When I first bumped into the character of Cinrak, the capybara pirate in Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), I was totally delighted. It gave me a sense of “when we last met our heroes” that I love in short fictions, where you feel like there’s a whole world already underway all around the characters, and you’re just along for a short visit.
So, as I’ve mentioned a few times already, I was absolutely freaking joyous to learn about this collection being in the pipeline. Now, since I’ve already reviewed “Search for the Heart of the Ocean” already from before, I’m not going to repeat myself (you can read about it in this post) but since A.J. was kind enough to drop by and speak to me about all the tales in the anthology, here’s the authourly scoop on “Search for the Heart of the Ocean”:
From the Author:
There wasn’t a connected collection yet when I wrote “Heart,” but there were definitely still more Cinrak tales to tell. Let’s show Cinrak’s awkwardness at learning how to be a mentor, getting all Picard around a kid. Let’s flip up the old tropes of nasty pirates, kraken, and whirlpools. Here’s a crew who love each other dearly, a kraken who thinks she’s human size, and a whirlpool that leads to delight rather than doom.
When I first wrote Benj, I chose a chinchilla because I thought it was cute. I didn’t know chinchillas died from getting wet until one of my beta readers pointed it out! This created some fix up world building in later stories, which turned out brilliantly.
And Columbia, my glorious, hairy, primping drag queen of a mer. He needs all that hair to keep warm in the depths, and it doesn’t hurt that it makes him look absolutely fabulous. I never played with the idea, but does his glorious voice bring all the sailors to the yard? He’s probably too much of a sensitive soul to hurt anyone, so he’s an expert lip syncher FOR THEIR LIFE.
Now, back to our ongoing Voyages!
The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper goes on a brilliant adventure in “The Hirsute Pursuit,” when the crew head off for a major event that’s as mystical as it is useful—especially in the case of the young cabin-boy we met earlier. There’s a substance coming into play on a particular island, and that substance can—among other things—give him his beard.
Basically, this is a trans cabin-boy chinchilla story (something I never knew I wanted) and I was whole-heartedly on board from the moment the anchor is pulled. More, Fitzwater’s ongoing world-building gets upped to 11 here. Past characters intersect (I have to admit to loving seeing some mild come-uppance here, too). Also, some of the secondary characters get a lot more room here, and I was the happier for it (hello, Agnes!)
The sheer joy of the story—the voyage, the discoveries!—alongside the progression of Cinrak’s role as caretaker and captain is a really clever balance, as Cinrak is feeling the weight of so many things right now. This story feels very much like a turning point in the collection, in all the best ways.
And, again, here’s A.J. to let us in on the origins!
From the author:
I had the beard first and the title a very close second. Oh, did I have fun with the titles of these stories, adding to that joyous silliness. Can you imagine a fluff boi chinchilla wanting Moar Fluff? His sheer delight, his trans joy, carried the idea of the story until I could figure out the broader connections and world building.
I wanted to show Cinrak on a parallel growth track. By now she’s got at least a decade of pirating under her bow tie, and those expectations are beginning to weigh heavily. She loves being a ship (house) mother, but without Mereg by her side she needs a bit of help.
I also really enjoyed showing Agnes being frivolous. She sometimes forgets how big she is when she gets enthusiastic. She’s like a sea-puppy, except with way more legs and a serious unconcern for her eating habits. Go large, Agnes!