5 Awesome Fictional Librarians

row of books in shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Librarians are awesome. They’re not only keepers of the world’s knowledge, but they’re also highly trained information scientists and invaluable resources, both in the library and in the community. They can help you find a rare book, an obscure fact, your distant ancestors, or even a job–and if you’d rather just google it, well, they can help you with that too (find out more about what librarians do). They work hard helping people of all ages and backgrounds, while not-very-bright politicians try to save a few bucks in the budget by claiming libraries are obsolete (hint: no, they’re not). Luckily, there are many people who still appreciate libraries and librarians–some have even immortalized them in books and TV shows. Here’s a sample of some of the characters who pay homage to those most unsung of heroes, librarians…

(Fair warning: spoilers ahead)

 

librarians are heroes every day
Design by Gene Ha for the “Librarians Are Heroes Every Day!” poster to promote literacy.

Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl/Oracle

Among all the related comic books, TV shows, movies, and reboots, one of Batgirl’s incarnations is as head librarian at the Gotham City Public Library. Batman may have a cave, but Batgirl has the whole damn library (bonus: no pesky stalagmites to trip over). After The Killing Joke, where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara (among other things sensitive readers will want to avoid), she goes from librarian-as-secret-identity to full on librarian-as-superhero, adopting a new persona, Oracle, and becoming a crime-fighting information broker. Batgirl might not currently be a librarian (although her past as Oracle is alluded to in the DC Rebirth), but anything can happen, and I hope they’ll bring that part of her story back.

 

rupert
Rupert Giles, Watcher and Sunnydale High librarian

 

Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Destined to watch over a vampire Slayer, and denied his preferred professions of fighter pilot or grocer, Giles follows youthful dabbling in dark magic with a job as a museum curator (as one does) before eventually becoming a high school librarian in anticipation of The Chosen One’s arrival. Multi-talented, Giles can explain (in several languages) why books are better than computers; research (or summon) demons; oversee multiple Slayers, Potentials, and Scoobies; and help students find copies of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. When an ascending demon threatens the entire town, Giles takes time out of preparing for war and possible annihilation to get the books to safety. As one does.

 

mr ambrose
Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

If you watch Bob’s Burgers, you’ll know Mr. Ambrose as the librarian (and cheerleading coach) at Wagstaff School. Although he doesn’t appear often, when he does it’s usually to start some drama or offer a revelation, like when he announced he’s a witch (supplying us with much-needed representation both for male witches and witch librarians). He’s also an aspiring scriptwriter working on a prequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. With not much screen time, Mr. Ambrose is still one of the more memorable, and interesting, characters on the show.

 

LIBRARIANS, THE
The Librarians

The Librarians

The Librarians TV series is based on The Librarian, another series of TV movies. The original Librarian, Flynn Carson, also makes appearances on The Librarians, which features four new Librarians and is set in the Metropolitan Public Library (or the Library), a library that exists outside of time and space but is also lost. Got it? Well, all you really need to know is that these Librarians kick ass, solving mysteries and fighting supernatural threats with their giant librarian brains. Finally, superheroes we can all aspire to be.

 

dewey denouement
Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s works are rife with libraries and librarians, but for now we’re focusing on Dewey Denouement, who made an appearance in The Penultimate Peril (Book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events), as well as the TV show A Series of Unfortunate Events. Dewey is technically a “sub- sub-librarian,” who also manages the family business, the Hotel Denouement. His secret library is located under the hotel’s pond and he made it his life’s work to catalogue evidence against every villain. The hotel itself is organized along the Dewey Decimal system, and in the show Mr. Denouement insists the entire building is a library. As with many of the sympathetic characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events, our time getting to know Dewey is cut short, but as with all librarians everywhere, he is a force for good.

Who’s your favourite fictional librarian? Let me know in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2016
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas

By now you’ve likely heard about the devastating fire that gutted Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, collapsing the roof and spire and destroying much of the interior (but thankfully not killing anyone). If you haven’t, you can read about it here, here, or here.

Notre Dame Cathedral devastation
Photograph: François Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

Notre Dame is an icon of Paris, and as some locals described it “the heart of France.” It’s also an international icon, a place many people wished to see in their lifetime, and an unparalleled historic monument. What was lost in that fire is far more than just a building. We can take heart in the fact that the bell towers, the rose window, and even the rooster from the top of the spire were saved; that much of the artwork was removed in time; and that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. But it will never be the same.

The first time I saw Notre Dame, I was in a cab heading from Charles de Gaulle airport to my hotel. We approached the Cathedral from the back, alongside the Seine, and as I caught my first glimpse I realized I was looking at Notre Dame. The Notre Dame. The next thing that went through my mind was “I thought I knew Gothic architecture. I had no idea what it was until now.” This wasn’t the neo-Gothic Victoriana I was used to seeing at home in Canada– this was a 900-year-old Gothic masterpiece. You know what else? Flying buttresses are awesome.

When I’d booked it, I didn’t realize my hotel was so close to Notre Dame–just around the corner. I ended up spending time in and around the Cathedral every day while I was there. When I left, I expected I would see it again one day (hopefully when the cherry trees were blooming this time). I’m not sure what will be waiting for me the next time I go, but in honour of what has been lost, I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took on the trip when I got to know Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral, front
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Copper statues in front of the base of Notre Dame’s spire. The statues were removed before the fire as part of the restoration that was taking place. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyle
Gargoyle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyles
Gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Side entrace, Notre Dame, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris (side facing the Seine). Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
My photos don’t do the windows justice. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass detail, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass rose window, Notre Dame, Paris
Rose window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass and woodwork, Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. The fire extinguisher at the bottom right of the photo takes on new significance now. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Painted column, Notre Dame, Paris
Beautiful painted column inside Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Vivid colours, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass window, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral taken from my hotel roof. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Did you get a chance to see Notre Dame? Do you have any special memories of it? Please share in the comments.

 

 

5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

person woman dark girl
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Chances are when you think of vampires you’ll think of Dracula, Blade, Angel, or any of the fanged creatures-of-the-night that populate modern culture, including Mara from Love Lies Bleeding. The vampires we’re familiar with are (generally) human looking, powerful, often charismatic and attractive, with a thirst for blood and a dislike of stakes. But that wasn’t always the case. History and folklore are full of vampires that are nothing like what we’ve come to expect. Here are five examples…

Lamaštu (or Lamashtu)

lamashtu (2)

Depicted as having a lion’s head, donkey’s teeth, bare breasts, a hairy body, bloodstained hands with long fingers and nails, and taloned bird’s feet, Lamaštu was an evil Goddess of ancient Mesopotamia who preyed on newborns and fetuses in order to suck their blood (among other things). Miscarriages and sudden deaths of infants were blamed on her. Pregnant women could ward her off with amulets, an incantation, or offerings of centipedes and brooches. The offerings were meant to distract Lamaštu, which was a common way of thwarting vampires.

Riri Yaka

riri yaka
Via https://www.rrncommunity.org/items/9836

In the Sinhalese culture of Sri Lanka, the Riri Yaka, or “Blood Demon” has an eternal thirst for blood. He’s usually portrayed as being a blood-smeared, ape-faced, four-armed man with a mouthful of decomposing human flesh. He haunts graveyards, crematoriums, and the dying. He can also possess people and cause illness, usually of the blood. People possessed by Riri Yaka are pale, listless, and anemic; a ritual ceremony must be performed to cure them.

Penanggalan

Penanggalan
Illustration by Munshi Abdullah from ‘The Indo-Chinese Gleaner, Volume 2’ (1819)

Seemingly a normal woman during daylight hours, once the sun goes down the Penanggalan detaches her fanged head and organs from her body in order to fly around the Malaysian countryside in search of the blood of newborns and women who have just given birth. Those who survive being fed on inevitably contract a wasting illness, another common theme in vampire myths. Penanggalan will often disguise themselves as midwives, but can be recognized by their characteristic vinegar smell (they keep a vat of vinegar in their home in which to soak their entrails) and odd behaviour. The best way to get rid of a Penanggalan is to surround doors and windows with thorny branches and thistles, so that they will become entangled and trapped. If found, their hollow bodies can also be stuffed with broken glass or destroyed, which will kill off the head.

Lamia

lamia 2

Daughter (or possibly granddaughter) of the Greek God Poseidon, Lamia was Queen of Libya and Zeus’s lover before being transformed by his wife, Hera, into a creature that was part woman, part sea monster, and wholly deadly. Described as either stunningly beautiful or hideously ugly, Lamia generally had a woman’s face and serpent-like features. In retaliation for Hera killing her children, Lamia began murdering other people’s children by sucking their blood. Over time she was also said to seduce and devour men. Lamia had the power of prophecy, as well as shape-shifting abilities and magical powers. Eventually the single woman became pluralized into a race of vampiric monsters, the Lamiae. The origins of Lamia may lie in Mesopotamia’s Lamaštu. A modern Greek folk saying explains the sudden death of infants and young children as “[the child was] strangled by Lamia.”

Peuchen

animal snake reptile closeup
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

The Mapuche and Chilote of southern Chile have a legend of a shapeshifter that petrifies victims (both human and animal) with its stare in order to then drain their blood. The peuchen can take any form, although it prefers that of a giant, bat-winged flying snake. Only a machi (medicine woman) can defeat it. There may be a connection between the myth of the peuchen and that of the chupacabra.

Have you heard of these vampires? Which do you think is scariest? Tell me in the comments.

If you want more vampires right now, download Blood Magic free!

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading

Lamaštu

Lamashtu

Seven Mythical Creatures that Supposedly Haunt Sri Lanka

Penanggalan

Penanggalan (Wikipedia)

Lamia

Lamia (Wikipedia)

Peuchen

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore

 

 

 

 

Vampire’s Garden: St. John’s Wort

st johns wort

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is fourth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Latin Name: Hypericum perforatum

Common Names: St. John’s Wort, Tipton’s weed, goatweed, common St. John’s Wort, perforate St. John’s Wort, Balsamo (Greece)

History: Native to temperate Europe and Asia, St. John’s Wort is now considered an invasive/noxious weed in more than 20 countries (it’s also toxic to livestock). Its use goes back to ancient Greece and Rome, where is was used for snakebites, burns, wounds, sciatica, and to treat recurring fevers, among other things. It was also believed to protect against witches’ spells. Later, it was associated with the Norse God of Light and Summer, Baldr, thanks to the plant’s bright yellow flowers and tendency to bloom around the summer solstice (21 June). Eventually 24 June became St. John’s feast day and the plant was renamed. The flowering shoots were hung over doors and stalls to ward off evil spirits, and to protect both people and animals from harm and illness. In Greece it would be hung in homes over religious icons of St. John, which led to its botanical name (hyper, meaning “above” and eikon, meaning “picture” or “icon.”)

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Animosity

Cultivation: Perennial (Zones 5-7). Produces creeping rhizomes and seeds–can be invasive (check with your local authorities before growing St. John’s Wort). Can be easily grown in any reasonable, well-drained soil; tolerates dry conditions. Prefers sun (will tolerate part shade). Start seed indoors and transplant to a permanent outdoor location after all danger of frost is past. Harvest flowering shoots and dry to use later, or preserve fresh flowers and buds in oil (see below). Because it spreads so easily, it can be readily found growing wild in fields, near creeks, and by the sides of roads.

Uses:

Medicinal: Taken internally, St. John’s Wort has been shown to be effective for mild to moderate depression and symptoms of menopause. Be aware that supplements are not regulated and can vary widely in quality, reliability, and efficacy.

Externally, the oily extract is used to heal wounds, bruises, and various skin conditions. It can also be rubbed on sore muscles. Research has found that hypericin, one of the plant’s chemical compounds, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Make your own extract by filling a sterilized glass jar with flower buds and flowers. Cover completely with olive oil (or other vegetable oil). Cover the jar and leave on a sunny windowsill for about a month. Wipe away any condensation that forms inside the jar. Oil should turn a deep red colour. Strain to remove flowers. Store extract in a cool, dry place. If mold develops while oil is steeping (usually because the plant material isn’t fully covered or there’s too much moisture in the jar) discard and start over.

You can also make a tea with fresh or dried flowers. Cool and apply the tea to skin with a clean cloth or cotton pad. Use for wounds, bruises, skin conditions, and burns. You can also drink the tea (hot or cold) for its medicinal benefits, although beneficial effects will be milder than from a supplement.

Caution: If you’re taking prescriptions (including anti-depressants, heart medicine, and birth control pills), avoid using St. John’s Wort internally, as it can interfere with absorption and cause interactions. It can also cause photosensitivity–avoid sun exposure entirely or cover up and wear sunscreen if you’re using St. John’s Wort in any form. Don’t use St. John’s Wort if pregnant or nursing.

Caution 2: If you’re taking St. John’s Wort for depression and decide to stop, make sure to wean off it slowly by gradually decreasing the dose. Stopping abruptly can have adverse effects.

Possible Side Effects: Restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, skin rash and tingling. It can also cause vivid dreams.

Crafts: Alcohol extracts of the plant produce a deep red dye. Used with different mordants, it can produce various shades on wool, silk, and other fibres.

Mara’s Uses: Mara mentions Hypericum as a plant worth studying for her blood substitute. It would also be part of her apothecary business, added to tinctures and extracts for other vampires to give their bloodletters (both to combat depression and to heal wounds), as well as for to human customers.

Further Reading:

St. John’s Wort Oil: Benefits & How to Make

How to Use St. John’s Wort

Natural Dyeing with Hypericum Perforatum

Wild Colours Natural Dyes

Briargate Botanicals

Monterey Bay Spice Company

WebMD

Encyclopedia.com

Wikipedia

IWD: The Sexism That Writers Endure

man wearing suit jacket sitting on chair in front of woman wearing eyeglasses
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

From the start, women writers have had to endure an unending slew of sexist attitudes and commentary. Pick a writer and she’ll tell you about comments claiming women aren’t serious writers, that they don’t write “important” works, and aren’t worthy of awards or acclaim. Women writers can tell you about how there is a constant assumption that they must write romance or “chick lit,” that they don’t write anything a man would want to read, that they can’t write certain genres, or that women’s fiction is fluffy and sentimental. We can tell you about how we’re questioned in a way male authors never are about work-life balance, how we can possibly work and take care of our children and homes and partners. The list goes on. And when we dare complain about any of it, we’re accused of being “whiny” and “privileged.”

On this International Women’s Day, I’m sharing a few of the sexist remarks said to, or of, women authors:

Sci-fi author Gérard Klein about Ursula K. Le Guin: ” … her art is the product of ‘a happily resolved childhood, an active feminine genitality, and her intellectual indebtedness to her historian husband.'”

 

Audience member at a reading, to Julia Fierro: “Who is taking care of your children?”

 

A reader, commenting about The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris: “The novel is ‘capitalising on the fandom of Tom Hiddleston.'”

 

Author David Gilmour, on not teaching women authors in his class at the University of Toronto: “I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.”

 

Author V.S. Naipaul about Diana Athill: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”

 

Interviewer to Victoria A. Brownworth: “I don’t think women should be writing about this kind of violence.”

 

A lecture attendee to Joanne Freeman: “How does your husband handle your wit?”

 

A one-time boss of hers, about Clarice Lispector: “She was ‘a smart girl, an excellent reporter, and, in contrast to almost all women, actually knows how to write.'”

 

Random people, to Lis Harris: “Oh, you’re a serious writer? But you’re so pretty!”

 

N.S. Willis, to his sister, Fanny Fern: “[…he stated that] her writing was ‘too vulgar’ and she should continue with her needlework instead.”

 

To these I’ll add a quote from Charlotte Brontë, which she wrote in response to harsh reviews. This is (or should be) the unofficial motto of women writers everywhere:

“It would take a great deal to crush me.”

person using green typewriter on brown wooden surface
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The problem of sexism in publishing is improving–the fact that it’s finally being acknowledged is an important first step. Will it be solved anytime soon? As with other forms of inequality, probably not in my lifetime (although I live in hope). But there are things everyone can do to help get us there:

  • Read books by women (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comic books, essays, articles…)
  • Review books by women (whether on a book site, store site, social media, or your own blog)
  • Buy books by women (let publishers know what you want to read)

If you want to start right now, you can download my free story Blood Magic. One reviewer wrote about it: “A sign of the times, this short story should be folded up, put inside an envelope, and slid inside the goody bags ready for the male attendees of the next Golden Globe Awards.”

Happy International Women’s Day. Show your support by reading more women.

Find Out More:

‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’: 3 Decades Old and Still Sadly Relevant

Women Writers Are Over Hearing These Sexist Comments

Women’s Fiction Is a Sign of a Sexist Book Industry

Canadian Author David Gilmour Sparks Furore Over Women Writers

7 Breathtakingly Sexist Quotes by Famous and Respected Male Authors

A Woman’s Place

Sexism in Publishing: My Novel Wasn’t the Problem

Female Authors Are Speaking Out About the Everyday Sexism They Experience

The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector

I talked to 39 Women Who Write Nonfiction, and Here’s What I’ve Learned

The Evolution of Female Writers

5 Things Sexism Deniers Say to Woman Writers