Monthly Archives: August 2017

“This Monstrous Thing” by Mackenzi Lee

This book (signed by the author, no less) was given to me as a cast off. It had been received as a door prize… Talk about low expectations! I was pleasantly surprised. It kept me entertained.

“This Monstrous Thing” falls into two categories where I seldom read – fan fiction and (so help me) “steampunk”!

I get the point of fan fiction. If you enjoy and deeply admire a book, you may want to extend, re-tell or enlarge upon it. A friend of mine created his own version of Homer’s Illiad. It was good. Lee builds on Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) by Mary Shelley. Often described as the first work of science fiction, Frankenstein is a tale worth careful consideration. What does it mean to be human? What do we, as citizens and family members, own to one another? When does science overreach itself?

I don’t know ANYTHING about steampunk! Falling back on my usual source (Wikipedia), I see that it is a “subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy” with 19th century underpinnings. Amazon will sell you steampunk costumes as well as books. Mackenzi Lee asserts (in her Author’s Note) that steampunk must invoke an altered past. The alteration she offers is the use of clockwork (gears, springs, etc.) to replace human limbs and organs in seriously injured people. It makes for a good story!

Since this falls in the category of Young Adult fiction, one can ask what lesson it teaches. I would sum it up as follows: if you harm a loved one, it makes sense to go to great lengths to make things right.

Why do I ask that question about YA fiction? Maybe because I question the existence of the YA category. Adolescents can and do read REAL books! Some YA fiction is strained and didactic. Some has broader appeal. “This Monstrous Thing” has enough narrative energy to transcend the YA fiction label.

Positive Micro (2)

In my blog entry dated November 14, 2016, I talked about words that start with “micro”, my favorite being “microadjustment”. I just remembered another important “micro” concept, also of five syllables. It’s the microexpression. (My text editing program wants this to be written as two words, but I’m CONVINCED “micro” by itself is not a word. Old fashioned of me, I suppose.)

This time I checked Wikipedia. This is a “real” word, not just slang. I didn’t make it up. It’s defined as a “brief, involuntary facial expression” that usually occurs in “high stakes situations”. Books have been written about microexpressions.

I remember an experience… Once I asked a friend how it really feels to use cocaine (which I have never done). I remember the look that flashed across his face, wistful and longing. Obviously he found cocaine amazingly wonderful. I don’t remember what he said, but it was far more guarded.

A friend named Mark recounted to me the following tale: He lived near Wilmington, Delaware, in the late 1960s, a time of racial tension there and in many American cities. One day Mark unexpectedly found himself face-to-face with an African American teenager carrying a baseball bat. Tension crackled between them. Is there such a thing as pre-violence? Both parties were in high fight-or-flight mode. But what my friend saw on the teenager’s face, just for one TINY moment, was FEAR. Not aggression. Not hatred. And, somehow, Mark mustered a smile and a little wave, and the two parties went their separate ways, neither giving in to the violence simmering in their surroundings.

Readers, has this happened to you? Has your life been touched by a microexpression? I’m curious about it. Please feel free to share a comment.