The Nebraskan and the Nereid

Publication(s)

  • First publication
    • Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 1985
  • Wolfe collection(s)
  • Other anthologies
    • Mermaids!, 1985

Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Endangered Species

"I cannot tell you whether you will find love or sex in 'The Nebraskan and the Nereid."

Summary

Folklorist Sam Cooper encounters a water nymph in Greece.

Analysis

  • The stories The Nebraskan and the Nereid, The Fat Magician, The Eleventh City, and Lord of the Land form a series with Sam Cooper as the main character.
  • Dr. Thoe Papamarkos is the Nereid. (In classical mythology, one of them has that name.)
  • The woman the Nebraskan meets in the cave is his maid from the hotel, who he later finds dead on the beach.
  • It seems likeliest that the maid drowned herself because she realized he did not recognize her (or, she thought he had recognized her but was indifferent). This is indicated by his complaint to the landlady about his bed being unmade. (Thanks to Gerry Quinn for this interpretation.)
  • An alternative interpretation is that the woman he met in the cave was Thoe, that Thoe murdered the maid for talking too much, and that everything she says about the maid and her infatuation with Sam is a lie.

Unresolved Questions

  • The 'Ψ' that the Nereid scratches next to the body may indicate that she is actually Psamathe, who had particular responsibility for sandy beaches. Although in that case why go by the name Thoe? It may alternatively be a stylized trident rather than a Ψ, to symbiolize Poseidon – although this seems clunky when he's explicitly represented by a 'π' a few pages earlier.

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