Sacchi Green: Strong Women, Fairy Tales, and a Short Story Writer’s Lament
I like to write and read about strong women. Probably all of us do, from time to time, but even if I start out trying to write a more submissive character, by the end she’ll be as strong-willed as any hero. In my very first long ago erotic short story (eventually published in Dream Lover, an anthology edited by Kristina Wright for Cleis Press,) the central character is a prostitute dominated and brutalized by her pimp, a woman who has given up on herself and drifts through life. By the end, though, she has saved a demon imprisoned in a huge gargoyle outside her penthouse window, and become a powerful demonic angel herself. Yes, I also love fantasy stories.
I love to write historical fiction, too, but I don’t even bother any more to try giving my heroines a softer edge. In “Flight of the Falcon” (in Delilah’s anthology Hot Highlanders and Wild Warriors) the Armenian Lady of Aragatsotn is every bit a match for the Mongol General from Ghengis Khan’s Golden Horde. In the other relatively few straight erotica stories I’ve written, I have heroines like a hot-air balloon pilot in 1800s San Francisco, a WWII Russian bomber pilot in the factual all-women Night Witches squad, and a semi-witch who saves the supposed “ogre” in the Puss in Boots tale. All strong women letting you share in their fun, and their sex.
With my preference for strong women, it’s not surprising that most of my work in recent years has been centered on lesbian characters, where I can have two (or more) strong women to play with. When I was invited several months ago to write a lesbian superhero novella, I wavered for a while—I’ve never actually been into superheroes, and I’ve never written anything longer than a short story. But I had a hint of an idea, and it seemed like a good time to take the plunge into a somewhat longer form than a short story, so I signed a contract, did great amounts of research, and actually got my piece done by the deadline. Whew. But—let me rephrase that. BUT! I was then told that I’d squeezed so much plot into the novella that I had to expand it into novel length. Which I’m trying to do, but there’s more difference between short stories and novels than just the word count. The pacing is different, and so is the way the characters are developed, and my editorial inclination to say the most in as few words as possible (I edit short stories for anthologies) makes it hard to adjust to the novel form. In short, this project is really kicking my butt. I love my characters, and I’ll finish the book, but it may well not be any good. It certainly won’t be what superhero fans expect, but it WILL be about very strong women. The title, probably, will be The Shadow Hand, from Ylva Books in 2018
I am now officially in awe of people who can write novels.
Back on the short story anthology front, I’ve been trying for years to get my main publisher to let me take on a fairy tale theme that would center on strong women and tweak the traditional expectations. Finally, success! My newest anthology, Witches, Princesses and Women at Arms: Erotic Lesbian Fairy Tales, is written for those who have had to settle for envisioning “he” as “she” when they’re reading fairy tales. I know similar books like this have been done every now and then, but I got such great stories from excellent writers that the stories themselves are worth reading as stories, regardless of the orientation of the characters—or of the readers.
Most of you probably don’t do this private re-gendering of characters in stories you read, and you may not like to read fairytales at all. Or if you do reimagine the characters, more likely you try now and then to envision “she” as a second “he”, which is fine. I’ve dabbled in m/m fantasy myself. Any variety is good exercise for the imagination (and the senses.) All else being equal, though, I take a story where it needs to go, with the characters who can best get it there. More often than not, these characters turn out to be lesbians, and this new anthology is a prime example. I know there are many readers who have longed for flights of imagination that could sweep them up into worlds of magic and sensual delights—if only all those heroes winning the day (and, of course, the girl) didn’t get in the way. Why can’t we have heroines who win each other?
As it turns out, we can. I asked writers for erotic romance, magic, and wild adventure, with women who use their wits, special powers, and/or weapons, and come together in a blaze of passion. The writers didn’t fail me. Some adapted traditional tales, and some updated old stories to contemporary times, in every case not merely changing the gender of a character but making the female aspect essential. Some created original plots with a fairy tale sensibility, while some wrote with merely a subtle aura of fantasy.
Their heroines are witches, princesses, brave, resourceful women of all walks of life, and even a troll and a dryad. There is laughter, sly wit, and an occasional tear; curses and spells, battles and intrigue, elements of magic and explorations of universal themes; and, yes, sex, sensuality and true love, all bound together into complex and many-layered stories. Whether a character is royalty or a miller’s daughter, a woman warrior passing as a man, a sorceress in flowing robes, or even a window inspector dangling in harness on a modern high-rise building—who better to rescue a long-haired captive in a tower?—all the relationships are passionate, intense, sometimes quick to ignite, sometimes all the hotter for restraint that flares at last into a fierce blaze.
If this just isn’t your thing, though, that’s okay. Maybe you could imagine that one of the “shes” is a “he”, although the fact of the characters being female is essential to most of the plots. But you might well discover that these stories of strong women in fantasy settings are well worth reading just as they are.
The Library Journal Review says of the book, “There is one creative hit after another…An excellent series of Sapphic fantasies. Highly recommended.”
Here’s a very non-representative excerpt from my own story in the book, but really, the stories are so varied that it would be hard to cite one as being representative. I went for humor in this one, but with more than humor at its core.
Trollwise by Sacchi Green
Trip, trop, trip, trop. Hjørdis stood back in disgust as Princess Tutti pranced across the bridge, hips swaying, the false tail strapped to the seat of her gown twitching. A coy toss of Tutti’s head knocked the goat horns on her headdress slightly askew. “Oh, Mr. Troll,” she piped in a falsetto voice, “are you there today? Don’t you want to eat us up? Look, this time there is a meatier prey than just we little goats!” She cast a mocking glance back toward Hjørdis. “A buxom brood mare!”
Hjørdis would have swatted the silly girl’s rump if there had been enough of it to be worth the trouble. Or, more truthfully, if she herself had not been bound by oath to abide peaceably among these puny southerners. For now. As it was, she took a threatening stride onto the wooden planks. Tutti ran off giggling toward the meadow, from which sounds of pipes and laughter and occasional playful shrieks rose above the lazy burbling of the stream.
Princess Vesla, also adorned with horns and tail, came up timidly beside Hjørdis. “There truly was a troll under the bridge a week ago,” she said in a tremulous voice. “When Tutti called out, I heard its voice, like the rumbling of stones. She thinks it was Werther, the dancing master, trying to frighten us, but I’m sure it wasn’t!”
“Oh? What did he say?” Hjørdis made some small effort to tolerate Vesla, who was not so spiteful as her sister Tutti. She felt also a slight sympathy for the girl, who had formed a hopeless passion for Hordis’s captive brother Harald. At least accompanying them on their outing, however nasty it promised to be, was an excuse to leave the castle.
“It said, ‘Scrawny bones not fit to pick my teeth! Get you gone!’” Vesla shivered. “But we haven’t heard anything since.”
Hjørdis knew a great deal more about trolls than these little twits ever could. More than anyone could who had not known Styggri. That sounded all too much like what Styggri would say, in a humorous mood. But Styggri had crossed into another world from which there was no return.
Hjørdis looked more closely at the bridge. Its sides and the pillars beneath were stone, with wooden planking wide enough for two carriages to pass side by side over its double arch. And wide enough for a troll to lurk beneath, although why one should wish to, or venture this far south at all, was beyond her. Still… She gazed far upstream to where water surged out from a cleft in a rocky hillside. Nothing to compare with the jagged mountains and plummeting rivers of her home, but still part of a long arm of hills and ridges reaching out from those same mountains.
“You go on to your frolicking.” She gave Vesla as gentle a shove as she could manage. Gods, these pampered southern girls were brittle, twiggy things! And their brother the prince—her husband under duress—was no better. “I’ll sit a while here in the shade of the birches. This heat annoys me.”
“Oh! Are you, then…already…”
“No! And if I were, it would be too soon to know. Go along now!”
Vesla went, trying to keep the gilded wooden heels of her shoes from making as much noise on the bridge as Tutti’s had done. Once safely across she looked back over her shoulder. “Give Werther a few stomps from me,” Hjordis called. The foolish dancing master deserved whatever he got, with his tales of ancient times in foreign lands where satyrs danced on goat hooves and bands of women ran wild under the spell of a wine god.
About the Author
Sacchi Green is an award-winning writer and editor of erotica and other stimulating genres. Her stories have appeared in scores of publications, including eight volumes of Best Lesbian Erotica, four of Best Women’s Erotica, and three of Best Lesbian Romance. In recent years she’s taken to wielding the editorial whip, editing thirteen lesbian erotica anthologies, including Lesbian Cowboys (winner of a Lambda Literary Award,) Girl Crazy, Lesbian Lust, Women with Handcuffs, Girl Fever, Wild Girls, Wild Nights (also a Lambda Award Winner,) Me and My Boi, and Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year 20th Anniversary Edition, all from Cleis Press, as well as Through the Hourglass: Lesbian Historical Romance and Thunder of War, Lightning of Desire (Lethe Press.) Sacchi lives in the Five College area of western Massachusetts, gets away to her NH mountain retreat as often as possible, and makes the occasional foray into the real world to do readings in New York and other exotic locales. She can be found online at www.sacchi-green.blogspot.com and on Facebook..