FAQ

FAQ: What Do Merfolk Look Like?

Hmmmm, I assume you mean ‘What do people on Colony Island look like?’

What Do Merfolk Look Like?

Well, on land, they are surprisingly ordinary.

What do merfolk look like

You could stumble upon Colony Island, park your car, and go have lunch at Judi’s Jersey Diner. Whether you chose to eat at the counter or in a booth, you would sit next to and be served by Merfolk. The conversation you might overhear would be mundane. Two guys at the counter might complain about how bad the fishing has been lately, while two ladies, in the booth next to yours, might discuss going for a swim that afternoon. It’s a seaside town and that’s the sort of talk one would expect to hear.

Have A Look Around

Walk along Main Street and look in the shops. They are just what you would expect in a small town, although the hardware store does keep a selection of tridents in the back. Edna’s Home & Bath looks pretty ordinary – although that bathtub in the window does seem a bit long – and the Colony Island VFD is no different from any small-town fire station. What do merfolk look like.If you’ve parked too long on the street, you’d never know the officer writing your ticket is a merman.

What do merfolk look like?By tradition, the mermen on Colony Island have long hair and beards though there are plenty of clean shaven men with short hair. On the whole, you’ll see more women with waist length hair than on the mainland but, like Penelope Tench, they’ll wear it shorter if need be. Braids are popular but otherwise, hair-styles are pretty simple. Otherwise, anything done at Bab’s Kut & Kurl would wash out the moment you went for a swim.

Just Normal Folks

What do merfolk look like?

There are lovers,

What do merfolk look like?

young families,

What do merfolk look like?

and beach-goers,

just like everyone else. The islanders may have a few odd ideas about things like clothing or jewelry. These are, however, nothing to write home about. People from the mainland do occasionally drive over to use the public beach, but on the sand, it’s hard to tell the visitors from the residents.

When They’re Not On Land

As for the sea, you won’t find mermaids with tails that go on forever or extravagant fins. Mermaids don’t have huge hips, tiny waists or impossibly large bosoms like human artists are wont to depict them. The don’t have elf ears, fins on their arms, and their scale colouration runs from silver to blue-ish greys to greens. There is a population in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, known as gingers, with orange-ish scale colouration, but they are an exception to the rule.

While there are mermen with bulging biceps and ripped abs., this has more to do with their occupation on land than anything than anything else. At the same time, you won’t find very many paunchy mermen. A swim a day keeps the beer belly away.

This image is a favourite of mine.

mermaid-crab

Her hair is long but not impossibly so. The colour is a reddish brown, in other words, like normal human hair. She has a pleasing face, but it is not the face of a super model. Her breasts are average. The scale colouration is close to that of a Ginger and her fin is of a reasonable size. She is average. She is ordinary. She is  . . . well, pretty. She is from the world of Colony Island.

FAQ: Visitors Bureau

Visitors BureauQ – I saw the listing for the Colony Island Visitors Bureau and I wondered just what its the function was.

A – The Colony Island Visitors Bureau serves two functions.

The first is to arrange food, housing, clothes, and training for recently arrived feral merfolk. It works with the Gail’s Place charity shop to provide donated clothing. It also works with the Colony Academy to provide the necessary orientation and training for the feral visitors.

The idea behind this is to get feral merfolk situated and educated so they won’t decide to wander off the island and land themselves the the pokey for indecent exposure, etc. While the attrition rate for ferals  is high, a few will ultimately stay and start a life for themselves and their family on Colony Island.

The second purpose is to steer those humans who stumble upon Colony Island – they’re usually lost to begin with – away from places like Feraltown where they might see things they shouldn’t. There are brochures and maps which direct humans on self-guided tours of the ‘historic’ north end of the island as well as the streets lined with Sears Houses. There are also flyers for the local eateries.

A brochure covering the mosaics and frescoes in the Temple of Poseidon‘s lobby is in the works.

The town council has been debating whether to open the beach north of the harbour to surf fishermen. No decision has been reached as yet. If and when it does take effect, the Visitors Bureau will sell fishing licenses to visiting humans.

How mermaids reproduce

Q: How do Mermaids reproduce? Do they lay their eggs on the side of a rock or something?

Just how do mermaids accomplish reproduction?A: Just how mermaids produce little mermaids is an issue that is usally overlooked in most of the tales of tails. Since the majority of mermaid stories are for adolescent – or younger – girls, it is understandable why reproduction is bypassed.

Nonetheless, merfolk reproduction is touched upon in Cye Cho’s Florence Waverly series where we learn that mer-babies are hatched from eggs. The mechanics thereof, have – so far – not been touched upon.

Meanwhile, in the Mer Tales series by Brenda Pandos, it is intimated that anatomical differences aside, the process is not too unlike human methodology. The main difference is the gestation period is greatly foreshortened. Mermaids have barely enough time to eat a gallon or two of pickle-flavoured ice cream and attend their baby shower before they are holding a wee one in their arms.

Moving on to mermaid novels for adults – which are fewer and further in between – the subject is seldom dealt with. Only S.K. Munt’s Fairytail Saga seems to come close to a realistic portrayal. So far, most other writers seem to stick with silly ridiculous notions as to how breeding is accomplished.

Outwith the realm of mermaid – and merman – stories, George Parsons[1], Director of Fishes at the Shedd Aquarium[2] in Chicago, has a go at things in an article about how mermaids have sex on HelloGiggles.com. His concept has mermaids and mermen getting together on a quarterly basis to release eggs and sperm in the water. The mer-eggs are thus fertilized and the mermaids & mermen swim off to do whatever it is they do.

When these eggs hatch, the larval merfolk swim upwards to hide and develop amongst the plankton. Although this is a feasible scenario, the thought of baby merfolk being scooped up & eaten by larger animals would  quite upsetting to many readers.

The primary objective of this FAQ is not to examine every author’s notions as to how mermaids ‘do it’[3]. Instead, this author is writing this in order to explain how things are done in the world of Colony Island.

The Basics of Reproduction

First, it is necessary to establish the fact that mermaids – and of course, mermen – can have both legs and tails, though not at the same time. In addition, they can ‘do it’ both human-style or mer-style. Anatomical differences prevent a ‘half and half’ approach.

The merfolk of Colony Island, as well as feral merfolk, find moonlit beaches to be quite appealing for mating and/or breeding. It is, however, not necessary to have this setting as numbers of merfolk got their start in the bedroom simply because the weather turned had foul during the days surrounding the full moon. While mermaids can will themselves to ovulate, they can’t put things on hold once the breeding flush appears.

Ferals don’t have the bedroom option since most tend to consider doing it human-style as an unspeakable abomination. In the event of foul weather, they’ll swim offshore to a suitable depth in order to take care of business.

Once fertilization is achieved, mermaids – like human females – go though a nine-month gestation period. The vast majority will elect to give birth offshore since, in her natural form, a mermaid’s pelvis is radically different. This facilitates and easy and almost painless delivery.

A more detailed account of sex amongst merfolk will be explored in a forthcoming FAQ.


[1] No known relation to the author of Urban Mermaid. On the other hand, if he’s a ‘Parsons’ and a ‘biologist’ and is willing to discuss sex amongst merfolk, then he is obviously a long-lost cousin.

[2] I visited the Shedd Aquarium when I was in Chicago for BookExpo/BookCon 2016. It’s a fantastic place. You ought to go.

[3] Lizzy Acker has a humorous take on things in The Talk: How to Explain Mermaid Sex to Your Kids.

FAQ – Inspiration # 1

TavernThis is the first in a series of FAQs intended to reveal the source(s) of inspiration for the places and people on Colony Island.

The Mermaid Tavern

The Mermaid Tavern serves as the setting for Peter’s lunch with Carl, the Pizza Guy, during Peter’s first visit to the island. It is referred to several times throughout the course of Urban Mermaid – Officer Bubba Shrimpton is particularly fond of the apple pie served at this establishment – but lunch on Labour Day is the only time any action takes place there. The Tavern will play a somewhat larger role in the sequel to Urban Mermaid.

The establishment takes its name from a tavern on Cheapside in London during the Elizabethan era, located east of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the corner of Friday Street and Bread Street. It was home to a monthly drinking club including such Elizabethan literary notables as Ben Jonson, John Donne, John Fletcher, Francis Beaumont, and William Strachey. Over the centuries, Shakespeare has been included in the list of worthies. Many historians consider this association to be highly unlikely.

In the world of Colony Island, some merfolk have a greater awareness of the outside world and human history than others. Although the current proprietor is listed as one Robert Whaley, the original owner is not recorded. Obviously whomever suggested the name, did so, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Read the full Wikipaedia article, here.

Lord Hardwicke’s of Charlottesville, Virginia

This restaurant located on Emmet Street and relatively near the University of VA, dispensed food and drink to all and sundry from 1970 until 2016. About fifteen years ago, it was expanded to include a full bar area and extra seating.

The interior theme invokes the Tudor-esque feel of an English country pub with rough-hewn beams and supports on the wall and ceilings. The outside is a more modern looking building though there are some additional half-timber touches here and there.

The Mermaid Tavern on Colony Island looks remarkably like Lord Hardwicke’s and the rear expansion will be mentioned in the second book of the Colony Island series.

Sic Transit Lord Hardwicke’s

Around 2010, a second location was opened on US 29 North, just over the line in Green County. Although there was some initial speculation that this new location was destined to be short-lived, it has apparently fared better than the original location in town. On June 14, 2016, the original location on Emmet St. served its last meals and closed its doors – apparently for good.

FAQ: Just Who is Madison?

Madison is Colony Chronicle’s agony aunt.

Just What Is An ‘Agony Aunt’?

‘Agony Aunt’ is a British term for those who pen the “advice to the lovelorn” columns in newspapers. In other words, think of Madison as an advice columnist. Better yet, think of Madison as ‘Dear Abby’ with fins!

Madison responds to letters from the residents of Colony Island containing their vexing problems de jour. She also occasionally honks off the town snobs like Samia Marinos.

Why Call Her Madison?

Some of you may remember the 80’S movie, Splash, starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks. Tom played Allen Bauer and Daryl played the mermaid, Madison.[1] Since the movie had a happy ending with Madison and Allen swimming off into the sunset, I am assuming that:

  1. Madison and Allen got hitched, joined, married, etc.
  2. Madison got Allen a ‘tail job’.[2]

Therefore, her full name will be Madison Bauer.

Besides being the local newspapers’ advice columnist, she will be a (very) minor character in at least one of the forthcoming books. There will be some (very) oblique references to the movie and Allen may even get a look in. On the other hand, their scenes could wind up on the cutting room floor.

So What Does This Have To Do With The Website?

‘Ask Madison’ serves as a vehicle to comment on plot points and inject a bit of levity at the same time. It also serves to illustrate the idea that the Merfolk of Colony Island have personal problems just like we do. The only difference is the fact that many of these problems had to do with being mermaids or mermen.

The Ask Madison column[3] is displayed in typical blog format[4] with the most recent entry appearing first followed by the next recent, etc. On one hand, this is great for regular visitors because they only have to scroll through a few posts in order to catch up. On the other hand, the visitor has to work their way to the last post and then scroll upwards in order to read each post in chronological order.

In most instances, each post is meant to be a stand-alone and it does not matter in which order they are read. However, there are a few series of posts that need to be read in chronological order for the full impact of each.

In those cases, I will create a separate page containing those related posts in the order in which they were meant to be read[5].


 

[1] I’ll let you figure out where the name ‘Madison’ came from.

[2] This a play on the term ‘Nose Job’ and not that other kind of job.

[3] Actually, it’s more like a blog.

[4] See, I told you.

[5] That’s the plan, anyway.

Mermaids vs. Sirens – Know the difference

Mermaids or Sirens?Q: What’s the difference between mermaids and sirens? I thought they were one in the same?

A: Somewhere along the literary and mythological road, mermaids and sirens got confused into one creature: a half-woman, half-fish creature known for her beautiful singing voice. Originally, it was only the mermaid that was a half-human, half-fish creature, and a singing voice wasn’t mentioned in early myths. Sirens were the singers, and they were actually half-woman, half-bird creatures.

For a more detailed explanation, please see the article The Difference Between Mermaids and Sirens. (This is a link to an external page and will open a new browser tab.)

As you can see, the idea of mermaids has come a long way over the centuries.

Mermaids, Sirens, and The World of Colony Island

In developing the concept of mermaids – and mermen – for Urban Mermaid, I kept some ideas, dispensed with others, and overall, made them more user-friendly. 

For example, I kept the idea of beautiful singing voices and expanded the franchise to include mermen. This will be explored in greater detail by the sequel to Urban Mermaid, Sirena. (This is the current working title.)

The idea of luring sailors to their doom with sweet singing was a non-starter. While the idea of luring men – sailors or otherwise – to their death is a popular notion amongst misandrists[1]Urban Mermaid is not that kind of story. While Penelope does become totally frustrated with Peter at one point in the plot and contemplates doing away with him, an unknown inner voice scolds her for even thinking of such a thing.

As for Pausanias, in the second century, describing mermen as having scales covering their entire bodies, gills, a fish-like mouth, and a scaly tail like a dolphin’s, we can only assume that this specimen was an early prototype on which Poseidon refused to sign off. As the reader will discover in the prologue, the sea god had definite ideas as to how his mortal children should appear.

The merfolk of Colony Island will be examined in greater detail by a forthcoming FAQ.

For a humorous look at how sirens operate nowadays, take a look at the Siren School slideshow. 

Disclaimer

The preceding discourse concerns is how the author envisions the merfolk of Colony Island would appear and behave. His opinions and prejudices are just that; opinions and prejudices. They are not intended to defame or belittle the vision of any reader, writer, or illustrator. Sadly, there are no merfolk around to prove or disprove our ideas and speculation.


[1] By definition, a misandrist is a person – usually female – who hates men. This is the opposite of  a misogynist, a person – usually male, but not always – who hates women. By and large, most – if not all – radical feminists are at their core, misandrists.

How do mermaids breathe?

Q: How do Mermaids[1] breathe?

A: Through their nose just like everyone else.

Seriously, in the world of Colony Island, that applies mainly when they are out of the water.

Many writers and artists have speculated as to just how mermaids are able to respire[2] when they’re below the surface. Some writers have given them gills located on their necks.

Mermaid with gill slits on her torso.

Mermaid with gill slits on her torso. If you read the ‘Ask Madison’ letter entitled ‘Silly Humans’, you might understand why she appears to be calling for help.

In her Mer Tales series[3], Brenda Pandos’ description of her character’s gills implies that they are large enough to actually work as intended. Other writers have given their characters gill slits that might just sustain a goldfish but nothing much larger than that.

Recognizing there is not much available real estate on the neck of a human, some writers and artists have envisioned gill slits not unlike those of a shark, along the torso. While these may be considered to be somewhat more realistic, they will require the mermaid to either be constantly swimming or to park herself in a current with her head facing upstream when she wants to sleep. If she drifts out of that current, the mermaid is likely to suffocate unless she wakes up in time.

This concept is based on the behavior of sharks that swim constantly in order to keep water moving through their gills. An exception to this is when they mate. The male will take ahold of the female and point both of them so they are facing into the current. They are thus able to breathe while the reproductive niceties are taken care of.

At least one writer has placed the gill slits further down the mermaid’s body on the fishy end. It’s an interesting concept but at the end of the day, they will still need to either constantly swim or go to sleep facing upstream in the current.

Then, there are writers like S.K. Munt[4] who give their merfolk the ability to hold their breath for long periods of time.

Finally, there are plenty of writers who have bypassed the subject entirely and marked respiration down to plain old mermaid magic.[5] Most artists have entirely ignored the respiration problem when depicting mermaids.

In the world of Colony Island, Poseidon found he was not fond of the aesthetic resulting from gills placed on the side of the neck.[6] Instead, he decided to take a page from the amphibians’ playbook and give mermaids the ability to breathe through their skin. As long as the mermaid is in the water, she can breathe whether she has her tail on or not.[7]  And as long as the mermaid’s head is above the surface – whether she’s walking on land or simply treading water – she can use her nose and lungs, just like the rest of us.

If mermaids take a deep breath before sounding, it will stay with them a good while.[8] Although they don’t really need that lung-full of air, mermaids can deliver it to a human in distress under water. This was idea was used in my short story, Dear Mom …, which can be seen on my Goodreads author page.[9]

While both oxygen and CO₂ are exchanged through the mermaid’s skin, some carbon dioxide will accumulate in the lungs and she will ‘exhale’ every now and then. This is more pronounced when the mermaid is under physical stress – such a fleeing a predator – and needs to take in as much oxygen as possible. In these situations, almost all CO₂ is expelled through the lungs.

Disclaimer

The preceding discourse concerns is how the author envisions the merfolk of Colony Island would appear and behave. His opinions and prejudices are just that; opinions and prejudices. They are not intended to defame or belittle the vision of any reader, writer, or illustrator. Sadly, there are no merfolk around to prove or disprove our ideas and speculation.


 

[1] This applies to mermen as well.

[2] A technical term for breathing.

[3] Some really great YA (Young Adult) fiction, if you ask me.

[4] S.K. Munt’s Fairytail Saga is quite an interesting take on mermaids and well worth the reader’s time.

[5] The concept of mermaid magic – or lack thereof in the Colony Island series – will be discussed in another FAQ.

[6] Gods can be rather picky, you know.

[7] It’s pretty hard to drown a Colony Island mermaid.

[8] There are limits, though. Eventually, the alveoli in the lungs will take up the oxygen and replace it with carbon dioxide.

[9] Eventually, it will be added to this site along with one other short story.

What is the Royston Enclave?

Q: What is the Royston Enclave?

A: In the 1950’s, the fishing industry on Colony Island collapsed because of declining fish stocks and competition from factory ships. While fishing continued to be a part of the local economy, it was on a much smaller scale. When the majority of the fleet was sold off, many of the fishermen, as well as those who depended on the industry, were left jobless.[1]

Available jobs outside the industry were few and far between on Colony Island. Since there was plenty of work to be had in nearby Royston, most of the newly unemployed moved there along with their families. Eventually, the majority of these families were able to settle in the same Royston neighbourhood.[2] In time they were joined by other families who found the daily commute a bit taxing.

Enclave members would save their swimming for weekends and their children were carpooled in to the Colony Academy. After a time, some Royston families began to enroll their children in the county’s primary schools, using the Academy only for preschool. Eventually, the members of the Royston Enclave acquired a more cosmopolitan outlook and some even left for jobs in the city. Although they didn’t live by the sea on Colony Island, they were never very far from the ocean.


[1] In many respects, the town had “lost its mojo” and declined into a depressed state of affairs.

[2] In the interest of looking after its citizens – no matter where they lived – the town of Colony Island invested in town-homes and apartment buildings to help keep the Royston merfolk together.

Mermaid Tails

Q: I’ve noticed that while mermaid[1] tails are depicted as fish-like, their swimming motion is up and down like a dolphin’s instead of side to side like a fish. Why is this?

A: One may think of a mermaid as:

  1. A woman with a fish’s tail instead of legs[2]
  2. A fish with a woman’s head, arms, and torso

In other words there are two halves and the human half influences the piscine half just as much as the piscine half influences the human half.

The human half gains the ability to live and breathe[3] underwater while the piscine half gains the ability to swim like all mammals that live in the ocean. The mermaid’s tail is more flexible and proportionally longer than that of many fish[4]. There are also many different ways to depict a mermaid’s tail, but that is beyond the scope of this FAQ.

One could simply say “it’s the way mermaid tails have always been depicted” and let the discussion rest. No matter how much we may wish otherwise, mermaids don’t exist. Therefore, almost any depiction is correct. Nonetheless, there does seem to be a certain convention followed when artists are depicting mermaids.

Mermaid Tails with fins as small as these won't provide much in the way of propulsion.

Tailfins as small as these won’t provide much in the way of propulsion.

With regard to Urban Mermaid and the entire series, Tails from Colony Island, the author envisions a ‘clean’ look. This means no pelvic fins, no dorsal fins, and no fin-skirts like Ariel and her family. Scale colouration is within a certain range of greens, grays, and silvers[5]. There are no long, curly wurly tails and no extravagant tail fins.

There are also no knee joints. This is the author’s personal preference. While it is common for artists to depict mermaid tails with ‘knees’, the author feels that it starts to look like someone in a costume. A ‘knee-less’ tail has a more flowing look to it and in the case of mermaids, more feminine as well,

The prologue to Urban Mermaid describes how Poseidon and his son, Triton, conceived of mermaids as having a variety of traits found in other marine life as well as a few attributes necessary to life on land. While it is not explicitly stated[6] in the prologue, it is implied that Poseidon is rather fond of dolphins. He apparently chose for mermaid tails[7] to mimic the morphology and swimming abilities of a dolphin whilst retaining the scales of a fish.

Like all animals, there are variations in tail length, and fin shape, as well as where the tail actually begins. For some mermaids, the scale line begins below the hips while for others, it’s closer to the waist. The curve of the mermaid’s buttocks are visible beneath her scales. The bikini area is faintly visible as well. The tail’s real flexibility begins seven to eight inches below this point.

Male and female genitalia are both internal and form part of the cloaca. The cloaca is guarded by two narrow, muscular ridges and are part of a slightly darker medial line of scales on the ventral side. This medial line ends around 12 to 16 inches below the cloaca. The scale colouration lightens until it becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the mermaid’s scales. Thus, the opening to the cloaca  is difficult to discern and is therefore hidden by a kind of protective camouflage.

Finally, it should be noted that as his series progresses, the author will refine his vision of how mermaids should look. Therefore, measurements, proportions, etc. are subject to minor modifications.

For a look at how various artists have interpreted the idea of mermaid tails, check out the author’s Pintrist boards:

Disclaimer

The preceding discourse concerns is how the author envisions the merfolk of Colony Island would appear and behave. His opinions and prejudices are just that; opinions and prejudices. They are not intended to defame or belittle the vision of any reader, writer, or illustrator. Sadly, there are no merfolk around to prove or disprove our ideas and speculation.


 

[1] This discussion applies to mermen as well as mermaids.

[2] There have been many different ideas as to how the tail should look and where it should begin. One vision has the tail as two scale-covered legs with a fin at the end of each instead of a foot.

[3] Just how a mermaid breathes under water will be discussed in another FAQ.

[4] In many respects, it is almost eel-like in flexibility.

[5] Mermaids known as ‘gingers’ have a reddish-orange scale colouration. There is a more narrow range of colour variations than that of their green-tail cousins.

[6] It was necessary to keep the page-count down as well as avoiding an overly excruciating level of detail.

[7] A mermaid’s tail, not including the fin, is just over two to three feet longer than her legs. The main part of the tail fin itself is one foot long. A mermaid’s tail is flexible enough to curl around her like a cat’s and allows her to brush her own back or that of her mate with her tail fin. The touch of a tail fin – whether it is her own or her mate’s – on a mermaid’s back has a soothing effect.

 

What’s a morning suit?

MorningSuitQ: I noticed a reference to something called a ‘morning suit’ in Urban Mermaid. Are you sure it’s not a ‘mourning suit’, you know, something a guy would wear when sitting shiva? Just what the heck is a ‘morning suit’?

A: According to Wikipaedia, morning dress is the daytime formal dress code, consisting chiefly for men of a morning coat, waistcoat, and striped trousers. Peter MacPherson[1] chose dove gray morning suits so that he and his groom squad would look elegant yet fade a bit into the background. Although Penelope would have been more than happy for him to wear a white tux, Peter was not about to let anything outshine his bride on her special day[2].

While some would argue that there is nothing wrong with wearing a tux before 6:00 PM, such practices are just one more example of the decline of American civilization. In the 2015 movie, Bridge of Spies, the character played by Tom Hanks wears a morning suit whilst arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Such attire was de rigueur once upon a time but is now confined to the United States Solicitor General and deputies as well as the Marshal and Clerk of the court during all sessions of the court.

For more information on morning dress, see:

  1.  The Wikipaedia article on Morning Dress
  2. The Black Tie Guide’s Informational overview of Morning Wear

 

[1] Peter is a product of the American Scottish community which has a penchant for trying to do things as they would be done in the U.K. where morning dress is much more common.

[2] Penelope will insist that it is their special day.

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