“And Black Alice had heard Boojums weren’t supposed to be all that smart…”

Mahendra Singh’s illustration of “The Baker’s Tale,” from his graphic novelization of The Hunting of the Snark. “‘But if ever I meet with a Boojum, that day, / In a moment (of this I am sure), / I shall softly and suddenly vanish away — / And the notion I cannot endure!'”

The Lavinia Whateley was a Boojum, a deep-space swimmer, but her kind had evolved in the high tempestuous envelopes of gas giants, and their offspring still spent their infancies there, in cloud-nurseries over eternal storms. And so she was streamlined, something like a vast spiny lionfish to the earth-adapted eye. Her sides were lined with gasbags filled with hydrogen; her vanes and wings furled tight. Her color was a blue-green so dark it seemed a glossy black unless the light struck it; her hide was impregnated with symbiotic algae.

Illustration from Lightspeed Magazine for the story “Boojum”

That’s the definition of a Boojum from the short story “Boojum,” by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear, printed in the September 2012 issue of Lightspeed, a magazine of Sci-Fi and Fantasy fiction. There’s also a character named Black Alice. The story is online here, and ebooks of Lightspeed can be bought here or on Amazon here ($3.99).

Erin Stocks has an interview with the authors, and the first question is about the Carrollian title:

September 2012 issue of Lightsaber

Your short story “Boojum” happens to be one of my favorite science fiction stories written in the last few years, and I’m delighted we’re reprinting it in this issue. Some of our readers might recognize a “Boojum” as a dangerous kind of snark, a fictional animal species invented by Lewis Carroll, or maybe the intercontinental supersonic cruise missile dreamed up in the 1940s (and never completed) for the U.S. Air Force. Was the creation of the Lavinia Whateley influenced by either one of those?

We got the word from Lewis Carroll. The second story set in this universe, “Mongoose,” features monsters called toves, raths, and bandersnatches.

(Sarah: I don’t remember how we thought of crossing Lewis Carroll and H. P. Lovecraft, but since “The Hunting of the Snark” is one of my favorite poems, in retrospect it seems utterly inevitable. Bear: True story: Sarah and I once drove around Madison after a rainstorm looking at an enormous triple rainbow and reciting “The Jabberwock” to one another from memory. The intersection of Lovecraft, Carroll, whimsy, and horror seems inevitable once you’ve hit upon it.)

[continue reading this interview…]

Their story “Moongoose,” mentioned above (the one with toves, raths, and bandersnatches), was published in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection (2010). “Within moments, the tove colony was in full warble, the harmonics making Irizarry’s head ache…”

Benedict Cumberbatch also known as Bandersnatch Cummerbund

Benedict Cumberbatch, star of BBC's Sherlock

A bandersnatch was in the news today, but it was widely assumed to be a typo. The actor who plays the titular role in BBC One’s Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, had his already-Carrollian-sounding name apparently spectacularly autocorrected by the Washington Post into “Bandersnatch Cummerbund.” Thanks to @Alex_Ogle on Twitter for the picture before. Anyone hoping for a sober correction – something along the lines of “The Washington Post deeply regrets mistakenly printing the name of the actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Bandersnatch Cummerbund blah blah blah” – will be disappointed. The Post responded that it was not a typographical error, and issued the following statement:

UPDATE: It has come to our attention that there is raging debate, in re whether we intentionally referred to Benedict Cumberbatch as Bandersnatch Cummerbund in The TV Column and blog.

Bandersnatch concept art for the 2010 Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland, by Jason Seiler and Bobby Chiu ©Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Apparently it all started when Poynter posted an item early Tuesday afternoon about the “typo.”

MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson, a gentleman and a scholar (and former Post staffer), leapt to our defense, noting I correctly identified Cumberbatch on first reference in the column item, and explaining that we are “a titan of snark” who “gets away with that kind of stuff all the time.”

Johnson was perhaps recalling the time, back in 2009, when Politico wrote about the sorry state of The Washington Post’s copy editing, citing something we had written about “American Idol” in which host Ryan Seacrest was called “Seabiscuit” – until some people explained to the author in the comments section, that we had used the nickname for Seacrest during many years of “American Idol” recapping. (The report vanished from the Web site).

But Poynter’s Craig Silverman, a skeptic, bet Johnson a beer on it, asking Johnson, like he meant it to sting, did he think the Post’s copy desk would let that through without any kind of wink to readers.

Silverman owes Johnson a beer.

But, we would like to give credit where credit is due. The nickname “Bandersnatch Cummerbund” originated with one of the serious students of television who join me each Friday to chat about all things TV. And that person would no doubt want to give credit to Lewis Carroll, who first wrote about the “frumious Bandersnatch,” in “Jabberwocky,” in the late 1800’s. We loved it then, we love it now. Oh — and, wink wink!

Call to artists to represent the Tulgey Wood monster wearing a tuxedo sash.