REVIEW: “The Rescue of Tresses Malone” by Alena Van Arendonk

Review of Alena Van Arendonk, “The Rescue of Tresses Malone” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 109-131 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was a slightly hideous Rapunzel retelling, with all the dark grit of an original Grimm tale.

Rather surprisingly, I struggled a bit when it came time to pick a genre tag for the story — normally fairy tales fall squarely under “fantasy”, but this one lacked any element that I could identify as fantasy. In fact, when I dug a bit more to find any speculative elements, I realised that there were very few, but that what there were were on the SF side of things. An unusual take on the traditional fairy tale style!

REVIEW: “늑대 – The Neugdae” by Juliet Harper

Review of Juliet Harper, “늑대 – The Neugdae” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 101-108 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Strong violence, rape, death, war, weapons.

This retelling of Little Rid Ridinghood set in the context of the Korean War was an ugly little story. The original fairy tale is Grimm by name and grim by nature, but this sordid version brought that horror into sharp relief. This story was not for me.

REVIEW: “Bonne Chance Confidential” by Jack Bates

Review of Jack Bates, “Bonne Chance Confidential” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 77-100 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was quite the mishmash of references to fairy tales and folk tales, with a sheriff from Nottingham, a Rumple-without-a-stiltskin, fairies named Fee, and a plot that was unsure whether it was Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. My feelings about the story were also a bit of a mishmash — on the one hand, there were a lot of info dumps, I’m pretty sure women weren’t snidely called “plus-sized” in the 1920s, the use of spells felt a bit clumsy, and I was really put off by the pompous author’s note. But on the other hand, I loved how the main character, a private detective in the 1920s, was female without any sort of narrative apology and another character was non-binary, and both of these things went a long way to mitigating the other issues, in terms of enjoyment.

REVIEW: “To Go West” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Review of Laura VanArendonk Baugh, “To Go West” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 52-76 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: Oblique reference to suicide.

This was a story of delicious creepiness. It was filled with deep mythology and entirely unlike any other story in the anthology. I spent much of the story trying to pick out what the underlying tale was — were the four men the horsemen of the apocalypse? who were the two women in the abandoned farm? No, no… — and coming up utterly flummoxed. It turns out, per VanArendonk Baugh’s authorial note, to be based on one I was not only not familiar with, but had never even heard of before. I love a story that teaches me something and gives me reason to go off and read more. Thumbs up!

REVIEW: “Evening Chorus” by Lizz Donnelly

Review of Lizz Donnelly, “Evening Chorus” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 42-51 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Following quick on the heels of the previous story we have another story wherein women are predominantly in the story to be treated as things to be owned and manipulated — and in the case of Jenny, this gets taken quite literally. As with Alejandra’s story (read the review), I sort of felt like I wanted more out of this one — not just a retelling of the original tale, but a questioning and a subverting of it. What would it have been like, if women were not merely objects?

On the other hand, before this story I was not familiar with the tale it was based on, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale”, and the story made me curious to read it, so that’s definitely a point in its favor.

REVIEW: “The Loch” by Zannier Alejandra

Review of Zannier Alejandra, “The Loch” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 20-41 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: mention of concentration camps

Parts of this retelling of the story of “Swan Lake” I really loved — the secondary characters were strongly developed and interesting, especially Miss Haddock (who entirely won me over) and Reggie. Unfortunately, it felt they were allowed to develop as fully fledged characters because they were not a part of the original fairy tale, while those characters that followed the original story more closely were flatter and more fairy-tale-archetypical — so, a story in which the fairy tale foundation unfortunately detracted overall than supported.

There were also a few places where the story raised questions that were never answered (why was Odette, a picture of Aryan perfection, in Auschwitz in the first place? Why was Auschwitz chosen as the locus of her transformation, rather than another camp? Why does the spell run from midnight to dawn instead of dusk to dawn or midnight to noon?) as well as questions that were not asked that perhaps could have been — the “white = pure = good” and “dark = defiled = evil” trope was adopted without any skepticism, and that rather bothered me. I came away from this story feeling like it could’ve been so much more (what if Odette was not a perfect flawless Aryan beauty, but, say, a Jew?).

REVIEW: “Salvage” by A. A. Medina

Review of A. A. Medina, “Salvage” in Rhonda Parrish, ed., Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales, (World Weaver Press, 2019): 15-19 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The best of retellings take familiar characters or stories and give us something new — a side of the character we’d never seen before, a hint of their history or their future, or the same story viewed in a new light. But there are limits to how much a story or a character can be changed and still result in a successful retelling. Unfortunately, this story of Geppetto and Jiminy went too far beyond Collodi for my own taste: Pretty much the only resemblance was the names of the characters and the fact that Medina’s Geppetto is also a creator. I can’t help but wonder if this story would have been stronger with wholly new characters.