Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Oceana

with 6 comments

It is getting towards the time of year when I am being asked for contributions to best of round ups and In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield is featuring prominently. My thanks to Abigail Nussbaum for pointing me in the direction of another wonderful mermaid story published by a British writer this year: ‘A Journal of Certain Events of Scientific Interest from the First Survey Voyage of the Southern Waters by HMS Ocelot, As Observed by Professor Thaddeus Boswell, DPhil, MSc’ by Helen Keeble. I actually prefer its subtitle, ‘A Lullaby':

Hush my babes, hush; sleep soundly in your shells. Do not open your eyes, not yet. Sleep softly, dreaming of blood.

If you feel a swaying, surely it is but the gentle tumble of the waves. If you feel a current, surely it is but the ripple of my fins around you. If you see a shadow, surely it is but a passing darkness. I am here, sweet spawnlings, little eggs. I am here, your father, wrapping you in the soft tides of my song. I am here, Sunlight-Reaching-Deep is here, warming you like my namesake. I promise you, when you awaken, you will see the sun. You will see the sun, and laugh.

But not yet, not yet. Curl tightly; fold your fins over your eyes. It is not time to wake. Sleep, o my small loves, sleep fearlessly, and let my voice rock you in your dreams. Surely no harm will come to you while your father sings.

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Written by Martin

15 December 2009 at 16:18

6 Responses

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  1. Finally got around to reading this and yes, it is rather good, isn’t it? And an interesting compare/contrast to In Great Waters. I’m pretty tired, though, and I think I missed something: how was Oceana communicating with her people? I assumed telepathy, but then the suggestion seemed to be that it was just song; but the song had no way to reach the ocean. Or are we to assume that Oceana’s songs were never heard, and it’s just coincidence that her people do what she sings of?

    Niall

    16 December 2009 at 01:01

  2. As I read it, Oceana’s songs were never heard, at least not after she was captured and placed aboard the ship). The actions of his aunts and sisters are pretty predictable after that.

    Martin

    16 December 2009 at 09:45

  3. Since I’ve got you here, can I ask how you responded to Sunlight-Reaching-Deep’s gender reversal? In general, I thought the story did interesting things with gender and specifically with the expectations of gendered behavior, but this element rang false. Sunlight-Reaching-Deep defines himself as a man, but he also defines the appearance, reproductive function, and traditional social roles of men as being in line with the ones we associate with women. To me, this very nearly negated the gender reversal – in the end, it just seemed as if the mermaids’ word for ‘woman’ was ‘man.’

    Abigail

    16 December 2009 at 20:48

  4. I don’t remember Keeble defining reproductive function so I thought it would be consistent with the story that the mermaids actually lay the eggs and the mermen care for them. This is the case with penguins, isn’t? (And probably other animals too.) So biologically they are male and female but the gender roles subvert our expectations.

    Martin

    17 December 2009 at 12:06

  5. Your memory of the story is fresher than mine, but I can’t remember any reference to who lays the eggs, so you may be right. I would have liked Keeble to signpost this a little, but I guess that’s my one objection to the story done away with.

    Abigail

    17 December 2009 at 12:52

  6. I hope you don’t mind me parachuting into the discussion (ah the wonders of Google Alerts), but I thought you might be interested in the fact that my merperson biology is based on the real-world Betta Splendens, aka the Siamese Fighting Fish. The males of this species really do build nests out of bubbles, into which they entice a female to lay eggs. The male subsequently (and violently) chases the female off, and is entirely responsible for brooding the eggs. Other notable facts about this species is that the males are colourful and long-finned, while the females are drab and streamlines; as a result they have quite different hunting/feeding behaviours. Females live either alone or in uneasy groups, with a lot of in-fighting for dominance; males are entirely solitary and fight to the death with just about anything that enters their territory.

    They do not, as far as I’m aware, declaim epic poetry, but my own betta always looked like he might be thinking about it. :-)

    Helen Keeble

    17 December 2009 at 14:45


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