I have a special guest here on the blog today. Marian Perera is here today to tell us about sea monsters. Considering how I feel about Sharknado, you guys know by now this is a subject near and dear to my heart. Give her a warm welcome in the comments, eh?
Sea Monsters, And Why We Love Them
by: Marian Perera
Jaws. Meg. Below. Hunger. Beast. Loch. Deeper.
There are even more novels about sea monsters if you don’t confine yourself to one-word titles.
For me, it began with Jaws, and ever since then, I’ve loved to vicariously explore the hidden depths of the ocean—and evade whatever hunts in them. There’s scope for near-infinite variety here, in genres ranging from historical fiction to horror to speculative fiction and even paranormal romance (wereshark meets werewhale).
Sea monsters are part of the mystery of the ocean. There’s so much still unknown about that part of our world, and the ocean could conceal almost anything. A story about sea monsters not only draws on an atavistic fear of the vast unknown, it taps into myths and legends about Scylla or the Midgard Serpent. Not to mention Dread Cthulhu, who sleeps in an underwater city which he will hopefully never leave.
Many readers like to be scared—and the sea has so many ways to do that.
For writers, there’s so much potential beneath the surface, waiting to be tapped. Great white sharks have been the human-devouring villains of a lot of books and films, but I started burning out on them around the point where I read a novel which, much like the 1999 film Deep Blue Sea, multiplied the number of sharks and genetically engineered them to be intelligent. Even after the IQ boost, though, all they wanted to do was eat people.
In real life, such sharks prefer nice plump seals to humans, just as you might rather eat a chicken breast than a chicken head. I wondered if I could write such a shark realistically and still have it be magnificent and dangerous. That gave me the idea of a seafaring nation which needed to protect its ships in pirate-ruled waters. With their exquisitely honed senses, sharks make the perfect scouts, so children with psychic abilities are bonded to the juvenile sharks, and can control them—to a certain extent. They may be monsters, but they’re our monsters.
And this way, I could have undersea fights and boats being smashed without needing to off the sharks at the end, because killing magnificent apex predators makes me sad. No matter what those predators did.
After that I became curious about what other sea monsters I could exploit—er, write about. My first sharkpunk novel, The Deepest Ocean, also featured parasitic brain coral, and there’s a kraken in the sequel, The Farthest Shore. Humboldt squid appeared in Ryan Lockwood’s debut Below – these squid aren’t very large, certainly nowhere near kraken level, but they travel in a school. So basically, they’re ocean piranhas.
Then there are anglerfish. Not only did a specimen of this provide a shock in Finding Nemo, but their mating habits are fascinating. The tiny males search out the much larger females, bite down and fuse—literally. The male becomes little more than a nubbin attached to his partner of choice, who provides him with food and gets sperm in return.
Hey, if it works for them, who am I to criticize?
Poisonous predatory starfish like the crown-of-thorns can be scaled up for size. And why stop with the species living today? If you’re writing speculative fiction or just reality-bending a little, there were marine dinosaurs like Thalassomedon, which could be 40 feet long – with a neck about half its length. Even longer at 50 feet, Hainosaurus was an apex predator in the Late Cretaceous. Imagine giant marine crocodiles with teeth that could crack mollusk shells.
I’d love to hear more from readers on this topic. What’s your favorite sea monster?
Bio: Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States, and lives in Canada. For now. Her sharkpunk romances The Deepest Ocean and The Farthest Shore were released by Samhain Publishing, and a third novel is in the works. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog and on Twitter (@MDPerera).
The Farthest Shore
Captain Alyster Juell is relishing the taste of his first command for the fleet of Denalay. The steamship Checkmate doesn’t carry weaponry, but that doesn’t matter. His mission is to win an ocean-crossing race—and its hefty prize.As the voyage gets underway, Alyster hits his first snag—there’s a stowaway on board, a reporter who poked around for information about his ship the day before. And it’s too late to turn back.Miri Tayes didn’t intend to stow away. She was forced to run for her life when a colleague discovered her secret: She can pass for normal but she’s a half-salt—daughter of a Denalait mother and a pirate father.Despite her lack of seaworthy skills, Miri works hard to earn her keep, and Alyster, taken with her quick wit and steely nerve, falls for her. But as the race intensifies and the pirates use a kraken to hunt down Checkmate for its new technology, the truth could be the most elusive—and dangerous—prize of all.
Catch up on the whole series!