The Pharaoh and the Librarian is a work of fiction. Alternative fiction. “What if” fiction. Most of the places Alex and Cleo visit are real – or what they might have been if I’d been there to do feet-on-the-ground research. Therefore, settings are as real as my imagination can make them. And the creatures they encounter are crypids, as real as they may have been.
Writers are told that their creatures must be realistic or at least plausible. Even fantasy writers can’t just throw monsters into a story willy-nilly. So, what about cryptids, a class of monsters balanced between the real and imaginary, like the famous trio: Bigfoot, Yeti, and Nessie.
Bernard Heuvelmans claimed his co-author (On the Track of Unknown Animals, 1955) Ivan T. Sanderson, a Scottish zoologist, first coined the term cryptozoology. Supposedly, the term sounded more scientific than monster hunter. “Crypto” means a thing having the quality of being hidden or unknown. The OED defines a cryptid as “an animal whose existence or survival to the present is disputed or unsubstantiated; any animal of interest to a cryptozooologist.” Others more bold call cryptozooology a pseudo-science, similar to a belief in the monsters found in folklore and old wives’ tales.
Monsters fascinate us. From childhood we read tales featuring mean monsters and gentle monsters. We love dragons and werewolves and mythological creatures like minotaurs, satyrs, and giants. What’s more fun than a chimera, with the head and front of a lion, the back legs of a goat, and a snake’s head for a tail or a jackalope, a jackrabbit with the antlers of a deer? We love King Kong, the shark in The Deep, the centaurs in The Chronicles of Narnia, and the creatures in Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forest.
What draws us to these creatures? Are they just real enough? Perhaps they represent secrets hidden from society.
Modern cryptozoologists use motion sensitive cameras and night vision equipment and reject the notion that the world is completely mapped and explored. Others keep alive a sense of wonder that mystery animals and fabulous beasts exist. Their opponents focus on revealing fake taxidermy hoaxes and trick photography.
In writing The Pharaoh and the Librarian, I supposed many cryptids still lived in the 1st century in both the Old World and the New, when folklore and history were not so far apart. Technically, the creatures that wander through my novel are not fantasy beings but crypids who may have lived at one time and may or may not have survived to live in ours.
In fiction creatures still hide within vast forests, dark jungles, and deep oceans.