Do Mermaids Cry?

Robert Parker’s errors in APPALOOSA reminded me that a few weeks ago, my 10-year-old daughter Madison spotted a logic flaw in RL Stine’s book DEEP TROUBLE. In the scene, a mermaid is held captive in an aquarium full of water. RL Stine wrote:

The mermaid cooed. Then I saw her wipe away the tears that had begun to run down her face. She’s crying again, I thought, feeling guilty and miserable. She’s pleading with me. I put my face against the glass, as close to hers as I could get it…

"She’s underwater," Madison said. "How can he see tears running down her cheek?" That’s a darn good question, I replied. You’re very observant. You ought to be a detective.

I suggested that she write to RL Stine and ask him the question. She did. So far, he hasn’t replied.

11 thoughts on “Do Mermaids Cry?”

  1. Well, if he answers he has two options, really. 1) He can be honest and admit that the logic (or lack there of) behind mermaid tears never even crossed his mind, or 2) he can cop out and say mermaids have “magical” tears.
    When you become a series pumping machine like Stine, I imagine fact checking goes the way of original plotlines after a while.
    Sort of unrelated, but I’ve always wondered if editors sometimes become lax in proofing the books of well-known authors.

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  2. It would have been so much more evocative to just say he saw the mermaid wiping her eyes and realized she was crying but that he couldn’t see the tears, with maybe a question in the narrator’s mind about whether mermaid’s tears were saltier or something like that.

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  3. Technically, it was a logic flaw. But it never would have bothered this reader in a million years.
    Different stokes and all that jazz, I guess.

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  4. While I agree that Stine was probably attempting a writer’s version of slight of hand–slight of word?–hoping that the emotional impact of the moment would keep the reader from noticing the logic flaw, if the aquarium was filled with fresh water–are there freshwater and saltwater mermaids?–since salt water is more dense than fresh water, it’s theoretically possible that, under ideal conditions, saltwater tears could run down her face.
    But yeah, my money’s on the other thing.

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  5. Mermaid tears are thicker than water. It’s a rare substance, and sometimes can be found floating on the water or on the beach.

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  6. Thrillerfest Day Two

    Today my daughter Madison went to the conference with me — she wanted to see R.L. Stine. We went to an amusing panel with Lee Child, Michael Palmer and Alex Kava called Thriller Writers Who Write Thrilling Stuff or something

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  7. Hey maybe this, since it involves mermaids it’s make believe, therefore there probably isn’t much logic to it to begin with. It’s a story. And because the kid in the beginning was forced to use her mind to discover that the mermaid’s tear wouldn’t show underwater, then the story is doing it’s job, to help kids think independently. If Stine didn’t write the book, then the kid was watching TV instead, this entire post wouldn’t exist.

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  8. Mermaid tears are magical and do not mix with any water at all, salty or otherwise.
    To collect a mermaid tear is very special indeed, and not an easy task.

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