Postcard: New job is a blast!

Retro-style travel postcard of a spitting volcano with rangers in the foreground.

Dear Nikki,
I really like my new job at the volcano. My coworkers seemed cold at first, but they warmed up after that busload of kids went into the cauldron. It was like something from a cartoon: a sign pointed straight off the rim instead of to the parking lot. Every year, it seems, there’s a bonkers accident and people fall in. Awful, right? Still, I can’t shake the feeling that locals are relieved it happened. Like they were edgy before and now they’re more relaxed. Anyway, hope you can visit next year. Bring the kids! We’re planning an amazing, up-close tour.

Cryptid Corner, Episode Two

Nordic Seducers

Welcome back to Cryptid Corner! Today, world-renowned cryptozoologist Dr. Veronica L. Raptor of the infamous Innsmouth Institute is here to talk about about creatures you might encounter in the Scandinavian woods.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

EMILY C. SKAFTUN: If you think Nordic cryptozoology is synonymous with trolls, you’re in for a treat today. Dr. Raptor is here to tell us about not one but two monsters—can I call them that?—inhabiting the wild north.

VERONICA L. RAPTOR: In this case, I’d say monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder. Or the attitude of the beholder, at least. If you are polite to huldrefolk, they can bestow on you great fortune. But if you are unkind…

Theodor Kittelsen, “Huldra.”
Continue reading “Cryptid Corner, Episode Two”

Cryptid Corner, Episode One

The Rougarou

Welcome to Cryptid Corner, an interview series with world-renowned cryptozoologist Dr. Veronica L. Raptor of the infamous Innsmouth Institute—who will offer you an up-close look at monsters from around the world. Among other accomplishments, Dr. Raptor has tracked the migration of jackalopes across the Sonoran Desert, made first contact with yetis displaced by climate change, and co-authored Silent & Deadly, a ground-breaking dictionary of Siren Sign Language.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Mangy-looking rougarou standing among the skulls of people it eats.
A rougarou in the New Orleans zoo.
photo: XxxJohnDoExxxx / Wikimedia Commons

EMILY C. SKAFTUN: Today Dr. Raptor is here to talk about an American monster, the Rougarou. Take it away, won’t you?

VERONICA L. RAPTOR: First of all, Emily, you know how I feel about the word monster. That term is grossly overused, and carries serious negative connotations that not all cryptids deserve. Though in the case of the creature lurking in the marshes of Louisiana, I’ll allow it.

Continue reading “Cryptid Corner, Episode One”

Postcards: three complaints & a love letter

image of a leprechaun crossing sign
Dear Council,
I’m writing about the recently installed Leprechaun Crossing. Yes, it has reduced the number of wee corpses local residents have to scrape off the tarmac, but it comes at a cost. The water’s gone green in the houses within 500 meters of the crossing. Food goes moldy in the refrigerators. Garden gnomes are found in compromising positions. And there’s been a sharp uptick in green turds. From time to time a golden coin is found, perhaps left in recompense for this mischief. But when we take those coins to the pub they turn to dust.
Please consider moving the Leprechaun Crossing to a less populated area.
Mrs. Murphy
image of a very not-amused-looking owl
Dear Bernadette,
This has gone too far. I humored you saying you were a wizard and your school letter was coming. I took you to the theme park and paid for a plastic wand you pretended was made of unicorn hair and gnome toenails (or whatever), but I thought you understood you weren’t taking any magic train to school—just the same orange bus. You waved your plastic wand at me and said some fake-Latin gibberish, and I was rolling my eyes when my whole head rolled backward and I saw my own feathery(!) butt.
You turned me into an owl? Not cool. Put me back.
p.s. You are SO not going to magic school.
image of several people in front of a sign reading "lost persons area"
To Whom It May Concern:
I wonder if you’ve found a person I lost. It’s been a while. A few decades, perhaps. In my defense, I thought the person would find her own way home. I didn’t account for the short in the compass in her left breast. How could I have predicted she’d attempt to feed a lost baby person? That wasn’t in her programming.
Please respond quickly, and I don’t want to hear you only keep found persons for 90 days or somesuch, nor do I care to quibble about the personhood of robots. I do not expect to be judged about the length of time elapsed. Not all experiments succeed and let’s just say that time travel devices short out easier than boob compasses.
Mr. William Meier
Image of weird bumps on a seashore
Dear Eldritch Horror of the Deep,
They used to say the earth had seven seas, all of them our domain. But they are all connected so why haven’t I found you in my millennium of searching? Alas, I must resort to the old way, using part of my precious one day on land to dry my hands, write these words to you, and stuff them into a bottle to toss into the waves. When waves return. It is peaceful now, the sky awash in blood. What a day! I only wish they were yours, these thousand pulsating eggs I’ve lain upon this unsuspecting shore.
With ineffable madness,
Your Eternal Monster Queen

The Big Idea: Living Forever

I talk about death on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever

cover of Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas by Emily C. Skaftun

In today’s Big Idea, author Emily C. Skaftun is thinking about death… for starters. With a book title like Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas, perhaps this is not entirely surprising.


Death! There is no bigger idea. 

The theme that emerged as I was putting together my favorite stories to create my first collection—and no one is more surprised than I that a theme emerged at all!—is something like:

Death. Maybe it’s not the worst thing that could happen?

Or: Be sure to read the fine print about your life after death.

To keep reading, head over to Whatever, where this piece was originally published.

My Favorite Bit: Living Forever

I talk about shrugging on Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit

Everybody shrugs.

They also poop, but that’s a different story. (I did once pitch the idea of a picture book called “Every Monster Poops” to an artist friend as a collaboration, but we never got past cracking ourselves up brainstorming what zombie poop would look like… but I digress).

My favorite thing about writing nonhuman characters is the challenge and opportunity of imagining how they inhabit their alien bodies.

To keep reading, head over to My Favorite Bit, where this piece was originally published.

Experience is the new luxury

Tired of cruises? Try an expedition aboard the MS Roald Amundsen

Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten
Hurtigruten’s newest vessel, MS Roald Amundsen, is an “expedition ship” built for the extreme environments of the Arctic and Antarctic seas.

If your image of a cruise ship is a floating monstrosity the size of a city block, full of casinos, colorful iced drinks with bendy straws, and overblown attractions like waterslides or ziplines, housing thousands of drunk travelers on their way someplace tropical—in other words, if you’re the kind of savvy traveler who scoffs at the idea of cruises—it’s time to take another look at Hurtigruten.

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Catching the Arctic Illness in Svalbard

Are people nuts to love the high north? I go to (almost) the end of the earth to find out

Arctic Illness Svalbard
Photo: Elizabeth Bourne
A mural in Barentsburg with a portion of the poem “Arctic Illness” by Russian poet Robert Rozhdestvensky.

Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American

“Why are you going to Svalbard?” was the most frequent question I got when talking about my summer travel plans. In the way of many adventurers, I had no very compelling answer to the question. Because it’s there!

I have a friend in Longyearbyen now (Elizabeth Bourne, whose name you may recognize from this paper), who was willing to let me crash in her spare room and eager to show me around the place that she loves to a suspicious degree. Mutual friends tasked me with determining whether Elizabeth was entirely insane.

Continue reading “Catching the Arctic Illness in Svalbard”