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All things having to do with writing and researching history for the purpose of writing historical fantasy.

A Defense of Christmas by Lee Harris

This profound and moving essay by Lee Harris is now only available via the Wayback Machine, and only if you know what you are looking for. Fortunately, I did know what I was looking for because I kept a link to it on a page which I saved from the end of 2003. I did not write this essay, Lee Harris did. But I hope to preserve it for a few more decades. ---------------------------------------------------- Blaming Christmas is a common human failing, and not only at Christmas. It may be done at any time of the year, and it may be done in respect to any traditional institution. It is the habit of blaming the institution because we ourselves no longer take the trouble to support it. We look at ourselves,…

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Writing The Wind Mage

I started writing The Wind Mage a few months after I finished The Flame Iris Temple in May of 2020. I completed the text in March of 2021 and the editing plus art was finalized in August of 2021. Some of the topics I address in The Wind Mage are: the role of courtesans in society, the nature of political power for the educated scholar-elite, who are the fox-spirits and what do they want, as well as ship-travel and trade in what one might call the late medieval period. The Wind Mage is nearly 100,000 words which makes it the shortest of the novels I have written. Parts of the book date back to 2019 because I thought book three would combine both Sandun's story and Kagne's story, interwoven. However,…

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A new Book! and a new audioBook!
The Wind Mage

A new Book! and a new audioBook!

Well, after a good deal of work, the 4th book in the series is done and published. The Wind Mage - is now available as both a paperback and a Kindle edition. You can buy it here. I'll have more to say about the book in the next update. The other big news is that the audioBook version of The Flame Iris Temple is also done as available here! I recorded the audioBook for The Flame Iris Temple in May of 2020 but due to a number of unexpected complications, I was not able to get the audio version for sale until August of 2021. So, I have two new things both in the same month. Happy news.

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The Nine Unknown Men Who Control India
Statue of Shiva in Karnataka

The Nine Unknown Men Who Control India

This is a curious story which dates back more than 2,000 years. The great king of India, Ashoka (ruled 268 to 232 B.C.) expanded the empire left to him by his father Bindusara and his grandfather, Chandragupta. By 260, Ashoka ruled over most of modern India and Pakistan - but not including the southern quarter. He famously converted to Buddhism and his court became, in the eyes of later Buddhist priests, the most perfect realm in the history of the world. Like most other Buddhist kings, Ashoka's realm disintegrated soon after his death as Buddhist kings are rarely effective at real state-craft. Another example would include Xiao Yan, King Wu of Liang. However, during Ashoka's thirty years of peace and relative harmony, he became famous for his wisdom, and the…

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Reforming the USA #2 – Land Ownership
US Federal Land Ownership

Reforming the USA #2 – Land Ownership

#2 in my series on needed reforms to the USA. (last updated 10/1/2020) The USA is deeply and unfairly divided by the federal government's ownership and control over land. In the states east of the Rocky Mountains, the federal government owns and controls less than 5% of the land; in the original 13 states, the federal government owns little more than 1% of the land. But, in the lands north and west of Texas, the federal government owns and controls more than 50% of the total land area. In some states, like Nevada, the federal government owns 80% of the total land area. See an example of the data here. The map above was created by the American Lands Council. They have been advocating for this change for nearly a…

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The Great Tea Trade – China to England in the 1800s
Cutty Sark under sail

The Great Tea Trade – China to England in the 1800s

For a brief period of time, the fastest sailing ships in the world sailed from the coast of China to London - racing to arrive with the fresh crop of tea for British tea drinkers. The British East India Company held a near monopoly on trade with India and China for more than 100 years. But in 1834, the East India company surrendered its monopoly on Asian trade, and so, a competition developed as a number of merchant companies decided they could make money by shipping goods from China to Europe. After the first Anglo-Qing war (somewhat misleadingly called the 1st Opium War), five Treaty Ports were opened to British trade. The most important ports were Canton, and Shanghai. After 1840, the British also took possession of Hong Kong which…

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The Pros and Cons of Buddhist Officials running your Government
Gyeongcheonsa Marble Pagoda

The Pros and Cons of Buddhist Officials running your Government

Gyeongcheonsa Marble Pagoda The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book The Fireflies of Muju - Ten Weeks in Korea - 2011. The Benefits and Costs of Adopting Buddhism as a State Religion The rulers of Silla and the rulers of Vietnam both officially adopted Buddhism as their state religion. Silla did this in 528 and Vietnam did this around 1020 when Ly Thai To took the throne with the backing of several powerful Buddhist monastic leaders. Later, both countries rejected Buddhism as a state religion. Korea‚Äôs government turned away from Buddhism when the Mongols took power in 1260 and the Joseon Dynasty was explicitly anti-Buddhist when they took power in 1392. In Vietnam, when Ho Quy Le took power in 1400, he removed the Buddhists from government and…

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Reforming the USA – #1 – Fewer States
USA Population Map

Reforming the USA – #1 – Fewer States

I am writing a set of posts which describes my proposal for reforming the USA. I start with: Reducing the Number of States. Reduce the number of states - 50 is too many. (Last update: September 9, 2020) Background: When the USA started we had 13 states. Even in 1790, Rhode Island was not close in size or population to the other states, and there were real plans to create the USA by excluding Rhode Island. As it happened, they joined but 13 was a manageable number. By contrast, 50 is too many. There are such wide disparities between the 50 states in terms of population and land area that in no sense are the states even approximately equal. I will use Wyoming as an example. I have traveled across…

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Statues in Ancient Greece
Statues in AC - Odyssey

Statues in Ancient Greece

Statues in AC - Odyssey I've been playing the computer game Assassin's Creed - Odyssey for the last week. What a wonderful game this is! For two years I studied ancient Greece in college. My main focus was the wars of the Diadochi, the successors to Alexander the Great but I spent a great deal of time reading the history of the Greek city states from 500 B.C. to 200 B.C. Odyssey puts you in Ancient Greece during the golden age of Athens. Your character meets with a host of famous historical figures from Socrates to Herodotus. The wildly unreliable but brilliant general Alcibiades is shown in his youth among many, many more. You see potters making the clay pots which now fill the British Museum, you see Zoroastrians throwing…

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Feng Menlong – The Story of the Pearl Shirt
Inlay pearl dish

Feng Menlong – The Story of the Pearl Shirt

Feng Menglong starts his first collection of stories (from the collection Stories Old and New) with an entertaining story about coincidences, an unfaithful wife, and how to get into a married woman's bed chamber. Inlay pearl dish The story is titled Jiang Xingge Reencounters His Pearl Shirt. It is about several families of the merchant class of China, and it takes place in the mid-Ming dynasty. What we learn from this story: Merchants routinely made journeys of a year, or more. This shows up in other stories as well. Why Chinese merchants would takes such long trips seems odd to me. I believe there is nothing like this in European stories, not until the age of exploration. European merchants traveled, but they were never gone for more than nine months.Men…

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