World-Building & Whale Research

Come October With Me
Come October With Me

Party Note: Mark your calendars! Join the celebration at Suhail Rafidi’s Cetus Finalis book launch on Sunday October 2nd, 3:00-6:00 PM, at San Francisco landmark Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, 94117) Remember, “book launch” is nerdspeak for “party,” so plan on drinks at the cash bar, autographs, and laughs.

This week we’ve got a fascinating tidbit about the world-building in Suhail Rafidi’s latest novel, Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey. Also, why Cetus Finalis is unlike other books about whales or whaling.

Aside from children’s books, most books about whales are about whaling. (For example, there is a good book about whaling called Leviathan, by Eric Jay Dolan. It goes into considerable and engrossing detail about the whaling industry in America, from colonial times to the Gilded Age.) But Cetus Finalis, though it involves an encounter with whaling, is not about whaling. It is about whales.

hope-orca-skeletonMany research and biological texts about whales are about their ecological placement, feeding patterns, and vocalizations. A small but growing body of research exists regarding whale communication, social patterns, and the contents and meanings of their songs. We do have superficial observational knowledge of some of their more conspicuous feeding and mating behaviors. But Cetus Finalis is something more than all of these, a novel which deals with the whales in their world, on their terms.

Gray whale at Anacapa Island, California (Courtesy of wildlifesalvation.com)

Creating a world for whales on their terms, yet comprehensible to humans, required certain considerations. With an oral history millions of years long, whales may have some brand of cosmology, some stories about where the world, and whales, came from. The trick for Suhail Rafidi with Cetus Finalis was inhabiting whaledom enough to come up with plausible, yet inaccurate (or are they?) stories about the origins of whale reality.

treeFor example, in whale cosmology, the dominant life forms on dry land are the trees. Trees are the largest living things on land, they cover a great deal of it, and they seem to bring life with them. Since ships (at this historical moment) are still all made of wood, the notion that whalers somehow serve trees is reinforced. To say more would give away too much.

Learn a great deal more about whales, and Cetus Finalis, at the author’s website, suhailrafidi.com.

The San Francisco book launch is on Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6PM, at Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, 94117). Mark your calendars and join the fun!

 

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