I’m thrilled to announce that my 500-word flash science fiction story, “In Roaring She Shall Rise,” won second place in the 2020 Escape Pod Flash Fiction contest! It’s a particular thrill to be published by a podcast–hearing one’s words performed–in this case by Cast of Wonders editor Katherine Inskip–is a rare treat.
How cool are cephalopods? Very cool. They’re intelligent problem-solvers. They have unnerving camouflage skills. Their genetics are different enough from any other sequenced creature as to be nigh-alien. And some species can edit their own RNA–the expression of their genes–to adapt in a way that takes other animals generations. There were so many things I wanted to include in this story, but couldn’t in the mere 500 word limit. I highly recommend reading Sy Montgomery’s zoological memoir The Soul of an Octopus for a dive into how strange and remarkable these animals are.
A couple of years ago, my friend Libby and I were swapping article links on the cool attributes of cephalapods when Atlas Obscura sent out a call for the invention of “climate change monsters.” I figured if anything was going to capitalize on global upheaval, it would be the smart, ever-adaptive octopus. My piece was too long for Atlas Obscura, but it became the perfect story seed for my entry into Escape Pod‘s Flash Fiction contest.
The title is a riff on a line from one of my favorite apocalyptic poems:
Below the thunders of the upper deep,“The Kraken” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
While Tennyson’s cephalopod rose to die, perhaps the plucky octopus of this story has the ambition to inherit. Or to conquer. And if not her, perhaps her descendants. The ocean would always reclaim the land, eventually.