Cuttlefishy Myths

A review of James Bambury’s “Chromatophoric Histories of the Sepiidae” in Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling with Gods (Edge, 2015)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Human arrogance assumes that only humanity has the ability to develop beliefs in deities, and it is exciting to see that James Bambury’s “Chromatophoric Histories of the Sepiidae” is included in a collection on religious beliefs because unlike most of the stories in the collection, he focusses on the beliefs of Cuttlefish. Bambury’s cuttlefish tell a mythic history to each other about their rise from the dark of the deep sea (a place filled with predators and absent of light) into the light of the sun. His cuttlefish celebrate their mythic ancestor who absorbed the light of the sun and brought that light into her own body, bringing communication to her people (since cuttlefish communicate with changing patterns of light and colour). Bambury explores this potential within the cuttlefish body for a mythical exploration, connecting the cuttlefish’s ability to change colour to communication and suggesting an ur myth where the cuttlefish first began to communicate by sharing patterns of light with each other. He creates a unique mythological system that comes from environmental and bodily change, a uniquely cuttlefishy desire to understand themselves and their place within their oceanic world. He indicates to readers that religious ideas would express themselves through the body of the practitioner and be shaped by their bodily engagement.

Bambury’s “Chromatophoric Histories of the Sepiidae” invites the reader to divorce themselves from their human-centric perspective of the world and asks us to look at the potential wonders of the deep sea since it is an area, like space, that represents a final frontier that humanity has only explored in part.

To find out more about Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling with Gods, visit Edge’s website at

To read more about James Bambury, visit his website at

Mazes and the Futility of a Controlled Life

A review of James Bambury’s Thirteen Generations (on The Canadian Science Fiction Review)
By Derek Newman-Stille

James Bambury’s Thirteen Generations takes place in a realm of experiment, a lab in which specimens are put into a maze to test their ability to navigate complex locations and solve problems. Each specimen only lasts about an hour and passes on some of its knowledge to the next generation.

The researcher gradually begins hearing disjointed voices from the organisms as they pass from generation to generation, their language becoming more clarified as they gain greater abilities to problem solve complex mazes. Gradually the specimens come to recognise the presence of the researcher, and later generations begin to ask for things. Over time, the organism starts to question its existence and asks the researcher if life is just paths, eating, and signals. It recognises the limits of existence, the simplicity of it and its meaninglessness. When the researcher tells it that its death is coming soon, it, like us, wants to avoid any form of death.  When it discovers that death is not possible to avoid, it becomes despondent, seeing that there is no way that it can avoid or solve death.

As the specimens continue to progress, they begin to question the necessity of their behaviour and what they are doing. Death’s inevitability and the repetitive nature of existence drains them of their motivation.

Speaking to a creator and knowing that life is only a maze, a puzzle for the benefit of another robs existence of its excitement, its changeability and, by making death something inevitable, there is a loss of the speculative – the question that keeps us going. Change is motivational, questions help us to constantly strive, change, and modify the world around us.

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