Saturday, March 7, 2009

The third book I’m never going to write

Suggested title: “Song of the Humpback”

I actually worked on this one for about two months, several decades ago, when more countries were making concerted efforts to hunt the right whale into extinction. I wrote the first scene, realized I did not know enough about marine mammals, and spent next 59 days doing research in the Boston Public Library.

I did this partly because I wanted to maintain a little science in the science fiction and partly because the Boston Public Library was a good place to meet girls. (DISCLAIMER: I was not married at the time).

BAGMAN: “Who cares! And what difference does that make anyhow?”

BUTLER: “It might make a lot of difference to his wife?”

BAGMAN: “She doesn’t read this blog.”

BUTLER: “You don’t know that for sure.”

Anyhow, the basic premise of the book was that marine mammals were actually far more intelligent than we ego-centric humans ever imagined. That they were actually the most intelligent species on the planet by a long shot. The only reason they had not constructed cities under the sea was because they had no need of material possessions.

Their lack of opposable thumbs may have had something to do with it too.

They were advanced enough to keep from overpopulating the ocean. Despite the fact that there were many diverse marine mammal cultures – right whales, humpback whales, blue whales, dolphins, orcas, fin whales, etc. – they had no attitudes of superiority or bias and no propensity for war. They had little ego, believed in eternal life, and gave greater value to the aggregate species than to any individual whale.

This was a stretch, but I had to explain why they had never objected to the slaughter of many individual whales in the past.

However…drum roll…extinction of a species was a cosmic no-no even for these peace loving giants. So, by chapter two, there is an underwater convocation of blues, rights, orcas, dolphins, fins, etc. The humpbacks, of course, having the most beautiful and varied songs, are the interpreters. Orcas are rough and tough, kind of right wing and pugnacious . The big slow blue whales are the wisest, and maybe a bit like Buddhist monks. Dolphins are court jesters.

The decide to stop the whaling. They begin to start sinking the whaling fleet. Impossible for an individual whale, of course, but twenty working in unison have no problem. (Here’s the Hollywood hook – Leviathans lifting boats out of the water, sailors screaming, tidal waves, etc.)

Not surprisingly, this behavior quickly gets the attention of the U.S. Navy which considers it an all out war over control of the planet.

Much graphic nastiness ensues.

But there is also a large political contingent of environmentalists and broader minded people who exert pressure for an eventual negotiated settlement with marine mammals. This may be a stretch as well, but the book holds that humans are basically good and capable of co-existing with whales. If marine mammals are that intelligent maybe we could learn something, help each other out, they get the oceans, we get the land…utopian future…happy ending. (After sufficient blubbery gore for Hollywood to buy the rights, of course).

So that was it…except that I did develop one of the characters…the crusty, self-righteous general and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who stomps around roaring that, “No dumb animals are going to tell me what to do!” Yet throughout the book his wife will go on some junket and stick him dog-sitting duties for their poodle so he will have to periodically leave the war room to walk “Princess” and clean dog poop from his spit-shined shoes. Another stretch, but the irony and comic relief might be worth it.

And this is the end of the Books I’m Not Going to Write series. Maybe. Sometime, in a few weeks, if I can slip around Bagman, I might toss in a fourth one about the tiny flying webcams.


Bagman: “Good! You’re done! But I did notice you avoided mentioning the love scenes between the Humpback whale and the Right whale. Describing sex through the perceptual focus of sonar and echo-location would have been really cool!


  1. A twist on the disaster book/movie with an environmental flavour. I like it.

  2. I'm with Sarah. I like the twist, but the nastiness would drive most folk to drink, I think, if they were to be confronted with it.

  3. is their going to be a catchy song at the end? when all the whales leave the planet for some reason. how about
    'goodbye, and thanks for all basically good humans out there." hmm, mabe THAT'S why he went with 'fish' haha

  4. I want to say something really smart here....but I'm too damn tired.

    I'm with to find a wheel barrow, got a light?

    Thank you for your kind words....a mutual admiration society indeed :)

  5. Y'know, ain't nobody gonna read it if ya don't write it.

  6. "blubbery gore"--is that an environmental pun?

  7. I just want to go whale watching now. Write it.

  8. This book idea is vaguely like my brother's first book, Dinotopia. Write it!

    The idea that whales are smarter and kinder than humans is not a stretch for me at all. They've got much bigger brains and hearts.

    They're certainly not fouling their nests (despite their lack of sewage treatment plants) to the degree we humans are. Perhaps the most definitive quality humans have is their delusional supposition that they aren't part of and dependent on the web of life.

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  10. Maybe people could pay you to sit in a corner and come up with amazing concepts for literary masterpieces. I for one see winners written all over your book series. And this one in particular would make the greatest soppy love story of our time. I agree with Bagman there has to be a little love interest happening - a Titanic of sorts. I can sit and watch whales for hours and hours in all their blubbery goodness. We should never mess with nature, it has a habit of slapping us in the face otherwise. Sharks seem to be coming closer and closer to land here at the moment. There are big changes going on due to global warming but until it bites us it seems no-one wants to pay attention.

  11. I like it! I say "Write it!" And oh...I do love the whales! What magnificent mammals, they are!

  12. Well, I just gotta love anything called a humpback. Like I love Quasimodo!! Oh no wait, that's the Hunchback not the humpback. Sorry, I was confused for a minute there.
    I had a missed call on my cell phone when I got up this morning. Was that you calling???? If so, I'm so sorry that I missed your call. Please try again B&B.....
    ( me dude.........)

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  13. This has the makings of a very decent plot. I don't think the suspensions of disbelief involved are too great a stretch. After all that research, can I ask why you never went further with it?

  14. I know! I know! I should write it! And the others! But I really truly hate writing book length things. Maybe after I retire. But it is not the is the weight of doing it. I can't even keep up with blogging.

    And I suppose I'll have to call Reggie Girl...but Bagman can't find her number. Maybe that's because Butler has hidden his phone books, keeping me out of trouble.

  15. I think you should add a kind of Jaws twist to it, but with the whale getting away with a full stomach of the general and his minions.

    Watch out Reggie Girl. Bagman is closer to Georgia than he is to Maryland! Insert Jaws theme here.