The Rambling Writer Explores More Greek Islands, Part 38: Dionysos on Delos

Dionysos, god of wine, fruitfulness, and ecstatic revelry, was honored alongside Apollo and Artemis on Delos and nearby Mykonos. Join Thor and me as we visit his sanctuary.

NOTE: Since our recent trip to Greece to research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, Thor and I knew we had to return to this magical region. My first entry in this new blog series posted here on Saturday, 10/20/2018. It gives an overview of our rambles from Athens to seven islands in the Dodecanese and Cyclades groups, ending our ferry-hopping pilgrimage on the anciently sacred island of Delos.

As I discussed in my 2017 blog posts about our visit to sacred Delphi on mainland Greece, where Apollo ruled during the summer and Dionysos during the winter, the two gods could be said to represent opposing aspects of the human psyche. Apollo, as the somewhat aloof god of reason, music, and prophecy, also somewhat surprisingly was the god of pestilence that could strike crowded cities if they didn’t follow proper hygiene. Dionysos, a relative newcomer among the Olympian deities, offered a more personal and emotional attachment to his human followers, as they could partake of his gift of grapes/wine and allow expression of the mysterious, irrational, and sensual aspects of their psyches. Here on Delos, “officially” Apollo’s island, evidence shows that Dionysos was very popular, as was Apollo’s virgin huntress sister Artemis. Today we’ll take a walk through the Sanctuary of Dionysos and glimpse some of his images in the Delos museum. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

I’ll admit it: this particular essay is kind of a grab bag of random techniques and technologies people have historically used to protect their belongings. But I think they merit discussion because our imagination in this regard often stops are locks and walls and guards, when the truth is that our ancestors were so much more creative than that.

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Visual Adventures

a large pile of pumpkinsWriters often say that everything we do is working because inspiration and integration of ideas come at many times when we’re not sitting down at a keyboard. While this is a joke, it does contain some truth.

Last week I went to the National Heirloom Expo, an event that included displays a vast number of different types of squashes and pumpkins, not to mention many other vegetables, fruits, and grains. It made the choices at my very good farmer’s market look paltry and the complete lack of variety in vegetables at the supermarket embarrassing.

This week I went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, spacesuitwhere I saw, among other fascinating things, a display on space that included creepy sculptures of astronaut suits and paintings made to illustrate O’Neill colonies.

Both of those experiences left me with inspiration and thoughts about how to work in what I saw there into fiction.

So I was working!

The Heirloom Expo gave me an idea of what markets and fairs might be like in a future in which people were consciously working on such things as biochar, other soil improvements, and encouragement of heirloom species. I did skip the program part of the Expo, which I fear included some of the anti-vaccine idiots, and focused on displays of heirloom vegetables and booths selling seeds, clothes, books, and other products aimed at robust and healthy agricultural economies. Continue reading

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MacGuffin or Grail #2: Your Own Devices
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In the first part of MacGuffin or Grail, I suggested a set of criteria for judging whether your particular plot device was one or the other. Having given my protagonists in THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER a panoply of grails, my question to myself was: Were they grails (legitimate goals) or mere MacGuffins or plot coupons (i.e. multiple MacGuffins)? 

Up until I penned THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER, I wrote other genres of speculative fiction. I started with science fiction and expanded quickly (probably too quickly for my own good) to write four novels of epic fantasy. (They were dreams, I tell you. I had to write them down!) I went from there to try magical realism, urban fantasy, alternate history, horror, steampunk and paranormal. All the while, I had been developing Gina ”Tinkerbell” Miyoko as a character and looking for a prime candidate for her first case. I’d written sketches of a number of plot lines I found intriguing when I stumbled across an article in Archaeology magazine about an undercover agent for the U.S. National Park Service whose job was to pose as a buyer of antiquities willing to skirt the law and acquire black market items. 

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Summer Reading: Sequels That Stand Alone

God of Broken Things, by Cameron Johnston (Angry Robot)

One of the challenges of writing a sequel is the balance between giving the new reader all the necessary background, developing the characters well enough, and yet not boring readers who are already familiar with the cast and setting.  I picked up God of Broken Things unaware that it was a sequel to Traitor God. For most of the book, however, I could not decide if God of Broken Things was indeed a sequel (to a book I knew immediately I wanted to run out and read) or a stand-alone with a rich and brilliantly handled back story.

The world of this story, and in particular the city-state of Setharis, are still reeling after the events in the previous book, which include all sort of monstrous, god-like things running amok and smashing things in horrific fashion.Our reluctant hero, Edrin Walker, a “tyrant” magus who can read thoughts and impose his will on others, among other mental talents, remains at odds with the magical authorities and himself. Behind all this havoc are the barbaric Skallgrim (skull-grim?), many of whom are infested with alien Scarrabus mind-parasites. Now the Skallgrim and their mind-worms (or insects) are back again, bent on battering the world into ruins, and if humanity survives at all, it will be as an inferior, enslaved race. Much as the Setharis magus powers-that-be distrust Edrin’s mental powers, he’s their best hope, so they send him to hold the invading army at bay or at least slow it down until their allies can arrive. Edrin gathers together a personal coterie of arsonists and poisoners, plus a mind-slave or two, a sword that’s really a bloodthirsty demon, an old almost-lover, and a vicious pony, along with a handful of other magi of various sorts. And things go wrong. And more wrong. And then seriously wrong, with one reversal or twist leading to the next, even more awful crisis. And then this-can’t-possibly-get-worse-but-it-does wrong. Continue reading

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The American Civil War Museum: A Very Short Review

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I’ve lived in the Mid-Atlantic region all my life, and somehow have never done anything in Richmond but pass through it on my way to somewhere else. But I knew I ought to visit. The city was the capital of the Confederacy, and there are more American 19th century artifacts in their museums than anywhere else.

The predecessor to the American Civil War Museum was depressing, dark and large. It was filled with items donated by people who were clearing out their attics. There were serried ranks of glass cases holding sabers. There were personal items that used to be owned by Confederate generals. There was iconography about the Lost Cause. I knew it would be annoying to visit, and apparently so did many others.

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House Love

We fall in love with houses. We can’t stop looking at them. We want to be with them all the time, and miss them horribly when we are away. Only we can’t Skype them to see them and tell them how much we love them. At least I can’t, because all the houses I have lived in are dumb, not smart, like the wired, imaged, Alexa-controlled domiciles of today. Houses that can grocery-shop while you’re away, call the cops if someone breaks in, clean themselves and have a cup of espresso ready for you when you get home are not my style.

I’m talking about quite ordinary houses. Maybe the furnace is programmable, if you can figure out the instructions. The fridge and the oven work and there’s even a microwave and motion-sensor lighting. But there’s more to these ordinary houses than analog cooling systems such as ceiling fans.

There are happy houses and sad houses. It’s more than the smell of unwashed dogs or mold in the closets, and more than the smell of baking bread and great blocks of sunlight on honey-colored maple flooring. It’s something about how a house feels when you walk in the door.

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The Rambling Writer Explores More Greek Islands, Part 37: Delos Temple Quarter

Thor and I are back to continue our tour of the sacred island of Delos, moving onto the temple quarter and Sanctuary of Apollo.

NOTE: Since our recent trip to Greece to research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, Thor and I knew we had to return to this magical region. My first entry in this new blog series posted here on Saturday, 10/20/2018. It gives an overview of our rambles from Athens to seven islands in the Dodecanese and Cyclades groups, ending our ferry-hopping pilgrimage on the anciently sacred island of Delos.

As we saw in the residential and Theater Quarter a couple weeks ago, the extensive ruins spreading over the island, still mostly unexcavated, make it confusing to sort out for the casual visitor. We were glad that we’d signed up for the boat trip and tour with our archaeologist guide Ariadne, as she could explain the highlights. In this shot of part of the temple quarter near the harbor, you can see the tangle: Continue reading

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