The Deep: A haunting story about memories

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsReaders who pay attention to the Hugo Award category called “Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” may recall that one of the 2018 finalists for the award was a hip hop song called “The Deep” by the band clipping which is fronted by Grammy- and Tony-Award winner Daveed Diggs who played Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton.

The song, which I recommend listening to, is a tribute to the Detroit duo Drexciya who created a mythology about a race of humans who descended from babies born in the ocean when their pregnant mothers were thrown off slave ships. These babies evolved to live underwater and, while they feel threatened by humans who live on the land, they also recognize them as their ancestors.

Here are the lyrics for clipping’s “The Deep” and here is a great podcast about Afrofuturism in science fiction which features the song.

Rivers Solomon

Rivers Solomon

With the support of clipping, Rivers Solomon has adapted “The Deep” to print form and it’s been nominated for a 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novella.

Solomon focuses less on the climate change aspect of the song and more on the idea of “remember,” a word that’s used 25 times in the 5.5-minute-long song.

Solomon’s hero is Yetu, the historian of her people. She resents this position but it was assigned to her by the previous historian. Her job is to swim around under the Atlantic Ocean, gathering and safekeeping the memories of her people so that they are not burdened with having to keep the tragedies of their race in their own minds.

Once each year, they all meet and Yetu reminds them of their history, making them struggle with it for three days while she gets a much-needed break before taking on the burden again.

clipping

clipping

This year, however, Yetu has had enough. She gives her people the memories and runs away, leaving them to deal with the trauma without her guidance. On her journey, she meets some humans who live on land and breathe air. Are they her enemies or her family? She develops a relationship with one human in particular who can’t understand why Yetu does not embrace her people’s collective memories.

Just like its source material, The Deep is a haunting novella, which feels appropriate for a story about the pain, but also the importance, of remembering traumatic events. Not just personal trauma, but also the painful history of your family or race. It’s also about keeping and eschewing traditions, and it’s about the catharsis and emotional bonding that comes from sharing stories.

The audio version by Simon & Schuster Audio is a treat because it’s narrated by Daveed Diggs who, at the end, explains the connection of this novella to its source material.

Published in 2019. The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society — and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’ rap group Clipping. Yetu holds the memories for her people — water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners — who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one — the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu. Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities — and discovers a world her people left behind long ago. Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past — and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity — and own who they really are. Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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