I love a good shape-shifting story. There’s something about the ability to be human and to also be something else that intrigues me. Of course, even if the something else has fur and fangs, it is a reflection of the real world: wearing a mask to conceal your real identity, different personas to suit different situations. How many people are truly what they appear to be? How many of us are hiding a secret identity? I think that’s what is at the heart of a good shifter story—the intersection between identities, the crisis of conscience a character faces when confronting her own alternate existences and then finding a way to merge the two halves into a whole. It makes for wonderful conflict—and when we’re talking about erotica, it also makes for a hot, hot story of physical and emotional transformation.
In the newest anthology I’ve edited for Cleis Press, Lustfully Ever After (Cleis Press, May 2012), I asked authors to take classic fairy tales and give them an erotic twist. The resulting anthology is filled with sensual retellings of both familiar and lesser known tales—many of them with shape-shifting characters, in one form or another.
In “Wolf Moon,” Michelle Augello-Page’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood gives us a Little Red who is both girl and beast. The full moon calls to her wolf-like nature and her lover, who is also her salvation, seeks to possess both her human and beastly identities.
Anya Richards’ erotically charged “Rosa Red” reinterprets “Snow White and Rose Red” and delivers a beast of a different sort. He goes by the nickname of Bear and possesses an insatiable sexual appetite for the lovely Rosa.
My own story, “A Sea Change” reimagines the Little Mermaid in reverse—with the heartbroken heroine encountering a mysterious man on the beach. Her transformation from woman scorned to woman desired is both emotional and physical, thanks to the epiphany brought on by the stranger.
Of course, not all shifter stories are physical and Emerald’s version of Beauty and the Beast, the kinky and poignant “The Beast Within” shows that a character can shift on the inside without any perceptible change on the outside.
In another fashion, Evan Mora’s transgendered Pinocchio-inspired character in “Real Boy” shows that not every physical shift is monstrous or undesired. In fact, some changes are about claiming a truer identity than the one perceived by others.
Lustfully Ever After captures the magic of fairy tales and delivers erotically satisfying resolutions for characters who are both what they seem and what they hide from the world.
How many people are truly what they appear to be? How many of us are hiding a secret identity? Are you?