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.
From the Tor/Forge June 3rd newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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