genre stuff

China Miéville’s Monster

On the way back from the SFX Weekender, me, China and Julie (our editor) were chatting on the train about various things to do with the Craft and Art of writing fiction. Then China comes up with the challenge: he draws a monster of some sort, and I have to write it in to the fourth novel.

I wouldn’t be able to see it until he’s finished, nor would he give any clues as to what it could be. I’ve spent all of this novel so far writing with a lacuna, but as you can imagine, it’s reasonably difficult – not to mention fun – not having a clue what it was going to be.

Four months later, he sends in the above.

Amazing, isn’t it? The detail is beautiful. The caption (it didn’t scan in well) said: “In teratogenerative solidarity and admiration”.

The challenge continues, however: the skull and wasp parts are not of the same scale, which lends itself to an interesting narrative exploration. In fact, right now all sorts of options are springing to life (which is part of the challenge, of course). And this will, somehow, definitely feature in the fourth Red Sun novel.

Needs a name though. Suggestions welcome in the comments.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

33 replies on “China Miéville’s Monster”

The wings interest me. They could just be flapping, but the shading China’s put on them makes them look more like they’re shimmering, as if they’re crossing dimensions instead. Or, that could just be interpreting-art-fail on my part.

And I think you should call it/him/her/them Skullwasp(s). Simple name, even a little cliched, but I like the idea that it’s based both on their form and their primary habitat.

The Pale Emperor Wasp – Vespa imperator khloros, this terror of the ice fields, sometimes called ghost wasps, swarmen or druspa by the tribes who still hunt the greatly declined seal and fish populations along the edges of the creeping ice pack, is of uncertain origins.

Thought to reach sizes large as a small pony, the insect is must be all but impervious to the extreme cold of the northern climes which have become its domain. Preying on larger seals and walruses, even the terrible ice-bears of the white wilderness, it is an apex predator within its range. Wild reports by senjupk shamans of seeing whole whale carcasses riddled with the boreholes of its grubs can not entirely be discounted. Nor should they be believed either, as the increasingly lethal effects of the ice-age have meant that few humans can exist in these latitudes without a steady slide into madness and death.

The only known surviving specimen was collected by a cultist living off-island, in Villjamur. His theories regarding its origins ranged from the prosaic, that it was a hoax, a fake, the skull of some equine grafted onto the body of a hybrid monstrosity – to the mad, that it was in fact an alien species from beyond this world, beyond the planet at the very least, some unfathomable invader whose presence even in death, spread disease, madness, and a creeping state of nightmares. Any research – along with its examiner’s own notes on his explorations of its weird physiology – were lost when the cultist’s home and lab were by reports burnt down – with the man inside it.

One bit of information along with a hasty sketch to survive the conflagration, was the following, written in a crabbed, frantic hand and grimed with something darker than blood: “…measurements….proven a juvenile or at best a drone. Sexless, there are no organs of reproduction(?), nor even a stomach capable of digesting its prey, so must rely on a hive-organization, almost certainly a queen!!! Imagine the atavistic horror such a sight might engender, may Bohr and Astrid save the poor unfortunate who might witness it…” (from a fragment).

Considering the all-but certain disappearance of indigenous tribes in the farther north due to the severe re-icing of the sphere, confirmation of any more recent sightings seems unlikely. More worrisome is the rapid disappearance of mega-fauna and cetaceans in the same range due to climate changes. Should such a creature exist, and its prey be rendered either extinct, or migrate southwards into the islands of the Boreal Archipelago, what would be the reaction of this possible predator species? Case file closed, on the advice of Senior Archivist Hesia Luta.

– Entry 36A111, signed Vendol Hast, junior archivist for xenofauna and adaptive biology, Ysla.

Wow. All excellent suggestions so far (apart from Fred – never going to happen!) Do we think it is a rodent skull then? *Hits Google images*

Eric – blimey, you’ve practically done my job for me! I’ll put my feet up now.

Chloe – well, his half of the team is good; I’ve not even started mine yet!

James – yeah, it does almost. One concept that sprung to mind (before springing out again) was for this to be some kind of Iron Man-esque suit.

Well, I shamelessly stole from M. John Harrison – that thing looks very much like it would be at home in his Storm of Wings, or its head (which looks rather equine or lagomorphic) at least being paraded through the streets of the Pastel City while bravos sharpen knives in the long red shadows.

The Mourning Wasp represents a wrong step of the evolutionary path righting itself with a further mutation to preserve the species.

The over active saliva gland is, unfortunately, highly acidic. This results in the unsightly corrosion of the Mourning Wasp’s face and head. Only a prodigious regenerative function allows the Mourning Wasp to maintain enough of it’s brain to think. It is for this reason the Mourning Wasp must almost constantly feed. Starving Mourning Wasps enter a terrible frenzy and are at their most dangerous in this condition.

The ovipositor is nearly the length of a man’s forearm, and wounds are prone to infection. This doesn’t bother the Mourning Wasp who has a predilection for laying eggs in corpses, not living flesh, as is more common with other species in this order.

Only the use of weighted nets, heavy clubs and cudgels really work against these insects. I regret to report that my expedition was halved upon first contact with this dreadful new species. My assistant was among the first to die, hence the lateness of my report.

Your obt svt,

– Sebastian Venghaus, Scholar Vespidae

Torymus destructis

Couldn’t resist political connotations of this family of wasps. And for extra credit, they are gall-forming.

Seems to be a rather sinister creature, and since German is considered to be a sinister language by some, here is my proposal:

Schädelwespe – Just mean “skull wasp”, but it has the nice Mötorhead/Umlaut dots..

Crabrodentia – Mixture of the hornet “Vespia Crabro” and rodents….

Regards & good night !


Necromorph (googled and found out Dead Spaced used it.)

Falling back to German, Totenkopf (Death’s Head.)

From Latin, Animal Mortis.

I am a wordaholic, and I love the word teratogenerative. Did you use roots from a language or is it created from your mind? I am fascinated by its beauty.

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