Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talking Squids in Outer Space

This week's Sci Fi Weekly web site of the week is Talking Squids form Outer Space. The content is pretty what you'd expect from the title: science fiction featuring squids and other cephalopods. There is a squidliography, of course, and even free SF stories featuring squids.

This current featured story is "Sheena 5" by Stephen Baxter, which stars a squid with enhanced intelligence working for NASA.

It came after the kill.

The night was over. The sun, a fat ball of light, was already glimmering above the water surface.

The squid emerged from the grasses and corals where they had been feeding. Shoals formed in small groups and clusters, eventually combining into a community a hundred strong.

Court me. Court me.

See my weapons!

I am strong and fierce.

Stay away! Stay away! She is mine! ...

It was the ancient cephalopod language, a language of complex skin patterns, body posture, texture, words of sex and danger and food; and Sheena shoaled and sang with joy.

... But there was a shadow on the water.

Go read the whole story.

It's not obvious from it's face, but Talking Squids in Outer Space is a subsite of SF writer Vonda McIntyre's official web site. It looks like she has another cool hobby, in addition to creating bead creatures. Her Nebula-winning novel,The Moon and the Sun, features giant octopuses. From the epilogue:
The sea people stalked the ships. Soon they swam beneath the barnacled bottom of the pursuer. Sherzad sang at it, feeling it out with her voice, searching and questioning, finding nothing of interest and nothing worth saving. In the past, she would have swum away.

She gave her baby to her young brother to guard, and swam closer to the pursuer.

Sherzad and her companions plunged their spears of narwhal tusk into the bottom of the galleon. The ivory bit into the wood. Holding the tusks, they rode along with the ship.

Sherzad shouted at the planks. Her focused voice crashed into the wood. She shouted again. Her spear quivered in the quaking wood. Sherzad and her brothers and sisters shouted together. The wood cracked and split.

The bottom of the ship disintegrated. Men shrieked and dove into the water. Sherzad and the others made sure they never surfaced.

Waves washed over the deck. Singing their triumph, the sea people called their allies. A shadow rose, flickering all over with tiny sparks. The octopus stretched its tentacles into the moonlight and entwined them around the mainmast, and inexorably pulled the ship into the depths.
Cephalopods and sea people working together in harmony. Beautiful.

And if you love squids and science fiction, you'll definitely want to get the SFWA "Squid Happens" T-shirt for your wardrobe. Proceeds go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Emergency Medical Fund.

Image source: Squid with eggs @
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  1. What is it about squids and octopuses (octopi?)? My son has been studying them in school and keeps bringing home interesting facts. Stuff about building cities on the ocean floor...I think I need to get the details next time! Sounds like a sci fi story in the making.

  2. Thanks for the kind words on Talking Squids in Outer Space. I have to admit the favorite part of the site for me is the natural history links. Cephalopods peg the "if I made it up nobody would believe it" meter. Newest Featured Link is to a TED talk by David Gallo, "Underwater Astonishments," which lives up to its title.



  3. They are amazing creatures. I think part of the fascination is that hey exhibit intelligence, and yet are so alien, what with their graceful movements through the water, and color-changing skin. Gallo's TED talk helps show why they are so cool.

  4. Peggy said:

    Gallo's TED talk helps show why they are so cool.

    No kidding. The aggressive side/attractive side color switchover in the video is amazing -- and note the self-conscious laughter from the audience.




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