Fairytales, Zombies and Romantic BDSM
Hello, hello. I’m the author of One Thousand and One Nights, soon to be published by the Ever After line of Entangled. I live in South Africa, which is a country, and I write and review fiction while studying law.
1001 Nights adapts and retells the story of Scheherazade, the mythical Persian queen who escaped beheading at the hands of her jilted, homicidal husband Shahryar (in Persian, “king”) by telling him bedtime stories. In his original form, Shahryar inspires about as much empathy as Ted Bundy. Surrounded by man-eating corpses, protecting his own tiny island of the living, Aleksy (in Greek/Polish, “defender of mankind”) was my attempt to salvage the King from his misogynistic past. He hates and fears his Scheherazade, Sheri, because she’s tainted by a zombie-bite, but still human. The feeling of just subsisting from day to day translates well to an updated version: Aleksy tries to keep going in a world that’s betrayed him, and Sheri lives with the constant fear of death and undeath.
I first called it One Thousand and One Corpses, but the publisher wanted more romance, less out-and-out horror. I also gave it a subtitle, Sheri and the King, which probably tells you more about my upbringing on Broadway musicals than you wanted to know. I balance that out with a zombie obsession that gave me chills all the way through Max Brooks’ World War Z. In fact, I’d pay to watch a zombie musical, preferably written and directed by Richard O’Brien. It’d take about twenty years for a decent production to find its way to Cape Town, South Africa, but I’ll fund the Kickstarter campaign and wait.
Doing research for this story was a pleasure. I read the tales of Sinbad, explored the different translations and took a closer look at some traditional fairytales. These stories and their Disney reboots cause me equal amounts of delight and righteous anger. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Little Mermaid: if there’s any message there, it’s that women should be hetero, beautiful and probably silent. Even better, asleep. One of my favourites is Beauty and the Beast, which tells the story of a spoilt daydreamer, imprisoned and blackmailed until she falls in love with her abuser. I’m writing the BDSM version right now. It’s empowering. At least a Belle who reads the Marquis de Sade and dreams about whippings wants everything she gets.
Sure, I’m a feminist. I believe in “the radical notion that women are people”, in the words of Cheris Kramarae. I had some interesting discussions with my editors on this point, especially as regards Sheri and her boundless enthusiasm for sex. I adore the erotica written by Remittance Girl, who takes a similar approach to liberated female sexuality as Greta Christina, a fantastic atheist blogger and sex writer. I wanted my story to reflect these concerns of mine, and I’d welcome any comments on this subject.
Fairytales, zombies, (romantic) BDSM and feminism are themes that run through 1001 Nights. But the story’s also just playful pop fiction that I wrote for fun. I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I enjoyed the writing.
One Thousand and One Nights by Ruth Browne
Sheri spends her days fighting zombies and her nights chained to a wall, earning her every breath by telling stories to her captor Aleksy—stories that make them both forget the ruined world. Sheri could put up with the conditions—at least she knows her sister is safe in the community Aleksy leads—until she realizes she’s falling for him…even though he wants her dead.
When Aleksy allowed Sheri and her sister into his compound, he didn’t know about the zombie bite on her back. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into one of the rising dead and threatens their existence, but Aleksy has a secret need for Sheri and her stories. For everyone’s safety, he chains her to his bedroom wall, hoping for just one more day. But how long will the community allow Aleksy to ignore his own rule: always kill the infected. Always.
"He had meant to go straight to the basin to wash, but instead he stood watching the woman sleep. Did she dream? The coppery hair covering her face likely concealed shallow fever-dreams of blood and slaughter, but the arm curled defensively around her head made her seem vulnerable—a captive no older than her teenaged sister. Rays from the sun reached in through the window, and where they touched her skin a blush rose to the surface, pulsing as though kindled from within. Her dressing-gown had fallen open. Aleksy’s eye was held by the way her breasts pushed against the severe under wiring of her bra.
On her, it didn’t look pre-packaged. The charcoal-grey cups matched the high waisted briefs she wore; the cotton bunched a little where one thigh had slipped over the other. Only when her finger twitched and she resettled her head on her arm did he find the self-discipline to shut his eyes and turn away."