Monday, March 20, 2017

Catskinner's Book: Chapters 9-12

Alice, Godiva, and James talk inside a bowling alley. Alice recognizes James as Adam Chase, the son of cult leader Michael Chase. Michael tried to work around the damage to the human brain caused by exposure to Macrobes by binding one to an infant. James admits his new identity and goes to leave, but Godiva convinces him to stay. Alice then fills James in on the war between the Macrobes, humanity's role as pawns, and Morgan's role in Victor's death. Catskinner makes an agreement with Alice to listen to her, and later makes another agreement, this time with Godiva, allowing her to get close to James.

Godiva and James talk in his room about Alice, Macrobes, and Catskinner. Godiva convinces Catskinner that James might have needs beyond those of survival, and that it is best for James and Catskinner if the Macrobe does not interfere. The couple fall asleep in each other's arms.

The next day, Catskinner asks if Alice wants Morgan killed. An agreement between the four beings is made. To draw Morgan out, they will attack the Manchester nest. In preparation, they go shopping. James can't help but peek on Godiva while she changes, only to discover that Godiva has male parts. James shrugs off the shock and kisses Godiva.

Catskinner walks into the middle of the Manchester nest, ready to fight. However, the Macrobe possessing the nest instead accedes to Godiva's demand that it stop working with Morgan.  After a bit more pressure, the alien gives up a warehouse where Morgan keeps his money.


Let's deal with the elephant in the room first. Godiva is...complicated. A human-Macrobe binding with alien facial features, female frame and secondary sexual characteristics, and male sexual organs. And, since Jon spilled the beans with our very first post on Catskinner's Book, Godiva is part vegetable matter as well. I'll continue to use the feminine pronouns to remain consistent with James's perception of Godiva. We know that she sought out Dr. Klein to help her, but the services Dr. Klein actually provided came with a price that Godiva was not expecting. I suspect that the human Godiva was possibly a male-to-female transsexual prior to her alien conversion, but the case for that is as flimsy as any crack-shipper's. And speaking of relationships, James is happy for once and Catskinner approves, so I'm not going to provoke the alien Tasmanian Devil. Catskinner's Book takes the approach that you fall in love with the person you love, an approach familiar to me from watching way too much gender bending anime.

That said, it is Godiva's plant-animal duality that interests me more. She likely could not maintain the strange hormonal mix in her body without the plant symbiotes inside of her. Her vegetable side allows synthesis of some chemically complex compounds and provides other benefits that will soon to be useful. Her vegetable side is also important symbolically as well. In certain schools of esoterica, it is thought that the current animal self of man emerged from a vegetable self. And, when we do meet more of Godiva's kin, we do see that she is unique, keeping her higher brain functions where her kin lose them. Additionally, the vegetable self is also tied to restoration. Not only does Godiva heal quickly, her presence is also restoring James to something more closely resembling humanity. Or at least as close to normal as two vessels to matter-rewriting aliens can get. The plant-animal mix is also relatively unique in science fiction. Certainly the inclusion of chlorophyll into animal life is a moldy oldie of the genre, but the mixing of plant and animal symbiotes so thoroughly is something I haven't seen outside of the Orks of Warhammer 40k. (Thankfully, there's no such thing as an Ork female, not that Godiva would ever resemble one of those hypothetical beings.) However, her relatively unchecked sexual drive is characteristic in esoterica of the animal self being unbalanced. As strange as Godiva is, she is just the first in a string of subverted exceptions, for, with her revelation, Catskinner's Book starts to get alien, with even stranger surprises to come.

As Misha Burnett commented in an earlier post, C. S. Lewis is a significant influence on the cosmology of Catskinner's Book. Whether called by Macrobe, eldil, or a specific Hebraic name befitting their position in the choir of aliens, the extraterrestrial entities echo those seen in Lewis's Space Trilogy. But while the populace of the world of Catskinner's Book bear Lewis's stamp, they are arranged in a more Lovecraftian cosmology. Gone is the Scala Natura, or the well-ordered hierarchies of nature that work together for order and good. While ecologies of Macrobes are referenced, it is clear that humanity has no place in it except as disposable pawns of little more value than plastic green army men toys. The universe is uncaring, and there is no safety or purpose in  hierarchy. The choirs of the Macrobes might as well be Old Ones.

Next time: "Federal Agent! Keep your hands where I can see them."


  1. I suppose I might as well make a statement here about the ambimorphs. I go into some more detail here and there in the other books.

    First, the Ambimorphs and the Blue Metal Boys are the most directly taken from William Burroughs--I also took the name Minraud, but the Minraudim ended up going in a rather different direction over the course of the books.

    Second, Ambimorphs are female, they begin as human women who are infected with an alien symbiote--the symbiote won't live in a male. The male appearing appendage is actually an ovipositor, not a penis. (This actually becomes an important plot point in the fourth book.)

    I, personally, have a very strong belief that one cannot change sex and that gender identity disorder is a mental illness, not an identity. And that's part of why I wrote the Ambimorph characters as I did--the message is that changing a person's genitalia doesn't change who they are as a person.

    But that's not something I come out and say directly in the text.

  2. One of the recurring traps of criticism is seeing things in a text that may not actually be there. It is one that I have fallen into on more than one occasion on this blog, so any correction, especially by the authors, is welcomed.

  3. That's also part of the Rorshach nature of any work of art, isn't it? People see reflected back at them the things they are looking for in the work, and it doesn't always match what the author intended. That's a feature, for the most part, and not a bug.