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When I was nine or ten, I sat down and rifled through my Mom’s collection of VHS tapes, almost entirely things she had recorded off TV. I quickly noticed that the majority of them were the final episodes of TV shows. MASH, Cheers, Family Ties. And among them was something call Star Trek TNG. The only Star Trek I knew at the time was the movie with the whales, which I liked, so I popped it in having no idea where it was about to take me.

 

poster for star trek next generation, featuring the faces of Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Maria Sertis, Michael Dorn, Brett Spiner, Gates McFadden, and LeVar Burton in costume, as well as the USS Enterprise D over a planet, and a Borg Cube in the backgroundAll Good Things..., the two-hour final episode of The Next Generation is largely considered one of the greatest final episodes of any TV show ever. It has influenced a generation of writers who, like me, were confronted with “the unknown possibilities of existence.” It also capped off seven years of a television show that did, for the time, the impossible. It not only revived the cult kitsch 60’s series Star Trek, but it reinvented what television science fiction could be. It ushered in a new paradigm, inspiring future shows to take us to strange new worlds, this time with better special effects and production budgets.

 

I had no idea who these characters were, what they were talking about, and really what was going on at all. The episode bounces through time, visiting the very first episode of the series (seven years earlier), and 25 years into the future, with the characters old and full of regret. And in all these times, throwing around worlds like tachyons, temporal paradoxes, and causality. It broke my brain, and I became obsessed.

 

a poster for the original Star Trek, featuring the faces of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelly, Walter Koenig, George Takai, and James Doohan in character, with the USS Enterprise above a planetLearning that there were 177 other episodes of this series was like falling into a mineshaft full of treasure. And not just TNG, but three seasons of the original Star Trek, seven movies - including the one with the whales - plus by that time there were three season of something called Deep Space Nine and a season of a show called Voyager? All things I could watch out of order, in syndication, taped off the local cable access channel at midnight? Even then, I could see my teen years evaporating into a cloud of technobabble, trivia books, and strong opinions about William Shatner.

 

Around 2004, both the larger culture and I seemed to get off the Star Trek transporter pad. We moved on. Trekkies certainly kept the flame lit, but the high-water mark seemed to truly be that final episode of Next Generation, with Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard pin balling through time, confronting his failures as a man and a captain.

 

And yet, Trek had become such a powerful cultural touchstone, either derisively or earnestly, it was impossible to escape. The rise of the digital era, with laptops and cell phones whose designers took direct inspiration from Trek, meant that we were increasingly living in a world that seemed like it was aligning with the show’s vision of the future. Kirk and Spock remained a seemingly universal reference. It was logical that it would rise again.

 

a shot from the 2009 Star Trek film, featuring Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, and John Cho in characterJ.J. Abrams tried, with a trilogy of reboots, which saw movie stars like Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, and Zoe Saldana play the classic characters, but they felt philosophically empty. Trek was always more about the metaphor than the explosion. In the era of Intellectual Property farming, and every company needing content for a streaming service, it was only a matter of time before Paramount went to warp with Trek again. Quentin Tarantino claims to have a script ready for a new film, as does Fargo series creator Noah Hawley. 

 

a poster for season two of Star Trek Discovery, featuring Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Michelle Yoeh, Anson Mount, and Ethan Peck in character, with the Starfleet Delta bhind them, and the USS Discovery and USS Enterprise in the foreground.And so, 55 years after the original series first appeared on screens, we are now living in something of a Trek Renaissance. There are three new television series airing, with at least three more on the way. Discovery, which is filmed in Toronto, and is shortly to be spun off into the two additional series: Strange New Worlds (following a young Spock early in his career) and Section 31 (starring Michelle Yeoh). There is an adult animated series, Lower Decks, which follows the comedic adventures of the least capable members of Starfleet’s less-than-stellar ship. There is a children's animated series, Star Trek: Prodigy, coming in 2021. And, 25 years after the original airing of All Good Things..., Stewart reprised the role of Picard in the so-titled series where the characters are old and full of regret. How is that for temporal causality?

 

a poster for Star Trek Lower Decks featuring the animated characters of Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford with the USS Cerritos and various planets in the backgroundThis flood of new shows means that there is also a flood of new Trek materials available for libraries. Discovery’s fourth season will premier in late 2021, but all three previous seasons are available on DVD and Blu-ray. It has also resulted in a new series of novels from Pocket Books, a range of graphic novels from IDW, and the technical guides and deep dives that Trekkies have always loved. There is also a book all about the ship’s disgruntled cat, Grudge. Lower Decks season two started airing on August sixth, and season one of Lower Decks is available on DVD and Blu-ray

 

a poster for season one of Star Trek Picard, featuring Patrick Stewart and a dog standing in a vineyard, with a planet and a sunrise behind themPicard season two will premiere in early 2022, with season one available on DVD and Blu-ray. Picard has likewise inspired a new set of novels from Pocket Books, filling in the chronological gaps of the last twenty years. Also available on DVD and Blu-ray is a collection of shorts, called Short Treks, which serve as character pieces from all of the new series. Newly released is also the feature length documentary What We Left Behind, a look back at the making of the series Deep Space Nine

 

I don’t consider myself a Trekkie anymore. But, while I can’t rightly tell you what I had for dinner last night, I can tell you that the Enterprise-D had a cetacean operation station on deck 13, and that Klingons prefer to eat their gagh alive. The shows, their premise, and the philosophy of post-scarcity utopia they showcased is an enticing one. And one that I doubt the culture will be willing to give up on. I suspect that James Tiberius Kirk will take his place along side Sherlock Holmes and Bruce Wayne as a cultural figure that will last until the real world goes where no one has gone before.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Live Long and Prosper.

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I love cycling. I'm passionate about it. But not in a spandex-body-suit-and-bullet-shaped-helmet sort of way. I'm passionate about it as a regular old form of transportation. One that predates the car (and was only beaten by the train by 13 years). I love biking to work. I love biking in the rain. Even *gasp* in the snow. So, since June was Bike Month, here are some books about bikes.

 

a 19th century drawing of a man on a primitive bicycleBut first, here is my favourite fact about bicycles: they contributed to the Women's Rights Movement, and the Feminist Movement in general. The bike was invented in 1817 by German inventor Karl von Drais because two years prior a volcanic eruption on the other side of the world caused massive crop failures across the world, and his horses died (this is, by the way, my second favourite fact about bicycles). Horseless and with places to be, Karl invented a proto-bike that he could power himself to get from place to place. And his invention might have been forgotten, except that by the end of the century they were adopted by women as a method of escape and self-expression.

 

The Victorian era was not great for giving a lot of liberties to women, but with a bike they could peddle about town, through the park, to tea on their own *gasp*! This, you might expect, caused a stir in society. Not just because women were riding amok, but also because the act of peddling meant that their legs might be seen by random passers-by *gasp*. So, to cover their legs while biking, women began wearing that most corrupting and sinister of garments: pants.

 

an ancient greek vase depicting five Amazons wearing leather and battling with shields and spearsMy favourite fact about pants, by the way, is that they had been invented about 3000 earlier by women. The Scythians were a horse-driven nomadic people living on the steppes north of the Black Sea, and were known for being completely gender neutral in their politics. Women were equal to men, went to war, ruled their society. But riding a horse can get a bit... chaffy, so the fierce warrior women of Scythia invented pants as a solution. These pant-wearing Scythians were so morally offensive and secretly alluring to the Greeks that they entered their myths as the Amazons, and that is my favourite fact about the Scythians.

 

What was I talking about... right, bicycles! So, Victorian women are now wearing pants and riding about town and start to get a sense that they like this "being able to wear what they want, do what they want, and go where they want" thing, and it added more fire to the growing movement towards female equality. Pants went on to play a powerful role in the Feminist movement. Pockets, however, were not integral to either gender equality or riding bikes, and so the struggle continues. 

 

little pig, the bicycle and the moon by pierrette dube / a drawing of an enthusiastic pig riding a bike under a crescent moon while two chickens watch in amazement. If you would like to read more about the places where bicycles and feminists cross paths, I suggest Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories edited by Elly Blue. If you are interested in the adventures of a girl called Bicycle, I recommend Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss. Switching gears (see what I did there?), there is Na'ar ha-ofanayim / Bicycle boy by Eli Amir. And at an entirely different speed (eh eh) there is Little Pig, the Bicycle, and the Moon by Pierrette Dube.

 

Recommendations continue with the likes of Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella. Add to that Bicycle by Adonia Lugo, and Splendid Book of the Bicycle by Daniel Tatarsky, and Tour de Oz: The Extraordinary Story of the First Bicycle Race Around Australia by Brett Harris.
 
chain breaker bike book by shelly lynn jackson / a drawing of a bike in disrepair, in purpleIf you want to know how your bicycle works, give Chainbreaker bike book : a rough guide to bicycle maintenance by Shelly Lynn Jackson a gander. And if you'd rather just colour some bicycles, there is the Classic Bicycle Coloring Book by Taliah Lempert.

 

Bicycles are wonderful. During the pandemic, there has been a bike shortage because no one was at work and everyone remembered how wonderful it is to take a ride and feel the wind on your neck. And with electric bikes (which provide a slightly powered assist) and a vast array of cargo bikes, they are splendid replacements for the car in a time when fewer cars on the road is more and more climatically important. And bikes are considerably cheaper. And they run on hamburgers. Or carrots. Anything really. Cheese.

 

So, what are the lessons here? One, pants lead to revolution. Two, pants make you more attractive to repressed ancient Greeks. Three, bicycles are better than dead horses and living cars. But not living cars like in the movie Cars. Are there bikes in the Cars movies? Are they all cyclops? Or the skeletons of motorcycles? I've started to think too much about this; better end things before it gets weird. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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I love science fiction. It is probably my favourite genre. Hard or soft, I'm not particular. I do find that, more than any other genre, I grasp hold of certain authors and follow them wherever they lead. Barry Crouch, John Scalzi, Martha Wells, Peter Clines, these are active authors taking the genre to interesting places, and taking me along for the ride. But without question, to my mind the best author working in sci-fi today and one of the best modern authors period, is Becky Chambers. 

 

annihilation by jeff vandermeer / in lime green, a dragonfly and a squid-like plant coil around the black letters of the title (three letters per line on four lines) against a beige fieldI discovered Becky Chambers via the now defunct website i09, likely at the recommendation of then editor Charlie Jane Anders (who has become a prominent author in her own right). It was 2014, a very good year for sci-fi. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer hypnotized audiences with it's blaring unique style, Lock In by the aforementioned John Scalzi merged the genre with mystery for a few hundred pages, and the event of the decade for the genre, The Martian by Andy Weir was published. The Martian had originally been self-published, and 2014 was it's arrival in high (publishing) society with the backing of Crown. 

 

the long way to a small angry planet by becky chambers / a small lone figure stands on a hill with the milky way sprawling across the sky above themThese three examples come to mind if only because they stand in stark contrast to the first work of Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. What would become the first in the Wayfarers series is emblematic of all her works: down to earth (even if the characters are in zero gravity), character-driven, and broad in scope without getting bogged down in detail. The Martian is a wonderful character piece, but it is largely driven by the technical challenges Watney faces. Annihilation is philosophy wrapped in mystery, and Lock In is a good old fashioned murder mystery with robotic overtones. 

 

Long Way, which was also originally self-published thanks to a kickstarter campaign, has a lot of the trapping of a Star Trek or Mass Effect-style space opera. There is a galaxy of species out there who have banded together into a political alliance. But Chambers is far more interested in the personal than the technical. And far more interested in telling new kinds of stories within a familiar framework. Her Galactic Commons is not a shiny utopia, nor is it dystopia on the brink of collapse. It is simply complex.

 

Complex in a way that most novelists are uninterested in exploring. She doesn't spend chapters going over the technical details of faster than light travel. Instead, she world-builds by creating cultures and behaviours for her aliens that make them feel ancient and lived in. That they have motivations spurred by behaviour, not plot dependence.  The plot, the titular long way to a small angry planet, is a secondary consideration. Instead, the story is in the interactions between the crew of the Wayfarer, and reveals the depth and scope of her universe through them. It is a world realized by the characters in it, not characters realizing their world. 

 

The Wayfarer, as a ship and crew, have all the hallmarks of a successful on-going series. Science fiction has been built on the backs of the tightknit, rag-tag crew whose adventures we follow. And so much of my respect for Chambers is that, for her second novel, she leaves them entirely behind. The further installments of the Wayfarers series explore other corners of this universe she created. Imagine if, instead of following the Skywalkers, each Star Wars film was set on a different planet or ship. That is the radical and monumental choice Chambers made, to utter success. There are some threads of connection - the protagonist of book three is the sister of the captain from book one, for instance - but by and large the "series" installments stand by themselves. Making it literally a shared universe of stories.

 

a closed and common orbit by becky chambers / two figures stand on a hillside while a shower of falling stars fills the sky above themBook two, A Closed and Common Orbit, broke me as a person. I challenge anyone to read it and not dehydrate themselves through the eyes. I have not cried this hard at anything that didn't involve grievous bodily injury in years. The story is told from two perspectives: Lovelace, an AI struggling with their newly awakened identity, and Jane, a young orphan struggling to survive a harsh and inhospitable life. To say more is to risk revealing too much, and these are not stories you want to know too much about before digging in. Not that there are LOST-style spoilers to be had, but because the journeys you go on are so aggressively personal, you want to experience them with the characters, not as cold, unfeeling segments of a tome. Thankfully, the stories are so deep and go in unexpected directions that the plot synopses on the covers barely scratch the surface.

 

record of a spaceborn few by becky chambers / a lone figure sits on a plain with their legs pulled close to their chest with a nebula sprawling in the sky above themBook three, Record of a Spaceborn Few, is the most human-centric, and the most meandering. If I'm being honest, it was the one I formed the weakest connection with, but I blame myself more than the book. In a kind of anti-Battlestar Galactica mode, the book takes place in a crumbling fleet of ships united by the conviction that humanity can fend for itself without alien assistance. Like the pilgrims or Mormons of history, this group of zealots float through space hoping to find a place to keep to themselves, all the while questioning the conviction of their beliefs. It remains deep and profound materials to focus on, when other authors would be more interested in the iridescent aliens who communicate through flashing colours.

 

the galaxy and the ground within by becky chambers / a low mountain range with a calm, purple tinted night sky above them2021 is a great year for fans of Chambers, as there are two new books arriving from her this year. In June comes the concluding entry in the Wayfarers series, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within. This book promises to be the least human entry, and if the press is any indication, might resonate with an audience who have spent the last year being locked away from their lives while their world grinds to a halt. I'll be sad to see the universe go, but if it means Chambers starts exploring new worlds and new stories, all the more power to her. In 2019 she released her first unconnected work, the novella To Be Taught If Fortunate, a short tale about astronauts surveying planets for potential colonization. And in July of 2021 the novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built will be released, the first in a new series following a Monk and a Robot, searching for the answer to one of life's great questions: what do people need?

 

a psalm for the wild built by becky chambers / in the lower right hand, a man sits in a carriage drinking tea; in the upper left a small robot stands. the cover is a jumbled wave of a path between them intermingled with flowers and vines and the titles.Chambers works feel immensely personal. The characters are fully realized, to an extent that it can feel invasive to read about them. The books are wonderfully and proudly inclusive and Queer, and treat that inclusivity and Queerness with such banality and matter-of-factness, to support the idea that what makes people (be they human, robot, or alien) special is simply who they are. And that no matter where you go in the universe, you can find people who accept that.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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Growing up, I was obsessed with Greek mythology. From the first time I encountered the trials of Hercules in a picture book in my school library, these ancient tales of gods and monsters had me hooked. As I grew up, my appreciation for these stories also grew beyond just the cool magical powers of angry creatures. The metaphor laced within the stories emerged and beguiled me anew (though, for the record, monsters are still awesome). However, more than 3000 years later, do these myths have a place in the modern world?

 

antigone rising by helen morales / a greek bust wearing burnt orange sun glasses against a hot pink fieldAntigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths, by Helen Morales is a witty and passionate look at the legacy of antiquity, especially the legacy of reinterpretation of ancient stories. These myths were constructed thousands of years ago, usually by men, to fulfil a social aim. They were to perpetuate a belief, or a moral, or a cause. Over time though these stories have been adopted, and adapted, and purposefully misinterpreted so that they fit a modern context or need. Even within the first thousand years of their existence, tales were retold to fit a Roman perspective rather than a Hellenic one. 21st century interpretations of Tiresias as a trans idol, or the titular Antigone as a feminist icon are the result of careful selective reading of what are largely misogynist texts.

 

women and other monsters by jess zimmerman / an artist's rendering of a half woman, half squid creature against a green field and behind a green fog Morales considers this the intrinsic power of these stories. They are not set in stone, demanded to be read as scripture. These are stories from the oral tradition, and were meant to be fluid based on audience and the creativity of the teller. Rather than be restricted to telling stories that are internally inconsistent and demeaning to every character other than the hero, authors throughout history have breathed life into the minor or the mistreated and discovered new facets to explore in them. Jess Zimmerman’s Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology is a feminist analysis of the prominent female monsters that are prolific throughout Greek Mythology. Where as the “traditional” view of Medusa is of a horror turning men to stone with her gaze, a deeper analysis of her story reveals a victim of abuse and a woman who is tormented by constant unwanted advances from men.

 

Circe by Madeline miller / an drawn golden face wreathed in leavesThis trend is nothing new in modern fiction. More than a decade ago, Margaret Atwood gave us The Penelopiad, a contemporary and feminist look at the Odyssey, from the perspective of Odysseus’ long waiting and long suffering wife, Penelope. The Odyssey is rife with opportunities for re-examination, as Madeline Miller did with her novel Circe, a likewise feminist reinterpretation, this time from the perspective of the witch Circe with whom Odysseus spends several years during his journey. This was Miller’s follow-up to her debut The Song of Achilles, which was a Queer reinterpretation of the Iliad, and both of them are fantastic piece of literature. I wait with baited breath for whatever Miller releases next.

 

ariadne by jennifer saint / a drawn woman's face with greek columns and a sun blast behind her headPerhaps as a response to Miller’s success, there are plenty of authors preparing feminist re-examinations of the countless other mistreated women in myth. Jennifer Saint has her debut with Ariadne, which takes one of the most mistreated women from Greek lore and gives her centre stage in a tale of family tragedy, placing her between her brother, the Minotaur, and her younger sister, Phaedra. It also grants her agency when Theseus comes to call. In myth, Ariadne is responsible for helping Theseus defeat the Minotaur (himself the product of misogyny visited upon Queen Pasiphae), but is abandoned by the “heroic” prince on the first island they encounter heading back to Athens. She is then claimed by the god of wine Dionysus, and promptly disappears from legend. Saint returns Ariadne to the prominence deserving of a princess of Crete.

 

daughters of sparta by claire heywood / two drawn faces of women, one red haired, one brown, haloed in golden weedsAlso this summer, from Claire Heywood, is Daughters of Sparta, which tells the tale of the Trojan war from the perspective of two sisters: Helen and Klytemnestra. Helen’s involvement with the Trojan war is already fraught in the “canon” of mythology, with some saying she willing left with Paris, others saying she was kidnapped, while others still leave her abandoned in Egypt while the war rages on the Turkish coast. Klytemnestra is likewise treated an adulteress and opportunist by the chauvinists writing myth. In Heywood’s version, the women are all too familiar with the expectations of society, and all too willing to push against them for their own happiness.

 

troy by stephen fry / a minimalist drawing of a castle on fire, against a golden fieldPersonally, I hope that someone gives a modern spin to the story of Medea, one of the most misunderstood characters in myth, and all too happy to be painted a villain and a witch by years of male scholars. Definitely deserving of some re-evaluation.

 

These books all do deep dives and reform the image of specific characters. If you are looking for a modern sensibility with more of a general overview of the world of Greek myth, you could do worse than Stephen Fry’s trilogy of Mythos, Heroes, and Troy. Based on his one-man show from the Stratford festival, these are the classic versions of myths punctuated by Fry’s dry wit and cutting tongue, lacing the tales with awareness and satire. 

 

love in color by bolu babalola / a drawn black man and woman leaning in to kiss, surrounded by vibrant coloursI would be remise not to mention that for all the wonder and splendor that the Greeks contain, they are tales well worn and familiar to any Europe-centric upbringing. If you are looking for a different cultural exploration, you should check out Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola. Babalola does bring forward, and from a Black perspective, romantic tales of the Greeks. However, her purpose is to focus on tales of love from Africa, and bring them both to a wider audience and to the modern world.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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2020 was a lot of things, but in the entertainment industry, perhaps the biggest impact the pandemic has had has been on the release of movies. Film studios have pushed back releases all year long, and only a hand full of would-be blockbusters actually saw release. Meanwhile, streaming services have been flooded with movies, both major and independent. All the while, fans and professionals have been asking, is 2020 the beginning of the end for movies?

 

charade movie poster / audrey hepburn and cary grant running against a yellow background with the tagline I love movies. If there is anything in my life that I would call a passion, it is the art and majesty of the moving picture. I’ve loved them since I was a kid, when I would sit in rapt attention every Saturday night for Elwy Yost’s double feature on TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies. I was definitely the only kid in my fourth grade class who had seen The French Connection, and the only person I knew until university who had ever heard of Charade. My love of movies has brought me to the point where I am currently the Chair of Programming for the Grand River Film Festival, where to my delight I spend most of the year reviewing unreleased independent film from around the world. So, unlike most, my 2020 did not lack for new movies.

 

But something we all missed out on was the reason movies are great: the shared experience. There are few experiences that we can have in the modern day that match sitting in a packed house, the lights down, and a bright screen shunting us into an entirely new world for a few hours. To hear a room of strangers all laughing simultaneously, or gasping in shock, or crying. So many experiences, especially with art, are private ones. Theatrical movies are a way to connect with humanity that, sadly, are also one of the least safe and healthy venues during a pandemic. So, as much as I hate it, theatres being closed is a good thing for now.

 

But there was two months at the start of 2020 where theatres were open and prospering. Aside from a few random films that were pushed into theatres during that brief period in late summer before the second wave, almost the entire Box Office of 2020 comes from Jan and Feb, notoriously a time when studios dump their movies which are expected to underperform. And it makes for one of the most interesting box office reports to look at.

 

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE POSTER / MARTIN LAWREN AND WILL SMITH WALKING TOWARDS you with guns at their side

The top grossing film, a title usually reserved for a film grossing billions, like an Avengers, went to Bad Boys for Life with $204 million. This was the third in a series of police action films, coming 17 years after the second entry, and reunited stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Will Smith used to be the most bankable actor in Hollywood, during a run in the nineties which saw Smith release high grossing films on the July 4th weekend that included Independence Day, Men in Black, and Wild Wild West.

 

 

sonic the hedgehog poster / the blue video game running at high speed toward you while a scary looking jim carrey's head surrounded by a golden ring hoers in the skyIn the number two spot for 2020 was the video game adaptation Sonic the Hedgehog, a movie which had been pushed back from 2019 due to a negative reaction from fans of the titular character’s CGI design. The character was retooled to look closer to his video game appearance, which he has sported since 1991 when he became for the Sega system what Mario was for Nintendo. The movie featured human actors as well, including Jim Carrey in the villainous role, another actor who during the nineties was considered Box Office Gold for his run of Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask.

 

 

birds of prey poster / heavily tattooed margot robbie is swinging a baseball bat at you, while four diverse women strike violent poses behind herSpot three went to Birds of Prey, a DC Comics movie starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. The character had previously featured in Suicide Squad, but this female directed-and-centric film sees a mismatched group of down-and-out women living in Batman’s Gotham City band together to combat toxic masculinity, and try to enjoy a good breakfast sandwich. For my money, this is one of the best superhero movies of recent years, with John Wick-esque action sequences and a focus on the actual emotion motivation of characters instead of giant CGI explosions.

 

 

dolittle poster / robert downey jr leans to his side while surrounded by a CGI polar bear, giraffe, fox, gorilla, duck, parrot, ostrich, and dog wearing glasses. A tagline reads The fourth spot of the year went to Robert Downey Jr’s misguided career follow-up to his Iron Man run, with Dolittle, the third live action adaptation of the 1920’s book. Undeniably the only bomb on this list (which still landed it at third best performing of 2020), and the worst received by critics, this movie wouldn’t have lasted much longer in theatres if the pandemic hadn’t closed the doors early. Interestingly, Robert Downey Jr, due to his struggles with addiction in the nineties, was uninsurable and could not work until the combination of his sobriety and Marvel’s backing made him a star again.

 

 

invisible man poster / a distressed looking Elizabeth moss is half in frame, while a handprint in moisture hangs in the air behind her The fifth spot on 2020’s list was my favourite movie of 2020, The Invisible Man starring Elizabeth Moss. This feminist interpretation of the classic HG Wells novel follows a woman who cannot escape the ghost of an abusive relationship. The unseen terror of the man who won’t let her go the perfect metaphor for the lingering trauma experienced by victims of abuse. Blumhouse, producing the studio, has quickly established themselves as the makers of the most interesting “mid budget” films right now, especially bringing prestige and acceptance to the horror genre with films like Get Out, The Purge, and Ma. They’ve also begun making dramas, with Whiplash and BlacKkKlansman making waves. This is an example of a smaller studio who are willing to make movies that the big studios wouldn’t consider, and finding great success.

 

 

tenet poster / two versions of John David Washington stand back to back, separated by the word TENET. Behind them, skyscrapers rise into the airThe rest of the top ten is a grab bag of content. The Call of the Wild saw Harrison Ford and a poorly CGI’d dog live in the wood. Onward, a Pixar fantasy film had a whole two weeks in theatres before lockdown saw it get bumped directly onto Disney+. Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s time travel action mystery movie was forcibly released into theatres in September because of the filmmaker’s insistence that it should be experienced on the big screen despite it not being safe to go to a theatre to see it. Guy Richie released his latest ensemble crime comedy The Gentlemen, which I think everyone promptly forgot existed. And finally for the top ten of 2020 was Fantasy Island, another Blumhouse picture which reimagined the 1970s TV show as a horror film, released on Valentine’s Day and dismissed by critics.

 

 

007: no time to die poster / a cast of character's heads floating within the silhouette of Daniel Craig, with a burning car in the foreground and the numbers 007 in the background

Of all these films, had 2020 gone as planned, only Tenet I would have expected to remain in the top ten earners, as Nolan’s films such as Interstellar, Inception, and the Dark Knight trilogy are consistently billion or near-billion dollar movies. This year, Nolan ended up with $46 million. Other major studio films, like Marvel’s Black Widow or the 25th James Bond movie, No Time To Die, have opted to wait the pandemic out and be released when it is safe (though Bond has now been delayed so long that the product placement in the film is out of date and needs to be reshot).

 
 

Wonder Woman 1984 poster / gal gadot as wonder woman stands facing you with neon coloured audio waves and television static behind her, some of the waves forming the numbers 84

Some films like Mulan or Soul were released directly on Disney+. Or Scoob, which was meant to both reboot Scooby-Doo and launch a Hanna-Barbara film universe, was quietly and unceremoniously put on Amazon Prime in the summer. Warner Bros announced that starting with Wonder Woman '84 at Christmas, all of their films would be released directly on HBOMax (unavailable in Canada), which drew major complaint from the filmmakers themselves, who hadn’t been told, and might see long standing relationships with directors like Christopher Nolan or Patty Jenkins end.

 

 

nomadland poster / /francis mcdormand sits in a lawn chair outside a trailer, with a clothes line stretched over her, and the American desert behind her.Meanwhile, independent films have had a dramatically reduced festival circuit to travel this year, and so many are ending up on streaming platforms far sooner than usual. I Care A Lot, featuring Rosamund Pike and Peter Dinklage premiered at TIFF in September and is already on Netflix. Nomadland, which premiered at the Venice festival in September was released last month on Hulu and is the favourite to win the Academy Award this year. I can say that despite there not being movie theatres open this past year, there were many amazing films released, and considerably more independent films given attention because of the lack of big blockbusters. And DVDs continue to be produced, revitalizing the physical media that many have been writing the obituary for, for many years.

 

Movies will survive the pandemic. Delivery of movies will absolutely change post-pandemic, but I see it as a good thing. Big, flashy movies like the Avengers will play in megaplexes for a few weeks then go to streaming. Art houses will still have a bounty crop of independent films to showcase. And just like in the 70s and the 90s, there will be a rise of mid level studios who produce innovative films from independent filmmakers who are ready for the next stage. In the past, this has given us directors like Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Bros. With independent film bubbling over with female and minority voices, I am excited for a new era of film to begin.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours Fictionally,

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Over the last decade, one of the most ascendant forms of media has been the podcast. Named for being a broadcast for an ipod, the medium has grown into an industry that literally anyone with a computer can become a part of. But the upper echelons bring with them larger successes, and for many of the most recognizable names, that has also lead to book deals. Today we look at some podcasts that have made the jump to paperback.

 

Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After ‘Serial’, by Rabia Chaudry / a portrait of a young Arab manIf you asked someone who doesn’t listen to podcasts to name a podcast, they’d probably say Serial. The first season of the true crime podcast (itself a spinoff series from This American Life) remains the most downloaded podcast in history, and won a Peabody award in 2015. The story of Hae Min Lee’s murder and the conviction of her boyfriend Adnan Syed took the culture by storm, and the podcast’s serial nature reinvigorated watercooler office chats as people listened and waited to find out what happened.

 

Adnan’s conviction was overturned, in part due to the evidence laid out in the podcast, but was eventually reinstated. His story was retold in Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After ‘Serial’, by Rabia Chaudry, for anyone looking for closure from the series. 

 

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark / white letters on a black backgroundIf True Crime is of interest, My Favorite Murder is a different kind of podcast. Hosted by comedians and writers Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the format is simple: each episode, they take turns telling the other about a murder, while the other reacts. The all too true and tragic and horrible details of the stories are punctuated by the hosts riffing and joking about the insane details of the stories.

 

They present these tales, often featuring female victims, from a feminist perspective. Their goal, other than to entertain, is to educate their largely female audience on how these killers operate and how to avoid becoming a victim yourself. Their motto, Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, is also the name of their book, published in 2019. The book shifts away from their podcast and is equal parts memoir and self help book, again looking to educate their audience on how to both “stay sexy” and “don’t get murdered.” 

 

Stuff You Should Know: An Incomplete Compendium of Mostly Interesting Things by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant  / white and black letters on a red backgroundStuff You Should Know was born from How Stuff Works, a website which explained… well, how stuff works. Editors Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant started their podcast in 2008, in the still early days of the medium, re-purposing content that had originally been intended for the website. Featuring heavily researched episodes on scientific and cultural topics, the success of SYSK lead to the creation and expansion of Stuff Media podcasts, including The Daily Zeitgeist, a daily current affairs show; and Movie Crush, also hosted by Bryant, an in-depth look into films and filmmakers.

 

Stuff You Should Know: An Incomplete Compendium of Mostly Interesting Things was published in Nov 2020, and with snappy illustrations and their quirky way of explaining things, breaks down the how’s and why’s of daily life. How do earbuds work? Where did Murphy beds come from? What is the deal with facial hair? All questions you might not have thought to ask, but all stuff you should know. 

 

No Such Thing as a Fish Book of the Year 2019 by the QI Elves / white letters exploding out of a red backgroundIf it is facts you want, one of the best podcasts out there is No Such Thing as a Fish, a weekly podcast from the QI Elves. QI is a long running British comedy quiz show, previously hosted by Stephen Fry and currently hosted by Sandi Toksvig (whom viewers might recognize as one of the hosts of the Great British Bake Off). The Elves, otherwise known as James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski, and Dan Schreiber, are the researchers for the show, and the podcast originally began as a place to showcase the facts they had discovered but hadn’t made it to air. The podcast is a perfect blend of rapid-fire comedy and knowledge, with the four hosts waxing at length on topics like the most foul tasting drink in the world (Jeppson's Malört), the origins of the name Chernobyl, or continuously explaining to Dan why Bigfoot doesn’t exist.

 

Since 2017, Fish has put out a new book every year, just before Christmas, filled with their random number of favourite facts from the past year. Book of the Year 2019 and Book of the Year are good books to have around for trivia nights.

 

, My Dad Wrote a Porno: the fully annotated edition of Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked by Jamie Morton, Alice Levine and James Cooper / gold, elegant letters on a red backgroundStaying on that side of the pod, one of the funniest podcasts in recent years is My Dad Wrote a Porno. The podcast is simple: Jamie Morton discovered that his father had written and self-published an erotic novel on Amazon under the name 'Rocky Flintstone'. Each episode, Jamie reads a chapter of Belinda Blinked to his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper, who react accordingly. The book is horrifically written, utterly non-erotic, and skeleton-quakingly funny. Each episode should come with a warning that you might pee yourself.

 

The success of the show (and the number of people who downloaded the book to read along) meant that Rocky actually achieved his goal of being a published author. In 2016, My Dad Wrote a Porno: the fully annotated edition of Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked was published in the form of a study guide, with the hosts of the show providing comments throughout the text. 

 

The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt / gold letters in a black square in front of a drawing of a busy city streetOne of the most acclaimed and distinguished podcasts of the last decade has been 99% Invisible, by Roman Mars. And not just because Roman’s voice sounds like auditory chocolate. This fascinating podcast delves deep into the hidden aspects of design and architecture, highlighting those aspects to life that make life livable but go purposefully unseen. Things we would encounter everyday like the quite importance of area codes, or the concept of jaywalking, to more esoteric topics like a lightbulb in California that has been on for 113 years.

 

Last year Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt published The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, described as an anatomist guide to modern living. While it lacks Roman’s dulcet tones, it contains 400 pages of hidden beauty all around us. 

 

These are but a few, a scratching of the surface of successful podcasts that have been published of late. We late the time or space to discuss the numerous books written by the prolific McElroy Brothers; the continuing legacy of Welcome to Nightvale; or the risk and lore of Risk, and Lore! Happily, he have put together Slist 44200 which contains these and other podcast inspired books for your collections. Happy listening and reading.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the LSC Weekly Update, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

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So, there was an election south of the border, if you weren’t aware. Little thing, barely mentioned on the news *deactivates sarcasm filter*. Which gets me in the mood for presidents from history and from the world of fiction. And so, to add another distraction log onto the fires of 2020, I plunge into the backlist and think about past and pretend presidents of the elephant in the room.

 

How to Fight Presidents Daniel O'BrienA few weeks back, I mentioned one of my favourite comedy/history books, How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O'Brien. This book, from a former Cracked writer and current writer on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, breaks down the reader’s ability to take every deceased president in a fight. It includes insights like, Grover Cleveland “was 5'11" and 250 lbs of president and his fists were described as “ham-like,” which might be delicious but is probably just scary and painful. He loved hunting and often carried around a rifle that he nicknamed “Death and Destruction” which isn’t a nickname a rifle earns for being pretty.”

 

It is a helpful guide should you ever travel back in time/be confronted with zombie presidents. It might be very important one day to know that you could have definitely taken Millard Fillmore in a fight, a man so hated that upon assuming the presidency after Zachary Taylor died (you also could have beaten Taylor in a fight) his entire cabinet resigned, his party abandoned him, and ultimately caused the downfall of the Whig party. “Please know”, O’Brien writes, “that after his presidency he also formed the Know Nothing Party, a political party that was sort of okay but mostly racist, and during his presidency he causally protected slavery. Because Fillmore wasn’t just boring and a bad president, he was a d**k.”

 

The Bully Pulpit Doris Kearns GoodwinStill on the historical side, but less on the funny is presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. I first came to know Goodwin from her many hilarious appearances on The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. While most know her work from her Lincoln biography Team of Rivals (which Spielberg later used as a source for the film Lincoln), I prefer The Bully Pulpit, her biography of the rise and fall of the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft. Roosevelt is one of my favourite US presidents, and Goodwin makes a solid case that Taft is one of the most misunderstood. But the focus of the book is on their friendship, and the betrayal that Taft felt when Roosevelt put his ego in front of that friendship. It is also a fascinating glimpse into the world of the media, the titular bully pulpit, of the time, and seeing the first awakenings of a mass media that has evolved to become all-encompassing in our own time.

 

Hope Never Dies Andrew ShafferOne of the best pieces of surreal fiction in the past few years has been the Obama/Biden mysteries novels Hope Never Dies, and the sequel Hope Rides Again, by Andrew Shaffer. Described by Penguin Random House as "part noir thriller and part bromance", and "a mystery worthy of Watson and Holmes with the laugh-out-loud bromantic chemistry of Lethal Weapon’s Murtaugh and Riggs," the books see the democrat duo become a mystery solving team in the streets of Delaware and Chicago. With Biden the President-Elect as of this writing, I wonder if we'll eventually get an addition to the series seeing Kamala Harris join the team, like Rene Russo in Lethal Weapon 3.

 

Superman: President LuthorDid you know that in the world of DC Comics, Lex Luthor ran for and won the presidency back in 2000? The long time billionaire industrialist and Superman villain, an avowed anti-alien racist, who filled his administration with yes-men and people of questionable ability, had ties to corrupt and terrorist organizations worldwide, and is unable to escape his greatest motivation: his hatred of Superman. Eventually, before the end of his first term, his conspiracies and criminal activity while in power are revealed and his is removed from office, becoming a fugitive. I don’t know what made me remember all that. Weird. Anyhoo, Luthor’s term of office is chronicled in Superman: President Luthor.

 

The American President Aaron SorkinI think few could argue that the greatest fictional president is Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen in The West Wing. And while I am a huge WW fan, I am equally a fan of writer Aaron Sorkin’s previous political foyer, The American President, which starred Michael Douglas as President Andrew Sheperd. If we’re talking film presidents, than you also have to mention Kevin Kline in Dave, Terry Crews in Idiocracy, Harrison Ford in Air Force One, Bill Pullman in Independence Day, and Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact. Digging real deep into the long-forgotten box is a mid-nineties movie called My Fellow Americans, in which Jack Lemmon (fresh off his Grumpy Old Men resurgence) and James Gardner play bickering former Presidents who are the target of assassination, and hijinks ensue.

 

A Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesYoung people should definitely have options about at least one fictional President, that being Coriolanus Snow from the Hunger Games series. Snow, far from being anyone's favourite, having presided over the Games for multiple decades. The recent A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes covers Snow's early life as a mentor and his rise to power. For other less savory politicians, there are likes of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in VeepTony Goldwyn as Fitzgerald Grant III in Scandal, and Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards. But I think most people have had enough of unsavory politics for a while. 

 

Which fictional presidents are your favourites? More than that, which fictional characters would you love to see run for president? Send your answers to mclark@lsc.on.ca.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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Over the summer, when I was trying to relax and not think about the global pandemic, I picked up a book that had been on my list for a while: The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. Toward the end of the book, he introduced to me a new emerging genre of fiction called Cli-Fi, or Climate Fiction. A genre whose name I hadn't heard before despite having read several recent novels that would fall under the heading.

 

The Uninhabitable EarthThe Uninhabitable Earth is not a book of die warnings; it is a book of dire facts. Wallace-Wells is a reporter, not a scientist, and not even a science reporter. The book is as if he were researching any other topic, bringing together reported incidents and expert analysis and presenting the clear truth of the matter. And the clear truth of climate change is increasingly, even if we meet the various accords and international agreements that no one seems inclined to ignore, change has happened. From here on out, it is just about mitigating the severity of climate change, not preventing it.

 

He introduces Cli-Fi as an example of how culture reflects the world around us. Fantasy fiction emerged in the early twentieth century, as science and exploration took magic out of the world and replaced it with facts. Science fiction emerged as a the space race turned the public attention toward the stars. So too, now that climate disasters and emergencies are a terribly regular part of our lives, they become setting for our fiction. Upon reading this new genre, my mind wheeled back to so many books I've read, an increasing number over the past five years, that would qualify.

 

New York 2140Wallace-Wells is quick to point out that while climate fiction tends to speculative, it tends not to broadcast centuries into the future. It is, what some call, "five minutes into the future." The fiction tends to look at what is happening now, and what might happen ten, fifty, one hundred years ahead. An excellent example of this is New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, set a century from now in which New York City has been permanently flooded by extreme rising sea levels, creating a Venice-like metropolis where people live on the higher floors of skyscrapers.

 

The Windup GirlMaybe the first example I can remember of this genre was 2009's The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. A more extreme version of the genre, it is set in the Thailand of a distant future in which most nations have dissolved, replaced by mega corporations who control food production and therefore population. Biohacking is common, and long lost seed banks are the buried treasure that all executives hope to find and plunder. It is a dark, grimy, visceral, hard future to live in, let alone visit, and a book that has stuck with me.

 

The Disaster TouristRecent works like Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun have started to spin the genre more. In this Korean satire, the focus is on a travel agency specializing in tourism to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. Much like Cli-Fi itself, rather than confront the realities and responsibilities of what is happening, this world has just folded it into the entertainment of the privileged masses

 

Marrow ThievesThe GG award winning Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline is an example of the genre through an Indigenous, Canadian and Young Adult lens. In a world ravished by climate change, all people except First Nations, have lost the ability to dream. While the book is as much a metaphor for the genocide of First Nations peoples that was committed in the past, it is also a reminder that climate change has and will continue to produce displaced peoples, refugees, and genocides.

 

Mad Max Fury RoadIt's not just written fiction that has started to reflect climate change as a setting or an adversary. In the 1970s, Logan's Run and Soylent Green were climate change affected worlds even if they didn't use that terminology to describe their dystopia. By the 1980s, Mad Max was roaming a desolate wasteland brought about by car-culture created climate change. In the mid nineties, Kevin Costner floated across a flooded earth in Waterworld.

 

SnowpiercerAnd in the new millennium, perhaps the most famous of the Cli-Fi movies, The Day After Tomorrow saw Jake Gyllenhaal seek shelter in the New York Public Library when New York freezes over into a glacier. More recent films that have used Climate Change as their push to adventure include Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, and my personal favourite Snowpiercer from Parasite writer/director Bong Joon-ho, in which the remains of humanity cross a frozen world on a super-train. Even Pixar has entered Cli-Fi, while introducing us to the lovable Wall-e.

 

Climate change isn't going anywhere, and it seems like Cli-Fi isn't either. While in the past we might have escaped to Narnia or any number of strange, new worlds, this genre keeps our feet planted on increasingly disappearing earth. For libraries who might be interested in identifying more books of this genre, and growing this new collection, we've put together Slist 43859 to get you started. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Fictionally Yours,

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I love history. That’s a rather broad statement to make, consider that there is between 5000 years of written human history and 13 billion years of universal history. And I’m not choosey. I like it all. Though I am particularly drawn to those corners of history that tend to be forgotten, are a little absurd, and don’t fit neatly into textbooks. That is the history I like.

 

Luckily, there are more than a few authors out there who share my love of the strange, almost forgotten, and frankly unbelievable. These are the books I would rather curl up with, rather than another remembrance of Churchill or Caesar. It’s the bits of history that have fallen through the cracks, and deserves to be vacuumed up and recycled. How else will we remember the likes of Mary Patten, who at the age of 19 and pregnant became the first female commander of an American ship. Mary was travelling between New York and San Francisco when the commander, her husband, developed TB and collapsed. Mary took command, fended off a mutiny, taught herself medicine to keep her husband alive, and personally piloted the ship into port. I think if anyone deserves to be remembered, it’s Mary Patten. Also, where’s her movie, eh?

 

It is in the spirit of these lesser known moments of history that my personal bookshelf is cluttered with books like Fox Tossing: And Other Forgotten and Dangerous Sports, Pastimes, and Games by Edward Brooke-Hitching. This compendium of forgotten “sports” largely played by the Victorians or Edwardians, also by the super rich and clearly bored. The titular Fox Tossing was an event when Victorians would place a fox in the centre of a sheet, and standing in a circle, pull the sheet tight. The fox would be launched high into the air, to the apparent delight of the crowd. If there were rules, or points, or a goal to this, it has been lost, as were most of the foxes who were tossed so maliciously into the air.

 

Other forgotten sports weren’t as cruel as that. Take Aerial Golf, which was just golf, except played via hot air balloon. Hot air balloons play a large role in the forgotten and many would say stupid sports of the uber rich and in-need-of-distraction.

 

Equally rich and occasionally bored were the many Presidents of the United States. And while some of these men were great statesmen, a few were alcoholics, and one got stuck in a bathtub once. Only one book dares pose and then answer the greatest question of all: which could you take in a fight? How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country by Daniel O'Brien is a biographical breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the 19th and 20th century presidents, and how the average person might fair in a brawl with the Chief Executive. Do not, for instance, take on Andrew Jackson, whose security once had to pull him off a would-be assassin; for fear that Jackson would beat the man to death with his cane. This event happening when Jackson was 68! And 68 in 19th century years!

 

Much more likely to be vanquished was Ulyssess S. Grant. Despite his mythic persona, Gen. Grant (on top of being a resolute alcoholic) was afraid of the sight of blood. So if you can land a punch, he’d probably be on the ropes. Then you can just kick him a bunch, because it’s also important to remember that there is no such thing as a fair fight when fighting the shadows of history.

 

After your victory over the leaders of the free world, it would be appropriate to celebrate. A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization by Robert Evans is the perfect guide to what you should drink or ingest for said celebration. It is also a recipe book for potentially doing physical harm to your friends and loved ones. Robert Evans, a current war correspondent, has a long history with inebriation, and in his history of vice, he walks the reader through the history of man’s attempts to get drunk or stoned at all costs.

 

And because his journalism isn’t theoretical, Evans follows each historical description with a recounting of his attempt to remake the substance in question. From the coffee brewed by strapping the beans to your body and wearing them for weeks while your body heat and sweat ferment them (surprisingly good, according to the poor friends Evans makes test the substances) to the ancient beer recipe he brewed in college and accidently exploded once. If you’ve got ten minutes and want to watch Evans force his friends try some of this stuff (including some unexpectedly powerful hallucinogenic), there is a helpful and hilarious video.

 

Rot-gut drinker and former presidents aren’t the only figures that dot history. Like Mary Patten, there are many thousands of forgotten badasses who marauded, pillaged, or innovated their way through history. And Ben Thompson has been chronicling them for years on his website Badass of the Week. He has also written a series of books starting with Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live. These are not figures who took time and circumstance lying down. These are souls gilded in iron and have insanity pepper hot sauce for blood. People like Khalid ibn al-Walid, a 7th century military commander who helped recapture Mecca and was given the title Sword of God by Muhammad himself.

 

Or Adrian Carton de Wiart, who served in the British Army during the Boer War, World War One and World War Two. Over the course of his career, he lost his left eye, his left hand (removing two fingers himself), was shot down in a plane, escaped from POW camps on multiple occasions, and was also shot through the ear, hip, leg, and ankle. He later wrote "Frankly, I had enjoyed the war," and died in 1963!

 

Many badasses of history straddle the line between real and mythic, and one of my favourite books that examines this line is The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor. Mayor examines the history of the various nomadic peoples who lived in the Eurasian Steppe. A peoples who treated men and women as equals, were fearsome fighters and archers on horseback, and whom Bronze Age Greeks viewed as monstrous foreigners. Mayor's thesis is that these historical Steppes tribes, -the Scythians primarily - were the origin of the Greek myths of the Amazons, the all-female barbarians whom Hercules and Theseus fought for Greek honour, and from whom Wonder Woman descends. Mayor’s journey into the lives of these real tribes, who also invented pants incidentally, is a fully realized depiction of a culture just out of frame to our accepted Western version of the Ancient World.

 

Also out of frame of our Western perspective are the ancient lost civilizations of Central and South America. A duo of books, Lost City of Z by David Grann and Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston do not only recount the great adventures of old. While they spin the tales of mutton chopped colonialist attempting to find these lost cities of treasure deep in the untamed jungles, they also see their authors follow in the footsteps of the Victorians. Breath-stalling action and suspense are on every page, enough that Lost City of Z was adapted into a film a couple years ago.

 

These are but a few of my favourite books that peak under the rock of history and pay closer attention to what remains in the shadow.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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I suspect that no historian would be surprised that, in the middle of a society up-ending pandemic, the other social issues that many either 1) refuse to acknowledge, or 2) live with on a daily basis, would step to the front of the stage. With a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, increased tensions and violence, and a renewed call to action for social recalibration, it is no surprise that the most in-demand books over the past month would be ones focusing on BIPOC topics and authors.

 

Increasingly, libraries have been reaching out to us to reevaluate their ARPs, in light of budget changes due to COVID. A positive result of this is some libraries have asked for their ARPs to be reconfigured to include more diversity. This is great to see, and highly recommended by us. The below examples are just the tip of the iceberg. And, the more demand there is on titles like this, the more publishers will put out, giving more amplification to unheard voices.

 

LSC uses Book Manager, a database publishers, vendors, and book sellers use to keep the thousands and thousands of titles published straight. In turn, Book Manager provides some data, like title demand. In doing their regular checks and in building lists like our Pride 2020, Black Lives Matter, and Indigenous Fall 2020 lists, our selectors noticed that of the 30 most in-demand titles over the summer so far, the majority of them were by Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour creators, or on subjects related to racism and inequality. Those titles are listed below, and for your convienance in Slist 43685.

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. The Daily Show host’s memoir of growing up in South Africa during the Apartheid. Noah describes his childhood as a living crime, due to the illegality of mixed raced couples (like his white Swiss father and Black mother) having children.

 

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About RaceWhy I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. A study and critic of racism and Black history from a British perspective, and a primer on the connections between race, class, and oppression.

 

A Mind Spread out on the GroundA Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott. Part history, part memoir, Elliott uses her own experiences to draw out the issues of intergenerational trauma from colonization. Making connections between depression and mental illness, loss of language and culture, poverty, sexual assault, representation, and more in the context of how Native Americas have been treated since the arrival of Europeans to the modern day.

 

Between the World and Me Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, this arresting history of the Black experience in America is told via a letter to the author’s infant son, laying out his thesis that white supremacy in America is indestructible. Only through knowing the complete history of Black Americans struggle, can the struggle continue in the modern day.

 

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the BeginningStamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This edition of Stamped is a remix of the original “Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”, which studied five historical figures and how their lives were affected by racist ideas. The new version is less history, and more origins of, and tools for combating, anti-Black and racist ideas for a younger audience.

 

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The story of a teenage Black girl who attends a predominantly white school, and witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend. As relevant today as the day it was published. Also available as a feature film.

 

Girl, Woman, OtherGirl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, following the lives of 12 mostly Black female characters, and explores how race, sexuality, gender, history and economic stratification define their experiences.

 

From the Ashes: My Story of Being Metis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle. A Canada Reads contender for 2020, this biography relates Thistle’s time in the foster care system, succumbing to the drug and alcohol addictions that plagued his father, and his decade of homelessness.

 

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph. Canadian students learn woefully little about Indigenous First Nations peoples in school, and books like this seek to educate everyone on the ignored aspects of our colonial country. Beginning as a blog post in 2015 and later corporate training workshops, the book intends to fill in the gaps of knowledge most people have relating to Indigenous history and treatment in Canada.

 

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the PresentPolicing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard. When the BLM protests started again, there were cries that “there isn’t racism in Canada”, which the last few weeks have disproven in startling clarity. Maynard provides “the first comprehensive account of over four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment of Black lives in Canada”. The book looks at the history of slavery and racism in Canada, and the modern effects and active examples of oppression, racial profiling, and violence.

 

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of PlantsBraiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. This botanical guide blends Native American traditions with Western science, while also sharing the author’s own experiences of reuniting with her own people's traditions.

 

So You Want to Talk About RaceSo You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This book covers the difficulty of confronting the systemic racism that pervades North American culture. Meant as a guide for all races to model and provoke conversations about race and racism with one another.

 

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good AncestorMe and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F Saad. In the vein of diet and self-help books, this book expands on an original workbook with historical contexts, and issues a month long challenge to readers to help understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy. Through recognition, they can take steps to stop being (intentionally or unintentionally) racist.

 

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and PowerThe Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole. Based on a 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, the book follows the author for one year, 2017, and chronicles both his lived experiences of racism that happen daily, and also larger events such as his firing and arrest for protesting race-based police discrimination and brutality in Toronto. The book is a monthly high definition image of the systemic racism in Canada’s largest city, and culture in general.

 

How to Be an AntiracistHow to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. A memoir of the author’s own “awakening to antiracism” while examining the systemic roots of racism in North American culture. A contextualization of the everyday beliefs and policies that are guided by oppression, and a guide on how the reader can elevate themselves out of simple awareness and into action.

 

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About RacismWhite Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. This book stresses the cultural protections and securities that have been put in place for white people to feel comfortable and safe, while oppressing and dominating other races. White Fragility as a concept explores the moment that a white person feels the stresses of a racist society turned back upon them, and they react defensively.

 

Interestingly, none of these titles are "new" releases. Many are several years old. This types of material has been available for some time, and yet it is only after major events like the past months that the demand increases. This is a good opportunity to remember that the concept of a Bestseller is not set in stone. The only reason we call certain books “best sellers” is past performance. Really, the industry term “best seller” is just inertia.

 

Anything can be a best seller. How many times in this industry does author go from completely unknown to overnight sensation with a movie and three-book deal? It can happen to anyone at any time. It is within our power to make whomever we want a best seller. So why not do your part, help authors like these become best sellers, and to open up wider perspectives and new conversations within our communities. Representation and diversity isn’t going away.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel, and now on Issuu. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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