Friday, May 24, 2013

Tips for Exploring the Best (Fictional) Cryptozoology this Summer

by Sara N.

Ever dream about bagging Bigfoot? Catching a chupacabra? Snapping a new shot of Nessie? If so, make plans to spend some of your summer free time boning up on cryptozoology.

Man in a suit? Mythical beast? My high school prom date? You decide.
For those not in the know, cryptozoology is the study of cryptids, or animals whose existence is rumored but for whom no physical evidence exists. Technically speaking, it's a pseudoscience that doesn't have the support of, you know, actual scientists with their "measurements" and "verification techniques" and "confirmed sightings of actual animals."

So you may not be able to hop around the globe this summer in pursuit of these mythical beasts, but you can still bask in cryptozoology from the safety of your couch. Here's how.

First, if you haven't already, pick up Seanan McGuire's book duo Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-light Special. They're the first books in her Incryptid series, and they follow the exploits of sassy, ass-kicking Verity Price as she protects innocent cryptids from humans (and protects humans from not-so-innocent cryptids).

The books are a definite tonal shift from McGuire's dreamier October Daye series and her snarky, scary pseudonymously written Newsflesh series. (Sidenote: I'm always amazed at the way McGuire can shift her writing voice for her different series. Each is distinct and enjoyable, and she slips from one to the next seamlessly.)

Verity is an immensely likable heroine, brave and tough yet flawed enough to be interesting. She clashes with some of the local cryptids and, more seriously, with representatives of the Covenant of St. George, the international society that believes the only good cryptid is a dead cryptid. The action is well-written, the humor is brisk, and the world-building is solid. Oh, and Very's Aeslin mice are the cutest sidekicks I've come across in ages. Hail!

The third book in the series, Half-off Ragnarok, is out next year.

Photo from Knit Picks
So with the books having sharpened your interest in mythical beasts, why not spend some time making a few? Knit Picks, home of some of my favorites needles and yarn, is highlighting a group of patterns for making rare beasts.

You've got a kraken scarf, a mermaid cowl, a squishy sea serpent, bigfoot slippers, and a stuffed jackalope. The patterns were created by Annie Watts of Wattsolak Designs, and I want to make them all. You can check out pictures of the other projects on the website.

Finally, while you're knitting your fun new Yeti slippers, keep the crypto-mood going with a rewatch of The X-Files. Seriously, can you think of a show that had more mythical monsters than this one? Flukeman, the chupacabra, the Jersey devil, Big Blue (like the Loch Ness monster, but living Georgia and hungry for little dogs — alas, poor Queequeg, we hardly knew you), werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, and on and on.

You can stream The X-Files on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus. If you don't want to tackle all nine seasons, here are the must-watch mythical animal episodes:

The Jersey Devil (S1)
Flukeman would like you to pass the popcorn.
Shapes (S1)
Darkness Falls (S1)
The Host (S2)
Quagmire (S3)
El Mundo Gira (S4)
Small Potatoes (S4) — also one of the show's best overall episodes
Detour (S5)
Bad Blood (S5) — another standout from the series as a whole
Agua Mala (S6)
Alpha (S6)
Brand X (S7)

(Sorry — nothing past season 7 from me. I like to pretend those non-Mulder years don't exist.)

Honestly, I don't need much of an excuse to rewatch my beloved X-Files, but if you need extra incentive, consider this claim from Loren Coleman on CryptoMundo: The Big Blue episode Quagmire, under the direction of the late, great Kim Manners, was the first time that the word "cryptozoology" was spoken on a science fiction television program. And if you don't think that's enough reason to spend your hot summer months with some cool federal agents, I'll sic a chupacabra on you.

The truth is — well, you know.

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