The 2012 short story collection Mermaids 13: Tales from the Sea
gathers together fantasy fiction from many different writers. The collection is edited by John L. French, an author who uses his experiences as a crime scene supervisor to write supernatural crime fiction. French provides an introduction to the stories, giving readers mythological context about mermaids, which have been viewed in a variety of ways by the different cultures in whose folktales they appear.
Sometimes mermaids are sirens, luring sailors or whole ships to their doom with their irresistible allure. Other times, they are portrayed as victims, forever straddling the line between human and monster, prey for humans who want to trap them or for more powerful magic users who trick them. The stories in the collection modernize the environments in which their mermaids appear but draw on their universally acknowledged characteristics: their exotic appeal and a sense that danger surrounds them.
In Roy Mauritsen’s “Syrenka,” the main character from Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Little Mermaid” gets a different, less tragic ending. Using a character that would recur in his fairy tale epic Shards of the Glass Slipper
, Mauritsen explores what happens to Syrenka after the marriage of Prince Eric as she struggles to cope with significant disability: the loss of her voice, and the constant pain and bleeding of her magically-created legs.
K.T. Pinto’s “The Golden Ticket” is a monologue delivered by a mermaid tour guide who is taking a group of eager high-status vacationers on an exclusive, and very expensive, tour of the caves where her kind reside. The tourists have spent different amounts on differently colored tickets to get there, with the holder of the golden tickets getting the ultimate “prize”—becoming mermaid lunch.
In the story “The Six Million Dollar Mermaid,” Hildy Silverman imagines a bionically enhanced mermaid with a cybernetic tail. The mermaid becomes an avenger and a crusader for justice, fulfilling a variety of adventurous missions.
“Fishtale” is Michael A. Black’s exploration of the public’s fascination with mermaids as decorative sex objects. An actor in a fake tail swims around a large tank of water, serving as a distraction for a gang of thieves pulling off a heist. After a series of double-crosses, she ends up with the money while the men who have underestimated her and used her end up dead.
The evil prince of a fantasy kingdom has two associates: a rat-man and a merman in Darren W. Pearce and Neal Levin’s “A King Reborn.” However, the trio is no match for the forces of good.
Set in Norway in an alternate universe, Terri Osborne’s contribution, “At the Waterline,” is a World War II story where mythological creatures secretly work on behalf of their native countries. The story follows a mermaid who is a wartime naval operative as she encounters other supernatural beings who are either enmeshed in human affairs or have washed their hands of them.
Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s “To Reach for Distant Shores” combines science fiction and fantasy to set a mermaid story on a distant planet, where an aquatic mermaid-like being learns about humanity for the first time.
In “Hook, Line and Sinker,” Patrick Thomas weaves a supernatural noir thriller featuring a Banshee detective investigating the case of a murdered mermaid.
The story “Local Catch” by John L. French is a tongue in cheek fantasy story in which a knight is forced to figure out who is behind a series of gruesome killings—people ripped in half with only their top half left behind. The culprit turns out to be a mermaid in search of a fitting pair of legs.
C.J. Henderson’s “The Pain of Being” follows the producer and reporter for the fictional supernatural investigation show “Challenge of the Unknown.” Neither believes in magic, but they are faced with doubt when they follow up the claims of fishermen that they’ve seen a mermaid.
“Tinian Song,” a story by Robert E. Waters, again reimagines Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. This time, a survivor of the sinking of the WWII ship USS Indianapolis
has hazy memories of being saved by a mermaid. Many years later, he has yet to accept what he saw.
The final story is “Upon Waves, Wind and Tide” by James Chambers. In this quirky piece, a seaside community decides to give their bodies back to the ocean—with surprising results.