“A Touch of Strange,” by Theodore Sturgeon

from F&SF (1958)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Oh no. Not the mermaids again. Sturgeon’s story describes a strange meet cute, in which two humans, each smitten with their own mer-person, instead fall in love themselves. Kudos to Sturgeon for addressing the physical realities of the situation, at least indirectly. Given that mer-fatuation has an obvious sexual component, what does it mean if the locus of that desire is a kind of gross, mischievous alien? All the same, the story’s prudish double standard – “sure, he fucked his mermaid, but surely she didn’t fuck hers, right?” – is a fascinating amber relic of a genre ever more cognizant of and nonetheless beholden to the thoroughgoing misogyny of the age. Regardless, no more mermaids. It takes a certain type of shamelessness to pen this story not a year after the articulation of your more famous “law.” Hats off, though—what are you going to do, not write?

Published by fictionreview


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