sense, Greta. Especially if climate change affects crop production in the future and we look for other sources for our caffeine fix. Maybe it won't be true "coffee" from coffee beans then, so much as just a caffeine-based drink. So yeah, kaff.

      I'm also convinced that caffeine dependence might be somewhat genetic. My mom was a HUGE coffee drinker when I was in my teens. I literally didn't talk to her until she'd had her second cup, and she'd remind me if I tried. LOL I hated the stuff. But as I aged (ha!) into my twenties, "blech" or not, I turned into a coffee junkie, too. For me, it really was an acquired taste--possibly based on a predisposed genetic requirement of needing coffee to function. :)

      And I'm with Captain Janeway. "Coffee. Black." (Unless it's a Carmel Macchiato, but that's really more like a dessert.)

    2. Being Dutch I grew up with coffee. We used a drip filter pot and hand-ground the beans. It's hard work for a kid, Then we went up-market and had a wall-based grinder. Much easier. The Dutch drink it strong and black, with maybe some evaporated milk (or your creamer). I used to drink a LOT of coffee, but in my 40's I found it gave me heart palpitations and stopped. Now I drink tea - but I'll have one flat white a day if we're out and about.

    3. I used to have to stick to a mug a day max (though it was a big mug--probably equivalent to 3 or more cups), and since I retired I've cut that back to a smaller mug, closer to 2 cups. I can't drink coffee after 1PM though or it will keep me up at night, so definitely a morning drinker.

      Are you originally from the Netherlands, Greta?

    4. Yes I am. But my parents emigrated when I was 4, so I consider myself very much an Aussie. Though, as you can see, my family did retain some of their tastes.

    5. That's very cool. David actually rode with the Queen's Cavalerie Ere Escorte for the jubilee many years ago. He's one of two Americans that was awarded their badge and had permission to wear it on his Army uniform.


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