Just in from Deadline: Hollywood, Tade Thompson’s forthcoming Tor.com publishing novella The Murders of Molly Southbourne has been been optioned by Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment. They reported, “Schulman will produce Southbourne as a feature film with Krishnan Menon and Adam Stone (Sleepless, The Voices) at Phenomenon Entertainment, who brought the project to Welle. Brendan Deneen (Gangland Undercover) and the book’s editor Carl Engle-Laird will serve as executive producers through Macmillian Entertainment.”
“The Murders of Molly Southbourne is a dark, twisted story that kept me up late the first night I read it and has haunted my imaginations ever since,” said Carl Engle-Laird, editor at Tor.com Publishing. “I’m thrilled to see what they will do with it, and look forward to more people sharing my plight.”
For as long as Molly Southbourne can remember, she’s been watching herself die. Whenever she bleeds, another molly is born, identical to her in every way and intent on her destruction. Any instance of bleeding—a scrape, a scuffle, and every month for a couple of harrowing days. And so, she has been trained in how to destroy the mollys first. Molly knows every way to kill herself, but she also knows that as long as she survives she’ll be hunted. Growing more bitter, she finds herself wondering whether it’s better to kill herself or be killed by the inescapable horde
The Murders of Molly Southbourne will be available October 3 from Tor.com Publishing.
Or, things falling apart, Dept of.
Nothing (so far) major, but this last couple of days has seen my iPod keel over and refuse to charge, and my printer decide that it doesn't like printing from the bottom tray, it will tell me there is a paper-jam and grind to a halt, even if there is not, actually, a paper-jam. This first manifested itself when I was trying to print out a paper to referee, which I finally achieved, but at an input of time and annoyance that made me feel that I had better put the thing aside for judgement until I was in a more equanimitous mood.
So I have at least replaced the iPod, which I could do by ordering online and collecting from the local Argos, a trip I was able to combine with a trip to Financial Institution of which I have heretofore complained extensively, where I was actually able to close the account and walk away. Also, since I was going to Argos, bought a proper file box to replace the cardboard box that I have been keeping documentation in.
Usual faff of setting up the iPod - downloading latest software, my playlists having to be reconstructed, etc etc, but is done, more or less.
And, in order not to be entirely negative, one of the other things I had on my schedule for today was finding a book in the maelstrom for editorial revision purposes, and I did, in fact, find it.
Also, have been asked to go and be a meedja consultant on a historical drama.
Plus, TV doco I am in (apparently) has a preview to which I have been invited next month.
My recent move has already paid off in terms of increased access to the Bay Area intellectual milieu, by which I mean wacky outlandish hypotheses about completely random stuff. The other day a few people (including Ben Hoffman of Compass Rose) tried to convince me that Pharaoh Djoser was the inspiration for the god Osiris and the Biblical Joseph. This sort of thing is relevant to my interests, so I spent way too long looking into it and figured I ought to write down what I found.
The short summary is that the connection between Djoser and Osiris is probably meaningless, but there’s a very small chance there might be some tiny distant scrap of a connection to Joseph.
Djoser, who ruled Egypt around 2680 BC, was a pretty impressive guy. Egypt had been unified by one of his predecessors a few generations before, but they’d let it get un-unified again, and Djoser’s father was the one who reunified it. Djoser inherited a kingdom of newfound peace and plenty – and made the most of it, starting lots of impressive infrastructure and religious projects. His chief minister Imhotep was famous in his own right as a polymath who invented medicine and engineering (he may also have been the first person to use columns in architecture). He was later deified for his accomplishments. Djoser and Imhotep cooperated to build the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.
Osiris was a legendary god whose worship was first recorded around 2400 BC. The legends say he was a wise and benevolent Pharaoh of Egypt in some unspecified distant past before being killed by his brother Set. One thing led to another, and he eventually ended up as the god of death and resurrection and the underworld. Scholars have long debated the exact origins of the Osiris cult, and tend to attribute it to some historical memory of something or other but disagree viciously over the details.
The argument I heard for Djoser inspiring Osiris hinges on a couple of points (there may be others I didn’t get). First, the times sort of match up – this legend of the wise king Osiris first appears just a century or two after Djoser died. second, Djoser was a big fan of an Egyptian symbol called the ‘djed’, a weird column shape thing. Djoser included djeds all over the step pyramid he and Imhotep built together, and may have kind of had an obsession with the thing (and why shouldn’t he? – if I helped invent the column, I’d talk about it a lot too). Meanwhile, the djed is traditionally considered the symbol of the Egyptian god Osiris. And third, if you’re going to deify a pharaoh into the god of death and resurrection, the beloved and powerful ruler who invented the first pyramid sounds like a pretty good candidate.
I think this argument is probably wrong. For one thing, although nobody can prove Osiris existed before the death of Djoser, everybody suspects that he did. In The Origins Of Osiris And His Cult, Egyptologist John Griffiths appeals to some early inscriptions that might name Osiris, and concludes that
There is a strong likelihood that the cult of Osiris began in or before the First Dynasty in connection with the royal funerals at Abydos, [although] archaeological evidence hitherto does not tangibly date the cult ot an era before the Fifth Dynasty
A common consensus is that he began as a local deity of the city of Busiris and (as mentioned above) the necropolis at Abydos. Djoser has no connection to either city, and in fact was the first king not to be buried at Abydos. His building a pyramid is less impressive than it sounds; all the Egyptian rulers were into building big tombs, and he just took it to the next level.
Djoser liked djeds, but so djid lots of Egyptians. They were popular long before Djoser and remained popular long after him; among their many fans may have been such pharaohs as eg Djedkara, Djedkheperu, Djedkherura, and Djedhotepre. The djed started out as a general fertility symbol, later became a symbol of the god Ptah, and only became fully associated with Osiris a thousand years after Djoser’s djeath. This makes it hard to argue Osiris got associated with the djed because of some cultural memory of Djoser.
This is kind of weak evidence against the theory – a speculation that Osiris is older than he looks, a little bit of confusion around when Osiris became associated with his sacred symbol. But it was a weak theory to begin with, so weak counterevidence convinces me.
So let’s get to the more interesting claim – that Djoser inspired the Biblical Joseph.
This comes from a monument called the Famine Stele, written two thousand years after Djoser’s death but telling a legend that had grown up around him. According to the stele, in the time of Djoser there were seven years of famine. Djoser asks his chief minister Imhotep for help. Imhotep investigates and finds that the problem is related to the god Khnum. He prays to Khnum and offers to worship him better, and Khnum appears to him in a dream and says that okay, he’ll make the crops grow again. Djoser and Imhotep repair Khnum’s temple, the famine ends, and everyone lives happily ever after.
The parallels to the Joseph story are pretty apparent. A seven year long famine. A Pharaoh who begs his chief minister to do something about it. A dream that provides the solution. Sure, the crocodile-and/or-ram-headed god Khnum gets left out of the Biblical account, but that sounds like just the sort of thing the Hebrews would conveniently forget.
There are some other differences, of course. The Joseph story involves seven years of plenty before the famine; the Imhotep story doesn’t. Joseph gains his chief ministerial position because of the famine incident; Imhotep is already in charge when the famine begins. God gives Joseph a rational planning strategy; Imhotep uses divine intervention directly. But isn’t there still a suspicious core of similarity here?
Creationists think so. They get really excited about this connection since it seems to link the Bible to a verified historical event (for values of “verified” equal to “someone made a stele about it two thousand years later, and in fact after the Bible itself was written”). Back during the presidential campaign, Ben Carson got soundly mocked for saying the pyramids were silos for storing grain. Everyone attributed this to his warped fundamentalist Christian view of history, but nobody thought to ask why fundamentalist Christians seized on this falsehood in particular. The answer is: if the pyramids were grain silos, then the link between Joseph (whom the Bible says built grain silos) and Imhotep (whom Egyptian records say built pyramids) becomes even more compelling.
Awkwardly for the creationists, this doesn’t even match their own hokey Biblical history. There are various different Biblical chronologies, but they mostly date Joseph around 1900 – 2000 BC – too late to be Imhotep, who lived closer to 2600. Also, don’t tell anyone, but the Bible is probably false.
Atheists have a better option available – they can claim that the Egyptian legend of Imhotep inspired the Israelite legend of Joseph. This is the strategy taken by a Ha’aretz article, which first roundly mocks any identification of Imhotep with Joseph, saying that this makes no sense and is totally stupid, and then adds:
There is a consensus among the majority of biblical scholars that the Joseph story dates, at the earliest, to the 7th century BCE, namely 2700 years ago. Many Judahites were residing in the Nile Delta at the time, as proven among other things, by the existence of a replica of the Jewish First Temple in Jerusalem on the island of Elephantine. It seems these Judahites may have been behind the adoption of the Imhotep tale as an Israelite story.
It doesn’t cite which scholars it’s talking about, or explain why they suddenly backtracked from their “there is no connection between Joseph and Imhotep shut up you morons”, but the overall point seems pretty plausible. Remember, the 7th century would have been just a few centuries before the Famine Stele was written, and the Djoser/Imhotep famine legend might have been popular in Egypt around this time. It sounds just barely possible that some Jews might have rewritten it with an Israelite protagonist the same way a bunch of pagan goddesses and even the Buddha ended up as Christian saints.
(or, for that matter, the Egyptians could have rewritten the Bible story with an Egyptian protagonist, although it seems less likely for cultural transmission to go that direction given the two cultures’ relative sizes.)
Or maybe none of that happened. Wikipedia’s article on the Famine Stele points out that a seven-year famine was a weirdly common motif all across the Ancient Near East, citing eg the Epic of Gilgamesh:
Anu said to great Ishtar, ‘If I do what you desire there will be seven years of drought throughout Uruk when corn will be seedless husks. Have you saved grain enough for the people and grass for the cattle? Ishtar replied. ‘I have saved grain for the people, grass for the cattle; for seven years o£ seedless husks, there is grain and there is grass enough.’
I don’t know if all of this derives from the same proto-Near-Eastern source, or whether seven year famines are just sort of a natural kind (compare all the different cultures that have something like “may your reign last a thousand years!”). But it warns us against leaping into accepting this too quickly. This is especially true in the context of atheists’ haste to believe things like “Christ is just a retelling of the Osiris myth!” or “What if Moses was really just Akhenaten” that later turn out to not really make that much sense. Part of the lesson I wanted to teach with Unsong is that this sort of thing is too easy, and therefore we need to increase our guard. I don’t know how to weight this, but maybe say there’s like a 30% chance
As a perfect example, here’s a completely insane work of Biblical apologetics claiming that a totally different pharaoh associated with djeds corresponded to the Biblical Joseph.
There are a couple of things you should know about me before I tell you this story. The first is that I’ve been a fan of Stephen King for as long as I can really remember. I think my first of his books might have been Needful Things, and from there I would borrow as many as I could from the library, heaving home huge stacks of those doorstops with their black covers and lurid fonts. The second thing is that I have a terrible tendency to read things in the wrong order. It’s not a deliberate quirk—more that I have a relaxed attitude to sensible chronology. I think this was also something I picked up from being a big borrower of library books; I would take whatever book happened to be on the shelf at the time, regardless of whether it was the next one I was supposed to read or not.
Now I must take you back to 1997. My mum had gotten into the habit of buying me two things at Christmas: whatever hardback Terry Pratchett book happened to be out, and whatever hardback Stephen King book happened to be out. That year, it was Wizard & Glass, which my mum merrily bought and popped under the Christmas tree, not realizing that it was the fourth volume in King’s The Dark Tower series. And let’s be fair, it didn’t worry me too much. I was, after all, the person who started reading The Sandman with The Kindly Ones. I was a maverick. A loose cannon.
If you haven’t read Wizard & Glass, it’s actually quite an unusual entry in King’s strange fantasy/horror/Western series, as it mostly takes the form of a lengthy flashback to the main character’s youth. Roland, the last gunslinger, knight errant and total badass, is suddenly 14, and we are introduced to his first companions, and his first (and only) true love. This being Stephen King, terrible things are afoot, and the climax of the story is a heady mixture of tragedy, violence, and weird magic.
I loved that book, and of course I went back then and read the rest of them, including The Drawing of the Three, which went on to be one of my favorite books of all time. Years passed, I left school, went to art college, and we saw the publication of Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah—but more significantly for me perhaps, I finally persuaded my mum to get a dial-up internet connection. It was a new century, and I had discovered these fancy new things called “internet forums.” On them, people gathered together to argue violently about the things they really loved. It was great! Full of enthusiasm, I immediately signed up to three: one for people with crushes on animated characters, one for fans of Samurai Jack (I’m sure those two aren’t linked), and one rather sprawling forum for people who wanted to discuss Stephen King’s masterpiece, The Dark Tower series.
I look back on those days very fondly. Forums don’t seem to be as lively now, possibly because we already expend so much energy on things like Twitter and Facebook, but back then I would be up all night on the forum, embroiled in arguments over how the series would end, who should play Roland in the film (years away at that point), or exploring all the possible clues sown throughout the rest of King’s books. I made a lot of very close friends, and as with all forums, experienced a fine array of ridiculous dramas and flounces. Twitter dramas are all well and good, but I miss the days when people would make a banner for their profile featuring some underhanded reference to a long-running argument.
It was the first time that books had brought me to an entire community. It wouldn’t be the last, of course, but I’ll always remember the Dark Tower books, and specifically Wizard & Glass, with particular fondness—it was my first real experience of discussing books with lots of other rabid fans, and I’ve no doubt it deepened my experience of Mid-World, with all its attendant weirdness.
The vast majority of users posting there were American or Canadian, with just a handful of British members. Inevitably perhaps, our little handful of Brits ended up bonding, and I even agreed to meet up with one chap in actual fleshspace. Back then, even relatively recently, meeting someone “off of the internet” felt like an especially wild thing to do, and I vividly remember waiting for the rain to stop at Charing Cross station, wondering if I were about to meet a serial killer. Well, twelve years later, I’m pleased to report I’ve yet to find any dismembered bodies scattered about the flat—although admittedly it could be difficult to tell—and we are very happy indeed, thank you very much. Although the question of who will play Roland in the film version has now finally been answered (woohoo Idris Elba!), for old time’s sake we do occasionally revisit that old discussion—he still insists it should be Pierce Brosnan, to my unending horror.
This article was originally published in January 2017 as part of our “The One Book” series, in which authors discuss a work that is particularly meaningful to them.
Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their cat. A fan of pirates and dragons from an early age, these days she writes character-driven sword and sorcery novels with plenty of banter and magic, and she has been twice nominated for a British Fantasy Award. The first two books in The Copper Cat trilogy, The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost, are available now from Angry Robot. Jen is also partly responsible for Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, a social group that meets in London once a month to celebrate a love of fantasy. The Ninth Rain, the first book in a new trilogy, is due to be published in the UK in February 2017, and she is partial to mead, if you’re buying.
So it was a month ago that I was talking on Twitter about my love of book lists, and my friend Macey said that she wanted a list of older epic fantasies with women protagonists. Her standards for “older” are not at all stringent–she mentioned Sarah Zettel’s Isavalta series (good call!), the last of which was published in 2007, so we’re talking about things that were not published five minutes ago, not things from the 1930s necessarily. And I don’t know about Macey, but my standards for what is epic fantasy–well, they move around a lot. I think that “is it epic enough” is approximately the most boring argument we could have on this topic. So basically I was going to make this list of books with female protags, not taking place in this world, published before the last ten years.
Yeah. So. That list ended up way shorter than I expected. Way, way shorter. Epic is not my sub-genre, but still, yikes. And if you think that having a woman or a girl at the head of the book doesn’t change things, I’m going to have to disagree. And if it doesn’t, well, why don’t we? If it doesn’t change anything, why didn’t more people flip that coin differently?
So here are some. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Some are squeaking in on technicalities (that is, just barely not this world, just barely before 2007, etc.). Some are favorites, some are things I have meant to reread and just have not gotten around to so I honestly can’t say how they look to me in this millennium, just that they exist and I have meant to look at them again. But here’s what I can do:
Lois McMaster Bujold, The Spirit Ring
Pamela Dean, The Dubious Hills
Naomi Kritzer, Fires of the Faithful and Turning the Storm
Megan Lindholm, Harpy’s Flight and The Reindeer People (if I recall correctly–have not reread in ages)
Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown
Elizabeth Moon, The Deed of Paksennarion (again, have not reread in ages)
Garth Nix, Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen
Tamora Pierce, oh so many things, how many of us my age and younger did her work show that we could do it our own way (which didn’t even have to be hers)
Jo Walton, The King’s Peace and The King’s Name
Patricia C. Wrede, much of the Lyra series and much of the Enchanted Forest series
If your book or your favorite book is not on this list, check to see that it is 1) fantasy that 2) has a female protagonist and 3) does not take place in this world and was 4) published in or before 2007. If it meets those criteria? Please comment adding it to this list! If it is science fiction! If it has a whole bunch of protagonists of various genders! If it was published in 2012! If it takes place in this world! Then what a worthy book it very well might be, but this is not the list for it.
Note that Macey didn’t ask for female authors particularly this time around, just for female protagonists–and noticing that Garth Nix was the only one I could find off the top of my head was also a bit startling. Please tell me some more men who have written women protags in that time frame and genre and expand the list for me!
We want to send you a galley copy of Curtis Craddock’s An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, available August 29th from Tor Books!
In a world of soaring continents and bottomless skies, where a burgeoning new science lifts skyships into the cloud-strewn heights, and ancient blood-borne sorceries cling to a fading glory, Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is about to be married to a man she has barely heard of, the second son of a dying king in an empire collapsing into civil war.
Born without the sorcery that is her birthright but with a perspicacious intellect, Isabelle believes her marriage will stave off disastrous conflict and bring her opportunity and influence. But the last two women betrothed to this prince were murdered, and a sorcerer-assassin is bent on making Isabelle the third. Aided and defended by her loyal musketeer, Jean-Claude, Isabelle plunges into a great maze of prophecy, intrigue, and betrayal, where everyone wears masks of glamour and lies. Step by dangerous step, she unravels the lies of her enemies and discovers a truth more perilous than any deception.
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It started late last night (as all good horror tales do) with a simple request: Sam Sykes tweeted yo, can you help me out at Chuck Wendig. The other author’s response—hey what do you need—made us briefly think we were about to witness a postmodern text conversation posted in public for a combined 90K followers, but then it escalated:
I don’t know if I told you but I recently became a camp counselor
it was going super well but there’s some kind of crazed serial killer roaming the grounds right now
And instead what unfolded was a delightful Twitter thread cheekily riffing on horror tropes from the point of view of (spoiler) the guy who’s prooobably the killer but also the protagonist.
An emotional roller coaster not just for the guy standing around with a machete in one hand and, apparently, his phone in the other, this mini-story is a great example of “weird Twitter”: an irreverent, rambling joke with multiple punchlines. A key sample:
Read the whole thing and steer clear of any masked camp counselors.
I signed my first writing contract at the beginning of 2012; a three-book deal for The Powder Mage Trilogy with Orbit Books. The trilogy was sold off the strength of the first book, Promise of Blood, as well as a several page summary of the two subsequent books in the series. At the time of the sale I felt like I was in a pretty good place—I had ambitious plans for the second and third books with new viewpoint characters, new cultures, and a whole different continent to explore.
I started writing the untitled book two later that year and immediately ran into a problem: I hated everything that I wrote.
I didn’t want to continue writing a book that I actively disliked. But I had signed a contract based on this summary and damn it, I was going to stick with it. I worked over the course of several months, pounding my head against the keyboard to build a narrative around all the cool ideas I had sketched out, but it just wasn’t clicking for me. My agent and editor would check in on me once in a while and I’d pull the whole “yeah, yeah, everything is great, go away please” routine like a defensive teenager.
At this point I had been with my agent for a little over a year and a half, and to be honest I was still kind of terrified of her. I was young, with little sense of self as an artist or businessman, and my interactions with my agent were limited to either her telling me to keep editing before she’d submit, and witnessing the obvious witchcraft of her taking Promise of Blood to auction. I did not want to admit to her that I was in a spiral of awful on book two.
When I did finally break down and confess what a hard time I was having (something I should have done many months earlier), she told me something that blew my mind: I didn’t have to stick to that original summary for books two and three. I just needed to write a damn good book.
I feel kind of sheepish admitting all this, because it seems so obvious looking back. Of course my editor just wanted a good book. But as can sometimes be the case that single assurance changed my whole outlook on the project and I was determined as ever to do well. My agent asked for a deadline extension for me and I threw out everything I had written or summarized up to this point (the better part of a 180,000 word novel) and started completely from scratch.
Now that I had tossed out the faulty summaries I needed to figure out why they were faulty. I knew that Promise of Blood ends with a victory for our heroes and I had this idea that I wanted to raise the stakes on a worldwide level. I’d dropped a few hints in Promise that I wanted to follow up on, widening the scope of the books to include a distant empire and intrigue that spanned the globe. But when I tried to write all that the plot seemed to ramble incoherently.
At this point, I fell back on a favorite brainstorming technique of mine: to take a piece of media—book, comic, movie, anime, TV show, etc—and dissect it to figure out what it did right on a purely technical level. Because I was having trouble with a sequel, I turned to one of the most famous follow-ups of all, The Empire Strikes Back.
What did Empire do right that I was struggling with? First off, it didn’t introduce a whole new unknown entity. It stuck with the conflict it had already developed—namely the empire versus the rebellion—and it focused on raising the stakes. Sure, our heroes had destroyed the Death Star, but in Empire our perspective is pulled back to show that it was not as big a victory as we thought and now things were about to get real. So my task on the new draft was to cut out all the over-ambitious junk that I had originally plotted for book two and focus on how the main conflict that I had already developed could continue to advance.
So how would I do this? Despite continuing with the established conflict, Empire introduced new plot elements, new risks, new character development for the heroes, new side characters and villains. We got a glimpse of the Emperor, the sense that things were so much bigger than we ever imagined, but we still focused on our heroes and their adventure.
I often tell prospective authors that a balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar is key in developing science fiction and fantasy. But this applies to more than just initial worldbuilding. It also applies to the expansion of an already existing universe and this was the problem that Empire Strikes Back helped me pinpoint. I had been trying to go too big. I was throwing so much at the reader that even I, the author, couldn’t keep track of it.
So I continued to cut overly-ambitious ideas and focus on the central story and the main characters and villains. And I didn’t stop with just book two, The Crimson Campaign. My newfound freedom to work on the story I wanted rather than the story I thought I had to tell extended to the final book of the trilogy—and a much easier book to write—The Autumn Republic.
Many of you might be scratching your heads and wondering how the heck I got published in the first place. This is all story-telling 101. Shouldn’t I have figured all of this out way back when I first pitched books two and three? Maybe. But real life is rarely that simple. The idea of writing a sequel (let alone the third book in a trilogy) was utterly foreign to me and now that I’ve finished all three books I can look back at that initial pitch and see what I was doing right—focusing on plot escalation and character development—and what I was doing wrong—trying to escalate by widening the scope of the plot instead of focusing on the established conflict. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for all the trees, and learning from a successful franchise like Star Wars helped me do exactly that.
In addition to being the author of the Powder Mage Trilogy and a variety of related short stories and novellas, Brian is a beekeeper and avid player of computer games. He lives with his wife in Cleveland, Ohio.
a song from the year you were bornbut I don't like going away from the weekend leaving scary stuff at the top of my journal. I am not enough of a muso to be able to immediately name something other than what was in the charts, and the charts for my birth year seem to be quite uninspiring. I got briefly excited about some Electric Light Orchestra stuff, but it turns out to have been released the year before and was still in the charts the year of my birth.
So about the only song I have positive feelings about is Take a chance on me by ABBA. This reminds me of a coach trip when I was a teenager, when the only music we had was one mixtape someone had thought to bring, that was played over and over on the coach's sound system. I can't imagine now going on a several day trip and only having a dozen songs to play. But anyway, this was one, and it reminds me of good times not quite 20 years after it was actually released. I'm a bit sick of it now because it sorts first in the alphabet in my digital collection and for a while I was using a music player that wasn't very good at shuffle and always started with the first track. But hey, it's cute and poppy and you might not have heard it as much too often as I have.
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I like really bad movies sometimes. And when I do, there are different roots to this problem. On occasion, it just has the right elements combined to get me on board. On occasion, it’s nostalgia. And on occasion, someone points out to me that said media is crap, and I give them my most puzzled stare.
And then I realize I’ve headcanoned it.
This happens to me all the time with plotholes and poorly conceived film climaxes. A friend is busy trashing the latest contrivance in some blockbuster, and I’m suddenly confused because I inferred elements that were never in the script. Oh, these characters are clearly a lot closer than the film is saying outright—that’s why the emotional arc works! I just made up an entire background for them in my head, complete with adorable scenes of them braiding each other’s hair as teenagers. They would die for each other. Fixed.
Of course, I can’t actually make that argument to someone. I can’t tell them “Oh, that movie works fine for me because I decided that these things you’re taking exception to make perfect sense by virtue of my nimble brain gymnastics.” That’s not a real argument. That doesn’t make a movie better. That doesn’t actually plaster over the holes, or excuse any lack of thought that went into said story, even if the author was intent on letting you fill in some gaps on their behalf.
Except I do make that argument sometimes. Not with the intent of telling someone that they’re wrong about bad writing or plotholes, but to explain why I like certain things. Sorry, I know it doesn’t make sense… but I made it make sense. I’m not saying that I disagree, I’m saying that I wanted it to work, so it did. Presto change-o. I’m a magical unicorn. (I’m not.)
Thing is, fandom is full of headcanons. But they come in a pretty wide variety, in different flavors and shapes. Some of them are incredibly subtle… to the point where you don’t realize that your version of a story is different from someone else’s until you’ve discussed it in depth. Often these boil down to difference in empathy; perhaps you are more inclined to like a certain type of character, or a certain system of government, or you always root for underdogs. We’re all bound to be more empathetic to characters and groups that align for us personally. Which might be why you have a tendency to cut tragic villains a whole lot of slack, while your BFF won’t give them an inch. Boom. Conflicting headcanon.
Some headcanons are different beasts altogether. For my own part, I have a tendency to reimagine lots of characters as queer people in the fiction I consume. Part of that has to do with my reading lots of slash fiction growing up. (The goggles, they never leave you.) But the main component of that comes from being queer myself; I’d rather be imbibing stories in which I felt better represented. It’s also easy to create wild variant headcanons for periphery characters or to do your own world building for universes that are a little on the thin side. There are canons that reconcile disparate versions of similar ’verses. (This is particularly common in comics fandom, where fans might chose to mesh comics themselves with movie universes and alternate realities until they come out with a version that suits them best.) Often fandom does work the author was never even planning to conceptualize, let alone flesh out. It’s one of the wonders of the creative process.
And then there are headcanons that technically cannot be disproven—they are (or appear to be) simply less common among the community. For example, there is a contingent of Harry Potter fans who think of Hermione Granger as a woman of color… and she could be. Nowhere in Rowling’s seven-tomed epic does she ever mention the color of Hermione’s skin (she mentions that Hermione’s mother is pale in the final book, but there is no record on Hermione’s father—he is only described as being brown-haired and brown-eyed), and by that logic, Hermione could be whatever color the reader envisions. The majority of HP fandom seems to have defaulted Hermione to a white girl, and she was played by a white actress on screen. But that doesn’t mean that these fans have created a headcanon that can’t or shouldn’t be recognized and taken seriously.
This particular aspect of headcanoning is perhaps its most profound; how it is often used to help fans relate better to stories they love dearly. Whether it’s changing the orientation of a few key figures, or imagining previous events that would lead to the more drastic action, these alterations can make the difference between whether or not someone connects with a work. While some fans (and even some writers) may take issue with that, I’d argue that’s it’s practically impossible to negate—the brain does its thing and you’re suddenly filling in the coloring book with your favorite markers. Probably drawing outside the lines too.
But I do wonder how many people encounter this problem outside of the internet. And I’ll always consider it one of the best things about creating and enjoying fiction in the first place. There are those who scoff at fans who create their own meticulous universes within another universe, but these are often the seeds that lead to other creative work. The separation between fiction, fan fiction, headcanons and fandom works are frequently much thinner than anyone wants to admit. So whether your head canon conflicts with mine or not, I’m glad we all have them.
And I do apologize for loving some awful movies (and TV shows and books). The brain wants what it wants… and sometimes mine just wants to plug the plotholes with glitter.
This article was originally published in February 2015.
Defunct porcupine at about mile 4.5. Hadn't been there yesterday when we drove past the spot. What *had* been there was a black furry lump of a size to be either someone's wandering Newfie or a black bear cub.
No new floral stuff. Purple loosestrife is filling in some of the marshy spots, grump grump. Time for the napalm . . .
Got out on the bike, breezy and sticky, did not die.
15.28 miles, 1:16:08
100 years ago today, nearly 10,000 African Americans walked in complete silence down New York City's Fifth Avenue. The protest, depicted in today's Google Doodle on the search engine's homepage, was organized by the NAACP in an effort to speak out against lynching and racial violence in the years after slavery was abolished. It was also a call to action aimed at President Woodrow Wilson to take legislative action to protect African Americans from anti-black violence.
Known as the Silent Parade of 1917, the march began at 59th Street and ended at 23rd Street — with children at the front, women wearing white in the middle, and men in the back.
According to the National Humanities Center, a flyer that was handed out before the march cited lynchings in Memphis and Waco, Texas, as well as the East St. Louis race riot of 1917. Banners in the Silent Parade had powerful words of protest, such as, "We helped to plant the flag in every American dominion," "We are maligned as lazy, and murdered when we work," and "Thou shalt not kill."
In a flyer distributed by the NCAAP ahead of the Silent Parade, Reverend Chas. D. Martin detailed the need for action:
"We march because we want our children to live in a better land and enjoy fairer conditions than have fallen to our lot. We march in memory of our butchered dead, the massacre of the honest toilers who were removing the reproach of laziness and thriftlessness hurled at the entire race. They died to prove our worthiness to live. We live in spite of death shadowing sand ours. We prosper in the face of the most unwarranted and illegal oppression."
The Silent Parade initiated what has been almost a century of civil rights movements: 46 years later, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; and 96 years after the protest, the Black Lives Matter movement was formed.
To learn more about the Parade and the events that led up to it, check out Google's interactive collaboration with the Equal Justice initiative.
There's also a possibility of rain for tomorrow night, which is Shakespeare in Clark Park, but I'm still holding out a tentative hope it will happen. It's "Coriolanus" this year, and my friend L. expressed a desire to go as well.
Rainy days are good days for going to (indoor) movies, though. So that's a possibility for Saturday. "Atomic Blonde" will be out, I think.
I tried out a new machine at the gym last night. I think it was an elliptical but it was harder than the ones I usually use; I did fifteen minutes on that, after squats/deadlifts/overheads with barbell. That shoulder issue I was having seems better, and I had chair massage beforehand, which also helped. I did the overheads with the barbell only. That's always been my most difficult exercise, and I've never managed to do more than 65 pounds if I keep it up on a regular basis. For more than one or two reps, I mean. I'm going to stay low for a while until I'm sure that shoulder pain is gone, even though I'm not sure it was related to lifting.
Goal for the weekend: write up my structure notes about Apprentice in Death.
Individual grains of sand are irritants, small bits of ground-down shell and lava and minerals, but together they build a beach, a sand bar, a beachhead. We are creating a strong, huge sand bar to stop Trump's pleasure cruise, no matter how much the gilded yacht's engines are pushed. And when that happens, several possibilities arise from the sand bar: climb aboard and take it back, put a hole in its side and let it sink, or watch the waves wash it away. Thing is, we need a ship of state, so we may all have to become metaphorical pirates, theoretical Elizabeth Swans and Will Turners and Jack Sparrows and Calico Jacks (the gentlest and least bloodthirsty of the ones on Black Sails) and take it back, strengthen the hull, replace the engine, repair the holes in it and the damage that's been done (it's a wonder the thing sails at all), take off the fake gilding and give it an honest paint job, and set it back on course.
(I considered saying we were all stone crabs, such as the ones that moved the Black Pearl back to water in Davy Jones's Locker (third POTC), but I am not that crabby this morning despite how much I like and admire the sea goddess Calypso.)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr., is one of science fiction and fantasy’s bestselling and most prolific authors. Since signing his first contract with Tor in 1983, he has written over 60 novels, moving between science fiction and fantasy, 18-book epics and standalones. The fantasy worlds he dreams up tackle issues of balance between order and chaos, harmony with nature, and the sociopolitical ramifications of magic-users on society and culture. What’s more, each series features a different, detailed magical system and painstakingly constructed millennia-long timeline of its history. Modesitt also likes to jump back and forth by generations or even centuries within his series, strengthening the fibers of those fictional histories with new stories.
His latest novel, Assassin’s Price, is the eleventh book in the Imager Portfolio—if you’re itching to learn more about the Imager world, or Modesitt’s other fantasy universes, read on!
The Saga of Recluce
The Magic of Recluce | The Towers of the Sunset | The Magic Engineer | The Order War | The Death of Chaos | Fall of Angels | The Chaos Balance | The White Order | Colors of Chaos | Magi’i of Cyador | Scion of Cyador | Wellspring of Chaos | Ordermaster | Natural Ordermage | Mage-Guard of Hamor | Arms-Commander | Cyador’s Heirs | Heritage of Cyador | Recluce Tales | The Mongrel Mage
The most important thing you need to know about Recluce—both the saga and the island—is that there is a neverending battle between chaos and order. In their natural state (a.k.a. Balance), these qualities make up all matter; but as white wizards unleash the entropy of chaos and black mages harness the structure of order, these forces become imbalanced. Modesitt’s intention was to subvert fantasy tropes by having the “good guys” wear black, though, as he points out, there is a lot more gray area to it—and not just the “grays” who can manipulate both chaos and order. Even as the first book, The Magic of Recluce, establishes Recluce’s tenets of uniformity and repetition in order to keep chaos at bay, such monotony—even with the safety it provides—bores protagonist Lerris. His lack of engagement with order gets Lerris sent away from home on the dangergeld, or ritualistic journey to learn more about the world before deciding if he will follow Recluce’s rules. But ennui aside, what we’ve learned from all of the dystopian fiction that has been released in the 25 years since the first Recluce book is that order can be just as dangerous as chaos.
While Lerris’ dangergeld is the focus of the first book, he is by no means the series’ protagonist; in fact, each of the characters in the 18 books to date get only one or two novels. In a recent piece for Tor’s Fantasy Firsts series, Modesitt challenged the notion that The Saga of Recluce is a series, considering that they neither follow one protagonist nor take place in “a single place or time”—instead spanning 2,000 years, and the rise and fall of empires worldwide in 20 countries on five continents. And even then, he adds, “the Recluce books aren’t really a ‘saga,’ either, because sagas are supposed to be tales of heroism following one individual or family. And that’s why I tend to think of the Recluce books as the history of a fantasy world.”
The internal chronological order is also vastly different from the publication order—if you’re going by timeline, the series starts with 2001’s Magi’i of Cyador and concludes with 1995’s The Death of Chaos. Modesitt says it’s the reader’s choice to read the books in either order, or neither, the only caveat being that one should read the first book of a certain character before going on to the second.
In Ames, Iowa, Anna Meadows is fairly ordinary: middle-aged wife and mother, small-time opera singer and professor of music. But in the mystical land of Erde, song is the key to mastering ancient sorcery. As volatile as any other magic, a wrong note could mean disaster; but no one in the kingdom of Defalk is as skilled as Anna, who can sing the perfect note under even the most dire conditions. Not only must Anna learn her way around this unfamiliar world to which she has been transported, but she must also learn this magic while contending with the patriarchal society that wants to wipe out this fledgling sorceress.
In a 2012 interview with Far Beyond Reality, Modesitt described what is unique about his work, pointing to the Spellsong Cycle for a particular example:
In a phrase—the unobviousness of the obvious. My work almost always points out or shows by example something that underlies society or culture or science—something basic that has seldom, if ever, been noticed for what it is—that is so obvious that, once it is pointed out, critics and others way, “Oh… that’s so obvious.” […] The Spellsong Cycle explores the issue of power by making vocal music the heart of magic—and shows why something that is universal [singing] and should theoretically be a widespread source of power cannot be, because true singing is not what people think it is (nor is it as easy as anyone thinks, except for trained singers).
Hailed as a feminist fantasy series, the Spellsong Cycle presents an independent heroine unwilling to give up her freedom for marriage, who rises through Erde’s patriarchal society as first a head of state and eventually the most powerful sorceress on the continent. Even as The Shadow Sorcereress trades Anna’s perspective for that of Secca, her adopted daughter, Anna’s influence is keenly felt: Secca inherits her mother’s position as Sorceress Protector of Defalk and must grapple with many of the same personal and ethical dilemmas that Anna did, from marriage to misogynist sorcerers.
The Corean Chronicles
Like The Saga of Recluce, The Corean Chronicles depicts the ongoing conflict between two different cultures and the fallout it has on their world. But instead of chaos and order, both Alectors and (some) humans possess Talent, a magic derived from life force. However, the series shares with the Recluce books the themes of finding harmony with nature and balance between different groups. The first trilogy takes place millennia after a devastating magical event that ended a golden age of prosperity and progress in the world of Corus. Instead, humans fight among other countries as well as with the Alectors (their human-like caretakers) to eke out survival. The second trilogy jumps back in time to provide a new perspective on the Alectors and a greater context for Corus’ history and fate.
In a 2010 interview, Modesitt summed up the magic system of The Corean Chronicles:
That’s a take-off on what one might call Earth magic. Basically it’s the Aegean concept of the world has a planetary life force and those who have talent can draw on it. But life force varies, obviously by the amount of life in a given area, etc., etc., etc. And you can draw on it too much. And basically you’ve got two races on this planet, one of whom has this tendency to exhaust all the life force on a planet by building great things and imbuing them with life force and literally leaving planets dry and hopping to another planet. […] And then there are the locals who are stuck there and who may be left with a dead planet on which it’s rather difficult to survive. And you’ve basically got the conflict between two cultures, and the locals don’t even know that that conflict exists for the most part.
Corus was the first of Modesitt’s fantasy worlds to include supernatural creatures: the strange animals created by the world’s magic, as well as the fairy-like Ancients, or Soarers. Both are dependent on Corus’ life-force-generated magic for energy. Though they are small in number and appear infrequently, the Ancients—Corus’ original inhabitants—interject themselves into the Alectors and humans’ matters when it is necessary to their survival. One of the humans to which they appear is Alucius, the protagonist of the first trilogy: Taken off his family’s Nightsheep farm and conscripted into the Militia, he is sold into the slave army of the immortal Matrial, who seeks to conquer Corus. But even as he is magically bound to the army, Alucius possesses a secret he was warned never to reveal: a strong Talent, and a compelling reason to use it.
The Imager Portfolio
With The Imager Portfolio, Modesitt went “looking for a different kind of magic”: Drawing upon his attempts to be an artist in his youth, he came up with the idea of visualization magic, in which imagers pluck visuals from their imaginations and make them real. Merchant-turned-journeyman artist Rhennthyl’s training is derailed when his master patron is killed and he discovers that his true talent is as an imager—in fact, he’s one of only a few in the world of Terahnar who possesses the power. However, this realization is bittersweet, as Rhenn is forced to leave his family behind for the solitude of imager training: He is both feared and vulnerable, as imagers can accidentally conjure objects from even their dreams, and because he has enemies he doesn’t even know about who would keep him from attaining full proficiency. Not to mention that half of all imagers die before they reach adulthood.
The Imager Portfolio examines what kind of society would be supported and constrained by such powerful magic-users (Modesitt described it as “literally emerging into what I would call early Industrialism from something like a Renaissance culture”). The series examines economics and politics, and the philosophy behind them, a recurring theme in Modesitt’s work; in a 2011 interview, he said, “The use of economic and/or sociopolitical themes in fantasy and science fiction, to me, is one of the best reasons for reading the genre.” While Modesitt has considered writing a follow-up to the first Imager trilogy—potentially focusing on Rhenn’s daughter—he explained that that would have to wait until after he wraps up his current writing projects.
This article was originally published in December 2016.
* One White House staffer accuses another of wanting to perform a particularly difficult autoerotic act, thus increasing the latter’s support among the many men who wish they could do it, so as to make women completely unnecessary
* In an act of typically conspicuous courage, John McCain saves fellow Republicans from a bill they voted for in the pious hope that someone else would kill it.
Another milestone in the history of NYT editorial policy: Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, "Anthony Scaramucci’s Uncensored Rant: Foul Words and Threats to Have Priebus Fired", 7/27/2017:
“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” he said. […]
“I’m not Steve Bannon. I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said.
There's more "colorful language" where that came from — see Ryan Lizza, "Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon", The New Yorker 7/27/2017. But uncensored quoting of taboo language has a longer history in that magazine.
Still, yesterday's article is not the NYT's first F-bomb — according to Tim Murphy, "No, the New York Times Didn't Change Its 'Fuck' Policy", Mother Jones 8/26/2013:
The Times‘ anti-profanity editorial policy is, as Salon has chronicled before, often absurd, leading to the awkward censorship of band names, book titles, and, at least once, the vice president of the United States. But it only applies to nonfiction. A quick search through the paper’s archives reveals dozens of instances of F-bombs casually inserted in fiction excerpts. Most of the time those are online-only features that supplement print reviews, but occasionally the word makes its way into the paper itself. And in some extenuating circumstances, such as the publication of the 1998 Starr Report, the paper’s news desk has consented to publish the F-word as it appears in quotes.
See also: Ben Zimmer, "Mooch mouth: Scaramucci takes public profanity to a new level", Strong Language 7/28/2017; Elizabeth Spiers, "White House Communication Director Anthony Scaramucci’s Statement Regarding Today’s Comments to The New Yorker Magazine", Medium 7/27/2017; and "Onion Fact Checks: Anthony Scaramucci's 'New Yorker' Interview", The Onion 7/27/2017
Some previous LLOG coverage of the NYT's linguistic taboo twists and turns, mostly on the non-fiction side:
"No fuckin' winking at the Times", 8/17/2005
"[Expletive discussed]", 7/1/2005
"Words that can't be printed in the NYT", 6/5/2006
"Presidential expletive watch", 7/17/2006
"Taking shit from the President", 7/19/2006
"Further annals of taboo avoidance", 10/4/2006
"Taking no shit from judges", 6/7/2007
"The NYT transgresses", 8/23/2007
"Music Review: ********", 11/13/2007
"Times bowdlerizes column on Times bowdlerization", 7/12/2008
"Annals of Bowdlerization: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", 12/6/2009
"The language of 'Mad Men' and the perils of self-expurgation", 7/22/2010
"Annals of [having sex] [feces]", 8/7/2010
"Larkin v. the Gray Lady", 4/16/2012
"The first 'asshole' in the Times?", 4/16/2012
"Not taking shit from the President?", 6/1/2014
I don't know my family history as well as Sovay does. All my great-grandparents were in England by 1900, so none of my close relatives were directly involved. I'm in a similar position that I'm pretty sure there are third etc cousins of mine who should exist but don't. The people who should have been their ancestors might be in the photos; there probably were people related to me among those murdered in Poland, no idea if they were in Lodz specifically.
Whichever Nazi it was that claimed 'a million deaths is a statistic', the scale matters in a different way. That is, one person murdered because of who they are is already too many, but once you get into the millions, everybody is affected. Every Jewish person with any European connections at all might, it's probably best to assume they do, have missing relatives. Every part of history since 1930 is marked by that mass murder.
Anyway. I have more to say but I'm not sure I want to say it on a public post, and you're better reading the linked post anyway.
honestly it seems a little on-point, I'm afraid to trust it.
It may be on its last gasps, but thank god it's not quite dead yet.
"We are not sheep or cows. God didn't create fences for us or boundaries to contain our nationalities. Man did. God didn't draw up religious barriers to separate us from each other. Man did. And on top of that, no father would like to see his children fighting or killing each other. The Creator favors the man who spreads loves over the man who spreads hate. A religious title does not make anyone more superior over another. If a kind man stands by his conscience and exhibits truth in his words and actions, he will stand by God regardless of his faith. If mankind wants to evolve, we must learn from our past mistakes. If not, our technology will evolve without us." -- Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem [via Goodreads]
2. Had a nice day off. Got a lot of translation stuff done.
3. I just found out this iOS game I really love, Oceanhorn, is out for the Switch! I've kind of been wanting to play it again, and the Switch controls can't help but be better than the touchscreen ones, so I'm pretty excited about that.
4. Just checked Facebook one last time before bed and saw that the ACA repeal bill didn't pass, thank fuck.
5. Carla managed to snap a shot of Chloe yawning. So cute!
When Sandy arrives back at Clorinda’s house, he finds she has company, if Dr Quintus Ferraby convoking with her upon matters of sanitation can be counted as company. Quintus stands, shakes his hand, makes comments suitable to the situation. He also regards him with that piercing scrutiny that has made him so famed for his powers of diagnosis.
He then says, with unusual hesitation, that it is opined among the profession that 'tis more healthful to express grief than to bottle it up.
There are those, says Sandy, would consider I had cause for rejoicing rather than grief.
They both look at him but say nothing.
Clorinda breaks the silence by asking after Sukey. She is well enough in herself, says Quintus, but is in one of her melancholic fits. He sighs, and takes his leave.
Very clever, says Sandy to Clorinda, I confide 'twas not entirely coincidental you desired him to come advize on your proposed improvements about the mine?
Perchance not, says Clorinda. But, my dear, I hope you have come about to dispatch your business at Raxdell House?
He conveys to her the Viscount’s request concerning the Viscountess – Clorinda sighs a little, and takes out her little memorandum book to make a note. Poor creature, she says, I daresay she has been entire contented in county society and now feels as if she has been thrown into a pit of crocodiles.
And he gave me these for you.
O, she cries, that was exceeding kind! Sure these are the fabled pink diamonds.
And the snuffbox in which you both found such amusement, he says.
Oh, did he never show you the trick of it? She takes the snuffbox and says, do you press here beside the lid, you will see that it opens up to display a naughty device within. Have you never seen the like?
No, he says, but I would suppose that even among hidden naughty devices, that is somewhat out of the common.
Sure I have not made a study, but I quite daresay 'tis the case. I mind me that I should write to Ammerpark concerning the painting.
I am at a loss, he says, to know what it might be, for Gervase was not a great collector of art.
Why, my dear, 'tis Raoul de Clérault's fine study of a titian-haired philosopher at his desk.
It undoes him to hear this: that doubtless by some confederacy with Clorinda, Gervase had purchased that portrait and concealed it at Ammerpark all these years. He finds himself on his knees, sobbing into Clorinda's lap.
He was so much better than me, he blurts, with his sweet nature and his generosity; I that am such a crabbed sour grudging jealous creature.
Clorinda says nothing but strokes his hair.
And then coming lean upon you and your kindness –
Dear Sandy, it gives me comfort to comfort you.
He lifts his head to look at her. Can it be so?
Yes, my dear, it can.
He decides that he will believe that she tells the truth, though, for all she will occasionally murmur about Universal Law, her attitude towards truth has always had a certain flexibility about it.
And it is, as far as any state may be considered agreeable at this time, very agreeable to be anywhere that is not Raxdell House, especially when it is in such a comfortable and well-run house, and to be exhorted to make free of the library and consider it quite as his study. To have his appetite tempted by a variety of treats prepared by Euphemia – he confides that did he of a sudden declare a craving for haggis, she would be about the matter at once, while her brose would have inspired the pen of Burns.
He is not quite so certain about Clorinda’s attempts to provide treats of the mind for him – at least, that is what he supposes they are. Perchance it has been more of a custom than he supposed for Matt Johnson to come call upon her? But one day he goes take tea with her, as has become somewhat of a habit, and there is Matt Johnson, grey of hair and not one that would offer these days to pursue criminals at a run, but still with knotted problems and mysteries to do with crimes that he is delighted to unfold.
Mayhap when Jacob Samuels comes to Town for meetings of the Royal Society or the Geological Society it is entirely usual for him to come to take tea with Clorinda and give her the news of Martha and their offspring; and since he has time before his meeting, may as well undertake a game of chess with Sandy.
If Agnes Lucas comes to Town with some new poems to show Clorinda, 'tis entirely understandable that she may take the opportunity to ask his own critical opinion
Indeed, there are many of their circle are surely regular callers upon Clorinda, and quite as much friends of himself.
Does he accuse Clorinda of contrivance, he can suppose the eyes looking tearful, and quite the finest pathetic expression upon her face. But he has seen her in action so many times over these many years.
But they neither of them, he confides, expected the descent of the entire convocation, save for Josh, that is somewhere in Africa, of Ferrabys.
He has been about reading in the library – The Last Man was not perhaps the happiest choice – and thinks that must be time for tea. So he descends the stair and goes through the connecting door and observes that Hector is looking more than usually enigmatic. Glancing out of the window he observes several carriages drawn up.
Hector sighs. Not so much company as family, he says.
Sandy is very minded to turn back, but how should he fear the Ferrabys?
He had not expected the entire family, including spouses, and Hannah, to be disposed about the room as he entered, while Clorinda giggles and says, my dears, I am touched, no, very greatly touched, that you desire protect me from detrimental fortune hunters, but really, my loves, surely you cannot suppose –
Hannah is casting her eyes up in the manner of one that has been making this argument to no avail. Sebastian Knowles is also wearing a somewhat sceptical expression.
They all turn their eyes upon him. Sir Harry comes up and shakes his hand and expresses condolences, followed by all the rest: Lady Louisa, Bess and Sir Thomas, Meg and Sebastian, Quintus and Sukey, Flora and Hannah.
But, says Bess, what were we to think? Was it not ever a jest about Raxdell House about the two of you?
(Not a jest, he dares say, that either of them ever heard.)
Oh, really, my dears, laughs Clorinda, 'tis entirely a matter of antient friendship, and sure Mr MacDonald has been left a very comfortable independence, perchance you might warn him against designing widows?
But gossip – begins Sir Harry.
O, poo, says Clorinda, at our years? Is there no other scandal that society may be about? La, used to be 'twas I got into fusses and frets and would be brought to a more sober frame of mind by your dear parents’ prudent counsel. But indeed, my loves, 'tis entire agreeable to see you all, and I am in the supposition that at any moment there will be a deal of tea and many fine cakes come through the door, and I shall have a deal of endeavour to convince Euphemia that you came quite impromptu and I had no expectation of this visit.
Flora goes to kneel beside Clorinda’s chair. Dearest tiger, she says, what these foolish creatures will not come at telling you is that 'twas all their concern for me, their baby sister – as if you have not already showed most exceeding generous, 'tis not as though I should be left in want did you go change your will –
Clorinda lays her hand upon the golden head, and looks lovingly at her daughter. La, she says, did all suppose that poor Mr MacDonald would be out of a place and in want, and such a fate move me entirely to womanly pity?
There is a general air of consciousness among the Ferraby clan.
Fie, my darlings, you that all knew and loved Milord, how could you suppose that he would not have provided for one that had served him so diligently so many years? Or indeed that there are not those that would entire jump at offering Mr MacDonald a place?
Hannah coughs and says, 'twas not quite the like with my Mama and Papa, for there is the jam factory that shows so profitable they might quit service and go set up in a country mansion tomorrow did they desire. But still he showed generous.
Comes Euphemia herself with tea, followed by one of her daughters with a deal of cakes.
He is in some concern that the entire family may stay to dinner, but they have matters to be about, all except Flora and Hannah, that have come up from Surrey.
Will you not stay, my sweet wombatt? asks Clorinda.
Flora says, 'tis a great temptation – might we, Hannah?
Hannah smiles and says, 'tis not as tho’ we have left the children alone in the house, they are well attended, I doubt they will be going fall into the fire. Also, was a matter or two I should greatly wish look out in your library, Lady B-.
Why, dear Hannah, you are entire welcome: and mayhap Mr MacDonald would be so kind as to assist you to any volumes you seek.