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In the Boojum Forest: A Portmanteau inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark

In the Boojum Forest

Written and illustrated by Byron W. Sewell

First edition, 2014. Illustrations by Byron W. Sewell. Foreword by Michael Everson. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-078-4 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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In this snark-skin portmanteau are four stories about various species of Boojum that have haunted Byron Sewell’s obsessively snarkian imagination. In the first novella, “Atchafalya Boojum”, four teenagers and two alligator hunters encounter a terrifying Boojum deep in the Atchafalaya Swamp near Morgan City, Louisiana. In the short story “Blue Boojum” we enter the aftermath of a dirty bomb that diverted the channel of the Mississippi River, a terrorist act that ultimately triggers a worldwide apocalypse. “In the Boojum Forest” we follow an American desert plant collector on a quest for rare dwarf Boojum Trees, whose seeds are powerfully hallucinogenic. In the Sonora Desert in northern Mexico he hires a shape-shifting Yaqui brujo guide who knows the location of the trees. They manage to collect a handful of seeds, but encounter three very real Boojums that enter the natural world from a spirit world controlled by an equally powerful bruja who is determined to protect the trees for herself and kill the brujo and Boojum Tree collector. For dessert in the desert we find a sweeter snarky tale about a young man in the deep South who hears Boris Karloff’s iconic recording of The Hunting of the Snark on NPR. Later that evening he comically retells the famous poem to his girlfriend while they flirt with each other on her porch swing, enjoying an RC Cola and dreaming of Moon Pies.

Byron Sewell has been writing or illustrating—or writing and illustrating—works inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark for decades. Most of these were issued in very small limited distributions to his Carrollian friends and were never properly published. One early excep­tion was his illustrated edition of The Hunting of the Snark, published by Catalpa Press of London in 1974. In 2012 I published some of Byron’s more recent work along with some of his illustrations in The Haunting of the Snarkasbord, together with a short piece entitled “Forks and Hope”. I also published part of Byron’s “Millennium Trilogy”, which was written in 2000. This was Snarkmaster, which Byron also illustrated.

This present volume publishes another part of “Millennium Trilogy”, namely “In the Boojum Forest”, a novella written in 2006, along with a shorter novella “Atchafalaya Boojum” and its even shorter sequel, “Blue Boojum” (2005), as well as a charming piece callled “Southern Fried Snark” (2005).

Many of Byron’s works, both Snarkian and Alician, are set in locations where he has either lived or visited. A year living in Australia—where he illustrated Alitji in the Dreamtime (1975)—explains his interest in the South Seas and is part of the inspiration for Snarkmaster. Byron was born and reared in the Southwest, which explains his inspiration and interest in the themes of “In the Boojum Forest”. He lived for a year in Kenner, Louisiana, near to the Atchafalaya Swamp, which gave rise, in part, to “Atchafalaya Boojum”.

Some comments on Byron’s illustration for the cover of this present volume may interest the reader. The Bellman and his crew have been searching for snarks in the midst of the famous Boojum forest in the desert climes of Baja California. Byron’s attire for the Bellman is appropriate desert gear (in the style of Roy Rogers’ sidekick, Gabby Hayes). He carries a pitchfork and is ringing his bell as a warning to his crew that he has encountered a rattlesnake. On the left-hand side of the back cover can be seen in the distance a small mesa that in reality is located a few miles south of Tucumcari, New Mexico, where Byron was born in 1942. In case you’ve missed it, there is a rather obvious visual puzzle in the illustration.

I am pleased to tell fans of Byron Sewell’s sometimes violent, amusing, and eclectic Carroll-inspired tales that Evertype plans to publish many of his Alician fantasies and parodies in due course. Some of these were co-authored or inspired by Byron’s own famously humorous sidekick, August A. Imhlotz, Jr.

The third part of the “Millennium Trilogy”, the tale of a serial killer who murders some of the crewmen in a secret Snark Club in California, has also been published in 2014 as Murder by Boojum.

Michael Everson
May 2014


HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2014-07-07

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