Futuristic or alternate tech-based settings offer a fertile environment for reinvented fairy tales. That’s because many of the themes explored in fairy tales are timeless. Even in the future, people (or aliens, as the case may be) will continue to grapple with issues such as trust, danger, betrayal, poverty, and, of course, love.
Future-set fairy tales may not be as numerous as stories set in contemporary times or the past, but they do exist. Science fiction romance in particular has a unique contribution to reinvented fairy tales, namely, Ella Drake’s Future Tales.
According to the author’s Web site, in this series of e-novellas, “Fairy tales belong to the future in a world of mega-corps, bio-tech, and secret agents from the Mother organization.”
In terms of setting, the stories draw on a science fiction subgenre known as biopunk (think: dystopia and biotechnology run amok). In Future Tales, corporations with nefarious intentions use biotechnology to manipulate the lives of the hapless people caught in their webs.
The first tale in the series is Jaq’s Harp (Carina Press). This story is a twist on the classic “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It weaves a romance of reunited lovers amid a bleak landscape of poverty and suppression.
Here’s the blurb:
In a world of floating islands and bio-engineered beans, the bad guys are taken down by agents of the Mother organization—agents like Jacqueline “Jaq” Robinson. Instead of accepting her next routine assignment, she sets out on a mission of her own—to destroy Giant Corp, the company responsible for her sister’s wasting illness. Jaq must steal her cure from Giant’s headquarters high above the city…even though she’ll be brought face-to-face with Harper English, the man who left her to go deep undercover at Giant.
For Harp, Jaq had been a distraction the mercenary thought he couldn’t afford. But once he sees her again, Harp knows he’s made a mistake. Even though she vowed he won’t have her again, it’s clear they still have a powerful attraction. Harp’s determined to get a second chance with Jaq—if they can escape Giant Corp and get back to solid ground in one piece…
In terms of villainy, Giant Corp makes the giant from “Jack and the Beanstalk” look like a butterfly in comparison. The story invites readers to reflect on the cost of corporate greed. Could pharmaceutical companies become so powerful that they dictate whether we live or die?
The romance between Jaq and Harp explores the theme of love conquers all. Only together are they an effective force against the all-powerful Giant Corp. However, can they work out their differences before it’s too late to save Jaq’s sister?
Another twist in Jaq’s Harp involves the famous beans. Hint: they have a nifty biopunk origin!
The second novella in the series is Braided Silk (Liquid Silver Books), which reinvents “Rapunzel.” But this version is a far cry from any Disney-fied incarnation. Braided Silk captures the dark tone and sinister implications of the original tale.
Rapunzel was made with technologically advanced hair. As a trained Mother agent, Zel can’t escape the DNA that makes her a pawn in corporate espionage. Kidnapped and held in a tower on Gothel Island, she falls to the sexual allure of her captor’s son, Langley, a man whose every tantalizing touch makes her forget she wasn’t born human.
Langley Gothel protests the existence of creations such as Zel, but when faced with losing her, he sees the truth: Life is precious, whether born, modified, or shaped in a Petri dish. He does the one thing he’s thought he’d never do. He has to give up Zel, or become a mod. But will that be enough to get them down from the floating islands and safely to ground?
The issue of trust is a strong theme in Braided Silk. Zel, as a “bio-creation” without traditional family ties, has a difficult time knowing how to trust, let alone who to trust. The trust challenges manifest at both a societal and also an interpersonal level, with each impacting the other.
The story also explores the nature of humanity. Are “natural born” humans inherently better than “bio-creations”? What place—and rights—do bio-creations have in this society?
Another theme is that of economic divide. The wealthy live in luxurious floating islands. The poor dwell on a pollution-choked surface. Corrupt corporations conduct ethically questionable research in the name of greed. All the while, the hero and heroine battle for freedom, self-worth, and the right to love and be loved.
But that’s not all! So that we could learn more about Future Tales, I invited Ella Drake to answer a few questions about it. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What inspired you to reinvent fairy tales in a futuristic setting?
A: I usually play the “what if” game in a more futuristic/sci-fi frame of mind. So when thinking, “What if Jack was a Jacqueline and she was really a spy?” I tended to want the beanstalk to be biotech. Another inspiration for a futuristic setting was the commonly dire and gritty tone of the original fairy tales. When it comes down to it, they resemble more of a dystopian setting than today’s world.
Q: What kind of research did you do for the stories? Does the biotech in Jaq’s Harp and Braided Silk have any connection to/inspirations from real-life technology?
A: I researched biopunk to some extent and of course, The Island of Doctor Moreau and the original versions of the tales had a large influence. In real life terms, the ongoing social debate about life, fertility, family, medical advancements, and what makes us human vs. machine played a very large part in this series. I also researched some of the science background like proteins, biotech, and nanotech.
Q: What kind of heat level can readers expect from these stories?
A: The heat level is hot with some explicit/adult language and situations.
Q: What are some of your favorite fairy tales?
A: Rapunzel, of course! But I do love Beauty and the Beast and one of the lesser known tales, Bluebeard, because it explores fertility and female roles in a way many do not.
Q: Do you have plans to write any more stories for this series?
A: Not at this time. I’ve been working on other projects, but the influence of fairy tales is always there when I write. It’s ingrained in me.
And there you have it: an intense, complex marriage of biopunk and fairy tales in Ella Drake’s Future Tales.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.
She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is Queenie’s Brigade from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.