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Jen Miller

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Our Favorites: Re-Told Fairy Tales

Into the WoodsI was in about fourth grade when I saw Into the Woods on stage for the first time. This musical, written by Stephen Sondheim, intertwines multiple fairy tales--Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and several others--telling each story in its familiar version in the first act. At intermission, I bumped into one of my teachers, who had seen the show before. I told him how much I was enjoying myself, and he suggested that I go home and not see the second act, so that I continue to feel happy about what I had seen.

I stayed and saw the second act. And while I was a little shaken up at the time, I am so glad that I stayed. Sure, the second act of Into the Woods challenges the idea of "happily ever after," but in doing so, it provides a means for fairy tales to become more than familiar bedtime stories that fit in a comfortable box created by "once upon a time" and "they lived happily ever after." It provides a way for them to speak to the issues that we all deal with in everyday life.


The Truth of "Once Upon a Time"

Ever AfterI really enjoyed the movie Ever After when it first came out, and this past week, when I saw that it was available for streaming on Netflix, I was excited to watch it again.  I remembered it as a fairly fluffy, feel-good movie with some funny parts, and when rewatching it, I wasn't disappointed--it did make me feel good, and I once again chuckled at the exchanges between the step-sister Jacqueline and the Captain of the Guard.  I was also pleasantly surprised--while it is a feel-good movie, it is more than just fluff, since Danielle (the Cinderella figure) is very much an agent of her own change.  She doesn't just sit around waiting for Prince Henry to rescue her; she, in fact, is the one who is the rescuer, with one of the opening scenes in the movie being her rescue of a servant who is about to be shipped off to the Americas.

But what intrigued me most about the movie this time was the frame for the Cinderella story.  Instead of starting with the fairy tale itself, the movie starts with the Brothers Grimm visiting the Grande Dame of France to discuss their latest collection of tales.  The Grande Dame criticizes their version of the story, asking if they would permit her to "set the record straight"--she then tells the story of her great-great-grandmother, Danielle de Barbarac, who was the real Cinderella.  The movie then cuts to the story of Cinderella within the frame, which takes up the majority of the movie, but at the end we once again return to the frame.  The Grande Dame tells the Brothers Grimm that while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, "the point, gentlemen, is that they lived."

Really?  That's the point?


Happy Independence Day!

We're taking it kind of easy today at Fantasy Matters since most of us are busy celebrating the 4th of July (read: grilling out and drinking beer), but we did think that today would be a good occasion to share with you some of our favorite science fiction/fantasy stories of freedom, independence, and liberty, so that you can have appropriately-themed reading suggestions for your holiday.  We'd love to hear your favorites, too, so make sure you post them in the comments!

Adam Miller:

Star Wars TrilogyFor me, the obvious choice is the original Star Wars trilogy.  I watched these movies over and over as a little kid, and the characters and stories just really resonated with me.  I think it's because it's more than just an epic story about the Rebel Alliance and their fight against the Empire, but it's also the story of several individuals who were key in making that fight a success.


Our Fantastic Week Ahead: July 4

The Snow Queen's ShadowWe are big fans of Jim C. Hines and his work here at Fantasy Matters.  Jim was one of the featured authors at the original Fantasy Matters conference, and at the conference, he read an excerpt from what was going to become The Stepsister Scheme, a retelling of the story of Cinderella.  The Stepsister Scheme was the first book in The Princess Series, which also includes The Mermaid's Madness and Red Hood's Revenge.  All of these books are not only great stories and fun reads, but they also thoughtfully reconsider questions of gender and sexuality that are problematic in the original fairy tales. This week marks the release of the latest book in that series--The Snow Queen's Shadow--and we're really excited about it!


Fantastically Fun Fridays: July 1, 2011

For starters, this Friday we'd like to offer congratulations to all of the Locus award winners!  As announced last weekend during the Science Fiction Awards Weekend in Seattle, here is a list of the winners:

  • Connie Willis for Blackout/All Clear--Best Science Fiction Novel
  • China Miéville for Kraken--Best Fantasy Novel
  • N.K. Jemisin for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms--Best First Novel
  • Paolo Bacigalupi for Ship Breaker--Best Young Adult Novel
  • Ted Chiang for The Lifecycle of Software Objects--Best Novella
  • Asimov's--Best Magazine
  • Tor--Best Book Publisher
  • Warriors (ed. by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois)--Best Anthology
  • Fritz Leiber for Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories--Best Collection
  • Ellen Datlow--Best Editor
  • Shaun Tan--Best Artist
  • William H. Patterson, Jr. for Robert Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve--Best Non-Fiction Book
  • Spectrum 17 (ed. by Cathy and Arnie Fenner)--Best Art Book

We'd also like to offer special congratulations to Neil Gaiman, one of our guests of honor at the original Fantasy Matters conference, for his double Locus win!  He won the Best Novelette category for "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" and the Best Short Story category for "The Thing About Cassandra."

Congratulations to all the winners!

Also, if you haven't yet, remember to help us pick the "Best Science Fiction Movie Ever" by voting in our poll.  And if you haven't been reading about our contestants, you can find them all here.



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