Hanahaki and Other Useful Diseases

Hanahaki useful diseases
Hanahaki comes from two Japanese words: hana, which means flower, and hakimasu, which means to throw up. It is a fictitious disease in which the victim coughs up flower petals when suffering from unrequited love. The most common version is when the victim’s lungs fill with flowers and roots grow in the respiratory system. The victim chokes on blood and petals and dies.

 

Hanahaki useful diseases
In another version, the flowers are surgically removed. The surgery also removes the victim’s feelings of love and s/he can no longer love the person they once loved. Sometimes this also removes the ability to ever love again.

 

Hanahaki
My 13-year-old granddaughter came across hanahaki disease while researching possible diseases for a book she and her friends are writing. Need I say the book is fantasy fiction? She also enjoys special effects makeup, and one evening created three generations suffering from hanahaki disease—me, her mother, and herself.

 

Hanahaki useful diseases
In researching hanahaki disease, I discovered a whole world of disease and disaster that I was previously unaware of. Wikipedia has 40 pages of fictional diseases in literature, film, TV, video games, and role-playing games, everything from the Andromeda Strain to Cooties.
stephen king
Fictional diseases is probably not the first association you have for Stephen King, but he has created his share, including the superflu in The Stand, the Ripley in Dreamcatcher, and the pulse in Cell. Authors from Edgar Allan Poe to J.K. Rowling have invented fictional diseases. Why not you?
 
Getting started is easy. If nothing comes to mind immediately, go to seventhsanctum.com and use the Disease Generator.  You can get 25 disease names in an instant.
Hanahaki diseases
And if nothing appeals to you—not ancestral heart or zombie’s malignant lunacy, not seeping sweat or torture itch—just push the button for more diseases.

 

Hanahaki diseases
Once you have a name, you need to develop the disease, starting with disease type (childhood/common/rare) and moving on to cause (bacteria, virus, parasite, fungus, imbalance of bodily humors, etc.). You need to consider transmission (airborne, body fluids, food or water, touch, etc.) and virulence (how likely a person is to catch the disease after coming into contact with it). How long is the incubation period? A person could be showing symptoms and become infectious almost instantaneously or it could take years. What are the symptoms of this disease? Is it treatable and/or curable? And last but not least, how do people react when they encounter someone with this disease?
 
Feel free to use symptoms from real diseases, past or present. For example, cholera, dysentery, small pox, consumption, syphilis, the Black Plague, etc. BTW, the Black Plague is a zoonotic disease, meaning it moves from animals to humans—as in bird flue or swine flu.

 

fictional diseases
The more realistic your story line, the more realistic your disease should be. For inspiration, check out Inverse Culture.

 

Bottom line: Consider the advantages of deadly diseases. As long as people fear death, they will push protagonists to the edge, and that’s a good thing.

 

Read this Book!

our souls at night kent haruf
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is incredible. It’s low-key, but the operational definition of a page-turner. It opens with Addie Moore calling Louis Waters and inviting him to sleep with her. The twist is that they are seventy-something widow(er)s, and there’s no explicit sex. They defy the town gossips and family opposition. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “A fine and poignant novel that demonstrates that our desire to love and be loved does not dissolve with age.”

 

Kent Haruf is a best selling novelist. But this is the first book of his I have read. I literally couldn’t put it down. Haruf has a spare style—like Hemingway, without the macho. It’s a fast read, but you might want to linger. It’s truly gripping.

Food and Fiction

I was sitting in my recliner, much as I am now, sipping iced decaff coffee and leafing through catalogues from discount booksellers. (My favorites among these are Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller and Daedalus Books.)

three catalogs from booksellers, bargain books and deadalus books
Catalogs from discount booksellers

After ordering more books than I have shelf-space for—about half cookbooks for a vegan kitchen and half books I think will be useful writing references, such as Funerals to Die For—my thoughts drifted, as they are wont to do. I’ve been collecting cookbooks since long before I started writing fiction. Over the years, I’ve donated and gifted hundreds of cookbooks and mysteries. Even bookcases in every room of the house except the bathroom weren’t enough!

As best I can remember, my first connection between fiction and food was the Rex Stout mystery series featuring Nero Wolf. I’ve had the The Nero Wolf Cook Book so long I can’t remember.

Cook books for Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Nero Wolf
Cookbooks for Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Nero Wolf

I became enamored with Sherlock Holmes in college. But Dorothy L. Sayers is probably my all-time favorite mystery writer. She didn’t make a big deal about food in her Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane books. Still, I had to have The Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook.

Perhaps mystery writers are especially attracted to food. Think poison? These two books are especially appealing to me.

two books for mystery writers , A Taste of Murder and Cook With Malice Domestic
Mystery writers’ cookbooks

More than one mystery has taken up a food theme. Perhaps the best known is Diane Mott Davidson. She’s written 17 novels featuring Goldy Schulz, a small town caterer who solves mysteries on the sides. Goldy Schulz also has a cookbook, although I haven’t seen it.

Of course, food isn’t solely the purview of mystery writers. See for yourself.

books and food connection from Margaret Atwood and Deal Wells
Non-mystery writers and food

Book covers for "The Romance of Food" and "The Zane Grey Cookbook"

And as in all fan activities, Jane Austen leads the pack. I don’t have them, but look for The Jane Austen Cookbook, Cooking With Jane Austen, Jane Austen and Food, Tea with Jane Austen, Tea With the Bennets, Dinner With Mr. Darcy, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew.

And the options are never-ending. Consider A Feast of Words, for Lovers of Food & Fiction by Anna Shapiro. It includes excerpts from 25 novels, from Jane Austen to Alice Munro. Shapiro comments on the food scenes and includes her own menus and recipes inspired by each work. Eat Memory: Great Writers at the Table, edited by Amanda Hesser comes from her work as the New York Times Magazine‘s food editor. In this book she presents 26 food memories from leading writers, and the recipes they involve.

If you are more into the words than the food, consider this slim volume: Food Tales: A Literary Menu of Mouthwatering Masterpieces. It presents 8 stories, including “A Vicomte’s Breakfast” by Alexandre Dumas, “The Luncheon” by W. Somerset Maugham, and “Tortillas and Beans” by John Steinbeck.

Once you start on writing and food, it’s a short step to food writers. One of my favorites is M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf. She wrote it in 1942, the point being to cooking during the WWII food rationing.

book spine of "How to Cook a Wolf" by M.F.K. Fisher
How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher
inscription from M.F.K Fisher's "How to Cook a Wolf," "There's a whining at the threshold, There's a scratching at the floor..."
From M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf

But enough! There must be an end somewhere!

Your Links Between Food and Fiction

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Don’t collect cookbooks? Do you have a collection that’s taking up your house?