Tale: An Adaptation
of Shakespeare's The Winter's
By Claudia Alexander
I can’t really
claim to be “reviewing” this book, since I haven’t read it, at least not in
this particular iteration. I did read a substantial chunk of it under the title
“Leo’s Mechanical Queen” in the scarcely marketed, stealth steampunk Shakespeare
anthology The Omnibus of Doctor Bill
Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter, and thought it was one of the highlights of
the book. It remained true to Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale while transforming it into a true steampunk
alternate history/culture story, set in a world where Louisiana was never
sold to the U.S. by Napoleon, and with a Creole/voodoo culture.
My only complaint with the original
story was that it was a little too short, its ending a little too abrupt, to
fully stand alone as a steampunk reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s play. In fact, it fell just short of fulfilling that promise.
That this volume exists suggests that perhaps the story was longer originally, and
it was the editors who lopped off a bit of the ending, along with other,
perhaps more judicious, excisions. It’s
still short for a standalone book -- it’s more of a chapbook, only 48 pages -- but that may be precisely the
proper length for the story. I think I must buy it, and recommend it to
one and all.
That said, there is no indication in the summary or details on Amazon.com or the book that a large chunk of this book was previously published as part of another book. As I’ve written before, this particular steampunk Shakespeare anthology -- while
heavily promoted while the editors were looking for submissions -- has scarcely
been mentioned by any of its editors, writers or even its publisher since.
That Claudia Alexander doesn’t mention it either is a curious conspiracy of silence.
Since the writers were to be exclusively paid by royalty, not an
advance, perhaps Alexander has received no payment yet, and therefore
sees no reason to promote it? Given the lack of buzz about the book
I’m sure she sees no advantage in bringing up the connection. I even
wonder if she has had the rights returned to her in exchange for silence
about the whole debacle.
reason, I’m glad the story will now reach a wider audience, and I hope some of
the other Omnibus authors’ stories follow suit, particularly Tim Kane's The Malefaction of Tybalt’s Mechanical Armature (an American Civil War-set retelling of Romeo and Juliet), Ruth Booth's Much Ado About Steam Presses: A Scandal of Minor Importance (a steampunk explanation for Don John's behavior in Much Ado about Nothing), both of which I liked but felt were a little too truncated. (Rebecca Fraimow’s Measure for Steel-Sprung Measure might
also benefit from such expansion, though much more work is needed. I liked the concept, but it’s little more than an anecdote