These Ancient Eyes: Another Life’s Goal Reached!

Monday, May 2, 2011

We can’t tell you who we are. Or where we live. It’s too risky, and we’ve got to be careful. Really careful. So we don’t trust anyone. Because if they find us… well, we just won’t let them find us..

The thing you should know is that everyone is in really big trouble. Yeah. Even you.

These words drew me into a world in the late 1990s that has come to be one of the major parts of my life, my history, and my future as an author. It is, of course, the back-of-the-book introduction that is featured on the back cover of the first fifty books in one of (in my opinion) the very best children’s/young adult series’ that’ has been written, to date.

I’m talking about Animorphs.

The series was a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes a single book could make me laugh, cry, or even bite my nails and clutch the book in fear, reading rapidly to find out what happened next. Each book was a self-contained story, within the larger, ever-present story arc of the hidden war between humanity and the greatest threat that has ever come upon this planet – the Yeerk empire.

To give you an idea how into this world I still am, to this day, this excerpt, describing the situation, and the primary alien species involved in the books, isn’t from one of the books: It’s from a fanfiction I wrote in the voice of the books.

The rundown: aliens are real. They’re invading earth. They’re all around you, and you don’t even know it. Assuming you’re still YOU.

They’re called Yeerks. Parasitic slugs that infest human beings by crawling in through their ear canal and wrapping their disgusting, slimy bodies around your brain. They sink into all the little crevices and wrinkles, tapping into your memories. Your motor skills. Your voice. They take over your life. You’re trapped in a small area of your own skull, unable to do anything but scream and cry. And the worst part? No one around you can tell the difference. You can still see, you can still hear, but your life isn’t yours anymore.

You’ve become what we call a human-controller.

Other species are Controllers, of course. Species the Yeerks have already taken. The Hork-Bajir: 7 foot tall walking salad shooters of death. The Taxxons: disgusting, cannibalistic worms. The Gedds: a monkey-like species from the Yeerk’s own home planet.

And one Andalite.

Andalites are the good guys of the galaxy, for the most part. They’re the enemies of the Yeerks. Imagine a Greek centaur, but with a lower body that resembles a deer more than a horse. Now put on a long, whip-like scorpion tail with a huge blade at the end that can whip around faster than you can blink. Make the upper body a little more delicate than a human’s, and add a couple of extra fingers to each hand. Remove the mouth completely; Andalites eat grass by absorbing it through their hooves as they run or walk, and they speak with thought-speak. No need for a mouth. The nose becomes three slits, and you add two extra eyes on stalks atop the head, and the ears get a bit pointy. Finally, cover the whole creature with light blue and tan fur. That is an Andalite.

Visser Three is the only Andalite-Controller. I’ve often wished that I knew the whole story behind his infestation, but our resident alien, Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill, (or Ax, for short), is very closed-mouthed (so to speak) about certain stories from his species’ history. I think it’s Andalites as a whole, but I can’t be sure.

The books were written in the first person perspective, with the narrator changing every book and cycling through the series’ main characters – the five human Animorphs, and the aforementioned Andalite, Ax. As the name might indicate, the Animorphs can change their bodies into animals – but it isn’t magic. It isn’t some trick, and this isn’t Harry Potter. It’s Andalite technology, and Ax’s big brother broke a serious Andalite law by passing it on to the humans who would come to save the planet.

He made a good choice.

I could go on for pages, extolling this series, but this is really all you need to appreciate the life goal that’s the point of today’s post.

Recently, they’ve begun re-releasing the series in commemoration of the ten year anniversary of the series’ end. As a result, the authors are being pulled back into the spotlight a bit. I’ve been following Michael Grant on Twitter for awhile, (he co-authored the books with his wife, K.A. Applegate), and thanks to that, I became aware of the fact that the two of them were going to be at this year’s LA Festival Of Books.

I knew at that moment that I HAD to get there to see them. K.A. Applegate and her writing had a huge impact on me as a kid, and I just… meeting her was a huge deal. So I decided that I needed to get there, however I could.

My sister-by-love Nyxie came with me, ultimately, and we took my Jeep on it’s first trip to LA. I had a so-close-but-not-enough-time-today encounter with the Natural History Museum, as we were trying to find parking. We parked on the sixth floor of the parking structure finally, and took a crowded elevator down.

A helpful volunteer was able to help us figure out how to read the event map that we had, and thanks to a post on Michael Grant’s website, I knew the booth numbers where they’d be. However, thanks to traffic and how long it took us to park, we were half an hour before the end of K.A.’s last signing.

And I don’t move very quickly.

We found the right booth, but we were too late. The parking place was just too far away from where the correct area was (and there wasn’t any other event parking that was closer, even if we HAD known). I was exhausted, hot, tired, and dehydrated. We went and found a shady spot and sat down on the ground, leaning back against the wall of a building. We listened to R.L. Stein tell a ghost story, and we listened to Megan McDonald, the author of the Judy Moody series tell some amusing stories. Nyx went and got us a couple of bottles of water, and I got my spirits back up again.

After all, K.A. and Michael Grant are married – logic dictated that she might be somewhere near his signing, which was in about an hour. We rested for awhile, then headed over to find HIS booth, which was fairly easy to find and back toward the car a ways as well. Then we sat on some stairs and waited.

I was determined to keep my positive – we were here, and everything was good. At the very least, I WOULD get to meet Michael Grant, and he’ll probably pass on anything I say to his wife if it interests him enough. I hoped I would be interesting. I was nervous, but again – I was staying positive. I was going to be fantastic.

I decided to head over about 15 minutes early to see if I could find them – thanks to Michael Grant’s twitters of earlier in the day, I knew what both of them were wearing. I found them right outside the booth. I was nervous, I almost didn’t approach, but then I did. And I have never been more thrilled with a decision.

I actually got to TALK to them. We talked about ebooks, about the series, about the impact it had on me, why The Encounter remained my favorite for all these years. And K.A. SIGNED my original copy of The Encounter, AND the new rereleased copy of The Visitor (I brought that one and not The Invasion, because The Visitor was the first Animorphs book I ever read, so having her sign THAT one was poigniant for me). We talked awhile longer, Nyx came over and talked to them as well.

The most awesome part is that they recognized me, because I HAVE talked to them via Michael’s twitter before, and most people remember “Tygerwulfe” as a username. I stand out. And I’ve never been happier about that.

So not only did I meet two of my literary heroes, but they recognized me. This was more awesome than when I met Rachel Vincent and she recognized me – not because the Grants are better authors, but because they were childhood heroes and I’ve only recently gotten into Rachel Vincent’s books. This was… an amazing day, ultimately. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier that I drove a long way and hiked a long way in the heat.

And if they come back, I WILL make a point to go see them again. I did make a point of giving Michael Grant my business card, so he has my web address and everything (which might mean that they’re reading this blog right now…. 0.0 that just occured to me. *waves*), and that’s just awesome.

So, one of my life’s goals has been met – another one, actually… I’ve met a lot of them at this point in my life. However… I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about one before.

Thank you, K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant, for everything you’ve done in sharing the world of Animorphs with me and the world at large. You’ve probably effected more people than you will ever know – but know this: part of the reason I am who I am today is because of your books. So thank you. Both of you. And thank Scholastic, both for the original release and this new re-release. And I leave you with the quote that has stuck with me for about fifteen years now.

Be happy for me, and for all who fly free.