Cetus Finalis, now on sale in ebook and paperback. Get your copy of the book Ben Loory called “Watership Down for whales.” Join me for the book launch celebration on Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6PM, at San Francisco landmark Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, 94117)
Greetings and welcome, dear reader. In the past weeks I’ve presented interview format Q&As addressing some of the most common questions put to me while writing Cetus Finalis: A Gray Whale Odyssey (Available NOW!). This week, the third times a charm. With the Sunday, October 2nd, book launch approaching (Finnegan’s Wake, 937 Cole Street, San Francisco), I will wrap up the interview volley with a recent parcel of questions readers have asked me about whale physiology, and the process of creating a new novel.
How good is whale eyesight?
Whale eyesight is approximately as good as human eyesight. They have eyelids, and eyes very similar to human eyes. But think about how useful (or not) our eyesight is underwater. For this reason, whales rely very heavily on sound for identification, communication, and wayfinding.
How important is sonar to whales?
Sound is very important, but I think “sonar” may be too precise a term. Sonar refers to sonic imaging like that used by dolphins, orcas, and other toothed whales. But sound can be used for many other purposes than sonar imaging. Gray whales do a lot of vocalizing, but at much lower frequencies. No one is yet sure what their vocalizing signifies. As far as how important sound is to whales, I will say that whales rely on sound similarly to the way we rely on light; their culture is tilted toward the aural the way our classically geared Western culture is tilted toward the visual.
What gave you the idea for Cetus Finalis?
The idea came after I learned that whales were the first petroleum industry. We did not drill oil out of the ground until 1851. Before that, the entire Industrial Revolution was powered by whale oil. Every lamp in Europe burned whale oil. Candles and cosmetics were made with whale products. Machines were lubricated with whale oil; from turbines to train engines to watches, all those precise and sometimes delicate machine parts were lubricated with whale oil. Walking canes and corset stays were made from whale baleen. To put it simply, the ascendancy of Western civilization would have been impossible without decimating the whale population. In a deep way, our fates are intertwined. I had to tell a story about it.
It’s been four years since your last book. Why so long?
I had to get it right. Cetus Finalis took considerable rewriting, and was a labor of love. I had the luxury of no publisher deadline, and my readers were patient, and curious. Other projects came along in the meantime, like Perfect Beings, and Chili Bill’s Collected Works. When those projects called, I set aside Cetus Finalis to see them through… I considered releasing Cetus Finalis last year, but my editor convinced me to hold on to it a little longer, and make significant cuts and rewrites, which will be chronicled elsewhere. Cetus Finalis has undergone significant changes since the days I first imagined it. It’s remarkable to me how it is still the same story I originally envisioned, but a very different book from the one I began.
The wait is over! The whales are out of the bag! Get your copy and please, tell me what you think!
Party Note: Please join me for the Cetus Finalis launch celebration on Sunday, October 2nd, 3-6 PM, Finnegan’s Wake (937 Cole Street, San Francisco, 94117)