Editor's note: John Patrick Pazdziora and Defne Cizakca are the editors of the wonderful new fairy-tale-focused anthology New Fairy Tales. Both are also part of the editorial team of Unsettling Wonder, which you really should visit.
Today's post features the second and final part of the interview. We dig more deply into the book's deatils nad features. I hope reading it will inspire you to buy the book. Also, if you are in the US and would like to promote the book and enter to win a copy of the book, please follow this link.
EC: In keeping with the difficulty of pinning down old fairy tales and spinning away from them at the same time, I was intrigued with Defne's essay on Ottoman fairy tales, because it included some history about the Ottoman tale-telling tradition (even if it, like everything else about fairy tales, is a bit hard to pin down). Defne, do you think that learning about the background of a tale tradition is, ultimately, freeing for those who wish to break new ground with new fairy tales? Why? Why not? John, any thoughts on this?Defne: Yes, I believe it is very freeing. This is because, ultimately, the history of fairy tales is mischievous.
My research into Ottoman fairy tales rose from a simple question: Where are the originals of these tales I know? The answer took me to places I couldn’t have imagined prior to my research. It opened a whole new world for me. A world of lost languages, coffeehouses, storytellers, anonymous scribes, professional listeners... These aspects of Ottoman fairy tales ignited my imagination and fed into the writing of my novel in progress. So I guess, for me, the history of the tales has been especially freeing.I don’t think this is a case particular to Ottoman tales. I cannot wait to read more on the history of Armenian tales for instance, and more on Indian and Brazilian tales. How socio-political conditions, and cultural biases impact the history of the genre is fascinating to me. I guess we could subsume these concerns under the social anthropology of fairy tales. We need to do lots of work in this area, there is so much uncovered ground!
And, at the end of the day, how can you break new ground with fairy tales if you do not know the old ground? So I think research into the past is not only freeing but also necessary. And as a bonus, it is very playful.John: Can I invoke Eliot again? He writes that tradition “cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour." And clarifies “What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career.” Or in this case, a tale-teller. I genuinely do not believe it is possible to break new ground with new fairy tales without having a profound, comprehensive, and ever-growing knowledge of the tale tradition. I mean this in a formal sense, in terms of secondary and tertiary education in folklore, literature, classics, and so on. But more importantly, I mean this in a general sense, an inquisitive hunger to read and study and learn as much as you can about the tradition of literature you’re working in.
EC: The mix of scholarly analysis with stories seems to make this book pretty user friendly. What went into your selection process? How did you end up with the mix? Was there a set idea for making the book both academic enough for scholars, but approachable enough for the pleasure reader?
John: The fourth question was answered above. Ending up with the mix—we wanted a historical survey to some extent—there are so many new fairy tale, literary fairy tales, that even in a book of this size we could only hit the high water marks. So Herrick, Andersen, MacDonald, Wilde, and so on. And then we got scholars that we knew would turn out cracking good essays on those topics—and likely as not make them much better than what we hoped. And some essays that would address newer and perhaps lesser known figures like Hata and Tessa Farmer.
And for creative authors, we made a list of authors who would do a great job writing new fairy tales, and approach them in lateral, atypical angles. Happily enough most of them were able to write for us. And so as well as Claire, we’ve got Katherine Langrish writing for us, and Elizabeth Reeder, and a new poem by Josh Richards. In the end I think all these people working together has created something really remarkable.
Defne: We wanted to facilitate a conversation between the academic and the creative in NFT, so the combination of the elements is not accidental.
In our mind there is a thread connecting all the chosen articles and stories. For example Josh Richards’, Mayako Murai’s articles and Kirstin Zhang’s story are three very different interpretations of Japan. My study on Ottoman Fairy tales and Fiona Thackeray’s story on North East Brazil are both about unknown lands, strange pasts and the process of learning about them. Both Elizabeth Reeder’s and Claire Massey’s fairy tales are about structuring space, and making a home for oneself.
We tried to commission articles and stories that would complement each other. And I hope our readers will discover and develop connections we might have missed.
EC: What do you hope readers will take away from New Fairy Tales?John: A renewed love of the fairy tale form, and of the new fairy tale in particular. And I hope we encourage readers in this continual, inquisitive delight in new fairy tales. From a critical standpoint, I’d love to see this become a touchstone—hopefully a good one!—for critical work on new fairy tales. And from a reader’s standpoint I hope people find new authors they hadn’t encountered but enjoy, learn more about authors they’ve known, and find ways to write new fairy tales of their own.
Defne: A belief that fairy tales still contain endless possibilities for growth and innovation. That there are many different ways of writing a new fairy tale, and that there are many different traditions one can take inspiration from.
Update: Here's a link to an informative post on NFT at Unsettling Wonder.