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…

Click here if you want to read the article in its entirety.

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.

1280px-Old_book_bindings

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…

Click here to read the post in its entirety.

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.

I’m on The Week.

On June 10, 2019, I published the following article on The Week. I had so much fun writing this article. I could talk about runestones all day.

Viking Runestones Were the Original Tweets.

Runestones the First Tweets |The Week |The Boomerang

Runestone Sö 106. Source: Riksantikvarieämbetet/Swedish National Heritage Board.

In the remote Swedish countryside, a 1,000-year-old stone slab stands raised by the side of a road. Chiseled onto it, a message has been carved in runes — symbols that served as letters in the ancient Germanic alphabet. The runes tell onlookers that a man named Alrik commissioned and raised this stone slab in commemoration of his father, Spjut, a Viking famous for destroying and laying siege to fortifications in the west. Alrik basks in the glory of Spjut’s accomplishments: “Alrik raised the stone, son of Sigrid, after his father Spjut, he in the west had been, castle he had broken and conquered. The arts of the siege, he knew them all.”

Thousands of Viking Age runestones like this one dot the Swedish landscape, providing direct glimpses into the lives of the Vikings. The messages are short, self-expressive, and, for us onlookers, very out-of-context. More often than not, they contain the unsolicited opinions of the person who commissioned the stone. In many ways, these ancient dispatches are similar to another, more modern style of communication: tweets.

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

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

I’m on The Daily Beast

On April 20, 2019, I published the following article on The Daily Beast.

Give the Notre Dame a Modern Roof the Alt-Right Will Hate.

Notre Dame fire_BBC
Photo: BBC.

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

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