Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A question of scale

Just how big was the Cyclops, anyway? Homer doesn't say, exactly, but we get some clues. And those clues are a good example of one of the problems you face when you try to update a classic. For example, we know the Cyclops is big enough to pick up "the top of a mountain" and thrown it far enough out to sea that it lands in front of the Greek ship, thereby causing a wave big enough to wash the ship back to shore.

Pretty big, eh? On the other hand, he keeps large herds of sheep and goats in his cave. Which he milks. If the Cyclops is really as big as he sounds elsewhere, that'd  be like us milking mice! So which is it? And what's a poor author do to reconcile the two?

If you're like me, you look for more information. We know he eats two of Odysseus's men for supper, and another two for breakfast. Assuming he skips lunch, that's four men. At 180 lbs apiece, that's 720 lbs of meat a day. Assuming that the Cyclops is shaped like a man, but bigger, and assuming that an average six-foot Greek warrior would eat a pound and a half of food a day, then the square-cube law says he would be about 7.8 times as tall as a man, or about 47 feet tall  (14.5 metres).

Okay, that's pretty tall! That's just shy of a five-story building. Is that tall enough to heave a boulder that big? Probably not. And what about milking those goats? I dodged that one. I left them there but didn't mention them getting milked. On the other hand, I did mention giant wheels of cheese in the Cyclops's cave, so he had to be getting milk from somewhere. Maybe he went down to the local Loblaws. (Albertson's, for my American readers.)

There are plenty of issues like that throughout the Odyssey. It's a fun read, and even more fun to rewrite, but consistency wasn't valued that highly in Homer's day. In future posts I'll talk about some of the issues from the second book, The Sea God's Curse, coming out from Ronsdale Press this February (2013).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Won't somebody please think of the children!

One of the questions that I get occasionally is "Do you think violence is appropriate in a young adult novel?" Only adults ask this. Kids are invariably fine with it, probably because they haven't yet learned that they're expected not to be. If you've seen the movie Stand by Me, you know what I mean: four boys go on an overnight trip just to see a dead body, and maybe poke it with a stick.

There isn't that much violence in Torn from Troy, but the book is set in the Trojan War, after all. Bronze age warfare was much more brutal and personal than warfare today. If you killed someone, you could expect their blood to splash you, and possibly a few organs or body parts.

There is no gratuitous violence in Torn from Troy, and what there is serves a purpose. To tell a story like the Odyssey with no violence would be like telling a story about the Arctic without snow: it's too deeply a part of the landscape for the story to feel real without it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Da blog is back!

Who knew that being an author meant dealing web site hackers? My apologies to everyone who has waited patiently for my blog to come back up. About six months ago, my web site was shut down. Turns out that it had been hacked by someone who was using it to do credit card scams. They hack into your web site, set up a "dummy" web site that looks like a bank web site, then send out a few hundred thousand emails saying "please log into your bank account (at this helpful link) and verify your bank account information. A few of those people will have accounts with that bank, and a few of those in turn will log in and cheerfully type in their account info and password. The hacked web site then emails those to a harvester site, which uses them to get into that bank account and transfer that person's $250 savings to the Cayman Islands. Pretty clever, actually. For those of you who were on my web site, there's no danger. The pages they create aren't even accessible through the link structure of the web site. Only through their email.

My web site hosting company watches for this, and shut down my web site within a few minutes when they saw it. I cleaned out the infestation, brought the site back up and ... same thing a week later. Eventually it became clear that they were getting in through my blog, WordPress. Apparently people keep finding hackable holes in WordPress, and WordPress keeps issuing updates. If you don't apply the update fast enough, you get hacked. Eventually I gave up and removed the blog entirely.

Now that I've got the manuscript for Cursed by the Sea God (the sequel to Torn from Troy) submitted, I've got time for this long-overdue maintenance. So my blog is back up, now courtesy of Let them keep the hackers out! I'm sure they'll be a lot better at it than me.