The Great Game

Men disguised as traders, or holy men, or religious pilgrims sneaking through unmapped territory, learning, watching, studying, hunting for traces of the enemy. High adventure in remote places, bones left in graves unknown, youth lost before it was truly known, all for the sake of the Great Game. All in the shadow of

“Himalayas heavenward-heading, sheer and vast, sheer and vast/ In a million summits bedding on the last world’s past…”*

Rudyard Kipling did not coin the term “the Great Game,” but he made it common. Continue reading


Artifacts, Culture, and Adoption

Last week I came in on the last half of a PBS program about “The Secrets of Stonehenge.” I’d read most of the different bits and pieces, but it was nice to have them all pulled together with attractive shots of Stonehenge and its environs. However, the last ten minutes or so raised my eyebrows and started me wondering… Continue reading

NeoTraditionalists and the Tradition

As many of you know, I enjoy playing with beliefs and faiths in my world-building. Monotheism, polytheism, ancestor worship, all have appeared in one form or another. The religion practiced by Auriga Bernardi and her family is another that developed from a “what if” sort of thing. What if, say in the late 21st and early 22nd centuries, people tried reforming Christianity back to its “traditional roots” but misunderstood something, or took one aspect a little too far? And thus was born NeoTraditionalism, a bi-theistic faith that keeps a little of Christianity, dabs of Judaism, some other bits and pieces, and now (story-world now) can be found on almost every planet in the human colonial system. Continue reading

Language of the Trade

In the Author’s Note at the end of Miners and Empire, I mention that I had to use some terms from Saxon mining vocabulary just because the English didn’t really make sense, or now had other connotations that could confuse readers more than clarify. It seemed better to pull the actual terms, because they were so specialized that people wouldn’t be looking up, oh, furlong and trying to square the current measure with the miner’s much-shorter measure. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to learn that so many specific terms existed for ores, by-products of mining, or pieces of equipment. After all, furs and fabric had and have seemingly innumerable sub-sets, so why not mining and metallurgy? Continue reading

Harvest Home?

“All is safely gathered in/ Ere the winter storms begin…Raise the song of Harvest Home.” This text is from one of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns, “Come Ye Thankful People, Come.” It combines the timely images of harvest and sorting the good grain from the weeds, and from the end of the Christian calendar and the winnowing of peoples described in the Bible.

What I suspect most of us who sing the hymn tend to forget is that a Harvest Home was a specific celebration in England. Harvest Home is the proper name and refers to the large feast and the rituals associated with bringing the last sheaf of grain in at the end of the harvest, bring the harvest home to the farm. Continue reading

A Difference in Perspective…

I just finished a chapter in Miners and Empire where the protagonist, Aedelbert, takes work in one of the mines during winter. He and his partner can’t do the work they contracted to do because of the weather, but they still need to eat, so Caedda hired on with the masons rebuilding the city wall. Aedelbert has reasons not to be seen working stone, and so goes into the mine. Not to mine, however, but to open a dedicated gallery (I’m [mis]using the term adit in the book) linking two shafts for better air flow. This he has no difficulty with.

Those who have read “The Scavenger’s Gift,” about a merchant named Osbert and his visit to the mine called Scavenger’s Gift are probably shivering a little and contemplating moving to a larger, airyer room, or even outdoors. Continue reading

Miasmas and Disease

Why do people get sick? The ancient Greeks and their medieval followers thought that an imbalance in the humors could do it, as well as outside forces such as planetary misalignment, and miasmas.

Those of you who have read the Merchant and Empire books know that these disease theories are prevalent in that story-world. Tycho and his physicians (and wife) have a long-running dispute over what he should eat: cooling, moist foods that match his nature, or the hot, crispy fried things he enjoys. He, and others, are also aware of the poisonous exhalations of the earth that they call miasmas. Continue reading