Thursday, December 26, 2013

Found: 18th century bone dice
Variations on the basic fish trap can be found worldwide. They were outlawed in England a few centuries before, possibly because they blocked river traffic. Not that the law applies here. I found the idea interesting enough to tuck into this chapter, but that's as much as I have to say about it.

But I have something else to talk about today! I think I have mentioned how much I love the unique antiques that come my way at work. In a midcentury canasta box I found 4 antique dice. Canasta is a card game, I think, so the dice didn't belong to it; and they were far too unusual to belong to the 50s, anyway. One was wood, hand carved, painted black, with hand-painted pips. Three were bone, unmistakably, had considerable wear, and were nonstandard sizes. One of those had a faint mark on it: G.R and a crown.

Google helpfully told me that G.R. stands for George Rex (King George) and that the hallmark meant that it was made in England after the Stamp Act of 1765. I didn't know which King George, but George IV died in 1830, and after that it would have been stamped V.R. for Victoria Regina.

So far, 1765-1830 is a pretty awesome age for a bone die, and makes it interesting in its own right. But at the risk of boring you, I'll relate what else I know and how those dice tie in to American history.

Most of the other dice with the G.R. mark were tagged Revolutionary War, on the reasoning that British soldiers might have brought them to the U.S. to dice with. I wasn't terribly satisfied with that reasoning; sellers just trying to get hits and make a buck, I think.

I'll tell you what, though. In the 1760s, the British Empire was overextended, underfunded, and fighting on too many fronts. The Stamp Act of 1765 was their attempt to raise money by taxing the crap out of the colonies, including taxes on stationary, newspapers, playing cards, and dice. The American colonies felt they were taxed unfairly and the building resentment eventually led to the Revolutionary War. That's an explanation I feel more comfortable with.

On an only slightly related subject, in 1795 the British government again tried to raise money by levying a tax on hair powder. Anyone who was anyone wore a wig, and even many servants, and so hair powder was a necessity- or so they thought. Instead, in an ironic twist, wigs went out of fashion overnight.

I've rambled long enough! Good night, Happy Holidays, and I'll write again soon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Monster School!
This is definitely a dull chapter for me to draw, and I'm having trouble trudging through it. Seems that whenever Allan and Stephen are together they become nothing but talking heads. Partly for the lack of reference photos for the background, partly because this story isn't titled The Adventures of Allan & Stephen. It could be.
 Stephen could be Watson to Allan's Sherlock Holmes. They could have adventures in the social scene of 1760s London. It would be a farce, since Allan's only genius lies in making trouble. That could make a fun spinoff if I had time for it, which I don't.

I get so many ideas. I was saying the other day that I would like to see a comic or D&D campaign where all the characters are monsters. I'm a bit miffed about characters like Drizzt Do'Urden and his mad sword skillz. It's like he was born to be a ranger-paladin, and the only thing standing in the way is a bit of excess skin pigmentation. I like to see characters work for their achievements, instead of starting with them. You can say the conflict lies in being accepted as a drow ranger-paladin, but if that's the crux he would spend more time in diplomacy and less time f'ing fighting.

The conversation then segued into the various problems with matriarchal societies in fantasy literature, and veered back toward several variations on a monster-based campaign or comic.

I settled on two semi-related ideas; a D&D campaign where the PCs are monsters bent on achieving an unsuitable character class. Drizzt is uber-powerful; but what if a kobold wants to be a paladin? Who's going to take them seriously? Or a gelatinous cube? (Can that even happen?) How do they assemble a party, convince the other monsters, and keep adventurers from killing them out of hand on their path to herohood?
The other, somewhat related idea, was a comic about a school for monsters. Not training for villains, not Hogwarts, but the aim of the school is to raise monsters from 0 level to something a Hero wouldn't be ashamed to fight, and use them to stock dungeons or something. Call it their "final exam." But really, I'd focus on the fun and bizarre high school life of the assorted characters in monster school, who are unaware of their fate.

Yeah, I don't have time for that either, but it would be fun! I hope someone writes one. I'd read it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stephen for once
I feel for Stephen, I really do. We enjoy enforced social interaction about as much as having a tooth pulled. And we're the same height, but that matters more to him, of course.

I had a strange thought of the three of them in a modern apartment. Allan and Paddon were playing on the Wii or Xbox and Stephen was texting on his phone. Still in their 18th century clothes, too. It was amusing, so I thought I would share.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In which I review several Regency books

I have to agree that most women of Regency Romance are quite silly. I've read several of them recently, though it's not my usual thing.

Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners-
Misrepresented. Unhelpful. No substance. 1/5 stars.

Georgette Heyer's Regency World-
One Word: YES. Just the thing for any writer interested in the Regency period. Too bad it's 50 years too late for me.

Kiss Me, Annabel by Eloisa James- It wasn't the title that forced me to read this book, it was the first two sentences. "The day the Scotsman came to Lady Freddrington's ball, Annabel's sister decided to give him her virtue, and Annabel decided not to give him her hand in marriage. In neither case had the Scotsman indicated a particular interest in undertaking such intimate activities with an Essex sister, but his participation was taken for granted."

As an opening, I found the snark irresistible. As a book, I preferred the Regency half to the romance half, but that's a matter of taste. The author knew the period, and the characters were interesting and entertaining. As Regency romance goes, it's about as good as they get.

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer. Fun, funny, witty, and I don't have to skim past all the awkward smutty scenes. Makes me want to go back to the library and get more of her books. I even came to like the whiny Laurence by the end of the book. I expected he would be maneuvered into marrying; but no. Way to foil my expectations, Heyer! Do that again!

Anthony Adverse- Another thumbs down. I read several chapters and in the end consulted Wikipedia to find out when the title character would appear. The beginning of the book is apparently about A.A.'s parents. I could see his mother was a complete ninny; and his father meant to run away with her, but they end up trysting instead, for an extended while, meeting secretly for weeks; until A.A.'s father is killed by the jealous husband. Totally had it coming. Didn't finish the book.....

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Circulating libraries
I skipped Chapter 8 and started on 9 because I was having so much trouble with writing 8. But as soon as I did, the problems started resolving themselves, at least a little bit. It's better to put first things first.... so I'm halting 9 and posting 8, so long as it cooperates. Conversations that refer back to the events in 8 will make more sense that way.

The other problem I'm running into is that I lack reference photos and background shots and general information for town life. Most of what I can find dates to 1800-1850, and there's a HUUUGE amount of difference between the time periods. Look at a family photo album from the 1960s. How bout those beehive 'dos? That kind of difference. Or imagine taking a guidebook printed in the 1960s, and trying to tour New York with it. That kind of difference.

As for this page, I'm not much good at drawing horses (any 8 year old girl could do as well), and I'm not so sure about carriages either. The person driving DID ride one of the horses, rather than a bench on the front of the carriage, as later in the 1800s. Top hats weren't in use yet. That's the Stanhope crest circa 1800 on the side of the carriage. Yes, it's a private carriage and not a rented one. Remember Mr. Bennett's comment in Pride and Prejudice about needing the carriage horses for the fields? The Stanhopes don't have that problem.

Okay, on to circulating libraries! Books were expensive. Few people would own many, although those who were rich and so inclined might take pride in having a huge private library. In the early to mid 1700s, circulating libraries started to spring up. As a member, you could read the latest news and borrow books, all for a hefty quarterly fee. There were only a handful at this time, so he's excited to see one here. As time went on the idea really gathered steam, and by 1800 there were over a hundred in London alone.

Libraries were not just there to loan books; people went there to socialize as well, and the hefty fee made certain those people were "the right sort." Women were permitted. When you consider all the places they were NOT welcome (clubs, bars, hotels, banks, moneylenders), it's no wonder they flocked to the libraries, even if they were derided for preferring novels to more edifying literature.

I was not able to find out how these circulating libraries kept track of memberships. Will Allan have to pay to make it in the door, or just if he tries to borrow a book? I assume he bluffed his way in. I also assume that if I can't find out, my readers probably won't know either. If you do, though, speak up.

Last paragraph, then I'll stop boring you: at work this week, appraised several Masonic books (one in cipher) and a library book from 1860 titled Memoirs of the Pretenders. (link to the Ebay auction). I actually knew what was meant by the Pretenders, so it was fun to be in on the joke.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Love and a black eye
Notice Allan's proud, chagrined expression. He really shouldn't have fought that common fellow, and he knows he's going to hear about it later.

Also, about the manhandling:

I've noticed something about men; when they express affection, it's often accomplished through harassment. I would say "mild harassment" but sometimes it isn't so mild. Depends if you understand the subtext or not. My husband says this is a trait of immature males, but I'm not so sure.

Women and girls tend to express affection through nurturing and efforts to please. Take a cat; a woman will feed and stroke it, and scratch the sweet spot under the chin to make it purr. A man might ruffle its fur, tweak its tail, attack its belly, generally tease it, and laugh at its indignant expression.

Men who are good friends might trade casual insults as a greeting. If two women do that, there's nothing casual about it and you'd better break it up before they start pulling hair.

We know boys tease the girl they like. I can also attest that young fathers like teasing their toddlers, chasing them around the house, tickling them til they scream, and issuing various playful threats, from "I'm gonna get you!" to "I'll sell you to the gypsies!" Which just goes to show how early we learn to equate male aggression with affection- if you take these threats at face value, they're pretty disturbing.

With this understood, catcalls such as "You so foooiiiine!" can be understood. I guess. At least the subsequent "I was giving you a compliment, bitch!" can be chalked up to the difference between Venus and a very primitive Mars. But that veers over into control and aggression more than affection.

But back to my topic. Is Allan manhandling Siloen a sign of affection, like teasing a cat? Or a show of aggression and control, since Sally wounded his pride? Or perhaps, practically speaking, he's trying to keep her from picking his pockets.

Not that Allan isn't an insensitive jerk, but there's a lot of cultural conditioning involved.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Green moppet

One senses there must be more to the story. I won't make you wait long for it.

If, by any chance, you enjoy my comic and want to make my season bright, check out the things I have for sale on Ebay. I wish I could say I'd blow the money on something fun and outrageous, but the truth is my water heater has been making some amazing noises and needs to be replaced.

I just posted the first of this week's updates, and I'm listening to disaster documentaries while I start sketching on next weeks. Those still cheer me up.
Bonus sketch