The Deal With Animals with Marika S. Bell

79: Redefining Monsters and Heroes: A Talk with Author, Daniel Kraus (October Special #1?!))

October 23, 2023 Marika S. Bell Season 1 Episode 79
The Deal With Animals with Marika S. Bell
79: Redefining Monsters and Heroes: A Talk with Author, Daniel Kraus (October Special #1?!))
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

October Special! Transcript
Have you ever imagined finding yourself inside the belly of a whale, like a bizarre narrative pulled straight out of myth or biblical lore? Allow us to lead you through a captivating conversation with celebrated author Daniel Kraus, as he unravels the themes of his latest gripping novel, Whalefall, a survival tale set inside a sperm whale. Get ready to probe into the blurred lines between monsters and heroes, and comprehend the profound ways our understanding of the world is shaped by the intricate connections we share with animals.

Guest: DANIEL KRAUS (he/him) is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and graphic novels. He coauthored The Living Dead with legendary filmmaker George A. Romero. With Guillermo del Toro, he coauthored The Shape of Water, based on the same idea the two created for the Oscar-winning film. Also with del Toro, Kraus coauthored Trollhunters, which was adapted into the Emmy-winning Netflix series. He has won two Odyssey Awards (for Rotters and Scowler), and The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of the Year. His books have been Library Guild selections, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults picks, Bram Stoker finalists, and more. His work has been translated into over twenty languages. Daniel lives with his wife in Chicago. Visit him at DanielKraus.com.

Book Recommendation: Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover  and The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams and Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

Other Links:
E6: Dog Bites: The Fallout and Emotional Toll wit…
E19: Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law- A Cha…
The Atlas Obcsura Podcast
She Wore Black Podcast


Show Credits⁠⁠⁠⁠

⁠⁠⁠⁠Guest Profiles and Book Recommendations⁠⁠⁠⁠

What to start your own podcast in he Animal Advocacy or Animal Welfare Space? Check out my ⁠⁠⁠⁠ Podcast Mentoring Services⁠⁠⁠⁠!

⁠⁠⁠⁠Become a Patron! ⁠⁠⁠⁠

⁠⁠⁠⁠Sign up for the Newsletter

Read the Blog!

Speaker 1:

It's quite different than my other books in a lot of ways and a lot more personal, and books that I think are kind of cynical, kind of grim and dire, and although there's maybe a touch of that in Wellfall, it's. I think if I've ever written anything that borders on inspiration or optimistic, it's this book, and there's something about it that has its arms a little open, more open to the reader, I think, and there's something about that that is unusual for me and has affected me, I think, in a way, as a writer.

Speaker 2:

This is the Deal with Animals. I'm Marika Bell, anthrozoologist, cpdt, dog trainer and an animal myself. This is a podcast about the connection and interaction between humans and other animals. ["pomp and Circumstance"]. ["pomp and Circumstance"]. As promised, october is going to be a month of spooky specials. In this episode, we have an unexpected guest the acclaimed author Daniel Krauss. Daniel is no stranger to exploring the nuances of human-animal connections throughout his work. He is the creative mind behind several remarkable books, including Wellfall, a Gripping Tale of Survival and Reconciliation that takes an unexpected twist as a man finds himself inside the belly of a giant sperm whale. During this episode, we discuss the underlying themes in Daniel's writing and touch upon the profound connections between species, the blurred lines between monsters and heroes, and the intricate ways in which animals shape our understanding of the world. So sit back, relax. Let's dive into the intriguing world of Daniel Krauss and the profound connections between humans and other animals. ["pomp and Circumstance"]. Welcome to the Deal With Animals. Would you please introduce yourself and share your pronouns?

Speaker 1:

My name is Daniel Krauss, I'm an author and my pronouns are he him.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much, and let's just talk a little bit about, initially, what project you've been working on.

Speaker 1:

Do you mean the project that?

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, the book that we're going to be talking about today.

Speaker 1:

And publishing is always a tricky question, because the project I'm working on is two years' removes from what actually is coming out.

Speaker 2:

Right, yes, yes, good point.

Speaker 1:

But yes, the project that is coming out is Wellfall, which is something like 20th novel or something in that range, but it's my favorite that I've ever written and it's.

Speaker 2:

Really.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, it's.

Speaker 2:

Just your mental health feels better for writing something slightly more.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I mean yeah.

Speaker 1:

I will say I followed it up with probably the most grim, grueling thing I've ever written. So it's not like it stuck around that feeling. I went right back to my old tricks after Wellfall. But it did feel different writing it and it feels different publishing it. Like just Everything about it feels different to me and it feels like I'll be hard-pressed to write something that I like quite as much. I realized I haven't told you yet what it's about, or haven't told the audience what it's about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, Definitely we should get to that.

Speaker 1:

The sort of elevator pitch is that it's about a scuba diver who is swallowed by a sperm whale and has one hour of air to try to escape, and what I really like about that summary is that it's really short, like most of my books, yes, and what they're about, and I'll kind of ramble for two minutes trying to describe it. But there's something so simple and almost primordial about this concept that I can just say it in a single sentence. People immediately get it and their investment is sort of almost, like I think, built into our primitive brains in a way like instantly.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I had that experience, yeah yeah, when it was described to me, I went I'm all in for this. This sounds like something I will really enjoy reading. And, to be honest, this genre I don't know. What is this genre?

Speaker 1:

Well, that's a great question because it's showing up on book lists that you know they'll have book lists that are like the 25x genre book should be reading this year, and it's been on sci-fi lists and mystery lists and action lists and horror lists. So I'm not exactly sure. I mean, I would sort of say on the outset it's kind of survival horror maybe, but it doesn't feel like horror necessarily when you're reading it.

Speaker 2:

It was very emotional to read, and I guess horror is the thing I don't read that often. I used to read it more when I was younger and then I went more towards fantasy and now I read like almost all nonfiction unless. I find a really good sci-fi, because I love sci-fi. This book was so visceral when you're reading it and it's okay, so it's kind of Pinocchio-esque, isn't it? Just a little bit.

Speaker 1:

I mean yeah there's just a little bit of right, Pinocchio's depiction of the interwears a little off, but yes.

Speaker 2:

Well, yes, definitely different depiction of the interwears, but just this idea of searching for one's father, a boy who, in this case, only lies to himself. But the way you have described the inside of the whale and his experience in there is horrifying. I mean, that's the horror, right, is this? You can feel it. It's fascinating from a scientific perspective, and my sort of science brain goes oh my gosh, this is what it would feel like. And so I think that's what makes it so primordial, so visceral as a feeling when you're reading. It is because you can't imagine that this is what it would be like.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and I think my experience with describing it to people and seeing their instant reaction is that it activates something in our brain that is remembers when we were cave people, you know, and like we had to worry about being eaten by things, and that's probably why the idea of being swallowed by a whale pops up in the Bible and myth and lore. There's just something about it that is somehow recognizable to us, even though if we've never specifically thought of it before, and what is your science background in terms of understanding biology or whales in general? Yeah, this is the part where I tell you that I have no scientific background whatsoever. I was the liberal arts major type of guy. No science background, none whatsoever. What I do have a background in is intense amounts of research. A lot of my books are very research heavy and so I go. I go really pretty deep, deeper than most authors I know, and so this one was. If even in my history of researching novels this one sticks out, Not I don't think it's the most we've ever done, but it's certainly the most foundational in the sense that there was really no specific research on this exact topic and there were no started from level one in terms of learning the biology that this would actually encompass. Right. Typically I have an idea for a book and I start planning it out and reading other research texts about it. With this one I had to start. I had to front load months of just talking to whale scientists to see if it was even even a possibility, could this even really happen? And then every step. I mean there could be no plot until I understood every inch of what would happen to somebody who was being swallowed by a whale. So I had no sense of the architecture. I had no sense of the geog, inner geography, I had no sense of the sights, the smells, the textures. Everything had to be worked out ahead of time.

Speaker 2:

So did it have to be a sperm whale? Did you investigate what different whales this might potentially could happen with, and sperm was just the only one?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, correct. So the first question I had when I came up with the idea was could it happen? The first whale scientists I spoke to assured me that it was theoretically possible, but only with a sperm whale, because most whales have throats that are the size of a suit can. There's no way any human is going down a throne like that. So when you see these videos of people being quote unquote swallowed by whales, as the headlines tend to say, they're just being mouthed. I'm not trying to downplay the terror of being mouthed by a humpback whale, but they're not being. They're certainly not being swallowed. It's impossible. But if it was a big enough sperm whale and a slender enough diver, it is theoretically possible.

Speaker 2:

And so the whole thing starts from. I was just wondering about the sperm whale thing because, again, that's the Pinocchio whale, isn't it? And I believe that's also the whale that is sort of described in the Bible.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean there's some debate on that. I think the biblical whale, which is, of course, I think in the Bible called a fish, is generally understood to be a whale. I don't know that it is understood to be a specific kind of whale or not. And the Pinocchio whale is actually a non-existent whale. If you look at it. It's sort of this hybrid of a baleen whale and a toothed whale, so it's not really quite anything.

Speaker 2:

I guess I was thinking about the whole hump, that big sort of giant hump that you see on the back.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they just made that thing up, but it's definitely scary looking.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I wouldn't want to be swallowed by any whale, to be honest, but that one particularly looks pretty angry If you had to go by being eaten alive. I mean, a whale isn't the worst option. Lions, you know, when they eat animals alive they go from the outside in and that's just. That doesn't seem like fun.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'd rather be swallowed by a whale, I suppose, than cats, Because, as you say, the ripping and tearing of flesh is unpleasant sounding. Whereas if you were swallowed by a whale and you weren't a scuba diver which I don't know how the hell that would happen. But if it were to happen, you would die pretty instantly because there's no air in there. It wouldn't be a death by a thousand slashes, it would be death by suffocation.

Speaker 2:

This conversation's taken an interesting turn. Why don't we go to one of the questions I'd like to ask everybody, which is if you would share your earliest childhood or formative memory of your connection with animals?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, when I think of earliest and not trying to sift out, you know, some positive memory for you, but really trying to think of the earliest memories, I can think of three and they're all bad I can think of. Possibly the earliest memory that I have period is of being I couldn't have been any older than four running behind the house where I grew up until age five and my older sister was running ahead of me and I was chasing her and she kicked this bucket and by the time I caught up to that bucket all these bees were flying out of the bucket and I got stung all over by these bees. So that's my earliest memory, maybe ever and that's me being attacked by bees. The next two I could think of are also negative. I remember we always had kittens when we were growing up. Our cat was always getting pregnant and having kittens and I remember a kitten being attacked by a neighbor dog and trying to separate them and getting bit by the dog. And then the last memory I could think of and this is all in the age seven or earlier range is again with a kitten, and it was a kitten that got squashed beneath the garage door. We had this sort of manual garage door that you had to pull and just smashed down manually and I think it was my mom and closed it and a kitten dashed out and got crushed beneath the garage door. So yeah, all these memories are bad, I guess, but certainly didn't I never blamed any of these animals. I didn't grow up with an unnatural fear of bees, cats or garage doors. I still was okay with all those things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's interesting when about the bees, because that one sounds traumatic in just the whole pain sort of way. Being attacked is never fun. I mean, all of them sound mildly traumatic in their own way and, having worked with animals a really long time, whenever I used to tell people what I did, the first thing people always do is they tell me their worst memory of their interaction with animals and that happened for a really long time and I thought it was a really funny reaction that people would have. But I think that it's actually something people want to share because it's something they haven't quite processed completely right, Because some things memories like that are so traumatic, especially for a child, and if not traumatic, at least dramatic, and so it just doesn't fully process unless you tell people about it. And I get to be that person. People tell about it On this podcast in particular. It seems to me early memories tend to be very dramatic and traumatic in many cases.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think when you're a kid, it feels like nature has betrayed you in some way, like you're just frolicking in nature and suddenly you're being attacked by bees and you didn't know that was a possibility yet. And I'm curious if you find that a lot of these people particularly the people you speak to because they're on this podcast those traumatic incidents actually prodded them towards their future careers or interest. I always think about someone like Peter Benchley, who writes Jaws and then spends the rest of his life as a shark advocate. I think traumas can actually spur our interest in things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. I can think of a couple episodes where that was absolutely true. Very early on in the podcast I interviewed someone about the emotional toll that dog bites take on people and what happens, some of the fallout from that. And when I asked her this question and this was when I first started asking the question and I'd ask it towards the end of the episode she wasn't really expecting it, I don't think, and she thought for a second and she goes. You know, actually my first memory was when I was bitten by the family Rottweiler and it was like this experience that really upset her in this way you've described, where it was almost this betrayal of trust that she had experienced. And now she researches dog bites and the emotional fallout of those. She said you know, I never put that together that maybe this is why I do this, but it was a really interesting moment where we went oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense and that has happened in other episodes as well where these things are really connected, particularly in terms of people who are animal advocates because of something they witnessed when they were a child. They felt wasn't morally right when they were that young and then went on to make sure that they could do something about it later on. So what was your inspiration for the idea of being swallowed by a? Well, like you just woke up one night, or?

Speaker 1:

Well it's. It's unusual that I can pin down inspiration for a book to specific moment, but I can definitely do that. Well, fall it was a night in December of 2020. So this is mid pandemic and I was hanging out with a couple of friends and because it was mid, you know, pandemic times, we were outside and it was cold and we were on the banks of Lake Michigan. We were in the middle of the city of Chicago and the other two friends of mine started talking about this viral video of these two kayakers who get mouthed by a whale. For some unknown reason, this video is back in the news all of a sudden, here in 2023. Everyone in the last like month, 80 people have sent this video to me, even though it's a it's three years old. It's just involves a couple people kayaking in an area where whales are in. A humpback whale, I believe, reaches the surface and right where they are and they're inside of its mouth and it goes under and the the kayakers are fine. These whales can't swallow you and don't would never mean to swallow you. Of course, it's our unable to swallow you because there's tiny throats, but and they were immediately spit out, but anyway, it was. It's a scary video and they were talking about it and I hadn't seen it and it just tripped something in my head and I thought I wonder if there's ever ever been anyone who's taken that idea seriously. I know people have taken it metaphorically and used it, like Arthur C Clark in childhood sense, as a science fiction idea, but has anyone taken it scientifically, biologically seriously? So the very next morning I wake up and I contacted my friend and MVP of all my books, mary Roach, the noted nonfiction writer.

Speaker 2:

And if you're a longtime listener you'll remember that back on episode 19,. I actually interviewed Mary Roach for her new book, fuzz when Nature Breaks the Law, so I'll link that in the show notes if you want to take a peek at that one.

Speaker 1:

She has been very instrumental in my books when I need something, some sort of bizarre fact, answered, because she's spoken to everyone about everything. And I asked her, I emailed her and I said hey, have you ever talked to anyone about being swallowed by a whale and if it's possible? And she wrote right back and said, yeah, in my book Gulp and of course I have Gulp and I completely forgotten that she'd written an entire book about swallowing things. And sure enough, there's a couple pages in there where she talks to this whale scientist named Phil Clapham who says yeah, you know exactly what I said before. If it was a sperm whale and the sperm whale was large enough and the diver was slender enough, it could theoretically happen. So she hooked me up with Phil. I asked Phil some more details and then he connected me, although he knew a lot about the sort of behavior. Can I?

Speaker 2:

can I just just one second? I heard a big bang upstairs. My dad's dog and I just want to just double check that he's not eating a cat. I'll be right back.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, go for it All right. So where was I, my Phil? Because Phil's expertise is behavioral. He connected me with two other whale scientists, laura Hartstrand and Joy Regenberg.

Speaker 2:

They all have lots of expertise.

Speaker 1:

Laura knows especially a lot about the stomach and Joy knows a lot about the throat. So these three became really my core group. Other experts for broad NS needed between Phil and Laura and Joy. I had myself a group who was really interested in my idea and really excited by it, and they know so much about whales. But they had never I've been asked questions in this capacity before, and so it challenged them in a new kind of way and they just really got into it and it was really exciting for me. I was like an explorer. I was almost like the diver in the whale himself. I was just shining a flashlight at things and saying what is this and what does it feel like and what happens if I touch it and what happens if I go over here? And they would just answer questions as I went along and occasionally would say something that I would seize upon and say that's amazing. Now, what if my diver took that and manipulated that body part this way? Or what if my diver crawled over here onto that? And, piece by piece, bit by bit, I started piecing together a plot that I never could have come up with on my own, entirely dependent on these almost offhand observations and ideas that these whale scientists had. That led me in incredible directions.

Speaker 2:

Now you mentioned earlier the writer of Jaws and I actually had thought of that as well. And now the whale is not the bad guy in this book. But were you cognizant of the way in which your depiction of sperm whales in particular might color people's views of them?

Speaker 1:

Oh yeah, it was definitely important to me that the sperm whale was in no way the threat here. Sperm whales are just incredible, intelligent and to humans entirely peaceful animals and even more. There's all sorts of stories about whales helping people in rare conditions and again, a sperm whale would never intentionally eat someone. The swallowing of my character is completely accidental and the whale was never treated as a figure of menace in this book. It's really treated as a thing of awe, this sort of almost godlike being that our human character has just crossed paths with, and there's certain facts of biology of being inside the whale that are very punishing. But the whale itself has done nothing wrong and intends no ill will towards the diver.

Speaker 2:

Talking about other people you've worked with in the past. You've done some work with Guillermo del Toro, quite a lot actually. Is this something that you think would be something you guys would do and create into a movie at some point?

Speaker 1:

I don't know how often you speak to an obelisk, but usually we have to respond to that non-committally. I can't speak of anything specifically about film rights or where they are, but I will say that the film does present a really interesting challenge though.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, like theoretically, if this were to be a film.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, theoretically, if this were to be a film, a lot of it takes place in a whale stomach, and a whale stomach is quite opposite to the Pinocchio whale stomach. A whale stomach is like being in an elastic sleeping bag, so it's tight but you can sort of push it with your limbs, you can sort of smoosh it out a little bit. So, of all movies that take place in single locations, I don't know if there's ever been a single location that's smaller than a whale stomach. Now, granted, the book is filled with flashbacks, so that would provide and does provide in the book occasional release from the attention of being in such a small space. Just thinking about how you would film in such a small location has its challenges, but also could potentially be really unique.

Speaker 2:

Some of your other work also has focused on the relationship between two different species. So is that something you're seeing as a regular, I think, shape of water particularly, but you have others too, where there's this dual species not necessarily negative relationship either.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you know, I've never thought about that in terms of species or animals. I think, coming from a background of a kid, you were just really interested in horror. I've always thought about it more in the terms of people and monsters, or what the world considers as monsters, I think and the shape of water is a great example of that the idea that I was a little kid in Iowa watching creatures from Black Lagoon, while Guillermo was a kid in Mexico City watching the same movie. That's the magic of art. We're so far apart in geography and culture, but we're both having the same experience with this work of art, which is we're seeing a monster that we don't find, monsters that we find beautiful and unfairly treated.

Speaker 2:

He was very romantic.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Creature from the Black Lagoon. I saw it when I was probably younger than I should have been. When I watched it and I found it, I found the character very romantic and I think it was supposed to be this horrifying thing as well as romantic, but it's hard to say it was. It was a tragedy.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I don't think the filmmakers present it like that, but that's how it sort of emerges in our brain, and apparently a lot of other people as well, which?

Speaker 2:

Well, it's certainly in mind. I have not seen the movie since I was that age, though, so I don't know how I would feel about it now.

Speaker 1:

Well, you should check it out, because the filmmakers don't think that's what they're doing. I think they're trying to present a monster. No, but what they're filming works against that like the creature is this balletic, graceful creature who really isn't bothering anyone until the people on the boats in the harpoon gun show up. But anyways. So I have had a history in my, in my work, of redefining monsters and finding certain beauty or amity in them and making them, if not the heroes, then at least very sympathetic in a way. And I don't think that was necessarily the genesis of whale fall, but it it's certainly fits in with the pattern I have of taking something that is terrifying. In a way, if we were swimming underwater and countered a gigantic sperm whale, it's awesome, but there's no way it wouldn't be a little scary, even though it's not going to hurt us that it's like the size of a planet down there. But in the writing of this, in the sort of at the chapter or even sentence level, I'm really writing about some, an incredible creature that, especially to this diver, ends up representing a lot more than just a whale.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think, again that initial description of the book that got me, because again this, this podcast, is about the connection between humans and other animals and sometimes I get offered books from agents saying, hey, do you want to, do you want to interview about this book? And I think that doesn't really fit into what I'm trying to do here in terms of there's no real connection to animals and but in this particular one it's such a what is the word I'm looking for, the connection between these two and I could picture it, even have before I read the book was going to be very intimate.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's intimate. It's almost like he's a baby and the woman there. It's hard to get more intimate than literally being inside someone else.

Speaker 2:

And that intimacy between species. Again, shape of water had it, and though I'm not a horror reader per se on a regular basis, I imagine some of your other books probably bring that in as well. In terms of this intimacy, and when you imagine monsters in general, I mean whales were often thought of monsters in the past, thought of as monsters. In fact, a lot of animals are still considered monsters, maybe because we don't have real monsters like the creature from the black lagoon or any true horror creatures that are. Human brains have to invent them in the animals that actually exist, in behaviors that we see, that we don't understand, and and I think that's where this fascination with things like werewolves and those sort of traditional monsters come from too.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, I agree, I think there's so many. there's so many horror pieces of our particular film that are their shock attacks, or grizzly bear attacks or in the 70s there were, there was just following jaws was just this explosion of animal attack movies, nature and some of the nature was literally giving it revenge. A lot of times it was like environmental, like we're, but really it was just an excuse to have a bear eat a bunch of people. And those, those movies tend to really look over the fact that, whether we're in the water, in the forest or whatever, we are not in a hard home territory. We are in their world for scuba diving off Monterey, like my diver in the book. That's fine. We have to keep in mind that we are swimming in someone else's home. Anything that happens is fair game, like they're just living their lives. We're the ones who have invented complicated contraptions to enter into their world.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I was going to say, actually, with your connection with Guillermo, I actually know him as well, or I've met him. At least I was his dog trainer when I lived in New Zealand.

Speaker 1:

Oh, it's amazing.

Speaker 2:

I didn't even know. I was his dog trainer for quite a while, because his wife hired me and she had a different last name than him and I would come to her house and chat with her and work with the dog. And there was one day I came to the house and she had sent the dog to daycare for the day, forgetting that she had booked me to come and work with her because her husband had come home early, and so she sent the dog off and she insisted on paying me anyway, though. So she called her husband down and he wrote out a check and shook my hand, said hi, and I said hi, and he gave me the check and I left, and I was on my way home and I took a look at the check and it had his name on it. I was like I feel like I should know this name, wait a second. So I, of course, quickly looked him up and went oh right, I fairly rarely know what people look like, but even when I know their names, my brain just generally doesn't work that way.

Speaker 1:

That had to have been when you was involved with Lord of the Rings for a while, right.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah, it was when all of it was stalled and they'd been down there doing nothing and eventually left a few months later.

Speaker 1:

I guess they were training dogs is what they were doing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, well, they had a lovely little dog. That was a little street dog that they'd picked up down south and acuity, but to be honest, I think he was terrified of Guillermo. Apparently he's such a big, loud and the dog was very like, shy, but a happy little chap. So it was a good working relationship anyway and I probably should have just kept the check and not bothered cashing it, but I did. Is there anything else you would like to share about your book? Is there anything else you want readers to know?

Speaker 1:

I think the main thing that has struck me about the reaction to the book is that people who hear the premise, they go in the expectation that it's going to be this breakneck real time sort of ticking clock thriller. And it is that, I think, what I don't think people expect and what I didn't expect writing in, I think, was that by the end of it they're in tears. I think how moving the book is catches people off guard. Because, you know, what we haven't, I guess, mentioned yet is that the diver is looking for the remains of his father, who had cancer and threw him surround himself through himself off a boat and they had a terrible relationship. And so the son is to get back into his family's good graces, is looking for any trace of his bones that they could vary, and so he gets swallowed by the whale. He's injured and he's he's scared and he's breathing methane in the stomach and he's hallucinating and he starts to believe that the whale is his father. And so, while this sort of grueling crucible of survival is happening, he's also talking to the whale that he thinks is has somehow and some cosmic way, has absorbed his father and that, if he can follow and remember the lessons that his dad tried to teach him that he was never interested in hearing as a kid. There might be a way out of this, and I think that element of it is what people don't expect from being the synopsis, and it hits people pretty hard.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, it was definitely an unexpected aspect, because I did go into it thinking, ok, how is this going to be a whole book if he's just in the stomach of a whale for an hour, and how are you going to care about the character too, if that's all you really know about him? You learn a whole lot more about him throughout the book and you learn to care about him too. You know, you, I think, everybody. There's an aspect of his story that a lot of people can connect with.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it's a story about reconciliation in the least likely location possible.

Speaker 2:

All right. So if there was a book that you could gift to all of the listeners, what would that book be?

Speaker 1:

Well, I'm torn. I'm going to tell you what I'm going to almost choose. I'm going to tell you what I'm going to choose. I'm tempted because I've written this book about a whale to recommend by Rebecca Geigs, called Fathoms the World in the Whale, which came out a few years ago, and it is just tremendous, just an incredible book that I think won several awards and is, if you're going to read one book about one nonfiction book about whales, this is the book. Just, in addition to just being incredibly informative, it's gorgeously written. You'll be hard pressed to find any novel written more art than this thing. Maybe that's the obvious one to recommend A formative book about animals. That was important to me growing up was a book by Richard Adams called the Plague Dogs. Richard Adams is best known for Watership Down, but he wrote this other book about these two dogs in this animal testing facility really, who are being experimented on and break out of the facility, and again it does that weird thing that Watership Down does where it's. You know they're real dogs but they're talking to each other in a human language which is I understand the hesitation some people may have with that the humanization of these animals, but in its own way it's just devastating book, a great read, but one of the most emotional. You'll just be a wreck by the end of it. But what I'm going to choose is has nothing to do with animals but is a book that I was really important to me, growing up with horror and watching all these B movies and stuff in a small town in Iowa pre internet, I felt like I was just my own little weird bubble. But then my first year in college I think maybe even the first day in college when I was picking up my books at the college bookstore, I ran across a text that was being used in some other class. I probably bought someone else's copy, which I didn't realize at the time, but it's by Carol Clover and it's called Men, women and Chainsaws and it was the first time that I saw horror treated in an academic way. I just love the book. I was so. It's taught, it's proved to me or made me feel like I wasn't. I had to waste my time on these books and movies that certainly in that era sort of society at large looked down upon. Because he was a serious academic taking horror seriously and ascribing intelligence and deeper meaning to these films, and that made me feel like that I could do the same and that I could write works that exercise the genre that I loved while still having, you know, still could be something worthwhile and could really contribute something, just under the guise of certain genre trappings, which is what my artistic heroes had done. George Amirro, rod Serling. So yeah, that book and it has aged some. It's not. I don't agree with everything in the book, even anymore, but it's still a great read and it's, I think, for a lot of people like me it was an important book that made us feel like what we liked mattered.

Speaker 2:

Well, you've definitely done that with your work.

Speaker 1:

Well, thank you. I mean, that's all I could ever hope for, really.

Speaker 2:

Now I just need to have time to read even more. So thank you very much for that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you're welcome.

Speaker 2:

This is what I need is more books on my bookshelf. That. I have not yet, yeah, I know I'll read all of them eventually.

Speaker 1:

Sure you will. That's what I say.

Speaker 2:

So, daniel, what's the deal with animals?

Speaker 1:

The deal with animals. You know something? I've wrestled with this a little bit in my books on occasion and I feel like the deal with animals is that they are a testing ground, to some degree, of humans Like animals. How we treat animals is a litmus test of what kind of beings we are People who are cruel to animals. You don't need to know anymore about them. It's so easy for humans to mistreat animals and we all to some degree are doing that, whether knowingly or unwittingly, by the choices we make or the products we buy or the vacations we take. But we all have to try to be better stewards of this planet that doesn't belong to us. If that's what wellfall is all about, in a way, how we treat the animals of the world Now that we, it's like. Once you have the ability to control something, then it's that adage absolute power corrupts absolutely. So can you withstand that by? And the easiest way to the simplest, purest way to judge oneself what kind of person is this? How you are treating animals who have not evolved to have this ability to be cruel to other animals? So that's the deal with animals. They have their own deal. They have their own things going on, but as it applies to humans. They are, I think, the simplest, greatest, most telling test of what kind of beings we are.

Speaker 2:

I couldn't agree more and thank you for coming on the podcast today.

Speaker 1:

I really appreciate it. Hey, the pleasure is all mine Thanks.

Speaker 2:

That was Daniel Krauss, author of the new book Whalefall, an excellent book for the holiday season. I think. He's also the author of many other novels, including Rodders and Scowler, and coauthored with Guillermo del Toro, trollhunters and Shape of Water. You can see all his books at Danielkrausscom. At the end of the podcast I actually asked him about his upcoming book Wrath, which I think you'll find really exciting and more than just a little bit disturbing. It's a foray into the world of science fiction and a compelling book exploring the concept of genetically altered pets. You can hear about it in the bonus content on the Deal with Animals Patreon page. So go to thedealwithanimalscom and click on the Patreon link, sign up to get the bonus content and you will not only get content from Daniel Krauss but many other guests as well. Keep in mind that I've only recently started this bonus content on Patreon and some of it may not be up yet, so just keep checking back and you'll get more and more content as it becomes available. Thank you for joining us as we tried to answer the question. What's the deal with animals? I'm your host, marika Bell. I'd like to thank Kai Strascoff for the theme music and Natasha Matzart for sharing her skills to help grow the podcast. You can see links to the guest book recommendations, as well as their websites and affiliated organizations, in the show notes and at thedealwithanimalscom. This podcast was produced on both historical tribal land of the Snoqualmie and Quenalt Indian nations. The Deal with Animals is part of the Iroh Animal Podcast Network. What do you think is the deal with animals?

Human-Animal Connections in Wellfall
Childhood Traumas and Unusual Research Inspiration"
Intimacy and Redemption in Monster Stories
The Importance of Animals in Literature
Upcoming Book on Genetically Altered Pets