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Eating the Afterbirth

Posted on 2006.01.18 at 04:21
While taking a break from the rewrite of BLOOD BOUND, I found this wonderful quote by China Mieville, author of such wondrous, weird books as PERDIDO STREET STATION, SCAR, IRON COUNCIL, and the collection of short stories, LOOKING FOR JAKE:

"I'm finishing a novel right now. I've finished the first draft. An analogy occurred to me, as I stared at this beautiful, fucking messy thing. When a cat gives birth to a kitten, it then licks all the manky crap off it for an hour. So the transition from first to second draft: I have to spend a month licking afterbirth off a kitten."
--China Mieville

I'm a man with five cats--let me try that again--I'm a man who is owned by five cats that honor me by letting me share their lives. One was a pregnant sack of skin and bones that I rescued on a stormy New Year's Eve. It was pouring rain and I nearly ran over her when she darted in front of my car. Weighted down by her unborn kittens, she proved a bit slow on the evasive maneuvers. I slammed on the breaks and curbed the car, missing her by a whisker. When I opened my door to see if I could find her, the muddy, tangled, bundle of life jumped onto the driver's seat. She not only took control, she adopted me as her midwife. She gave birth to a litter in my bedroom a week later.

One of the kittens was a breech birth, and as the mother labored to squeeze the poor thing out, I realized she would fail. The tiny kitten's legs flailed, then slowed to a weak kick. I knew I had to intervene, and gently clasped the venous sack with limbs writhing inside. I pulled, the mother howled, but the kitten's shoulders were trapped. I tugged harder, praying I wouldn't tear the kitten in half. There were a few terrible seconds of increased resistence, the tiny body distended, and then the kitten popped free. The mother went to licking the kitten, her tongue not only cleaning but massaging life and breath into the newborn. Years later, the mother, Victoria, sits purring on top of my chair as I type. The breech kitten, now a twenty pound beast with yellow eyes, the body of a Maine Coon, and midnight black fur, is curled up beside the computer. I named the former kitten Shadwell, after my favorite character from Clive Barker's WEAVEWORLD.

Once I did an interview with Clive, and asked him, "Of all your characters, with which one do you most identify?"

CB: "Really?"

RJ: "Really."

CB: "Shadwell. The guy with the enchanted jacket from Weaveworld."

RJ: "Sort of the bearer of gifts and magic."

CB: "The bearer of gifts and magic who's probably slightly dangerous to know." (laughter)

So China's quote resonates with me on more than one level. The rewrite is more than just licking off the afterbirth. It is eating away the amniotic sac to expose a living creature. If I've done my job, the novel, even wet and bloody from the womb, IS slightly dangerous. Born of imagination and obsession, it is a creature of gifts and magic. All my novels are breech births. They need to be tugged from the womb and threaten to rip apart. The afterbirth, (bloated scenes, stilted dialogue, clumsy attempts at being literary) is a nasty meal to swallow. But the meal nourishes, becoming milk, nursing the novel until it has the strength to stand on its own. Then there is the matter of chewing through the umbilical cord...

God, I love the word, "manky."


Justine Musk
moschus at 2006-01-19 07:25 (UTC) (Link)
Just getting back to livejournal now and wanted to say Welcome and Glad to find you here!
C.Rae for Today
rae_too_serious at 2006-01-19 23:36 (UTC) (Link)
I've popped a few kittens free myself, my youngling of darkness. Mwahahaha!
(Anonymous) at 2006-12-18 09:41 (UTC) (Link)

I think i am long lost family

Hi i dont know how i ended up on this page but when it came up i saw your name and the first thing that came to mind was is he part of the or knows of a book that was put out around 1985 the name is the(william O. and mary C. crowther family)If u want to get back to me that would be great i am a descendant and i think u look alot like some of the pic in this book lol my email is picwork27sd79@yahoo.com i might be wrong but u never know.
(Anonymous) at 2007-06-22 10:53 (UTC) (Link)


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