Tansy Rayner Roberts: Classics Nerdery.
So my excellent friend Tansy was like, Karen, I am doing a blog tour, do you want me to write a post for you?
Well, as you know, Tansy, I said, I am super lazy. Please, please, leaven the bright chatter of my ridiculous blog with your sensical sense.
Okay, Karen, she said. What shall I write about?
Well, I thought about that (not very hard [because lazy]). Internets, you might remember that I wrote this book called Guardian of the Dead, and the heroine loves Classics. That’s because my second favorite subject at school was Classics (after English), and it was my other major when I did my BA. Actually, much as I loved the English parts of my undergrad years I probably enjoyed my Classics courses more overall.
(Also there was a SUPER SMART AND GORGEOUS guy in a lot of my Classics classes. Hello Mark Nolan is that you? Yes, a bit, although I barely managed to speak to this dude in the real lifes because he was so cute that forming complete sentences was a bit of a chore for me. So I am not actually sure what his personality was like, although I have the impression that he was very nice. Probably he would be unlikely to use his magic powers to cause massive migraines in girls who were asking too many questions, so you can see Mark is an original character really.
I wonder what that dude’s up to now? Oh, excellent, according to Google he is doing very well. Yay for you, cute classics guy!)
Anyway! TANSY, as it happens, is also a big ol’ Classics nerd, and this has had even more influence upon her (extremely good) work than mine. So I said to her, Tansy, please write about Classics nerdery!
And she said, sure, Karen, I can do that.
And here it is!
by Tansy Rayner Roberts
We all have favourite historical characters, right? You hear about them in some book, or see a great TV show or movie and start getting interested in the real person, and somehow they take hold of your brain, and you start shipping them with other historical characters, and maybe thereâ€™s fanfic, and you have Opinions about, for instance, that person who killed them, or divorced them, or whatever.
I know itâ€™s not just me. My friend Random Alex and I had known each other long distance for years, and when we met for the first time at a convention, we had an awkward thirty seconds before we got into a delightful bickeration about whether Julius Caesar was more awesome than Marc Antony. It lasted hours!
And sure, sheâ€™s WRONG, but the fact that she is the sort of person who will have that argument with me and really care about the outcome means that we will be friends forever.
For three glorious years, once upon a time, I was paid to study the women of Imperial Rome, to write arguments about whether they were unfairly represented, and quite crucially, about the political significance of their hairstyles. Best job ever. Which is a good thing, because once my scholarship ran out, I had to continue my work unpaid for another coughseveral years.
Now of course, I really do have the best job ever, because I get to Steal Things From History and write about them.
Like that time I wrote a short story collection about how the family of Caesars were all basically vampires, werewolves or lamia, and doesn’t that make so much more sense? Or the time I wrote a fantasy trilogy set in a city that revolves around the Roman calendar, thereby justifying the semester when I translated Ovidâ€™s Fasti and ended up doing my Honours Thesis on weird lady religious traditions of Ancient Rome.
Thereâ€™s one ritual celebrating the Venus Verticordia, where women form a flashmob to invade the menâ€™s baths while carrying a statue of the goddess, which they then wash. And then thereâ€™s the Bona Dea with her snakes and her honey, and donâ€™t get me started on the Vestal Virgins…
But the best thing in recent days about being a classics geek was when I found a cool book about Romans to give to my seven year old daughter. I placed it discreetly with a stack of new novels – Five Children and It, Beezus and Ramona, a fairy novel with my name in the title, and Romans (Henryâ€™s House) by Phillip Ardagh, which won her attention because despite being a Book About Facts it is basically a comic with lots of funny dog bits.
We lay next to each other, reading, and she kept interrupting me to read out amusing facts about gladiators, or Roman toilets, or MY BELOVED JULIUS CAESAR.
And I would smile and nod, and add an extra fact or two, to show her I was paying attention. I worked very hard not to stop and turn the relaxing reading session into a full-blown lecture.
“But yes, actually Julius Caesar was also the head priest of Rome for a while and reorganised the whole calendar. The month of July is named after him. And yes, he was good friends with some bloke called Antony, but donâ€™t worry too much about him, heâ€™s not very interesting. And yes, he was very good friends with Cleopatra, too.
And by the way, youâ€™re named after his mother Aurelia.”
Not that Iâ€™m obsessed at all.
To her credit, Raeli has finished the book and showed every indication of enjoying it all the way through. Iâ€™m doing my best not to squee too loudly, and to demand that she starts on I, Claudius or Virgil.
Maybe when sheâ€™s eight.
Tansyâ€™s award-winning Creature Court trilogy: Power and Majesty, The Shattered City and Reign of Beasts, featuring flappers with swords, shape changers, half-naked men and bloodthirsty court politics, have been released worldwide on the Kindle, and should be available soon across other e-book platforms. If you prefer your books solid and papery, they can also be found in all good Australian and New Zealand bookshops.
You can also check out Tansyâ€™s work through the Hugo-nominated crunchy feminist science fiction podcast Galactic Suburbia, Tansy’s short story collection Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press). You can find her on the internet at her blog, or on Twitter as @tansyrr.