[The following editorial appears in Shards #3, New Blood #22, Blood of Ten Chiefs #11, and Wavedancers #6. --MK]
Silly season is over.
Silly season runs, as far as I'm concerned, from the end of March until the middle of August, for that is the period when all the major comic book trade expositions and conventions happen. It is the chunk of the year when comics publishers push to get readers old and new interested in their summer releases. It is the time when comics companies scramble to get their promotion and travel plans in order, because for those five or so months, "home" is a hotel room, an expo hall, an aisle seat in the exit row... and every once in a while, that odd place where the mail is delivered and where the weeds are getting out of hand in the garden.
I am glad it's over for this year. (Yes, I know there are still a couple of conventions left on the calendar, but I'm not going. As Indiana Jones observed, "It's not the age, it's the mileage." And, frankly, I do have travel plans in the near and middle future that don't involve comics, at least not directly. Remember the ELFQUEST animated film? Plus, the last time I spoke with Wendy by phone, she said she was starting to forget what I look like. Ouch!) I got back from the San Diego Comic Convention--our industry's last great hurrah--a couple of weeks ago, and I still don't feel as if all my bits have arrived; some of them still seem to be in a holding pattern over Pittsburgh.
So I lug forth no weighty matters on the Opinion page this time around. No news of great import. No soul-baring or chest-beating, or plans to remake the world of comic book publishing or distribution. All I have is another bit of silliness in the ongoing etymological quest for variation and meaning into the Pini family name. (Where do these things come from, anyway?)
I suppose one of the few good things about frequent airplane flights is that I get to catch up on my magazine reading. Often, I can find such favorites as NATURAL HISTORY and SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN among the dog-eared copies of PEOPLE and THIS MONTH'S VERY EXPENSIVE LIFESTYLES.
In the February 1994 issue of NATURAL HISTORY was an article about various bird species that inhabit New Guinea, and how they're used (or not used) for food. Midway through the article, the author (whose name I have, alas, misplaced) mentions a couple of types of "stinking birds" which, upon being killed, start almost immediately to smell horribly, making the carcass quite unpleasant to eat. (The hypothesis is that the bacteria that normally inhabit the bird's innards have evolved this particular survival insurance. If the bird is killed and eaten by, say, a hyena, the bacteria die. So over time, predators learn to avoid this particular species because the meat tastes terrible. Score one for the tiny little bugs.)
The article goes on:
"Mound builders aren't the only stinking New Guinea bird, as I learned in 1966 when I took the Tudawe tribesman Omwai to Utai village in the Sepik Basin. An Utai villager named Uténo had eamed Omwai's dislike by threatening to poison him and by nevertheless coming to our hut every morning to cadge bird carcasses and tobacco. On this particular occasion, I saw Omwai give Uténo the skinned carcass of a giant cuckoo known as Menbek's coucal, and named píni in Omwai's Tudawhe language. I asked Omwai with surprise why he had given so much meat to a man whom he despised. Omwai explained--and I confirmed with my own nose the next time we shot a píni--that the píni is the only other bird that starts to stink as does a mound builder. The gift of the píni was Omwai's revenge against Uténo."
What lesson does this hold? (Aside from the obvious, I mean, which is that if you discover that your name means "a kind of foul fowl" in some obscure language, you'd better poke fun at yourself first before someone else gets hold of the information.) Well, damned if I know. But being the irreverent sort that I am, and learning more every day about the cutthroat nature of the entertainment biz, I seem to want to draw a Dawn Steele-ish parable from it. And that is: You can kill me, but you can't eat me. (Actually, for the sake of my own ease of mind, knowing the mentality of some people, perhaps I should instead couch it in terms of, if you try I promise I will raise such a stink!)
Beyond which, there is no whicher.
Richard A Pini