Afternoon InquisitionScience

AI: Novels and Imagination

It’s November, which is NaNoWriMo time. Or, for those not hip to the lingo, National Novel Writing Month.  The goal is to finish a 50,000-word novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.  Someday I would like to write a novel…but I got nothing right now.  I love sci-fi, and mysteries, and things like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, which fall into a category called Urban Fantasy. And I read a lot, over a hundred books a year, which you would think would help spur my imagination.  Nope.

I’ve written before about some of the….highly speculative….fiction that I’ve come across. The science is terrible,  but the creativity is pretty amazing.  A  wasp-woman with a web-slinging vagina that is also an inter-dimensional sex portal.  A werespider named Charlotte in search of a stolen egg sac (and that is a different book–this werespider slings her web from the more traditional anatomical location of the taint).  Carnivorous dust mites eat New York.

The most amazing book I’ve found so far is about a Wereduck.  Yes. WEREDUCK.

In order to know how wonderful and terrifying the idea of a wereduck is, you have to  know a bit about duck anatomy.  Thanks to several years working at a bird sanctuary, I know a lot more about the insides of waterfowl than I really needed to.

The vast majority of birds don’t have any penis.  Ducks and swans  (Anatidaeare one of the rare exceptions. In fact, ducks have crazy penises shaped like a corkscrew.  Oh, and the penis can be as long as the duck’s entire body. Here, look at this slow-motion video of a duck erection and ejaculation.

That penis is traveling at a speed of 1.6m per SECOND. That’s why the video was slowed down.

So you can see why a wereduck novel–in fact, an erotic wereduck novel–was pretty intriguing in concept. I imagined the dialog in the book going something like:

Duckboy set down the roses and bottle of wine he had brought.
“Pity we don’t have a corkscrew” his date said.
“No problem,” said Duckboy.

A penis as long as your body? That’s got to be a bit of a wardrobe problem. But wait! The other interesting thing about duck penises is they are invisible until needed. That is, they are inside the drake’s body until it’s time for sex.  Then the penis bursts out, rather like turning a sock inside out.  This could lend itself to all sorts of fun fight scenes. Knee in the Groin? No problem!

What interesting, if highly improbable, fiction have you read lately?  Wereduck: Hawt or Nawt?  What sort of fiction would you like to see from a wacky entomologist author?

(Thanks to BrianCutting for the start of wereduck dialog, and blmeirs for the photo. If you want to know more about the story of duck penises–and the vaginas they are adapted to–it’s explained by Ed Yong nicely here, with photos of some of the research apparatus used.)

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.



Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. I finished my Nano last year, but this years has stalled at the 10,000 word mark.
    I haven’t read anything absurd lately. :/

  2. I just read a “zombie” novel called ‘The Infection’ by Craig DiLouie, in which the zombie outbreak was only stage one of the mutation, and it gets more and more improbable from there, bring to mind both Stephen King’s ‘The Mist’ as well as Scott Sigler’s alien invasion books.

  3. – “What interesting, if highly improbable, fiction have you read lately? ”

    None lately. In fact, I can’t recall any that I’ve read, unless you count the books in the “Lord of the Rings”, which is meant to be improbable anyway. :)

    Does “Dune” count at all?

    – “Wereduck: Hawt or Nawt?”

    As a hetro male, I say “nawt”.
    Don’t think the female version would be hot either.
    Can’t say I care for ducks either way. I’m sure they’re important in an ecological sense, but I just don’t fall for them.
    At least, not as much as cats.

    – “What sort of fiction would you like to see from a wacky entomologist author?”

    How about this: the insects of the world creat their own version of the internet and plan to overthrow the human race and take the planet over for themselves?

    Or has that been done to death?
    If so, maybe a tale of when humans are extinct and roaches have now become the most intelligent life on Earth?

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