Krakens: What’s Not to Love?

Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler

Written by S. M. Wheeler

Monsters are essential to Sea Change. They’re characters with their own motivation, personalities, and histories, and without them the plot wouldn’t move; it needs a troll to perform a magical surgery, the shape-shifting dark-wife to offer the danger and allure of a nonhuman predator, and the kraken to be the princess in the tower.

Or, sea monster in a circus cage, to be accurate; but the narrative is the same, begun with the capture of a loved one and resolved with their release. In this case, Octavius has traits to recommend him over an actual princess—beyond, even, having two more hearts than a human girl, eight suckered tentacles, and chromatophores. His prince of sorts, Lilly, identifies most with what is strange and is drawn towards a certain wild peril, as represented by the ocean. It’s Octavius who serves as her—rather charming—buffer and escort between the human world and a darker, more dangerous place (where, having lost him, she will end up).

Well, this, too: it started with my longstanding love affair with contrasts in texture, which made a kraken’s smooth-wet-forgiving skin against a girl’s rough birthmarked cheek feel like a fantastic idea. I patted myself on the back for the irony of the young woman being the “rough” and the monster the “soft” in the equation, then found that I couldn’t leave it there and forget these characters. I certainly had no chance of separating the girl and her kraken. Lilly and Octavius are a single unit: the former kept alive by a friend who can match her temperament, and the latter shaped by the influence of her affection.

I will allow that the troll and dark-wife could be replaced with magic-using women, but Lilly’s dearest friend must always be a monster.


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