biweekly links 1-10-2017

Happy new year! New year, new (well, not so new) links:

King-Slapping, Devil-Dressing, and Avoiding Blondes: The Crazy Ways Humans Have Rung in the New Year Throughout History: and to think I just stayed home with champagne.

From the Pentagon’s UFO program to death by cyanide at the UN court: 17 unbelievable stories that got lost in the relentless news cycle of 2017: some of these really would have been striking in any other year: a cholera outbreak, multiple natural disasters, ongoing wars, and smuggled artifacts.

Explore The Largest Early Map Of The World: This 1587 map is beautiful, all the more so for the incredible effort it represents. The article is a good introduction to the history of Monte’s map but go to for truly impressive images.

Why ‘Frankenstein’ Is More Relevant Than Ever: originally published on January 1, 1818, this “first science fiction novel”*’s warnings about the hazards of abandoning of our high-tech creations still ring true.

Nineteenth century illustration of three kittens in a basket. Text: A Happy New Year.
In honor of my cat Spice, who made it one day into 2018 – RIP. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “A happy New Year.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

*Debatable. Does Margaret Cavendish’s “Blazing World” (1668) count as sci-fi?

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Allison Thurman

Allison Thurman has always made stuff: out of fabric, metal, beads, even exaggerated fencing moves. Of late she makes stories out of weird history, with fragments of pop culture, unsolved mysteries, and science fiction mixed in for texture. She lives in a galaxy far, far away (well, the DC metro area) with too many books and swords.

3 thoughts on “biweekly links 1-10-2017”

  1. That map is wonderful!!! Thank you!!! (still have to check out the other links)

    I recall a while back you were wondering about some oddities in Dee/Kelley behaviours … can’t recall which of your posts this was in and too lazy to backtrack and hunt it down, but basically about their strange tendency to self-endanger by talking their stuff to inappropriate people. Was looking up something else in my copy of “Parasite rex” and remembered this … have you heard of Toxoplasma gondii? Its normal life cycle alternates between rats and cats but it often accidentally ends up in humans; at the time of the publication the estimate was as many as 1/3 of existing humans could be carrying it with the European rate being close to 100% (and since your characters are in Europe at a time when humans tended to have greater rat contact …)

    “By turning rats into rodent kamikazes, Toxoplasma probably increased its chances of getting into cats. If it makes the mistake of getting into a human instead of a rat, it has little hope of making that journey, but there’s some evidence that it still tries to manipulate its host. Psychologists have found that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Men become less willing to submit to the moral standards of a community, less worried about being punished for breaking society’s rules, more distrustful of other people. Women become more outgoing and warmhearted. Both changes seem to break down the fear that might keep a host out of danger. They’re hardly enough to make people throw themselves at lions, but they’re a very personal reminder of the ways in which parasites try to take control of their destiny.”

    This book was published in 2000 and a quick Google shows that opinions re Toxoplasma gondii effects on humans are varied (understandable because it’s difficult to prove natural personality versus parasite-influenced, especially since one would have to know when a person picked the thing up. But wondering if the alleged human male symptoms fit the behaviours you were wondering about?

    Also now speculating if an introverted personality is a symptom of non-infestation …

    Quote is from “Parasite rex” by Carl Zimmer, pages 93-94 of my 2001 trade paperback reprint.

    1. Ooh, thanks for the rec! “less willing to submit to the moral standards of a community, less worried about being punished for breaking society’s rules” describes Kelley, but “more distrustful of other people” doesn’t describe either of them, especially Dee who seemed incredibly given to placing his trust foolishly.

      At any rate, it would be an excuse to include a cat in my book 😉 And Parasite Rex sounds like a good read apart from any book research!

      1. You’re welcome. Even though the critter’s existence wouldn’t have been known to folk at the time I thought the knowledge might help you with your characters’ behaviours. And any excuse to include a cat is always a good one.

        “Parasite Rex” is, indeed, good (and fascinating) reading … an excellent intro to parasites, their life cycles and roles in ecosystems, and to how we study them (one of the parasitologists Zimmer interviews actually is a Toxoplasma gondii host). Could be that, since the distrust is listed third, that it’s not as strong a symptom as the others. Re-reading it now I wonder if it means not trusting the motives of people that are trying to prevent one from breaking the rules/get oneself in trouble rather than not knowing when not to blab to strangers … that would fit better with the first two (Zimmer’s wording of that bit is annoyingly vague)

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