Forum Posts

Benjamin Dyson
Oct 29, 2019
In Atoz
I have not read this book but I loved this episode for just a couple of reasons (forgive my "as usual" half-formed thoughts....I don't re-read and revise these posts and I usually write on this forum after a long workday and a couple gin and tonics). First, I just want to echo one of the themes of the episode. I think MANY speculative fiction fans can relate to novels and stories sparking "real world" interest. Swamp thing and environmental awareness....Snow Crash and computer programming and social media.....Alistair Reynolds and physics (or politics), or even something more simple and ridiculous, like Conan the Barbarian and weightlifting (maybe thats more from the movie). I'm speaking generally here, not just for myself specifically. I do have a question though, which feels maybe more appropriate for the AGNUS forum but came up in this episode. It was mentioned that the period of the middle ages which the novel mimics (around 1000 - 1300 CE) formed the foundation of much of what we think of in terms of modern institutions (libraries, hospitals, governmental agencies I suppose). I think it was even posited that the modern age in many ways starts there. My first thought was, what about the Roman Empire that preceded all of that? I'm no historian, but as a lay person I've always thought of the middle ages as a period of re-discovery rather than innovation. Did the Romans not tackle these same issues of statehood and citizenship and the meaning of a nation? Didn't they go through the same process of redefining how government should function as the had to administer greater and more varied territory? Did the middle ages really form the foundation of the modern world or does may lay-view of that period as a "re-do" have validity? Interesting thoughts. Anyway, I look forward to reading this book one day based on the review and discussion. Great episode! Cheers, Ben
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Benjamin Dyson
Oct 05, 2019
In Agnus
This is not directly related to a specific episode, but I thought this was an appropriate forum to elicit some discussion about a history that I am reading. Has anyone here read SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard? It's been a long time since I've taken a history course or studied anything "classical." I've just started the book and I am finding it to be incredibly well-written in terms of being readable for a lay-person. Easy to digest etc. I can comment more as I read more, but I thought the history buffs in this forum might be tickled to debate the quality and writing style of the book. If I get through this one, I may continue to make a hobby of easing back into the autodidact lazy "pop" version of a classical education.
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Benjamin Dyson
Oct 05, 2019
In Agnus
I have yet another small post of half-formed thoughts. I very much enjoyed the most recent episode where you all covered a perspective on Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity. Full disclosure: I am neither an historian nor an academic. That being said, I found the proposal that the conversion of kingdoms was related to politicians/leaders making changes for expediency quite resonant for me when I think about history more broadly. There are numerous possible examples of political entities aligning themselves with religious leaders or movements to gain power (thinking the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Holy Roman Empire, modern political parties who pull support from religious movements). It's almost a wonder to me that this wasn't the baseline assumption: Kings don't convert and then change their peoples beliefs (at least not in every instance). Rather, savvy leaders sniff out bases of power and align themselves accordingly. And THEN impose those rules/morals on their people in turn. Fascinating stuff. Great episode!
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Benjamin Dyson
Aug 11, 2019
In Neil Gaiman
Small thought here as I am listening to the recent podcast on "THE SOUND OF WINGS." The Sandman story in general is about an unchanging character (Dream....literally "endless") who finds that he needs to change. Death being the ultimate change (even signifying change in the tarot from what I understand), I interpret this issue as laying the foundation for Dreams ongoing struggle with change. In this issue dream learns the basic lesson that death is part of what gives life meaning I think (though I know that's a super oversimple message perhaps). Without giving spoilers, I think that this issue specifically plants the seeds for the subtle mechanations that Dream goes through for the rest of the series. I think this is the issue where dream (perhaps subconsciously) realizes what he wants or needs to do across the broad arc of the entire series. Really enjoying re-reading this alongside you guys. Thanks so much for doing this! Maybe one day you'll go through Alan Moore's SWAMP THING issue by issue?
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Benjamin Dyson
Jun 17, 2019
In Elder Sign
A brief and only partly-formed thought follows: (also thoroughly pilfered and likely better described elsewhere by others) While listening to the most recent Elder Signs podcast I began to reflect on the strengths (and possibly the flaws, or at least common criticisms) of WHH's writing. Like many writers of his time he was dabbling in various writing forms, essentially looking for a "hit" with which to produce an income. It strikes me that the structure and variety (some would say the variable quality) of his broad literary legacy is probably somewhat reflective of his effort to combine or experiment with what we now know as genres and tropes. The Night Land, for example, is a science fantasy tale, somewhat in the tradition of contemporaries like HG Wells, but it's mashed together with this kind of "high romantic" language and characterization that was dated even for the time but was a throwback to older heroic stories. The Ghost Ships is (well-named) a mash-up of a seafaring adventure and a ghost story. Carnacki mixes ghost tales with detective fiction (sometimes leaning toward the supernatural, other times leaning toward the technical). I guess what I'm saying is that WHH may have been intentionally frankensteining together different types of tales he had read (either because he enjoyed them or thought they would sell) to see what would work. In a way I kind of read him now as a primordial hollywood hitmaker saying "what we really need now is a teen romance but with vampires and an axe-murderer." At his best he created seminal types of fiction. At worst, entertaining tales which have odd blips in the prose and lack of focus on characterization and motivations. Anyway, end of rant. Feel free to disagree or discuss!
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Benjamin Dyson
May 27, 2019
In Agnus
I've been interested in the history of the Islamic world since taking an intro class in undergrad. I just listened to Dr. Urban's episode of Agnus and found it to be absolutely fascinating. An interesting counterpoint to how I think of slavery (in a knee jerk way) as a white American male. Also an important reminder that the role of women in history can be different than we assume. I don't have a lot of smart discussion at this time, but I am hoping that Dr. Urban might return in the future to illuminate further topics on the history of Islam. In fact, I'd love to hear her discuss the structure of the royal court of the Caliph in the Umayyad vs. the Abbassid dynasties or something similar. Anyone else have interesting topics from the history of Islam that might be good Agnus episodes?
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Benjamin Dyson
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