Trigger Warning: Hans Christian Andersen

Greetings gals and guys!!!

There are only TWO days left until Gaslight & Grimm goes live and we have one more guest post for you from author Jean Marie Ward!

G&GRed-Gold Leaf


Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales ought to come with a trigger warning. Seriously. I never understood why his birthday, April 2, was designated International Children’s Book Day. His stories are the last fairy tales I would inflict on a growing mind. They’re a catalogue of horrors.

Stalwart heroes get melted down for scrap. Poor children die awful, lingering deaths in the cold, hallucinating about all the joys they can never possess.

Women always get the worst of it, too. A mother fighting to save her child has her breasts raked with thorns, her eyes gouged out and her head scalped, only to be outwitted by Death in the end. And woe betide the woman who displays a spark of talent or ambition. If she sings Andersen will strip her of her voice—for the good of her soul, you understand—and make her every footstep a torture. If she presumes to dance, he’ll cut off her feet entirely.

It’s as if he’s getting payback for all the women who rejected his stalker-y attentions and rambling, not entirely coherent, literary proposals. Not that he fared any better with men. His biography is littered with relationship fails, like the time he unilaterally extended what was supposed to be a brief visit to Charles Dickens into a five-week stay. Afterwards, he couldn’t understand why Dickens and his family refused to speak or write to him ever again.

So why, of all the fairy tales in the wide, wonderful world did I chose Andersen’s “The Nightingale” as the basis of “The Clockwork Nightingale”, my contribution to eSpec Books’ Steampunk anthology Gaslight and Grimm? “The Nightingale” is a complete Andersen invention, with no connection with the Brothers Grimm or any traditional folktale.

First of all, the story is Steampunk right out of the box. It revolves around an automaton and deals with one of the genre’s central themes: the inherent conflict between nature and machine.

Of course, being Andersen, nobody gets out of the original alive. But what better way to pay back him and all those clueless grown-ups who insisted I read him—for the good of my soul, you understand—than to subvert his gloomy, mean-spirited, vengeful misogyny, to use his story to give a woman voice and agency, to make her the hero of the tale? What if I went one better and set it in a fantastical vision of the American West where diversity was just as important as the limitless possibilities of an unspoiled land?

You know Andersen would hate it.

You know that’s why I couldn’t resist.




Jean Marie Ward

Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr) and art books. Her stories appear in numerous anthologies, such as The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, The Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens, and Tales from the Vatican Vaults. The former editor of Crescent Blues, she co-edited the six-volume, 40th anniversary World Fantasy Con anthology Unconventional Fantasy and is a frequent contributor to Her website is



Links to Gaslight & Grimm

Blog –
Website –
Kickstarter –
Kindle –
Print –
GoodReads –
GoodReads Giveaway –


“You know Andersen would hate it.

You know that’s why I couldn’t resist.

haha! I like her!

I have really enjoyed going back over the classics with the fresh eyes of “adulthood” 😀




One thought on “Trigger Warning: Hans Christian Andersen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.