Athena Scalzi

Corona Leaves A Bad Aftertaste

Athena ScalziYou may remember I had corona back in December. In the post over it, I told you all I was totally fine other than losing my taste and smell for a couple days. I was so happy it was a mild case and that nothing else was wrong with me. Surely, I was, and am, one of the lucky ones.

Fast forward to now, four months after I had corona. Sure, my taste and smell came back within the week of testing positive. But they came back wrong.

It’s hard to explain, but basically there’s a lot of foods that I loved that now all taste the same as each other. And that taste is awful.

Interestingly enough, it’s the same with smell. And the smell of these things that no longer smell good to me smell exactly the same as the things that taste bad. Like, there’s no difference between the smell of the bad stuff and the taste of the bad food. It all basically smells completely rotten.

The taste I noticed it first with was mint. Obviously, this was because I was brushing my teeth with mint toothpaste every day. I mean, no one exactly loves the taste of toothpaste, but I was confused why it tasted practically rancid. It was supposed to taste clean! I switched toothpaste brands twice, only to have the same disgusting taste fill my mouth every time I brushed. I started not wanting to brush because I despised the taste so much.

Also, I have always been a huge fan of mint gum, especially Spearmint. I always have a pack in my car. They are few flavors I chew, but Spearmint just hits different. Suddenly, it was hitting very different, but not in a good way. Still, I couldn’t figure out why mint was tasting so bad to me out of nowhere.

Next, coffee. I used to always get an iced white mocha from Starbucks, and it was my favorite drink. I was never particularly fond of coffee, unless it had copious amounts of milk and sugar in it. So, when the delicious sugar filled drink tasted off, I figured maybe it was just the coffee flavor being too strong, or maybe it was old coffee, which tastes substantially worse than already-gross regular coffee.

But then it kept happening, again and again. So I stopped drinking coffee all together.

Then, it was peanut butter. Specifically Reese’s, actually. Reese’s has always been one of my favorite candies ever. Chocolate and peanut butter? There’s few better combos than that. So I ate a Reese’s cup, as one does, and it tasted disgusting. I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t an old one or anything, so why’d it taste so off?

Similarly, I had Buckeye ice cream (chocolate ice cream with gobs of peanut butter throughout), and it tasted terrible. It was then that I noticed it only tasted terrible if the bite of ice cream contained peanut butter. The chocolate ice cream itself was completely fine.

I then recalled the Reese’s incident, and figured out that peanut butter was the thing that was tasting bad, so I went to the kitchen and got a spoonful of peanut butter. It smelled totally off, and tasted even worse. Suddenly, one of my favorite foods in the world tasted like total shit.

I wondered if this was related to coffee tasting bad, as well as the mint.

The last item on my ever-growing list of foods that suddenly taste bad after regaining my taste and smell, is meat. Honestly, this one is super inconvenient because it isn’t just one type of meat. It’s pretty much every kind of meat. Well, land meat, anyways, seafood is still normal. So far.

Anyways, it’s really only those foods so far, so nothing I can’t live without (though peanut butter is honestly a HUGE bummer), but it’s not like that’s the complete list. It’s just what I’ve figured out so far. I’m sure there’s still a lot of food I just haven’t gotten around to eating yet that tastes the same as what I’ve mentioned.

Side note, I know the difference between when something is actually bad, and when something only tastes bad to me, because there’s a specific flavor that all of these items have. Like I said, they all taste the same. So if I were to taste a new food not on the list, but it tasted exactly like them, I would know that it’s not actually disgusting, it’s only gross to me. Plus, any time I walk by a coffee shop with someone, they mention how good it smells (which, of course it does, coffee houses are an exquisite, delightful scent), but all I smell is literal shit. So, I have clues to know whether something is actually bad or if it’s just me.

Fun fact, I’m not the only one experiencing this! I’ve done a bit of research (aka I found people on the internet also dealing with this) and it’s called parosmia. An article by BBC I came across said that common descriptors of what things smell and taste like when you have parosmia is death, rotten meat, and shit. Bingo! That’s exactly what’s happening to me!

Also, I found people on Tik Tok describing the same thing! This Tik Tok below is actually what made me realize that COVID is the cause of this. I wouldn’t have known what was wrong with me if it weren’t for this girl.

There’s others, too! These Tik Toks make me feel so much better to know there’s others out there with the same problem. I mean, it sucks that people are suffering from this, but it’s also nice to know I’m not the only one.


#covid19 #covid #symptomsofcoronavirus #lossofsmell #coronavirus #WeWinTogether #tiktokdoc

♬ original sound – jordan thomas

I feel really overwhelmed learning about this. It’s like, hard news to hear, you know? I feel kind of bad about being upset that my taste and smell are messed up because, like, a lot of people died from COVID and the worst thing that’s happening to me is that peanut butter tastes bad. So, I feel a little selfish for being sad that I have parosmia now.

Is anyone else experiencing this? If you have it, do you smell rotten meat, too? I saw that some people smell plastic or burning, so I’m curious as to what you smell or taste if you have it, too. Let me know in the comments, and have a great day.


Big Idea

The Big Idea: PJ Manney

Can we rewrite our culture? Author PJ Manney asks the tough questions about humanity and society in the Big Idea for her newest novel, (Con)science. Follow along as she explains what it means to be human in an ever-evolving world


I’m not great at following directions.

In theory, I should write my Big Idea about the question (CON)SCIENCE and the entire Phoenix Horizon trilogy asks: what does it mean to be human when we can augment our brains and bodies? Or if we upload our consciousness to a non-organic substrate and inhabit virtual reality? And what does the evolution of humanity through technology mean for a just society? That was the Big Idea that spurred the writing of the Phoenix Horizon trilogy.

But that’s not the Big Idea that confronts me at the end of a trilogy that took years to finish. Writers evolve and stories evolve with them. 

When I wrote (R)EVOLUTION, I thought I knew what it was about: the ethics and societal change of human enhancement involving convergence technologies like brain-computer interfaces, nanomedicine, robotics and artificial intelligence. When 47North asked for two more books, I wanted to use the longer story arc to walk the reader through a mix of subgenres from near-term political technothriller, through a future American history, to more heady, hard science fiction. 

This might be provocative to share publicly, but I have a mission to imagine possible futures and help mainstream readers understand what’s coming. Our society already suffers from “future shock,” Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s concept that “too much change in too short a period of time” creates “information overload,” and disruptions, violence, hatred, and blame, and often an attempt to regress to an imagined, simpler time. 

If I could help people understand what was coming, perhaps they wouldn’t fall into negative or nonconstructive behaviors when stunned by future developments. They’d be more likely to make the necessary ethical decisions and adapt, or have empathy for those who did. That allowed me to guide readers from what they think they know about the future, to what they don’t. From the comfort of the recognizable, to the discomfort of what-if. If nothing else, I’d introduce a few more people to science fiction who thought it was too intellectual a genre, or dealt with subjects that didn’t affect them.

While writing (CON)SCIENCE, Trump was elected and the sociopolitical change I had anticipated and written about in (R)EVOLUTION and (ID)ENTITY, and assumed was four more years away, came crashing down. Everything had changed, not only politics.

First, I wept. Then I threw out my draft of (CON)SCIENCE the day after the election and started again. But I was completely stymied. What would I write now?

On a 2018 Norwescon panel called “Science Fiction in the Time of President Trump,” I had an actual epiphany, complete with ringing in my ears and an out-of-body experience seated between Nisi Shawl, Elsa R Sjunneson and Gordon Van Gelder. It wasn’t original, but I babbled like I’d inhaled the psychedelic gases at Delphi. 

The old stories aren’t serving us in the 21st century. If stories reflect our cultures, cultures had failed us with dystopias that either ended badly, or at best brought us back to societal norms. We recognize villains, oppressive systems and danger, but beyond cessation of badness, aren’t presented with concrete alternatives we can replicate. When confronted by evil, by confusion, by danger, we need to see beyond the world we know and embrace ideas that might seem alien. Our problems are too complex to be solved by a stranger who rides into town, kicks some ass, and leaves.

How do we move away from the Hero’s Journey to a sustainable and ongoing group effort? From standard three-act structure, with the brief flash of hope at the dénouement, to a structure that includes constructive applications and results within the Happy Ending? How do we make inclusion more than tokenism? How do we see a climate future where we not only survive, but thrive? How do we stop seeing everyone who isn’t like us as the other? How do we embrace change and adaptation? How do we leave preservation of the status quo behind and build a better tomorrow?

We need a New Mythos. Yeah, that’s hard, and something that one might think is an evolutionary or emergent process beyond any one writer’s grasp. But could I and a group of fellow SFF writers on social media bootstrap this as a movement? Break down the unsatisfactory, but accepted stories we tell ourselves and see things afresh? And in a way that allows our cultures to be better than they were before?

We dare not call it utopian. That’s a sophomoric concept. Or at least that’s what we’re told, especially when there are far more questions than answers. But we have to try, because we become the stories we tell ourselves.

Like all creativity, it’s an experiment. The New Mythos is the Big Idea (CON)SCIENCE embraces and that I’ll continue exploring in my work to come.

(Con)Science: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s  

Visit the author’s website. Follow her on Twitter. 


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