biweekly links 3-8-2017

A handful of UFO-related links as I mine my blog feeds:

my favorite anachronisms

I’m thrilled when a work of historical fiction in any media gets it just right.  The “Wolf Hall”‘ miniseries’ period-correct under- and headwear, “The VVitch”‘s  word-for-word dialogue from seventeenth century primary sources, Sarah Waters’ carefully researched nineteenth century lesbian lives. My overkill bibliography and trip to Prague are my effort to do the same for the Dee/Kelley book. One of the main reasons I want to finish the second draft by June is so I can seek sixteenth century-savvy beta readers at this year’s HNS conference. I need someone to catch my mistakes!

Having said this, I first came to historical fiction disguised as something else and thus my influences were inherently non-factual. Not just books either-my earliest influences were visual rather than textual. So I kinda love anachronisms if they’re done consciously and well.

Take Adam Ant, my first exposure to historical fashion remixing and probable first crush (yes, I am old).  I saw his (excellent!) “Kings of the Wild Frontier” show back in January. Full of jangly spaghetti western guitars, whooping shouts and four-on-the-floor drums, the music is eclectic, but his aesthetic even more so. Take the video for “Dog Eat Dog”, a cross of New Romantic eyeliner, nineteenth century militaria, and Native American trappings:

The feathers and war paint have an uncomfortable whiff of cultural appropriation (never said my faves weren’t problematic). To his credit, when criticized by Native American leaders back in the day Adam invited them to his show and addressed their concerns, volunteering to axe his iconic look if they found anything offensive.

These days he’s ditched the white stripe in favor of a more eighteenth century “dandy highwayman” mix, including the swashbucklingest bicorn in rock.

Through Adam Ant fandom I discovered Vivienne Westwood, former punk turned fashion designer. Her 1981 Pirates collection is my favorite for obvious reasons, but I’m also tickled by her further variations on historic costume, like the mini crini and unisex corsetry. Here’s Westwood talking about her research process at the Wallace Collection:

Love it or hate it (and I’ve met folks of both stripes) “The Knight’s Tale” goes full on creative anachronism to portray medieval jousts as the Superbowls of their time. Contemporary music and tropes dance through the medieval(ish) background.  It’s hard to beat an opening scene where the tiltyard crowds stomp out “We Will Rock You”:

Finally, one I can participate in: renaissance faires. I go to my local faire at least once a year to dress up, drink beer, and listen to bagpipes. Though my garb tends towards accurate-ish, everyone from stitch-for-stitch reenactors through deliberately out-of-place Trekkies finds a home at the pub sing. I could get snarky but it’s more fun to take renn faire as it is: six weeks of Halloween for grown ups! Here’s a video of some of last year’s acts showing the spectrum of aesthetic and anachronism, including more “medieval” Queen:

Would I ever write historical fantasy? Maybe, though I suspect my rigid mind and love of research would drown out any fantastical elements. Still, I have medieval aliens and an graphic novel about an executioner in my plotbunny file, so we’ll see.

What are your favorite mashups?

biweekly links 1-11-2016

Why the Technology in ‘Rogue One’ Is So Old-Fashioned: can science fiction be historical? Arguably yes, if it’s based on 40-year-old source material. The author notes that most tech in Rogue One is based on that of the original 1977 Star Wars – which was heavily based on a combination of medieval and WWII imagery. A lovely example on how science fiction can be nostalgic even while looking to the future (or a galaxy far, far away).

World War II infantry man runs towards Star Wars Stormtrooper in black and white aged image
One of a thrillingly geeky set of WWII-Star Wars mash-ups at GeekTyrant.com. Yes, I’m a life-long Warsie. Come at me!

Germany: chemical odors lead police to failed alchemist:  leaching gold out of old cell phones might be lucrative but don’t try this at home!

A provocative play over race relations in Elizabethan England will be performed at various theatres in Somerset next year: “Nzingabeth!” claims to be a “fictitious musical meeting between Elizabeth I of England and the proud African Queen Ana Nzinga.” Given that it claims to address heavy topics like race, gender, and politics this could be an intriguing take or a complete disaster. Kinda wish it were opening nearer me.

WATCH: Fight nearly breaks out after soccer player uses witchcraft to score goal: laugh if you will, but evidently spells are still taken seriously in Rwanda. The player did score his goal. Maybe the ritual gave him an extra boost of confidence?

 

biweekly links 11-30-2016

Busy week, so here’s a selection from the past two weeks of my Google Alerts:

Second Salem: The Real-Life Prosecution & Paranoia That Inspired J. K. Rowling’s ‘Fantastic Beasts’: the latest edition to the Harry Potter ‘verse is built around an alternate history in which the 17th century Salem witch trials left a long shadow tainting American muggle/”no maj” and wizard relations well into the 1920s. Opinions?

The Magick of Dion Fortune – With Paul Clark (re-broadcast): Fortune is another new-to-me name from the early years of the Golden Dawn, and writer of occult fiction. This seems to be fairly standard fare from the also new-to-me Hermetic Hour podcast.

Arrival – reviewed by a UFO expert: the expert in question is Nick Pope, former head of the UFO desk (yes, there was [is?] such a thing) in the UK’s Ministry of Defence. Some interesting observations about how the plot of the movie intersects with government (lack of) contingency plans for alien contact and the portrayal of the military. I saw this a few weeks ago and it’s a slow mover but riveting. The aliens are truly alien and the story stays with you long after the credits roll.

biweekly links 11-16-2016

Doctor Strange tapped into a fascination with the mystical that was front and center in America when he was created in the 60s – now he casts his spell again: puts the new Marvel universe movie in the context of the character’s origins in controversial 1960s spiritual explorations. I enjoyed it, wish they showed more of the Sanctum Sanctorum (now on Google Maps!). The mentino of the Key of Solomon amused.

Captain America's quote from The Avengers:
Via knowyourmeme.com

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Speaking of books: The Evolution of Clocks and Timekeeping Rare Books from the 15th century to the present at the Grolier Club: including tomes on timekeeping, mechanical clocks, sundials and astronomical tools by Tycho Brahe, Athanasius Kircher, Girolamo Cardano and more.

Renaissance painter Botticelli’s dark side revealed in new film – but did he have one?: known for the delicate beauty of “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera”, it’s often forgotten that Botticelli illustrated “Dante’s Inferno” as well. This new documentary explores the Florentine master’s “dark side” whilst arguing that he didn’t have one.  I’d say burning your paintings at the behest of a religious fanatic is pretty dark, or at least depressing.

biweekly links 2-10-2016

Witches and manuscripts this week:

Pop culture roundup

Whenever I tell people I’m writing about John Dee and Edward Kelley, they tend to say:

“Who?”

I’m surprised how often I hear this – they’re “B-list” historical figures but I’m not the first to fictionalize them. A friend suggested I whip ’round the Web to see if they ever showed up in the more accessible worlds of tv/movies/video games and I found a few examples:

Dee may be the inspiration behind white-bearded wizards Gandalf and Dumbledore but seems to be more of a niche/”alternative” character on his own. Director Derek Jarman and author Alan Moore were/are fans; it cracks me up that Richard O’Brien played Dee in Jarman’s punk film “Jubilee”.

Richard O'Brien as John Dee in Derek Jarman's "Jubilee"
Yes, that’s “Rocky Horror”‘s Riff Raff, courtesy johncoulthart.com

Edward Kelley was harder to find; he’s better known in the Czech Republic than in the English-speaking world due to his gold transmuting feats (“feats?”) in Prague. Still, he turned up in the (now defunct) Facebook game Assassin’s Creed: Project Legacy. The designers clearly did their homework: they included Kelley’s stepdaughter Elizabeth Jane Weston and together with Dee they do alchemy and look at mysterious books.

Man shows little girl a handful of magic red dust
Edward Kelley showing Elizabeth Jane Weston the magic red dust. Image found at assassinscreed.wikia.com

And of course, “Supernatural” introduced the Enochian angel language to a wide tv audience.

productimage-picture-it-s-funnier-in-enochian-7212-480x300
T-shirt design found at HideYourArms.Com

I found other brief references: Dee in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age“; an Edward Kelley costume for rent (but only in the Czech Republic). There’s more at their respective Wikipedia pages, but most of the references are literary.

Feel free to include other examples in the comments!

 

dude, seriously?

I cannot count the times I’ve said this during my research.

John Dee and Edward Kelley were two borderline heretical Protestants traveling in hardcore Catholic Europe during the wars of religion. When does it get smart to tell a Jesuit they talked with angels (seriously?) or try to show a priest their records of the same (dude!)?

Right now I’m wrestling with a scene in which Kelley tells a papal representative – in detail – what he thinks is wrong with the Catholic church.

Dude, seriously?

I know – in reality people sometimes just do stupid things, but in fiction actions need reasons lest the reader shut the book in disbelief.

Dee never described Kelley’s motive in his account of this incident. While this gives me freedom to make something up, I’m pulling historical and personality threads from everywhere to plausibly explain this blind spot.

Kelley’s not the only one to leave me scratching my head – these guys sometimes baffle me to the point that I stammer like a stoned surfer! I doubt “Dee and Kelley’s Excellent Adventure” would sell to the historical fiction crowd but I’m tempted to write it just to get the “OMG WTF were you thinking?!” out of my system.