Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Natural History & Extinction of the People of the Sea


In the distant past, a branch of the human species adapted to the sea. Over millennia, the people lived and changed, returning to the ocean. Their shape transformed, allowing them to swim sleek and swift beneath the waves. Their lungs grew more efficient, and one lobe evolved a rudimentary ability to extract oxygen from the water. The oxygen extraction organ allowed them to pass into languor and live for long periods without breathing. In times of danger or times of storm, the sea people could sink deep underwater, wait for safety, and survive.

~ "The Natural History & Extinction of the People of the Sea"
Vonda McIntyre has made a bunch of her fiction free for download, including her Nebula award-winning novel The Moon and the Sun. It is the story of Marie-Josephe, "a young lady in the court of Louis XIV" in an alternate 17th-century France:
When her brother Yves returns from a naturalist voyage with two sea monsters (one live, one dead), Marie-Josèphe is caught up in a battle of wills involving the fate of the living creature. The king intends to test whether the sea monster holds the secrets of immortality, but Marie-Josèphe knows the creature to be an intelligent, lonely being who yearns only to be set free. In a monumental test of the limits of patience and love, Marie-Josèphe defies the will of the king, her brother, and the pope in defense of what she knows is right, at any cost. McIntyre's atmospheric prose envelops the reader in a fully realized world--sights, smells, and sounds are described in great detail .
I'm looking forward to reading it.

What's very cool is that you can also read "The Natural History & Extinction of the People of the Sea" at Book View Cafe. This fictional encyclopedia article - written by McIntyre and illustrated by Ursula LeGuin - inspired The Moon and the Sun. It is a description of the natural history of distant relatives of humans who evolved to live in the sea. These sea people inspired the legends of Nereids and sirens and sea monsters. As ship technology improved, they came into contact with humans, and we cruelly hunted them to extinction. It's not a pretty history . . .

Read "The Natural History & Extinction of the People of the Sea" and other fiction by Vonda McIntyre.

Related Posts:
(via SF Signal)

Image: Detail of illustration of "The Natural History & Extinction of the People of the Sea" by Ursula LeGuin
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4 comments:

Vonda N. McIntyre said...

It's a pleasure to be mentioned on Biology in Science Fiction. And on the same day as an article about one of my favorite movies when I was a kid -- my dad took me to see it when I was about 8, and my mom was annoyed at him for a week because I had nightmares about it.

We lived in Nahant, Massachusetts, not very far from the beach; one day the Creature came splashing up out of the surf and I ran home... and a couple of days later the guy in the swim fins and SCUBA mask was giving my dad diving lessons. (This was the early 1950s so SCUBA gear was less familiar than the Creature of the Black Lagoon.)

By the way, folks who read with mobile devices might find the other file types of my work more compatible with various hand-held gizmos. (I like .prc myself.) Those are posted at my website.

"Natural History" is only at Book View Cafe so far -- I haven't tackled an illustrated text in other formats than html yet.

-- Vonda

Peggy said...

I haven't actually seen the original movie, but I've put it on my "to rent" list along with the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still".

That's great that you are providing files for mobile devices. It seems like a lot of people are reading that way (although all I have is a minimalist cell phone).

Vonda N. McIntyre said...

Creature is a lot of fun. The original Day the Earth Stood Still is a good movie.

(The trailers for the new DAY don't fill me with enthusiasm to run right out and see it.)

I really like reading off my PDA. I don't have to lug a five-pound hardcover around, I don't have to contort myself to get book, eyes, and reading light in the correct orientation, and if I fall asleep reading, it turns itself off!

Vonda

Peggy said...

I may eventually have to break down and get a PDA or ebook reader. It would be nice to not have to lug a book around. My concern, though, is that I'm a bit too clumsy to have an expensive bit of electronics in the situations where I usually do my reading. It doesn't matter so much to me if I drop a paperback in the pool.