Before I start this month’s blog just a quick reminder that the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) is launching its first ever-virtual conference this weekend. I’m admittedly very disappointed that we can’t have our annual in-person conference this year as I was so looking forward to meeting up with friends and acquaintances and making new ones while also checking out New Mexico, a place on my “To See” list. Okay, and yes some quiet and not so quiet fangirling with so many of my favourite authors all in one place might have taken place. GCLS has taken on the challenge of offering a number of master classes, panel discussions, and author readings as well as the awards ceremony virtually over the next three weekends. Might not be perfect but these days I take what I can get. If you are interested I suspect that it isn’t too late to register or become a member of GCLS.
As countries across the world are successfully (and not so successfully) transitioning into our new reality a few things have struck me. Of course, more and more people are out and about venturing into the newly opened stores and outdoor patios here. We continue to take our walks and worry about children and our elders – how and when should we encourage them to interact with others, what about those face masks? Yeah, funny how wearing or not wearing a face mask brings the thought of mutual respect to mind.
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction these days but couldn’t resist a book about pandemics written by a veterinary epidemiologist. Although a few sections take some heavy lifting, it is written with us non-scientists in mind and filled with relatable anecdotes and provides scientific and historical background on the many pandemics through the ages including the latest version of the Coronavirus. One of the things that he mentions struck me as particularly relevant and IMHO is as applicable to the vaccination debate he discusses as the physical distancing protocols currently recommended by health authorities. Granted there are some exceptional situations for health issues but when it comes to vaccinations, essentially many share the selfless view that they are more to protect others than to save ourselves. The side effects one might suffer are part of our contribution to the greater good – namely helping to keep those around me; friends, family and community safe and healthy – some small “h” heroism if you may. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that in most cases it means we won’t get the full-blown knock you down version of influenza, shingles or measles etc. It surprises me that so many are not wearing face masks in public for the same reasons. Again it’s selfless, albeit a little uncomfortable and a short-term inconvenience. A friend recently shared the story of someone blocking her way on a small cross bridge within a hiking trail. Neither wearing a mask since they were outdoors and physical distancing was possible. After a short standoff, she finally had to ask the individual to step aside and respect her right to the recommended physical distance as she was a recent cancer victim in remission. He looked appropriately chagrined but I have to wonder.
It is admittedly a bit of a stretch to include Clare Ashton’s Finding Jessica Lambert in a blog about superheroes. But it was just such a fantastic book and one of the main characters is an actress (Jessica) playing a superhero, so close enough. Ashton’s work to date is diverse, nuanced, character driven and well written. I’ll pretty much stop everything to check out and finish a new release. More dark/serious than her last release The Goodmans here we have Jessica meeting Anna (and essentially being saved by said Anna) while she is in the midst of a terrifying anxiety attack brought on by a lack of work/life balance and unrelenting media and fan attention from her movie role as the superhero Kalemdra. Her character, as well as the movies and TV series are based on a series of environmentally responsible graphic novels that Jessica and her high school buddies reenact in their local woods and she is discovered via social media – now her unrelenting cross to bear. We spend the weekend they meet, pretty much in the head of Jessica as Anna provides physical and emotional sanctuary to the young woman and we later find out at what cost to Anna. It is a joy to experience Ashton’s skill at unveiling the layers and experiences of these two women as they explore their emotional and physical attraction. We slowly find out that despite their differences, they have much in common and, in the end I like to think that they were each other’s superhero.
On a lighter note we have Kate Christie’s Drum up the Dawn (Galaxy Girl – Book One). According to Christie her latest is loosely based on some of the Super Girl fan fiction she wrote a few years ago. I had watched the first two seasons of the TV series and although there are some underlying similarities the book is an entertaining romp with subtle discussion of culture and societal issues. Kenzie Shepherd is our superhero (adorably geeky) and up to this point in her life has pretty much kept herself and her powers under wraps until well, suddenly she isn’t. The chemistry between Kenzie and Ava Westbrook is palatable from their first meeting and it is fun to watch it all unfold. I’m already looking forward to Book Two.
Ylva Publishing has a number of similarly themed novel collections and one of them is The Superheroine Collection (Shattered, The Power of Mercy, Chasing Stars, Shadow Hand, A Lover’s Mercy, and Never too Late for Heroes): six unique novels by five authors: A.L. Brooks (Book 6); Sacchi Green (Book 4); Alex K. Thorne (Book 3); Lee Winter (Book 1) and Fiona Zedde (Books 2 and 5). I am only half way through the series but I’ll certainly get to the others. Shattered is an outstanding novel in its own right. In it Shattergirl (black, lesbian, and alien superhero) is disillusioned with the world and has seemingly dropped off the surface of the earth. Lena, the guardian tracker extraordinaire is sent to find and bring her back to “society”. Their struggles are epic as are the lessons Lee Winter wants to leave us with. Not your typical superhero story or HEA for that matter. Just refreshing my memory about this one makes me want to reread it again.
If things going on around you have you needing a superhero fix, in addition to the above here are a few others that I’ve also read or added to my TBR list. Children of The Stars (2020) by K. Aten, Rebecca Harwell’s Storm Quarry Trilogy (The Iron Phoenix, Phoenix Rising and Shadow of the Phoenix), C.B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad Series (Not Your Sidekick, Not Your Villain and Not Your Backup) and Villains Don’t Date Heroes by by Mia Archer.
As usual, if you want to weigh in on any of the above, or have some favourites not listed here, please feel free to share with us all in the comments area.