Review: The Touch of Sea edited by Steve BermanI was so excited when I saw this book was coming out - An anthology of stories about gay mermen. Being a slash fan and obsessed with merfolk this was pretty much a dream come true. Berman's introduction didn't disappoint either - We have a gay pirate tradition, and sailors have been sighting merMAIDS since they began to traverse the ocean, so why not merMEN? I was also impressed with Alex Jeffers' gorgeous merman cover design. Sadly you should never judge a book by its cover and that is certainly the case here.
I eagerly read all 11 stories and found to my disappointment that not one of them contained a "proper" merman. Yes you read that right, whilst there were plenty of men linked to the sea, they all had two legs. There was not a single story featuring a hunky half man, half fish.
The stories themselves are a mixed bag. Best of the bunch is easily Vincent Kovar's "Wave Boys" - a post apocalyptic tale featuring rival punk gangs who live on rafts/ships. The use of language is fantastic and creates a world dominated by youth culture. Think Waterworld meets A Clockwork Orange. The actual story is a mere snippet and I could quite happily have read a whole novel set in this universe. No tails, but in this one I really didn't care.
I also liked Matthew A. Merendo's romantic tale "The calm tonight" - Mermen come to the shore every so often to find a human woman and mate. Our hero comes to shore but finds himself attracted to a man rather than a woman something unprecedented in merman history. Again no tail - these mermen are fully bipedal, still a rather sweet story.
Others worth mentioning: Keep the Aspidochelone Floating by Chaz Brenchley was quite fun - a period tale about a whale hunter who has quite an adventure. No mermen at all here, just sailors sadly. Jeff Mann's The stone of sacrifice had an interesting concept in which a man calls up the Celtic sea God Shoney. Although I wasn't too keen on the actual story, I liked the mythology used in this one. I'm not sure I got Jonathan Harper's "The bloated woman" - a ponderous murder mystery of sorts that frankly left me bemused. That was my least favourite.
The touch of sea is a nice anthology of speculative gay short-stories, however it is going to disappoint hardcore mer fans. There are no tails or indeed other aquatic attributes (other than I guess the ability to survive under water). Still it is worth reading for the wonderful "Wave Boys."