Anthologies published by World Weaver Press (WWP) tend to grip from the beginning and leave me itching to turn the page and start the next story. Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls is no exception. Edited by Rhonda Parrish, this third installment of her “Punked Up Fairy Tales” series more than lived up to my hopes and expectations, and left me craving more cyberpunk stories.
I’m not going to spend time surveying the stories and their plot hooks. That has already been done elsewhere. Rather, I want to talk about what sucked me into this anthology. Naturally, that will lead to why I think you should get this book and read it cover-to-cover without putting it down.
Parrish did a magnificent job of selecting stories for this anthology. She strikes a solid balance between new, original fairy tales and modern retellings of old favorites. Many of the stories contain wonderful blends of science fiction and fantasy. And in true WWP fashion, the first story ended up being my favorite among a book of masterfully told and curated tales. Written by Sarah Van Goethem, “A Beautiful Nightmare” is a wonderfully creative cyberpunk retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It roped me in on the first page and continued to drag me—more than willingly—through to the end.
The anthology contains engaging retellings of Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Cinderella, and more. Parrish brings together stories by authors who build worlds by skillfully weaving the hopeful, happily ever after so common to fairy tales with the gritty and dark tech-based dystopias we all expect from the cyberpunk genre. The result is a book full of stories about worlds of despair in which people struggle and succeed at finding ways to adapt, move forward, and create hope wherever and however they can.
Indeed, the book’s final story drives home that central theme. It takes place in a world of concrete jungle, gross inequity, and depressing escapism. Yet amidst that setting, a young protagonist finds hope when she stumbles upon a green sprout poking up from out of a crack in dingy concrete ledge covered in rusty metal spikes. After transferring the plant into a small cup, she embarks on a mission to find soil in which the young shoot can survive, grow, and maybe even thrive.
Although these stories take place in dystopias, they are hopeful. Not hope as in wishful thinking. Rather, a hope born out of the real struggles of living in a corrupt world designed to crush your soul. That’s not just hope, it’s radical hope, and it’s the most important kind of hope we have.
Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls releases on January 11, 2022.
Click Here to preorder your copy today!
Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is the co-editor-in-chief of Solarpunk Magazine. They live in rural Oregon with his partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.