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Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature

Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature published on 1 Comment on Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature

Forgive me for getting all academic here, but I’m going to put on my graduate school hat for a moment. As a fan, I just read stories and revel in their flow and fun. But occasionally, I like to admit that I do indeed have a Master’s degree in Communication Studies and dust off the passive voice, complex sentences and gobbledygook that makes it sound like I am a Deep Thinker. So here we go…

Mantles of power, varying aspects or incarnations of gods, and the masks they can wear are a mainstay of fantasy literature and represent the need and ability of characters, and humanity, to change.

As an example, take Odin. The All-Father. Far seeing, wise, powerful, the leader of the Norse Pantheon. He is also frequently mentioned in modern fantasy. Jim Butcher references him in The Dresden Files. Kevin Hearne has him as fairly central figure in The Iron Druid Chronicles. Rick Riordan features Norse gods in his new series featuring Magnus Chase. And of course, Odin is also an important figure in Marvel’s Thor movies.

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Physically, Odin is represented in all of these worlds as a male older figure with one eye. The one eye is a notable trait – indeed a symbol — derived from the original Norse myths, representing Odin’s sacrifice for wisdom.
In Butcher’s Dresden Files, Odin is only one aspect of a multi-faced character. Vadderung is the contemporary Odin, who lives in a modern day version of Midgard with a company front company front called Monoc Securities. Monoc is yet another ode to the one eye of Odin, as monocle in Latin literally means one eye. Sometimes Odin appears in another aspect, as in Cold Days, when he appears as Kringle, or as we may know him, Santa Claus.

The concept of a god wearing multiple mantles or aspects is not singular to Butcher. Lucienne Diver, who has not yet used Norse mythology in her Latter-Day Olympian series, uses the concept of varying aspects and incarnations as well. In her latest book, Blood Hunt, coming out at the end of October, she plays on this theme heavily. Apollo, for example, literally morphs physically into a member of the Egyptian pantheon. By using this technique both authors present the idea that gods represent concepts and that belief systems have universal needs, met and realized by similar aspects of what is essentially the same god.

Kevin Hearne uses Odin as an individual figure, but plays with the concept of multiple aspects with other characters. For example, he asks a devout Christian woman to imagine the Mother Mary, and when Mary appears, she looks as the woman imagined. Even Jesus changes looks/aspects/mantles depending on the belief system of His believers (read the sharply written Hammered).

One subtle but important difference does exist between the aspects of a god and the mantles. Previously, I have discussed them as if they were exactly the same thing, and they are not. A mantle can have a far deeper meaning as not just one face of a godlike incarnation, but a cloak of power that one can sluff off and hand to someone else. Or, more accurately, a cloak that transfers to another person once you die. Butcher does this beautifully in the ending scenes of Cold Days, as the Ladies’ mantles transfer to other vessels. They actually take a type of physical form and fly into the new vessels’ chests.

Confusing matters more, only a few pages later, in the same exact book, Butcher alludes to mantles as masks. “Masks, mantles,” Kringle said, “What’s the difference?” (Cold Days)

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For readers, the difference is subtle yet instructive. While many of us wear masks, displaying different aspects of who we are or hiding part of ourselves, the masks can be removed and our true selves revealed. Humans can wear masks and it simply hides parts of who we are. Mantles, on the other hand, are components of godhood or at least fantastic power. Harry Dresden is handed the Winter Knight’s mantle, not the Winter Knight’s mask.

Another key difference is that Mantles typically bring responsibilities and burdens, and the very real possibility that the bearer will lose who he or she is and become what the Mantle wants them to be. This is Harry’s continued battle as he feels the power of the Winter Knight try to change who he personality and values. Even Molly, who now carries the Mantle of the Winter Lady, is changing in front Harry’s eyes, becoming less wizard and more Fae. She is absorbing and changing due to power given through the Mantle.

But, it should be noted that Molly wears a mask as well, displaying different aspects to different people, playing a challenging game that will inevitably fail. Winter Lady to the Fae, dutiful daughter to her mother and father, wizard and friend to Harry. The problem with masks, unlike mantles, is that they can slip. Mantles overpower. Masks hide. And tiny differences can signal the slipping of a mask and the revelation of the mantle’s changes, such as when Molly successfully uses a cell phone.

Whether an aspect, mantle or mask, the writer’s ultimate goal is give his or her character a reason to change. The changes can represent different incarnations of the same things such as when Diver’s gods morph from one pantheon to another, or challenging and terrible powers such as Dresden’s Winter Mantle, or even the power of individual belief, as in Hearne’s Jesus.

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Follow Joelle Reizes:
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Twitter @JReizes
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The Butcher Block Begins

The Butcher Block Begins published on 12 Comments on The Butcher Block Begins

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I have been buzzing about this feature of the site almost since the moment I became a part of it. Tomorrow, the great re-read and analysis of The Dresden Files begins. A lot of people aren’t entirely certain what this means — I haven’t widely shared the writing I’ve been doing all this fall. But now that it’s FINALLY happening, here are some of the things you can look forward to:

1) Giveaways! Five people will win paperback copies of Dead Beat; one person will win a signed copy of Skin Game; the winner of the trivia game will win a signed copy of the Dresden File of their choice; and one lucky contributor will win signed copies of the first three books with their original covers*.

2) Essays about the books. Is there a compelling argument that Murphy will ultimately betray Harry? Could Linda Randall have been a White Court vamp? What’s going on in the shadows in Proven Guilty?

3) Guest articles from Duck. Miss Duck has gained fame over in the forums for her keen insight. She’s graciously allowing me to turn her theories into a weekly guest post.

4) Guest articles that push our knowledge of Dresden further. Who were the Cahokians, and what’s their possible connection to the series? What’s the correlation between Odin and Santa Claus? Did Jim Butcher make up all this stuff about mantles and masks? All this and more will be explored in the coming weeks and months.

5) Transcripts of recent events. We all know how important Word of Jim is!

I am so happy this is finally beginning, and I hope you join me in the comments.

An Interview with Shawn Speakman

An Interview with Shawn Speakman published on

51wR6eamEQL._UX250_Shawn Speakman grew up in the beautiful wilds of Washington State near Mt. St. Helens. After moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, he befriended New York Times bestselling fantasy author Terry Brooks and became his webmaster. It has led to a life filled with magic and words.

He was a manager at one of the largest Barnes & Noble Booksellers in the country for many years but now owns the online bookstore The Signed Page, manages the websites for authors Terry Brooks and Naomi Novik, and freelance writes for Random House at Suvudu.com.

Shawn is a cancer survivor, knows angel fire east, and currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

About the Book

We were fortunate to score an interview with Shawn in which we discuss his latest anthology, Unbound.

Unbound features works by:

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  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Kristen Britain
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jim Butcher
  • Rachel Caine
  • Harry Connolly
  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • David Anthony Durham
  • Jason M. Hough
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Brian McClellan
  • John Marco
  • Tim Marquitz
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Peter Orullian
  • Kat Richardson
  • Anthony Ryan
  • Shawn Speakman
  • Brian Staveley
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Sam Sykes
  • Mazarkis Williams

Interview

Todd Lockwood contributed the cover artwork.

Unbound is getting a lot of pre-release attention, and I know that a ton of people are excited to read it, me included. Can you walk us through the process of creating an anthology, from start to finish? What’s it like to be a story-wrangler?

The decision to publish Unbound was a hard one but not for the reasons you might think. When I published my debut novel, The Dark Thorn, and the anthology Unfettered, I didn’t know if I wanted to start a publishing press. Having talked to Subterranean Press’s Bill Schafer a great deal when putting together Unfettered, I knew how much work it would be. I had to convince myself that it would be worth it. That took longer than I thought.

After I decided to grow Grim Oak Press with Unbound and Unfettered II, it became much easier. I have befriended many writers over my twenty years of working in the field and extending anthology invitations has been easy, especially with the success of Unfettered. Once I had about 20 writers, I told them to get to work. They write. I receive the stories. I edit. My friend Rachelle copyedits. The writer fixes the edits. And voila! We have a book! The hardest part? Arranging the stories in a way that maximizes the impact of the overall anthology on the reader.

Which three stories in Unbound are you most excited to see reader reaction to, and why?

Since Unbound is an anthology without a theme—the writers could submit any story they wanted to in so long as it was a genre tale—I have received some great stories. I can’t pick a favorite. That said, I am really interested to see what people think of Madwalls by Rachel Caine, River and Echo by John Marco, An Unfortunate Influx of Filipians by Terry Brooks, and Jury Duty by Jim Butcher. The first two are really emotional tales and the last two are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Especially the Brooks story. Anyone who loves the Landover series will want to buy the anthology just for this story alone!

Not only do you have a short story of your own in Unbound, but you’re a novelist as well. Which is more difficult for you, writing a novel, or writing a short story?

I know many authors who have a hard time with short stories. Terry Brooks is famous for saying it takes him twice as long to write a short story as it does a novel. For me, I’m the opposite. Short stories come very naturally to me. Always have. I can have an idea, flesh it out entirely within an hour, and finish writing it in a few days. In fact, I take more enjoyment from short stories—at the moment, anyway—because I am reaching a broader audience with them. And they have helped me with my novel writing, where each chapter should be similar in design to that of a short story.

The other great thing I love about writing short stories is the chance to discover new things about my novel’s world without having to force it into the novel. For instance, my Unbound story is a grimdark tale told from the point of view of a villain who has a cameo in The Everwinter Wraith but who plays a much larger role in the next book, The Splintered King. I needed to write the Unbound short story before I could even think about writing his chapter in Wraith. I didn’t know Tathal Ennis until that happened.

I hope you don’t mind if, now that I have your complete attention, to ask about your next full length novel: The Everwinter Wraith. What can you tell us about it, aside from it is set five years after The Dark Thorn? How far into the writing process are you with it?

The Everwinter Wraith is ultimately about consequences to life choices. My main character, Richard McAllister, helped avert a disaster of Biblical proportions in The Dark Thorn. But his role in that novel indirectly moved other chess pieces on the board. I’ll just say that nature abhors a vacuum and evil loves to take up residence in that void.

As far as writing, it has come far too slowly. I have a lot going on in my life, especially with Terry’s The Shannara Chronicles airing in January, and finding time to write has been difficult. But I’ve been putting down words at a great pace for the last month. Terry and I are even racing words right now. I hate to lose. And so does he. So it makes for a fun competition that benefits both of us. The Everwinter Wraith is over 1/3 done but that part is always the hardest 1/3 for me. I expect things to move even faster as we head toward the New Year. I should know a publication date by then.

And last, a fun question: If you were given ten million dollars (after taxes), what are the first three big-ticket items you would buy?

I’m a simple man with simple needs. I don’t possess a lot of “things,” if that makes sense. I’d probably build a nice home on the Oregon coast, build a nice home on the Hawaii coast, and the third big-ticket item I would hold back in case my future children needed something big-ticket.

Book Blitz and Excerpt: The Dawn of Dae by Trillian Anderson

Book Blitz and Excerpt: The Dawn of Dae by Trillian Anderson published on 1 Comment on Book Blitz and Excerpt: The Dawn of Dae by Trillian Anderson

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About the Book

The chance to attend college is just what Alexa Daegberht needs to break out the mold of her caste. If she can become a Bach, she can escape the poverty she’s endured ever since her parents died when she was five. Only through education can she rise above her birth caste–and she knows it.

All of her plans fall to dust when she opens a portal within her refrigerator, turning her macaroni and cheese casserole into a sentient being. By dawn the next day, the mysterious dae have come to Earth to stay. Hundreds of thousands of people vanish into thin air, and as the days pass, the total of the missing number in the millions. Some say it’s the rapture of the Christian faith.

Alexa knows better: their dae ate them, leaving behind nothing more than dust as evidence of their hunger.

As one of the unawakened, she doesn’t have a dae, nor can she manifest any forms of magical powers. She’s lacking the innate knowledge of what the dae are and what they mean for the world. Now more than ever, she is an outsider. Her survival hinges on her ability to adapt to a world she no longer understands.

Unfortunately, one of the dae has taken notice of her, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her. Alexa’s problems pile up as she’s forced to pick her allegiances. Will she submit to the new ways of the world? Will she become some monster’s pawn? Or, against all odds, can she forge her own path and prove normal humans can thrive among those gifted with powers once the domain of fantasies and nightmares?

Excerpt

Cigar smoke.

At least my standing at college wouldn’t be risked by inhaling residue from one of Kenneth’s cocktails. If they ever found out I was one of his associates, though, I was screwed. I relaxed and, without looking up from his floor, made my way around the couch closest to the door and plopped down on it. I heard him sit on his armchair, which squeaked as he leaned back.

“I’m not in the mood for your bullshit tonight, my little collie.” My boss lit up, and the stench of his cigar choked off my breath. I knew better than to cough, though. All I’d do was piss him off even more.

I chose to ignore the fact he was calling me by a dog breed instead of my name and nodded my agreement. At least he hadn’t called me Lassie.

If I followed the rules, I’d be okay. I’d leave his house just fine—and Lily wouldn’t have any extra reasons to hate me. Speaking only when spoken to, nodding when appropriate, and always, always addressing him by sir would get me through the meeting.

If the boss had a job for me and paid up, maybe I’d buy Lily a pair of lace panties—in silk. I could get them now, as long as I had the cash for them. All I had to do was survive the meeting with Kenneth and do one last job for him.

“You’re a freshman now, aren’t you?”

Kenneth’s voice was still soft, quiet, and utterly devoid of emotion, so I drew a deep breath, nodded my head obediently, and whispered, “Yes, sir.”

“Full-merit,” he commented, and his tone took on a rueful edge.

“Yes, sir.”

“Now how the hell did a little mutt like you get into Bach studies on full-merit?” he demanded, thumping his fist on the arm of his chair. He smacked it several more times before sighing gustily. “You’re something else, that’s what you are. I obviously wasn’t keeping you busy enough. I am to blame.”

I flinched.

Whoever had been meeting with him before I had arrived had left Kenneth in a bad mood, and his ire was directed at me. Any other day, I would have told him to go cry a river and fill the Chesapeake. I wanted to tell him to stuff it, but I needed the work, and he needed me.

I could go to the places he couldn’t, and he knew it.

About the Author

Opener of Portals. Urban Fantasy Author. Mistress of Giggles. Warped Sense of Humor.

Trillian Anderson is, like so many of us, a figment of someone’s imagination. She was born somewhere in the United States, loves to travel, and has no scruples about moving to new and interesting places around the world. She loves fantasy fiction of all types, but holds a special fondness for urban fantasies, epic fantasies, and stories capable of capturing her imagine.

Most of all, she enjoys grabbing a flashlight, hiding under the blankets, and pretending she’s asleep when she’s, in actuality, reading a beloved book.

Links

Amazon
Facebook
Twitter
Author’s Website

Review and Giveaway: Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong

Review and Giveaway: Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong published on 2 Comments on Review and Giveaway: Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong

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About the Book

Secrets beget secrets. The curse that befell the Hollows clan has left them incapable of producing male offspring. To extend their bloodline, they have formed a covenant with the serpentine Ophidians, who give them children. In return, the Hollows must keep these monstrous creatures well fed, though the details of the procurement are so abominable that the truth is never revealed to the other clans. In their homeland of Matikki, they live like outcasts.

Through a series of chance discoveries, the secrets of the ancient curse unfold before a warrior named Writhren Hollow. Is her purely female clan the result of a lapse of divine providence, or are the Hollows themselves victims of an enslavement scheme?

If Writhren frees her clan from the covenant, she risks the wrath of the Ophidians and the future of her bloodline. If she keeps the truth of the curse to herself, she is a traitor to her own kind. Either way, she will suffer for what she must do.

This is not a story of redemption, but regret. This is Writhren’s story.

Review

CoLCover

There is an intriguing, unique concept moving through this book. I enjoyed the remarkably alien world, the largely female cast of characters, the god-like, reptilian Ophidians who bring such terror with them, the story of mothers and daughters and terrible choices that must be made for survival. The poetic mnemonics are well written and provide some ideas about the background of the Ophidians.

The sorrowful start of the tale, with the exchange between Mother and the Ophidians, is interesting.

I found Writhren to be a different sort of heroine. She’s strong, but she is also living a lie. Her story is serious, difficult, moving.

The tale is short, which is both a strength and a weakness. As a strength, we are given a lot of concepts in a short number of pages. However, the level of detail is lacking from what I expect in a novel, but there is enough for a novella or short story. This book’s length leaves it in a sort of limbo. We jump forward at times very quickly. In some ways, this creates a less typical narrative. I find myself having a difficult time talking about the work when there is so much that should be kept for the reader. This is, essentially, a prequel for the eventual series. For me, overall, this was an imperfect, but worthy lead-in to what will be the full series.

I am curious about what happens in the full series, and in some ways, wish I had read that series first. It sounds like I’ll probably have to wait for the author to write them first, though.

About the Author

AnnieAnnie K. Wong was born in Hong Kong and lives in Canada, in the west coast city of Vancouver, BC.

She has a BA in Business Administration and Creative Writing from Houghton College as well as a Diploma in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia. Although she explored careers in advertising, television and office administration, the desire to write overtook her at the turn of the new millennium. In 2003 she earned a Post-Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College and has been crafting stories ever since.

Her current project is a fantasy series, the prequel of which is Children of Lightning.

Author links

Website
Goodreads
Amazon
B&N

Giveaway

I’m a big fan of the Hyperion series.

Also, there are two Amazon.ca giftcards being given away: one for $50 and one for $100. Just in time for holiday shopping.

I hope the winner learns about the giveaway from our blog here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The rest of the tour can be found here:
http://xpressobooktours.com/2015/08/18/tour-sign-up-children-of-lightning-by-annie-k-wong/

[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2

[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2 published on 4 Comments on [Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2

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We’re pleased to be a part of Sci-Fi Month (Put on by Rinn Reads).

We’ve taken on the enjoyable task of hosting Week 2 of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. We are discussing the chapters “Port Coriol” through the end of “Cricket.” If you haven’t started the book yet, HERE BE SPOILERS.

If you have only completed the first four chapters, head over to the week 1 discussion at Over the Effing Rainbow.

This Read Along is specifically hosted by Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow. She hosted week 1 and will host week 4. Week 3 will be hosted by Claire Rousseau. Keep your peepers open.

I’ve never been a Firefly fanatic. Heresy, I know. I enjoyed it. I especially liked the concept, the quirky characters, and the sheer fun a sort of “working-class” crew brought to space. The actors pulled off their roles perfectly. Firefly was about both the laughs and the feels.

For me, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has been a fun experience, and the book fills the hole (at least for me) left by Firefly’s early demise. The characters are quirky and interesting, the book is funny, the science is “sciency” enough to satisfy most of us. The book asks some important questions, but it is always fun. So fun! Really fun.

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1. There has been significant conversation about AI, what it means to be alive, whether or not AI should have rights, whether or not a person can fall in love with a specific instance of AI, etc. This is a bit of a sticky situation. After the discussion between Pepper and Jenks, how do you feel about Lovey’s and Jenks’ relationship? Should they move forward with their plan?

I tend to be pro-rights. Bringing AI into the whole thing is interesting. But I lean toward letting individuals live their lives so long as it doesn’t harm the lives of others. This is complicated here by the fact that, potentially, AI could be dangerous. But so could every other being. With all of the inter-species relationships in this book (different alien species, I mean) I have to say that Jenks and Lovey should do what makes them happy. I do worry that it will create an issue with the captain. We’ll see!

2. In the chapter “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History,” we see Dr. Chef’s perspective of having been a mother, though he is currently male, and Sissix’s perspective that children aren’t people yet. Ohan is referred to as they/them. The Akarak are referred to as xyr/xe. These perspectives and preferences are perspectives actually held by different groups of humans in our own world. Do you think assigning these perspectives to aliens rather than humans make them easier or harder to sympathize with?

This is one of the things I like most about this book. It is hilarious, sure. It has me laughing out loud at night, almost waking my wife. But science fiction that asks questions about what it means to be human…science fiction that attempts to see from different sets of eyes, that’s what really gets my heart going.

Many of the characters are willing to treat others with respect. I like the idea that humans from different places will have different perspectives, and that aliens would come in all sorts of shapes, types and have all sorts of different perspectives and preferences, too.

3. How might the ship robbery have been different if the Wayfarer were armed?
This is a question that really comes up because of events in the chapter “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History,” but the in-book discussion occurs early on in the chapter “Cricket.” Sissix and Kizzy are noted as advocating for guns on board the ship. Ashby specifies that he doesn’t want any, and notes that anecdotally, he has never had this happen before and that it wasn’t likely to happen again. In thinking back on the events, we get inside Ashby’s mind in a third-person thought-bubble of sorts:

He touched his jaw. The bruises from the Akarak’s rifle were still fading. he revisited those horrible moments in the cargo bay, remembered how it felt to have strangers rip their way into his home. He recreated the incident, imagining a gun in his hand. Would he have fired? He couldn’t say. But imagining the addition of a weapon in that scenario made him feel safer. He no longer felt helplessness. He felt powerful. And that was what scared him. “I’m not comprimising my principles over this. That’s that.”

I don’t bring this concept up in a political sense. I am looking at it more as a cultural perspective. Sissix then ribs Ashby in a good-natured way, noting that his perspective was particularly Exodan. We see that Sissix has been influenced by cultural perspectives, by his own formative knowledge.

This particular situation worked out very well for the crew because Rosemary shared a language with the robbers. They lost items, stuff, but all lives were accounted for. Things could have gone differently. Sissix and Kizzy are both nervous about a repeat possibility, and Ashby is more afraid of what he’ll become if he kills than he is afraid of dying.

I love that the book is willing to take us through the thought processes of several characters who went through a similar experience, but came to different conclusions. This is one of the things that makes the story realistic. People internalize experiences in many different ways.

This particular situation would likely have had a much more violent ending if both crews were strapped with weapons. I do not make the specific argument that there are no situations in which guns would have been helpful or effective.

4. As I finished the fourth chapter in my section, “Cricket,” I thought it might be a good place to stop and talk about some of our favorite humorous moments so far. What scenes really tickled your funny bone? Who makes you laugh the most and why?

I don’t know if it is possible for me to pick a favorite character. I don’t know if it is possible to share a funniest scene. But I’ll choose one of each, as I asked the question, and it is only fair.

This is one of those questions that reminds me of the movie “Orange County.” When the English teacher, Mr. Burke, asks the students who their favorite Friends character is, Shaun is called upon and he says something like, “I don’t know, Ross, I guess.” And the teacher tells him no, that is the wrong answer. He accepts every other answer given. I feel like Corbin is the Ross of this question. I think every other character has funny moments, but Corbin…oh, man, that guy.

I am a little in love with Kizzy’s exuberant joy. Her scene from the chapter “Technical Details,” in which she sang “I ate a har – monica! These socks — match — my hat!” and “Step on –some– sweet–toast! Socks!” had me rolling. I can easily identify with singing the wrong lyrics of songs (Taylor Swift’s “Starbucks lovers,” anybody?)

One of my favorite lines from my four chapters was Kizzy’s: “But I am now starving. What sounds good? Noodles? Skewers? Ice cream? We’re grownups, we can have ice cream for lunch if we want.”

I also found Sissix’s molting angst humorous in “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History.” She is so cranky. Understandably so, but she just can’t catch a break. Then we find out that humans smell terrible to some species, but the humans didn’t even notice that Dr. Chef has been spiking their soap with anti-odor powder.

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