Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | June 16, 2014

Meandering Miscellaneous Monday Linkage

Happy Bloomsday!

Also, it seems that it was on this date, in 1858, that US Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln gave the address that came to be called the “House Divided” Speech. (Hat tip: Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.)

Some other links for your consideration:

1. Another anniversary for today: it was, apparently, 200 years ago today that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley came up with the idea for the novel Frankenstein:

The story begins, literally, in June 1816 at Villa Diodati overlooking Switzerland’s Lake Geneva. Here, on a dark and stormy night, Shelley—merely 18 at the time—attended a gathering with her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori. To pass the time, the group read a volume of ghost stories aloud, at which point Byron posed a challenge in which each member of the group would attempt to write such a tale.

“The chronology that’s in most books says Byron suggested they come up with ghost stories on June 16, and by June 17 she’s writing a scary story,” Olson said. “But Shelley has a very definite memory of several days passing where she couldn’t come up with an idea. If this chronology is correct, then she embellished and maybe fabricated her account of how it all happened.

“There’s another, different version of the chronology in which Byron makes his suggestion on June 16, and Shelley didn’t come up with her idea until June 22, which gives a gap of five or six days for conceiving a story,” he said. “But our calculations show that can’t be right, because there wouldn’t be any moonlight on the night that she says the moon was shining.”

Moonlight is the key. In Shelley’s account, she was unable to come up with a suitable idea until another late-night conversation—a philosophical discussion of the nature of life—that continued past the witching hour (midnight). When she finally went to bed, she experienced a terrifying waking dream in which a man attempted to bring life to a cadaverous figure via the engines of science. Shelley awoke from the horrific vision to find moonlight streaming in through her window, and by the next day was hard at work on her story.

According to astronomers at Texas State, the detail of Mary (I think she was still Wollstonecraft Godwin at that point) seeing moonlight over the Alps from her bedroom means that she must have awoken between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on June 16, 1816.

(H/T: Christopher Frizzelle, SLOG.)

2. How to Talk to an Archaeologist. First point: “Do not liken the archaeologist to Indiana Jones. … yes, we love Indy as an action hero, but he was a terrible archaeologist. He swashbuckled and plundered. He had reckless methodology and demonstrated no knowledge of archaeological theory. He was not advancing the field; he was treasure hunting. Would I make out with him? Obviously. Would I award him tenure at the University of Chicago? No.”

3. This artist has illustrated the pivotal trial by combat from A Storm of Swords, which was depicted in season 4, episode 8 of Game of Thrones a few weekends ago. (Spoilers at the link, clearly.)

4. In Wired, Laura Hudson has a post that succinctly and poignantly captures the greatness and awfulness of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (with tips for binge watching): “Five years after it ended, Battlestar is still famous for two things: how addictive it is, and how bad its ending was. It’s still a ride that’s very much worth taking, though I have a few suggestions for exactly when to consider jumping off the train.” (Basically, you can skip season 4.)

See also Charlie Jane Anders, “Did Battlestar Galactica Have The Worst Ending In Science Fiction History?” (Spoilers, obviously.)

5. Tod Kelly on “The Sterility of Fanboy Criticism”:

When a new work today draws heavily from an older piece, subsequent fanboy criticism is based not so much on that work within its own context, but rather on the degree to which it is or is not exactly like the original. In fact, fanboy criticism is not so much artistic evaluation as it is a purity test. Its language is more strident, and more… doctrinal. (Indeed, it is notable that the word fanboy critics use to determine the validity of a work drawn from a source they already know is “canonical.”) This is far more subversive than it appears at first blush, and if heeded potentially more damaging. Artistic creation has always required not only the pilfering but also the willful destruction of what has come before it. Fanboy criticism, therefore, is a new and twisted kind of artistic criticism that ardently demands of an artist the complete cessation of artistic impulse.


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