We’re back for another meeting of the Book Lovers for the Prevention of Supporting Character Neglect! Where Book Lovers from across the world stand in solidarity for the supporting cast. Those individuals that make the story and keep us coming back even when the protagonist needs a good smack (cough Sookie Stackhouse cough). Hear our anthem! Because everyone deserves top billing now and then.
For this round we’re diving into a relatively new series: Seanan McGuire’s InCryptids. Our previous two outings focused on long-standing series with multiple novels and the correspondingly massive supporting cast to choose from. However, Seanan McGuire wasted no time in building up a multi-generational family epic. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, we actually have two separate protagonists: Verity Price (here in the now), and her great-grandmother, Frances Brown-Healy (back in the day). With all this glorious world-building, why should we hold back our concern for certain under-utilized perspectives?
Alisha: This series deserves a special BLPSCN merit for those short stories featuring the (now-deceased) Prices and Healys. They’re a balm to soothe the eagerness of those readers that want to know how the family ended up this off-beat, dynastic band of cryptozoologists.
Also, they need to issue a history book inspired by the holidays observed by the mice!!!
Back home, Mom keeps a master calendar that details the religious observances of the Aeslin mice, with every feast, festival, celebration, and day of mourning carefully annotated. I never understood why she bothered. Living with my own splinter colony has given me perspective. It’s not anal retentiveness that fuels Mom’s calendar. It’s self-preservation.
Aeslin mice can make anything—anything—into a religious observation, and once they do, they cling to it for as long as the colony survives. The main body of the current colony has been with my family for seven generations. Individual Aeslin come and go, but the memory of the colony is very, very long.
Cass: And this is how we know Verity is not an anthropologist. No respect for the social sciences in the Price clan. Her great-grandmother would be VERY disappointed in her.
Fran turned to the mice nearest her. “What’s on the table tonight?”
“The Celebration of the Union Between the Patient Priestess and the God of Uncommon Sense,” said one of the mice, eliciting cheers from the others.
“Oh, good.” Fran looked toward Juniper, and translated, “They’re celebratin’ Johnny’s parents hooking up. You want to stay and watch?”
“So very badly,” said Juniper.
Fran smiled. “I love religion.”
The mice are undeniably amazing, but we cannot overlook the dragons. I believe I’ve already made my undying love for the adventures of Sarah-and-the-pre-teen-dragons abundantly clear. Because WE NEED TO SEE THIS. Immediately. What kind of epic Adventures in Babysitting nightmares could this group endure? So. Much. Awesome. I wants it!
(Seanan, feel free to steal this pitch: Take Adventures in Babysitting. Add cryptids. We will gladly bask in the chaos that unfolds).
Alisha: Sarah’s tale would be an absolute must-read. She’s proven in these first two books that she can hold her own voice and story. I would never want to be near her on a bad day–she’s got me scurd–but I would want to watch what happens to someone else that crosses that Cuckoo (pun very much intended).
“I’ve always done my very best not to take advantage of the people around me,” said Sarah, opening her eyes and looking plaintively at Sunil. “It’s hard sometimes. You can’t even imagine how hard. But I swear, I’m not going to mess with your head.”
“This is . . .” Sunil frowned, finally straightening up. “I’ve never heard of a Johrlac deciding to live among others as one of them, and not as their master.”
“I do dishes, too,” said Sarah.
“Sunil!” Rochak reappeared from the direction of the kitchen, Mike tagging along behind him. Istas was nowhere to be seen, possibly because the kitchen now contained a great deal of unguarded gingerbread. I hoped that Mike had asked her to leave some for the rest of us. “Who’s this?”
“My cousin, Sarah,” I said, and braced for the explosion that was sure to follow.
It didn’t. Rochak stopped next to Sunil, looking speculatively at Sarah. Then he turned to me, and asked, “Your cousin is a Johrlac? How is that even biologically possible?”
“See, I’m a little more curious as to how you’re identifying her on sight, but yes, she is,” I said. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“No. I’m fully mature. She can’t get inside my head.” He put a hand on Sunil’s shoulder, turning back to Sarah. “If you hurt my brother, I will destroy you. Then I will find the rest of your hive, and destroy them as well.”
“I’m not going to hurt your brother, and I don’t have a hive,” said Sarah. “I just want this to be over before I miss too many classes.”
“Then we’re in agreement,” said Rochak.
I blinked. “Mature? What?”
“Madhura are immune to the lure of the Johrlac once we pass our third molt,” said Rochak. He nodded toward Sunil. “My brother has only passed his second.”
“Thanks for announcing that to the world, Rochak,” said Sunil, looking mortified.
“Don’t worry; the world has no idea what it means,” I said. “Uncle Mike, can you show them to an empty office? Not one of the ones to either side of Sarah, please, I think we’ll all feel better if we’re not stacking people on top of each other.” And maybe later, when all this was over, I could sit down with Rochak and grill him on exactly how the Madhura were able to resist the call of the cuckoo—something no other known species was able to do, except for possibly the Apraxis wasps, and those weren’t something we could sit down and talk to. Not unless we felt like being stung to death and used to feed the hive’s larvae.
Cass: Holy shit, you’re right. My adoration of all things dragon totally distracted me from the hidden mysteries of the Johrlac. Since there is a generational theme to the story, I now nominate Verity’s maternal grandmother – the disabled cuckoo who shuns her species, adopts human babies, and then conducts science fiction based sociological experiments on minors as a supporting charter deserving of the limelight.
Cuckoos don’t really have telepathic ethics, unless you count “loot first, then burn” as an ethical approach to reading someone else’s mind. Grandma Angela got past this by encouraging Sarah to watch every episode, ever, of Star Trek: the Next Generation and Babylon 5. Sarah went on to augment her education with lots of comic books and classic science fiction. End result, a very polite psychic geek who won’t invade your brain without permission. Most of the time.
Did I ever tell you my undergraduate thesis was on the socio-political ramifications of science fiction? Grandma Angela is my kind of woman.
Are you more interested in the Price/Healy clan’s history or current adventures? Would you prefer a crytpid protagonist over a cryptozoologist? Do the Aeslin Mice make you feel a little guilty for inventing all those reasons to get out of church as a kid? (Cass: not at all). Let us know below!