Skip to content Skip to navigation

Blog

Friday, January 27, 2017 - 13:01

Yesterday I thought I didn't have a review to post this week. But then, yesterday I didn't have one--not until I finished listening to the final episode of Serial Box's Season 2 of Tremontaine, based on Ellen Kushner's Riverside setting. The serial is released weekly in 13 episodes, both in print and semi-dramatized audio format. I consume it via the latter because that fits into my schedule better. As I noted in my review of season 1, this may have unknowable consequences for how I receive it. In particular, I find some of the character dramatization to be unnecessarily grating, in particular that of Duchess Tremontaine.

There really isn't an overall plot summary to give as background. An assortment of vastly diverse characters navigate a braided tangle of stories revolving around their various personal, political, and economic goals. As a prequel of sorts to Swordspoint, it is probably best enjoyed without too detailed a knowledge or memory of that story, so you aren't constantly trying to calculate how the end of Tremontaine will manage to match up with the start of Swordspoint. The Riverside of the serial is, in many ways, completely re-envisioned.

My overall opinion on this second season is much the same as for the first: I enjoy it, but I don't love it. There are specific characters I'm quite fond of (hi, Micah!), others...not so much (Rafe, get over yourself), and some I really would have liked to know more about (*waves shyly at Esha*). It's the nature of a serial of this type that there are only a few complete plot arcs. And I'm left uncertain whether the incomplete ones will be pursued later or simply dropped by the wayside. At this point, my largest beef is the rather clumsy way in which several of the threads were yanked in unexpected directions in the concluding episode. One particular last-minute development (no spoilers!) was both so unexpected and so casually brutal that I'm still dealing with the narrative whiplash.

Bits and pieces of the series are quite entertaining, and the world is richly envisioned. I'm impressed by the way all the various contributing authors have managed to give consistent voice to such an array of characters. But it hasn't really given me that "what happens next?" feeling.

Major category: 
Reviews
Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 07:00

"The glittering hosts bestrew the Plain." This week's entries continue in the aftermath of the major battle recorded in last week's session. There is a deadly episode of friendly fire, details of the taking of prisoners, and a certain enjoyment of something better than army rations. But mostly there's constant movement, though without the same uncertainty as before. The Union forces are feeling confident and victorious at the moment. At a meeting with a former acquaintance, Abiel notes, "Strange things happen in war--strange enough for the most fastidious novelist. None need wrack their brains for subjects of fiction who have been in this war for they will find truth quite strange enough."


The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)

Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved

September 20-30, 1864

[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]


Tuesday 20th September 1864

The army started in pursuit as soon as it was light this morning,  moving in five columns: two of infantry on each side of the road, and one of Cavalry and Artillery in the road. The Rebs had taken the Strausburg Pike in their retreat and we did the same, picking up many of their stragglers on the road. As we went by the Cav[alry] Camp, four of the captured battle flags were brought out for us to see.

We moved by the way of Kernstown, Newtown, and Middletown, reaching Strausburg before sundown. It was a weary march, although but 20 miles, for we were sore and tired from yesterday's charge. The Rebs army is posted in their strong position beyond the [missing word?] on Fishers Hill, which is strongly fortified. Many of our men and officers think we cannot take it. I think we can, for their army is a defeated one, while ours is victorious.

We camped for the night 3/4 of a mile from the town.

Wednesday 21st

We lay quietly until past noon, then broke camp and moved behind the woods to the right. Our second brigade drove their picket line from a hill they occupied, and which our General desired to possess. The loss was quite severe, considering the number engaged. After the hill was ours (which was not until dark) we moved upon it and, after considerable maneuvering, established a line in the dark, threw out pickets, and got rails to lay behind in case of a night attack, then rolled up in our blankets for the night.

Thursday 22nd

Under arms before daylight for 1/2 an hour. After breakfast, entrenching tools came around and we built a line of works, lay behind them until noon, then were moved out to the right towards the Alleghenies, and drove back the Rebel Picket line, and opened communication with the 8th Corps, which were just at the foot of the mountains.

We must wait until their line should be up with ours, then they were to charge, endeavoring to turn the enemies left. As soon as they advanced, we were to do the same.

While we were waiting, our Division Batteries of eight guns commenced firing over us at the Rebel lines. Some of the Cartridges were bad and the shells fell short, bursting over and even behind us. One of our shells burst and a piece of it struck our commanding officer (Captain Parker) in the side, inflicting a probably fatal wound. He was carried from the field. General Rickets sent back word to have the battery stopped two or three times, but it was not. Finally he sent one of his aides to say if it was not stopped he would withdraw his Division and resign. This had the desired effect.

About four O.C. P.M. the 8th corps charged. Shortly after, our order came and away we went with a shout. The Rebs had a very strong breastwork with guns all along it, but we were not to be checked and so stormed them at once, capturing their guns. I was struck on the arm, but not much just. The Johnnies did not fight very well but run splendidly. We swept from the left to the right of their strong works, driving them as we went. Fishers Hill was ours and "fairly won."

In their retreat, the disorganized mass had to cross an open field, from the borders of which our men poured volley after volley into them. I wanted them to stop firing and charge for prisoners but they would not. I jumped over the fence and started on the rear of the Reb. Some of the men came after me, but the rest still fired. I must confess that the only fear I had felt during the charge was then, lest our men should hit us from behind. I and the squad with me soon secured 28 prisoners. After I got them, I was somthing like the man with the elephant: I did not know what to do with them. Finally I saw General Rickets and staff. I asked him what I should do with them. "Thats right my fine fellow, thats right," said he. "You just take them to Captain Lenard and have them ceredited to the Third Division". I hated to leave the field, but started. I soon came across one of the Sergeants of the 106th and gave them into his charge and started back for the front.

It was now dark and our regiments were getting together. I took command of what I could find of our Regiment and, after considerable marching around, found the rest of the Regiment and with them stacked arms and got supper. Our Division, of the 6th Corps and the 8th Corps did all the fighting today and have won the glory. I have not yet learned what our gains were in this fight: it ranges from 15 to 20 guns and several Battle Flags. Also a large number of prisoners. Never since the war began have the rebs received two such blows so close together.

Friday Sept 23rd 1864

We did not stop--only to get supper last night--but pressed on after the retreating enemy, resting two hours during the night. Morning found us near Woodstock and we stopped there and got breakfast. Quite a lot of rebs were captured during the march.

It rained some this A.M. We drew rations. Three of the guns captured yesterday are up here now. Started again about noon. Just as we started, the 87th P[ennsylvania?] V[olunteers?], whose time is up the 24th, filed off to return to Harpers Ferry. Poor fellows! Many of them were killed just as their time was up.

Came up the Valley as far as Edenburg and camped for the night. We are very sore and lame with our four days' hard work.

Saturday 24th

Started early this morning on our journey up the Valley. Found the Rebs rear guard at Mt. Jackson. Our Regiment was leading the army and was deployed as skirmishers to drive in their advance. We did so, and the army was formed on the ground which we had gained. We were relieved at M. [noon] and marched back to the Brigade. My servant came up with my dinner while we were waiting for some demonstration of the enemy. It was the first I had eaten today for, by a mistake, our Brigade had to start without breakfast.

Finally we crossed the plain beyond the town, driving them before us. They retreated and took up a new position on the next hill, from which we drove them from there also. They again retreated as before, and so kept fighting all this P.M. We drove them thus step by step as far as Newmarket, when as it was night so we camped. I think by the stubbornness displayed by them we must be pressing their wagon train.

Our advance battery was well worked today: one section followed the range of hills, the other the pike. While one was firing, the other advanced and took position, commencing to fire at once. Then the other would advance the same way.

Sunday 25th

No rest, if it is Sabbath. Still forward is the word. Started at sunrise, marched through Mintville and stopped on the hills above Harrisonsburg about four o'clock P.M. This corps took up a posish [i.e., position] on the hills south of the town, the 19th Corps West, and the 8th North of it. I had a good illustration of "The glittering hosts bestrew the Plain" this afternoon. [See note below.] I hapened to be in a position where I could see the whole army crossing the large flats below the town. The Western sun shone full on their bright arms and accoutrements, sending back its rays from ten thousand points. It was a grand sight.

We found in H[arrisonsburg?] a large number of wounded Rebs. I forgot to state that the hospitals of Mt. Jackson fell into our hands. In them were many Rebs and some Union Soldiers. How glad the latter were to see us! Some had been there over a year. One of them had lost his left leg and arm. We are living on the people of the Valley now and do prety well. Our bill of fare today was bread, butter, honey, cheese, peach preserves, fresh mutton fried and boiled, peach pie, potatoes, mustard, coffee, sugar, pepper, salt, and milk. Not bad for soldiers.

Last night was pretty cold. A wind from the West caused it. Our woolen blankets we found very comfortable.

[Note: Abiel seems to be either accidentally or deliberately paraphrasing lyrics from a hymn The Star of Bethlehem by Henry Kirk White. The original definitive text appears to run, "When, marshalled on the nightly plain, the glittering hosts bestud the sky...," but online searching can find variants with "bestrewed the sky" instead. A footnote in Preacher's Tale: Civil War Journal of Rev. Francis Springs, Chaplain, Us Army, notes that he referenced the hymn, which is included in the collection Hymns and Tunes of the Army and Navy which was printed in the Civil War era. I should search to see if Abiel mentions listening to Rev. Springs preaching.]

Monday 26th

The army is resting today, enjoying the mountain air with much satisfaction. I suspect our rest is owing to the fact that our rations are out and we must wait for the Supply Train, which is following us from the Ferry.

Deserters are coming in all the time. They say the mountains are full of stragglers from the Rebel army, many of which would be glad to come in, but that they have been told that they will be badly used by us. Their officers strive to make them believe this as much as possible.

I forgot to mention that, during the lull in the fight at Winchester, I met one of the officers with whom I formed a pleasant acquaintance while on the boat going to the front last June. I was walking along the prostrate line, looking for our commanding officer, when he jumped off the stone on which he was sitting and shook hands heartily. When we parted, we were wondering under what circumstances we should meet, if ever. It turned out to be on that bloodiest field of the war. A few moments pleasant conversation and we parted again, when to meet we could not tell. Perhaps in some other bloody fight. Strange things happen in war--strange enough for the most fastidious novelist. None need wrack their brains for subjects of fiction who have been in this war for they will find truth quite strange enough.

Tuesday 27th

Still on the Harrisonburg heights. Our rations came up today from the Ferry and have been issued. I would not wonder if we resumed the march tomorrow. Many men who had been absent in hospital and some recruits came to the army today. More than enough to make up for our losses at Strausburg. Those who came say there are large reinforcements on the road to join us. If such is the case, I am looking for another attempt on Lynchburg, I think we shall have better success than General Hunter did, for things open more brightly to begin with. We drew three days rations; they are to last four days. There will be no difficulty in making them hold out, for the men will forage in spite of General Sheridan's orders against it.

Wednesday 28th

Last night we got orders to be ready to move at daylight. We were accordingly up and had breakfast and everything ready and so remained until 8 O.C. when the order was countermanded. Our tents were again put up and we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable for the day.

We have apple dumplings, apple-butter, syrup, butter, and cheese--all indigenous productions. We do not pay for these things. Of course if we did it would take a fortune. Flour is $200 per barrel, bacon $5.00 per lb., candles $10 per lb., boots $150 per pair, sugar $3 a pound, eggs $1 a piece (confederate scrip). We would find it somewhat dear in our money. The army are setting the mills (flour) going, grinding for us. The wheat is being collected from the farms arround and when it is ground I understand it is to be issued to the soldiers for rations.

Thursday 29th

Last night we were ordered to be ready to move at 5 A.M. We had the same order yesterday morning, so we got breakfast but did not have our tent taken down. So as to disappoint us, I suppose, the order came to march, instead of being countermanded as before. We moved towards Stanton some five miles, then stopped for dinner, after which we moved 1/4 of a mile farther into a grove near Mt. Crawford and camped again for the night, making a very easy days march.

It rained a little yesterday, also today. We do not look for stable weather now, however it is warmer than it was when we were at Clifton, for we need no fires, and marching makes us perspire pretty freely. I and my Company were detailed as Provost guard today. I was Provost Martial. I went down to the creek and had a bath--pretty cold. When I came up to camp, it was dark. The lurid glare of some conflagration lighted up the heavens. It made me feel bad. I understand our cavalry have orders to burn the barns, mills, and shops and grain of the people--in fact everything which would benefit our foe. This is a hard order, but given in strict justice, for retaliation.

Friday 30th

Policed our camp this A.M. The streets run through trees, making fine shade for our camp. We are very comfortable, considering we are a hundred miles and more away from our base. Just as we were eating dinner (apple dumplings), the "strike tents" was sounded, which rather hastened the proceedings. I thought we were going on toward Stanton, but when the long column began to stretch out, it was towards the rear and not the front. The first two hours were very hot. A storm was brewing which finally burst upon us. The rain poured down in torrents for a short time, then an East wind set in and old weatherwise said "look out for a cold snap." We moved to--and camped on--nearly the same ground about Harrisonburg that we occupied before. The men were not long in putting up their tents, for the wind had changed from warm to cold, and everything indicates a long cold storm. My messmate Lieutenant Cox has just been detailed for picket, so I shall have our little tent alone tonight. The new troops spoken of the 27th have not arrived.


Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 08:08

Storytelling is an art of concealing as well as revealing. One of the reasons I enjoy using a very tight point of view is how it enables me to control what I show to the reader by means of what my viewpoint character does and doesn't know. Bits of reader feedback have suggested that some people disagree with my choice to conceal the events that immediately preceded the scene below, revealing them only by means of Barbara's fever-muddled memories. I can understand where they're coming from; we've been trained up to expect a very visual, active mode of storytelling and if there are exciting deeds, we want to see them vividly in front of us.

And for those who had that reaction: it's perfectly valid and I can only hope I'll give you scenes of more satisfying action in the future. (See last week's discussion on that point!) But I did have a specific reason for presenting the events as I did. Trauma often isn't experienced in real time. And major trauma often erases the real-time memory of the events and leaves us desperately trying to reconstruct them. All of my continuing characters either have been or will be completely knocked off their metaphorical feet at some point. The events of this chapter are the start of a major change in how Barbara understands her life, her purpose, and her sense of self. One of the biggest things she will experience is a feeling a complete loss of competency and (eventually) a greater acceptance of not being able to control her surroundings. Have you noticed that  Barbara has MAJOR control issues?

Having her reconstruct the "missing scene" from a place of confusion, (temporary) amnesia, and physical helplessness is a key symbol of the challenges she's about to tackle in books to come.


Chapter 29: Barbara

It was a dream—that much Barbara knew. Images came in snatches, one after another without connection. Bright sun and a spirited horse between her legs. Voices, talking somewhere out of sight.

“Have you sent word to Rotenek?”

She heard Tavit answering and her mind drifted off. If Tavit were there, he would manage things. There was something she’d meant to tell him. Something he needn’t worry about. They were both riding out in front of the coach and she called to him but he didn’t turn. They’d passed the bend where the road overlooked Mazuk’s canal. Mazuk? Was that what she’d meant to tell him? He needn’t worry about Baron Mazuk.

“What did she say?”

“Something about Baron Mazuk. She must have guessed somehow.”

If she were riding with Tavit, where was Brandel? Now she remembered. He was riding up with the coachman. She’d borrowed his horse, for her own had gone lame. She tried to turn back to look at him but the sun was in her eyes and she closed them against the light.

They’d been riding such a long time, surely they’d come to the inn soon. She was tired and thirsty. They’d be there soon. She’d toss the reins to a stable boy and call out, “Ho, innkeeper, a drink!”

“What’s that?”

“I think she asked for a drink.”

The river water was cold and clear. She didn’t remember dismounting but she dipped cupped hands in the current and raised them to her lips. The water slipped through her fingers, running red back down the bank.

“We have to go.”

Tavit was urging her on. They were on the horses again, racing down the road with the coach on their heels, and beside her Tavit’s voice shouting, “Go! Go!”

There was a sharp crack…the axle of the coach? She tried to turn her horse but Tavit was at her side, grabbing her arm and screaming, “Go! Go!” And she would have obeyed, but he had her arm in a grip of iron, his fingers digging through to the bone. She cried out.

“More laudanum?”

“Not yet.”

They’d been riding through the woods, but the woods were on fire. Where was Brandel? Had he been on the coach? Aunt Heniriz would never forgive her. Was Brandel caught in the fire? There was no fire, it was a dream. She knew it was a dream.

“Brandel.”

“Shh, he’s gone to Rotenek to fetch Maisetra Sovitre.”

Margerit? But why would Margerit be coming here? She had her own duties…the college.

“No. Tell Margerit…don’t come.”

“Mesnera, it’s worth more than my life not to send for her.”

That was Tavit’s voice. But why was Tavit still grabbing her arm? She tried to shake him loose but she couldn’t move. It was a dream. These things happened in dreams.

“Arm…”

“The surgeon says you won’t lose it.”

That wasn’t in her dream. She struggled to rise. “Tavit!”

“More laudanum now I think.”

 

She must be in the coach now. The slow rocking lulled her to sleep. They must have fixed the axle. But where was Brandel? Brandel was in Rotenek, fetching Margerit. When Margerit came, everything would make sense.

Major category: 
Teasers
Publications: 
Mother of Souls
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 08:08

Storytelling is an art of concealing as well as revealing. One of the reasons I enjoy using a very tight point of view is how it enables me to control what I show to the reader by means of what my viewpoint character does and doesn't know. Bits of reader feedback have suggested that some people disagree with my choice to conceal the events that immediately preceded the scene below, revealing them only by means of Barbara's fever-muddled memories. I can understand where they're coming from; we've been trained up to expect a very visual, active mode of storytelling and if there are exciting deeds, we want to see them vividly in front of us.

And for those who had that reaction: it's perfectly valid and I can only hope I'll give you scenes of more satisfying action in the future. (See last week's discussion on that point!) But I did have a specific reason for presenting the events as I did. Trauma often isn't experienced in real time. And major trauma often erases the real-time memory of the events and leaves us desperately trying to reconstruct them. All of my continuing characters either have been or will be completely knocked off their metaphorical feet at some point. The events of this chapter are the start of a major change in how Barbara understands her life, her purpose, and her sense of self. One of the biggest things she will experience is a feeling a complete loss of competency and (eventually) a greater acceptance of not being able to control her surroundings. Have you noticed that  Barbara has MAJOR control issues?

Having her reconstruct the "missing scene" from a place of confusion, (temporary) amnesia, and physical helplessness is a key symbol of the challenges she's about to tackle in books to come.


Chapter 29: Barbara

It was a dream—that much Barbara knew. Images came in snatches, one after another without connection. Bright sun and a spirited horse between her legs. Voices, talking somewhere out of sight.

“Have you sent word to Rotenek?”

She heard Tavit answering and her mind drifted off. If Tavit were there, he would manage things. There was something she’d meant to tell him. Something he needn’t worry about. They were both riding out in front of the coach and she called to him but he didn’t turn. They’d passed the bend where the road overlooked Mazuk’s canal. Mazuk? Was that what she’d meant to tell him? He needn’t worry about Baron Mazuk.

“What did she say?”

“Something about Baron Mazuk. She must have guessed somehow.”

If she were riding with Tavit, where was Brandel? Now she remembered. He was riding up with the coachman. She’d borrowed his horse, for her own had gone lame. She tried to turn back to look at him but the sun was in her eyes and she closed them against the light.

They’d been riding such a long time, surely they’d come to the inn soon. She was tired and thirsty. They’d be there soon. She’d toss the reins to a stable boy and call out, “Ho, innkeeper, a drink!”

“What’s that?”

“I think she asked for a drink.”

The river water was cold and clear. She didn’t remember dismounting but she dipped cupped hands in the current and raised them to her lips. The water slipped through her fingers, running red back down the bank.

“We have to go.”

Tavit was urging her on. They were on the horses again, racing down the road with the coach on their heels, and beside her Tavit’s voice shouting, “Go! Go!”

There was a sharp crack…the axle of the coach? She tried to turn her horse but Tavit was at her side, grabbing her arm and screaming, “Go! Go!” And she would have obeyed, but he had her arm in a grip of iron, his fingers digging through to the bone. She cried out.

“More laudanum?”

“Not yet.”

They’d been riding through the woods, but the woods were on fire. Where was Brandel? Had he been on the coach? Aunt Heniriz would never forgive her. Was Brandel caught in the fire? There was no fire, it was a dream. She knew it was a dream.

“Brandel.”

“Shh, he’s gone to Rotenek to fetch Maisetra Sovitre.”

Margerit? But why would Margerit be coming here? She had her own duties…the college.

“No. Tell Margerit…don’t come.”

“Mesnera, it’s worth more than my life not to send for her.”

That was Tavit’s voice. But why was Tavit still grabbing her arm? She tried to shake him loose but she couldn’t move. It was a dream. These things happened in dreams.

“Arm…”

“The surgeon says you won’t lose it.”

That wasn’t in her dream. She struggled to rise. “Tavit!”

“More laudanum now I think.”

 

She must be in the coach now. The slow rocking lulled her to sleep. They must have fixed the axle. But where was Brandel? Brandel was in Rotenek, fetching Margerit. When Margerit came, everything would make sense.

Major category: 
Teasers
Publications: 
Mother of Souls
Monday, January 23, 2017 - 07:45

Today's new tag essays cover two topics in what I've grouped together as "literary relationships". That is, works where a sexual or romantic relationship between two women is either present or implied. Here's a brief summary of what's covered. (See the full essay for the list of works and the associated tag-links.)

Literary Innuendo and Flirtation

The examples in this group focus less on genuine desire between women (even in cases where gender disguise is involved) but on those where the possibility of genuine desire is acknowledged by a pretense of it or sly references. These examples include scenarios where that possibility is recognized only by the audience of the work, not by the characters within it.

Sexual Education

This is a genre that allowed the author both to write explicitly (and often pornographically) about sexual encounters between women while still discounting the importance of the relationship. In these works, one woman sexually initiates another with the excuse that she is being prepared for sexual relations with men.

Major category: 
LHMP

The purpose of tags is to make information relatively easy to find. The topics covered under “people/event tags” are historical persons, authors, written works, and other specific events, organizations, or works that are the subject of the research and publications covered by the Project. This essay is intended to explain briefly how the “people/event” tags are being used.

The second purpose is to provide a tag list that the visitor can use to explore the site. The number of tags used in the project, and the organization into four different categories, doesn’t lend itself to a traditional tag-cloud. The Place and Time Period tags each have a single essay. The Event/Person and Misc. Tags will be covered in thematic groups in multiple essays due to the larger number. I’m planning six essays for the People/Event Tags, each covering a general category with several subcategories.

  • Non-Fiction Sources and General Authors
  • Historic Crossdressing and Passing/Transgender People
  • Historic People Relevant for Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Literary Examples of Crossdressing or Gender Disguise
  • Literary Examples of Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Poetry Expressing Romantic or Sexual Relationships

This present essay covers the fifth category and includes the following:

  • Literary Innuendo and Flirtation
  • Literary Sexual Education
  • Literary Predatory Erotics
  • Literary Passionate Friendship
  • Literary Same-Sex Love

Obviously these categories are quite fuzzy at the edges, and I've classified individual people according to what seems the most noteworthy aspect of their lives. Every story is far more complex than a single classification. These are only for the purposes of exploring general themes.


Literary Innuendo and Flirtation

The examples in this group focus less on genuine desire between women (even in cases where gender disguise is involved) but on those where the possibility of genuine desire is acknowledged by a pretense of it or sly references. These examples include scenarios where that possibility is recognized only by the audience of the work, not by the characters within it.

Literary Sexual Education

This is a genre that allowed the author both to write explicitly (and often pornographically) about sexual encounters between women while still discounting the importance of the relationship. In these works, one woman sexually initiates another with the excuse that she is being prepared for sexual relations with men.

  • Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (John Cleland) - 18th century English novel in which one woman sexually initiates another to prepare her for work as a (heterosexual) prostitute.
  • Ragionamenti (Pietro Aretino) - 16th century Italian sexual “dialogues” that include sexual activity between women.
  • Satyra Sotadica (Johannes Meursius) -  Fictitious original source for the French L’Academie des Dames (attr. Nicolas Chorier). The Satyra Sotadica was, in turn, alleged to be a translation of an original Spanish work by a woman (Luisa Sigea de Velasco). I’ve listed this title separately as some works cite it rather than Chorier’s work (q.v.).
  • The Academy of Women (L'Academie des dames) (Nicolas Chorier) -  17th century French pornographic novel presenting one woman’s sexual initiation by another and including sex between women as part of a wide variety of sexual encounters. Purported to be a translation of a Latin work Satyra Sotadica but this has been demonstrated to be fictitious. Chorier’s authorship is attributed but uncertain.
  • The Spanish Bawd (Celestina) (James Mabbe) - 17th century English play (based on a Spanish original) in which a woman recruits another for prostitution by flattery, flirtation, and sexual initiation.
  • Thérèse the Philosophe (Jean-Baptiste de Boyer) - 18th century French novel involving the seduction of one woman by another to recruit her for prostitution.
  • Women Beware Women (Thomas Middleton) - 17th century English play involving the motif of a woman seducing another woman into prostitution.

Literary Predatory Erotics

I've taken this label from Denise Walen's discussions. It includes non-consensual relationships, cases where a woman initiates erotic contact (or pretends to) in order to further the interests of a male character, and cases where the lesbian character is portrayed as literally monstrous.

Literary Passionate Friendship

This category covers literary characters who are portrayed as being in intense romantic friendships with other women where there is no overt erotic component and typically where they are not living as a committed couple.

Literary Same-Sex Love

The stories in this group involve love between women along a broad range of natures and intensities, from the platonic to the overtly sexual. The distinction between this grouping and the Passionate Friendship grouping is an understanding by the characters that their love is equivalent to heterosexual love, both in nature and importance.

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 07:00

It might be easy to understand why I enjoy reading Stephanie Burgis's combination of real 18-19th century history, romantic adventure, and touches of magic. She has an impressively solid familiarity with the history and manners of the era she draws from (which, if you check out the topics of her graduate education, is no surprise). The Congress of Vienna, sorting out the political consequences of Napoleon's defeat, is a natural setting for intrigues of all sorts.

Two people, neither of whom is the person they current portray, encounter each other in the build-up to the Congress for the first time since a violent separation when they were children. Michael, once apprenticed to a political pamphlet printer, has survived by learning the arts of the con man and has arrived as the disenfranchised Prince Kalishnikov, hoping to restore control of the realm Napoleon stole from him--or at least to convince someone to pay him off to go away. Karolina, the daughter of that printer, fell into the hands of the head of the Austrian secret police, who maintains his power by alchemical rituals that drain energy from his victims. Handed off to be the plaything of an English aristocrat, she turned her situation around and became the (now widowed) Countess of Wyndham. Her goal at the Congress is to free her father from the secret prison where he's been held for decades and, if possible, to avenge herself on those who held him there. Their accidental reunion in Vienna could spell disaster for both their plans--or each just might have found the only ally that could ensure success.

I enjoyed the casual details of the setting and historic personalities, as well as the solid back-story for the central political tensions. The rich diversity of early 19th century Vienna came alive on the page. And if I occasionally felt that certain bits of the historic background were being repeated more often than I needed, keep in mind that I'm on the far end of the scale of "just give me a hint and I'll be fine," as well as being a bit more grounded in the historic outlines than the typical reader.

The interpersonal interactions driving the plot worked very well for me for the first three-quarters of the book, including the completely expected growing romantic tension between the two protagonists. Very much in the genre of "I'm totally attracted to you but I can't trust anyone--and especially not you--so giving in to it would be a fatal mistake." The romantic tension was only slightly spoiled by a few too many (in my opinion, unnecessary) incidents of "I saw you smiling at so-and-so, which means you're actually going to bed with them, so my heart is broken, not that I'll admit that I cared."

But in the climax of the book, my suspension of disbelief slipped a little. Too many key players were too easily convinced, too quickly, to believe the protagonists' stories in the nick of time, and to pitch in at the risk of their own lives and careers, or to back down from opposing them far too readily. I had anticipated the fate of one key character from the very beginning--a fate that it was essential for the protagonists never to consider seriously. The strongest point in the climax was our heroine contributing actively and believably to her own rescue, rather than becoming a damsel.

Congress of Secrets is a fun romantic adventure, with a solid grounding in history and a reasonably satisfying conclusion. It is very loosely connected to Masks and Shadows, set in the previous generation, and there are a couple of Easter Egg references to characters from that book, but the two can be read entirely independently.

Major category: 
Reviews
Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 07:00

There are few things more annoying to me as a reader than noting some sort of problematic aspect of a book or show and being told, "Oh, just hang on until the third book / the next season / whatever, and all that is addressed." I mean, why should I have to slog my way through a whole bunch of stuff that erases me or pisses me off just on the hope of a promise that maybe--just maybe--Things Get Better at some unspecified later date? Especially when there are so many other things I could be consuming?

There are few things more frustrating to me as an author than knowing readers are upset, impatient, or feeling erased by some aspect of my published work while knowing that I'm doing something later that stands a good chance of not simply addressing their concerns, but making it worth the wait. I can hint, I can promise--if people really want me to, I can offer private spoilers. But that doesn't change the fact that in the glimpse of my world available to them at the moment, there are things that might make them not willing to wait for it.

One answer to this contradiction is that one can never write the book that all of your readers want. Certainly not all at the same time. A book can only have so many characters and so many themes. Not everyone will be willing to stick with you for the whole journey. Not all of them will be happy with where that journey would take them. And those are the breaks. You can know--absolutely know with the divine power that is authorship--that an issue will be addressed later. But nobody reads in the later, they read in the now.

Writing a series is a long game. From the point when I knew that Alpennia was a series, and not just a stand-alone novel, I've been setting up characters, conflicts, situations, foreshadowings that won't come to fruition for books yet to come. And because Alpennia is such a character-focused series, readers latch on to specific characters and spin out hopes and dreams for them based, not only on the information in the text, but on the ways in which they identify with those characters. Will Anna's heart be broken? Is Iuli going to fall in love with the entirely-too-obvious candidate? Is Iohanna Chazillen going to have a miserable life due to the circumstances of her birth? Will Serafina get to have a happily-ever-after just like the white protagonists do? Who will be the next Prince of Alpennia, and what will that mean for everyone else? Where will the fault lines open between all my central characters come the revolution? When will I seriously address class issues and the knee-jerk valorization of the monarchy?

When the series is complete, I can hope that readers will look at the whole and be able to see, "Yes, this character, this event, that bit of dialogue, that description, the chain of events over there--taken in isolation, I can see how that would look. But those things are in conversation with these characters and those events. This plot thread challenges and comments on that one. This interaction is set up to contrast with that one. These characters shed light on how we're meant to undersatnd those ones." I can hope, but I can't rely on it. I can't even say, "For the answers to these and other exciting questions, stay tuned!" because I have no right to demand that anyone "stay tuned" if they aren't tuned in to what's already on the page. But if you do stay tuned, I can guarantee that a lot of the answers will be unexpected--perhaps even delightfully so.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 08:21

"We do not war on women and children." It was not, of course, entirely true when Abiel wrote and underscored that line on September 12, 1864. If it had been true, then the Southern woman he wrote about would not have been so pitifully grateful that the soldiers invading her home allowed her to buy supplies from them so that her children wouldn't starve. (After all, one presumes that one of the reasons she was out of food was the depredations of those same soldiers.) But Abiel wants so very badly to believe that he's still an essentially good and civilized man, despite circumstances, and the treatment of women and children is a central part of the worldview that allows him to retain that belief.

Abiel's long, detailed (and somewhat gruesome) description of the battle on the 19th at Opequan Creek has some interesting narrative structure. Rather obviously, he's writing all this down after the battle is over and he begins as usual with past tense narration. "Moved from our camp at 2 A.M. and took the Winchester road." Even so, as the battle continues, he begins introducing dramatized elements, not simply relating quoted speech from others, but offering sound effects: "Whiz, whiz, whiz, went the bullets in rapid succession." And then, in the final decisive manoever of the battle, he shifts to present tense--one could almost imagine him as a play-by-play announcer, "A moving cloud is seen on our right and extending partly behind the Rebs. It is our cavalry under Averill and they are charging." Only when the victory is complete does he shift back into past tense. "I have lost 1/2 my company, either killed or wounded. My friend Powell is badly wounded and 1/2 the officers of the regiment. Very tired."

Outside of the battle descriptions, the diary entries are getting more succinct. It may simply be that there is less to comment on between the overly exciting bits, or it may be that Abiel simply has less spare energy for writing. Given how faithfully he writes home, enclosing his "memorandums", one can feel for him when he laments the lack of return correspondence (especially when there are actual deliveries of mail, as opposed to the likelihood that mail was simply piling up somewhere upstream).

Certain editorial details are starting to feel redundant to me--like annotating each use of "M." (meridian) as meaning "noon", but although the use has almost gotten to the point of being comfortably familiar to me, I keep noting it, remembering how badly I'd stumble across each use at the beginning. I'm also starting to feel odd about "correcting" certain systematic spelling differences, such as Abiel's use of "acrost" where modern usage requires "across". I keep reminding myself that this version is meant to be easily readable by modern eyes, and that those who are interested in the details of 19th century usage can check out the original transcription.

Content Warning: graphic and gruesome descriptions of death in battle.


The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)

Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved

September 1-19, 1864

[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]


DIARY Thursday September 1st 1864

The first day in command of my new company; all well so far. Day very pleasant. I have been very busy settling my accounts with Company I. Days are comfortable but nights decidedly cold. A very heavy dew falls so that everything is as wet as if it had rained, in the morning. Last month was generaly dry and warm, but we feel autumn now. The men will soon be drawing woolen blankets to sleep on or under, for they need them. The men are having a gay time this evening, throwing pieces of corn cob at each other. They divide up into armies, have their officers, throw out skirmishers, and make regular charges.


LETTER

Head Quarters "F" Company 106th New Yprl Volunteers 1st Brigade 3rd Division 6th Corps.

September 1st 1864

My Sweet Sister and Dear Friends,

Amid the turmoil of war and excitement of the battle field, I still find time to keep open "my communication" with dear ones far away, toward the star which I often find nodding and winking at me and saying, "You belong farther this way." When I wake from dreams of home, some of these cold nights, I am still in the land of the living, in seeming spite of those ugly fellows whose camp fires I see over yonder, and who seem so very anxious to furnish me with a free passage from this sublinary sphere to the one which many have traveled, but I don't remember of anybody's returning to tell what they saw there, which makes me anxious not to go until I know more about it.

The Rebs are trying to play us some Yankee trick. They fell back from the Ferry, where they had been in our front for nearly a week, thinking when we found them gone we would rush for Strausburg as we did before. Well, they turned off and concealed their army near Bunker Hill (not Mass) intending, as soon as we had passed, to fall on our rear and take us by surprise. In this they were foiled by the persistant inquisitiveness of our cavalry, which foiled their intentions in good earnest. While they stay there, we must stay here; when they move, we move. And so we go it first forward then backward, both parties refusing to take the offensive until they have some very decided advantage.

Good generalship is displayed on both sides. Earley hates to leave the Valley until he gains some important advantage, such as striking us such a blow that we dare not follow them out of the valley. This is what they dread, so fearful of another Lynchburg raid.

Our general has information that Longstreet has gone back to Richmond. If this is so, our forces are nearly as strong as those of the enemy left here. We cannot learn the truth of the report yet, and I have some doubts of our force being large enough to attack Earley if General Longstreet's troops have left.

Now sister, how about that Round-about? It is just what I want in the field, if it is not too dirty. I don't remember, but if it has no holes in it, I wish you would clean it up a little and take about half an inch off the end of the sleeve, down next the hands, cutting it so that it is the same shape it is now. I think there is an inside pocket on each side. If there is not, will you put them in? Or if those in there now have holes in them, put others in. Then do it up in as small a parcel as possible and direct it to Sergeant La Forge, Company "F" 106th N.Y. Volunteers, 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 6th Corps. The reason I want you to direct [it] to Sergeant La Forge is because the post office laws will not allow you send clothing to a commissioned officer. If you have made any other disposition of the garment dont bother yourself about sending it. The Post Master will tell you how many stamps to put on it. The best way is to do it up as small as you can, then tie it well with a string, then put a paper arround it, leaving the ends open, upon which you put the address and stamps. [Note: A "roundabout" is a plain, short, long-sleeved jacket that was in common use by soldiers of both sides and many ranks. Here's an example from a Civil War reproduction clothing site, although as it's a commercial site, I can't guarantee tha the link will endure.]

How is young Potter? Bright as ever, I suppose. He will be cutting teeth soon, then you you will have a gay time. I remember how cross you were when you cut yours. About my own, I havent as good a memory. I have nearly $500.°° due me now. I dont know when I shall get any of it. My love to all, Mammy & the boy in particular this time. Yours,

Abiel

Lt. Co. "F" 106" N.Y.V.

My going to Company "F" makes my boys of "I" feel bad, but the Commanding officer of the Regiment says it is necessary, as the business of Company "F" has got to be straightened up, and he wants me to do it. Quite a compliment.

A.


DIARY

Friday September 2nd 1864

Laid in camp near Smithville until near sundown when we moved back to the North of Charleston and came into a nice grove where the Rebs were camped last week, and put up our camp for the night.

Saturday 3rd

Marched shortly after sunrise. Our regiment detailed to act as flankers to the wagon train, i.e., to march in Indian file, deployed about five paces apart and two or three hundred yards from the road on the side towards the enemy. Came as far as Clifton (three miles from Berryville) when we ran on the Rebs, strongly entrenched. We had to skirmish a considerable [time] before we could establish our picket line. Cool pleasant marching today. Rained some at noon. We may soon expect the fall rain to set in. Bivouacked for the night. We are the extreme right.

Sunday 4th

Laid in camp all day. An hour before sundown, orders came to build breastworks. We had very few tools, but went to work felling trees and digging. Building works here and doing the same at Petersburg is very different. There, a pick was not necessary; here, all the digging has to be done with them. We did not get our work done until ten o'clock P.M.

Monday 5th

A cold heavy disagreeable rain commenced last night, most decidedly Autumn-like. We got a little damp before morning. A lot of troops that were moved to the right of us yesterday went back again today. I find they threw up about 3/4 of a mile of breastworks connecting with ours on the right. They can be occupied at any moment. The cavalry are now out in that direction, looking out for the flank. There has been but little skirmishing lately. Moseby is active. Continual rain.

Tuesday 6th

Rain still continues. The cold wind soughs through the trees, laden with its unwelcome drizzle. The army is but poorly prepared for this change in the weather. A division of the 19th Corps was passing us this P.M. They are going out to support a Cavalry reconnaisance toward Bunker Hill, the object of which is to find where Averill is with his cavalry. The last we heard of him, he was coming up from Martinsburg to join us. By some cannonading we heard in that direction he had engaged.

Wednesday 7th

Sun rose clear. How good it made us feel to see his unclouded face again! How different from last month. Then we would have given almost anything for a rain like this. The ground is now so soaked that we shall have to be very carefull about moving artillery and wagons across the fields. I wrote to O. L. Barney, giving him all the information in my power. Our Cavalry have been very active. The enemy appear to have left our immediate front.

[Note on first page of Psalms in his Bible says:] While bivoucked three miles west of Harpers Ferry and waiting for orders. Expecting to march on the enemy

Thursday 8th

Policed and laid out our camp today, so it looks very nice. Averill is all right. He has whipped the Reb Cavalry again. Moseby is particularly active on our rear. He captured an ambulance train between us and the Ferry. They were all but one recaptured, however, by our men sent in pursuit. I wrote S, Annie W___, and father. Some cannonading off to the right. Quiet here.

Friday 9th

Everything is as quiet as if there was not an enemy in 40 miles of here. Indeed, more so, for if there was an enemy at that distance, orders would not be so stringent in regard to casual firing, as they are now. A man is punished severely who is caught firing his gun, for it lets the enemy know where we are. Rained again. We may expect this fluctuating weather now: a warm day now and then to let us know summer has not entirely abandoned us yet, and a rainy day twice in a while to bid us prepare for the still colder days of Autumn. Our new chaplain Reverand Dilly came this P.M.

Saturday 10th

Warm and pleasant. Wrote to Sherman Crandall today. Turned over my Ordnance of Company "I" to Lieutenant Brunson who succeeds me in the command of that company. I have also assumed command and responsibility in "F" Company. I am getting along with my new command first rate. There are some things in the discipline of the company which need correction, but I think I shall have no difficulty in getting along with that. Lieutenant Hepburn came to the regiment today. He has been on duty at Rendezvous of Distribution for some months. He says Colonel McKelvy has returned from his leave of absence and is quite well.

Sunday 11th

Was expecting to write to Sister today but was detailed about noon and so could not do it. The Adjutant came arround and said I was to take charge of a picket of one hundred men from the regiment to go on duty for three days. What they want us to go on so long for is more than I know, unless we are going to stay where we are for a long time and they adopt the old method of doing picket duty. Our line was advanced a little after we got on it, so as to straighten it. We have a cavalry videt in front of this line. [Note: a brief google suggests a "videt" is a type of entry, but I haven't looked up more technical details at this time.] If the Rebs came out, they would first have to drive back the videt which would give us abundant time to get ready for them. Then they would attack our line, which we could hold until our camps (that we came from) were struck and we got orders to fall back on them, or they advanced to our support.

This afternoon I wrote a letter to Susan in the house of an old Secesh who ran about fifteen minutes before we got here and left his family and goods to our kind care. He is what we call a bushwhacker. We have a man in our charge whose house is not half a mile from here, still we cannot allow him to cross our lines and go to it.


LETTER

Picket Line Near Clifton. Sunday 11th September 1864

Dear Sister,

I am on duty in charge of one hundred men from our Regiment as picket near Peckham Creek. The Rebs are on the other side. I am now writing in the house of an old Secesh Gentleman who skedaddled about fifteen minutes before our troops came to this place--of course, leaving his family to our tender mercies, which he did not seem to fear. Two ladies and three children comprise the family. The first are feminines of that type of beauty so peculiarly Southern, that is, with a nose that possesses the property of being able to turn up to a great elevation at the will of the owner. They both smoke, chew snuff, and are decidedly bitter aganst the Union and Uncle Abe. Perhaps made so by their losses in property and husbands, although the loss of the latter I don't give them much credit for feeling. We must give them the credit to say they could not be expected to feel very good towards those who are continually robbing them.

The Rebs have been very quiet lately, and they seem to feel as contented about laying still until after the Presidential Election takes place as we do. General Sherridan has not force enough to risk an engagement with them behind fortifications, and they dare not attack us while we have the protection of our breastworks, so we are idle by mutual consent and are enjoying ourselves as best we can in our present position.

Very unexpectedly last Saturday night, a most decidedly Autumn storm burst upon us. We were but poorly prepared for such an evidence of the fact that summer had departed. Fires were at a premium, and every one built was soon closely invested by an anxious comfort-seeking croud. I do not apprehend that we are not going warm weather enough yet, for this is but the commencement of fall. I shall soon need that jacket, so if it is on the way, all right.

You told me of the marriage of Miss Livermore. So also did Sherman and Orville, so I am pretty well informed of the fact. I felt very sorry to hear of the death of Albert Heseltine. I should so much liked to have seen him and again thanked him for his kind treatment of myself when I was burning with the fever, and no kind sister or sister-in-law to nurse me. Poor fellow, he deserved the death of a soldier and not the lingering, living death of consumption. A fine looking young lieutenant is setting by my side and says "give her my respects", so I suppose I shall have to. Please accept the Respects of Lieutenant Cox.

I rather believe I and him could enjoy ourselves much more to our satisfaction if we were only sitting by your hospitable hearth this cold day, instead of writing on this Southern White Pine table. What do you and Janey think about it? I guess there must be something in that cupboard we could enjoy. We are imagining how we could live if we were only home. When, if we were there in reality, we should have no appetite at all for joy.

Tell mother I shall be old enough to keep her company, when I get home again. I grow old so fast now. One of my teeth also is beginning to bother me. What an accumulation of misery!

Tell Janey she must learn some dances so that she may teach me when I get home. Love to Mrs. and Mr. Perry Potter and children, especially Matie. Don't forget our little Josey. Does he cry any yet? Your Loving Brother,

Address Lieutenant A.T. LaForge

Commanding "F" Company 106th New York Volunteers


DIARY

Monday 12th

Have not sent my letter yet. Shall send it in tonight when my servant comes out with my supper. It is still very cold and we (two second Lieutenants who are on duty with me and myself) slept on the floor of the parlor of the house of which I spoke yesterday, and which is about the centre of my line. It is now past noon and every evidence of a rain again this eve.

[Beginning of new page; probably the previous page was sent home with the letter]

Monday 12th September 1864

This afternoon I sent the lady of the house on which one of my picket posts is stationed over with a guard to General Rickets. They were out of provisions and desired to get permission of him to buy of our commissary. I could not see them hungry, even if her husband is a rebel (12th Virginia Cavalry) We do not war on women and children. The General gave her 30 pounds of flour, ten lbs of sugar and a bottle of wine. She was bitter against the Union Soldiers before she went. She returned crying. the General's kindness had touched her. It is pretty cold tonight and good woolen under-clothes would be a luxury.

Tuesday 13th

Our Cavalry and the 2nd Division 6th Corps made an advance this morning to surprise the Reb pickets, which they did, capturing quite a number. They fought quite a while and did not return until dark tonight. Some of the prisoners were brought in by here. They looked rather glum. I have just been around with strict orders concerning us tonight. We expect the enemy will be trying to make themselves even by making a dash on our lines and capturing some of our pickets. It is a fine moonlight night, however, and they would find it hard surprising us. It still continues cold. I forgot to mention that we had a severe hail storm Sunday afternoon. I told the Sergeant who has charge this post to wake me at the first shot he heard.

Wednesday 14th

About ten o'clock the Sergeant woke me up, saying some firing was heard on the right. I went out, heard one shot, then five or six others, just like the beginning of an attack, then all was silent. I went round and found the videts were on the alert, then came back. As there was no more firing, I went to bed, leaving directions to be awakened at an hour before daylight, another favorable time for attack.

I got up at that time and went out on the line. Everything was quiet. A little before sunrise went and laid down sleeping until my servant came from camp with my breakfast. Commenced raining at 8 O.C. A.M. We were relieved by a detail from the Brigade at M [i.e., noon]. When I got to camp I found that our (Lieutenant's Brunsson, Cox, and my own) servants had built us pretty good quarters. The roof was made of four tent cloths. These were raised the height of a barrel from the ground and the sides are formed of barrel staves. A bunk is built in one end for the three of us to sleep, so we are pretty comfortable.

Thursday 15th

Battalion drill from 9 to 11 A.M., the first time I ever commanded a company on drill. This P.M. there was company drill for one hour. I was unwell from a cold I caught on the picket line and did not go out. Weather pleasant, but rained a little just at the right time to prevent Dress Parade. A large mail came tonight and I did not get a letter, and as over a dozen is due me It is somewhat strange. It makes a fellow feel particularly pleased after so long waiting to get one, however so I will not complain.

Captain Parker was our drill officer. He would do well enough if he only had confidence in himself. He is afraid. While we were on picket, I had the pleasure of hearing a Rebel girl sing the Southern patriotic songs of "The Bonny Blue Flag", "The Homespun Dress", and several others. She was a sweet singer, but bitter Rebel. I begin to look for an advance soon now. We have lain long enough now to be in good trim for active service. Look out Johnnies.

Friday 16th

Battalion drill. Wrote to Miss Annie S. Porter. Rained a little. The men seem to be in excellent spirits. I believe they would make a pretty good fight. I think the Johnnies would have to bring more than man for man.

Sat 17th

The Regiment had just gone out for drill when an order came to move camp. We went back and packed up. We only moved about half a mile. We are in rather [a] better place than we were before. Nice sunshiny side hill. The men are fixed up pretty nice, but I am of the impression they will not enjoy their quarters long, for Lieutenant General Grant was up here this afternoon. There are all sorts of rumors concerning the meaning of his visit here. I think that our inactivity does not please him, so he wants to see for himself if it is necessary. I should think that now as Sherman is free to use his army somewhere else there should be a combined movement on Lynchburg by him and our army. He could make his base somewhere near Knoxville, Tennessee, and we advance by the way of Staunton Virginia. Some such determined measure should be adopted to threaten Richmond from the West.

The men are having sport tonight fighting mimic battles with firebrands. The 87 Pennsylvania and our Regiment are opponents: they arm themselves from the fires and make regular charges and flank movements and all sorts of manoeuvres. The best of good feeling prevails. The sight is really beautiful to see: the brands moving about and flying through the air. (It is too dark to see the men.) They don't often hit what they are aimed at, but when they do there is no ill feeling. There is a man on our breastworks and one away off in the distance, each with a large firebrand making signals to each other, just like the Signal Corps. They are just going to their respective quarters now, bidding each other good night, one side says "good night yanks" and the other "good night Johnnies". They are gone.

Sunday 18th

We had Brigade inspection today. Did not intend to have it till Monday, but General Grant (he went back to Washington today) has got up some kind of a move and it must be done sooner. Just after M. [noon] an order came to pack up, which we did. Had everything ready to move and stacked arms on the "Color-line". Just then an aide came arround countermanding the order. My, what a shout the men sent up! One would have thought we had won a great victory. Our tents were soon up again and we are now in as good quarters as ever. Our new chaplain preached to us this P.M. Threatened rain, but did not. Should have written to sister, but the move spoiled it so I could not. Got a letter from her.

Monday 19th

Moved from our camp at 2 A.M. and took the Winchester road. The whole army moved with us. Sunrise found our advance crossing the Opequan creek. The advance of the enemy were just the other side, and were driven back about two miles by our cavalry.

The enemy had their lines formed in a strong position two miles from Winchester. We formed our lines by 9 OC but had to wait until near M. [noon] for the 19th Army Corps to come up. When they did arrive, they were placed on our right. Our lines were then formed by the 19th Corps on the right then our 2nd Division and 3rd Division. The extreme left was formed by the 1st Division of our corps. The 8th Corps was held in reserve.

During all this manoeuvering, the batteries on both sides had kept up an almost constant fire, with but small results in anything but noise. Everything was ready and the charge ordered about M [noon]. It was obeyed by the advance of the entire line under a most murderous artillery fire. Our Division had to advance across an open rolling field where their shells would have full effect. The slaughter was dreadful.

Three hundred yards, which were made at a double quick, brought us into the first ravine. As soon as the men got there they laid down. Colonel Emerson commanding the Brigade rode along behind us saying, "Come now, men! Get up and advance!"

We jumped up and started across the next hill with some reluctance, for a perfect storm of shells were sweeping across it. I got before the men and told them to advance and they came up well. We advanced across the top, our men falling fearfully fast. A Major, a little to my right, had his head blown clear from his shoulders. He was on a horse and the body maintained its seat for a moment after, the blood spouting up and making a hideous spectacle.

On we went, and soon began with the infantry. Their fire was not as fearful as the artillery, although more distructive. The part of the line I was on charged everything from before it, without a halt, and crossed the next ravine. A little to our right, the enemy had breastworks and held the part of the line in their front. We just swung past them and, coming on their flank, drove them and captured many prisoners.

We did not stop, but went on. As we raised the third hill, I saw a battery off to our right which was doing terrible damage. I remember drawing my revolver and calling for men to take that battery. I saw some coming after me, two of whom I knew were brave men: Sergeant Wilder and Private Temple. Waiting for no more, I started on the run.

Whiz, whiz, whiz, went the bullets in rapid succession. I looked back; the men were falling fast. I looked the other way; the men were falling back with the guns. I yelled and started again. Run 100 yards, when I heard someone behind shouting, "Look out!" I did look out, and saw a line of Johnnies, across the Pike in front of me, bring their guns up for a volley. I threw myself behind a stump, just as the ground around me was all cut up with bullets. How they made the dirt fly!

As I had nothing particular to occupy my attention while laying there, I looked back along the line. 200 yards behind was the squad, or five of them, who had started to take the guns. They were behind trees. 100 yards behind them, our Division line had halted. On the right of our Division, and in their rear, were the Rebs. That part of their line had forced back the charge of the 19th corps. Our officers saw the necessity of taking our line back a short distance to prevent our being flanked, but I did not and obeyed the order to "fall back" with some swearing, the boys say. I dont swear much, however. How mad it made me to see the Rebs rally and follow us over that hardly contested ground.

As the distance charged had to be left, some brave fellows followed us too closely, for by a sudden turn our men captured a squad of them. They were more careful then. Our new line was established and held, until the 19th corps had driven the Rebs line step by step from their front and advanced up to our line, which did not take place until about 4 P.M.

Meanwhile I went over some of the ground, helped some of the wounded enemy into a shed and gave them water. (Our wounded were carried from the field.) It was an awful sight to go over the ground, literally soaked with human gore. I then took a gun from a dead man and, putting a lot of cartridges in my pocket, laid down in the first line and commenced firing.

I was hardly down when whiz! came a bullet striking the ground two feet before me and, glancing, struck the man laying by my right side in the forehead. He looked around, got up, and walked three or four paces to the rear, turned around and fell dead. I made several shots when I had a good mark, then the Rebs laid so close I could not see them, and I went to a part of our line in a ravine and sat down.

While there, my servant brought up my dinner--the first I had ate since 2 A.M. It was then 3 P.M. I also saw one of the officers with which I went to the front last June. At 4, the 19th Corps was up with us and a general charge of the whole army ordered, before which General Sheridan rode along the line, attended by two orderlies, and saying "Men, our cavalry are on their flank, we have won a victory." The men took off their hats and cheered him.

Shortly after, we went forward. What a scene of horror the field presented, where our artillery had played on them. Four hundred yards brought us in full view of their cannon, then our line was subject [to] the most murderous artillery fire I ever heard, Oh! how we were cut up. One gun as we advanced opened on our left, in exact range of the line lengthwise. It fired three shots before it was captured, bringing twenty men down. At one of its shots, the shell went through six men of one company in the Iron Brigade.

Then we got out where we could see the whole line to the right, coming out on the plain before us. To see them advance in such splendid order under that fire was a tribute to their bravery not to be forgotten. A moving cloud is seen on our right and extending partly behind the Rebs. It is our cavalry under Averill and they are charging. How grandly they advance on those guns which are sending death through their ranks! On they come. See the artillerists run. The cavalry charge past them, cutting some down as they go. Now they have stopped behind them, and the guns, artillerymen, and the infantry supports are in our hands. Glorious! That was the first Cavalry charge I ever saw. It ended the fight. The Rebs were siezed with a panic and fled in the utmost confusion. Our spoils are prisoners by thousands, five guns, and nine battle flags.

There seems to be some doubt in the minds of our General whether they have occupied the heights above the town or not. There are strong earth works there. Our Division is detailed to advance and, if they are occupied, carry them by storm. A half mile's march across the plain brings us to the hills. Up we go and find the forts unoccupied. Away beyond the town we could see them running, and their cavalry thrown out to cover their retreat. Looking back, we beheld our victorious army marching into position on the plain below. We soon joined them and, it being now dark, went into camp for the night.

I have lost 1/2 my company, either killed or wounded. My friend Powell is badly wounded and 1/2 the officers of the regiment. Very tired.

Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 08:07

It is a deep discomfort to me that I have often fallen into the stereotypical trap of arranging for my protagonists to be orphaned so that there aren't any pesky parental figures getting in the way of them being in peril and having adventures. In Daughter of Mystery it was a foundational element of their stories for Margerit and Barbara to be orphans. (Well, functionally, anyway. It's complicated in Barbara's case.) Antuniet wasn't an orphan in that first book, but she is by the time she gets to be a protagonist. Jeanne...well, I don' think Jeanne really counts as an "orphaned protagonist" because she's of an older generation and her parents might reasonably expect to have passed on. Serafina has deep attachments to her (living) father, but the loss of her mother is a significant driving force in her psyche (though it was the loss of the idea of her mother, even before the physical loss).

But I gave Luzie a large, loving, and very much living family--even though circumstances keep them apart much of the time. (Ok, except for her late husband, but I couldn't very well have him hanging around--then she wouldn't have this story.) I included the following scene to try to give a sense of what that family means to her, when they descend upon her house in Rotenek to support the performance of her opera.


Chapter 28 - Luzie

A ripple of laughter ran around the table as Chisillic carried in the moulded orange crème herself and placed on the sideboard for Gerta to serve.

“Now what’s this I hear about a shortage of oranges, Maistir Ovimen?” the cook asked.

Luzie watched her father repeat the comic tale, gesturing with those familiar hands, the fingers now knobbed with age. His hands might have lost the ability to play, but not the ability to draw a performance from others, whether the small consort assembled for the Tanfrit or the diners around her close-crowded table. She exchanged a glance with her mother and smiled as the years melted away.

Issibet was now chiming in with a counter story about the hard years during the French Wars, and the part a particular shipment of oranges had played in ensuring the success of a production they had both worked on. Luzie had been too young to understand the significance at the time, but she’d heard the story many times in years after and could almost convince herself she remembered that treasured sweetness.

She would remember this in the same way: how her brother Gauterd had made time from his contracted performances to join her production, how her parents had made the journey from Iuten not only to witness the debut of her opera, but to add to the preparations. Her father had stood listening to the rehearsals in an unused Academy building for only five minutes before he’d bluntly suggested that the musical direction be put into his hands. And those hands had coaxed the oddly assorted group of musicians and singers into a partnership. Even Benedetta Cavalli had abandoned her demands and airs at hearing that Iannik Ovimen had taken the reins. Luzie had forgotten the respect her father had commanded in his time. And it had been that gesture—treating her work as worthy of his labor—that had meant the most.

Half of her wished the boys could have been here—and Gauterd’s wife and children as well—but the other half was grateful to avoid that added distraction. And where would she have put them all? As it was she had surrendered her own room to her parents and imposed on Serafina to make space for her, while Gauterd commanded Alteburk’s room leaving the housekeeper to crowd in with the maids for the duration of the visit. No doubt there had been grumbling where she couldn’t hear it, but the atmosphere was more like a floodtide holiday where everyone laughingly made do for the sake of being together.

Though one might think there was enough music in their lives at the moment, with the performance only two days away, they gathered in the parlor in the evening, bringing in extra chairs from the dining room, and she accompanied Gauterd for violin concertos.

Major category: 
Teasers
Publications: 
Mother of Souls
Monday, January 16, 2017 - 07:00

This finishes up the literary works that feature cross-dressing and gender disguise. These works may involve a number of other themes as well. Keep in mind that these tag essays are meant to identify thematic groups, but individual stories are rarely simple. In particular, if cross-dressing opens the window to an enduring love once a disguised woman's gender is revealed, or if the personal interactions within the disguise have more of a predatory flavor than an erotic one, then I've placed works on those more specific categories.

If it seems like a large proportion of the material in this group are English plays of the 16-17th century, one reason is the wealth of examples provided by Walen 2005. But the reason Walen was able to write such an extensive study on the topic is that gender-disguise plots were a particular favorite on the English stage at that time.

Literary Cross-dressing: Same-Sex Desire (Click here for the permanent tag essay with tag-links)

This group covers works where cross-dressing or gender disguise generates either the appearance or the reality of same-sex desire. This general principle covers a fairly wide variety of scenarios.

The simplest and most common case is where a woman passing as a man is desired by a woman who believes her to be male. This may be elaborated by having the passing woman respond to that desire and return it, or by the desire persisting even after the passing woman’s true gender has been revealed. (Given that these are works of literature, it is generally made clear that these episodes involve disguise, and not transgender identity.)

A second, somewhat more problematic type involves a man disguised as a woman, usually in order to gain sexual access to the woman in a gender-segregated environment, where the seduction includes convincing the woman to accept what she believes to be same-sex desire. Alternately, a heterosexual couple with the man taking on female disguise may behave in a way that onlookers perceive as involving same-sex erotics.

Another type of scenario involving deliberate misdirection may involve a woman passing as a man and deliberately courting a woman, often in order to distract her from a common (male) love interest or to damage her reputation. While these don’t technically involve same-sex desire, they do depict scenes that the consumer understands to involve same-sex erotics.

Some of the more convoluted gender-disguise plots include multiple layers of disguise (e.g., a woman disguised as a man who then “pretends” to be a woman). What the category has in common is that it introduces the audience to the possibility of same-sex love, and may involve characters arguing in support of the idea.

  • A Christian Turn’d Turke (Robert Daborne) - 17th century English play with orientalist themes in which a woman disguised as a boy attracts a woman’s erotic desire.
  • Alda (Guillaume de Blois) - 12th century French story in which a man disguising himself as a woman to get a woman in bed has to explain his penis as being “purchased in the market”.
  • Amadis de Gaule - 14th century Spanish romance that includes a cross-dressing female knight who attracts a woman’s desire and returns it.
  • Anecdotes of a Convent (Helen Williams) - 18th century English novel in which a girl being educated in a convent falls in love with a school-fellow, only to learn later it was a boy in disguise.
  • Arcadia (Philip Sidney) - 16th century English work in which a man disguises himself as an Amazon to gain access to the woman he desires. Includes her internal struggles to accept love for (who she believes to be) a woman.
  • As You Like It (William Shakespeare) - 16th century English play. One of Shakespeare’s several works that feature women falling in love with cross-dressed women.
  • Brennoralt or the Discontented Colonel (John Suckling) - 17th century English play that involves multiple homoerotic scenarios enabled by cross-dressing, but also an affirmation of desire between two knowing women.
  • Clyomon and Clamydes - 16th century English play in which a gender disguised woman acknowledges the suggestion that women may desire her.
  • Faerie Queen (Edmund Spenser) - 16th century English epic poem that includes a cross-dressing female knight (Britomart) who attracts a woman’s desire that outlasts the revelation.
  • Floris et Lyriope (Robert de Blois) - 13th century French romance in which a man cross-dresses as a woman to seduce a woman. The work depicts her coming to terms with same-sex desire.
  • Gallathea (John Lyly) -  16th century English play in which two women disguised as men fall in love with each other, believing the other to be an actual man. Their desire for each other outlasts the revelation and the play concludes with a plan to marry if Venus will randomly transform one or the other into a man.
  • Gl’Ingannati - 16th century Italian play in which a cross-dressed woman attracts the desire of the woman to whom she is a go-between. Most likely the inspiration for Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
  • Hymen’s Triumph (Samuel Daniel) - 17th century English play in which a cross-dressed woman attracts a woman’s desire.
  • James IV (Robert Greene) - 16th century English play in which a cross-dressing female knight is wounded and the woman who nurses her falls in love with her with flirtatious encouragement.
  • L’Astrée (Honoré d'Urfé) - 17th century French novel in which a man cross-dresses as a woman to seduce a woman. One of the sources for Sidney's Arcadia.
  • La Cintia (Giambattista della Porta) - 16th century Italian play involving multiple homoerotic scenarios, both where a cross-dressed woman courts a woman, and where a man cross-dressed as a woman courts a woman.
  • Laelia - 16th century English play that may be a direct source for Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, in which a woman disguises herself as a man to distract the affections of her (male) lover’s new love interest.
  • Le Bal d’Auteuil (Nicolas Boindin) - 18th century French play with same-sex romance involving a cross-dressed woman.
  • Love’s Adventures (Margaret Cavendish) - 17th century English play by Margaret Cavendish (q.v.) in which a woman disguised as a boy attracts the erotic attention of both women and men.
  • Love’s Changelinges Change - 17th century English play derived from Sidney’s “Arcadia” in which a woman contemplates same-sex love when courted by a man in disguise.
  • Love’s Pilgrimage (John Fletcher) - 17th century English play in which a woman desires a cross-dressed woman she believes to be a boy.
  • Love’s Riddle (Abraham Cowley) - 17th century English play in which a cross-dressed woman attracts the desire of two shepherdesses, which continues after she is revealed.
  • Metamorphoses: Callisto (Ovid) - 1st century BCE poem in which Zeus disguises himself as a woman to seduce one of Diana’s nymphs. This story was adapted in many different forms over the centuries.
  • Orgula (Leonard Willan) - 17th century English play involves a woman who cross-dresses in order to pursue the male object of her desire, but is distracted by another woman-passing-as-man character.
  • Orlando Furioso (Ludovico Ariosto) - 16th century Italian poem that includes the motif of a woman desiring an Amazon figure who is initially perceived as male but where the desire persists after her gender is revealed.
  • Ornatus and Artesia  (Emanuel Ford) - 17th century English novel in which a man disguised as a woman convinces a woman to accept same-sex desire.
  • Philaster or Love lies a Bleeding (Frances Beaumont and John Fletcher) - 17th century English play in which a woman cross-dressed as a boy is the unwilling (and somewhat oblivious) object of female desire.
  • Qamar al-Zaman and the Princess Boudour - Story included in the Arabic epic “The 1001 Nights” involving a woman who cross-dresses as a man and is pressured into marrying a princess who accepts the marriage after her true gender is revealed.
  • Roman de Silence (Heldris de Cornuälle) - 13th century French romance featuring a cross-dressing female knight. The story directly addresses issues of gender identity as innate versus performative. In one episode, she is the object of a queen’s adulterous desire.
  • The Antiquary (Shackerley Marmion) - 17th century English play in which an older woman desires a woman passing as a boy.
  • The Arcadia (James Shirley) -  17th century English play based on Sidney’s poem of the same name in which a man cross-dresses as an Amazon to pursue the woman he desires, with the added complication that both her parents also desire the “Amazon”, each believing the other to unknowingly pursue a same-sex desire.
  • The Convent of Pleasure (Margaret Cavendish) - 17th century English play by Margaret Cavendish (q.v.) involving a man disguising himself as a woman to enter a woman-only community and convincing the object of his desire to accept apparent same-sex desire.
  • The Doubtful Heir (James Shirley) - 17th century English play in which a woman courts a woman cross-dressing as a boy in order to make a man jealous. Despite the same-sex courtship, it is not driven by desire.
  • The Golden Age (Thomas Heywood) - 17th century English play involving a retelling of Ovid’s myth of Callisto, where Zeus disguises himself as a woman to seduce one of Diana’s nymphs.
  • The Isle of Guls (John Day) -  17th century English play based on Sidney’s poem of the same name in which a man cross-dresses as an Amazon to pursue the woman he desires, with the added complication that both her parents also desire the “Amazon”, each believing the other to unknowingly pursue a same-sex desire.
  • The Lover’s Melancholy (John Ford) - 17th century English play where a woman disguised as a man is unwillingly wooed by two women, one of whom still desires her after the truth is revealed.
  • The Loyal Subject (John Fletcher) - 17th century English play in which a brother and sister both desire a man cross-dressing as a woman.
  • The Reform'd Coquet (Mary Davys) - 18th century English novel involving apparent same-sex desire between women except that one is a man in disguise.
  • The Rivall Friends (Peter Hausted) - 17th century English play in which an older woman desires a woman cross-dressing as a boy.
  • The Sisters (James Shirley) - 17th century English play recapitulating Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in which a woman rejects her male suitors to pursue a woman cross-dressing as a man.
  • The Spanish Gipsie (Thomas Middleton and William Rowley) - 17th century English play in which a woman cross-dressing as a man accepts the possibility that women will desire her.
  • The Troublesome and Hard Adventures in Love (Robert Codrington) - 17th century English story in which two heterosexual lovers are disguised as country maids but perceived as engaging in same-sex affection.
  • The Widdow (John Middleton and Ben Jonson and John Fletcher) - 17th century English play in which just about every possible combination of apparent and actual same-sex desire (of both genders) occurs, due to multi-layered gender disguises.
  • The Wife Judge and Accuser (La Femme juge et partie) (Antoine Jacob Montfleury) - 17th century French play involving courtship between a woman and a cross-dressing woman.
  • Tristan de Nanteuil - 14th century French romance in which a cross-dressing woman becomes the object of a woman’s desire resulting in marriage followed by a magical sex change.
  • Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare) - 16th century English play. One of Shakespeare’s several works that feature women falling in love with cross-dressed women.
Major category: 
LHMP

Pages

Subscribe to Alpennia Blog