Todd McCaffrey, a true Renaissance man, author of City of Angels and novels in the incomparable Pern series, is probably one of the nicest guys ever to grace Dragon Con. Todd forgave my timing and ether issues and answered belated queries for the Daily Dragon, including the recipe for his famous crepes:
Daily Dragon (DD): Your novel City of Angels, released with new art direction this year by Word Fire Press (Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, publishers), delves into a potent mix of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and religious icons. What is the genesis of this innovative new world you have created?
Todd McCaffrey (TM): Well, I read Heinlein’s classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which I consider to be his best book, and thought that he’d sort of chickened out at the end. So I decided to write a story where the AI was alive at the end of the book.
I also had spent 16 years in software and have some strong opinions of how an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI—what we normally think of when we hear ‘AI’) would evolve. I think that, just like a baby, it wouldn’t have all of its abilities at once but would have to learn and acquire knowledge and behaviors.
I also feel strongly that a true AI (AGI) has to be able not merely to manipulate its surroundings but also interact with it—it has to have presence in the world.
When I first outlined my idea to my mother, the late Nebula Grandmaster Anne McCaffrey (just ‘Mum’ to me), she said: “If you don’t write it, I will!”
DD: Do you plan to write additional novels in the City of Angels universe?
TM: Yes. I’ve got ideas bubbling away for the next one and have two others set out in my head.
DD: What’s new in the world of Pern? Will anyone else be contributing to the McCaffrey legacy?
TM: When Mum passed away in 2011, she dictated in her Will that she wanted only two people to write on Pern: me and my sister, Georgeanne. Gigi is currently working on her first full-length Pern novel. (No pressure, Gigi! It only has to be a #1 New York Times bestseller, please every fan of Pern, and be finished yesterday! No worries, huh?)
DD: Any inside information on the Pern movie?
TM: I’m not on the inside. You’ll get as much with a well-constructed web search as I will. Everything I know about the state of the project is not only publicly available but also re-posted by me on my website, toddmccaffrey.org.
DD: What else have you been up to regarding writing or art?
TM: I’ve been accepted into Claremont Graduate University’s Master of Fine Arts program (in art). I’m working mostly in acrylics, producing abstract art.
DD: You’ve become quite a celebrity among fan groups throughout the Southeast. How did a famous author come to be a Con Suite cook?
TM: Writers often find themselves desperate to make ends meet. At one point we only had enough to make crêpes suzettes and some Cointreau liqueur so I decided to produce crêpes flambé. We liked them so much I mentioned them to Brandy Spraker and Vonn Gants of Libertycon, wistfully confiding that I’d love to cook them for fans someday—and they liked the idea. So now I’m Libertycon’s Staff Chef!
DD: Would you reveal your secret crepe recipe?
TM: It’s pretty simple:
3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (you can substitute regular sugar)
1 pinch salt
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup water
A shot glass or other suitable pouring device (make it small to prevent accidents)
Firestarter: none if working with a gas stove, else a regular fire lighter (a cigarette lighter is *NOT* recommended)
Emergency equipment: one fire extinguisher, one burn kit, one medic, one burn unit, one hospital with emergency room
Combine the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients and then stir into the dry ingredients. You want the batter pretty thin, so I usually end up adding a bit more water.
Pour about 1/4 cup of the mix into an eight-inch skillet sprayed with non-stick (or coated with melted butter). Wait until the steam has nearly stopped rising, flip and wait again.
At this point you are ready to do the magic (or burn the house down!).
With your liqueur of choice in the shot glass, carefully poor a dash (less than an ounce) over the crêpes, being careful to spill a bit to the side of the pan. Ignite the alcohol by tilting the pan (gas stove) or using the fire lighter.
CAUTION: Live flames! Lots of live flames! Lots and LOTS of live flames! Be very careful! If fire is not your friend, this is not a good idea.
Let the blue flames burn out, fold the crêpe, place onto a dish and eat. You may cover it with whipped cream, chopped fruits, jams, or whatever else rocks your jollies.
(Updates to this interview are anticipated for next year’s Daily Dragon!)