Sunday, November 27, 2016

Amazons on a map

While reviewing some of the illustrated maps I used for the book, I've taken to hunting for Amazons. This group is on the Pierre Desceliers 1550 map of the world. The map was probably commissioned as a gift for Henry II of France.

Above is the illustration of a thing worthy of memory and of being described, that is, strange and barbarous women who are experts at war and who are called Amazons. They number about 200 million, alone without men for some time. When they return victorious from battle, they are loved by their husbands with whom they go only once a year, and only to have children. If they have a son, they nourish him for six months and then give him to his father; if it's a daughter, they keep and raise her to train in feats of arms.

According to map historian Chet van Duzer, the text likely comes from an edition of Ptolemy's Geography published earlier that century (he mentions four possible contenders). As was the case with illustrated maps of that century, the placement of decorations on Descelier's wasn't random. Mapmakers were trying to make sense of a new discoveries coming in every day. Monsters, new animals, foreign monarchs, and historical events were placed in their approximate correct locations.

The Amazon army on this map is shown north of the Caspian Sea marching westward toward "Region de Mithridates." This mangles two Amazon legends together and mis-locates the kingdom of Mithridates, but he deserves points for trying. He is attempting to make sense of contradictory ancient sources and integrate them with new discoveries. Central and Northeastern Asia, despite bordering the Old World civilizations remain badly understood for another two centuries.

NOTE: I earlier wrote about this map and my reasons for studying it here.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Update

My publisher, Pegasus Books, has released their summer catalog for next year and guess who is in it? This means it's starting to show up on the pages of Amazon and other fine booksellers. When I pointed this out on Saturday, some of my friends went pre-ordered copies. This gives it a sales ranking in the Amazon system and, as of today, it is the #1 New Release in Science > Fossils.

Barnes & Noble
Powell's (Portland)
Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle)

I worked at Elliott Bay for three years. I hope I get to do a reading there. If you have a favorite independent bookstore that you'd like to give a shout out to, mention them in the comments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump is a disaster, Part 1

Trump is a disaster. Period. Anyone who wasn't an active supporter who says there is an upside to his election is full of crap. Okay, they are probably self-deluded and not intentionally selling crap, but you still should not be led to believe his election is anything but a disaster. I stayed quiet online for almost a week to avoid exploding. I'm nowhere near not exploding, but I'll risk making some preliminary observations.

Observation 1. Who is Trump?

Trump is a petty, mysogynistic, racist, narcissist lacking in any trace of human empathy. But what does he believe? At the top, he "believes" in anything that profits Donald Trump or makes him look good. Some people will point out that, in the past, he has said and done some things that do not fit with the extreme ideological right. During the primaries, the far right siezed on these statements to say he wasn't one of them. Now, the naive middle siezes on these statements to say he won't be as bad as all that. They are both wrong.

Trump only cares about Trump. Having said certain things in public, he'll stand by them as much as he feels he must to keep his followers. He will surround himself (and is) with extremists. His campaign rhetoric attracted extremists. The best way to keep them loving Trump is to give them what they want and put their idols in positions of power. He has no incentive to defy the people who elected him. He is not going to moderate his campaign positions unless he sees it as a way to improve his position. Extremism forever.

Trump is also a visciously petty and vindictive man. So are his followers. He will explore the possibilities of using the power of the federal government to settle personal scores. His advisors might convince him not to try it without us ever hearing about it in public, but don't think the conversations aren't happening.

NEXT: Part 2, The environment