Echidnas

Stickly-pig is good eating, I’m told. Which is maybe why the hedge-hog is covered in spikes and rolls itself into a ball, to discourage this. Porcupines take this a fair bit further, and will shove their spiny tail into you hard. Echidnas will roll up, or dig in really fast so only the spines are available… and if you pick them up they’ll pee on you, which apparently is full of formic acid and rather nasty.

They’re all quiet, solitary creatures, who if they had a common motto, it would be ‘Just leave me alone.’

Echidnas, of course, being Australian are just plain weird. Echidna sex makes Chuck Tingle look prudish. Look it up if you’re curious, don’t read about it if you don’t want to. It is what it is, whether you read about it or not. Echidnas don’t care what you think of it.  

It’s one of the things about writing sf as a biologist: nature already thought of weirder things than most people can make up. And when it comes to reproduction, doubly so (or almost any multiple you can think of). My favorite example is a marine annelid, whose entire body cavity becomes effectively one giant male or female gonad, and simply continues to fill, with no way of discharge. Then, on one full moon night when the tide is right and romance is in the air… or rather water, these swollen creatures all emerge together from their hidey holes by the millions, in one massive speed-dating event, swim into the water-column together, wriggle violently… and burst. Going out with a bang, as it were.  Whatever floats your boat, I say. But don’t expect me to be shocked or surprised by mere human reproductive-behavior trivia.  So long as you’re happy and leave me alone.

It’s the ‘leave me alone’ part that of course some people have trouble with, especially when it comes to writing. I’m always a little taken aback by the whole ‘censorship’ and ‘de-platforming’ thing.  There is no-one forcing the offended to read that. And if you think that because you find it offensive or unpleasant, that your innate self-proclaimed superiority entitles you not just leave others alone… besides the fact that you have delusions of grandeur, eventually, you’ll be the one they decide not to leave alone.  Check it out: it’s never not worked out that way.

Curiously, it seems to be a feature of the weak, immature and power-obsessed – and usually seems to work in this way: those who deal out the interference are usually the least suitable or appropriate people to do the job: kind of like pedophiles being dead eager to run the kindergarten. Whether it’s running a council’s planning department, or deciding who should be allowed to say what – the people who want to do it are the worst choice for it. And the best people for the job – (if it has to be done at all) don’t want it (and probably would like to be left alone).

Usually, if pinned down, those who don’t want to leave you alone retreat into a litany of excuses why really, it’s for your own good. They’re really there to he’p you (and unsurprisingly they’re usually from/in Government). 

 I’m amazed that they know what is good for me (or anyone else) better than me.

Oh, and baby echidnas are called puggles, which seems a remarkably good reason to leave them alone to me. (I saw this one on my walk today.)

13 comments

  1. My first literary encounter with the noble hedgehog was a scene in one of the Modesty Blaise books by Peter O’Donnell. Modesty is looking for Willie Garvin on walkabout in the English countryside only to find him cooking one of the critters wrapped in clay in a campfire.
    Highly recommend this series to anyone fond of action adventure with a bit of fantasy blended in, mostly precog and dowsing. Series of books ran from 1965 to 1996 with a precursor and companion comic strip published in various international newspapers from 1963 to 2001.
    Series seems to have been popular with a number of SF&F writers as I occasionally run across oblique references to details from the series in the fiction of quite a few current authors.

    1. Peter O’Donnell also did a lucrative stint in the Seventies and Eighties as Madeleine Brent, a really good Gothic romance writer. One of his/her books started out in Mustang, which at the time I thought must be a fictional Himalayan country. Nope.

    2. Ooooh. The name Modesty Blaise sounded vaguely familiar–probably because it’s floating somewhere in the ur-ocean of pop culture, or I’ve encountered a similar name, not sure–but I hadn’t ever heard of the books.

      I don’t suppose they exist in ebook format anywhere? (These days, I only buy dead-tree if they’re books I really, REALLY love, and thus usually not for books I haven’t read yet. I make exceptions, but I usually want to know if I can get them digitally first.)

  2. The “fun” part is that a certain group (or at least some loud-mouths in that group) want people to “care about them” (ie approve of them).

    However, most people didn’t “care” one way or the other about that group. (IE didn’t really approve or disapprove of that group).

    But the efforts done in the Name Of That Group may make people actively disapprove & dislike that group. 😦

  3. From Goodreads — “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

  4. If third parties in the US didn’t have such a dismal record, I’d suggest we make the porcupine or echidna a symbol of a “Leave us the heck alone” party. Less government, more personal responsibility, and really cool swag. (I saw a toothpick holder in the shape of a porcupine some years back that could also hold food-on-a-skewer.)

    1. My single encounter with a porcupine was in Algonquin Park on a portage between two lakes. I was going down a path in the trees with a canoe balanced on my backpack, on the theory that one heavy trip is better than two lighter ones. Mr./Ms. Porcupine waddled across the path mere feet away from me with a complete disregard for the human, the canoe, pretty much everything. Just didn’t give a single damn, kept right on going.

      Confident, is what I’d call it. I certainly didn’t mess with it.

      Also, a sensory note, porcupines rattle when they walk. Like a dog with a couple hundred chopsticks tied to him.

      I second TXRed’s nomination of the porcupine for official mascot of the Get Off My Lawn Party. Give him a cigar and a machinegun to go with the surly expression.

    2. The porcupine was a mascot for the early Libertarian Party, back in the late ’70s when I was in college. I had a t-shirt sporting a porcupine with the motto “The right to be left alone” under the image.

  5. Chuck Tingle, many years ago I felt it necessary to read a book of his before voting for it. I still have visual images from his writing that just won’t quit popping up at any mention of his name. I wish they would.

    I’m not recommend reading him but if you want an example of how to write scenes that will haunt your readers for years, after a single reading, well if this doesn’t scare you off, go for it.

    With his genre-defining work, Space Raptor Butt Invasion, Hugo Award nominee Dr. Chuck Tingle proved that even gay dinosaur erotica could be nominated for a Hugo Award, the most prestigious honor in science fiction.

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