The Voynich Manuscript

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The Voynich Manuscript has remained a mystery for centuries. First off, it’s written in an unknown script by an unknown author. It might be a hitherto unknown language, a cipher, or just plain nonsense. It features images of unknown plants, possible star charts featuring zodiac-like imagery, and pictures of naked women bathing in pools connected by tubes which may be balneological (relating to healing baths). Several pages are missing from it. Continue reading

The Private Letters of Countess Erzsébet Báthory by Kimberly L. Craft

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Erzsébet (Elizabeth) Báthory was a medieval Hungarian countess, best known for bathing in blood to keep herself young. While it’s a myth that she bathed in blood, there was a trial in which she was said to have tortured and killed several servant girls. The trial itself, however, was rather irregular, so whether Elizabeth Bathory was indeed guilty or not is still an open question. Continue reading

Stories from Ancient Canaan

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“Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan” -Ezekiel 16:3

The city of Ugarit was destroyed around 1200 BC and rediscovered in 1928. It was a Canaanite city-state like Jerusalem. Until the Ugaritic texts were discovered, all we knew about the Canaanites was what was said of them in the Bible. The texts that survive are fragmentary, but at least give us a small window into what the Canaanites believed. The Ugaritic texts have similarities to both the Gilgamesh epic and passages in the Bible. Continue reading

Elizabeth Bathory: A Memoire by Kimberly Craft

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Erzsebet (Elizabeth) Bathory was a medieval Hungarian countess who supposedly tortured and killed hundreds of girls and bathed in their blood to keep herself young. Her story has been exaggerated a lot over the years. There’s no evidence she really bathed in blood, and the number of dead girls was wildly inflated. In fact, it’s even possible that she was completely innocent (see Tony Thorne’s book, Countess Dracula: The Life and Times of Elisabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess.)

Kimberly Craft has written the best non-fiction book making the case that Elizabeth was indeed guilty of at least some of the crimes she was accused of (Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory), so I was interested to see how she’d tell the tale in a fictional manner. Continue reading

Asimov’s Science Fiction November/December 2018

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So I’ve got a subscription to Asimov’s Science Fiction now. I generally consume most of my short fiction in podcast form, but I apparently can’t say no to door-to-door salesmen, so here we are.  But you know what? For once I’m glad I gave in to the salesman’s pitch, because this is really good stuff.

I’ve gotten bored with the whole post-apocalyptic, dystopian thing of late, so I’m happy to report most of the stories in this issue are optimistic. They’re also hard sci-fi for the most part. There was also a lot of diversity in terms of the nationality of the characters. Aliens, when they exist, are usually off screen, which serves to make them more mysterious and awe inspiring. Continue reading

The Monk by M. G. Lewis

“Insolent in your yet-unshaken virtue, you disdained the prayers of a penitent; but God will show mercy, though you show none. And where is the merit of your boasted virtue? What temptations have you vanquished? Coward! you have fled from it, not opposed seduction. But the day of trial will arrive! Oh! then when you yield to impetuous passions! when you feel that man is weak, and born to err; When shuddering you look back upon your crimes, and solicit with terror the mercy of your God, Oh! in that fearful moment think upon me!”

Note: This review will contain spoilers. I usually try not to discuss a book in full, but I just couldn’t resist with this one. Also, there’s some really gruesome stuff in this book, so read on at your own risk. Continue reading

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”

Frankenstein was originally published in 1818, making this year the 200th anniversary. A perfect time for me to reread it. Mary Shelley starting writing this when she was just 18 years old, making this an even more remarkable achievement. Both of her parents were writers, though, so it kind of makes sense she’d be a good writer from a young age. Her husband also encouraged her to write (they eloped when she was 16). Shelley’s mother died days after she was born, so she wasn’t a direct influence on Mary. However, Mary often poured over her mother’s writings, so her mother was still a great influence on her. Continue reading

On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier Part 12 of 12

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This will be the final post in my multi-part summary of Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. After going over our background information, evidence outside the Bible, Acts, the Gospels, and most of the Epistles (which are all more likely if Jesus didn’t exist than if he did), we finally get to the best evidence there is for historicity (the theory that Jesus existed as a historical person instead of a celestial deity). Continue reading