Charles Darwin joins the blogosphere

Charles Darwin has started a blog. It is welcome, even essential, reading. From his first post ,"More than a marble Darwin could stand", written in the Natural History Museum cafe (photo at blog):

"I overheard that some American has had the nerve to make a film called Expelled traducing natural selection and championing something called ‘intelligent design’. I thought we had settled Mr Paley’s watchmaker nonsense in 1859.
I am used to bad reviews: I was much savaged in the press when I published The Origin of Species, but Expelled holds me responsible for a particularly vile chapter of genocide which occurred in the 1930s and 40s. I do not recall advocating genocide, indeed distinctly remember writing with anguish about the massacres of the Indians in South America during my voyage on HMS Beagle. Could it be that my critics have formed opinions about my work without actually reading it? Surely not." Read on, please do.
In his second post, Charles is reading today's Sunday papers. "I had assumed that with this modern society being so dependent on the work of scientists, that the newspapers would ring with their achievements. I was delighted to see The Observer (which was in print when I was alive for the first time) and fell on it with a glad cry…….Science is mentioned….in a story about a mother and baby infected with something called a ‘superbug’, although I cannot see what is super about a bacterium that has evolved immunity to most of the treatments we have against it. Given that penicillin was not used clinically until 1942, this I think shows that evolution does not need millennia to show its effects, especially when a population is subject to selective pressures. If I may use a phrase I overheard used by a seaman on HMS Beagle, creationists, ‘may take that and shove it up, mate! Sideways.’ "

This blog is a great discovery – plenty more in the same vein may be read there. I trust that Mr Darwin will have the energy to continue writing posts. I am glad to see that he has decided to blog on Nature Network, which means that you can visit his profile, make him a friend or contact, and follow his writings with ease.

Sunday Salon: heat and cold

Sunday SalonI am struck by how many second books in a series are set in the opposite season to the first — among those I've read, at any rate. I've recently finished Ann Cleeves's second Shetland Islands/Jimmy Perez novel, White Nights, for example, which is set in midsummer. In these northern climes, daylight never really ends; in an understated way the novel is permeated by the effect on the characters, who are overtired and internally disturbed by the lack of night's blackout. The first novel in the series, Raven Black, was set in the opposite season, where the metaphorical and literal darkness formed the contextual atmosphere for events.

This contrast of darkness with light (as John Harvey called one of his recent novels) is by no means unusual. The first two of Ake Edwardson's Chief Inspector Winter series do the same thing. Sun and Shadow took place in seedy, snow-ridden Stockholm (though there is a sunny Spanish interlude); its follow-up, Never End, was set in the intense heat of the Swedish holiday season. The next in the series, Frozen Tracks, I haven't read, but from the title it is going to be a return to the winter I imagine.

Asa Larsson's brilliant debut The Savage Altar (known to me as Sun Storm) is another winter chill story, as Rebecka Martinsson visits her childhood home in the dead of winter and uncovers a lot of nasty secrets buried in the snowdrifts. The second book, The Blood Spilt, takes place eighteen months later, starting out at Rebecka's law firm's midsummer party and describing events of that season.

Mari Jungstedt has also taken this route. Her highly recommended debut novel, Unseen, is set on the (Swedish, again) holiday island of Gotland in the summer; one of the angles is the pressure on the police to solve the crime quickly to protect the island's main revenue, its tourist trade. The follow-up, the equally good Unspoken, is set at the fag-end of the holiday season, and the colder climate is an apt setting for the bleakest of the novel's plot threads.

I am sure there must be other cases of alternating seasonal background, or perhaps it is just chance that I've come across so many of them in the past year or so of reading. Maybe it is a device that appeals to those writing about the North? 

Following from Kerrie's lead, I'll pick out some other reading-related posts from Petrona since the last Sunday Salon, for readers who don't follow the blog through the week, in case they are of interest:

(You can follow the links above or just scroll down.)