A Monster History

The term ‘monster’ is one that brings about quite a mixed reaction to people depending on the context in which it is said. It can be seen to describe a certain character such as in the theme of horror where Monsters here include include ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ or a Vampire such as ‘Dracula.’ It is a term that is sometimes used to describe a horrific person, such as when you say man or monster? The word ‘Monster’ has quite a diverse history.

Monsters in Europe

Monsters in Europe are originally seen as creatures with a somewhat unnatural or supernatural element to them. Many ancient mythologies such as Greece would discuss monsters such as harpies (half bird half women creatures), that would harass people by stealing their food. These ideas of monsters would develop into creatures of folklore and fiction, particularly the Gothic fiction genre that was prevalent throughout the Victorian age. The story of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is one example. Indeed, the idea of monster would take on a role as a seductive, but dangerous supernatural being in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula seemed to represent the dangers of uncontrolled sexuality, a subject that would have been frowned upon by the status quo at the time. It would seem that monsters in Europe would come to represent what was considered taboo at the time and perhaps was a way for society to represent this without having to show a person as responsible.

Monsters in Japan

On the other side of the coin, Monsters have a different perception in Japan. Whilst it is true that there are monsters such as Godzilla who terrorize people. Japan has a much more diverse attitude to what ‘monsters’ are and have often been seen as friendly creatures. The Hakutaku ‘monster’ is considered a wise ox-like creature that is seen as a sign of good luck. Further, the Shōjō are creatures that are jolly and enjoy the finer things in life. The Japanese view monsters as supernatural beings that symbolise both good and bad. Further, many Japanese cartoons that are targeted at children have shown monsters in a heroic light some examples being: Pocket Monsters (Pokemon in the west), My Neighbour Totoro and Digimon to name but three. Perhaps, the west has taken some inspiration from these with such characters as Shrek.

Painting of Hakutaku 'Monster'
Painting of Hakutaku ‘Monster’

Contemporary Monsters

Monsters today are often used to describe controversial people such as dictators giving some distance to their humanness. The term monster in this context suggests that horrific acts could not be purported by a man, but rather a monster. There is often stories in tabloid newspapers describing a killer as a “monster” or becoming a “monster” it is almost as if the term monster now means someone losing their humanity, and becoming a vicious beast.

What is your view on what a monster is? Let us know in the comments below.

A Movie Monster Menagerie!

For our theme of ‘Monsters’ this month, I thought it would be a fun idea to list some of our favourite movie monsters, recommend the ultimate monster film and to muse about the future of monsters in cinema.

Fearsome ‘Movie Monsters’

The Great White Shark in ‘Jaws’

Jaws [DVD] [1975]the infamous great white shark has to be included as it is such an iconic movie monster. Yes, the special effects weren’t great then but that is what is go effective about this monster as for a large majority of the film you only either see things from the shark’s point of view (such as in the opening sequence) or you may just see a fin. The film-makers had to be innovative and played on the fear of people that things are more scary when they can’t actually see them but use their imagination instead. A classic cinematic technique that has been used in horror films since the very beginning of cinema.

Godzilla in ‘Godzilla’

I love Godzilla [1954] [DVD] My dad is a huge B-movie horror and sci-fi film fan so I have watched quite a few of these films. I remember watching Godzilla vs. King Kong as a child and wanting Godzilla to win as they fought in the sea! I also always liked dinosaurs as a child so wonder if my affinity to Godzilla is from this time? Godzilla is interesting because he is a dinosaur-like monster awakened from extinction due to the effects of nuclear war. As the first Godzilla film was created in 1954 in Japan this must have been inextricably linked with their experiences of the after effects of nuclear catastrophe. Godzilla has been made several times since it’s first outing in 1954 but for true authenticity and to learn about the origins of this monster then I recommend watching the original.

Werewolves in ‘The Company of Wolves’

Though there are many werewolf depictions on cinema, my favourite has to be in the film The Company of Wolves (Special Edition) [DVD] [1984]This film is adapted from the short story by Angela Carter (who also wrote the film’s screenplay). This is a feminist and psychological re-interpretation of the story of Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood is depicted as a girl who is growing from a child to a woman. Although the wolves are seen as something to be afraid of initially, Red Riding Hood does not become so [SPOILER]  and in the end she becomes a wolf-woman who runs with the wolf pack. It is quite a strange film and would benefit from you reading the short story beforehand contained in Angels Carter’s book of re-imagined fairy tales The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories

Dracula the Vampire in ‘Dracula’

There have also been many movie representations of the vampire ‘Dracula.’ Among my favourite interpretations though are the classic Hammer Horror film Dracula (Blu-ray + DVD) [1958]with Christopher Lee in the titular role. Also, though this is not strictly a film as it was on television I also think Louis Jordan’s interpretation of Dracula in the BBC’s Count Dracula [DVD]from 1977 was also great. The latter production is fairly faithful to the original story as it contains the character of Renfield who is often omitted from adaptations.

Vampires in ‘Interview with the Vampire’

Another great vampire film, though it does not contain Dracula it does feature Brad Pitt, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas, which is always a bonus! This film is based on Interview With The Vampire: Number 1 in series (Vampire Chronicles)by Anne Rice. The story really encompasses the rich, creepy Southern Gothic atmosphere (even though it is set in other countries) the images of hanging Spanish moss and cemeteries. I think it must have been an influence on later Southern Gothic supernatural novels such as the entertaining Sookie Stackhouse series and TV adaptation True Blood – Complete Season 1-7 [DVD] [2014]

Benign ‘Movie Monsters’

Some monsters are benign in film representation. Monsters are often used to represent the ‘Other,’ a difference that can alarm people if they choose to only look on the surface and not beyond. These films often have a message that we need to be kind to others regardless of how they look on the outside.

Edward in ‘Edward Scissorhands’

Edward Scissorhands [1991] [DVD]has to be one of Tim Burton’s best films. Edward and his creator live in a Gothic castle on a mountain overlooking a kitsch American version of suburbia. He is discovered by an Avon lady who decides to adopt him and bring him home to her identikit house in suburbia. He meets her daughter and they fall in love. Moments of comedy (such as when the ladies queue up to have their hair cut by Edward) but also tragedy ensue due to Edward’s difference and the people’s suburban intolerance. Edward Scissorhands as a monster represents an updated kind of Frankenstein’s creature. The influence of fairy tales such as the story of Beauty and the Beast can also be seen. References to Hammer Horror can be seen in this film such as Edward’s creator being played by Hammer stalwart Vincent Price.

Yoda in ‘Empire Strikes Back’

Who doesn’t love Yoda! First featured in the original second Star Wars film Empire Strikes Back (1980) Yoda is a strange looking creature but is a powerful Jedi master. He is fierce but very wise and trains Luke Skywalker up to be a Jedi. He is also dryly humours and has become a huge popular cultural character quoted on everything from T-shirts to TV adverts!

E.T. in ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial [DVD] [1982]has to be one of the best examples of a benign cinematic monster. E.T. is a classic and great film that many people have watched, and have either cried, or know of someone who has cried at the end! It was clever how the film-makers created E.T. to move and talk like a human toddler, so though he is an alien and looks very different there are some characteristics within him that we can all relate to. E.T.’s first interaction is with Elliott a ten year old boy who forms a bond with him and tries to protect him. A clever twist in the story is that the Government scientists are portrayed as shady evil characters as opposed to E.T., Elliott and his family and friends. There are some notable scenes such as the flying BMX scene and of course the ultra-sad ending.

Gizmo in ‘Gremlins’

Gremlins – 30th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] [1984] [Region Free]is quite a dark, slightly sinister film. Gizmo is an adorable cute fluffy mogwai (monster) bought from a shop in Chinatown as a Christmas present from a father for his son Billy. He will stay benign if he is kept according to three strict rules: he is not exposed to sunlight or bright light, he does not get wet and is never fed after midnight. If any of these things happen then either Gizmo will die or will spawn a series of evil gremlins that not only cause havoc but also kill and torture humans!

The T-Rex and Velociraptors in ‘Jurassic Park’

Are dinosaurs monsters? If they are placed in a situation with humans then I would say so! The T-Rex and velociraptors steal the show in Jurassic Park [DVD]as they are arguably the most dangerous dinosaurs that the humans encounter in the film. Jurassic Park is based on the novel by Michael Crichton posed the interesting theory that if science were able to extract and clone dinosaur DNA then dinosaurs could potentially be re-created. If you add to this mix an eccentric entrepreneur who is fixated on creating the ultimate theme park then you have a potential disaster. The two best scenes in the film feature these the T-Rex and the Velociraptors. First we have the infamous build up to seeing the T-Rex with the glass of water vibrating. Here we see a nod to Spielberg’s Jaws’ heritage as we are scared initially of what we can’t see, but this time when we do see the monster, the effects live up to the initial fear. The velociraptors chasing the children in the kitchen is also a very good scene, scary!

People as ‘Movie Monsters’

Perhaps though the most scary monsters are not those that represent the ‘Other’ but those that look exactly like us and are expert at blending in. Often adapted from their primary source in literature, the psychopath has long been a horror movie favourite and is presented in films such as ‘Patrick Bateman’ in American Psycho [DVD] [2000] and ‘Hannibal Lector’ in The Silence of the Lambs [DVD] [1991]Nazis are often represented as ‘people monsters’ as can be seen in films such as ‘Amon Goeth’ in Schindler’s List – Special Edition [DVD] (1993)Bond villains are often portrayed as being psychopaths Raoul Silva in the excellent Skyfall [DVD]is a good example. Captain Jack Randall is also another example of a truly terrifying man in Outlander – Complete Season 1 [DVD]Sometimes, humans as monsters are presented in a ‘comic book style’ sort of way to make them less scary good examples of this can be seen in the character of ‘Han’ in Enter The Dragon (Uncut) [DVD] [1973]and in endless Bond villains from the early films. At other times cinematic psychopaths are presented as ruthless corporate figures such as the aforementioned ‘Patrick Bateman’ in American Psycho and arguably ‘Gordon Gecko’ in Wall Street [Special Edition] [1988] [DVD](who if not a fully blown psychopath, appears to have psychopathic tendencies). Examples of female psychopaths are depicted in films such as ‘Phyllis Dietrichson’ in Double Indemnity [DVD] [1944]‘Amy Elliot Dunne’ in Gone Girl [DVD] [2014]and ‘Jane Hudson’ in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? [Blu-ray] [1962] [Region Free]From these examples we can see that film-makers have experimented with tactics of scaring us by presenting a monster in our midst as a terrifying set-up.

The Ultimate Monster Movie – ‘Clash of The Titans’ (1981)

Ray Harryhausen was a classic monster model maker and animator. He is responsible for bringing some of the iconic monsters to the screen (such as the skeleton army, Hydra, harpies and giant bronze man Talos) in Jason & the Argonauts [DVD] [1963] He is also responsible for the monsters in the film that I am going to nominate as the ultimate movie monster film, Clash Of The Titans [DVD] [1981]Forget the remake, the original Clash of the Titans is a great film to watch if you are a fan of movie monsters! This film also contains the ultimate mother of all movie monsters, ‘Medusa!’ Medusa is a snake like gorgon with hair made from living vipers! One glance from her can turn any living thing into stone. The scene where Perseus has to kill Medusa is the best in the film as it is so atmospheric and really builds up tension. Here we see Perseus as he tries to hide from Medusa and behead her in her shadowy underground lair list only by fire torches. This scene is pivotal, as Perseus has to defeat Medusa in order to obtain her head in order to defeat the Kraken (a giant sea monster that will devour his wife Andromeda within thirty days). Not only is Medusa an excellently animated monster but Clash of the Titans also contains a host of other excellent Harryhausen creations, including the huge Kraken, giant scorpions, Charon the skeleton ferryman, the devil like Calibos and Pegasus the last winged horse amongst others. Clash of the Titans also contains three Stygian witches who are blind but see by using a glass eye and also eat humans! All in all due to the sheer number of monsters this has to be the ultimate monster movie of all time!

The Future of ‘Movie Monsters’

As computer technology moves ever faster, film-makers reliance on digital effects and CGI grows. Whilst CGI can give us fantastic special effects an argument against the overuse of it could be that a film that relies completely on CGI may lose some of its resonance with spectators as it feels less real and film-makers can tend to rely less on traditional narrative techniques to build up tension such as we saw in Jaws.

The imagined unseen can be more scary than that which is visible. A good example of this is by viewing the Medusa scene from the original Clash of the Titans 1981 Medusa Scene and comparing it with the clip in the remake here. In my opinion the original scene builds up the tension beautifully and although it doesn’t have the digital effects, it draws the story out and makes it more menacing whereas the remake is just like a madcap, computer game chase free for all! The remake scene is not scary, there is much less tension and it loses it’s narrative flow.

CGI and digital effects in film can be a good thing as they speed up the process of film-making and you need less people to work on the film, all elements that will be attractive to investors. However, the increasing reliance on CGI and digital effects means that an incredible skill-set of artists and model-makers will be lost, film audiences lose out in that the narrative tension in films is arguably lessened and scenes are not given as much chance to build tension. The second reboot of the Star Wars films (Episodes 1-3) were criticised for exactly these reasons, there was an over reliance on digital effects at the expense of character and narrative development. Though arguably the new Star Wars film is meant to have addressed some of these issues and has pleased fans. The Harry Potter films whilst utilising digital effects also relied on sets and models too and seems to give hope that this is a balance that can be readdressed and successfully utilised in the future.

‘Monsters’ in Gardening

Monsters of the gardening world range from the delightful, such as the Monstera Deliciosa (the Swiss Cheese Plant) to the dreadful such as Fallopia Japonica (Japanese Knotweed).

The Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa) which literally translates as Delicious Monster is a plant that some perhaps view as dated and rather boring. However it’s bold, larger than life appearance and associations with 1970s interior design undoubtedly make it one of the more iconic houseplants. In nature these plants are climbing vines that weave their way through trees in the jungles of Central and South America. However as a humble houseplant they are no less impressive.

A dusty Swiss Cheese Plant leaf

On the flip side to this, one plant admired by the Victorians for its quick growth and impressive vigour is Japanese Knotweed. Yet as has transpired in the last century and a half of it being in the UK it has become a menace. It can break through solid concrete and destroy properties. Once it is found on a patch of land it is an expensive and time consuming task to eradicate as it has a huge root system and can regenerate from tiny pieces of root left in the ground. It is truly a monster of the plant world that originates in a harsh volcanic landscape in Japan and has pests in its natural range to help keep it in check, but on the other side of the world with generous growing conditions and no pests it runs riot and causes untold damage.

Another monster of the plant world is the Gunnera tinctoria or giant rhubarb, native to temperate South America it grows very well in the UK and the leaves can become massive. Coupled with the long, spiky stems it can be an impressive sight when fully grown. Being non-native to the UK it has become a nuisance in some habitats, particularly in Harris in the Outer Hebrides. It is now spreading uncontrollably, it is covering over crofts and blocking up ditches.

A Gunnera just starting to regrow

In summary, monsters of the plant world come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are considered to be monsters for good reason. They are sometimes desirable, such as the Swiss Cheese Plant and in other cases detested and a widespread hazard such as Japanese Knotweed.

Are you ‘Love Sick?’ Interviewing Cory Martin

Imagine being in your twenties and working in the extremely competitive world of Hollywood. This is the age when you and your friends are working at getting careers established and dating and finding that special person. Now imagine going through all of this and finding out that you have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This is the position that Cory Martin found herself in and which she explores in her wonderful book Love Sick: A Memoir a very honest look at negotiating the dating minefield whilst also coming to terms with her diagnosis.

Cory is an author and screenwriter who has written for series including The OC and is now a Yoga teacher and author, living in California. Jo at CLC was lucky enough to be able to interview Cory and discuss Love Sick. Cory’s book is very important as it speaks not only to those with MS but also to others with long term health conditions, and indeed, anyone negotiating the tricky world of dating and trying to find true love.

Jo ( CLC): Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for CLC, Love Sick is a very important book and one that I think many people will relate to here in the UK, as there does seem to be a need for honest books about relationships and health especially for those in their twenties and thirties. A fun question to begin, as we are a cultural website what would your favourite books and films of all time be?

Cory (CM): My favourite book of all time is The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I read it in college and it has stayed with me ever since. The books I keep returning to have to be books on writing. Erica Jong’s Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life and Stephen King’s On Writing are two that I’ve read over and over. As for films, my hands down, absolute favourite is Dirty Dancing. As a kid I used to dream that I’d meet my version of Johnny (Patrick Swayze) on vacation and he’d swoop me up and take me away from my boring life in Indiana.

CLC: In Love Sick, I admire how you describe your illness as a journey, something that I also relate to and wholly agree with. How far do you think that having a long term illness such as MS makes you appreciate more in life and a need to be more mindful everyday?

CM: That’s a great question, because it definitely is a journey and it certainly has changed the way I view life and act on a daily basis, however I sometimes wonder if we put too much pressure on ourselves? We feel as though because we have this illness now we’re supposed to go out and do something grand. This book actually got rejected early on, because they didn’t believe that anyone would want to read the story. Like, if I had got diagnosed and decided to take a year off from work and see the seven wonders of the world before the devastating effects of MS took hold, then that was something amazing to read. But the truth is, that’s rare and one day I may go out and do something bold, but for now it’s the daily changes. It’s the journey. It’s the saying yes to taking a trapeze lesson or attempting to surf again, or it’s simply me being able to acknowledge that MS is part of my life. Did MS change me? Absolutely. And I think it does on a daily basis. But I think it’s something that’s going to change and evolve as I get older and the symptoms lessen or worsen.

CLC: When people discover that they have a long term health condition, something I have found in my professional experience is that people tend to travel through the Grief Curve (The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Model). In this model the two key aspects that appear to affect people most are the Acceptance and Denial states as it seems that people seem to swing between these two states with the aim of reaching a state of complete Acceptance. How far do you agree with this theory? If so, what, in your experience, would help someone achieve a state of complete Acceptance?

CM: Oh my gosh, I absolutely agree with this theory and you are so spot on in recognizing that anyone dealing with a long term illness will vacillate between the Acceptance and Denial states. It has been almost nine years since my diagnosis and I still jump between these. I think I’ve spent a good chunk of time in denial, but now that Love Sick is out in the world and my life is in print, it’s kind of hard to keep denying it, so I’m beginning to become more comfortable with Acceptance. However, I have a feeling that it’s still going to be a long road.

CLC: Many long term health conditions appear to share common issues. These include fatigue, financial, social and emotional difficulties. The good thing about this is that there are many common lifestyle adjustments that seem to benefit many of us such as diet modification, relaxation and trying to reduce stress. Have you met others in your yoga practice who suffer from other long term health conditions?

CM: I have. You know, I think one of the reasons yoga is so appealing to so many is that there are a variety of ways to practice yoga. In Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, the actual poses, or asana, are just one of the eight parts of yoga, so even if you can’t physically do everything you can still receive all the benefits of the practice.

CLC: Would you agree that common lifestyle management techniques can benefit all long term health conditions? And why?

CM: Yes, because I believe that common lifestyle management techniques are a form of self-care and I truly feel that self-care is important to everyone. When you’re paying attention to your body, when you’re listening to your true needs, you start to take better care of yourself. And when you take better care of yourself, physically and mentally, your overall health benefits.

CLC: The internet and advanced technology seems to be both a blessing and a curse for those with long term health conditions. On the one hand we can use the internet for accessing health information and for ordering groceries and medical prescriptions etc. Conversely we can find ourselves comparing our lives with others on social media (the ubiquitous FOMO). We can also worry ourselves by Googling too much medical information and thinking the worst. Do you agree that technology can be both a blessing and a curse and if so why?

CM: Do you know how many times I stayed up late at night Googling myself into a place of fear and panic? Too many! I was addicted to it in the way that I was when I broke up with someone. I wanted to know what they were up to. Were they dating someone else? Was she prettier than me? It was so self-destructive, but it’s what happened. So about a year into my diagnosis I weaned myself off of the scary parts of the internet and vowed to avoid it when it came to MS. But what’s interesting is recently, because of Love Sick, I’ve started to go back on the internet and seek out the MS forums and now, I actually find myself rejoicing in it. I have connected with so many people on Instagram and Facebook who are sharing so much positivity and really rallying around each other for good when it comes to living with chronic illness that I can now see the good of technology in a way I never could before.

CLC: In Love Sick, you refer to being unable to relate to MS-related books as they were aimed at older people, and also to not getting on with the MS forums which you felt were negative. Has the US information for MS improved in recent years? Do they seem to include more for younger sufferers now? If not, what would you like to see happen?

CM: I think it’s getting better. There’s a group here in LA meant for people in their 20s and 30s and I think the all around awareness of the disease is getting better. However, the thing with MS is that it affects everyone differently so for me, one of the problems I had with those MS-related books and the forums wasn’t just that they were aimed at older people but that they were aimed at people whose disease had progressed further than mine and it kind of made me feel like I wasn’t included because I didn’t have it as bad as someone else, and so who was I to complain?

I always compare MS to being told you’re going to get hit by a car. You don’t know when it’s going to happen, or how much it will affect you, all you know is that you’re going to get hit.

So imagine now if we brought that group of people who got hit by a car together. They have that same shared experience of getting hit by a car and the emotional stress of it all may be the same, but if you look at their outward appearance they’ll all be different. One guy might have a scratch on his thigh and the other may have a broken femur, or worse, his whole leg is amputated. If the experience is the same, but the outcome is not how do you make everyone feel included and comforted at the same time? I think that’s the struggle we need to all work to overcome.

CLC: In my experience the people that I have met with long term heath conditions all shared the same trajectory in that just before they got ill they were living life at a hundred miles an hour (I include myself in this category). How far do you feel that having a very active life in terms of stress and lack of down time can sometimes accelerate long term health conditions?

CM: This definitely happened to me as well. And now, when I am over-stressed I can feel that my symptoms worsen.

CLC: Despite the serious message that the book conveys, I loved the comic moments that you added. Do you think that moments of humour and laughter help to cope with the seriousness of living with a long term health condition?

CM: Absolutely. I don’t think I would’ve gotten through any of this if I weren’t allowed to laugh through it all. I know it’s totally cliché but laughter is the best medicine.

CLC: I have to apologise for the weird English guy you met in LA, he is definitely not representative of Englishmen in general! I thought that he sounded strange from the beginning as Englishmen don’t usually go around kissing hands! This moment made me think though of something that I have heard before, do you think it is harder to find genuine guys in LA?

CM: Haha! That is good to know. And, yes, I do think it is harder to find genuine guys in LA, but I also think that might be true in any big city where people are operating at such a high speed to get ahead in their careers or their financial lives that maybe they aren’t really looking for someone to connect to and so perhaps they act disingenuous. There’s also this phenomena in LA that I like to call the “next best thing.” This is a city full of super smart talented and beautiful people and they can always find someone smarter or prettier and so I think many people feel like, why settle down when there’s something better around the corner. There’s always the next best thing waiting for them.

CLC: There are many moments in your book when you are quite tentative about taking the lead in relationships. Is this something that changed as you got older and became more confident with your diagnosis? How do you feel about taking the initiative in your relationships now?

CM: That has definitely changed. I think the diagnosis set me back a few years in terms of my developmental stage as it relates to relationships, but I’m catching up and doing my best to take initiative now.

CLC: At one point, you state that “I am a loner. I like to do things on my own terms.” Did you find that this had to change when you entered a long term relationship in the terms of compromise? Do you feel that you were able to allow yourself to be helped by someone else? If so, did this new aspect help you to feel closer to your partner?

Yes, and it’s something I still struggle with, but I’m learning. And the more I allow myself to be helped or comforted by someone else the more I realize how truly lonely I was being alone.

CLC: You talk a lot about Yoga in Love Sick and how it has helped you and led to a new career. Indeed, you now also have a new book out Yoga for Beginners: Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body What is it about yoga in particular that you think has helped you, is it the relaxation element or the physical benefit or both?

CM: It’s both. For a long time it was simply the physical benefits. Being able to balance on my hands or twist my body into some crazy pose, used to give me this sense of power and control over the MS. That despite the fact that I was living with a potentially disabling disease I could still do all these things. However, as my practice progressed, and this is quite normal if you talk to other yogis, I started to care less and less about what my body could do and started to really benefit from the ability to quiet my mind and truly live in the moment.

CLC: Nearly the last question, but a very important one! What would you hope that readers would learn from Love Sick? And what benefits would you wish your book to give to someone with MS or another long term health condition?

CM: Life is complicated and hard and it’s going to twist and turn and there are going to be those moments where you’re pounding on the floor thinking you can’t keep going, but you can, and you will. Human beings are resilient like that. We get through it. We always do. And if we can find love, and learn to love ourselves, which we all can, then it’ll be that much sweeter.

To anyone living with MS or another long term condition I want you to know that you are not alone. That every fear and worry and ounce of panic you have is normal.

If you surround yourself with good people, doctors you trust, therapists who truly want to help and you can laugh through your situation then you can get through it. We all can. Together.

CLC: (SPOILER IF YOU’VE NOT READ THE BOOK!) A question I have to ask as myself and others will wonder, are you still with the man you said you had settled with at the end of the book?

CM: I am, in fact I’m waiting for him to get home from work right now so I can give him a big hug ☺

Thank you Cory! Love Sick is an inspiration for those of us with long term health conditions, or anyone facing life’s challenges. It shows that even though we go through trials and tribulations it is important to see the light in every day, to be mindful and to respect ourselves and others. If you haven’t yet read Love Sick then I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

April Monsters!

This month our theme will be ‘Monsters!’ A strange theme no doubt, but one we have been looking forward to doing as it will be great fun:) This month, we will explore the cultural influence of monsters across literature, film, art, history and even in plants! We will be looking at what it is that makes a monster and how this perception has changed over time.

I own Monsters: A Bestiary of the Bizarre and can strongly recommend as it looks at monsters through art and has some great examples from different cultures around the world including gorgeous Japanese illustrations. If you are interested in learning more about Japanese legends of monsters and ghosts in general then there is an excellent website which I have already tweeted about called Yokai.com which is a compendium of mythical Japanese creatures and lists them alphabetically for you to ponder. Particularly useful if you are into learning more about Japanese culture and horror films such as Dark Water [2003] [DVD]and Ring (1998) [DVD] [2000]

Over April, we will be asking questions such as: What is it that makes a monster? Why were they invented? Is man more monstrous than monsters? How do they help us to understand a culture (this is particularly interesting when looking at different created forms and behaviours of monsters in different countries). Jo will be selecting monsters from films and literature across the ages and seeing how these have changed over time, Kyle will be looking at monsters from a cultural history perspective, Ross will be looking at monstrous plants (Triffids anyone?) and Grace will be looking at monsters designed for children, how did we get from the Big Bad Wolf of Red Riding Hood to The Gruffalo for instance?

All, in all this should be an interesting month and one which we hope that you enjoy as much as we do!