My best reference questions

I was thinking about some of my favourite reference questions that I was asked this past year working in an elementary school, and how I answered them.

  • “Do you have any books on soccadores?”

I had never heard of soccadores, so I had to ask the student to explain what they were to me. He said that he had just made it up. And yes, he really did think I might have a real book in the library about something he had just invented that moment.

I had to say no, of course, so then he asked me about pompadours. I was able to tell him that they were real, but I didn’t have any hairstyle books in an elementary school library. I then offered to look for books on Madame de Pompadour, the French historical figure, since we did have history books. (Thank you Doctor Who. Who says it’s not educational?)

  • “Do you have the toilet books?”

Apparently she actually said Twilight, but I think I was right the first time. But no, the library didn’t own them, so I showed her the YA fiction section.

  • “BUZZZ! I’m a bee, can I sting you?”

No, you may not. You may also not arrest me when you’re a police officer, slide around when you’re a penguin, stand in the corner between two bookcases yelling loudly that it’s an elevator taking you up and down, or fly like a bird by jumping off the tables. (He was adorable and imaginative but exhausting.)

  • “Is that your real hair colour?”

This grade 5 girl had read something that said that all blondes were secretly aliens. She wanted to make sure that my hair wasn’t really blonde under the red. I told her no, but my mother is blonde, so maybe I’m a half-alien. No, I have no idea what she was reading that told her blondes are aliens, but she seemed quite concerned, and she wasn’t totally convinced that I was kidding about being half-alien.

  • “Do you have any books on King Richard?”

Some of the boys had heard somewhere about the discovery of King Richard III’s body being found, but they thought it was a fictional story. They were amazed when I told them that he was a real person and that his body really had been found under a parking lot in England. A group of them gathered around the only book I had that mentioned him the way they usually gathered around car and Guinness record books to share. I tried offering the Shakespeare play as the only other thing I had, but alas poor Yorrick, it wasn’t as well received. Still, it was pretty cool seeing how excited they got over Middle Ages history.

  • The classic “Why are boys so annoying?”

A grade 4 girl asked me this one as she was returning her books. Since I hadn’t seen who annoyed her or why, I had to tell her that it was one of the mysteries of the universe. If anyone has a better answer, could you please let me know? I’ve never figured it out, myself.


Today I Read…Ensign Sue

Ensign Sue Must DieToday I read the Ensign Sue trilogy, Ensign Sue Must Die, Ensign Two: The Wrath of Sue, and Ensign Cubed: Crisis of Infinite Sue, written by Clare Moseley and illustrated by Kevin Bolk.

The multiverse is about to face the greatest danger it has ever seen–Ensign Mary Amethyst Star Enoby Aiko Archer Picard Janeway Sue! Torn between Kirk’s love and Spock’s (say what?), the seventeen-year-old medical officer, half-Russian, half-Vulcan, half-Japanese, half-Klingon, proud owner of Le Cutest of Beagle anda spunicorn (it’s like a unicorn, but it’s in space!), she is the most annoying creature the Enterprise has ever encountered. Unfortunately, in their desperation to get rid of this galactic pest, they accidentally ripped a hole in the space-time continuum and spread the Sues across the multiverse! It’s up to the crew of the Enterprise, the Doctor, and Wolverine (if there’s a team, he has to be on it), to travel the multiverse and trap the Sues in Pokeballs, and they gotta catch ’em all! But they have to be careful, because Sues lurk where you least expect…


Wrath of SueI found this comic at the Interrobang Studios booth at Fan Expo last August, and the premise was hilarious so I bought the trilogy and read it on the train home that night. And I was right–it’s terrific! Both wonderfully funny and an excellent examination of the dreaded Mary Sue trope, the third book takes a turn for the serious by making Mary Sue into a character with a deeper motivation than her pretty hair. All she really wanted was for the people she loves so much to love her back–something many fans would like. She just has to learn that she can’t force people to love her–again, a lesson a lot of people in real life could stand to learn.

Crisis of Infinite SuesThe illustrations are adorable, and I really love the Sues’ cheek cutie marks, that help differentiate their different universes. And Sulu’s frustration at Anna Mae Sue’s terrible pidgin-Japanese, and how Mirror-Sue is evil because of her outfit, and how Khan-Prime defeats Reboot-Khan, and Kirk’s despair over his own sue-ish tendencies, and how Bella Swan is too useless and boring to even be a Sue. Basically, I love everything about this series.

It will probably appeal most to fangirls, and ones who can see the funny side of fandom and fangirls. And remember–may the Sue be with you (’cause she’s driven everybody else crazy).

Today I Read…Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World

FicToday I read Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison, with a foreword by Lev Grossman.

Fanfiction…the final frontier. These are the voyages of academics, actors, lawyers, editors, authors, online archivists, activists, students, and of course, fanficcers. Coming from all walks of life and all fandoms, professor Anne Jamison has put together a stunning collection of essays about a hobby millions of people have had for decades, but were too often afraid to admit, out of embarrassment or fear of the copyright holders’ reaction. But fanfic has a history since long before the days of ‘zines and has expanded far beyond stories about Kirk and Spock, or Kirk/Spock. From Sherlock Holmes’ pastiches to the influence of Star Trek to RPF, bronies, the success of the Twilight-inspired Fifty Shades of Grey, and the growing understanding of the legality of fic, Fic is the perfect resource for the fan studying fandom, and for anyone else who ever wondered “what if the story happened this way instead?”


I won this book from a Goodreads‘ First Reads contest, and I was thrilled since it was already on my personal to-read list. I was even more thrilled when I actually read it, because it’s terrific. I’ve mentioned before (a few times) my interest in academic fandom, both in studying properties that inspire fandom and in studying fandom itself. I’ve been a fan since grade 3, reading fanfic since I was about 15, and I attended my first convention at 18. In some ways, this book is part of the story of my life. It also introduced me to parts of fandom that I didn’t know about–I’ve said before that I hate Twilight, but Jamison does make some interesting points about the fandom writing fanfic to correct Meyer’s (many) mistakes and problems. To be fair, that’s the entire point of fixit fics, to correct what you thought was wrong with a given episode. Sometimes rage leads to ficwriting as much as love for the original property–I still have an old half-written X-Files fic on my harddrive that managed to combine fixit, RPF, meta, and Mary Sue, and another fic that combined Smallville and House M.D. solely for the purpose of Greg House insulting Lana Lang. I can respect that motivation, even though I maintain that there was nothing redeemable about Twishite. But, whatever floats your boat.

I’ve read a lot of fanfic over the years (a lot) (no, I’m not kidding, a lot) (a lot a lot a lot), and I didn’t like everything, but most of the writers were able to make an interesting point. Some fanfic writers I’ve loved better than ‘traditional’ writers. Some fanfic writers ARE published, traditional writers playing in a sandbox they love just like the rest of us. Some writers that I know started writing in fanfic, polishing their skills, before they became published writers, and still love fanfic. All of which are points that Jamison makes so I guess it’s not just me. That’s the thing about fandom–it’s very personal, if you’re a fan, it’s your culture and your identity and your hobby and your friends. Jamison started as an academic studying fandom, but eventually she became a fan–fandom has a way of sucking you in and inviting you to play too.

And…this has devolved into a discussion of me, not the book hasn’t it? I saw a lot of myself in this book–in a nonfiction cultural study, I guess that means she got it right. The essays she collected are equally well-done, offering different perspectives from different fandoms and fans who have experienced fandom in different times and places.They look at slash, het, g, omegaverse, au, and RPF. They discuss both copyright and the different understandings of the laws regarding copyright. They look at how the internet has vastly changed the face of fandom, and truly helped it turn into a global community. They look at attitudes towards monetizing fanfic and the arguments against it, and how it affects the community that supported its creation. They look at the problems with fanfic, and the areas that it rarely touches. And they look at fanfic as art, and where it belongs in the artistic and literary worlds.

This book is a must for academic fans, for fans who want a wider perspective on fandom than their own experiences, and for fic writers who want to know the history of their hobby.

Can’t read anything when your nose is pointed straight up

This article came out a few weeks ago, and after careful consideration of all sides of the story–I’m still mad.

Really? You’ve never read these books, you don’t intend to read these books, you have no idea what they’re about, but you know for an absolute fact that they’re not worth your time and have nothing worthwhile in them that could possibly amuse you or make you think? After all, as an adult, you know everything, right? Oh, they’re good enough for kids, since of course kids are incapable of understanding or appreciating “the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.” But not for [sticks nose in the air and assumes a haughty and mildly constipated expression] adults.

Now, not all YA/children’s books are good. I hate Twilight- I couldn’t get past chapter 3 before I wanted to kill Bella just to stop the whining. And that was before she met Mr.Sparkly Pants- I have massive issues with that highly abusive relationship storyline and Bella’s complete lack of characterization or development over the entire series. However, despite not being able to finish the book (and I read Harlequins and made it through all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars), I still know what it’s about, what happens, themes, etc. I have reasons for calling it Twicrap.

That said, I did love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, the other two highly popular series the writer mentioned. The Harry Potter books aren’t the greatest and most original works of art ever created, but they’re a very solid story told well. The characters develop, explore their world, learn and grow and make the reader think alongside them. The Hunger Games is a reimagining of Greek mythology blended with Roman history-Theseus and the Athenian sacrifices to the Bull of Crete presented as Roman gladitorial games to entertain and control the masses. Gosh, those stories go back about 3,000 years and they were written for adults, weren’t they?

A good story is a good story. And if it is truly good, then it will stand the test of time. I started reading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series about 20 years ago, and I’ve reread it at least once a year since. Every time I read it, I find something new to think about, because I have grown and changed and I have a different perspective on what the characters go through. The fifth book,The Wizard’s Dilemma,argued that if you have sworn to respect and defend all life, then that includes life you don’t like, such as the cancer that was killing the main female character’s mother. Cancer cells do what they are meant to do-they grow and live and multiply. You can’t really blame them for that. When I first read this, I had sympathy for Nina, but I thought the book had a point. I felt much differently when my grandmother died of pneumonia. It’s a disease, it’s alive, but I didn’t feel much respect for its life at the time.

I’m not even getting into the argument for parents, teachers, child psychologists, social workers, or anyone else who interacts with children or young adults on a regular basis to know what their children are reading and learning. Or writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, or librarians (hi!) for whom reading YA books is their job, an argument which Joel Stein also forgets about.

So to conclude this rant, mind your own business Joel and quit reading over my shoulder, because the sniffing is distracting me from Alanna of Trebond learning to deal with bullies and Cimorene of Linderwall refusing to marry someone she doesn’t like and Hermione is trying to study.

Also (I lied, little bit more rant), many of the comments on this article mentioned C.S. Lewis’ fantastic quote on adulthood, which is completely spot-on, so I’m going to add it in here. /endrant

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”  ―    C.S. Lewis