John Klima

Books: Fantasy


Happily Ever After (2011)

Happily Ever After (2011) edited by John Klima

Happily Ever AfterNot sure how I missed this when I first came out, but this anthology is full of things I love: authors whose books I love, stories based on folk and fairy tales–lovely!

The only thing I didn't like, is I wish the anthology hadn't ended on such a dark and depressing story.

Mind you, the dark and depressing stories were good–very good–but these tales ran very true to the original stories, with a not insignificant amount of rape and incest and general horribleness. Just like the original tales.

But there's also a good amount of humor as well, and I just wished the collection had ended with one of the funnier stories.

The introduction was written by Bill Willingham, whose writing I adore, and whose introduction amused me. Here's the very start of it:

I have to confess I'm no good at writing a proper introduction, because, I'm in the storytelling business, which means I get to lie for a living, and I've become well practiced at it. But introductions are supposed to be true. After so many years, I despair if I have much unvarnished truth in me.

Here were some of my favorite stories:

"And in their Glad Rags" by Genevieve Valentine was kinda sorta a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Well, the red cloak was there, as was the grandmother. But everything else was pretty much different.

I'd just recently read "The Sawing Boys" by Howard Waldrop, but it was still amusing.

As one would expect, "Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower" by Susanna Clarke was as winding and meandering and wonderful as you'd expect from her.

No one would enjoy vast wealth more than I; and my feelings are not entirely selfish, for I honestly believe that I am exactly the sort of person who ought to have the direction of large estates.

Of course.

Unsurprisingly, another favorite was "My Life As A Bird" by Charles de Lint. I've read this story previously, but it's still lovely. It's not Jilly's story, but she appears several times, advising Mona, and listening to her (as Jilly does).

"The Night Market" by Holly Black tells of a girl trying to make a deal with faerie, to save her sister. I really very much enjoyed this story, with it's non-Grimm non-European roots.

Jim C. Hines‘ story, "The Red Path" was another Little Red Riding Hood story, but one completely unlike the original, or any other Red Riding Hood tales I've read.

Curiosity had always been Roudette's weakness, whether it was exploring the woods or reading the "adult" books her father kept locked away in the church. As far as she could tell, they were the same as the books she had studied when she was younger, only her father's versions had more begatting.

That paragraph cracked me up.

Hansel's Eyes, by Garth Nix, was another re-read, but one I enjoyed as much the second time around.

I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about "He Died that Day, in Thirty Years" by Wil McCarthy, but it certainly stuck in my brain for further pondering.

I particularly liked Jane Yolen‘s "Snow in Summer." Summer (or Snow) is self-aware and does her own rescuing, which I always like.

Michelle West‘s "The Rose Garden" was a Beauty and the Beast story, except that it was very much more than that. Bits of the Beast reminded me of Fables‘ Bigby, but that's a good thing.

He had born a prince, in his kingdom. And he offended a powerful witch. He no longer remembered how; witches were easily offended.

"Fifi's Tail" by Alan Rodgers wandered all OVER the damned place, and was amusing.

Hansel, Gretel, and the Wicked Queen wandered through the forest for hours, over sharp stones and through cruel thorns and worse things, too–not so much for want of decent clear paths to walk upon as because none of them had the woods-sense to stay on the path.

It was terribly uncomfortable in that closet–it was small and cramped, and the skeletons, bony as they were, poked her like a dozen dozen elbows. Worse, she'd've sworn there were live dwarfs in there with her, as if they hadn't heard that things were cool nowadays and everybody was supposed to come out of the closet and make an appearance on the Jerry Springer Show, if appropriate.

I wish the anthology had ended on a story like Bruce Sterling's "The Little Magic Shop" which I thoroughly enjoyed, and left me smiling.

"The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link didn't particularly follow any existing fairy tale, but instead had bits and pieces of tales built into something that was still a fairy tale while still being modern.

The funeral parlor had made her up with blue eyeshadow, and blue eyeliner. She looked like she was going to be a news anchor on Fox television, instead of dead.

Leslie What's story "The Emperor's New (And Improved) Clothes" was another funny story.

See, he was the kind of character who always wanted more than what he had–really all it takes to be a villain, in case anyone was wondering.

I usually love Patricia Briggs‘ stories, and "The Price" was no exception. It took me a bit to figure out which story it was borrowing from, but once I figured it out, it was quite lovely.

I really really wish "Ailoura" by Paul Di Filippo hadn't been so very heavily SF, because I liked the underlying story very much, but I found the SF trappings frustrating.

Josh Rountree's "Chasing America," which had Paul Bunyan and even appearances by historical figures, was fun. American does have a strange mythology, but as noted by Neil Gaiman, it's a hard land for Gods. And Giants.

Fate pisses on everybody with the same stream. You just got to learn to keep out of the way.

Please note, as previously mentioned, the stories have rape and incest and lots and lots of sex in addition to evil stepmothers and other such killers.

There were also a fair number of very dark and very depressing tales that were very good, but that I didn't enjoy at all.

Published by Night Shade Books

Rating: 8/10