I posted recently about finally getting fiction published, and promised I’d dive into what was behind the story.  So here we go!

First some general background.  I’ve been imagining alternate worlds most of my life it seems, especially after moving from San Diego, California to Texas at age six.  I suspect that I must have really missed home, and escaping into unreal places helped ease the shock of disparity.  If you’ve never been to one or both states, trust me: there’s disparity.

I started writing (mostly science) fiction in junior high.  I figured I was onto something when someone stole my notebook of handwritten tales, around the same time an English teacher (wrongfully) scrawled “Not Original” on a writing assignment about pirates.  Sheer poetic injustice.

The more I read and wrote in my youth, the deeper into hard science fiction I dug.  I enjoyed literary authors like Ray Bradbury, but I was truly obsessed with more science-minded writers like Larry Niven.  This was particularly enhanced by the Series 3 Ace Science Fiction Specials (I own almost every one, and they are all MUST reads) and, specifically, William Gibson‘s phenomenal Neuromancer.

At the same time though, I was also fascinated by mythology and cryptozoology.  That escalated as my motivation to write hard science fiction flagged.  I’ll write more on that later.

Flash forward to a more recent time.  In researching a novel that wound up set aside, I’d become aware of a curious discovery on the island of Malta: thousands of skeletons with naturally-dolichocephalic (elongated) skulls.  I knew I’d have to include this in a story at some point.  In 2012, that point began to emerge, when the Animal Planet TV channel presented a cheesy fake documentary on merfolk.  The final piece manifested in 2014, when vast underground frozen methane pockets in Siberia began to burst due to significant thawing.

All of these items percolated in the back of my busy brain until, in Summer of 2015, I used them as plot elements for The Dolphin Riders.  Apparently that worked out well: the story won honorable mention in the 2015 Texas Observer fiction contest, and was published the following year in the Sirens anthology.

Spoilers ahead!

What I envisioned was this: near-future climate change induces more methane explosions in the northern hemisphere, leading to massive tsunami floods, which drives long-hidden merfolk out of underwater caverns and back into the ocean they had abandoned centuries ago.

Now, I didn’t go into a great deal of detail for backstory; in the original version I mainly hinted at the unusual skeletons found in Malta’s fascinating Hypogeum, alleging (for the sake of the story) that they had been slaughtered merfolk.  This was to give the story both some grounding and mystery, something for curious readers to explore.  That didn’t survive the final editing process, so I’ll use it for related works.

On that last note, I had first submitted a longer story called The Sand and the Foam for the Sirens anthology, but it suffered too many flaws to make the cut.  I’m tweaking it as ideas occur, and also working on a novel set in the same milieu, Wavefront.

I’m seriously fascinated by tales of Atlantis and Lemuria, and anything suggesting water-borne hominid life.  Although I don’t believe in merfolk, and have had to work at making them even remotely plausible in fiction, I’d like to.  I want to believe they’re out there, hiding, waiting for the day when we cease using the sea as our dumping ground.  When they can return and reclaim their rightful domain.

I can’t wait to explore further.

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