Brenda Cooper

Bibliography: The Research Behind Mayan December

I did a lot of research for my novel Mayan December (coming out from Prime Books in August).  This isn’t usual for me.  For most of my science fiction stories, I research all the time.  I go on jags where I read science articles from National Geographic to Wired to The Technology Review to various blogs.  I watch for cool links that my futurist friends point out via Twitter or Facebook.  Most months, When I do my Futurismic column, Today’s Tomorrow’s, I research a bit more. When I have a specific question (like what happens to food plants in low-g situations), I do point research.   But I seldom read a stack of books just to prepare for writing one book.  Heck, if I always did that, I’d only get one book out every few years.

For Mayan December, I read a stack of books, and also many blogs and some research papers.  I’ve traveled three times in the Yucatan Peninsula (all before writing the book – I wanted another trip after to setting-check, but it didn’t happen).  The travel experiences were awe-inspiring.  That’s a cliche, but I mean it literally – resonant and deep.  Maybe the linkage of having been there, and having been affected by being there,  made the research so fascinating.  Also,  we do not have cut and dried facts about the Maya.  We are attempting to peer backward in time and see into a complex culture that held a world-view different enough from ours that it is a mistake to try to map their beautiful artwork and precise architecture onto Anglo cultural beliefs.

Here is a list of at least most of the books I read.  This is just the books – the real physical books in a stack by my computer.

Title Authors Notes
Maya Cosmos
The thousand Years of the Shaman’s Path
David Freidel
Linda Schele
Joy Parker
This may have been the most useful of all of the books that I read.  My copy is certainly the most tattered
The Code of Kings Linda Schele
Peter Mathews
Essentially, the language of the Maya, with insights into culture.  I love this book, and the only reason it isn’t tattered as much as “Maya Cosmos” is that I didn’t get my copy until the first draft of Mayan December was already done.
Water and Ritual
The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers
Lisa J. Lucero Like the Code of Kings, I acquired this late.  I intend to use it more in the future.  It is very textbook-like and a tougher read than the Linda Schele books, but has a lot of good information in it
An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya Mary Miller and Karl Taub Nicely indexed by subject, easy for short blasts of information.
Popol Vuh
The definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings
Translated by Dennis Tedlock Lovely, original material from the Mayans themselves.  Like reading the bible if you want to understand Judea-Christians.
Maya Cosmogenesis 2010 John Major Jenkins Less of a strict study of the Maya, touched with New Age weirdness and hope.  I actually used this more than I thought I would, but then, I’ve sat at the feet of Mayan shamans and studied Native American shamanic ritual.  So perhaps I was destined to have an affinity for this book.
The Ancient Maya
Sixth Editions
Robert J. Sharer and Loa P. Traxler Definitely a textbook.  Lots of photography illos, lots of information.
Maya Medicine
Traditional Healing in the Yucatan
Marianna Appel Kunow Excellent.  Definitely niche knowledge, only sort of useful for the book, but still nicely done.
Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan, Volumes One and Two John L. Stephens This was first published in 1843.  It was written before we knew much (maybe we still don’t know much, really) and it may have been the most interesting reading
Yucatan
Before and After the Conquest
Friar Diego de Landa
Translated with Notes by William Gates
Really interesting.  This is a translation of a manuscript written in 1566.  Yep, that’s right. 1566.  Before the United States of America even existed.
Moon Handbooks
Yucatan Pennisula
Including Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Quintano Roo
Chicki Mallan Current travel book, helpful in the parts of Mayan December that happen in 2012
Cancun, Cozumel, Yucatan Penninsula, 2005 Fodor’s Current travel book, helpful in the parts of Mayan December that happen in 2012
Skywatchers Anthony F. Aveni Excellent book on Mayan Astronomy