“The people were interesting, especially in their various interactions,” wrote a friend to whom I’d sent my story, Octonet, recently published by Escape Pod, “but the octopuses were definitely the center of the action for me. How did you happen to focus on them and learn so much about them?”
With most stories, the sources of inspiration are buried somewhere in my mind. Maybe something surfaces, like the end of a tangled ball of twine, and it pulls me into a story.
The octopus story might have started at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco back in 2012, when they acquired three Giant Pacific Octopuses that were bycatch for crab-fishers. We went to see them – and it was remarkably difficult, because they camouflaged so well, and could slide their ample bodies into tiny crevices. In fact, we only saw one of them – with the help of a docent and careful directions.
Fast forward to three books about octopuses: The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. And Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, by Roland C. Anderson, Jennifer A. Mather, and James B. Wood. I read them all in the space of a few weeks, and then I knew I wanted to write this story.
Of course that meant a deep dive (sorry!) into octopus territory. I found a 149-page care manual for GPOs from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. And a thirty-page Giant Pacific Octopus Husbandry Manual from the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums. An article in Cosmos magazine, How the Octopus got its Smarts. Any number of Youtube videos, including this one which was a literal deep dive into octopus territory! And lots more random articles.
When I had the first draft done, I wanted an authenticity read (Within the limits of a sci-fi story!). I wondered if one of the authors of the last book would be willing. Dr Anderson had sadly died in 2014, but Dr Jennifer Mather was kind enough to review the draft for me and provided some helpful comments. I’m very pleased to acknowledge her help.
(Octonet has been through many iterations and edits since then – and a big thank you to all my critiquers! That was the writing part, not the researching part.)
So that’s the story of the story. I’m delighted Escape Pod published it – and also had an interview Dr Mather for the podcast!
- The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery.
- Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
- Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, by Roland C. Anderson, Jennifer A. Mather, and James B. Wood.
- AZA Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (AITAG) (2014). Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Care Manual. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD.
- Giant Pacific Octopus Husbandry Manual, British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (2011)