Monday, March 10, 2014

Nebula Award Nominee: Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne M. Valente

Six-Gun Snow White
Catherynne M. Valentie
Subterranean Press
Nominated for the Nebula Award: Novella

There are some authors which, no matter how much you try, you know that you are not truly part of the audience for.  Catherynne Valente is, unfortunately for me, one of those authors.  I keep trying because her I tend to be interested in the overall stories that she is telling, the concepts are just so damned interesting, but most of them just don't quite work for me.  I can recognize why she has a devoted readership, and I can more than appreciate the craft of her writing, but who I am as a reader is not the reader I think she is aiming for.  But, because I do sometimes find one of her stories that I appreciate, I keep going back and pushing myself beyond what I would normally read.

That's a bit of a preamble to talking a bit about Six-Gun Snow White, and is more about me than the story, but I felt that I needed to be up front and fair here.  This is more about me than about how successful I think Valente was with Six-Gun Snow White.  When I fail to fully engage with one of Valente's stories, I am convinced that it's me and not so much the story.

As might be guessed by the title, Six-Gun Snow White melds the Snow White fairy tale with a western.

From the publisher's website:
A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.

All of the pieces of the fairy tale are here and in place, but even knowing this is a Snow White story, you may still be surprised when you notice the "seven dwarves", which here play a similar role but are very different. 
The story is recognizable, but it is more twisted from an expectation than it is simply given western shadings.

I recommend readers to seek this out, if only to see how you respond to Valente.  Fans of Valente's work will find much to love here.  Readers like me who struggle with Catherynne Valente will likely continue to struggle. 

The cover art from Charles Vess is worth noting as it is exquisite and striking.  It has the appearance of watercolors, which absolutely works for this art. 

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