order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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The Odd-Fish art of Breanna Bliss

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UPDATE! To my astonishment, people are actually bidding on the chance to have dinner with me dressed as Audrey Niffenegger. As of this writing, this instance was bid up to $30, and this one is bid up to $20. So that’s $50 raised for the Evanston Public Library. As far as transvestites go, I’m a pretty cheap date. Or a cheap, pretty date. Everyone wins?

I still haven’t posted all the art from April’s spectacular Order of Odd-Fish fan art gallery show. Here’s three late entries from Breanna Bliss, a.k.a. “I Was Bibliomaniac” on DeviantArt. Above: a kind of LP album cover for a theoretical Odd-Fish album? I’d love to hear Nora, Ian, Jo and Audrey singing in four-part harmony. I also like the Eldritch City fashions: waistcoat-centric for the ladies, and a cropped collar for Ian. Bravo!

Breanna got in touch with me a while ago and we had a spirited email exchange—indeed, she’s a hilarious emailer. When I asked if I could put her art in the Odd-Fish gallery show, she wrote back, awash in italics and bolds, “I feel so unbelievably happy that I am simply OOZING bliss from every single pore. Thank you very much then! You do that, and my astral projection will watch, tears of utter joy streaming down my face. OR, IN THIS CASE, MY SOUL’S FACE. I anticipate they will fill several buckets, two (2) Hefty bags, and—just maybe—ONE (1) KORSAKOV DUODENUM. I will then put these tears in five (5) aerosol cans and mist myself and anyone else present with the tears as I sing a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Dancing in the Rain’.

Needless to say, receiving emails like this makes me extremely happy.

Also what makes me happy: Breanna’s collection of Odd-Fish-inspired sketches:

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I love the unwieldy absurdity of Jo’s Hat of Honor (which, according to Breanna, includes “a watermelon, a lemon, a biscuitsword, a Cavendish head, an Aznath Silver Kitten of Deceit, a Ken Kiang symbol, a fish vomiting a lodge, an Awesome Face, a pie, and the Belgian Prankster’s goggles.”). Jo’s slightly peeved expression is priceless.

Also FTW: Korsakov and Sefino “gallivanting,” Korsakov enjoying his digestion, Nora enjoying her conspiracy theory, and the demon not enjoying potato chips. And it’s all done in such a lively, bustling style. Great work! (I also like how, whenever Breanna draws Nora, she always hides Nora’s hands. It’s irresistibly cute.)

Here’s one more sketch from Breanna Bliss, from the Mr.-Cavendish’s-flying-head scene (By the way: Breanna Bliss? Brilliant name. With a moniker like that, you can’t go too far wrong in life):

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I think it’s cool how Breanna takes excerpts from the text and wraps them around different elements of the illustration. Few have attempted to draw the Dust Creek Cafe scene—I don’t know why! Breanna gives it the treatment it deserves: the blissful look on Cavendish’s face, Jo’s nonplussed startled gawping, and the Belgian Prankster’s mischievous chuckling, all splendidly done.

Thanks, Breanna! When the art is this good, I don’t mind it being a little late!

I am Audrey Niffenegger

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My wife used to work as a reference librarian at the Evanston Public Library. Now the Evanston Library system is in trouble, and they might have to close some branches. (Heather leaves, the joint falls apart.)

Not if the Evanston Public Library Friends have anything to say about it! Fellow writer Margo Gremmler tipped me off to their 2010 Armchair Auction “to raise money in an effort to keep our neighborhood libraries open, and their services available to the community.”

Bestselling author and Chicagoan Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry) has donated “an enchanting evening with Audrey Niffenegger” for bidding. “Ms. Niffenegger will be your host, as you and eleven other lucky winners enjoy a wonderful dinner at the famed Russian Tea Time,” reads the item description.

Never let it be said that Audrey Niffenegger single-handedly saved Evanston libraries while I stood idly by! So I’m offering my own item for auction: er, Dinner With Audrey Niffenegger. From the auction website:

Dinner with The Time Traveler’s Wife author, Audrey Niffenegger (as played by James Kennedy)

Face it: you can’t afford dinner with Audrey Niffenegger. But I, James Kennedy, the author of The Order of Odd-Fish, will pretend to be Audrey Niffenegger.

I promise it will be just as good. In fact, better! I’ll out-Niffenegger Niffenegger!

True, I haven’t read any of her books (though I’ve always really meant to). So I promise that before our dinner I will read all of her works, plus her Wikipedia page.

Ms. Niffenegger promises you an “enchanted evening” at Russian Tea Time. I’d do the same, but have you seen the prices there? $24 for beef stroganoff?! Jesus! Let’s just go to Margie’s Candies on Western instead.

This is going to be the least popular item in the auction. The library will somehow lose money through this. I don’t know how, but they will. If you actually want to bid on this, please do.

I know what you’re thinking: “James, you’re too manly. How can you possibly impersonate a lady?” To which I respond, clearly you have not reckoned with my svelte legs and willowy hips. I might not be able to play a lady, but putting Ms. Niffenegger aside for a moment, I do make a luscious slattern:

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It was an adventurous time in my life. I was exploring.

A Glorious Fish, and Korsakov’s Light-Up Digestion

Hey! This weekend I’m appearing at the 5th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival in Rochester, NY with such YA luminaries as Laurie Halse Anderson, Holly Black, Barry Lyga, and yes, the shameless Terry Trueman, who I reveal here, still owes me $134.43.

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Here are two of the strangest, most spectacular pieces of art in the Order of Odd-Fish fan art gallery show in April. To the left, I join Georgia Greenberg with her fish that ate up Korsakov’s plane and later spewed it into Eldritch City. On the right, by Megin Wardle, a model of Colonel Korsakov’s digestion, complete with oracular messages!

Let’s take a closer look at Georgia’s fish:

Georgia stretched iridescent, semi-transparent green glittery fabric over a copper frame to create the fish. And inside its belly (hanging on fish line) we can spy Korsakov’s plane and the Odd-Fish lodge! We hung this in the middle of the gallery, and it was a fantastic centerpiece of the show.

In this shot, you can actually see Korsakov’s plane and the Odd-Fish lodge (which says “Odd-Fish Ostriches Only” on the roof):

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I met Georgia Greenberg through my protegee Freya. The whole Greenberg family is my personal version of The Incredibles. The father Mark was in one of my favorite bands from the 90s, the Coctails, and now runs Mayfair Recordings, making music for the likes of the Cartoon Network, occasionally helping record a legend like Mavis Staples, and putting out albums of great children’s music. Mark’s wife Anne-Marie is an artist (here’s her blog, and you can find her work on Etsy) and Georgia’s brothers August and Frankie are a ball. Here’s a video of when they made sushi out of candy. Can the Greenbergs please adopt me?

Here Mark animates the fish sculpture to the theme of Jaws:



Next: Megin Wardle’s piece, entitled An Illuminated Scale Model of Colonel Korsakov’s Wondrous Digestion. This one caused many a gasp of wonderment at the show.

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Upon opening Korsakov’s illuminated digestion, one finds four spools from which one may unroll ticker-tape of its infallible advice. Here are what the four spools of advice said:

1. Hark! Peril yonder! Plum pudding required to ascertain coordinates.

2. Intestines decalibrated. Message unclear. Need more ham.

3. Bountiful boons abound. Fancy meats recommended to bolster advantage.

4. Emergency! Surrounded by enemies! Excellent time for eggs.

It is not often that an author is given the opportunity to eavesdrop on his own character’s digestion. What a fantastic, strange, and brilliant piece! I love the drooping, trailing intestines, the delicate papier-mache of the stomach itself, and the supernatural glow of the light. I am currently cherishing this as the World’s Awesomest Lamp at my house.

I’ve been friends with Megin for nearly ten years. Totally coincidentally, in the past year or so, we both ended up working at the University of Chicago. I maintain the software that keeps track of grant proposals and awards, but Megin’s an actual scientist (a Ph.D!) who studies the social effects of alcohol on humans. For many years Megin has brought volunteers into her lab, given them alcohol, and then asked them questions. In the name of science!

Megin has attended my previous Dome of Doom parties, and so she came prepared to fight. Megin came costumed as a School of Fighting Jellyfish, and went quite far in the tournament. Here she is:

Thank you, Megin and Georgia! I’m lucky to know you, and I’m honored you made such amazing, mind-bending art for the show.