order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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The Art of Odd-Fish by DarkshireWarlock


Jo in her Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit Armor, (c) 2008 by DarkshireWarlock

Fiona in her Ichthala, the All-Devouring Mother Armor, (c) 2008 by DarkshireWarlock


(Images copyright (c) 2008 DarkshireWarlock)

I was a big Star Wars fan as a kid. As part of my obsession, I loved poring over the Art of Star Wars books, which revealed the production team’s initial concept drawings for the movies’ aliens and weaponry — many of which were wilder and more interesting than what actually made it onto the screen.

So imagine my delight when I got to see concept drawings based on my own book! Back in October, my Google Alert for Odd-Fish brought DarkshireWarlock to my attention, when she and her friends on were inventing their own Eldritch City gods on DeviantArt. I mentioned her in the Odd-Fish article in the Chicago Reader a couple weeks ago, and we’ve been in touch since.

But, back to DarkshireWarlock’s pictures (posted above)! They’re fantastic! Here we have Jo and Fiona outfitted in ceremonial armor for their climactic duel at the Dome of Doom. Dueling tradition requires that each duelist costume themselves as one of the 144,444 gods of Eldritch City. Jo (on the left) is dressed as Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit; Fiona (on the right) is dressed as Ichthala, the All-Devouring Mother.

Right away the first thing I liked about these pictures are their anime style, which puts me in the mood for a kinetic action sequence. I also appreciated that DarkshireWarlock took the trouble to figure out what would make practical battle armor — in the book, Ichthala is described as a shapeless blob of tentacles and mouths, but DarkshireWarlock wisely streamlined Fiona’s costume into something sleeker and scarier. (And those dead, blank red eyes! Masterstroke!) The bold variety of colors in Fiona’s costume make a good contrast with Jo’s various subtle shadings of silvery fur. And I love that set, determined expression on Jo’s face. (Click on the pictures to read the artist’s own description of her choices and process.)

Thanks, DarkshireWarlock, for making Odd-Fish come alive for me visually! It’s always been my regret that I can’t draw at all. Seeing these drawings — along with Paul Hornschemeier’s cover and of course John Meyers’s cover — has been one of the marvelous perks of the experience of publishing Odd-Fish.

The Strange Ship


I took my first stab at writing a book in November 1980. I called it The Strange Ship. I was very excited to finish it. Remembering childhood is tricky, but I vividly recall laying on my bedroom floor, drawing the cover. I carefully traced around a quarter to make sure the planets were round.

In my vain, self-indulgent way, I’ve decided to put The Strange Ship on this blog. (What’s the Internet for, if not vain self-indulgence?) Thanks to Cynthia for scanning it in. To make it easier to read, I’ve typed the text below each page and tidied up the spelling. (As to why the two nameless heroes are called “money men,” that’s anyone’s guess. Roving alien accountants?)

Anyway — after twenty-eight years of sitting at the bottom of a box — my first book, The Strange Ship!

The Strange Ship -- Cover

The cover.

The Strange Ship -- Title Page

The title page.

A long time ago, moneymen explored outer space.

A long time ago, moneymen explored outer space.

They found a ghost ship. They went inside to look. They saw a big creature. One moneyperson screamed in terror. The other one shot the creature.

They found a ghost ship. They went inside to look. They saw a big creature. One moneyperson screamed in terror. The other one shot the creature.

The money man turned around and didn't see his buddy. His droid companion, 5-0-6, followed him as he disappeared down the hallway. 5-0-6 met another droid as they rolled in a opposite direction and now the money person was alone.

The money man turned around and didn’t see his buddy. His droid companion, 5-0-6, followed him as he disappeared down the hallway. 5-0-6 met another droid as they rolled in a opposite direction and now the money person was alone.

The money person saw a secret passageway. He opened it and saw a creature in a black clope and with a sword. The money person shot at it but was no use.

The money person saw a secret passageway. He opened it and saw a creature in a black clope and with a sword. The money person shot at it but was no use.

'You captured my friend!' said the money person. 'Right, 5-0-6?' he turned. There was nothing. No 5-0-6 was there either. Then he knew he was alone. He shot the lazer beam through the mysterious head.

“You captured my friend!” said the money person. “Right, 5-0-6?” he turned. There was nothing. No 5-0-6 was there either. Then he knew he was alone. He shot the lazer beam through the mysterious head.

It was time to get the prisoner out. The money person went to look through the cells then he found the money person but not only him - there was 5-0-6 too! They headed for the money ship but some creatures blocked them off!

It was time to get the prisoner out. The money person went to look through the cells then he found the money person but not only him – there was 5-0-6 too! They headed for the money ship but some creatures blocked them off!

More strange sights appeared as these moneymen scramble their way through the hallways and then big, big, big creatures came out.

More strange sights appeared as these moneymen scramble their way through the hallways and then big, big, big creatures came out.

Carziperes, one of the giant creatures, had a tail like a devil and had a big trunk he didn't use often. He used antennaes to contact with things far away.

Carziperes, one of the giant creatures, had a tail like a devil and had a big trunk he didn’t use often. He used antennaes to contact with things far away.

Dipozipers was like a Diplosaurus the dinosaur. It had two antennaes but it had no protection.

Dipozipers was like a Diplosaurus the dinosaur. It had two antennaes but it had no protection.

Zarzit had antennaes, a strange head (that was protected by armor), a feather for luck and sharp toes. All except Dipozipers were fast and ready for attack.

Zarzit had antennaes, a strange head (that was protected by armor), a feather for luck and sharp toes. All except Dipozipers were fast and ready for attack.

Well, the droid 5-0-6 wandered off to see what was in store for them. It was not long before Carziperes blew the droid to pieces.

Well, the droid 5-0-6 wandered off to see what was in store for them. It was not long before Carziperes blew the droid to pieces.

One of the moneymen found the blasted pieces. He forget what in heaven's sake the droid looked like. These moneymen were always prepared for an emergency. He got his Kleenex box out and emptied the Kleenex, then put the parts in the box.

One of the moneymen found the blasted pieces. He forget what in heaven’s sake the droid looked like. These moneymen were always prepared for an emergency. He got his Kleenex box out and emptied the Kleenex, then put the parts in the box.

'I'll bring this to the ship,' he said as he put the parts in the box. When both moneymen met, the other one looked confused. 'What a mess!' he said.

“I’ll bring this to the ship,” he said as he put the parts in the box. When both moneymen met, the other one looked confused. “What a mess!” he said.

'We'll take this to the ship.' 'That's what I was planning to say,' said the moneyman who was holding the box.

“We’ll take this to the ship.” “That’s what I was planning to say,” said the moneyman who was holding the box.

As they got into the ship, the moneyperson that was holding the box almost sneezed. 'The Kleenex!' he put the box down and sneezed out the window.

As they got into the ship, the moneyperson that was holding the box almost sneezed. “The Kleenex!” he put the box down and sneezed out the window.

Then he started up the ship and flew off. In the pepper compartment, a hatch flew open. The pepper came out into the strange ship.

Then he started up the ship and flew off. In the pepper compartment, a hatch flew open. The pepper came out into the strange ship.

Everyone sneezed in the ship. They all wanted at least one piece of Kleenex that was on the floor.

Everyone sneezed in the ship. They all wanted at least one piece of Kleenex that was on the floor.

Then they sneezed so powerful the whole ship exploded. 'We did it!' said one money person. The other one said, 'Did what?' 'The ship had a self-destruction!' 'You mean a self-sneeze!' said the other.

Then they sneezed so powerful the whole ship exploded. “We did it!” said one money person. The other one said, “Did what?” “The ship had a self-destruction!” “You mean a self-sneeze!” said the other.

The Strange Ship -- The End

Yes, possibly the greatest closing line in history.

Reading this again, it’s easy to spot where I borrowed from movies I loved like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Black Hole. As for the sneezing and Kleenex — I don’t know why that’s so central to the climax. Perhaps I had a cold.

Later on I also wrote The Strange Ship: Part II, but I won’t inflict that on the world yet. (UPDATE: I decided to go ahead and inflict it on the world. Click here for The Strange Ship: Part II!)

P.S. My friend Gina Anderson interviewed me for www.jetwit.com last week! Gina and I were both in Nara, Japan on the JET program at the same time. (“Jetwit” is a group for JETs who are writers, interpreters, and translators.)

Check out the interview to learn my first choice for my epitaph!

The Sultan’s Envenomed Garden

Click here to skip the politics and go right to the Halloween stuff.

When I started this blog, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about politics. Not because I don’t care — I’m actually addicted to political blogs. I’m just aware that whatever I write about politics, you can find the same thing better-argued, more colorfully written, and more informative elsewhere.

Still, it would be ridiculous to post today without saying how happy I am that Barack Obama has been elected President. And not a squeaker, either. This was decisive.

Heather and I considered going to the rally in Grant Park last night, but we went to an election party at Brooke and Fritz’s instead. I’m glad we did. I actually got to hear the speeches, and anyway Heather’s pregnancy is starting to make her tired early. Champagne flowed, CNN holograms glowed, tears were shed, and we all decided to attend the inauguration together (Fritz’s family has a place in DC).

I was living in Japan when Bush was re-elected in 2004. I felt like I was in that nightmare when you’re running upstairs as fast as you can, yet still getting dragged backwards and downwards to the awful thing at the bottom of the stairs. The day after it was announced, I was walking to work in Yoshino when a gnarled ojii-san buttonholed me in the middle of the street, scolding me in Japanese for re-electing Bush. I tried to tell him I hadn’t voted for Bush. He wasn’t having it. He had to vent his fury on someone.

I hope that ojii-san, if he’s still around, finds some American to celebrate with today.

Speaking of Japan — when Heather and I lived there, we really missed throwing Halloween parties. So when we returned to Chicago, we got back into Halloween with a vengeance. Last year our Halloween party was “Chinese Underwater Ghost Ocean”; this year it was “The Sultan’s Envenomed Garden.”

The invitation read:


Prepare for a FURIOUS DJINN to spirit you away in FIERY RAPTURE to an oasis of AGONIZING PLEASURES — and ECSTATIC TORTURE!

DANCE for the pleasure of the PITILESS SULTAN!

FEAST on his DIABOLICAL FRUITS!

IMBIBE his INTOXICATING MIASMA!

SUBMIT to the LASCIVIOUS CARESSES of the UNSEEN TURK!

The SULTAN’S ENVENOMED GARDEN is renowned throughout the Caliphate for its UNSPEAKABLE BACCHANALS.

Once a year, even the most UPRIGHT SHEIKH, the most INCORRUPTIBLE PADISHAH, is required by FATWA to cast off all VAIN PIETY and indulge in the TERRIFYING DELIGHTS of the Sultan’s ARBORETUM OF ATROCITY!

Quoth the SULTAN:

“Only one who has TASTED the WICKEDNESS OF THE WORLD in all its ENGORGED DEPRAVITY can fully comprehend GODLY VIRTUE. Thus, on one day of the year, let us SULLY OURSELVES WITH FROLICS. Let us DISGUISE OURSELVES as MONSTROSITIES, drink FORBIDDEN ELIXIRS, and SLITHER AND TWITCH OUR BODIES to BARBAROUS DRUM-BEATS, so that we may more fully understand THE GREAT SATAN.”

This edict from the Sultan MUST BE OBEYED, on pain of BEHEADING!

We constructed the Sultan’s Envenomed Garden out of cardboard, colored paper, and weeds we’d pulled out of vacant lots and spray-painted various colors. It was the sort of party where Marie Antoinette screams bolts of faerie fire at Oompa-Loompas on the dance floor.

It was the sort of party where lizards and judicial apes could put aside their differences, if only for a night.

Best of all, it was the sort of party where, in a leap of inspiration, Dark Yellow and his lady Cynthia dressed as Sam and Monika from Brilliant Pebbles.

They nailed it. Cynthia wore a shoe on her head and strapped a stuffed animal to her leg. Dark Yellow apparently raided Sam’s celebrated collection of over one hundred fanny packs. The real Sam and Monika on the left. Dark Yellow and Cynthia on the right.

Sam and Monika didn’t get the joke at first. Monika even asked Dark Yellow, “You kind of look like Sam. What are you supposed to be?” When understanding finally hit, Sam began giggling hysterically — I’ve never seen him laugh so hard.

Other favorite costumes: Dan The Strongman (who whirled his barbells around on the dance floor like a baton-twirler), the Devil Is In The Details, a cockroach, a trans-plant, and the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper from Ghostbusters.

The Gatekeeper is Liz, who shreds at Guitar Hero and is the manager at the Borders on Michigan Avenue. It’s thanks to her I had that awesome Order of Odd-Fish event there back in October. She put out impulse-buy copies of Odd-Fish at every cash register, set up a huge Odd-Fish display in the window, and covered an entire wall with Odd-Fish books in the young adult section. She sewed that red dress herself, by the way. Is there nothing Liz can’t do? (Also: I firmly maintain that the Keymaster, Liz’s boyfriend Brad, can out-Michael Cera Michael Cera any day.)

Speaking of Michael Cera — here’s a brilliant undead Juno couple.

As disturbing as that is, the most disturbing costume was Philip’s. (Philip can be relied upon for this sort of thing.) He wore a simple black suit and a terrifying antique mask of unknown provenance.

That’s his girlfriend Melissa; she was dressed, adorably, as a cupcake.

Philip found this mask in an odds-and-ends shop. He had haggled for it, but in the end he couldn’t bargain the price down low enough, so he gave up and walked away. This caused the proprietor to run after him and give him the mask, free of charge. Some of our friends conclude this means the mask must be cursed. I believe the proprietor understood Philip would give it a good home.

Thanks to Nathan for DJing, too! He dressed as his own five-year-old self — that is, he shaved his arms, shaved his legs, and other than that Superman T-shirt, he’s wearing nothing but tighty-whities. Therefore, we shall run this photo of him seated.

We also celebrated Heather’s, Megin’s, and Paul Hornschemeier’s birthdays. Megin just successfully defended her dissertation in psychology (she’s the one dressed as a Rorschach inkblot). Paul always wears a costume of something dressed as something else — last year I believe he was an ape dressed as a spaceman — this year he was a kind of clown dressed as a dinosaur. It had a rather Skeksis feel.

I’ll leave you with this — the moment when the party turned into a David Lynch movie. Thanks for the nightmares, Philip.



P.S. Check out Ed Koziarski’s fantastic article in this week’s Chicago Reader about The Order of Odd-Fish!