The Qwillery | category: Hath No Fury


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Carina Bissett: Counting Beans

Please welcome Carina Bissett to The Qwillery. Carina's story "A Seed Planted" is found in Hath No Fury, an anthology published on August 23, 2018 by Outland Entertainment.

Guest Blog by Carina Bissett: Counting Beans

Counting Beans
by Carina Bissett

          Although there has been a renaissance of fairy tale retellings over the last decade, it isn’t the first time these stories have undergone a surge of popularity. In fact, my first experience with retellings occurred when I discovered a copy of the fairy tale anthology Snow White, Blood Red in my favorite used bookstore. Within those pages, I was introduced to the work of such notable writers as Tanith Lee, Charles de Lint, Gregory Frost, Jane Yolen, and Neil Gaiman. Edited by luminaries Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, this series spanned six collections of tales that went back to their roots as stories told by adults for adults. I was hooked.
          As I child, I devoured books, but the one I kept returning to was a double-sided volume in The Companion Library series (1963), which featured Andersen’s Fairy Tales on one side and the Grimm Fairy Tales. As an adult, I turned to Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979), which influenced a generation of feminist poets and feminist fantasy writers including my new heroine Terri Windling. I continued backwards moving through the familiar tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen to those told by Charles Perrault and Oscar Wilde. And then, I discovered the 17th century Parisian literary salons, where literary fairy tales were created from the fragments of oral tradition combined with literary influences such as medieval romance and classic myth.
          The term “fairy tale” actually comes from the English translation of the phrase conte de fée, which was coined in the French salons to describe the rise in popularity of these magical tales written with adult readers in mind. To my immense delight, I stumbled upon a whole host of gifted female writers who worked to encourage women’s independence from the gender barriers of the time. This included such writers as Madame d’Aulnoy (The White Cat), Henriette-Julie de Castelnau (Bearskin), Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier (The Discreet Princess), Catherine Bernard (Riquet of the Tuft), Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force (Persinette), and Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (Beauty and the Beast).
         In the past, I had attempted to tackle fairy tales in my voice, but they never quite worked. Just when I was ready to toss the notion of rewriting fairy tales for good, a few things happened in quick succession that lead to a dramatic shift in my approach: the publication of by Michael Cunningham’s literary fairy tales in his collection A Wild Swan and Other Tales (2015); the release The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales (2015), which were originally collected by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in the 1850s, and the publication of an obscure academic paper “Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales” published in Royal Society Open Science (2016).
          In his collection of literary fairy tale retellings, Michael Cunningham created a cast of characters that we know intimately—are fragments of ourselves and others, fragments many of us prefer not to face. Of all the stories in the collection, “Jacked”—a contemporary take on “Jack and the Beanstalk”—was the one that captured my interest the most as a deft and detailed commentary on the single parent, only child plight so prevalent among middle-class Americans. Cunningham stays faithful to the original plot in “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but then modernizes it with a series of witticisms of a sarcastic nature: “The mist-girl tells Jack that everything the giant owns belongs rightfully to him. Jack, however, being Jack, had assumed already that everything the giant owns—everything everybody owns—rightfully belongs to him” (26). Personally, I’ve never been particularly fond of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” And, after reading the story, I was left with the feeling that Cunningham wasn’t in love with the original fairy tale either, which is why he pushes the unlikeable character to even further extremes.
          When the Royal Society Open Science released the 2016 academic paper “Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales,” a few things clicked into place for me. Researchers Sara Graça da Silva, a social scientist/folklorist with New University of Lisbon, and Jamshid Tehrani, an anthropologist with Durham University, conducted a phylogenetic analysis on common fairy tales, which suggests that many of these stories have origins reaching back thousands of years. For instance, “Jack and the Beanstalk” can be traced back nearly 5,000 years ago when Western and Eastern Indo-European languages split. However, it wasn’t until the 1730s that the first literary version of “The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean” appeared on the scene. It made a brief reappearance in the early 1800s, but didn’t really garner much attention until Joseph Jacobs included a version of the tale in his collection English Fairy Tales (1890).
          Seeing as I’ve never liked “Jack and the Beanstalk,” I decided to rewrite it to suit my own taste. My fascination with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and the connection of Hawthorne’s character Beatrice to the poison girls in Hindu mythology provided a platform for my science fantasy retelling “A Seed Planted.” I decided to focus on the familial relationships in this piece about a dutiful, yet jealous daughter and the scientist who created her and her sisters as weapons. In the original draft, the science fiction elements were muted. However, under the guidance of my mentor Elizabeth Hand, it took a decidedly different turn as I worked to balance the early draft’s fairy tale components with scientific elements. I added a futuristic ecological angle and a dash of Arthurian legend, turning “Jack and the Beanstalk” upside down while retaining connections to the original story cycle.
          I’ve since sketched the stories of the other sisters introduced in “A Seed Planted,” which has led me down a path of self-discovery, a place where old tales provide only the barest of foundations to build upon. I think I tend to shy away from opportunities that will only come to fruition if I am willing to write from the hard places. I think it’s a fine line to walk, but I also think that this is why fairy tale retellings continue to evolve as a popular framework with which to view the world we live in. It isn’t just the more obscure tales that need to be told; it’s the true tales. It’s up to the writers to find new ways to reflect the deepest, darkest parts of themselves through the comforts of the familiar.

Hath No Fury
Outland Entertainment, August 23, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 550 pages

Guest Blog by Carina Bissett: Counting Beans
Mother. Warrior. Caregiver. Wife. Lover. Survivor. Trickster. Heroine. Leader.

This anthology features 21 stories and six essays about women who defy genre stereotypes. Here, it’s not the hero who acts while the heroine waits to be rescued; Hath No Fury’s women are champions, not damsels in distress. Whether they are strong, bold warriors, the silent but powerful type, or the timid who muster their courage to face down terrible evil, the women of Hath No Fury will make indelible marks upon readers and leave them breathless for more.

About Carina

Carina Bissett is a writer, poet, and educator working primarily in the fields of speculative fiction and interstitial art. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast (University of Southern Maine) and has studied with such popular writers and poets as Elizabeth Hand, Nancy Holder, David Anthony Durham, Theodora Goss, Ted Deppe, Cara Hoffman, and Cate Marvin. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in multiple journals including the Journal of Mythic Arts, Mythic Delirium, NonBinary Review, Timeless Tales, Enchanted Conversations, and The Horror ‘Zine. Her work can also be found in numerous anthologies including Hath No Fury, an anthology where women take the lead. She fosters her passion of fairy tale and folklore through creative non-fiction including her research work at the Mythic Imagination Institute and contributions to the three-volume set American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @cmariebissett

Guest Blog by Lian Hearn

Please welcome Lian Hearn to The Qwillery. Lian writes The Tale of Shikanoko series (among others) and has a short story in the upcoming Hath No Fury anthology, which will be published by Ragnarok Publications. The Kickstarter for Hath No Fury may be found here. Check out the fabulous author list on Kickstarter. (Note: I'm a backer!)

Hath No Fury is a collection of fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy tales by some of the leading proponents of female characters in the industry. These stories feature leads inspired by women from literature, history, and film—exciting and intriguing characters in the vein of Ellen Ripley, Lara Croft, Joan of Arc, Marvel’s Black Widow, La Femme Nikita, Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, and Furiosa. ~ from the Kickstarter

Guest Blog by Lian Hearn

‘I’ve learned women and girls are as dangerous as men…more dangerous as they are so often overlooked.’

Masachika in Autumn Princess, Dragon Child. The Tale of Shikanoko

My latest novel, The Tale of Shikanoko, like the Tales of the Otori, is set in a feudal world based on medieval Japan. Over the years I’ve explored the tension that lies between being true to history and writing for modern audiences who expect their female characters to have power and self-determination. However, even when women appear to be completely submissive in a culture, that is never the whole story. Because sexual desire lies at the basis of all human history, there are always some considerable powers that women can wield.

When I was a child almost all my favourite books had male heroes. I identified with them and was always a boy in my make believe stories and games. I was like George in the Famous Five. I could hardly imagine what it would be like to grow up as a woman.

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen made a deep impression on me. The boy, Kay, becomes mean and cruel but Gerda’s love and innocence save him. This is a recurring pattern in Western folk tales but not one that I was particularly comfortable with. I admired Gerda’s courage and perseverence, but the character that really captured my imagination was the Little Robber Girl. She not only did exactly what she wanted but she carried a weapon and owned a reindeer. Perhaps this gave me an inkling that there were other tribes and other ways of life where women and girls had power.

In Japan I have fairly often come up against the problem of pollution. I have been told I can’t listen to male monks chanting or I can’t walk on a certain mountain path because I am a woman. Shinto is a religion obsessed with purity and cleanliness, and even though the foundation goddess Amaterasu is female, childbirth and menstruation, as well as death, are considered polluting. This is a belief echoed all over the world and to me it is the supreme example of human wrong thinking. The gift of life is carried within a woman’s body. Women are expected to receive the penis with its dangerous, life threatening, life changing cargo. Childbirth is a far more arduous, painful and risky business than most men will ever experience. As any one who’s had to clean up after them knows, men and boys can be gross and smell vile, yet what comes out of them – piss, shit,sweat, snot, vomit – is common to all humans, and non human animals too. Is it any less polluting than menstrual blood? Women’s blood should be worshipped if we are going to worship anything – it is what gives every one of us life. It is not Christ’s blood that streams in the firmament, it is woman’s.

My story in Hath No Fury in set in an area of lagoons around the mouth of the River Murray in South Australia called the Coorong. For many years I explored it by kayak and came to know it well. It’s a moody and unpredictable landscape, inhabited by thousands of shore birds whose arrivals and departures signify the changing seasons. Some come from Northern Siberia, some from Hokkaido where there are Ramsar wetlands - protected sanctuaries as the Coorong is. Nevertheless Australia has lost 50% of its natural wetlands. The birds are on the verge of extinction because their way stations in China, South Korea andVietnam, have been destroyed by land reclamation and pollution. A pattern of migration that has been in place for hundreds of thousands of years will soon be no more. We have simply no idea what this will do to all the interlocking ecosystems. Meanwhile we exist in a state of mourning for the vanishing.

In the Coorong the weather can change in the blink of an eye. You learn to be very sensitive to small signs in wind and water. Perhaps the germ for the story came from an encounter with two men in a small boat with an outboard. The tide was going out and we could see they were about to run aground. We called to warn them, but they did not want to listen to two old women.

In my books I try to suggest that what is needed in male-female relationships is the balance that comes from true equality, the yin and yang essence that underpins the universe. Like the soul within each of us, the writer has no gender. We are all made up of ‘male’ and ‘female’ attributes. Our overcrowded panic-stricken, status obsessed world shows all the symptoms of unbalanced masculinity, with its violence, gun culture, pornography and denial of women’s rights. Everyone is striving to hang on to their fragile position.

Samurai culture has some similarities to the ideals of chivalry: the cultivation of respect, loyalty, self-control, humility, courage: all the qualities that make up character. Yet it can also be distorted into a hypermasculinity with its cult of death, its misogyny and its fetishisation of the sword. My story is about the clash of a man from that culture, cast adrift in a timeless feminine landscape where women have the status more often accorded to men. But no culture is ever static; they are always changing and being reshaped, often by one individual act, in this case subverted by passion, tenderness and pity.

Guest Blog by Carina Bissett: Counting BeansGuest Blog by Lian Hearn

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