Thor: Ragnarok Trailers

Good grief, it’s November already! For some reason, the fall always gets away from me, but this year it’s felt even faster than usual. It’s now only two(!!!) days till Thor: Ragnarok opens! Here are the teaser trailer and the official trailer:

Thor: Ragnarok Teaser Trailer [HD] by Marvel Entertainment

“Thor: Ragnarok” Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment

I’ve long thought that the Thor movies have been the least succesful Marvel Cinematic Universe stories. In fact, excepting the hilarious sequence in Thor: The Dark World where Mjölnir flies between realities through the portals, both were quite deplorable. I hope writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost plus director Taika Waititi can change that.

Sidenote: every time I see the teaser trailer with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, all I can think of is…. VIKING KITTENS! Aaaaaaaaa-ah!

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Amatka Book Talks by Karin Tidbeck in BOS, NYC, and San Diego

Swedish fantasy and weird author Karin Tidbeck is giving book talks on her debut novel Amatka in the United States.

Karin Tidbeck Amatka

Amatka was originally released in Swedish in 2012. It was first published in English a few weeks ago, at the end of June 2017. The publisher describes the novel as follows:

“A surreal debut novel set in a world shaped by language in the tradition of Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin.

“Vanja, an information assistant, is sent from her home city of Essre to the austere, wintry colony of Amatka with an assignment to collect intelligence for the government. Immediately she feels that something strange is going on: people act oddly in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

“Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja falls in love with her housemate, Nina, and prolongs her visit. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony, and a cover-up by its administration, she embarks on an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.”

In connection with the book birthday, Tidbeck will do a short publicity tour in the U.S. First, she’ll appear at Readercon 28 in Quincy, south of Boston, on July 13-16, 2017. (No further details at this writing.)

There’ll be a second book talk at New York City’s Scandinavia House on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, at 7 p.m. (free entry).

Finally, Tidbeck will be at Comic-Con in San Diego on July 20-23, 2017. (No further details at this writing.)

I haven’t read Tidbeck before, but Amatka sounds intriguing. She describes the birth of the novel in a blog post like this:

“I had spent some years collecting dream notes, and I found myself wondering if they could be mapped. What did my dream country look like? I found that some places showed up again and again, although the geography, events and people shifted. I ended up ordering the notes according to an imagined compass: north, south, east and west, and finally, a central city. […]

“Vanja, a somewhat reluctant protagonist, agreed to be my guide. But what was the world? Dreams, as I thought of them, are ruled by language. What would Vanja’s life be like? What would a society be like in a world where language ruled over matter? The story of Amatka began to unfold. It broke loose from my dream continent and became a world of its own.”

On the surface it sounds a bit like LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Emmi Itäranta’s The Weaver. The way Tidbeck talks of language ruling over matter also reminds me of the way mathematics rules over reality in Yoon Ha Lee’s The Ninefox Gambit. As a linguist, I’m doubly intrigued and excited to read Amatka!

Vikingaliv, a New Viking Museum in Stockholm

A new museum focusing on Vikings opened in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of April 2017. The Vikingaliv museum is divided into two parts, a static exhibit and a ride, and it highlights details of everyday life besides just the warrior men of bloody repute, including dwellings, farming, cooking, travel, the lives of children and women, slave trade, and religious practices.

Vikingaliv Logo

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the museum is Ragnfrid’s Saga, an 11-minute long ride through dramatized settings with sound and light effects. The ride follows the story of Ragnfrid and her husband Harald, and takes visitors across the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Kiev and Miklagård (Constantinople) and finally back to Scandinavia and the British Isles. It’s currently available in Swedish, English, Finnish, Russian, German, and Chinese.

Vikingaliv Screencap 2 Characters

Privately owned and operated, Vikingaliv sits west of central Stockholm on the island of Djurgården conveniently close to other museums and destinations. Visit the Vikingaliv and Visit Stockholm websites for more.

Images via Vikingaliv

Sherlock North in Development

Variety recently reported that an interesting take on Sherlock Holmes is in the works:

“Finnish writer-director-producer Juha Wuolijoki will run the upcoming 10-hour television series ‘Sherlock North,’ which he introduced yesterday as a work-in-progress at the TV Drama Vision section of the Nordic Film Market in Göteborg’s 40th Film Festival. He aims to shoot the series in the winter of 2018, at the latest 2019. Finnish broadcaster YLE is on board for series development.”

The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia 2018-2019-sherlock-north-promo1

Snapper Films, Wuolijoki’s production, financing, and distribution company based in Helsinki and Los Angeles, has made available short production notes for Sherlock North:

“Consulting detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes in subzero Northern Scandinavia, featuring a female Dr. Watson from Finland, and the coldest Moriarty you have ever seen.

“Based on the unforgettable characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock North is a contemporary crime fiction television series, which will consist of 10 one-hour episodes. The series, produced by Snapper Films, is being developed in collaboration with the Conan Doyle Estate Limited.”

According to the notes, writer and actress Jenny Dahlström works with Wuolijoki on the project.

Wuolijoki describes the series concept further:

“Here is a fish-out-of-water story: Holmes is hiding from Moriarty but doesn’t know how his new landscape works. But he cannot live if not involved in something. He is a cocaine user, and although he has promised his brother Mycroft that he won’t do this, he starts solving local small crime mysteries, which lead into some bigger issues, helped by a Finnish former woman doctor, Johanna Watson. […]

“Doyle did not write what he did there [in Scandinavia], we created that, and it has been totally approved by the Doyle Estate. It is a Nordic series, with a Nordic identity, with an international appeal.”

IMDb Snapper Films Sherlock North Pilot Poster

On the basis of Wuolijoki’s interview in Variety, it sounds that the series was inspired by a one-liner in a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called “The Adventure of the Empty House.” (The reference really is just one sentence and reads: “You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.”)

Sounds intriguing! (Even if they’ve copied the gender-flipped Watson from Elementary.) I’ve seen two posters for the series, the first (at the top of this article) with snow-covered fells in the background, and the second (above) with a fjord and fishing boats. It’s the latter that leads me to think that the series might take place in Norway. I’m looking forward to hearing more, and am definitely hoping Sherlock North will be successfully produced!

P.S. Read Conan Doyle’s short story, “The Adventure of the Empty House,” for free via Project Gutenberg.

Images: Snapper Films via The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia and via IMDb

Scandi-Style Stormtrooper Sweaters

A speed-knitter and a Star Wars fan? There might still be time to make one of these awesome stormtrooper sweaters for Rogue One opening!

Etsy NatelaDaturaDesign Stormtrooper Sweater
NatelaDaturaDesign on Etsy

Both the instant download patterns and finished knits are by Natela Astakhova at NatelaDaturaDesign on Etsy. Just glancing at it, my eye read the pattern as your generic Scandinavian circular yoke sweater, then I did a double take. As I already said, awesome!

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

Connections: Denmark and Egypt

More than 3,500 kilometers separate the tombs of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt from the village of Ølby in Denmark, but thousands of years ago they were connected by trade.

160523mapRecent archaeological work has identified a blue glass bead found in a bronze age woman’s grave in Ølby as originally Egyptian. In fact, based on the composition of the glass, researchers have suggested that the glass bead was made in the same workshop that produced the blue glass inlay on Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask. Similar beads are known from several other Danish burials. In an age when glass-making as a skill known only in a few regions, colorful glass beads were as precious as gemstones.

160523glassGlass beads like these could have come to Denmark in exchange for amber from the shores of the Baltic Sea. Amber was highly prized in the ancient Mediterranean and not just as jewelry. It was sometimes fashioned into amulets for warding away evil or burned like incense. (The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder complained about his fellow Romans’ superstitions about it; see: Pliny, Natural History 37.11.)

Amber has not been found in large quantities in Egypt, but it was used in some jewelry. In fact, one of the pectorals (pendants worn over the chest as amulets) wrapped up in the linen with Tutankhamun’s mummy is set with a piece of amber.

160523scarabIt’s unlikely that many Danes traveled to Egypt or Egyptians to Denmark in the bronze age. More likely both amber pieces and glass beads were carried short distances by chains of traders in between. Small, easily portable, but high-value objects like beads and gemstones are perfectly suited to this sort of down-the-line trade. A ship that was wrecked off the coast of Turkey around the same time as Tutankhamun’s burial (known as the Uluburun or Kaş Shipwreck) may have been part of that trade network. The ship, whose home port may have been in northern Syria or on Cyprus, was carrying both blue Egyptian glass and Baltic amber when it went down. Also in the ship’s cargo, interestingly, was a gold scarab inscribed with the name of Nefertiti, queen to Tutankhamun’s father Akhenaten (though she was not Tutankhamun’s mother).

Thoughts for writers

The evidence of archaeology is always a bit haphazard in nature. So much is unpredictable about what artifacts survive and what gets found. We are lucky to have the evidence from both the tombs of Tutankhamun and the woman in Ølby, as well as the Uluburun shipwreck, to help us trace out the lines of connection between Egypt and the Baltic. There is no question that connections between different peoples in the distant past were deeper and stronger than we know, but the evidence to document those connections has been lost.

Historians (at least those of the responsible sort) are limited by evidence, but fiction writers don’t have to be. When building your fictional worlds, let the fragments of evidence from our own inspire you to imagine far-flung connections and enterprising traders. Connections like these have always been important.

Images: Map by Erik Jensen based on Portable Atlas. Blue glass bead, detail of photograph by Roberto Fortuna and Kira Ursem via Haaretz (Ølby; 14th c. BCE; glass). Scarab pectoral, photograph by Jon Bodsworth via Wikimedia (tomb of Tutankhamun; 14th c. BCE; gold, glass, and precious stones)

History for Writers is a weekly feature which looks at how history can be a fiction writer’s most useful tool. From worldbuilding to dialogue, history helps you write. Check out the introduction to History for Writers here.

Space Archaeologist Discovers Potential Viking Site in Southern Newfoundland

A team of archaeologists has unearthed a potential new Viking site in Newfoundland, Canada with the help of satellites. Dr. Sarah H. Parcak, an archaeologist, space archaeologist, and Egyptologist, lead the effort to take infrared images from space to find new archaeological sites.

Newfoundland with Viking Activity
Newfoundland with Viking activity. Map by Eppu Jensen on the basis of Canada Newfoundland and Labrador relief location map by Flappiefh on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to The New York Times, while searching the coastlines from Baffin Island (in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, west of Greenland) to Massachusetts, she found

“hundreds of potential ‘hot spots’ that high-resolution aerial photography narrowed to a handful and then one particularly promising candidate — ‘a dark stain’ with buried rectilinear features.

“Magnetometer readings later taken at the remote site […] showed elevated iron readings. And trenches that were then dug exposed Viking-style turf walls along with ash residue, roasted ore called bog iron and a fire-cracked boulder — signs of metallurgy not associated with native people of the region.

“In addition, radiocarbon tests dating the materials to the Norse era, and the absence of historical objects pointing to any other cultures, helped persuade scientists involved in the project and outside experts of the site’s promise.”

Point Rosee is approximately 700 km (approximately 400 miles) away from L’Anse aux Meadows, the only currently confirmed Viking site in North America. The Norsemen staying at L’Anse must have traveled further south, though, because butternuts and worked pieces of butternut wood – which are not native to Newfoundland – were found among the Norse objects at the settlement.

CBC News reports that evidence of a Norse-like hearth and 8 kilograms (approx. 16 pounds) of bog iron was found at Point Rosee during a dig in 2015. It isn’t yet known for sure whether the site was a temporary base camp or a settlement, or whether it even was associated with Vikings. If confirmed, Point Rosee would be the second known Viking site in North America.

The evidence is still clearly on the scant side. Digging at Point Rosee is to resume this summer, so maybe they’ll find more.

As a sidenote, isn’t it so cool that we now have space archaeologists?!

Theodor Kittelsen’s Naturalistic Fantastical Art

Norwegian Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914) developed into one of Scandinavia’s most popular artists. He’s especially well known for his nature paintings and illustrations of fairy tales, legends, and trolls.

Trollet_som_grunner_pa_hvor_gammelt_det_er
Theodor Kittelsen: Trollet som grunner på hvor gammelt det er [troll wonders how old it is], 1911. Via Wikimedia Commons.
His art clearly shows how strongly the Norwegian nature inspired him. Kittelsen’s style is said to include aspects naturalism, mysticism, and Art Nouveau.

Kittelsen Collage
Theodor Kittelsen, clockwise from top left: Nøkken [water spirit], 1887–92; Gutt på hvit hest [boy on white horse]; Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon [white bear King Valemon], 1912; 12 villender [12 wild ducks], 1897. Via emmeffe6 on Flickr (one, two, three, four).
The element of a boy on a white horse is connected with water spirit tales. Apparently some näkki water spirits (to use my native Finnish term) can turn into horses to capture humans to pull underwater. I don’t remember that aspect of the näkki stories from my childhood; perhaps there’s a difference between the Scandinavian and Finnish tales.

The landscapes in Kittelsen’s paintings remind me of the Finnish wildernesses a lot. There’s also something solemn and contemplative in the mood of his imagery that makes me connect it with Tolkien’s art and writing, on one hand, and, on the other, with the illustrations of Tove Jansson (see examples of her work on Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit provided by The Official Moomin site).

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.