Content Warning: Graphic Depictions of Nature
Let me paint a scene. It’s 2017 and I’m in a courtroom in Pasadena, California, trying the country’s first lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson for selling baby powder with asbestos in it. We’re seven weeks in. The defense has an expert on the stand. I’ve cross-examined her before, know her entire shtick. My mind begins to wander as she drones through her pre-scripted direct examination. I’m bored. And as she clicks through her slide show, I’m wondering if there exists in the world an animal that gets pregnant by fucking itself in the head.
Spoiler: there is. And what’s more, the animal kingdom is chock-full of procreation via head-fucking. There’s so much of it, in fact, that one wonders where the plan went awry. Why don’t all of nature’s creatures mash domes to make babies?
Because mother nature has a versatile sense of humor, that’s why.
If proliferation of the species was all just blasting DNA into each other’s heads, then we’d be deprived of so much reproductive diversity. You wouldn’t have the lonely male angler fish who attaches to the female and *becomes part of her* living out the rest of his life as an on-demand sperm satchel. Or giraffes who drink each other’s pee to see if it’s business time, and porcupines who follow the same practice but do so via golden shower.
It must have been a slow day when it was time to decide how snails and flatworms would pass on their genetic code. Some snails have both male and female organs and repeatedly stab each other with “love darts” until they both end up pregnant OR DEAD. Other snails opt to avoid Caesar’s fate and reproduce asexually. For all our potty-humor jokes about “sword-fighting,” two-penised flatworms keep it real, fencing with each other until one inseminates the other and takes the match, but then continues to spar with other worms until they, too, are impregnated.
So, I ended up in a bit of an internet deep dive. Not in front of the jury, of course. Later. While other lawyers were drinking in the hotel bar, I was in my room browsing gastropod porn.
I don’t know what led me to ask the question that planted the seed which — for better or worse — blossomed into this book, but I nevertheless asked it: What if all this strange, obscure knowledge was just in your head, a priori, bubbling up from your subconscious like Plato’s Forms. What if, without any googling, education, or reading on the subject… you just knew.
Meet Ben. A twenty-nine-year-old burnout working in a fly-fishing shop in Nowhere, Kansas, who can tell you how many dicks the millipede Illacme tobini has. He can’t explain why he knows the answer, but there are people out there who can. And they’re coming to get him.
What started as my sudden infatuation with the resplendent sex-carnival of nature’s cyclic incubator, quickly became a sprawling buddy adventure complete with flesh-robot bounty-hunters, faster than light travel, galactocalpyse, and a surprisingly resilient jar of pickles.
(And it’s four. Illacme tobini has four dicks.)
Win a copy of Stringers!
Want to find out more about Ben and discover why he inexplicably can tell you how many dicks the millipede Illacme tobini has? We have THREE copies of Stringer to give away in our latest competition. Simply answer the question below (kindly given to us by Chris Panatier himself) to be in with a chance…
*** Competition Expired ***
This competition closes on 26 April so get those answers in now!
Stringers by Chris Panatier is out now from Angry Robot Books