December 16th, 2008

noirish, a man in a hat

Weather on a flat world

My setting is for all intents and purposes a small flat world -- well, more of a 'halved sphere' shape, really, with all the action happening on the flat side. The 'useable' flat top of the world is roughly the size of Australia, and all one landmass. It's artifically constructed, enclosed by some sort of forcefield, and has an artificial 'star' fixed above it as a sort of sun substitute. It is in stable orbit around a black hole.

As you may have guessed, it's heavy-on-the-fantasy science fantasy, so I'm not really concerned about the viability of this, I just want to make it seem like it possibly could happen.

The problem: I'm running up against my extreme ignorance as to how weather would work on a world such as this. Would they have wind? Storms? Extreme weather of any sort? How does the water cycle work on a world like this?

Searched on: Anything with 'flat earth' or 'flat world' brings up lots of Flat Earth Society stuff and mockery of said stuff. I've also googled 'how weather happens' and variations, which was helpful for the generalities but I'm having a hard time extrapolating it to my flat world.
Toulouse cross

Adoption in 13th-century England?

A friend has asked me to critique her story, set in England in the 13th century. Her heroine is the daughter of a country knight and his wife, and at the beginning of the story is already married to another member of the minor local nobility. During the course of the story it transpires that her parents actually adopted her and that her birth mother was an unmarried peasant girl. This has various plot ramifications in terms of her blood relations turning up; but everybody in her current social circle reacts to this revelation quite serenely with only a few remarks along the lines of “ah, so that’s why she doesn’t resemble anyone else in the De Blank family!”

It’s my feeling, but I want to run this past all you guys before I reply to my friend, that this is just impossible because:

- The Middle Ages had no concept of adoption in the sense that we now understand the word. Certainly you could take in a child, whether a blood relation of yours or not, and bring it up; but you would introduce this child to people as “This is Matilda, who’s like a daughter to us” or, “our adopted daughter”. If you said “This is our daughter Matilda” you would be lying. You’d only do that with deliberate intent to deceive (e.g. if you couldn’t have children of your own, to keep property away from your next-of-kin).

- While you might bequeath such a child property in your will, s/he would have no automatic right to inherit anything from you, or from anyone else in your family. (In fact, in English law adopted children only acquired such a right less than 20 years ago.) And you had no right to leave them anything that was explicitly family rather than personal property.

- This character’s husband would actually have a very good ground for annulment of the marriage, since she is in a fundamental sense not the woman he thought he was marrying. He has married beneath himself, and any children they may have, being the children of a peasant bastard, will (a) have no claim on the De Blank property, and (b) not be eligible for knighthood, the priesthood, or prestigious marriages.

Edited to add:

Thanks everyone for your input: very helpful! Armed with your comments I went back to my friend, who was v. dismayed and said she had been sure the adoption thing was authentic, as she had cribbed it from a published novel. She showed it to me, and so it proved:

Well, we knew there's nothing too rubbishy to be published somewhere, but to have it hailed as "a worthy heir to Ellis Peters".......Gack!
times are hard for dreamers

race and class in Victorian England

Setting: England circa the late 1890s. Generally at a boarding school, though also in London.

I’ve googled various versions of race interracial Victorian England 1890s and found a few articles offering very brief overviews but didn’t really offer anything too helpful or indepth.

1. What role did black people have in the English social structure during this period? What was the stereotypical view?  From what I’ve read, there was some interaction between races, but it wasn't very good.  Generally, black people worked in jobs not requiring much education like servants and the like, though I did run in to one Victorian era doctor. I’m not sure how uncommon that was or if the upper class welcomed those of other races. I’m guessing no.

2. How would an interracial coupling be viewed by both white and black people? Would the man’s social status make a difference? I know that interracial marriage was illegal in the United States up until the last fifty-some years. Was it the same in England?
Along the same lines—how publicly could a girl of a wealthy class carry on a friendship with a girl who was a servant at her boarding school? Would class be even more important than race?

Stuffed in a bodybag in a trunk...

Not really sure how to research this on google; the best results I come up with are dead people, and my character needs to be alive.

The gist of it: A guy is kidnapped, placed in a duffle-type body bag and put inside of a car's trunk for a 4 hour or so trip. Would he suffocate during that time or is there enough air in the trunk and the bag to keep him alive for the delivery?
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Tox Screens and Herbal Abortions?

I've done enough searching this evening to thoroughly terrify someone who was to unwittingly look through my browser history, and now I'd like to turn to you folks.

I'm writing a story wherein a tox screen is performed on a body that washes ashore. The cause of death (not that the characters in the story know that yet) is an overdose--most likely unintentional--of...something that is not a drug. I'm thinking she was taking something like ridiculous amounts of vitamin C or some herb meant for 'natural abortion'.

What I need to know is if high levels of Vitamin C would show up on a toxicology report, and, if so, if there is some other herb that wouldn't. For the sake of a character's reaction, I need the cause of death to be initially mistaken. Also, if anyone knows what the fatal amount of whatever method would be for a 14-year-old at 115-120lbs, or how to find this information, could you point me in that direction?

I've searched various phrases, like "vitamin c overdose", "vitamin c in tox screens", as well as looked into other herbs such as tansy, blue cohosh, and pennyroyal (I thought maybe the girl could have been confused/ill-informed and consumed the oil directly, but that wouldn't really work for the story).

I know it actually sounds like I'm some kid whose condom broke, haha, but I truly am trying to write a story.