This is an episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast.
This is the first of five interviews we recorded at Balticon. In this one, we were joined by good friend of the show, our sole interview from last year, Nathan Lowell. Nate is one of our very favorite authors not in the least because of his incredible reading voice, his devotion to and engagement with his readers, and the love of craft beer we helped kindle in him this time last year.
Nathan really put his thumb on why we enjoyed this year’s Balticon so much. He shared the impression of a first time attendee, Monica from Galileo Games‘ “Have Blaster, Will Travel” that the crowd is so intelligent. John concurred, describing the typical sorts of conversations we encountered all weekend long, leaving us a bit wall eyed. Many of these great chats were aided in no small part by a greater than average taste for beer.
Speaking of beer, the one we cracked to pour out with Nathan was the 2X from Southern Tier, their double imperial milk stout. We mentioned some of the other beers we had collected by this point in the con including Victory’s Dark Intrigue and DuClaw’s X1. The owl eyes on the label of the former made John think of a particular table Mia spotted in the dealer room, intriguing art pieces who materials are best not dwelled on any more than we already did.
Nate was under a time constraint, we caught him before what sounded like a great panel. He explained it was a hot seat panel, one where the audience got to ask the writers why they did what they did in particular works. Speaking of participating with other authors, larger market and small, led Nate to contemplate a bit of inside baseball within the publishing industry. As a full time author now, it is clear he takes the business of cons, as well as all the other work needed to grow an audience, very seriously whether he is recognized for it or not.
John compared this experience with the time he spent in the music business. While the shape that the creative industries will take on into the future is far from clear, hearing these two talk makes it clear the old ways simply aren’t working any more. For the opportunist, for the go-getter, there are obviously ways to not only survive but to thrive. Nate really put his finger on some of the aspects of how e-books and online channels are offering new openings for those with the desire and ability to exploit them.
For the reader, Nate offered some ideas of how best to tackle discovery in this changing landscape. There are still taste makers, ways to find the interesting peaks and abiding values within the long tail.
Taking a brief break, we cracked open a second beer, the Heller-bock Saphir. The hop note in this beer was very intriguing, reminiscent of hallertau. The flavor was so interesting, it had Nate re-thinking his usual attitude towards hoppy beers. This reminded me of how much Nate’s view on beer in general has changed in the last year. When we first interviewed him, he was certain he could not enjoy beer but had really only ever partaken of macro brews. The fact that he enjoys any craft beers, hoppy or not, is pretty phenomenal.
In just that short time, Nate clearly has developed a sense that is guiding him well through his beer quest. He explained his request of the staff at Calvert Wine & Spirits, our local Balticon treasure. His taste was well bolstered by his experience, knowing how to articulate the flavors he likes. One of the things he picked up was DuClaw’s Euoria, one we like that reminded me of a story I have around it relating to my first trip overseas.
The amazing flavor DuClaw gets out of the grain bill in the brown ale Nate picked up made us think of some of our recent brewing experience, getting unexpected flavors from grain alone. We are convinced that much of the candy sweet in many Belgians is not candy sugar but actually from the local malt. The sweetness and attention to craft made John think of Ayinger Blonde, another light and well made beer. Nate mentioned the summer ale, the Sea Nymph from Heavy Seas, that sounds similar. I brought us back to brown ales, suggesting that the Brooklyn Brown is another flavorful beer in the same class as Euforia.
John took the discussion into cooking, asking Nate his thoughts on the commonalities between it and brewing and beer. Nate felt a bit differently about beer because of all the years he has not been able to partake. It sounds like even without that perceived former barrier, he finds more to uncover, discover and enjoy than in wine by comparison. We chatted for a bit the one offs, like we are starting to see here from Flying Dog. We also reminisced fondly about the year round and seasonals that don’t travel as far, that we go back to again and again when we have access, like the Great Divide Claymore that I recently got to try.
The desire for a hammock after a nice beer and a sandwich brought us around to Nate’s years in the Coast Guard. We love any excuse to hear Nate’s stories growing up near and working on the sea. So much of his fiction is informed by these experiences, the deep dark of space travel having so much viscerally in common with the real life perils and thrills of the deep blue. He so clearly teased out the shared experiences, quotidian and terrifying, that inform the ship board rhythm and dynamic.
Nate tied his reflections on his early life with his work later on in education. John and I both admire what Nate has done to teach teachers and were delighted to here him share so much of that work with our listeners, too. There are clearly parallels in how he approaches that profession as his current one, as a writer, that what we take for granted warrants re-visiting and re-thinking constantly to find better ways forward. The challenges inherent in distance learning resonate with just the basic challenges in education, that any number of barriers can form a distance between students and engagement. The ones we normally think of, in terms of network access, overlap strongly with the work I do, the policy work to which John is now routinely exposed in his media work at New America.
Nate distilled down from these questions, ideas and challenges the core need for a teacher to pursue their calling, just a student. Well, that and some content to teach. Really, though, this informs the thought we wound up on, that all learning is distance learning. It is the comfort of the teachers with their tools, not the measurable span from them to the student, that requires constant improvement and evolution of a teacher’s skills.
You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.
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