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Developing my mermaid mythology with Prudence

Posted by on May 3, 2013

On this day a year ago, I was in Taipei, Taiwan. It’s the anniversary of my mother’s death, but I had completely forgotten about it until I got a message from a friend reminding me. What had distracted me?

I was at the Evergreen Maritime Museum. I had been interested in going because I thought it would help inspire me and possibly provide me with additional research for my novel about Jaclyn Rousseau, the female pirate you can see on the banner of this site. At the time, though, I had also written a short story about Prudence, a mermaid who appears in the same novel. I had already started thinking about putting together a collection of short stories about her. As it turned out, the museum was a lot better at giving me ideas for Prudence tales. I like to think that even though I hadn’t been thinking about my Mum at the time, she was watching over me and helping with my muse.

In light of this, I thought I’d use this anniversary to tell you a bit about Prudence and my mermaid mythology.

Profile of a mermaid

Prudence Baker was born, human, in 1629. When she died in 1651, she was reborn as a mermaid.

Yes, in my extended mermaid mythology, mermaids are not born, but created. There are particular circumstances that have to be met during the death of a woman for her to become a mermaid. There is also something she needs to have experienced in her life. I’m not going to spoil you by revealing the circumstances, though. If it’s something that intrigues you, then you can find them out by reading my stories. “Bridging the Divide” includes a good portion of that.

Beyond that, I have developed a number of special abilities and rules for my mermaids. They are, essentially, immortal living-dead, but there is at least one thing that could kill them permanently. As I was writing the other day, I actually noticed some similarities with vampire lore, though that was unintentional. I found that interesting because part of the reason I wanted to develop my own mermaid lore was because of how much vampire lore has been changed by different authors and creators. I thought it was time for another fantasy creature to have that chance.

The mythology I have built on is more the luring-men-to-the-sea siren mermaids, rather than the friendly Disney Little Mermaid type.

Excerpts

Prudence currently appears in two published short stories, and an unpublished short story and novel. I’m also working on another short story, which I’ll be publishing to this blog when it’s finished. More will follow, but I wanted to share a few excerpts with you now.

Haunted
Word Count: ~2,000
Setting: West Indies, ~1659
Summary: Prudence recalls a memory of her time with her lover.
Other Characters: Katherine Grayson, Lachance, Turtle

Excerpt currently unavailable due to seeking publication.

*

Bridging the Divide
Published: Plunge Magazine (read online for free!)
Word Count: ~3,800
Setting: London, 1894
Summary: Prudence decides to try and hunt down a murderer.
Other Characters: Mary Lewis, Grace Franklin

Excerpt:

“Did you ever know one by the name of Grace Franklin?”

With a confused expression, the woman responded, “Yes… she disappeared some months ago. How did you know?”

“She is… how do I say this? One of our new recruits.”

“Wait a moment,” the woman said, and changed to a sitting position, presumably out of discomfort from the crouching. “She is a woman of the seas now? Like you?”

Prudence nodded.

“How can that be? Are you not born that way?”

Prudence shook her head this time, and replied, “No. Grace was murdered. We were all murdered.”

*

Siren
Published: Fae Fatales: A Fantasy Noir Anthology
Word Count: ~5,200
Setting: Honolulu, 1946
Summary: Anthony tries to start a romance with Karen in post-war Honolulu, made difficult by a mermaid.
Other Characters: Anthony Kaiho‘i, Karen Fairchild, Hitoshi Takahashi

Excerpt:

Anthony stopped dead in his position, wondering why she wore no clothes. Then he snapped himself out of his daze, walked over to the woman, averting his gaze from her breast, knelt down beside her, and checked for a pulse.

The throbbing was slow and rhythmic, as if singing to him through his touch. Suddenly, the woman took in a large gasp of air. Eyes wide, she rolled over, and stared directly into Anthony’s eyes, studying him.

“Are you all right?” Anthony asked, unsure what else was appropriate in this situation.

The woman sat up then, and pulled her knees up to her chest, though not in a way that led Anthony to believe she was actually aware of her nudity.

She wrapped her arms around her legs and asked, “Where am I?”

“Waikīkī Beach,” Anthony offered. “Hawaiʻi,” he added, in case she was not familiar with the name of the beach itself. After all, he had no idea from where she had come, and her accent did not sound remotely American, nor Hawaiian.

*

Twenty Twenty Vision
Published: When this story is finished, I’ll be publishing it here, on my blog.
Setting: Western Australia, 2020
Word Count: Currently sitting at ~1,900
Summary: Prudence encounters a woman at Swanborne Beach and spends the evening with her.
Other Characters: Savarna

Excerpt:

Sprawled naked on a bed with a woman’s head resting on my chest was not how I expected my living death to end. I couldn’t sleep. I watched the clock ticking away the seconds, debating if I had enough time to return to the ocean to save myself. How did I let this happen?

*

Adrift
Setting: London, 1651 & 1665; West Indies, 1651-1661; Barbados, New York & Washington, DC, 2011
Word Count: Currently ~102,000 (subject to change as it’s still being edited)
Summary: Jaclyn Rousseau, a 17th century pirate, somehow ends up in 2011. With nothing familiar around her, she has to find a place for herself in this new world.
Other (Selected) Characters: Jaclyn Rousseau, Katherine Grayson, Dick Grayson, Max Fuentes, Sue Wong, Turtle

Excerpt from chapter 4 (may be subject to further editing before publication):

In the moonlight, Katherine could see something round bobbing in and out of the water. Then she could’ve sworn she heard “Katherine Grayson” being carried through the air with a sing-song voice. Moments later a large fish tail breached the surface. Forgetting all other thoughts, Katherine stared in awe, hoping for another glimpse.

Minutes passed with no sighting, so she climbed higher to the poop deck and glanced from port to starboard. Then there was a whistle coming from immediately beneath her. Katherine looked down and saw a blonde-haired woman’s face.

“Evening, Kitty!” the woman of the sea shouted up at her.

Confused enough to forget her pirate tongue, Kitty shouted back, “Hush! How do you know my name?” Realising she didn’t want the answer shouted back at her in case they woke the captain in the cabin below her, she added, “Wait!”

Kitty looked at the lines hanging down past the back of the taffrail, which led to a few skiffs below. The small boats were not far from the woman in the ocean, so her eyes wandered back to the blonde.

“Allow me a moment to bring myself closer,” Kitty yelled.

The next thing she knew, Kitty was climbing down the line that lead to the skiff nearest the woman. Once settled in the boat, the mermaid immediately found her arms on the closest side. Kitty stared deeply into her eyes. There was something familiar about her face but she could not place it.

“How do you know my true name?” Kitty asked again.

The only response she got from the mermaid was a smile.

Kitty decided to try a different approach. “Do you have a name?”

“Prudence,” the mermaid replied, flipping her fins above the surface of the sea.

Kitty sighed deeply at the sound of her name. “I knew someone who shared your name.”

Prudence’s face lit up with glee. “Was she special?”

“Aye.”

“I sense sadness,” Prudence said. “Whatever happened to her?”

Katherine wept into her hands.

“Ah,” Prudence nodded, knowingly. “She is no longer with us.”

*

If my mermaid mythology and excerpts intrigue you, then I’d like to invite you to leave a comment and subscribe to my blog for the latest news (I’m sorry, presently the only way to subscribe is to comment, as I was getting spam followers when I made it easier to), or you can follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Links to those in my author bio below, or on the side-bar.

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Dominica has a strong interest in exploring diversity in media, seeing people subverting corporate control of creativity through crowdfunding and indie publishing, and spending as much time as she can travelling the world and discovering culture. This is what she most regularly blogs about. In her spare time, Dominica is primarily focused on long-form improv theatre, and writing and publishing speculative fiction. You can find links to some of her free and published stories and screenplays on her writing page, or check out her pirate time-travel novel Adrift. Though born and raised in Australia to American parents, Dominica lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2008-2014, until she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a background in web programming, filmmaking, and stand-up comedy. For more information, check out her about page, or any of the specific pages about her various creative pursuits in the links at the top of the page.

3 Responses to Developing my mermaid mythology with Prudence

  1. climbing bean

    This is a great exploration of Prudence and the mythology! I didn’t realise you’d written so many stories (despite having read most of them!). I enjoyed seeing where you’re taking this.

    • Dominica Malcolm

      haha, indeed, I think the only one you haven’t read is the one I’m currently writing, though what I shared from Adrift has changed since I sent you the novel. :)

      Thanks!

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