Saturday, August 31, 2013

Enlightenment, Death Penalty, and Religion

In my researches about the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, I recently came across this article: How the pacification of Europe came to an end, by Peter Frost.

Frost argues that the movement to end the death penalty in Europe came not from Enlightenment thinkers like Locke and Rousseau, but from new trends in Christianity:

"The same processes that made the Enlightenment possible—invention of printing, mass distribution of books, rising level of literacy—also allowed more and more Christians to discover the Bible. They soon discovered that this book did not contain the overlay of correction, interpretation, and commentary that had been added during the Middle Ages. Why, they wondered, was this overlay absent from the Holy Scriptures? Surely it must be a sham! And so they discarded the hard lessons that had been learned at much cost. The clock was literally turned back to the Dark Ages—when the Church provided murderers with sanctuary and when the State preferred to be an arbiter between the murderer and the victim’s family.


It is this Jesus-centered Christianity, much more so than the Enlightenment, that has shaped modern liberalism. For every copy of John Locke’s works, there have been millions more of the Bible, and millions more of writings by people who spurn medieval Christianity as one would an impostor."

The enlightenment philosophers, by contrast, tended to be deists, or at least less devout than their forebears. I tend toward pacifism myself, influenced perhaps by my religious upbringing and the writings of Christian anarchists like Tolstoy. (I am always at peace while reading Tolstoy--except when Andrei is doomed and that dratted epilogue.) But perhaps I would have turned out similarly even with a different upbringing--perhaps these things have appealed to me because of who I am, rather than the other way around. It is impossible to say.

In A Midwinter Night's Revolution, while religion is clearly an important part of the characters' daily lives (as it was in reality,) I've shied away from church-related matters in the context of the revolution. In reality, church and religion were so important in those days that one could hardly speak of government and revolution without touching on matters like the divine rights of kings and taxes on the clergy (or lack thereof) and so on. But religion is a very dear topic to many, and I would not wish a fictionalized discussion of topics related to 18th century power structures to be accidentally mistaken for an allegory or commentary on modern religion. 'Twould muddle the tale.

Still, I do like to think and learn about the broader socio-political picture. How did the area of the US founded by the Puritans--New England--end up one of the more liberal, atheistic parts of the country? How did parts founded by more economically-motivated folks, like Virginia, end up more conservative and religious?

Frost, in his conclusion, states, "an ideological change within Christianity ... has become secularized and now dominates the modern world view. One might call it “secularized Christianity” or perhaps “Christian atheism,” but neither is really appropriate. It is a changeling. It claims descent from our rich traditions of the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment … while actually owing little to either."

(Frost is not keen on this "Christian atheism.") Are these the Puritans who founded Harvard? Are these views really inconsistent with the Enlightenment? Or are there other valid approaches to these questions?

What do you think?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Demon's Carriage

Quotes for today

"To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For he who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts."

"Fables can instruct men, but the naked truth has to be told to children. When one starts covering the truth with a veil, they no longer make the effort to lift it."

"The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."

"It is to law alone that men owe justice and liberty. It is this salutary organ, of the will of all which establishes in civil rights the natural equality between men. It is this celestial voice which dictates to each citizen the precepts of public reason, and teaches him to act according to the rules of his own judgment and not to behave inconsistently with himself. It is with this voice alone that political leaders should speak when they command."

--Jean Jacques Rousseau

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Found a lovely little patch of red sorrel today, on the way to Wendy's, So I had my pretzel burger topped with freshly-picked wild greens.

Foodie: I am doing it wrong. But I'm okay with that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

60%! And I managed to add a conversation explaining Jasper's religion, since it seemed unclear to folks.
Now for you, a doodle:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Congratulations, Sarah!

One of my writer-friends, Sarah Hegger, was very proud to announce this morning that her debut novel, a medieval romance called The Bride Gift, has been signed by Soul Mate Publishing! What a happy day!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A note on terminology

Since this blog focuses primarily on fantasy-related-things, I often discuss fantasy creatures and their folklore. Unfortunately, fantasy terminology can be a bit wonky. What you call an 'elf' and I call a 'fairy' might look and act exactly alike, while two 'unicorns' can be completely different--compare the horse or goat-like European unicorn to the 'Chinese unicorn', the Qilin (you may be familiar with it from the label of Kirin beer). You might as well call the qilin an dragon-lion (or just a dragon).

I usually try to use a specific name where a more general one would be confusing (e.g., calling a qilin a qilin, not a unicorn.) Sometimes, though, specifics can obscure similarities. Kobolds, for example, have much in common with goblins--indeed, diminutive, often ugly, often chthonic creatures are found in folktales from all over the world, and where they are sufficiently similar, I am not opposed to calling them all "goblins". Some terms, though, have been so over-used that they have been rendered almost useless--fairy is one. These days, most folks seem to associate the term with tiny winged creatures like Tinkerbell, but I am accustomed to folkloric sources referring to wingless people the size of full-grown humans (or taller) as fairies (and that is the definition I favor).

Anyway, a quick rundown of the general gist of the terms as I tend to use them, in order by height:

Less than a foot tall and winged: pixie
Short and ugly: goblin
Short and not-ugly: dwarf
Short to human stature and not-beared: elf (here I disagree with Tolkien)
Human stature to tall and not-ugly: fae/fairy/sidhe, and sometimes elf. (Sidhe is the Irish term, or near to it. Fae, as far as I know, is a modern invention, but it has its uses.)
Tall and ugly: run for it.

None of this is set in stone.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Don't stop me if you've heard this one...
Someone really ought to write 50 Shades of Grey fanfiction in which the main characters are secretly vampires.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Deleted bits

This little exchange once took place in Chapter Twenty-Six of A Midwinter Night's Revolution, so if you haven't read that far, look away.




'Lyta regarded Jasper. "Who's Madeleine?"
He flinched. "Only the most utterly unsuitable woman my father could possibly have found for me to marry."
"Besides Wilgefortis?"
He frowned and ran his fingers through his hair. "Wilgefortis had a heart. Madeleine boasts of no such treasures."
"Is she pretty?"
"If you wished to make a portrait, I suppose."'

"To hold in my arms the most loveable creature, and flying about her like lightning, so that everything about me faded away, and – to be honest, Wilhelm, I did swear to myself all the same that a girl I loved and had a claim upon should never waltz with anyone but me, and even if I lost my life over it. You know what I mean!" -- The Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe

This would be the title of Chapter Seventeen, if such a thing were possible. Instead, I have gone with, "The Sturm und Drang of Young Jasper." But you know what I mean!

Friday, August 9, 2013


"Chinese tea, Spanish avocados, and now Italian pasta? Have we become macaronis?" asked Lyta.
"No, no," he replied. "I promise I have never worn a wig more than two feet high."

--A Midwinter Night's Revolution, chapter eighteen

What is a macaroni, and what relation has it to feathers in Yankee Doodle's cap?

Yankee Doodle went to town
A ridin' on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni!

Is SeƱor Doodle having a senior moment?

In the 1700s, "macaroni" referred to an extravagant fashion style favored by wealthy British men. They were apparently mocked quite a bit for this, as in this cartoon:

The point of the song is that Yankee Doodle is such a country bumpkin that he thinks a single feather is high fashion.

But what has it to do with pasta? Sure, macaroni and cheese might be the only thing your three year old deigns to eat, but back in Lyta's day, macaroni was quite the imported delicacy. Macaroni--or pasta--was itself very new to Britain, having been brought back from Italy by rich, fashionable young men, who referred to themselves as the "macaroni club," after their new favorite dish. Soon, they began referring to anything fashionable as "very macaroni."

And thus, Lyta's dinner companion assures her that he has never been that much of a dandy.

A Midwinter Night's Revolution final editing progress: 43%

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Elflandia is filled with bad-ass horses which are actually dragons, elves fighting for goblin rights, and a werewolf--if he behaves.

When not breeding attack unicorns or hunting down pixies, I write fiction. It usually has elves, but sometimes I like to mix things up and throw in a fairy. Or a demon. I'll be posting some snippets, illustrations, research notes, etc., as the fancy strikes me.

Special thanks to wyldraven at Deviant Art for the Magical Forest picture.