Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Monday, January 25, 2021

In the Belly of the Whale: Role Call

 An excerpt from In the Belly of the Whale, a novel-in-progress, can be found on the book and story preview page, linked on the left. It is one of a series of vignettes introducing various characters. These characters may or may not make it into the final draft.

A new excerpt has been posted at the same link.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Ancestor hunting.

Ancestor hunting is not for the faint of heart, and the further back one goes, the scantier the clues that come to hand. Even the Absolute Monarchs of the Enlightenment did not think to keep track of their subjects in as much detail as the modern Scientific State. If they sought you out at all, it was only for tax purposes, in which case the name of the ratepayer and the acreage occupied was sufficient unto. Vital statistics were the provenance of the churches. Compare, for example, the data scraped for the 1790 Census to that of the 1940 Census. 

But as Aristotle recommended, you start with the more certain and better known and proceed toward the less certain and lesser known.

Mary McGovern Cantrel, my grandmother's mother, had parents named as Matthew McGovern and Catherine Dolan on her death certificate, where it was further stated that she was born in Co. Cavan,Ireland, on 6 Aug 1856. . Lewis' Topographical Dictionary states that the "Kingdom of Glan" in Cavan was inhabited by "a primitaive race of McGoverns and Dolans" who intermarried and made moonshine whiskey.The barony of Tullyhaw in which these lands lay was co-extensive with the kingdom of the ancient McGaurans. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Be Afraid; Be Very Afraid. Please.

"[T]he whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."
-- H.L.Mencken

 "Never let a crisis go to waste."
-- Saul Alinsky

Psychology Today has told us that "a moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among many people that some evil threatens the well-being of society." It is "the process of arousing social concern over an issue – usually the work of moral entrepreneurs and the mass media." Such a panic does not mean that that there is nothing to worry about. There really were Stalinist agents in the US Government when Joe McCarthy rose to denounce them. (We know this because the fall of the USSR led to many files becoming public -- for a while -- and names were named.) But the panic sets in when people begin to see Russians behind every tapestry or potted plant. It is the panic, rather than a rational caution or skepticism, that leads to overblown responses.

Per Wikipedia, the concept of moral panic was laid out by Stanley Cohen in his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Paladin, 1973). He studied public reaction to 1964 clashes in the UK between rival youth groups called “mods” and “rockers”during holiday weekends at beaches in Southern England. From these clashes -- and the media and public response to them -- he developed a social theory of moral panic comprising five sequential stages:

  1. An event, condition, episode or person is defined as a threat to the values, safety and interest of the wider society.
  2. The media then amplifies these apparent threats through inflammatory rhetoric These portrayals appeal to public prejudices, creating villains in need of social control (folk devils) and victims (the moral majority).
  3. The publicity surrounding the threat creates a sense of social anxiety leading to a public outpouring of concern.
  4. Government then responds to the public outcry and frames the alleged threat as being symptomatic of a wider social malaise that must be addressed.
  5. The moral panic and the responses to it transform the regulation of economy and society with the aim of tempering public outrage.

Whoa, What's This?

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