Hi everyone, your editor Marguerite here.
This weekend has been the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. I’ve been following along as various members of my Twitter stream were in attendance.
One of the presentations that caught my attention was the history of the term ‘Fairy Tale’ and its use as an umbrella term for wonder and the supernatural in fiction. Neither concept is unique to Western Europe and the speaker, Cristina Bacchilega, posits that a shift away from using the label generically might help linguistically decolonize non-European based narratives.
I support this idea wholeheartedly: a small linguistic shift in support of greater diversity. In an effort to put Cristina’s theory to the test I’ve revised our submission guidelines to explain our use of this distinction. The relevant section is set out below.
Special thanks to Julia Rios for her livetweeting of Bacchilega’s presentation, and Julia for answering my follow-up questions.
Fairy Tales? Wondertales? Huh?
We use the word “wondertales” as the generic description of speculative fiction stories based on classic and/or historical cultural narratives. Synomyms include fairy tales, folklore and mythology – all academic terms with their own meanings, origins, distinctions and historical connotations.
This is to help distinguish wondertales as a whole from the subset of stories based on Western European ancestry, which we assign the label “fairy tales”. Good examples include Hans Christian Andersen stories, or older Disney movies.
Fairy tales are popular as a genre of young adult fiction to the point where they cross the line into tropes. We receive a lot of them. Unless a story succinctly retells one of these narratives in a new and unique way, we generally decline. A good example of one we liked was “Piper” by Ian Rose – a flash piece retelling ‘The Pied Piper’ from one of the rat’s point of view.
Wondertales, on the the other hand, are under-representaed in short fiction and we’d love to receive more of them. For an example of one we liked check out “The Dun Horse” by Edward Ahern – the retelling of a Pawnee legend.