Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy

On December 17, 2019, I published part two of my ongoing series for Tor.com, History and SFF. This time I wrote about how N.K. Jemisin uses historical sources to tell the story, and to contradict that same story, of her award winning trilogy The Broken Earth. Enjoy!

History and SFF: Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy

History and SFF | Historical Sources and N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy | Tor.com | The Boomerang

History is the interpretation of the past based on written and recorded texts. These texts are known as historical sources and they are the sine qua non of history writing. Over the past centuries, techniques have developed for how to categorize, evaluate, and analyze historical sources. Being a historian means that you dedicate a substantial amount of your time mastering these techniques in order to make your interpretation of the past valid and reliable.

In The Broken Earth trilogy, N.K. Jemisin uses historical sources to tell the history of The Stillness, a seismically overactive continent where human civilization is repeatedly destroyed through prolonged cataclysmic events known as Seasons.

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

What the Moomins Can Tell Us About Fighting Climate Despair

On November 29, 2019, I published the following piece for The Week. I honestly didn’t expect editor Jessica Hullinger to choose this topic out of the several pitches I sent her, because Moomins are a bit obscure in the US. But I am very happy that she saw the appeal in this alternative reading of the first two books about the Moomins that Tove Jansson ever wrote. Enjoy!

What the Moomins Can Tell Us About Fighting Climate Despair.

What the Moomins Can Tell Us about Fighting Climate Despair | The Week.com | The Boomerang

Climate change is real, no matter what some would have us believe. In this past summer’s heat wave over Europe, the Arctic region of Scandinavia experienced temperatures up to 101 degrees, while the ice cap of Greenland is melting at the rate projected for the year 2070. Meanwhile, Australia is experiencing yet another year of unprecedented drought, at the same time as the American Midwest has been fighting against the overflowing Mississippi River after too much rain. It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change is not a problem we will need to deal with sometime in the future. It is happening now.

Grappling with the magnitude of climate change causes what is known as climate despair, which is the overwhelming sense that…

Please click here if you’d like to read the article in its entirety.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF

On November 18, 2019, I published the following article on Tor.com. This article is Part 2 in the series I am writing for them called History and SFF. I am really happy about this post because I have wanted to write about how Wesley Chu uses history in his Tao trilogy ever since I first read it. The fact that Chu tweeted that he was happy with this article makes it even better.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF | Tordcotcom | The Boomerang

The question of what factors drive historical change has intrigued historians from the very beginning, when the earliest scholars first turned their attention to studying and interpreting the past. To find the answer(s) to this key question, historians make use of social science theories. These theories help make sense of the inherent contradictions found in human behavior and human society.

For example, there is the theory…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column

On October 15, 2019, Tor.com published the following post, announcing the launch of  the column I will be writing for them. I am really excited about this column. Not only because it’s about history and the historian’s craft, but because I have been wanting to work with Tor.com for a long time.

Enjoy!

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column.

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Welcome to Tor.com’s new column on History and SFF!

My name is Erika Harlitz-Kern, and I will be your guide during the coming months in discussing the ways that history is used in fantasy and science fiction. But don’t worry—I won’t be dissecting your favorite story digging for historical inaccuracies and judging its entertainment value based on what I find… The purpose of this column is to take a look at how authors of SFF novels and novellas—with a focus on more recent works, published after the year 2000—use the tools of the trade of historians to tell their stories.

When any scholar does research, they use a set of discipline-specific tools to make…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

I’m on The Daily Beast again again.

On August 17, 2019, I published my third article for The Daily Beast. This one I am particularly excited about because it allowed me to delve deeper into the complexities of Viking society. Enjoy!

What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong about the Vikings.

What the Alt Right Gets Wrong About the Vikings | The Daily Beast | The Boomerang

Reconstructed Viking Age longhouse, Borg, Lofoten, Norway.

Viking Age Scandinavians were immigrants who traded with the Muslim world and embraced gender fluidity—everything the alt-right despises.

If you want to read the article in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Day that Obsessed Adolf Hitler.

I’m back on The Daily Beast. This time I am arguing in favor of why we need to pay attention to the Treaty of Versailles. Spoiler: It’s not all about Hitler.

Enjoy!

The Day that Obsessed Adolf Hitler.

The Day that Obsessed Hitler | The Boomerang | The Daily Beast

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

This summer marked the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, on June 28, 1919. The treaty put a formal end to World War I, one of the deadliest military conflicts in history. Yet the anniversary went mostly unnoticed.

That’s a shame because the treaty’s contents, and the reaction that they caused, were essential to paving the way for the ascent of Adolf Hitler and the rise of fascism in Europe.

If you want to read the article in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

What’s Silver, Purple, and Very Well-Traveled?

I’m on Atlas Obscura!

Atlas Obscura is a publication that features stories about the wondrous in the world. Places, objects, events, customs and traditions. Anything out of the ordinary that is connected to a particular place.

I have wanted to publish something with them for a long time, and now I finally have. So please enjoy my first-ever article for Atlas Obscura. It has everything. Goths, Roman emperors, abdicated queens, disgraced noblemen, and a book that went missing for 1,000 years.

What’s Silver, Purple, and Very-Well Traveled?

Codex Argenteus | Silver Bible

Codex Argenteus, or Silver Bible at Carolina Rediviva, Uppsala, Sweden. Photo: Erika Harlitz-Kern.

Tucked into a far corner of the annex to the Carolina Rediviva, the main library at Sweden’s Uppsala University, a book sits alone behind bulletproof glass. You might think its remote placement indicates its minor significance. But look closer and you’ll see a work of visual splendor—a uniform script in silver and gold ink, written on purple parchment, as bright and vibrant as if it were brand new.

This is the Codex Argenteus, or Silver Bible. Created more than 1,500 years ago in northern Italy, it was commissioned by the ruler of a people long since vanished. But their lost language is preserved on the pages of the book before you.

Fittingly, the story of how this bible ended up on display at a Swedish university is as mysterious as the book is beautiful.

If you wish to read the entire article, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.