When Deborah and Phyllis put out the call for stories for an anthology based on known fairy tales, I hesitated. Fairy tales? Those fables our ancestors thought up sometime after the dawn of civilization and used to scare children into proper behavior? Updated for a hipper, post-modern audience? I guess.
Considering possibilities, I envisioned turning a moldy, morbid, morality tale with a happy ending into an edgy, morbid, morality tale with a questionable ending. Could work.
I can’t remember why I picked The Twelve Dancing Princesses as my springboard. I suppose it seemed like a pretty innocuous entity that could use an infusion of grit. So I turned the castle into the Princess Dancer Lounge, the king into a failed danseur, the princesses into exotic floor dancers. It’s an edgy, morbid, morality tale of exploitation, abuse, broken dreams, sisterly love, and in the end, redemption. All the stuff in the original story if you could read between the lines, had an imagination, could understand the subtext, and if you came up with your own ending.
Of course I didn’t see all that until I wrote the new story. I thought the original was just another feeble account of a clingy king with separation anxieties regarding his children. His wife had left him years ago and dad gummit! he wasn’t letting his twelve only daughters go to any shiftless prince who happened to show up on the periphery.
But other readers understand that tale of woe better than I ever did. When I took my updated version to my writers critique group, more than one reader remarked on the sadistic king of the original. I guess they didn’t like how he killed all the suitors who tried and failed to win his daughters. “Twisted” a couple of them said.
And what of the princesses plying the young hopefuls with alcohol thereby ensuring their failure and subsequent death. That’s just rude. I mean, you don’t like a guy, say so. Don’t lead him on like that.
So the original story is fraught with edge after all. All I had to do was give it a modern twist.
Voila! Exotic dancers, a raging handler, the dance of the dead, a man in a homburg, an abusive witch, and a magical ballroom that takes you to the stars and heals all wounds. Folks, I give you the Princess Dancer.
And coming soon: The making of the Princess Dancer short film. Or book trailer. Or TV commercial. Or festival entry. Or failed narrative. Or Academy Award nominee. Let’s see how it plays out.
Thanks for checking in.
Sue Lange’s story, Princess Dancer, is part of the BVC anthology, Beyond Grimm: Tales Newly Twisted, which includes stories from Vonda N. McIntyre, Sherwood Smith, Patricia Rice, Deborah J. Ross, Laura Anne Gilman, Judith Tarr and a whole bunch more. These are not your grandmother’s fairy tales.
Next Installment — Beyond Grimm: Making a Movie