Thursday, June 21, 2007

Silver Birch, Blood Moon, by eds. Datlow and Windling

This fairy tale collection is the fourth in this series; all stories are modern versions of the tales we grew up with (Disneyfied or not). Many of the authors included within have reached back to lesser-known originals to tell their tale. The editors define this subgenre of fantasy as "tales about mortal men and women in a world invested [or infested, depending on your viewpoint] with magic." They go on to bemoan "the great loss to our mythic, cultural, and literary heritage that we've allowed such tales, passed on for centuries, to be turned into sweet, simplistic pap [or, IMHO, something else that rhymes with it]." Gwen Straus's take on the appeal of ancient tales to modern writers is also quoted (in the introduction): "...each [primary] character is compelled to turn inward. Though each confronts different issues--fear of love, shame, grief, jealousy, lonliness, joy--they have in common a time of solitude. They are enclosed within a private crisis... and are given a choice to change."

All three of the above concepts define the reasons I read (and write about) fiction, and why, when given a choice, I gravitate towards the fastastical and mysterious. Perhaps it is a mental failing on my part, but I seem to need the trigger of stories to work various things out in my head. Yes, I admit to being a freak of nature who retreats to a world of bound and inked paper while many others in the world are content to listen to/watch others yammer about the problem-of-the-week.

[no offense is meant to those who prefer to purge entertain their brain cells with the Big One-Eyed Demon]

It was difficult to choose a small number of favorites, but these are what rose to the top of my list...


--Carabosse (poem by Delia Sherman): Sleeping Beauty is “cursed” with a choice “... a spell that would sort her suitors... for a man that would be her mate, Not her master.” Scandalous.

--Wild Heart (Anne Bishop): Another version of Sleeping Beauty, this time with a different take on what makes a woman whole. “Nothing hobbles a good story as much as the truth.”

Other good stories

--Precious (Nalo Hopkinson): A girl “blessed” with the ability to create jewels and flowers with speech escapes from the inevitable downside. “Sometimes I wonder wheter that old woman wasn’t having a cruel game with both of us.” “I am not your treasure trove, and I will not run anymore, and I shall be nice if and when it pleases me.”

--Sea Hag (Melissa Lee Shaw): Who is the Sea Hag to the mermaids, really?

--Frog Chauffeur (Garry Kilworth): Frog Prince meets the science of genetics.

--Arabian Phoenix (India Edghill): A modern Scheherazade escapes a life under fundamentalism and gets the opportunity to change the future of her country.

--Skin So Green and Fine (Wendy Wheeler): Beauty and the Beast, voudoun version.

--Locks (Neil Gaiman): A poem about a father telling the “Goldilocks” story to/with his daughter.
“...we make our own mistakes...
It is our right. It is our madness and our glory...
We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

The recommended reading list at the back is a very good source for other collections, non-fiction, and fiction inspired by fairy tales, definitely enough to keep the dedicated reader going for a few years [I’ve read 3, and own 10 others].

Next in the series: Black Heart, Ivory Bones

Other Datlow/Windling collaborations:
Salon Fantastique
Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers
The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm
The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest.

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