CanCon 2015 day 2: Magic and magical systems

Panellists: Leah Bobet, Kate Heartfield, Jim Davies, Leah Petersen

KH: Why do we choose to systematize magic?

LP: There are so many ways to approach it. I think the goal is to bring something unique to readers. Generally, epic fantasy means systemic magic.

KH: Have reader expectations changed over time?

LP: If you know what you’re aiming for, you have to dig in.

JD: In Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, magic is inexplicable. It’s more wonderful because it’s not explained. Observation yields magic. Understanding saps magic of its wonder. The best solution is to have your magic system generate questions in the reader.

LB: Where do you want to go today? Patricia McKillip is more mystical. Lev Grossman is more systemic. Your story is going to dictate the nature of the magic in it. Magical realism liberated the idea of what magic could be. I could be organic. You need the right tool for the job. People read books for different reasons. Is the reader looking to be challenged or are they looking for the familiar?

JD: I read role-playing game books for pleasure. I had trouble getting through Harry Potter because I felt that there wasn’t anything that couldn’t happen.

LB: Authorial fiat may damage your world building drastically. You might end up with one foot on the cliff and one foot in the air.

KH: The question asked in Grossman’s The Magicians is, who gets to have the magic? Harry Potter never explored that question. How do modern authors address this?

LP: In a book I’ve read recently, every culture within the world had its own magic.

JD: The charm of hidden world stories like Harry Potter is that it could be happening right now. Writers could also be lazy.

LB: Some magic systems play with magic and class. Scarcity implies privilege. What would it be like to be special? Knowledge can be magic. Music can be magic. If magic is important in your story can the average person get it? I am special – magic is internal and only the gifted can access it. This thing is special – the magic is external and anyone can use it. Our systems are a reflection of our enthusiasms as authors.

LP: Increasing diversity means that everyone looks at magic differently.

KH: A great example of that is Aliette de Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings.

LB: In The Shadow Speaker, the pathways to knowledge are difficult.

Q: Can magic and technology work together?

LP: Yes. Look at the Powder Mage trilogy. As technology increases, so does magic.

LB: Elizabeth Bear had one of her characters use divination by MP3 shuffle. That would be cool – an app for magic.

KH: Steampunk conflates technology and magic.

Q: How do you decide that the story you’re writing needs magic?

LB: I had an idea for magic using resonance and chords. It was cool stuff theory. Editors make you justify your bullshit, though.

KH: You have to get into the how of it. Science and technology is to science fiction what magic is to fantasy, generally speaking.

LP: I had to think about how the magic in my story world worked, but do my readers really need to know this?

Q: How quantified does the system have to be?

LB: Theme can be your guide. Like Water for Chocolate used food magic. In [Gabriel Garcia] Marquez, the landscape is magic. In The Cooler, the magic was the character’s ability to dampen luck.

JD: How systematized is systematized? Even if you use spells, unpredictable results may render the magic non-systemic.

LB: Magic cooking would be yummy.

Q: When do you go subtle and when do you sensationalize?

JD: Stage magicians are sensational. People who want you to think they have power work more subtly.

LP: It will depend on the story.

LB: If everything is at a 10, they everything is really at a 1.

Q: Can you talk a little about consequences?

LB: Magic can have social consequences, sour relationships. It can be small, cumulative things. Check out Resurrection Man.

KH: The magic user can get to a point where they’re forever changed by the magic. In The Fisher King legend, the king is linked to the land, so the consequences are not just for him, but for all his people.

LP: The price could be to lose your generative ability. You’re sterilized as an initiation. It’s all up front.

JD: In The Runelords, the cost of magic comes from someone else.

LB: For Ged, in the Earthsea trilogy, the cost is his morality.

And that was time.

Next week: Blood spatter analysis (!) A constable from the OPP explains how it’s really done 😉

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Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Jan 17-23, 2016

Oh noes! I’ve rediscovered YouTube and the videos have invaded . . .

Canada is named the second best country in the world. How Canadian 🙂 We’re excited about coming in second. Global News.

Some of our new Syrian friends enjoying tobogganing for the first time:

 

Peter Denton wonders, where have all the readers gone? The Globe and Mail.

Dear parents: Everything you want to know about your son or daughter’s university, but don’t. Michael Enright interviews Ron Srigley for The Sunday Edition on CBC.

Education is performance art. Penn & Teller share their thoughts in The Atlantic.

When Trent Hamm thinks of the times he’s been the happiest, he notices two common threads. The Business Insider.

The powerful benefit of exercise that’s rarely discussed. Guess I’d better get my ass in gear. Quartz.

Dinah Laprarie of NISA champions mental health in Sudbury. CBC.

Cyndi Roberts of The Elephant Journal shares seven steps to easing anxiety without a pill.

Anna Lovind finds her own way to divine guidance 😉

So now a new study says smoking pot doesn’t lower adolescent IQs. IFLS.

Watching a water bubble freeze (in Finland):

 

Space-X attempted another booster landing last Sunday. And then this happened. Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, for Slate.

That weird star with the Jupiter-sized planet and the suspected . . . something else orbiting it? Well the more they learn about it the stranger things get. Slate.

A constellation has been named for David Bowie (though it’s not officially recognized yet). IFLS.

Check out this planetary alignment through February 20. IFLS.

Phil Plait features this alignment on his Bad Astronomy column too. Slate.

xkcd charts possible undiscovered planets.

Rick Mercer’s rant on anonymous comments:

 

Gypsy Vanner horses:

 

Ms Mr performs “Reckless.”

 

And that was your week’s edutainment.

Hope you enjoyed it.

See you on Saturday for more CanCon 2015 reportage.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 17-23, 2016

There’s as much for you to watch as there is for you to read 🙂

Roz Morris shares three paradoxes of writing life.

Set up and pay off, the two equally important halves of foreshadowing. K.M. Weiland.

Jan O’Hara explores the ethical implications of the writing life with nods to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a disturbing psychological experiment. Writer Unboxed.

Janice Hardy explains the difference between setting and world building. Fiction University.

Kim Bullock is desperately seeking darlings (to kill). Writer Unboxed.

Chuck Wendig has some thoughts for mid-career authors. Terribleminds.

Carly Watters explains how you can write for the market (not to trends) and write for yourself.

Joanna Penn discusses publishing trends in 2016 with Jane Friedman.

 

Jannifer Garam shares the secret of writing when no one gives a shit. Brilliant!

Hugh Howey offers his advice on how to become a writer. The Wayfinder.

Chris Winkle details the perils of land travel before engines for Mythcreants.

How authors can employ supernatural elements in a non-fantasy story. Authors First.

Carol Daniels shares her experience writing a strong indigenous heroine in response to the pain of history. Quill & Quire.

Iconic science fiction editor David G. Hartwell (yes, the same man who presented The History of SF at CanCon in October) has died. Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light (with links to other tributes).

Kathryn Cramer, David’s wife, wrote this touching post: till death did us part.

Authors call for a boycott on literary festivals that don’t pay. Nadia Khomami for The Guardian.

Jeannine Hall Gailey is disturbed by the plight of the amazing disappearing woman writer. The Rumpus.

Anne Thériault writes about mental illness and the male gaze in the figure of the sexy, tragic muse. Guerilla Feminism.

Plans are in the works for the 162 Arts Hub, a gathering place for artists, centering on indie cinema, right here in Sudbury! Our Crater.

Lisa Cron presents her Wired for Story TED Talk:

 

The storytelling animal. Jonathan Gottschall’s TED Talk at Furman:

 

Shayne Koyczan. Turn of a light. So love this.

 

Mental Floss lists 25 words that are their own opposites. They’re called contronyms.

The Park of Monsters is featured on Atlas Obscura. There’s a literary connection.

Marco Kalantari made this epic science fiction short film called The Shaman. You need to watch it. A-MA-Zing!

When Nichelle Nichols met Martin Luther King Jr.:

 

Fantasy Fiction Focus interviews Suzy Vadori.

 

I hope something gave you that special little bit of writerly advice you need to take your WiP to the next level.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

CanCon 2015 day 2: Writing fiction and fact for Analog

Panellists: Derek Kunsken, Eric Choi, Trevor Quachri, Andrew Barton

AnalogPanel

TQ: With respect to hard science fiction, there’s a soft creep to fantasy, and a hard creep to the uber technical. I care most about character and plot, but the story must make sense scientifically as well.

DK: Eric, since you’ve been published in Analog several times, what is an Analog story to you?

EC: Trevor’s covered it really. I edited an anthology with Ben Bova called Carbide Tip Pens, which has been described as Analog in hard cover.

DK: Is there a quantifiable difference between Asimov’s and Analog?

EC: Both have published my Mars-focused fiction.

DK: I have a track record of stories Stan (editor for Analog) rejected, but Sheila (editor for Asimov’s) bought.

EC: Editorial personalities and preferences do play a role.

DK: Andrew, you’re not a scientist, but you’ve had stories published in Analog.

AB: All of them have been science oriented. I’m not a scientist, but I try to make as few demands on the reader with respect to the science, except for the one big lie that is the basis for the story. I try to be rigorous, but I also try to write an entertaining story.

TQ: I commend Andrew for the material he’s submitted. There’s a misunderstanding out there about how rigorous the science has to be, though. Stan was a physics professor. He’d fact-check. You have to be science literate. You have to do the leg work.

DK: Andrew and Eric, what would be the difference between writing a physics-based story, and writing a chemistry-based story or a biology-based story?

EC: My most recent one was on baseball statistics.

AB: Everything I know about orbital mechanics, I’ve learned from playing Kerbal Space Program.

DK: I tend to write on the biological side of things. One response I received was that I was just showing off what I knew. What I really needed to focus on was the how.

TQ: You have to know how things work.

EC: Don’t limit yourself to a particular type of story. Smash the stereotypes. For “Crimson Sky,” I talked to a pilot and an ER trauma surgeon. Don’t be afraid.

TQ: Culture and biology may be a match. Stan was also into linguistics. Look at Dune. It’s science fiction with fantastic elements. Cultural prediction is interesting is done well. Sometimes it’s about the approach to story rather than the nature of the science involved.

Q: Can you have different physics?

TQ: It could work if you’re rigorous in your created universe.

DK: Let’s turn to non-fiction science articles.

TQ: I never get tired of those. Give me more. They have a popular focus. The information has to be accessible. Balance is key. We also have scientists who read Analog. Science fiction relative is also good, the deconstruction of tropes, idea generation, interesting research. How can a writer use this information? It has to be entertaining.

Q: Should I query first, or just go ahead and write?

TQ: If you’re adamant, go ahead and write, but we also take queries.

Q: Any formatting tips?

TQ: We’re not to picky.

Q: Can we use figures as long as they’re cited?

TQ: That’s no problem as long as they’re right.

DK: Your readers seem to be hungry for everything.

TQ: There needs to be diversity. Don’t be too complacent. Curve balls are important.

DK: What’s the ultimate fate of these stories and articles?

TQ: It falls to the individual authors what happens to the piece after publication. Sometimes there are tie-in “science behind the story” articles, audio versions, etc..

There was then some promotion regarding subscriptions to Analog, as well as where to get sample stories and articles online. It’s all available on the web site. Start there and you won’t go wrong.

Next week: We’re talking magic and magical systems.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Jan 10-16, 2016

It was a terrible week, in some respects. First, we learned of the death of David Bowie, and only a few days later, of Alan Rickman. Both at the age of 69, and both of cancer. *shakes fist impotently at the powers that be*

Here are a few posts commemorating both men:

 

The Guardian offers some tips on how to be happy in the New Year.

How to exercise your empathic muscles. The Elephant Journal.

Physician, heal thyself! Why silence is the enemy for doctors who have depression. The New York Times.

IFLS shares Stephen Hawking’s advice for people who suffer from depression.

Thirty nine: a documentary by Tara Henley on CBC’s The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright.

Childhood trauma can result in adult illness. Aeon.

Feministing reports: lesbian families produce an abuse rate of 0%. Then a kind commenter shared this: lesbian mothers’ children. Food for thought, people. Who’s producing these studies and for what reason?

Doug Saunders explains how gun ownership became a ‘right’ in the United States, and why it’s not. The Globe and Mail.

Bonus: Tori Amos’s cover of the Beatles’ “Happiness is a warm gun.”

 

We had another two earthquakes in the Sudbury area last week. I didn’t feel them, but that makes quite a few in the last couple of years. Is this some kind of message? The Northern Life.

Hootsuite’s CEO got clever and came up with this $25 standing desk solution. Vancouver is Awesome.

Check out this beautiful, underground kingdom. Bright Side.

A 600 million year old mutation is responsible for . . . us (!) The Washington Post.

Scientists believe they’ve found the first fossil bed from the dinosaur extinction. IFLS.

Mapping the ocean floors with gravity. Phil Plait for Slate.

Ice crystals cause this optical phenomenon and ‘draw’ a map of a city in the sky. Slate.

Open Culture brings back the animated Bayeux Tapestry. It’s really something special.

Please, cuddle the cat! It’ll make you feel better.

 

Quite the thoughty week, if I do say so myself 😉

See you on Saturday for more CanCon 2015 reportage.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 10-16, 2016

Of Writerly Goodness, there is much 🙂

Do you re-read your favourite books? K.M. Weiland shares five tips on how you can up the re-readability factor for your novel.

Janice Hardy explains (ha!) what you need to know about show, don’t tell. Fiction University.

C.S. Lakin shares the five essential components of scene structure. Live, write, thrive.

Later in the week, she offers an older post on the same subject: your opening scene.

Jane Friedman shares Mary Buckham’s advice on how writers can craft effective settings.

Chuck Wendig offers five lessons learned from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Continuing his ruminations on shame and guilt, David Corbett writes the broken arc for Writer Unboxed.

Lisa Cron wonders, why do we write? Writer Unboxed.

Sarah Callender writes about when to ditch the jammies on Writer Unboxed.

Delilah S. Dawson explains what you really need to call yourself a writer.

Porter Anderson uses Erik Anderson’s discussion of diversity—or the lack thereof—in his reading as a jumping off point to explore the issue of diversity in writing. Writer Unboxed.

Dean Wesley Smith offers some tough love for writers who think they’re starting too late.

Carly Watters compares the various methods of pitching and querying. Which one is best for you?

Susan Spann drops by Writer Unboxed to share some tips for writers on how to obtain reversions of your publishing rights.

Delilah S. Dawson writes about using mindfulness and flow as a way to overcome depression.

Later in the week, she continues with this post: ‘just breathe’ is my new motto.

Inspired in part by Delilah’s posts, Chuck Wendig offers his unique take on self-care for writers. Comfort food for your big, squishy brain.

David Bowie’s death (and her own near-death experience) inspired Kameron Hurley to write this post on creation and legacy: Yes, we’re all going to die.

A horse trainer points out the most common writers’ errors with regard to horses. Dan Koboldt.

Two hundred linguists from the American Dialect Society have declared the singular ‘they’ as word of the year. The Washington Post.

A visual timeline of the future based on famous fiction. Brainpickings.

i09 lists their top 40 science fiction and fantasy books coming out in 2016.

And that was Tipsday!

Come on back for Thoughty Thursday, y’all. Hear?

Tipsday

CanCon2015 day 2: The history of science fiction

Presenter: Dr. David G. Hartwell (and, his site).

DavidHartwell

Sorry for the poor pic. It was the best of the bunch I took 😦

Frankenstein (1818) was actually a collaboration between Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Bodleian library holds the original manuscripts. They reveal four distinct hands. That it’s the first science fiction written by a woman is therefore debatable.

Aphra Behn, Margaret Cavendish, and Jane Louden could be contenders.

Many of the manuscripts from the early 20th century are now being re-examined.

Facsimile reprints only lasted 15 to 18 years for the research set. Now we have Google Books, Project Gutenberg, and the like.

There have been no organized, concerted efforts dedicated to science fiction. It’s something fun for academic researchers. The early works, in particular, don’t get a lot of attention.

After Shelley, we have Jules Verne (1828 – 1905) and Edgar Allen Poe (1809 – 1849).

Poe was, arguably, not a great writer, but he more or less created genre fiction, specifically mystery, science fiction, and horror.

Kafka (1883 – 1924) and Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803 – 1873) published speculative works as well.

There was a growth in modern nationalism and military invention at the end of the 1800s. The machine gun, the tank, and the air plane. It was largely considered the end of war the way it had always been fought. Governments other than monarchy developed.

More’s Utopia and Plato’s speculations were considered thought experiments. They were never realized.

By the 1890s, there was a large body of work that could be read and mimicked.

George Orwell was considered to have wrote scientific romances.

Currently, it is thought that the ‘important’ science fiction is written in one language, but there are French, German, Polish, and Italian writers in the genre.

Q: What is proto-science fiction?

Science fiction is a conscious effort. If it’s accidental, it’s proto-SF. The second consideration is that there has to have been an audience for the work.

Q: What about other literatures?

There are Arabic texts describing aliens that date back to Medieval times.

Q: Is Tom Swift considered science fiction?

Not really. It’s more adventure.

All imaginative literature got scrunched together and separated from ‘proper’ literature. The fantastic exists in literature since Gilgamesh. That doesn’t mean it was what we consider fantasy.

Q: What’s the difference between a techno-thriller and science fiction?

In the techno-thriller, the changes are temporary. The world reverts to normal. Science fiction tends to change the world permanently.

J.G. Ballard’s work usually involves a disaster of some variety and humanity must live with the results. It’s not the optimistic attitude of most science fiction.

Between 1920 and 1940, the literary establishment had to start excluding written material to maintain their elitism. The typical modernist text of the time was normal life with psychological insight.

John Updike wrote about The World Treasury of Science Fiction. He said it couldn’t be first rate literature.

The attitude of the literary establishment toward science fiction is not acceptable.

Q: Could you comment on Orwell? What about Huxley and Burgess?

Burgess liked reading science fiction, but his only analogue is A Clockwork Orange. Orwell wrote in the tradition of H.G. Wells. He would have been appalled if anyone called him a science fiction author.

Science fiction and fantasy are marketing categories.

Genre is an interaction between the author, the text, and the reader. There’s direct feedback. The traditional genres (literature, drama, poetry) don’t necessarily have that.

There was a fair amount that I didn’t get written down with this particular presentation, but it was still a great source of information. It filled in a few gaps for me from my previous studies. I have a feeling that Dr. Hartwell could have kept going 🙂

That’s it for this week.

I’m off to Bedfordshire (as in bed).

TTFN!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Jan 3-9, 2016

Aaaannnd, we’re back 🙂

This is cool: National Park passes will be free in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday 🙂 The Edmonton Journal.

And this is weird: Dr. Michael Persinger has been banned from teaching the Introduction to Psychology course. CBC.

Linda Carroll is a life coach who has panic attacks. Here’s what she wishes more people knew. Body Mind Green.

Fifteen things you should know about people who have concealed anxiety. Thought Catalog.

Sleeping with weighted blankets helps insomnia and anxiety. Life Hack.

Is depression a kind of allergic reaction? Caroline Williams for The Guardian.

How to help someone with depression. Ink and Feet.

Clara Hughes opens up about Olympic success and her struggle with depression. CBC.

Some antidepressants cause weight gain, and not a little weight, either. Read this article about Amy Willans’ battle against hunger and fat shaming. The Globe and Mail.

Former neurosurgeon (and writer friend), Swati Chavda, shares her experience with burnout.

They say you have to get out of your comfort zone. Here’s why: Sixteen uncomfortable feelings that mean you’re on the right path. The Unbounded Spirit.

The myth of learning styles persists (and is still being taught). Quartz.

Neanderthal DNA helps resist disease, but gives you allergies. Yay? The LA Times.

The seventh row of the periodic table is completed with the discovery of four new elements. IFLS.

No, Apophis still won’t hit Earth in 2036. Phil Plait, Bad Astronomer, for Slate.

When worlds elide. Phil Plait. Slate.

The Dawn spacecraft gets up close and personal with Ceres. Phil Plait. Slate.

IFLS offers their guide to the best meteor showers of 2016.

Richard Feynman: Why science enhances the appreciation of beauty.

 

Artist creates an awesome image of the universe. IFLS.

Koko is one smart gorilla. IFLS.

This snowy owl is photogenic. CBC.

Michio Kaku and Noam Chomsky pwn conspiracy theorists. Open Culture.

And that was Thoughty Thursday, folks. See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 3-9, 2016

Victoria Mixon returns to Writer Unboxed with this post: four Post-its over our desks.

K.M. Weiland continues her Most Common Writing Mistakes series with part 47: Ineffective setting descriptions.

Communication as a literary theme: a case study, by Gabriela Pereira for DIYMFA.

Chuck Wendig advises: be the writer you are, not the writer other people expect you to be.

Donald Maass writes about tension versus energy for Writer Unboxed.

Kameron Hurley explains why she doesn’t want to be called talented.

Delilah S. Dawson writes about prepping for winter and the seasonal depression that comes with.

Jerry Jenkins shares his guide to how to become and author.

Deena Nataf offers a great trick to sort who from whom. The Write Practice.

Beware of this scam on YA authors by people posing as Penguin Random House employees. Bookish Antics.

David Gaughran identifies several Penguin Random House imprints that are still doing business with Author Solutions.

Joseph Boyden appointed to the Order of Canada. CBC.

The Complete Deaths is a new play that compiles all of the deaths in Shakespeare’s plays in one gory spectacle. The Telegraph.

A brief history of books that don’t exist. Literary Hub.

Harlan Ellison, the author who wrote in bookstore windows. Mental Floss.

The Ottawa Citizen posts its list of the 16 (Canadian) books to watch for in 2016.

Mental Floss lists six book festival towns for you to visit.

The Guardian lists its top ten modern medieval tales.

Tom Waits reads Charles Bukowski’s “The Laughing Heart.”

 

Here’s a new Outlander trailer to see you through #droughtlander.

W00t!

Come back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty 🙂

Tipsday

CanCon 2015 day 2: The basics of the sword, the katana, and the Viking axe

A quick disclaimer, since I haven’t provided one recently. These posts are transcriptions of my notes from the panels in question. There will be errors. If you can provide clarification of correction of any of the information provided, please do not hesitate to do so. I will make any corrections post hasty.

Update: Feb 4, 2016. Ariella was gracious enough to give me some additional notes 🙂 These have been added with brackets.

Panellists: Geoff Gander, Kris Ramsey, Reanne Roy, and Ariella Elema

SwordPanel

GG: What bugs you most about how most movies and television shows represent sword fighting?

KR: Flynning. Named after Errol Flynn. It’s all the swahbuckling stuff that would never work in real life. When it’s done well, you can’t tell an actor is Flynning. If not, it’s terrible. The last Three Musketeers movie is an example. You try to stay out of blade range when you’re fighting with a sword.

RR: I hate it when actors fight with a katana and cut through the opponent’s body. It would get stuck. The first two inches of the blade is the dangerous part.

KR: Swords are only for when you’ve run out of all other means of attack.

RR: And samurai using two katana? One is heavy enough. Musashi carried two, but is was a shorter blade and a katana, not two katana.

AE: A ‘case’ of rapiers. It can be done. It’s a flashy trick for duels, but it requires mastery of use in both dominant and non-dominant hands.

 

KR: Longer weapons tend to flex and it makes them less deadly. A shorter weapon is deadlier. When using two blades, it’s usually one long and one short. The longer blade deflects, and the shorter blade is used to kill.

GG: How has swordplay changed, historically?

AE: With armour, the shield became redundant. [More precisely, the development of complete suits of plate armour in late fourteenth-century Europe made shields less necessary. Having two hands on a sword gives you the leverage to cut faster with a longer blade.] The second hand was used on the sword for more power. The Germans placed the emphasis on speed. [IIRC, this comment was specifically about the differences in style between Italian and German masters in the fifteenth century. Fiore dei Liberi, an Italian master, seems to have been fond of moving into close range. His treatise, The Flower of Battle, has a lot of instructions for grappling, disarms, and pommel smashes in the face. The German masters, especially the later ones, tend to put more emphasis on the things you can do a little farther out at cutting range. This may be a reflection of the fact that Fiore was teaching people who were likely to face heavily armoured opponents, while the later Germans had a tradition of holding unarmoured tournaments.] When fighting in a tournament, knights fought at sword range.

KR: There was an older, battlefield style that included bo, naginata, and grappling.

Q: When did they stop having tournaments?

GG: It depends on the culture.

AE: I wrote my PhD dissertation on it. Trial by Battle in France and England. Tournaments ran from about 1050 – 1250. The last big tournament was in France in 1455. [1455 was the year of the last judicially-sanctioned trial by battle in the territory of what is now France. Subsequent duels were not organized by courts of law. The last trial by battle in England that came to blows was in 1456, but there were some outlying attempts to revive the practice in the 1650s and the early nineteenth century. Fencing tournaments of one sort or another have existed pretty much continuously since the Middle Ages.] There were outliers as late as the 1650’s. By and large, fire arms took over. Usually, they missed each other.

KR: There were cavalry charges with swords as late as WWII.

AE: By that time, though cavalry was a combination of horses and vehicles.

KR: A very good book on the subject is Swords and Swordsmen by Mike Loades.

GG: Who are the lead smiths now?

AE: Charles Jevins (?). [Charles Jevons is a terrific maker of aluminum practice swords. His site is here: http://www.swordcrafts.com/] He uses aluminium these days. Weight and balance of a steel sword can be duplicated, but there’s greater safety because of a thicker edge. You can get steel swords as well. It will run you anywhere between $300 and $2500.

Q: What was the historical cost of a sword?

KR: It’s hard to say. Again, it would depend on the culture. Initially, Japanese swords were made from crap steel. Then, they learned how to make it durable. It took months to craft and took two smiths to make. They’d quench them in clay.

AE: In the thirteenth century, the cost was about 12 pence. That’s about two weeks of wages for the average peasant. [Here’s a place where the Historical European Martial Arts community has collected some data on medieval European sword prices: http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=18566]

KR: The Vikings were very poor. That’s why they raided. They had to go out to get what they needed to survive.

Q: In 1966, I bought a Japanese katana for $400.

KR: Now they’re made in a Chinese factory.

Q: Can anyone carry a sword, or do you need a permit?

AE: In Canada, it’s technically legal, but you could cause a disturbance by walking around with one and get into trouble that way. I have white lady privilege, though. I can walk through the financial district of Toronto carrying my sword. Only the panhandlers notice. [I admit to having done this quite close to the financial district. It was probably dumb. I don’t recommend trying it yourself: results may vary. Sword canes almost certainly fall under the category of concealed knives, but I don’t know of any legal cases that have set definitive precedents on the matter. I’m a medieval legal historian, not a lawyer, so don’t take anything I say for legal advice. 🙂 ]

Q: How about cane swords?

AE: It’s a grey area. It could be considered a concealed weapon.

Q: What do you think of the sword work in Sparticus?

AE: The fight director might be Philippine influenced. The theory is that the Medieval Arabs taught everyone sword fighting. [My personal hypothesis is that medieval Arab sword arts influenced both Chinese and European fencing theory. There are quite a few medieval martial arts treatises in Arabic that have not yet been edited or translated into any European language. The oldest one dates from the mid ninth century CE.]

KR: There are only so many ways you can move with a sword.

Demo ensued.

KatanaDemo

KatanaDemo2

SwordDemo

We didn’t really get into the Viking axe, sorry to say.

Next week, we’ll delve into the history of science fiction from an academic perspective.

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!