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6/04/23 | Main | Guns & Marijuana: States Rights vs. The Federal Leviathan
June 04, 2023

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 06-04-2023 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]


Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading. Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material. As always, pants are required, especially if you are wearing these pants...

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, sprinkle some bacon bits on your omelet, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


The Long Room at the Library of Trinity College is often featured among lists of the world's most beautiful libraries, and rightly so. It houses over 200,000 books, including the Book of the Kells, one of the most famous manuscripts of the four Gospels from the Bible in existence. The Library of Trinity College is distinct in a few other respects as well. It serves as the national repository for all works published in Ireland and the UK, somewhat similar to the Library of Congress. The Long Room itself used to only be a single story, but because of the influx of works, it had to be expanded upwards to accommodate all those books and manuscripts.


TheJamesMadison has a new book being released this week:

colonial-nightmare.jpg It's called Colonial Nightmare, and I've included the plot summary below as well as an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/45Bv2UU.

When George Washington was 21 years old, he went on a dangerous mission into the wilds of the Ohio River Valley to deliver a message from the Virginia colonial governor to a French military base, Fort Le Boeuf, a message to prevent war between England and France. The journey was harrowing and dangerous as Washington, joined by frontiersman Christopher Gist and Iroquois leader Tanacharison, also called the Half-King, braved the bitter cold of an unforgiving winter.

Washington wrote of his journey as a report to the governor, but he gave an incomplete portrait of the goings on of his journey, for he was attacked. He was attacked by something he could not explain. Something not of the New World but of the Old. Something that had preyed upon innocent for centuries. Something that scared him so much that he refused to report it to anyone.

Here, for the first time, is the full account of the colonial major's journey. Far more than an act to prevent conflict between nations, it became a conflict that pitted evil against a man unlike any other, a man who had the potential within him to lead a nation.


David (TJM)

Comment: I've always enjoyed the premise of a historical character becoming enmeshed in a wild story that has never been told. Many episodes of Doctor Who revolve around this premise. Other authors have used this to fun effect, such as Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, in which a young Abe Lincoln confronts the "truth" behind the Civil War. George Washington is inarguably America's greatest President. He was a towering force in establishing the United States of America. Is it any wonder he might face danger and evil beyond the ken of normal men?


We also have an update on Hans G. Schantz' Kickstarter project, The Wise of Heart:


Sorry for the late breaking news, but I've had a bit of an adventure that might be appropriate for the Sunday Book Thread.

Reviewed and approved by Kickstarter before launch, The Wise of Heart crowdfund campaign was fully funded at the original $3000 target, well on the way to a $6000 stretch goal, and less than a week from closing when Kickstarter abruptly changed their mind and tried to cancel the project on Wednesday. Ironic that a fictional depiction of the thought police suppressing discussion of transgenderism was itself suppressed.

Here's some of the press the cancellation has received:

Fox News

The Blaze

Bounding Into Comics

My public statement is here

We're back up and running at an alternate site, and while it's been a bit of a distraction, the publicity has been a net positive. We've made up all the lost pledges, and last night we broke through the stretch goal to unlock the audio book. Anyone who was looking to pledge through Kickstarter but had their pledge rejected can visit the new crowdfund site HERE







One thing about character motivations I've noticed in recent years saddens me a lot.

We seldom see characters motivated by honor, at least not in contemporary settings. And even in historicals they usually tack on something about protecting the innocent or getting revenge.

Example: in Dumas's Three Musketeers (and the magnificent 1970s film) the Musketeers are motivated solely by honor. They are fighting to preserve the Queen's honor -- even though they are at the same time fighting a war against forces backed by her family and the guy she was having an affair with! A Musketeer defends a lady's honor, period.

Posted by: Trimegistus at May 28, 2023 09:25 AM (QZxDR)

"Honor" can be found in virtually every genre of literature, though expressions of honor can be subtle and difficult to spot unless you are looking for them. Consider a romance novel, for instance. Can characters in a romance be motivated by honor? Of course! A love triangle may form in which a woman is caught between the affections of two men, one of whom she's married to and does not love, while the other has captured her heart. It would dishonor her husband to carry on an affair with her paramour, so she must make difficult decisions about how far she will go with her extra-marital affair. Perhaps the two men have a previously existing friendship as well, and while the lover would like to have an affair with his friend's wife, he knows it would betray that friendship. In fact, numerous early medieval romances explored this very dynamic in relationships through the code of chivalry knights were expected to obey (e.g., King Arthur, Queen Guenevere, and Sir Lancelot).

"Honor" as a motivation shows up quite frequently in many of the epic fantasy stories I read, as many of them rely on characters adhering to a rigid code of behavior. Culture (even fantasy culture) can play an important role in shaping a character's perceptions of honorable behavior. Rand Al'Thor from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is a great example. He was raised in a small farming community by a loving surrogate father who adopted him when he was a baby. His basic values involve an appreciation for hard work and caring for his fellow villagers. When he leaves the farm to go on an adventure, he is mentored by a warrior from the Borderlands who schools Rand on the values of strength, courage, and other herioc virtues he'll need. Finally, he adopts the ways of his original parentage when he meets the Aiel, an even more hardcore warrior culture that teaches him about their own ideas of honor and obligation. Time and time again, his personal notions of honor clash with the society and people around him, leading him to make difficult decisions that are necessary, but may seem cruel unless you know the full story behind his decision. For instance, at one point, the law requires him to condemn a traitorous noblewoman to death, but Rand is emotionally incapable of harming women (this is a HUGE plot point), so he sentences her to exile and banishment, seizing her lands and property. This is too much for her to bear, so she hangs herself, preferring death to exile. Her honor could not accept being reduced to living the live of a peasant.

Characters motivated by "honor" can be tricky, though it can also lead to interesting conflicts at the main characters have to sort through the ramifications of their actions according to the standards of honor within the culture in which they function.

In Servant of the Empire, for example, an important secondary character, Keyoke, loses his leg during a major battle. He defended the honor of his Lady and his house. According to the standards of his culture (loosely based on feudal Japan), the honorable thing to do would be to take his own life since he is no longer able to function as a warrior. However, a slave captured in battle has a different idea. In Kevin's culture (loosely based on feudal Europe), a wounded warrior can still serve honorably because he still has battle experience accumulated over many decades of service that can be of use to the house in their ongoing conflicts with other houses. Kevin is able to persuade Keyoke to accept this transition, even though it goes against everything Keyoke was trained to do, because Keyoke loves the Lady of his house as though she were his own daughter. Thus, love of family triumphs over love of honor.

P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath explores the concept of personal honor throughout the series. The main characters are often called upon to resolve "Honor's Paradox" which is where you have to decide where your honor lies. If your lord asks you to commit a dishonorable act, do you obey because you are honorbound to obey your lord's commands? Or do you find some way to fulfil the command that satisfies honor? Or do you call out your lord for their behavior? The characters are all bound by honor to never tell a lie, but naturally some characters are able to twist the truth to serve their ends, often with disastrous results. Much of the story involves uncovering various layers of the truth that have been hidden for decades or even millennia as a result of dishonorable actions. This is a very real issue, when you consider the fate of whistleblowers who are coming forward to denounce the FBI and other governmental organizations who are engaged in extremely dishonorable behavior (by normal standards).

What conflicts in honor have you seen in your favorite stories? Does honor get in the way of the story? Or does it drive the plot?



Most of my reading this past week was learning the rules to a new game system for a session on Friday evening. The game in question was Ars Magica, which came out in the 1990s and tried to address two problems the creators had with D&D: the power imbalance between wizards and guys-with-swords (wizards start out weaker, wind up vastly stronger, so either sword guys have to be nerfed at the start, or wizards get nerfed later on); and the lack of historical grounding.

The solution to the second problem was the simple, and universally applicable principle: "Just use Earth, ya big baby." So it's set in medieval Europe -- just one where all the fantastic folktale creatures are real and lurking just out of sight.

The first problem was solved by saying "screw it." Wizards are more powerful, so everybody either plays a wizard, or part of a wizard's team of non-magical sidekicks.

Fun stuff. You can see a lot of the Vampire RPG in AM's genetics -- the wizards belong to different orders, which get different power specialties and have certain character stereotypes, and they do a lot of pointless intriguing against each other. But overall enjoyable.

Posted by: Trimegistus at May 28, 2023 09:20 AM (QZxDR)

Comment: I've heard of Ars Magica but I didn't know it was created to try to fix the problem of "Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards." This is a common problem in fantasy storytelling, where the magic-using types tend to be vastly overpowered compared to their sword-wielding companions. I suppose one way to fix this is to make every major character have access to magical power of some sort.


My pleasant surprise this week was The Scarlet Circus, a romantic short story collection by Jane Yolen with the tales loosely based on fairy tale characters and elements: merfolk, dragons, the Sword in the Stone, genies, even adult Alice returning to Wonderland.

One story is about a slave finding a genie's bottle on the beach:

"I stared at the bottle. If I had any luck at all, the bottle had fallen from a foreign ship and its contents would still be potable. But then, if I had any luck at all, I would not be a slave in Arabia, a Greek sailor washed up on these shores, the same as the bottle at my feet. My father, who was a cynic like his father before him, left me with a cynic's name -- Antithias -- a wry heart, and an acid tongue, none proper legacies for a slave."

What follows is a charming love story between Antithias and the female genie inside the bottle.

Posted by: All Hail Eris, She Wolf of the 'Ettes 'Ettes at May 28, 2023 09:24 AM (+RQPJ)

Comment: Always nice when you can find a collection of short stories that resonate with you. Odd Magics by Moron Author Sarah A. Hoyt is another delightful collection of classic fairytales given a modern twist.


I am reading a short book (around 120 pages, with one quarter of them nothing but black and white photographs), Armour, A Lake Superior Fisherman, with text and photographs by the author, Peter Oikarinen. A native of Michigan's Copper Country and graduate of Michigan Tech in Applied Physics, Peter took up part time employment with Armour Sarkala, another Finn, who lived by Lake Superior and commercial fished its waters. All this occurred around the same time that I myself was a student at "Da Tech" (mid-70s), so I became engrossed in the stories told here. That my father's father and my father were engaged in commercial fishing made matters resonate even more for me.

Told in a series of short stories or vignettes, Armour's life prior to fishing and his tribulations as a small time operation in the increasingly restricted Lake Superior commercial fishing business served as the framework on which Peter hung his vivid descriptions of the weather, working conditions, camaraderie among the fisher folk and Finns, and life on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the second half of the Twentieth Century. His photographs nicely complement the text.

I liked this book and recommend it highly.

Posted by: Krebs v Carnot: Epic Battle of the Cycling Stars (TM) at May 28, 2023 10:05 AM (5pZqO)

Comment:Back in 2014, I took a work trip to the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan to visit Michigan Tech. It really is beautiful country up there. Well worth the trip--at least in the summertime. Winters can be pretty brutal due to lake-effect snow. Lots of interesting history in that region. Great fodder for any interested storytellers who want a bucolic locale for their stories.


The best answer to really dull "classics" required by teachers is the undeservedly obscure middle-school delight No More Dead Dogs, by the inimitable Gordon Korman (who published his first middle-school novel while still in middle school). Our hero simply will not lie about anything -- and he DIDN'T ENJOY HIS TEACHER'S FAVORITE BOOK! which gets him sentenced to the drama club production based on said book. Shenanigans begin, and they Do. Not. Stop. It's a wonderful little romp, which I used to recommend especially to the parents of boys who didn't like to read.

Posted by: werewife, princess of Delray Beach at May 28, 2023 10:52 AM (SPNTN)

Comment: I tend to feel we like to throw children into the deep end of literature without giving them the necessary understanding of *why* great literature is so great. We force them to read rich, complex texts but do not provide them the foundational knowledge they need to appreciate it to the fullest. Not sure I have a good answer for that, but forcing students to read works that they believe are dull or boring probably isn't doing them any favors. Maybe start with modern stories inspired by the classics and then work backwards?

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (798 Moron-recommended books so far!)



  • Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts -- Political intrigue continues as Mara Acoma strives to consolidate her legacy after defeating her most hated rival house.
  • Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts -- Tragedy strikes the Acoma household, sparking a potential civil war that threatens to tear the Empire asunder...

That's about all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your kind words regarding the Sunday Morning Book Thread. This is a very special place. You are very special people (in all the best ways!). The kindness, generosity, and wisdom of the Moron Horde knows no bounds. Let's keep reading!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, reading recommendations, or discussion topics that you'd like to see on the Sunday Morning Book Thread, you can send them to perfessor dot squirrel at-sign gmail dot com. Your feedback is always appreciated! You can also take a virtual tour of OUR library at libib.com/u/perfessorsquirrel. Since I added sections for AoSHQ, I now consider it OUR library, rather than my own personal fiefdom...

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 05-28-23 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)


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