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The Order of Oddfish


Odd-Fish Art Show at the Hegeler-Carus Mansion, April 2!

February 23, 2011

Holy cannoli, Cory Doctorow just posted a marvelous review of The Order of Odd-Fish on BoingBoing! “An extraordinary and delightfully weird romp that’s one part China Mieville, one part Lemony Snicket, with trace amounts of Madeline L’Engle and Roald Dahl.” Thanks, Cory!

And now, back to our previously scheduled program—an announcement of the new Odd-Fish fan art show:

Last April we threw an Order of Odd-Fish fan art extravaganza. It was epic: not only a gallery show of marvelous Odd-Fish fan-made art, but also a costume party recreating the book’s Dome of Doom scene. We had circus punk marching bands! Ritualistic parades! A battle-dancing competition culminating in a bloody sacrifice! (Here’s all the details of the night, complete with lurid pictures and video.)

We’re going to restage the Odd-Fish fan art show this April 2—but in a rather different way.

The building pictured above is the Hegeler Carus Mansion in La Salle, Illinois. I first learned about it through Tricia Kelly, whom I met at the Princeton Kidlit Festival last year. She took me on a tour of the place. I was blown away—first, because it’s an amazing, rambling, decaying, eccentric house of treasures—and second, because it’s a dead ringer for what I imagine the Odd-Fish lodge to look like. Photos don’t do it justice, but let me try:

Edward Hegeler—the fellow in the portrait in the upper left—made his fortune in zinc smelting. He and his wife Camilla went on to found Open Court Publishing, and started the children’s magazine empire that includes Cricket, Spider, Muse, and more, which were once published out of this very mansion. Their daughter, Mary Hegeler, married Dr. Paul Carus, editor of Open Court, and the mansion became a hub of intellectual activities, including the dissemination of Buddhism in the U.S., the promotion of Jungian thought, and other ventures.

Oh yes, and the basement has a bizarre old gymnasium which might be the oldest gym in America:

The house is packed with not only nineteenth-century architectural peculiarities but also old Asian artifacts, printing plates from back issues of Cricket, enough books to choke a library, perfectly preserved rooms that (until recently) hadn’t been opened in decades, other rooms crumbling apart with holes in the plaster and peeling paint, and a basement full of antique printing presses, priceless art, unclassifiable knickknacks, and so much garbage it’s like the trash compactor scene from Star Wars:

Basically, it’s glorious. In the same way that Tolkien, upon visiting Venice, described it as “elvishly lovely—to me like a dream of Old Gondor, or Pelargir of the Numenorean Ships, before the return of the Shadow,” so the Hegeler Carus mansion seemed to me like a dream of old Eldritch City.

So we’ve decided to restage the Odd-Fish art show at the Hegeler Carus! Of course, you can always see the Odd-Fish art just by browsing our online gallery, but it’s much more fun to do so in person.

During the day on April 2, I’ll run some Dome of Doom writing workshops. That night there will be a gallery-opening party for everyone. A kind of wine-and-cheese affair. I’ll do some dramatic readings from the book. There will be entertainments. Persons will commit merriments. Here’s the schedule for the day:

11:30 am – 1:00 pm: Theatrical readings from Odd-Fish, guided gallery tour, and writing workshop.
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Same as the 11:30 program.
7 pm – ???: Reception with readings and refreshments.

It’s $25 to participate in the afternoon events; the evening reception is $10 (wine ain’t free, people). That $25 also buys you a signed paperback of The Order of Odd-Fish and a copy of Muse magazine. Make your reservation with Heather Wallace at or call her at (815) 224-5895, Monday through Thursday, 10am – 4pm.

As for the fan art gallery—it’s worth repeating, there’s some amazing Odd-Fish art to be seen! Not just illustrations. But a bizarre cake of a fish vomiting the lodge. A homemade Apology Gun. Japanese-style, Hello-Kitty-esque dolls of Jo. A stained glass window of Sefino. Even home-brewed beer based on the Belgian Prankster. Max Pitchkites of Indianapolis even did a stunning series of 28 mixed-media illustrations, one for each chapter. A small random sampling (click for larger images):

So come on out to La Salle, Illinois on April 2! Here’s information about the Hegeler Carus foundation that runs the mansion. It’s at 1307 Seventh Street, La Salle, Illinois. Their general phone number is (815) 224-6543.

Oh—and did I mention that, while I was walking around in the attic of the mansion, I randomly opened a drawer and found—a stuffed baby alligator?

Trust me, it’s that kind of place. Come!