The Problem of the Runcible Spoon (a bit of Writer Archeology)

Quite a while ago (late January of 2011, in fact) I wrote the following about runcible spoons and what they are and aren’t. At the time there was actually rather less Internet than there is now, and also a bit different flavor of Wild West to it all, so I’ve had to make a few edits and and had to unlink due to the disappearance of one of my reference sites. But imagine my surprise when I was suddenly getting hits from my old WordPress site (which hasn’t been active since 2018) this week. It seems artist and teacher Jenie Yolland has copy-pasted my little research rant because they have a deep and abiding love for Sam Neil’s reading of The Owl and the Pussycat, and an interest in weird table utensils. And all that is utterly fine with me, so, without further ado, here is a slightly updated version of what I said about runcible spoons way back when:

Ah the Runcible spoon, which rose to fame in the Edward Lear poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” is not, in fact, the poet’s invention–no matter what the internet says. How do I know this?

Because I read Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson in college. There’s a scene in the diary wherein Boswell and Dr. Johnson have stopped at an inn while traveling and they must provide their own utensils while they eat from a shared bowl. Boswell is put out that he has only his belt knife and cannot keep up with the prodigious gobbling pace of Johnson who has a “Runcible’s spoon”. This invention of a man named Runcible (no, his first name isn’t mentioned that I recall, but I’d bet on “John” just to be perverse) is described by Boswell as a long handle with a spoon bowl at one end and fork at the other, and one sharpened edge to make a small knife (I’m afraid I’ve forgotten if it was the spoon or the fork that had the sharpened side). Boswell is interested in Runcible’s invention and though Johnson finds it a bit of a challenge, it’s a huge step up from making do with a belt knife and fingers as Boswell has to do.

Johnson predates Edward Lear by a considerable time. That the internet has widely reported the story of the Runcible spoon as an invention of Lear’s does not, in fact, make it true. It’s the invention of Runcible.

And although it is sometimes mislabled a “spork,” it is, in fact, a variation on Mr. Runcible’s spoon. (The Slightly Less Than Official Spork Page claims “’Spork’ is the colloquial term for `Runcible Spoon’” but the spork doesn’t usually have a sharpened edge and there’s no knife edge on the official patent design.) The original must have had a longer and more distinct handle, but still… a spoon bowl, fork tines, and one sharpened edge…. Plainly a Runcible’s spoon. You can imagine how swank Dr. Johnson must have been to own such a marvel in the Eighteenth Century. Very, very swank! No sharing germs with the peons for Dr. Johnson! No burning his fingers snatching bits of meat out of the stew pot with his unaided hand.

And, in spite of what my parents told me, a central-pivot salad tongs is also not a Runcible spoon. Just isn’t. Sorry. Not to mention how could the Owl and Pussycat ever have eaten “mince and slices of quince” with a salad tongs? Ridiculous. But with a Runcible spoon? Easy as… well, as pie. Om nom nom!

Also, the poem wouldn’t have rhymed very well with “spork.”

A pair of silver-colored salad tongs, which look like a giant pair of scissors with a spoon bowl and a large fork where the blades ought to be


Table full of Greywalker series books

This Gets Complicated…

I’ve unpacked all the Greywalker series author copies from storage and piled them on my former dining table (pictured on the left). I knew I was short on a few, but no idea how badly until now. These shortages are going to make full sets very limited—specifically, I can only make 4 complete sets of Original Format, and 4 complete sets of the Mass Market Paperback (MMP) Format. All of the books are first edition/first printing. All the hardcovers have their original dust jackets intact and in good condition.

Here’s what’s in the pile

  • Greywalker: 4 US Trade Paperback, 9 US MMP, 1 French Translation 120mm x 198mm Paperback
  • Poltergeist: 4 US Trade Paperback, 14 US MMP, 1 German Translation 117mm x 187mm Paperback
  • Underground : 14 US Hardcover, 14 US MMP, 1 German Translation 117mm x 187mm Paperback, 1 UK B-Format Paperback
  • Vanished: 17 US Hardcover, 11 US MMP
  • Labyrinth: 16 US Hardcover, 15 US MMP, 8 UK B-Format Paperback
  • Downpour: 4 US Hardcover, 4 US MMP, 17 UK B-Format Paperback
  • Seawitch: 30 US Hardcover, 19 US MMP
  • Possession: 35 US Hardcover, 34 US MMP
  • Revenant: 37 US Hardcover, 40 US MMP
  • Audio: Downpour—1 complete set of 10 discs in original box; Seawitch—2 complete sets of 11 discs in original boxes; Possession—2 complete sets of 10 discs in original boxes; 1 complete set of 12 discs in original box
  • Misc: 1 uncirculated Downpour Print ARC, 27 Labyrinth promo sliding-tile puzzles, approx. 400 Greywalker handmade magnetic folding bookmarks—about 1,000 more still in storage

Note: No hardcover editions were ever produced of Greywalker or Poltergeist and, beginning with Underground, US Trade/Quality Paperback was discontinued as a format for this series. As a result, full sets of this series are either exclusively MMP format, or mixed format. There can’t be any full sets in all-hardcover or all-trade paperback at this time, but who knows if limited editions, or new editions, will come out in a consistent quality format in the future?

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out pricing, shipping, and how to sell these puppies to you guys with minimum drama.

And if you’re wondering why these are such a hodge-podge of sizes/formats, etc… well… that’s just the way it is with author copies. I originally got only 10 of each US format, then I started getting 20, then 40, and I often carried copies of the earlier books to events with me to give away or consign. Later, I rarely needed to do that, since the books were usually available through vendors on-site. Translation and UK editions are another whole story: the French publisher either went out of business, or dropped the series (the first two of which they’d already paid for) before the second book was sent to print (although the translation was completed), and the UK and German Publishers also dropped the series before it ended. There were also Russian, Polish, and Chinese (RoC/Taiwan) editions of Greywalker, and that latter edition was even re-printed with a new cover at one point. I don’t have copies of those available—some I never received at all, and some I got only one copy of. Though I do have to say, the Polish edition had the Harper version that most looks like the Harper in my mind.

So, once again, stay tuned for further developments.



And I am Tired.

I have dragged all my author copies of the Greywalker novels home from the storage unit out in Lovely Sequim (which is pronounced “Skwim” if you wondered). Ten boxes and we had to rush home to avoid being rained on and ending up with soaked books in the bed of the truck, stopping once to wrestle the tarp back into place. On arriving home (dry, thank you) Mr Kat and I carried all of the boxes up the stairs to the office/storage unit over the garage, plus unloading and moving all the other boxes we brought back as well. Wheee! what fun (not)! And all of this after having gotten stuck in mud on our mountainside and having to dig gravel from the side of the road with an entrenching tool and a steel dog bowl to dump said gravel under the tires in the SNOW (no, I’m not kidding) to get back down the hill to our storage unit to begin with! I think I moved about 200 pounds of gravel, and very large stones to act as wheel chocks while we did so.

So, now I shall go through the boxes, sort, count, and inspect how many of what I’ve got. It’s highly likely that I’ll be posting information about signed copies and sets for sale here, to consolidate information in just one place, and only posting links to my FaceBork and Twitter accounts. But first, *flops on floor and imitates a poor, sad deer staring at the truck that hit it…* Owwww…

I found it in a virtual drawer

I was going through a bunch of story files, looking for a prompt to get my brain back into writing-mode after a lot of revising, editing, and generally falling off the writer-horse, and I found this fragment, that I apparently started January 19, 2017, at 22:54:

My mother was murdered and my father disposed of the body, but that didn’t help him; he was convicted of it anyway and put in prison. But now there is a fingerprint—a bloody fingerprint—on the body of a homeless man, and the cops want me to provide a sample to see if the blood might be hers. The fingerprint is.

My life is upside down. After she vanished, I always believed she was dead, though it took a while to believe she was murdered and that my father did it. But the evidence piled up over years and… you know the rest. But a now a fingerprint. Now blood. My father isn’t a killer? After most of a lifetime of believing, it’s much harder to imagine that he didn’t kill her. It’s easier to think that the selfish, manipulative, evil man who’s lived in a nine-by-six cell since I was twenty did it, than to accept that maybe he was innocent and my mother just… abandoned us. Abandoned me with him. What sort of mother does that?

There’s a further note on the fragment that indicates I was thinking of using it as a part of Gattis File, Book 2, which was never completed once the publisher decided not to go ahead with more books. This fragment isn’t in the same style or genre (SF) as the Gattis materials, so I suspect it’s something I just typed up and then tried to find a place for, later. Maybe I’ll find something else for it to do….