Monthly Archives: May 2019

Mythic Journeys edited by Paula Guran

Mythic Journeys Edited by Paula Guran

I am a huge lover of myths and legends, so am a very happy to be included in “Mythic Journeys: Myths & Legends Retold” from Night Shade Books, edited by Paula Guran. My story is a reworking of the Minotaur myth, with Thesea instead of Theseus. It was originally published in Interzone (Issue 246) and reprinted in Steve Haynes’ Best British Fantasy 2014.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: A Map or Maybe Not

“Lost Lake” – Emma Straub and Peter Straub
“White Lines on a Green Field” – Catherynne M. Valente
“Trickster” – Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” – Brooke Bolander
“A Memory of Wind” – Rachel Swirsky
“Leda” – M. Rickert
“Chivalry” – Neil Gaiman
“The God of Au” – Ann Leckie
“Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate” – Anya Johanna DeNiro
“Ogres of East Africa” – Sofia Samatar
“Ys” – Aliette de Bodard
“The Gorgon” – Tanith Lee
“Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood” – Charles de Lint
“Calypso in Berlin” – Elizabeth Hand
“Seeds” – Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter
“Wonder-Worker-of-the-World” – Nisi Shawl
“Thesea and Astaurius” – Priya Sharma
“Foxfire, Foxfire” – Yoon Ha Lee
“Owl vs. the Neighborhood Watch” – Darcie Little Badger
“How to Survive an Epic Journey” – Tansy Rayner Roberts
“Simargl and the Rowan Tree” – Ekaterina Sedia
“The Ten Suns” – Ken Liu
“Armless Maidens of the American West” – Genevieve Valentine
“Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” – Maria Dahvana Headley
“Zhyuin” – John Shirley
“Immortal Snake” – Rachel Pollack
“A Wolf in Iceland Is the Child of a Lie” – Sonya Taaffe

Buy on Amazon US

Buy on Amazon UK

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The Best of British Fantasy 2018 Edited by Jared Shurin

I am very proud to be included in NewCon Press‘s Best British Fantasy 2018 edited by Jared Shurin with a reprint of A Son of the Sea, a story original to my collection.

Editor Jared Shurin spread his net wide to discover the very best work published by British and British-based authors in 2018, whittling down the nearly 200 stories under consideration to just 21 selected (22 in the hardback edition) and two poems. These stories range from traditional sword and sorcery to contemporary fantasy, written by a mix of established fantasy authors, new voices, and those who are not usually associated with genre fiction. The result is a wonderfully diverse anthology of high quality tales.

ToCThe Best of British Fantasy 2018

Introduction by Jared Shurin
There’s a Witch in the Word Machine – Jenni Fagan
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent – Malcolm Devlin
The Dance of a Thousand Cuts – Liam Hogan
A Son of the Sea – Priya Sharma
To Look Upon His Works – RJ Barker
12 Answers Only You Can Question – James Warner
The Woman Who Turned Into Soap – Harkiran Dhindsa
Mushroom Speed Boosts – Ben Reynolds
The Guile – Ian McDonald
We Can Make Something Grow Between The Mushrooms And The Snow – Kirsty Logan
The Moss Child – Lisa Fransson
Boys – Lizzie Hudson
The Farm at the World’s End – Helen McClory
The Prevaricator – Matthew Hughes
The Small Island – Heather Parry
A Gift of Tongues – Paul McQuade
Velocity – Steph Swainston
Counting the Pennies – Rhys Hughes
The Councillor’s Visit – Beth Goddard
Yard Dog – Tade Thompson
Dark Shells – Aliya Whiteley
Coruvorn – Reggie Oliver
The Godziliad – Adam Roberts
[Underground – Archie Black] In the limited edition hardback only

Launch Info from NewCon Press

On the afternoon of Saturday 1st June, 2019, NewCon Press will be hosting a Fantasy Fan-Dingo, unveiling two fabulous new anthologies, Best of British Fantasy 2018 (edited by Jared Shurin) and Legends 3: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell.

The party will be in the upstairs function room at The Star of Kings, starting at 1.00 pm. There will be free wine, there will be free beer, and a bar once they run out. There will also be a Scribble of Writers (there’s no official collective noun for a group of authors, but this one appeals to me).

Continue reading

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Guest Post: Shouting About Trying To Be So Quiet by James Everington

ttbsq-cover-kindlev2_orig-2James: Hi James, how’s it going?

James: Uh, who’s this? What’s going on?

James: It’s an interview, remember? To promote your new mini-collection, Trying To Be So Quiet & Other Hauntings.

James: Uh…

James: You remember, for Priya’s blog. I mean, you are late doing it so you might have forgotten.

James: Are you… Is this Priya?

James: Do I sound like Priya? I’m you.

James: You’re me?

James: You.

James: Me? But… Why are, uh, you interviewing me? Where’s Priya?

James: She’s a Locus and Shirley Jackson Award nominee, James, she’s not got time for this shit. You’ve got to look after yourself in this game. You’ve already wasted half a page talking to yourself rather than promote the book.

James: Me?

James: You.

James: You, more like.

James: Me?

James: You.


James: Look, let’s just start again. So, you’ve written this book Trying To…

James: Wait, aren’t I meant to be asking the questions?

James: You?

James: Me. The one in bold.

James: Jesus, okay, whatever. You ask the questions then.


James: Uh, well, I’m not quite sure what…

James: You’ve not got any questions?

James: So, um, what’s the book about?

James: That’s it?

James: Okay, fine. Well, uh, it’s about death. Ghosts. The supernatural as a manifestation of grief…

James: That sounds quite good that bit, actually.

James: Does it? The manifestation bit?

James: Yeah. You write about that a lot, don’t you? A hell of a lot. How come?

James: Well, death comes to us all.

James: That’s it?


James: Some trite stock phrase? Everyone knows ‘death comes to us all’ you twat; everyone. They don’t all write weird crap about it. I mean we’ve got [riffles pages] dead wives, dead parents, dead lovers. Floating skulls that are probably solipsistic ‘all in his mind’ bullshit rather than being real, maybe a zombie, possibly ghosts. Plus that odd bit about someone sticking their hand in a pan of boiling water to feel pain. It’s not normal, is it?

James: You can talk.

James: I wish you would. How’s the song go? ‘Aint it just like the night to play tricks when we’re trying to be so quiet’. It’s all a trick isn’t it? A distraction. All this jokey interviewing yourself bullshit. A way to avoid talking about what really scares you.

James: [quietly] Me?

James: [quietly] You.


James: Yeah. But it is death. It is trite stuff that everyone knows. Not my own death—I mean, that does scare me, and I write about that fear too—but the death of those around me. Those I love. It’s so… It’s coming, you know? I’m sitting here, typing this, listening to LCD Soundsystem and drinking a beer, having a chuckle to myself at this interviewing myself gag, and it’s coming. The death, the pain, the grief. One day, something will happen—a phone call, a doctor’s pause before answering, a sound from another room—and everything will be upended, everything will be different because someone I love will be gone from the world. That’s coming for me.

James: [quietly] Me?

James: You.


James: But it hasn’t happened yet, not really. Part of the reason I didn’t want to talk about this is because I feel like such a fraud. I mean, I’ve known people who have died. A classmate at school, a friend at university, grandparents…. I’ve know death, I’ve know grief. But not to the extent of… how did you say it? “Dead wives, dead parents, dead lovers.” Not that yet. I’m a fraud. I’m using the inevitability of death to pretend I’ve already experienced it.

James: But they’re stories; it’s not all about you. You’re not trying to flog people your diaries. Try and sell them the stories. You might think yourself a fraud but you don’t think the stories are false.

James: Look, I’m not going to do the normal thing of bigging up the plot or horror tropes or anything like that…

James: [quietly] Jesus…

James: I’m just going to say these stories are my attempt to cope with the knowledge of loss, the inevitability of it. Because that’s what horror fiction is, to me: not the blood or the monsters or the disemboweling. But the attempt to shape, to pre-empt and so somehow cope with the worst things that will happen to us, before they occur. They’re my attempt to live with that knowledge.

James: Did it work?

James: Nah.

James: I mean, I think you might need to sell it a little bit more than that. Just something, some hook…

James: Is this you trying to lighten the mood again, now I’ve bared my soul? Is this another of your tricks?

James: Me?

James: You.

James: Wait, aren’t I meant to be asking the questions?


James: So, where can people buy Trying To…?
James: So, has it got any good reviews or…


James: After yo…
James: You go first…


James: Uh, well, Tracy Fahey said the title story was “quiet, stealthy, and throat-achingly sad” and Gingernuts of Horror said it was “an exemplary example of ability for quiet horror to chill a reader to the core” and… god, I hate all this self-promotion stuff. I was more comfortable talking about how terrified I am by the meaningless and inevitability of dea…

James: You’re not really though are you?

James: [quietly] No

James: So, you asked about where people could buy Trying To Be So Quiet…

James: That was just an excuse to stick an Amazon link in to be honest.

James:I mean, I think you need to shout about it a bit more. Say ‘hey folks, you can buy…’

James: Me?

James: For once, no.

James: I’m not sure this has gone very well. The Sinister Horror Company aren’t going to be happy; they’re the publisher and you’ve not even mentioned them once.

James: We could try again?

James: Okay

James: So, uh. Hi James, how’s it going?

James: Wait, aren’t I meant to be asking the questions?



James EveringtonJames Everingon is a writer from Nottingham, England who writesis dark, supernatural fiction, although not necessarily ‘horror’ in the blood and guts sense. He prefers to explore the unexplained, the psychological, and the ambiguous in his fiction. His cites his main influences as writers like Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman.  He drink Guinness. More information about James and his work can be found on his blog.

Sinister Horror Company


The Sinister Horror Company was established by childhood friends Daniel Marc Chant and Justin Park in 2015. Its catalogue varies from unsettling modern gothic to the soul-crunchingly bleak extreme. It prides itself on daring to be different without compromising on quality.


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Guest Post : So Leben Sie Noch Heute by Steve Toase

So Leben Sie Noch Heute: An exhibition of contemporary European illustrated versions of Brothers Grimm Fairytales

International Youth Library, Munich

Hans pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket, wrapped up the lump in it, put it on his shoulder, and set out on the way home.  (Hans in Luck)

I make no secret that the International Youth Library in Munich is one of my favourite places on earth. How could it not be? A library housed in a 17th century castle that’s home to a children’s lending library (you want a child interested in reading? Take them to a library in a castle), the Michael Ende Museum, and the magical Binette Schroeder Kabinette. The International Youth Library is a very special place.

In the past the library has played host to shows featuring work by Shaun Tan, Chris Riddell and many others. All their exhibitions are well thought out, beautiful explorations of stories and artworks from children’s books. The current show is something a bit special.

They walked through the night and the entire next day, and then, exhausted, they fell asleep. They walked another day, but they could not find their way out of the woods. (Hansel and Gretel)

The exhibition at the moment is about The Brothers Grimm. While there is a certain iconic style associated with the stories (picturesque gingerbread houses and endless forests), the show highlights how the stories collected by Jacob and Willhelm can be located anywhere and still have resonance. This is clear from the moment when you turn a corner to be confronted by an enlarged version of a Roberto Innocenti illustration showing Red Riding Hood descending a staircase into a graffiti covered hallway.


One of the first information panels on the way into the exhibition explains that the Grimm fairytales all broadly have a five stage structure;

  • The departure of the main character.
  • Following their way. On the move.
  • Toward a test.
  • The temptation, threat, or even the loneliness of exile can overcome the main character at this critical time.
  • To a happy ending.

“Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!”

“All the better to grab you with!” (Red Riding Hood)

This ties into a series of small panels hanging throughout the room that give examples for each stage, drawing on stories like Snow White, The Wolf and the Seven Baby Goats, and Hansel and Gretel.

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What always amazes me with the exhibitions at the International Youth Library is the richness and variety of displays in a single show. The Brothers Grimm exhibition is no different. Dioramas show scenes from Snow White, and Red Riding Hood (including one with a real taxidermy wolf, a red hat caught on a nearby branch). Books are displayed with artefacts from their story. A beautiful version of the Town Musicians of Bremen by Claudio Palamarucci showing the robbers as suit wearing businessmen is displayed with work ties draped over the pages. A display copy of The Wolf and the Seven Baby Goats is shown with a  rounded pebble like the ones that lead to the wolf’s comeuppance in the story.



It was not long before she opened her eyes, threw up the cover of the coffin,  and sat up, alive and well. (Snow White)

Another exhibition case collects together versions of Red Riding Hood that only use a red and black colour scheme, a display that has far more impact than a single book.


The whole exhibition is designed to help children discover the beauty and joy of these stories. Nowhere is that more evident than in the small crooked wooden hut that stands partway into the show, a basket of books waiting to be read outside. This hut is a place straight out of a fairytale, just for children to sit in, read the books and immerse themselves in these magical worlds. Stories that might have the same five stage structure underlying them but contain infinite possibilities.

Between the exploration of the structure behind the Grimm fairytales, the dioramas and the artwork, all wrapped up in a castle, the International Youth Library is a perfect place to first encounter these stories or explore them for the hundredth time and discover something new.

…and they lived very happily together until their lives’ end. (Sleeping Beauty)


photo steve toase

Photo by Layla Legard

Steve Toase was born in North Yorkshire, England, and now lives in Munich, Germany. 

He writes regularly for Fortean Times, Folklore Thursday, and Daily Grail.

His fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Lackington’s, Aurealis, Not One Of Us, Cabinet des Feés and Pantheon Magazine amongst others. In 2014 Call Out (first published in Innsmouth Magazine) was reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year 6, and two of his stories have just been selected for Best Horror of the Year 11.

He also likes old motorbikes and vintage cocktails.

You can keep up to date with his work via,,, and @stevetoase


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Suffer Little Children by Penny Jones

PS: Welcome Penny Jones. Congratulations on your collection with Black Shuck Shadows! Tell us about the themes and how it developed.

perf4.370x7.000.inddPJ: There are a couple of themes that run through the collection, one being mental health and the other being a loss of control. These two themes tend to be intrinsic in most of my writing, and I find that they crop up time and time again when my protagonist or antagonist in a story is a child. There is something naturally chaotic about a child’s control over their parents, whether it’s a toddler having a tantrum, or a teenager punching a hole in the door. But on the flip side to that, children exist in a state of constant helplessness, that veneer of control, an illusion. They can have their world turned upside down at the whim of their parents or guardians

PS: There are lots of precedents for “creepy” children in both horror and sci-fi literature and film. Do you have any particular favourites? Have any of them influenced your work?

PJ: It isn’t really creepy children that influence my work, although I love John Wyndham’s work it isn’t his portrayal of The Children in The Midwich Cuckoos that influences my work, it is the Colonel in The Day of the Triffids. “The men must work – the women must have babies.” This concept of women being used to repopulate the world and being forced to bear children, petrified me growing up (probably due in part to my father’s attempts to cure me of my childhood phobia of needles, by repeatedly telling me how many injections and blood tests I’d have to have once I got pregnant). It is this societal concept of a woman being nothing more than a vessel for a child, and that their life is somehow less worthy than the child’s that scares me more than anything else. I’m just glad that I was an adult before I knew about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale.

PS: Why do you think we’re so disturbed by the child trope in horror?

PJ: There is definitely an element of the uncanny valley in why we find children so disturbing. We were one once, we should understand them, but we don’t. Everything about them is slightly altered to our norm as adults, from their large eyes, to their minuscule nails, nothing is quite in scale as to how it will be when they are grown, but they are still recognisably human. That very slight difference to their physicality is enough to trigger a response in us, it is supposed to, it is the trigger for the parental instinct. But it is also the same slight difference that freaks us out in mannequins, aliens, or antique Victorian dolls. Then there are the psychological differences, children are ruled by their Id. Their ego and superego developing over the years. They don’t have an understanding of their actions or the repercussions of them, they are reactionary. Until the age of about seven their only awareness is of their self. This is natural, a survival of the fittest trait, but it is still scary. I think back to incidents I witnessed growing up, bullies stabbing someone with a compass, fireworks lit and thrown at other children, someone being shoved into the road during an argument. Luckily none of these went badly wrong, but it was just that, luck. A centimetre to the right and that compass point would have pierced an eye, a second later the firework would have gone off in someone’s face, if the driver hadn’t slammed their breaks on in time.

PS: In some of your interviews you’ve talked about your exposure to the horror genre at a young age. Are there any traditional children’s books or shows that frightened or disturbed you at that time?

PJ: The scariest film I watched as a child must be Return to Oz, the whole concept of Dorothy being carted away for ECT because her aunty and uncle think she is either mad or lying about her time at Oz, and that they cannot cope with the sleepless nights and dreams that plague Dorothy following her time there, would be horrifying in any 18 certificate film, let alone a children’s film. The line “They’re patients who’ve been damaged, locked in the cellar.” still haunts me today. To put it in perspective I watched both Return to Oz, and An American Werewolf in London when I was six, and Return to Oz was by far the scariest. I have rewatched both films as an adult and I would still say Return to Oz is the scarier film of the two.

images (2)

Return to Oz

PS: What do you think of current YA/children’s books in terms of their darker, more adult themes?


From Ransom Rigg’s novels

PJ: I’m all for them. Of current YA books I’m particularly enjoying Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I think there have always been dark, adult themes in YA and children’s fiction, when I was growing up one of my favourites was Grinny by Nicholas Fisk which my parents gave me to read when I was about eight, before I moved on to reading Point Horror, Nightmare Inn and other stories where gore and mysterious boys were the majority of the plot. It is a safe way for children to explore adult behaviours, and to be aware of the choices and decisions that they’ll face as they get older. YA and children’s books have always been around, and have always veered towards the darker side of human nature, whether it’s Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, or the Grimm’s fairytales.

PS: Do you have a personal favourite in the Black Shuck Shadows series?

PJ: Yes. Phil Sloman’s Broken on the Inside is amazing, I love the subtlety in his writing. Again it’s that uncanny valley of something being just slightly off, a dissonance in his stories which is beautiful.

PS: Do you have any advice for writers putting together their first collection?

PJ: Think about how your stories work together as a whole. Even if your first collection isn’t a themed collection, your stories need to work together. You could have the best short stories ever written, but if they don’t fit together, if the flow isn’t there, you don’t have a collection.

Buy Suffer Little Children from Black Shuck Books (£4.99 in paperback / 99p ebook)

Contents: Beneath Still Waters / The Changeling / Swansong / Swimming Out to Sea / It’s Not Just How Beautiful They Are / Waxing



Penny Jones knew she was a writer when she started to talk about herself in the third person (her family knew when Santa bought her a typewriter for Christmas). She loves reading and will read pretty much anything you put in front of her, but her favourite authors are Stephen King, Shirley Jackson and John Wyndham. In fact Penny only got into writing to buy books, when she realised that there wasn’t that much money in writing she stayed for the cake.

Penny’s Blog, FB, Twitter.


Black Shuck Books is an independent publisher based in Kent, launched in 2015 by Steve J Shaw. Black Shuck Shadows is his range of pocket sized horror.


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Locus Award Finalist

This still feels very surreal.












  • Analog
  • Asimov’s
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Clarkesworld
  • F&SF
  • Fireside
  • Lightspeed
  • Strange Horizons
  • Uncanny


  • Angry Robot
  • Baen
  • DAW
  • Gollancz
  • Orbit
  • Saga
  • Small Beer
  • Subterranean
  • Tachyon
  • Tor


  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Gardner Dozois
  • C.C. Finlay
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
  • Sheila Williams
  • Navah Wolfe


  • Kinuko Y. Craft
  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Leo & Diane Dillon
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan
  • Charles Vess
  • Michael Whelan



Priya Sharma

Buy from Undertow Publications

Priya Sharma

Buy from Amazon UK inc Kindle edition

Priya Sharma

Buy from Amazon US inc Kindle edition

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Shirley Jackson Award Nominations

The nominees for the 2018 Shirley Jackson Award have been announced. Awarded every year in recognition of Shirley Jackson’s legacy, the awards honor exceptional work in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and dark fantasy.

The 2018 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 14, at Readercon 30, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Congratulations to everyone on the list and my huge thanks to everyone at Undertow Publications, without whom I would never have made the shortlist.


  • Everything Under, Daisy Johnson (Jonathan Cape)
  • In the Night Wood, Dale Bailey (John Joseph Adams Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Little Eve, Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an imprint of The Orion Publishing Group)
  • Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton (Double Day/Raven Books)
  • We Sold Our Souls, Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books)


  • Judderman, DA Northwood (Gary Budden) (Dead Ink Books/Cinder House Publishing)
  • The Atrocities, Jeremy C. Shipp (
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (
  • The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky, John Hornor Jacobs (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • The Taiga Syndrome, Cristina Rivera Garza (Dorothy, a Publishing Project)


  • “Adriftica,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Robots vs. Fairies)
  • “Blood and Smoke, Vinegar and Ashes,” D.P. Watt (The Silent Garden)
  • Ghostographs: An Album, Maria Romasco Moore (Rose Metal Press)
  • “Help the Witch,” Tom Cox (Help the Witch)
  • “The Black Sea,” Chris Mason (Beneath the Waves – Tales from the Deep, April 2018)


  • “Back Seat,” Bracken MacLeod (Lost Highways)
  • “Hell,” David Hansen (The Charcoal Issue of Fairy Tale Review, March 2018)
  • “How to be a Horror Writer,” Tim Waggoner (Vastarien: A Literary Journal vol 1., issue 2 – Summer / Grimscribe Press)
  • “The Astronaut,” Christina Wood Martinez (Granta 142: Animalia)
  • “The Woman Dies,” Aoko Matsuda, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton (online edition of Granta 144: genericlovestory)


  • All the Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Undertow Publications)
  • From Deep Places, Gemma Files (Trepidatio Publishing)
  • Garden of Eldritch Delights, Lucy A. Snyder (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
  • Quartier Perdu, Sean O’Brien (Comma Press)
  • The Human Alchemy, Michael Griffin (Word Horde)


  • Chiral Mad 4: An Anthology of Collaborations, edited by Michael Bailey and Lucy A. Snyder (Written Backwards)
  • Robots vs. Fairies, edited by Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien (Saga Press)
  • The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism, edited by The Silent Garden Collective (Undertow Publications)
  • This Dreaming Isle, edited by Dan Coxon (Unsung Stories)
  • Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto (Black Balloon)
UP Shirley Jacksons


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Blonde on Escape Pod

“When did you go bald?”
Only Clarice would ask such a forthright question.
“Leave her alone,” Jake drains his beer. Only he would dare contradict his sister.
The clock hands have gone from late at night to early in the morning. Jake’s bar is empty of customers. The staff, who are sitting round the table, fall silent, intent on their drinks.
“It’s okay,” Rapunzel says. “I was sick and it all fell out.”
Her scalp is shiny, every follicle devoid of life. Nor does she have any eyebrows. Or hair elsewhere for that matter.
“What colour was it?”
There’s a pause, then laughter.
Jake nudges her. “You’re a joker after all.”
She knows what he thinks of her. That she’s vague and evasive and hasn’t a clue what’s going on most of the time.
“Lucky you’re beautiful enough to be bald,” he adds.
Rapunzel touches the nape of her neck where she feels most exposed and tries not to smile.

From “Blonde”

This story originally appeared in Issue 250 of Interzone Issue in 2015. It’s now available on Escape Pod, as text and audio.

It’s narrated by Mur Lafferty and hosted by co-editor S.B. Divya

I dislike fairy tales, which long ago lost any worthwhile cultural resonance. Due, no doubt, to the ceaseless commercialization a la Disney princesses and a million other Hollywood sins, all of which removed the bloody edge of birth and death from what were once tales imparting life lessons across generations. When I see a fairy tale these days I run the other way unless convinced otherwise by someone whose judgement I trust.

And I trust the storytelling judgement of Priya Sharma. Which is why I read her new brilliant new short story “Blonde” in the Sept./Oct. 2015 issue of Interzone.

“Blonde” is a retelling of the traditional Rapunzel fairy tale. Yet instead of being trapped in a mythical tower in a forest, here the titular character is thrown into a dystopian modern world of poverty and criminals and starvation and life among the ruins. In Sharma’s retelling — which can be read equally as science fiction or fantasy — Rapunzel’s ever-growing locks are valuable solely because they’re blonde, an almost mystical hair color which has nearly passed from the human gene pool. But humanity’s fixatation on blond hair is in no way healthy, as Rapunzel discovers to her horror.

“Blonde” is a gripping, eerie, well-written tale with the most compelling Rapunzel I’ve ever read. And unlike any Disney reworking of the fairy tale, this story retains its razor-slice edge as it presents a thought-provoking examination of the stereotypes and beliefs which influence the world around us.

I’ve long loved Sharma’s stories — for my money she’s one of the most underappreciated short fiction writers in the SF/F genre. She’s also one of the few writers who could convince me to take a chance on a fairy tale retelling. In this case I’m glad I did.

Review by Jason Sandford


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