Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Woo-hoo! Some good library news for a change!

Some  good news has come out of the library rubble of woes lately.  Yesterday, when browsing one of my local branches, I found a copy of Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight, her recent biographical fiction about William Marshal.  It's not that new, I guess, but it was recently reissued -- in the US -- in paperback, and our local system obtained a copy.  This, after I won the same paperback version, by writing a reply to a blog about it.  Haven't gotten around to reading it though.  So many books, so little time.  Anyway, it's not all gloom and doom there.

Anne G

Worse library woes

Last week, II heard some more really bad library news.  The Seattle Public Library system budget is going to be whacked, again!.  What this means, and you can read all about it here, that out of the 26 branches of the Seattle Public Library system, 21 of them, all in neighborhoods, will have their hours cut so that they are open only five days a week.  They will be closed on Fridays and Sundays.  The mayor, who released the proposed budget last week, has also proposed that another week-long furlough be put in place in 2010.  This means all libraries will be shut down, and the employees will be without pay, for that week.  This, in possible addition to other furloughs city employees are supposed to take. Including, no doubt, library workers of all kinds. 


At the same time, as I understand it, the police department will get an addition of several  people hired, to form an anti-gang unit.  Now don't misunderstand.  I certainly don't want gangs running around shooting people.  And these creepy characters don't just belong to one group.  There are, unfortunately, gangs "all over the place", of every race, color, creed, or whatever.  And they need to be dealt with.  But why,  if the budget shortfall for the City of Seattle is so desperate, can't the police and fire department budgets be kept at the level they are now, without additionally hiring people?  Neighborhood policing, as has been done in the past, can go a long way to keep these problems at bay.  Furthermore, by closing neighborhood libraries(and negatively impacting other social services as well), these budget cuts may actually be exacerbating the problem of gangs and other criminal activity.  It seems to me, that if libraries are kept open, there would be places for kids who perhaps don't think they have other options at home, to actually go and be safe!  And what about the kids who want  to do their homework, stay in school, and do decently in life?  What about their possibly unemployed parents looking for a job to support their families? The Seattle Public Library system has one of the best job resource centers in the region.  And I know from  listening to people on the first day of the last furlough, in August, that there are people out there who need that resource.  They need the computers, too, to look for the jobs.  Not all of us are lucky enough to have home computers connected to the Internet. 


It seems to me that in times like these, when "everyone" is hurting, that governments, both local and national, tend to get awfully "shortsighted".  It's very easy to cut those things considered "nonessential", and there are, unfortunately, plenty of people who consider libraries "nonessential".  But they aren't.  Because libraries are no longer just repositories for books, although they serve that function, too.  They are learning and community centers, open to all.  And all kinds of people use them, every day, all year round.  In this sense, libraries are absolutely vital to any thriving community, and they are vital to the overall health  of any community.  I can't emphasize this enough.  This doesn't just come from me, it comes from people I talk to.  Being a writer, I feel it's important to talk to lots of people, and I'm happy to do that.  Almost all the people I've talked to are very sympathetic, and understand full well what libraries mean to a community, and I"m not just talking about people who sign the petitions I'm trying to get delivered to the Seattle City Council before October 25, when there will be a meeting, which I will attend, and make yet another speech.  They are vital to everyone, whether they know it or not.  All I can say at the moment is, shame on the mayor, and  I now understand why he's unpopular and has been voted out. 


And yes folks, just to letcha know, I'm also going to e-mail every Seattle City Council member, and the mayor, too, and let them all know exactly how I feel!

Anne G

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Neandertals were a naughty bunch?

Well, again, John Hawks doesn't think so.  He has some rather sharp comments about a silly headline on the BBC, and some sober research about digit ratios in men, that are supposed to imply something about mating habits.  The BBC seems to think (a) either Neandertals just kind of randomly mated, or else the "guys"(the brutes!) kept harems of women.  Hawks didn't say anything about this, but in a "generalized forager" type society such as was probably likely among Neandertals, I don't think either mating strategy would have been very practical.  It isn't generally the case among known, historical foraging people.  Also, as Hawks points out, certain finger ratios in men are supposedly associated with being gay.  As he also points out, the headline could have been something like "Neandertals were gay!!!!"  Yikes.  Though to be fair, and I'm following Hawks here, this silliness isn't the original researcher's fault.  Now I'm wondering:  what gets into some "science reporters", when it comes to Neandertals?

Anne G

Wolf x coyote hybrids find a niche in the Northeast?

The John Hawks weblog, which I think is one of the best science blogs around,  and which I check daily, often has interesting stuff in it.  Dr. Hawks is a biological anthropologist working at the University of Wisconsin, and he has a range of biological anthropology-related interests, including, of course, the very important subject of human evolution.  He is also very interested in the subject of  gene "introgression", and he spends a good deal of time writing about it.  Genetic introgression , for those who  have never heard of this term, is basically the crossing-over of genetic material from one closely-related species to another.  Some species of organisms are well-known for interbreeding and producing perfectly fertile offspring. These species are very closely related; perhaps some of them are not "species" at all, but "subspecies", that is geographical variants of a very widespread, and adaptable larger species.  Where I live, there are two species or subspecies of gulls(though field guides always list them as two species!): "Western" gulls(Larus occidentalis) and "glaucous winged" gulls(Larus glaucescens).  They interbreed, and for all practical purposes, the gulls in the Puget Sound area are considered a hybrid group, no matter what they "look like". The thing both species(or subspecies, or whatever they are), have in common is -- pink feet!  Another complication, though it doesn't happen around here, is that "glaucous winged" gulls will also perfectly happily mate with "herring" gulls(Larus argentatus) in Western Alaska, at least.  "Herring" gulls also have pink feet.  And all these gulls are, shall we say, opportunistic generalists in their habits, and are very widespread across any number of habitats.  Which means that the "species" are known to exchange genes far and wide.  There are "glaucous winged" gulls in the Queen Charlotte Islands that have "western" gull genes, though the northern limit of "western" gull range is-- you guessed it -- Puget Sound.  And the southern limit of "glaucous winged" gull territory is Puget Sound and coastal Washington State. 


I go into such detail about these apparent species "mixtures" because while this idea is fairly new and controversial, at least in some circles, it appears that these sorts of "mixings'" are more common in nature, at least under certain circumstances, than a lot of people like to suppose.  And it's well-known among canid specialists(that is, people who study wolves, coyotes, jackals, etc), that all members of the genus Canis(wolves, coyotes, jackals, "red" wolves, etc). are "interfertile", that is, they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.  And it's also well-known that some 75% of all "wolves" around the Great Lakes area, have mitochondrial DNA sequences associated with coyotes.  It appears that all the famous Isle Royale wolves, whose ups and downs have been closely monitored for some fifty years now, have "coyote genes", apparently inherited from some female coyote who mated with a male wolf in Ontario.  Some of the descendants of this pairing are the wolves who now inhabit Isle Royale.  It is also thought that these pairings are or were "one way", that is, female coyotes x male wolves. In a lot of cases, this may well be the case.  But now the John Hawks weblog has comments about a paper, and links to another paper about wolf/coyote hybridization that appear to show that many of the "coyotes" in the northeastern quadrant of the US  have "wolf" genes.  I'm not surprised at this, not at all.  Like the aforementioned gulls,both wolves and coyotes are opportunistic generalists.  Both live in a variety of environments, and there are a number of places where their environments overlap.  Coyotes are smaller in size and lighter in weight, and tend, as a rule to go after smaller prey than wolves, but otherwise, their habits are much the same: they howl, form packs, hunt together as a pack on occasion(though they do more "lone" hunting, for obvious reasons, than wolves), have the same gestation periods at the same times of year, depending on climate and latitude, dig dens and tend their young in pretty much the same way, etc., etc.  Coyotes, to the surprise of many who don't know much about the general habits of the genus Canis, not only form packs, but, at least until wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, hunted larger prey like elk and deer there(not quite as efficiently, though; that was one reason why wolves were reintroduced).  The "coywolves" of the northeastern US and southeastern Canada hunt deer, and are apparently good at it.  At the present time, though, these canids are generally classified as coyotes.  They intermediate in size between coyotes and wolves, have somewhat darker and furrier coats than coyotes in the western US.  This is probably a partly climatic adaptation; winters in the northeastern US  and southeastern Canada can get pretty cold.  And yes, they chow down on the local deer.   Nor are they "solitary", as the Hawks blog post implies other coyotes are.  But then, as I said, wherever they are not disturbed, coyotes actually form packs, just like wolves, and defend their territories, just like wolves.  They certainly do within the Seattle City limits; people have actually observed "several" coyotes acting together, and what they are observing is most likely a pack, just like wolves. 


In any case, John Hawks is very interested in this, because he is very interested in genetic introgression.  One might ask exactly what a biological anthropologist is doing,getting all excited about wolves, coyotes, and other wild canids, but there's method behind his apparent madness:  things like this may well have happened in the course of human evolution.  While I am not as excited about "introgression" of genes, per se, either in other organisms or in prehistoric humans of any kind, it may well be one mechanism which has made "us" what we are as a species, today.  And I have a feeling that there were human "hybrid zones" from time to time during the course of prehistory, and yeah, Neandertals were part of this.  Like wolves that nearly got wiped out by people shooting them, Neandertals had small, scattered populations that were vulnerable in various ways, and it's quite possible that some of them, from time to time, just got absorbed in early "modern" populations.  No enough to obviously "show", but enough to have possibly made an impact on early "modern" populations.  There isn't much evidence of this at the present, except possibly indirectly, but I suspect that  with more sophisticated genetic techniques, such traces might later be found.  Because, like wolves and coyotes, Neandertals and "moderns" had very, very similar coping strategies as I suggested in the previous post  So, I really think it stands to reason that "we" have acted, in the past, not too differently from the way wolves and coyotes are acting in the northeastern Us and southern Canada, at least as far as genetic exchanges are concerned  So thanks, Dr. Hawks, for providing me an excuse for another long, complex blog post!

Anne G

Oh, them Neandertal fish fries(or clambakes, or whatever)!

A lot of very interesting stuff has been emanating from Paleoanthropologyland  in recent weeks.  In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of  Science, there is a whole series of "origins" articles, relating both to "modern" humans and Neandertals.  The nice part about this is, for those interested, the papers therein are free(they end up free, but on most of them, you have to wait a while), and you can download any pdf you like.  But the most interesting(at least to me) news, comes from, and deals with the kind of things Neandertals were apparently dining on -- 70,000 years ago!  And, -- gasp!  the Neandertals living in a cave in a place called El Salt, apparently ate fish, along with other things more commonly associated with them.  El Salt, as you might guess from what I've just revealed, is on or near the Spanish coast. 


It's true that, some 25,000 years ago, the very last Neandertals at Gibraltar, also dined on seafood, but at least up till now, it was thought they did this because they were "desperate", or something of the sort.  However, this find, and the fact that, apparently at a place in France called Grotte XVI, they also  ate fish from time to time, and not only that, but they appear to have smoked it, suggests that they made use of whatever resources they had at hand, as any good "generalized" forager/hunter/gatherer society would do.  True, the Neandertals at Grotte XVI lived later than the ones at El Salt, and somewhat inland, so they probably dined on trout or some other freshwater fish.  Still, the point is, none of them turned up their large pointy noses at such fare. Unfortunately, as usual, a lot of people have trouble believing these things, so there appears, even now, to be a certain amount of resistance and skepticism about this matter.  It also doesn't help that the original paper is in Spanish, unless you read Spanish well.  Equally unfortunately, I don't.  But it's quite possible that once more is published regarding this find, it will generate a fair amount of controversy.  Everything about Neandertals seems to do this, despite the fact, which should be more and more apparent to more and more people if they don't resist it, that Neandertals had basically the same kind of brains and the same range of responses to their surroundings, as "modern" humans do.  As I said, a lot of people still have trouble accepting this.  But Yours Truly will keep every interested party informed about any developments here.  It's going to get very, very interesting, I think.

Anne G

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Computer woes, Part 2

I had trouble finding a file again today.  And it was an important file.  I'm trying to get various "eyes" looking at the first book in my Great Medieval  Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals, The Invaders.  I  have one set of"eyes" reading it as I write this, so to speak.  And I started from Chapter 1.  The person reading it is part of a writer's group, but it's not a critique group, exactly.  It's a group of writers who try to keep their creativity going.  We're all doing more or less different projects, and my writing partner suggested it.  It's interesting.  Anyway, one of the members agreed to read it, and I'm sending her e-mails with the chapters attached, in Word 2002, which presumably everybody can read, because "everybody" has Word.  I have a program called Word Perfect, as well as Word, and I do my major writing in that, but convert the files to Word. 


Unfortunately, for some reason, Chapter 6 was missing in my hard copy, and on the hard drive where I keep my writing files together.  So I tried the file where the Word documents are(in Vista, it's Documents).  There was a Chapter 6, but it was a bunch of blank pages.  There was a Chapter 6 in Word, but it was only part of the chapter.  Don't ask me how this came about.  I have absolutely no idea; I think it had something to do with a separate critique process that involves e-mail.  And something went wrong.  Anyway, I ended up deleting those useless files.  I could have sent the "critiqued" version, but that might have confused the reader, and I didn't want to do that. Then, hurray!  I remembered!  I have an external hard drive!  And I put a lot of stuff on there, such as copies of my pictures of wolves and prehistoric people, and the like.  I also put copies of my writing documents there, just in case.  And fortunately, Chapter 6 was in that file!  I heave d a great big sigh again, and e-mailed it to the "eyes".


However, I can say, that at least I've learned to back up my documents periodically, onto this external hard drive.  Thank heavens for things like DVD's, flash drives, and external hard drives, which nowadays, are often cheap, cheap, cheap, for what you get.  I paid under $100 for 250 GB, and I think that much is even cheaper now.  After a year of use, I've used only a little over 1 gb, so there's a ton of space left for whatever I want to do. It's worth the investment, and saves me from tearing out more of my gray hairs.

Anne G

Monday, September 21, 2009

Computers! I love 'em, I hate 'em!

IAs of yesterday, I have finished(pant, gasp!) uploading Michelle Cameron's answers to my questions, for the blog tour spot on The Writer's Daily Grind.  It turned out to be a horrible chore.  This was probably partly because I didn't really know what I was doing, when I tried to save her e-mail to a file I could retrieve for this blog.  You see, I thought I sent it to Live Writer, which is Microsoft's connection with Blogger. 


Well, surprise, surprise.  When I  looked for the relevant file, I couldn't find it.  Anywhere!  I couldn't find the relevant e-mail, which I always save in a special file on my e-mail.  I looked and looked.  Then I looked in just about every reasonable-sounding file on my hard drive, that I could think of.  No luck.  At last, however, I found the relevant e-mail, questions, answers, and all, in some file like "Recent activity" or something like that.  So I then tried to copy it here, to my blogging program, Live Writer, so I could send it to The Writer's Daily Grind.  Unfortunately, it didn't copy, for some reason I couldn't fathom(maybe a computer can).  All I had was a filed post with my questions.  No answers from her.  So I had to start the search again!


Fortunately, I more or less remembered where I"d found it before, so I went back to that file and made sure, this time, that I did a copy-and-paste.  And lo and behold, it worked!  My relief, at that point was boundless.  But what I had to go through to get it successfully uploaded to my blog, was positively enervating


And that, dear Gentle Readers, is why I love, and hate, computers!  They are very convenient beasts, but they have minds of their own,and if you don't do whatever it is you're trying to do, the way the computer wants you to do it, you end up tearing whatever hear is in your head.  And that can be very, very frustrating. 


However, on balance, I must say that I wouldn't be where I am today, certainly not as a writer, without the help I've gotten from people on the other side of "online", both with regard to the "prehistoric" and the "medieval" aspects of my writing.  And that doesn't even take into account, the "writing" aspect, which is help I've gotten over the months and years, from some absolutely lovely people, and for whose existence, I can only say I'm extremely grateful.  And without computers and the Internet, all of this would, essentially, have been impossible, at least in the form I'm getting my research and my writing, now. 


But still. . .

Anne G

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An interview with Michelle Cameron

I am honored to have been chosen as part of Michelle Cameron's blog tour, stemming from her very recent publication of The Fruit of Her Hands.   The heroine of the book was the wife of a rabbi named Meir, about whom nothing at all is known, which meant that Ms. Cameron could do a lit of "inventing"(that sounds familiar!) and she decided to write about her, and the lives lived by Jews in medieval France.  As many readers today can probably imagine, life for Jews in medieval France could hardly have been an easy one.  But then, until almost yesterday, in the scheme of things, life for Jews anywhere could hardly have been easy.  In some places, it still isn't, though I think, slowly, people are beginning to understand that just because we have neighbors who pray differently, or have a different color of skin, or speak a different language, or maybe are gays, lesbians, etc., are people like ourselves, with joys, sorrows, and problems, just as we have.  But it hasn't been easy.  For this reason,  and many others, I am absolutely delighted that Ms. Cameron chose my blog as part of her blog tour.  Her writing journey must have been quite exciting, and also at times, difficult, just as my writing journey has been and continues to be.  So, with that, let me welcome Michelle Cameron,and begin this interview.  I hope everyone enjoys reading what she has to say.



1.  First, tell me something about yourself and your background.  How did you come to write The Fruit of Her Hands? Does it relate to any previous writing you've done?

Anne, first of all, thanks for inviting me to your blog today!

My background: I’m a writer and a poet who holds down a day job as creative director in a digital agency. I’m married, with two college-aged sons, living in New Jersey.

I came to write The Fruit of Her Hands after my previous publication, In the Shadow of the Globe, a verse novel about William Shakespeare, which was published in 2003 by a small literary press. I was looking for a new project and was digging into my family tree to look up an entirely different person, the woman I had been named for, when I stumbled across an article about Meir of Rothenberg.

My mother had always said that we could trace our roots back to the 1200s, and here was proof of that. But beyond that, the more I read about Meir, the more convinced I became that his story was perfect for a novel.
Because I had just written a successful verse novel, I tried writing the book in that genre. But it didn’t agree with me - and it fought back when I tried to shape it as a series of letters or diary entries. The material dictated that this be a full-blown historical novel. When I finally gave it to it, the writing began to flow.
2.  Was there anything special about this person that drew you to writing her story?

As I said above, the first person I was going to write about was not Shira, but Meir. But, from a 21st Century woman's perspective, the idea of writing a novel centered about a 13th Century Talmudic scholar and renowned rabbi was, well, daunting. I needed to find my way into the story through a character I could relate to.

In the Middle Ages, women are not part of the historical record, with a few notable exceptions. I knew Meir had a wife, of course, because he had at least one son and daughters. She would have been by his side throughout all of the events he witnessed. And, it was a terrific opportunity for me as a historical novelist - because nothing at all was known about her personality, her life, even her name. I got to invent everything about her - while still remaining true to the events that would have had a great impact on her life, as well as her husband's.
3.  What kind of research did you have to do, in order to write the book?  How long did the research take?  Was it difficult for you?

When I started my research, I knew very little about the time period or about the lives of Jews during the 1200s. I started by finding out everything I could about Meir himself. From there, I located books and articles that allowed me to learn about life during the Middle Ages in general, and the Jews of the period in particular.

There was one book in particular that was invaluable - a two-volume compilation by Irving Agus that included every letter Meir wrote that survived to modern times, as well as scholarly essays on his contributions to Judaism. This was a difficult book to obtain - it was out of print, and the only libraries that seemed to have it were rabbinical schools. But my husband, who was tireless on my behalf, finally located a copy on eBay.

While I devoted a number of months to research before starting to write, I constantly had to go back to the books and the Internet to find out particulars as I was working on the novel itself, things as varied as birth customs, superstitions, and how to make ink. I love the research part of historical writing - it always thrills me to learn something I never knew before, and to be able to work it into the book so that it seems perfectly natural.
4.  Aside from the heroine, was there anyone in particular you identified with?  Had trouble identifying with?  Of those who you had trouble identifying with, or liking, how did you deal with this in your writing?

Because I was writing about men who actually existed - there are only a few fictional characters among the men - it really wasn't as much a case of identifying with them as understanding their motivations. Nicholas Donin, for instance, the villain of the novel, performed terrible acts against his own people. Knowing that he had been excommunicated from the Jewish community, however, gave me the ability to understand him, and so I was able to draw him as a charismatic fanatic, someone whose ultimate loneliness drove him to betray his Jewish roots.

As I read Meir's letters, I found a man of great common sense and wisdom, but also someone who was shaped by his time. He did not like women being involved in certain religious customs, and this gave me the insight I needed to create tension between him and his wife throughout their lives together. Yet I also understood why, despite this, she loved him so much. He was an admirable character - one I’m truly proud to call my ancestor.

Nor did I necessarily identify with all of the women. I believe conflict is integral to fiction, so even in the women I created, I included some whom I wouldn't like if I met them in real life. Shira’s mother-in-law is a great example of that.

I will say, though, I enjoyed creating some of the less commendable characters. I find it fascinating, even cathartic, to give one of my less-likable protagonists the scope to behave badly.
5.  Now that you have written and published The Fruit of her Hands, and it's out there in book stores, you do you feel? 

Oh, it's marvelous! I remember the first time I saw the book sitting on a shelf with the other new releases - it was such an amazing moment. I hate to gush about it, but it really is a long-deferred dream come true for me.
6.  And finally, being a writer, I am sure you have some future projects in mind.  Could you tell us a little about anything you may have in mind?

A friend of mine in my writing group advised me to just keep writing as I looked for an agent (and then as my agent looked for a publisher), and since both that combined with the publishing process took more than two years, I am well on my way with the next book.

While Shira is in despair in one part of The Fruit of Her Hands, she takes comfort in reciting the psalm about "By the waters of Babylon," where the Jewish exiles of Babylon cried out for their lost home. That inspired me to look into the story of the exiles, and my next novel begins with the destruction of the First Temple and ends in the years after the exiles are permitted to return to Judea, having been freed by Cyrus of Persia.



Wow!  What an interview! I think I will go out and buy this book, and I hope, for Michelle's sake, a lot of other people do, too.  It also sounds to me like her next book will be equally exciting!  Michelle,, I'm wishing you the best of everything in your writing and elsewhere, in the future.  And when you finish that next book, I will be more than happy to host another blog interview with you!

Anne G

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A book review, this time. . . .

Szechtman, Joan

a novel about Richard III in This Time

Bassett Books LLc

Milford CT

343 PP.

ISBN 113: 978-0-9824493-0-1


At one time, I got very, very interested in fifteenth century England, the Wars of the Roses in general, and Richard III in particular.  I even considered writing something about that misunderstood monarch, but first, Sharon Kay Penman beat me to it, and second, even before she beat me to it, I couldn't figure out how to write about him.  However, knowing something about the period was, in a circuitous way, an influence on my own writing career, such as it has been.  I didn't end up writing about Richard III, but as I've said elsewhere, earlier, I always wanted to write a novel set in medieval England.  Just knowing others had done this, helped propel me toward that goal, though I am writing about an entirely different period, and my work is quite frankly what I call "romantic science fiction."  I can't think of anything else to call it.


Having said all this, I would like to introduce Joan Szechtman's This Time to the reading public.  It is, in my opinion, an extraordinary book.  She claims it isn't "really" science fiction, but I know my science fiction/s-f-/sci-fi well enough to know that this novel fits quite comfortably into that genre.  It isn't so common nowadays, to write about someone from a past era, who somehow stumbles into the present, and I've never heard of anybody before Ms. Szechtman who has tackled Richard III in this way.  But she has done  an excellent job, which is one reason I think this is a very promising first novel, which is often not the case. 


Her premise is that by means of a sort of time machine that acts very quickly, Richard is brought back from his last battle at Bosworth Field, still alive, and someone else's body is substituted for his.  Thus, 500 years of legend making begins.  He finds himself in, of all places, Portland, Oregon. 


The bulk of the story(and this confirms my opinion that the book is a kind of science fiction), concerns his adjustment to "modern times".  Without going into detail(I don't want to give too much away), I found the manner of his adjustments both very human and very touching, and at the same time, very funny, both from his point of view, and from the point of view of those who are trying to help him adjust.  This was one of the strongest parts of the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how he goes about adjusting. 


I also think Ms. Szechtman has extrapolated a lot from what is known of the real Richard, both in terms of his history, and his actual personality, and created a credible story from these extrapolations.  This shines through quite well, though some readers may feel he adjusts to his new environment awfully quickly, for someone who has been brought forward 500 years.  Just one example:  how would Richard III, or anyone else from the fifteenth century, deal with the continual bombardment of information available to people living now, through the media and the Internet?  I don't know.  But Ms. Szechtman has him handling this change  almost effortlessly, within a few weeks or months.  This is not meant as a criticism, though some readers might find this difficult to swallow.


That said, Joan Szechtman has written a fascinating book, and she plans two more on Richard's adventures and adjustments, to follow in 2010 and 2011.  I am looking forward to these.  I also think anyone interested in historical figures, science fiction and/or historical fiction, will find this a very good read, regardless of whatever they think about Richard III. 


Finally, to further encourage readers, I invite you to read an excerpt from This Time. When I read it, it had me hooked.  And I preordered the novel.  I'm glad I did.

Anne G

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An addendum to the wolf hunt story

I forgot to mention a story that suggests why this wolf hunting season may actually be a bad idea.  It may increase livestock losses, according to one study.This study was done on dingoes in Australia, but nowadays both domestic dogs and dingoes are considered to be subspecies of wolves.  In any case, if true, these studies don't bode well for the idea of "controlling" wolves in Montana, Idaho, or anywhere else.

Anne G

The latest on the "wolf hunt"

Unfortunately, Judge Molloy ruled that the wolf hunt in Idaho and Montana could continue.  The carnage is set to begin on September 15 in Montana, and the BBC has a story, with video, here.  This story suggests that farmers and ranchers worry about wolves eating their livestock, and this is understandable, but that there is a lot of opposition, even in "red" Montana, to this proposed hunt.  I should note here that I know something about Montana, since I have family living there.  But they live where there's less farming and ranching, and more "other industry" going on there.  Missoula and Bozeman, especially, have fairly high -- for Montana -- populations, and are both college towns where people from places like California have moved.  My impression, for whatever it's worth, is that most people there, oppose hunting wolves, whatever else they're for or against.  It's different in places like Great Falls and Billings; they're out on the High Plains, and that's where there is still a fair amount of farming and ranching, though that part of Montana also has less population to worry about wolves eating their livestock. 


Be that as it may, all is not completely lost.  I read a pdf of the judge's ruling, which essentially said that the plaintiffs(various conservation organizations), didn't have enough evidence to show that irreparable harm would be done to those wolf populations likely to be hunted.  He did, however, leave what might be called a "loophole", in that he all but suggested these organizations could question the Department of the Interior's ruling on delisting the wolves, to see if it was lawfully and properly carried out, or that the proper amount of study was done.  And he also suggested that they could very well win the next round, on those grounds.  It won't stop the hunt, but it might stop future ones, at least until people either grow a different kind of consciousness about the relationships of predators and prey in any  ecosystem.  These categories include wolves, and whatever they tend to sink their teeth into, mainly members of the deer family. 


Be that as it may, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Wolves have enough problems just existing, without being shot at by angry and sometimes careless, farmers and ranchers.

Anne G

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Michelle Cameron's new book, "The Fruit of Her Hands"

Toda, I'm doing something a little different. Michelle Cameron, author of the recently published  The Fruit of Her Hands, is going on a blog tour.  I am one of the people she has chosen for her blog tour, and I really feel quite privileged to have been chosen.  Here, I will simply introduce her.  The Fruit of Her Hands is about one of her ancestors, a Jewish woman living in 13th century France, where she witness a mob burning all the copies of the Torah and Talmud the mob can get their hands on.  She has secretly studied these books, with her father, a rabbi or scholar in the Jewish community of 13th century Paris.  This is about her life, and what she had to do to preserve her people's knowledge, and her own integrity.  Though I haven't yet had a chance to read the book, it sounds very exciting.  So I will, in a subsequent(very subsequent) post, start asking her some questions about the book and how she came to write it, in preparation for this blog tour, which she will presumably be answering.  As I say, I feel very privileged


Thank you, Michelle Cameron,

Anne G

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The ultimate "accuracy obsessive"

Recently on a venue where people discuss historical mysteries, people got into a discussion about anachronisms in historical mysteries taking place in relatively recent times.  Somebody brought up a book they'd read, where the writer had the women wearing pantyhose back in the 1920s.  Nobody disagreed that this was anachronistic, even though women nowadays -- if they can possibly avoid it -- tend not to wear pantyhose at all(I know that in some work situations I had to wear pantyhose, and boy, even in a Seattle July or August, I hated them, and took them off as soon as I could after getting off work!).  Be that as it may, the anachronism here is this:  pantyhose weren't widely worn until the latter part of the 1960's.  I know, because I was one of the earlier adopters.  They were a lot more comfortable than girdles.  Before then, women generally wore girdles and garters to which they attached nylon hose.  These were uncomfortable in a different way, but women wore what they felt they had to wear, I guess.  So a woman wearing pantyhose in the 1920's would indeed be an anachronism, since pantyhose weren't yet invented.


Be that as it may,  and as is often the case in such discussions, it spawned another discussion about "anachronistic" language.  And this is where another "accuracy obsessive" person popped up their head.  It happened like this:  the person in question mentioned that they had tried to read Anya Seton's famous historical novel, Katherine, a story, more or less, about Katherine Swynford, who was an interesting personage living in the mid to late fourteenth century, and more or less important for who she married, and the descendants of that marriage(and other marriages of related people).  It seems that this person objected to the fact that Ms. Seton had someone (frankly, I can't remember who, at this point, it's been a long time since I read the book), uttering the word  "mollycoddle"  The poster said they were upset because "mollycoddle", they pointed out, was a nineteenth century word!  The result?  They put down Katherine and never finished it!


Here, I must , for the record, mention that I read Katherine for the first time, when I was fifteen. I loved it so much, that I think, even then, it gave me the germ of the desire to write a novel set in medieval England.  I didn't act on this desire for a long, long  time, and in the meantime, I reread Katherine several times, and still loved it.  The result, for me, at that time, was to get me reading all sorts of material about that period and some subsequent ones, and I kept on dreaming of writing a novel that romantic, set in medieval times.  The Gentle Reader of my blog may wonder why I didn't just start trying to write romances when those came on the scene.  I think that was because I loved science fiction even more.  It was only when I stumbled into the "modern human origins controversy", and decided that I had to write some work that would somehow make Neandertals respectable, that I finally found a way to combine the two genres, sort of, more or less, into my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals.  But it takes place in a far earlier time period than Katherine.  Still, the book was a tremendous influence at the time, at least in some ways, and I think it's doubtful that I would have even considered writing a Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals, if it hadn't been for Anya Seton and Katherine


So, having digressed a bit,. I come back to the subject at hand, which was the person who objected to "mollycoddle".  At no time, including the last time I read Katherine,  and put it aside, because by then I found the heroine just too darn "1950's" for my tastes, though it is still a very good read, did I ever notice "mollycoddle".  I had no idea until yesterday or so, that it was a "nineteenth century" word.  And even if I did, it wouldn't have mattered very much.  It is a word that is "old-fashioned" enough to (kind of) fit with a medieval character, even  if the word wasn't actually in use in the fourteenth century.  And so I sent a rather sharp reply to this person, suggesting that such an attitude was, well, snobbish, even for an "accuracy obsessive".  I stand by this, by the way, but I think that the moderator was right that I was overly sharp with this person.  In a more recent post, this same person suggested that  no one who has ever been exposed to literary criticism, should ever read historical novels, because, in essence, they will always find fault with them. 


This is an attitude I find even more distressing, because it suggests that anyone who has ever gone through certain kinds of college training, will never be happy with anything that isn't "deep" or "serious" or "realistic".  To a certain extent, this attitude permeates a lot of  writing, even some "genre" writing, where some readers apparently "prefer" what they consider to be "realistically sad" endings(For those interested, I've commented on this elsewhere). 


But why do most people read historical novels, science fiction, or any other "genre" literature?  Even when "lit-crit" trained, my guess is, they don't read such literature to get all philosophical .  They want entertainment.  They want to be carried away to another situation(even if it is somewhat "realistic".  They mostly, I think, don't read to "lit-crit" something.  And that, to me, is the problem.  Some people seem to be carrying their academic or other training to the point where they can't just enjoy a story for whatever it is, rather than weigh it against some standards they have learned in some classroom.  Writers, from Homer on, probably all the way back to whoever composed Gilgamesh, composed, and continue to compose, their material, to engage and entertain their readers, even if whatever they are composing, has deep philosophical meaning, or many layers of literary meaning embedded in their story.  In other words, historical novels, and other novels, are written to be read, not "lit-critted".  For those who just can't stand an unimportant anachronism like "mollycoddle"(all right, I'll be careful not to use it in my own Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals), I can only say that this is accuracy obsession carried way over the top, and is little more than, in my opinion, literary snobbery to boot. 


Sorry, but that's the way it is for me,

Anne G

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A picture is worth 1000 words. . . .

This picture  is pretty appalling, though I'm sure the wolf hunters love it!

Anne G



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Medieval mindsets? Maybe, or maybe not

Browsing around, I saw a rather interesting over at  The site itself has a lot of interesting material about medieval Europe(and for that matter, medieval elsewhere, too.  In any case, the news was that  one Caroline Dunn has won an award for research she did, showing  that abduction of some medieval wives wasn't necessarily abduction. 


Now why might this be important?  Well, like I've kind of complained in other posts and elsewhere, there seems to be an idea that there was "a" medieval mindset which, somehow everybody shared.  Okay, maybe a lot of people did share a "medieval mindset", but such a "mindset" varied from time to time and place to place.  It's true that medieval marriages were supposed to last Till Death Do Us Part.  It's also true that couples, especially the female half,and especially in higher-status circles, didn't have a whole lot of choice about who they ended up with.  It's also true that, in many cases(especially when royalty wasn't involved; they certainly didn't have a whole lot of choice, obviously), weren't usually monsters; like parents today, they tended to want the best that could be managed, for their children, and most of them probably did the best they could, for a variety of reasons, to make sure that any proposed marriage actually worked out, one way or another.  And, often, they did work out, one way and another.  The woman had her interests looked after, in the sense that she was probably at least assured of some financial security, if nothing else, the man had somebody who was trained to run his household, and provide it with the necessary offspring to pass whatever there might have been to pass on.  So, one "mindset" probably was, just to make the best of whatever situation you found yourself in.


But sometimes, apparently, good intentions weren't enough.  And here's where Caroline Dunn comes in.  She suggested that a number of supposed abductions of wives were either some sort of prearrangements in which a woman ended up with somebody she really wanted to end up with(though maybe accused of something or other), or perhaps, arrangements made by a woman(and a man, naturally), to run off or elope.  IN the time period she's working with, there weren't anything like divorce courts, lawyers,  people who try to mediate "what's best for the children" etc., and the options for a woman who found herself in an unpleasant marriage, or found herself facing one,  were decidedly limited.  For that matter, so were the options of men, but not so limited as those of women.  So what was a couple to do, if they really wanted to be together, but were bound to other ties?  Run off!  What else could they do.  Of course, to "save" the woman's reputation, even partially, in a case like this, it had to look like the woman had just been unexpectedly dragged off.  But the point is here, at least in medieval England, women didn't necessarily just passively accept whatever fate brought them.  Some of them strove to change it.  The only way, probably that was available to them.  But they took it, when they thought it necessary, at least according to Caroline Dunn. 


Which suggests to me that the idea of "a" mindset in a historical period, isn't everything.  It's just one thing.

Anne G

Disgusting slaughter Part 3(unfortunately)

Yes, very unfortunately.  Judge Molloy, the federal judge who, it was thought might issue an injunction against this wolf "cull"(yeah, I know, they call it a hunt), apparently wants to hear more arguments.  Defenders of Wildlife has issued another brief.  But today is September 1, and that's when this wolf "hunt" begins.  Two hopeful signs:  First, this same judge has ruled previously in favor of environmental groups re wolves(for exact details, see Ralph Maughan's Wildlife Report), and second, the hunt,at least the last I heard about it, seems to be going rather slowly, although one guy claims to have bagged a wolf.  I hope it goes slow.  Real slow.  And I hope that judged issues an injunction against it, because I hope various concerned environmental groups will be able to convince him that killing 220 wolves will result (a) in more than 220 wolf deaths and (b) eve3 from a farming and ranching POV, the hunt is really not all that necessary, because wolves don't kill that much livestock.  Finally (c) hunters, especially in Idaho, are blaming wolves for declines in elk populations.  I have a feeling that it will turn out that wolves haven't contributed all that much to decline.  Other causes are likely to be responsible.


We'll see,

Anne G