History and SFF: Footnotes in Fantasy Storytelling

On March 26, 2020, Tordotcom published the latest installment in the series History and SFF that I am writing for them.

Enjoy!

History and SFF: Footnotes in Fantasy Storytelling

2020-04-13_1347

The key to a credible analysis of history is for historians to credit their sources. The most efficient way to do this is to add a footnote. A footnote, as all of you probably know, is a small, elevated number that is placed after information taken from another text. At the bottom of the page there is a corresponding number, and next to this second number the information about the source can be found. Here, historians sometimes also include commentary that is not immediately relevant to the discussion, but needs to be said to make sure that all flanks are covered.

We historians spend a lot of time getting our footnotes right before we send a book or article off to being published. It’s painstaking and pedantic work—but love them or hate them, footnotes are crucial for scientific rigor and transparency.

Footnotes can be found in SFF, as well. But where historians use footnotes to clarify or to add additional helpful commentary, fiction authors have the freedom to use them to obfuscate and complicate their story in intriguing ways. Let’s look at a couple of examples…

Click here to read the entire post.

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

To See the Antisemitism of Medieval Bestiaries, Look for the Owl

On March 24, 2020, I published my first piece for Aeon Magazine. I am genuinely happy about how this piece turned out. It might be my best piece of writing so far, if I may so myself. A big thank you to Pamela Weintraub, the editor who I worked with for helping me unlock it.

Enjoy!

To See the Antisemitism of Medieval Bestiaries, Look for the Owl.

animal animal photography avian beak

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The owl watches you from the raised seat on the medieval misericord in Norwich Cathedral in the east of England. Surrounding the owl are birds with feathers like the scales of a pangolin. The birds are focused on the owl. The owl pays them no mind.

The motif of this scene would have been familiar to the woodcarver who made it and to the abbey monks who leaned against it during the long hours of Mass. But the associations the people of the Middle Ages made when they saw the scene on the misericord seat were different from how we would interpret it today.

Please click here to read the rest of the article.

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

I was interviewed for Condé Nast Traveler

Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons_(cropped)

One of the things you can do while working from home during this pandemic is to say yes to a request for an interview with Condé Nast Traveler about tourist destinations and amusement parks closing down because of the corona virus.

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

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

Monarchies Are Gradually Disappearing

On February 3, 2020, The Week published an article I had written for them about the slow demise of the monarchy as a system of government. The monarchy is the oldest system of government that we have, and in an increasingly democratic world (yes, believe it or not), countries are more likely to declare themselves a republic than a monarchy.

Enjoy!

Monarchies Are Gradually Disappearing

When Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced their decision to step away as senior royals and strike out on their own, the British royal family joined the ranks of other royal families facing a changing reality. Months before Harry and Meghan reached their compromise with Queen Elizabeth II, the Swedish royal family had stripped certain family members of royal titles and cut them from the royal payroll. Meanwhile in Spain, members of the royal family have been removed from the succession after receiving prison sentences for corruption and tax fraud. And in Japan, the future of the royal family is in peril because of outdated succession laws that discriminate against its female members.

Forty-four of the world’s 195 countries are monarchies. As a result of how the British Empire dissolved itself, 16 of these 44 have Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State. With the exceptions of Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Oman, Eswatini, and the Vatican, all monarchies are constitutional monarchies, which means that the sovereign is a figurehead with limited political influence and power. During the 20th century, a newly created country could become either a republic or a monarchy. Israel, Lebanon, and Poland are examples of the former. Norway, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Spain are examples of the latter. At the same time, old monarchies became republics, often by force, with Cambodia bucking the trend and reinstating its monarchy in 1993. Two decades into the 21st century, the idea of a country declaring itself to be a monarchy seems almost alien. Has the monarchy as a system of government become obsolete?

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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

History and SFF: Big Data and The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older

On January 24, 2020, Tordotcom published the third installation in the series History and SFF that I am writing for them. This time I talked about history, Big Data, and Malka Older’s amazing trilogy The Centenal Cycle. If you haven’t read those books yet, I highly recommend that you do. They are so good!

Enjoy!

History and SFF: Big Data and The Centenal Cycle by Malka Older

Malka Older Infomocracy

My family’s first computer had a 41 MB hard drive. I saved my carefully crafted teenage observations of life on 1.5 MB floppy discs that never seemed to be filled to capacity. Two years later, I moved away to go to college. I brought with me a laptop computer with a 240 MB hard drive. I was a very proud owner of this technological marvel, even though I had no idea what to do with all that storage space. Since 2005, we have been living in the age of Web 2.0 and Big Data. Now, I download 240 MB of data every time I update the apps on my smartphone.

The exact origins of the term “Big Data” might be in dispute, but its meaning is clear. Big Data gets its name from the enormous amounts of digital information generated, collected, and stored every second.

Big Data includes all the data generated by users on the internet. As soon as you go online, internet providers, social media platforms, newspapers, stores, communication apps, and blog platforms trace your every move and store your data for later use or sale.

Malka Older’s novel Infomocracy, part one of The Centenal Cycle trilogy, presents one version of what a future dominated by Big Data might look like.

Please click here to read the entire article.

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