Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Goblin Lake" by Michael Swanwick

A good old-fashioned fairy tale.

Sort of.

Swanwick's story is set in the seventeenth century somewhere around modern-day Germany. The perfect place for a fairy tale.

But it takes a kind of meta-twist when the characters engage in a discussion about their roles as characters in their respective stories.

It's a harmless tale, really, and one that ends sweetly, and perhaps not as bitter-sweetly as Swanwick intended. For Jack (arguably the prototypical name for a fairy tale character) winds up outside his story. Happy, but not immortal as he would have been were he to remain inside his tale.

Ultimately, it's a story about stories, which can be very good, or not. And I think it does well, reflecting on the nature of different character types, the power of characters within stories, the reader's power - or lack thereof - to effect those stories. It's no surprise this story made it into the collection, for it's just the kind that Gaiman would love.

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