“Little Red and the Elf Princess” by Sarah Lyn Roger from Iris Brown Lit Mag, inaugural issue, April, 2014. Edited by Adriena Dame, Charlene Luck and Julia Crittendon.

It’s one last hoorah for modern takes on fairy tales before we close out this project. The Little Red of this tale is a strong, independent young woman living in a cottage in the woods with three male roommates. She crosses paths with a witch one day, refuses to buy her goods, and finds herself cursed to say only inappropriate things. The poor thing doesn’t mean to offend anyone, but when she opens her mouth, she says things that drive everyone else away. Her roommates, for example, exit in a huff.

It is, of course, a nice parallel for realizing that you’re LGBT. Red tries to modify her behavior so that others will accept her, first by writing notes to her family proclaiming she’s sworn off modern technology (i.e. the telephone), and then by segregating herself from the rest of humankind. It’s no surprise that she becomes terribly lonely. One day while wandering in the woods looking for flowers to press into a book, she hears a woman’s voice, singing. Compelled by the sound, she approaches the cottage and sees a beautiful elf-like young woman in the front yard of a cottage. Red tries singing a few notes and discovers she can use her voice in that capacity without repercussions. The stranger is kind to her, and intrigued by her, but what kind of relationship can they have, really, with Red being unable to fully express herself? When the other young woman starts pressuring her to speak, it seems Red will lose the only friend she has, the one she wants most of all.

The author made smart use of several different fairy tale tropes to tell her story, and Red’s very contemporary voice is refreshing. It’s also worth noting that this was the sole piece of fiction chosen for the magazine’s first issue.