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The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A dark retelling of The Little Mermaid from the author of HUNTING MONSTERS

I suppose if this is going to be recorded somewhere for posterity, I should set the record straight. The ghostwriter will probably cut it all, but hey, it’s the principle of the thing.

Dr. Cadence Mbella is the world's most celebrated scholar of the atargati: sentient, intelligent deep-water beings
ebook, 46 pages
Published December 12th 2016 by Book Smugglers Publishing
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We did this! *\0/*

We still have a few of the limited print edition - we ship worldwide!
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was gorgeous. A really interesting flipped fairy tale retelling where instead of a mermaid turning into a human, a human becomes a mermaid (or the SF equivalent in this story). There is so much going on here about identity - gender identity, self identity, morality... And some interesting discussion about sentience. Really really lovely.

I also really appreciated that this was more Hans Christian Anderson than Walt Disney.
Danika at The Lesbrary
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really liked a lot of aspects to this: the specific ways the author found to retell this fairy tale were fascinating, and I loved the introspection about the main character's identity (what does it mean to ID as a lesbian and then fall for an ungendered person?)

I also appreciated that there's a genderqueer side character who uses hir/ze pronouns, so that the alien/mythical creature characters weren't the only representation of nonbinary people.

I was a little disappointed by the ending,
Bridget Mckinney
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Well, I'm not sure what I expected. This is a solid and more-than-moderately inventive retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid that hews very closely to the original story. More closely than I thought it would, which made it not quite the light afternoon read I was looking for today, but still lovely. It's not my favorite mermaid story of recent years (still Seanan McGuire's "Each to Each" which is probably right up your alley if you like this story), but it's a good one with some ...more
Jess Crafts
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An amazing f/f scifi retelling of the little mermaid but backwards so a human scientist is the curious one that falls in love and changes. Brilliantly written and imagined. I loved the mode the story was told in - which sounds vague but you should read it. It's awesome. Fair warning it has a tragic ending like the original story. I can't wait to read more from this author.
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romance, sf-f
I got this as a free review copy from SL Huang in exchange for potentially nominating it for some award or another if I liked it.


I have been unable to stop thinking about this novelette since I finished reading it and all I want is to take my time to put my heart back together and then reread it again and again. Dr. Cadence Mbella's voice (ha!) comes through super clearly from page one to the very end. It's a reverse of the traditional Hans Christian Andersen Little Mermaid which
Craig Werner
I'd love to read this novella length engagement with difference and transformation--echoing trans issues down to the level of language--spun out at novel length. Reminds me a bit of Okorafor's Bindi series and some of Octavia Butler's work, which is good. As it is, more a sketch than a fully developed set of ideas. Like the way Huang riffs on The Little Mermaid as an image of a being not quite of either world. Hope she returns to the ideas.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I couldn't ask for a better idea for retelling - twisting and queering the original tale. And the crossroads of biology and anthropology in this novella are delightful. To the point where it seems like too big a concept for a story this size. If only it was a novel; still, it is a very good and evocative novella tackling some difficult questions as well as punching the reader right in the feels.
Well. I'm crying.

I suppose it's my fault for letting Disney make me forget that the original Little Mermaid did not have a happy ending.

Nevertheless, this was a beautiful, wonderful, perfect reverse retelling of the Little Mermaid story. I loved every word of it, despite the fact that it tore my heart out.

Excuse me while I go and keep crying.
Adelina  Genova
--> ревю на български <--

To be honest, the very first thing that made me want to read that novella was its front cover. I saw it on twitter, I asked if there was an e-book and not even 15 minutes later I was already going through it on my reader.
/I was in a process of changing my payment card at that moment and I did not have any money in my paypal so I asked a friend lo lend me some bucks to get the book right now!/
That is what a good cover can do for a book.

Of course, a good book is
This was a captivating, heartfelt, and challenging story about "first contact", treated as a spin on the classic Little Mermaid story (the gritty, disturbing Hans Christian Andersen one, not the flowery Disney version). I loved the impassioned and suspenseful narration, and I found the alien species very captivating. The ending threw me (view spoiler), but it was true to its story and gave the whole tale greater impact.

According to
Jaymee Goh
I read this on the bus ride to work and got off that bus feeling a deep unsettling feeling in me akin to hate. But the good kind of hate, like when you want to rail at the world for not giving nice things to people who deserve it.

As a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story, this novella follows closely the original while giving it a deeply science-fictional spin that could only be a product of a brain like SL Huang's. The language of piscianthropology, the anxieties about anthropology,
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
- Applause-worthy details of the deep sea world and species - the atagarti / "mermaids" are fascinating yet believable, and that is no small feat. You can instantly recognize all the thoughts and hard work behind their physiology, the way they interact with each other, with the environment, and with humans.
- So much is at stake for the characters you can barely put the book down.
- The discussion and portrayals of gender fluidity and sexuality are thought-provoking and relevant.

Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know why my brain is convinced that short books are cheating - that I somehow am a better reader if the books I complete are 750 pages rather than 75. It's not like the purpose of a book is to be as long as possible and encountering new authors and their works is just as important regardless of the book's length.
Anyway, this month has been my excuse to read all the short fiction I've been meaning to get around to. Including this one, which I knew was going to be dark and sad because it's
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Grace Mead
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I so adore about S.L. Huang's work is that she understands, fundamentally, how great ideas complement a great story. She also brings to mind John Gardner's recognition of the importance of subconsciousness to a writer's work; and the afterword makes it appear she understands the dialectic between the conscious and the subconscious in developing ideas. I was thrilled this was so different from the Cas Russell series and about the possibilities with which this novella played--at times I ...more
Victoria Zelvin
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katelijne Sommen
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
I like the dark tone of this re-telling; it's what a good fairytale redressing needs to have, in my opinion. I almost wish the story were longer; I honestly feel like I don't understand the motives of the protagonist to want to go into, literally, a blind abyss - but perhaps that's mostly because the thought utterly terrifies me. Still, the story might have benefited from just a little more backstory on her. I didn't really feel that connected to her. On the other hand, I do think that the story ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really shouldn't have but I got sucked into reading this online and just had to keep going with the story. Very interesting and well thought-out. What happens to Magical Girls when they grow up and try to have lives and fall in love, marry, and be themselves as well as fight the big bads, keep their secret and all that. This is pretty short but very interesting and well done.
Recommended for those who like superheroes and chosen ones, this is an interesting meditation on what having to fight
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an incredible reversed queer retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson version of the Little Mermaid. The main character, a lesbian scientist, is the only human who can speak the atargati language, and also an anthropologist for the non-gendered world of the atargati (what the scientists call the mermaids). The mix of curiosity and love that drives her actions gets all the themes and the darkness and the yearning sadness of the little mermaid story right. I loved it.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I bought this because I’ve really enjoyed the authors other novelette length work. The premise was really cool — a female scientist out to save a siren who has been captured by the military and return them to their gender neutral sea society — but the way the story was told was difficult to follow. The timeline is all over the place, and the style is very stream of conscious.
Katherine Locke
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This turned out to be a most excellent mirror version of the classic Hans christian Anderson tale. and so very sci-fi at the same time.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short story was fantastic! A reverse Little Mermaid story, only they aren’t mermaids. It’s a beautiful sci-fi take on the story of a human who falls in love with a mermaid like sea creature. Only this time it’s the human who gives everything up for a chance at love.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: female-author, sff
Interesting and enjoyable retelling of The Little Mermaid -
Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
If a queer retelling of The Little Mermaid is of interest, then you should check out The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang. Only, think the Hans Christian Anderson original, not the happily ever after Disney version.

Dr. Cadence Mbell has devoted her life to studying the atargati, the sentient, deep sea species the public keeps referring to as “mermaids.” She’s the only human who knows how to speak their language, and she’s considered the top atargati scholar. But when the government
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, non-white, queer
Leitura rápida e que te prende logo na segunda página. Amei, amei, amei
The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist is a short novella (or long short story) reworking The Little Mermaid with a modern twist. It follows a scientist who studies the atargati, an intelligent species that live in the depths of the ocean.

People in general call the atargati mermaids, but Dr Cadence Mbella finds that insulting. They aren't mythical creatures but an advanced people who we should show some respect to. But humans being humans, they have an unending curiosity for new and different things.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: prose
Not a fan of stories that require a variant of the idiot ball to work, and the constant mental self-policing the main character is doing here, the racking of guilt about humanity to almost self-loathing levels, until she finally convinces herself to kill herself than actually do something about her shitty situation is hard to take seriously.
Rene Sears
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love a retold fairy tale, and I really loved this take on the little mermaid fairy tale in reverse--the human wants to become a mermaid rather than vice versa. It's definitely a darker spin on the story. Recommended.
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“Hey, I wonder what the public would say if they knew two queer scientists were the ones trying to explain human sexuality to the much-romanticized atargati. There’s something else they’ll probably leave out of the book.” 0 likes
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