Fairy tales. We all know the traditional stories, right? Prince Charming, the hero, fights evil, wins the princess, happily ever after. Three sons, three wishes, witches, dragons, a quest, and happily ever after.
These stories are part of our cultural fabric. We retell them, over and over, and the stories change in the retellings, to reflect contemporary culture, such as Princess Charming, heroes and heroines as people of color. It has been only relatively recently that queer folk have found their way into the retellings, as they have here, in this collection of stories, stories that grew out of questions:
What if the prince falls in love with Cinderella’s gay stepbrother?
What if Rumpelstiltskin doesn’t really want the Queen’s child? He wants his old boyfriend back, the King.
What if Beauty and the Beast were two men?
As fairy tales do, these stories explore the human condition, human experience, through the metaphors of magic and the magical, exploring what it means to be human. After all, all fairy tales are true. But this time, with a gay perspective.
In these tales, retellings and original ones, readers are asked to consider what price must be paid for happily ever after—which is not guaranteed. Love, on the other hand, without a doubt. These tales are love stories.
Duty or love? Is love worth great sacrifice?
So… once upon a time….
Release Date: Wednesday, September 23 2020
Publisher: JMS Books
Genres: gay fantasy, gay romance, adventure, fairy tale retellings
Pairings: mm, ff, mf+gender-shifter
LGBTQ+ Identities: gay, lesbian, gender-fluid
Tropes: Hero and the Quest, Outsiders, Homo Narrans (Man the Storyteller), Good v. Evil, Love as a force, Fathers and Sons, Happily Ever After
Keywords/Categories: Gay retellings, Gay fairy tales, Gay fantasy, All fairy tales are true, True Love, fairy tales, retellings
Warnings: violence, one rape (not described)
A ficlet, what happens next for Fletcher and Sam in “The Boy on McGee Street.”
I re-read all the other stories for this collection several times and for many of the lovers, I felt I left them at good places in their lives. Perhaps with some uncertainty, yes, but also with hope. For the two boys in “The Boy on McGee Street,” that uncertainty and hope is certainly there, but there is peril, there is real danger. Sam has been taken prisoner, and Fletcher, with no planning or thought, goes after him.
I wanted to know what happened next.
“Find yourself another canary,” Fletcher said and before Paul could stop him, ran across the room, through the door frame, into the dark, into the fairy tale.
He kept running until he had to stop and bend over, gasping for air. His sides really hurt. Fletcher let himself drop to his hands and knees. The floor was hard, smooth black stone, an opaque black in a dim, grey darkness. He could just see black and grey stone walls on either side. For one painful moment, Fletcher thought about going back, running to Paul, running to a life he didn’t want to imagine, even though he knew how this other life would look. He would be at Paul’s side, his servant, his right-hand man, his canary. He would be doing things for Paul—looking for people like Sam, hunting them. Death would find him, not life.
Fletcher shook his head. I can’t go back. I have to find Sam. I have to bring him home. He had to keep moving. Every minute spent resting and not moving meant not seeing Sam for one more minute.
Fletcher ran. He was afraid if he stopped again, he would turn around and run back to Paul, back to all his fears. Life had not only found him but was being quite persistent at reminding Fletcher he had been found. He knew going back would be a retreat, no matter how terrified he was, and no matter that he had no idea how to find Sam nor how to get him home.
The stone floor started to vibrate, then it dropped. Fletcher fell, tumbling, and rolling, slamming into a wall. Hepulled into himself as if he were a turtle, shielding his head with his arms, afraid of the ceiling cracking and breaking, the flour opening. When the floor was still, he carefully felt around—no broken ceiling bits, no cracks. The stone wall. Fletcher slowly eased himself up, his back pressed to the wall, which was as smooth and as cold as the floor. He stopped when he felt something different, something not-smooth, but textured and with an edge, as if someone had set crystals into the stone. Or geodes like the two in his pocket he taken from Sam’s dresser—one for him, one for Sam.
The crystals began to glow where he touched them. He pulled back his hand, the glowing stopped, he was in grey darkness again. Touch, glow, grey. . Now he could see, stretching ahead of him, a line of crystals in the wall, glowing silver and white. Fletcher was in a tunnel, cut into black stone. The tunnel appeared to be straight, no curves or bends. Fletcher looked behind him. The glowing started at the place he had touched the crystals.
A silver line appeared at his feet, in the seam between wall and floor, like the lights on the floor in a plane.
You’re not in love … What do you know about love… Who would love you?
Sam loves me. He told me so… Sam?
Sam was waiting for him. Fletcher took a step forward and suddenly, all his energy rushed out, between one breath and the next. Did he really think he would come to the end of this straight road and find Sam waiting for him and that he would just walk into Sam’s arms and kiss him and all would be well?
Exhausted, he slid down the wall to the floor and closed his eyes.
Paul was behind him. Fletcher could feel him, a fast-moving darkness who knew his name, but he couldn’t see him. Paul was invisible. He was a denizen of the dark. He needed no light . . .
“Sam?” he whispered. No one answered. Had he fallen asleep? He slid his hand into his jean pocket: the two geodes were still there.
Who have you ever loved? Who’s loved you?
My mother loved me—before you used her for food.
Sam loves me.
Then go get him in Faerie. No happy elves, no dancing fauns, no chatty mice, no heroes with magic swords. No performing Lion …
His feet hurt, his legs, and a sharp line on both sides of his chest ached. He had to go to the bathroom and he was hungry. How long had he been asleep? From the little of the stone road he could see around him, there were no curves or turns or twists. Fletcher stepped to one side, and urinated.
His stepfather could not be right, not about anything. Being scared didn’t mean you were a coward.
Fletcher started walking. He followed the glowing crystals in the wall and the silver-grey line on the floor of this underground stone road. Under what? Fletcher shook his head. That he couldn’t begin to figure out. He kept his fingers on the crystals as he walked.
How long Fletcher walked before he could see where the crystals and the silver-grey line on the floor were taking him, another door, a grey door, he had no idea. Nor did he have any idea how long ago had he run across the attic and through the dark door. He wondered if—when—he and Sam came home, would they return to the moment they—he?—had left, as the Pevensies had done, with no time passing. Maybe that wasn’t an escaped dream for Lewis, but rather his imagination. How could two boys fight Paul and his black magic?
When Fletcher was closer, he could see the grey door, outlined by the silvery line from the floor, was also stone. The door was set with glowing crystals in a swirling pattern, like the Milky Way. Fletcher carefully examined the door, at first with the tips of his fingers, and then the palms of his hands, touching the crystals, following the galaxy’s swirl.
No knob or handle. Fletcher pushed against the door. Nothing happened. He pushed again; the door didn’t open. He started to push a third time and the door was yanked open.
The light hurt his eyes.
Right now, I am working on completing Fletcher and Sam’s story. Fletcher is in Faerie, now he has to find Sam and bring him back. This task will test Fletcher. I think their story could a novella, but I am not sure. I keep thinking of more things, of more story. The other project, which might be a novella, or at least along story, is a sequel to my first novel, The Wild Boy, and takes place two hundred years later, as humanity is recovering from the Long Nightmare of the Lindauzi conquest. When can you expect these novellas? Next year, I hope. I also want to revisit a novel I have rewritten a few times, The Golden Boy, set in alternate history, in the world of the Columbian Empire.
From “The Wicked Stepbrother.”
“Well. Lord Culver, are we done? Are there no more women to try on the shoe?” Aidan asked as he stood from where he had sat all morning, next to my grandfather’s great tome of a dictionary.
I was about to say no when my stable manager interrupted. “There’s one more, Elena. She’s in the kitchen, washing dishes. I saw her there when I came up.”
Before I could protest, Aidan ordered her brought to the library.
When Elena came in, her hair braided and pulled back to keep it out of the sink, I knew, with a sudden certainty, who had stared at me before running away. She had to have had magical help. She glanced at me before sitting down in the chair facing Aidan and his shoe. A quick flash of triumph.
I hated her.
Of course, the crystal slipper fit. Of course, she had its mate in her apron pocket.
“I have found her—my wife-to-be,” Aidan said as he stood, taking Elena’s hand, and gesturing to the room. Every woman still in line, all the male staff around me, my stable manager, the prince’s entourage, burst into applause. I clapped, too, even though I felt like I was going to throw up.
So much for my half-loaf.
An hour before they left for the capital, after a dove was sent ahead with the news, Aidan took me aside, taking me back to the library. Holding my hand, he sat me down in an overstuffed chair in a reading alcove that overlooked the orchards.
“Cal. It’s going to be all right. I have to marry her, and get her with child, but you are my true love; you’ll be my mistress—my lover. I’ll fix that house for you. Cal?”
“Aidan, that might have worked with any other woman but not Elena. She hates me, and—I’ve not been nice to her. She won’t share.”
There was a knock at the door, and the soft voice of one of his guards: “Your Highness. The Lady Elena has bathed and dressed. Her companion is ready as well. Your car is ready; another dove was sent to the King telling him you and the Lady are due to arrive soon.”
“I will meet everyone at the car in ten minutes,” Aidan shouted back through the door. Then he turned to me. “She’ll share; she’ll have her place and you’ll have yours. Here, in my heart, no one closer. Walk with me to the car.”
I so wanted to believe him, and I did until we walked down the steps. I recognized the companion, who waited by the prince’s car, the little old lady who lived by the river, her old maid. And I smelled her: first folk, a pureblood, a true silver. I clenched my teeth. That old hag had done the magic for Elena. I learned later the old bitch had been with Elena since her birth and with the earl’s family for at least three generations. She had been biding her time in that little house by the river. Now she stared at me, with a triumphant smirk. I sniffed again: she was very powerful and she wasn’t afraid of me.
I jerked around to face Elena. She was beautiful, as she had been when she came to Colomendy years ago. So, the hag had hidden her weak eye—some magical disguise. She glanced back quickly to find Aidan, who was at the door, conferring with his head guard and chauffeur, then turned back to me, getting as close as she could without touching.
“You monster. You lose,” she hissed, her breath warmth on my face.
“It’s not over; he’s mine. He wants me, not you,” I hissed back.
“He wants you?” She stared at me, incredulous, then glanced again at Aidan who was still talking to his servants. She laughed. “All the better then, eh?”
Then, in a flurry of commands and good-byes and thank yous (and one furtive squeeze of my hand) they were gone.
A month and a half later, on New Year’s Day, they were married.
Warren is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour
Warren Rochelle lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has just retired from teaching English at the University of Mary Washington. His short fiction and poetry have been published in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, North Carolina Literary Review, Forbidden Lines, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Collective Fallout, Queer Fish 2, Empty Oaks, Quantum Fairy Tales, Migration, The Silver Gryphon, Jaelle Her Book, Colonnades, and Graffiti, as well as the Asheville Poetry Review, GW Magazine, Crucible, The Charlotte Poetry Review, and Romance and Beyond.
His short story, “The Golden Boy,” was a finalist for the 2004 Spectrum Award for Short Fiction. His short story “Mirrors,” was just published in Under A Green Rose, a queering romance anthology, from Cuil Press. “The Latest Thing,” a flash fiction story, is forthcoming in the Queer Sci Fi anthology, Innovation.
Rochelle is also the author of four novels: The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press, and The Werewolf and His Boy, published by Samhain Publishing in September 2016. The Werewolf and His Boy was re-released from JMS Books in August 2020. The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories is forthcoming from JMS Books in late September 2020.
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