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Story & Study: “All Upon a Time” by Dani Atkinson

Back after a long hiatus. Let’s jump right in with some more free spec-fic from Daily Science Fiction.

I’m a huge fan of re-imagining fairy tales.  Originally fairy tales, with their oral transmission, evolved with the teller, the audience and the times.  Print came along and standardized the fairy tales we read today.  On the up-side, the move to print has preserved thousands of stories that might have otherwise been lost.  On the down side, there is a tendency for the tales to become static. Between Disney and Grimm and Andrew Lang, the dynamism of fairy tales has been sublimated to a generally-accepted popular version.  The reworking of fairy tales undermines the authority of a single (big-budget) version.  Re-imagined fairy tales have become a sub-genre all their own, reintroducing dynamism to the transmission of familiar stories.

This one by Dani Atkinson gives me a lot to love.  She upends expectations from the very first sentence where the Giant Killer isn’t the Jack we may have been acquainted with, but one that brings us into Cinderella’s realm, which is at once familiar and strange. Without changing the basics, Atkinson shifts our perspectives on the accepted tropes, investigating erstwhile uninvestigated motives, and checking in on characters that don’t normally get a voice.  Then she ends it all on a hopeful note even though it doesn’t partake in the vagueness of “happily ever after”.

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the tone of the piece? How does it differ from the fairy tales you might be familiar with?

2.  What is the primary fairy tale (“the NICE story”) Atkinson is working with?

3.  “All Upon a Time” references a couple of other fairy tales. What are some of them? How are they used?

Jack the Giant Killer

Tattercoats

4.  How does the character of the Godmother change from the traditional tale?

5.  Who are some of the characters you aren’t used to hearing about? What effect does this have on the story?

6.  What is relationship between the title “All Upon a Time” and the story?

7.  What do you think of this as a re-imagined fairy tale?  Did you enjoy it? Why/Why not?

8.  What section stood out for you? Why?

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