Review of Yoon Ha Lee, “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 298 (February 27, 2020): Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.
This story’s wonderfully imagined central character, is a mermaid who has named herself Essarala, or “seeks the stars.” She is one of many mermaids who dwell “in the deep and dreaming oceans of her world.” But unlike the other mermaids, including her younger sister Kiovasa, Essarala really does long to visit the stars, not just sit on a rock gazing up at them. She gets her chance when traders from off-world arrive. In exchange for a promise to the witch beneath the waves, Essarala gives up her mermaid’s tail for legs and joins the traders on their voyages. After many wondrous years of travel, she finally returns home for a reason much more important than the need to fulfill her promise to the witch. This is a charming story about the competing desire to explore the wider world (or universe) and the joys and duties of home and family. It’s an excellent way to open this special, double-sized issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.