order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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“They promised always to treasure the bubble gum man”


I had a ball last night at the Bookslut reading at the Hopleaf. On the recommendation of the Forgotten Books blog, I started the evening with the Hopleaf’s brisket sandwich, and it was hands-down the most delicious brisket I’ve ever tasted.

I also got a chance to meet Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin and Caroline Eick (and Caroline’s arm candy Ryan). They were charming and gracious, especially when I asked Jessa the question I’m sure she’s heard a million times, “So why are you moving to Berlin?” She claimed it’s because she’s secretly Gunter Grass’ lover, and she wants to be with him in his final days. (Just as I suspected.) Thanks, everyone at Bookslut, for allowing me to read!

Thanks also to the other reader of the evening, Christian Moerk, who read some tantalizing passages from his acclaimed novel Darling Jim. During the Q&A, while Christian was answering a question, I leaned on the jukebox, inadvertently causing it to start putting on a record. In a panic I unplugged the jukebox, making myself into an even bigger buffoon. Luckily, it was a forgiving crowd.

I also got to befriend two local fans of The Order of Odd-Fish whom I had hitherto only known online. It turns out they live right around the corner from Heather and me! We immediately began hatching schemes. One of the schemes is so cool that I can’t bring myself to mention it publicly, lest I jinx it. Suffice it to say that we are planning to render one of the Odd-Fish characters in liquid form. Whaaaaat! Yes.

Odd-Fish Week” continues in high style on Murphblog. Today, in Part 3, I talk about my next planned book The Magnificent Moots, I reveal the true source of bad reviews, and share the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on the Internet. (Hint: “I’m Ben Bernanke, and I need your teeth for the Federal Reserve.”)

Speaking of blogs . . . my Odd-Fish Google alert has brought quite a few other interesting blogs to my attention. One of them has a suggestion I wholeheartedly endorse. It’s by Fulbright scholar teaching English in Madrid (who wrote her thesis on Alice in Wonderland, no less). She writes in her blog A Shrewdness of Apes (great name!) that Odd-Fish is “stuffed with symbolism and intriguing themes. Are there any academics out there looking for a kids book to write about? Choose this one. I can’t wait to read the articles that come out of The Order of Odd-Fish.

Finally! Ever since I was a very young child, I’ve been waiting for the ivory tower to catch up with me. Now the gauntlet is thrown. Postmodern literary scholars, queer theorists, postcolonialists, deconstructionists: I’ve created a verdant, blossoming meadow for you to graze. I’ve laid out a mouth-watering feast for you to tear apart with your terrifying steel molars. I’ve run a warm, soapy bath of signifiers for you to splash and paddle and heave about your massive, pale, disconcertingly hairy bodies in. Get interpreting, eggheads! My office hours are inside your brain. Wait, what?

I also was happy to learn about the Tumblr blog Museum of Idiots, which found Odd-Fish “terrifically diverting” but did fault it for minor “absurdity leakage.” No matter; the solution is “you just have to think like a kid. And then, oh boy, will you enjoy this book!” She said “it made me feel very old,” which is funny, because her Tumblr makes me feel the same way. Seriously, it’s updated four or five times a day! Where does she get the time? Anyway, my favorite part of the review was the ending: “I just worry my next read will fall flat in comparison.” This made me quite proud of myself. It’s the highest praise I can think of: to destroy pleasure in every book but mine.

And now on to today’s entry for the Write An Ending For The Strange Ship Part 2 contest. This one, from Jacob T, might be the most casually horrifying and yet mythically resonant entry yet.

The bubblegum monster, once thought of as an enemy, turns out to be a friend. In fact, he is such a great-souled friend that he lays down his life for the moneymen, who must gruesomely devour the bubble gum monster in order to access the switch that, once flipped, will “make everything better.” Never has a deus ex machina come with a heavier price! Not only is the planet healed, but Carziperes miraculously has a new foot, and the Strange Ship aliens and moneymen have become friends.

There is, I dare say, a theological depth here that raises the whole story to a new level. I’ll be pondering this one for a while, Jacob T.

Thanks again, Jacob T. Great work!

My wife is totally pregnant


This blog is kind of like Law and Order.

On Law and Order, you don’t know too much about the police officers’ or attorneys’ personal lives. You just see them getting on with their jobs, immersed in the details of the case. But every once in a while, one cop might say to the other, “Hey, McSnulkin! How’d your daughter’s piano recital go?” And you, as an audience member, are blown away: up until now, you hadn’t known McSnulkin even had a daughter, or indeed any family at all! From this one throwaway line—perhaps never to be followed up—a new, implied world opens. You find yourself wondering about McSnulkin’s daughter while riding the El, probably more than if you actually saw her on the show.

As goes Law and Order, so goes this blog. I’m a man of discretion. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my wife Heather is great with child. That’s Heather in the picture above, with my father-in-law and my niece. Our due date is May 7. She’s fixing to burst any day now. We can’t wait!

Here we are in our more carefree days, back when we lived in Japan.


More good news: tonight I’ll be reading at the Bookslut reading series at the Hopleaf in Chicago. (See the events sidebar for details.) But bad news: it looks like Jessa Crispin, the mastermind behind Bookslut, is leaving Chicago in July to move to Berlin. Too bad. I was looking forward to meeting her.

Nevertheless, I am more than consoled, for The Order of Odd-Fish week continues on Murphblog! Today, in Part 2, we discuss David Lynch’s “Eye of the Duck” theory of art, I reveal my silly reason for not including an acknowledgments page in Odd-Fish, and we see a video of Paul Murphy himself dramatically reading from the book! It’s a must-see. Check it out!

It never rains but it pours. Yesterday Chicagoist also ran a long interview with me, in which we discuss how not studying literature in college helped me as a writer, my pet theory about the Comedian from Watchmen, and where I got the idea of the Belgian Prankster (hint: it has to do with the 1998 incident when Bill Gates got a pie in the face).

Not only that, but the Onion AV Club’s Decider Chicago interviewed me for their “Defend Your Taste” feature. I come off a little feisty here. We discuss the debt modern YA fantasy owes to J.K. Rowling, and how I discovered the best way to get attention for your book is to whimsically insult the beloved and influential.

And now we come to what you’ve been waiting for: more entries to my Write an Ending for The Strange Ship Part II Contest. Today we get to see the fantastic art and stories of Jessica Kosticak and Jade Sherrod.

Jessica first! This one’s got it all: her colorful backgrounds and skillful compositions make the vivid pictures leap out, all the characters are cute and talkative, we get to meet the bubble gum monster again, and there’s even a sly reference to the pepper from The Strange Ship Part I (perhaps pepper is the moneymen’s weapon of choice?!). Wrap it all up with a happy ending, and you’ve got yourself a first-rate story! Take it away, Jessica:


Not to be outdone, Jade Sherrod manages the feat of presenting a vast epic of secret alliances, ruthless ingenuity, and arbitrary tragedy, all within a single page. We learn that the bubblegum monster is actually in league with the giant monsters; we see how he cleverly uses his own gummy substance to repair his allies; but then we also see how the moneymen bungle their way into killing their own robot friend!

The mind reels: in Jade’s telling, the villains help each other out, but the heroes destroy each other. Do these “heroes” really deserve their happy ending? I call Jade’s version a small masterpiece of irony.

Brilliant. And more to come!

Behold Murphblog’s Order of Odd-Fish Week


What a coup! Paul Michael Murphy has declared it Order of Odd-Fish Week” on his blog Murphblog. Every day this week, Paul will run segments of his long, in-depth interview with me.

With a contest! And pictures! And audio of Paul himself reading a selection from The Order of Odd-Fish! Here’s the first installment, from Sunday night, in which Paul and I talk about my road to writing Odd-Fish and getting it published.

Thrill to the Cinderella story of how I met my fantastic agents and editor after years in the wilderness. Gasp to discover how Odd-Fish was nearly tragically cut in half. Be slightly confused by a picture of me talking to a banana while lifting weights.

Interesting coincidence: Paul Michael Murphy lives in Holt, Michigan. I’m from Michigan myself, and when I mentioned to my father that I was being interviewed by a Holt-based blogger, there was a significant pause on the phone. Then he said, “I had a bad experience with Holt.” At first I thought my father was being whimsical. But it turned out he was serious.

My father, unlike me, was a star athlete while growing up. According to him, when his high school team, the Owosso St. Paul Blue Wave, was playing basketball against Holt, the team from Holt kept calling fouls on him even though he’d done nothing wrong, just so they could get him off the court. “I was playing the best basketball of my life then,” he said. “I was so mad. I wasn’t fouling anyone!”

A family grudge against Holt! But what Holt giveth, Holt taketh away—and vice versa? Perhaps Holt, Michigan is somehow, a generation later, repaying its karmic debt to the Kennedy family by featuring me on a Holt-based blog this week.

One can only hope so—for Holt’s sake.

To commemorate Murphblog’s Order of Odd-Fish Week, I, too, plan to blog every day this week. I also have another reason to blog every day: to bring to you more great endings to The Strange Ship: Part II! (If you’re confused, click here to learn more about my writing contest, in which I ask the Internet for assistance in writing the ending to The Strange Ship: Part II, a story I began when I was seven, nearly thirty years ago.)

The two endings to The Strange Ship: Part II that I’m featuring today are from Tom Fairless and Jordan Cooper. Tom and Jordan have two completely different takes on how the story should end—in fact, I’d call them opposite. But both are hilarious and ingenious.

First, let’s look at Tom Fairless’. If you remember, our heroes the moneymen were being pursued by the giant monsters from the Strange Ship known as Carziperes, Diploziperes, and Zarzit. Carziperes had just had his leg blown off. Oh yes, and there was a bubblegum monster earlier in the story. Let’s allow Tom to take it from there:


I love so much about Tom Fairless’ ending—not only how he finds a secret connection between the bubble gum monster and the giant robots, but also how he discovers that “death ray was a disco ball light”—but the thing I like best is that Carziperes somehow immediately acquired a cane when his leg had been blown off only seconds before. These giant robots are nothing if not resourceful!

Jordan Cooper, on the other hand, decided it would be best if everyone just died immediately:


And so The Strange Ship: Part II joins all timeless classics that end when something crashes into a big rock and blows up. Hamlet? The Prince of Denmark hits a rock, blows up. Ulysses? Big rock hits Dublin, blows it up. And when you really think about it, aren’t the complete works of Dickens nothing more than a thousands-page long chronicle of explosions caused by flying rocks?

I think Jordan Cooper has stumbled onto the skeleton key for all of Western literature. Well done, Jordan and Tom!