The XX Factor

Squid and Squidability

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a dead famous author lacking possession of a good copyright, must be in want of some supernatural horror. Yesterday, Quirk Books announced the sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies : Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters . My first reaction was a giant squeal-Austen and oceanic beasts together at last! But my second reaction was considerably less enthusiastic.

In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the unfortunate Colonel Brandon has been transformed into a “hideous man-monster.” Judging from the cover, his beard of tentacles resembles Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean . Upon seeing his tentacled visage, I realized that Quirk Books has fallen prey to a dread literary trope. Why must horrors from the deep always have tentacles?

Sea monsters were not always be-tentacled. Sure, the kraken lurked about, but there were sea serpents and sea monks and pleisosaurs . Even HP Lovecraft, the 19th century author most associated with horrors from the deep, did not limit his madness-inducing creatures to tentacles-the minions of the evil squid-god Cthulhu get turned into fish-people with bug eyes and gills, with nary a tentacle in sight. But bringing romance into the picture seems to evoke the Japanese tradition of naughty roving tentacles and reduce sea monster diversity.

There are plenty of horrific appendages in the sea, just waiting to be appropriated by a sufficiently creative author. There are giant teeth and giant claws and animals that barf out their intestines when pissed off. There are crustaceans with clubs the speed of a 22-caliber bullet and worms that have genitalia that grow eyes and swim away . There’s even a snail that shoots poisonous darts . It’s time to expand your marine vocabulary, people!

For ever so much more about the softer side of sea monsters, see Dr. Balan U.S. Nubilus’ disquisition titled “A Brief Essay on the Sad Lack of Imagination in Invertebrate Oriented Erotica with Brief Notes on the Lascivious Nature of Both the Lophotrochozoa and Ecdysozoa, or, Getting Beyond ‘Hur hur! That Squid Tentacle Looks like Penis!’” It is text-only but NSFW unless you work in an oceanic adult store.

Real-life tentacles are the very opposite of romantic, anyway. Most squid have serrated teeth lining their suckers that are meant to grab and tear. If Marianne smooched Colonel Brandon’s tentacled beard, he could accidentally rip her face off. That’s not the way to a lady’s heart. It would be much easier to emulate predatory snails and simply drill right through the chest .