Review: “The Nebraskan and the Nereid” by Gene Wolfe

3 of 5 stars.

Folklore and reality cross paths in this short tale. A folklore professor, Dr. Cooper, from The University of Nebraska has gone to the Greek Saronic Coast to determine the shift in folklore from a wide variety of nymphs to that of mainly nereids in the ancient and post-ancient past. Then he spots a young, pretty woman in the water who disappears under the waves.

Dr. Thoe Papamarkos, a female professor of archaeology from the University of Athens helps Dr. Cooper with local lore, but shows up right after the nereid has disappeared. She assures him it is locals having fun with him.

The tale is enjoyable but does not delve very deep, like the folklore-come-to-life scenario of “Rusalka”. Multiple run-ins with the potential nereid and with locals never happen simultaneously. The plot thickens when a maid at the inn disappears and the professor has a brief double-round tryst with the nereid[?] in the dark. Like the story, the scene is rather abrupt and the mystery of the situation remains.

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “The Nebraskan and the Nereid” first appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, December 1985.

[Check out my other reviews here.]

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