Happily Ever After: An Interview with John Klima, Fairy Tale Anthologist


John Klima founded and edits the Hugo Award-winning magazine Electric Velocipede. He has been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, and also edited the anthology Logorrhea, which was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. Now he’s back with the fairy tale omnibus Happily After Ever from Night Shade Press, which includes an introduction by Bill Willingham and reprinted stories from Gregory Maguire, Susanna Clarke, Karen Joy Fowler, Charles de Lint, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Kelly Link, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Briggs, and many more. I caught up with Klima to talk about the anthology.

Amazon.com: What kinds of patterns emerged from your reading, and how much reading did you do?

John Klima: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were the fairy tales retold most often. Also, there was a concerted effort to point out how these retellings were actually more true to the original tales (i.e., Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, et al) than the versions that many of us know that have been made into animated children's movies and television shows. I read a ton of material, literally dozens of books. There always seemed to be one more anthology of fairy tale retellings that I needed to get. I also got a lot of stories sent to me by authors who wrote fairy tale retellings that were in magazines or anthologies that didn't have an overall fairy tale theme.

Amazon.com: Every anthologist owes a debt to the anthologists that came before. Which anthologists were of particular use to you?

John Klima: Without a doubt Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's fairy tale anthologies from the 1990s and 2000s were instrumental in putting this book together….Obviously I couldn't make an anthology of only their material, but they really set down the path for me to follow. Even before this anthology I've held Ellen Datlow in high esteem; for me, Ellen is the top of the game for short fiction.

Amazon.com: I know you like all of the stories in the anthology, but are there one or two that you particularly love? Why?

John Klima: I'm going to cheat and mention three. Alethea Kontis' retelling of the little mermaid, "Blood and Water", was the first story I selected to be a part of the anthology, sort of my cornerstone piece. It's very modern and yet still feels like a fairy tale. Josh Rountree's "Chasing America" is more of a folktale than a fairy tale, but his take on Paul Bunyan was so different from what I expected that I knew I had to make it part of this anthology. And finally, Robert J. Howe's "Pinocchio's Diary" (original to the collection) is just heart-breaking. Very proud to include that story in the book.

Amazon.com: Why do writers keep retelling fairy tales and why do readers keep reading them?

John Klima: I think because fairy tales are such a big part of the storytelling that we hear as children, as adult readers we like to have the familiar get changed into something new. As authors, there's the challenge of taking something well known and making it your own. Who doesn't want to take the story of Goldilocks and make it something new? The writer and the reader both already know how the story's been told in the past, it's the retelling that makes it interesting again.

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