order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


I am appearing with Lemony Snicket on 11/1! Or: “November Spawned a Monster”

October 25, 2013

kennedy with snicket polyp

On Friday, November 1, for the Chicago Humanities Festival, I will be following the presentation of Lemony Snicket of the “Series of Unfortunate Events” series. Details and ticket info here. You’ve got to come to this, it will be spectacular!

I wrote the below to promote the event for the Chicago Humanities Festival blog. Cross-posting here.

Friday, November 1 will be the LAST PUBLIC APPEARANCE of Lemony Snicket, a.k.a. Daniel Handler—and, I am frankly relieved to add, MYSELF.

After Mr. Snicket finishes his presentation for the Chicago Humanities Festival about his latest (indeed last) book in his “All The Wrong Questions” series, and I follow up with my own presentation while he autographs books, Mr. Snicket and I will both be WHISKED BY ARMORED AMBULANCE to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where a certain uncomfortable and arguably unnecessary SURGICAL OPERATION shall be, at last, REVERSED.

Whether mere relief, or oblivion, or ACTUAL ARMAGEDDON, will be the result, remains to be seen; but one fact can be asserted with confidence: at midnight on November 1, both Lemony Snicket and James Kennedy will CEASE TO BE; and something new—perhaps monstrous, perhaps incomprehensible, perhaps APOCALYPTIC IN ITS OTHERWORLDLY PURITY—will come to pass.

I have not seen Lemony Snicket since 1997, when the HORRIFIC PROCEDURE was first performed.

I hope you can grant me that it is understandable that Mr. Snicket and I would be hesitant to spend much time in the same room as each other after that operation, since up to then we had spent so much of our lives together, indeed all of it, we were inseparable, literally so, physically one flesh, that is to say, there is no point in hiding it any longer, let us all make a clean break, put all the cards on the table, a full disclosure, LEMONY SNICKET IS A KIND OF GROWTH I HAVE EXHIBITED SINCE INFANCY, an errant polyp, a dermatological curiosity, a kind of SENTIENT TUMOR I had that, far from causing me discomfort or inconvenience, provided companionship throughout my difficult childhood.

Medically improbable and yet indisputably real, this homonculoid Lemony Snicket would intermittently manifest on my dermis as a kind of itinerant swelling, a lumpish excrescence—a fully adult, well-dressed, miniaturized LITERARY GENTLEMAN sprouting at some times on my forehead, other times on my neck, or my back, or elsewhere; this Lemony Snicket polyp, I hasten to stress, was not a hindrance to me, but rather a blessing, a BOSOM FRIEND and BOON COMPANION.

Throughout my otherwise lonely youth, this cystlike “Lemony Snicket” and I would have long, intense conversations, he and I would regale each other with invented stories, indeed we workshopped the entire 13-book “Series of Unfortunate Events” series together, though I always believed the stories would remain our private mythology, an inside joke just for the two of us; fate, of course, took a different course; but whenever I reread “The Bad Beginning,” or “The Ersatz Elevator,” or any of the excellent books in that series, I cannot help but smile, and muse upon the childhood experiences that directly inspired my tumor’s stories; indeed, I was proud of my Lemony Snicket tumor; Lemony Snicket, I firmly believed, and still do, is THE MOST TALENTED TUMOR IN AMERICA.

Those were the happy years. But my parents, perhaps understandably concerned that I should have a small writer growing out of my body, perhaps fretting that I spent too much time talking to him, and not consorting with my playfellows, decided to have him excised. My parents knew I would never agree to this, but an UNSCRUPULOUS ONCOLOGIST was consulted, and one day I came home from school, and was offered by my nervous-seeming mother, as an after-school snack, A “BERRY BLAST” CAPRI SUN LOADED WITH PROPOFOL AND METHOHEXITAL—when I woke up, I was strapped to a surgical table, and realized immediately that Lemony Snicket and I were no longer one creature.

I howled for my loss—and for the loss of America’s innocence.

For a time, we endured. Lemony Snicket and I tried to keep in touch, but the pain of being physically separate was too keen. He went his way, and I went mine.

Lemony Snicket went on to become a BESTSELLING AUTHOR.

I simmered for decades in a kind of toxic miasma of shame, jealousy, and THWARTED NOSTALGIA.

But recently both Lemony Snicket and I have been suffering parallel unexplainable symptoms. Both of us, unbeknownst to each other, spontaneously SPEAKING IN TONGUES—simultaneously—the exact same words—in recondite languages from Etruscan to hexadecimal. Both of us, exhibiting sporadic INVOLUNTARY LEVITATION. Our fingernails and toenails, in tandem, growing abnormally long and sharp, literally inches in a minute, twisting and curving into TERRIFYING, EVER-LENGTHENING SPIRALS. Sudden pustules that ooze a VENOMOUS HALLUCINOGEN that allows us to see exactly what the other is doing at any moment. Both of us are followed everywhere we go by LEGIONS OF CHITTERING INSECTS, that seem irresistibly attracted to some pheromone we are spewing out, such that neither Lemony Snicket nor I can walk down a city street without entire buildings-full of cockroaches, centipedes, and beetles wriggling out and scuttling after us, veritable seas of ENTOMOLOGICAL HORROR. Both of our skeletons slowly turning into RUBBER, our internal organs melting into an UNDIFFERENTIATED SLURRY of radioactive grease. Both of us sneezing out libraries’-worth of literal letters and numbers that, arranged in order of appearance, spell out HORRIFYING PROPHECIES. Both of us falling asleep for weeks at a stretch, and experiencing identical feverish dreams of a chanted curse, a world-cleansing fire, and the birth of a monstrous organism whose VERY SHAPE IS GIBBERING MADNESS.

At last we both submitted ourselves to weeks of rigorous testing by elite biologists, psychologists, and theologians, and the verdict is clear: unless Lemony Snicket and I are reunited, grafted together again, RECOMBINED INTO ONE FLESH, one organism—we will both wither, and perish, NOT WITH A WHIMPER BUT WITH A BANG, a fiery, Earth-rattling paroxysm equivalent to a dozen hydrogen bombs. For there can be no James Kennedy without Lemony Snicket; there can be no Lemony Snicket without James Kennedy; we are eternally linked in a SYMBIOTIC ENTANGLEMENT.

And yet no expert can predict what new entity will arise from our reunion on November 1—yes, fittingly, the “DAY OF THE DEAD.” The experts only know it cannot be a repeat of the previous arrangement, not merely a small Lemony Snicket growing out of me again, but a second coming—they know that, whatever takes place when he and I are reunited, on the surgeon’s table, when Lemony Snicket and I look into each other’s eyes one final time as separate entities, and our genetic codes again merge, when our CONGRUENT VISCERA once again lock into place, and THRUM WITH ELDRITCH ENERGY—the experts only know that, at that moment, something entirely unprecedented will be introduced into the world, that is neither just Lemony Snicket nor myself or any combination but an SUBLIMELY UNHOLY GESTALT or SERAPHIC ARCHWRAITH that may be the end of us all, or our salvation, or some fiery truth, or a planet-eating brain, or a vaporous ogre, or a mountain of disembodied lips shrieking blasphemous incantations, or indeed some nightmare theorem from the back of the world relentlessly and hideously solving itself through the medium of our very flesh, and its conclusion being . . . some rough beast, its hour come round at last.

For on November 1, the falcon shall at last hear the falconer, Lemony Snicket. You and I are turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, towards the center that holds us all, our blood-dimmed tide is now a melancholy, long, withdrawing roar; everywhere the ceremony of innocence shall be unleashed, as you and I, incarnated once more, into one being, with a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, shall cause darkness to drop again, for twenty centuries of stony sleep.

I will see Lemony Snicket—and you, my friends—one final time, on November 1. And God have mercy on our souls.

I will be doing my presentation after Lemony Snicket (while he is signing books). Again, it’s on Friday, November 1. Details and ticket info here!

More Odd-Fish art. And new stories coming!

September 25, 2013

aa Belgian Prankster by VremyaControl EXPORT aa Sefino by VremyaControl EXPORT

Back in the saddle after a two-monthblog hiatus! But lots to show for it. Two very long short stories WRITTEN and DONE. One of them 10,000 words, the other 20,000 words. Another short story almost done. That one’s going to be 50,000 words, so it’s more like a novella. It feels good! Also, I’ll be reading the first chapter of my novel-in-progress The Magnificent Moots on Tuesday, October 1 at the “Glitter & Mayhem” edition of Tuesday Funk, a reading series at the Hopleaf in Chicago. Stuff is happening!

But wait, I’m burying the lede! New Order of Odd-Fish fan art alert! Look these striking portraits of The Belgian Prankster and Sefino by VremyaControl on DeviantArt, above. I love the maniacal, unbalanced glare in the Belgian Prankster’s eyes, his jagged teeth, his monstrous ears . . . and that flaming kitten Hindenburg is a delicious detail! And let’s not forget this exquisite Sefino, a scrupulously accurate sketch of what the cockroach butler looked like at the Founder’s Day festival, when he “sported white velvet trousers lined with gold braid, furry pink boots, a puffy blouse, and a sombrero covered in hundreds of blinking electronic lights.” Nailed it, VremyaControl! Thanks so much!

But wait, that’s not all! This just came to my attention, courtesy of my niece and all-around-champ Freya. It’s by her friend Declan Ryan, and it’s an illustration of the Odd-Fish lodge in the giant fish’s stomach:

lodge in fish by Declan Ryan

Great work, Declan! I love the vastness of the composition, and the incongruousness of the lodge in the weirdly austere innards of the fish, how it feels so dwarfed and yet out-of-place and yet utterly normal. Love it, and I hope to see more!

Speaking of hoping to see more, here’s something special from Lucie, who used to live in Chicago but is now in Florida. It’s one of the armored flying ostriches ridden by the knights of Eldritch City:


Lucie tells me she’s working on an Order of Odd-Fish movie and it’ll probably be animated. This is definitely a strong beginning! I like your style, Lucie, and I hope to see more soon!

Thanks for all the great art, everyone!

More Odd-Fish art of Jacob von Borg (and his sisters!)

July 8, 2013

Busy here! Just returned from a family weekend in South Bend to celebrate my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary. It was a three-day party with what seemed like most of my wife Heather’s parents’ friends and family in attendance (including my own folks!). All of my parents-in-law’s children, grandchildren, and children’s spouses did a show in which we performed songs that were #1 on their anniversary, July 6, throughout the years. Wisely, I was not called upon to sing, but had more of a narrator role, or like Our Town‘s Stage Manager. In any case: a lot of fun!

I’m also smack in the middle of teaching a 90-Second Newbery filmmaking class at Northwestern University for their Center for Talent Development. It’s a kind of camp for gifted kids. I’ll also be teaching a science fiction and fantasy writing class there, just like I did last year and the year before.

But wait, I’m burying the lede! What are these brilliant pieces of Order of Odd-Fish that grace this post? Well, some of you might remember a few posts ago, how I highlighted the art of Jacob von Borg, an Odd-Fish fan and 90-Second Newbery filmmaker who wowed me with his character concept art and illustrations for chapters 1-3. Today Jacob’s back with illustrations for chapters 4-6. What’s more, his sisters have contributed great work too! I’m amazed and grateful!

I love Jacob’s take on Chapter 4. Scroll back up to admire it afresh! It’s from when Lily Larouche’s ruby palace is filled with hallucinogenic insecticide and Jo and Korsakov seem to multiply before Sefino’s eyes. Great jittery, striking composition here, and Korsakov’s mustaches are to die for!

Jacob also did splendid illustrations for Chapter 5 (about the boredom of Ken Kiang as he considers becoming evil; love the double-silhouette that underlines his dilemma) and Chapter 6 (Korsakov’s shot-down plane being eaten by a giant fish; Jacob really gives a sense of scale here well, and the sun setting right above is the perfect touch).

Jacob also got his sisters Hanna and Alex to read the book too, and they also sent along some really cool art! Here are their two interpretations of Jo (Alex’s on the left, Hanna’s on the right):

Great work! According to Jacob, Hanna was heard to say (spoiler alert!) “WHY, WHY, WHY!?!? WHY DID YOU KILL AUNT LILY!?!?!? WHY!?!?! ANYBODY BUT AUNT LILY!!!!!” and ” I absolutely LOVE what happens to Ken Kiang.” Thanks, Hanna! I absolutely love your art, and Alex’s and Jacob’s!

Let’s end with Alex’s Sefino:

Fantastic! Thanks again, everyone in the von Borg family!

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