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?
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).