“Amadis of Gaul” is complete and ready for purchase

amadisofgaul_booksitoivIn 2009, I started translating the medieval Spanish masterpiece, Amadis of Gaul, a chapter a week at the Amadis of Gaul website. It took me nine years (it’s a long book), but I’ve finished!

This novel, published in 1508, traces the life of the greatest knight in the world, Amadis of Gaul, starting with his conception and birth (outside of formal wedlock). He becomes a knight and battles evildoers and sorcerers, and he protects the kings he serves. He also falls in love with the most beautiful woman in the world, an unobtainable princess — and she loves him, too. Courage and passion fill this story.

You can read it at the website, or you can enjoy it in the convenience of a four-volume set in paperback and e-book, now on sale.

Why should you read this novel?

1. It’s one of the pillars of European literature and was the first continent-wide best-seller. It kicked off a century of tales of chivalry, a genre now known and loved as “sword and sorcery.” Knights in shining armor go off to fight for what’s right — with bravery tempered by fear. For readers, it was great fun, and it still is.

2. This is a story of the Middle Ages told by people in the Middle Ages. Their take on love, magic, war, fantasy, and honor doesn’t quite match our own. You can better understand their thoughts and get a glimpse of their daily lives by reading their own words. One thing I learned: being alone made them feel painfully anxious.

3. The plot is complex. It’s not just about Amadis, it’s about his family and friends, his beloved Princess Oriana, damsels in distress, and distressing damsels. The novel became a favorite of women and girls — and, eventually, it was accused of corrupting them. Don’t you want to be corrupted, too?

4. If you like Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, you’ll like it even more after you read Amadis of Gaul. You’ll get a lot more of the jokes. Chapter 6 of Quixote calls Amadis “the best of all the books composed in this genre” — and there were almost 80 books of that genre available at the time in Spanish, all inspired by Amadis but never equaling it.

5. Fight scenes! Knight versus knight, army versus army, fleet versus fleet, and knight versus horrible monster.

6. Love scenes! “Amadis turned to his lady, and when he saw her so beautiful … he was so struck by joy and shyness that he did not dare even to gaze at her. So it could well be said that in that green grass, on that cloak, more by the quiet grace of Oriana rather than the bold courage of Amadis, did the most beautiful maiden in the world become a woman.”

It was originally written as four “books,” each the size of a modern novel. Each volume includes notes to chapters, introductory material, information about the Middle Ages, lists of characters, and references.

Book I paperback and Kindle
Book II paperback and Kindle
Book III paperback and Kindle
Book IV paperback and Kindle

This novel drove Don Quixote mad. What will it do to you?

— Sue Burke

My award-eligible works

Here are my award-eligible works published in 2018:

“Life From the Sky”
Novelette. This isn’t a good time for alien life forms, no matter how simple and harmless, to land on Earth.
Asimov’s Magazine, May/June 2018.

Novel. A first contact, multi-generational story about colonists on a planet where plants are the dominant life forms — and they see animals, including humans, as their pawns.
Tor, February 2018.

— Sue Burke

“Microplástico” is Spain’s word of the year 2018

Spain’s Fundéu BBVA, which addresses critical questions about the Spanish language, has chosen microplástico (microplastics) as its word of the year for 2018.

The foundation chooses its word of the year from terms in the news. This word “highlights the awareness of one of the great environmental problems facing humanity,” according to the foundation’s website: many of the questions that the media had for Fundéu BBVA this year involved words related to the environment, which led to the selection of microplastico.

Fundéu BBVA explains: “Microplastics are small fragments of plastic (less than five millimeters) that are manufactured at that size for cleaning or hygiene products or that break off from larger pieces of plastics (shopping bags, containers of all kinds) during their decomposition. Their presence in the sand on beaches, in organisms in animals, in the sea salt we consume, and even in the water we drink have set off alarm bells, leading the reduction of single-use plastics, which are responsible for much of the problem.” [My translation.]

Runner-up words for 2018 were: descarbonizar (to reduce carbon emissions), hibridar (make hybrid, as with cars), mena (“menor extranjero no acompañado” or unaccompanied foreign minor immigrant), los nadie (the nobodies, people invisible or overlooked by society), micromachismo (male supremacist microagressions), VAR (“videoarbitraje” or video assistant referee), sobreturismo (overtourism), procrastinar (procrastinate), arancel (tariff), dataísmo (tendency to consider data supremely important) and nacionalpopulismo (alt-right).

Its word of the year for 2013 was escrache (a kind of protest), 2014 selfi (selfie), 2015 refugiado (refugee), 2016 populismo (populism), and 2017 aporophobia (fear of poverty and poor people).

Meanwhile, here in English, the words of the year were toxic according to Oxford Dictionaries; misinformation, Dictionary.com; single-use, Collins Dictionary; and justice, Merriam-Webster.

As I noted earlier, I can only conclude that in the English-speaking world, the year 2018 had a lot of problems. The Spanish-speaking world had the similar problems. Now 2019 is about to land on us. What will we talk about? Our larger conversations are certain to remain troubled and troubling.

— Sue Burke

My Goodreads review: “How to Clone a Mammoth”

How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-ExtinctionHow to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary: It might be impossible to clone a mammoth, or, for that matter, to clone any other extinct animal. And it might not be necessary.

The author leads the reader through the problems and reasons why it might not be a good idea even to try in some cases. For example, some animals have gone extinct due to changes in their habitats, and unless these habitats have been restored, the resurrected animals would have no place to go. In addition, DNA is fragile and hard to come by for long-extinct species like mammoth.

Shapiro also considers the ways to solve some of these problems along with the benefits from de-extinction. If mammoths were reintroduced, they might transform the tundra into rich grasslands. Mammoths would also trample away the snow in winter. Snow acts as insulation from the cold air, so the permafrost would be frozen harder and thus be protected from melting by a warming climate — and permafrost has a storehouse of greenhouse gasses locked up in it. Melting permafrost would be a disaster.

But rather than de-extinct species, existing species could be engineered to be so much like them that they can serve the same ecological purpose and even look a lot alike. We can change elephants in a way to bring back something just like a mammoth.

Shapiro doesn’t oppose de-extinction, but she knows it’s going to be hard to do and wants readers to understand what’s involved and what the alternatives are. She fulfills her goal to teach and to share her cautious enthusiasm.

P.S. I read this book as research for a novel. No spoilers, though.

— Sue Burke

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My Goodreads review: “The Calculating Stars”

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel starts with a horrifying disaster and ends with joy and hope. In the middle it zigzags in a fascinating way between anger and fear, which are overcome through grit and competence. I could tell you about the plot, but that’s easy information to find. This is how the book will make you feel, which is the most important thing. It’s an entertaining ride with a thoughtful side.

P.S. As a child, I loved watching Mr. Wizard. It was fun to see him play an important role in this book.

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