I’ve written my fair share of reimagined fairy tales. “Sparkling Teeth and Sacrifices” is essentially Snow White with vampires. In the pipeline, I have modern takes on Tristan and Iseult (“The Lovers,” soon to be appearing in Daily Love) and a Breton myth about a ghostly fisherman who kills people by a lighthouse (“Iannic-ann-ôd,” set for a January edition of Dark Fire Fiction). With a lot of my work, I try to invent my own mythology, but there’s something so deeply appealing about turning existing fables on their heads.
And I’m not the only writer with this fascination. Magazines and anthologies devoted to reworked fairy tales pop up all the time. Two of my favorite authors–Angela Carter and Joyce Carol Oates–both released entire collections of essentially feminist readings of monomyths. Anne Rice took it another step further with her Sleeping Beauty books.
So why do we do this? What’s the appeal? Is it a desire to drag your favorite childhood stories kicking and screaming into adulthood, to lay bare the essential weirdness of so many of them? To examine the source and remove the Disneyfication, leaving the gritty underbelly exposed?
I think it’s mostly about the appeal of speculative fiction overall. I write non-realistic work because I keep asking myself “what if…?” And sometimes that question comes when I’m feeling ornery and wondering just why Snow White was so pale or why the big bad wolf could talk. The whimsy of the fairy tale world? Or did vampires and werewolves lurk just at the corners of the imagination of the Brothers Grimm?