Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Little Skinny Planet and the Moon

Of the seven classical “planets,” the Moon is the smallest and is the only one that sometimes appears as a “skinny” crescent from Earth. (Mercury and Venus also have crescent phases, but these are not visible to the naked eye.)

In a poem, Jessica Nolin describes the Little Skinny Planet as “little and thin in the roof of Tellus,” implying it is visible, and visible as something “thin,” from Earth.

The Little Skinny Planet is inhabited by intelligent monkeys. When I was three or four, around the same time I started talking about the Little Skinny Planet, I confided to my sister that I wasn’t the real William; the real William had been kidnapped by gorillas, and I had been left in his place. As I told her this, I had a mental image of the place I had lived among the gorillas, and Earth was visible in the sky — not as a pale blue dot, but as a large disc several degrees in diameter. The implication, I realized many years later, was that the place was on the Moon.

In 1997 or early 1998, around the same time I wrote the William Alizio story, I wrote an essay on the poetic technique of the first verse of the Moxy Früvous song “Down from Above”:

Your mother made you cry
When she told you about the womb
And how people die
Watching over you when you were young
Smiling when you learned to crawl
You don’t know her at all

The word womb at end of the second line sets you up to expect the rhyme tomb. This expectation is subverted when the third line rhymes instead with the first, but semantically the concept of the tomb is still there, so the expectation is subverted and satisfied at the same time. Then as the end of the fourth line approaches, your brain anticipates either small or young. In fact young is used, but the expectation of small is immediately reinforced with the consonance of smiling, and then the next two lines rhyme with small.

Wanting to further illustrate this technique with an example of my own, I created a variant of the opening lines, using birth and Earth instead of womb and tomb:

Your mother made you cry
When she told you about your birth
On a sphere in the sky

Only much later did I realize what a strange assumption this example depended on: that people would associate a sphere in the sky with Earth just as readily as they associate how people die with the tomb. But who would find such an association natural? Only someone who lives on the Moon.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’ve obviously never lived on the Moon, which in any case everyone knows is inhabited by Quakers, not monkeys. I’m just trying to put some puzzle pieces together in the hope that eventually an intelligible picture will emerge.


No Longer Reading said...

In elementary school I read a book called "The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet" (, about two boys who fly to a small planet near Earth that can't be seen from earth, but where the Earth stands between it and the sun.

I don't remember a lot about the story, but this reminded me of it, because it's about a little planet.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Interesting lead, Kevin. I see on the Wikipedia page that one of the main characters is named Tyco.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Tyco Bass. If we take the surname to mean “low, short,” then a Russian translation would be Tyco Nevisoki.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

A couple of months ago, I picked up an obscure sci-go novel at a secondhand shop: Timelock by Kote Adler. It, too, seems to be about mushroom people who spread to other planets as spores, and the first page introduces a character named Myco.

They are the Eggmen

In connection with my recent posts about Eleanor Cameron's Mushroom Planet  novels, both Wandering Gondola and William Wright have drawn...