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An illustration from my fairy tale, The Cobbler Mage, illustrated by Rebekah Pearson. Published by Little Fox Press.

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Fae Visions of the Mediterranean - a Reflection on Mermaids

Posted by Angie on April 27, 2016 at 5:20 AM Comments comments (1)


Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, edited by Valeria Vitale and Djibril al-Ayad and published by The Future Fire  is an anthology centred around the sea myths and folklore of the Mediterranean. Being a first generation Australian and my parents migrating here from the Mediterranean as adults, I was eager to see what the book would read like. Excitedly, I submitted a story, The Return of Melusine. To add to that excitement, my story of mermaids that frequent the lagoons of Venice was accepted.


When people talk about mermaids, our minds often go to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Many don’t know of the mermaids of the Mediterranean – there are those sirens featured in Homer’s The Odyssey, there is a merman in Abdullah The Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman in the Arabian Nights, and the mermaid Partenope in the South of Italy that people leave ricotta cakes for on the shore.


Growing up in a migrant Sicilian household in Sydney, Australia, I was raised on such stories – particularly by my grandmother who was fond of telling tales. They changed each time they were told and sometimes had different endings but the mermaids and monsters were there. The sea was full of them.


We would go to bay in Brighton Le Sands in summer; it is still a popular seaside spot facing the airport and the oil refineries in Sydney and although far away from the Mediterranean, it is populated by migrants who have come from there. As a child I would immerse myself in these waters, a far cry from the Mediterranean, and imagine myself a mermaid. I would blow bubbles in the water and imagine the secret messages reaching the mermaids in caverns.


Years later I identified with mermaids for different reasons. Mermaids are symbolic for me with duality in nature, personal identity and a sense of self. I think a lot of mermaid myths deal with these themes – how much of yourself do you give in relationships? Do you deny an aspect of your authentic self in order for someone to love you? When Melusina tells her lover he is not to interrupt her when she is taking bath, she is claiming some space for her self, to authentically be. These days, when I want solitude and a sense of reclaiming self, I take a soak in the tub. There are a lot of truths in these tales of scale and skin about authenticity and personal space.


I think this is where the fascination with mermaids for us all lie. Their duality, their deep love and desire for others juxtaposed with their desire for space for self and to authentically be.


I am very excited to know that I am in an anthology centred on the sea of my origin:

Fae Visions of the Mediterranean

An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea


2016, Futurefire.net Publishing

Edited by: Valeria Vitale and Djibril al-Ayad

Stories and Poems by: Jenny Blackford, S. Chakraborty, Rhys Hughes, Claude Lalumière, Adam Lowe, Christine Lucas, Kalina Aïch, Vladimira Becić, Kelda Crich, Álvaro Mielgo Gallego, Maria Grech Ganado, Lyndsay E. Gilbert, Hella Grichi, Louise Herring-Jones, Simon Kearns, Mari Ness, Mattia Ravasi, Angela Rega, Urša Vidic and Dawn Vogel

Translators: Arrate Hidalgo, Dunja Ševerdija

Cover art by: Tostoini

comes out on May 2nd, 2016. http://press.futurefire.net/p/fae-visions.html

 

The Winners of the Aurealis Awards 2015

Posted by Angie on March 28, 2016 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

It was with much regret that I missed out on attending the Aurealis Awards over the Easter weekend and missed out on the festivities that surround this celebration of Australian speculative fiction. Here is the list of winners taken from the Aurealis Awards website. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. What a wondrous line up!

Yip! Yip!


BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia) 

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL / ILLUSTRATED WORK

The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press) 

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)

BEST HORROR NOVELLA

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press) 

BEST FANTASY NOVELLA

“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press) 

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA

“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)

BEST COLLECTION

To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications) 

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)

SARA DOUGLASS BOOK SERIES AWARD

The Watergivers [The Last Stormlord (2009), Stormlord Rising (2010), Stormlord’s Exile (2011)], Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

THE CONVENORS’ AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE

Letters to Tiptree, Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)

Strange Little Girls

Posted by Angie on February 23, 2016 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Strange Little Girls are made of sugar and spice, and something not quite as nice...

The strange little girls are orphans and changelings, suburban princesses, housewives, nuns and monsters. They are quirky and sweet, terrifying and heartbreaking. All of them a little lost, brimming with their own uniqueness.

In this strange little book of nineteen tales, Lotte goes swimming with her new fishy friends, Rin is freshly dug up, D'arcy strikes a bargain with the midnight mailman and Adelaide enters the mysterious House of Infinite Diversions. Our girls must fasten their bonnets and straighten their skirts to battle otherworldly dangers and challenging circumstances, internal struggles and doubts – and maybe find out who they really are.


Edited by Camilla Bruce and Liv Lingborn.

Table of Contents:

Fairy Tale Ending by Terra LeMay

Deep Down by Tim Jeffreys

The Cottage of Curiosities by Annie Neugebauer

Black Flower Butterfly by Rich Hawkins

Beehive Heart by Angela Rega

Annabelle’s Sleepover by Jan Stinchcomb

Bones in Boxes by Frances Pauli

Marco Polo by Calypso Kane

Teeth Bite Harder in the Dark by Sierra July

Sisters in the Art of Dying by Megan Neumann

The Empty Birdcage by L. Lark

Cedar Lake by Ekaterina Sedia

Pinhole by Tantra Bensko

From Strangers by Ephiny Gale

D’arcy Gray and the Midnight Mailman by Ian MacAllister-McDonald

Pretty Jennie Greenteeth by Leife Shallcross

Where Summer Ends by Colette Aburime

We Have Always Lived in the Subdivision by Karen Munro

House of Infinite Diversions by Aliya Whiteley


I'm really excited to have a story included in this anthology and  to be ToC buddies with the lovely Leife Shallcross!

You can buy a print or ebook copy here!

 


Star Quake 3 - SQ Mag's Best of....has arrived!

Posted by Angie on February 23, 2016 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Look what arrived in the post! So excited to be part of this anthology! Featuring stories by writers including Ken Liu, Alan Baxter, Kaaron Warren, Sean Williams and Michelle Jager and edited by Sophie Yorkston - this is a lovely tome of tales!

You can order your copy at https://ifwgpublishing.com/stores/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://ifwgpublishing.com/stores/






Go! Read!

Posted by Angie on February 22, 2016 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

My lyrically talented and beautiful friend, Queen of the Dominion "Lime Marmalade" and a sister of the Travelling Maxi Dress, Suzanne J. Willis has a story you must read at the gorgeous Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

You can read the exquisite Sundark and Winterling here!

Now GO! Read!



Aurealis Awards Finalists 2015 Announced!

Posted by Angie on February 17, 2016 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (0)


The 2015 Aurealis Awards finalists were announced today. So many wondrous writers and publishers on that list! A special shout out of cheers and hooplahs to the amazing Suzanne J. Willis, Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannet and D.K. Mok!

The full list is here:

BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

A Week Without Tuesday, Angelica Banks (Allen & Unwin)

The Cut-Out, Jack Heath (Allen & Unwin)

A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia)

Bella and the Wandering House, Meg McKinlay (Fremantle Press)

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk, A.L. Tait (Hachette Australia)

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL / ILLUSTRATED WORK

The Undertaker Morton Stone Vol.1, Gary Chaloner, Ben Templesmith, and Ashley Wood (Gestalt)

The Diemenois, Jamie Clennett (Hunter Publishers)

Unmasked Vol.1: Going Straight is No Way to Die, Christian Read (Gestalt)

The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)

Fly the Colour Fantastica, various authors (Veriko Operative)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“In Sheep’s Clothing”, Kimberly Gaal (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61)

“The Nexus Tree”, Kimberly Gaal (The Never Never Land, CSFG)

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“The Heart of the Labyrinth”, DK Mok (In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett, Sorin Suciu)

“Blueblood”, Faith Mudge (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)

Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward (Seizure)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)

“Consorting with Filth”, Lisa L Hannett (Blurring the Line, Cohesion Press)

“Heirloom Pieces”, Lisa L Hannett (Apex Magazine, Apex Publications)

“The Briskwater Mare”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Breaking Windows”, Tracie McBride (Aurealis #84)

“Self, Contained”, Kirstyn McDermott (The Dark, TDM Press)

BEST HORROR NOVELLA

“Night Shift”, Dirk Flinthart (Striking Fire, FableCroft Publishing)

“The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Wages of Honey”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Sleepless”, Jay Kristoff (Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, Penguin)

“Ripper”, Angela Slatter (Horrorology, Jo Fletcher Books)

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press)

“The Jellyfish Collector”, Michelle Goldsmith (Review of Australian Fiction Vol. 13 Issue 6)

“A Shot of Salt Water”, Lisa L Hannett (The Dark, TDM Press)

“Almost Days”, DK Mok (Insert Title Here, FableCroft Publishing)

“Blueblood”, Faith Mudge (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)

“Husk and Sheaf”, Suzanne Willis (SQ Mag 22, IFWG Publishing Australia)

BEST FANTASY NOVELLA

“Lodloc and The Bear”, Steve Cameron (Dimension6, coeur de lion)

“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press)

“Broken Glass”, Stephanie Gunn (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)

“The Flowers that Bloom Where Blood Touches the Earth”, Stephanie Gunn (Bloodlines, Ticonderoga Publications)

“Haunting Matilda”, Dmetri Kakmi (Cthulhu: Deep Down Under, Horror Australis)

“Of Sorrow and Such”, Angela Slatter (Tor.com)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“2B”, Joanne Anderton (Insert Title Here, Fablecroft)

“The Marriage of the Corn King”, Claire McKenna (Cosmos)

“Alchemy and Ice”, Charlotte Nash (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61)

“Witnessing”, Kaaron Warren (The Canary Press Story Magazine #6)

“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA

“Blood and Ink”, Jack Bridges, Prizm Books

“The Molenstraat Music Festival”, Sean Monaghan (Asimov’s Science Fiction)

“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)

BEST COLLECTION

The Abandonment of Grace and Everything After, Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Brimstone Press)

Striking Fire, Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)

Cherry Crow Children, Deborah Kalin (Twelfth Planet Press)

To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Fading, Carole Nomarhas (self-published)

The Finest Ass in the Universe, Anna Tambour (Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

Hear Me Roar, Liz Grzyb (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Meeting Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (ed.), (Solaris)

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 9, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Solaris)

Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction, Tehani Wessely (ed.) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman (HarperCollins)

The Fire Sermon, Francesca Haig (HarperVoyager)

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)

The Hush, Skye Melki-Wagner (Penguin Random House Australia)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

No Shortlist Released

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman (HarperCollins)

Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)

The Dagger’s Path, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)

Tower Of Thorns, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Skin, Ilka Tampke (Text Publishing)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Crossed, Evelyn Blackwell (self-published)

Clade, James Bradley (Penguin)

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)

Their Fractured Light, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Renegade, Joel Shepherd (Kindle Direct)

Twinmaker: Fall, Sean Williams (Allen & Unwin)

SARA DOUGLASS BOOK SERIES AWARD

The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin [The King’s Bastard (2010), The Uncrowned King (2010), The Usurper (2010), The King’s Man (2012), King Breaker (2013)], Rowena Cory Daniells (Solaris Press)

The Watergivers [The Last Stormlord (2009), Stormlord Rising (2010), Stormlord’s Exile (2011)], Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

The Lumatere Chronicles [Finnikin of the Rock (2008), Froi of the Exiles (2011), Quintana of Charyn (2012)], Melina Marchetta (Penguin Random House)

Sevenwaters [Daughter of the Forest (2000), Son of the Shadows (2001), Child of the Prophecy (2002), Heir to Sevenwaters (2009), Seer of Sevenwaters (2011), Flame of Sevenwaters (2013)], Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The Laws of Magic [Blaze Of Glory (2007), Heart Of Gold (2007), Word Of Honour (2008), Time Of Trial (2009), Moment Of Truth (2010), Hour Of Need (2011)], Michael Pryor (Random House Australia)

Creature Court [Power and Majesty (2010), Shattered City (2011), Reign of Beasts (2012)], Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)


Fairy Tale Friday - Reflection

Posted by Angie on November 26, 2015 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)




Just as there were twelve dancing princesses and twelve fairies invited to Sleeping Beauty's christening, there were twelve wondrous women writers join the discussion on fairy tales and writing for my blog series, "Fairy Tale Friday."

 Angela Slatter, C.S.E. Cooney, Erzebet Barthold, Kate Forsyth, Kathleen Jennings, Kirstyn McDermott, Leife Shallcross, Elizabeth Carroll, Margo Lanagan, Mary Burroughs, Natalia Theodoriou and Suzanne J. Willis participated in this series answering those elusive questions of what it is that makes a fairy tale and how  tales can be used as scaffolds or bring resonance to original works.

Same bones but gnawed in oh so many different ways! Each week I was intrigued with how each of these writers used the skeletons or old bones of these tales and fleshed them into new stories.

This series of interviews has made me more reflective about my own workings with fairy tales and more importantly, what is it about these old tales I love so much. I think that my passion for fairy tales comes from the fact that in these stories magic just exists. It is there, without commentary or explanation. In  the originals tales and in particular, the Sicilian ones I grew up with - magic without explanation exists,  just as darkness and evil does, and  the  downtrodden can and will succeed with smarts and perseverance.

You can slay a dragon if you like or be bold enough to invite her in for afternoon tea and compare scales.

Empowering stuff.

And so like the party ends at midnight, I'm going to stop for now at twelve. It's midnight and before I turn into pumpkin soup, I'm going to bed to prepare for another day of reading fairy tales with  my hesitant teen readers and then writing more in the hours in between,  inspired by all these fellow lovers and writers of fairy tales that appeared in this Fairy Tale Friday series! 



 

 

 

Fairy Tale Friday - C.S.E Cooney

Posted by Angie on November 19, 2015 at 6:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday - C.S.E. Cooney


C. S. E. Cooney (csecooney.com[email protected]) is the author of my most favourite collection ever,  Bone Swans: Stories (Mythic Delirium 2015), The Breaker Queen, The Two Paupers, and Jack o’ the Hills. She is an audiobook narrator for Tantor Media and the singer/songwriter for Brimstone Rhine. She is a Rhysling Award-winning poet, and her short fiction can be found in Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Apex, GigaNotoSaurus, Clockwork Phoenix 3, The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, and elsewhere. She joins us this week for Fairy Tale Friday.


 The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?


First of all, my first reaction to the phrase “fairy tales” is that, in my mind at least, they rarely feature fairies. Witches, devils, death. Sometimes fairies. But rarely.

To me, whatever “fairy tale” conjures harkens back to something much older than the 19th century. To me a fairy tale is a sort of augury of bones. Only instead of throwing old, dried bones to designate a direction, resolve a conundrum, or interpret a pattern, it’s old, dried words. But the words were once a living story, breathed out in oral storytelling and passed on through generations. And something in their dry old rattling wakes the mind to possibility.


 Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?


I think it’s important, in a retelling, that the tale is—at some point at least—recognizable. I think that’s where the pleasure comes from, the comfort of the familiar and the discomfort of the strange. I think that’s what is compelling. You think you know something so well, like a best friend or a favourite blankie, and then your friend turns her face one way and she’s a changeling thing of twigs and leaves and dappled light, or you flip the blanket over and it’s a map of all the rivers in the world. Perhaps it is both our trust in the familiar and the new potential for betrayal or revelation that make us read on.


Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?


Scaffolding, in the same way a skeleton is scaffolding for the flesh. (Keeping with the BONE METAPHOR above!) I guess, when you can see the skeleton of a thing, you can clothe it in any flavour of flesh you desire, then dress it up in whatever costume most pleases you, and send it off into the woods, or desert, or queendoms-under-seas. But the bones themselves will determine some of the features of the story. Those features will be familiar, and therefore beloved. That frisson of recognition. What my friend Karen Meisner once called “the fairy tale feeling.”


Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?


I have worked at length with Grimms’ THE JUNIPER TREE, both in my novella “The Bone Swans of Amandale"—which is a retelling, sort of, mostly, in a way, of The Pied Piper. But it uses the Juniper tree, with its ghost child, its transformational death magic, its gift-giving, its slaughter of innocents, rather mercilessly. In another novella (shh, it’s an EROTIC FAIRY TALE!!! Don’t tell anyone! Also, it’s kind of like horror, because there’s CANNIBALISM and DEMON POSSESSION! But... not really during the erotic parts) called “The Witch in the Almond Tree.” The same tale of The Juniper Tree is woven into the narrative as part of the history of the place. Actually, it’s the same place as Bone Swans—Amandale—although way earlier in the city’s timeline, when it’s still a one-horse town.

I’ve also re-conceived (and published) the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin in a novella called “How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One,” which has been collected in my book Bone Swans: Stories. This came out of a discussion—and a desire—for characters who were not classically beautiful, but could still, you know, have adventures and romance and thoughtful interactions and moments of terror, just like the golden boys and girls of genre. I also like twisting a villain’s narrative a bit, or flipping the coin and tagging a new villain in an old tale. Where does that leave the old villain? Room to grow.


If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

Baba Yaga (oh she’d just be FUNNY, you know???). The ghost from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Traveling Companion (he seemed gentle and wise and well-traveled). Aaaaaaand, let’s see… Morgiana from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Because, besides Scheherazade herself, she’s the badassiest, smartest, cleverest, WONDERFULEST gal on the fairy tale block. Do the 1001 Arabian Nights count as fairy tales? I count them.

 

 

 

 

Fairy Tale Friday - Kirstyn McDermott

Posted by Angie on November 12, 2015 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday - Kirstyn McDermott



This week's Fairy Tale Friday writer is Kirstyn McDermott. Kirstyn has been working in the darker alleyways of speculative fiction for much of her career and her two novels, Madigan Mine and Perfections, have each won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel. Her most recent book is Caution: Contains Small Parts, a collection of short fiction published by Twelfth Planet Press. When not wearing her writing hat, she produces and co-hosts a literary discussion podcast, The Writer and the Critic, which generally keeps her out of trouble. After many years based in Melbourne, Kirstyn now lives in Ballarat and is pursuing a creative PhD at Federation University. She can be found online (usually far too often) at www.kirstynmcdermott.com



The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?


For me, a fairy tale is a story set at some time in our own world but glossed with a kind of magic or otherworldliness that is, almost without exception, taken as a given by those who encounter it. They are small, intimate stories about individuals and the unique trials, problems and choices that confront them – and they are also, very assuredly, about consequences. It’s the latter, I think, that attracts me most these days. There are always consequences, for someone, even when the tale has a “happy” ending – and, of course, the nature of that happiness, lasting or otherwise, is itself often highly questionable! There is also a delicious logic to the magic that permeates fairy tales, though it is seldom explained in such prosaic terms, and to the consequences of abusing or mocking such power. Fairy tale magic makes sense – not necessarily to our heads but always to our hearts.



Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?


This does largely depend on the stories I’m working with and my reason for re-imagining them. And there has to be a reason. As either writer or reader, I find simple blow-by-blow retellings – what Jack Zipes refers to as “duplicates” – to be somewhat pointless. (I feel much the same about unimaginative remakes of classic or blockbuster films, but that’s another debate altogether.) If you’re going to take a story that is very familiar and use it as the basis for something new, you must have something new to say about it. Maybe you’re reconfiguring gender (as Angela Carter does) or sexuality (like Emma Donoghue); maybe you’re updating the setting and characters to illustrate the continued relevance (or otherwise) of a particular tale to readers today; maybe you’re simply asking, “What if this is what really happened?” Personally, I love reading fairy tales in contemporary settings. There is a sharpness and immediacy to such stories, unprotected by the safe distance of “once upon a time”. One of my absolute favourites of this subgenre is “The Forest” by Kim Wilkins, a “Hansel and Gretel” tale set in a low-income housing estate. It’s dark and magical and brutally honest.



Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?


To tell the truth, my relationship with fairy tales is an ambivalent one. While they were among my favourite childhood stories, I drifted away from all those self-sacrificing maidens and put-upon princesses as I grew older. Until I started my PhD last year, I had never consciously retold a fairy tale – though I’d read and enjoyed so many retellings over the years. But our first loves never quite relinquish their grip on our psyches and I've come to recognise many of the dynamics, motifs and themes of fairy tales operating in my creative work, albeit at several removes. My novel "Perfections", for example, is a story of two sisters, an ill-thought wish and the most terrible of sacrifices, and it was a project with which I struggled throughout the entire creative process. It took me far too long to realise that I was, in essence, writing a contemporary fairy tale in guise of a horror story (and even longer to accept that this was something I wanted to write). So, until now, fairy tales have operated solely as symbols and touchstones in my own work.

With the novelette suite I’m currently writing for my PhD, however, I’m explicitly taking very well-known fairy tales and creating the stories that come afterwards. They all take place after the original fairy ends, at some later point in the lives of the fairy tale girls – my Red Riding Hood story opens the same night of the events of the traditional tale, for example, whereas my Hansel and Gretel are in their sixties. So here the fairy tales are most definitely both foundation and scaffold. I’m careful not to change too much of the bare bones that everyone knows – although there are usually multiple versions of any one tale, often in beautiful conflict with one another – but I do get read between the lines and offer my own interpretations of what might really have been going on, as well as building a brand new story on top of it all. It’s been so much fun, revisiting these tales in such depth and reading widely around them. I’ve even been trying to re-collect a lot of the Little Golden Book versions that I had as a child. It’s startling what memories are evoked simply by seeing those familiar illustrations again!



Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?


My favourite to work with so far has been “Hansel and Gretel”. I quite honestly forgot how much I adored this tale as a child, and how equally disturbed I was by it, until I began work on my own version. (And my Little Golden Book is awful in how it goes out of its way to absolve the father and demonise the step-mother. But the father wears pink pants, so there’s that!) My elderly Gretel runs a confectionary store, though she can no longer eat sweet foods, and poor Hansel still suffers from having being imprisoned by the witch as a child. I wanted to talk about cycles of violence and oppression, family dysfunction and the long-reaching effects of trauma, and “Hansel and Gretel” seemed perfect source material. Because, really, how could the end of that tale be truly a “happy” one when you consider what happened to those children – at the hands of their own parents no less! In the end, I found myself also writing about the nature of narrative itself, the consequences of telling ourselves the same tales over and over again, and the necessity of freeing ourselves to rewrite our own stories. The novelette that came out of this process is called “Burnt Sugar” and will be published next year in "Dreaming in the Dark", edited by Jack Dann – which, just quietly, is going to be an amazing book!



If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?


I would invite the Witch from “Hansel and Gretel” – she can bring the dessert! mmm, gingerbread! – the Queen from “Snow White” and Mother Gothel from “Rapunzel”. They all feature in tales that I’m working on for my PhD and I’d love to hear their sides of those stories. Women who are old(er) and powerful are much maligned in many traditional fairy-tale cycles, but I imagine that none of them think of themselves as “wicked” or “evil”, and all of them have forged their own unique paths in a hostile world. It would make for fascinating dinner conversation!

 

 


Fairy Tale Friday - Erzebet Barthold

Posted by Angie on November 5, 2015 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday -  Erzebet Barthold




This week's writer for Fairy Tale Friday is Erzebet Barthold. She  is an author, a publisher, and a book artist & binder. Her written work has been published by Prime Books, Lethe Press, Masque Books, Tor Books, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine and more. Most of these were written under her previous name, Erzebet YellowBoy. She is the founder of Papaveria Press, a micropress devoted to fairy tales and fantasy, and the long-time editor of Cabinet des Fées, an online journal of fairy tales. Her current hobby is trying to replicate Baba Yaga's hut in the back garden. Visit her website at www.erzebetbarthold.com.


The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?

I've written about this before in a not-a-review of Alice Hoffman's Green Heart (two novels combined: Green Angel and Green Witch), which I think is one of the most lovely fairy tales of our time. I suggested that what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale has to do with the way in which it is read and absorbed, by the way in which it transports the reader through a specifically mythic landscape (any landscape, yours or mine), and by the way it opens and concludes. The key to the fairy tale is magic. This kind of magic is the kind that does not need human intervention to move it. Rather, it moves us. It is a serendipitous magic, the magic of the happy accident, which isn’t an accident at all but more of a synchronicity. And of course there is the tradition opening: Once upon a time. Once upon is not our time, it is a time “beyond the fields we know,” and even if the story itself is actually taking place in our time, that time has been separated from ours in that it becomes, through the agency of “once upon,” a time that lies sideways to our own. There can be deep woods, or there can be skyscrapers, or both, but the entrance to the fairy tale is found right there in the beginning, when we are transported into the landscape of a time that is not our time. It is, in fact, timeless, as are fairy tales themselves.



 Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

It is unique to the characters in each story. Some of them have been quite happy to live in their old dusty castles, while others want to shop in boutiques on the high street and still others want to go to school. I'm working on something right now set in yet another stereotypical medieval village, English of course, because that's where the main character lives, though in this work, rather than the character living in a fairy tale, the fairy tales are coming to her.



 Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

I want to say scaffolds, but it really is all three and most of the time, however they end up acting is unintentional. I aim for the scaffolding, I should say, but fairy tales have lives of their own and can't be controlled. My preferred method of writing is to let the bones speak for themselves.



 Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

I love the symbolism of "Snow White", the apples, the mirror, the comb, the colors, all of it. When I wrote "The Mirror Tells All" (Once Upon A Time: New Fairy Tales, 2013) I wanted to explore what the story could be if the rivalry between the queen and Snow was removed. The symbols are still there, the mirror, the apple, the comb, but the tale itself was reimagined. I'm really tired of the story of women being pitted aginst each other in general, and of this competition between a mother and daughter in particular. There are plenty of things that can go wrong between a mother and a daughter that do not involve either one's appearance or age. "The Mirror Tells All" is built on the skeleton of "Snow White", but it is a story about a daughter's resilience in the face of maternal neglect rather than of maternal competition.



 If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

I would love to sit down and share a cackle or two with Mother Hulda, Baba Yaga, and Frau Trude. I don't believe these characters are misrepresented; they are simply being true to their natures. We would trade spells and recipes, and tell stories by firelight. The question is, would I survive the meal?

 

 



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