Friday, March 29, 2013

Assume More Stories to Tell

Princess with a Spindle by Hanna Hirsch-Pauli 

A recent post at Belle Jar, Fifteen Assumptions That Might Be Useful To Make, has been making rounds on the web and for some reason, I clicked through and read it. And I was glad I did for the list is lovely and holds many truisms about life but what made it stand out to me, was the unexpected #13:

13. Assume that there will always be more stories to tell, or at the very least new ways of reinterpreting old fables.

Of course, I would say "fairy tales" instead of "fables" or more appropriately "folk tales" but that sounds less romantic for a list like this.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who creates and reads and shares the tales.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bargain Picture Book: Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Gennady Spirin

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Gennady Spirin is a bargain priced hardcover picture book. Usually $17.99, it is currently $5.00 on Amazon. I didn't have this one myself, only Spirin's The Tale of The Firebird, which is gorgeous.

Book description:

Gennady Spirin has taken a favorite childhood tale and imbued it with charm, dressing his bears in Renaissance costumes and providing whimsical and charming furniture designed for their country dwelling. Each spread—painted in watercolor, pen, and ink—brings renewed life to this endearing children’s classic in a way that only a master illustrator can. No wonder Goldilocks want to sample the bears’ porridge, sit on their chairs, and rest on their beds!

Women, Folklore, and History

March and thus Women's History Month is almost over and I failed to highlight the many older posts I have to celebrate Women, Folklore, and History. One of the draws of folklore for me has been its appeal to both genders. These days fairy tales are often stereotyped into either facile children's literature or escapist women's romance (or in March, underdog basketball teams).

We here know that those may be facets to some interpretations of the lore, but they only scratch the surface. And over the years as I have delved more into the history of the tales from their creation to their collecting, I appreciate how much folklore has provided a voice and outlet for women, especially when they had less of one, in centuries past. After all, one of the major and most influential periods of fairy tale history comes from the French salons where so many women wrote fairy tales of their own, coining the term "Contes de fées" or "fairy tales" for us.

But even more recently, while collectors and writers like the Grimms, Jacobs and Lang dominated the field's headlines, many women are responsible for the lesser known collections, the books where I find many of the more obscure versions of tales. They were scholars and devoted to the field, building it up with more offerings and comparisons.

The above book is the highly recommended Women and Tradition: A Neglected Group of Folklorists edited by Carmen Blacker and Hilda Ellis Davidson. It discusses some of those women and their contributions to the field.

The traffic and readership on this blog has increased quite a bit since March 2010 so I wanted to point new readers to my Women in Folklore month of posts from that time when I shared daily posts on the subject for Women's History Month. You'll have to page through the month backward though that link but since the posts were not very chronological, but mostly freestanding, it doesn't matter much.

Bargain Ebook: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore is bargain priced at $1.59 in ebook format ($8.54 in paperback). It is not a fairy tale retelling, but has been recommended by several fairy tale fans, so I thought I would share here. Not much of a risk at $1.59 and the reader reviews are strong, too. Dolamore also wrote a novel about sirens, Between the Sea and Sky, which is perhaps what got her on many fairy tale readers' radar.

Book description:

Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.Look out for the follow-up to this book, Magic Under Stone, out next year!

The sequel, Magic Under Stone (Magic Under Glass), was released last year and remains $9.99 for ebook and $11.55 for hardcover.

Book description:

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form that entraps him. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordoria Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. But Valdana has mysteriously vanished, and it's not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands-and begins to study the sorcerer's spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will mean returning him to the fairy capital. But with a new ruling family in power, Erris's return will bring danger, if not out-and-out war as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent Erris from regaining the throne. Only Nimira, with her fledgling grasp of sorcery can help, but saving the man she loves could prove doom for the fairie world and beyond.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Book: The Witch's Curse by Keith McGowan


The Witch's Curse (Christy Ottaviano Books) by Keith McGowan is the sequel to The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children. It was released last week. The reviews for this one appear to be stronger than those for the first one, too.

I admit, this one didn't interest me as much--I am rather ruined on Hansel and Gretel's witch after Donna Jo Napoli's brilliant The Magic Circle. Really, if you haven't read that one, sit down for a few hours and do so. It's short, dark, and super brilliant. I'm shocked at how much I adore that book. I eschew dark fiction beyond my fairy tale life but sometimes fairy tales deliver horror so well that my preferences are forgotten and I am engrossed. And it's published for kids although I have always been a little squeamish at its recommended age level actually depending on a child's sophistication.

But then I saw this line in the Booklist review for The Witch's Curse: "McGowan here creatively interweaves aspects of Grimms’ Brother and Sister, blending classic fairy-tale and contemporary elements, magic, suspense, and vibrant, diversely drawn kid protagonists into another edgy, absorbing read."

Brother and Sister! Or Little Brother and Little Sister! I don't discuss it much here, but I adore Brother and Sister. I even annotated it on SurLaLune where it is one of the least visited tales. I had to present it in my Bettelheim course in college and it was serendipitous to say the least. I wasn't as familiar with it then--although I am now--and it's been entertaining over the years to see where the tale has been blended with Hansel and Gretel so I find McGowan's concept of his sequel using the tale just brilliant. I haven't read either of his books, but this choice gets them higher on my TBR radar.

A shadowy witch and a cursed hunter--it's tricky business for Sol and Connie as they face this awful pair. The brother and sister have a long, dangerous hike through the accursed valley, they're running out of food and water, and the old stone lodge they discover with a collection of animals inside means big trouble. Can anyone save them? A heroic woodthrush? The All Creatures Manager? The Camper Lady? The Know-It-All Cube? Or will they have to save themselves? Sol and Connie--the brother and sister who were almost EATEN in The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children--are back, and this time things are looking even worse, because a centuries-old hunter is waking up . . . thanks to the witch's curse.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sci Fi Sleeping Beauty: A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan also qualifies for today's science fiction fairy tales list. It's also dystopian which is why I perhaps forgot to add it on my earlier list today. This one draws inspiration from Sleeping Beauty.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.

Science Fiction Fairy Tales from SurLaLune

Back in the fall, John was doodling around with some fairy tale illustrations with science fiction twists for the fun of it after we had a lengthy discussion one day about which genres have few fairy tale inspired retellings. My list of science fiction retellings was slim, I could only think of a handful. I'll do a post of those separately today.

But for now I wanted to share the first three--and I don't know if there will be more since John is rather da Vinci like in his creative projects--flittering from one to another as the mood captures him. From computer illustration to painting to sculpting, he does it all and goes where his muses lead him at times. There are others in draft, but these are the completed ones. But we can hope since we have a really adorable version of seven dwarf robots in draft.

John wanted to instill the flavor of the old pulp science fiction paperback covers from the 80s and earlier, but with the modern feel of computer illustration. These make me want to write the stories to go with them, what about you?

I have added these to the SurLaLune CafePress store. They are also available as posters on Zazzle where John was happier with the poster printing options. Which illustration is your favorite?

This is the one we struggled with the most between John's vision and my own. She started out as Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty with a different color scheme and a slightly different backstory in our minds. But the glass coffin is obviously Snow White and once I showed John some classic illustrations such as here and here, he agreed, changed the color scheme, and Snow White entered the stasis chamber.

At first she was riding away, but then we turned LRRH back, riding directly into danger in the forest. Much better, yes?

Science Fiction Retellings of Fairy Tales

I mentioned in my earlier post today that I would write a post about science fiction genre retellings of fairy tales. And it's a short post. I'm sure I have to be missing a few, but here is my short list. I am an admitted science fiction fan, although I am also picky and tend to lean towards space opera more than "pure" science fiction.

"Beauty" by Tanith Lee, which appears in Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, is my favorite science fiction retelling of a fairy tale. It is also one of my favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings, period. A must read for Beauty and the Beast fans.

On to more:

Once Upon a Galaxy is a short story collection of science fiction retellings, some more successful than others. It is out of print, unfortunately. these original new stories by today's masters of science fiction and fantasy. Two time-tested genres test the limits of "happily ever after" when beloved tales like "Goldilocks" and "Sleeping Beauty" are given an outer-space spin.

Once Upon a Galaxy edited by Josepha Sherman isn't really a collection of science fiction retellings, but it offers tales as inspiration for well-known science fiction.

Science fiction is all around us. Fantasy fiction is just as well known in today's world of entertainment. But what few readers of science fiction and fantasy realize is that these stories of wizards and star ships have much older roots in the world of folklore. Cultures throughout the world share common references to heroes who must fulfill great quests featuring wise old men, magic potions that can save a life or clever adventurers who outwit their foolish enemies. This book has collected the original stories that served as the inspiration behind Star Trek, Superman, Star Wars, and even Bugs Bunny.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) and Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Mayer were perhaps the first  titles you thought of, since they are the most recent and ongoing science fiction retellings of fairy tales.

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
The next two are inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk. Both are out of print.

Jumping Off the Planet by David Gerrold

A trip to the Moon? Sounds like the perfect family vacation. Only for 13-year-old Charles "Chigger" Dingillian his family is anything but perfect. His parents fight so much they put the 'dis' into dysfunctional. So when he and his brothers find themselves halfway to the Moon Chigger hits on a plan: if his parents can't find a way to work things out, why not just divorce them? Sound crazy? Until it works. Charles and his brothers are on their own. But their bid for freedom hits a roadblock when Chigger suspects they are targets of an interstellar manhunt. What do these Big Corporations want? And why? Their only hope is to jump off the planet...

Beanstalk by John Rackham

Behind every folktale there is a true story and behind every legend a lost fact of history, distorted by word of mouth of people who did not understand what was really happening. In the case of the infiltration of the highly strategic space station upon which the battle between the Salviar Federation and the Hilax Combine pivoted, the account of Earth's role in the affair has become greatly distorted. Because that was eight hundred years ago and the men of Olde England never even knew the world was round, let alone that it was a planet. Earth still doesn't know which side we were on and because we are out on a far limb of Galactic Sector Seven they haven't contacted us yet. But our very position in the Milky Way just that once made our little planet strategic - and when Salviar's scout Jasar-am-Bax had to enlist the aid of a clever young yeoman to launch his kamikaze attack the result became legend. But it took John Rackham to uncover the real story behind the event. It's all in BEANSTALK - it just depends on how you look at it.

Finally, The Quantum Rose (Saga of the Skolian Empire) by Catherine Asaro is often described as a science fiction Beauty and the Beast. Having read it, it fits quite well. Part of her Skolian series, the initial premise has the heroine marrying an alien, a beast to save her people. It has some rough themes of abuse and worse, so be reader beware. That said, I enjoyed it enough to read more of the Skolian series which has an interesting use of science in several of the books, but can be enjoyed as space opera, too. Asaro plays with genres with her usage of science fiction, romance and fantasy along with well-developed characters throughout the series.

Kamoj Argali is the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet. To keep her people from starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, the boorish and brutal ruler of a prosperous province. But before Argali and Ironbridge are wed, a mysterious stranger from a distant planet sweeps in and forces Kamoj into marriage, throwing her world into utter chaos.