Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving – pumpkins and apples for Thanksgiving

Happy Halloween and Samhain to you all! This year my daughter will miss trick or treating for the first time. It’s a bittersweet moment for her parents. On the one hand, we miss the trick or treat years. On the other hand, she’s performing in a haunted house and our hearts swell with parental pride knowing that she’s giving people emotional catharsis by screaming in their faces until they pee themselves in terror. Truly, it’s a dream come true for all of us.

For pagans, Samhain is a time to remember our beloved dead. I’m writing this early, on October 4th. Such is the pace of life and death in this country at this time that I’m unable to even imagine how many dead we will have lost by October 30th, and to what. What I do know is that while death is a natural and holy part of life, death due to cruelty and stupidity and ignorance is not.

Hurricanes and other natural disasters may not be preventable, but climate change is – and the damage wrought by natural disasters can be reduced by legislation that requires building to be built to certain standards, and toxins to be stored under certain safeguards. Death by disease is inevitable. Eliminating access to health care is not. Violence is inevitable. Making gun ownership so easy that in 2016 alone 15,079 people died from gunshot wounds is not inevitable. War seems to be a constant throughout history, but that doesn’t mean that trolling foreign counties on Twitter is sound national policy.

We owe it to our beloved dead to give the ones they leave behind a chance at life. We owe it to our communities and to ourselves to help each other’s lives be lengthy and happy ones. Celebrate this October, fuel yourselves with some high quality candy, and call your representatives – again. And again. And again, until they quit with tricks!

Between the Lines Book Club: Shameless Self-Promotion

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (October 28, 2017) we will be meeting at Arden Dimick Library to discuss Jane Eyre. Our meeting is at 10:30AM.

Traditionally I bring food, and I plan to bring food tomorrow. But what to bring? Here’s a hilarious list of the awful meals in Jane Eyre from the website “The Toast.”

Back in 2014, I wrote a short eBook called Pride, Prejudice, and Popcorn: TV and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Jane EyreThis book is available online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks for $0.99.

In the book, I talk about the life stories of the authors, the central themes of the books, and some of the adaptations of the books. I had great fun ranting about the Brontes and their horrible health problems, and breaking down what I see as the most important aspects of Jane Eyre:

  1. Jane maintains her sense of self against all those who disparage her.
  2. During most of the book, Jane is lonely and frustrated by the bonds set on her by society.
  3. Jane has a strong sense of morality and a strong sense of spirituality, which is expressed in both Christian and supernatural terms.
  4. Any adaptation should show that Jane and Rochester have great chemistry and that they are good companions for each other.
  5. Despite their chemistry, there are also very good reasons for Jane to stay away from Rochester.
  6. The point of the story is not that Jane and Rochester get married. The point is that when they get married, Jane marries Rochester as his equal.
  7. Jane Eyre is, among other things, a gothic story, and as such any adaptation should include a sense of menace, mystery, melodrama, and isolation.

Happy viewing, Dear Readers!


Everybody Lives! TV Episodes of Hope

Last month, I listed some episodes of TV that show heroes bouncing back from despair with resolve. This month, here’s some episodes of TV in which our heroes get a freaking break for once. Spoilers, duh.

“The Post-Modern Prometheus” The X Files, Season Five, Episode Five

This episode of X-Files is a tribute to the old black and white horror films, specifically Frankenstein. It’s shot in black and white and despite having a modern, small-town setting eventually our heroes and semi-villains are threatened by a mob bearing torches and pitchforks.

Just as the mob seems about to get its way, Mulder rebels and demands a happy ending. “I want to talk to the writer!” he yells. The monster is able to explain himself to the townspeople and visit Cher, his hero, while Mulder and Scully share a sweet dance together. It’s such a happy ending for everyone that many viewers believe that it must not be real – but I prefer to think that for once Mulder and Scully were able to relax and enjoy a job well done.



“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” Doctor Who, Season One, Episode Ten

“The Empty Child” is a harrowing episode of a harrowing season of Doctor Who. This season introduces a Doctor who is haunted by a war in which everybody died (as far as he knows, he’s responsible for the deaths of all the Daleks and all the Time Lords other than himself). Luckily, “The Empty Child” is the first in a two-parter. In “The Doctor Dances,” we get a rare episode of pure joy, as The Doctor regains a sense of hope and joy, and figures out a way for everybody to have a happy ending for once!


“The Prom” Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Episode Twenty, Season Three

This episode takes place during the very end of Buffy’s time at Sunnydale High. It’s a heartbreaker of an episode but has one moment of absolute happiness. At Senior Prom, Buffy is awarded “Class Protector.” Its a wonderful moment of recognition from the students she saved for years.



Between the Lines Book Club: Biographies and Spin-Offs

between the lines book club logoIt’s link time! Charlotte Bronte was a prickly person who experienced a great deal of loss in her short life. She lived long enough to see Jane Eyre be a success and even enjoyed some literary fame. Here’s a link to my review of Charlotte Bronte, A Fiery Heart, by Clare Harman. You might also enjoy The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, by Diana Lutz (my review is here).

Many people have tried retelling Jane Eyre’s story from the viewpoints of different characters or in different time settings. The most depressing but also influential and challenging of these is Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, who tells the story from Bertha’s perspective and challenges Victorian ideas about gender, race, colonialism, and sexuality. Another popular retelling is The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey, which places the story in the 1950s. Here are links to my reviews of some retellings:

Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier

This is a collection of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre and featuring variety in setting and tone.

Mr. Rochester, by Sarah Shoemaker

Mr. Rochester’s story, from childhood through the end of the events of Jane Eyre.

Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye

I loved this book! A Victorian orphan named Jane is inspired by Jane Eyre, with whom she has many life events in common. Jane Steele, however, is capable of using force to defend herself and her friends, which has far reaching consequences.

Jenna Starborn, by Sharon Shinn

A science fiction version which works surprisingly well.

Ironskin, by Tina Connolly

A dark fantasy, one of my favorites.



WWI and the Birth of a Genre

J.R.R. Tolkien in uniform

J.R.R. Tolkien

This Saturday (October 21, 2017) I’ll be giving a presentation on WWI, Science Fiction, and Fantasy at Folsom Public Library at 10AM. In this presentation I’ll be talking about how anxieties immediately before and after the war led to a wave of invasion literature, such as H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and utopian and dystopian literature, such as Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

I hope I can see some of my California friends at this event! I’ve given this presentation before in Sacramento and had a great time. Loved the audience Q and A!

Between the Lines Book Club: Wuthering Heights Vs Jane Eyre Smack-Down

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Jane Eyre, one of my favorite books and also a book I’ve done a lot writing about in the past. We’ll be meeting to discuss Jane Eyre at Arden Dimick Library on October 28th, 2017 at 10:30AM.

Today I raise the question: can a person be equally besotted with both Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte? Generally speaking I’ve found that the answer is “No,” but there are exceptions. In this piece written for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I asked readers this question after comparing the two novels. what do you think?

A Thought from Mary Shelley

I opened Frankenstein at random and found Elizabeth, Victor Frankenstein’s childhood friend, talking about the unjust death of their servant:

Before, I looked upon the accounts of vice and injustice that I read in books or heard from others, as tales of ancient days, or imaginary evils; at least they were remote, and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other’s blood…When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?

To donate blood:

To advocate for gun gontrol:

To give aid to Puerto Rico:

To fight climate change: