A new story from Suzannah Rowntree!

You all already know how much I like Suzannah Rowntree’s Pendragon’s Heir, and if you don’t, you haven’t been reading this blog for very long. When I saw that she was publishing a new novella in her fairy-tale retellings series, and looking for advance reviews, I gladly offered.

(If you would like to see the cover as well, see this post on her blog, and you should read her blog anyway — there’s lots of good things on it.)

Ten Thousand Thorns is Sleeping Beauty in China, which I liked the idea of — a nice change from the usual medieval-European-fantasy retellings. (Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with medieval Europe, just too much of a good thing sometimes.) The writing style is still recognizable as Rowntree’s, not only in the very human villains but in the themes that come out.

The main characters, Iron Maiden and Clouded Sky, make a good pair when circumstances force them together: not trusting too quickly, but also not stubbornly refusing to work together when it’s been proven they can trust each other. Which was refreshing, having a story where a girl-guy pair neither falls in love at first sight nor irrationally hate each other and yet can’t separate. Finally! Some humanity!

Miss Iron is a warrior woman done right. I think her introduction helps: immediately after sending a man flying through a wall, she sits down to drink some tea. It’s an almost British trait, actually, but establishes her as feminine as well as female. And her skill at fighting comes just as much from her cleverness as her physical strength (kind of like Athene, come to think of it — or maybe I’ve just been reading too much Greek tragedy lately). And I loved her sense of humour.

My mother noted that she’s a very take-charge kind of woman, perhaps a bit too much so — being a girl-guy pair and all, for Iron Maiden to be the one getting things done was a bit odd, she said. But considering that Iron Maiden is running around getting things done because something needs doing that she can’t do, and she’s looking for someone who can — that seems reasonable. There’s another point later on where she takes charge of things in the middle of a fight, but it makes sense there because the only other person on her side is emotionally incapacitated, shall we say. So don’t read the story if you’re opposed to women ever being right alongside a man in a dangerous situation (but then, why would you ever be reading fairy tales?), I guess. But if you like warrior women who like their tea, and animals, and whose response to enemy soldiers is likely as not to be laughter, you’ll probably like Iron Maiden.

The dramatic tone fits the content, and the humourous bits throughout had my sister laughing sometimes (she read it while sick, and she still got the jokes). The title Vastly Martial Emperor made me smile, a bit like the names in Dream of Jade, and Longevity Noodles appearing as the main dish during the breakfast in which the uninvited fairy flies in to announce the princess’s premature death was a good touch. The fairy godmother character was also delightful.

Speaking of which, all the funny bits in Morning Light’s backstory were good, but I won’t quote them. You must read the book when it comes out for that. It releases on November 30, and at present only in e-book forms, though if it’s popular enough who knows what will happen.

The characters aren’t the only good thing about the story. I can’t go into great detail about the theme without spoilers, of course, because to reveal the answers to the questions the story asks would be to ruin it. Olivia just wrote a paper on Utilitarian ethics for school, so she noticed some of the moral dilemmas. Clouded Sky’s grappling with his position that it’s all right to put up with some evil to bring about a greater good contrasted nicely with Iron Maiden’s search for a hero.

The main villain, the Imperial Sword, was excellently done. I love villains who are bad without ceasing to be human. They’re more powerful, because we can see how, if just a few things were different, we could be the same way. (Speaking of Greek tragedy.) I was never quite sure, while reading, whether the Imperial Sword would continue being on the wrong side, or try to do something good, or be killed before he acted on a chance to do something good. For those who have read Pendragon’s Heir, I could see hints of Breunis in him and Clouded Sky (and maybe a touch of Agravaine, had things gone a bit differently with him). That was a very good thing.

And I’ve got to say this because of that writing workshop last spring, but I love stories where we see proper heroes, or how abstaining from personal evil doesn’t make you good and “I was just obeying orders” doesn’t work as an excuse.

“I was ordered to do it, so it’s not my fault” and “if I don’t do it someone else will” and basically every other example of situational ethics doesn’t work in stories, because these are not the kind of heroes who will inspire us to reach higher and be courageous and stand up for our principles, these are not the ones who give us hope in the midst of darkness. It will come and we’ll say “not even our heroes could withstand it” and despair. That’s one of the biggest problems with the modern kind of fiction where everyone is a villain and no one gets to be a proper hero because that’s not realistic. If it’s not realistic, don’t you think that’s kind of our fault? So Iron Maiden’s insistence on hope had me cheering for her the whole way through. 

And I like how the Emperor can’t have the Mandate of Heaven, and we know this by the way he acts: no one with Heaven’s approval would be acting so contrary to Heaven’s decrees. It seems awfully simple, put that way, but read the story and you’ll see the solution is not exactly simplistic.

Several times Rowntree takes Eastern philosophy, if you can call it that, to its logical end, and with that and all the moral questions in the story already being asked and sometimes answered in an Eastern setting, this probably in’t light reading. Young readers could probably enjoy the story as a fun swashbuckling sort of adventure, but do be warned ahead of time that the dilemmas are central to the story and you probably shouldn’t be half-asleep while reading it. (I happen to like that kind of story myself.)

The only thing I have to say that is not praise (other than it only being available in e-book form) is that I want to know what happened after the end of the story. Not that that’s really the story’s fault. The ending is satisfying, but it’s exciting enough that you want to keep going and see how the people who survive do things. Occasionally I noticed typographical errors, but I can only remember three in the course of 134 pages, so that’s not so bad. I was confused by how quickly Second Brother woke up after a certain defeat, given how easy he was to take care of on other occasions. But I was hardly sorry to see him defeated, either.

My favourite line, if I must pick one, would probably be this:

“At least he could comfort himself with the thought that he’d finally defeated her in a fight.
   But only by using one of her own stances.
   Doubt like a night traveller crept into his mind.”
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“This Saracen’s a heretic, I think.”

I read the Song of Roland recently, and of course I liked it, so this post will mostly be some of my favourite lines.

Roland and Olivier are good friends, the brotherly kind of friends who get ignored so much in modern fiction, or worse yet, turned into a love story. The story has to take care of other things than telling about friends, but their interactions make up quite a bit of the poem — things like Roland weeping for Olivier, or each cheering the other on to fight. And in the beginning, when HRM Charlemagne is asking for volunteers to go to the Saracen court, and Roland offers:

“You won’t, that’s sure,” says Count Olivier,

“your heart is acrimonius and proud;

I fear that you would get into a squabble.

But if it please the king, I’d like to go.”

At first I thought it didn’t make any sense: someone telling a man like Roland this to his face, in the presence of the king (in whose court you’d think a little more dignity would be the rule), and moreover someone who’s supposed to be on the same side? Not to mention that even the Saracens’ impression of Roland’s qualities doesn’t sound like this. But as I read more of their interactions I began to think it was just Olivier teasing his friend — yes, in front of the king. Who, by the way, sounds like he’s used to it, since his answer is simply “Be quiet, both of you!”

Later the poet describes the appearance of the approaching Saracens, as they looked to Olivier when he went up to higher ground to see what was going on, which is done in colourful detail, and then:

“He cannot even add up the battalions —

there are so many there he loses count —

and privately he feels quite disconcerted.”

This isn’t the only place the poet seems to have been really good at using understatement. Later, on the Franks’ fifth charge, Roland kills twenty-five of the best Saracens, and Turpin tells him

“You’re doing rather well!

Such gallantry a chevalier should have,

if he’s to carry arms and ride a horse.

He must be fierce and powerful in combat —

if not, he isn’t worth four deniers —

should be instead a monastery monk

and pray the livelong day for all our sins.”

(As a bit of a side note — I don’t think Turpin is saying it’s bad to be a monastery monk — I think he’s making allowance for different professions, and saying the kind of man suited to the contemplative life shouldn’t waste his time pretending at an active, and probably vice versa, knowing his vocation.)

 

A point in the battle where Marsilla, the Saracen king, sees that he’s losing a lot of men and orders a charge, might be my favourite part:

“Before them rides a Saracen, Abisme:

in all the troop there was no fouler man —

defiled by heinous crimes and evil deeds,

he doesn’t trust in God, Saint Mary’s son.

This man is just as black as molten pitch,

and treachery and murder he prefers

to having all the gold that’s in Galicia.

No man has ever seen him laugh or play,

yet he is very reckless and defiant:

for this he’s wicked King Marsilla’s pet.

He bears the dragon rallying his men.

The archbishop never will be fond of him.

On seeing him, he feels an urge to fight,

and very quietly he tells himself:

“This Saracen’s a heretic, I think.

It’s best by far that I should go and kill him;

I’ve never cared for cowardice or cowards.”

And so he does.

“He spits his body through from side to side

and throws him dead upon an open spot.

The Frenchmen all say: ‘Here’s a valiant man!

Salvation lies in our archbishop’s crook.’ “

(Turpin may be my favourite character.)

Someone, either Ganelon or one of the Saracens, says early on that the fighting will never stop until Roland is taken care of, because Charlemagne is not the one being warlike all on his own, it’s Roland’s egging him on that has been the main cause of this endless war. It’s true that Roland’s job is fighting his king’s enemies, and he doesn’t have a place at court apart from that. But Charlemagne’s words when he finds Roland’s body make it seem more as if Roland were a moderating influence on the army, rather than the opposite.

“Friend Roland, God be merciful to you!

No man so chivalrous has ever lived

to undertake great battles, and to end them.

My honour is beginning its decline.”

(Also, HRM has a very nice beard — people and the poet keep mentioning it.)

 

And then Charlemagne and the emir have a single combat, which is good in many ways. They take time to talk during it, each begging the other to stop, for various reasons. But one thing they both know is that “This battle cannot ever be concluded / till one of them confesses he is wrong”. For that alone I’d like to go back in time to see this battle. But wouldn’t it also be tremendously inspiring to see a 200-year-old king, whose beard is streaked with white, fighting on foot with a worthy enemy?

The emir proposes peace if Charlemagne becomes his vassal and comes and serves him in the East, to which the emperor replies:

“I owe no pagan either love or peace.

Accept the law that God reveals to us,

the Christian faith, and I’ll soon be your friend;

then serve the King Almighty, and believe.”

Says Baligant: “You preach an evil sermon!”

With the swords they girded on they now attack.

That sounds just a bit like an unpopular opinion these days. But look how unequivocal Charlemagne is! He doesn’t stop at “the law God reveals” and leave it vague so people can interpret that to cover both sides’ ideas. And Baligant takes him seriously.

 

A note about villains and antagonists: the poet makes it very clear to us how despicable Ganelon the traitor is, but allows him some good qualities, such as courage (which we see most notably when he’s alone in the Saracen camp and being threatened) and good looks. Also how the Saracens can be chivalrous. And look at Pinabel, who fights on Ganelon’s side in the trial by combat. This poet knew what very few writers of “Christian fiction” know, that to make your heroes look good you must give them worthy opponents. And by “worthy opponent” we mean not just a perfectly-evil-for-evil’s-artistic-sake kind of guy who only ever wears black and rubs his hands and chuckles evilly and says “Well, well, well, what have we here?” (I’ve got a protagonist who does all of those things, if I remember right), but someone who matches the good guys in whatever skill they clash in — fighting, whether with swords or words, for example.

The Franks aren’t perfect, though: they go a bit excessive with executions at the end, and there’s a brief mention of forced conversions. And I suppose one could argue that their joy at feats like Turpin’s is excessive, considering the souls lost. But they’d tried negiotiations before, we’re told, and when that failed and the Saracens kept coming, to refrain from battle would be wrong.

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“What brings thee to such a biting pickle?”

(Or in the Italian, “ma che ti mena a si pungenti salse?” The Inferno of Dante, Canto XVIII, line 51. It’s not from the part I wrote a paper on, but the book naturally opens to that page every time, and I thought that line was funny.)

Last night was the first night in my college career so far that I have stayed up late doing school. Granted, it was only till nine o’clock. And I have stayed up late during my college years, just for other things, like reading good books or talking to people outside on sidewalks because we got kicked out of the Lutheran church so they could lock up.

But the prediction made by an acquaintance of mine, when he first heard that I was about to start going to school, that I would spent every Friday night from then on staying up till midnight with homework, has still not come to pass.

Also, I looked at the clock on my computer this morning and thought, “It’s ten after, I should probably head to class.” My brain has apparently not registered that I’m at home. The last day isn’t till the 14th of next month.

 

Well, Thursday I went to the Historiography professor’s office to ask him about a reading list for an Independent Study I’m doing in the spring (not with him, as he’ll be on sabbatical). He’s an interesting character in a lot of good ways.

One day, shortly after the class that resulted in my post about Augustine, when the browser was slow to load a map he was showing us, the Historiography teacher addressed it: “Don’t go in circles. ‘The wicked walk in a circle.’ Haven’t you read your Augustine?”

His office is, like a lot of the ones I’ve seen, lined with books. Which books they are, and how arranged, can tell you a lot about the inside of someone’s mind. On a high shelf on the wall three books were side by side: first Regeneration, then The Mormons, and then Logic: An Outline. I couldn’t help wondering if he’d put them like that on purpose. On the shelf on the far wall one sturdy volume stood up in the middle and helped the chaos around it form a wall: English Historical Texts, volume IX. I didn’t see any other volumes in the series. He also had about half a shelf of books with titles related to the Reformation, several about Russia, and a textbook for learning Arabic open on his desk, under a stack of books, a Bible among others. One of the books lying sideways on top of others on one of the shelves was The Gothic Image. On top of his filing cabinet he has a typewriter (have I mentioned before that he’s left-handed? I have two left-handed professors now), and on the side of it a sheet of paper with a picture of Winston Churchill and the line “So you have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something sometime in your life.” And on the door of his office was a poster for the Basically Brahms concert from three years ago. (When asked, he said it was still there because that was the last time he played with the orchestra. He does have a poster for the still future Holiday Cheer concert taped to the wall outside his door.)

 

Changing the subject abruptly, let’s talk about food for a while instead. On Tuesdays, lately, our various schedules have made it hard to have our usual deep conversations over dinner. This week, Tuesday was a local election day, so rehearsal wasn’t going to start until eight, rather than the usual seven. Which meant we might possibly have extra time for talking, if other peoples’ busy schedules worked out. I sent an e-mail to our boys asking about their plans.

I hadn’t gotten an official answer, when I got to school on Tuesday, but JP’s car was already in the parking lot, and as I walked by I saw a frozen pizza in the back window. You wouldn’t think that a pizza could be a means of communication, but it was. At a little after five-thirty, I got done putting a terribly disorganized Akademische Festouverture back into score order (we were handing out two new pieces that evening), and headed over to the little cafeteria. I was still at the far end of the hallway, and unable to see it yet, when I heard violin music, and knew that Joel at least was there.

When I came around the last corner David looked up and said, “There she is,” and Joel immediately asked, “Do you have a phone?”

“My sister does,” I said. “Why?”

“She sent me a text just now, saying ‘I’m in the cafe’, but she’s not here.” And she certainly wasn’t, unless she was invisible, and the last I’d heard she hadn’t meant to come down until just in time for rehearsal. That remained an unsolved mystery for a while. (Olivia denies everything.)

Joel’s phone was lying on the table, in the midst of the clutter that comes of three young men with hearty appetites being almost done with their meal, and I looked at the picture on the recording he was playing — it was the same YouTube video that Olivia often listens to.

I sat down and went to take my food out of my bag, but it wasn’t there, and I remembered that I’d left it in the car. It was leftovers from Monday’s supper, which was Italian wedding soup, which had meatballs in it, but it was also cold enough outside that leaving it in the car would work as well as refrigeration. So I had to run all the way out to get it and back again.

When I got back, I set the jar (it holds about a cup) down on the table while I dug the bread to go with it out of my bag. David, who the last time we ate together had a couple of pints of soup, said, “Oh, that’s so much food!”

“There’s a slice of bread to go with it, does that help?” I said, putting it beside the jar.

“Not really,” he said. “A cup of soup —“

“And half a slice of bread,” JP added.

“Half?” I said. “No, the crust goes all the way around.”

Joel, who gets his share of teasing for being the only one of us to bring fast food rather than homemade, offered to split his cookie with me, and broke off about a third of it and set it on its plastic wrapper.

Then I was trying to twist the lid off the soup jar, and couldn’t get it, and after several minutes set it down and said, “I don’t suppose any of you could get this off for me, could you?” Joel looked as if he weren’t there (self-effacing was the word that came to mind), JP fluttered his hands, and David stretched his arm all the way across two tables and said, “My hands probably aren’t as greasy as JP’s,” and took it. The first time he tried it didn’t budge, and Joel was ready with some remark about his weakness, but the second time it came off, and he handed it back.

Then I discovered that nobody had sent a spoon with me, so I had to use one of the plastic ones the cafeteria provided.

The topic of conversation got around to the rock-picking jobs the boys have in the summer, and eventually Joel, probably trying to include me in the discussion, said, “Do you ever do rock-picking, Sophia?”

David choked and put his hands together to hold an imaginary pebble, lifting it and grunting with effort, saying between breaths, “Oh — yes — all the — time” before collapsing in laughter. We all joined in — he was quite right.

A little later David was leaning back on his chair, eating tootsie rolls. “Can you catch it?” he asked me suddenly, holding something up.

“Probably not,” I said. (I’m known for being bad at catching things even at a very short range.)

“It will go in your soup,” he said, so I covered the jar with my left hand.

“Try to catch it,” he said, and when he threw the thing I swatted it out of the air, and it turned out to be an artificially-strawberry-flavoured chewy candy-thing of a similar texture to tootsie rolls. In other words, it combined almost all the things I hate in desserts. But I didn’t say so, and he left early, so he didn’t see me eat Joel’s cookie but not his gift. I don’t actually know where it ended up — possibly thrown away with the cookie wrapper.

We spent about an hour on the question of justification, this time as relating to whether people who aren’t Christians can go to Heaven. I, being the protesting sort of Protestant, emphasized faith alone — people who are generally “good” don’t get saved by virtue of their works no matter their religion, or lack thereof. Joel and JP found themselves agreeing with each other that people are justified by their works and therefore people like Gandhi are probably in Heaven — when Joel revealed this I asked why he calls himself a Protestant at all, since he denies all of the Reformation’s solas.

 

Rehearsal included jokes about the Halloween version of a Christmas song, because certain second violinists made such a ghastly mistake when starting off, but the greatest joke came when the conductor, whose right shoulder was getting tired, stopped and shook his hands (mostly rotating his wrists, with his fingers spread out). David respectfully addressed him and said, “JP said you said that was genetically inherited and people couldn’t learn it, but I couldn’t do it and then I learned and now I can.” And he demonstrated.

“I never said it was genetic,” the conductor answered. “It’s a thing pianists learn to be good at usually, and it helps if you’re Italian, they do it naturally.” And he made sweeping gestures with both hands. “They’ll walk up to each other and yell and start waving their hands around, and you say, ‘Guys, what are you fighting about?’ and they say, ‘Fighting? Nothing, we were just planning where to go for supper’.” He laughed and looked back down at his music. “Anyway. Forward. No, it’s nothing too hard, David, it just makes you Italian. That’s fine, Italians love their food.”

From across the room David, who knows I’m part Italian, looked at me and burst out laughing.

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“As invisible as you could wish to see”

(This isn’t going to be a proper post, as this day is turning into a crazy one. Sorry. Quote’s from the Dufflepuds.)

Last week I asked for beta-readers for The Colour of Life on Kingdom Pen, not expecting to get very many on account of everyone that I knew of either buried in word counts because of NaNo, or doing an entry for the same contest. But I got quite a few. Still, I thought some of you who read my blog but aren’t on KP might have been wanting to beta-read it too, so if anybody wants to join in you may. I’m mostly looking for help identifying and strengthening a theme, and pacing. Having comments back before December would be kind of you, if I’m to have time to make the necessary changes before sending the thing off.

With that I’m going to submit an American Literature assignment and then listen to what I can of the recording of this week’s Sunday School lesson (in preparation for this evening, which will probably be the high point of my day) before running off again to see if I can corner a professor before running off in the opposite direction to make copies of every single part for a new piece for the orchestra tonight.

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Happy Reformation Day (& monthly wrap-up business)

Happy Reformation Day! I wish I could say we were celebrating it by having supper (and long conversations) with our Catholics, but we’re off rehearsal tonight because our high-church Anglican gave us today off for “the five hundredth anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation — oh, and that other thing people do”. The few Catholic musicians have had to grin and bear it.

I did get to greet one of the Catholics by wishing him a happy Reformation Day, and he responded with “Happy All Saints day,” which somehow doesn’t surprise me.

* * *

I don’t remember, did I do one of these for whatever last month was? August?

Oh, September. No, I didn’t.

No wonder it seems like a lot has happened since my last one.

Reading:

Five of the Chronicles of Narnia, all except Prince Caspian and the Last Battle — the former because it was not with the rest of the set, for some reason, and the latter because ending with the Silver Chair is a happier ending (I was sick to the point of staying home from school last Monday, and tea and books are a good way to recover.)

Various American Literature assignments, mid-nineteenth-century now

The Iliad, Agamemnon and the Libation Bearers, for the Greek Myth class (We’ll get to the Eumenides next week — the tendency to end the middle of a trilogy with a cliffhanger seems to be very old.)

Also at some point I started, and am about a third of the way through, a book written shortly after Vatican II, purporting to be something like an updated statement of the Catholic faith for those who are outside it (sort of — already in the seventies they were wishy-washy on that part) but curious. Some parts we’d agree with, some parts we definitely don’t, some parts make less than no sense when you look at the Council of Trent. Also, the authour says something to the effect that (I’d quote it exactly if the book were less than sixty miles away) “We once thought we knew a lot about God, but recently we’ve come to understand we don’t”, which wants more thought.

Writing:

Papers, a few snippets in OtN, the tiniest beginnings of a new idea I don’t want to talk about too much yet — but it involves a lot of new research, as it’s not medieval this time. Realm Makers next year is in Missouri, which is a bit far away, and it’s not looking as if Of the North will be ready to pitch next year anyway. So I can go on saving money for at least another year, and take my time on OtN, and work on the shiny new idea (though every time I think of the mountain of research I have to do before I can properly start I get tired. Where to start with the research? Who said being a writer was an easy job?).

SCA:

Jenny and I went advertising on campus in garb recently. We’ll see if that turns out profitable at all. It’s always fun, anyway.

Life:

We had a concert at the beginning of the month. There’s probably been a lot, which most of my recent posts have been about, but nothing comes to mind. School. Advising. Getting busier. Time running out.

Posted in Of the North, Ordinary life, Reading, SCA, Writing | Tagged | 4 Comments

Ramblings about Augustine and history

(Wednesday I was advised about classes for the spring. Deo volente, I’ll be graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative Writing in December next year. Which means I have to stop avoiding a decision about graduate school. And with the way Of the North has been, I’m not so sure about Realm Makers next year. . . maybe the year after? We shall see.)

A few weeks ago for Historiography we read a bit of the City of God. The teacher said that with S. Augustine living during “a crucial time” in Christian history (I wondered if the pun was intentional, but didn’t ask), with debates over fundamental doctrines such as the Trinity, the fact that he titled this book De Civitate Dei contra paganos is of note. (Had I known at the time that four days later I’d be listening to Mormons dividing the Trinity’s essence, I might have taken more note of it.) It’s a bit of a pity I discovered such a good teacher here so soon before I leave.

I found it entertaining that Augustine spends quite a bit of time establishing that the earth was not quite six thousand years old. The pagan idea of history was that it went in circles, with things repeating themselves every so often, including the beginning and ending of the world. Augustine shreds the position to pieces, and I wonder what he would have done with theistic evolution. A slow process of things evolving and dying off again sounds a bit too close to the cycles in which the world comes into existence and fails again. Creation, Augustine says, marks a definite point where things began to be, which exactly contradicts the neverending cycles.

This idea changes the way we look at history. If, like the Greeks, we believe history repeats itself (human nature being unchanging), then the purpose of history is to provide moral lessons, so we can learn from our mistakes and lessen our chances of repeating them. Perhaps. But, human nature being unchanging, and it being the habit of humans in the past to ignore those lessons, we’re pretty much doomed to repeat history. This kind of thing makes the historian’s job pretty hopeless, and perhaps that’s why Thucydides said he would write about neither gods nor heroes.

If the world has a beginning point, and a middle point, and an ending is foretold, then, if the rules of logic apply at all, it can’t go in circles forever. In fact, it can’t go in circles at all with the middle point Augustine has in mind. Everything comes either before or after it. It’s unrepeatable. In the words of Chesterton, “The cross is the crux of the whole matter.”

Not that this view, which our teacher calls the linear view of history (and said still influences the way people think about history even when they’ve tried to disassociate themselves from the Christian worldview in other ways), was original with Augustine. For the class before that one, we read some of Daniel and Revelation, which unsurprisingly have the same view of history coming to a definite and certainly unprecedented end. And not that Daniel was the first person ever to hear the idea either. From the protoevangelium in Genesis we can pretty easily figure out that this view was foreknown (divine passive) and made known to men pretty early on in history — the third chapter, in fact. The professor said you can make a good argument that some people held, or were given enough evidence to hold (if they read it right), the linear view of history, before Daniel.

Once the Christian view of history is in place, the dating system changes drastically — from being “in the second year of so-and-so being proconsul”, it’s “In this number of years before (or after) Christ’s birth”. One of the interesting things about Bede is that in the correspondence with Rome that he reproduces he includes subscriptions which often are in “in the second year of so-and-so the Emperor” form, but the heading of the year is always Anno Domini.

The teacher began class by saying the average American high school idea of history is that the Greeks were pretty smart, invented philosophy and things, then the Romans took over and were more interested in fighting than thinking, then Christianity took over and made everybody stupid, crushed science, kept people from asking questions, wouldn’t educate anybody, was afraid of people thinking, and then we had the Enlightenment and the Greeks were rediscovered and now we have America. It was funnier when he said it.

And everyone knows that Columbus sailed around the world and discovered that it was round, because nobody knew it before, because the Church suppressed science.

Except.

Except that Bede, a Church-educated monk in the eighth century, who if all that was true would be the person you’d expect to be the best example of the Church holding the world in darkness, said England was close to the pole. What good is a pole at the top of the world if the world is flat?

Except that Bede wrote in Latin. That he looked critically at sources and didn’t accept testimony simply because it was written down.

That he believed in miracles doesn’t make him a bad historian, either.

Posted in History, Research | Tagged | 2 Comments

A Cover Reveal!

Some of you might remember me linking to a Kickstarter thing to raise money for publishing a Word War One novel? The authour got the money she needed, and today she’s revealing the cover.

Now I haven’t actually read the book yet, unless you count snippets she put on her blog (lots of snippets, actually), so there’s a disclaimer, I guess. I hope to read it when paper copies are ready.

Release Date: November 30th, 2017
Book Description
   April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered.
   In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham’s British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his a new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after an encounter with death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn’t as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.
McConkey-WarOfLoyalties-EB.JPG
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Check out more about War of Loyalties at My Lady Bibliophile

 

There. It looks like a cross between Dickens and Christie or Sayers, I think. OH and I just noticed two of the flying leaves look a lot like hearts. I bet I know of at least one character who would enthusiastically approve.

(Also, a post two days in a row after a silence of a week and a half or more? Consistency is not my middle name.)

Posted in Books, Historical fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment