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Writers' Corner / Re: About ambiguous comments
« on: December 15, 2019, 05:45:05 PM »
How is it cheating? What is the cheater gaining?

How is it harmful to the author?

I still don't understand why you just don't ignore the gnats. Sure they can annoy a person, but that's no reason to try to rouse the neighborhood on a gnat elimination campaign.

Fantasy Resources / Re: Medieval History
« on: December 11, 2019, 07:20:44 PM »
I have a new essay at my history site
This one is about the last days of Acre in 1291. It's a dramatic story, both heroic and tragic.

This is the penultimate crusading essay. The next one will be on the Kingdom of Jerusalem itself (yeah, I know, it's a bit out of order). After that, I'll be offering essays on other aspects of the crusading era, but that doesn't exhaust my backlog. I have essays on other aspects of the Middle Ages, some on the Reformation, and even some on Greece and Rome.

You can find the Table of Contents for all published essays here

Small Press & Self-Published / The fae folk of Altearth
« on: November 30, 2019, 07:46:12 PM »
I just posted a short article on the fae peoples of Altearth. Those interested in such things are welcome to have a look.
I welcome all comments and questions!

Small Press & Self-Published / Re: Blue Prometheus Series Completed!
« on: November 30, 2019, 02:15:19 AM »
Good job, Ned. I'm reading Blue Prometheus now.

Xonk the Broad.
But I ain't no broad, buddy!

General Discussion / Re: Politics and other ailments of the real world
« on: November 15, 2019, 07:52:14 PM »
> complaining about people over 40
Happens all the time. I'm an "old, white male" so I get to hear about that stereotype frequently. It doesn't bother me much. As a historian, I understand that scapegoats are universal, that most people view the world in simplistic terms, and that news is only one source for information. All that said, I also recognize that some stereotypes are more than that--they're cover for misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and other charms of the human spirit. Truly terrible things happen under that cover.

Also, mine's the generation that said don't trust anyone over thirty. So there's that. <g>

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: never Heard of this award before
« on: November 04, 2019, 04:39:54 PM »
Can't any book be entered into a book award, providing it meets the requirements, without regard to quality? I'm sure many stinkers get submitted to pretty much every book award out there.

I don't see any cause for upset. It's an award. There are jillions. People get to grant award for whatever purpose they wish, people can submit to whichever award they wish. It's so tough getting noticed, I say the more award around, the better for all. Take a look some time at college scholarship awards or business grants. Money gets handed out in all sorts of scoped ways.

I don't get too worked up over this in part because I've never seen literature as an agent, still less an engine, of social change. Literature *reflects* society, it doesn't cause society. So, wrt this particular reward, I see it as a reflection of changing cultural values. Change always upsets someone, somewhere, some time.

Writers' Corner / Re: "I want to write a story in which..."
« on: November 04, 2019, 04:30:08 PM »
It has varied for me. My first novel had a premise: goblins invade the Roman Empire. The MC's goal was to save Constantinople. It felt really straightforward until I got into the writing, but the ultimate context and goal remained.

Into the Second World also began with a clear concept: a re-working of Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth but set in Altearth. It was the story of a woman journalist trying to make her reputation by going on this dangerous expedition, but it also provided important context for the history of Altearth, so there was something important that had to happen down there in the center of the world.

At the other extreme, The Garden of Hugo Vuerloz began with just a concept--a lone agent with a shady past who has to help an old friend who has got in over his head. I had an opening: "The elf was dead by the time I got to him."  And I knew there was a story hanging off the end of that sentence. Setting, character, theme, all that was worked out on the fly.

Finally, there's left field. For me, it came in the form of a folk tale from early modern Brittany, about a fearsome character who grabbed people who dared walk alone at night out beyond their village. He was tall, with long hands, and they called him the Carrotfinger Man. That's really all there was. I knew I wanted to use that character but in the fantasy setting of Altearth. It resulted in a short story with dwarves and pixies. And the Carrotfinger Man.

I don't know if any of that helps directly, but it does illustrate that stories can have different starting points and different lines of development, and that the only true failures are the ones that don't get written.

Small Press & Self-Published / Re: Medieval History
« on: October 30, 2019, 05:48:12 PM »
Now that the crusades are over, I bet you thought the essays were done. Not at all! I've just put up an essay on the County of Edessa, a brief history of the first of the Crusader States--and the first to fall.


For all my history essays, consult the Table of Contents.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: "Level" of Diversity in books
« on: October 26, 2019, 03:57:05 PM »
> I feel I'm missing out on some events

The thread has gone spinning, as threads do. I just want to tell @ScarletBea that I've encountered the same. That there are cultural nuances--or more, that I *suspect* there are nuances--that I'm missing. There was a series set in a fantasy Japan where it seemed to me many of the character interactions were stilted and even formulaic, and I did not enjoy the storytelling as much as I might have. Should the author have done a better job of "cultural translation" or should I just stay away from such stories or do I need to take a class on Japanese culture just to read in that or ... every option seems somewhere between silly and tone-deaf.

I'm aware of this issue in a different context. I'm a medieval historian. Medieval literature is drenched in Christian themes and Christian symbolism that left most of my students cold or frustrated or even angry. Was that a failure on the part of the author or the student? Or was it the inevitable consequence of cultural distance?

And yet, authors *do* cross cultural gaps, sometimes huge cultural gaps. Western literature is avidly read in Africa, Asia, all over the world. And authors from those cultures do manage to succeed (sometimes) in the West.

I don't think a reader should expect they should be able to read anything from any time and place with equal facility and appreciation. I mean, even the act of translation is a piece of cultural ... oh, fill in your own noun there. I know just enough of other languages to know that it really does make a difference whether you read the story in translation or in the original tongue.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Magic vs Technology
« on: October 21, 2019, 05:53:10 AM »
I'm struck by how clear the line is, not just in this discussion but in a great many fantasy books. Everyone in the fantasy world seems to be quite clear about what is magic and what is tech.

In my world of Altearth, the line is not at all clear. Many things are believed to be magic that we would call natural. And many things are taken as a normal part of the world that we would call supernatural. Moreover, elves have their range of opinions while humans or dwarves or orcs or gnomes each have their own ideas.

As for tech existing in this world, what's tech? A wagon? Flintlock? Being able to calculate longitude? A steam engine? What about a steam engine powered in part by magical forces as in so many steampunk books?

The division seems overly clear, overly simple, and not really necessary for telling a story.

I have DNF on three fantasy books, including Malice by John Gwynne and Michael Wisehart's The White Tower. I surely would like to find a fantasy novel I actually finish!

Meanwhile, read The Barbary Corsairs by Stanley Lane-Poole. I skimmed over the later chapters, but the ones that were directly on the corsairs had some great anecdotes in them.

And I read a short work by Ellis Peters, A Rare Benedictine, which is a Brother Cadfael story.

Silverlock by John Myers Myers. More picaresque than comic, but there are plenty of funny bits.

Small Press & Self-Published / Re: Medieval History
« on: September 23, 2019, 05:31:33 PM »
After a long delay called Finishing the Novel, I'm back to publishing my history essays. This one is on the Sixth Crusade, which was one of the strangest of them all.


My intent is to publish a new essay every three weeks or so. Not all are on the Crusades, but the next several will be.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What are you currently reading?
« on: September 19, 2019, 05:13:11 PM »
Currently reading Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, mainly because Ray Bradbury identified it as an important influence on his own work.

And reading The Barbary Corsairs by Stanley Lane-Poole, a very old history but one with plenty of colorful anecdotes. Good fodder for the historical fantasy writer.

Started Elantris but gave up on it. Characters didn't engage me, the plot felt like a re-tread, and I was not enchanted with the world. If I'm not hooked by the quarter-mile mark, why keep trying?

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