New Year, New Mission: a fresh look at Medical Humanities

It’s snowing in Montreal. Heavy flakes, bigger than a half-dollar, paper the steps of a small boutique hotel on Rue Sherbrooke, and I take a moment to reflect on 2015. It’s been quite a year–for challenged, for research, for overcoming. My own work seems to circle much of the crisis points; research on vaccines and polio during an Ebola outbreak, increased attention to trauma at my anthropology journal during the refugee crisis, and talks and exhibits on the history of birth control in the midst of actions that de-fund and malign planned parenthood. For every point and counterpoint in the headlines, there are legions of examples and case histories from history–the history of medicine, but the history of human kind and human actions more generally. And at the intersections of these matters, we see a new dawning of fictional output that centers on the frustration, the fear, the could-bes and should-bes, making room for heroism along the way. I drove from my home in Cleveland to Quebec for New Years, for a break and a time of reflection. But the more I look at what last year brought us, the more convinced I am that intersections of health and humanities and social sciences provide a way forward, a way of seeing, and a way of thinking. This blog has been an attempt to illustrate the intersection since 2012. In 2016, it’s time to take new steps–not just to share information, but to join conversations. It’s time to evolve, as a platform and as a means of reaching out. And so, WELCOME! Because today is the first day of a new mission, and you are invited!

New Staff

First, I want to introduce (officially) the new staff: Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, MA, MLS joins us as the Book Review Editor (you may know her as theFeministLibrarian). She will now be the primary contact for authors and publishers, fiction and non-fiction, choosing titles to feature here. Anna will review, herself, but even more importantly she will be inviting new readers on our behalf. Want to be one of these intrepid reviewers? Please see Review page; it’s our great pleasure to host readers, scholars, and interested folks as guest reviewers.

In addition, we welcome Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, MA ,MLS as the Medhum Series Editor. You may know Hanna from the Medical Heritage Library where she serves as Project Coordinator. The Daily Dose and MedHum Monday features invite guest posts to share perspectives about medicine, medical history, and humanities across cultures and disciplines. We welcome anthropological and sociological accounts that speak to themes of access, social welfare, cultural and historical practice. Hanna and I will soon be collaborating on a CFP for these guest posts, but areas of special interest include: culture, health, and access (including issues of gender); use and management of digital collections; medical history (museums and libraries welcome); social science angles on health and humanities… And given the present climate, we are especially interested in discussions of the medical humanities as concerns the refugee crisis.

New Format

Finally, an introduction to the new format. Many thanks to Somatosphere and other important blogs as we refined the look and action of the site. It’s a far simpler design, offering only the drop down menu for searching, and a cleaner, more readable format (for view on computer, tablet, and phone). The Book Review information and the Submission and Style Sheet appears with our About section in the menu, followed by a useful list of categories and the search feature–and we may, in future, be including a links page to feature articles of interest in the medical humanities.

And, of course, you may notice an adjustment to the header name of the blog–as Medhum Fiction rather than the previous Fiction Reboot. Over the years, it has become apparent that nearly all the fiction presented here connects to the medical humanities in some fashion. It seemed only right to make this link more official (though the URL has remained the same).

Your Feedback

It’s our hope that you, reader, will become a writer. I know so many of you are brilliant writers and scholars in your own right; we hope to hear more from you. But in addition, I (as the editor in chief) would love to hear your suggestions about other things the blog might offer–things that will make it more useful to you, as a medical humanities resource. You are the strength of any endeavor. And the conversation really, truly matters.

SO–Onward to a new and brilliant 2016. May yours be filled with hope and light, with joy and peace, with the strength to make change and to know it when change arrives. Our very best to you, and we hope you will soon be part of the family featured here, on Medhum Fiction | Daily Dose!


Yours sincerely,

Brandy Schillace, EIC


Friday Fiction Feature: The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories

A little mystery for your holiday season?

FictionReboot2Otto Penzler’s latest edited anthology for Black Lizard and Vintage Crime is a treat for Sherlockians. Just in time for Christmas — and the long-awaited Christmas special, if you’re a fan of the BBC Sherlock reboot series — is a doorstop of a Holmes anthology, The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, featuring everything from parody to the supernatural to straight-up homage.

Continue reading “Friday Fiction Feature: The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories”

Friday Fiction Feature: Crimson Peak


On this Friday before Halloween we thought it appropriate to highlight a work of Gothic romance: the recently-released Crimson Peak by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Once again we bring you a review conversation between book review editor Anna Clutterbuck-Cook and reviewer Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook.

Anna: Okay, so let’s start with some non-spoilery observations. When you’ve been talking to friends interested in this movie, what are some of the “If you liked…then you should absolutely see this film” you’ve compared Crimson Peak to? I told one colleague it was “something like The Turn of the Screw meets Angels & Insects with a touch of Lovecraft.

Hanna:Uh — other — good movies? If you like del Toro, you should see this, no question. *Don’t* see it if you’re not  into Gothic or at least willing to unhitch your brain a little from Hollywoodized expectation because otherwise you may end up saying stupid things about how it ‘doesn’t make sense’ (not true!) and looking a moron.

Anna: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot in the past ten days about ‘what was up’ with all the reviews that thought the story didn’t make sense. (?) It was an incredibly tight Gothic script — heir to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights (only with more sense), Northanger Abbey, Dracula … and I’d also make a strong argument that like Jane Eyre the core narrative is Edith’s self-realization as an adult person — coming into her own adulthood and finding her voice (er, and other strengths).

Hanna: Castle of Otranto and Mysteries of Udolpho, too. About the only thing it didn’t directly reference was The Monk. Everything else was there pretty much. And then you can just go on listing all the horror movie references which are kind of endless because that’s how del Toro rolls.

Anna: It definitely gestured back toward del Toro’s canon, although it skittered away from the more fatalistic endings, I thought. It’s unfair probably to say, “This wasn’t Pan’s Labyrinth” because nothing can be but it wasn’t that … hard? cruel? I say this even though I’d argue Pan’s is also ultimately hopeful in the sense of human beings choosing to be courageous in the face of overwhelming cruelty. This wasn’t quite that. Although Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is required to draw on her inner resources, to find the strength of character we know as viewers she’s had all along.

Without giving too much away, we can also talk a little about the three main characters and the (rather spare!) supporting cast … what did we think about the troupe of players?

Hanna: Nothing is as cruel as Labyrinth. This wasn’t meant to be — Gothic isn’t harsh like that; only realism is. I can’t help thinking it would’ve been stronger if they’d recast Jessica Chastain. I’ve never been a fan of hers. This is about as good as I’ve seen her be but if she could’ve stepped up her game a tad, it would have been incredible instead of merely quite amazing. I’m not sure who I’d replace her with, though, so there’s that. Possibly Carey Mulligan. But I’d replace almost everyone with her so I’m not sure it counts. Mia Wasikowska was incredibly strong, much better than I expected. And Tom Hiddleston effaced himself quite nicely without making a huge show of it.

Anna: I can’t recall seeing Chastain in anything before this, so I went in with no real expectation either way for her character. I appreciated that she didn’t overdramatize the part, which could have easily been a problem. You felt something was off, obviously, but she built to a crescendo at a pace that worked well in the overall story arc (I thought the pacing of the narrative, overall, was pretty strong).

People have compared Wasikowska’s role in this to her turn as Jane Eyre, which makes sense given the genre, but I actually found myself thinking more strongly of her portrayal of Alice? Something about the look in her eye (spoiler!) when she realized she’d battled her way through to survival. Hiddleston, I feel, figured out that his task — harder than it looks! — was to play Thomas in such a way as to make him present (and desired by Edith) yet rarely an agent of action. He’s almost entirely a conduit of the narrative from beginning to end.

[Mild spoilers after the jump] Continue reading “Friday Fiction Feature: Crimson Peak”