The creators of the helpful guide to Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties (2010) now present the equally instructive, long-lost travel journals of a tubby but indefatigable paleozoologist with an unexcelled genius for unearthing uncanny, if long-extinct, animal and humanoid species.
Systematically journeying to every continent between 1850 and 1885, Wiggins reports on over three dozen fossilized finds. These include “Thunder Vulcusts” (think vulture-locust), massive-limbed but “Pin-Headed Desert Giants,” and “Dreaded Gossip Peacocks” with ears and mouths as well as eyes on their feathers. The “Two-Headed Mammoth Buffalo” has a carnivore at one end and an herbivore at the other (“The whole arrangement reminded me of a marriage,” Dr. Wiggins notes jocularly). He also discusses centipede-like “Land Whales,” such as the one underlying Nantucket Island. The doctor proffers homiletic speculations about how each species came to its unfortunate end (the buffalos, for instance, probably ate themselves, just as we “are always biting off our own heads”) and provides sketched reconstructions of many specimens, with handwritten labels pointing out salient physical features and a human figure, usually tiny, for scale.
The satire is neither as sharp as Dr. Swift’s nor as comical as Mr. Lear’s, but the fictive author’s discoveries should, as he hopes, “enlighten, amuse, appall, and guide” young fans of the biosphere’s imaginary reaches. (Informational fantasy. 10-13)