“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…”

Stop-Motion Hunting of the Snark in 2012

Assuming the filmmakers don’t meet with a Boojum, there will be a British stop-motion animation of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark released in 2012. Our very own Andrew Sellon (LCSNA President emeritus) recorded some voice over work, including the role of the Judge!

The Hunting of the Snark is an animated feature about a group of strange individuals that embark on a voyage with the aim of capturing “The Snark,” regardless of the fact that none of them even know what it is, or how to catch it, the film is  directed by Saranne Bensusan with several other confirmed crew members.

Their website is here, there is a twitter you can follow for updates, and a facebook fan page. Here are a few pictures of the process:

Early version of The Baker

"Bathing machines"

Boojum galumphs in Chicago

Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard are staging Boojum! Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll, from November 16th through December 19th, at the DCA Storefront Theater in Chicago. Described as “part existential musical theater and part fantasy adventure story,” it was created by Australian play-writing and composing team Martin Wesley-Smith and Peter Wesley-Smith (whose identical last names are either an extraordinary coincidence, or else not a coincidence at all.)

A few reviews are out: Chicago Now‘s Katy Walsh described it as a “nonsensical operetta that is all in its head,” and provided a nice description of the premise:

Reverend Charles Dodgson battles his Caffeine&Cov_Boojum!_02pseudonym over the origins of his most famous literary masterpiece. The reserved Charles and the flamboyant Lewis deconstruct their lookingglass fame. Who better to help in the rediscovery process than Alice? Both of them! The child and adult version of Carroll’s inspiration challenge him on the intense connection and de-connection of their relationship. As Charles sorts out his Alice issues, his imagination unleashes the makings for his farcical poem, “The Hunting of the Snark”. Quirky characters fill Charles’ head with a jumble of demands for attention. BOOJUM! Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll is a stay-cation to a world of the unexpected. What a head-trip!

Tickets cost $15 – $25. The play is directed by Jimmy McDermott. The winners of the Old Father William’s Frabjous and Curious Poetry Contest will be performed by the actors at a Lewis Carroll Coffeehouse on November 29th.

Carroll Concordances at the Victorian Literary Studies Archive

Wondering exactly how many times the mysterious word “Boojum” appears in The Hunting of the Snark? (3). There’s a pretty user-friendly and accessible concordance of seven of Lewis Carroll’s most important works – Both Alices + “Under Ground”, Snark, Slyvie & Bruno, The Game of Logic, and Phantasmagoria and Other Poems – at the Victorian Literary Studies Archive (in addition to searchable texts of dozens of other authors.) Thank you to the VLSA for making a useful website, and thanks to LCSNA member Lester Dickey for the tip.