Seth Fried, "Sea Monster"


Welcome to December. To kick off the 2018 Short Story Advent Calendar, here’s an all-new story of love, martinis, and accepting your inner sardine, from the author of The Great Frustration.

How would you describe your story?

SETH FRIED: It's about a person who is struggling with her feelings about having been a sea monster in a previous life. 

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

SF: I wrote this in the summer of 2017 while traveling on my honeymoon. At the time I was struck by how getting married to someone you love feels like you're being acquitted of a terrible crime, so during that trip I had a lot of weird feelings of guilt and love to sort through. I think this piece helped me come to terms with accepting the love of someone great in the light of my own imperfections. But other than that I mostly stuck to my usual process, which is just free writing the worst possible version of it by hand and then slowly fixing it over a period of months. 

What kind of research went into this story?

SF: I think readers would be surprised to learn how quickly I ran out of different types of animals to write about. I had to open a web browser and search "animals." 

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

SF: Shorter pieces tend to be more unselfconsciously themselves. There are plenty of novels that feel padded out because the author was struggling to push an idea into a marketable space, but there's no commercial benefit in making something shorter than it needs to be, so if something is short it's usually just because the author was paying attention to the needs of that specific piece and little else. That makes shorter works fertile ground for both formal experimentation and earnest communication. 

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

SF: They can visit or

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

SF: In 1986 I was given a talking Big Bird that read stories to you when you put a cassette tape in its butt.

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What did you think of today's story? Use the hashtag #ssac2018 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to check in with your fellow advent calendarians.

Michael Hingston