More Ice Age Sources, Plus Mermaids

I found it! Mermaids of Japan, by Frances Haar, Kanabeshobo Company, Tokyo, 1954.

Not the book itself, but my photocopy of most of it. Including the title page. (Which I made at the time on the basis of, I wanted the info for book research, the library who had it definitely wasn’t going to remainder it, and even then I had a good clue this was a rare book I might never find again.)

Backing up a bit – I spent some time rummaging through my boxes of books so I could try to move everything related to the alternate-magical-history idea in one place. That way when I get more books for research, I can hopefully get them effectively, filling in the cracks of what I don’t yet know. So here are some more things I’ve read in the past leading up to this idea.

Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan, by Cecilia Segawa Seigle. Starts before Edo was a capital and goes through the start of Meiji. Not exactly a straight-line history book, it covers a lot of what people were doing in the rich sections of Edo, what costs it had in money and people, and gives a lot of insight into how the Ishin Shishi could do a lot of their plotting there without the Tokugawa Shogunate immediately catching on.

I’m going to put a side-note in here that this is one of several interesting history and history-related books printed by the University of Hawaii Press. Maybe it’s where they are physically, maybe it’s the fact that they can draw on more scholars than usual who read and speak Asian languages, but they have a lot of stuff on Asia, the Pacific, and the whole Ring of Fire area that you may not find elsewhere. If you want to look at history outside what’s taught in regular K-12 schools, look them up on their website or on Amazon. I’d bet you’ll find something you want to know more about.

The Mongol Invasions of Japan, 1274 and 1281, by Stephen Turnbull. Yes, it’s an Osprey Publishing book, meant to give wargamers background for their battles. It’s also a seriously researched book, with illustrations and maps – writing and wargaming have a lot in common in that those are very handy. It’s also pre-1618 (which is when the first story is going to be set) but there’s a reason for that. If I’m positing a parallel Earth where most of history went as we know it, but it now has magic, I need to know where the “break” point was so I can find all the possible ripples. Historically, there was a Great Comet in 1264 that sounds like a good bet for “and then things got very weird.” Note that comes before the Mongol invasions through Korea to Japan. (Though the Mongols had been invading Korea since the 1230s.) So I need to take it into account.

The Composite Bow, by Mike Loades. (Also Osprey.) Even with the advent of gunpowder, composite bows are a respectable weapon and still well-used in the time period I’m poking. They’re portable, powerful – and if you end up facing monsters that need specific banes to take down, it may be easier to do that in an arrowhead than in musket shot. (If it’s a really big monster, I’m seeing possibilities of mixed units, one giving cover fire while the other reloads, both of them buying time ‘til you can get a hwacha aimed the right direction.) It’s also a modern hobby I can give my poor isekai’d guy – though he’s going to have to learn a lot more….

The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion 1590-1800, by Brett L. Walker. He also wrote The Lost Wolves of Japan.

Another small digression here. I ran across Noel Perrin’s Giving Up the Gun many years back, which was a paean to how Tokugawa Japan voluntarily giving up firearms made technology go back to a pace humans could live with. And said to myself, “That… doesn’t sound right.” In my experience, at least, people do not voluntarily give up the capacity for violence. That way leads to mass graves and all kinds of nastiness. And yet in some circles (mostly of authoritarian mindset) the Tokugawa Era is held up as a model of ecological responsibility and a population kept with its natural limits, all because only the people in charge had all the force available.

Except if you study the actual history that is not what happened. This book, Conrad Totman’s various works, and others – especially those works covering trade between Japan and Asia – show that Tokugawa Japan was constantly pushing up against ecological limits and finding new ways to exploit more of them. They lost a lot of population due to the Onin Wars, and then more to the Warring States era before the Tokugawa closed the country, they imported a lot of agricultural innovations (and new food crops!) through trade with Europeans and Asia, and they took over the northern islands and the Ryukyu Islands, so their population growth mostly kept within the limits of food production. Even so it was a bumpy ride sometimes, and straining at the limits by the time of the Meiji Revolution.

Get sources for your writing. Get lots of sources. Never depend on what “everyone knows”. Check it out!


19 thoughts on “More Ice Age Sources, Plus Mermaids

  1. “Do you want to travel to a foreign country to be a guest lecturer?”


    “Do you want to come to Hawaii to be a guest lecturer?”

    “Hell yes!”

    Liked by 4 people

  2. You know what I’d love to see? Some poor schmuck arguing that they refuse to be isekai’d without their pet, and the capricious entity responsible says “deal!” Or someone actually, and accidentally gets isekai’d with their pet in tow.

    Brought to you by Ramses the kitten walking all over the keyboard while I was trying to read this.

    But seriously, a samurai staring at a Labrador in total bemusement because /dogs don’t look like that./ Or your new “host family” are weavers and you keep having to fish your kitten out of the looms.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Somebody had an isekai or rebirth novel… I think Truck-kun hit them both while out on a walk, and the dog was reborn as some kind of magical giant dog familiar or mount or pet. Very goofy art, but it looked fun.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The title is Even Dogs Go to Other Worlds: Life in Another World with My Beloved Hound. The dog is a tiny wittle Maltese terrier named Leo, who becomes a giant freaking Fenrir wolf (but still white).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I don’t know. I would have like a giant terrier, or a normal-sized but ridiculously OP terrier.

        Of course, if you own a Borzoi, Great Dane, or Irish wolfhound, you already own an oversized magical beast with special powers. 🙂 But that wouldn’t be common in Japan, China, Taiwan, etc., although there is a delightful lady in Japan who owns an apartment Borzoi. (That’s the one who likes to lie around in the tiny Japanese soaking tub, with water temperature depending on the weather. Apparently a lot of Borzois like water.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “I’m seeing possibilities of mixed units, one giving cover fire while the other reloads,”

    This is more or less what happens in Kingdom against the zombie hoards. The very few people who can shoot guns accurately are fighting next to people with bows because the people with bows can shoot faster than the people with guns. But the guns are invaluable because they can permanently wreck zombies in one shot due to impact damage while arrows can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Kingdom at its heart is Josean Historical Fiction. And it does the thing that turns zombie stories from being about the zombies to being about the people involved in the zombie situation. In fact… you could take the zombies out and the politics would still work out just fine for where all the political tension is. As much as the zombies are a problem, stopping them doesn’t really *fix* things until the people behind the zombies are taken care of… which keeps the show from being *just* a gore-fest.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Not the book itself, but my photocopy of most of it. Including the title page. (Which I made at the time on the basis of, I wanted the info for book research, the library who had it definitely wasn’t going to remainder it, and even then I had a good clue this was a rare book I might never find again.)


    Even though about half of our really good kid books are remainders off of Amazon, I am always glad to hear about libraries actually *holding on to books*. That’s kind of the point!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. :grumbles that that is exactly teh kind of book you need in a library, especially if folks can just check it for stuff rather than checking it out and citing it:

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In middle school I found a dictionary of all the Greek and Roman gods and myths. I was the first person to check it out and actually read the whole thing. It was so great, it had not only a short blurb about them, but also included some of the stanzas about them. Which is how I know that Sailor Moon’s backstory with Endymion and Serenity have a mythical basis in real world myths.

        It’s wa s awesome, and I want the book so badly.


      3. is a pretty exhaustive Greco-Roman mythology site. You might have to search or follow links to find all the material on a given subject, but it has a buttload of primary source material translations. (And then, if you’re really wondering, you can easily find the Greek text and see what it “actually says.”)

        For example (IIRC), they have a really big list of names of Amazons, and where they were cited, and where they were from, and who were their parents. And a lot of them are translated, and some of them are translated somewhere else on the site if it’s also a nymph or goddess name.

        A lot of Amazon names are horse-girl type names, which makes sense because of the Scythian connection. But of course this doesn’t show up much in pop culture, even when it might have been good (like in the Wonder Woman movie).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, but here’s something I found out recently. Ovid’s Metamorphoses (in the original) is apparently very funny if you are versed in reading Roman and Greek literature in the original. It’s got all sorts of references which are turned around to be funny, and apparently nobody even tries to translate this aspect of Ovid.

        So yeah, there’s yet another reason to be sad about not having a classical education. (Sad face.)

        Liked by 1 person

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