REVIEW: “Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus” by Bogi Takács

Review of Bogi Takács, “Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus”, in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 25-37 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: death, forced labor, oppression, colonialism.

I was wondering when the titular octopuses would come in, especially since the only reference in the first story was to a settlement called Blue-Ringed Octopus Settlement. But I didn’t have to wait long, as the narrator of this story is themself an octopus.

Given that none of us know what the inner mind of an octopus is like, it’s hard to describe a first-octopus POV as full of verisimilitude, but that is what Tackas manages to give us here — it all feels so real and accurate. The way the octopuses interact with each other — not just through changing patterns on their skins and complex motions of their limbs but also through what is describe as only “the field”, the collective knowledge and memory (maybe even ‘consciousness’ is the right word to describe it) that allows short-lived generations of octopuses to pass on their history to the next generation.

But now the octopuses, Scrape, Pebblesmooth, the narrator, others, are faced with an impossible decision: They have discovered an object which if opened could help them understand the furthest reaches of their history, their very origin itself — or it could destroy the field and all their collective memory.

So what about the title? Well, what matters most in reproduction — that we reproduce, or that we pass on a legacy? The entire story offers us two parallel accounts of how such a legacy can be created and maintained, through very different reproduction patterns. Who’s to say which, if either, is better?

(Originally published in Clarkesworld, no. 127, 2017).

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