CAFE READS: SHAMAN: THE ADVENTURES OF RHYS LLEWELLYN, by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Shaman is a reprint of several SF short pieces that first appeared in Analog Science Fiction Magazine.  They all concern the adventures of eccentric kilt-wearing anthropologist/archaeologist/xenologist Rhys Llewellyn and his assistants Yoshi Umeki and Roderick Halfax. These are not merely tales of first contact–they are also tales of how an innovative senior officer at an exploration corporation hires an anthropologist to make sure that both the corporation and the natives are dealt with fairly.

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Lounging in France 13: Roofs Through Time

Fans of Robert Heinlein will recall that in his short story ” –And He Built a Crooked House” one of the characters remarks that the main job of a house is to keep the rain off. Yes, shelter is a core function, because getting wet is always miserable, for you and all your stuff. Before you can do anything — write, read, cook — you have to be dry.

So here we are, the absolute basic shelter: a cave. This cave in the village de la Madeleine has been a residence since the Neolithic. Prehistoric humans built wooden walls, the Romans built in stone, medieval farmers hid from raiding knights. and the local lord erected a castle on top. But this handy cave still keeps out the rain!

But caves are relatively rare. And they’re not easy to expand — what if you need extra space? Then you move into building. This is fairly low-tech, a wood and reed hut. No joinery or carpentery necessary, just stick those timbers into the ground, hitch them together, and tie bundles of twigs over. It’s not very satisfactory however. Stand inside and you can see sky! In the Neolithic you might plaster this over with clay, but it’s not going to hold up for more than a winter.

Thatch, now, is sturdier. This roof is, I’d say, about eighteen inches thick. The thatch is bundles of reed or straw, tightly tied together and then hitched to the cross-pieces of the roof. You can see some extra bundles in the eaves there. This roof will shed water for a good five or ten years, if it’s maintained and you keep critters from nesting in it. This is skilled labor — look at that pretty edge! And here’s a shot of the underside, so you can see the wood understructure.

But for real durability, you need stone. Let’s do that next time.

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Dodged That Bullet

Today it’s a two-dog, one-cat writing space. Outside blessedly cool coastal clouds ward off, with magical signage, the 90-plus days before and to come—ugh. The two dogs will alert me to phantom car-door closings and the approach of the TomTom Club—four wild turkey toms who have made our little neighborhood their summer home. The cat will pose sleepily on the cat tree, bathing, preening, yawning and looking overall elegant and shapely.

The most interesting and rather stressful thing that happened yesterday and today was that my credit card got hacked.

This is a thing that happens to other people, not me. Yesterday we went to get the husband a new phone of which I am highly jealous—an iPhone 11. His old, refurbished iPhone 6s—the same as my 5-year-old phone—just up and refused to recharge. No amount of air-cleaning, oiling or cursing would bring it back to life. Wheezing, short-of-breath and ailing, the thing passed away.

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The Rambling Writer Flashback: Hiking to Lake Ann, 2018

The last couple of years have presented their challenges for all of us, and I hope to keep hope alive for more outings in our beautiful Pacific Northwest wilderness and wherever we all can venture.

I plan to return soon to my weekly “virtual vacation” blog series on Thailand, though I’m still finding it difficult to spend much time at the computer after surgery that pried apart my ribs to remove a lobe of my lung. (A surprise diagnosis for this never-smoker.) They got the cancer, hurrah! but it’s a slow recovery. I stay focused on memories of past adventures and anticipating future ones. Here’s one of Thor’s, Bear dog’s, and my favorite hikes in this rerun from 2018. Some things remain the same: the terrible wildfires ravaging the West again this summer. We remain lucky here in the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Why Punishment

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

Punishment for crime is a fairly universal concept. Not in the sense of everyone always being punished for every crime; there are many reasons why leniency occurs, ranging from good ones like empathy to bad ones like corruption. And “punishment” is a broad concept (as we’ll see over the next few essays). But the idea that if someone does something wrong, there should be a response? That’s found in societies everywhere.

And for good reason. What the punishment is intended to achieve varies from scenario to scenario, but all of them share an underlying principle: they express and enforce the norms of society. Merely saying “we disapprove of this behavior” does no good if it isn’t backed by consequence; if you want to see that play out on a local scale, just watch a parent with a badly-behaved child. By imposing some kind of response on a criminal, we put muscle behind the idea that You Shouldn’t Do That Sort of Thing.

But that’s rarely the only principle in play — in part because punishment only for the sake of making a statement is somewhat arbitrary. What type of punishment we consider appropriate depends in part on what else we intend it to do.

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BLOGGING THE MAGNA CARTA #24

BLOGGING THE MAGNA CARTA #24

By Phyllis Irene Radford

Charter of the Forests, 1217

The Magna Carta accomplished many good things and should be taught in Civics classes. Possibly the most important purpose of this document was that it established rule by law for everyone, including the king. But it was essentially a peace treaty between King John and his barons.

What of the common man? Barely mentioned in the great charter.

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Artist in Residence Quarantine Diaries Episode 12: Virtual Existence

A couple of weeks ago I did a First, for me: I attended my first virtual convention. To wit, the NASFiC from Columbus, Ohio, which was entirely run in cyberspace – with panels and things on Zoom, and virtual gatherings held in breakout Zoom rooms (chatting in person on video) or in text chat on Discord servers which were broken out into programming rooms, the Green Room, the virtual bar, the consuite… the works.

Oh. My. God. I needed this.

One doesn’t perhaps even realise how hunkered down and isolated one is until there is an opportunity for something like this – and it’s been described by at least one of the participants as a “family reunion”. Isn’t it just. You get to talk to people you might normally have encountered in meatspace at a con here or there and it’s a rush of joy, that connection – you’re talking to your tribe again, to friends you don’t see often, perhaps even (because of the virtual nature of this beast) seeing friends from across the globe whom you might only encounter at GLOBAL  cons, not even local ones. I felt knots untying in my soul. There are people out there – there are still people out there – who know and understand me, who listen when I speak and laugh at in-jokes or nod in understanding or even disagree with what I am saying but then we have a spirited discussion on the matter with someone whose opinions matter – do you get the feeling I miss cons? I do. I miss the give and take, the camaraderie. I usually go to Orycon, in Oregon, in November, but it is iffy if that will even happen this year and if it does I know several good friends whom I usually look forward to seeing at this con who will not be there because their health is just to fragile to risk it.

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Why are kings the default government in many SF and fantasy novels?

Spy Princess by Sherwood Smith

 

 

Two words, power and privilege.

What’s not to like?

What’s not to hate?

Whatever those words power and privilege evoke to us, it’s usually not boredom.

It’s tough to get away from the fact that human beings tend to be hierarchical. You take any group, no matter how determined they are to interact with sensitivity and equality, and a leader somehow emerges. That’s in situations that have the luxury of safety. In emergencies or danger, people turn desperately to anyone who can show them the way out, whether it’s by fighting or fleeing. The successful commander who becomes village leader, chieftain, clan head, or king is as old as history.

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BVC Announces Spy Princess by Sherwood Smith

Spy Princess by Sherwood Smith
Spy Princess
by Sherwood Smith

12-year-old aristo Lilah asks, Why are the kingdom’s magic spells are fading? But her uncle the king only wants a stronger army. Why are the kids outside the palace gates ragged and hungry? But the king keeps raising taxes. Her older brother Peitar, the king’s heir, spends more time writing mysterious letters than talking to her. And her father just wants her to learn court manners.

Since everyone is ignoring her, Lilah disguises herself and slips over the walls to befriend those ragged kids. She learns that revolution is fermenting, led by the charismatic young commoner Derek. And Lilah is shocked to learn that her scholarly brother is allied with Derek.

The revolution ignites into chaos and violence. Lilah and her friends are determined to help however they can. But what can four kids do? Become spies, of course! Chases and disguises, captures and trials lead to a wild climax, with Lilah right in the middle.

First published by Viking, and a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, this young adult fantasy has been completely revised for the Book View Cafe edition.

Buy Spy Princess at BVC Ebookstore

READ A SAMPLE OF SPY PRINCESS

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Mudlarking!

Living my entire life on or near the coast of Massachusetts, I’ve kind of taken it for granted that any walk on a beach of my home state might turn up treasures beyond a pretty scallop shell or a tumbled piece of rose quartz. This part of the US has been settled since the early 1600s, and over years of beach strolling, I’ve found my share of prizes: clay pipe stems, shards of pottery and glass (and a few intact pieces!), interesting bits of metal from fishing weights to the working mechanism of an oil lamp. My favorite finds include a tiny plate from a doll’s tea set, several ink bottles, and a large piece of early seventeenth century redware pottery. Continue reading

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