Short Stories 365/325

“Bad Girls” by Jane Fletcher and Joey Bass from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

They say there’s someone for everyone, and the short, humorous piece that closes out this collection would seem to confirm it. It imagines a chance meeting between the evil fairy Malcara from “Sleeping Beauty” and Brangomar, the Evil Queen from “Snow White”. For the two villainesses it’s—what else?—love at first sight.

Short Stories 365/324

“Riding Red” by Victoria Oldham from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

What a twist this tale puts on the classics. Red and her business partner Goldi run a bondage club in the woods called Grandmother’s House and there’s an unchecked sort of danger lurking just outside their door. It’s the second piece of true erotica in the collection, and because of that I’m not sure what I can really say about it. It’s original, unexpected, and riveting.

Short Stories 365/323

“The Snow King” by Rhidian Brenig Jones from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

Yep, this is the second story in this collection and the third within the past twenty reviews to be based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

Here, Kai and Gerda are renamed Remi and Dara, and they are both male and twenty years of age. They are lovers, living an idyllic life when, wouldn’t you know it, a shard of ice flies into Remi’s eye and he becomes bewitched. Immediately he withdraws from Dara, and begins to grow cruel in all his interactions. One night Dara wakes to find Remi outside in the snow, mesmerized by a mysterious, bearded, dark-haired man who is clad only in a long fur coat. As with the last re-telling, the sexual attraction between Remi and the Snow King is much clearer and less creepy than that of Kai and the Snow Queen. Dara looks on, horrified, until they vanish before his eyes. A hunting party the next day cannot find any trace of the two. I loved the fact that the townspeople all seem fully aware of the relationship between Dara and Remi and offer him their condolences on the loss of his love.

Dara’s mother then tells him about the Snow King, and that he must journey north to rescue Remi. The long chase scene which comprises the original tale is boiled down to just one pit stop—in the realm of eternal summer, ruled this time around by a Sorcerer—before Dara has his big confrontation with the Snow King.

Overall, I am still not crazy about this story, but that’s not this writer’s fault. I really don’t like Kai/Remi’s lack of free will. I will say that of the four (Andersen’s, plus Short Stories 365/304 and 316 and this), I like this one the most.

Short Stories 365/322

“The Princess and the Frog” by Barbara Davies from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

I was on the edge of my seat through most of this tale. I fell hard for the adorable pairing of Princess Margery and her girlfriend, the chamberlain’s daughter, Bruna, and I was offended when the moralizing ambassador Tokju, after seeing the two kissing, called them “disgusting perverts”. Mostly I was concerned that no one in the kingdom would realize that he’d cursed Bruna and turned her into a frog. I feared they would banish or even kill her, and all would not come to a happy end.

The intro says this story is based on “The Princess and the Frog”, which as far as I can tell is a Disney movie built around a telling of “The Frog Prince” by the Brothers Grimm. This story borrows elements from the latter work (I haven’t seen the Disney film) but truly feels like something new, refreshing, and welcome.

Short Stories 365/321

“The Red Shoes” by Alex Stitt from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

It’s 1936 in the South. The nation is still caught in the grip of the Great Depression, but the mayor’s daughter is of marrying age, and weddings are good for the economy. He’s decided the town will host a cotillion. Sixteen year old James is “wed-stock”, a bachelor. As such he’s invited to the soiree.

The trouble with that is two-fold. First of all, his father has been dead for ten years and, like much of the country, James is unemployed. Money is very tight, and the soles of the only pair of shoes he owns are worn through. Secondly, his entire wardrobe is comprised of items that once belonged to his father…save for one article of clothing, a dress James bought while on a job hunt in New Orleans.

As he explains, he has no interest in putting on a suit or spending the night dancing with girls:

I did not think of myself as a girl—for a girl I was not—and who had ever heard of such a thing? But in my desperate hope, I thought of myself as a beauty, warranting the adoration of those tuxedo boys, blushing so obviously against their white ties.

Dutiful son that he is, James goes off to buy a pair of men’s shoes in order to attend the dance. He finds, instead, a pair of burgundy heels that perfectly compliment his cherished dress. Unable to ignore his heart, he buys them.

I worried that this re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale would be as morose and grotesque as the original, but that fear proved unfounded. James’ shoes are bewitched, it’s true, but he isn’t the spoiled girl of the first tale. He’s a good boy who needs a little help “finding his footing in the world”, as his mother so aptly puts it, help that the shoes provide. Because of that, the cotillion scene was a joy to read and this story one of my favorites of the collection.

Short Stories 365/320

“Sneewitchen (Snow White)” by E. J. Gahagan from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

I liked this story, although it veered away from the source material very early on and never met back up with it. About the only traditional elements the story retains are the idea that Snow White is the daughter of the king and queen, and that while she was still a baby her mother died. In this version her father did not re-marry, so there’s no evil stepmother and no magic mirror. Instead Snow White is betrothed to the eldest son from an adjacent kingdom, and informed of this reality by a royal minister whose attitude is nothing short of archaic. Snow White rebels and runs away, but instead of finding seven dwarves in a cottage in the woods she finds a red-haired enchantress named Dru. Like Snow White’s departed mother, Dru is a witch. Snow White is also a witch, although before now she never knew such things existed. She’s finally happy, so naturally the boorish Prince Charming shows up to “rescue” her. Joy.

Short Stories 365/319

“Final Escape” by Stacia Seaman from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.

Undoubtedly someone is going to have a problem with this story because it’s “dark”. I am not one of them. I was the person who defended Stephen Sondheim’s choice of complex storytelling all during the drive home from seeing Into the Woods. I like art that holds a mirror up to society; that asks questions and doesn’t provide answers; that doesn’t wrap up all the story threads and present them, tied with a nice, neat bow, on the final page.

Put another way, perhaps you’ve seen the row brewing on social media regarding Annie Proulx’s statement that she wishes she’d never written Brokeback Mountain? Apparently she’s gotten much too much flak for the unhappy ending to that story, which she says isn’t about Ennis and Jack, but about homophobia.

It makes perfect sense to me.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and homeless teenager Laima is struggling to survive another winter night in downtown Detroit. Resourceful, she’s got a little business going, packaging works for I.V. drug users. It’s kept her alive since her family found out she is a lesbian and threw her out of their home. Her home. The trouble is the bitter cold has forced everyone indoors. The streets are deserted, and if she can’t sell her wares she won’t be able to buy a hot meal. She won’t have any chance of surviving this night.

Pretty dire, huh? It’s also an actual crisis and a national disgrace. Laima has far too many counterparts in the real world. Estimates put the percentage of homeless teens who are LGBT at 40%. It’s s a grim fairy tale in the strictest sense, and one that needs to be told more often. I’m glad it found space within these pages.