research question and icon contest followup

Icons first, because that’s the shorter bit: I had someone ask how large the icon should be for The Tropic of Serpents. Answer is, 100×100 pixels; that’s LJ’s size limit. And the door is still open for people to submit their efforts — not because the ones I’ve received are in any way unsatisfactory, but because I didn’t answer this question sooner, and I want to give everybody who’s interested a chance to try! Remember, winner gets either a hardcover of A Natural History of Dragons or an ARC of Tropic when those become available.

Now, the research question. First of all, my deep gratitude to everybody who has responded; keep ’em coming. Secondly, some clarification.

I almost feel like I shouldn’t have mentioned Hawai’i, because so many people have fixated on that. It doesn’t have to be Hawai’i specifically, so if you have recommendations for sources on other Polynesian societies, please share them — New Zealand, Samoa, wherever. Reason being, what I’m after right now is stuff that will give me a broad sense of what traits are shared across the Polynesian cultural sphere, such that we’re able to talk about there being such a sphere. I won’t attempt to drill down more specifically until I have that broad sense, because without it, I don’t really know where I want to drill.

This means that if, say, there are better writings about New Zealand than there are about Hawai’i, then I’ll happily go read about New Zealand instead. I don’t need the specific history of any one place, because I’m not writing about that place; I’m trying to invent a society with broadly similar social/political/religious/economic structures. Mind you, I know enough about the history of anthropological writing to know I’m going to be dodging bullets wherever I go (hi, Margaret Mead; how are you?) — but if there’s an area with fewer bullets flying, please do point me at it. 🙂 As long as it’s part of the Polynesian sphere, it’s good for my purposes at this stage.

As for history in my own setting, I need to invent the nearest continent before I’ll know what I’m doing with that. 😛

(Speaking of which, I should inflate my globe-beachball again and start doing some more worldbuilding.)

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0 Responses to “research question and icon contest followup”

  1. slashmarks

    As someone who had the teacher bring her up as a Fine Example in a very, very terrible high school anthropology class (teacher is well known in the district for having classes with the lowest scoring in the district on any subject she teachers)I’m now curious what you meant about Margaret Mead.

    • wshaffer

      probably knows the gory details better, but what I recall from when we read Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa in my intro to anthropology class is that there are strong suspicions that Mead distorted her data to fit her preconceived notions and/or was duped by informants who told her what she wanted to hear. While it’s still a groundbreaking work of anthropology, we were encouraged not to accept its conclusions uncritically.

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s questionable whether she was duped, as said, but Mead does seem to have come in with some preconceived notions which really colored her research. Basically, she was sure that things like teenaged angst were a result of our child-rearing practices, rather than a natural stage of development, and that Samoans had a vastly superior approach to such matters.

      It’s less offensive than some of the other ways anthropology can go wrong, and overall Mead is fairly respectable. But that doesn’t mean Coming of Age in Samoa is entirely reliable in its depiction of their society and its effects.

      • slashmarks

        Gotcha. Well, given the time period I seem to recall she was working in, she probably *is* a reasonably good example then, but not exactly great scientific practice. Do you remember what part was supposed to be distorted/how much? (You can feel free to tell me to go read the book myself if I want to know *wry*)

  2. kateelliott

    I understood you were looking for a larger Polynesian context (thus the Vaka Moana book is probably right up your alley). As for the rest, I really only have the Hawaii material as I’ve not done any research on the other Polynesian (much less Micronesian) cultures.

    • Marie Brennan

      That wasn’t aimed at you specifically — my apologies if it felt that way. It was the aggregate of LJ, DW, some people on Goodreads, various e-mails, etc, all focusing on Hawai’i. Which is probably as much because of observer bias as anything else (Americans are more likely to know about that than other parts of Polynesia), but some of it was vanishing down a bit of a rabbit-hole, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything elsewhere because of it.

      And I appreciate the help, I really do.

      • kateelliott

        Oh gosh I didn’t think it was aimed at me. Let me try again: I just wanted to clarify that the Hawaii material is all I have and if I had anything on the greater Polynesian sphere I would have included it.

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