Note: Recently I’ve been participating in several Facebook release parties, where in celebration of a new publication, an author hosts a bunch of other writers to show up and expound on a topic. And I got to thinking it was high time I reproduced those blogs here, in case you missed the party (which is your loss, by the way. We give away mad prizes at these things). So throughout this week, you’ll be seeing a number of mini-blogs that I’m editing and reposting. These posts usually end with a question, and since I so rarely get to exercise the comments section of the blogs, I would love if any/all of you would post an answer right here on this page. I’m excited to see what you think.
The assigned topic for Stant Litore’s recent release party, which launched his new Ansible short story series, was “things that unnerve you.”
I think we were supposed to be linking it to our writing in some brilliant fashion, but frankly, the second I heard the phrase “things that unnerve you,” my brain immediately landed on my amphibian arch-nemesis: the albino African Clawed Frog.
Allow me to explain. Madison, WI, which I call home, has an excellent library system, and I take my kids to the local branch fairly often. There’s an aquarium with fish, and since kids genetically love aquariums, we spend a lot of time standing in front of it. A couple of years ago, we were in the library, admiring said fish, when all of a sudden a pale, gelatinous blob of horror began propelling itself around the aquarium with creepy little webbed feet, its stomach rolls flopping alongside it with sinister water buoyancy. It was revolting. And terrifying.
[This is a video of an albino African Clawed Frog. This particular one has glandular problems, but it really represents the whole essence of the thing. Warning: Click on it at your own peril. This is the stuff of nightmares.]
I, of course, immediately drew my children away, lest the ghostly blob somehow teleport outside the glass, which seemed about as likely as its very existence. As it turned out, however, the barely-contained skin bag of mucus was actually a recent donation to the aquarium. It was an albino African Clawed frog, and I hated and feared it on sight.
About a year passed, and every time I took my kids to the library and we were confronted by the fishbelly-colored atrocity, I had to look away. I was sure it could smell my fear, or maybe see it through some sort of creepy x-ray frogvision that only applies to the demonically possessed. Soon I, a lifelong devourer of books, began to dread going to the library.
Fast forward a few months later. One day we came to the library, and to my immense relief, the eerie little goobag wasn’t in there. Anywhere. (He was too fat to hide). Privately rejoicing, I spoke to the librarian, and learned that the frog, whose name was Cinderella (!) had indeed gone to the great aquarium in the sky. Trying to pretend that this news was in some way NOT the greatest thing I’d ever heard, I nodded gravely and then skipped out of the library, clicking my heels as I went. (Later I went back for my children.)* The nightmare was finally over.
Two weeks later they got a new baby albino African clawed frog.
I took one look at the little seed of evil and said the only thing that someone like me, with two small kids in tow, COULD say:
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”
I learned something that day, though: there are actually weirdos who *like* the albino African Clawed Frog. There were real, three-dimensional human people who were unhappy at Cinderella’s (!) demise. And that, my friends, is the lesson of the African Clawed Frog: one person’s gelatinous abomination is another’s treasured pet. Life is strange, and so are we.
But isn’t that what we’re here to celebrate? I have personally read Stant’s Ansible 15715, and it’s all about being thrown into a situation you don’t understand, can in NO way control, and fear deep down in your very core. It’s actually the same reaction I had to the AACF. So after you make a real quick stop at Amazon to buy Stant’s short story, I’d like you to leave a comment telling me about something that gave you that same instant bout of fear-despair-horror.
*This is a joke. I did not actually leave my children. Please do not call Social Services.