This story opens with several paragraphs of criticism on the pacific nature of fairytale–the opiate effects of allowing oneself the escape of long ago and far away, where all the rules are clearly defined, and good people live happily ever after as long as they obey them. And I agree wholeheartedly with everything she says, especially about the imperialistic nature of story as lie, as voluntary self-deception we impose upon the real world to make it seem more palatable. But she also explains that what follows is a fairytale, and thus suffers from all of these flaws. Which almost makes me want to put the book down. Ms. Schanoes is seriously handicapping herself with an opening like that. I can’t think of too many stories that could follow it and survive. Yet not only does this story overcome the handicap, it actually hits harder because of it.
“Rats” is not a Sleeping Beauty retelling. I would argue it isn’t even a fairytale. It’s the setup for a fairytale, with a ragged hole stuffed full of shattered glass in place of where the fairytale ending should be.
I’m afraid I haven’t got any punk credibility. Since I don’t enjoy the actual music except in isolated cases, I can appreciate punk only as an abstraction, an aesthetic stand. That said, seeing punk wielded as a weapon for smashing fairytale to bits may be the most enjoyment I will ever get out of it.
I don’t really want to give away anything else, because I think this story is perfectly delivered for maximum emotional impact, and I’m afraid I’d detract from that. Suffice it to say that for sheer, raw awesomeness, “Rats” edges out “Pallas at Noon” as my favorite story in this anthology so far.