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Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Tale of Two Fishes, Marian Perera

Marian Perera writes some killer fiction (no pun intended) but this time she went all out with a sharkpunk tale--a story about a girl and her bonded shark.

Only a writer could make the connection between pet bettas and sharks. Check it out. Anyone out there with an aquarium?

Fish Tales

Demon was the most aggressive fish I ever had.

He was a betta, a Siamese fighting fish about two inches long. But he wasn’t afraid of anything. When I put my fingers in the tank, he would try to bite them with his tiny mouth, while flaring out his gill covers to make himself look bigger. He terrorized all the other fish. He was my favorite, and I always saved the freshest brine shrimp for him when I bought them.

He was lovely, too. Sapphire scales, long trailing fins tipped with crimson, and evil little red eyes, hence his name. But one morning I found him floating belly-up. I think the other fish finally had enough of his bullying, ganged up on him and beat him to death somehow, because he wasn’t diseased at all.

I dug a little hole in a flower bed and buried him there, because I couldn’t bear the thought of flushing him. And I never had another fish quite like him.

Bettas manage to be both beautiful and fierce fighters; pit two males in an environment they can’t escape, like a tank, and one is likely to die. It was probably a fondness for them which made me curious about sharks too. I’d call those the bettas of the ocean, except they’re much less showy and territorial. Then again, they do have more impressive teeth.

Jaws first made me interested in sharks, but by the time Deep Blue Sea came out, I wanted something different, something other than the usual trope of sharks swimming around with a kill-all-humans mentality. The more I read, the more variety there seemed to be among them, not just in shapes and names—megamouth, angel, cookiecutter—but also behavior. Grey reef sharks, for instance, are social and gather in groups of up to twenty. So if you see one fin breach the surface, don’t look below.

Sharks can sense magnetic fields, learn to press a target to get a reward, and understand who’s who in their pecking order. I decided to use all these in a story, though since most sharks can’t be successfully kept in tanks—they’re not Demon—I needed a fantasy element. In my story, a secret organization called Seawatch captures sharks young and mentally bonds each to a trainee—also young, seven to eight years old.

The link calms the shark, so it doesn’t dash itself against the walls of a pool in a panicked attempt to escape. After that, each pair is trained in scouting and sabotage.

Not that this makes the sharks safe. They’re not Flipper. More like Ripper. Seawatch operatives never feed the sharks, so they won’t connect humans with food, and because the sharks sense emotions through the link, the operatives quickly learn not to become angry or afraid. But there’s nothing quite like riding a huge apex predator through the sea—or under it. With their speed and strength and instincts honed over millions of years, they’re unstoppable.

Except Seawatch’s enemies have killer whales.

The Deepest Ocean, a sharkpunk romance, was released by Samhain Publishing on April 1st and the sequel (shark vs. kraken) will be out in August. There are so many tales to tell about these bad boys of the sea—and the people who entrust their lives to them.

What fish do you find scary? Barracudas, deep-sea anglerfish, piranhas, megalodons? Shout out in the comments—you might give me an idea for another book!

Bio : Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States and lives in Canada. For now. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog, and Twitter (@MDPerera).


Maria Zannini said...

Marian: First, welcome to my blog, and congratulations on your latest release. I was jealous that you came up with such an intriguing sidekick for your heroine. Wish I had thought of a shark!

Re: aquarium fish
We used to have several aquariums at one time. Greg liked the big fish like oscars and Texas cichlids. They were very friendly and would come up to the surface to visit.

I preferred the smaller colorful fish. I liked to see them swim by in little schools.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I've never heard of sharkpunk before. Interesting...

As for what fish I find scary? Probably jelly fish. Those suckers sting!

Marian Perera said...

Hi Maria, thanks very much for hosting me and for that gorgeous picture. The one other than the cover, I mean. :)

Sharks don't easily come to mind as sidekicks for people, that's for sure. If I wasn't so disappointed by Deep Blue Sea, I'd never have thought of it. Who knows what might have happened if I'd seen Sharknado.

What happened to your squariums? I also liked the algae-eaters which clamped their mouths to the glass. And once I had a pair of swordtails which bred, so the babies were fun to watch. The other fish found them delicious, too.

Marian Perera said...

Hi Stacy,

Sharks plus steampunk equals some very unusual scenarios.

And I agree about jellyfish. In Chris Kentis's Open Water, in the scene where the two abandoned scuba divers get stung by lots of those... there's a close-up of the jellyfish moving and pulsing. So delicate and yet so dangerous.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: When I relocated to north Texas and left the husband in SE Texas, we decided to give the fish away so it would give him one less thing to do.

It would've been too hard to transport aquariums and fish.

The biggest cichlids we gave to a fish store because none of our friends had a tank big enough for them. We had a plecostomus too. He was neat, but he didn't do much but attach himself to the glass or flat rocks.

Maybe someday we'll start a new aquarium. They were fascinating to watch.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy/Marian: I'm always reminded of that stingray that killed poor Steve Irwin. What a terrible waste. I grieved for him and his family.

Marian Perera said...

I find fish very relaxing to watch. Except for the marble hatchetfish, which were suicidal. Any time I took the cover off, they would leap out. One of them smacked me in the face.

Shelley Munro said...

What a fascinating concept. Off to buy your book right now.
Sharks are in the media down this end of the world at present since there have been two recent shark attacks in Australia. A woman and a male diver were both killed in separate instances.

Maria Zannini said...

Re: What a fascinating concept.

I know, right! It's brilliant.

Sharks scare the heck out of me. But then I don't swim, so I try to stay out of their territory. :)

Marian Perera said...

Thank you, Shelley! I hope you'll enjoy it.

I looked up "recent shark attacks in Australia" and found an article which was very sad. Not only the deaths of two people, but the Western Australia government ordering a cull of sharks. Apparently any over three meters long will be shot. What?

Even if they just concentrate on areas close to the beach, it's not like an alert goes out through the ocean that the beach is unsafe. Any sharks actually responsible for killing a person could move into deeper waters and any innocent sharks could come closer. I think tiger sharks, for instance, like to hunt in shallower water.

As if these species weren't endangered enough by finning.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Sharkpunk sounds fun.

I had a Siamese fighting fish once. Ruby red and beautiful, Sam was a very Zen fish. He'd even share space with tiny darting fish (whose name I don't know!)

Angela Brown said...

This is certainly a unique bonding pair. The story sounds very, very intriguing.

As for my own experience, during my brief married days, we had a decent sized tank with some fishies. I didn't know a lot about them, other than the were colorful, varied and size and were so beautiful I just liked watching them swim in the tank.

Marian Perera said...

Jenny - someone on Twitter asked if that meant cyborg sharks. Now I have another idea brewing.

And your Sam sounds like a really friendly betta. Maybe he thought of the tiny fish as his minions.

Marian Perera said...

Thanks, Angela! I've always been fascinated by novels or films that paired a kid up with something we'd consider very dangerous (like John Connor and the Terminator), so it was only a step beyond that to have children bonded with sharks.

I liked watching my fish too. The aquarium had driftwood and real plants in it, to give them plenty to hide in or play with. Those gravel-plus-one-plastic-plant bowls didn't look much fun for a sea monkey, let alone a fish.

Mark K said...

Since I saw 'Jaws' at the age of 12 I've always had a deep abiding respect and fear of them. I never really appreciated how beautiful they are until my wife and I went on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to the Maldives, on a particular island called Veladu (excuse spelling).

Each morning I'd awake and watch the baby sharks--beige in colour with black and white dorsal fin tips--swimming in the shallows. You could never get close as they would dart away. But early morning was also feeding time for the adults who would patrol the corals next to the jetty, so I could stand a couple of feet away and watch. They really are beautiful and mesmerising creatures.

Diane Carlisle said...

I've always been told that the Betta fish were very aggressive and that if you wanted one of these very beautiful creatures, they cannot co-exist with any other fish.

When I had my 90 gallon salt water tank, there were a variety of fish that I wanted, but the experts at the store would caution against certain ones and the likelihood of co-existence becoming a challenge. I've lost many fish, sometimes learning painful lessons.

One fish I really wanted but couldn't have due to the vast investment I'd made in all of the living creatures in my tank was the jellyfish. They are so beautiful and graceful, but they are bad for corral and other non-aggressive fish.

Well, glad that hobby is over, and several thousand dollars later, I no longer have my tank active. :)

Marian Perera said...

Mark - agreed. What fascinates me about sharks is how perfectly they're adapted to the sea, to finding their way and hunting. When people go into the sea, they're in the sharks' territory.

Diane - wow, several thousand dollars. I've never had a marine aquarium, so I didn't know it could cost that much.

Though it's good to see the jellyfish have a fan too. :)

Anonymous said...

I would never have bonded a person with a shark but LOVE that blurb.

Congrats on the release!

As for an aquarium, we "won" a goldfish from a street fair. Kid #1 named it Nemo. That thing was almost dinner sized by the time it died. Probably due to outgrowing the tank.

We had the tiny tropical sharks once too. The most recent occupants of the tank were a pair of aquatic turtles.

Can't say there's any particular fish that scares me. Not a fan of eels however :)

Marian Perera said...

Thank you, raelyn!

As for your not being a fan of eels, is it their taste as meals? Or the way they feels?

(To quote Ogden Nash, which I always wanted to do!)

Mike Keyton said...

I find gold fish pretty scary, the way they just go round and round. My daughter and wife left me 'goldfish sitting' once. They were off to London. I felt sorry for the fish and had it sitting next to me watching TV (in its bowl)It was when I started talking to it I became really scared. Never underestimate the power of a gold fish. I mean, who talks to sharks :)