Lebowski Thor

July 8, 2019

I’d meant to post about this earlier but then June got completely out of control. So I’ll post about it now. By far the most popular cosplay at Denver not-Comic Con was “Lebowski Thor” from Avengers: Endgame. There were dozens of those guys walking around in bathrobes and overgrown beards, guts hanging out over pajama bottoms.

It’s as if thousands of dudes with the proverbial “dad bod” watched the film with growing elation realizing that yes, finally, they can cosplay a superhero who looks just like them!  (And as I saw pointed out elsewhere, now maybe some of these guys understand the importance of inclusion and representation just a little bit more now.)

I guess San Diego Comic Con is this weekend. I won’t be there, but maybe someone can let me know if “Lebowski Thor” is as a big a thing there.

 

 

 

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Deadwood

June 27, 2019

Deadwood, South Dakota, was a little more like Black Hawk Colorado than I expected or would have liked. More casinos and motorcycles than anything else, and not much of the Old West town left. Although there are “shoot-outs” staged three times daily for your entertainment, and you can pay $10 to sit in the spot where Wild Bill was shot while holding a hand of aces and eights.

However, the Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock are buried, was quiet and chock full of the history I was looking for. This statue of Wild Bill is a more recent addition, but I was amused at how admirers are still determined to keep him well stocked.

 

 

So the thing about Robin Hood is there are dozens and dozens of versions of the story going back 700 years, and new bits and pieces to it are added all the time, and the earliest stories aren’t really anchored in any historical moment. Then when you do try to anchor it history, it turns out all those bits and pieces that got added over the course of 700 years don’t really fit.

This is why every Robin Hood novel has a long author’s note explaining — defending, justifying, whatever — the decisions the author made about what bits to keep and what to leave out. (Seriously, “Author’s Notes in Robin Hood Novels” is almost its own genre.) They usually talk about longbows and whether or how much they were really being used at the time of Prince John.

But here’s a bit I’ve never really seen anyone discuss before:  Friar Tuck cannot exist at the time of Prince John. “Friar” as a title refers specifically to Franciscan and Dominican monks. Turns out, Franciscans and Dominicans didn’t reach England until after 1220 — four years after King John’s death.

I mean, it’s a tiny little thing, we can call him “Brother Tuck” and make him a Benedictine and that works just fine.  But who knew?

I can just tell I’m going to be getting really judgey about Robin Hood stories after all this research.

 

checking in!

May 22, 2019

I had a busy, busy weekend, so no blog posts, alas. It ended arriving back in Denver at 10:30 Monday night to four inches or so of snow, and guess who decided I didn’t need a coat this trip? So yeah, I’m still a bit out of it.

But also guess who hasn’t had time to do her spring planting yet? Sometimes procrastination wins.

Keycon was small but lively, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to talk to my fellow guests Tanya Huff and Lee Moyer, who I hadn’t met before and we all got along like a house on fire. It’s so comforting to be reminded that I can still make friends, despite all these articles and pundits talking about how hard it gets when we’re older.

I haven’t watched Game of Thrones since season 5, but I watched the finale in the con suite at the convention, which is always the way to do these things. My biggest reaction was, I couldn’t believe that Edmure Tully was somehow still alive.

No movies on the airplane to report. I needed the sleep.

 

more Robin Hood

May 8, 2019

Just to warn you, I may be talking A LOT about Robin Hood over the next year. I’ve been immersed in R.H. (as I call him) and 12th and early 13th English history since February and it’s starting to bubble over. (Turns out Bad Prince John really was just awful! In so many ways!)

In case you missed the announcement, this is actually work. My novella “The Ghosts of Sherwood” and a sequel will be coming out from Tor.com Publications next year. I’m so excited. And I am being HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL about this. And I am NOT thinking of completely changing my SCA persona and starting up five new period art projects I don’t have time for. A-hem.

I did, however, watch Robin Hood: The Rebellion which just dropped on Netflix.  It’s really terrible. The kind of terrible where there’s an over-serious opening scroll and all the same information is delivered in dialog over the first twenty minutes. Almost every line of dialog is exposition. At one point, the Sheriff of Nottingham explains what taxes are. Also, low production values, which I can forgive in many cases, but not here. Like, Nottingham Castle has three rooms and five people work there. A cameo by Brian Blessed as Tuck only serves to make the rest of the movie seem worse by those three minutes of brightness.

And now I’m thinking of the similar and different ways that this, and the Taron Egerton Robin Hood from last fall, are really terrible. Like, they both have deadly-serious freedom-fighting Robin Hood, but removed from any relevant historical or even fictional context. Neither has any meaningful reference to any King or larger political entity outside Nottingham. It’s like free-floating freedom fighting.

Both those Robins are returning from the Crusades. This trope has entered the mythos relatively recently, like maybe only in the last hundred years, but it has become predominant. Preeminent Robin Hood scholar Stephen Knight posits the influence of the Gulf War and Iraq War for this, and the relevance of the trope of soldiers returning from the Middle East. His essay where he talks about this, here, deals with the whole question of the gentrification of Robin Hood, which is fascinating.

Also, both terrible Robin Hoods dispense with the archery contest. They have archery, but, you know freedom-fighting archery. Even Parke Godwin’s relentlessly historical grimdark Sherwood has the archery contest, very much in the spirit of the classic Pyle and Errol Flynn versions.

This has led me to the question of:  what needs to be in a Robin Hood story? Does the story and the myth start to fall apart if you leave certain things out? Is it still Robin Hood if there’s no Little John? Must he battle with John with staves by a river? Must there be a Sheriff, or will some other oppressive villain do?

I’m also thinking about how every single Robin Hood movie has some kind of opening scroll or voice over setting the scene, and every single Robin Hood novel has a long Author’s Note about historical research. Robin Hood is so familiar do these films really need that scroll? Surely everyone knows what we’re dealing with here. Or do the films really need them so we know which Robin Hood we’re dealing with? The outlaw yeoman or the dispossessed lord? The returning crusader or something else? Except… I’m still going to state that opening scrolls are unnecessary if the story is well told.

I’m developing pretty definite opinions about all this, and what a Robin Hood story needs to be successful.

 

Reminder:  In less than two weeks I’ll be Guest of Honor at Keycon in Winnipeg! See you there?

Birding Big Day ended up being pretty mellow. I had other things going on that day and was in a new park — where, unbeknownst to me, “Family Fun Day” had been scheduled. So…many…giant…strollers…  Only 33 species total. BUT… my original plan of spending all day at Walden Ponds, the place where I bird the most, to see how many species I can get there? Still gonna do it, just on my own schedule.

Learning to cook:  My “learn to cook” quest has been going about ten years, and I’m pretty solid. I’ve done Thanksgiving dinners, I’ve cooked for 12 at a writers’ retreat. But I checked off another skill this weekend:  I had a couple of ingredients that needed using up before they went bad — onions and bell peppers — and I had all the stuff on hand to make something nice with them.

See, this is one of the skills that people don’t really talk about, that you’re just supposed to know, but you can’t really cook successfully without it. And that’s knowing what to stock as a matter of course, knowing what to have in the cupboard so that you can reliably make tasty meals from scratch. Not even the staples, but the ingredients that hold the staples together. Tomato sauce, broth, lemon juice, heavy cream, garlic, what spices you’re always going to use, and so on.

I seem to have accomplished having a reliably stocked pantry so that I can almost always put something nice together. And that feels pretty good.

 

new stories!

May 2, 2019

Out now:  the reissue of Wild Cards 9: Jokertown Shuffle! This has new stories by me and Cherie Priest.  “Unraveling” stars Lady Black and is something of a sequel to my story in #8, One-Eyed Jacks. I gotta tell you, this book is probably the darkest entry in the whole Wild Cards series, but it sets up some amazing stuff that will happen in the next couple of volumes.

I think I’ve had a new story out every month for about seven months running now. How cool is that?

My latest post on Curious Fictions is “In Time,” my story about Emily Dickinson and her dog, Carlo. This story frequently makes people cry, I’m told. It originally appeared in Talebones Magazine.

And this Saturday is the Cornell Lab of Birds Global Big Day, when birders all over the world try to log as many different bird species as possible in a 24 hour period. This will be my fourth year participating. I like the challenge of it, and taking part in such a massive citizen science project. I’m going to a new (to me) area this year, so let’s see what I can find!