Five Weird Facts About the 1918 Flu

shield-374x400This coming Sunday, June 3, from 1PM – 2:30PM. I’ll be at Central Library talking about WWI and the Flu of 1918. I hope you can join me!

The Spanish Flu of 1918 was no ordinary flu. It targeted young, healthy adults. It spread all over the world – to the villages of Alaska and of Africa, to China and Japan and South America, to the cities and towns of the United States. It infected about one-third of the people in the world, and it killed more Americans than the battlefields of WWI. Here are five weird facts about that weird and horrible epidemic:

1. Because no one knew how to treat the flu, people tried everything hey could think of. One man insisted that the way to avoid the flu was to drink 14 gins in a row. He survived both the gin and the flu. To treat the infected, people used onion or mustard poultices (onion did seem to have success), hot water immersion, cold water immersion, surgically draining the lungs, making the infected person breathe tobacco smoke, keeping them in hot rooms, and keeping them outside. Nothing worked consistently, although patients did better outside than in as long as they were kept warm and dry.

2. If you want to avoid contagion, wear a mask, tie a piece of raw potato to your leg, or wear asafoetida around your neck (asafoetida is a herb with a terrible smell when raw).

3. Many people who survived the crisis stage of the flu fell into a depressed state and committed suicide, sometimes by jumping from hospital windows without warning.

4. The flu struck people so suddenly that they could be symptom-free in the morning and dead by nightfall.

5. Flu survivors included Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Katherine Mansfield, and Walt Disney.

Join me on Monday for tragedy, gore, science, and history. And for heaven’s sake, wash your hands!

Five Facts About Mary Shelley

wV7j4W7q_400x400I’ll be at Baycon this weekend speaking about Mary Shelley. Here’s five facts you might not know about the author of Frankenstein and The Last Man:



1. Mary eloped with Percy Shelley when she was only seventeen. She was a widow by the age of twenty-four.

2. When her husband died, he was cremated. Because Percy Shelley had calcification of the heart, his heart did not burn, and Mary Shelley kept it in her desk.

3. Mary helped an abused woman escape from an abusive husband and flee England with the woman she loved. She concocted a scheme that involved one of the women dressing as a man, and them living in France for many years under false names.

4. Mary was close to many people who died young – her half-sister Fanny (suicide), Percy Shelley (sailing accident), Edward Williams (the same sailing accident), John Polidori (suicide), Harriet Shelley (suicide), Byron (illness), and Keats (illness). She had five pregnancies but only one child lived to adulthood.

5. The heroine of Mary’s novel Valperga is named Euthanasia. Other unusual names in her books include Idris (The Last Man),and  Perkin (The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck),

Hope to see you at BayCon!

Between the Lines Book Club: Far From the Madding Crowd on Film

between the lines book club logoOur Between the Lines Book Club choice for May is Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. We will be discussing this book on May 19, 2018 at 10:30AM, at Arden Dimick Library, as well as in the comments below.

Far From the Madding Crowd has been made into a movie four times: in 1915, 1967, 1998, and 2015. The most famous adaptation is probably the one from 1967, which starred Julie Christie. In his review, Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars and made the following comment:

Thomas Hardy’s novel told of a 19th Century rural England in which class distinctions and unyielding social codes surrounded his characters. They were far from the madding crowd whether they liked it or not, and got tangled in each other’s problems because there was nowhere else to turn. It’s not simply that Bathsheba (Julie Christie) was courted by the three men in her life, but that she was courted by ALL three men in her life.



In 2015 a new movie adaptation, starring Carey Mulligan,was released. Here’s my review. The movie makes some abrupt jumps to keep the run time down, but benefits from strong performances and amazing chemistry between Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays Gabriel.


The 2015 version, which I adore, is available on iTunes, Amazon, and at the library. It’s fairly faithful to the book so if you feel bogged down, I encourage you to try the movie out.

BayCon Schedule is Up!

wV7j4W7q_400x400I’m headed to BayCon again next week, or, as I like to call it, “My Family Reunion.”

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday, May 26

Super Awesome Advice Panel


Synergy 4

Sunday, May 27

On Beyond Rey




It Began With a Monster


Connect 3


Intro to Comics


Synergy 1


Hope to see you there!



Between the Lines Book Club: Far From the Madding Crowd

between the lines book club logoOur Between the Lines Book Club choice for May is Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. We will be discussing this book on May 19, 2018 at 10:30AM, at Arden Dimick Library, as well as in the comments below.

Far From the Madding Crowd was Thomas Hardy’s first big seller. The word “madding” means “frenzied,” and the title comes from a poem by Thomas Grey called “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”  The book takes place in Wessex, a fictional version of South West England, in the mid-1800s.

The heroine of the story, Bathsheba Everdeen, inherits a farm and runs it herself. Unlike many women of the era, she has no financial or social need to marry. However, Bathsheba is young and pretty and not as smart in matters of the heart as she is in business. The book explores her relationships with the charming but unreliable Troy, the steadfast sheep herder Gabriel Oak, and the possessive and obsessive William Boldwood. The book also explores the options available to women of different classes, and the challenges they face.

I reviewed this book for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books back in 2015. Here’s my review of the book. The review contains spoilers – beware! I loved Bathsheba’s character, and the recognition of love that is expressed through unglamorous means. Any idiot can bring a woman flowers, but a man who will get up in the middle of the night and come out to your farm to deal with your sick sheep is a man you want around for life. Here’s a defining quote from the book:

This good fellowship – camaraderie – usually occurring through the similarity of pursuits is unfortunately seldom super-added to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labors but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstances permit its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death – that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, besides which the passion usually called by the name is as evanescent as steam.

I hope you all enjoy this book! If you need a study guide, try

Happy Birthday Katniss Everdeen

Tomorrow, May 8, is the birthday of Katniss Everdeen, winner of the Hunger Games, Girl on fire, the Mockingjay, face of the rebellion. Whether we followed her on page or on screen, she inspired us:

When she volunteered to protect her sister.


When she was too busy to be obsessed with her love life.


When she had no more fucks to give.



When she showed compassion.


When she was ruthless.




And because she survived.


Happy Birthday, Katniss!