Originally published on The Nerd Daily.
A post-apocalyptic fairy tale featuring a biracial, bisexual, axe-toting kickass handicapped woman who’s not about to be a victim to any big bad wolf? Sign. Me. Up.
It all began with the Cough, an infectious, air-borne disease that could kill even the healthiest person in twenty-four hours flat. Like any good world-ending virus, the Cough spread quickly, decimating the modern world and quickly pivoting humanity’s few survivors—mostly those immune or who’d somehow managed to hide, literally, from the virus—into a new world where resources are scarce and survival is contingent on one’s ability to find enough food and shelter to stay alive, all the while avoiding both infection and the worst of all monsters: other humans. It’s a post-apocalyptic fairy tale set in the new future, though for Red the dangers lurking around the corner are ones that have plagued mankind for centuries: intolerance, fear, hubris, power-seeking, and various other destructively antisocial behaviours. (There’s a monster, too, but its existence somewhat pales in comparison.)
Cordelia—or as she prefers to be called, Red—is a biracial, bisexual survivalist with a penchant for science fiction and horror, and a prosthetic leg. She’s also the sole survivor of her family—her white father, black mother, and older brother all having been…lost…to various consequences of the Cough that hit a little too close to home to be entirely fiction. Come hell, high water, or copious amounts of treacherous hiking, Red is determined to make it to her grandmother’s house—which waits three hundred short miles away—without being gobbled up by any wolves, literal or figurative, along the way. She’s determined and resilient, without being unapproachable or unrelatable. In fact, quite the opposite, Red persists as the embodiment of all the better parts of humanity that have disappeared in the wake of the Curse. She’s fierce, but fair. Strong, but compassionate. And she’s always, always prepared. In fact, if there’s another woman I’d want to be traipsing through the apocalypse with, you bet your picnic basket it’s Henry’s Red Riding Hood.
An author with a special knack for refitting classic fairytales into modern tales, Christina Henry’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in The Girl in Red reads as dreamily as the fairytale it was inspired by, but takes a poignant look at some of today’s most pressing social issues—racism, women’s rights, and even the power of government in a world where the balance between control and protection is as razor thin as the sharp edge of Red’s axe. It’s a fable fit for the current age, when the space between science fiction and reality is often blurry, and the monsters we fear most are the ones waiting within ourselves for a chance to pounce.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.