Saturday, May 25, 2024

How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub, by P. Djèlí Clark

Uncanny, February 2023

Trevor Hemley is an ambitious young man in 19th century London. The precise period isn't clear, but to me it feels more Victorian than Regency. Those terms may be inappropriate, though, because this is a world in when Mermen are real, have lost a war with the British, amd many live in Britain doing whatever work they can get.

It's also a world in which krakens are real, well-documented, and until relatively recently, a major threat to shipping. Now they are believed to be extinct, or nearly so.

Which leads us to Trevor Hemley's ambitions.

He is determined on greatness, and believes ambition is the key ingredient. He married well, owns a house (a gift from his wife's family), has money (also a gift from the wife's family), and a job in a bank, also a...well, you get the idea. And has great ideas. He found a wonderful opportunity to achieve greatness, by bringing back the kraken, in captivity, for display to an eager public that has grown bored with the machines that are now everywhere. Live monsters will be the thing!

He has purchased a kraken's egg, via mail order, from Doctor P.D. Bundelkund, who is a dealer in "fantastic sea pearls, baubles, and collectibles."

What could possibly go wrong?

Trevor is not fortunate enough merely to have been scammed out of his money. Nor is he smart enough to wonder why P.D. Bundelkund isn't putting krakens on display himself.

What ensues is horrific if you think about it too closely, but also very entertaining, if you view it through the lens of Trevor being an archetypically smug Englishman, with contemptuous attitudes and beliefs about the Lesser Folk from other lands. Or seas.

This is a 2024 Hugo Awards Best Short Story Finalist.

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