All Of Them Had His Face

2004-12-22 19:35:48


Kindly allow me a moment to brag about my daughter Panda. She's 9 years old and quite the reader: so far she's gone through all of Tolkien, the Harry Potter series, Pullman's His Dark Materials, Bradbury's R Is For Rocket and Golden Apples Of The Sun, H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, plus a whole lot of other stuff that I won't list here. I'm happy that she's growing up appreciating the same kind of literature that I enjoyed when I was a kid.

So last night I printed off a copy of George R. R. Martin's classic SF / horror short story "Sandkings" for her, and today she read it. About four pages in she said "Dad, I think Shade's a Sandking!" (and yes he is, although that fact is not revealed until near the end of the story some 20 pages later), which made me very, very proud.

If you've ever read the story, you may think it's rather 'adult' to hand off to a 9yo (and yes, the body count is Shakespearean). But if you really read it closely, "Sandkings" contains some very good life lessons for a young person:

The picture above is my rendition of a red sandking -- not perfect, but not a bad start, I don't think, based on the following text:
Barely as long as his fingernail, six-limbed, with six tiny eyes set all around its body. A wicked set of mandibles clicked visibly, while two long, fin antennae wove patterns in the air. Antennae, mandibles, eyes, and legs were sooty black, but the dominant color was the burnt orange of its armor plating. "It's an insect," Kress repeated.

"It is not an insect," Wo insisted calmly. "The armored exo-skeleton is shed when the sandking grows larger. If it grows larger. In a tank this size, it won't." She took Kress by the elbow and led him around the tank to the next castle. "Look at the colors here."

He did. They were different. Here the sandkings had bright red armor; antennae, mandibles, eyes, and legs were yellow. Kress glanced across the tank. The denizens of the third live castle were off-white, with red trim.

1 Simon Kress spends an inordinate amount of time drunk or passed out when he should be dealing with the problem at hand.