A look at some history

A round-up of a few history-related posts, blogs and books.

On Britannica Blog is a three-part article on Why the Allies didn’t bomb the death camps (links: part 3,  part 2 and part 1). These excellent articles form part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s April-long feature about the Holocaust, whose main page (with associated links and multimedia features) is here

While on the Second World War, Becky of A Book a Week has just reviewed Night Watch by Sarah Waters (including a link to the Guardian review: I always like to compare different perspectives on the same book). I have bought this book — back in February for Cathy’s birthday — but have not yet read it. From Becky’s review I should move it higher up the pile.

The latest, and deserved, recipient of the Thinking Blogger award is Carla Nayland, who here recommends seven fascinating history-related blogs and an eighth, Wordcarving, which is the blog of the talented poet John Ahearn. Carla’s blog is, to me, a delight, focusing on Britain in the 5th to 10th centuries AD, but by no means exclusively. Her blog is an excellent example of how much one can expand one’s horizons via blogging– I probably would not pick up a whole book on this topic, but regularly read interesting articles about those ancient times, courtesy of Carla, though I can’t admit to having tried any of her recipes (yet?).

Moving further back still, Amy On the Web links to an amusing feature: If ancient Rome had the Internet. (I think the title would have been better in the pluperfect: "had had" but I’m an old quibbler).

Finally, I received my monthly email from the excellent History Bookshop, which bears the news that there is an extra 10 per cent off even their excellent prices for subscribers to their (free) e-newsletter. Not only is there a vast collection of history books about all eras and from all perspectives, but the website has the usual features of a timeline, quiz, articles, themes and "year view", when you can see what happened in the year of your choice.

ThrillerFest in July


It’s the biggest event in the thriller-writing calendar! Thursday through Sunday, July 12-15, 2007. Join us in celebrating the legendary career of the popular James Patterson as he receives the ThrillerMaster 2007 Award. Meet and mingle with more than 100 ITW authors, including 2006 ThrillerMaster Award Winner Clive Cussler along with our other Spotlight Guest authors Lisa Gardner, Vince Flynn, Heather Graham and Jeffery Deaver.

The above is from the ITW (International Thriller Writers) e-newsletter. Dave Lull sent me an article the other day about the birth of this organisation, which split from the Mystery Writers of America a few years ago. Its aims and how it is doing are described in the interesting article, "Operation Scribe", linked over at Librarian’s Place.

To find out more about ThrillerFest, here is a link to the meeting’s website that tells you all you could possibly need to know.

You can also go here to find out about CraftFest, (aka ITW thriller school!) a workshop on writing, on 12 July — teachers include Tess Gerritsen, M. J. Rose, Lee Child and other luminaries.

Science in fiction at Catbird

Here is an article (link: East Bay – News – Fiction Lab – eastbayexpress.com) about Catbird press, a San Francisco publisher that is "looking to turn local science into thrillers and local scientists into fiction authors". The first book to be published is called Forever and Ever: "The book’s main character is chief scientist at a drug-discovery company. Her life’s great passion is preimplantation embryo screening. Within the first few chapters, Baker has dropped phrases like "telomerase induction," "germ-line engineering," and "FDA approval process." The Bridges of Madison County this ain’t."

Several scientists are quoted as approving of the book for "getting the science right" (which does not, of course, guarantee a rip-roaring read), and Catbird is apparently intending to commission more books by Bay Area biotech and other scientists. From the article at the link above:

"You’re rarely going to get an academic to rail against his institution or provide some biting commentary about the granting process, or get a biotech or pharmaceutical person to describe their interactions with the FDA in any candid way, because that would be career suicide," Funk says. "But it’s important for the public to understand the way these interactions and negotiations occur at a level that would probably be best served by someone having at least an anonymous veneer between them and their words."

To this end, Catbird proposes two solutions: One is to encourage scientists to write under the veil of fiction, perhaps teaming them with creative writers. The other is the liberal use of pen names. "We’ll assign you a code name like ‘Goldfinger’ just for the pure hell of it and let everybody else figure out who you are!" Baker roars. In short, Catbird is looking for the next Anonymous to write the high-tech equivalent of Primary Colors."

For those interested in science-in-fiction, I also draw your attention to a longstanding member of Petrona’s blogroll, LabLit, which features articles, novels and stories, reviews, essays, blogs, advice, debating forums and more on "the culture of science in fiction and fact".