ONE: THE SPECIES, AN INTRODUCTION
In the children and I’s stories, The Species is a cohort of fantastic creature-characters— each of them a grotesque combination of animals— that form a sort of small panoply of demigods. They operate in a sort of interstitial space: sometimes they are simply part of the setting or background, while at other times they are essential participants in the narrative— but they’re always somehow actively ambivalent.
There is Krylg, who is a giant bear with ram’s horns who breathes fire and who has a copse of dead trees growing perpetually out of their back (as everyone knows, dead trees are always magic).
There is Frejj, who is also a giant: a bipedal turtle with an elephant’s hind legs, a scorpion’s tail and pincers, and an elephant’s head and massive house-fly eyes.
Teeler is the most villainous of the bunch: a vulture’s body and wings, monkey’s arms for legs, and a grinning wolf’s head with eight ruby spider’s eyes.
There is Leena who sometimes goes by Neela and who flies on ethereal butterfly’s wings, with eight octopus legs writhing below them, two giant human eyes perched on the front of their butterfly body.
Finally there is Humunk, the quiet one, who wraps their owl’s wings around their panda’s body, an alligator’s tail dragging behind them; upon their owl’s head is a pair of great antlers, between which a multi-colored flame is known to burn from time to time (secretly, beneath their wings they are known to have four arms— four arms being a sign of holiness, as everyone knows).
TWO: THE 6TH SPECIES
Recently my son Ephraim suggested that we introduce a new member of The Species. His question, when I tasked him with its creation, was “how did this creature come to be comprised of all these different animals?” I think maybe part of the reason I’m impressed and fascinated both with this question and his answer is because that was never a question for me (which probably had to do with my desire to create something that in-and-of-itself at least attempted to eschew this every question).
His answer was that this creature-character kept falling in love with different animals, and each time— as they moved on— they would inadvertently adopt and retain a characteristic of that creature-character they’d loved. !!! Question(s): does this narrative express a weird understanding of love as it’s experienced emotionally and psychologically? Or is it a weird but fitting metaphor for the biological progression of species in the real world? Or both?!
This Species, at least, had started as a human, fallen in love with a bee, then a spider, then a bat, then a dove, then a snake, then a wolf, then a demon. Therefore, he has eight human arms-as-legs stretching out from the body of a spider, out of the front of which the upright torso of his original human body sits, instead of arms there are two snakes, one of their wings is a bat wing while the other is a dove wing, they’re wolf head also has eight spider’s eyes (I believe they’re a cousin of Teeler), and massive daemon’s horns sprout, of course, from the top of their head. Also they’re fifty feet tall.
I am particularly fond of the snake-arms/ snake-head-hands, and the asymmetricality of their wings.
THREE: SOME THOUGHTS ON THE SPECIES
I find the idea of The Species really interesting for a number of reasons, one of which being that their relationship to the narrative is very much like their relationship not only to the main characters but also to animals (which they both are and are not). As such I feel compelled to have some sort of attachment to them, but also not to have an attachment to them. I suppose this is how and why they’re an uncanny bunch.
Relatedly, until now they’ve had no backstory. For one, we work hard to fight against hegemonic tropes like backstorying every goddamn thing (and even world-building for that matter), but for another, I think it’s essential to whatever it is they are that The Species at least defy any desire for or ability to articulate something like an origin. But this is exactly why I felt like my son’s insistence, when he wanted to introduce a 6th Species, that this new character have something like a backstory, was actually pretty brilliant. Coz like transgression and shit.
The Species are a practice in, or figures of, the hybridization of characteristics that fall under a categorical commonality while exhibiting differences that problematize notions of associative propriety. That is to almost say: they’re dream-animals.
Their verb is to problematize: their associations, as assemblages of associations, reveal not only their associated normative proprieties by way of their impropriety (“this *should* go with that”), but the whole problematic of propriety itself, which I think is the conceptual skeleton of ethics? And then politics. LOL I don’t really care, I just like the idea that the weird way they make you feel has something to do with being revolutionary.
I feel like they trouble the word “species,” as a distinction-making/ category-producing concept or practice or activity, especially with the insistence on the capitalized definite article: The Species takes its trope from fun genre bullshit like The Cabal, but the content of the word “species,” while it operates somewhat— as an act of grouping and saying is or is not— like the word “cabal,” it is also a totality: everything is a species. The kicker, when it comes to the IRL meaning of the word species, is that it’s something other than itself: in real life we ask which species. And the answer is both a single kind or type that are plural while being the same (look at all those wolves) as well as all the different single kinds or types (look elephants, seagulls and mountain lions).
Our species are singular, but only as freakish mashups. If one had a baby with another I suppose their deepest logic would demand an offspring that carried absolutely none of the characteristics of its parents. Our The Species is a specific group of creature-characters— not their metonymic characteristics or the animals that they point to, and not any other animal in the world of our stories: just these ones. I like the slippage produced when talking about or explaining The Species to anyone else, because they are both yes that thing you’re thinking but also not.