Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, May Finally Rest

Truth be told, I'm a Shakespeare Authorship Agnostic.

Until a few years ago, I hadn't realized how little and shaky the evidence was that W. Shaksper, the guy from Stratford-on-Avon, wrote the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare. I saw a PBS special on Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, and the authorship question in general and was hooked. It's fascinating. If Shaksper did not write the ouevre, Oxford's claim is backed by good evidence, and Oxford's life imbues the plays and sonnets with heart-breaking biographical subtext.

I could blather and bowdlerize for days on the authorship question and may at some point in the future, but for the sake of this post and it's conclusions, I'd like to gloss over it and just specify the following, if de Vere wrote the Shakespearean plays and the sonnets, then:
  • It seems from Oxford's own letters, signature, the sonnets, and the plays that in his youth and like so many others, Oxford had lofty aspirations to marry Queen Elizabeth I and become the King Consort. 
  • Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (the generally acknowledged Fair Youth of the sonnets,) was Oxford's illegitimate son. 
  • Southampton's mother may well have been Queen Elizabeth I, who may be The Dark Lady of the sonnets. (Changes everything you thought about the sonnets, doesn't it?) 
  • While Oxford perhaps did not want to sully his good name by associating it with playwriting or the possibly treasonous poems ("My name be buried where my body is, And live no more to shame nor me nor you. For I am shamed by that which I bring forth, And so should you, to love things nothing worth.") he was obsessively interested in his noble and royal legacies. 
  • Oxford wanted his own offspring on the throne or, barring that, at least to inherit his own earldom. Oxford's oldest daughter and the heir for many years may have been conceived while he was in Italy, thus illegitimate and not his biological offspring, and so he tried to marry his biological but illegitimate son (Southampton) to his legal but not biological daughter so that his earldom would at least pass to his biological grandchildren. The purposed marriage is historical fact about Oxford and surely seems to be supported by the sonnets. 
One of the problems with Oxford's claim is that no Shakespearean manuscripts survive that can be attributed to him. (The same can be said of Shaksper of Stratford. Seriously. None.) While we'd all love to find a lead-lined, hermetically sealed casket buried deep under Castle Hedingham with all the Shakespearean manuscripts in Oxford's gorgeous Italianate handwriting and signed with his "Edward the VII" signature, along with a note that reads, I WROTE ALL THESE, YOU IDIOTS!, that is unlikely.

On FB, some people were lamenting a lack of Oxford's documents and where they might be hiding, and I got to thinking, what if Oxford gave them to Southampton, his historically documented very good friend and possible son? Who would have those papers now?

So I went looking for Southampton's descendants. (Full disclosure: I looked on Wikipedia. This isn't an academic dissertation. This is 30 minutes of idle time while The Kid was doing subtraction.)

Some background: I just finished publishing a book with a main character who is a modern-day European prince and, because I'm a little OCD, I traced my character's ancestors back 1000 years and mapped his relationship to most of the royal houses of Europe, including England's.

Imagine my surprise when, while researching the descendants of Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, some familiar names started popping up.

Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (Oct 1573 - Nov 1624) m. Elizabeth Vernon

Thomas Wriothesley, the 4th Earl of Southampton (Mar 1607 - May 1667) m. Rachel de Massue

Lady Rachel Wriothesley (c. 1636 - Sept 1723, a published author) m. William Russell, Lord Russell

Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford (Nov 1680 - May 1711) m. Elizabeth, daughter of John Howland of Streatham

John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford (Sept 1710 - Jan 1771) m. Lady Diana Spencer (no, not that Lady Di, we're in the early 1700's. This one was the daughter of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland)

Francis Russell, Marquess of Tavistock (September 1739 – March 1767) m. Lady Elizabeth (daughter of William van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle)

John Russell, 6th Duke of Bedford (July 1766 – October 1839) m. Lady Georgiana (daughter of Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon)

Lady Louise Jane Russell (Jul 1812 - March 1905) m. James Hamilton, the 1st Duke of Abercorn

James Hamilton, the 2nd Duke of Abercorn (August 1838 – January 1913) m. Lady Maria Anna Curzon-Howe (1848–1929), daughter of Richard Curzon-Howe, 1st Earl Howe

James Albert Edward Hamilton, 3rd Duke of Abercorn, (30 November 1869 – 12 September 1953) m.  Lady Rosalind Cecilia Caroline Bingham (1869–1958), daughter of Charles George Bingham, the 4th Earl of Lucan

Lady Cynthia Elinor Beatrix Hamilton (16 August 1897 – 4 December 1972) m. Albert Edward John Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer

Edward John "Johnnie" Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, (24 January 1924 – 29 March 1992) m. Lady Frances Ruth Roche, daughter of Edmund Maurice Burke Roche, the 4th Baron Fermoy

Lady Diana Frances Spencer (Yeah, there she is. 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997) m. Charles, Prince of Wales

     -Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (William Arthur Philip Louis, born 21 June 1982)  married Catherine Middleton
          -- Prince George of Cambridge, born on 22 July 2013
    -Prince Henry "Harry" of Wales (Henry Charles Albert David, born 15 September 1984

So, if all stipulated is correct, if none of the preceding were born on the wrong side of the sheets, and if all goes well, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford has three upcoming chances for his progeny to take the throne.

I hope Edward is smiling, somewhere.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Joss Whedan's Way To Be Prolific

“I have a reward system. I am the monkey with the pellet and it’s so bad that I write almost everything in restaurants or cafes [so] that when I have an idea, I go and get chocolate." 
Awesome idea, Joss. A man after my own heart. No wonder everything you work on resonates with me so.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

An Open Love Letter to Amazon, or Why It's A Great Time To Be A Reader

When I was growing up, there was a small B. Dalton bookshop and an exceedingly small branch library that were close enough for my mom to take me to in the rather scary area where I grew up, at the Christown Mall. (The police still don't go near my neighborhood without air support. Really. The Alhambra District in Phoenix, AZ.) The libraries in my elementary and high schools were tiny and terrible. That was all I knew, so I stalked those two places. There were no independent book stores that I could go to. I'd pretty much read everything in the library by the time I was 10. I never read classics or anything particularly new. Our branch library had "Little Men" but not "Little Women." B. Dalton got new stuff in, but I wasn't allowed to buy hardbacks because the family budget was limited.  I had heard of a lot of books and writers that I had never seen, and of course the B. Dalton stocked little midlist and almost no backlist. I managed to find major writers at B. Dalton: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, etc. I don't remember who else.

When I was in high school, the first Barnes and Noble opened near enough to us, at Metrocenter, and I went nuts. They had low-priced classics via the B&N imprint. I had never seen an actual book by Jane Austen or Tolstoy, though I had heard of them. I had heard of Sherlock Holmes but never seen any of Doyle's books. or Agatha Christie. Or any modern non-fiction science books. Seriously, I looked like Tinkerbell flying around in there. I got a part-time job to support my book habit. My mother worried about hoarding. I bought The Pugilist at Rest, a collection of short stories by Thom Jones, at the B&N at Metrocenter, and that book was the reason I applied to the Iowa MFA program, to study with Thom.

I found Amazon in 1995, within a month or two of its debut.  I still remember clicking through it for the first time. I had a panic attack. I actually had to walk away from the computer to compose myself. I was shaking so hard when I saw all those books that I had heard of,--classics, backlist titles, series titles that I had missed, so many books!--and I had to do was click, and they arrived. I found books that I should have known about but hadn't. They had every book by Jane Austen, Tolstoy, George Eliot, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and so many other writers that I had heard about but never seen in print. I had heard the name "Nabokov" in a song by The Police, but I had never seen Lolita. I had never seen a book by Virginia Woolf. Shipping was free if you ordered more than $100 worth, and I always ordered more than $100 worth. And the prices were lower! I couldn't believe how many books I got for $100!

And now, Kindle. Free classics and other books. Lower-priced ebooks. Instant delivery. I read a lot of books that I adore but would have never been published by traditional publishers because they're too niche, and I am so in that niche. Over half the books I buy are "indie," or independently published. The five best books that I read last year were indie. (The five worst books that I read last year were all traditionally published.) I can carry 200 books in my purse.I can find new writers, lots of them. I can buy a whole series by a new writer, including stuff that was originally published a decade or more ago. I can read Aristotle's Poetics on my phone. I can instantly read full-color non-fiction on my (Kid's) Kindle Fire. I love my "old-fashioned" ereader Kindle because it strains my eyes less than a printed book.

Plus, no one can see my hoard, so I don't have a problem, right?

As a writer, I love and use Amazon.

As a reader, Amazon changed my life.

It feels like when I got a car for the first time, and I was free to drive anywhere you want to.

Or like when I got glasses for the first time, and I realized that trees have leaves, not just green smears, and that the streets went a lot farther than I had thought they did.

Or the first time I got a passport, when I thought, I can go anywhere on the planet, anywhere. I am no longer confined by mere borders. 

Or the first time I hooked my computer up to the internet (1994) and found a whole, new world through my text-based browser that I had never knew existed, where people shared everything they knew.

Or when soon after that, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) told me about a secret, magic mantra called Gayathri Mantra that he knew because he was a high-caste uber-Brahmin priest and had gone through a secret religious ritual and that he would never tell me, and so I found it in fifteen minutes online, with several English translations, to the point where I understood it better than he did. Man, he was pissed.

That's what Amazon feels like to me. It feels like blowing up boundaries. It feels like secret knowledge revealed.

I'm sure that I'm a typical high-volume reader, in that Amazon increased how much I buy and read because it increased the number of books that I have access to. Looking back, I cannot believe some of the crud that I read as a kid and even as a young adult because I had no access to better books. Back then, I even reread crud because I couldn't find anything else to buy. I still reread books, but I reread Orlando by Virginia Woolf, and I reread Lolita by Nabokov, and I reread Jane Austen and Tolstoy. And I read so many new, wonderful, varied books, a kaleidoscope of books, a whole world of books.

As great a time as this is to be a writer, it's a fantastic time to be a reader.

TK Kenyon

Friday, March 22, 2013

First They Came for the Guns of the Murderers

First they came for the guns of the murderers,
but I didn't speak out because I wasn't a murderer.

Then they came for guns of the rapists,
but I didn't speak out because I wasn't a rapist.

Then they came for the guns of the wife beaters,
but I didn't speak out because I wasn't a wife beater.

Then they came for the guns of the psychopaths and psychotics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a psychopath or psychotic.

They never came for my guns,
because I’m a law-abiding citizen.

Once the pool of illegal guns dried up,
and it became harder for criminals and violent mentally ill people to get guns,
the crime rate dropped,
because those idiots tried to break into my house with just a knife,
and I shot those motherfuckers.

You know, I don't often discuss my political views because I'm a moderate with pragmatic leanings, and chances are, no matter color of the political spectrum that you inhabit, I probably agree with you on around 50% of your views. My mom is a Tea Party member, and she and I have lots we agree on. I have friends who are tree-huggin' socialist Occupy types, and we have lots we agree on. 

However, background checks for gun purchases are a pragmatic step, and the time has come to institute them. 

If you haven't committed a felony or don't have a violent mental illness diagnosis, why are you worried? 

The "Slippery Slope" argument is a fallacy. The Second Amendment protects the rights of law-abiding citizens to have and hold guns. Convicted felons and mentally ill people who are a danger to others are stripped of their constitutional rights, which includes the rights to liberty, representation through voting, and to bear arms. 

We have locked convicted felons in prisons and not allowed them to vote for centuries, but no one has taken those rights away from law-abiding citizens. Denying violent criminals and violent mentally ill people access to firearms will not impinge on law-abiding citizens' rights. 

While any one criminal or mentally ill person may still be able to access a firearm, reducing the percentage of the violent population who can access firearms will reduce the number of crimes. 

While I believe, deeply, that all of the above is true, I also maintain that the only thing that is going to stop or drastically reduce the number of violent crimes like Tucson, Newtown, and Aurora is the creation of a mental health system to identify, detain, and treat people who are violently mentally ill. 

We also need better treatments, both behavioral and pharmaceutical, for violence. If we can treat depression with pharmaceuticals, treating aggression is most likely possible. 

If pharmaceutical companies were given the right financial incentive, like mandatory medication for all incarcerated violent felons, I'll bet clinical trials would start next week, because I suspect that some medications that have already been approved would be effective. 

So, yes, I believe that mandatory, universal background checks will keep some guns out of the hands of some violent people. 

Then, we need to reduce the violence.