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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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Welcome back! It's been a long road getting back to where we can be together again. We've all been changed by what's happened, and will continue to be so for some time. But not all change is bad, and in a more digital and remote world, this is the perfect time to make some adjustments to the way things used to be. The first change: our Notables catalogue.

 

Last year, we set ourselves down this road, not knowing what waited for us. Jamie Quinn, Manager of Customer and Selection Services, selectors Rachel Seigel and Sara Pooley (who oversee the committees), and I sat down and discussed what changes could be made to our catalogues. What elements had you our partners, been asking for, and what elements were missing? We started off with an aesthetic and branding change. The cover design got a face-lift, and the title changed to LSC’s Notables. Still containing the Bestsellers and Solid Sellers, but under a more inclusive umbrella.

 

Next was the addition of scannable barcodes in the catalogues themselves. We heard from many libraries who wanted to be able to quickly *blip* an item onto their screen as they are flipping through the pages, and we couldn’t have agreed more. Over the winter we worked on the next element: colour cover images, when available (and very few weren’t). This turned out to have some challenges, but our amazing programmers were able to overcome them and had things not taken an unexpected turn in the spring, you’d have the physical results in your hand right now.

 

But turn, things did. And we realized that the Fall catalogues would not be a physical item. No one wants to be touching things or having things sent to them unnecessarily right now. Luckily, one of the ideas what Jamie had posited in that early discussion was creating a truly digital version of the catalogue. Not just the Slist edition of the lists, which have always been available, but a digital version that captures the visual pop of the print edition. Especially now with all the cover images. Back then, the discussion had been around our continued push towards being more environmentally friendly and sustainable. In the time of COVID, having this alternative would make up for not getting a copy into each library’s hands.

 

And so it is with pride and excitement that we can introduce to you the 2020 Fall Notables, for Adult and Children’s collections, via Issuu. Issuu is a terrific digital platform that allows you to experience a digital version of our print edition. Flip through the pages one at a time as though you were flipping the page with your finger. Zoom, drag and scan, and search for words within the catalogue. And, most excitingly, you can download the document as a PDF, so that you can peruse at your leisure offline. While we will eventually return to a point where future catalogues can be mailed out, we will be including the Issuu digital edition as standard moving forward. We hope you like it.

 

Another general note regarding title availability. Obviously, all industries have been affected by COVID, and publishing is no different. This year, the publishers have changed many publication dates. Titles that were expected to be published over the summer and into the fall have been pushed back. However, barring any further service disruptions because of the pandemic, we anticipate that the publication dates noted in this catalogue will remain accurate, giving you more peace of mind when it comes to your budgets.

 

This is not the end of changes you’ll see, either in response to COVID or accelerated because of it. For all the anxiety it has caused, it has also inspired a shift in the way things were. We’re so happy to have you along as we discover the way things will be. 

 

Issuu editions:

Adult Notables 

Children’s Notables 

 

Slists for the sublists:

Best Sellers YA Fiction - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers YA Non-Fiction - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Juv Non-Fic 000-499 - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Juv Non-Fic 500-599 - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Juv Non-Fic 600-699 - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Juv Non-Fic 700-999 - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Juvenile Fiction - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Board Books - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Easy Readers- Fall 2020

Best Sellers Indigenous Titles - Fall 2020

Best Sellers Hotlist- Fall 2020 

Best Seller Picture Books - Fall 2020

Best Seller Chapter Books - Fall 2020 

Best Sellers Juv & YA Audio -  Fall 2020

 

Adult Best Seller Fiction - Fall 2020 

Adult Best Seller Non-Fiction - Fall 2020 

Adult Solid Seller Fiction - Fall 2020 

Adult Solid Seller Non-Fiction - Fall 2020 

Adult Indigenous - Fall 2020 

Adult Continuing Series - Fall 2020 

 

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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I don't consider myself a foodie. I'm not picky enough to pull off that moniker. But I do love food, and I love cooking. I am a recipe hog, taking pictures of recipes in magazines, or having innumerable tabs open on my phone to curious concoctions I’ve stumbled across. I’ll try anything, and try to make anything. And very occasionally, I stumble across some unusual cookbooks that really challenge me.

 

My partner and I just completed the Whole30 diet in February. Well, to be fair, it was a Whole28 (leap days don’t count). Now, I’m not one for dieting; I believe that diet culture is as malicious and poisonous as gluttony. Folk have enough body image issues without policing what they eat, and I won’t feed that beast. I believe that food is life’s great pleasures, and should be celebrated in all its configurations. There should be no guilt, no feeling like you have cheated, and no deniying yourself something you love or something you need because of society’s pressures. It turned out though that the Whole30 “meal plan” wasn’t that different from how I normally eat, so in solidarity, I took it on.

 

Whole30 recommends removing grains, dairy, and sugar from your diet for a month. It is a meat-protein and vegetable heavy course, and helped me to realize a deep inner truth about myself: I love bread. I knew I loved cheese, and being cheeseless for a month was hard enough. But never have I so crystalized the notion that bread is an intrinsic part of the my being. You better believe the first thing I did on the 29th was slap a grilled cheese on the skillet. Never has a sandwich tasted so good.

 

I took the tact of seeing Whole30 as a challenge rather than a diet. I have a food comfort zone, the lulls we all fall into when we have neither the time nor energy to attempt a grand production. For some it is frozen fish sticks and crinkle cut fries. For me, its jasmine rice and stir-fry. And a lot of take out. Too much take out. If nothing else, the last month has done my wallet a courtesy. Whole30 made me have to think about my meals again. What are rice alternatives? What are bread alternatives? What are sauce alternatives, sauces purchased in stores laden with excess salts and sugars?

 

There are a myriad of Whole30 recipes books by Melissa Hartwig, but the one I found the most helpful and enjoyable was Whole30 Friends and Family: 150 Recipes for Every Social Occasion. This was more of a snacks and hors d'oeuvre compendium. Sweet potato stuffed dates, for instance, wrapped in bacon was a hit. Potato sausage breakfast bites became a Sunday staple for sure. Lemon garlic sautéed zucchini noodles were a terrific replacement for pasta. Sweet potato waffles (or pancakes) were a quick and easy addition to any meal, made all the tastier with the discovery of a syrup replacement made from pureed dates. While dietitians can argue the health ramifications of diets, I at least found these books a unique looks at how to shake up my food rut.

 

But I’m glad to be back on the bread.

 

As for other books that adorn my shelf, one I return to often is Feeding Hannibal: a Connoisseur's Cookbook by Janice Poon. Ms Poon was Toronto-based the food stylist for the TV series Hannibal, which followed Hannibal Lecter’s murderous and cannibalistic culinary adventures. Her challenge was preparing meals in a way that it looked gorgeous on camera, and the legally available food could reasonably be cooked human. This cookbook brings those recipes to life. While Hannibal might have been cutting into a bit of man-thigh, readers can recreate the recipe with Clay-baked Chicken. Can’t enjoy the mythical French dish of ortolan? Why not sculpt the small birds out of tofu. If you are feeling adventurous, you can make Heart Tartare Tarts from veal heart instead of insurance broker. And despite Hannibal’s insistence, there are vegetarian dishes here too.

 

Speaking of Vegetarian, Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck is a terrific resource for those looking for less meat in their diet, but not wanting to sacrifice fun or flavor. Their motto of verbally abusing you into a healthier diet holds up, as the pages are littered with obscenities as well as delicious recipes. Looking for a pulled pork alternative, why not give the Cola Braised Jackfruit a shot? The Crispy Crabless Cakes make surprising use of artichoke hearts instead of shellfish. And it you’re searching for something hearty, give the pumpkin chili a whirl; all the flavor, none of the beef!

 

And now we come to my favourite way of making food: waffling it. Waffles are not a singular food, they are a genre. Anything can be a waffle if you believe it can be. And there is a whole cookbook with exactly that premise: Will It Waffle by Daniel Shumski. The basic notion is, there are far far more foods that you can cook on a waffle iron than just batter. And you should. If I had my way, all food would come in waffle form. The waffle pocket is the perfect flavor delivery device.

 

Think outside the waffle box. Mix some shredded cheese into mash potato, cook that on the iron, and pour over with gravy, and you’ve got poutine waffles. Want to keep things vegetarian, how about a falafel waffle with hummus? A personal favourite of mine: panko crusted mac and cheese, done in the Belgian style. It’s not just savory and cheese based options. Cinnamon buns are ideal for the waffle treatment, as are double chocolate brownies or cookies or pretty much any construction. Just make sure your iron is hot and well greased!

 

Cookbooks are one of the most published genres of book, and if you dig, there are more than a few that will scratch the itch of an oddball in the kitchen. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go waffle a grilled cheese.

 

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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Children’s Display Day Spring 2020 is coming up on March 4th at the Sherwood Community Centre in Milton, and we are very lucky to have special guest, Forest of Reading winning author Elizabeth MacLeod joining us for an author talk and book signing. We had a chance to talk with Elizabeth about her new books ahead of the day.

 

Elizabeth MacLeod loves science; that much is clear from her bibliography. A catalogue deep with biographies of Chris Hadfield , Albert Einstein, and Marie Curie, she pulls these figures out of recent and far history, and brings their lives and accomplishments to the attention of children across Canada.

 

This attention to science makes sense, as a former editor at OWL magazine. But with more than 60 books under her belt, she is a writer who can find passion and interest in any subject sent her way, as diverse as the subjects of her two new books, biographies of Willie O’Ree and Terry Fox.

 

With your background in biology, it is interesting that many of the scientists you have profiled have been physicists, chemists, and engineers. How do you choose which historical figures you write about?

 

"I love science so I want to interest kids in it and show them that it’s part of our lives every day. I also hope to help kids see that scientists aren’t necessarily geniuses, but they’re people who look at the world carefully and really see it. That’s something we can all do.

 

"There are so many great people to write about that I’m always sending names to my publisher. When I give presentations in schools and libraries, I ask kids, teachers and librarians for ideas. When I listen to podcasts or read blogs and newspapers, I’ve always got this series on my mind. My editor, Erin O’Connor, is also great at coming up with suggestions (and she’s a fabulous editor!).

 

"Choosing the subjects is hard because there are so many wonderful options. Diversity is really important in the series since we want kids to see themselves reflected in the books. We’re trying to include Canadians from many different backgrounds, men and women and from all across the country."

 

I’d like to ask you about your process a bit. How long do you spend researching your subject before you start writing? Are you researching multiple subjects at once, writing about one while researching another; or do you pick one, get it done, and move on to someone new?

 

"As soon as I’m given the subject, I start researching. I’m looking for facts and amazing stories as well as photos that the illustrator, Mike Deas, can use for visual references. I’m also searching for each subject’s most important characteristic — for Tom Longboat, for example, that was his love of running, while for Elsie MacGill it was her determination to work hard.

 

"The amount of time I spend researching depends on when the first manuscript is due and what other projects I’m working on at the same time. It can take me anywhere from two weeks to two months. I write each of the books in the series one at a time, but sometimes I’m working on books for other publishers too. As well, depending on the schedule, I may be writing one of the biographies in this series, while reviewing final pages for an earlier book."

 

Which of the figures you’ve written about has been your favourite? Which has surprised you the most?

 

"I think what I like best about the people in this series is that they were ordinary people, but went on to do something extraordinary. Viola Desmond was a businesswoman, not a black rights activist, when she sat down in that movie theatre, refused to move and made history. Chris Hadfield dreamed of being an astronaut when Canada didn’t even have a space program, so his ambition seemed impossible.

 

"I think each of the people in the series has surprised me. Did you know that Chris Hadfield is afraid of heights? Or that Elsie MacGill took drawing lessons from Emily Carr, Canada’s most famous female artist. Willie O’Ree not only faced discrimination because he’s black, but also lost the vision in his right eye when a puck hit it. I love discovering incredible stories like this!"

 

It was just announced that the Canadian Mint chose your newest subject, Willie O’Ree, as the figure to grace the 2020 Black History Month coin. What drew you to Willie?

 

"I’ve always loved hockey, so I was so happy when Scholastic, the series’ publisher, agreed to let me write about Willie. He really came on our radar when he was made a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2018. I also loved how he inspired kids with sayings like, “If you think you CAN or you think you CAN’T — you’re right!”

 

"When I researched Willie’s story, I discovered that as a young teenager, he’d met baseball great Jackie Robinson and told him that he, Willie, was going to be the first black NHL player. Isn’t that amazing? The stories about the discrimination that Willie faced are so disheartening, but it’s important that kids hear them and understand what Willie had to overcome."

 

Terry Fox may well be one of the most famous Canadians, ever. With the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope this year, is there anything about Terry that still surprised you while researching him?

 

"First of all, I was amazed that it’s already been 40 years since Terry’s Marathon of Hope.

 

"My editor and I and the whole Scholastic team have also been surprised at how emotional Terry’s story still makes us. We keep complaining that someone must be cutting onions nearby when we watch videos of him running or the interview he gave when he had to stop his Marathon of Hope! Such a brave man and he united and inspired all Canadians.

 

"I was also surprised that at one point Terry said that he was more upset at losing his hair during the chemo treatments than he was at losing his leg. As well, before the treatments, his hair was straight, not at all curly as it grew back after his treatments."

 

Is there someone you’ve wanted to write about but haven’t had the chance to?

 

"There are so many great Canadians to write about! There are a few that are almost definite for upcoming books and I can’t talk about them yet, but I’d also love to write about Joseph-Armand Bombardier, who invented the snowmobile; singer and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie; Jeanne Sauvé, Canada’s first female governor general; wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen (who was inspired by Terry Fox) … the list goes on and on! And we’re always open to suggestions — let me know if you have any good ideas!"

 

If you want to hear Elizabeth talk more about her books, her process, and her new subjects, Willie O’Ree and Terry Fox (and maybe suggest a future subject), she’ll be speaking and signing books at LSC’s Spring Children’s Display Day on March 4th, at the Sherwood Community Centre in Milton. RSVPs can be sent to Jamie Quinn at jquinn@lsc.on.ca.

 

We’ll see you there!

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In the 1800s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to his "consulting detective." As Sherlock Holmes is described, he is a private citizen who puts his powers of deduction and his network of allies and informants to work solving the crimes of England and beyond. Now, in 2019 another detective has emerged, this time in the real world, helping to bring unsolved crimes to a close using technology and deduction. Enter: Billy Jensen.

 

Jensen began his career as a crime beat reporter in New York, but he quickly grew disillusioned with the dispassion involved in the industry. Show up, jot down the facts that the police can divulge, and whether it gets reported on depends on how sensational the crime was. This kind of reporting was not helping to solve crimes, only to melodramatize the effects of crime on certain portions of the population.

 

Jensen likes a mystery. He likes to see all the pieces of a mystery laid out, and to work through the process of drawing connections and solving the mystery. This might be exemplified by his taking on a decades old missing person case in his spare time: who is an actor in the original Star Wars movie. In an early scene, Obi-Wan interacts with essentially an extra briefly. The character has no lines, just a shrug. He received no credit in the film. However, this being Star Wars, this character has a name - BoShek - and extensive back story, and action figures. Yet the man who played him was a day player, and his identity was unknown.

 

Jensen began his investigation conventionally, but hit dead end after dead end. The identity of this actor remained illusive. Finally, Jensen posted the materials he had gathered online. He lacked some piece of critical information that would unlock the key, and he hoped that the internet might be a tool that could be used to fill in the gaps of his knowledge. And it paid off. A family member of the actor - now known to be Frances Tomlin - saw the post and reached out to Jensen. Definitive proof was provided. The mystery was solved. And there the methodmight have withered on the vine, were it not for another tragedy.

 

In 2016, Michelle McNamara died. She had spent years investigating (and naming) the Golden State Killer when the case had long presumbed to have gone cold. After her death, Jensen along with Paul Haynes and McNamara's widower Patton Oswalt finsihed the book she had been writing, later released as I'll Be Gone in the Dark. And inspired by her focus on bringing this case back to the surface and the killer to justice, Jensen began to wonder if there were other crimes that could be solved by a consulting detective. What if the internet could be used to solve actual crimes, not just identify unknown science fiction actors?

 

In an era of where everything is crowdsourced - medical costs, pet projects, films, video games, arts and crafts, the naming of NASA rovers and tugboats - the idea of using the captive audience of the internet is no different than the idea of Sherlock Holmes using his network of homeless people to gather information. I personal might not know anything about sports, but there are people out there who are experts on every minor aspects of every concievable sport. Jensen's idea was to leverage that expertise to solve crimes.

 

So he began, finding street level crimes that the police had reached a dead end on. Cases where video evidence was available, but all leads had gone cold. Jensen examined the evidence and picked out elements that could be used to generate new leads. A partical glimpse of a getaway vehicle? Post it to a car forum on Reddit, and someone will be able to identify the design of the bumper down to the production line. Have a good shot of sneakers? Someone knows how many pairs of that shoe were made, and where they were sold. Jensen took it a step further, and started using Facebook ads to push footage to people who lived within blocks of where crimes happened, as many crimes are committed by locals. 

 

The methods and successes of this Crowdsolving has been put into a new book, Chase Darkness with Me. Want to follow along as Jensen solves minor crimes, and works his way up to investigating the murders of the Allenstown 4? Want to learn how to solve crimes on your own, using the powerful potential of the internet and social media. Jensen lays out the rules, the things to avoid, and what hasn't worked for him. So we can all be the Sherlocks of our Baker Streets.

 

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.

 

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