Chris Panatier’s story “The Eighth Fathom” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 6 March 2020.

March 2020

I am a huge science fan, and so find myself reading any number of articles that I half understand. A year or so back, there was a rash of reports dealing with cephalopod DNA/RNA and how much of it seems to fall outside the typical evolutionary scheme for Earth-based animals. My natural conclusion was, “Well, look at them. They’re obviously aliens.” Many sideline commentators have made the same remark, most of the time only half-joking.

What is undisputed is that cephalopods, and octopuses specifically, are highly intelligent. They can solve puzzles, use tools, recognize faces—the list goes on and on.

Pair these two features of the octopus with the fact that human beings have been dumping used stage one rocket boosters into the ocean for over half a century and the story sort of writes itself. Highly intelligent, marooned octopus explorers are finally given the tools to build themselves a ship and return home. That’s an oversimplification, but that was the very first kernel for what became “The Eighth Fathom.”

I learned an incredible amount about these creatures and really fell in love with them. At the same time, the story addresses the role humans are playing in the destruction of ocean habitat, and the interesting response of these particular octopus dens.


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