Writers have for a long time exploited the idea that mer-stories have the ability to raise important questions – ones about the limits of humanity and its porous boundaries, our relationships with the ‘other’, nature, the past, and our sense of who we are. What’s so special about The Deep by Rivers Solomon is that this 2019 novella takes these broad avenues of questioning and applies them – for the first time in a popular merfiction book – to some of the most important issues for the Black Atlantic, Afrodiasporic and Post-colonial worlds.
At the centre of its premise, The Deep holds a real human history, one that is so unimaginable in its horror yet so integral to the shaping of our world and to so many people’s understandings of their ancestral journeys. It deals with the memory of the slave trade’s middle passage – the transformative sea crossing to the slave colonies, experienced by some 14million people across the global European-colonial sphere. Specifically it focuses on one of the most dramatic and awful aspects of these sea journeys – the routine throwing overboard of sick, troublesome, unsellable, unwanted, uninsured, unlicensed, illegal and mistakenly over-purchased slaves. Among these were often pregnant carriers of unborn children. The idea behind The Deep is that these children were born and survived in the ocean and are the ancestors of the mer-people who now exist beneath the surface.
The inward-looking questions that the mer-people raise in this story are about inter-generational trauma, the impact of colonial slavery’s memory on individuals and communities, the loss of history and the responsibilities and challenges associated with preserving a fragmented and traumatic, but also empowering, historical memory for those existing as living legacies.
Not only does The Deep utilise the analytical markers of the mermaid genre to ask those much needed questions, it also weaves the genre’s themes into other diasporic art traditions with their own philosophical frameworks – a process that creates something new and exciting. In particular the book brings the popular mer novel to the world of Afrofuturism – a cultural aesthetic spanning spheres of music, art, film and literature which explores black history, culture and concerns within sci-fi or futuristic contexts. Tracing the story’s roots takes readers deep into Afrofuturism’s aquatic sub-genre – an alternate setting from the usual space theme – but one which has been extensively developed in music beginning with jazz and funk musicians in the 1960s/70s, becoming the focus of ’90s techno/electro artists and an inspiration to current hip-hop creators.
If that doesn’t already sell it, The Deep is a profound story which offers the chance to reflect on our histories, legacies, identities, the make-up of societies, gender and sexuality, relationships and our engagements with nature.
Relationships with History
The issues just outlined are explored through the construction of a world beneath the ocean where the descendants of those slaves thrown overboard now exist as water-breathing, fish-tailed mer-people, organised in a society known as the wajinru. The wajinru have adapted to the sea but have retained the memories of their human ancestors.
Though the memories include a full range of experiences, as a whole they are deemed too traumatic to be withstood by the majority of wajinru. It is the responsibility of just one individual among them, known as the ‘historian’ to hold all of the memories of the ancestors and collect new memories from the current generation. Despite the perceived or actual inability of most to handle the memories, wanjinru society emphasises the importance of having and preserving a collective memory and the ways that, like us, individuals are empowered by a sense that on some level they are connected to a known history. ‘The History’ for the wajinru is like a revered entity, a force that holds the source of meaning and power in their world, their relationship with it is almost religious.
Once per year the History is shared from the historian to the rest of the wajinru in a ceremony of remembrance. This takes place in a protective mud-cocoon so that the energy of all the memories being experienced at once does not carry into the ocean and cause destructive storms due to the electro-sensitivities of the wanjinru and their ability to affect the water and weather. When the wajinru are ‘in’ the memories they enter a kind of trance, their bodies jerk and they lose the centrality of their perceived selves – allowing the memories to flood in, much like a spirit possession. After the remembrance, the wanjinru forget again – leaving the memories once more with only the historian. The wajinru are topped up with just the sense that they understand something of who they are and that does them good. This will fade though, and the feeling of not knowing themselves will grow more uncomfortable until it is time for the next remembrance.
The story follows Yetu, a young wajinru chosen to be the historian but who struggles to cope with the pain and responsibility of remembering everything. She feels alienated from the rest of the wajinru who cannot share or understand the suffering of the ancestors that lives inside her or fathom the enormous nature of their past. Nor can they remember much about their own lives and interactions – Yetu is isolated by her constant awareness while others, including her mother, cannot even remember important moments in their relationship or previous conversations. Yetu was chosen for her high degree of electro-sensitivity enabling her to be a great transmitter of memories… but the previous historian who chose her overlooked her tendency to become overwhelmed by even the normal aspects of daily life and subtle traces of energy in the water – the whole process is especially difficult for her, making her character very relatable. Not only does carrying the memories alienate Yetu socially, she feels they have erased her former self, they overwhelm and destroy her, threatening her life. During a remembrance ceremony she empties herself of the memories – temporarily freeing herself of their weight as she gives them to the other wajinru, but instead of taking the memories back at the end of the ceremony as she is supposed to, she flees. She travels through the ocean without the memories, feeling free of them but getting lost and weak in a sea of dangers.
I don’t want to retell the story, but I do want to discuss some of the ideas and overall messages I took from the book before I talk about its own artistic history. To do that I’ll have to mention a few more things from the plot – I will try to avoid the biggest spoilers but If you really really don’t want to hear anything about what happens I suggest you either read the book first (it’ll take you less than a day or about 4 hours if you listen to the audio) and then come back here, or skip this section.
The main theme of the book – relationships with history – is explored in a few different ways but one of the most powerful was through a character whose situation is almost the opposite to Yetu’s. Oori is a two-legs who helps Yetu when she ends up at the surface. Oori has no access to her own history because her homeland was wiped out by the sea, leaving her as the last of her people, the Oshuben. Through their discussions we are encouraged to really think about what it means to experience history as a consuming trauma and responsibility as Yetu does, as well as what it means to be cut off from one’s history as Oori is, and compare the two situations.
While Yetu and Oori foster a liking for one another, at the same time they are at odds with each other’s relationships with history – Oori struggles to understand how Yetu wishes to escape her history and has abandoned her people, and Yetu struggles to understand why Oori chooses to take risks and leave her in order to visit the remains of her people’s destroyed homeland. Their opposing positions, as well as those held by other characters who experience desperation for knowledge, denial, rage or horror in response to the memories, validate the huge scope of internalisations that exists in reality.
‘”I would take any amount of pain in the world if it meant I could know all the memories of the Oshuben. I barely know any stories of my parents’ generation. I can’t remember our language. How can you leave behind something like that? Doesn’t it hurt to not know who you are?”‘
‘”If a past is full of bad things, if a people is defined by the terror done to them, it’s good for it to go, don’t you think?”‘
‘”Tell us! Tell us! We must know!’ The screeching wajinru called again. “I do not remember. I must remember.”‘
‘The History troubled her so deeply that she did not believe it. She thought it was a trick of the ancestors, a test she had to pass.’
‘Where the History saddened others, we felt only glorious, burning anger. We liked the challenge of it. It suited us. Anger was our favourite emotion. We were at home in it. It gave us purpose.’
‘They couldn’t take it. It was too strange to carry both truths at once: the aliveness of their own bodies, and the deadness of the two-legs corpses. The conflict split their mind in half, threatened their own bodies.’
The book, at various points, shows us relevant episodes from the wajinru’s collective memory. These are really beautifully written chapters, the first one showing how the wajinru came to exist in the ocean – being born directly into the deep from the drowned bodies of their mothers, retaining the memory of how to live in the watery environment of the womb and surviving with the help of traveling pods of whales. I ended up going over and reading it twice because it took me a moment to realise that I had been dropped into the memories of the wajinru and was being shown how they learned who they are. That just added to my growing sense of how Yetu herself tries to make sense of the memories – they play vividly in her mind but she has to figure them out without assistance. Reading these chapters is like you’re just suddenly receiving a memory and though they took some thinking to figure out completely, it was really worth it to experience them like that, as Yetu might – with no narrator to immediately contextualise them for you, giving you this urge to try to make sense of it yourself. The whole story, very beautifully and satisfyingly, falls into place once these memories begin to make sense. The experience also paralleled one of the key themes of the book – feeling like you’ve been suddenly dropped into an unknown environment but then something being triggered to make you realise that you already know, or remember, how to breathe in it.
Alongside the theme of relationships with history runs the theme of relationships with others, and the spaces where the two intertwine. Yetu and Oori’s separate relationships with their histories cause tensions between them, and relationships with the non-remembering wajinru are part of the problem of Yetu’s alienation, but her relationships with these individuals and with Oori and other two-legs, are also the reason she is motivated to find a solution rather than continue running. Wanting to protect Oori and what remains of her homeland from more destruction caused by the effects of wajinru responses to the memories becomes part of the story of Yetu and Oori’s relationship.
As the story progresses we see that what develops between Yetu and Oori is an attraction that goes beyond simple curiosity of their differences and is actually the beginnings of a much deeper love – one that readers could interpret as romantic and/or sexual, or queerplatonic. I very much enjoyed that the book did not spell out the dynamics of their relationship, but left a space for us to project onto, making the book more inclusive in its relatability.
As Yetu and Oori learn about each other, each other’s bodies and the way each relates to love and sex, they offer some very thought-provoking discussions about the different ways their two worlds organise relationships and understand gender and sexuality. The wanjinru way is that while there is a spectrum of self-determined gender with ‘men, women, both and neither,’ there appears to be only one biological sex. Each individual possess two sex organs ‘a place to envelope‘ and ‘something else, and that is what gives sperm.’ They can use either as they wish, engage both at the same time as is most common, or use only one or the other based on preference, and they can mate in pairs or in small groups. It’s good to see alternate understandings of gender, sex and relationships for really thought about and discussed (so many other mer-books avoid it despite the fact that it would be ridiculous to assume that our current cultural ‘norms’ are so universal they are even shared by societies that have evolved under the sea). But it’s amazing to see it discussed in such a way that represents a more inclusive, open and less rigid future regarding gender, sexuality, sex and relationship formats, made in the Afrofuturist tradition of presenting new possibilities in alternate/future societies for those marginalised by our own. On this note it’s worth mentioning that The Deep won the 2020 Lambda Award for best LGBT Sci-fi/fantasy/Horror.
One of the things I really liked about the book is that the love story, and the interpersonal relationships experienced by Yetu in general, worked in harmony with the broader narrative. Often when a book deals with a really big topic – like traumatic history – relationships between characters can either seem glossed over, or detracting from the other central questions of the book. One thing I think Rivers Solomon did really well is to tell the story of Yetu and Oori’s relationship in a way that was totally interwoven with the continuous story of the History. The two themes interact in the immediate narrative and in the backstories as part of the constant interplay between relationships with history and relationships with others. Towards the end of the book, as Yetu – inspired by Oori – attempts to prevent a disaster, events unfold that see the book’s key issue of experiencing the impacts of a traumatic history becoming effectively addressed. You’ll have to read the book to experience exactly how, in the exciting moments of Yetu encountering the entranced wajinru as their energy stokes a deadly storm, a new approach to the History becomes possible, but it’s once again through relationships with others and collaboration that change becomes possible. The end result is that the wajinru ‘each held pieces of the History now, divided up between them. They shared it and discussed it. They grieved. Sometimes, they wanted to die. But then they would remember it was done.’ In the end, Yetu learns to embrace the History, knowing that while it is painful and it erased a pervious version of herself, it also made her who she is, and is better than the emptiness of not knowing. She finds strength in the fact that others around her are helping to carry, understand and know how to benefit from their past.
In order to reunite with Oori, the answer is found in the memories themselves, but not only through Yetu’s singular interpretation. She solves the problem only when other perspectives on the memories are discussed, new ideas are presented and perspectives widened.
The benefits of having a history are multiplied when that history is able to live in many different people, rather than one or just a few, or only in written documents.
The Artistic History of The Deep
As a book in itself The Deep is beautiful, thought provoking, enriching and empowering, but it is far from an isolated work. Immediately as you pick up the book you’ll see that beneath Rivers Solomon’s name are three co-authors. Some may recognise the three names – Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes – as the members of experimental hip-hop group clipping.. Immediately as you open the book and see Rivers Solomon’s dedication (to the ornery and ill-tempered) there’s another signed off by clipping. ‘This book and the song for which it’s named would not exist without the work of Gerald Donald and James Stinson.’ The importance of collaboration in managing history as a key theme of the book makes even more sense given the book’s own collaborative history which is explained in the afterword by clipping.. The idea that there exists a people beneath the sea, born from drowned slaves thrown overboard, was developed in the 1990s as part of an Afrofuturist mythology created by Detroit-based techno/electro duo, Drexciya – comprised of the Donald and Stinson in clipping.’s dedication. The song clipping. mention that the book is named for is their own, commissioned to explore the Drexciyan world of these underwater slave trade survivors for a 2017 episode of radio show/podcast ‘This American Life’ on Afrofuturism.
The clipping. song, also called ‘The Deep’, references the origins of the underwater people, born from slave mothers thrown overboard but who were ‘not ready’ to breathe in the deep. It describes the memory of an event, centuries later, in which the two-legs come down to drill for oil, causing destruction in the Deep, awakening memories and triggering a retaliation for the invasion – a last straw on top of the effects of climate change the two-legs caused. The song builds in intensity as it recalls the drilling, blasts and destruction, then the reactionary journey to the surface and the setting in motion of a tidal wave, as well as a message of truth, upon the two-legs. The theme of communal reverence of memory is emphasised with the repeated phrase ‘y’all remember’, imagined by clipping. as part of a ceremonial performance of remembering.
Apparently the clipping. song sparked the idea for the book with editor Navah Wolfe at Saga Press. With the blessing of clipping., Wolfe commissioned Rivers Solomon, author of science fiction novel An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017), to write the book as if looking through their own lens at the same world described in the song.
The event of two-legs coming to the ocean floor in search of oil, causing blasts and killing wajinru is not the focus of the Rivers Solomon book, but it does form a key part of the backstory that we are offered a glimpse of in the form of a memory – the event is given further weight in the wajinru’s History since the tensions caused by the aftermath of the blasts led to the restructuring of wajinru society with no more leaders, only historians, and it connects dots between Yetu and Oori’s interconnected pasts. The chapter which offers the memory of the two-legs invasion was totally enthralling knowing that it ties up the bigger story of the book to the story of the song. I read it then listened, then read it then listened. Going back to other parts of the the book after listening, there were some lyrical and rhythmic references to the song which I enjoyed when I noticed –
‘Wajinru flapped their fins against the water on Yetu’s command, a steady pulsating thrum in meter with her beating heart. The pitch of it was deep, so deep.’
‘”Remember,” Yetu said again, her voice quiet, sharp, deep, insistent, forcing them to know what she knew. “Remember how deep we go.”‘
In the Afterword of the book, written by clipping., the book and their own song are described as two expressions in a game of artistic ‘telephone’ – the game where one person whispers a phrase to another person who whispers it to the the next and the next and along the chain the idea transforms into something new.
Their song is an homage to the extensive body of work by Drexciya and the complex Afrofuturist mythology the duo created as the basis of their music, spread over eight albums which went on to inspire countless works of art, music, literature and film. Their music, the mythos behind it and their sphere of influence deserves a post in its own right but to give some sense of it, Drexciya’s music is made up of sub-marinal sound textures reminiscent of an advanced society under the sea expressed in 90s synth possibilities, held together by lo-fi, minimal dance beats created on a T808 drum machine. It is sparsely dotted with spoken word giving glimpses of narrative, loosely chronicled by track titles like ‘Bubble Metropolis’ and ‘Doctor Blowfin’s Water Cruiser’. Their music was largely equivocal, allowing listeners’ imaginations to swim freely through their hinted mythology, but in the sleeve to their 1997 compilation album ‘The Quest’ the origins of the central characters of their world – the Drexciyans – were directly discussed:
Could it be possible for humans to breathe underwater? A foetus in its mothers womb is certainly alive in an aquatic environment.
During the greatest holocaust the world has ever known, pregnant America-bound African slaves were thrown overboard by the thousands during labour for being sick and disruptive cargo. Is it possible that they could have given birth at sea to babies that never needed air?
Are Drexciyans water breathing, aquatically mutated descendants of those unfortunate victims of human greed? Have they been spared by God to teach us or terrorise us? Did they migrate from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi river basin and on to the great lakes of Michigan?
Do they walk among us? Are they more advanced than us and why do they make their strange music?
And there the key idea behind The Deep was first explicitly discussed – the origins of the Drexciyans raised the question of knowing how to survive in this deep and distant, internalised third space between home and the new world, the indication of a journey, surfacing and embarking upon a musical mission.
Drexciya’s aquatic Afrofturist theme, as opposed to the more common outer-space one, expanded a tangent that had been touched upon by musical pioneers of the genre who built metaphors of lost worlds, water and surfacing. One of the earliest and most prolific Jazz musicians to commit themselves to the sci-fi motif, Sun Ra (1914-1993), was known mostly for his futuristic music and costumes combining Ancient Egyptian and space themes, but alongside this he also explored underwater settings. His 1969 album ‘Atlantis’ contained 5 tracks each dedicated to a different site associated with underwater mythology – Mu, the lost Pacific continent; Lemuria, the Indian Ocean’s version; Yucatan which hosts ancient remains of the Maya in the world’s largest underwater caves; Bimini – an underwater rock formation which resembles a human constructed road in the Bahamas, and finally the sunken city of Atlantis itself.
Likewise the intergalactic music of Parliament Funkadelic also directed some of its attention underwater. The album ‘Motor Booty Affair’ (1978) incorporates the sunken city theme into the band’s famous ‘Mothership’ mythos, with songs like ‘You’re a fish and I’m a water sign’, ‘Aqua Boogie’ and ‘Deep’ which point to a story of a Black Atlantis being raised to the surface by the power of music. There are other examples but one to take us closer to Drexciya’s electronic waterworld of middle passage survivors is Herbie Hancock’s jazz-fusion album ‘Crossings’ (1972). On its cover is a boat crossing an otherworldly body of water towards an edge that drops below the surface where stands a group of elders in white robes next to a school of fish. The music itself moves like ocean water with stills and storms of intense percussion and animated instrument solos merged with futuristic synthesisers, layered atmospherics, electronics and sampled sound.
Sun Ra (left) and Parliament Funkadelic (right)
While much of the musicality of instrumentalists like Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock and the P-funk collective was left behind by the minimalist techno and electro of the ’90s – Drexciya carried forward the thematics and the wider idea of a musical mission taking place on earth/land. The album notes of The Quest also indicate that through the spread of music the mission to return home could be achieved. The clipping. song also references making music, dance floors, lights and club settings, as well as a message the underwater people have to deliver to the two-legs once they reach the surface.
These themes, and others from the musical traditions are touched on in The Deep book. Messages that come from the memories are often musical – the whales who nurtured the early wanjinru passed on knowledge, power and beauty through song, and the memory which leads Yetu to Oori’s homeland is contained within a song of the two-legs ancestors. While ideas of singing and sound are heavily referenced in the book as important to the wanjinru and key in passing on essential knowledge, the book doesn’t directly follow the part of Drexiya and clipping.’s narrative where the underwater people intentionally come to the land with a musical mission. Instead we see how knowledge may be passed in both directions between Yetu (a wajinru) and Oori (a two-legs) using traditional communication but also directly through the wajinru ability to transmit memories, or their power to direct one to one’s own inner memories and the knowledge of how to use them. The book also hints to the theme of crossing the barrier between water and air in both directions – two-legs are helped to remember how to breathe underwater but Yetu also goes through the process of remembering how to breathe out of the water, and to speak in air when she ends up on the surface.
Perhaps the mission to come on land to spread their message happens after the book ends or is taken up by characters other than the central ones, perhaps the book is not set in the same ‘bubble metropolis’ that the technologically advanced Drexcyians inhabit but a simpler society of the same world, more connected to nature and focused on the past and present than the future. The book could also be set among the wajinru who stayed beneath the sea instead of venturing to the surface after the submarine invasion and blasts that are supposed to have happened 75 years ago in their History. Interestingly, 75 years ago from the date the book was written takes us to 1944. That is the year that Sun Ra began to lecture his band on outer space in order to develop a cosmic feel to their music.
In my opinion, The Deep is a better book for not attempting to recreate the existing Drexciyan or clipping. stories too closely and definitely achieves the goal of looking at the underwater Drexciyan and clipping. worlds though a new lens.
For a story that follows the original ideas of Drexciya we now have a graphic novel endorsed by the surviving member of the duo Gerald Donald and the family of the departed James Stinson – The Book of Drexciya Volume 1 (2020) by Abdul Qadim Haqq (who provided artwork for some of Drexciya’s original albums) and Dai Sato, (which I will likely review when it becomes easier to get hold of in the UK!).
Instead The Deep has a unique role among works inspired by the Drexciyan mythology – and that is to focus in on the personal impacts of managing such a history. It is far less a work seeking to map out a futuristic world with a grand mission than the projects it grew out of (the technological and global quest aspects of the original Drexciya myth are all but gone). Instead it focuses much more closely on the intimate experiences of individuals in societies affected by traumatic and destroyed histories and offers thoughtful discussion on how these can be handled.
The book is an example of how Afrofuturism doesn’t necessarily need Aquabahns, water cruisers, motherships or vibranium – what’s needed is engagement with the markers of a more advanced state of being, or those of a world where a more advanced state is possible. While the wajinru’s physical technology might consist of mud and shark bones, and their focus is on the past not the future, their advanced adaption to their environment and their skills beyond our own to manipulate water or transmit memories place them in a state that is evolved ahead of us. They therefore represent one of Afrofuturism’s key themes of imagined progression whether or not the work is set in the future or among more technologically advanced societies. In short it applies futuristic possibilities to issues faced by Afrodiasporic, and LGBTAI, communities today. The direct and very relevant questions it raises about how we handle our own histories as individuals and communities reflect writer and theorist Kodwo Eshun’s comments when he urged that for diasporic subjectivities living in societies ‘based on white supremacy and a kind of aesthetic hierarchy that refuses to accept’ black aesthetic projects, ‘science fiction is by no means escapism’. ‘It’s the reverse: science fiction is a kind of theory of escapology which enables you to diagnose the traps […] Under these circumstances, science fiction takes on a critical and political role.”
One political idea I’m taking from my interpretation of The Deep is a reminder that history should be accessible, and a stronger feeling that I don’t want to be ‘protected’ from its worst truths or rely on any general sense that I understand it while living in detachment from it until prescribed moments. I want to know as much as possible, and to be able to share it, while at the same time remaining conscious of the consequences that can bring to myself and others. I also want to be more conscious of the effects of history’s neglect, mismanagement, disappearance or misinterpretation and be more engaged with my responsibility to discover, preserve and share historic knowledge on the side of my heritage that still needs to be ‘raised to the top’. You never know who will benefit from what you know, feel and share – Yetu had no idea that her History could be so relevant to Oori’s desire to know the past she thought was completely lost.
After I read the The Deep, I found myself reassessing my own connections to historical and creative paths, and that experience continued while exploring the story’s artistic history – a project which enthused me for weeks after finishing the book. I spent a time lining up its trajectory with what I thought I already knew (but didn’t) about Afrofuturist jazz and funk music, revisiting P-funk and Herbie Hancock albums I grew up hearing on my dad’s old record player and the tapes he used to show me of his own jazz-funk band in the 80’s – listening to all those same songs, I started thinking about Afrofuturist music in a new light. I also learned a whole lot about other directions Afrofuturist music had taken that I previously had no idea about like electro and techno – minimal art forms which used to bore me but now make me think about the stripping down of humanity and its redirection towards industrial purposes during slavery as well as the opportunity to rebuild in imaginative settings. ‘It wasn’t a story that could be told, only recalled.’ That was a line from the book that I feel captures the energy of its roots in instrumental music and the way that these music genres carry a history through generations, a history that is carried in energy, not words. One of the ‘criticisms’ I often hear of the book is that it is too short and that readers want more of the wajinru world and Yetu and Oori’s stories. I see why people want that, but I think one of the plus sides to the book is that it carries on Afrofuturist jazz and electronic music’s traditions of sparseness of (or transcendence of) words and encouraging the experiencer’s imagination to run with ideas. The full story of The Deep has to be explored beyond the pages of the book, in the music it was inspired by, the history and social memory it engages with, and the stretched imaginations of readers and listeners.
Since reading the book I have a different relationship with my own history – ancient and recent, and that is something that rarely happens. Something that was already there has been made different. The Deep seems to have a self awareness of this process in its own journey with its modest nods to its predecessors, but at the same time it manages to not only provide a new story within existing traditions, but provide a well established mythology with an entire new dimension for readers and listeners to wrap their heads around.
Even the music that the book sits on top of has been changed by it, with two additional songs being released by clipping. shortly after the book was released. These songs, appearing on an album entitled ‘The Deep’ along with the original song, are named ‘Aquacode Databreaks’ and ‘Drownt’. ‘Drownt’ witnesses the drowning and transformation process from beneath the water and enters the word ‘wajinru’ into the Deep’s musical realm – ‘Watch y’all do your dance on top of the water… Pop, bubble, drop down, now float on… What’s wrong with y’all, stuck in y’all sleep? … Why y’all sweating? Y’all wanna bet you’ll get something wetter than the wet, Better believe y’all need to set a few, When the best of Wajinru swim up in the section, the complexion of the deadest blue.’
The theme of creating something new on top of something well established, enormous and powerful is repeated in the story of the book and left with us as one of the last messages. At the end of the story when Yetu and Oori reunite, they both affirm that instead of trying to live as either wanjinru or two-legs they will exist as something new, something that sits on top of a complex set of overlapping histories, and something that is right for the two of them. What a beautiful thing to end this part of the story on.
If you enjoyed The Deep or any part of its artistic history much as me, or if you think I missed anything important or want to share your views then please get in touch.
I’ll be discussing more merpeople and underwater fantasy books, art, films, shows, legends and histories soon!