But it won't remain that way for long.
Robert Browning was of the opinion that autumn mutely appeals for sympathy because of its decay, but what a glorious decay fall exhibits! Not only the splashes of colour spreading across the hills, but also its crisp nights followed by milky curtains of morning mist, dissipating into golden days that surprise with the heat of their afternoon sun. Pumpkins and chrysanthemums, along with the first nuts and last apples, crowd farmers' markets, while in the evenings our thoughts turn to cocoa and hot cider.
A few leaves have already fallen, reminding us winter is not far away. The latter's impending arrival also means the probable appearance of a field mouse or two at Casa Maywrite, bent on finding winter quarters, not to mention nocturnal opportunities to steal cat chow and squirrel it away in murine moonlight maraudings.
However, it's no good subscribers belatedly trying to steal away to avoid this latest edition of Orphan Scrivener. It's here, and since you've read this far you may as well read on!
It came about during a conversation concerning brand names based on mythology, a topic which arose from my observation that naming a light bulb after Mazda (Zoroastrian god of light) displayed more than 60 watts of brilliance.
Once the subject was broached, it was surprising how many examples came to mind.
Given America runs in more ways than one on personal transport, it's not surprising that several cars have been named after mythological figures. Among them are Mercury (god of travellers) and Aurora (Roman goddess of dawn, who was also mother of the winds, and thus suggesting swift journeys).
In mentioning fleet passage, we must not forget Nike, who as winged goddess of victory was the inevitable choice for the name of a brand of athletic shoes.
In some instances the reasoning behind a particular brand name remains obscure, so we indulged in a wild surmise or two. For example, Phoenix Insurance hints that which has been destroyed will rise again, triumphant, while Ajax, one of the mightiest warriors in Greek mythology, certainly suggests the cleanser is more than a match for any stubborn stains.
And speaking of matches, Swan Vestas was an inspired choice for what used to be called Lucifers (itself a Name With A History). As is generally known, Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth, was served by priestesses who maintained the sacred fire and suffered very severe penalties should it be extinguished. But what are we to make of the swan? Northern legends of swan maidens are plentiful, but on the other hand, Helen was born of Leda after Zeus visited her in the shape of a swan. There again swans were sacred to Apollo, another god of light. Perhaps the presence of the swan is merely a matter of a difference or two of a pinion?
One might speculate if the founder of Amazon.com named it after the mythical race of women warriors in homage to the purchasing power of female shoppers, and even suspect the camera was named Olympus as a nod to the spectacular view obtainable from that mountainous dwelling of the Greek gods. Then too might it be the muffler company is called Midas because silence is proverbially golden?
It was after we failed to think of any reason why a candy bar should be named after Mars, god of war (a slogan along the lines of "Mars, a bar worth fighting for" did however suggest itself) that Eric came up with the game mentioned earlier: inventing companies to match mythological characters.
"How about the Pandora Box Company?" he said. "Or the Cyclops Vision Care Centre? And what about a revolving charge account known as the Sisyphus Credit Card, because holders would keep endlessly rolling the boulder of payments uphill but with such outrageous interest charges would never be able to pay it off?"
Having thus introduced the subject, we hope you'll feel free to email mythological brand name suggestions, which we'll list in our next newsletter. Can't say fairer than that, can we?
Thatís the mystery Emperor Justinian inexplicably sends his Lord Chamberlain John the Eunuch to solve, at the very time John desperately needs to clear himself of accusations he murdered a senator in the Hippodrome.
Mehenopolis, a pilgrim destination thanks to its ancient shrine to a snake deity as well as the home of the late sheep, is nearly as byzantine in its ways and undercurrents as Constantinople.
Among suspicious characters John encounters there are a pretentious local landowner battling a self-styled magician for control of the lucrative shrine, an exiled heretical cleric, an itinerant bee-keeper, and a disgraced charioteer. Meanwhile, in Constantinople, Johnís good friend Anatolius does his best to trace the senatorís murderer.
At stake are not only Johnís honor and his head, but also the family with whom he recently reunited, now in danger of being broken apart -- or worse.
Whenever I look out the window, I see yellow leaves in the air, drifting, twirling, tumbling, swinging slowly to and fro on their way down. The cat sits on the sill and watches leaf creatures slide across the porch roof.
A few times, however, what I first mistook for a particularly erratic leaf turned out to be a small butterfly Surprising, since already weíve had a hard frost.
Soon the world will be too cold for butterflies. I donít suppose these autumn butterflies know how near they are to the end times. There are still enough warm days to encompass their brief lives. The drifting snows of winter mean no more to them than the final extinguishing of the sun means to us. Less, because they have no concept of some future from which they will be forever barred Nor can they regret, as they live out their few days in a world without hot sunlight and bright flowers, that they were not born into an endless summer long since past.
Iíve always been fascinated by the past and the future. Any time other than now. When I was younger I devoured science fiction. The imagined futures were more attractive, or at least more interesting, than my dull and constrained present. SF books reminded me not only that the future would be different, but by extension that the present could be different. After all, the present was not just ďthe way things areĒ that so many believe it to be. Once it too was a malleable future ready to be shaped by choices yet to be made.
Today I spend a lot of time writing historical mysteries and I continually try to remind myself that 542 AD is as alien and unreachable as the far future. I have read historicals in which the author was bent on pointing out similarities to the present, but to me the differences are more interesting.
Of course, we are always unavoidably writing about our own times since we have no experience of others. I canít actually put myself into the mind of a character who cannot even guess at the next 1,500 years, which for us is all graven in history books, a person who has never seen an electric light, who doesnít realize North and South America exist. I canít even write in ancient Greek, let alone think in it. But I can pretend not to know what the future holds. I can respect beliefs my characters might have which they would probably not adhere to now in the light of twenty-first century knowledge. I can allow our fictional Justinian to imagine, as he must have, that perhaps the Goths could be thrown out of Italy and the Roman Empire fully reconstructed, without slyly reminding the reader of my superior knowledge thanks to fifteen centuries of hindsight.
Distant eras and people long dead had their own agendas which had nothing to do with creating a world of the sort to which we are used. At the present moment, weíre whatís happened, but weíre not what our predecessors were aiming for. A historical rings false when it gives the impression that its era is only a way station along a road leading directly to where we are today, or a reflection of a future that did not yet exist to be mirrored.
I suppose writing a historical is mostly a matter of creating an illusion. A novel will always be written according to the tastes and preoccupations and methods of the time in which itís written. If readers didnít want the past shaped to their current needs to some extent, they would turn directly to what people of the times wrote for themselves. Nevertheless, the illusion of a difference between our era and the historical one depicted is worth maintaining.
But people themselves never change, or so it's said. That is true to an extent, or true for the short period of recorded history for which we can vouch. Yes, the ancient Greeks wrote about the same emotions we feel today, the identical virtues and vices. Yet the beliefs people lived by have been as variegated as -- well, as the different beliefs people around the world live by today. Something I find instructive in history is that our common human nature has never led irrevocability to one particular kind of society. Rather, the society human beings create has mostly to do with their beliefs. And though human nature might not be changeable, beliefs are. Is that cause for optimism?
Given the shortcomings of the world we live in, I guess I find it comforting to contemplate, to spend some time in, worlds of the future or worlds of the past, which give me hope for something different.
Then again, I always have a tendency toward somber reflections when the leaves begin to fall.
We don't know about how sunny it was over there, but in mid-December the Romans demonstrated their outward life by joyously celebrating Saturnalia, that most popular and intoxicating festival featuring riotous behaviour and social disorder. Since the next issue of Orphan Scrivener will be emailed on l5 December, we will do our best to ensure its content does not provoke riots and public unrest.
See you then!
Mary R and Eric
who invite you to visit their home page, hanging out on the virtual washing line that is the aether at
Therein you'll find the usual suspects, including more personal essays and an interactive game as well as an on-line jigsaw puzzle (if you have a java-enabled browser) featuring One For Sorrow's boldly scarlet cover. For those new to the subscription list there's also the Orphan Scrivener archive, so don't say you weren't warned!