Hags, Sirens, and Other Bad Girls of Fantasy, edited by Denise Little (DAW, 2006)

Mythology and fantasy are full of “bad girls,” as suggested by the title of this collection. Everyone has their favorite or most feared, from the Greek Harpies to the apocryphal Lilith, from Cinderella’s wicked stepmother to the Gaelic Black Annis. They’re victims and persecutors, mothers and daughters, nightmares and legends, and at long last, it’s time they got to tell their side of the story. Or, in some cases, their story is told by those unlucky enough to cross their paths.

In “Shall We Dance?” the tale is recounted of a so-called alpha male who runs afoul of the quintessential female predator. In Leslie Claire Walker’s “Time and Memory,” a Queen of Faerie plays out a familiar story involving a mortal named Thomas yet again. Allan Rouselle takes another look at the Greek Sirens in “Band of Sisters,” while Greg Beatty manages to find both pity and purpose for a different Greek monstress, Echidna, also known as the “Mother of Monsters.” Lilith, of course, is present in Peter Orullian’s “Lilith,” and Annie Reed catches up with a destitute Hera wandering the mean streets of the modern world in “Homeless.”

Christina F. York retells the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the stepmother, suggesting that history really is written by the victors and not all bad guys are what you’d expect, in “Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth.” Scott William Carter gives us a wonderfully poignant tale of Medusa in “Heart of Stone,” and Michael Hiebert overturns the entire concept of the Tooth Fairy in the simply-titled “Dust.”

Whether the stories look at the Harpies or the Furies, Hera or Isis, Norse or Celtic mythology or even original characters, they all manage to deliver solid tales. It’s interesting how many of the authors chose to portray their protagonists either as victims of their power/curse or as supernatural beings much diminished by the progress of centuries and the advent of modern time. Redemption also features heavily in a few of the stories. Of course, for all those, there are still a few cases where our heroine remains unrepentant, undiminished, and unyielding. Altogether, this is an enjoyable collection that give the reader plenty to think about.

Originally posted on SF Site, 2006

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