Underwater Dragons in SFF


Lagiacrus, the flagship monster of Monster Hunter 3

Lagiacrus, the flagship monster of Monster Hunter 3, deserves your attention – and not just because this picture is so boss!  For some reason we can all probably relate to, fire breathing dragons hog the press – and maybe that’s fair.  After all, they can deal a devastating amount of damage that destroys entire villages with only a few fly overs.  Case in point: Smaug.  The last installment of the Hobbit movie trilogy epitomized that classic perspective.  In contrast, underwater dragons rarely receive any of our consideration at all.  Why so?  Perhaps it is because underwater adventures are dangerous enough already.  Fighting a shark seems unfair to most of us.  Fighting a dragon just seems … well … gruelingly unfair.  Add to that Lagiacrus’ ability to breathe some sort of electric “flame” and it seems that underwater trips are so unrealistically unjust that we completely toss the idea aside.  Just stay out of the water for heaven’s sake!

As sci-fi authors though, I think we should follow these gamer’s lead a little.  Maybe our imagination can be a little more visionary.  Consider these thoughts: first, shark skin wetsuits will be available in less than a decade.  You can check out my previous blog about the details but for now, consider this: these new suits will offer unparalleled ability to travel through water.  Shark skin naturally propels you forward and it will undoubtedly offer better protection from the underwater environment than anything we’ve seen yet (much heavier and more cumbersome chain mail suits excepted).  Add to that the soon coming underwater, self replenishing breathing apparatus that don’t require a large tank and a tete a tete dragon contest seems at least a little more promising.  Most sci-fi authors limit themselves to underwater diving that looks much like modern scuba diving gear or a submarine-esque vehicle that isn’t particularly fast.  Twenty years ago, that was reasonably visionary.  But as literary agent Sara LaPolla recently tweeted: “The future is now. Sci-Fi is harder.”

So what does that mean for underwater dragons?  It means sci-fi/fantasy authors ought to reconsider their role in fiction.  Instead of envisioning them as invincible unless we use massive torpedoes, we could envision them within a smaller scale combat perspective.  Perhaps there are too many of them to make torpedo attacks viable.  Perhaps that would be cost prohibitive.  Or, perhaps visionary environmentalists would freak out over all the unnecessary damage that might be caused by torpedoes.  Heaven forbid – a rare microbe might become extinct if torpedo usage isn’t banned!  Or, perhaps your characters are in a fantasy (low tech) environment but they developed methods of underwater maneuverability that are similar to what we can now envision.  Whatever your rationale, it seems reasonable to envision underwater dragons as a more viable monster to use in stories with a little more imaginative verve than we’ve exercised in the past.  Or maybe I’m off my rocker.

What do you think?  Are underwater dragons just too far outside of reality or are they viable monsters outside the gaming world?  Seasoned Jedi avoided engagement with a similar monster in Star Wars: the Phantom Menace.  They suggested they wouldn’t have survived (“There’s always a bigger fish.”).  If the Jedi are afraid of combat with a sluggish underwater dinosaur, who would be willing to brave the dangerous waters of underwater dragons?  Iron Man?  Aqua Man (haha)?

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2 Responses

  1. Auralee says:

    🙂 I think underwater dragons offer some really interesting story opportunities, especially if their home was in the water but they could travel out to cause trouble to local villages. Something would need to be done about them and an underwater search and battle for these monsters could bring a lot of interesting dynamics for what these underwater beings are like in and out of the water and the intuition of men to solve the various dilemmas that would arise could take a reader on a trip like no other.

    …or maybe they do only stay in the water but they move their location of where they reside on occasion which leads to an island village unable to travel out anymore to the mainland. This could take the villagers on some wild adventures to underwater caves -underwater dragon lares. Maybe no caves means underwater dragon are less likely to pick up residence (safety procedures that are learned).

    …but I guess this would still be a little old school if you are making it futuristic. The villagers would not be limited to boats, so a different need to encounter these before avoided creatures would need to be arranged… How about underwater real-estate?

  2. Sounds like you’re thinking of Godzilla meets Star Wars – could be very interesting!

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