It’s 2023, and my first new published short story in over a year appears in the double-sized Issue 50 of Uncanny Magazine, alongside a host of phenomenal authors. “How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub”—a tale of colonialism, sea monsters, and men of ambition.
Image: “Le Poulpe Colossal,” drawing by Pierre Denys-Montfort, engraved by Étienne Claude Voysard, 1801
Getting short stories written has become a task.
Used to be, my mind was bubbling to overflowing with short story ideas and I was churning them out at a regular pace–eager to get them submitted to SFF magazines. That was before I became a professor. And a dad of twins. And I started getting contracts to write longer pieces like novellas and novels that I was now *obligated* to meet. Now, my short story writing has mostly been put on the back burner. It’s not that the muscle memory for writing shorts has atrophied. It’s just really a matter of time. In the short bit of creative space I have between academia, dad life, and long form fiction, something had to give. And that something turned out to be my beloved shorts.
So imagine how happy I was that Uncanny Magazine decided to publish one of my first short stories since 2020–called “How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub.”
Yeah, it’s as absurd as it sounds.
The story is a bit of a departure from my usual type of writing, and a bit experimental. For one, it’s from POV of a character who is, well, quite unlikable. Even as I wrote it, I wondered if readers might be thrown out of the tale for a lack of connection or empathy.
Still, I pushed ahead with the tale. It was inspired by a host of things. Without a doubt, one of those was Jules Verne–whose hometown of Nantes I recently visited, and got to ride his giant steam elephant…like a tamed Mûmakil. The modern mechanical marvel was inspired by Verne’s 1880 work The Steam House, a fictional retelling of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (the Sepoy Mutiny) featuring British colonialists traveling through India in a giant steam powered elephant. So it is quite intentionally set in the late 19th century, most specifically Victorian England. With Jules Verne as a muse, it has its share of steampunk elements. But I’m also a fantasist at heart, so there are also mermen. Of course. Because why not? One thing about me–I’m gonna gaslamp the heck *outta my punk every time. Colonialism is another evident theme in the story, because how it can it not be given the age? And it was a topic of Jules Verne’s work. Besides, when I visited Nantes I was reminded of its other history as a key player in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. So how could I not go there. And that seemingly absurd title? Nope, it’s not a metaphor. I’m not going to pull a fast one on you. In this story you will literally get a kraken and a bathtub. You’re welcome. The rest… well, you’ll just have to read for yourself.
Here’s an excerpt. Read more (if you so desire) at Uncanny Magazine. And be sure to pick up a full copy of Issue 50 to support this important ezine to get stories by lots of other fantastic authors I get to share a space with.
Full story here. And thanks for reading!
I’m really excited! As I’ve waited for your next releases, I’ve been working my way through your back catalog. Loads of great stuff there. Hope one day you publish a collection.
Loved it! Awesome story. And even though your protagonist is, well, the person he is, you definitely managed to make him relatable. Not likable, but understandable.