“The Black Fairy’s Curse” Karen Joy Fowler
Found in Black Swan, White Raven edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Avon Books, 1997, also available via Kindle
This is a short story that shows the particular age of this Datlow/Windling collection. It’s not a bad story by any means, but some of it feels a bit tired given today’s more feminine Sleeping Beauty adaptations. It’s certainly a part of the heritage that has led to other more complex feminist renderings of the Sleeping Beauty story. In this brief piece, the focus is on a dreaming princess’ dreams. And, as we learn in the twist in the end, dreams might be preferable to the actual reality of awakening. There is some beautiful writing here in the way the dream sequence is laid out. I found myself reading it more than once because there’s very much a dream logic at work which I appreciate in the way that the action is written to keep shifting in the dream as it flits from one idea to another. There were glimmers within the dreams of Sleeping Beauty and the setting the tower and the thorns that bring the story together into a very beautiful and compact package. And then the ultimate question, is the curse of the title the dreams or is it in the awakening? The feminist reader in me is super pleased by the way in which Fowler utilized both feminine desire and fear of the prescribed rape scenario that Sleeping Beauty sets up. Having read so many stories that share some of this feeling of dissatisfaction with the waker, it can sometimes feel more than a bit of a cliche reading today. What makes this particular version stand out is the mirroring of the curse in the story that it is well worth revisiting an earlier example of the idea.
Plot – 3/5 Character – 3/5 Thought – 5/5 Diction – 5/5 Music – 5/5 Spectacle – N/A