Shelfie Time!

We all have the one friend, the selfie addict. All parts of life must be recorded by having the person with the longest arm hold a phone/camera out to capture the tilted up faces of all people involved. I bet you never thought about just how complicated taking a selfie is until you read that sentence.

But there is something easier to still express yourself and visually show the world who you are - the shelfie. No, that is not a typo.

A shelfie, for those of you who are overthinking this and needing clarification, is defined by Urban Dictionary as “A picture or portrait of your bookshelf. Showcasing literature IN ALL IT'S GLORY!
(This term was originally defined by author Rick Riordan)”. And before any of you jump down my throat, yes, Urban Dictionary is a legitimate source in this instance.

Yesterday was National Library Shelfie Day (which falls on the fourth Wednesday of every January), tradition started by New York Public Library as a way to show diverse holidays through books on the subject. In case you didn’t notice, yesterday this unofficial holiday was celebrated on social media by myself, Kira Shay, and Sidney Reetz. But I want to take it a step further. What would the titles on the shelfies of some of the great heroes and heroines of literature looks like?

Jane Eyre: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The North York Moors: A Walking Guide (Cicerone British Walking) by Paddy Dillon

Susan Penensie: A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall, 10 Steps to Declutter Your Wardrobe: Organize Your Closet in a Snap by Carrie Foster, Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel, Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes

Frankenstein’s Creature: Paradise Lost by John Milton, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

Tarzan: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Harry Potter: The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble, On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells,  The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks

Hannibal Lecter: Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick, Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Mind Hunter by John Doulas and Mark Olshaker



Character Study - Non-Villainous Villains

When writing fantasy or adventure, one of the hardest parts is writing a believable villain. I have already addressed this subject once with Captain Nemo, but with the television program Once Upon a Time having ended, I realized that I wanted to give some more contemporary examples. Some of you probably just turned up your nose at the glorified soap-opera Once Upon a Time (which Disney did some pretty shady things in order to produce and make sure theirs was the only modern fairy tales show at the time). Here's the thing - it wrote it's villains extremely well. Every villain had a backstory and some redeeming quality. Many of them you felt sorry for or could relate to in some way. And that's the way the villain should be. You don't want to constantly write the James Bond stereotype, who does evil just to be powerful. So, here are a three modern examples of well-written fantasy villains and why.

The first example is a bit of a cheat because the whole book is from the villain's point of view and is trying to make you feel regret for an established bad guy, similar to Gregory Maguire's Wicked. Still, it was well-done and I'm using it. The Fairest of All by Serena Valentino was published by Disney, yet delves into a dark, psychological path that surprises the reader. It's the story of how Snow White's step-mother became wicked. Valentino uses many of the same childhood horrors that shape people in the real world who do bad: abuse, manipulation, low self-esteem, and loneliness, to reveal the queen's motivation for her obsession with beauty. You see a little girl who is told constantly that she is ugly and worthless, then grows up to discover she is actually gorgeous and how she latches onto that concept. It also addresses how childhood trauma follows a person into adulthood, although the book does this very literally when it turns out the slave in the mirror is the queen's mentally abusive father. Lastly, Valentino uses grief and depression to break the character and turn her into the monstrous mother we recognize from the Disney film. She paints an interesting and heartbreaking journey that is not simply jealousy, but the reasons behind the madness.

Second villains to analyze are Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel from the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman. Both are cold, intelligent, and selfish. While one is power hungry and the other is more of an academic fanatic, both lay at the precipice of being purely villainous in different ways. Without giving away too much from the books, both characters have a significant effect and interest in the hero, Lyra. She serves as a different part of a goal for both and both nearly kill her several times. But it is their underlining humanity, their connection to each other and to Lyra which reveals them to be more than simply antagonists.

The last to be given props this week (and in keeping with a YA theme) is Luke Castellan from Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. Luke is one of many antagonists from the series of books, but he unique as the most conflicted of the villains. You see him from many points of view, not just as the former friend and betrayer of the main character. You find his motivations from a childhood of neglect and from his reactions to various harsh life experiences. He was a hero who was manipulated by depression and bitterness, but you have his former friends who want him to be the boy he used to be. You root for them to save him, despite every horrible way he nearly kills them.