Fiction Reboot Author Interview: Barry Lyga, I Hunt Killers Series.

Sammie Kurty (author/contributor), signing in! For today’s Fiction Reboot Interview, I fictionreboot2have the pleasure of once again welcoLyga_AfterTheRedRain_HCming author Barry Lyga. You may recognize his name from his best selling series, I Hunt Killers. He has quite a variety of writing under his belt, from middle grade fiction, to YA, to graphic novels.  He even keeps an author blog, talking about books and all the ins and outs of writing.  Needless to say, he’s impressive.  His latest novel, After the Red Rain, (co-written with Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco) will be released this coming August.  Today, Barry talks with us about writing like a method actor, Bruce Springsteen, and his future projects. Welcome back to Fiction Reboot, Barry!

Author Bio:

Lyga0110Called a “YA rebel-author” by , Barry Lyga has published fourteen novels in various genres in his nine-year career, including the bestselling . His books have been or are slated to be published in a dozen different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

Called a “YA rebel-author” by Kirkus Reviews, Barry Lyga has published fourteen novels in various genres in his nine-year career, including the New York Times bestselling I Hunt Killers. His books have been or are slated to be published in a dozen different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Lyga worked in the comic book industry before quitting to pursue his lifelong love of writing. In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklist andSchool Library Journal. Publishers Weekly named Lyga a “Flying Start” in December 2006 on the strength of the debut.

His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJPublishers Weekly, and KirkusVOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it “…an astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim.” His third novel, Hero-Type, according to VOYA “proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature.”

Since then, he has also written Goth Girl Rising (the sequel to his first novel), as well as the Archvillain series for middle-grade readers and the graphic novel Mangaman (with art by Colleen Doran).

His latest series is I Hunt Killers, called by the LA Times “one of the more daring concepts in recent years by a young-adult author” and an “extreme and utterly alluring narrative about nature versus nurture.” The first book landed on both the New York Times and USAToday bestsellers lists.

Lyga lives and podcasts in New York City with his wife, Morgan Baden, and their nigh-omnipotent daughter. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.

Twitter: @barrylyga

Author Interview.

I’m dying to know, is Lobo’s Nod based on a real place? If so, tell us more! If not, what inspired you?

Nah. I was going for a sort of ur-small town, or maybe the Platonic ideal of small towns. I always get them confused. :) I talk about the origins of its name at, and of course the LUCKY DAY novella goes into the history of the town. But it was really just me ruminating on the nature of small towns (having grown up in one) and wanting to evoke it without having to turn the book into a Russian novel!

Your detail and accuracy into Jazz’s troubled psyche is astounding. Any remarks as to how you came up with Jazz’s story? Research you’ve had to do?

Before I wrote the first book, I spent about three months researching serial killer pathology, forensic science, and the history of serial murder. And then I did what I always do with a book: I submerged my own ego and just allowed myself to BE Jazz. It starts with a simple premise and a simple question: “I am not Barry Lyga. I am Jazz. My father is a serial killer. What’s my life like?” And I go. This is the only way I know how to write. It’s sort of like Method acting, except in a chair at a keyboard. And I guess the pay is worse. :)

Ever consider making the I Hunt Killers series into a graphic novel? Is television in the future? What are your hopes for the series?

I’m generally not interested in adapting my work. Once it’s done, I’m done. My publisher has the graphic novel rights, so they could do one, if they thought the audience would be there. I tend to think a graphic novel would be tough — it’s a very interior series, very much concerned with inner thoughts and feelings. Those are tough to do justice to in a graphic novel. The TV series looked promising for a little while, but died late last year, so that’s not going to happen. As to my hopes: I really only care about the books. Everything else is gravy. If a movie or something else comes along, great, but my only hope is that people will read the books, enjoy the books, tell their friends…and maybe re-read them every now and again to discover new little nook and crannies.

It comes up often in the IHK series, so I have to ask: Which do you think is more important? nature or nurture? (Or if neither, how do you see the relationship?)

Jazz was raised by a serial killer (nurture) and his father is a serial killer (nature). The question is moot for him. And the question that really matters — and its answer — is the theme running through the entire series, both overtly and obliquely…which I’d rather people discover on their own, rather than me spelling it out. It’s no fun if I give away the answers.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

If I did, I’m sure they wouldn’t seem quirky to me! No one has ever called me out for any. Sometimes I freak people out when I can type and talk to them at the same time for several paragraphs.

Do you have a favorite author? One that inspires you?

I have a whole range of people whose work I admire, stretching from the anonymous poet who wrote BEOWULF to Edgar Allan Poe to comic book writers like Alan Moore and Paul Levitz to prose authors like Joe Haldeman, Tom Perrotta, and Ken Grimwood. My biggest inspiration, though, is probably Bruce Springsteen. He manages to tell complete, powerful, compelling stories in about five minutes. It takes me five hundred pages!

Lastly, do you have any new projects? Would you want to dabble in any other genres?

I have a book coming out in August that I co-wrote with Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco, AFTER THE RED RAIN, which is post-apocalyptic with a twist. And then I have a very odd sort of middle-grade novel, THE SECRET SEA, coming in early 2016. A quick look at will show that I love nothing more than switching up styles and genres. I’ve done contemporary realistic fiction, thrillers, kids’ super-hero adventure, and even an erotic adult comedy. I plan to keep shaking things up in the future!

Thank you, Barry, for joining us today! You can find Barry on his website, or on twitter @barrylyga. You can find all of his fantastic books on Amazon or a book store near you!

About the Contributor

sammieSammie Kurty is an English major in her senior year at Wittenberg University and a contributor to Fiction Reboot. She is a proud member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society. Sammie has been passionate about writing all her life and is about to complete her first novel, Sapphire Lake, a project she has worked on for three years. When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her practicing makeup artistry or riding roller coasters. Twitter: @Shamtakee

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Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello all and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature!
Sorry for the long delay in posts, but your series editor Tabatha has been busy graduating & getting ready to move far far away. Now that I’m back with a new job in a new country, we’re on a new schedule–the Friday Fiction Feature will now be coming to you only once a month.

In the meantime, I have been experimenting with a state wholly unknown to all graduate students–applied laziness (over more than 30 minutes). The secret? BOOKS! I have been reading books! For fun! (Yes, yes, I know that’s rather the point of the FFF, but all the students/academics out there can explain how rare and impressive that is). And so, with a renewed appreciate for how awesome it is to be able to sit back and read, I am back to bring you a few more suggestions for your studiously lazy days.

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides (Adventures of Kit Bristol #1) by Ben Tripp

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides (Adventures of Kit Bristol, #1)The first book on the list is one that means a lot to me because I only survived graduate school by narrow margin, by which I mean I very nearly ran away to become a pirate about once a week. By getting to fight monsters, fate, magic, and a rebellious princess, Kit Bristol the Accidental Highwayman is very literally living the dream.

In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….

Nine Kinds of Naked by Tony Vigorito

Nine Kinds of NakedNo, this one will not be another description of how I spent my lazy days. (Given teh title, that’s an important promise). This next book is up mostly for a small tangent. In the following summary you will read the description of what sounds like the world’s sturdiest secret society. I cannot draw my mind away from the image of a cult whose motto is “walk away.” This must be the most-populous and longest-lived cult ever formed (allowing for the lowered intake of new members, because it doesn’t have the razmatazz of a cult that actually does something…) because these walk-awayers will never summon a demon (and if they do, I suspect they will promptly find themselves out of its immediate range), they will never incurr the wrath of gods, district attorneys, or impossibly effective mourners-after-the-sacrificed. They will, effectively, be the safest cult ever formed. So if you want the mystique of being in a secret society without all the danger or derring-do of actually being involved in anything at all, Nine Kinds of Naked has just the cult for you!

Join cult favorite Tony Vigorito in his acclaimed, surreal whirlwind of a novel exploring chaos theory. A prisoner spins a playing card into a somersault, stirring a wind that becomes a tornado that takes off the roof of a church in nearby Normal, Illinois. Elizabeth Wildhack is born in that church and someday she will meet that prisoner, a man named Diablo, on the streets of New Orleans—where a hurricane-like Great White Spot hovers off the coast. But how is it all interconnected? And what does it have to do with a time-traveling serf and a secret society whose motto is “Walk away?”
“Chaos theory says that a tiny, almost imperceptible event can have large, even catastrophic coincidences: a butterfly flapping its wings in North America leads to a hurricane on another continent, for example. In this fictional take on chaos theory, several offbeat characters are linked by a single event that expands through time, sweeping them up in it and changing their lives. A traveler works a nifty trick with a playing card, and a tornado strikes a small Illinois town; a woman is born during the tornado and later meets the man who set it in motion; 1,200 years earlier, a man who is supposed to be stoned to death discovers he has an uncanny knack for surviving; and, back in the present day, another man speaks only in the present tense. Comparisons of this novel to the works of Tom Robbins are both obvious and appropriate: the story meanders around in an entertaining manner, never getting too serious about itself; the characters are splendidly loopy, close to caricature but never quite reaching it, and the situations in which they find themselves are comic, dramatic, and everything in between.” —Booklist

Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird

Utterly MonkeyWith a severe turn careerwise, Utterly Monkey gives us a thorough path of what to avoid, and what to seek out as we (this being graduation season and all) move away from school (and hopefully our parents’ houses) and towards our dream jobs. Or our close-enough jobs. Or just any job at all really.
It seems Danny Williams has made the mistake many a recent graduate has stumbled into–he accidentally became a lawyer, yes, this is….wait, what? Accidentally became a….let’s see…college, law school, the bar exam… yeah… sure, who couldn’t accidentally stumble into that kind of thing… right.
Oh well. Maybe this book can teach me how to stumble into a high-paying job. “Accidentally”

Danny Williams didn’t mean to be a lawyer, but somehow he is — and for up to eighteen hours a day. He’s well paid, home owning, and twenty-seven but is also overworked, lonely, and frequently stoned. The plan was to leave the troubles of a small town in Northern Ireland for the big city in England, but one evening an old school friend, Geordie, bursts into Danny’s shiny new life. On the run from a Loyalist militia, Geordie brings everything Danny thought he had left behind and dumps it on his doorstep.
With infectious wit and energy to burn, Utterly Monkey is a searing, fiercely funny, and ultimately redemptive novel about surviving an office job, outwitting the bad guys, and, hopefully, getting the girl.

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (Portuguese Irregular Verbs #3) by Alexander McCall Smith 

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #3)Mystery buffs will be familiar with the this-can’t-be-right-something-must-be-wrong beginning to an investigation. Just the other day I was listening to a mystery where a tone-deaf man hired a detective because someone had hired him as a tuba player, and the devoted musician just knew there could be to legal reason to pay him to play a tuba at a room of unsuspecting listeners. Well, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances has brought this musical plot into the world of letters and joined together mystery and academe in a way many a published author has dreaded.

In At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances, Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets caught up in a nasty case of academic intrigue while on sabbatical at Cambridge. When he returns to Regensburg he is confronted with the thrilling news that someone from a foreign embassy has actually checked his masterwork, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, out of the Institute’s Library. As a result, he gets caught up in intrigue of a different sort on a visit to Bogota, Colombia.

Hooked on Murder (Crochet Mystery #1) by Betty Hechtman

Hooked on Murder (Crochet Mystery, #1)My more observant readers will probably know that I have a special weakness for cozy mysteries. Inspired by the original Miss Marple (despite Dame Christie’s absolute refusal to give me all the clues!) and moving on to dozens of other set-in-a-small-town, everybody-is-nice-and-a-suspect-and-lying-about-everything, with the necessary inexplicable-importance-of-sewing-or-cooking-to-the-plot, with a mystery which absolutely must be solved by the unassuming-cook/seamstress/old lady/generally innocent _______. On the FFF I get to see all of these opportunities to integrate a real and intriguing mystery into my life in books like Hooked on Murder, without (apparently) having to interrupt my social life at all! Unfortunately, I have yet to become innocently embroiled in a dire mystery that threatens the peacefulness of my small town. I’m beginning to worry that it’ll take until I’m gray-haired and surrounded by cats and baked goods before I’ll get a cozy mystery of my own. Oh well, I guess all I can do now is move to a small town, get far to many pets, take up baking, and hope for the best…or do I mean worst?

Craft lovers and mystery readers alike will flock to this great new craft-based cozy with a delicious recipe and crochet pattern included!
When bookstore event coordinator Molly Pink stumbles across the dead body of a crochet group’s leader, her complicated past with the woman makes her a prime suspect.
But while Molly’s fending off a detective with a personal grudge and navigating the pitfalls of crochet group politics, the real killer remains at large. And it’s up to her to catch the culprit before she winds up in a tight knot.

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Fiction Reboot Interview – Mindy McGinnis, Not A Drop to Drink

fictionreboot2In today’s Friday Feature, Hannah Hunt interviews Mindy McGinnis, a young adult author who tackles some serious issues on both the environmental and psychological fronts in her work. Her publications include Not a Drop to Drink (2013), In a Handful of Dust (2014), an A Madness so Discreet (Fall 2015). The reads are realistic, fast-paced, and set in worlds that give you goosebumps, but man does McGinnis know her stuff!

mindy-mcginnisAuthor Bio: Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.

Interview with Mindy McGinnis:

  1. Your books have an air of realism about them, and I assume MADNESS, despite the difference in genre, will be no different. How much research went into DRINK and DUST before you wrote them? And into MADNESS?

I did quite a bit of research for both DRINK & DUST. I needed to learn about methods for purifying water, for sure, but there are always little things that pop up. For example in DUST I had to learn just enough about horses to make it sound realistic when one of them went lame. MADNESS was a different story altogether. I researched for a year before writing a word of the novel. The plot the setting, the speech patterns of the characters all had to be realistic in order for me to have any pride in it.

  1. Do you think there’s ever too much research done for a book? Why or why not?

I think it’s easy to go overboard. For example I read three books about lobotomies, and two books about brain injuries that included doctor’s medical notes from colonial times. The sum total of thousands of pages of research influenced about five paragraphs in MADNESS. I executed those few paragraphs and was like – that’s it, Mindy?

Even so, I wouldn’t ever say that you can do *too much* research. Everything I learned informs every line of the book, even if I’m not referencing the research directly.

  1. What would you say is your weakest skill as a writer, or what have you had to work hardest at in your drafting (e.g. character building, world building, plot, etc.)?

Character movement. I hate it. I hate physically moving a person from one room to the next and trying to keep that interesting. It’s almost impossible. I’d rather just scene break.

  1. Do you have any writing quirks (e.g. writing with a bowl of jellybeans on the desk, in your pajamas only, when a cat’s perched nearby, under the shroud of darkness, etc.)?

I write in bed, because I work full time so my writing time is at night. I recently started putting on some white noise, it’s like a protective sound barrier around my brain.

  1. Your journey from writer to published author is a long one. Any advice for those following a similar path of writing and waiting, or those maybe losing their faith in the craft?

I don’t like hearing the advice “never give up,” because I think it’s therapeutic to go ahead and give up once in awhile. It took me ten years to get published and I gave up more than once on the journey, but always found my way back to it. A lot of the factors in publishing are completely out of an author’s control so constantly pressuring yourself to do better, be better, MAKE IT, isn’t necessarily going to be beneficial. Outside factors like the market and editor’s personal taste might be what’s not allowing you to break through right now, and that’s not something an author can control. Write your best book, then walk away and come back to it (trust me it still needs work). Take those breaks.

  1. What are some of your most memorable experiences so far with the publishing process (with any of your books); and from meeting your fans?

I had an adult male tell me that DRINK was the first book they’d ever read in their life, and DUST would be the second. That’s pretty humbling. It’s an amazing thought that I can bring the love of reading to someone later in life. Highest possible compliment.

  1. Some people suggest using a pseudonym or pen name when writing/publishing in different genres. It’s clear you don’t plan to with your switch from dystopian fiction to historical; why is that?

Good question. Even with jumping genres the voice of MADNESS still fits my author brand. I write dark, and this definitely fits in that category.

  1. You were a part of the Darker Days tour with HarperCollins after DRINK debuted in 2013; how is an organized tour different from scheduling your own talks throughout the rest of the year? 

Ha, well – it’s a lot cheaper, for one thing. A tour like that is paid for by the publisher, but when an author schedules their own events the costs are on us entirely and it’s a gamble that you hope pays off in sales. And sometimes it doesn’t. The other thing is that when you get to do a group tour like Dark Days it builds amazing camaraderie with fellow authors. You’ve got inside jokes after three hours. It’s fantastic.

  1. If you could pick a setting from any manuscript you’ve ever written (published or not) to live in for the rest of your life, where/when would you live and why?

Oh man, none of them. I write horrible things. I’ll put fake people there, but that’s it!

Thanks so much to Mindy for interviewing with us! You can find her on her website, blog(s), or around a smattering of social media sites. On Twitter she goes by @MindyMcGinnis.

What Critics are Saying:

index2Not A Drop to Drink:

The intensity of action moves the story forward, but not at the expense of character development. The complex, authentic characters are neither fully evil nor unbelievably good. The honest and hopeful ending—while not “happily ever after”—will resonate with readers and leave them asking for more. — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

In A Handful of Dust:

Tension’s maintained by constant, subtle foreshadowing (rather than transparent cliffhangers), and the characters rarely feel safe enough for readers to relax. Hard to put down. — Kirkus Reviews

A Madness So Discreet:

Brutal, relentless, and haunting. Every character in A Madness So Discreet is more colorful and unforgettable than the last. With a realistic, emotionally complex, and clever heroine, readers will find themselves rooting for Grace from page one. Her story and McGinnis’s style is too gripping to ignore. — Madeleine Roux, New York Times bestselling author of Asylum and Sanctum


About the Contributor:

HannahHuntPhotoHannah Hunt spends her free time writing about pickpockets, cyborgs, and global conspiracies. Just not at the same time. She’s served on the submissions review board for Flip the Page and the Wittenberg Review of Literature and Art, and has published several short stories. When she’s not working on one of her manuscripts, you might find her painting, burrowed beneath a pile of books, or plotting world domination.

You can visit her blog Write, Read, Sleep, Repeat or find her on Twitter at @hannahhuntwrite.

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MedHum Monday Presents: The Mackenzie Ink Polygraph

DailyDose_PosterWelcome back to the Daily Dose and MedHum Mondays!

Imagine the scene: a man sits at a table attached to a machine that monitors his body. A question is asked–his brow sweats–his heart races–he lies! And the machine knows! The earliest of the polygraph tests developed out of research in cardiovascular health (just one more way studies of medicine made important changes in other fields). Today’s post is penned by Jared Larson, a student at Case Western Reserve University. Welcome to the history (and ethical considerations) of the polygraph!


The Mackenzie Ink Polygraph

Cardiology has long been a central aspect of medicine because of the heart’s crucial role in driving and regulating the most fundamental processes of the body. The slightest change in the functioning of the cardiovascular system can drastically alter an individual’s condition, making it essential for physicians to be able to understand and monitor heart activity. In order to obtain this information, devices were created to provide quantitative data regarding the state of the cardiovascular system, such as heart and respiration rate. One device, Sir James Mackenzie’s ink polygraph, was created to further understand the behavior of the heart through the observation of heart rate (“Mackenzie Ink Polygraph, 1906″ 2013). This polygraph allowed physicians to identify abnormal heart activity in seemingly healthy individuals as well as recognize a connection between psychological and physiological responses, ultimately leading to the development of lie detection technology (2013). While the development of the ink polygraph was able to advance medicine in the early 1900’s, its modern counterpart is being criticized for its validity as a means of scientific evidence and potentially causing wrongful convictions of individuals in criminal proceedings.

Mackenzie’s device greatly influenced the practice of medicine by revealing how little was known about cardiovascular health in the early 20th century. The polygraph has two “tambours” that attach at the patient’s neck and wrist to obtain both a carotid and radial arterial pulse that then signals the ink stylus to record the data (2013). As a heart surgeon himself, Mackenzie initially tested his polygraph by using it to monitor his patients as he was operating (Krikler 1). After extending the use of his device to his regular patients, Mackenzie began to realize pulse irregularities in individuals he believed to be in perfect health (1). Mackenzie then began to use his ink polygraph to further assess his patients and understand the underlying causes of their irregularities (1). As a result, he was able to distinguish harmful heart murmurs from normal heart activity with the use of his polygraph and began to share the importance of monitoring heart rate as a means of understanding a patient’s condition (1). Mackenzie’s ink polygraph allowed him to contribute greatly to the development of the field of cardiology in the early 20th century by helping him understand an aspect of physiology crucial to his patients’ health; however, his invention’s ability to identify the smallest change in heart activity made it suitable for nonmedical applications as well.

Mackenzie’s device contained all the essential elements to operate as a lie detector, an invaluable tool of investigation still in use. By detecting an increased heart or respiration rate caused by a minute stress response, Mackenzie’s ink polygraph and subsequent models could identify when an individual was lying. Additionally, using a polygraph “assumes that telling a lie causes specific and reproducible physiologic responses related to the arousal of the autonomic nervous system and that an experienced examiner can elicit these responses routinely” (Steinbrook 1). This stress response of the nervous system influences the physiology of an individual, causing an increase in irregular heart activity as well as an increase in the overall heart rate. The polygraph then identifies and records this response, and a trained individual can recognize the specific pattern caused by a false statement (1). This method of lie detection is a powerful tool that has been applied to the criminal justice system in an attempt to identify guilty individuals in certain situations. Initially, the polygraph was believed to have a successful detection rate over 90%, providing an incredibly precise level of detection (Palvidis and Levine 1). Though Mackenzie’s ink polygraph may have contributed immensely to the field of cardiology and paved the way for further advances in forensic science, it may have had adverse effects in the courtroom.

Because the polygraph was seen as an almost infallible device capable of producing valid scientific evidence in criminal cases, it held great weight in the courtroom, helping determine the guilt of potential suspects. However, the use of the polygraph as a means of valid scientific evidence has become a controversial topic with reports of wrongful convictions based on false polygraph results. The false results can be caused simply by the stress of being tested with a polygraph; in fact, the same response “may also be caused by a myriad of potentially confounding factors ranging from stress, fear, and anxiety to anger and embarrassment” (Steinbrook 1). This kind of mistake can be presented as scientific evidence in a courtroom and can ultimately result in an individual being wrongfully accused and convicted. Further criticism of the instrument as a accurate has led to a movement against the use of the polygraph as a reliable means of obtaining evidence in court proceedings. Though the polygraph does have an incredible ability to help find the truth and an amazing rate of success, it’s lack of complete accuracy has detrimental effects on the fairness of the court system.

Though Mackenzie’s ink polygraph may be an extremely powerful tool able to provide insight into the cardiac health of a patient, its creation has also played a much more controversial role as a valid means of scientific evidence in the courtroom. With revolutionary inventions and discoveries like the ink polygraph becoming more prevalent in many important aspects of society, it is necessary to continue to question the knowledge obtained by such achievements to ensure that they do not have adverse effects that might outweigh the benefits of their use. Ultimately, the knowledge obtainable because of devices like the polygraph can provide amazing insight, but their abilities can also be detrimental to society.

Works Cited

Inbau, Fred E. “The First Polygraph.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 43.5 (1953): 2-4. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.

Krikler, D. M., MD. “Profiles in Cardiology: Sir James Mackenzie.” Journal of Clinical Cardiology 11 (1988): 193-94. Wiley Online Library. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.

“Mackenzie Ink Polygraph, 1906.” Dittrick Museum of Medical History 11000 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106 United States. 2013. Plaque.

Steinbrook, Robert. “The Polygraph Test – A Flawed Diagnostic Method.” New England Journal of Medicine 327.2 (1992): 122-23. Web. Feb. 2015.

Pavlidis, I., and J. Levine. “Monitoring of Periorbital Blood Flow Rate through Thermal Image Analysis and Its Application to Polygraph Testing.” IEEE Xplore. Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, 2001. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

Posted in Collections and Outreach, MedHum Monday, Medical History, Medical Humanities, The Daily Dose | Tagged , | Leave a comment

MedHum Mondays Presents: The Applications of a Surgeon’s Operating Case

DailyDose_darkstrokeWelcome back to the Daily Dose and MedHum Monday! Today we present an essay by Sydney Tenaglia, a student at Case Western Reserve University. Sydney spent time in the Dittrick Museum examining artifacts and discovering that it’s not just the knife, it’s how you use it! History provides us with a useful lens for examining medicine and the implications of tools for doctors and for patients.

The Applications of the Surgeon’s Operating Case

IMG_3306      Throughout the nineteenth century, operating was oftentimes the only solution for most major injuries and chronic illnesses. Before Alexander Flemming’s discovery of penicillin and the widespread use of antibiotics during the twentieth century, removal of the infected portions of the body was the only cure. Serious injuries such as shattered bones or head trauma also provoked operative treatment. Thus, “a cased set of amputation and surgical instruments constituted the most prized possession of the nineteenth century physician and surgeon” (Dittrick Medical Museum). These cases typically included saws, knives, and tourniquets for use in amputations; equipment for trephining; a myriad forceps, probes, and needles; and catheters (Dittrick Medical Museum). A well-stocked operating case could mean the difference between life and death, usually from infection of an untreatable wound.

While it gave many patients suffering from catastrophic injuries, infections, and general chronic maladies an opportunity to evade what was, for the most part, certain death, nineteenth century operations tended to be almost as likely to kill the patients as the inflictions which plagued them. Before the latter half of the nineteenth century and the emergence of ‘germ free’ surgery, the materials that many surgical tools were made from could not be properly sterilized, if an attempt at sterilization was even made at all (Dittrick Medical Museum). Mortality rates of amputations performed at the London Hospital in 1842 were around fifty percent, the majority of the deaths occurring from sepsis and shock post-surgery (Chaloner).

Due to the procedure’s significant mortality, amputation was deemed a “capital” operation and reserved as a last resort in the avoidance of sepsis from injury (Goddard). Surprisingly, risk of the patient bleeding out during an amputation was minimal due to the use of tourniquets and the speed at which the operation was performed. Nineteenth century surgeon Doctor Robert Liston was one of the finest and fastest surgeons of the time, and an example of both the benefits and detriments to performing such high speed operations (Soniak). Before the widespread use of anesthetic, speed was paramount in minimizing pain and reducing the chance that the patient would die from shock mid-surgery. While “only about one of every ten of Liston’s patients died on his operating table at London’s University College Hospital, the surgeons at nearby St. Bartholomew’s, meanwhile, lost about one in every four,” a testament to how quick operations spared patients both pain and deadly stress (Soniak). High speed surgery, however, also greatly hindered the surgeon’s accuracy and precision while operating. Robert Liston was no exception to this rule. His most famous mishap occurred while amputating a patient’s leg. He was cutting so fast that he also took off the fingers of one of his surgical assistants, and while switching between instruments, accidentally slashed a spectator’s coat. The patient and assistant both died from infection and the spectator was so frightened by his near stabbing that he died from shock, resulting in the only known surgery to garner a three hundred percent mortality rate (Soniak). Thankfully, the discovery of anesthetics made the use of such reckless speed obsolete in favor of rendering the patient passive and unconscious.

The use of anesthesia not only made surgery more comfortable for the patient, but safer as well. Surgeons were able to use more precision and take their time whilst operating, so shock was no longer just as likely to kill the patient as their affliction. The discovery of microorganisms and germ theory brought about the shift to using surgical implements made from metals as opposed to porous substances such as wood (Dittrick Medical Museum). Wooden handles on surgical instruments retained the infectious diseases from one patient and were liable to transfer them to another, resulting in deadly post-surgical sepsis. By changing to instruments entirely crafted of metal, a material which could be sterilized easily, the chances of patients dying from infections after surgery were reduced.

Surgical conditions continued to improve throughout the twentieth century, and due to the creation of antibiotics, surgery was no longer the only treatment for serious infections. Surgical operations lacking anesthesia were associated with a less than stellar success rate due to complications related to the pain response of the patients and a lack of understanding in regards to germ theory. The introduction of pain relievers and ethers into surgical practice greatly reduced the probability that the patient would die outright from shock or other complications caused by writhing around in pain, improving the survival rate dramatically. Today, infections are diagnosed in a timely manner, before they can cause any serious complications that require surgical amputation to treat, and are purged with non-invasive medications. Amputations are rare, only to be performed in cases of reoccurring or serious disease, in part due to the increasing precision of surgical instruments and techniques today. Like any other surgery, anesthetic is used to render the patient unconscientious, preventing pain and allowing the surgeon to operate on a still, relaxed individual as opposed to a patient who is struggling against him. What once would have required a painful, traumatic, and unsanitary ordeal that resulted in the complete loss of a limb can now be corrected with the precise and painless removal of the infected area with only a small incision scar as proof of the event. Current surgical implements tend to be small, and some surgeries are not even performed directly by surgeons, but instead with robotic arms and lasers, all lending to a safer, less invasive, and more comfortable experience for patients today, who recover far better than those of the nineteenth century.

Sources Cited:

Chaloner, E J, H S Flora, and R J Ham. “Amputations at the London Hospital 1852-1857.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 94.8 (2001): 409–412. Print.

Dittrick Medical Museum.  “No title.” Cleveland, Ohio: Dittrick Medical Museum, no date. Plaque.

Goddard, Jonathan Charles. “The Navy Surgeon’s Chest: Surgical Instruments of the Royal Navy During the Napoleonic War.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 97.4 (2004): 191–197. Print.

Soniak, Matt. “‘Time Me, Gentlemen': The Fastest Surgeon of the 19th Century.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Monthly Group, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.


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Fiction Reboot Interview – Megan Shepherd, The Madman’s Daughter

fictionreboot2Welcome Back to the Fiction Reboot! In this week’s Friday Feature, FR blogger Hannah Hunt interviews Megan Shepherd, a young adult author rooted in the Gothic tradition. Her publications include the The Madman’s Daughter (2013), Her Dark Curiosity (2014), and A Cold Legacy (2015) of the Madman’s Daughter Trilogy, as well as The Cage (May, 2015). Her works are chilling and fast-paced, taking a twist to the old classics in her Madman’s Daughter trilogy, and readers can’t wait to find out more about The Cage.

Author Bio:

MeganShepherdMegan Shepherd was “born” into the book world, growing up in her parents’ independent bookstore in Western North Carolina. She is the author of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2013), and THE CAGE trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2015). When Megan is not writing, she can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. She is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.

Interview with Megan Shepherd:

  1. What’s your favorite genre to read and why? (Because every author reads)

I love literary fiction with a touch of fantasy, or genre fiction with a touch of literary…however that makes the most sense! Some of my favorites include THE NIGHT CIRCUS, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, and NIGHT FILM.

  1. Where do you find the most inspiration from? Or, what do you do to get inspired?

I get inspired during quiet times. It seems like everyone is so busy now, but often we’re doing that to ourselves unnecessarily. There’s always the TV on, or the radio in the car, or we are rushing from email to email or meeting to meeting. I find that when I’m busy like that, I never get inspired. I need quiet alone time to clear my head. Then, often an idea will simply come to the surface.

  1. Is there a craft element you still struggle with while drafting? (Character arcs, world building, avoiding plot holes, etc.)

I often find high stakes to be my biggest frustration. I love to populate a world with complex characters, develop dynamic settings, and have a twisting plot, but I sometimes struggle to keep the focus on why all of the action matters, and what is truly at stake.

  1. What’s been your favorite part of being published?

It’s very satisfying to hear that my stories have affected readers emotionally. My editor and publishing team are invaluable in helping make the book as strong as it can be, but ultimately this is a solitary job and at the end of the day, I’m responsible for the story. That creates a lot of pressure, but when it works out, a lot of satisfaction too.

  1. What was the hardest part of drafting THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy?

Because each book in THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy is inspired by a different Gothic classic (THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU, JEKYLL & HYDE, and FRANKENSTEIN), it took a lot of careful planning to create one solid, original plot arc and at the same time weave in inspirations from the other books.

  1. Do you have any quirky writer habits? (Writing with a bowl of M&Ms on the desk, only writing after drinking coffee, writing at night/in the morning, etc.)

Whenever I find out one of my books is going to be sold in a foreign country, I go out to eat to a restaurant that specializes in that country’s cuisine to celebrate.

  1. If you could live in any time period besides the present, when would you live and why?

I think the 20s, 30s, or 40s. I’d like to live before the technology age.

Thanks so much, Megan for taking the time to chat with The Fiction Reboot! You can find her on her website, or on Twitter as @megan_shepherd.

What Critics Are Saying:

indexMadman’s Daughter Trilogy:

Shepherd masterfully blends yet another classic horror story into a new setting, and the continuing echoes of H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau combined with Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde result in a book that resonates with evil and suspense. – Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas, School Library Journal

The Cage:

A riff on a Twilight Zone plot unfolds into a richly drawn alien dystopian replete with romance and horror. – Kirkus Review


About the Contributor:

HannahHuntPhotoHannah Hunt spends her free time writing about pickpockets, cyborgs, and global conspiracies. Just not at the same time. She’s served on the submissions review board for Flip the Page and the Wittenberg Review of Literature and Art, and has published several short stories. When she’s not working on one of her manuscripts, you might find her painting, burrowed beneath a pile of books, or plotting world domination.

You can visit her blog at Write, Read, Sleep, Repeat or find her on Twitter at @hannahhuntwrite.

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MedHum Monday Presents: Galileo’s Middle Finger

DailyDose_darkstrokeWelcome back to the Daily Dose and MedHum Monday! Today we have an unusual treat. Galileo’s Middle Finger is Alice Dreger’s third book-length work in the history and ethics of medicine; her previous books are Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex and One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal. She also works as an activist in the area of patient advocacy and you can watch her 2010 TED talk, Is Anatomy Destiny?, online. Today’s post has been composed by two of the Dose’s brilliant reviewers, Hanna and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook. Galileo’s Middle Finger, they explain, uses Dreger’s own experience, as well as researched case studies in politics of science, to explore the role (historical and scientific) evidence plays — or doesn’t play — in advancing human knowledge and flourishing. But today’s review offers something new:

“As historians with an interest in both medical history and social justice work, we decided to read the book and have a conversation about it. Here is an edited version of that conversation.”
~ Hanna & Anna Clutterbuck-Cook


GalileosMiddleFinger_cover_0-300x453Anna: I first became aware of Alice Dreger’s work several years ago, and when I saw Galileo’s Middle Finger coming out, I was excited to see that she was going to tackle the question of science and social justice. I have an overall positive response to the notion of “evidence-based activism,” though having read the book I can’t shake the feeling that Dreger leans really heavily on the scientific method as a solution to social and political conflict — like, if only people would pay attention to the evidence we’d all get along. That activists would stop attacking scientists as anti-social justice, and scientists would stop practicing medicine that was contrary to human well-being. I’m just not sure it’s that’s simple.

Hanna: I had never heard of the author before this book. She’s an excellent storyteller. She does a very good job at breaking apart some very complicated scientific-cultural concepts, particularly walking through the vagaries of intersex really well without giving the sense of talking down to the reader — really common in this genre of popular science writing. Or of being bored having to stop and explain the basics — she is still finding explaining these concepts really interesting, which communicates itself on the page.

In terms of the conception of science, she’s very positivist about how evidence should be treated, like if you have evidence showing one thing or another go with that! We found this thing and it’s great! It reads as if she’s found a very satisfactory trial-and-error system for herself. But just presenting the evidence doesn’t always lead people to your way of thinking.

Anna: I hadn’t thought about it with that framing, as a very historically-specific view of empirical data collection. For me it was a question of, well, saying “evidence-based” is great, but evidence is never pure, it’s never without a bias or perspective. Like, at one point she writes about “the dangerous intellectual rot occurring within certain branches of academe – the privileging of politics over evidence” (139). Yes, sometimes one group of people is making claims completely not grounded in data. But sometimes we’re looking at the same data and drawing different conclusions! I’m not sure where these “certain branches of academe” are that she’s talking about — and she never really persuasively documents that level of “rot.”

What Galileo does offer are some pretty spectacular case-studies of personal vendettas and in-fighting in fields like anthropology, psychology, medicine — I don’t think this amounts to a pattern of retreat from the evidence so much as it does examples of shitty human behavior even in professional contexts.

Hanna: Nobody looks at evidence in a vacuum — you look at it in a whole collection of how else you see the world … ideologically, institutionally, ad lib into infinity. Pure research is not pure research, nor are conclusions, and none of those are presented in a scientific-cultural bubble. Popularizations add a whole separate level of complexity. They may not in the control of the person doing the original research, but know what you’re getting into — and don’t act surprised if people are upset about the way your research is used in the real world!

Anna: A scientist who draws an unpopular conclusion shouldn’t be professionally pilloried, okay, but it felt sometimes like Dreger glossed over the ways in which some of the individuals she profiled may have done sound science and faced unjust harassment — but perhaps for reasons that shouldn’t be overlooked. I don’t think Dreger, as an activist and patient advocate overlooks those effects — but in the space of these narratives it often feels like she’s constructed stories with scientific martyrs and social justice villains. Which I think unfairly undermines her larger point!

Hanna: It’s like she’s talking, at times, to what I think of as “the old school” of activist? Like she was talking to the people who told my college therapist she couldn’t couldn’t be a feminist because she was a dyke! Like, who quotes Camille Paglia anymore?

Anna: Well, Camille Paglia quotes Camille Paglia these days, but … ! Yeah, I mean, I felt like she was talking to a very particular set of academics and activists from the 1980s and 90s who had very firm sway on select subcultures within both academia and politics — but were never actually hegemonic. Like the chapter in which she talks about the researcher who supposedly attracts the ire of feminists for his theory that rapists are partially motivated by sexual desire in committing rape. I don’t think the “rape is violence, not sex” theory was ever as simplistic as she glosses it to be — nor do I think it saturated American jurisprudence and popular culture to the extent she argues. The people I know who do work in sexual violence prevention don’t seem to be arguing that sexual violence is not, on some level, sexual violence. It felt like a very forced dichotomy — scientists vs. feminists! — that doesn’t match with my own reading or observation in terms of how these conversations play out across multiple communities and platforms.

Hanna: Theory junkies. I mean, there are a few in every college. Either you were a fanboy for that sort of thing or you weren’t, and you took classes accordingly.

Anna: I guess what I felt like reading Galileo was, there’s this privileging not just of evidence — which I’m in favor of! — but also a privileging of certain ways of interacting with the evidence. I think of sitting in a discussion class and requiring students to ground their arguments in the week’s readings: “Where do you see this in the reading?” “Where are you getting this from?” But it’s important to allow for a multiplicity of lenses through which to look at the readings, and understand that people will make sense of a body of evidence in diverse ways.

Hanna: Dreger has got about three or four ginormous subjects — they’re book-length subjects and they’re huge and they’re complicated and whether it was her decision, or something she worked out with a publisher, she’s only got the space to nod toward all the complexities. And she nods — I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t know the complexity there! But I think this also goes back to what you were saying that you felt it was more of a book that was a collection of essays.

Anna: It’s really episodic – I felt more grounded as a reader when I thought of it as a collection of essays grouped around a common theme. She makes the case for robust science journalism at the end, and that kind of felt like a forced conclusion coming out of left field — related to the other pieces, but not necessarily a culmination or conclusion.

Hanna: There was no clear transition between topics. Every time I realized there was a shift, I wanted to say, “Wait! We were in the middle of something interesting with– Wait a minute!” I didn’t want to be led by the hand — I wish she’d picked any one topic because she was interesting on all of them! It’s not like she was suffering for lack of material.

Anna: And in each of the episodes, it felt like there was a martyr and a villain.

Hanna: Which is a problem. Why are we here discussing who was right or who was wrong in some of these cases? Because that shouldn’t be happening in a book like this — You shouldn’t be creating a martyrology then you’re stuck with a really inflexible framework.

Anna: Even starting out with the anecdote about Galileo’s finger on display in Florence —

Hanna: — That was wonderful! I think it’s totally worth pointing out that that was a wonderful anecdote!

Anna: It was! But framing the book with the story of Galileo’s martyrdom sets the stage for seeing these case-study characters as martyrs in the cause of truth … which means some of the effects of their work are glossed over. I’m totally against the type of harassment and baseless accusations some of these individuals faced; character assassination should not be the way forward. But character assassination happens across the political spectrum, and happens both to researchers and activists. It’s not always one camp against the other.

Hanna: In fairness, over-simplification is another hazard of trying to write about science for a popular audience — it’s very hard to know when you’ve explained enough. When can I stop explaining people? When am I treating people like they’re idiots? When is something common knowledge?

Anna: I guess what I mean is “define your terms”? Because take a term like “politically correct” or “identity activism,” both of which she uses. There’s no collective agreement about what that means, and when you employ that language you’re invoking a whole host of very polarizing arguments about whether those are useful terms — and for whom and to describe what. Maybe I’m just agreeing with you that it needed to be at least two books — maybe more!

Hanna: I’d say in the end result, we’ve certainly had a number of fruitful conversations around it, so it’s definitely worth the read.

Anna: I do agree — I think it’s a thoughtful and passionate contribution to the discussion about medicine and human rights, about expectations in different disciplines around research and evidence, and about how these conversations are (or aren’t) brought out of academia into the public sphere.

 Thank you to both Hanna and Anna, and to Alice Dreger, whose works have offered such incredible discussions! As someone who writes for the public, I can attest personally to the difficulties of compressing time–and express appreciation for the engagement of fellow colleagues and scholars.

We hope you enjoyed this “Review Conversation” as much as we did! Read more about Dreger’s work here.





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