David Herrle interviews Marie C. Lecrivain on GRIMM CONVERSATIONS

61YhYMVT29Lpublished by Sybaritic Press, 2015


Fairy tales and myths continue to fascinate scholars, philosophers, teachers, theologians, mystics and the general literati, thanks to their fundamental power and sublime mirroring of ourselves. Every culture on Earth is imbued with them. TV watchers have been and are bombarded with derivative shows (the campy but popular Grimm and Once Upon a Time most recently), and it would take monkeys typing for infinity to list all of the Snow White-based movies alone. Also, of course, there are countless comic books: Alan Moore’s and Melinda Gebbie’s sexually explicit Lost Girls, Alan Moore’s Promethea, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Bill Willingham’s Fables and Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + the Divine, to name only a few.

Humorous, weird, clever, silly and explicit, Marie Lecrivain’s Grimm Conversations is a smooth-flowing, entertaining retelling – better yet: fracturing – of familiar fairy tales. Rapunzel is a nymphomaniac, Rose Red advises Snow White to bleach her butthole, “the seven dwarves are gay and polyamorous,” the cannibalistic but diet-conscious witch tries to fatten Hansel with wholesome foods, the fish recommends the Chaldean Oracles to the fisherman, it’s revealed that Noah was an animal-rights activist who saved animals from abusive humans, the wolf declines Red Riding Hood’s offer of hummus instead of her body because of the androgens in its ingredients, and astral plane-visiting Pinocchio (“a chip off Yggdrasil”) longs to have “a flesh-and-blood penis” so that he can penetrate girls without “giv[ing] them splinters.” Some readers might remember the Fractured Fairy Tales segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Well, this stuff is Fractured Fairy Tales with an R rating. Needless to say, don’t let Mommy or Daddy catch you reading this book under the covers.

The following interview focuses on Grimm Conversations and uses the book to veer into contemporary hot topics, from spirituality to transsexuality. Enjoy!



David: The medieval and Elizabethan literary traditions accepted and expected emulous plagiarism: Chaucer’s building on predecessors Ovid and Boccaccio, for example. Much later Shakespeare did the same, even borrowing from contemporaries Kyd and Marlowe. Likewise, you tinkered with the standard fairy tales of Will and Jake Grimm, radically innovating time-honored favorites such as Rapunzel, Pinocchio, the Frog Prince and Snow White. What made you even bother to rewrite fairy tales? What do you think you’ve brought to those tales with your creative contemporization?

Marie C. Lecrivain: I grew up reading fairy tales, and the retelling of those tales from some of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors. Also, Disney’s animated films (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Pinocchio) had an overreaching and negative effect on my imagination, so much so that it became my mission to read the source material, which, as we all know – those of us who actually READ – are radically different from the “safe spaces” demanded from today’s audience. When the Brothers Grimm started to collect the stories that would make up the massive collection of lore that is Grimms’ Fairy Tales, they either didn’t know or patently ignored the fact that the stories they wrote down and published came from much older oral sources, straight out of the ancient world.

I wrote Grimm Conversations because 1) I wanted to explore my own take on these stories, as many writers have done before me (that desire is nothing new), b) I want to remind the reader about the value of real-life face-to-face conversations, which is being devoured by the abyss that is the Internet of Things. Most of my adult life has been spent working in sales (thank you, Great Recession, for shifting my career back to that path). I spend my days in conversation with other people. Increasingly, I hear “Can’t you email me?” or “Text me the information” or “I’m not used to having to talk this long”. The demands – intellectual/emotional/psychological/spiritual – the investments required to power a real-time conversation are being marginalized, and this makes me fearful of the future. In the beginning was the Word. I don’t believe there should ever be an ending to the art of conversation.


David: In the book’s introduction you cite your childhood encounter with “Puss in Boots” as the beginning of a lifelong love of fairy tales, and you emphasize those tales’ mirroring of humanity:

What’s timeless about Grimms’ Fairy Tales is how much of ourselves we find within them. I’ve been Red Riding Hood, faced with the overwhelming fear of change, and I’ve been the elf in the Shoemaker tale who took a stand against those who would bankrupt me for their personal gain. I’ve also been the witch in Hansel and Gretel who’s selfish to the point of destruction, and I’ve been the immortal salmon in the Fisherman’s Wife who’s tried to have an intelligent conversation about matters beyond all of man’s understanding.

In other words, rather than exotic, “fairy tales are part of our everyday existence,” as you put it. They certainly are mistaken as escapist, for they really open young eyes to the tale-likeness of real life, rather than the reverse. As G.K. Chesterton put it in Tremendous Trifles:

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

This is similar to the “new hope” mentality of the George Lucas’ Star Wars, a movie that went against the grain of nihilistic 1970s cinema: dragons don’t always triumph, in other words. Share more about your appreciation for fairy stories and their pertinence. Is there a teleological essence to them?

MCL: If you are asking me if there is an “intelligent design” behind fairy tales, I would have to say no. If you are asking me if there is an evolutionary essence to fairy tales, then, yes, I would say so. As humankind becomes more sophisticated in its need to redefine its own mythology, new ways and new perceptions of fairy tales will present themselves.

Joseph Campbell explained this better than anyone. The Hero’s Journey is every person’s journey. Fairy tales give us all the opportunity to reframe that story in a way that we can easily digest, and then complete.


David: Chesterton also castigated the unbalanced seriousness and sadness of modern spiritualism, prescribing instead an undignified spiritualism of humor:

I wish the spirits were more farcical than they are. That they should make more jokes and better ones, would be my suggestion. For almost all the spiritualism of our time, in so far as it is new, is solemn and sad.

This certainly could indirectly endorse your Grimm Conversations, right? Tell us about your decision to inject irreverent humor into your innovated tales.

MCL: That humor came to me, undiluted, from my father. I grew up with dirty jokes being told at dinner time as de rigueur. Also, the original stories in Grimms’ Fairy Tales often have overbearing moralistic unhappy endings. No one likes an unhappy ending. Humor makes the reality of the misery of life more palatable. If you can’t laugh at yourself and your beliefs, then you have no business believing in anything, much less yourself.


David: How has your involvement in Ordo Templi Orientis and as a priestess in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica influenced your work? Many thinkers and artists osmose essential aspects of Judeo/Christian traditions, aspects that season and shape worldviews and artistic sensibilities. Do you agree? Do you happen to have a Christian background? If so, what of that, if any, has survived and been incorporated into your current belief system? Your thoughts on both sectarianism and syncretism? In your “Flounder” story the fish tells the fisherman that “the divine spark is the immortal part of you.” Can you expound that idea?

MCL: For me personally, my involvement in OTO, and as a relatively recent ordained priestess in the EGC, has fundamentally and positively influenced my writing from the first time I attended an ECG Gnostic Mass. I’ve had a lifelong interest in alchemy, particularly in the area of personal transformation. The initiatory process, as well as the gnosis I’ve experienced in my years as a member of OTO and in the EGC, has been infused in everything I’ve written over the last almost ten years, and will continue to do so. Everything I do, all my actions, are to me and in my universe, alchemical.

I was raised Roman Catholic. I attended private school, where I received an excellent education and was made to attend mass twice a week. My parents were Eucharistic ministers and CCD teachers. I was a lector in my teens, which gave me the opportunity to observe the Roman Catholic version of mass at a closer level. I quickly realized I would never be able to be a direct part of that mystery, because I’m female. Looking back at my years in Roman Catholicism, there was very little encouragement to intelligently dissent, to approach belief contextually, but to still come back to the same faith I was indoctrinated in. That came later, in high school, and I watched many of my peers falter and leave the church. It was only a matter of time before I left that which would not let me be My Self.

What did I take from my background into who I am now? My love of ritual. My understanding of mythos, sacred moments, an appreciation for the sacrifice clergy make for the greater good, and my mother’s assertion to fight for what you believe in. That’s about it.

My thoughts on sectarianism: there’s a path for everyone to the Divine. “My” way, like the Buddha said, may or may not work for you, or, to be blunt, “your mileage may vary.” Sectarianism exists because of groupthink tendencies, and the need to dominate over what human beings fear, which is diversity, because diversity represents change, and humanity is not geared to like change, even change for the better. As for syncretism, it’s human nature, and smart politics to take the best bits of something that works to make your own version work better. The Catholic Church coopted local deities and reintroduced them to indigenous peoples under the guises of Mary and Jesus. That’s what Aleister Crowley did when he wrote the EGC Gnostic Mass. That’s what Zuckerberg did with Facebook. (Laugh! It’s funny!)

In “Flounder” I was exploring the idea of approaching gnosis in the way it happened for me, and how I try to respect that process. Judeo-Christian traditions do not emphasize direct access, or more importantly, the acknowledgement of a human as a divine being. It does say that its believers have a connection to their god through an immortal soul (one given to them by their creator), but that the relationship must be, first and foremost, external, and that access is granted through blind acceptance in a slave’s capacity, as well as total obedience. Gnosis removes the middle man, as it were. The work is hard, the process imperfect, and oftentimes will not lead to enlightenment. By the way, I am not an enlightened human being, but I do have a divine spark, which I am, ultimately, responsible for – and it didn’t come from some old bearded guy on high. Those who wake up to their divinity have a lot of questions, and that’s a good thing. However, the ones that ask the questions are usually one step ahead, or, more likely, a half-step ahead of the one asking the questions.


David: All of Grimm Conversations is in dialogic form. Was the unnecessariness of interspersed description, action and often monotonous speech tags liberating, or did you experience difficulty relying on only alternating quotations? Would these stories work as short stage plays?

MCL: I didn’t have too much difficulty writing these stories. They almost wrote themselves. It’s very easy to imagine a conversation with another person, and that’s how I approached writing Grimm Conversations, which, on a very real level, is a conversation with different parts of myself.

I did have a few editors ask me why I didn’t include any background in the stories, often receiving rejections based on that very reason. Sorry: not sorry. I’ve always loved stories that plunge you right in the middle of a situation that needs no explanation or a narrator holding your hand. Also, conversations happen quickly, and they always tell a story. The subtext is left to the reader’s imagination. Would these work as plays? Probably. I’ve thought about adapting one or two, but I haven’t had the time.


David: “Prick” (presented in full here) “Nympho” and “Kink” are my favorite pieces in the book. You’ve a masterful grasp of fetish and aberrant sexuality: Sade-lite, so to speak. In “Kink” the Prince of “The Princess and the Pea” wants to cancel his marriage and confesses to his would-be bride that he has an intense fetish for “the sight of bruises, hickeys, and red welts.” However, instead of offense, the Princess reveals a compatible masochistic proclivity:

“…and one more thing: I am bisexual. I’m a switch. And a voyeur. And an exhibitionist. We’re going to bring Madame Roquefort, the most beautiful ladies maid, and the most handsome captain of the guard with us on our honeymoon. Madame Roquefort can help us break them in.”

“Oh, Princess! How I love you!”

“Now, before we get back to our guests, let me help you get rid of that massive erection. And is there anything else I should know?”

“Mmm…well…Oh, your mouth…mmm…There is one more thing…”

“Mmm…you’re yummy…What?”

“I love to hear dirty bedtime stories.”

Speaking of sex, I do believe that many people today are, in some ways, more sexually repressed than the misestimated Victorians. Self-righteous and/or religious busybodies decry “whores” more out of ashamed attraction and disingenuousness than sincere moral indignation and drive for reform, and much uptight puritanism comes from Stalin-like secular “social justice warriors” and many chauvinistic feminists: assailants of affectionate and erotic interplay, of courtship and flirtation, and create a new kind of body politic, literally a politicized body. Tension between Jane Austen and Anais Nin is natural, but PC activism tends to produce only limp dicks and mute vaginas. Please share your views on erotica, politicized sexuality and repression.

MCL: I wrote “Prick” and most of Grimm Conversations, in part, because I realized that most of what polite society refers to as “aberrant behavior” is, in point of fact, just the opposite. This again, in my mind, is evolutionary diversity reasserting itself. It’s apparent we are no longer a sexually binary society. We live in the age of transition, as well as transformation. As long as these preferences, or what people like to term “fetishes,” don’t harm another person physically, and as long as they are consensual, as in between legal adults, then they belong in the mainstream lexicon of sex, with full awareness/acceptance/understanding. Will there ever be a day when this happens in real time? Maybe. Of course, that would put the porn/professional BDSM/sex toy industries out of business. 

David: In “Gurlz” you blow apart the story of Little Red Riding Hood, introducing not a wolf who preys on the flesh of human females strictly out of hunger and sustenance, but one with an ulterior motive: affordable ingestion of estrogen in support of a deep desire for a female-to-male sex change. A sample:

“You’re being so nice to me, considering I still want to eat you.”

“No, I get it, though I don’t understand why you want to be a woman.”

“Of course you don’t. You were born female.”

“But it’s such a bitch. I hate the crying, the periods, and the acne. The only part I like is the sex.”

“For Spirits, freed from mortal Laws, with ease/Assume what Sexes and what Shapes they please,” writes Alexander Pope in The Rape of the Lock, reminding me of the transgender issues that are in the American spotlight these days, and, though transfolk have been struggling for respectful recognition for decades, Bruce Jenner’s recent transformation into Caitlyn tends to hog the stage. This is due to both her fame and the fact that male-to-female transitions are much more palatable to the public. (A Candy Darling, Coccinelle, Laverne Cox or Paris Lees outglows a Chaz Bono, Thomas Beatie or Leslie Feinberg.) Are our spirits actually gender-free (truly pneuma)? Is there an alchemical interpretation of gender? Might both gender fluidity and the male/female binary be worthy? And how the hell did you come up with the idea for a he-to-she wolf?

MCL:  The wolf in “Gurlz” is transitioning from male to female. Alexander Pope was a bore, just like Polonius. BORING!

 Fairy tales and myths are full of instances where the symbolic art of transitioning from one sex to another is no big deal (read Heracles’ exploits in Bulfinch’s Mythology: he spent a night in drag, and so forth). We’re in an age of transition, transformation. Alchemy happening in real-time on a universal scale, and documented on both the micro/macro level for all to witness.

The idea of a he-to-she wolf came from my experiences with several of my friends who transitioned from male to female. One friend made the decision to live homeless for a year so she could afford the surgery. Another friend of mine wasn’t prepared for the pain that came with transition. I won’t give details, but it cost her a great deal, both personally and professionally. Then I see someone like Caitlyn Jenner who is able to transition – and not completely (by her own admission) – through wealth and privilege. These resources are not available to everyone, and they need to be. Transition/Transformation is a big deal, and the layers of transition, the ability of being able to occupy both sides of the binary, or even to eventually transform into something entirely new, is exciting! And these processes need to be encouraged, as well as supported, in real-time.

In the Western Alchemical Tradition, there is the archetype of the hermaphrodite. This is part of all of us: within us, the union of opposites, the hieros gamos, and the infinite layers of everything in between and what transcends that process. Why should it be a surprise that it’s happening now, on a global scale? At least in Western society.


David: In “Lunacy” the chocolate-craving Evil Queen of Snow White fame agonizes over retention of youth and good looks. “Why do we have to get old and still try to look young at the same time?” she asks the Magic Mirror. The reply: “Society, Mum…All those illuminated manuscripts that contain pictures of young, nubile flesh are really nothing more than the product of over-worked, horny monks.” When the consoling mirror says, “With age comes reason and wisdom,” the Queen replies, “So, you’re saying that being smart is beautiful.” The Rape of the Lock applies again: “How vain are all these Glories, all our Pains,/Unless good Sense preserve what Beauty gains.” Rejecting that notion, I think the concept of so-called inner beauty tends to abuse very worthy outer beauty. Isn’t the artifice involved in much beauty-making as valid as any other art, and isn’t brevity part of the beauty of beauty?

MCL:  Please stop quoting Pope. He’s an historic dufus (IMHO). Why does a woman become not beautiful when she is no longer able to propagate? You already know the answer to this question. And these women are NOT going to disappear. 

David: Artist Brian Grillo, who seems to be quite a curious and talented person, did the weird and fitting illustrations for Grimm Conversations. What’s the nature of your acquaintance, and how does Grillo’s work enhance the text?

MCL: Brian is a gifted artist, and more importantly, a gift to the world. I met him in the mid-1990s, when he was the lead singer in the band Extra Fancy (still one of my favorite bands ever). Fast forward to the 21st century, and I met Brian again through Facebook. He’s a gifted painter and photographer (both scenic and illustration). He started posting some of his illustrations, and I was impressed with his technique. He also started posting short mini-memoirs with his artwork and photos. I had the pleasure of publishing one of his stories, about growing up in San Pedro, California, in poeticdiversity. There’s a dark and humorous edge to Brian’s work, and there is also honesty, which I prize above all things. He will always remain one of my favorite artists.

When I was writing Grimm, I posted excerpts on my FB page. It’s not like me to do this. Writing for me is private, but I digress. Brian read “Kiss” (my take on “The Frog Prince”) and sent me an illustration he’d done based on that story. The illustration became the cover. I knew it would be as soon as I saw it. I sent Brian my completed stories, and he executed the illustrations. Frankly, Grimm wouldn’t be a book I’d be proud of without Brian’s art. Every time I open Grimm, and I see one of Brian’s illustrations,  it makes me smile. It also makes me grateful. There are not many artists who would work with me or my writing. I’ve tried to collaborate before and it never worked, until Brian. I’m so grateful and happy it succeeded.

Illustrations by Brian Grillo