October 2010


Another eclectic round-up of links which may or may not be useful to your research.

Erastes says that she wishes this had been available when she was writing Transgressions, as Jonathan from that book was partially inspired by 17th century Puritan writer Nehemiah Wallington:

Journal of the Witchfinder General

A whole bunch of links to articles on io9.  I follow this blog because I’m a big Science-fiction and Fantasy fan, but they also occasionally come up with some fascinating historical trivia, and today was obviously a good day for it, as they have articles on:

18th/19th Century coffin technologies that protect you from being buried alive

Eerie listening – the theremin (invented in 1920)

55,000 years ahead of their time – a group of early humans in South Africa

And I’ve been noodling around looking for sites with information about society’s attitude to homosexuality during World War Two, for my next book, and came up with these:

Wikipedia, while not a good place to rely on, is often a good place to start, and I thought this was at least a nice succinct summary:

Timeline of LGBT history

And then I got distracted reading about The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, which was interesting in itself and convinced me that moving to Paris might be a better post war strategy for my lads than staying at home.

This seemed like a good book for anyone researching for a WW2 story set in Canada:

Paul Jackson. One of the Boys: Homosexuality in the Military during World War II.

And this looked like an absolute godsend for me, with my story set in my back yard around Mepal and Witcham in the UK:

BBC – WW2 People’s War, an archive of WW2 memories, written by the public, gathered by the BBC

particularly when it contained this:

A Gay Soldier’s Story “They used us when it suited them, and then victimised us when the country was no longer in danger. I am glad I served but I am angry that military homophobia was allowed to wreck so many lives for over 50 years after we gave our all for a freedom that gay people were denied”, said Cave.

Folks, I have been mulling about writing this post for some time now. Thinking I really need to speak up about it, but then pushing it away for fear that I might offend some of my online friends. But I kept coming back to the fact that by not speaking out about it, I am basically doing the same thing that I am about to accuse others of doing. That is, standing by and being silent because it serves my own interest.

So I’m about to tell you what has been troubling me. Now first of all, I completely understand why writers use pseudonyms to protect themselves and keep their private lives private. I have no problem with that at all. There are crazy people out there and it is wise not to put all your personal information on the Internet. But what I don’t understand is how some writers of gay-themed literature are so ashamed of what they write that they keep it secret from everybody in their private lives. Online, under a cloak of anonymity they are as proud as peacocks of their literary achievements, but privately they keep it hidden, feeling that it would be so humiliating if anyone found out that they write about gay love. And then I read blogs from these writers (again under pseudonyms) fuming about the injustices to gay people. They rant and rave about every suicide, every anti-gay politician, and every anti-gay referendum. That’s great. But I have a morbid suspicion that these same writers, so bold online yet privately so ashamed of the novels they have penned, are saying NOTHING in defense of gay rights to their families, friends and co-workers. That really steams me. Those who oppose us probably don’t have a whole lot of respect for anonymous bloggers, but they would be forced to re-evaluate their opinions if someone they knew personally stood up and challenged them.

Perhaps some of this shame has to do with the stigma attached to romance novels in general, and I’m sure there are writers of straight romance who conceal their professions as well, so it might be that this shame was partially inherited.

Recently there was a big brouhaha when LiveJournal temporarily allowed cross-posting of locked posts. I remember one writer getting very upset and said if anybody at her job found out she wrote gay books, she could lose her job. Really? Of course everyone I work with knows what I write and publish, but if I were in her shoes and my employer found out I write gay books and then fired me for it, I’d get a lawyer (Lambda Legal is ready and willing) and sue his ass for discrimination! I’m sorry, but keeping silent in the workplace while your co-workers are freely spouting their anti-gay rhetoric because you might lose your precious job is, in my humble opinion, cowardly.

Okay there I’ve said it. Now if you are a writer who is closeted about what you write but are still vociferous about gay rights, then I give you a pass, though I still think if you are ashamed of your work, then why bother, unless it is just to pay the bills, in which case I’d have to say you are merely prostituting yourself. I hope I’ve given some food for thought and haven’t offended anybody. But if I did, I can’t apologize for it, because I truly believe it needed to be said.

Well, it’s still Friday in my part of the world at least!

Here’s a lovely 18th Century medical text digitised by Google books:

Medical essays and observations by the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh

Lots of amusing snippets from late 19th Century to early 20th Century newspapers, which you can follow on Twitter.  What a sad world we live in nowadays that has no teams of trained sturgeons to pull our boats!

Tweets of Old

I’ve read many books set in Anglo-Saxon England that would have benefited from the author having access to this list.  There’s almost nothing more jarring to me than a 10th/11th century character with a name from the wrong era or race.

List of Saxon (Englisc), Viking (Norse), Norman and Welsh names.

Will nobody write me an Etruscan m/m romance?  They were the more liberal, happy go lucky, artistic predecessors to the Romans, and seem like a nice people to have belonged to.  Here’s a good site to start you off on them:

The Mysterious Etruscans.

And as I’ve had a number of reviews complaining that the reader can’t make head or tail of some of my nautical dialogue in False Colors, here’s a nice list of nautical terms that should make everything clear.

Useful Nautical Terms

If anyone has any other interesting historical links they would like to share, do comment with them!  We want to try and keep this up indefinitely, so we’re probably going to need your help :)

I love the elegant houses of Washington or Grammercy Square. And I have books of photographs depicting the buildings along Broadway covered with placards advertising coal merchants and cigar makers. I enjoy imagining the bustling streets with the street cars, pushcarts, wagons vying for space. Traffic wasn’t so noisy you couldn’t hear the vendors and newsboys shouting.

But never mind all the daily life of the good citizens. For some reason, I really enjoy all that antique crime. From a distance, of course.

(more…)

During the week, the members of the Macaronis yahoo group are forever coming across interesting things in the course of their researches.  We decided that it would be a good idea to share these interesting articles with the readers of the blog.  There is no particular rhyme or reason to these links, it’s just a tossed salad of fascinating things.  Dive in at will, and hopefully there will be something here to inspire or amuse you.

Threads of Feeling – an article about identifying tokens left with abandoned children at London Foundling hospital:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/oct/09/foundling-hospital-museum-threads-feeling

No sniggering now chaps, but this must surely fit into someone’s plot:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8015180/MI6-used-bodily-fluids-as-invisible-ink.html

Jeremy Brett in frogging.  Authentic military uniform or just an excuse to brighten up your day?  You decide:

http://adistantsoil.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/3202463.jpg

Wonderful clip of a 1920’s polo match:

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=21757

50 greatest works of GLBT literature?

http://www.accreditedonlinecolleges.com/blog/2010/50-greatest-works-of-lgbt-literature/

The medical perils of a life at sea in the 19th Century

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1316428/19th-century-Royal-Navy-medical-journals-reveal-perils-life-sea.html

Transgender Memoir of 1921 Found

OutHistory.org includes a main entry on the manuscript discovery at:

Earl Lind (Ralph Werther-Jennie June): The Riddle of the Underworld,
1921

http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Earl_Lind_(Ralph_Werther-Jennie_June):_The_Riddle_of_the_Underworld,_1921

Additional entries about Lind are on OutHistory.org at:

Earl Lind: The Cercle Hermaphroditos, c. 1895

http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Earl_Lind:_The_Cercle_Hermaphroditos,_c._1895

Ronald Sell: Encountering Earl Lind, Ralph Werther, Jennie June

http://www.outhistory.org/wiki/Ronald_Sell:_Encountering_Earl_Lind,_Ralph_Werther,_Jennie_June

I was never one to get excited about writing historical stories. I had an idea knocking around in my gray matter for years, but simply could not get any motivation behind it to actually develop the idea into anything substantial. WWII prisoner-of-war stories had been done and redone. Why do another one?

But then I came across John Toland’s The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire. It is a soup to nuts account of the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and every major battle and military decision made until the surrender, all told from the Japanese point of view. I found it riveting. It literally changed how I saw history in a major way. In fact, I now believe that it was the boobs in Washington who were responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was in the pages of Toland’s book where I realized that the value, at least for me, in writing an historical novel would be to approach it in such a way as to bring a fresh perspective to history that hadn’t been done before, at least not in my culture. That was the key element that had been missing in my thinking.

Toland convinced me to develop my POW story with a voice that equally presented both the American and the Japanese sides, being sympathetic to both, understanding the motivations of each, unbiased.

As I began to map out the story that would eventually turn into my second novel, The Lonely War, I realized that with this balanced perspective, the enemy was not American, English, German or Japanese. The only enemy in my story is war itself.

In researching WWII for my story, I read over two dozen books, stories like Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance, Boulle’s Bridge On The River Kwai, and Clavell’s King Rat. The only book I read that came close to this balanced point of view was Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quite On The Western Front. In that novel, war was the enemy, but even Remarque’s story only presented the tale from the German side.

The main thing I learned while writing the unbiased war story, is that when one goes about presenting history in a way that has not been done before, one grows beyond one’s own boundaries of thought. A new perspective allowed me to develop intellectually, and I suspect, at least I hope, that my novel does the same for my readers as well.

So now I try to apply that idea with all my writing, historic and contemporary, to stretch to find a different angle to tell the story so as to bring a fresh perspective. I suppose this idea might be simplistic to most fine writers of historical fiction, but I must confess it was a revelation to me.

Alan Chin

The news recently has been so full of heartbreaking stories of kids taking their own lives because of bullying they’ve received because of their sexuality. I wanted to share some good news for a change.

Here in the UK we have a government body called the Equalities Office. This has “responsibility within Government for equality strategy and legislation. GEO takes the lead on issues relating to women, sexual orientation and transgender equality matters.”

This year, the Equality Bill began to roll out, simplifying. amalgamating and extending existing equalities law.

What does this mean in practice? Here’s an example -
For a transgender person, “You will be protected against discrimination and harassment by your employer or a service provider because you are a transsexual person. You will also be protected from discrimination and harassment, for example, by a teacher at school, by someone exercising a public function (such as policing), or by a private club.
You will also be protected from indirect discrimination, where an apparently neutral rule, policy or practice particularly disadvantages transsexual people and cannot be justified.”

You can’t legislate against people’s attitudes, but one step at a time…

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