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Author Topic: PC264: Mermaid's Hook  (Read 2942 times)
Talia
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« on: June 12, 2013, 07:49:01 AM »

PodCastle Episode 264: Mermaid’s Hook

by Liz Argall

Read by Julia Rios (of The Outer Alliance Podcast)

Originally published in Apex Magazine. Read the story here!

She caught treasures from the ship with her sisters; dangerous, exotic objects that plummeted through the water. Metal not yet rusted; fractured glass and timbers not yet smoothed by the sea; woven filaments as delicate as jellyfish, and as treacherous. Curiosities from the world above to be dared, caught, examined and discarded.

She found him falling. He fell fast, tangled in chains, his shirt billowing up around him, shedding bubbles in all directions as his body tore through the water. She surged towards him, caught him in her arms, then paused. Here was no special prize. Normally, they would let humans sink to the bottom and serve as bait for delicious crabs and tastier morsels, but this one still struggled. His urgent desire to live evoking something almost forgotten; an electric hum on the back of her tongue of land-life never known, but bone-remembered. She hummed low and chirruped in surprise, “Who are you? Why are you in my arms?”

He spasmed for a moment, his convulsions almost knocking him out of her grasp, the whites of his eyes flickering through half opened slits.

Her sisters hummed, “Why are you playing with the land-thing? Wait for the crabs to come.”

“I think it’s alive.”


Rated R: Contains disturbing imagery.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: July 03, 2013, 09:32:26 AM by Talia » Logged
Moritz
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 02:11:25 PM »

I really liked the premise which was a nice version of "through the other's eyes" and really shows us how culture can bias someone's views. The mermaid lore was quite interesting. I had expected some kind of twist at the end, which didn't come, but of course you don't always need a twist at the end.

I wasn't a huge fan of the reading though, but then I tend to be quite critical of everything here...
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2013, 07:29:36 PM »

This story landed right in the middle of the pack for me. Not particularly original or engaging, but well written and fully fleshed out. A few phrases stuck out to me as particularly well chosen, like "bone remembered" and "shark skin smooth, shark tooth sharp." Actually had to write those down while I was listening so I could remember to note them here! I enjoyed the mermaid character, being so very matter of fact and driven. I got a little muddled during the portions where she was taking him to the boat vs the shore; I wasn't quite sure if he was trying to actually go for the shore or someplace else over the horizon. The sense of time and space was a little off putting as well; not the most well paced story, in my opinion.

Reading was good. Again, not spectacular, but a solid performance.
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LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2013, 09:33:39 PM »

I liked the reading!  It was airy and fun but with the appropriate level of gravity.

As for the story itself, the mermaids here are fantastic.  There needs to be more mermaids with shark bodies that can actually survive in an ocean full of predators!  The way the mermaid views the physical differences between herself and the human is haunting.  She has no idea how he breathes or what it means when he vomits, which might have been silly in another story, but here reminded me of sci-fi stories where humans and aliens struggle to understand each other.

My least favorite thing about the story is its remarkable similarity to Kat Otis's What Merfolk Must Know, published on Daily Science Fiction this past April: http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fantasy/kat-otis/what-merfolk-must-know  Like Mermaid's Hook, Merfolk involves a mermaid viewing what it is very likely slave ships throwing Africans overboard.  In each story, the mermaid is unable to grasp the full meaning of what she sees but works to save a human anyway.

Are slave-freeing savior mermaids a new trend?
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evrgrn_monster
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2013, 09:53:30 PM »

I liked the reading!  It was airy and fun but with the appropriate level of gravity.

As for the story itself, the mermaids here are fantastic.  There needs to be more mermaids with shark bodies that can actually survive in an ocean full of predators!  The way the mermaid views the physical differences between herself and the human is haunting.  She has no idea how he breathes or what it means when he vomits, which might have been silly in another story, but here reminded me of sci-fi stories where humans

Oh, totally forgot about the vomiting thing. I thought that was such a neat little thing to add.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2013, 05:32:36 PM »

This was really, really good.  Hit on pretty much every cylinder, from interesting reconceptualizations of mermaids to amusing nods to "The Little Mermaid" to strong non-human point-of-view that doesn't fall back on cheap tricks to lovely poetic language.  Top marks.  (Though I still like "The Mermaid's Tea-Party" better because I am a cynical bastard at heart.)
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2013, 09:19:58 PM »

The thing that struck me most about this story was the mermaid misunderstanding human behavior. It brings out the anthropologist in me.

I admit that mermaids are bit played out for me, though. Otherwise this was an excellent story.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2013, 02:20:35 PM »

Well, I'm no old hand of mermaid lore, so I was glad to see a story with mermaids physically equipped to survive the fish-eat-fish world of the Atlantic ocean. Also glad to see that the human and mermaid can't magically understand each other, especially their body language. Very well done.
The only thing that bothered me was the mermaid constantly referring to the water as "air" when discussing breathing. She wouldn't call it air, in fact there were enough words and phrases their to signal that this was an alien world to her and that she was trying to make sense of it with her vocabulary. The air-water mixup was clearly a writer's error. Not a terrible one, but also one that is grossly out of place in such a well-thought-out story, particularly from a literary point of view.
The reading was also very good. Well paced, carefully enunciated, a neutral accent and good volume consistency throughout.
All in all I'm happy with this episode of PC.
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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2013, 08:31:21 AM »

I enjoyed this one, especially the mermaid's attempts to understand (and usually failing) the glimpses of the human world she sees.  Such as the musing over the meaning of the humans dropped off the ship, whether it's bait or metamorphosis.  My favorite misunderstanding, though, was when he struggled away from her and was trying to outpace her and she was following along behind.  His pace would flag, but then he would look back like a seal pup and be so reassured that he could push on.  Clearly he is terrified out of his gourd of this mythical beast chasing him through the water, but I love how that's misinterpreted.

I'm glad that he helped her in the end to get back home, though her efforts did cost her.
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didd
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2013, 06:55:06 AM »

Finally joined the forums...
I thought there were some beautiful moments in the story. Like when the mermaid spoke of admiring the treasures falling from ships, and then discarding them. It struck me as very different from the human characteristic of hoarding and desiring. Some of the differences between species seemed forced though, like wondering where the man's blowhole was, and describing the ship like a living creature (it's dorsal fin and backbone, etc). To me that felt too much like how a human would think a mermaid would think.
I also really enjoyed the sisters' voices, it made the mermaid seem very alone against the unnaturally united group. They were like an outside version of a person’s own fears, or pressures from society. It made me question whether it would be easier to go against what you've always done if it was someone else constantly telling you to do the safe thing, rather than your own thoughts.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2013, 10:46:55 AM »

This was really, really good.  Hit on pretty much every cylinder, from interesting reconceptualizations of mermaids to amusing nods to "The Little Mermaid" to strong non-human point-of-view that doesn't fall back on cheap tricks to lovely poetic language.  Top marks.  (Though I still like "The Mermaid's Tea-Party" better because I am a cynical bastard at heart.)

Good to see I was not the only one lamenting the scarcity of fishy bitches. Even with that, still quite enjoyable.
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2013, 12:11:12 PM »

The problem with another story about fishy bitches is that it would be another story about fishy bitches, and there's only one Mermaid's Tea Party Smiley

I guess that's part of what appealed to me so much about this one - very different, but believable mermaids.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2013, 03:32:53 PM »


The problem with another story about fishy bitches is that it would be another story about fishy bitches, and there's only one Mermaid's Tea Party Smiley

I guess that's part of what appealed to me so much about this one - very different, but believable mermaids.


We're chasing the dragon trying to get that first tea party experience again. We don't need your shiny rainbows and uplifting endings! What is this fantasy world you live in?
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Devoted135
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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2013, 08:49:04 PM »

Haha, well I (for one) was glad to hear about friendly mermaids for once! Away with you and your jaded hearts! Cheesy

I'll echo others' appreciation for the cultural differences and misunderstandings, particularly the meaning of the vomiting episode. Toward the end I was quite worried that the mermaid would end up dying for her efforts, so I was pleased when the sailor helped her back into the ocean. 
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RingofElephants
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2013, 09:08:36 PM »

Hi everybody, this is my first post! On first brush I found this a pretty solid middle-of-the-pack story, I liked the reading if only cause I thought she sounded just a bit like a mermaid might. Thinking back on it there was a lot that was really great in this story, I loved the slightly more realistic imagining of mermaids--which managed to seem realistic but stay fantastic and mysterious. Perhaps the story was a little boring, not very much happened, but he poetry in the writing made the story for me, "shark skin smooth, shark tooth sharp" and such. It just sounded right, the way a creature vaguely similar to us, but from a different world might think.
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2013, 12:11:10 PM »

I gave up on this one about ten minutes in when I realized I'd stop paying attention to it. Not sure what dropped me from the story, but it wasn't working for me.
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2013, 03:46:42 PM »

Count me in the well "it was those overused mermaids, but it was so awesome that it overcame the handicap camp". I really enjoyed it. Very different. The alien perspective felt authentic and provided a heart-wrenching look at humanity. 

I would like to point out that these aren't exactly your mother's unicorn fart mermaids. These shark-maids EAT people. They consider them food. So, while they aren't the fishy bitches (There Can Be Only One), they certainly aren't going to bust out in song, either. I think the comparison of their behavior to the horror taking place in the human/land world made them seem more compassionate than they would be in other circumstances.
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Chuk
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« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2013, 03:25:32 PM »

I would like to point out that these aren't exactly your mother's unicorn fart mermaids. These shark-maids EAT people. They consider them food.
I thought they just used them as bait for crabs.
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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2013, 10:49:12 AM »

Love the language for this one, and loved the idea of her saving an African man. It makes me want to read it. In fact...think I will!
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Anyanwu
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« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2013, 06:19:46 AM »

At first I thought, "Not another mermaid story!" I almost didn't listen to it. Black folks don't tell tales of mermaids and usually I find them uninteresting. This story was different. While fellow humans were discarding African people like crab bait by the thousands, a mermaid child recognizes another sentient  being and commits to save a life because it is the right thing to do. Despite great personal risk and suffering, she completes her task. Her sacrifice is recognized and honored as people pull together to return her to her home as she returned the man to his home. When my niece is old enough, I will read her this little mermaid story. Well done, podcastle.
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