The Myth of the Myth of the Competent Protagonist

(Picture from here.)

Let’s wander back into the SF stories of the 50s and 60s. This was the age of the competent protagonist. Engineers were good at what they did. The world was pristine and pure—surely nothing as lovely as advanced technology would ever harm the earth. Urbanization was good and we all had flying cars. Continue reading


Chocolate as a Weapon

Cacao pods

I wanted to find out if chocolate had ever been used to kill someone, outside of adding poison to the drink. But you’re lucky today, because instead of that macabre subject, while reading Chocolate, a Global History by Sarah Moss and Alexander Badenoch, I find it far more interesting to write about how chocolate came to be so central to the menus of Western Europeans and their descendants (meaning Americans).

First, why is it called chocolate?

The Aztec called it xocoatl, as documented by Spanish clergy deployed to New Spain to convert the natives. The upper ranks of Aztec society drank it, after drying then grinding the contents of cacao tree pods. It’s said that the Aztec got chocolate from the Toltec, who got it from the Maya, who got it from the Olmec. The Spanish friars coined the word “chocolate”, which has migrated over the centuries comfortably into English. The missionaries, in observing the natives, came to the conclusion that Aztec holy men and the ruling elite drank it to achieve divinity, but as it was used only by the privileged and at celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals, this consumption might be better compared to the serving of champagne.

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The Rambling Writer Visits the Big Island, Hawaii

Thor and I escaped to the islands after too many months without travel. Here’s an overview of the Big Island, Hawaii.

We’re enjoying some long-delayed R&R in Hawaii, and the big island is fascinating. Here are some highlights. Please vote on my next blog series: Would you rather see me first complete my Virtual Italy Vacation series resuming next week, or should I take a detour into some Hawaiian islands explorations? (I will complete both series in whichever order.) Thanks!

So, arrival on the Big Island (view from our lanai above). Our main goal was to get back into the sea for some snorkeling! I’ve been working on my surgery rehab (a long, slow process), and immersion in the clear sea is so wonderfully healing. Continue reading


A Padawan’s Journal: Little Bit of Star Wars Squee

This morning, my husband told me he’d been reading some articles on io9 and came across a piece about a new Star Wars anthology of short fiction. It caught his eye because of the headline: DASH RENDAR MAKES A FRIEND IN THIS LOOK INSIDE A NEW STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY.

Dash Rendar

Happens I wrote a short story and a novel in collaboration with the amazing Michael Reaves that featured Dash Rendar. As they are the only LucasBooks sanctioned Dash Rendar fiction that I know of, I was naturally intrigued by this headline and then thrilled by the squee-worthy article which includes a stunning portrait of Our Hero, Dash, and his new droid sidekick LE-BO2D9 (aka, Leebo) and an excerpt from our story!

Did I know about this, my husband asked.

Reader, I did not. But I am very happy about this turn of events. According to the io9 article, the anthology, Star Wars Insider: Fiction Collection Vol. 1 hits shelves on May 4, and is currently available to preorder at Amazon in the U.S. and Europe.

I mentioned a Dash Rendar novel, didn’t I? That would be SHADOW GAMES, a Star Wars Legends story from the Expanded Universe (EU) in which Michael and our adorable subject matter experts at LucasBooks let me fill in a number of blanks in Dash’s persona and back story and add definition to such locations as Bannistar Station, which we’d only found partial images of in comics. The book, if you’re interested, is available from all the usual bookstores, real and virtual.

Here for the intensely curious, is a link to the Padawan’s Journal entry some time ago in which I wrote about the experience of writing about Dash Rendar and Han Solo … Oh, did I neglect to mention that Han Solo is also in SHADOW GAMES?

Reader, he is. 🙂


Please visit my shelf in the BookViewCafe bookstore!


BVC Announces New Worlds, Year Four by Marie Brennan

New Worlds, Year Four by Marie Brennan
New Worlds, Year Four: More Essays on the Art of Worldbuilding
by Marie Brennan

Escape into another world . . .

Bathing and banking, animals and adultery: human culture contains a truly daunting array of elements. The fourth volume of the NEW WORLDS series takes readers on a tour of all-new topics, delving into everything from childbirth to dream interpretation to the importance of generosity, as award-winning fantasy author and former anthropologist Marie Brennan continues her in-depth exploration of worldbuilding in science fiction and fantasy.

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Old Churches 4: Home Sweet Home

Since old churches tend to be large, you could in theory convert one into housing, and live in it. If you own thousands of books, a big empty building is just what you need! But a very large sturdy space is also suitable for subdivision. This is a particularly felicitous example, in historical downtown Annapolis MD.

Click through and contemplate the real estate photos. An architect divided the large old church structure into three condo units, but has preserved a great deal of the core architecture. The unit at that link has the big two-story stained glass window! The big tower, visible in the photo, is clearly dedicated to the elevator.



A Trip to the “Village”

I just committed unnecessary travel during Covid. Interesting that the word “Covid” has become a noun in itself—one doesn’t need to add “era” or “pandemic” to it any more. It’s Covid and everyone knows what that means. An adjective or a noun, or even a verb. I’ll Covid you if you don’t watch out.

Getting on an airplane during Covid restrictions is no less or more difficult than it ever was. I had to fuss greatly with Delta, who claimed on their website that they wouldn’t open up to full capacity until May 1st. But when we all got to the airport, waiting to board, in spite of the airplane seating chart that indicated X’d out seats on every row except for couples and families, they made the rather sly announcement that one may be seated next to a stranger because of increasing ticket demand.

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The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 11: Florence Overview

Highlights of Florence, the city of arts, with Thor and me.

NOTE: Since travel is still on hold with the pandemic continuing, I’ve started a new blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor in 2008. Italy! Starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll continue every week. Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

The Rambling Writer just got kidnapped by Thor, who insisted it was time for R&R and a trip to Hawaii (super safe with pandemic precautions). I’ll return with your Italy virtual vacation soon! Meanwhile, some highlights of Florence: Continue reading