Faerie Tales, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis (DAW, 2004)

There are days when I’m frankly amazed at the continuing ability of writers to wring new and interesting material from the oft-mined theme of “fairy tales.” After all, we’ve been telling and retelling them for centuries, updating the settings to fit the era, and still, there’s no end in sight to possible permutations. Take this new anthology, for instance. The theme is simple; the ways in which the authors fulfill their mandate are quite varied. Some of the authors stick fairly close to the source material, while others offer up twists that are almost too bizarre to believe. But they’re still fairy tales at heart. Tales of the unearthly, immortal, capricious magical beings that have haunted our dreams and inspired our stories for as long as we can remember.
Unsurprisingly, Charles de Lint, best known for his continuing sequence of urban fairy tales set in the fictional North American city of Newford, is present. “Sweet Forget-Me-Not” touches upon one of his earlier stories, revisiting the odd phenomenon known as the gemmin, fey creatures that stick around long enough to experience the stories and memories of a place before moving on. A young man, alienated by his peers for his ethnic origins, finds love and acceptance with the gemmin, only to have to make a hard choice in the end. I’m never disappointed with de Lint’s stories; even when it looks like he’s repeating himself, he’s still full of surprises.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch gives us “Judgement,” a poignant piece set in the days after World War II, during the Nuremberg Trials. An immortal cut off from his home finally sees a chance to return, but what he’s learned of the mortal world may have changed him forever … and change is the one thing his people cannot abide.
In Sarah Hoyt’s “Yellow Tide Foam,” a new drug is sweeping the streets. Tantalizing and dangerous, it quite literally takes its users out of their world, but what’s in it for the fairies who deal it? Tanya Huff produces a new take on the old “Tam Lin” story (one of my favorites) in “He Said, Sidhe Said.” A Faerie queen takes a mortal lover, but the heroes of the modern world have changed since the last time such a thing was done. Is Faerie ready for skateboards?
James Fiscus is one of those who’s taken the original material and gone somewhere utterly new with it. In “A Very Special Relativity,” fairies and space travel combine for an unusual tale of debt and repayment. Adam Stemple, on the other hand, sticks to the basics with a slightly updated version of a changeling story in “A Piece of Flesh,” in which a teenage girl discovers an unsettling truth about her new baby brother. Jane Lindskold returns to the world of the athanor, immortal beings that have inspired myth and legends throughout human history, in “Witches’-broom, Apple Soon.” The intelligent coyote pup Shahrazad is back, and it’s up to her to protect the secrets of her home from an overly-intrusive human. Fans of Changer and Legends Walking will be pleased at even this brief return to the fascinating setting.
Stories by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Michelle West, Wen Spencer, Tim Waggoner, and John Helfers round out the even dozen stories in this book. Overall, I was impressed at the range and quality to be found here; obviously, the well is nowhere near dry as far as fairy tales go.

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