Blast from the past: new year; new classes; old book

I wrote this post originally in 2014, just as the new year had begun, and at the time I felt like I was coughing on the exhaust fumes from the bus leaving me behind. Gotta catch up! Gotta catch– Gotta– Guh.

54-heres-johnnyI no longer have classes at ELM, a noble institution unable to survive the pandemic. However, I’m still set to teach my fellow seniors at Kennesaw State University via OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Just need to brush off the syllabi from the last session, update as needed, and get ready for some fresh new minds to corrupt. Heh, heh. Here I come, kiddies!

On the writing front, I struggled with a new book.  A third of the story would be contemporary; the rest would take place 12,000 years earlier, but not far away geographically. ‘Course, things have changed a bit in the interim. The temperature around here a dozen millennia back was five to ten degrees cooler and much drier (if there had been a Savannah back then, it would’ve been–are you ready?–pleasant in August). The landscape featured a good deal of open grassland punctuated by oak and pine forests, which all sounds pretty familiar. If you’ve ever driven through south and central Georgia, you know what I mean.

But the biggest difference was the population. It consisted of relatively few people, mostly scattered bands of 20 to 50, which moved from place to place in search of food. I’m guessing they looked for other things too, like entertainment and companionship–things we wouldn’t ordinarily associate with the idea of daily life among the Paleoindian set–and that was the essence of the new book. The 12,000-year-old Whisper came out in October of 2015. Here’s the link. If you haven’t read it yet, quit waiting! It’s one helluva story.


Mom feeds toddler to glyptodont, unaware that
A) they were herbivorous, and B) this one’s plastic.

The non-human cast consists of some interesting, but now extinct, critters like the Glyptodont, an armadillo built on the scale of a Volkswagon Beetle. But it didn’t forage alone; there were a variety of other formidable veggie noshers like giant ground sloths, camels, horses, and my personal faves, the mammoths.

Can you imagine what it must have been like back then, having so many magnificent creatures in one place, without fences or moats, or signs reminding us not to feed them? After getting by on squirrels or fish and a tuber or two, it’s understandable that our paleo-ancestors may have hungered for a few thousand slothburgers every now and then. That said, I’m not a member of the “Damned People Killed ’em All” school when it comes to explaining what happened to those big life forms. Africa, after all, still boasts some pretty large and amazing creatures, despite their having to share the continent with a human population that’s been expanding for a long, long time.

One of the things I find most interesting about the topic of paleo-anything is how the experts often hang on to ideas that have been passed down for generations, even if the logic behind them has been discredited. History is studded with examples: Gallileo, Copernicus, Darwin, and Flibnitz to name a few. (Flibnitz? Okay, he was a complete nob, an utter douche canoe, and nobody believed him. But that doesn’t mean he was wrong. Right?)

In 1967, palynologist and geochronologist Paul Martin decreed that “…man, and man alone, was responsible” for the extinctions. Lots of people agreed. Lots of people ignored him. Lots more hung on to other explanations, like climate change, disease, and natural disasters, including the 2006 theory that comet strikes wiped the megafauna out.

I had neither the time nor the patience to debate the issue. I had a book to finish, and some parts of it, though I didn’t know which at the time, would address the topic. It also addressed a more localized question: in lieu of archeological evidence, how likely is it that some of those cave painting of mammothsuper-sized critters lived around here (suburban Atlanta, Georgia) 12,000 years ago? Did our ancestors rub elbows with giant tapirs, dire wolves, and short-faced bears? How about some of those gigantic tuskers with the Rastafarian-style dreads?

Why the heck not?

And that’s where book ideas come from.

Anyway, in case you missed it (shame on you), I’ve thoughtfully provided a photo of the cover below. Please don’t wait to get your copy until after the inevitable price increase. Thank you, inflation.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Wisper cover update


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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4 Responses to Blast from the past: new year; new classes; old book

  1. Karen L Boyce says:

    Your unleashed imagination leads me to think another book idea is percolating!
    Happy writing and Happy New Year!

    • joshlangston says:

      Hmm. There actually is one now, though it’s in the amoeba stage. Hoping for a little cell-splitting and then perhaps a metamorphosis into a plotline or three… We’ll see! Happy New Year!

  2. Barry says:

    Happy New Year Josh. What will you be teaching at OLLI and when are classes beginning? Barry PS – “The landscape featured a good deal of open grassland punctuated by oak and pine forests…” is kinda the definition of a savannah (no pun intended, I’m sure).

    • joshlangston says:

      I’m offering both my novel-writing class and my independent publishing class. They’ll get cranked up mid-morning on Feb. 8th and run for eight weeks. Plenty of time to jump in, mate!

      And you’re absolutely right about the definition of savannah. Extra points for you! Happy New Year! (And I expect you’ll finish your work-in-progress in 2023, right?)

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