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June 26, 2003

What I'm Writing When You're Not Looking

My mind is a complete and total blank at the moment, and later, I'm off to have my teeth cleaned. So in lieu of writing something new here, allow me to provide you a glimpse of what I'm writing when I'm not here -- this chunk of text from my in-progress novel, which for the moment I'm calling The Android's Dream. What you're reading here is a chunk from chapter three.

I'm posting it for two reasons. One, it's sort of an aside, so it gives away no material information about the novel's plot, so it's a relatively safe and non-confusing excerpt. Two, it's a good snapshot of where my brain is these days; at any one moment if you ask me what I'm thinking, there's a good chance I'm thinking something freakish and science fiction-y. Just like this: A description of a race of people I call the Kathungi.

The Kathungi were a people with a beautiful and artistic culture and a procreation process that utterly disgusted every other sentient species they had come in contact with. After a nearly month-long fertility phase in which the female Kathungi was enticed into a fertility cycle by her mate, both male and female Kathungi were pheremonally trapped into an uncontrolled "spew" phase: The female Kathungi would be randomly seized by a contraction of her egg sac, which would spew a milky, rancid-smelling fluid embedded with hundreds of thousands of eggs onto anything in the vicinity.

At the sight and smell of the eruption, the male Kathungi would follow suit with a greenish and even more foul-smelling milt that would coat the egg spray. The two substances would them congeal into a gelatinous mass whose purpose would be to protect and nourish the fertilized eggs until they hatched. By which time the Kathungi parents would be gone; rare among sentient species, the Kathungi were not nurturers. Kathungi eggs hatched into voracious, cricket-like larvae which ate everything in their path (including other larvae); it wasn't until a much later phase that members of the vastly-thinned ranks of surviving larvae entered a pupae phase in which they grew the brains required for sentience.

The particulars and repercussions of Kathungi reproduction were visited upon earth not long after the UNE allowed non-diplomatic Kathungians to visit Earth on tourist visas. One young Kathungian couple decided to drive across the United States on a road trip and got as far as Ogallala, Nebraska before they were overcome by the spew phase. The two rented a room at the Sav-U-Lot Motel off of Interstate 80 and spent the next day and a half with the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, coating the interior of the room with goo more than an inch thick in places. The cleaning crew quit rather than touch it; the manager ended up scooping up the goo with a dustpan, depositing it into the bathtub and running the shower head to dilute the stuff enough to let it slip down the drain.

One week later, guests of the Sav-U-Lot ran screaming from their rooms as millions of larval Kathungi, who had consumed the contents of the Sav-U-Lot's massive and poorly maintained septic tank, migrated en masse through the plumbing in search of food. The manager rushed into one of the rooms armed with a flyswatter and a can of Raid Ant & Roach Killer. The Kathungi larvae ate everything but the plastic zipper on his pants and the metal grommets of his shoes; seven guests were never found at all. After consuming every organic morsel the Sav-U-Lot had to offer, the larvae, with their natural predators far away on the Kathungi home planet, set on the town on Ogallala like a Biblical plague.

The Nebraska governor imposed martial law and sent in the National Guard to eradicate the larvae. After it was discovered that the insects were in fact Kathungi larvae, the governor was hauled into CC court on the charge of xenocide and hundreds of thousands of individual counts of murder of a sentient species member. The bewildered governor served out the remainder of his term of office from the federal prison located (gallingly for a Nebraskan) in Leavenworth, Kansas. Shortly thereafter the UNE changed its visa policy requiring that Kathungi females visiting earth to be on birth control; under no circumstances would a female Kathungi who had begun her fertility cycle ever be allowed to set foot on planet again.

No, I don't know where this stuff comes from, either. It just happens.

Posted by john at June 26, 2003 08:45 AM

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Comments

Ken L | June 26, 2003 10:25 AM

Wow. Does that even count as murder if they're quite literally (and biologically) not sentient yet? :-)

Luke | June 26, 2003 10:44 AM

I too have a compulsion to invent bizarre species. And since one of the main things species do as species is reproduce, I end up making up a lot of bizarre modes of reproduction. I then have to work rather hard to make my writing NOT be "All you ever wanted to know about sex in species X, Y, and Z, but were afraid to ask"...
Of course, I'm only writing for fun at this point, but still, I like it not to be awful in a Piers Anthony kind of way (heaven forfend!)

jason | June 26, 2003 10:51 AM

John, that's just... disturbing. Which is probably why I like it! One quick question/comment about the working title: it's reminiscent of Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Intentional or coincidence? Or doesn't it matter since it's a working title?

jason | June 26, 2003 10:52 AM

Oh yeah, how long before Old Man's War hits the shelves at my local Borders anyhow?

diddidit | June 26, 2003 11:08 AM

Dude, that's funny. I may yet read one o' ya books...

did

John Scalzi | June 26, 2003 01:08 PM

Jason asks:

"One quick question/comment about the working title: it's reminiscent of Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Intentional or coincidence?"

Intentional, although the story itself has almost nothing to do with the Dick story.

jason | June 26, 2003 01:34 PM

Groovy. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the story when the time is right...

Sarah | June 26, 2003 03:28 PM

That's so disgusting it's hilarious. Thanks for posting!

Jon Hansen | June 26, 2003 05:38 PM

While entertaining, I do find myself marveling what a pitiful defense team the Governor must have had, and wondering if the adult Kathungi responsible for the, um, room's condition ever faced charges for the people their offspring ate.

Then again, this is probably a comedy and so I'm overthinking it a bit. Carry on.

John Scalzi | June 26, 2003 05:43 PM

My thinking is that the governor was a sacrificial lamb on the altar of politically correct diplomacy. And also, it's funny.

rick mcginnis | June 26, 2003 10:33 PM

Man, that is so screaming out for a movie treatment, dude.

Karen | June 27, 2003 01:17 AM

I thought you were kidding about the stinky aliens. Okay, so maybe I just hoped you were kidding. But, weirdly, it works very well. Spew. Spew. Glad the writing's going well!

MadJayhawk | June 27, 2003 04:23 PM

Kathungi reproductive methods = Frog reproductive methods? Why do all of these noxious creatures seem to have affinity for eating stuff found in septic tanks and for travel in sewer pipes? There must be more consumable nutrients in human waste than we want to imagine. Not only are Kathugi's reproductive methods disgusting, the daycare centers they use for their offspring is not up to government standards.

Idea: The Kathungi eggs could be encapsulated and used in weapons of mass destruction. If a Kathugi-laden (really dirty) bomb went off at the Super Bowl game ...