Paul Semel asked me some questions to try and figure out WHAT exactly Weird Fishes is, and in the process we learn WHY.

I think that might be what makes the story feel so unusual, so unlike what you might typically expect to read as hard science fiction. It’s based in marine biology and ecosystem science, and offers up a mind-bendy conception of time as whirlpools and theories of time-travel. Standard sci-fi elements. So I describe it as sci-fi, but maybe the integration of mermaid folklore and depiction of a not-necessarily mechanistic universe nudges it out of the category for some people. I’m not sure. But I love sci-fi that explores communication and miscommunication with alien intelligences, and am drawn to the underlying themes in “first contact” narratives in particular. How the realization that we’re not alone in the universe has the potential to alter humanity’s perception of itself, “what it means to be human,” or that when the clouds darken and mysterious dangers hover over world capitals, we’ll all band together to face a global threat. Even if that doesn’t feel particularly realistic presently while witnessing responses to the current existential threat of industry-driven climate breakdown and ecosystem collapse…or multiple waves of a global pandemic — not seeing a lot of banding together yet, are we? — there’s still something appealing about that storyline. Weird Fishes is a thought experiment imagining what might it take to get characters from seemingly different worlds to realize that they’re part of the same world. Because that’s what needs to happen for them to save it.

Rae Mariz

You can read the full interview here: