This retelling of Snow-White and Rose-Red is dark, brutal, and beautiful. Tender Morsels got me back into speculative fiction after years of reading and writing memoir and realistic fiction. For the first time in years I was fully immersed in a story and transported to fantastical world. After finishing Tender Morsels I immediately read Margo Lanagan’s novel Sea Hearts and then wrote a novel-length homage featuring bears, selkies, magic, forests, and violence. I consider that story my novel writing apprenticeship.
This book polarises readers. They either think it disgusting and childish, or in my case, an outrageously entertaining and provocative reaction to unrealistic hygiene and beauty standards. Charlotte Roche takes a microscope to bodily functions and secretions, daring the reader to look away. Having worked with blood, placentas and faeces throughout my research career I’ve always been fascinated with disgust. Wetlands gave me the inspiration I needed to write truthfully about the human body.
Fledgling is Octavia Butler’s sci-fi take on vampires and her final published novel before her untimely death. It was also the first of many Butler books that I’ve since read and cherished. Butler, an acclaimed African-American, female science-fiction author, wrote character-driven stories with remarkable and sometimes painfully resonant insights into the human condition. Her books are also full of unparalleled imagination and impeccable worldbuilding. Her work made me realise science fiction was not just written for and by white men, and was what I wanted to write.