Entanglements: an exploration of the digital literary work FISHNETSTOCKINGS

Mermaids, Little and Otherwise

This Scalar book is not about Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid or the many adaptations and interpretations of it. Yet, because our tutor text, FISHNETSTOCKINGS, uses this canonical story as one of its source codes, we need to register its influence and also the fact that mermaid narratives and imagery push further back, far beyond 1837. Recent scholarship takes this longer history seriously. For example, for a history of merfolk in Western religion and science, see Vaughn Scriber’s Merpeople: A Human History (2020); for a summary of recent mermaid stories and films from around the world, see Philip Hayward’s Scaled for Success (2018); for a collection of mermaid tales from around the world translated into English, see The Penguin Book of Mermaids (2019).

Mermaids play a significant role in contemporary digital culture—from Young Adult (YA) novels to wiki fan-fiction, Webtoons to China’s highest-grossing film (The Mermaid dir. Stephen Chow, 2016), and even emergent genres like online cosplay and fan fiction. Indeed, we are in the midst of a mermaid craze. Everywhere you look—from literature to film, social media to fashion, digital art to commodity kitsch—mermaids are there. In this Scalar book, we look to a single work of digital literary art as an example of a larger cultural mermaid renaissance.

Contents of this path: