What’s with these long titles that tell most of the story, sometimes even the ending? I know it’s hard to come up with titles, but seriously, it’s as if I renamed Star Wars to “The Fantastical Adventures of the Moisture Farmer who Discovers Space Magic and Blows up the Death Star.”
Anyway, this short story, TTTBRSATPWWMOM from now on, by Brooke Bolander appeared in issue 26 of Uncanny, which was entirely dedicated to dinosaur stories. It’s a fantasy comedy piece and it has to be read and understood as such; I wouldn’t recommend reading it with a serious mindset.
It is… what the title says: in the forest live three raptor sisters who were perfectly happy hunting alone until one day the wandering (and immensely stupid) prince of the realm barges into their hunting ground. Eventually, one of the sisters is captured, the princess (a smart girl who hates her role and also happens to be a witch) comes on the scene, helps the other raptors to free the third, and they flee to live happily ever after (or not, see below) in the forest away from civilization, and they (the raptors, not the princess—I think) eat the prince along the way. It is… actually better than it sounds.
Now, I’m not, as the story says, blind, and it doesn’t take a genius to notice that every male in the story is a lumbering baboon and that even the raptors (three sisters) are smarter than the humans, or that the other protagonist, also smarter and belittled by all the males of the royal court, is an independent woman who needs no man (or clothes.) But as far as fairy tales of a princess rescuing a
unicorn bloodthirsty velociraptor and killing her prince charming go, this one is OK.
The narrator and the writing style is probably what keeps the story together since it’s written as if the narrator was another carnivorous, ravenous dinosaur, something that affects the similes and analogies being used, as well as the general style and humor. The style becomes borderline experimental in some places but it does the job of propping up a story that otherwise wouldn’t have much for it and could, in fact, become annoying due to its obvious Girrrrl Power leitmotiv.
Don’t expect much of a plot or a great challenge for any of the protagonists. I wouldn’t call the plan and implementation of the rescue operation a deus ex machina, but it comes close enough since it’s basically “Oh, and the princess happens to be a witch and every guard is as dumb as a rock” but, again, the story, the writing, and the situations are not serious so I can give it certain leeway. And the villains or the obstacles? Well, they are as cartoony as they get and stupid to the point one assumes they are brain damaged.
The story ends with a tacked-on scene to explain what happens to the prince (gets eaten,) but it’s unnecessary and you end up with two endings; it even changed the tone and style of the story for me and not in a good way. This last scene is too long, doesn’t seem to add much to the story, feels out of place for a text that had been a carefree comedy up until that point, and it’s almost embarrassing to read due to how unbelievably idiotic the prince is and for how long it takes for the dinosaurs to get on with it and finally eat him. As far as I can guess, the purpose of that scene was just to add this final sentence:
“And they lived happily all the rest of their days, too, for there’s no luck like that of those who have dined on tyrants and survived to sing the tale.”
Which I’m not sure makes much sense, at least the part of “survived to sing the tale” since nobody was in any real danger in this story and whatever happens to tyrants is irrelevant to the female quartet because they all start living in the forest, cut off from the problems of civilization. Instead, it should have ended with this earlier sentence:
“It was a good life, sprinkled with just the right amount of companionship and just the right amount of solitude, and none of them ever regretted their choices, which is a fine way to grow old if you can manage the trick.”
In fact, I assume this was the first ending before the writer realized she had forgotten to explain what had happened to the prince. But also pay attention to the change in tone, from the down-to-earth “a good life… with the right of companionship and just the right amount of solitude” to the fantastic and woke “Lived happily all the rest of their lives and they dined on tyrants.”
There was no need to know what happened to the prince; the (perhaps unintended) point of the story is that the princess turns her back to civilization and starts living like a wild woman/witch. Choice & Consequences, young lady—and the first ending reflects that much better. But I guess the story would have been a bit less cheerful that way, so it had to end with that forced fist-up moment.
You can read it here, on Uncanny.