What we really need is an adaptation of the original 1740 The Beauty and the Beast
So were you aware that the The Beauty and the Beast story we all know is a heavily abridged and rewritten version of a much longer novella by
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve? And that a lot of the plot holes existing in the current versions exist because the 1756 rewrite cut out the second half of the novella, which consisted entirely of the elaborate backstory that explains all the weird shit that happened before? And that the elaborate backstory is presented in a way that’s kind of boring because the novel had only just been invented in 1740 and no one knew how they worked yet, but contains a bazillion awesome ideas that beg for a modern retelling? And that you are probably not aware that the modern world needs this story like air but the modern world absolutely needs this story like air? Allow me to explain:
The totally awesome elaborate backstory that explains Beauty and the Beast
Once upon a time there was a king, a queen, and their only son
But while the prince was still in his infancy, in a neat reversal of how these fairy tales usually go, the king tragically died, leaving his wife to act as Regent until their son reaches maturity
Unfortunately, the rulers of all the lands surrounding them go, “Hmm, the kingdom is ruled by a woman now, it must be weak, time for an invasion!”
And the Queen goes, “Well, if I let some general fight all these battles for me, he’ll totally amass enough fame and power to make a bid for the throne; if I want to protect my son’s crown, I have no choice but to take up arms and lead the troops myself!”
(Btw, I want to stress that this woman is not Eowyn or Boudica and nothing in the way her story is presented suggests that she had any interest martial exploits before or in any way came to enjoy them during these battles. This is a perfectly ordinary court lady who would much rather be embroidering altar covers for the royal chapel and playing with her child until necessity made her go, “Oh no, this sucks, I guess I have to become a Warrior Queen now” and she just happened to kick ass at it anyway.)
And the Queen totally kicked ass, but the whole “twice as good for half the credit” thing meant that no matter how many battles she won, potential enemies refused to take her and her army seriously until she had defeated them so no sooner would she fend off one invasion than another one would pop up on a different border.
So she spent the majority of her young son’s life away from the castle leading armies, but it was OK because she left him in the care of her two best friends, who just happen to be fairies! This was an awesome idea because a) fairies have magic, and therefore are like the best people to protect the prince from any threats and b) fairies consider themselves to be so above humanity that the lowest fairy outranks the highest mortal, so they’d have no interest in taking a human throne. Good thing they were both good fairies instead of one good and one evil one!
(Spoiler: they were not both good fairies.)
So the two fairies basically take turns raising the prince until he’s old enough to rule. And on the eve of his twenty-first birthday, the evil older one comes into the prince’s bedroom.
“So listen, kid. You’re about to become king, your mother’s on her way home from the war to see you crowned, and I have a third piece of good news for you! You see, I’ve actually been spending so much time here lately because Fairyland’s become a bit too hot to hold me for reasons totally not related to me being secretly evil. And if I have to hang in the human world, I might as well reside in the upper echelons of it, so even though as a powerful fairy I completely eclipse your puny human status in a staggeringly unimaginable way, since you’re about to be king and since my premonition that I should stick this whole guardianship thing out because you would be hot one day has totally proved accurate (go me), I will graciously lower myself to allowing you to marry me. Please feel free to grovel at my feet in gratitude. (Btw, we can totally start the wedding night now, we’ll tell your mother about it when she arrives tomorrow.)”
Look, Ace Belle is not just into the whole…. sex thing, okay? Just no. She wants to read her books, to travel the world and maybe, just maybe, she can find someone who’s going to understand, that she’s not broken or unnatural, that she can love.
(But sometimes, in those dim hours before dawn breaks, Belle gives in to the fear that she is broken, that she can read about romance and kisses and love and desire and smile but not want it for herself and that she’s unnatural and sick for not wanting these things, these silly sweet things that most girls her age have dreamed of, that lead to marriage and the wedding bed.)
And the main problem with Gaston is that he doesn’t get this - because he’s the one convinced that he can fix her - that she’s just frigid or repressed and that if she just puts the books away, the right man (read: Gaston) can “awaken her passions.”
And Belle knows this is bullshit. So she makes it a point to run far, far away from Gaston whenever he comes skulking around and that her skin crawls when he tries to touch her and that the thought of being his “little wife” makes her physically ill.
So eventually Belle meets the Beast - in pretty much the same way we’re familiar with - and the Beast knows he’s on a timetable, that he’s got to find true love and break the spell and all that jazz.
Except he becomes friends with Belle first. And they end up sharing interests and stories and jokes and snark and laughter and finally, finally, Belle trusts him enough with her secret, the one where she thinks she’s different
and that she can love with all her heart but there’s something different
in her love and they have told her that her kind of love isn’t true at all, that it’s not any kind of love, period.
And the Beast is enraged. Not at Belle - but at everyone who’s ever made her feel this way, that her friendship was not enough, that her heart is not enough, that somehow this bright, beautiful, kind girl - who’d become his first friend in all these lonely years and whose made him realize that his enchanted servants were also his truest friends, not just frightened, paid lackeys - that they made Belle believe she was broken.
“You are not broken,” The Beast tells her. “You are Belle and I love you just as you are.”
The Beast knows he has laid his heart before her and he’s terrified and defiant all at the same time but it’s his own truth, curse or no curse.
Belle’s smile is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And she tells him that she loves him too, just as he is.
The curse breaks and the Beast is a Prince again and she looks at him in wonder and reaches out to touch his face, to look into his eyes. Belle knows her Beast because his eyes have never changed.
When he kisses her, he asks her first and hesitantly, she nods and that first kiss is sweet for both of them but she is pale and she trembles and he reminds her, “Did I not tell you? You are not broken. You are Belle and I love you just as you are.”
And Belle knows her Beast, her Prince, will never ask for more than she can give, will never demand her body in his bed or believe that he could somehow “awaken” her supposed “desires.”
That kind of understanding and respect is the truest sort of love.
They make this - I love you just as you are - part of their wedding vows.
And they carry on as they have always done, because they both love their books and their stories and the two of them wander the world together hand in hand and they love each other, earnest and true and happily ever after.
John’s started reading classic fairy tales to Rosie at bedtime. Here are Sherlock’s reviews (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars):
Little Red Riding Hood: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
“I admire the girl’s independence, but this idiot child doesn’t recognize the difference between her beloved grandmother and a dangerous WOLF? The SAME WOLF she met in the forest less than an hour ago? And you think MY disguises are silly…”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:★★ ☆ ☆ ☆
“I like the part about the Evil Queen demanding Snow White’s heart – nice and macabre. So Snow White runs away to the forest and becomes a housekeeper for a gang of diminutive gay miners? They should’ve just ended the story there – I don’t care for all that pointless, predictable nonsense about the poison apple and the prince.”
Goldilocks and the Three
“If those bears were any worse at deduction, they’d work for New
“Thought you might relate to Goldilocks, love – you’re both picky,
impatient, show zero respect for others’ personal property…”
“Oh please, John. Goldilocks
is a moron – now, if Rosie wants to
learn how to perform a proper home invasion…”
The Three Little Pigs:
“It’s a scam, obviously. At least two of these pig brothers are guilty of insurance fraud, and the third
may be in on it as well. A wolf BLEW your house down? While straw and sticks
may not be the sturdiest of building materials, the lung capacity of the
average fully grown Canis lupus is not
great enough to produce the force necessary to demolish even an exceedingly shoddy
The Little Mermaid:
no pirates? Would be better with pirates.”
“I’d like to
know Rapunzel’s diet, genetic makeup (or at least ethnicity), cranial
circumference, surface area of her scalp, the height of the tower, the
surrounding climate and humidity level, what sort of shampoo/conditioner she
used, whether or not she used hairspray or styling product …numerous variables affect the tensile strength and growth rate of human hair, you know…“
“I love a
ball. The ball is good – beautiful gown, the prince in his dress uniform, love
at first sight, dancing the night away, AND a mystery! Yet it’s all ruined
because I can’t stand the utter STUPIDITY of trying the glass slipper on every
eligible maiden in the land…it doesn’t take a deductive genius to recognize
that’s a waste of time!”
one actually has some valuable lessons. For one thing, someone is always
listening – royal minions in a fairy tale, Mycroft’s cameras and covert agents,
the homeless network…we’re under surveillance of some sort at all times. Be
vigilant, be aware, observe. Also, if you happen to have a ridiculous name, OWN IT – there’s
no point trying to keep it a secret, because it’ll come out eventually, JOHN
HEARTWOOD: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy is the newest anthology from P&M Press.
Across time and cultures, humanity has spun tales about the forest: tales of caution, adventure, rites of passage, and discovery. Some of those stories persist as the folklore and fairy tales that delight our imaginations today, and the forest remains a symbol for facing the unknown and emerging transformed.
This anthology is for everyone who’s walked through the undergrowth, in the silence of nature, and longed for an adventure of their own to unfold. These stories of modern-day sylvan fantasy will showcase the best non-binary cartoonists of our day, guiding characters like us into the woods and back again.
Submissions will be open to the public from October 16th - November 13th. (A line-up of preselected creators will also be unveiled throughout this period!)
Who Can Participate
We want submissions from people who identify as nonbinary, genderqueer, agender, bigender, neutrois, twospirit, genderfluid, demigender, trans fem or trans masc, and other genders outside the “man or woman” binary.
For team submissions, at least the writer must meet the above criteria. If two submissions are equally matched, the all non-binary team will be prioritized. Use #TeamHeartwood (Tumblr or Twitter) to find teammates!
All contributors must be 18 years or older. All content must be suitable for readers as young as 14 years old.
Comics from 4 - 12 pages long
6” x 9” trim size (template provided)
Black & White or Grayscale (no screentones please)
Selection Process (October 2017 - December 2017)
Project Announcement - 2 weeks
Open Submissions - 4 weeks
Final Selection - 2 weeks
Work Period (December 2017 - July 2018)
Creator Portraits - 1 week
Script + Thumbnails - 8 weeks
Pencils - 10 weeks
Inks - 6 weeks
Grayscale - 6 weeks
Letters - 2 weeks
Bios - 1 week
Kickstarter (Fall 2018)
Contributors to our first anthology were paid $100/page plus Kickstarter bonuses. In keeping with P&M Press’ founding goal of increasing pay with each successive campaign, HEARTWOOD contributors will be compensated at $105/page plus any Kickstarter bonuses.
Contributors also receive a minimum of 10 complimentary copies of the anthology, royalties on all digital sales, and royalties on any print runs of the anthology after the first printing sells out.
Creators will cede exclusive first worldwide print and digital rights to their stories for a full calendar year from the date of publication, and non-exclusive worldwide print and digital rights in perpetuity. Ownership remains with the creators.
What We Want
Previously unpublished stories.
Forests. Jungles. Decaying structures reclaimed by nature. Trees, trees, and - oh yeah - more trees! Deep, lush settings that have character. (If you absolutely hate drawing backgrounds/characters interacting with their environment, you may want to sit this one out.)
At least one protagonist must be non-binary.
At least one non-binary protagonist must be human (they can be half magical-species-you-made-up, but their gender should not be portrayed as a “fantastical” result of that).
Stories set now-ish (a hard date isn’t necessary, but keep the human fashion and any tech to post-1990 and pre-2030).
Movement from one space to another (entering, leaving, traveling), literally and/or metaphorically.
Personified aspects of the natural world (e.g. whispering winds, walking plants, talking animals, etc).
Original fantastical creatures/beings.
Discovery and Understanding.
Tests (of will, wits, ethics, etc).
Person Allied With Nature.
A spirit of adventure!
What We DON’T Want
No fan works. No auto-bio. No prose. No one-off illustrations.
Stories that basically amount to “protagonist realizes they are non-binary and explains gender to the other characters/the reader.” Your character can come to understand their gender better by the end of the story, but there should be a plot beyond that.
Meet-cutes. (“Two people meet and crush at first sight, the end.”)
Horror: this includes horror tropes, body horror, classic horror monsters like werewolves or vampires, popular cryptids/urban legends like Slender Man or the Jersey Devil, and so on. Your story can use fear and danger as plot elements, but if instilling fear/existential dread in the reader is the overarching theme, this is the wrong anthology.
Tolkienian fantasy: no elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. We won’t freak out if you make something up that’s very loosely(!) inspired by any of these (unless it replicates the problematic elements of Tolkien’s work, in which case your work will not be accepted).
Cursing is permitted as long as words aren’t used literally (i.e. “Shit, you scared me!” as opposed to “Let’s go shit in the woods!”) and are used very sparingly when used at all. In general, we’d prefer not.
No porn. No references to specific sexual acts. No explicit nudity whether sexual or non-sexual (sorry, folks). “Consensual fade-to-black sex between legal adults” is fine.
No depictions of abuse (sexual, physical, psychological) whether pictorial or written. Characters may vaguely reference (in non-graphic language) abuse that they have suffered in the past if doing so serves the story or is integral to the character (i.e. maybe the story is about a survivor working on their agoraphobia by going on what they believe will be a brief, non-magical hike…).
No gore. People can get hurt, bleed, die, etc, but not in a grossly over-the-top way that fetishizes violence.
No slurs, no racism (not even “fantasy racism”), no misogyny, no transphobia, no ableism, no xenophobia, no white supremacist nonsense in general. (And please, no stories whose sole purpose is to teach that these things are bad.)
Ready? Here’s How To Pitch
Send us an email at email@example.com with the subject line “Heartwood Pitch” that includes the following information/attachments:
The name, pronouns, and role of everyone on your team (or just yourself for solo submissions). Give the name(s) you want used during communications with you, marketing of your contribution, and credits in the book (even if those are all different).
A working title and page count for your comic (doesn’t have to be exact).
A synopsis of your story, including a beginning, middle, and end. Spoil everything, but try to keep it under 500 words.
Preliminary sketches associated with your pitch: character ideas, important creature designs, environment concepts (the latter is especially important if your portfolio lacks strong examples of background art), etc. These don’t need to be final or polished pieces! Just detailed enough to give us an idea.
Links to any relevant publishing credits (whether you’re writing the comic, drawing it, lettering it, or doing everything yourself). Self-published works and webcomics count as credits! Choose examples that best reflect the style you intend to use for this comic. You may simply include a link to your portfolio if you have no pre-existing credits, but please note that folks with sequential storytelling examples will receive preference.
Tell us about yourself, your cultural and artistic background, and why you want to be in HEARTWOOD. Short and sweet is best!
Check out the FAQ. If your answer isn’t there, Ask away!