Manual Art Reveal 4: Flechette Bat!

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.


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?

72 thoughts on “Manual Art Reveal 4: Flechette Bat!

  1. I tried to explain it to my mom and she said she understood it but a few moments later she was asking me loads of questions.

  2. Oh, I have tried to almost everyone who has seen the pictures as I’m reading, or I just simply tried to explain some of the animals in the book. No one understands. Also, for some strange reason, I thought they vomited the spikes back up.

  3. Honestly, what is cooler than a spike pooping bat! I have explained the fletchette bats to many a friend. Some have looked at me with disgust, confusion, and skepticism; cooler people saw what an amazing idea it was.

  4. @53: Me too. The last part, anyway. And I also thought they vomited up little spiked balls. I didn’t know what a flechette was until I saw this picture. Sad, I suppose, but it didn’t detract from the story much.

  5. I just had a revelation, they use a red light to literally scare the crap(flechette) out of the bats!!! I dont know why i just realized this if ive read the first 2 books 3 times each.

  6. I kind of understand Newkirk’s not-okay-with-the-bats-ness now. They are just creepy looking. Perhaps we could see them in flight now?
    And through that whole little segment I was just like “*jaw drop* Ker-wha? NEWKIRK. Hey, that’s familiar! Hmm, I bet ‘Goliath’ turned into ‘Leviathan’. Nice analogy there…” and so on. BUT IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME.
    And, Parrot Dragons!?!?! That’s so cool! I will say, though, that I like Message Lizards better. But dragons breath fire, and in my fanfic, well… let’s just say that that was a funny little coincidence.
    But either way, I reiterate the TOTAL AWESOMENESS.

  7. Hey, Mr. Westerfeld!
    So, do we get FAF tomorrow, featuring stuff from Dalek Week? Because I’ve been waiting since LAST Friday, and the Friday before that too, and whenever you posted the most recent FAF. Therefore, please post FAF tomorrow, and consider some of my Dalek week stuff… if you can figure out which stuff it is. Would you feature some writing, too?

  8. I am sorry, but I have not undertaken the challenge of attempting to explain how the flechette bats…um…weapon works to anyone. I would probably end up being laughed at, and being asked, “What have you been smoking?” However, I do indeed think that the flechette bats are cool. KEEP WRITING YOUR BOOKS Mr. Westerfled!!

  9. Im odne trying to explain theme anymore aal my friends just ignore me because i talk to much.

  10. @46, 48, and 52- I KNOW RIGHT????,
    Oh, and Rue, my science teacher’s last name is Fitzgerald. I’ve never watched PLL, but I think that name has something to do with it?….

  11. @48, 52 and 63- I knew I’d find fellow Doctor Who fans here! None of my friends, well, my non-internet friends, understand me… I’ve got to wait until the new season comes out on Netflix! Arrghh!!!! (that’s an angry noise, not a pirate noise) 😉

  12. @64-Who’s your favorite Doctor? Mine’s David Tennant. And I like Donna the best as a sidekick. And my favorite episode is Silence in the Library. (And the second one, Forest of the Dead.)

  13. @66- David Tennant. Definately. My favorite episode was Blink but I’ll have to agree with you about the sidekicks. Donna was the best.

    I like Martha though. And my fave episode is The Fires of Pompeii.

  15. When my dad first bought me Leviathan he wanted to know how I liked the book… why I mentioned the flechette bats first is beyond me.

    My friends and I have gotten very different reactions when telling others about these oddities you created, but they all tend towards one line of conversation: “Wait a minute… what?”

    Mr. Westerfeld, you have seriously confused many people with your talk of flying whales, gellatenous masses of fishy bits that fart hydrogen, russian fighting bears, talking lizards and most of all spike pooing bats. I admire your creativity.

  16. i tried explaining this to my dad. didn’t go too well… he didn’t even let me finishe explaining. he stopped me after ‘it’s a bat that poos spikes’.

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