MedHum Monday presents: Spectacular Anatomy–The History of Human Dissection

DailyDose_darkstrokeWelcome back to MedHum Monday at the Daily Dose! Today we present a guest post by Julia Balacko, BA, MA, from Case Western Reserve University. An anthropologist and humanities scholar, Julia gives us the fascinating history (and anthropology) of anatomy and public display.


The History and Anthropology of Human Dissection, Public Display, and Criminality

Male figure, anterior view showing blood vessels, liver heart and bloodletting points.  Woodcut circa 1530 - 1545

Male figure, anterior view showing blood vessels, liver heart and bloodletting points.
Woodcut circa 1530 – 1545

Towards the end of my stint studying English literature, my research posed the following question: what happens whenever human bodies, and the dissection of bodies, becomes a spectacle or form of entertainment? What if the bodies themselves have unique relationships with their audiences in numerous venues? These were less bioethical questions than anthropological ones, in that instead of pondering the moral dimensions of anatomical display, I wanted to know how different audiences responded to anatomy and to displays of human bodies.

I had been trained in my undergraduate and Masters degree programs in early modern English theatre (Shakespeare and his contemporaries, publishing their works in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.) I studied age-old revenge tragedies that were marked with violent scenes of war and capital punishment that mirrored what was happening at the time in English history: when public executions served as popular entertainment and when the preserved, decapitated heads of criminals were displayed on bridges above the river Thames. It was an era in which common people were exposed to bodily violence on a daily basis in numerous capacities, and a time when anatomical science was entering its golden age, spurred by the work of Vesalius and Leonardo da Vinci.

At the jointure of these two cultural movements was a troubled relationship between public entertainment, capital punishment, and human dissection. Bodies of criminals killed on the scaffolds in London were subsequently given to surgeons and physicians for anatomical study after Henry VIII passed a law permitting the legal use of executed felons for this purpose. However unlike today, convicts were scarcely anonymous, with tales of their crimes circulated both in oral retellings and popular print. The people who attended executions knew the criminals’ stories, and they also knew (and often heartily protested) the use of the people whose bodies were employed for dissection, both because they sometimes viewed the criminals as storied antiheroes and because they believed dissection barred a person from entering heaven in the afterlife (an unfair punishment beyond execution.) The public acceptance of human death as spectacle in early modern England is complicated by the fervent response against anatomical study in that period.

There was, then, tremendous tension between who had access to bodies and in what capacity. Why was it acceptable in the public view to watch people be executed, but not permissible for anatomists to dissect the bodies? In my MA thesis, I suggested that part of this public concern came from how limited access to anatomical learning was in that time for the majority of people. While Renaissance dissections have traditionally been called “public,” in that many people assembled to watch one lecturer and one anatomist dissect a cadaver, they were not openly accessible to the general populace. Dissections were uncommon and therefore only frequented by medical students, surgeons, and the educated or wealthy elite. The public did not have the same level of exposure to anatomical inquiry as they did to other forms of bodily violence. Nor was their relationship with the bodies being dissected the same as it must have been for the anatomists, who viewed the bodies as scientific objects. The public tended to see the executed as prisoners who once lived a daring life of crime and who deserved, perhaps, at least some sympathy by not defacing their bodies via dissection.

For anthropologists and cultural historians, understanding issues regarding the disposal and usage of human bodies and the relationship between anatomy and criminality in various fashions continues to be pressing. The popular Body Worlds exhibition poses difficult questions about whether or not non-clinicians should have access to dissected bodies, and whether or not it is acceptable for them to be entertained by such a display. It has also returned scholars to a debate about the ethics of displaying criminal bodies, as enormous fears that the cadavers in the exhibit were those of executed Chinese prisoners permeated many early discussions about the exposition. Likewise, tales of body snatching for anatomical study, and the use without consent of harvested organs such as in the Alder Hey case, still haunt the cultural presence of medical learning. And, of course, such discussions ask us about the democratization of knowledge: who has the right to observe anatomical specimens? Is it wrong to deny the public access to human cadaveric specimens, even if they are observed not out of a need to acquire scientific information? Is anatomy on display more unethical than other forms of publicly viewed violence or destruction?

As scholars, knowing the historical trajectory of anatomical learning from the past up to today sheds light on how and why such issues are present. It is the prime context for investigating where tensions surrounding human dissection derive from, and how they have changed– as well as for reminding us of the cultural impact that our predecessors had on shaping our relationship to anatomical science.



Julia Balacko holds a BA in English Literature summa cum laude from W&J College and a MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago. She is currently a PhD student in medical anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. Her research explores the history and cultural dimensions of anatomical learning and human dissection in American medical education.

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MedHum Monday Presents: A Review of Skeleton Crew

FictionReboot2Welcome back to MedHum Monday! Today we present a review of Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber, science writer for MIT. Taking a good look at forensics history, but also at how technology today helps to re-open unsolved cases, the book invites us to question what counts as expertise in a modern, digital world.


Deborah Halber’s The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America’s Coldest Cases (2014, Simon & Schuster)
Review by Danielle Nielsen

indexDeborah Halber’s The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America’s Coldest Cases (2014, Simon & Schuster) explores the networks of part-time Internet detectives who use databases, missing person reports, and often gut instincts to identify decades-old unidentified bodies. Alongside these part-time sleuths are the law enforcement agencies and officers, from local police to coroners to state forensic anthropologists, saddled with the remains but often hesitant to work the public to solve these cases.

Halber’s interest in the Skeleton Crew stems from a May 2010 news story in The Boston Globe that included a sketch of the Lady of the Dunes, a young, unidentified female victim, found in the mid-1970s in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In her own Internet research about the Lady of the Dunes, Halber discovered a network of websites populated by photographs, drawings, and clay and digital re-creations of unidentified bodies and their faces, networks that Halber deemed “a Facebook for the dead.” Halber’s driving question of the book, “Who, I wondered, would go out of their way to create or peruse an Internet morgue?” led her to discover those people, the Skeleton Crew, who spend their available hours perusing these Internet morgues looking to identify these bodies.

Through fifteen chapters, a prologue, and epilogue, Halber deftly interweaves stories about unidentified bodies and the civilians or citizen-investigators who have helped identify remains. The framing narrative for Halber’s investigations is Tent Girl, a young woman whose body was found in eastern Kentucky on May 17, 1968, by Wilbur Riddle, a local well driller. She was wrapped in a tarp and dumped next to a major highway with no identification. Tent Girl would not receive a name or be returned to her family until April 1998 after Todd Williams, a Tennessee factory worker and Riddle’s son-in-law, devoted years searching for clues about Tent Girl’s identity. It was not, however, until the advent of the Internet and easily accessible and searchable databases that Williams would be able to solve the case.

In addition to the Lady of the Dunes and Tent Girl, we meet other unidentified persons and their Internet champions, and Halber chronicles the stories of the Doe Network, one of the most well-known sleuthing communities, the National Missing and Unidentified Missing Persons System, or NamUs, a site for which Todd Matthews now serves as an administrator, and dead sites like the Missing Persons Cold Case Network, Websleuths, and ColdCases.

Halber speaks not only only with the citizen-sleuths, but she also interviews government employees and law enforcement agents like Dr. Marcella Fierro, Virginia’s chief medical examiner and early pioneer and advocate for the unidentified; Mathew Hickman, a statistician for the Bureau of Justice Statistics tasked with determining the number of unidentified remains in the United States; and Mike Murphy, the Clark County, Nevada, coroner.

Home of Las Vegas, Clark County recovers ten thousand bodies every year, a number of which remain unidentified. In his role as coroner, Murphy posted the first government-issued website with photographs or drawings of the unidentified housed in the Clark County morgue, encouraging other states and municipalities to do so and allowing the Skeleton Crew to more effectively match missing persons with unidentified remains.

Part detective non-fiction, part ethnography, Halber introduces readers to a community that is not without its own internal drama. By the final chapters, we learn of the internal fights within the Doe Network over procedures concerning the ability to contact families and law enforcement officials. We understand the suspicious nature with which some law enforcement officials view members of the Skeleton Crew, both named and unnamed. We also see Todd Williams, an administrator for both Doe Network and NamUs overthrown at the Doe Network and banned from the community, as well as others rejected by their community members.

A science writer for MIT, Halber tells the story of these fascinating web sleuths, both humanizing the searchers and the unidentified remains, some of which, like the Lady of the Dunes, remain unidentified by the book’s end, and the scientific research and clear explanations resonate with a general audience. Halber’s Skeleton Crew reveals often unnoted or unnoticed citizens who devote countless hours to skimming missing person boards, looking through photographs and drawings, and using their instincts and research skills to make connections and return these bodies to their families.

About the Reviewer:
Danielle Nielsen is Assistant Professor of English at Murray State University where she teaches courses in composition and rhetoric, professional and technical writing, and British literature.

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Friday Feature and Reboot Review: John Lescroart’s The Keeper

KeeperJohn Lescroart’s THE KEEPER
Review by Tabatha Hanly


The story begins when Hal Chase enlists the help of lawyer Dismas Hardy. Hal’s wife Katie has disappeared from their home only a few days before, and when the case is transferred from Missing Persons to Homicide, Hal finds himself the prime suspect and the police and Katie’s family are prepared to believe the worst. Dismas recruits the help of an old friend, Abe Glitsky to work the case from the assumption that Hal is innocent; an unpopular view to say the least. Jumping at the chance to get back to work, sets to work, trying to ignore the old cop instinct screaming that the husband almost always did it.

The more Glitsky investigates the worse it looks for Hal. There is no physical evidence tying Hal or anyone else to the disappearance, and so the case falls back on motive and opportunity, and Hal’s motives just keep piling up. Then Katie’s body is discovered near the house and there doesn’t seem to be anybody who could want her dead except her husband, until Glitsky stumbles into another possibility. Hal works in the notoriously corrupt county jail where there have been a few too many ‘accidental’ deaths. Perhaps Katie’s death was linked to institutionalized corruption at her husband’s workplace. Perhaps she had found the evidence they needed to take action. Perhaps she was just one more victim on the jail’s list of ‘unfortunate occurrences.’

But all these possibilities mean little for Hal, who is in prison awaiting a trial that seems already decided because everyone except Dismas Hardy believes he killed his wife.

One of the best and most brilliant features of The Keeper is Abe Glitsky. As the novel’s primary investigator, Glitsky holds our attention for most of the novel. Glitsky is a former police officer who has set out on his own to investigate what looks like a hopeless case. But don’t let that mislead you, Glitsky is not noir’s jaded and dark private investigator who only works alone, chump. Nor is he the tough guy with personal demons who attracts every dirty-dealing woman in a ten-mile radius. Abe is an old cop, recently retired from his position as the head of Homicide, and afflicted with what looks like a terminal case of cabin fever. He does not set out on his own because he is a loose-cannon-cop who doesn’t play by the rules, he does it because he’s bored sitting at home. Glitsky reads like a real person: he has a wife he talks to regularly, he has children who must be picked up from school, and he has to wear an apron over his button-down shirt when he makes the family breakfast in the morning because a syrup-splattered investigator does not inspire much confidence. Real. Life.

Despite one or two thin characters, it is the real-people feel of the cast which engages the readers and keeps the book from becoming just another murder mystery. Of course the plot helps too. The book leaves behind the typical hunt-for-evidence-until-the-violent-showdown plot in favor of a character-driven and broader investigation. Glitsky’s witnesses are also more human than is convenient for a murder mystery: they have this nasty habit of forgetting details, not documenting their movements every day, and feeling uneasy in the presence of an investigator, even when they didn’t do it. So with a dearth of femmes fatales, nervous ticks, and ‘killer’s stares,’ the case has to progress by legwork and by following every avenue Glitsky can dig up.

It is through one of those avenues that Glitsky finds the most dangerous aspect of the case. He begins poking around in the jail’s unsavory records and unwittingly triggers a new round of deaths. Fighting against the bureaucracy which demands proof for what the entire city government knows, the jail’s administrators who don’t want anyone looking to closely, and his own instincts which tell him to charge ahead into danger, Glitsky is walking a dangerous path. And he still has to figure out who killed Katie Chase.

The Keeper is an engaging story with twists, turns, false alleys, and an unexpected solution! Recommended!

Tabatha Hanly is a graduate student at Winona State University. She works as series editor for the Fiction Reboot and as graduate teaching assistant for the WSU English Department.

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MedHum: Medical Fiction in an Age of Outbreak

DailyDose_PosterFact is frequently stranger than fiction, and more frightening. The recent outbreak of Ebola in parts of Africa–and the frightened posts and live-tweets that accompanied two infected health workers as they returned to the US–give us a glimpse not only of an epidemic’s power but of our private terrors. Self-preservation, fear of the unknown, and a desire to protect the boundaries of nations, persons, bodies and cells brings out the best and worst in us. History provides both sides; the uninfected locked up with the infected in 14th century plague houses, left to starve and suffer in the dark–or doctors like Cleveland’s Horace Ackley, who personally combated and contained an outbreak of Asiatic cholera in Sandusky in 1849. In the middle of the contest, we find the patient, caught between doctors and systems and, in our modern world as much as the historical one, political machinations.

We’ve seen this theme play out in fiction as well as the headlines; from zombies and vampires to the latest outbreak films, we watch as health workers put themselves in danger, entering areas others are fleeing; meanwhile, those in the safety of buffer zones seek to keep the dangers out, even, at times to the sacrifice of humanity.

The Atlantis Plague by A. G. Riddle

81sCKEwjWSL._SL1500_One of the top medical-mystery novels in the Amazon hopper these days is THE ATLANTIS PLAGUE. In Marbella, Spain, Dr. Kate Warner awakens to a horrifying reality: the human race stands on the brink of extinction. A pandemic unlike any before it has swept the globe. Nearly a billion people are dead–and those the Atlantis Plague doesn’t kill, it transforms at the genetic level. A few rapidly evolve. The remainder devolve.

As the world slips into chaos, radical solutions emerge. Industrialized nations offer a miracle drug, Orchid, which they mass produce and distribute to refugee camps around the world. But Orchid is merely a way to buy time. It treats the symptoms of the plague but never cures the disease. Immari International offers a different approach: do nothing. Let the plague run its course. The Immari envision a world populated by the genetically superior survivors–a new human race, ready to fulfill its destiny.


indexAlong similar lines, we have the 1954 novel I am Legend, made popular by the recent movie with Will Smith. The plot of the novel revolves around a similarly mutating plague–one that seems to have wiped out mankind. Almost.

Robert Neville may well be the last living man on Earth . . . but he is not alone. An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him. Vampires? Zombies? Not entirely. By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization. The novel offers us an unusual twist, however; if everyone else has evolved to be other–and you alone hunt and kill–who is actually the monster?

The Dragon and the Needle by Hugh Franks

Dragon Needle v2The Dragon and the Needle takes a different approach and explores Eastern and Western medicine and politics. A mysterious syndrome is striking down political leaders across the Western world. Named Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome, or ENDS, it has baffled medical experts. The Western prejudice against the mysteries of Oriental medicine, and the growing acceptance of acupuncture as an effective method of treatment, are just two of the contrasting approaches explored in the story, and once again we have to ask: who do we villainize? Who do we see as enemy, as other?  The story follows a young British doctor, Mike, and an Asian American acupuncturist, Eleanor; but if they are correct in their assumptions, the implications are almost too shocking to be believed. When the secrets of The Dragon and the Needle are revealed, where will our loyalties ultimately lie?

In fiction and in fact, what does it mean to be “other”? This term represents the moving target that defines policies in the wake of outbreak. Consider, for instance, the infected health workers. Despite assurances that they represent no threat, and despite the high tech treatment facility in Atlanta, many still railed against their return. CNN carried an article earlier this week, citing twitter hashtags that read “The road to hell was paved with good intentions.” [1]  Many feel the aid workers should be left in Africa–they might be citizens, but, through disease, they have been “othered.” Dr. Bruce Ribner, who heads the center at Emory, countered that sentiment by reminding us that the doctors risked first–treating the ill with humanity and integrity. Fiction sometimes provides the best expression of our fears, as well as a proving ground for our better natures. When disease strikes, we hope our protagonists will remain human in all senses of the word.

May we go and do likewise.

[1]Greg Botelho, Ben Brumfield and Chelsea J. Carter. “2 Americans infected with Ebola in Liberia coming to Atlanta hospital” CNN, August 2, 2014

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Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature! Series Editor Tabatha H. here once again with, surprise-surprise, more monsters! Dear readers, I want you to know that I really was going to lay off of the monsters and mayhem for a while (or at least the monsters). Really! But then I saw these books… For today we’ve got something very special: romance, adventure, mystery, folklore, history, and fairy tales…with a twist. Courtesy of these intrepid authors, you can now reread your favorite literary classics and still not know how it ends or which character you want to punch in the face most as each well-known tale is infested with cyborgs, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and kittens!


Treasure Island (the sequel) Treasure Islandby Phillip Tomasso III

In keeping with the blog’s joint interests in the medical and fictive worlds, our first contribution is a sequel to the classic Treasure Island featuring the return voyage of the sailor with a heart-of-gold and the pirates who wanted a chest-of-gold as they head back into the grippe of a deadly virus. As English sailors, these men are accustomed to the idea of  deadly viruses . But there’s one problem: they have never faced an un-deadly virus before. What’s a villain to do when shooting the enemy through the heart just wastes ammunition?

A virus similar to the Black Death outbreak has struck England. Mrs. Hawkins soon learns there are things worse than death. The dead have come back to life, and they are hungry.
Jim Hawkins is on his way home with treasure in the belly of the Hispaniola. Captain Smollett is back in charge of the ship, and Long John Silver has agreed to stand trial at home, if only for the chance to make it home.
Wanting only to save his mother and seek sanctuary, Jim realizes survival comes down to instinct and sacrifice in this continuation of Stevenson’s timeless classic, Treasure Island.

Robin Hood & Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers by Paul A. Freeman

Robin Hood & Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers is another sequel in our lineup of ‘extended histories’ showing us yet again that “happily ever after” is a very broad phrase, especially if your heros think an action-packed-thrillride is the only way to really enjoy a slow Monday.

After Robin and Tuck defeated the evil Prince John and condemned him to life as the namesake of all toilets and carried the Sherrif of Rottingham to marry the unsightly village witch (this was an unabridged recreation right?) they went on to fight an even graver foe.

Medieval civilization was under threat from the undead.
Robin Hood & Friar Tuck: Zombie KillersWhen lion-hearted Richard ruled the roost
Of England, he decided that to boost
His regal reputation he should mount
A war to wrest from Turkish men the fount
Of Christendom; yet in that desert land
A zombie plague emerged from midst the sand.
A necromancers alchemistic spell
Reanimated corpses bound for Hell
(And even bound for Heavens pearly gate).
Soon after twas apparent that the fate
Of all on Earth–the evil and the good—
Was in the hands of Robin of the Hood
Whose outlaw men, along with Friar Tuck,
Against rampaging hordes of zombies struck.
They fought to save the likes of you and I,
Not caring that one slip might make them die.
Their tale lies here, within this humble book—
I pray you’ll spare the time to take a look.

(P.S. If this is all written in verse I strongly encourage everyone to buy a copy just on principle.)

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer (Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer #1) by Van Jensen & Dusty Higgins

Pinocchio, Vampire SlayerYou all know Pinocchio the lovable puppet who only wants to be a real boy! Those viewers who watched a little more closely also know Pinocchio the delinquent: the ‘real boy’ who drank liquor, committed theft, and carried out a number of other small crimes. But there is yet another side of this little wooden boy for his audience to meet: Pinocchio Vampire Slayer.

After seeing Geppetto die at the hands of vampires, Pinocchio swears revenge in this darkly funny graphic novel. As the vampires plot the enslavement of mankind, only a one-puppet army stands in their way. But will a wooden boy and his endless supply of stakes – courtesy of plenty of lies and his elongating nose – be enough to save the day?

Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters, Leo Tolstoy, & Eugene Smith

Android KareninaMany know of Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina (and some dedicated readers even know the contents of the book too). It is a story of love, hard work, adultery, farms, and the tragic loss of…well, adultery. With Android Karenina you can see the tragedy and romance set against a backdrop of a dystopian world with alien-worship, androids, and space travel. How can true love conquer when the threat of husbands and rust stand in the way!

As in the original novel, our story follows two relationships: the tragic adulterous romance of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the much more hopeful marriage of Konstantin Levin and Kitty Shcherbatskaya.These four, yearning for true love, live in a steampunk-inspired 19th century of mechanical butlers, extraterrestrial-worshiping cults, and airborne debutante balls. Their passions alone would be enough to consume them-but when a secret cabal of radical scientific revolutionaries launches an attack on Russian high society’s high-tech lifestyle, our heroes must fight back with all their courage, all their gadgets, and all the power of a sleek new cyborg model like nothing the world has ever seen.”

Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights (Supernatural Jane Austen Series #1) by Vera Nazarian & Jane Austen

Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights Our next novel asks us ‘why stop at just one monster when you can have them all!?’ Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights brings in all of the monsters and dire threats of our preceding selections and mashes them all into a single blood-curdling horror (and not just because of the marriage plot). The first in a series of novels…spicing up some well-worn classics, the Supernatural Jane Austen Series provides readers with another full set of Austen novels to enjoy.

Ancient Egypt infiltrates Regency England in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic monster parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel.
Our gentle yet indomitable heroine Fanny Price must hold steadfast not only against the seductive charms of Henry Crawford but also an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh!
Meanwhile, the indubitably handsome and kind hero Edmund attempts Exorcisms… Miss Crawford vamps out… Aunt Norris channels her inner werewolf… The Mummy-mesmerized Lady Bertram collects Egyptian artifacts…
There can be no doubt that Mansfield Park has become a battleground for the forces of Ancient Evil and Regency True Love!
“Gentle Reader — this Delightful Edition includes Scholarly Footnotes and Appendices.”

The Meowmorphosis by Coleridge Cook & Franz Kafka

Of course, these preceding selections might tend to give our audiences the idea that monsters are invariably bad. We at the Fiction Feature do not condone such one-sided representations of the over-clawed and underprivileged (see our feature on Death–with personality). Carrying on Kafka’s what-the-why-would-what-how-on-huh? spirit of writing, Cook has taken it upon himself to remind us all that kittens are more than YouTube fodder, and in The Meowmorphosis shows us how a kitten can wreak more havok than an unidentifiable bug-monster. (Because when you start with Kafka, the only place to go is what!?).

The Meowmorphosis “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten.”
Thus begins The Meowmorphosis—a bold, startling, and fuzzy-wuzzy new edition of Franz Kafka’s classic nightmare tale, from the publishers of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Meet Gregor Samsa, a humble young man who works as a fabric salesman to support his parents and sister. His life goes strangely awry when he wakes up late for work and finds that, inexplicably, he is now a man-sized baby kitten. His family freaks out: Yes, their son is OMG so cute, but what good is cute when there are bills piling up? And how can he expect them to serve him meals every day? If Gregor is to survive this bizarre, bewhiskered ordeal, he’ll have to achieve what he never could before—escape from his parents’ house. Complete with haunting illustrations and a provocative biographical exposé of Kafka’s own secret feline life, The Meowmorphosis will take you on a journey deep into the tortured soul of the domestic tabby.

I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas by Adam Roberts

Finally, I want to send you off today with another inversion. Surely you remember cheering along when Scrooge saw the light (of the Christmas dawn) and brought a big roast goose to Kermit’s family and thereby cured Tiny Tim (another unabridged version right?). Scrooge learned his lesson from his ghostly business associate and would never harm another living being! But what if I, or rather Adam Roberts, told you that this was the worst possible series of events? What if Scrooge living as a cantankerous old…well, scrooge, was the only way to save Christmas, and life, as we know it?

I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for ChristmasIn I am Scrooge the legendary Ebenezeer Scrooge sits in his house counting money. The boards that he has nailed up over the doors and the windows shudder and shake under the blows from the endless zombie hordes that crowd the streets hungering for his flesh and his miserly braaaaiiiiiinns! Just how did the happiest day of the year slip into a welter of blood, innards, and shambling, ravenous undead on the snowy streets of old London town? Will the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future be able to stop the world from drowning under a top-hatted and crinolined zombie horde? Was Tiny Tim’s illness something infinitely more sinister than mere rickets and consumption? Can Scrooge be persuaded to go back to his evil ways, travel back to Christmas past, and destroy the brain stem of the tiny, irritatingly cheery Patient Zero?


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MedHum Monday: Getting the Word Out with the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection

DailyDose_PosterIt’s Monday again, MedHum Monday in fact. Today we are thrilled to be joined by Linda Lohr and Keith Mages of the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection at the University of Buffalo. These two are skillfully tackling an all to common question in medical libraries — how do we get people to know we are here? Through partnerships both on and off campus, the R.L. Brown Collection is uniting history, health sciences and medical humanities to make their presence known. Take it away, Linda and Keith!


Established in 1972, the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection is home to rare books, artifacts, and ephemera related to the rich history of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, public health and the health professions. The comprehensive monograph collection contains works ranging from 1493 through the 20th century, with an extensive nineteenth century component featuring particular strengths in the subjects of anatomy, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pharmacology, dentistry, and oncology. Within the History of Medicine Collection are several special components including the Bonnie and Vern Bullough History of Nursing Collection, the Edgar R. McGuire Historical Medical Instrument Collection, the Homer T. Jackson Collection and historical artifacts from the UB School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Historical artifacts from the UB School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences

Historical artifacts from the UB School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences

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Book Marketing: Branding, anyone?

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot (the fiction component of the Daily Dose|Medical Humanities)!

Today, we seek to answer a question many author’s pose: I’m published–now what? It turns out that getting yourself into print is only the first step. There are many ways of putting your novel in front of people; here’s just one: branding. I’ve asked Claire McKinney, of the PR firm by the same name, to share a bit about what she does and why “branding” matters. Welcome, Claire!

Our Website:

What we do:
logoClaire McKinneyPR, LLC is a full service public relations firm that creates and executes individualized campaigns for authors and books, thought leaders, CEOs, and spokespeople. We have over eighteen years of experience working with a wide range of people and projects though we do specialize in fiction and in non-fiction: health and wellness; popular science; business; public affairs; cooking; and history. Our philosophy is that there are no generic campaigns and that each project or person needs to be evaluated exclusively for what it/he/she can bring to the conversation.

What is it about branding these days?  I will argue that before radio, TV, and now the internet, what you had to say was more important than what you represented or how the masses “felt” about you.  I’m sure there were stars in their midst but without the power of satellites and jet planes, the number of people in your fan club was probably pretty small.

So enter radio and all of a sudden there are dozens of voices out there, perhaps talking about the same thing.  Add TV and it’s not just what they are saying, but it’s how they look on screen.  Add the internet and part of the game is about how many people can you entertain in 140 characters or less?

Recap: We used to be invested in the ideas and information we consumed because we had to DO something to get it, either actively listen or read it.  Now, we are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of images and sound bites, our attention spans are limited and our loyalties shift rapidly.

Personal Anecdote: I once worked with an author who wrote a book about the rise of brands that was very controversial and sold a lot of copies.  I guess it made sense that she would know all about branding herself, and she was super specific.  There were some media outlets she absolutely had to do, as they related to her message and kept her close to her core audience.  She had a uniform of jeans and short black boots with a blazer.  And most importantly she did not go anywhere publicly without a professional blowout. In other words, she was her own brand. And it worked.

Current Authors:

Richard Barrios, Oxford University Press (Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter)

Gretchen Archer, Henery Press (New book, Double Strike)

Jon Derek Croteau, Hazelden Publishing (Memoir)

Cathi Unsworth, House of Anansi (Mystery)


Posted in Author Advice, Marketing, The Fiction Reboot | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment