Jul 09

When Is Food a Feast?

Posted: under Background, Craft.
Tags: ,  July 9th, 2017

Recently, in another venue,  a writer posted a link to her blog post on feasts in epic fantasy, considered in a sociological way–her point being the feasts were always expressions of power, and that fantasy (and actually any genre) often/always failed to consider the power differentials, the role of a feast in showing off the giver’s wealth and power, and so on.  Some feasts certainly are exactly that–overt demonstrations to the attendees that the giver is richer, more powerful, than the guests, deserving of adulation and (even more) obedience, submission.   Feasts can be competitive in that way: “Prince A gave us as much beef as we could choke down, and distributed the rest to the castle servants…”  “Well, Prince B gave us beef AND venison AND ham AND stuffed peacocks!  And the leftovers fed the whole castle and village for a week!!!”  But–always the c0ntrarian in the details–I didn’t agree that feasts in epic fantasy were always like that, or that epic fantasy always ignored the kitchen workers, the woodcutters, the shepherds, etc.   In fact, I don’t think all feasts (as experienced) are like that.

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Jun 18

The Dun Mare’s Grandchild

Posted: under Excerpt, Story.
Tags: , , ,  June 18th, 2016

“Again?” Oktar’s mother glared at him. “Bloody nose, black eye, shirt torn, a complaint from the judicar–you’re a disgrace!”

“They said we were dirty stinking horse–” he paused; the word they’d used was forbidden. “–droppings,” he finished.

“You should ignore them,” his mother said. “They are ill-bred; you should not dirty your hands with them.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 23

Sheep, Wool, Paksworld

Posted: under Background.
Tags: ,  February 23rd, 2016

http://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-long/no-wool-no-vikings

This article, found today on Twitter via a friend’s tweet, is a terrific resource for anyone interested in how wool was used–and the kind of sheep that could be raised in a subarctic environment.  The method of collecting the wool from these sheep is the same used worldwide for collecting an animal fiber from animals that shed annually (it’s used for quiviut, the underfur of musk oxen, and a century or so ago for the undercoat of sheep on the western most Hebrides island, St. Kilda.

I know the Vikings were supposed to have used wool sails, but it kept sounding improbable until I read this article, which describes how the sails were sealed, and how someone has, in this century, replicated the process and produced useful sails.  But wow, the Vikings would not have had any time to watch TV or surf the internet.

I imagined the Seafolk in Paksworld as similar to the Vikings (what I knew of them then)  so the Pargunese would also have had a lot of sheep.

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Feb 27

Aten’d Dead Yet: Granny Non-Weatherwax Returns

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  February 27th, 2015

There are days I wish I were Granny Weatherwax and think of knitting stockings like that, but my present form is more that of Nanny Ogg, who in other ways I don’t much resemble.  Yet.  Anyway:  Stuff has been going on, of several forms and various levels, and you folk have been neglected.  My apologies.  The neglect, or partial neglect, will probably continue at least another two weeks.  Things that Ought to Have Been Done have Not Been Done because things that Ought Not to Have Been Done were done (partly by others, partly by me) and got in the way of the Ought to Have Been Done ones.

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Jan 26

On Fantasy/Historic Archery: Guest Post by David Watson

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , , ,  January 26th, 2015

David Watson, known in the SCA as Master Iolo, is a crossbow maker and experienced archer who has studied archery in warfare a long time, including visits to museums in the US and Europe.   Here’s his take on the recently very popular YouTube videos of superfast shooting, including by people who insist that they’ve discovered historical truths unknown to mere sport shooters.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 20

Craft of Writing: Ah, Research!

Posted: under Background, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  December 20th, 2014

Fantasy requires as much research as science fiction, but slanted somewhat differently.  Or so it feels in my head, because the SF stories and the fantasy stories are situated in different places, not just fictionally, but psychologically.  As it happens, I like both kinds of research (and I also like flying without wings, sometimes, as in the CHICKS stories–no research there, nuh-uh.)   At any rate, I knew the new Vatta book would demand considerable research, despite being set in the same universe, because it’s set largely on planet.   The nail-biting moments (well, most of them) will be down in the gravity well.   And–just because it had to be, the story demanded it–much of it is in environments I have never personally experienced.   (Of course, the space-based stories are in environments I’ve never experienced, but not even our current astronauts have either, so…there’s more wiggle room.  Still research, but not likely to find someone who says “I served in an interstellar empire’s space navy and you’re completely wrong about the tactics of space warfare and not only that your conception of ship design is ridiculous.”

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Aug 26

A Short Post About Waste

Posted: under Background.
Tags:  August 26th, 2014

With thanks to Jonathan, actually.     When I was a kid, in mid 20th c. South Texas,  buying, preparing,  and consuming food provided  much less waste than it does today.   Vegetables in the grocery store were not encased in plastic bags.    Milk and cream  weredelivered in glass bottles which the milk company picked up at the time of the next delivery.   Depending on the grocery, bread might be in a wrapper, or might be “nekkid.”    Meat was wrapped in butcher paper, true, for its travel homeward, but there was no little plastic try and clingfilm wrap over it.   Grocery sacks were heavy brown paper, widely used (by us as well) as containers to line trash containers in the house–containers that almost never overflowed the modest size they were back then.   They were also used as drawing paper for kids, as costume elements,  as mulch in the garden,  as something to put on a patch of mud in the yard to keep it off shoes,  as an extra bedside trash container for used tissues when someone had a juicy cold, and so on.   Flour  in small amounts came in a paper bag, as did sugar, but flour in 20 pound and more amounts came in cloth bags, and the cloth was brightly printed cotton–easy to turn into clothing, curtains, quilts, whatever.   (My mother made my clothes, but refused to make me a “flour sack” dress, claiming we never needed that much flour at a time and the flour beetles would get into it.)   Paper wrappings were biodegradable–if buried, they decayed readily.   The few foods in jars and tin cans resulted in useful containers for later use, as did the aluminum foil frozen food “dishes.”   As for the food itself,  we ate it at one meal after another (if there was enough for leftovers)  and when it was down to the end, we had dogs, cats, and a parakeet.  Scraps went to animals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul 18

Body Art in Paksworld

Posted: under Background, Craft, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  July 18th, 2014

Many people in various cultures have used permanent markings on the body as means of identification–individual, familial, tribal, broadly cultural.    Any of these can be ornamental, and thus fall into the “art” category, but they are often more than ornamental–they have specific meanings.  Temporary markings applied to the skin with colors, mud, ash are even commoner, but ephemeral; the point of this post is the permanent ones in use in Paksworld, and their meanings to the Paksworld cultures that use them (or who abhor them.)    Tattoos, scarification, and piercings all occur in Paksworld, with very specific meanings both inside and outside the groups that use them.

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May 26

Cats in Paksworld (and Elsewhere)

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: ,  May 26th, 2014

Some of you have noticed that both cats and dogs are not prominent in Paksworld…and yet, they’re there, they just haven’t been emphasized.   Crown has a cat who moves plot a little, in one area.  And there’s a hound someone recognizes.   But that’s pretty much it.   Cats in Paksworld serve the same purposes as they do here, in those farms, ranches, and towns where vermin cause damage and spread disease.

 

Cleo-and-rat066

Cleopatra, our current cat, with a hispid cotton rat she killed.

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May 08

Re-reading and Thinking and Writing

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , ,  May 8th, 2014

I picked up one of my older books last night and read it a bit before going to sleep.  Gross Ego Inflation,  you may be thinking, though the internal editor pointed out every single place where–years later–maybe another word would have been better?  Huh?  Are you listening?    It’s not one of the really-old ones–it was written post Hurricane Katrina*, for instance.    But it ties in with something that affects all writers in all eras, even if they’re trying not to be tied to a particular time and place.  Read the rest of this entry »

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