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Karen Bayly

Genre blending author of fantasy, sci-fi, horror 

Chasing Pegasus - A BLOG

Never give up, never surrender!

Back in 2016, I had a short story “Life As An Albatross” published in issue 1.2 of the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal (you can read the whole issue on their website for free). I’ve had many short stories published over the years but this one was special as it was became an exercise in not giving up on something in which you truly believed.

It didn’t start life as a short story. First it was a one woman show (which never happened) then split into several short stories (which were never published) then one short story about the albatross (which was rejected several times) and a short play (which never happened). I then discarded all but two of the original stories to create this version.

I wrote the story because I think Wandering Albatross are amazing birds. I would love to have studied them after finishing my PhD but it wasn’t to be. It breaks my heart that their numbers are dwindling and that human carelessness - in fishing practices, introducing invasive species to breeding grounds, dumping plastic waste - is a major factor.

I wanted to write something which showed a side of animal behaviour scientists I’ve seen many times but which the public rarely sees. Most feel a strong connection with the animal they study and have many anecdotes they will share after a drink or two. They understand that the scientific method is the best we have in providing rigorous, repeatable proof as opposed that goes beyond anecdotes and opinion. However, they also understand human limitations in devising ways to measure the complexity of what we see and aware that the method cannot explain everything - yet.

This brings me to anthropomorphism - it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We absolutely cannot let ourselves see animals as furry, scaly or feathered humans. However, we can't fall into the Descartesian trap of seeing animals as automata, or into full-blown anthropocentrism.

Non-human animals have their own way of seeing the world which has nothing to do with us and to make animals “just like us” does them a huge disservice. Each species has its strengths, each fills a niche. We share some characteristics, often expressed in unique ways (e.g. bird cognition vs mammal cognition), and we are completely different in other ways. They are not, and never will be, human and I for one am grateful for the diversity. However, I’ve erred on the side of anthropomorphism for this story because sometimes it is the only way we humans make sense of what we see.

Overall, it was lesson in hanging in there when you believe in something and that is a lesson I needed when I began searching for publishers for my novel.

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