Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Monsters Never Leave You, by Carlie St. George

[Strange Horizons]

(Fairy Tale Pastiche Horror) Two little children come to a gingerbread house in the woods. The lady of the house is a witch, but so are the kids, and one of them is already dead anyway. The real problem is the people looking for them. (6,668 words; Time: 22m)

"," by (edited by Vanessa Rose Phin), appeared in issue 06/29/20, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.357 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Except for the name changes, this is a Hansel and Gretel pastiche, set about 20 years after the incident with the witch trying to eat the two little kids, which we’re all familiar with. Gretel, who now goes by Esther (she tells us it’s not her original name) is a witch herself, but she gives wise advice to junior witches who seek her out. She’s never forgiven her father for abandoning them, and so the two kids who come to her are deeply disturbing.

Hansel, who now goes by Peter, seems to work for the sheriff tracking missing persons. As “Esther” says, it’s a pity he didn’t have that ability the first time they got abandoned in the woods. He was all too quick to forgive their father and blame himself—even when their father abandoned them again.

Anyone who’s ever been a foster parent (or at least done the training) will recognize that Esther and Peter as well as both kids show symptoms of traumatized children. It’s a sobering reminder that so many fairy tales are stories are terrible child abuse.

Con: It’s a great set up, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s clear from the start that the kids will stay with Esther (even though she hasn’t really done foster parent training; I get the feeling the local child-protective services aren’t very strict). None of the three visitors trying to claim the children is very convincing, and there never seems to be any serious threat of someone taking them by force.

Nor is Esther herself really transformed by this. She’s a little uncomfortable a few times, but she’s happy enough to have the kids even from the start.

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Carlie St. George Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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