Sunday, August 17, 2014

EC and I Briefly Out of Commission

This is the sorry result of an immersion blender, whipping cream, a lost fingernail and seven stitches.

EC and I will be out of commission for awhile--a week or two.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Girl Who Came Back, By Meg Eden

Meg Eden's Chapbook

In 1955, Enchanted Forest theme park opened in Maryland—even though it has been defunct for nearly twenty years, the fairy tales of the park remain and live in generations of park goers. I grew up on those legends, drawing maps of the park and listening to my mother’s stories, which helped her endure her fibromyalgia. The stories of the park became my canon for fairy tales, the park itself becoming a place I could only dream about going to. The poems in the collection The Girl Who Came Back recount the fairy tales of the park, making the characters in the park come to life. They delve into the characters of the park, including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Alice, Snow White and the Gingerbread Men, but also the history of the park’s conception. The collection preserves the mythology of the Enchanted Forest, embodying the spirit of nostalgia that fairy tale lovers will resonate with.

(Editor's note: Excerpts from two works are below.)


Visiting Girl Friends

Mom talks about Snow White and Sleeping
Beauty the way girls talk about the friends
they go to the bathroom with,
and who they tell their secrets.

She remembers their dresses, the way
their hair was done in familiar Disney patterns,
how their chests moved to trick us into thinking
they could breathe. There was something real
about them, she said. Like they could be trusted.


"The Girl Who Came Back"
Her father built the dragon in the yard. She remembers its ascension to the top of the gate. Perhaps it’s this habitual evidence that makes the offspring say, We thought it was just everyday life.
She left at a young age, I imagine. Perhaps she was bitter at her father for investing in forgotten myths and not in her own story. She was probably wearing a prodigal halter top and broken bangles when she walked out.
Only when she returned years later did she learn the house was gone. In its place, a pile of bricks. The gate was orange with rust. NO TRESSPASSING, read her childhood.
Pulling onto the grass, she split her skirt into strips like factory hands, knelt on the ground and gathered the bricks. And one by one, she placed them in the trunk of her car. This was what was left of her inheritance.

Meg Eden's collections include  "Your Son" (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), “Rotary Phones and Facebook” (Dancing Girl Press) and The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks). Check out her work at: 

Meg Eden

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and Aladdin

Last night, we learned the sad news that Robin Williams died of what may have been suicide.

Williams' connection to fairy tales and fantasy is pretty strong. Obviously, there's Aladdin. But there's also Hook. And let's not forget Faerie Tale Theatre.

What was your favorite Robin Williams performance, fairy tale or otherwise?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Another Treasure From Great-Grandmother's Trove, By Cristina Ruth Johnson, Vintage Fairy Tale Sleuth

I’ve mentioned before that my great-grandmother collected some beautiful books. Undine, which I wrote about in an earlier post, is one of them. Another is an exquisite edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North, illustrated by the great Kay Nielsen.

 Kay Nielsen was born in Denmark in 1886. His career blossomed early, but the tides of war and of a declining interest in the illustrative arts left a magnificent talent to end his days in poverty. He died in 1957. Posthumously, he was eventually recognized as one--if not the--greatest illustrator of the Golden Age of Illustration.

“The Golden Age of Illustration was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration. It developed from advances in technology permitting accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art, combined with a voracious public demand for new graphic art. In Europe, Golden Age artists were influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and by such design-oriented movements as the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau, and Les Nabis” (ArtCyclopedia).

Nielsen’s work is often noted as being inspired by fellow illustrator Aubrey Beardsley and, more generally, the Art Nouveau movement. He was also inspired from a young age by the art of Japan (example, Katsushika Hokusai), especially wood-block prints, as can be seen in his asymmetrical compositions and elements flattened by the use of rich and intricate patterns.

The first volume that Nielsen illustrated to great acclaim was In Powder and Crinoline, published in America as The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a collection of tales retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1913).
From Powder and Crinoline, Kay Nielsen

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North was published the following year. Nielsen’s illustrations in this collection of fantastic and unusual stories are without a doubt his best work. (Admittedly, I’m biased, since I’ve seen them in person.) His creations have an oddness to them that catches the eye immediately, but the depth of beauty within this oddness keeps the eye’s attention. They are rich, they are compelling, they are . . . fairy-tale. Perfectly, wonderfully fairy tale.

"The Lassie and Her Grandmother," Kay Nielsen

Old Tales from the North was published by Hodder & Stoughton (1914). The first edition deluxe copies (of which 500 were made) are signed by Nielsen. They are bound in vellum with gilt lettering and decoration. The first edition trade copies are bound in blue cloth and likewise decorated in gilt. The tales within the anthology were mainly culled from George Webbe Dasent’s “Popular Tales from the Norse” (translated from Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe’sNorske Folkeeventyr in 1859) though one tale, “Prince Lindworm,” was actually translated specifically for this anthology. You can read the full text of the book online here.

Nielsen’s publishing career was stymied for the next 10 years by World War I and also by his interests in theater production, though he worked during this period on illustrations for a volume of stories from Arabian Nights, which was never completed. 1924 and 1925 saw the back-to-back publications of his work in anthologies of tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers. The final book to feature his illustrations was the little-known Red Magic, published in 1930.  

Red Magic,  Kay Nielsen

Nielsen and his wife moved to California in 1936, where he spent the remainder of his life. His final illustrative work was done as an employee of Walt Disney Studios. We can see his creations in Fantasia (1940), including the “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” scenes. He also did early creative work for a proposed film based on Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”--a project which, as we know, would not see completion for another 50 years. The Little Mermaid film still credited Nielsen for “visual development.” 

The Little Mermaid, Kay Nielsen

Which of Nielsen’s illustrations is your favorite? Join Enchanted Conversation and let us know!

Christina Ruth Johnson recently received her Masters in Art History with a focus on the ancient Mediterranean and a side interest in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her other great love is fantasy literature from ancient times to present day.

Link to illustrations
Link to full text

Monday, August 4, 2014

Live-Action Fairy Tale Reimaginings Heading for the Silver Screen, By Nora Stasio, Fairy Tale News Reporter

I've got a lot of little tidbits to share today, and all in relation to a cinema trend that's not going away soon--big budget films, in live-action, with fairy-tale settings, and a bit of a twist.

A few months ago, I reported that Kenneth Branaugh was putting together a live-action retelling of Disney's Cinderella (1950), slated for Spring 2015. I'm bringing it up again, because we've got a more fleshed-out cast list now, and it's really interesting. 

For one thing, it's an all-British line-up, with the exception of a Scot and an Aussie. The Disney film, in contrast, had a full cast of Yankees. I wonder, will there be a distinctly British flavor to this version, even though the All-American Disney Corp is still at the helm? 

Lily James as Cinderella, due in 2015
As I previously reported, Lily James of Downton Abbey will play Cinderella, and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones is Prince Charming. 

Lily's Downton co-star, Sophie McShera, will play her "ugly" stepsister, Drizella. Holliday Grainger from Anna Karenina (2012) plays Anastasia, the other stepsister. In contrast to the Disney characters they're representing, I don't think you could call either of these actresses ugly. At least, I wouldn't. So I wonder whether that aspect of the original film will come into play, or if the sisters will be portrayed as pretty "mean girls," as in Ever After (1998).

Seasoned actress Cate Blanchett is Lady Tremaine, the wicked stepmother (and I think she'll be PERFECT!). As for the Fairy Godmother, we have Helena Bonham Carter. That's... a very interesting choice, I think? She's usually cast as an eccentric, witchy type with dark or "twisted" tastes. Will she be similarly represented here, or more like the sweet and bubbly matron from the Disney film? We'll have to wait and see. The film opens March 13th, 2015.

Disney seems to be on a roll with these live-action "reimagining" films. Though not well received by critics, films like MaleficentOz The Great and Powerful, and Burton's Alice in Wonderland were highly profitable with audiences. In a monetary sense, they were box office successes. So Disney will be making more in the same vein. Four more, actually.

There are plans for a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, retitled, simply, The Beast. I suspect that means it will portray the Prince's backstory, or tell the story of the 1991 film from his point of view. So basically, it's Maleficent again? But a little more beastly?

To be perfectly honest (and if I may digress), I didn't care for Maleficent. I thought it could have been handled a lot better and didn't do justice to the original 1959 film--Walt Disney's magnum opus--or the classic fairy-tale that inspired them both. So when I heard about The Beast, I didn't exactly celebrate. How about you? What were your thoughts on Maleficent, if you saw it?

There was also a report that Emma Watson would be teaming up with director Guillermo Del Toro to create a version of "Beauty and the Beast" for Warner Bros. However, Del Toro has just recently dropped out of the project. I wonder if this version and Disney's The Beast will be coming out around the same time, and whether there's a push for the two to take different directions... and which will be more successful. At this point, there is no estimated release time for either film. 

Remember 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart? A sequel is now in the works, due sometime in 2016. But this film will not emphasize's Stewart's role as Princess Snow, as the first did. Reports are, it focuses more on Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman and Charlize Theron's Evil Queen. This is making me think of Maleficent and The Beast again, but the film is still in the early stages of production, so it's probably too soon to make any predictions.

I also shouldn't neglect to mention that Disney has two more of these remakes in the works: One being The Jungle Book (1967) and the other, Dumbo (1941). No, I'm not joking. If you're wondering, they'll both involve a mix of live-action and CGI.

So, in total, that's four upcoming live-action reimaginings by Disney, a Warner Bros. film, a sequel by Universal, and about a million others I didn't have time to mention.

This is a trend that is really not dying down. Fairy-tale junkies like us can only hope for the best, here. We can hope that any of these films will be able to bring out the true heart of the timeless tales they're re-spinning, to really do them justice, and actually be remembered as works of art with any substance.

But I'll stop being so cynical. Are you excited for any of these? Did you see Maleficent? Are you tired of this trend, or thankful that fairy tales are prominent in today's media?

Just a few things to think about. Happy Summer!

Bio: Nora writes, "I have been a lover of creative writing and fairy tales for basically my entire life! I recently graduated Cum Laude from Rutgers where I completed a minor in English, with a focus in Creative Writing and Shakespeare (I majored in Psychology)."

Monday, July 28, 2014

The FAE Giveaway Winner Is ...

AL Loveday, as the winning number from Random Number Generator was 534, and one of AL's guesses was 538. Congrats, but AL must contact me at within 72 hours.

There will be more giveaways in the future, so please keep coming back!

Aimee has claimed her prize!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


FAE, a fabulous collection of stories of faerie folk, as well as humans--and encounters between them, debuts on July 22. Brought to us by World Weaver Press (publisher of my book, Beyond the Glass Slipper), the 17 tales cover a truly wide-ranging array of supernatural beings to be intrigued by, fall in love with, feel empathy for and feel terrified by.

To celebrate its debut, EC is having a giveaway of one electronic copy of the book.

I enjoyed every one of the stories, so by noting the following, I'm not playing favorites. (There's not a dud in the collection, so kudos to Rhonda Parrish, editor.)

There's Kristina Wojtaszek's  imaginative and charming "Solomon's Friend," about a a mom, a boy, a diary and a hob (goblin, I suppose). Mom learns much about her boy, in an entertaining, unpreachy way.

"Rosie Red Jacket," by Christine Morgan, is light as a feather, and tells the tale of how a lonely little girl finds fun and gets payback, with the help of a fae named Rosie.

L.S. Johnson's "Queen of Lakes," combines family drama (and unfairness to women), mysterious deaths, a each-uisge (water spirit) and horror. I raced through it.

"The Fairy Midwife," By Shannon Phillips, features a very cool, straightforward protagonist named Tara who ends up bringing fae babies into the world. I'd like to read a lot more about Tara and her work.

Then there's "The Cartography of Shattered Tree," by Beth Cato, which features abuse, pain, scarring, lightning, and a dryad. And it all works.

You'll love this book. And many thanks to Word Weaver Press for giving EC a free copy of the e-book!

Here are the rules for the giveaway of one electronic copy of FAE:

1) To enter, you must be 18 years of age, but because this is an e-book giveaway, you can be a resident of any country.
2) You must comment below with a guess of a number between 400 and 1,000. Don't forget to guess the number!
3) Only one entry per person, UNLESS, you tweet (or retweet), Facebook post, find a way to pin or otherwise promote this contest. Then you may enter a second time. The second entry must include a link to the way you promoted the contest, plus another number guess between 400 and 1,000. Again, it must be done in the comment box for this post.
4) The contest ends July 27 at 11:59 pm, EST. The winner will be announced on July 28. The winner will then have 72 hours to send me a message at, acknowledging  the win. If the winner does not contact me within 72 hours, I will pick a new winner.
5) You MUST follow EC through Twitter, one of the Google methods, Pinterest or Facebook before you enter, to qualify. If you are named a winner, you will be asked to how you follow. This is not optional. And you must follow before you enter, not after you win.
6) No former or current or future students of mine at IUSB may enter.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The SALT Sisters Giveaway Winner Is ...Updated!

Tricia316! Tricia316 you are the winner and have 72 hours to contact me acknowledging the win at The winning number, chosen by Random Number Generator was  949. The winner chose 939.

Thanks so much to all who entered and especially to S.A.L.T. Sisters, for the fabulous, generous prize.

Update: Tricia has contacted me and the prize is on its way to her! Thanks again, everyone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Seven Fated Wishes, By Sarah Hausman

"Dolce Far Niente," by John William Godward,

Editor's note: The marvelous retelling of "Pandora's Box" mixes themes from fairy tales with the age-old myth. A surefire winner!

Long ago, there lived the Princess of an ancient kingdom. The kingdom was a wonderful place which knew no pain or sadness. The King and Queen loved their only daughter dearly, and the Princess spent her carefree days busying herself with the beauties of life. She would walk through the castle gardens, examining flowers and butterflies. Royal courtiers would give her lessons in art and music. When the Princess tired of her castle, she could mount her lovely white steed and ride freely through the villages and countryside, where she was always well-received by all of those she met. Her life was carefree and happy, as were the lives of all the people in her kingdom because there was only Goodness in the world. Evil was not yet known.

One day, the Princess was admiring the beautiful things in the royal treasury and she came across a small and unusual box stored on a high shelf. Neither the markings nor the intricate adornments gave her any clue to its purpose. When she tried to open the box, she found it was locked. Not finding a key, she took a pin from her hair and tried it in the lock, but her poking and prodding was to no avail as the tiny lock held fast. She shook the box to try to guess its contents, but it made no sound.

Being a very inquisitive young lady, the Princess took the box to her father’s throne to learn what it might contain. She found him there being entertained by a troupe of jesters, but when the King saw the box in her hands, he immediately dismissed the jesters who leapt, twirled, and somersaulted out of the grand room to leave him alone with his daughter.

“Where did you find that?” he demanded in a tone that the Princess had never heard before, although he knew well enough what her answer would be, for he immediately recognized the enchanted box.

“I found it in the treasury on a high shelf, covered in dust. What is inside? May we open it?” she asked in her innocence and eagerness to satisfy her curiosity.

“No. It shall never be opened. Give it to me at once,” he said, extending his hand. “You had best forget you ever held it.”

The obedient Princess did as she was told, but she did not understand. The King refused to discuss the matter further, which only added to her curiosity. As the days passed, her curiosity grew and she became very frustrated. One day, when she was walking through the garden, she became so frustrated that tears began to well up in her eyes. The Princess was accustomed to only happiness and she did not know what was happening. She ran to the well to draw a bucket of clear water to use as a looking glass, and, as she bent over the well, her tears fell inside.

Suddenly, a peculiar voice called out to her from the well. “Dear Princess! Why do you cry?”

“I, I don’t know,” stammered the startled Princess. And truly she did not, for it had never happened before. But her tears stopped as a new curiosity took hold of her.

“Are you a troll?” she called down the well, hoping so because she would really like to meet one. Trolls were known to dwell in small spaces and they were quite harmless.

“Certainly not!” said the voice, now sounding indignant. “I am a fairy and I can surely say I have not tasted a princess’s tears in a dragon’s age. Now, what troubles you, Sweet Princess? I am certain I can help.”

Now the Princess was laughing. “A fairy? And I suppose I am to believe you are living down there with the giants and dragons and other beasts of jesters’ tales?”

“Fair Princess, I assure you that I am quite real and my purpose is to lend aid, if you will only accept it,” the mysterious voice offered.

“As you wish, Fairy of the Well, I will tell you my trouble,” started the Princess, and she told the Fairy of the curious little box.

“I know the box of which you speak, Princess. The box holds seven enchanted fairy coins and the fairies have missed them dearly. If you return them to me, I will grant you seven wishes, one for each coin,” said the Fairy.

The Princess was delighted to finally learn the contents of the box, but she lamented, “Alas, I cannot open it! I have tried.”

“The problem is no matter, for I have a key. Send down the bucket.”  Moments later a beautiful silver key arrived by bucket from the bottom of the well. The Fairy assured the Princess it would fit the lock, and she promised she would return with the coins.

The Princess crept into the treasury and found the box again on its high shelf. She fit the tiny key in the dainty lock and it sprung open at once. Inside, she found seven tiny velvet pouches lying neatly in the silk-lined box. She untied the drawstrings of each little purse and admired the lovely gold coins inside.

The Princess spent much time in thought about what she might possibly wish for, as she already had nearly everything a young lady could want. Finally, she thought of something that she might enjoy greatly and she returned to the well where the Fairy had been patiently waiting.

She tossed the coin into the well as told and said, “Kind Fairy, give me the voice of a bird so that I may sing more sweetly than any other maiden in the land.”

“As you wish,” said the Fairy, “but know that if you take the voice of a bird you will sometimes lose their company.”

“No matter,” said the Princess, and she thought that a strange price to pay.

The Fairy granted the Princess her wish and she immediately sang the most beautiful song anyone had ever heard.

“Thank you, Kind Fairy,” she said with great happiness. “I will enjoy my gift and return in one year’s time with another coin and another wish.”

The Princess did enjoy her gift and she was praised for her lovely talent. Soon winter came and the weather grew quite cold. Snow and ice covered the land, such that had never been seen before. The birds flew away to the south and Famine and Sickness came to the people of the villages, who were not prepared for such cold. They had an emptiness in their bellies they had never felt before and they became very thin. Some coughed and became feverish.  But the Princess was safe in her castle, which was well-supplied with food and firewood, and she hardly noticed when in a few months the snow melted and the birds returned.

In one year’s time, the Princess stole into the treasury again and retrieved a second magical coin. Again the Fairy was glad to see that she had returned and asked her to state her second wish.

“I have the most beautiful voice, Good Fairy, but I would like to also be the most beautiful maiden in all the land,” she uttered as she tossed in the second coin.

“Understand, My Princess that for you to be the most, someone must also be the least,” said the Fairy.

“No matter,” said the Princess, whose cheeks became rosier and her smile instantly more charming.

Now, the Princess was already very pretty, as was everyone in the joyful kingdom, but for one to be the most beautiful meant the others could not be. Soon each person began to wonder if they were more or less beautiful than the next, and so Vanity spread across the kingdom. With Vanity came Unkindness, and those who were not as handsome were mocked so that everyone could be sure who was more and who was less attractive. But the Princess did not notice, as she already knew she was the most beautiful and did not need to compare herself to anyone else.

Another year passed and the Princess returned to the well, saying, “Fairy of the Well, the cold winters have begun to deplete our stores and treasury. Make me the wealthiest princess in the world so that my family and I will never go without.”

It was very likely that the Princess was already the wealthiest princess in the world in those days, but the Fairy adorned her with the most brilliant crown of gold and diamonds so that when she went out of the castle everyone would know it. The Fairy’s magic then filled the treasury with even more gold and jewels than before so the Princess could be certain the family would not want for anything that money could buy.

As with beauty, the knowledge of who had the most wealth gave birth to the notion of least. People certainly did not want to be the least and, when they began to want more, Greed infected the kingdom. With Greed came Crime, and people began to lie, cheat, and steal. But the royal family’s wealth was safe behind castle walls and no one dared to cheat them.

When another year went by, the Princess went to the Fairy and said, “I have enjoyed my talent, beauty, and wealth, but I long to share it with someone. I wish for every man in the kingdom to fall in love with me so that I may have my choice as a husband.”

Of course, she could have had nearly any man in the kingdom anyway, but nevertheless she dropped the fourth coin in the well and soon after suitors began to come from far and wide to court her. As they did so, they left behind many a distraught maiden who felt the pangs of Envy. Similarly, the men experienced Rivalry between them as they fought for the Princess’s attention. But she fell blissfully in love with only one and took him for her husband.

A year later, the Princess brought a fifth coin to the well and pleaded, “Kind Fairy, I have been married nearly a year now and I am not yet pregnant. Please, give me a child.”

Certainly if she had given it time she would have born a child regardless of magical intervention, but she did not want to wait and as soon as she tossed the coin into the well she joyously felt new life stirring within her.

Some months later, the Princess experienced a tremendously difficult childbirth like nothing her midwives had ever seen. With her miserable cries, Pain was unleashed upon the world. But, as time passed, the Princess loved her baby so much that she forgot the agony of childbirth. However, Pain still existed and tormented humanity whenever it could with Injury.

The Princess waited another year to return with her sixth request, which was tremendous. As she dropped in the sixth coin, she said, “Generous Fairy, I have my own family now and I wish for my own kingdom so that we may rule it together.”

“Noble Princess, I can accomplish many things with my magic, but an entire kingdom? The price for this will be very high,” said the now familiar voice from deep within the well.

“No matter,” she said.

At first nothing happened and the Princess grew suspicious, but the Fairy assured her that by the end of one year’s time she would be Queen.

As the months passed, the King and Queen became very ill and the Princess nearly forgot about her wish as she cared for them. Time, which had once stood still in the glorious kingdom, was now beginning to show in the lines on their faces and in their weakening bodies. Then, on the eve of the day of her birth, the Princess’s mother and father died.

The darkness of Death fell over the land, and the Princess experienced an ache inside her that she never thought possible. She now knew Death’s companion, Grief. But, as she had wished, the kingdom was hers and she was the Queen.

The next day, the new Queen went to the garden and leaned over the edge of the well to make her final wish. She clutched the seventh coin in her hand.

“Wicked Fairy,” she pleaded, “I can no longer withstand the torments of Famine and Sickness, Vanity and Unkindness, Greed and Crime, Envy and Rivalry, Pain and Injury…” Her words trailed off, she sighed shakily, and then continued with a trembling voice, “…Death and Grief.”

“With this final coin,” she went on, as she dropped the coin into the dark void, “I wish for you to take back all of the Evils of the world.”

Her mournful pleading was met only with vile laughter as the Fairy said, “Foolish Queen, your wishes can not be undone and it was you who unleashed the Evils into the world. But, I will give you something for your final wish, for I am not completely heartless. Something that comes as close to removing the Evils from the world as possible, and that is Hope. As with all of my gifts, however, Hope comes with a price.  With Hope comes Fear. When you experience Fear, you will turn to Hope for comfort.”

The young Queen had no choice but to accept the last gift and use it as best she could. As the years passed, her kingdom learned that with Hope came also Faith and Strength, and with the Goodness of Love and Happiness that they already knew, they were able to go on.

And still, to this day, the hopeful descendants of the kingdom are known to throw coins into wishing wells.

Sarah Hausman loves writing, roller derby, and her cat.  She is lucky enough to have an awesome husband who allows her to spend time on all three.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Into Gold, By Russ Bickerstaff

Editor's note: This amazing mashup of "Rumpelstiltskin" and data was a winner from the moment I read it.

he data was impossibly complicated. She saw all of the data. She saw how it could be combined to make something more than it was. Raw numbers and readings and things. And she could spin it all into raw profit. She could turn all of that data into gold. This was what she had discovered she could do. The problem was that the head of the department found out that she could do it. The department was really just there to process information. the fact that she could turn into a huge profit for the corporation was something that could be a valuable asset to the company.

You might think that this would be a great opportunity for her. The difficulty with this was inherent in the system. She reported to her supervisor.  Her supervisor oversaw the entire department. Her supervisor was always looking for ways to impress upper management. And so he ended up taking credit for her talent. He always had a  tendency to get carried away with what he promised--which had gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion. Not this time, though. This time was going to be different. He had someone who could turn raw data into pure gold. And he was going to work her like a machine. She was locked away in her own suite and promised money that she would never be officially contracted to receive so long as she kept spinning the data into gold. She knew that she would never see any of what was promised to her. That was the way these sorts of things always went.  

Of course, she didn’t like this situation at all. Not that she really had much of a choice. She was contracted to work for the company. If she left because of unfair work conditions, she wouldn’t be able to get a decent job in her field for another five years due to the contract that they’d made her sign. What was worse, the demands were impossibly high. She had fun working with the data. It kind of reminded her of working on puzzles with her father as a little girl. The rate at which she was expected to produce robbed her of the fun she’d had with it. And there was honestly no way that she could have been expected to make her first deadline.

She was distraught as she worked through the data as quickly as possible. The stress was killing her until a strange, little window popped-up. Evidently it was an Information Mapping Protocol application. The IMP queried as to whether or not it could be of service. She explained her situation. The IMP app told her that it could help her out in exchange for a few rather obscure music files that were nestled in her personal device. (They were from an obscure indie band that could not be found in any online store.) She agreed to copy the files into the database that the IMP designated in exchange for the IMPs help. The IMP went to work. In  half hour it had finished processing all of the information and turning all of the raw data into profit. She was elated.

The next day, her supervisor WAS pleased. And so he gave her an even larger packet of data to work with, once again demanding a ridiculously large amount of information be processed by the following morning. The IMP agreed to help her out in exchange for some obscure movies she had on her portable device. She transferred the old art house indie films to the designated database and it processed the data for her. The following day the head of the department was so pleased with her that he left her in charge of ALL the rest of the data that was currently on the department’s mainframe. He told her to turn all that data into raw profit by the next morning. If she did not, she would be terminated. If she was able to do as he asked, however, she would be given her own department to oversee that would allow her to develop applications that would do for the company what she and the IMP had been doing all along. By this time, the IMP had grown tired of media files, so she didn’t have much hope of keeping her job. It was willing to work with her, though. She had made a deal with the IMP: if it helped her out on this one last project, she would agree to give the full copyright on the first application that her department developed. She agreed to it. The IMP did its thing.

The department head stuck to his agreement, even though it was a verbal one made behind closed doors with no written documentation of any kind. Sometime in the next fiscal quarter, the first app was developed. It was ready to go live when the IMP came by requesting the official copyright on the app. Of course, the app in question was a labor of love that had been developed in fond memory of her father. It was actually something that he’d started work on. The completion of that application was the final realizations of a dream that her father had. She didn’t want to give it up. She had offered to give the IMP anything else that it wanted so long as she was allowed to keep the copyright on the app. 

The IMP needed nothing more, but it offered to relinquish claim over the copyright if she was able to correctly guess its true name in three days or less. Over the course of the next several days, she’d texted numerous guesses off to the IMP, but they all proved to be false. As she was an excellent hacker, she was able to follow a trail of information that lead right to the name of the IMP. Odd that it ended up being her father’s name. He had passed away over a decade ago. It felt strange entering the name of her father as a password. Correctly entering her fathers name as the  true name of the IMP caused it to open an encrypted video file. There he was. She hadn’t seen him in ages but there he was in high definition letting her know how proud he was of her. No longer of any real use, the IMP tumbled whimsically around on her desktop. She’s kept it there ever since. 

Russ Bickerstaff is a theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife and two daughters.