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A Novel History

“You’re a historian. Why write a novel?” a dear friend and early reader of Hyperadamantine wanted to know. Why indeed? Like many academics, in the course of looking for something else, I stumbled across the name Nikolai Bestuzhev a lot, as I researched culture and society in 19th– and 20th-century Buryatia for a dissertation. Just…

The Painful Victory

Several years ago, before the birth of my first son, I had a dream. I was working on my dissertation. I had just watched the Manchurian Candidate, a great source of nightmares. In the dream, I fought off a fearsome dragon in front of a committee, which was apparently there to evaluate my performance. They…

One stone

A Western Buryat scholar friend of mine, now sadly deceased, told me a story that changed a great deal of how I thought about Soviet and Russian history. It was the story of a stone. The stone came at the end, so let me get back to the beginning. The hero of the tale was…

Americana

The chickens stare in clueless apathy at the SUV they’ve stopped. They strut back off to the ditch that runs beside the main road through our town, a place time forgot. Almost literally: It has the same population now as in the 1890s. Its grid of “streets” has shrunk and faded: C Street and B…

A Portrait of the Artist as a Commercial Product

The Artist had run aground. His creativity was sandbarred. He stared glumly at his tablet. He drank a machiato. Then a mojito. Nothing helped. Not even the serious consideration of a return to smoking. Flash forward a week. He has abandoned the creativity-prison of his home office! He has flown around the world, emptying his…

May we come to understand

Experience is a great teacher of “feels,” of the difficult-to-describe, nebulous emotional states that often define our day-to-day existence. The feel, when you are an obvious, unwanted outsider. The feel of the police as menace, not potential ally. These were feels I only encountered outside of my homeland. They are, however, constant companions of far,…

Forgiveness

I am struggling at the moment with a project that’s been affectionately dubbed “Dragonlande” around here, a fantasy series that involves many themes. One of them is forgiveness. (So many novels focus on martial themes, and the glories of hierarchy and war. I’m trying to do something a bit closer to my heart. But that’s…

The Khan and You

I really don’t need much encouragement to rant and rave and gush about Mongolian history. Of course, everyone’s favorite period is The Conquest, the many decades that dominate the popular world imagination. People write historical quasi-fantasies about them, reenact them, and compose disco anthems to them. Sigh. The funny thing: If you’re not talking payback…

Nature’s Despised Vacuum, or why we need to forget about marketing

Death to the marketing mind. I encounter it, every day (well, I do work in marketing): artists who have been devoured by marketing. Their work languishes, they feel hopeless and resentful. Or they are so caught up in a flustered maelstrom of plotting and networking and platforms and messaging and so on, they have forgotten…

A Simple Point: People need money to purchase music

Hey, why aren’t people buying music anymore? The question begs another question. One few observers of the music industry/scene seem to stumble on: Why don’t people have money to spend on music? Two words: Income inequality. How can an unpaid intern, a struggling grad student, an unemployed recent college grad be expected to spend money…

Content and its discontents

This is not content. It is a poorly thought-out essay, dashed off in a pre-dawn fit. It is what writers back in the day would have scribbled in near-illegible scrawl in some notebook, or on the back of some list of tack to be repaired or tasks to be completed that week. This is the…