Thursday, April 28, 2011

(Garibaldi and) The Farallon Egg War

The Farallon Egg War Goes to The Randall Museum

I've been asked to speak on "The Farallon Egg War" at The Randall Museum on August 18, 2011, as part of their monthly Natural History Lecture Series. The illustrated lecture will start at 7:30 p.m.

I attended the April lecture by Christopher Richards last week on "The Mystery of Laguna Dolores" - it was truly amazing, and the auditorium was packed to hear this remarkable aquatic biologist share several decades worth of research.

(Christopher Richards will apparently repeat that very popular presentation on June 25 at Mission Dolores as part of their 235th anniversary celebration.)

I'll post more details about both lectures later.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Welcome, WonderCon!

I'll be at WonderCon this weekend in San Francisco, flyering for The Farallon Egg War.

March was a very exciting month - there was strong interest in the book from a major West Coast publisher. In the final decision, the very nice editors, who will remain unnamed, expressed concern that the book was too "mature" for a crossover audience. 

(They obviously never saw the bookshelves that belonged to my sister and me as children -  stuffed to the gills with Edward Gorey and Philip Roth. No wonder we're so screwed up!)

The reaction of the editors essentially liberated me to take the book in a far more ambitious, adult direction.

All the research on early Risorgimento activism in San Francisco, the newspaper battles, the opera wars, the internecine fighting within the Italian community in San Francisco between Royalists and Garibaldi's supporters, the down-and-dirty details of Limantour's property scams, Copperheads (the political movement, not the snake), Mormons, minstrelsy, burlesque, banking scams, technological advances, and scientists, scientists, and more scientists... short, a far more panoramic view of 19th-century San Francisco, coming to a boiling point in the 1863 Egg War. This is a far more cinematic, action-oriented comic in black ink on white paper.

Wait - Who Owns The Tiburon Peninsula, Again?

A major player in the emerging city of San Francisco was Joseph Yves Limantour, a successful trader from Breton who held deeds from the outgoing Mexican governor of California showing that he owned Angel Island,  Alcatraz Island, The Farallon Islands (Los Farallones), and all the land in San Francisco that was then south of California Street.

It was, in fact, a pre-Gold Rush shipwreck that had first stranded a younger Limantour in San Francisco. Stuck with a cache of luxury goods, Limantour negotiated a fortuitous series of swaps among the region’s original Spanish settlers, the Californios, and savvily befriended William Richardson, the onetime Port Captain of Yerba Buena under Mexican rule.  The beach on which Limantour’s  ship ran aground is almost as serene as when he first arrived, and still bears his name. It did not hurt that Limantour was able to charm the wives of the Californios, who were nearly mad with boredom.

(Click on the images below to expand. Try not to think about the fact that I've totally misrepresented the historical munitions - I'm working on it!)

If There Were No Farallon Eggs, There Would Be No Egg War

The huge influx of gold-hungry prospectors to San Francisco after 1848 led to the near-immediate devouring of any existing poultry for celebratory dinners. The population then found itself (mysteriously!) without any egg-laying hens, and the second great poaching of the Farallon Islands (following the seal poaching by the Russian settlement in the pre-Gold Rush decades) began in earnest, as hordes of desperate men climbed the slippery rocks of the Farallones in search of seabird eggs to sell to the hungry city.
But don't be too hard on the hardworking prospectors for poor planning - with more information and greater technology, modern Californians are unfortunately even more destructive and equally oblivious of long-term conservation issues. 

(click on the image to expand)