Trinket #30

Photo: diannehope, Morguefile

On Wednesday 11th March 2020, I ran a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.

When Maeve lit the candle, she didn’t expect the flame to be green. She had thought that it would be black, like the candle was. Or maybe white, like wick.

As soon as that green flame erupted from the candle, she quickly slammed the lantern door shut: a metallic clang rang throughout the room, bouncing off the stone walls. She sat there, stunned, until the ringing died down, and she was left with a lantern and a black candle burning a green flame.

The flame was distorted by the glass in the lantern door. Now flickering in fuzzy waves rather than gently blowing with the draft coming in from underneath the door.

The flame didn’t go out, but the room got darker: a shadow cast against the shaft of light coming through the gap under the door – a shadow in the shape of a woman.

“Maeve? What’s going on in there?”

Maeve yelped, her grip loosening on the lantern handle so that she nearly dropped it. Quick thinking stiffened her fingers again and she managed to keep the thing in her grasp.

“Nothing!” she insisted, but the door opened anyway.

Hunting Passed One’s Bedtime

Photo: maurizio38,

The child held a firefly in a bottle in their hands, the glow of the bug lighting up their face in the night. The child had captured a firefly on a midsummer’s night – they had stayed up far past their bedtime to do so. They could have caught one during the day, but they were so much more difficult to spot when their glow was competing with the sunlight.

They had taken one of their mothers’ perfume bottles. It had been empty for years, but they had kept it because ‘it was pretty’. They never used it for anything else, just put it on the mantlepiece. An ornament. An object which once held purpose but no longer did.

Or, perhaps, it had just moved along the spectrum of those things kept by Morris.

The inside of the bottle still reeked of perfume, so the child had washed it out. No need to suffocate the poor firefly with a miasma of chemical petrichor.

Then they snuck out into the night and caught their firefly, and held it up to their face to inspect it.

The bottle was uneven and the contours of the glass distorted the image of the firefly inside. It appeared to have a massive front leg and tiny wings.

A Funny Kind of Shorthand

Photo: rosamore,

On Tuesday 2nd March 2020, I attended a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.

I found it on a summer’s evening. Lying on the grass, a little damp around the edges. The dew was starting to settle and it was moistening the canvas.

I wasn’t sure how long it had been there. It looked as though the ink should have run, long ago. But it hadn’t: the ink or the paint or whatever it was that formed the picture on the canvas was perfect, even as the dew crawled further into the center of the canvas.

“Oi! What you got there?”

The voice startled me. I hadn’t noticed the horse and carriage coming up behind me on the road. The curtains were drawn, revealing that there was no passenger. Just the driver and the horse, now stopped just behind me.

The driver was straining his neck to look over at what I was holding: the canvas I had plucked from the grass.

“A painting.”

I held it up to show him and that was when I got a good look at the back.

There was writing on the back of the canvas, scrawled in a messy black hand. That had not run either, though the canvas had been lying on its back on the grass. Unfortunately, it was so messy that I couldn’t work out what it said.

“Anyone famous?”

I lowered the painting, still peering down at the words. “Not sure. Perhaps a doctor.”


Photo: djhenschen,

On Wednesday 19th February 2020, I ran a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.

No one knew why they wanted to prize them free of their wooden prison. Legend said that the nails were the only thing keeping the body inside, and that was true – up to a point. When the coffin itself was just made of wood, a material anyone could break through if they had enough upper body stretngth, it didn’t really matter what was keeping it shut. Especially when what was keeping it shut was only around the very edges of the lid.

The problem came from hope, misguided as it was. The gravediggers and coffinmakers reasoned that strong wood could not be broke by a strong, recently deceased person. Then, as the wood rotted, the person inside would rot as well. The strength ratio would remain constant, until they were both dust and the coffin didn’t need to keep anyone in, nor did the person need to be kept in.

This hope assumed that the calculations which governed the manufacture of coffins could always accurately predict how strong the wood would need ot be to keep the person inside. This hope assumed that no one with a hammer would ever consider graverobbing.

This hope assumed that graverobbers didn’t exist.

I suppose, at the time of the calculation’s conception, graverobbers didn’t exist. No one was so desperate to delve into graves to sustain their own lives, to meddle with death to push it back just that little bit further. At least, no one ever told us about the desperate if they did exist.

Desperation was getting ahrder to hide now. The hot air burning our lungs and the elaborate castles built at the top of hills and just out of the reach of the common folk opened our eyes to what was really going on around us. People were indeed that desperate. They probably always had been.

And now they were resurrecting murderers.

The sympathetic newspapers were, at best, patronising. Saying that whoever had ripped the nails from the coffin in question didn’t know who it was who rested peacefully inside. They didn’t blame them for rleasing the murderer, only for releasing someone.

The prolific vitriolic newspapers spun tales of malicious intent and the desperate obtainin the power to control the dead for their own whims. As if that wasn’t a power that some well-connected scientist had been working on up in his castle on a hill just out of reach of the common folk for years if not decades.

They were never going to agree on who to blame, but I suppose it didn’t really matter. The murderer was back – not quite alive, and with the ugly marks from the rope still burned into the skin of his neck, but animated enough to cause worry. And trouble.

Review: Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady by Gerald Morris

Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady (Squire's Tales)Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady by Gerald Morris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady follows from its predecessor which I have not read. I found no problems starting with this book however, as all plot details from the first book which affect the plot of this second book are reiterated. My favourite thing about this book was its interesting use of Arthurian legends. The book’s main plot is a retelling of the poem Gawain and the Green Knight and not much from that tale is changed, though it is told in such a way as to appeal more to its younger audience. Particularly interesting was Morris’ handling of the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot, as well as some of the more magical elements of the ‘original’ legends (inasmuch as we know which versions of these stories are the ‘original’ ones).

Like several other children’s Arthurian legends (Arthur High King of Britain by Michael Morpurgo and Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve spring to mind), Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady is told through a series of smaller tales which make up a greater whole. Most of the narrative takes place in the year between the Green Knight’s visit to Camelot and Gawain’s second meeting with the Green Knight a year later. Rather than painstakingly detail every event which occurs during this year, Morris engages in lengthy and frequent time skips and discusses only the most important mini-quests and adventures which happen during this year. Where this book falls short in comparison to Morpurgo’s and Reeve’s books, however, is in the inefficient detail given about these intervals. Arthur High King of Britain takes the form of a retelling of a select few stories, and we are told which stories will be told to us; Here Lies Arthur treats time skips in much the same way as Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady does, but Reeve does more to explain a general overview of these time skips than does Morris and, crucially, Reeve gives more detail as to how the events during these time skips – which are nevertheless not described in as much detail as the other events in the book – affect the characters. Morris does not offer proper detail as to how the characters develop over these long periods of time, instead telling us how a character now feels or thinks after the fact and not showing how the character changed which would explain why the character now feels or thinks that way. That being said, Morris is highly skilled at using time to describe big battles such as the one in the first chapter, where the scale of the battle is sufficiently delivered to the reader while also not giving any unnecessary information.

Morris’ failures in his use of time are, however, particularly irksome when concerning the protagonist, Terence: the titular squire. Terence is first introduced to the reader in this book (though he was also the protagonist of the previous book) as an arrogant and self-righteous squire who knows more about fighting than the other squires at Camelot but does not wish to become a knight himself. This does not stop him from silently critiquing his fellow squires who do wish to become knights, however, and condescendingly instructing them as to where they are going wrong. If such behaviour would put you off a character, then you will certainly not take to Terence at the beginning of the book, and indeed I did not either. Furthermore, such behaviour is not critiqued; Terence is not supposed to be seen as arrogant or self-righteous, even though his behaviour indicates that he is. This is a shame, because the characters which surround Terence – and most notably Gawain and King Arthur – are very well-developed and likeable characters, to the point where I would prefer to read the same story without Terence in it at all. Yet this is the second book in The Squire’s Tales series, which aims to “bring the Arthurian legends and famous knights to life through the eyes of their squires and pages” (so says the back cover). It is thus unfortunate that the squire through whose eyes we are meant to be seeing these familiar stories is the one character who the reader wishes were not in the story at all.

View all my reviews

Trinket #06

Photo: lauramusikanski,

On Thursday 12th December 2019, I attended a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.

“I’m cold,” said the scarecrow. The farmer pretended he hadn’t heard it. He needed that material for his own clothes, threadbare as they were getting now. He didn’t want to give the clothes back. He needed to be warm himself, and the scarecrow didn’t. Right?

30 Day Once Upon a Time Challenge Reprise

Back in September 2015, I did the 30 Day Once Ypon a Time Challenge. In an effort to clean this blog up a little bit, I have edited and amalgamated all my answers into one post. While some of my opinions have changed in the last five years, I did not change any of the answers.

Day 1

Favourite Male Character

Rumpelstiltskin/Mr Gold

I have loved Rumpelstiltskin since the very first episode. When I started watching OUAT, I knew nothing about it other than the little synopsis that they put for it on Netflix. So when I saw Robert Carlyle’s name come up as a member of the cast, I was so excited. But as the first episode went on, and there was no Robert Carlyle, I was wondering who on Earth he could be playing.

That was, until Snow suggested going to see Rumpelstiltskin, at which point I just thought, “If Robert Carlyle is playing Rumpelstiltskin, then that would just be the best”. And so it was the best. From that very first moment (helped on by the fact that Rumpel in the Enchanted Forest is so deliciously camp it borders on the ridiculous) I have held a massive bias in favour of Rumpelstiltskin.

Day 2

Favourite Female Character

Cruella De Vil

I’m not sure what first drew me to Cruella, but I definitely think she has one of the cleverer adaptations of her character, even though 101 Dalmatians is certainly not one of my favourite Disney movies. When her magical power to control animals was revealed, and it was based on her cigarette smoke from the movie, I thought it was a really clever way of incorporating the original character into the show.

Mostly, I think I love her because of her posh voice and the fact that she calls everyone ‘Darling’. Out of everyone who has actually died in this show (and stayed dead, because OUAT suffers from the Marvel problem of killing-off-but-not-actually-killing-off its main characters) her death affected me the most. I really wanted them to find a way for her to come back, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, unless she makes an appearance in one of the flashbacks (and that won’t actually mean that she’s back back… if you know what I mean…).

Day 3

Least Favourite Male Character

Neal Cassidy

Don’t get me wrong: I love Baelfire. But I kind of see Bae and Neal as two different people. There certainly are a lot of differences between them, even when he is reunited with his father. When Neal gets brought back into his old life, he changes dramatically, and how he acts with his father is a lot different than how he acts with Tamara, when he was still being Neal. In the latter half of series two, it’s almost as though the two different sides of himself – the Bae side and the Neal side – are at odds with one another, existing in the same body but never at the same time.

Day 4

Least Favourite Female Character

Blue Fairy/Mother Superior

I once saw someone say on Tumblr that every Harry Potter fan gets to the stage where they realise that Dumbledore was actually an incredibly immoral character, who manipulated those around him in order to get what he wanted – to achieve the ‘greater good’.

My feelings towards the Blue Fairy are exactly the same as they are towards Dumbledore. The only difference is, because Harry Potter is over, we know what his endgame was. We understand his motivations throughout the entire series, whereas with Blue, her ultimate intentions are still unknown. There are several theories I’ve seen on the Internet about how Blue could actually be a villain in the grand scheme of things – or at least a more malevolent power than is immediately obvious. That also seems to be the way that they’re going with the OUAT Virtual Series.

There just seems to be something… iffy… about the Blue Fairy, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is yet.

Day 5

Favourite Villain


Technically, it’s Cruella, but as I’ve already said her, I’m gonna have to go with Cora. She’s certainly one of the most successful villains in the series (she did, after all, get Regina to the throne). Plus, she’s one of the more developed villains, especially with her backstory as the miller’s daughter and her love affair with Rumpel.

Day 6

Favourite Scene

When Cora doesn’t run away with Rumpel (The Miller’s Daughter)

Everything about this scene is amazing. For one, it has my favourite character and my favourite villain, but it’s probably one of the most feelsy scenes in the entire series. While I don’t ship Golden Heart in Storybrooke, in the Enchanted Forest, you only need this scene to see how you can’t ignore it. Rumpel gets his heart broken for the second time, and loses out on the chance to have another child (I also wrote a fanfiction exploring this). You can see the pain in his eyes when he asks whose heart is in the box, and I just felt so sorry for him that he was going to lose everything he had with Cora.

That being said, I’m also glad it happened, because then Rumbelle can happen. And Rumbelle is the best. As we shall see…

Day 7

Favourite ship(s)

Rumbelle/Captain Swan

Skin Deep is one of my favourite episodes. I certainly wasn’t expecting a romantic storyline for Rumpel, especially so late in the series, but I’m so glad they put one in. I’m less happy that they then spent the better part of three series trying to keep them apart throughout a number of irritating ways, but feels are so important in keeping people watching.

On the other hand, I’m not sure when I started shipping the crap out of Captain Swan. Out of all of the series so far, I think series 4 is my favourite, and there are definitely some strong Captain Swan moments in there. Especially in White Out, which I would say is my favourite episode out of them all. That being said, I think it was at some point during the Zelena arc that I started rooting for the two of them to get together, but I’m not sure exactly when.

Day 8

Favourite Friendship

Hook and Bae

I think I remember these two having a much bigger bromance that they actually did in the show (when I rewatched …And Straight on ‘Til Morning, I definitely remember thinking, “Oh… is that it?”) but I still think what we’re given is really great. Even if things do get incredibly awkward during the Peter Pan arc…

Day 9

Saddest Moment

All of the times Rumpel and Belle got separated

There are far too many of these. So far, I think they’ve been separated in: Skin Deep, The Outsider, Lacey, …And Straight on ‘Til Morning, Going Home, Heroes and Villains, and Operation Mongoose Part 2. That’s so many times! What’s up with that?

I’m not sure which of these separations I think was the saddest, because they were all pretty sad when I first watched them. Probably The Outsider and Heroes and Villains were the worst; the former because Belle forgot who she was, and so the loss was completely one-sided, and the latter because it didn’t come about through circumstance, but through a decision made by Belle herself.

I suppose the one in Going Home was pretty sad, because it seemed so final, but I didn’t really believe that they would kill Rumpel off, especially in the middle of the series, since they have gone out of their way to save characters who are a lot less important to the plot than Rumpel. Plus, I binge-watched the series, and Robert Carlyle’s name came up at the beginning of the next episode, so I knew he was coming back.

Day 10

Funniest Moment

“Let’s just say we bury the hatchet”

“Yes, but why not in your skull?”

Snow Drifts

I think this is down to Robert Carlyle and Colin O’Donoghue’s acting. Rumpel is being wonderfully camp, as always, and the way Hook’s face just falls after Rumpel’s quip always makes me laugh.

Day 11

Favourite Badass Scene

Mr Gold’s cane (Darkness on the Edge of Town)/Henry breaking the quill (Operation Mongoose Part 2)

I actually felt like cheering upon Mr Gold’s return to Storybrooke after his exile. But what made it even better was his return to a place with magic, and a place where he no longer needed to use a cane. When he was in New York, he spent all his time hobbling around on his bad ankle, but he saunters back into Storybrooke, swinging his cane as soon as he’s across the town line. The whole thing is so smooth, and I absolutely loved it.

That being said, series 4 is also where Henry starts to come into his own, certainly (I think) more than in the other series. He becomes an actual part of the plot rather than something just to keep things moving, which we see even more when he becomes the Author once Isaac has been fired. When he breaks the quill so that he can’t be tempted to change things to meet his own ends, it reminded me of when Harry snapped the Elder Wand (even though in the context of Harry Potter, that was really annoying). It shows just how much Henry’s character has developed.

Day 12

Favourite Kiss

Rumbelle (…And Straight on ‘Til Morning)

As I’ve said before, it’s ridiculous how many times Rumpel and Belle get separated over the course of the series. Series two was horrible because they were actually with each other the whole time, separated only by Belle’s amnesia. When she finally gets her memories back, and doesn’t even give herself time to finish saying his name before she kisses him, it was just so sweet.

Day 13

Do you want the Evil Queen to get her happy ending?


I was talking with one of my friends about Regina’s character development, and we both decided that she is the character about whom our opinions had changed the most over the course of the series. By the end of series four, it just gets so frustrating that nothing seems to work out in her favour – even in Isaac’s alternate reality, when heroes and villains have been swapped and the happy endings have been given to the bad guys. It seems that, by deciding to switch from being a villain to trying to be a hero, she ends up getting the worst of both worlds and the best of neither. Which is made even more irritating seeing as Hook did the same thing, and he seems to be doing alright. Regina deserves a break.

Day 14

Your Favourite Unexpected Moment

When Hook stabbed Gold (The Queen is Dead)

I so did not see this coming, and it provided a massive dose of hurt/comfort which I absolutely adore in my fiction. Nothing is better than having a major threat to the life of your favourite character… right?

Day 15

Which side are you on – good or evil?

It’s more complicated than that

More than anything, I think OUAT is great at showing that no one is black and white in their morals and intentions. I was rewatching Unforgiven, and my friend who hadn’t seen the show before was in the room. When Snow confesses to stealing Maleficent’s baby in order to place the potential darkness within Emma into Maleficent’s unborn child, his immediate reaction was to say, “Wow, so no one’s really good in this?”

Stories of villain redemption and heroes doing terrible things make it difficult to see where the lines of good and evil truly lie. I’d say that I would like Emma to be victorious in the end, and for everything to work out alright – but what does that even mean? In series two, that meant that Hook had to be stopped, which in itself was at odds with the necessity in series one for Rumpel to be stopped, and by series four, it’s become the case that neither of them have to be stopped. On the contrary, getting rid of either one of them might mean that Emma fails in whatever it is that she needs to end up doing. It’s all very confusing, but that’s part of what makes it so interesting.

Day 16

Favourite Outfit

Queen Eva (The Queen is Dead)

Bearing in mind the top of Queen Eva’s dress is really irritating (kind of looks like castle battlements), the rest of that outfit is gorgeous. It’s a lovely shade of red, and the shoes and adorable. Although, admittedly, when I saw that she was wearing red shoes, I did kind of have a moment where I thought that Dorothy was Snow’s mother, which would have been really interesting.

Day 17

Favourite Episode of Season 1

Skin Deep

I love Rumbelle. What can I say? It’s the episode where we see another side to Rumpel’s character, and introduces Beauty and the Beast into the OUAT canon without actually having to rely too much on the movie.

Day 18

Favourite Actor

Colin O’Donoghue

He’s really good at facial expressions; he does little twitches and looks really well and it allows for some deep insight into Hook’s character.

Day 19

Favourite Actress

Elizabeth Lail

As I’ve said before, Frozen is the only movie incorporated into OUAT which hasn’t been changed at all, and as a result, the characters are based entirely and directly on how they are in the movie. There are no tweaks to how they’re supposed to act. That being said, Elizabeth Lail is Anna. She is Anna if Frozen had been a live-action movie. She captures the essence of the character perfectly, in every single way.

Day 20

Favourite Quote

“You have survived your entire lives without light bulbs! Buy a flashlight!”

White Out

I’m not a massive fan of Mary Margaret, but this made me laugh so much. It’s entirely true, and it’s nice to see her lose it sometimes. Especially when the people around her are being so irritating.

Day 21

Favourite Backstory


We don’t have a lot of backstory for some of the more minor characters (and as much as I don’t want this to be the case, Ruby is definitely a minor character, especially as she hasn’t been in it since series three, and even then it was only really in the background), but what we find out about Ruby in the Enchanted Forest – especially in series two – brings so much depth to her character. In Red-Handed, I wasn’t expecting Ruby to be the werewolf, especially after they set it up to make it look like it was Peter. But it’s the backstory we get in Child of the Moon that makes her my pick for this question.

Maybe it’s because of how the character of Remus Lupin has changed our attitudes towards werewolves – or, at least, has made us aware of how lycanthropy can be used as a metaphor for real-life social exclusion – but when Ruby not only finds a pack of wolves who can give her the acceptance that she has longed for for so long, but also her mother who she thought was dead, it shows just how lonely Ruby must have been ever since she found out the truth about herself. She’s with the pack for less than a week, and yet by the end of it, she still embraces the wolf side of herself for its intrinsic value, rather than – like in the later flashbacks of series one – as a means to an end and to help Snow in her quest to get her kingdom back.

Day 22

Something that you want to see/find out that hasn’t been revealed yet

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

When I first found this challenge and was looking through the questions, I was going to put Camelot for this. They’ve been setting up an Arthurian legend story since series two, and I have been so excited for it ever since. However, since that’s now been confirmed as happening really soon in Operation Mongoose Part 2, I change my answer to The Twelve Dancing Princesses, even though I’m not entirely sure how they could incorporate that story into OUAT.

As for stuff that hasn’t been revealed yet, there are so many plot points which they have teased and have yet to be explained that I’m not sure I could even remember them all to include them, let alone expect any of you to sit through a post that long.

Day 23

Any prop you could take from the set

Jefferson’s hat

This was one of the most difficult questions, because there are a lot of props. But Jefferson is one of my favourite characters, and his hat is certainly one of the most practical magical objects in the series. Not to mention it’s rather dashing.

Day 24

If you could be anyone from Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest, who would it be?

Katherine Nolan

Katherine Nolan seems to be a character who doesn’t have masses to do with the main plot, especially once magic has been brought to Storybrooke. Granted, she goes through some horrific stuff in series one, but after that, she seems to find happiness with her fiancé from the Enchanted Forest, and only appears in the background. I’d much rather be her than getting in the thick of things.

Day 25

Favourite Character Entrance

Zelena (New York Serenade)

New York Serenade is one of my favourite episodes, and Zelena’s entrance at the end had me very excited. That the entrance of the Wicked Witch of the West is itself a reference to the musical which changed the perception of her character for fans was inspired. It’s just a shame that they kept pulling on the ‘wicked’ threat throughout the series, which kind of put a dampener on the initial declaration.

Day 26

Character you’d like to see more of

Jefferson/Nova (Sister Astrid)

It’s kind of implied that Jefferson has got his happy ending, having been reunited with his daughter, but there are still some things which are yet to be explained, especially since the second curse happened. What happened to him and his daughter when everyone was sent back to the Enchanted Forest? Did they get caught up in the second curse? Did they go to Wonderland? If not, how come no one has ever tried to use his hat to skip through realms again? Will they ever need to again? Aside from that, he could make appearances in flashbacks, because we still don’t know what happened to his wife, nor how he began working for Rumpelstiltskin to the extent that he was actually willing to work with him to use Frankenstein to deceive Regina. I feel that there are a lot of things which need to be revealed about Jefferson’s character, and it would be interesting to see some of these questions answered.

I can’t remember the last time we saw Nova. In series one, her forbidden affair with Dreamy was a rather significant plot point, but they don’t seem to have developed it. Are they together? Did they get their happy ending? Grumpy has been in the show since then, but they have made no reference to him being with Astrid at all. Plus, she’s such an interesting character, and it would be cool to find out more about the fairies in general, which can’t really be done without developing Nova more.

Day 27

Favourite Location/Set

Mr Gold’s shop

It’s kind of a plot device, but it’s very cool. He has everything anyone could possibly need in there, plus it’s the main haunt of my favourite character. We know when we’re in Gold’s shop that Gold is going to be there, and as a result, some of the best scenes have happened there.

Day 28

Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest?


To justify this choice, I look no further than what the Author himself said about the Enchanted Forest in Operation Mongoose Part 2: “It’s cold, there’s no running water, and things are always trying to kill you”.

Day 29

Favourite Fairytale? Did you like the OUAT version?

The Twelve Dancing Princesses/Little Bo Peep

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is my favourite fairytale, which is why I would like to have it in the show. However, my favourite adaptation of a fairytale is that of Little Bo Peep in White Out. That she makes up a flock of actual people is a very interesting adaptation, and gives the fluffy (pardon the pun) original story a OUAT dark quality.

Day 30

What got you interested in OUAT?


I’m not entirely sure. It’s definitely something that would have attracted me anyway, especially when I saw it on Netflix – after all, I am a massive fantasy fan. But what I think first put it on my radar was when Carrie Hope Fletcher said that she was obsessed with it, and was binge-watching it despite having virtually no time in which to do so. Ultimately it came down to me needing something to watch while I did my ironing, seeing it on my Netflix, and thinking “I’ll start watching that”, and after that, I was hooked. (Pardon the pun.)

Review: Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryWonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephen Jay Gould
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book for research and primarily for Gould’s argument, given throughout this book, that if one were to rewind the ‘tape of life’ then life as we know it would not emerge on the replay. Gould is clear in his opening chapter that he intends for this book to be both useful for students of the history of life on Earth and for the lay person interested in the same. With no formal scientific training beyond the age of 16, I am only qualified to assess the success of the latter intention, which I can do positively.

That being said, however, Gould’s quest for accessibility also leads him down some very odd tangents. In the name of illustrating some of his points he begins to almost rant about certain aspects of life and the academy. One notable example is a lengthy lament about the current (at least, current as of the book’s writing in the summer of 1988) state of doctoral education on either side of the pond. Such passages read like a columnist giving their true opinions on aspects of the world around them and as a result seem a little fluffy. I found myself wondering on several occasions if the same kind of behaviour would have been tolerated by another author (one perhaps not as established as Gould was at the time of this book’s publishing, or one from a different demographic, or indeed one writing just a few decades in the future). One particularly irksome example was of his use of the film It’s A Wonderful Life.

No doubt where Gould got the main title of his book from, the film gets no mention until over two thirds of the way through the book. Gould uses the film to illustrate the argument for which I came to this book in the first place – that if one were to rewind the ‘tape of life’ then life as we know it would not emerge on the replay. Gould’s reasoning for this is based heavily on what is commonly understood as the butterfly effect (though Gould does not himself use this terminology). It is in an explanation of how the butterfly effect works that Gould references It’s A Wonderful Life: the seemingly-insignificant-at-the-time events of George’s life had massive knock-on effects to the point where the world would have been a very different place had he never been born. My problem with Gould’s use of It’s A Wonderful Life is twofold: it was too long, and it came too late in the book. Gould practically recounts the entire film to the reader when a few examples from the film would have had the desired effect. And the argument which Gould is attempting to illustrate has already been given throughout the book. By the time the reader reaches this illustration, they no longer need it.

Gould’s use of lengthy and tangential illustrations was irritating, but this book has a more egregious fault. I was reading this book at the same time I was reading Sisters in the Wilderness by Delores S. Williams, a book which – among other things – made me aware of some of the historical and scientific ‘justifications’ for racism. In particular, Williams made me aware of Louis Agassiz’s affirmation and perpetuation of racist pseudoscience. Reading these two books in tandem made Agassiz’s name in Wonderful Life stand out all the more. Gould references Agassiz twice in this book, but never mentions this dangerous and ugly side of his work; indeed, the only description Gould gives of Agassiz or his work is that he was “America’s greatest natural historian” (p242). Granted, Williams’ book was published four years after Gould’s, but I would nevertheless caution the reader of this and other similar works to keep in mind the historiography of the field in a way which Gould does not.

If one can tolerate the tangents and is thoughtful of the ugly history behind some of the discoveries which made this book, I think you can get a lot out of it. The scientific jargon is kept to a minimum and the writing style flows well. It provides a helpful history of the discovery and research of the fossils found in the Burgess Shale and what this work has meant for evolutionary science and current thinking of the history of life on Earth. I think this book is an apt reminder that even a book as worthwhile to the field as this one is does not – and should not – escape criticism, particularly in light of its own uncritical elements.

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