The Tournament of Books  |   A champion is decided as The Good Lord Bird meets Life After Life

Ads via The Deck

Behind the Scenes

Operation Fish From Hell

The U.S. has many problems right now, but its deadliest threat can grow to three feet long: the Chinese Snakehead. Our reporter goes deep undercover to get the government’s reaction to a meat-eating snake.

The land-walking snakehead fish that is native to Asia has been found in seven states and the Bush administration will announce Tuesday a ban on U.S. imports of the predatory fish. —Reuters

Interior Secretary Gale Norton: People, my sleep last night was troubled by a terrible vision.

Spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources John Surrick: Lay it down, clown.

Norton: An unholy spawn, a thing that was not meant to be. A fish with the head of a snake, a meat-eating snake-headed fish—and it could walk on land!

University of Washington School of Fisheries Professor Malcolm Ostrom, Ph.D: Yeah, that’s what we’re here to talk about.

Norton: It called itself Tsathoggua, the amorphous, toad-like god creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.

Surrick: That was no dream, Madame Secretary. These snakeheads are all too real—and all too deadly.

Norton: Folks, we need to wipe this abomination from the face of our beloved mother Earth. Let’s do a little brainstorming and only serious ideas this time, gents.

Ostrom: Before we jump right in—

Surrick: We don’t want to hear it, doc.

Ostrom: I’m asking for a holding of the horses.

Norton: I don’t want to hear any PETA shit.

Ostrom: This is a magnificent species were dealing with here, my friends.

Norton: Here we go.

Surrick: Malcolm, please. You’ve seen what this thing is capable of. The eating, the running, the eco-terror. It needs to be terminated with way extreme prejudice.

Ostrom: Yes, she is fierce. She is swift and deadly and efficient. But just imagine the potential that she holds, if properly harnessed.

Norton: There’s no harnessing going on with this thing. You ever seen one up close and/or personal? You’re too busy shrieking and clawing out your eyes to be harnessing anything.

Surrick: I say poison ‘em all and let Klarkash-Ton sort it out.

Norton: Totally. The CIA’s got all sorts of new stuff they want to dump in the lakes, see what happens.

Ostrom: I am temporarily rendered speechless.

Surrick: I wish.

Ostrom: That’s like dropping a bomb on Hiroshima to get rid of head lice.

Surrick: But aha! Your inflammatory simile reveals the truth! You admit that the ungodly snakehead is akin to head lice—repulsive, communicative, toxic!

Ostrom: I admit nothing. How is poisoning a lake any better for the ecosystem than the coldly beautiful snakehead?

Surrick: I’m sure we can whip up a batch of something that’ll kill just the snakeheads and leave everything else pretty much OK. Like what’s that stuff that only hurts werewolves or Superman? Something like that.

Norton: Or maybe we could administer a drug that turns the snakeheads against themselves. Like DMZ in ‘Nam.

Surrick: Or maybe we could develop a new species that only eats snakeheads. Genentech could do that over a three-day weekend.

Ostrom: I will only agree to this: We hire professional snakehead wranglers. The snakeheads are brought in and kept in a manufactured habitat where they can be studied and cloned and biomechanically-enhanced.

Norton: You’re saying there could be military applications.

Ostrom: I’m saying you airlift a couple thousand snakeheads to Afghanistan and then sit back and watch the freedom spread.

Surrick: Malcolm, there’s already a bill being pushed through Congress to make it legal for a citizen to shoot—in the stomach—anyone in possession of a snakehead. Those little bastards aren’t going to be allowed to step one stinking creepy foot-fin in this country.

Ostrom: Well, God bless America.

Surrick: Hey. Hey. Stick your finger in this Bible and tell me where it says, ‘and lo, God created this fucked-up carnivorous snake-fish nightmare and it was good,’ and I’ll welcome it with open arms.

Norton: I won’t. I’ll welcome it with my heavy boots of lead and like a Kevlar vest. But I do not want to be the one responsible for ridding America of some kind of elite fighting force.

Ostrom: I’m telling you, they could turn the tide. And there’s a fringe benefit. Let’s say a snakehead is fighting alongside one of our boys, running across the desert with its mutant flippers and chewing up anything that gets in its way. Then, suddenly, the little trooper takes a round in the chest.

Norton: Oh no, poor snakehead!

Ostrom: But our brave soldier is not done serving his country. Mess kits will come complete with watercress, duck gizzard, and tangerine peel. In ten minutes the unit’ll have delicious, exotic snakehead soup.

Surrick: You absolute beast!

Ostrom: Missy, be a dear and bring in some of that soup. Take a whiff of that, huh?

Norton: Whoa. Something smells seriously yum.

Ostrom: Dig in. There’s enough for everybody.

Surrick: Oh my god this is good. It’s so insouciant.

Norton: It’s piquant and invigorating.

Ostrom: FedEx’d from Singapore this morning. There’s a jawbone in the bottom of the bowl that you can use as a toothpick.

Norton: So rad.

Surrick: It’s like those evil creatures are gnawing right on my pleasure center.

Norton: Screw the Army. I’ll get ten times as much from PepsiCo. KFC nuggets, a new Gatorade blend, Doritos, I dunno—they’ll think of something.

Ostrom: OK but I still want the habitat.

Norton: Done, as long as you promise not to raise your own elite fighting force.

Ostrom: I promise nothing.

biopic

TMN Contributing Writer Joshua Allen is a complex and exciting young man. He is a hard worker and always gives 110 percent. He is a people-person unless that person is a crab and not pulling their weight for the team. If enthusiasm and get-up-and-go are drugs, then he’s a hardcore drug addict. He’s pretty obviously an only child. He lives in Fireland, USA. More by Joshua Allen