Waiting for Mandulis

Then bright Mandulis came from high Olympus

bearing his bright cheeks and walking by the right hand of Isis.

You boast how you provide for the people,

how day and night and all the seasons revere you

and call you kin, Breith and Mandulis,

stars, emblems of the gods rising in heaven.

– Paccius Maximus

(My own translation)

These lines come from a poem written by a Roman soldier named Paccius Maximus and painted on the wall of the temple to Mandulis at Kalabsha, in modern Sudan. We know very little about Paccius besides what he tells us in this and one other poem, but based on some clues he is believed to have been a local African officer in the late Roman army.

Mandulis, often associated with his twin brother Breith, was a Nubian sun god. It’s interesting to note how Paccius readily connected Mandulis with both the Olympian gods and the Egyptian goddess Isis, easily harmonizing Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and Nubian religious traditions. His poem gives us a glimpse at how culturally complex and interconnected the world of the Roman empire was.

But, as fascinating as Paccius’ poem is, it’s on my mind today for a different reason.

It snowed here last night. Again. That’s the fifth snowstorm we’ve had this March.

You see this stuff? You see it? I’m sick of it. I like winter just fine, but it’s time for this winter to be over.

Mandulis, wherever you are, we could really use you and your bright cheeks right now. Any time you want to come start providing for us people here, buddy. Any time. I’ll be waiting.

When the suckage just sucks too much.

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Favorite Kinds of Storytelling: Learning to Work Together to Solve Problems

There are some things that we can all pretty much agree are part of a good story, whether on the page or on the screen: compelling characters, an interesting setting, a well-crafted plot. These things are basic to most great stories. But then we have our own individual tastes, the particular things we hunger for and that make us excited about one story more than another.

The two of us have spent some time thinking about exactly what we most want out of stories. Here’s what we came up with.

Avengers How Do We Do This As a Team

Erik here. What I most want out of a story can be summed up as: Problem-Solving. I want to watch characters go through the process of confronting a problem, considering how to deal with it, and figuring out the best solution. I want to see not just the successful results but all the steps it took to get there. I want to know what the characters did, how it worked, and why it worked.

The obvious sort of story for me to go to is a mystery in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle / Agatha Christie tradition, where the narrative centers around a problem that needs to be solved and the climax comes with the detective meticulously explaining how they worked out that the vicar’s charwoman is actually the long-lost sister of Lady Dudsworthy and the poison was hidden in Colonel Flusterton’s peppermint lozenges.

But I also enjoy other kinds of stories that explore other kinds of problem-solving. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is full of problem-solving and process, from Gandalf working out the magic word to open the doors of Khazad-dum to Frodo and Sam donning orc armor to sneak across Mordor. My favorite part of the novel is the Council of Elrond, when our heroes sit down and spend a chapter just talking about the problem, possible solutions, and the limits of their options, rather than rushing off into heroic battle. Jane Austen’s novels also offer a kind of problem-solving, especially my favorites Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Even though the problems are about relationships and social interactions, Austen’s characters approach them with the same attention to what is possible, what is not, and how to best go about achieving their goals.

On tv, I love shows like Leverage and Burn Notice that focus on the practical details of how their characters pull of heists or get out of scrapes. I also enjoy shows that focus on the processes of problem-solving in more human, less technical terms, like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. Some of the movies I enjoy the most combine solving practical problems with working out conflicts between people, like The Avengers and Pacific Rim.

 

Eppu here. My favorite story moments involve a bunch of characters learning to work together. I haven’t yet found a good existing name to describe the device with. The closest ones I’ve found are We Work Well Together (a trope) and team building, but both have a slightly different focus. For the lack of a better term I’m calling mine Learning to Work Together.

Specifically, what I like is the hard-to-capture process of the characters realising (usually after a struggle or struggles) how to fit into a working whole all the separate strengths that each person brings. Optimally, of course, it will be a well-working whole at least from the point of view of plot. It’s nice if the characters will end up at least appreciating if not outright liking each other, too, even if there might be tense moments. At the very least they will have to deal with each other well enough to fulfill their goal(s).

Many ensemble stories tack on a sequence of Learning to Work Together to explain how the characters become a unit after they find each other. Some devote more time and effort into it, but for others the process of getting to know your teammates is more or less handwaved aside to make space for the all-important plot. While plot is necessary, I don’t think it should override everything else: I’m looking for a balanced story—preferably with a good heaping of Learning to Work Together.

Some favorite screen examples include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Hunger Games, Marvel’s The Avengers, and the series Leverage (although arguably the latter might better fit under We Work Well Together). One of the reasons I ended up liking Pacific Rim much more than I expected was the attention that was given to the formation of team Raleigh and Mako, with Pentecost hovering at the rim. (Badum-CHING! [Sorry!])

Satisfyingly protracted versions are shown in the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Elementary. While Murdoch Mysteries concentrates more on the problem-solving aspect, now and then recurring side characters or one-off visitors get wonderful sequences of Learning to Work Together. And, come to think of it, several of my favorite Doctor Who episodes involve the characters figuring out who the others are and how to interact with them effectively (“42”, “Blink”, “Silence in the Library”, and “Midnight” to mention a few).

Examples in novels and novellas that I’ve read recently include A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy, Malka Older’s Centenal Cycle, and Kate Elliott’s Crossroads series also sprinkle in many instances of Learning to Work Together whenever characters make new connections.

 

The best stories for the two of us to co-geek over as a couple are stories about groups of people learning to work together in order to solve problems. When we sit down to rewatch a favorite tv series or reminisce about our favorite books together, we go back to the stories about how different people can come together, learn to respect and trust one another, and use their own individual talents to work through a problem that none of them could solve on their own.

Made into a sound bite, Erik’s favorite stories are about “How do we do this?” and Eppu’s favorites are about “As a team.”

Image: screenshot from the 2012 Marvel movie The Avengers

Creative Differences is an occasional feature in which we discuss a topic or question that we both find interesting. Hear from both of us about whatever’s on our minds.

Top Five Posts for 2017

Another year is behind us, and what a year it was. Here are the 2017 posts that got the most views. Most of them are from our How to Helsinki series in the run-up to Worldcon75 in Helsinki in August:

  1. How to Helsinki: Concerning Finns Erik’s post about Finnish culture and how to be a good visitor to Finland
  2. What Makes a Fantasy World Feel European? Erik’s reflections on geography, history, culture, and why some fantasy worldbuilding feels like a recreation of Europe
  3. How to Helsinki: Getting around Helsinki Eppu’s detailed and user-friendly guide to navigating around Helsinki
  4. How to Helsinki: Resources by Worldcon 75 Staff Eppu’s list of helpful info and links provided by the staff of Worldcon 75
  5. How to Helsinki: Sauna, That Scary-Hot Room Full of Naked Eppu’s introduction to the Finnish sauna for those who have never experienced it before

Some posts from previous years have remained popular as well. Here’s the overall list of top five posts people read in 2017, some of them from a year or two back:

  1. Do-It-Yourself Fantasy Place Name Generator Erik’s basic system for creating fictitious place names (from 2015)
  2. How to Helsinki: Concerning Finns Erik’s post about Finnish culture and how to be a good visitor to Finland
  3. What Makes a Fantasy World Feel European? Erik’s reflections on geography, history, culture, and why some fantasy worldbuilding feels like a recreation of Europe
  4. Sean Bean on the LotR Joke in The Martian Eppu shares a short transcript from an interview with Sean Bean by Yle, the Finnish national broadcast company (from 2015)
  5. Hogwarts Dueling Club Tablecloth Transformed into Wall Hanging Eppu shares an eye-catching Harry Potter craft project found online (from 2016)

Thanks for stopping by. We hope you enjoyed reading our posts as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Messing with numbers is messy.

 

On Unacceptable Behavior on Co-Geeking

On one hand, I cannot believe I need to state this explicitly; on the other, I cannot believe I didn’t think it needed to be stated explicitly. This is, after all, the Internet…

***

With one notable exception (see bigotry rule, below), no-one has or will be excluded from commenting on Co-Geeking for their opinions. Debating views that don’t line up with ours can be stimulating, but we refuse to play pigeon chess. This is because discussion is impossible when one party either hijacks the discussion, refuses to listen, or condescends to or mocks the others. If you ignore a boundary we set, you’re done here. We call this the behavior rule.

Now, everyone can have a bad day, which is why we give people some leeway. Repeatedly ignoring social clues in the first stage and explicit policy statements in the second stage, however, will get you banned. The only acceptable response after being called out on boundary-transgressing behavior is to stop. No means no.

And then the exception: If you think a person or a whole group of people are inferior solely due to their perceived race or ethnicity, sex or gender, orientation, religion, or the like, and proceed to flaunt your prejudice within our social media presence, we will ban your biased ass to the moon and back. This is because beliefs which cause harm to others need not be tolerated and we as the individuals running this blog are not obligated to give a platform to anybody. We call this the bigotry rule.

Comments are closed.

Announcements from your hosts.

You Belong Here

Co-Geeking is about the things we love: history, art, science fiction, fantasy, language, and so on. It is not about contemporary politics. We would rather just tend our geeky garden than get involved in the affairs of the big world outside.

But sometimes contemporary politics comes blundering through your garden gate and plomps itself down right on top of your petunia bed. And sometimes it proceeds to crap all over your tomatoes and puke on your antique roses. Then you gotta say something, so we’re saying it.

If you’re feeling threatened, worried, angry, or sad about the upsurge of hatred we’re seeing in current events, we’re with you. If you’re someone who loves the things we love but your history classes, SFF conventions, or geeky blogs made you feel like you didn’t belong, you belong here. If you’ve ever felt left out because of your race, religion, gender, orientation, or any other part of your identity, or if you’ve seen that kind of exclusion happen to someone you care about, we’re with you. If you don’t see yourself in the books, movies, tv shows you love, know that we want to see you there, too. If anyone has ever told you are wrong, bad, or dangerous just because of who you are, where you come from, or how you live your life, we stand with you.

Screw the fascists, racists, xenophobes, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, homophobes, sexists, transphobes, and all other flavors of bigot. Screw the people who believe that they are better than other people because of arbitrary details like race, religion, ancestry, sexuality, or gender. Screw the people are afraid of others just because of who they are. And double screw the ones who think that history supports their brand of hatred, or that they can drag it into the kind of stories we love, with a side of get stuffed.

We are in this together. Those who want to divide us will fail. Hatred and fear will fail. As we co-geeks carry on with our usual business of posting about interesting facets of history and squeeing over the latest movie trailers, know that we are here for you.

Babylon 5 s1 ep5 The Parliament of Dreams Selected Screencaps.
Selected screencaps from the Babylon 5 season 1 episode 5, “The Parliament of Dreams”, showcasing Earth’s dominant belief system: pluralism. (Delenn: What sort of demonstration does he have planned? Ivanova: He just said it’d showcase Earth’s dominant belief system. Sinclair: This is Mr. Harris. He’s an atheist. Mr Rosenthal, an Orthodox Jew. Sawa of the Jivaro tribe. Ms. Yamamoto, a Shinto. Ms. Naljo, a Maori…)

If want to get away from the problems of the big world for a little while, our garden is open. If you want to talk about what’s going on these days and how that relates to the art, stories, and history we love, we’re here for that, too. You belong here.

Image: Selected screencaps from the Babylon 5 season 1 episode 5, “The Parliament of Dreams”.

Announcements from your hosts.

Two Years of Co-Geeking

The Two Towers

Epsiode II: Attack of the Clones

Our two chief weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…

… and two years of Co-Geeking.

We’ve been at this now for two years since we started on June 1 of 2015 and we’re still having fun. After our first year of figuring out what we want this blog to be about and how we want to do it, in our second year we’ve used our site to do what we can to promote some projects that are important to us, like the publication of Hidden Youth and the upcoming Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

Here’s a look at what’s been important to us in the past year:

Favorite posts

Eppu: Appropriately, I have a twofer: 20 Fantasy Worlds to Visit and Down with Dull Dystopias. The former lists historical and fantasy novels I’ve liked or would like to try; the latter is a rant-ish opinion on the lack of humanity and empathy in my (then) recent reading.

Erik: Why Hidden Youth Matters to Me. I’m very proud to have a story included in Hidden Youth, but I’m also proud to have been a part of making that collection happen, regardless of my participation in it. In this post I talk about why, and why inclusiveness is important to me as a historian and a professor.

Our two chief weapons

(a favorite geeky thing that happened this year)

Erik: I’ll admit, I’m going to be predictably selfish on this one and say the publication of Hidden Youth. Not only is it a wonderful collection with a tremendous scope in style and setting, it’s my first professionally published fiction. How can I not be excited about that?

Eppu: The release of Arrival. It was doubly welcome because it’s a thoughtful adaptation of a nuanced story (the 1998 “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang) and because it’s regrettably rare to see science fiction movies with actual, full-time female leads who are not defined by motherhood, full-blown badassery (and nothing else), or their relationships with men.

Image: Monty Python’s “Spanish Inquisition” via Giphy

Announcements from your hosts.

Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year, everyone!

New Year 2017

May 2017 both delight and challenge you.

Ours definitely holds promise: Apart from some significant personal events, 2017 is also the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence. Hooray! I’m so thrilled to be alive when a big anniversary like this rolls around. And, coincidentally, Worldcon 75 will be in Helsinki August 9-13, 2017. Not yet sure what kind of a trip we could manage, but it sure would be fantastic to go. Might we see you there?

Image by Eppu Jensen

Top Five Posts for 2016

Go-Geeking is a year and a half old! Like last year, we looked at the posts that got the most eyeballs. For 2016 they are as follows:

  1. Race and Culture in Hannibal’s Army Erik responds with an ancient historian’s perspective to a Tor.com post about Hannibal’s army from the point of view of historical wargaming
  2. Hogwarts Dueling Club Tablecloth Transformed into Wall Hanging Eppu shares an eye-catching Harry Potter craft project found online
  3. Putting Trigger Warnings on my Syllabi Erik lays out An Opinion
  4. Arrival Recap Eppu’s first thoughts on the movie Arrival
  5. Fantasy Religions: Sacrilege, Blasphemy, and Heresy In a History for Writers piece, Erik discusses religion from the point of view of early history and what to consider while worldbuilding

Overall—taking the whole year-and-a-half block—we get a slightly different list:

  1. Do-It-Yourself Fantasy Place Name Generator Erik’s basic system for creating fictitious place names wins the top slot by a wide margin
  2. Race and Culture in Hannibal’s Army Erik responds with an ancient historian’s perspective to a Tor.com post about Hannibal’s army from the point of view of historical wargaming
  3. Sean Bean on the LotR Joke in The Martian Eppu shares a short transcript from an interview with Sean Bean by Yle, the Finnish national broadcast company
  4. Hogwarts Dueling Club Tablecloth Transformed into Wall Hanging Eppu shares an eye-catching Harry Potter craft project found online
  5. Putting Trigger Warnings on my Syllabi Erik lays out An Opinion

It’s fascinating to compare our favorite posts with what other people find interesting. Cool cool cool. 🙂

Messing with numbers is messy.

Hidden Youth Illustrations Roundup

The anthology Hidden Youth, with Erik’s story “How I Saved Athens from the Stone Monsters”, is expeced in November. We don’t know exactly when yet, but we know that the file has been sent to the printer. It’s very exciting—almost there!

I rounded up some of the artwork commissioned for the collection, but first here’s my headcanon picture for “Stone Monsters.”

In the beginning of “Stone Monsters,” there’s a scene where Mnestra, one of the protagonists who works as a flute girl, uses her veil to try and attract customers. I don’t think it was Erik’s intention, but the scene immediately brought to my mind this amazing, dynamic Greek statue we’d seen years ago at The Met:

The Met Bronze Veiled Masked Dancer

Bronze statuette of a veiled and masked female dancer, c. 3rd-2nd century BCE.

When thinking about “Stone Monsters,” this is the image that I connect with the story. Unfortunately the dancer’s veil is drawn so close that we can’t see her face. That’s where the Hidden Youth artists come to the rescue. I just happened to see this sneak peek by Paula Arwen Owen of her papercut illustration for “Stone Monsters” on Twitter:

Twitter Arwen Designs Stone Monsters Papercutting Sneak Peek

That’s eggplant and egg, all right, with a herma in the background. 🙂 Love it!

Then I was curious and went looking for Hidden Youth art. Others have also posted glimpses of their work in progress. For example, Ellen Million:

Instagram Ellen Million Hidden Youth

(She’s shared a slightly bigger photo as well.)

Two girls by Veleries / Thio Wina Oktavia:

Twitter Veleries Hidden Youth

Kat Weaver’s dormitory(?) sketch:

Twitter Kat Weaver Hidden Youth

A sneak peek by A. D’Amico:

Twitter A DAmico Hidden Youth

A glimpse of Jay Bendt’s piece:

Tumblr Jay Bendt Hidden Youth

And, finally, Charis Loke’s almost finished illustration:

Twitter Charis Loke Hidden Youth

They all look so great—can’t wait to have the book in my hands!

Images: Bronze statuette by Eppu Jensen (Greece; c. 3rd-2nd century BCE; bronze). Papercutting by Paula Arwen Owens via Twitter. Attic room by Ellen Million via Instagram. Two girls by Thio Wina Oktavia via Twitter. Dormitory by Kat Weaver via Twitter. Street seller by A. D’Amico via Twitter. Leaning girl by Jay Bendt via Tumblr. Under clouds by Charis Loke via Twitter.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.