Many thanks to all of the writers who contributed to this effort, and thanks to readers for their donations!

Shared Worlds is a unique SF/Fantasy teen writing camp at Wofford College.

Critter concept by Jeff VanderMeer. Artwork by Jeremy Zerfoss. Stories compiled and edited by Therese Goulding. Website by Gregory Bossert. Shared Worlds was founded by Jeremy L.C. Jones. Thanks for major sponsorship to Amazon.

Coelcanzetl

Mike Allen

Alone on this bizarre new planet, the Coelcanzetl swims on rows of paddle feet through the stratosphere, her golden body lighter in density than the water vapor of clouds. On her home world, a gas giant a hundred times the size of Jupiter, she bears the name Papin. She was one of hundreds budded from the same egg-shaped storm of molten life energy. As her cleverness and size designate her a ruler-to-be among her kind, she volunteered for the ultimate trial, a plunge into the deadly ellipse-shaped wind anomaly called the Taub where sentient cyclones guard the mysterious disk known as the Pflug. Had Papin captured the Pflug and replaced it in the wormhole it once covered, she'd have ended the greatest single threat to her species. Yet a rival whom she'd thought a friend betrayed her, and using a stolen weapon of the ancient Coelcanzetli to open a second wormhole, she lured Papin near and flushed her through. Even now the traitor wars for power with Papin's sisters, unaware the Queen-in-training survives, silently gliding through our heavens seeking the telltale shimmer of the portal back.

Malkoha

Jacques Barcia

Malkoha, the Faktory, is a lab. An art gallery under a dome. And a mad scientist, a disturbed artist, an engineer, a poet. The mind of a princess in a tower of concrete and glass, bird's nests, beeswax. She eats the dead cells of wild Critters, floating in the air like dust motes. Dream krill, Malkoha calls them. In her guts, she uses dream krill protein to sculpt a multitude of beasts and scenes, fantasy stories and science facts, other towers, other minds. But no souls. A complex experiment, a mobile installation, Malkoha shares her work with no one. But she does keep a fully functional, and quite attractive ticket booth in her entrance, along with a neon placard that reads: "Society: an aeon of weird behavior. Now open. 1¢."

Ur-Ymadg

Gregory Norman Bossert

When you came ashore and around the long limb of the mountain and saw the city spread before you at last, you felt as if your grin was going to split your head in two. A group of bird-like things felt that your grin was going to split them in two; they chittered and scattered and squawked a mocking song back up at you from the safety of an arcade.

A customs official approached you, resplendent in a taupe hat and teals. It carried a box under one arm which contained a selection of mouths. It rummaged through that box and chose one stretched into an oval of gleeful surprise and held it under the stub of its nose. "My dear! My dear!" it cried. "Just a brief moment, just a few words, and you shall have your liberty of the place."

You had no passport or visa, not even a ticket; you walked here across the ocean floor, long bobbing steps on tippy-claws to avoid flattening the fishes. You shuffled and dripped and admitted as much.

It pulled a concerned grimace from the box. "No paper!" the official said. "A problem! A setback!" It shuffled through the collection of mouths and found a thoughtful frown. "The backs of envelopes will do, my dear, and margins and napkins are readily available, and Malkoha can surely spare a roll of tickets. Excellent for confessional journals, you know: 'admit one'!" It pulled out a wide grin through which to chuckle, but struggled to get it in place; the laugh popped out all at once like a cork from a bottle.

You politely inquired, then, what exactly it was that was required to stay on the island.

"It's just a matter," the official chortled, then raised an apologetic hand. It recovered the thoughtful frown from the box and continued, "Just a matter of being just a bit, you know, imaginary."

And you flushed and grimaced, sending the bird-things back under cover of the arcade, and admitted that you had come in search of the imaginary but you weren't sure you—

The official had produced a pair of mouths, one triumphantly round and the other small and conspiratorial, and slapped them both on at once. "Of course you are, my dear!" it cried from the one, and from the other whispered, "Aren't we all?"

Iolex

Tobias Buckell

Everyone looks up at clouds. Sees their shapes. Loves the gentle mists. Hides from the storms. They say clouds are made when moisture is sucked up into the air. But that's not true. Clouds are made by the Iolex, a pale blue ghost-like creature that blends into the skies. It feeds on the misery and pain of creatures below: hunted animals, hungry people. But when it eats too much of the anguish below it vomits dissatisfied vapors into the air that waft around and release their tears to those waiting underneath.

The Purple Wallflower

Matthew Cheney

The Purple Wallflower is known to inhabit the corners and interstices of urban alleyways, usually near nightclubs. (There are scattered reports of Purple Wallflowers in quiet rural areas, but no such report has ever been confirmed by a second sighting.) For many years, the general assumption has been that the Purple Wallflower is attracted to the particular effect of loud music sensed through thick walls, and that this in some way provides it with sustenance. Recent observational studies, however, suggest that the Purple Wallflower is strongly attracted to crowds, but also terrified of them, and thus must stay at a distance from what it most desires.

While no cults have been identified as worshipping the Purple Wallflower, the few individuals who have come close enough to touch one have often shown marked personality changes, the most common of which are introversion and a tendency to wander alone across vast, open spaces.

Attempts to confirm the authenticity of crystallized Purple Wallflower tears sold online have not been successful, but researchers confirm collecting such tears at sites where office buildings and condominiums have replaced nightclubs and dance halls.

Eep!

Christine Sorrell Dinkins, Shared Worlds/Wofford College faculty

The Eep! is a medium-sized, pale blue monster whose mouth is always wide open. Monsterologists speculate that both the pallor and the persistently-open mouth are evolutionary by-products of the Eep!'s tendency to be surprised by everything. When Eep!s mate, the male Eep! is so shocked to have found a mate that he wanders off soon after the event in a daze. Later, when a litter of Eep!s is born, the mother is so astonished to have given birth that she runs away in confusion. Thus, the cycle of surprise continues for the young Eep!s that have no parents to introduce them to the wide, frightening world and are thus taken off guard by everything they encounter. As a result of their perpetual amazement, wonder, and disbelief, Eep!s tend to be gentle and timid, and they often hide atop the heads of other monsters, hoping not to be noticed.

Bat-Billed Beakie

Amal El-Mohtar

The Bat-Billed Beakie is seldom encountered in peaceful meadows, quiet wetlands, or calm waters; while there is some debate as to whether the Beakie is the cause or consequence of the violence around which it is found, it is nevertheless certain that this critter eschews wading into rushy ponds in favour of a good fray.

The Beakie is sly, shrewd, and good with words and numbers; having barbed its environment (or spotted a potential ruckus), it will draw a crowd around the combatants and take bets as to the outcome; then it will stand by and shout encouragement to whomever has the lowest odds, before leaping into the business, bat in wing, to sort things out itself if necessary.

The Beakie is best avoided by cultivating a stoic demeanour and avoiding the need for loans at exorbitant interest rates.

Bone Bun-Bun

Eugie Foster

"Frankly, I weren't expecting you back in these parts after that business with the huntsman, Miss. Figured you and your ma were done with the forest. Beggin' your pardon, not that I ain't tickled, a'course."

"Hey, look out, that's a Bone Bun-Bun hole. Never be able to face your Gran if you got mauled by a Bone Bun-Bun on my watch."

"You never heard of a bone bun-bun? What they teaching you in that fancy city school? Bone bun-buns are terrible fast, lethal predators, can flay a big bad wolf to the bone in nine seconds flat."

"'Course I'm not making this up! Stick your hand in there and say 'hasenpfeffer stew' three times and see for yerself."

"Hsst, don't move. There she is, a' watching us now."

"It's all right. She's goin' back inside. Lookin' all puny and helpless is the best way to keep from getting tored up by a bone bun-bun, seein' how that's pretty much the opposite of their natural prey."

"Well a'course she looks just like a rabbit. They're cunning, see? Bone Bun-Buns plop themselves in with a flock of bunnies, wait for some dumb wolf to come along and think, lookie here, a whole hillside full of dinner.' And snap, them rabbits are having themselves a no-more-wolf party while the bone bun-bun's pickin' flecks of wolf outta her teeth."

"Whazzat? Yeah, I suppose bone bun-buns could be useful for goin' after a big bad wolf."

"Really? You sure, Miss? Well, I reckon if that's your aim, I'll just lick on outta here. Never had much of a stomach for violence. Last spot of advice 'for I go, might wanna put up your hood there. Bone Bun-Buns are partial to the color red on account a' how it attracts wolves."

Shadder

Neil Gaiman

Some creatures hunt. Some creatures forage. The Shadder lurks. Sometimes, admittedly, it skulks. But mostly, it just lurks.

The Shadder do not make webs. The world is their web. The Shadder do not dig pits. If you are here you have already fallen.

There are animals that chase you down, run fast as the wind, tirelessly, to sink their fangs into you, to drag you down. Shadder do not chase. They simply go to the place where you will be, when the chase is over, and they wait for you there, somewhere dark and indeterminate. They find the last place you would look, and wait there, as long as they need to wait, until it becomes the last place that you look and you see them.

You cannot hide from the Shadder. They were there first. You cannot outrun the Shadder. They are waiting at your journey's end. You cannot fight the Shadder, because they are patient, and they will wait until the last day of all, the day that the fight has gone out of you, the day that you are done with fighting, the day the last blow has been thrown, the last knife-blow struck, the last cruel word spoken; and then, and only then, will the Shadder come out.

They eat nothing that is not ready to be eaten. Look behind you.

Adombrare

Therese Goulding

The Adombrare, or "Umbra" or even more commonly "4Shadows", is a creature known to inhabit only the most crowded of cities. Difficult to identify, the younger Adombrare will often masquerade as skyscrapers, while the elder cloak themselves in the dirt and grime of neglected high-rise parking garages. Although an Adombrare can appear friendly of face and their demeanor can be absolutely charming, beware, for snagged within the teeth of their luminescent smiles are the twisted beams and shattered windowpanes of numerous airships that were once so commonplace in our skies.

Not unlike certain frogs, an Adombrare will change the color of its skin with the passing of the day and at night, when it has become at least 4 different shades of black (pure shadow), a fully-grown Adombrare will ascend effortlessly above the asphalt streets of the city. Then, while floating perpendicular to the terrain below, its enormous eyes emit the most comforting beam of light you should ever want to see, beckoning the stray and weary. Its shiny white teeth transform into blazing emergency flares like those of some uncharted airstrip, causing many misguided aircraft to fly directly into its gaping, cavernous maw.

The Solar Medusa

Lev Grossman

This appears to be a happy sun, the kind that an innocent child might draw amid fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky. Do not be fooled. This is not a happy sun, and it does not wish you well. The Solar Medusa is a floating, translucent gasbag that cleverly interposes itself between you and the real sun, lining up its outline so that when it is in position its presence is nearly undetectable to the naked eye. Once the medusa's prey—that's you—is blinded by the glare, it lowers its long, golden tentacles—what might be termed its 'rays'—and draws you up into its warm, sunny embrace. The process of digestion takes weeks. You won't enjoy it.

Bundlywuggle

Will Hindmarch

The Bundlywuggle only stops growing to shrink and only stops shrinking to grow.

Bundlywuggles dwell in warm or cold caverns beneath the earth, which perhaps they learned to love eons before as hibernating quasi-bears who wandered far below ground. As members of the Ursidae family, they are related to surface bears and, more distantly, to dogs. They survive on deep-salmon, mushrooms, cave lizards, more mushrooms, and the honey of sub-bees made in hives built in upside-down-growing oak trees, all of which they hunt using a fantastic sense of smell and a strong capacity for low-light vision. Their fine, white fur is not actually white but clear, channeling heat and light to their bodies like fiber optics.

Quite buoyant, Bundlywuggles enjoy long swims in underground lakes and grottos, where they often bob about like fat, happy corks. When not swimming, eating, or sleeping, they laze about in rare sunbeams through cracks in cavern ceilings—or even enjoy the soft light of phosphorescent fungi and neighboring animals.

Bundlywuggles change size in the light. Whenever exposed to photons through the Bundlywuggle's fiber-optic fur, the Bundlywuggle grows larger and larger. In the dark, it shrinks gradually back down to a more reasonable size for a bear. If a Bundlywuggle were ever to make it to the surface on a sunny day, it might not stop growing until dark!

Normally docile, Bundlywuggles defend their young and their good friends with frightening yawlps and displays of sharp teeth—all of which grow along with the creature's adorable snoot. No matter how big a Bundlywuggle's snoot gets, though, its nose stays the same size.

Toppington

Jonathan Hufford, Shared Worlds teaching assistant

The Toppington is a pompous creature. Recognizable by his eponymous hat, naturalists note that the creature's interspecies social hierarchy is determined by the size of its headwear—the taller the top hat, the more egotistical the wearer. However, the creatures have very little of such interspecies contact, preferring instead to collect a group of supposedly lesser creatures over which the Toppington may demonstrate his urbanity. For this reason, some experts believe the Toppington to be a parasite of sorts, occasionally even living within other creatures if the creature in question has a climate-controlled and suitably luxurious interior. A Toppington takes inordinate pride in his full and well-waxed mustache and it is believed that females of the species also sport such well-furnished facial hair. Toppingtons take great pleasure in collecting dust bunnies, storing large collections alphabetically, by particulate type, in cookie jars.

Niiskusiippa

Viivi Hyvönen

The Uncommon Sniffler (Myotis inflatus, in Finnish Niiskusiippa), portrayed here on the brink of a particularly violent sneeze, is a rare bat found in remote regions of Finland and the only known mammal with allergy as an adaptive trait. Note in the illustration its distinctive physical characteristic, the rudimentary wings useless for true flight. Unique in its method of propulsion, the Sniffler travels by repetitive sneezing that results in subsequent backward jerks, rendering both its flight pattern and its echolocation somewhat erratic. (Some scholars believe it to catch small insects with the intervening inhalations, but this is a matter of debate.) Allergic swelling of the head, also apparent in the illustration, is presumed to protect the animal in the inevitable collisions. The Sniffler prefers to roost in abandoned cellars and attics it carefully pads for its young to practice their sneezing technique in relative safety.

Marcia Melita Anita Hundredfeeta

N.K. Jemisin

"Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup," they say. Yet no one speaks of the frustration of the dragon. Edibly stupid dragonslayers come along only ever so often, you see—and what is a poor dragon supposed to live on in the interim? Which is why Marcia Melita Anita Hundredfeeta has opted for a more stable existence. All she has to do is what dragons do naturally: stand still and look fearsome. People, brave ones, move into the little hollows under her scales. Marcia found this uncomfortable at first—people tickle—but gradually grew to like it. They keep her scales so very clean. And they feed her their leftovers, which are much tastier than boring old dragonslayers. Except sometimes the leftovers give her gas. The people who live on her are very impressed whenever she burps.

Rudisaurus Dulcis

Kirsten Imani Kasai

The Rudisaurus (AKA Smashosaurus or Blunderbeast) is a gentle plague upon the land. Adults average a height of 50 feet and weigh 1-3 tons, due to an ethereal physical structure and large air pockets cushioning their internal organs.

They subsist on a diet of the fluff of dandelions, cottonwood, poplar and willow trees, snowflakes, shaved ice, ice cream and marshmallows. Hoping to acquire their favorite foodstuffs, Rudisauri often linger near campgrounds, playgrounds, carnivals and circuses. Especially attracted to the sing-songy dialect of children at play, Rudisauri can perfectly mimic the intonation and cadence of children's speech, though the words are never clear due to underdeveloped larynges or toddlers' lingual manglings.

Rudisauri lack stereoptic vision. Neurological macropsia (a hereditary "macular pucker") causes objects to appear larger and Rudisauri to feel smaller than normal. Notoriously clumsy "Blunderbeasts" cause significant damage in densely populated areas, but their sweet nature has earned them the ardent protection of environmentalists.

Mondegreen

Vanessa Lauber, Shared Worlds teaching assistant

The tiny Mondegreen lives a quiet life among his books in an underground cavern. The son of Mr. Peanut, the Mondegreen has taken a saltier attitude toward socialization. A bit shy of the sun (and the creatures who live beyond), he has burrowed in and spends his time perusing volumes at his leisure. But don't take him for a careful reader. He flagrantly misapprehends words and phrases, and takes great pleasure in doing so. Feeding on the offshoots of misunderstanding, he meets the few wanderers who brave a visit with candlelit limericks. For the Mondegreen, new meanings, however misconstrued, are always better than the original.

Lightbulbingale

Leena Likitalo

If you ever visit a really old university, you might encounter a rare species. Though little spoken of, for physicists, mathematicians, and chemists the Lightbulbingale is the symbol of their art. Indeed the creature has provided as much inspiration for them as its cousin that resembles a bird has done so for musicians and poets.

The Lightbulbingale often forms a symbiotic relationship with its chosen scientist for life. Scientists welcome the little plump creature's company, for the Lightbulbingales are known to attract ideas. With its translucent skin and round shape, the Lightbulbingale loves to camouflage itself amongst lamps as it munches on the stray thoughts preceding inspiration.

So, if you happen to see the lights brighten on a lecture, your professor might be actually conferring with his Lightbulbingale. If he abandons the class waving his hand, it's not you—he might have just made a scientific breakthrough.

Uk-Uk Pra

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

Mating Habits of the King Pra (also known as the Uk-uk Pra). There is a reason why the King Pra mates only once in a lifetime. A creature indigenous to the Paraiso jungles, the King Pra distinguishes itself from other pra by its ability for short flights. Where the common pra will crawl about on the jungle floor, the King Pra has its nest in the tall branches of the Agu-uy tree. Before it reaches maturity, the King Pra maintains the same brown-black coloration as the common pra. However, once maturity is attained, its colors change to a vibrant green and violet, its snout turns bright red, and its claws lengthen in preparation for the hunt for a female.

Some experts claim that the King Pra's mating is counted among the most vicious of all matings. Once a female has presented herself, a battle for dominance ensues. The female must prove herself capable of not only surviving the King Pra's onslaughts, but she must also be capable of subduing him.

The Ephemeral Nonvenomous Glowserpent

Karen Lord

This ghostly reptile has been witnessed on rare occasions issuing forth from the ancient limestone caves beneath the mountains, gliding on air as easily as its earthbound cousins cover the land. Some call it an evil portent, some a mystic totem, but all agree it is in reality a harmless apparition. The real danger is to be found in the creatures that ride it: small, well armed and utterly vicious, they range through the region attacking low-lying targets with unusual and inventive tortures. There is as yet no empirical evidence to support the folk belief that ENG sightings increase in response to the growth of the cat population.

King Of The Mouse Vikings

Karen Lord

Recent research has uncovered a fascinating colony of rodents. While they normally exhibit behaviour typical to their species, periodically there arises a King who takes up the Sword of Summoning and calls into being the Ephemeral Nonvenomous Glowserpent. This simple act causes a bizarre transformation throughout the mouse community. Wielding tiny weapons and attired in the horned helmets that inspired their name, the Mouse Vikings mount the ENG and terrorise their neighbours for as long as their King is able to hold aloft the Sword and direct its arcane magics. Whatever the cause of this periodic shift in cultural personality, it appears to grant the Mouse Vikings a period of security and stability by clearing their usual haunts of traditional predators.

Xie Xie the Sky Panda

Karin Lowachee

Unlike regular Earth-bound pandas, Xie Xie has the ability to float through the ether, collecting raindrops and storm thunder in his paws. Once in awhile, if he is truly lucky, he will grab onto a rainbow and wrap it around his neck like a scarf. It is very difficult for Xie Xie to resist chewing on the ends of the rainbows, which creates his blue and purple color. Rainbows are the most delicious parts of the sky, followed by marshmallow clouds and lemon lightning bolts. Growing up, his mother always told him to gather the sky. Xie Xie loves the sky at dawn and dusk the most, for their many berry hues. As dawn and dusk spread over the world, from one hemisphere to another, Xie Xie floats after them, tasting the sun-ripened flavors that trail along the horizon.

Diego Bunny

J M McDermott

Everything was candy. Past the outskirts of Diego Bunny's territory, it was nothing but candy for over two hundred square miles, and the infamous Diego Bunny at the center like a grinning mountain. The trees were marzipan and grew green gummi leaves with ripe berries made of cherry-covered chocolates. The grass was a field of green licorice spotted with peppermint stones beside river of chocolate with ladyfinger cattails and lollipop water lilies.

The hover car driver touched my arm. "Lord Diego has some interesting tastes. Don't eat anything. The whole place is sprayed with meth and peyote. It's a bad trip."

"Think he'll accept my company's sacrifice?" I said.

"No," he replied.

"This one is particularly adorable."

"They all are."

A baby rabbit was in the back seat, his favorite snack. We did not expect Diego Bunny, formerly the CEO and Living Mecha-Condominium Complex of Happy Farm Haven, before he ate the residents, to make rational decisions about his lunch.

"I hope we catch him on a good day," said the driver. "I've seen enough death."

We cleared a field of wild caribou, these real and alive. They lived on drugs and sugar. They were thin and fat in the wrong places, with mouths that seeped rot. They milled about in various states of drug tripping while licking the landscape with infected tongues, not quite a herd but all together.

"His pets," said the driver. "Always complement the pets."

"Got it," I said. "They're…Lovely?"

The eternal smile of Diego Bunny watched us, licking its lips for the tiny rabbit that would soon be fed to the mountainous living condominium complex. I could only hope Diego Bunny wasn't licking his lips for me.

Eee

Ian MacLeod

We are the Eee.

We look from windows.

We look and wait, but we do not wave.

If we waved, you might notice us, and that would be bad, for we are the Eee.

If you noticed us, you might come to our door, and we would let you in, and then wish we hadn't, for we are the Eee.

Eee is the sound you make when you say "eek", or "reek", or "sneak", or "creak", or "shriek", or when you peek at something and wish you had not peeked.

We are the Eee.

We look from windows, but we do not wave.

Please stay away.

For we are the Eee.

Ikajee The Non-Rsance

Michael Moorcock

Although bearing a startling resemblance to Samashed's Rsance and the Muckerhee Pseudo-Rsance, Ikapee the non-Rsance is one of several creatures so resembling their namesake in almost every way; they can only be classified according to what they are not. Thus in the great Sky Bestiary of Polomichdt Schmeek (1780-9) we already find Eroakll the Un-Frog, Chtttrrr the Un-Rabbit, Oouff the Un-Dog, Funny Bit the Un-Raccoon and so on. This night to the 10th or so, Jjimmyy Bbooyy, the Echo-Scout, raced into his usual position about midway between Ketchup Cove overlapping something like the Horsehead and Burgundy Bridge, in turn overlapping the nearby Un-Horsehead. All the Second Aether waited. The result would have been terrible had not Ikapee used the only characteristic not shared with real Rsances and wound itself into its disguise counter-clockwise – thus confusing our many enemies, as well as most of us. Pollender's Shorter Guide to the Un-Animal Kingdom Vol. IV.

Bezelpe

Monica Ploetzke, Shared Worlds teaching assistant

The Bezelpe (commonly known as "Pea Shooters") are the children of aliens that lay their eggs in legumes. Growing to a hundred times the size of a common pea, the Pea Shooters have three eyes and a penchant for lasers. No one knows how the Pea Shooters came across guns and lasers in the first place, but someone's working on that…hopefully.

Foofy

Kit Reed

All his short life little Foofy imagined he would grow up to look like the great big Ambarini he so admired. He'd buddy up to the big guy and they'd let him play with ginormous, colorful critters from other worlds. In fact, Foofy's mom, who hung from a different family tree entirely, taught Foof that from his cradle days on, the problem being that Foofy's Ambarini dad had galumphed off into the ether before poor Foof was born. Secretly, his mom, Ms. Scarlett, believed her darling would galumph into the palace one day, win his great big half-cousin's love and be accepted as a genuine Amberini, with all the ruffles and flourishes that come to creatures of Royal Blood. Indeed, Foofy tried. From the moment he spotted the big green guy kind-of-looked-like-him, he tried. He capered. He sang. He warbled "Dance to the Music of the Ambarini," just not loud enough for his cousin to hear for there were many creatures romping on the hillside and he couldn't make himself heard above the din. What to do? Foof thought: They would listen if I only had a tambourine. Right now he's saving up for one, but there's not much money to be found on this or any other hillside. Can you help?

Antharian Bloob

Patrick Rothfuss

Despite the fact that we are living in the midst of an Age of Reason, the Antharian Bloob remains something of a mystery to those who study natural philosophy.

Rare and reclusive by nature, no Bloob has ever been taken captive for scientific study. Thus, the scant information we possess is anecdotal at best. At worst, it is nothing more than the wild speculation of armchair biologists.

Indeed, was it not for noted explorer Ataraxius Throppe's monograph on the creature, the Bloob would likely be considered little more than a myth. Even so, the facts we possess are so odd that despite Throppe's standing in the community, his monograph "Observations Concerning The Melancholic Bloob" was considered by many to be an odd joke, if not an outright hoax or symptom of syphilitic insanity.

Outraged at these slanders, Throppe presented a carefully preserved tissue sample to the Royal Society as evidence of his discovery. Testing by gas chromatograph instantly cleared Throppe's name, as the tissue showed unique characteristics.

Despite the sample and Throppe's disturbing detailed monograph, we are left with few facts regarding the Bloob. Testing shows that Throppe was quite correct in his theory that the Bloob has a symbiotic relationship with certain dinoflagellate algae. But if the Bloob is, as Throppe describes, both nocturnal and subterranean, what possible photosynthetic benefit could the Bloob gain from this relationship?

Throppe admits that he discovered the Bloob after falling down a disused mineshaft and striking his head. What's more, he confesses that he survived the following two weeks by consuming "various unclassified fungi" and a large quantity of medicinal alcohol he travels with "for reasons of safety and hygiene."

These circumstances might account for of Throppe's more outlandish claims. Specifically, that the Bloob's diet consists primarily of granola, that it is prone to fits of depression, and that it is greatly cheered by gifts of gin, raisins, and box tops.

Most improbable of is Throppe's claim that "…the Bloob produces vomitous effluvium in excess to three times its own body weight every day." Given that Pliny describes the Bloob as weighing at least several tonnes, this must be considered hyperbolic exaggeration until further study provides evidence on the subject.

Edifileon

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Hard to believe, but the Edifileon belongs to the family Chamaeleonidae, which makes it a relative of the chameleon. Unable to change shape and terrible at blending in, the Edifileon can only change color—so long as the color is light or pastel. No deep dark blues, no browns, no stone grays. (Well, occasionally a particularly talented Edifileon can manage stone gray—but only if it is pale stone gray).

The Edifileon's most notable trait, in fact, is that it absorbs energy from buildings. Not quickly, mind you, but slowly and with great deliberation. Inhabitants of the buildings will often look out and see a pastel scaly creature, feel threatened, and remove it before the Edifileon gets any serious nutrition. However, Edifileons incarcerated in old-fashioned zoos—the kind with walls—often thrive, so many Edifileons try to get caught, attacking buildings whose colors do not match theirs at all.

As for a monstrous personality, the Edifileons have none. They do, however, seem to hang around much longer than desired, and often have to be asked to leave, which they will do—reluctantly.

The Smiling Blue Balloonga

Lawrence Santoro

The Blue Balloonga (Baloonosaurus Caeruleus Rictus) appears to be grinning. He is not. He has no mouth. He just pretends. He is incapable of mirth. He is just made that way. The mouth you think you see, the nose holes on his cheeks, they are not mouth, teeth or nostrils. He is just pretending. Mostly, the Baloonosaurus lives in airless space where breathing is not only impossible, it would be dangerous! In further fact, the Balloonosaurus is generally unable to be joyous, or even pleasantly disposed, poor Balloonga. In addition to no mouth, nose, ears, teeth or hair, he also has no feet. You might not know that. He is shy and pretends to have mouths and (and feet) because he is just trying to please. He tends to hide behind large objects, mountains and such. Full-grown Balloongum (plural) frequently take refuge behind minor satellites and larger asteroids. Mars's moon, Deimos, is said to have a small colony of lesser (and redder) Balloongum in permanent residence. Poor things, they must continue to migrate around the moonlet to avoid being seen by telescopes and visiting NASA probes. This group is all but unique among the creatures; most of the larger, and bluer Balloonga are sad and lonely wanderers and sometimes visitors here and there.

The Blue Balloonga is a deep-space born critter with no animosity in his, her, or hus heart. Yes, there are three kinds, boy, girl and not-boy-or-girl. The fact is, they have no heart, just a little windbag at their centers that keep them inflated. Which is, of course, not difficult in the vacuum of space. How three-gendered beasties become born at all remains a mystery to science as they are shy and always alert—note the large and always open eyes (which are real)—and are always ready to duck behind whatever mountain, or satellite from behind which they peer.

Figment

Johanna Sinisalo

Who says I look like a fig? As far as I know, fig’s skins are not yellow. Well, I might be shaped like one, just a bit.

But you know how easily people get started. Like saying that, perhaps, I was originally meant to be a fig. Chanting: "Meant to be a fig, ha!" And once someone yelled "Fig-meant!"

That sounded actually nice. I spell it "Figment". That’s because "-ment", as a suffix (You know what a suffix is, don’t you?) denotes, among other things, resulting state. If someone wants to be refreshed, they need refreshments. That's a handy suffix, that one.

This lady here (the one writing about me) keeps telling me that as a Figment, I am something that has no objective reality and therefore, something that does not really exist. I’m just a Figment of her imagination.

Pooh, I say. What does she know?

Cloud-Bibbles

Angela Slatter

Since the dawn of time, these deceptively cute pink bubbly creatures have hidden behind clouds until children come out to play, then they swoop down and gobble up said children. Of course, there was that period of waiting before man crawled out of the primeval swamp and children developed—during this time the Cloud-Bibbles kept themselves amused by playing an early form of Pinochle. Notoriously greedy, Cloud-Bibbles have been known to gorge themselves on so many children that they become too heavy to fly and meet their demise by crashing to the ground and bursting or drifting into the clutches of bands of angry villagers armed with torches and pitchforks. Cloud-Bibbles, funnily enough, taste of cotton candy.

The Devotees of Froof and Furble

Karin Tidbeck

Every morning, the Devotees build their three gods and parade them around in ecstasy. Froof, the flaming twins, dance atop their sacred poles; the gelatinous Furble presides in its hallowed wheelbarrow. Basking in the adoration of their worshipers, Froof grow incandescent and Furble distended until, at sunset, Froof are burnt to cinders and Furble simply implodes. The Devotees collect the remains in little ceramic urns, which they carry back to their shrine under much wailing and weeping. The noisy wake lasts until dawn. At sunrise, construction begins anew. Meanwhile, the growing number of urns that spill out of the shrine and litter the surrounding landscape are becoming an issue.

Zoltar

Lavie Tidhar

ZOLTAR. Not to be confused with either ZOLTAR [Fortune Telling Machine] or ZOLTAR [masked villain]. Not to be confused, either, with ZOLTAN [alien messiah], ZARTAN [mercenary] or ZOG [General].

This Zoltar is the son of Scattershot, a TECHNOBOT, and Betty, a FACE HUGGER. He is related to the Millennium Falcon on his father’s side, and to the Ripley clone on his mother’s side.

Hobbies: fishing, collecting stamps, visiting famous black holes.

It’s hard to be a flying saucer when you’re just looking for love. It is a truth seldom articulated, yet often felt, that love is a commodity hard to come by in this, or any other, universe. Whether you are visiting the remains of ALDERAAN, the prison planet of FURY, or your dad and his new wife back on CYBERTRON, life can be lonely without a meaningful companion ship. Zoltar is still looking. Contact him on flyingsaucerlover@gmail.com.

Knoyr

Paul Tremblay

The name "Knoyr" has two pronunciations, both of which are culturally accepted: \'näwr\ or \'nä-yer\.

Known only to dwell within the Carroll's End underground system of caves, the Knoyr remain a biological mystery. Estimated heights of the bipedal creatures range from two to four feet tall. They squat on the cave floor and observers report they seemingly don't do much more than scan the practically impenetrable darkness with their red, bioluminescent eyes. University scientists have been unable to prove one way or the other whether or not the Knoyr predate insects, bats, or any other animals (including their own sick and injured). The low level of biodiversity within Carroll's End is used to argue both sides of the pernicious food debate. At University, one of the newest and most popular theories surmise that the large, distinctive isosceles triangle shaped teeth are only for show; to scare off predators, or perhaps to attract mates with their toothy plumage. The superstitious among Local Spelunking Union 142 believe the Knoyr feed on psychic energy. Or more specifically; the Knoyr feed on doubt and fear. University scientists are understandably skeptical, while they do of course admit, there's no shortage of such doubt when standing in a dark cave, in the presence of a silently waiting and watching Knoyr.

Seven Songs of Sirius

Ann VanderMeer

Ok, it might look all peaches and light from where you stand, but trust me, these smiles are just for show. We've gotta smile all the time because you know what they say; when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you. And if you cry, well, best not to even imagine it.

We call ourselves the Seven Songs of Sirius because singing keeps the boogieman away. Plus it keeps us out of trouble, and although we look sweet, we are highly mischievous. We've been known to cause an International (Or should we say Galactical?) situation once or twice… but not on purpose! Floating around in some dark swirly blackness can be exciting and thrilling to some, but not us. We'd just be happy to all have our own separate names.

The Watch-It

Jeff VanderMeer

The Watch-it is the shyest creature in the world. It hides not just inside books and other forests of text, but especially in the nooks and crannies around letters. The Watch-it particularly enjoys the dark grottos to be found in the middle of “D’s” or “O’s”, and on rare occasions has been seen delightedly sliding down these cool, smooth surfaces for hours. From these hiding places, the Watch-it will observe the reader with an enigmatic expression that some scientists believe to be awe and others to be contempt. (Still others believe its expression is dependent on the reaction of the reader to the text.)

The Watch-it is highly adaptable and has in recent years begun to inhabit websites and e-books with relative ease. A Watch-it feeds off of the reading experience, which can create a feeling of laziness or fatigue in the reader. In cases of major infestations, Watch-its may imbue the reader with a temporary sense of unease and paranoia. The Watch-it can no sooner survive without its surrounding text as a hermit crab may survive with its shell, but is otherwise surprisingly durable. The creature cannot be squashed by the weight of pages, nor killed by power surges or power outages.

If a book or website isn’t read, the Watch-it may lie dormant for many months or years without dying. In this dormant state, the Watch-it enters a state of hibernation unique in the animal kingdom. It will assume the shape of a letter and mimic the letter so perfectly as to be unnoticeable. However, if a Watch-it is forced to hibernate for more than a century, it will die. More than one monk in the Middle Ages would open a book at an angle only to find all the letters of a page sliding brittle and still to the floor.

Rook

Scott Westerfeld

The Rook is a large, slow-moving beast whose diet consists entirely of questing knights. Unable to pursue its mounted, agile prey, the Rook takes as its natural camouflage the form of a warm and welcoming castle. When particularly hungry, the Rook extrudes a lure from among its crenellations, which appears to be a damsel in distress, passing fair. Luckily, the Rook has no capacity for speech, so knights are advised to engage maidens in conversation before attempting rescue. And imperiled damsels, likewise, are advised to articulate their distress clearly, thus reassuring their champions that they are storming a portcullis, and not a gullet.

The Lithosphere Whale

Gene Wolfe

The lithosphere whale (Physeter macrocephalus borboros) is more commonly known as the earth whale or the wrong whale. During the great days of whaling in the 19th Century it was called the cachalittle or mobydirt.

Lithosphere whales may be divided as follows: blubber, whale leather, baleen, spermaceti, petroleum, and fossil amber. These are the only cetaceans known to yield the final valuable commodity. Individuals are commonly solitary, wandering the terrestrial crust in search of food, although pods are occasionally reported as causing earthquakes. Large bulls may dive to a depth of three (or even four) diamond mines. They are air breathers and must surface to breathe once or twice a fortnight. By day, their exhaled breath is often visible for a considerable distance; when seen, the exhalations of these whales are commonly termed "dirt devils." In the stillness of night they are heard as long whailings. The superstitious belief that they seek to attract railroad trains for reproductive purposes has little basis in fact.

Diet consists principally of soil squids (q.v.), although coal miners and bomb-shelter residents are taken as well. Calves are said to dine on earthworms, this by filling their mouths with rich soil and forcing it out between their teeth, the worms being retained.

Ambarini

Kemper Wray, Shared Worlds teaching assistant

The green Ambarini is a breed of large silo-shaped creatures that wander and visit national monuments by night and settle into the ground by day to sleep. Due to their large stature—sometimes reaching heights comparable to skyscrapers—the Ambarini are often thought to be dangerous but only lash out when suddenly woken. Do not let their pink horns and magenta eyes fool you: the Ambarini delight in nothing more than sightseeing. Should you happen upon a green grain silo situated near Stonehenge or Mount Rushmore, do not bother it; the Ambarini prefer to be ignored, left to wander and snooze in peace.

The Dinder

Jeremy Zerfoss

The Dinder is a creature of fearsome size,

with purple horns and buggy eyes,

with which she uses to spy your pool—

gleaming bright and surely cool!

And so she sneaks, and spies and peeks,

until assured that no one is about…

And once she's in she won't get out!

"Too big!"

"Too big!" you'll cry.

"Too big by far!" you'll shriek, far and wide.

But the Dinder'll just give you a whimsical glare—

She's too big for the pool and she doesn't care.