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Close Encounters of the Snarkian Kind: A Portmanteau inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark

Close Encounters of the Snarkian Kind

Written and illustrated by Byron W. Sewell

First edition, 2016. Illustrations by Byron W. Sewell. Foreword by Michael Everson. Portlaoise: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-134-7 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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Your ticket on this Snark hunting expedition through the snarkish imagination of Byron Sewell is good for several stops on planet Earth and far-off Jupiter! Our first stop is at Olosega, a volcanic doublet in the Manu'a group of the Samoan Islands, over a century ago, to learn about the true story of Robert Louis Stevenson's tragic encounter with a Boojum. From there our next two stops are in today's West Virginia to attend a meeting of the West Virginia Snark Hunting Society, followed by a deadbeat dad's encounter with someone intent on painting his trailer and pick-up truck with neon-pink polka dots. From there you will travel to Cologne where someone is visiting a psychiatrist seeking help for his ability to see live snarks that everyone attempts to convince him are just illusions. Our last stop is a close encounter on one of Jupiter's moons, eventually colonized after the sudden onset of an ice age across Earth's northern hemisphere, where the words of an ancient tale have the power to rip open a seam in the fabric of space-time and reveal a terrifying world where Boojums abound. Be sure to bring along a fork and some soap.

“Close Encounters of the Snarkian Kind” was originally written and privately posted by Byron W. Sewell to a few of his Carrollian friends for their entertainment, in the Victorian manner of issuing a story one chapter at a time. The initial “part” eventually became Chapter I of the story pub­lished here. The next week Chapter II appeared, continuing the story. That was well received and this continued until there were eventually a total of four chapters and Byron thought that he was finished with the story. However, Alison Tannenbaum wrote Byron, requesting another chapter or two. In response, Byron wrote a fifth chapter, entitled “A Posy for Alison”, and the story was finally concluded with Chapter VI. There was no original plot, list of characters, etc. Each chapter simply fed off of what had occurred in the previous chapters. Byron claims that he was surprised as anyone about the ending. That is not the way most people are taught to write a story. It’s just how his mind works. The main character in this science-fiction tale is the psychopathic murderess, Dayna Keiner. She is named after a well-known Canadian Carrollian, not because she is also a psycho­path, but rather out of simple friendship and fun, and because at one time her name was Dayna Nuhn, and Byron took her surname as a pun on the German word “keiner”, meaning “none”.

The title of Chapter I, “Subtle Azzigoom”, is a quotation from Lewis Carroll’s novel, Sylvie and Bruno, which reads:

“How blest would be
A life so free—
Ipwergis-Pudding to consume,
And drink the subtle Azzigoom!”

No one knows exactly what Azzigoom is.

That’s the sort of silliness that pervades some of these stories. The reader will find numerous allusions to other famous modern-day Carrollians in many of his stories. See how many you can identify!

“Polka Dot Snark” was inspired by the name of a high school in the West Virginia town of Poca, located in Putnam County, the same county in which the Sewells live. Poca High School is locally famous for their mascot, the “Dot”. According to Wikipedia, this was a reference made in 1928 during a football came, when a reporter exclaimed, “they look like a bunch of red polka dots running around the field!”

That’s almost as funny as the true West Virginia town name of Big Bottom, briefly mentioned in “The West Virginia Snark Hunting Society”. Byron says that he first became aware of the name when he saw a poster in a storefront window that said: “REVIVAL! Big Bottom Baptist Church”. (“Bottom” here refers to a river bottom, not a congregation of Baptists with prominent posteriors.) The reader will often find West Virginia locations in Byron’s stories, some of which Evertype has already published, including The Carrollian Tales of Inspector Spectre.

Michael Everson
January 2016


HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2016-02-08

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