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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Red as Blood" by Tanith Lee

First appeared in Edward L. Ferman's F&SF. It was up for the Nebula, British Fantasy and Locus Awards. Reprinted in various year’s best and major retrospectives by Lin Carter, Garyn G. Roberts, Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Charles G. Waugh, A. Susan Williams, Richard Glyn Jones, David Drake, and Stephen Jones.

In this Snow White retelling, we center on the Witch Queen as protagonist. Bianca, the step-daughter, is a vampire like her mother before her. The new Witch Queen is trying to rid the kingdom of the child since she is draining their people. When the huntsman takes Bianca out, she cons him out of his religious accouterments to entice him.
 Instead, she kills him. The Witch Queen becomes a hag in order to trick Bianca. Bianca falls into suspended animation until a prince comes. The prince is Christ (or a Christ figure) who redeems the young woman's red-as-blood for a white-as-dove. The title plays double duty.

Those, irked to find Christ in their fiction, should take pleasure that some Christian will be irked to find a Christian witch. (And vice versa.) Tomorrow's tale, "When the Clock Strikes," serves as an intriguing contrast.

It's useful to see how the source fairy tale has been inverted. The original warns young women that aging beauties might hatch jealousy plots. Here, Bianca is a beauty who may believe beauty gives her carte blanche to drain those around her. Nothing but religion may do the trick. The illustration on the right captures the tale's spirit, adding a ghostly hag temptress, perhaps signifying more of a moral conscience (not that the text suggests this, but it's an interesting reinterpretation).

Although this fairy-tale plot has lost its savor, Lee's version is still quite tasty. Since it is one of her more reprinted and award-nominated tales, others must agree.

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