I'm looking for a horror/science fiction story involving orcas/killer whales. It was written by someone who was either a marine biologist or someone who used to work with cetaceans, and in their author notes they actually interviewed people who used to work with orcas at Seaworld in order to get an idea of what orcas were like.

The plot of the story was that humanity finally cracks the communications barrier between humans and orcas, but to our horror instead of being a peaceloving society who was interested in sharing culture and knowledge between species, the orcas were a barbaric species rules by cruel matriarchs that practiced slavery. Even worse, rather than being horrified at how humans treated orcas in marine parks, the orca matriarchs applauded such behavior to humanity's collective horror, and even worked out an agreement where they sold enslaved baby orcas that they captured as prisoners of war (based on what the author noted is an IRL phenomenon where baby orcas have a tendency to mysteriously disappear and marine biologists don't know why). There was a subplot in the story where a human paid a marine park money in order to shoot a baby orca (who was shown from their point of view to be a child or have the mind of one).

Part of the reason the orca matriarchs did this was that humans had destroyed the populations of marine mammals they depended on for food, and the orcas sold baby orcas in exchange for the humans allowing them to eat those tasty, tasty PETA protesters and similar people. There was a part where members of a PETA-esque group and several New Agers or environmentalists were shipped out to a platform believing they were on an orca-viewing cruise, only for the platform to be dropped into the water and it was strongly implied the orcas ate them all. The overall horror element of the story was the subversion of the expectation that if we ever crack the species communication barrier other animals would be friendly and welcoming, when it could be that by our standards other species hold practices that we consider barbaric and cruel.

I remember this story was online somewhere. However, I can't find this story anywhere. When I look up orcas in horror and science-fiction I either get links to Blackfish or the 1977 horror movie Orca.

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    Roughly when did you read this? Jan 16, 2021 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


This sounds like "Bulk Food", a short story by Peter Watts and Laurie Channer, first published in On Spec in 1999. Watts indeed has a PhD in zoology, and worked at UBC's Marine Mammal Unit. The story is set in a near-future world in which humans have learned to communicate with killer whales, an event called "The Breakthrough".

The problem is that

Well, no one expected the whales to be such assholes... These days it’s kind of hard to rail against the enslavement of orcas when every schoolkid knows that all orca society, Resident or Transient,is based on slavery. Always has been. The matriarchs aren’t kindly nurturing feminist grandmas, they’re eight-ton black-and-white Mommie Dearests with really big teeth.

As the OP noted, this is not a story that is pleasant for PETA-members to read. It is available to read here under a Creative Commons License.

  • The matriarchs aren’t kindly nurturing feminist grandmas, they’re eight-ton black-and-white Mommie Dearests with really big teeth. ... why not both? Jan 16, 2021 at 17:15
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein once offered the opinion that even if we could teach a lion to speak a human language, we still wouldn't be able to understand him -- presumably because his entire worldview would be so different from anything we'd encountered before. Watts and Channer are apparently taking a slightly different view: "We might learn to understand precisely what this large, ruthless predator's thought processes and sociological assumptions were . . . but most of us wouldn't enjoy the experience of learning those things."
    – Lorendiac
    Jan 17, 2021 at 2:19

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