April 11 – 13, at ConGlomeration in Louisville, KY, BlackWyrm Publishing will celebrate the publication of Imagination Reimagined: Not Your Children’s Fairy Tales, which I co-edited with Georgia L. Jones and Christopher Kokoski.
The collection’s unifying principle is that each story does something new with a fairy tale theme, which results in most (but not all) of the stories rewriting a familiar tale in a more adult genre and style–quite a bit of horror, but also noir, sci-fi, fantasy, and a couple striking tones I can only describe as “experimental.” My own, “Kindertotenlieder,” to which the title page adds my unwieldy subtitle, “Songs for Dead Children, as Played by a Pied Piper in New Hamelin, Kentucky,” launches the volume on a taboo note that crescendos into quite a depraved symphony. Here’s a warm-up:
(songs for dead children, as played by a pied piper in New Hamelin, Kentucky)
When the silhouette appeared in Maryanne’s bedroom doorway, its shoulders created a broad triangle that tapered to almost nothing at the waist before flaring into rough-jeaned rods of legs that stemmed from a midsection wrapped so tightly that even in the dark, even from the distance of her bed, it seemed to throb. Leaping shadows provided contour and definition that would otherwise be lacking in the hairless chest as it approached her candlelit nest between pillows and satin sheets, next to the nightstand where the clock read midnight exactly. He was Carrie’s boy, from two doors down, the boy who delivered newspapers from his bicycle, the kid Maryanne took to Boy Scout meetings when his mom had to work late at the job she’d taken to keep the family fed since the war started. Maryanne had known him all his life, but she had never seen this look, or smelled this smell, the way he entered her at the eyes and nose at the same time, handsome musk intoxicating, and she must have been out of her mind to feel her hips begin to writhe against the sheets, to imagine and to beckon for the weight of him on top of her, inside of her.
His name was Scott. He was sixteen. Maryanne was forty-nine. She hadn’t had sex with anyone since cancer had taken her husband five years ago. She’d never been with a man younger than thirty, even when she’d lost her own virginity as a teen. Younger men, boys, didn’t appeal to her. But Scott took a step, and another, and she was watching herself as she launched from the covers, ripped at the button on his jeans, and pulled him to her for the rest.
Under a thin sliver of waning moon, twenty-two women in New Hamelin got pregnant that night. The next night, and the night after, when the sky looked like God had inked out the stars and moon, more than fifty others joined their number. By the end of that lunar cycle, almost every fertile woman in New Hamelin was pregnant. By March of 1944, New Hamelin was having an unprecedented baby boom—more than a year before the majority of able-bodied men aged eighteen to thirty-eight returned home after the victories in Europe and the Pacific.