Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (DAW, 2004)

Fans of the urban fantasy subgenre are bound to find this anthology intriguing, as seventeen authors take various classic fairy tales, and retell them in a modern, urban setting. All of our old favorites are here, from Red Riding Hood to Puss in Boots, from the Big Bad Wolf to a guy named Jack. As you can imagine, the end result is both intriguing and entertaining.
I was at first hard-pressed to identify the source for Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “Mallificent,” but I’m pretty sure after rereading that it’s the Snow Queen, as a young woman must brave the hazards and temptations of the mall in order to rescue her little brother before he’s trapped there forever. Russell Davis’ “The Last Day of the Rest of Her Life” is a retelling of the Little Matchgirl, with a gritty take on an already tragic tale. Tanya Huff gives us a struggling musician named Jack and a would-be popstar named Lyra Gold, who have to work together to escape the demonic clutches of B. Stalk Productions, in “Jack and the B.S.”
Alan Dean Foster turns the tables on a certain old favorite that’s seen a resurgence in popularity due to a recent movie, in “Panhandler.” To say it’s disturbing is an understatement, but at the same time, it’s almost brilliant in how it skews the source material’s original themes.
In “Trading Fours With the Moldy Figs,” Jean Rabe conjures up a jazz-drenched tale of a secret fairy tale culture in New Orleans, where famous -and infamous- wolves go to jam and make sweet music. “Puss in D.C.” by Pamela Sargent brings the talking cat to the nation’s capital, where he juggles his CIA association with serving the son of his late master, while trying to make a better life for them both.
Janeen Webb turns in a variation on Faust with, what else, “A Faust Films Production.” Some guys will do anything to make that hit movie, no matter what the cost. In ElizaBeth Gilligan’s “Brownie Points,” a centuries-long association between a family and their supernatural friends may come to an abrupt end thanks to the modern joys of unionization and lawyers. Meanwhile, “Little Red in the ‘Hood” by Janet Berliner reimagines Red Riding Hood -and- the Wolf with surprising, and bizarre results. No wonder the wolf liked dressing up in Grandmother’s clothes….
Bill Willingham’s “Meet Mister Hamlin” takes an all-new look at the Pied Piper, as he delivers a woman’s darkest wish, and then returns to claim payment. (And if you like modernized fairy tales, do check out Willingham’s comic book, Fables, starting with the first collection, Legends in Exile. I mean it.) The computer industry gets its own fairy tale, in David Niall Wilson’s “If You Only Knew My Name,” an obvious update of Rumpelstiltskin, with a high-tech twist. Jody Lynn Nye’s “Keeping It Real” merges the classic Shoemaker and the Elves with a lesser-known tale from slave culture, as a shoe designer in the big city finds he has help in unexpected places. Finally, Michelle West’s “The Rose Garden” looks at a Beauty and the Beast where the Beast has lived long past the age of fairy tales and magic, and has yet to find his freedom from the curse. Could the answer reside in his own heart, which he sealed off long ago?
Story for story, this is a highly enjoyable anthology with a lot going for it. It’s hard to single out any one or two as better than all the rest, but if I was going to, I’d suggest “Trading Fours” and “Little Red in the ‘Hood” both have their moments of surprise. Overall though, I was extremely happy with the stories contained within.

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