Birthday Reviews: Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples”
Cover by Charles Vess
Neil Gaiman was born on November 10, 1960.
Gaiman has received Hugo Awards for his novels American Gods and The Graveyard Book, his novella Coraline, his short story “A Study in Emerald,” and his Graphic Story The Sandman: Overture. Both American Gods and Coraline won the Nebula Award and Gaiman has also won the Bradbury Award from SFWA for his screenplay for the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife.” His short story “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” part of his Sandman graphic novel, won the World Fantasy Award for Gaiman and collaborator artist Charles Vess. Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano won the Bram Stoker Award for The Sandman: Dream Hunters and Gaiman has also won the award for American Gods, Coraline, and The Sandman: Endless Nights. He won the British SF Association Award for Coraline and The Wolves in the Wall, the latter in collaboration with Dave McKean. His novelette “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” earned him a Shirley Jackson Award in 2011 and the anthology Stories: All New Tales earned him and collaborator Al Sarrantonio a second Shirley Jackson Award that same year. Gaiman’s work in both prose and comic has won him several other awards as well. He was the guest of Honor at Anticipation, the 67th Worldcon in Montreal in 2009. Gaiman has collaborated with numerous authors and artists for his work in comics and collaborated with Terry Pratchett on the novel Good Omens. Other prose fiction collaborators include Dave McKean, Kim Newman, Eugene Byrne, Gene Wolfe, Toby Litt, Alisa Kwitney, Jaime Delano, and Bryan Talbot.
Snow, Glass, Apples was originally published as a chapbook in 1995 by DreamHaven Press to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow selected the story to appear in their anthology The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Eighth Annual Collection and Poppy Z. Brite included the story in her anthology Love in Vein II: Eighteen More Tales of Vampiric Erotica. The story was translated into Spanish in 1997 for inclusion in the July issue of the fanzine Artifex. Gaiman included it in his collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, which was translated into French. The story has also been translated into Dutch. In 2007, Martin H. Greenberg included it in the anthology Women of the Night and John Joseph Adams used the story in his 2009 anthology By Blood We Live. The next year, it appeared in Peter S. Beagle’s anthology The Secret History of Fantasy. Gaiman adapted the story into a play in 2002 and that same year, he recorded the play along with another for HarperAudio. The story was also adapted into a play by the Edinburgh University Theatre Societty in 2012.
It is said that everyone is the hero of their own story and Gaiman took that to heart in “Snow, Glass, Apples,” retelling the story of Snow White from the point of view of the princess’s stepmother. In this version, the queen marries the king and pretty much ignores her step daughter, leaving the girl to her own devices until the child bites her when the queen gave her an apple to assuage Snow White’s hunger. With the bite came the realization that the child was vampiric in nature. After Snow White killed her father so she could feed, the queen realized she had to get rid of the child and sent her into the forest and asked that her heart be returned.
The fact that the heart continued beating told the queen that the child yet lived, but she remained in the forest while the queen ruled for several peaceful years over her kingdom. The balance changed one year when the local fair faced closure because of lack of attendance. Something was happening in the forest that meant that the midgets and others who lived in the forest were not coming to the fair in their previous numbers, which lead to others staying away. Resolving to fix the situation, the queen entered the forest to present her stepdaughter/vampire with poisoned apples, a solution which seemed to work based on the heart no longer beating, but was eventually ruined by the appearance of a necrophiliac prince.
Gaiman demonstrates his understanding not only of the tropes from fairy tales, but also of the cultures which spawned the Märchen. He has combined this with the traditional description of Snow White as having skin as white as snow, ruby lips, and raven black hair as an inspiration for vampirism, mixed with the fact that she apparently could rise from the dead. The story is slightly undermined by the matter-of-fact storytelling style of the queen rather than describing Snow White’s depredations in terms more reminiscent of a horror or gothic story.
Reprint reviewed in the collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, by Neil Gaiman, Avon Books, 1998.
Steven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Webinar: Web Sites” in The Tangled Web. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.