Hey, thanks for your patience while I was traveling. I had a great time and saw lots of lovely people. The signings and panel at San Diego Comic Con were lashings of fun, so thanks to everyone who came to them. Perhaps I’ll go through my photos from the trip and try to find some cool ones.
But right now it’s time for the Manual of Aeronautics art reveal! The votes have been voted and they have been counted, and what you guys wanted to see was the flechette bat.
A BAT. THAT POOS SPIKES. That’s what you wanted to see. Seriously, what does that say about you? I mean, you had a choice of many beautiful images, but you used your sacred voting rights to vote on a spike-pooing bat. Really?
Okay, as someone who wrote a trilogy featuring bats that poo spikes, perhaps I can’t point fingers.
EXCEPT AT THIS . . .
What’s that you say? This picture of a spike-pooing bat isn’t big enough? YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THIS BIGGER? Then I think that you should click here.
Or perhaps you’re asking me, “How did you come up with the idea of bats pooing spikes?”
The true answer is: I don’t remember. But flechette bats appear in the very first short story I wrote in the Leviathan universe, called “Mr. Darwin’s Favours.” This story was never finished or published, but it contained this somewhat familiar passage:
Jones and two others waited for him at the bow, where the Goliath’s colony of flechette bats were clustered to bask in the rising sun. They had grown noisy at the sight of the men, jousting for position on the half sphere of the bow. In their thousands, the ruckus of echo-location chirps sounded like an audience of old ladies clucking at some off-color joke.
“Now, now. Wait your turn,” Jones said, looking at Newkirk for approval.
The older man nodded sagely, and the three junior tenders began to throw the feed. In the hard light of dawn, flechettes sparkled among the grain, and waves of bats lifted from the envelope to catch mouthfuls of wheat and metal. Although he knew the bats were bred to do so, Newkirk always felt vague discomfort in his stomach at the thought of eating and passing the cruel pennies. Though, as Captain Digby often said, the strangeness of originated species only showed the extent of man’s mastery over natural life forms.
“Mind you don’t leave that lot out,” he said, pointing at a cluster of smaller bats on the starboard aerilon.
“Like feeding ducks as a wean, sir,” Jones said, casting a glittery handful in that direction. “Could never get bread to the little ones. No matter where you tossed it, the bullies always had their way. Nature’s way, I suppose.”
“Nature’s way is hardly our line, Jones,” Newkirk said, though he was glad to hear that the boy had at least made that long-ago attempt at equanimity. In the long run, animal lovers made the best tenders.
Weird, huh? As you can see, this story is partly from Newkirk’s point of view, and has no Deryn in it. There was no Alek either, just a few other POV characters on the airship, which was called the Goliath. Also, Newkirk is rather older, with the rank of “tender” rather than midshipman.
“Mr. Darwin’s Favours” only reached 2500 words long. I pillaged a couple of character names and some bits of dialog (like the above) but some stuff was really different. Like, message lizards were called “parrot dragons.” Shows you how much things change from the first draft of a novel (or a world) to the end.
Anyway, please use the comments below to answer this question: How many of you have explained the flechette bat’s unique poo-attack to parents, teachers, or friends? And how did that go?