John Klima is the contributor for this week’s Take Five, a regular series where we ask authors and editors to share five facts about their latest books. Klima is the editor of Happily Ever After, an anthology of fiction inspired by fairy tales. It is available for purchase today.
Once Upon A Time…
…in the faraway land of Story, a Hugo-winning Editor realized that no one had collected together the fairy tales of the age, and that doorstop-thick anthologies of modern fairy tales were sorely lacking…
And so the Editor ventured forth, wandering the land of Story from shore to shore, climbing massive mountains of books and delving deep into lush, literary forests, gathering together thirty-three of the best re-tellings of fairy tales he could find. Not just any fairy tales, mind you, but tantalizing tales from some of the biggest names in today’s fantastic fiction, authors like Gregory Maguire, Susanna Clarke, Charles de Lint, Holly Black, Aletha Kontis, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Briggs, Paul Di Filippo, Gregory Frost, and Nancy Kress. But these stories alone weren’t enough to satisfy the Editor, so the Editor ventured further, into the dangerous cave of the fearsome Bill Willingham, and emerged intact with a magnificent introduction, to tie the collection together.
And the inhabitants of Story, from the Kings and Queens relaxing in their castles to the peasants toiling in the fields; from to the fey folk flitting about the forests to the trolls lurking under bridges and the giants in the hills, read the anthology, and enjoyed it. And they all lived…
…Happily Ever After.
1. The book was inspired by Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels. I love Margo’s writing, and I got this book on CD. If you’ve never read it, it is chock-full of fairy tale allusion and imagery. Every time I thought I had a handle on what was going on, she put in more references. In some ways it felt very post-modern, that wink-wink-did-you-see-what-I-did-there mindset, but at the same time, it’s so readable! (please note, I love post-modernism, but you have to admit, the conceits can get in the way of storytelling sometimes, right?) After listening to that book, I went and pulled out a bunch of the Datlow & Windling fairy tale anthologies. It didn’t take too much for me to think “I wish I had this story from here, and this story from here, etc. all in one book…” The light bulb went off at that moment.
2. You might notice that the book is dedicated to Froggy. Many people who are part of the amazing fandom of science fiction and fantasy will know who Froggy is, but I think a lot of people won’t. Froggy was the nickname of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. Froggy was a mainstay of East Coast science fiction conventions. He had also written at least one novel, The Woman Between Worlds, and a bunch of short fiction and nonfiction work. He was quite a character; you can go to his Wikipedia page to get a sense of all that he did during his life (Darrell Schweitzer may have put it best: “He was an insoluble mystery, and it’s possible he’ll be remembered for that mystery.”). I don’t know that we ever spoke much when I saw him at conventions, but when I started putting this book together, we started email conversations. Froggy pointed me towards a few sources of fairy tale material that I would have missed, and because of that, we wrote to each other fairly frequently about fairy tales. I was very sad to learn last September that he had passed away. I wanted to honor his memory, and I thought dedicating the book to him was a fitting way to do that.
3. There is one original story in the anthology, Robert J. Howe’s novella “Pinocchio’s Diary” and it typifies everything I like about fairy tale retellings. Howe takes the original piece, and turns it on its head. It’s a long piece (the longest in the book) and therefore it’s a slow build, but it’s definitely worth it. I’ve published him in Electric Velocipede, and he’s had other work appear in Black Gate and Analog. Howe is a talented storyteller that I wish more people knew about. I’m hoping this story gets him exposed to a bigger audience so that he’ll write more great stories.
4. When I saw the cover for the first time, I actually said, “Ooh” out loud. I really like that it captures both the whimsy and beautiful unreality that I think makes fairy tales work. But, by placing so many different fairy tale characters together on the cover it gives the reader a sense that what they find inside the book might not be exactly what they expect. I’m really happy with it. I think the trick to having a great cover might be to include K. Tempest Bradford in the book. She pointed out, “I would also like to point out that, once again, I’m in a book with a gorgeous cover.” (you’ll have to go look up her fiction and see all the amazing covers that featured her work inside them.)
5. I had originally created a crazy spreadsheet of stories and what fairy tale was being retold and what book it was from and so on to help me organize this book. I had thought to only use a fairy tale once in the anthology. But once I started reading and re-reading material, all those plans went out the window. I wanted to create a diverse book, but just as an original anthology, I wanted the best work. If that meant I had two Cinderella stories, then so be it. I couldn’t exclude a great story just because I already had a great story with the same fairy tale.