order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


I am Audrey Niffenegger

May 17, 2010

on the train audrey

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:


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

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

May 14, 2010

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.

digestion daylight

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):


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.


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.

Odd-Fish art: Laura vs. Laura

May 12, 2010


I still haven’t blogged all the incredible Order of Odd-Fish fan art that we featured in the Odd-Fish gallery show in April. There’s still great art to see! Today I want to spotlight two young artists who also happen to be two young Lauras.

The wildly gorgeous banner above is by Laura-Jayne Nailor, also known as macabrexheart on DeviantArt (although it looks like she hasn’t updated her profile in a while). I was hoping Laura would do something like this! It has exactly the kind of unhinged, colorful, whimsical feel I admired in her other work. I particularly like the Mardi Gras mask Jo is wearing and the way the ostrich is totally unimpressed by the vomiting fish. The multicolored buildings of Eldritch City and the swirls and curlicues bubbling out of the fish’s mouth makes the whole banner feel fizzy, bursting, and alive. Great work!

The next two pieces are by Laura Moriarty, whom I met on Goodreads. She had given a very nice review of Odd-Fish, so I thanked her and told her about the upcoming art show. Luckily, it turned out Laura is a first-rate artist!

Laura did two related pieces for the show. The first is Jo mending her costume armor as Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit:


Brilliant to have the actual Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit watching over Jo as she works on the armor! This is the kind of art I like best — of something that isn’t an actual scene in the book, but expands on and enriches it. Laura wrote, “I just loved the mythology part of the book, so I couldn’t help but put the Silver Kitten in there! I had wanted to do one more with a young, actress version of Lily Larouche, but I had no time! I’m a freshman in college and who would have guessed how much time that takes?”

To correspond with Jo and her armor, here’s Fiona with her sculpture of the Ichthala:

Bravo! The squishy, fatty, spiky, growling monster is great, but what makes it even better is the tension between it and the cool, appraising gaze of Fiona as she surveys her work. I also like how Laura paid special attention to Fiona’s clothes — that neat pink sash setting off her flowing green blouse and jeans.

You kind of can’t tell from these pictures, but both pictures have actual thread pasted to them (threaded into Jo’s needle, and a tangle of multicolored threads connected to the Ichthala idol) that cleverly reference the way the Ichthala goddess is stitched together, and the gold thread that pulls it apart. And the threads serve to tie the two pieces together. Ingenious!

Thank you, Laura Moriarty and Laura-Jayne Nailor! I was proud to feature your art in the show.

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