Friday, July 10, 2015

The Fisher Queen, by Alyssa Wong

Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June issue, 2014

Lily is the oldest of three daughters of a Mekong delta fisherman, and as the oldest, at age fifteen, she's become an experienced fishing boat deckhand. Her mother is dead, died too young for even Lily to have any memory of her, but her dad tells a crazy story: the girls' mother was a mermaid.

Mermaids are fish. Unambiguously fish, not intelligent, not beautiful, only superficially human-looking. They are the most desirable fish to sell at the fish market, bringing the highest prices, especially the deep-sea varieties. It's a ridiculous story, obviously intended to avoid telling the girls their mother ran off and abandoned them.

And then comes the fateful fishing trip on which Lily encounters her first deep ocean mermaid, and the mermaid calls her "Daughter."

This is a gently and yet mercilessly written story, the revelations building slowly. We see the sisters' love for each other, Lily's protectiveness of her younger sisters. We experience Lily's surprise, then shock, then horror as, fifteen years old, she is increasingly treated as a near-adult and sees things previously shielded from her.

And we experience the terrible, difficult decision she makes.


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