I’ve seen plenty of animal-like protagonists in my life. Cats, Dogs, Horses, Hamsters, Fish, even mythical creatures like dragons and faeries. But I’ll admit, I never would have picked a water bear, of all things, to be a convincing protagonist.
Today’s short story is Song of the Water Bear, by Laine Bell. You can find it here. For those who don’t know, water bears, commonly known as Tardigrades, are super microscopic beings that almost resemble fat, alien bears, only super tiny. I never would have thought to make such a small thing the hero of a story, but this one turned out to be pretty fun. So let’s take a look (under the microscope. Get it? Huh? Heh?!…)
Water Bears Among Us
A tribe of water bears are struggling to survive egg-laying season when microscopic predators attack. Despite their small size, they find a way to rally their packs and stop these beings before their eggs are destroyed.
It’s a very simple plot, but it carried a lot of weight with it. It’s always fascinating to read about uncommon, or even rare animal heroes, and giving the lore of a Water Bear made it seem like I was reading some abstract surrealist sci-fi story.
I should mention that while BCS is known for epic fantasy, they’re running a Science Fantasy issue. It definitely fit the bill. These creatures still exist today and this story could have taken place present day for all we know. The sheer effort of world building, giving water bears some background, personality, emotion, all for a microscopic animal that has neither of those thing, probably, all make for some interesting events. I always love the challenge of finding off-the-wall species to make protagonists out of, since everyone seems to have dogs or cats be the heroes. That’s all well and good, but sometimes, I want to see something unique get the spotlight.
The synergy between the characters is great, even if their dialogue is short and direct. It’s not overly dramatic, and it feels almost natural if they were speaking. It also showcases their otherwise lack of developed intelligence without coming off as completely dumb. It feels realistic. These are tiny, microscopic creature, so you’d expect them to be a little less developed than most animal species, even when personified. It was definitely handled well and felt like something I’d expect such small, alien creatures to say.
The writing focused on Cel, one of the water bears among many. The lifestyle, ecosystem, culture, breeding, and this story went into such a grand detail that I’m kind of impressed just how much can be done with such small animals. There’s a lot we don’t know about water bears that it’s fun to make up a society like this. That’s the fun of animal protagonists. You get to make up a human-like ecosystem for a species that wouldn’t possibly have one. Maybe water bears do, but maybe they just like to swim in the vast, microscopic nothingness and do…whatever it is water bears do.
They are kinda cool though.
This is a wonderful story filled with a surprisingly rich world with such a small group of heroes. It goes to show that even the smallest of animals have the biggest stories to tell. Do give this a read when you can.
That’s all for today. Take care, be safe in these rough times, and remember, the inn is always open.