Black Swan, White Raven Hardcover – Jun 1997
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This is the fourth volume in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's ongoing anthology series that invites modern authors to rewrite classic fairy tales. Like many of the original stories themselves, these retellings are often dark, and many contain erotic subtexts. While some of the authors choose to stick to the more traditional aspects of folklore, others reinvent their tales entirely, such as the seven dwarfs who turn into "Three Dwarfs and 2000 Maniacs" at the hands of author Don Webb. As usual, Datlow and Windling have managed to enlist an impressive roster of professional writers for their project, with headliners such as Joyce Carol Oates, John Crowley, and Jane Yolen. These seasoned veterans are mixed in with some relative newcomers to create a collection that is as diverse as it is unique. --Craig E. Engler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
The fourth book in Datlow and Windling's anthology series of well-known and obscure fairy tales retold by contemporary writers, this collection features 19 short stories and two poems about Snow White, the fisherman and his wife, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and others. Writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Pat Murphy, Don Webb, and Jane Yolen put interesting twists to the sanitized Victorian versions we have, proving that these tales, along with the originals, aren't really for children. Highly recommended for fantasy and short story collections.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Among my favorite selections from this volume are:
SNOW IN DIRT by Michael Blumlein
SPARKS by Gregory Frost
THE REVEREND's WIFE by Midori Snyder
THE TRUE STORY by Pat Murphy, and
GODMOTHER DEATH by Jane Yolen
I hope BLACK SWAN, WHITE RAVEN is published once more so I can grab my own copy. I have the first three anthologies and haven't read number 2 and number 3 yet, but that was only because I had to finish this one in time to return it to the library. Thank goodness they have it!
If you like this series, then I definitely recommend getting your hands on this one.
And I was just enraptured from the moment starting this classic collection. Though I hadn’t heard of it before, Datlow made a comment on Twitter regarding how she was glad it was available again and in eBook form for those (like me) whose radar didn’t pick it up in the late 90s. After reading this I’ve since picked up all the other volumes from the series during an Open Road Media sale and look forward to enjoying them all.
The stories in this volume at least vary nicely in style and tone from the more serious to the light-hearted, and mix up the genres from an expected fantasy to something closer to science fiction or mystery. Beyond even the stories, there are also a couple of poems. Try as I might, I still can’t manage to get much appreciation out of poetry. I have gotten better, but still a long way off. So I didn’t read the poems in this. Nonetheless I’m glad they are there because I think the art form would give great opportunities for briefly retelling the cores of fairy tales. And these fairy tales, already existing ‘classically’ in myriad form, really are about some general ‘core’ elements rather than any given specific details of the plot.
While some of the stories stick to classic messages, perhaps in a new setting or from a new point of view, a large number serve to invert or recast elements that in this era would be considered problematic due to things like race or gender, or use the existing shell of a classic tale to create something wholly new that empowers and speaks to a group of the population that the tales of old rarely did.
For me personally on the two ends of the spectrum I cared least for “The Trial of Hansel and Gretel” and “On Lickerish Hill”. I found the former, casting the eponymous characters into a courtroom drama, to simply drag, and for the Clarke they style of the language was too much (though I managed her Strange & Norrell novel just fine). My most beloved readings here were “Godmother Death”, “The True Story”, “The Dog Rose”, “No Bigger Than My Thumb”, and “The Black Fairy’s Curse”. Many of those I enjoyed most fall into that category where a basic assumption from the original tale is taken and inverted to show a novel perspective or truth previously hidden or, within the confines of the story, ‘suppressed’.
Honestly I could list even more of the contents that I enjoyed, but the simplest thing is to let you find this and discover them all for yourself, if you haven’t already. Or perhaps to discover them all again. Whether this volume or (it is probably safe for me to speculate) any of the volumes of the Snow White, Blood Red series, you’re sure to find a good deal thought-provoking and entertaining.
Disclaimer: I received a free electronic reading copy of this from Open Road Media via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review that originally appeared at www.Reading1000Lives.com
Which is why this collection is such a great one. It’s the sort of thing that can appeal to so many, not just fans of genre fiction. Though that is their primary appeal, since the overwhelming majority of the stories feature a sci-fi or fantasy bent, some read more like historical fiction or contemporary fiction, so there’s a range in here that’s fitting with the range of authors.
As with just about any anthology I read, though, some stories and some presentations hit harder with me than others. Particular favourites in this collection were Michael Blumlein’s Snow in Dirt (a sci-fi story involving a man who finds a strange comatose woman buried in his yard, then proceeds to revive and live with her), Esther M Friesner’s No Bigger Than My Thumb (a very twisted story of revenge), Gary Kilworth’s The Trial of Hansel and Gretel (exactly what it sounds like, portrayed as a medieval courtroom drama), Anne Bishop’s Rapunzel (a take on the classic story in which adversity builds character and everybody is more deeply flawed than you expect), Midori Snyder’s The Reverend’s Wife (a hilarious tale of ignorance and infidelity)… Okay, I’m starting to realise that there are more favourites in this collection that I first thought. Maybe it would be easier to say that there were really only 2 stories that I didn’t enjoy as much as the others rather than list all the ones I did like. And the ones that I didn’t find so appealing weren’t indicative of the quality of the story or the writing so much as they were just stories that didn’t really click with me. This happens a lot when I read anthologies with a mix of authors; inevitably there’s something that doesn’t appeal as much as the rest. Can’t win ‘em all.
I understand that this isn’t the first collection in the series, and that there are plenty of other dark retellings of fairy tales edited by Datlow and Windling that I can look for now, and believe me, if this collection is indicative of the others, I’m going to have a damn good time reading through them. If you’re looking for a trip into a disturbing twist on the stories you grew up with (assuming you didn’t grow up with the Grimm versions, that is; they’re disturbing enough on their own), then I highly recommend Black Swan, White Raven. You’ve got a star collection of authors contributing here, and it really shows in the fantastic diversity of content and style. This is one to stay on my bookshelves for years to come!
I wish I could say the number of stories I liked outweighed the bad, but they were equal. It could have been worse, but the bad ones I absolutely despised, such as "Snow in Dirt" by Michael Blumlein, or was literally bored to sleep by, as with "True Thomas" by Bruce Glassco. Then there was "The True Story" by Pat Murphy, which came off as a preachy, condescending Feminist rant more than it did an actual story. I consider myself a Feminist, and I feel that there is an excellent way of re-telling a classic fairy tale that doesn't alienate the audience and give credence to the prevailing misconceptions about Feminism. An example of that would be the movie Maleficent. Oh, I wish that were a book! "The Black Fairy's Curse", by Karen Joy Fowler, was disjointed and confusing, and Joyce Carol Oates's "The Insomniac Night" made me extremely anxious with it's stream of consciousness and bouncing back and forth between the present and the past. I had the feeling something horrible was going to happen at any moment, but then it ended so abruptly, I had to put the book aside for awhile before I could continue on to the next story.
Another story that made me pause for a bit, but that I loved, was "No Bigger than my Thumb" by Esther M. Friesner. I have to say that this one could fit very well into the Horror genre. It was excellent, and very unsettling. "The Trial of Hansel and Gretel" by Garry Kilworth, was an ingenious twist on the classic, as was "Steadfast" by Nancy Kress. I also greatly enjoyed "Rapunzel" by Anne Bishop, which is told from the perspectives of Rapunzel's mother, the witch who keeps Rapunzel in the tower, and Rapunzel herself. Not only was each perspective insightful, but it held to the classic inclusion of threes in a very modern way. This is the only one that I think could safely be shared with a teenage daughter. The rest are definitely for adults, not just for the sexual content in several of them, but because of the many disturbing scenes.
Overall, I recommend Black Swan, White Raven to anyone who loves dark fantasy, horror, and alternative versions of fairy tales, especially if you're looking for new authors to read.