Monday, April 13, 2020

Quick Bonus - Anthology Thoughts: Octopus Edition

Every so often I think of a rather random theme for a short SFF anthology, pretty much when I feel I've read some sort of critical mass of stories that would fit. Today, I'm back with my anthology thinking cap on to bring you a list of stories featuring everyone's favorite cephalopods--the octopus! And okay, maybe not everybodies, but still, they're cute and crafty and classics of SFF. Now, because they're classics it might seem that there's too many stories to include. And indeed, there have been whole anthologies in the past that have included a similar theme, and indeed there was an Octopus Anthology released back in 2013 called Suction Cup Dreams, edited by David Joseph Clarke. But that was a long time ago, especially in octopus years. So join me in highlighting some of my favorite octopus-themed stories from the recent(ish) past!

Squeezing and Entering” by Noe Bartmess (Translunar Travelers Lounge #2; My Review)
Caesar is part of the octopus Resistance, and if that wasn't enough to get you hooked on this story, then I'm sorry for you. He's also got a separate personality for each limb and the resuly is weird but also hilarious!

Octo-Heist in Progress” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld #146; My Review)
I think we can all agree that Pico is an octopus after our own hearts. The story is fun with a tight-paced plot that hinges on, you guessed it, a heist involving an octopus. Not, mind you, a heist of octopuses.

Tool-Using Mimics” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld #138; My Review)
Probably the strangest and most formally challenging of the bunch, this one doesn't involve an octopus but a picture of a "squid girl." The piece builds around survival and adaptation, and the loss of having to spend so much energy on avoiding societally-reinforced dangers and toxicities.

Only the Messenger” by Emily C. Skaftun (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #299; My Review)
Astrill is a kind of octopus from a planet where his people are the dominant species. He now travels through space as an engineer in a setting where both reincarnation and faster-than-light communication are a thing, though the later ends up being part of an enormous conspiracy...

"Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus" by Bogi Takács (Clarkesworld #127; My Review)
In a complex and powerful take on "uplifted animals," the narrator of this story is a sentient octopus on an alien world who finds a human, opening up a lot about the history of both peoples. It's charming but doesn't shy away from some difficult topics. (more recently appeared in the amazing The Trans Space Octopus Congregation from Lethe Press)

"Song of the Krakenmaid" by JY Yang (Lackingtons #8; My Review)
Definitely the most sensual of the bunch so far, and not involving an octopus exactly but a kind of octopus-merperson who is found and brought in to research. The piece touches on longing and environmental exploitation and is all kinds of good.

Honorable Mention:

The Last Stellar Death Metal Opera” by Elly Bangs (Escape Pod #697; My Review)
This is a complete cheat because the octopuses are never seen, but rather are on a planet that the narrator is trying to save from destruction (by becoming a sacrifice). But despite the only-tangential inclusion of octopuses, it's a good story and so I'm sticking it here.

Anyway, I know this is rather random, but it's something I was thinking about recently. Cheers!


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