shakespeare retellings

“For never was a story more of woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
- Prince (5:3:309)

For years, the vampire clans of Paris have been at war due to a feud between the Barons Capulet and Montague. When one fight goes too far, the Prince gives the clans an ultimatum; cease the fights or burn at dawn.

Baron Capulet, and his wife, are protective of their only child, Josie. Living a sheltered life, Josie had never even thought about love or marriage until her parents start arranging one. Romain Montague thought he knew what love was, until he sneaks into a Capulet party and sees Josie from across the room.

A faithful retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Please be warned that the ending has not been changed.

REVIEW | Toil and Trouble #1 of 6 (BOOM!/Archaia)

Publisher’s description: The three fates—Riata, Cait, and Smertae—have always been guiding and protecting Scotland unseen, indirectly controlling the line of kings according to the old religion. When there is a disagreement in the sisterhood, Riata and Smertae will use men as pawns, and Smertae will direct Macbeth to a crown he was never meant to have.

Toil and Trouble, a six-issue miniseries by writer Mairghread Scott (Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters, Transformers: Windblade) and artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews is ambitious and literary in its scope, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth from the perspective of the play’s Three Witches.

More plot device than fully-realized characters in the source material, the Three Witches are given individual names—Riata, Cait, and Smertae—and distinct personalities in this comic. Much of the first issue is devoted to introducing their complicated relationships with each other as well as hinting at their heretofore unseen, expanded role in the events leading up to Macbeth’s ascension to the Scottish throne. This approach serves the dual purpose of emphasizing their Nordic inspiration—they are more akin to the Norns of Norse mythology here than they are to Shakespeare’s passive seers—and giving the Three Witches depth and agency.

Kelly and Nichole Matthews’ designs for the Three Witches complement Scott’s approach to the text. Instead of wizened old crones, Riata, Cait, and Smertae are depicted as humanoid elementals (the zoom-in “special effects” that show off the Witches’ powers to affect people and objects are especially interesting). The art team does an equally skilled job in rendering the comic’s non-supernatural characters: Offhand, the costumes and props look period- and region-appropriate and characters can easily be distinguished from each other. Also worth noting is how well the Matthews duo renders horses and woodland animals—an underrated but especially important skill when it comes to comics set in the medieval period. A double-page spread depicting the battle between Macbeth’s and Macdonwald’s forces is especially impressive, showcasing all the strengths of the art team in a single, breathtaking image.

The greatest feat the creative team has seemingly pulled off with this first issue, however, is that despite the novelty of their treatment of Macbeth, they have not, as far as I can tell, contradicted any of the fundamental elements of the play’s underlying theme of the perils of unchecked power. But where that theme was originally applicable only to the human cast, they’ve extended that theme to include the Three Witches.

Toil and Trouble #1 hints at the beginning of what should be a brilliantly executed reinterpretation of a literary classic. Recommended.


Asexuals in Writing

Lyssa Chiavari is an author of speculative fiction for children and teens, including the upcoming FOURTH WORLD trilogy, a young adult sci-fi adventure set on Mars. She has also written several pieces of short fiction, and is the editor of PERCHANCE TO DREAM, a young adult collection of Shakespeare retellings. Lyssa lives with her family and way too many animals in the woods of Northwest Oregon, which suits her just fine; except it actually doesn’t rain there as much as you’ve been told, and she really could do with more rain, thanks.

Both of those sound awesome to me, but let’s get to our very first asexuals in writing feature interview!

What do you identify as?

I identify as asexual and gray-biromantic.

Who is asexual in your story and how do they identify?

My upcoming YA trilogy (the first book, Fourth World, is due to release this fall) is told in alternating perspective between a boy named Isaak, who’s one of the first generation of kids to be born on Mars after it’s colonized by people from Earth, and a girl named Nadin. One of Nadin’s major storylines across the three books is realizing that she is asexual—that it’s a thing, that she’s not broken, and that it’s normal for her to feel the way she does. Along the way, she forges a connection with Isaak, who is demisexual. Of course, there are lots of other adventures in store for them (it is Mars, after all), but it was important for me to include characters like myself, because representation of aces is so rare, especially in young adult fiction, where most people can only name one or two major examples.

Even though Fourth World is the one that deals most prominently with discovering one’s identity and asexuality as a label, most of my stories feature ace and/or aro characters and storylines. For example, I edited a YA anthology of Shakespeare adaptations called Perchance to Dream, which releases at the end of June, and my own story in the book, a retelling of The Tempest, includes a queerplatonic relationship between my two heroines. I have also written a few other short stories that are currently out on submission with ace protagonists. Being ace (and bi, and gray-romantic) is such a major part of my existence, and I decided awhile ago that I wanted to write what was true to myself, rather than just focusing on what other people expected. I feel like my writing has improved since, so I’m definitely happy with that choice.

What did you want to get right about your representation?

The most important thing to me is to write stories that feel “true” to me. Some of my stories, like Fourth World, include a “coming out” subplot; but most of them, the characters just are, and it’s totally fine for them and everyone else. I absolutely think that “coming out” stories are important, but it’s also beneficial to me to have stories where people are just themselves and it’s a thing that’s normal. I spent so much of my life thinking something was wrong with me. I think a lot of it could have been avoided if I’d seen more characters like myself in fiction, so that’s my goal in writing what I do.

Any other comments?

I just want to say thank you for running this blog and this series, and to everyone who’s reading and who is interested in asexual representation in fiction. Things have improved so much in the last ten years, when realizing I was ace was akin to a social death sentence and the only alternative was to shove myself back in the closet for a decade and pretend to be “like everyone else.” I never would have imagined, back then, that there would be resources like this and Asexual Artists, places where I could meet not just other aces, but other ace writers—I’ve even made a group of friends who all write sci-fi and fantasy, and we’re opening a blog soon where we talk about our experiences as aces and writers. I could never have dreamed that there’d be a world where asexual stories would be wanted. I just hope that our stories will help other aces feel comfortable in their skin and make people realize that we’re not robots or sideshow spectacles—we’re normal people, just like anyone else!

Perchance to Dream is set to release June 30th and Fourth World should be out in November. I know I’ll be eagerly waiting for them both and I hope you check them out too. Check out her website to learn more about Lyssa Chiavari or follow her on twitter and tumblr.