Tag Archives: The Next Coming Race

(Former) Archaeologist’s Lament Addendum

Excerpt from THE NEXT COMING RACE (as yet unpublished).

Pot hunters held rave-type, secretive, pic-nic-style parties, complete with bar-b-ques and beer, on little known or overlooked archaeological sites. They socialized, ate a good meal, and then broke out the shovels, leaving behind a landscape so littered and cratered you’d think you’d landed on a mock-up of the moon.
I suppose what happened next was my fault. Goaded by the wealth of my online data mining and the voracity with which we’d hatched the previous night’s plan, I emailed the others with my findings, urging them to follow through with our stratagem.
It got exciting two months later. One of the pot hunters suggested they get together and investigate an abandoned and soon to be demolished property south of Stouffville. They used SurveyMonkey to determine the best date and settled on having a tailgate-style dinner prior to the dig. Undaunted by the sheer gall of what the pot hunters had suggested, I emailed every one of the original archaeologists. None of us had the slightest clue as to how to proceed. We knew that prosecuting the buggers would be a difficult task—to date, there had been only one case of successful prosecution documented. The solution, we all agreed, was to be on hand to disperse the rave and then hightail it to the Ministry of Culture to register the site.
So we’d have some official capacity, we’d enlisted Michael’s assistance whose job it would be to flash his badge and look menacing, no grand feat for Michael who had the physique of a well-padded football player and the sombre, stoic gaze of a Terminator on a mission permanently tattooed onto his face.
On the date in question, we caught the looters with their metaphoric pants down, munching on ribs and chicken, guzzling beer and Coke by the cans-full. We drove up the dirt access road at dusk, circled them with our vehicles and parked with our brights on. Mesmerized to paralysis at first, the looters presently scrambled, Hibachis and shovels clanging as they were thrown into the beds of their pickups. One by one they snaked between our cars and drove away.
Our group had participated in no less than three such raids since.
To have that power, to be able to do something to protect our passion from marauders, was exhilarating, if not entirely legal. To that end, we swore each other to secrecy, vowing only ever to meet clandestinely, and only when dictated by the slightly lesser legal activities of our pot-hunting nemeses.
The ghost town of Ballycroy in the northern GTA was our first failure. I’d been monitoring online chatter for weeks, trying to pinpoint the message containing the exact date and time of the party. Once I’d found it, I’d marked it on my smart phone’s calendar. Busy at school, I hadn’t gone back to check for revisions. At some point between entering it into my calendar and the scheduled date, the pothunters had changed their meeting and I’d missed it.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence between us I said, “I fucked up big.”
“Come on, Moll,” Palmer said, “you had no way to know.”
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Michael said.
“Really, Michael?” I said. “Platitudes? Now?”
“Say, is there any cream?” Michael asked. He left the table and took his coffee with him.
“You need to calm down, Moll,” Palmer told me. “Stop beating yourself up.” I looked deep into his dark eyes and saw the calm I sought. How was he able to slough off what had happened so easily? Probably because he wasn’t on point for plan-making. “Crestwood means well, you know he does.” Palmer reached out and pried my hand from the near death-grip it had around the coffee cup, and squeezed.
When Michael returned to the table I apologized.
We agreed I would be the one to go to the Ministry office first thing the next day and register the site. Not that it would stop future looters from spoiling the archaeological record, but if we were ever going to see these guys prosecuted, it was the first step.
About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own

Behind Every Story is a Kernel of Truth

The desire to own a part of history is probably as old as man himself. Reality television is replete with shows—Canadian/American Pickers, Pawn Stars, American Restoration and the like—that attest to this. The Victorians were obsessed with all things Egyptian. It wasn’t uncommon for the wealthy to purchase and display mummies in their own homes or host mummy unwrapping parties (History), the craze for which continues and was documented in the short-lived television series Treasure Trader. Anything ancient, it seems, is worth collecting, even fossilized dinosaur feces, which was recently sold at auction on Auction Kings (discovery).

The problem with procuring artifacts such as these (though technically, the dinosaur poop cannot be called an artifact as it was not manufactured or modified by people—unless you call the turning of the fossil into a commodity a modification) is that it is regulated. There are laws in place regarding who may legally excavate these materials. And make no mistake about it, picking an artifact up from the ground knowing it is from a potential archaeological (or paleontological) site is considered excavation, even if it the item lay on the surface when you found it.

I can remember in the early days of the Internet finding a bottle collector’s website. Though he posted some amazing diagnostic tools, his site read, primarily, like a how-to for bottle hunters. As a practicing archaeologist, I engaged the man in a digital debate that I had no expectation of winning. Though I tried to educate him on the evil of his way, the man relied on his pot hunting to make a living. One has to look no further than SpikeTV’s American Digger to see how to do this for a living.

I was an archaeologist for about a decade of my life, and though I can say that in those ten years I never worked on a site that had been vandalized, I was sickened at the stories I heard from my colleagues. Most of my work was on public archaeological sites. This meant the sites were open to the public with the intent to educate them on the importance of the archaeological record. Unfortunately, most people didn’t get the lesson we were trying to teach. In PHASE SHIFT, the main character, archaeologist and university professor Molly McBride laments,

On archaeological sites someone always comes around and asks if you’ve found any gold yet.  It’s inevitable.  Tell me something, I’ve always been dying to say, when you move house how much gold do you leave behind?  Instead I smile, and try to educate them on the fact that archaeology is not about the money.  What’s more valuable is the information artifacts give us about what went on while the site was occupied all those years ago, regardless of their material of manufacture. 

An observation that’s altogether too true. When I worked on The Trinity Bellwoods/Gore Vale Site in downtown Toronto, almost once a day someone would come by and ask if I’d found anything valuable yet. My own grandfather used to tease me about this each and every time he saw me, something which exasperated me to no end. In case you’re wondering, I never did find any gold and any of the coins I found were too old and too damaged to have been worth much of anything.

The nugget for this blog was mined from an article published on the LiveScience website about a fossil dealer who was prosecuted for smuggling dinosaur remains. The article reminded me of the stories I’d heard regarding plundered Ontario archaeological sites and how powerless archaeologists felt to do anything about it but to hire round-the-clock security guards on an already stretched budget (something Molly does to protect the TTC site in the as yet unpublished THE NEXT COMING RACE). Prosecuting looters is a difficult task as it is tough to prove in court as it often happens under the cover of night and without witness. In 1985 the July/August issue of ArchNotes carried an article by William A. Fox documenting the first case of the successful prosecution of looters to a site, but that case involved witnesses and police involvement. Had the looting been carried out by a stranger rather than a neighbour of the property owner, the case might have ended differently.

When I read the LiveScience article, I thought of the first chapter of THE NEXT COMING RACE, the book to follow the recently published PHASE SHIFT.   In it, protagonist Dr. Molly McBride enlists local archaeologists to participate in cyber-stalking to determine when local bands of pot-hunters will loot abandoned sites in order to conduct raids to scare them off in an attempt to protect the archaeological record. As this is the first chapter in the novel, it sets into motion the main plot and the threads of two sub-plots that (I promise) eventually come together and make sense in the long run. The main plot supposes an archaeological site is found during the excavation for expansion of Toronto’s subway system. The sub-plots are the raids on the looters and Palmer’s involvement in a case of forensics with the police department. Please click on the link to read, and enjoy.

If you like Molly and Palmer, you can download PHASE SHIFT, my first published novel featuring these characters from my web site, eliseabram.com, for the price of a Facebook post or tweet. Molly and Palmer are also featured in two novellas available at KoboBooks.com or Amazon.com entitled THE MUMMY WORE COMBAT BOOTS (largely about Palmer and DC Michael Crestwood), and THROWAWAY CHILD(featuring Molly, Palmer and Michael). Happy reading.

Note for Once Upon A Time fans: I cast my characters when I write in order to help me imagine the scene as well as to keep my character descriptions consistent throughout a work. As you read this chapter from THE NEXT COMING RACE, try to imagine OUAT‘s Robert Carlyle in the role of Dr. Palmer Richardson and (not an OUAT alumni, but he played Lois Lane’s father on Smallville and has been a favourite Canadian actor of mine since the first V series) Michael Ironside in the role of DC Michael Crestwood.

Works Cited

Discovery. Auction Kings: Dino Poo. 2012. <http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/auction-kings/videos/dino-poo.htm&gt;. 30 December 2012. (Video)

Fox, William A. The Freelton/Misner Site Looting and Prosecution. ArchNotes. July/August 1985. <http://www.ontarioarchaeology.on.ca/publications/AN/an85-4.pdf&gt;. 30 December 2012. (Newsletter)

History. Mummy Unwrapping Parties. 1996-2012. <http://www.history.com/videos/mummies-mummy-unwrapping-parties#mummies-mummy-unwrapping-parties&gt;. 30 December 2012. (Video)

Parry, Wynne. Dealer Pleads Guilty to Smuggling in Largest International Dino Case Ever. LiveScience. 29 December 2012. <http://www.livescience.com/25879-dealer-pleads-guilty-tarbosaur-smuggling.html&gt;. 30 December 2012. (eZine)

Press Release for PHASE SHIFT

Can you dig it?

English teacher and former archaeologist Elise Abram is proud to announce the publication of her first novel, PHASE SHIFT, which follows the adventures of archaeologists Molly McBride and her husband, Dr. Palmer Richardson after they are given an unusual artifact with the ability to take them to a doppelganger Earth. Abram has been writing ever since she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Having to research writing and the writing process gave her the confidence she needed to actually put proverbial pen to paper. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back. Nearly ten years after PHASE SHIFT’s inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and try to publish the manuscript on her own.

In her novels, Abram marries two of her passions, writing and archaeology, while paying tribute to the city in which she grew up. Born and raised in Toronto, Abram’s novels take place on sites modelled after actual archaeological sites in and around the city. Her characters volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum and teach at the University of Toronto, and mummies are X-rayed and CT-scanned at downtown hospitals.

Abram continues to write, no easy task, given the demands of teaching three English courses each semester, and raising three teenagers simultaneously. Currently, she is working on another Molly McBride adventure, tentatively called THE NEXT COMING RACE, and inspired by Edward Bullwer-Lytton’s classic “The Coming Race”, which melds pseudo-scienceand paranormal phenomenon in a race to save the world after a device left behind by aliens in the future is activated. Also in the works is THE REVENANT, a take on the current young adult vampire craze, and CHICKEN OR EGG: A LOVE STORY, revolving around a time travel love triangle.

PHASE SHIFT is available at on the Amazon and KoboBooks web sites.