Walls and Freedom

“Don’t fence me in.”

Freedom today means freedom of movement, at least for a lot of people. Walls are a rejection of that. They constrain people, keeping some out who want (or should be?) in, and lock in those who really want to be out and about. The Berlin Wall was an outward and visible sign of the failings of the East German Communist system. Activists decry talk of a border wall between the US and Mexico, and hurl epithets at the new walls and fences between Hungary and other places.

Five hundred years ago, without a wall, you were not free. You had no independence. Walls meant freedom. Continue reading


Book Review: Seventh Son and Red Prophet

Card, Orson Scott. Seventh Son and Red Prophet: Tales of Alvin Maker Books 1 and 2. (Tor, 1987, 1988) Paperback.

Seventh Son and Red Prophet are the first two books in a five book (possibly six book) series of alternate history novels set in the early 1800s, centering on the seventh son of a seventh son, Alvin. He is a maker, someone with the ability to shape things. He also becomes a healer of sorts. These novels tell about his world, his first eleven years of life, and the tensions between whites and Indians in Card’s alternate world.
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Ever wonder where the word comes from? In English it generally refers to harsh language and behavior, occasionally to the “sal vitriol” once used in chemistry and medicine. I got to see where the original vitriol came from, and inadvertently learned more about medieval hazmat than I’d planned. You see, vitriol is a substance that was used for dyes. It is iron, zinc, or copper sulfate hydrate. And it looks really cool when it is behind glass, or turning mine galleries and shafts different colors. Just don’t touch it. It can be poisonous, and makes sulfuric acid before you precipitate it. Continue reading

Once More Onto the Road

So, I’m on my way to Chattanooga via a few other intermediate stops. I will be at LibertyCon along with a bunch of the other Unusual Suspects. I’m not presenting or on a panel *taps wood*, just hanging out and learning stuff. And trying to convince Sarah Hoyt that I’m not really an American Exotic Shorthair cat. She’s seen me in purrson before but is still not convinced. *flicks tail*

I don’t think this will be on the menu during the trip, alas (it wasn’t my dinner. I had eggplant.)

The Poseidon Plate at a Greek place in Bacharach. There really are jumbo shrimp.

Once upon a time, there was a gate in a wall… (Goslar, Germany)

Civilizing the Barbarians

Welcome, Instapunderati! Thank you for stopping by.

Why did the Franks, Saxons, and others work so hard to copy Rome and to adopt chunks of Roman culture (as transmitted through the Christian church?) At first, they didn’t. The Franks of Charlemagne and the Franks that ran the last Romans out of what is now northern Germany and the Netherlands were 350 years apart and very different in some ways. In others, well, it took a great deal of unceasing, patient (and not so patient) work by people who still believed that the old ways were good, and that they had a mission to save the souls of the pagans, which also meant teaching them to read and write. And the pagans came to believe that the old ways could give them power and authority.

In short, it was long and complicated and messy. Welcome to human history. Continue reading

Travel and Stories

Several times, observations and things from the road have generated stories, books, and in one case, a book series. I’m not certain I’ve ever sat down with malice aforethought and said, “I’m going to write a set of novels based on _______.” They just sort of happen, for good and ill. On the gripping hand, more than once I’ve thumped my head gently against a wall when I realized that the written descriptions of a place do not match the reality at all, and I had to gut and re-write large scenes. Continue reading

Call for Alpha Readers

Anyone interested in alpha-reading the draft of Against a Rising Tide, the third Powers novel? If so, please contact me at AlmaTCBoykin AT aol DOT com.

You don’t have to have read either of the two previous books.


Romanesque Piles: Those Old, Round Buildings

Before the pointy, stained-glass rich cathedrals and palaces of Europe came Romanesque. It tends to get overlooked because, well, it’s round and lumpy unless it is square and lumpy. You have the Glory that was Rome, and then everything is romantic (or Romantic) ruins until poof! Cathedral and the high Middle Ages and architecture gets cool and soaring again. Except that’s not quite how it works. Continue reading

Carolingians, Salians, Ottonians, Oh My!

Quick! List the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire from 800 to 1200.

[Waits for dust to settle from fleeing readers]

Just kidding. Unless you are really interested in Early Medieval history, there’s a bit of a blur between Charlemagne and, well, probably Charles V of Austria and Spain. Most of us in the States and Canada vaguely recall Charlemagne, then jump back to England and Alfred the Great, then 1066 and the Norman Conquest. There was a Holy Roman Empire on the continent, but that’s not where we draw most of our history from so we sort of nod at it and go back to the Normans and Saxons. Continue reading