Monday, 7 July 2008


As part of my fierce advertising campaign (advertising Andrew Craig Williams as a writer), I will be releasing a novella this autumn (or as soon as I've finished writing it anyway, I'm having terrible trouble with the ending - I'm not sure whether to make a happy ending or a horrible ending like real fairytales have). Releasing for free like you’d release an EP, with a launch party and everything. It’s called The Gingerbread Man, and it’s a gay re-imagining of the familiar fairytale. I was inspired not only by my love of fairytales, but by a short story written by Poppy Z. Brite in her collection of short stories Self-Made Man. Her story King of Cats (written with David Ferguson) is a gay version of a favourite fairytale of theirs – The Miller’s Son.

With this in mind, I rewrote The Gingerbread Man. Here is an extract:

Christian hardly noticed the dressing boys running after him like headless chickens, trying to get him to wear clothes they had chosen, each one vying for the Prince’s attention. For the first time, he actually stopped and looked at them; they were no different from him at that age, when he first started noticing Carl. For the first time Christian allowed himself the pleasure of having five young men at hand to do his bidding, he was sure they would do anything he wanted of them. He asked one of the boys to go to the kitchen to fetch him some tea, while he lay back on his day bed considering the possibilities. His mind wandered more than his eyes, as he gazed over at one particularly handsome boy named William. William glanced up and caught the Prince looking at him; he flushed red and dropped the tunics he was carrying. Christian sprang to his feet to help the young boy, who immediately dropped the tunics he had already gathered.
“Let me help you, William.” said Christian kindly.
“No need, sir,” he stammered in reply, “’t was my own fault.” Christian’s hand brushed William’s forearm as they both bent to pick up the remaining tunics. The dressing boy shuddered at the Prince’s touch, and looked fearfully into his dark eyes. Christian felt a sudden sickness at how he was behaving; he was no better than Carl - treating another person as a plaything for his own amusement. He took a deep breath and smiled warmly at William, who seemed to relax, and smiled back shyly at him.
“Thank you.” said the Prince sincerely - sure that William did not really know what he was thanking him for, and swept away a stray lock of curly blonde hair that had fallen into the boys’ eye, curling his fingers behind Williams’ ear. The boy Christian had sent to fetch tea returned laden with a tray of tea and hot water, and a delicate porcelain teacup and saucer.
“Right then!” he shouted, “Let’s get ready to go to the ball. You will all be my guests.” Christian smiled openly at the hubbub that broke out with his statement, and William dropped his tunics all over again.
“William,” he began, smiling again at how embarrassed the boy became when he spoke directly to him, “what is the time, my good man?”
“Um, nearly two of the clock, sir.” managed William quietly.
“Excellent!” exclaimed the Prince, “that means we have time for some tea, and I would like to talk to you.” The boys looked around at each other at a loss for words, each one staring at his companions as if for inspiration. Christian went to a cupboard set against the far wall, and drew out a green and gold tea set. “Come, I will serve tea myself,” said Christian, ignoring the protests of his servants, “Jack, Owen,” began the Prince, “I am in a wicked mood, lock the doors for me.”
“But, sir…” began Owen fearfully, “what if they come looking for us?”
“Then they shall have me to answer to. I ask that the doors be locked, and locked they shall be.” he laughed. Owen and Jack moved to the doors but stopped short when they heard a messenger stride purposefully up the corridor. Christian bounded over and turned the large, ornate key with a flourish - then held his finger to his lips and whispered,
“A silver piece to he who can keep the most silent.” the boys giggled at his request, but the Prince’s wicked mood was strangely infectious.
The door handles turned once, twice, then a stately knocking burst forth. William was bent double with silent laughter, and all the occupants of the lavish room had large grins on their faces. A voice called,
“Prince Christian?” then more urgently, “Prince Christian, are you there? Your father desires to speak with you.” a few seconds of silence, then they heard the footsteps fall away out of hearing. The room fairly exploded with giggles, and Christian was delighted. He let out a great huff of air, and sat down to make the tea.
Christian had always been told never to speak to the servants unless he needed assistance, or had a message to be sent to another part of the castle. Speaking with these boys was refreshing and interesting, a pastime he wished he had discovered a long time ago. He learned of Owen’s fear of swimming, and how his mother had tried to teach him to swim in the lake away to the North of the castle; how Jack had kissed Miriam the milkmaid twice in the orchard, and was hoping to make it a third tonight. He was told how Caleb loved nothing more than a handful of coloured chalk, and an empty wall as a canvas; how Dan could sing like a bird and held concerts every Friday in the servant’s quarters. He was thrilled to hear all of this, but saddened that William did not join in.
“William,” asked the Prince, turning towards the reddening boy, “you have not told us a tale yet.”
“I don’t think I’d like to, sir.” he stuttered, furrowing his eyebrows at the jeers from his friends.
“But William, if you are to be a dinner guest of mine, I should at least know something about you. How old are you?”
“Sixteen, sir.” he said, raising his eyebrows slightly.
“Wil, that’s a lie,” hissed Jack; William’s face glowed even harder. “He’s my cousin, sir, and he’s fourteen.”
“Please don’t be angry, sir. I has to work, I has to.” began William pleadingly.
“William, your secret is safe with me,” said the Prince, to Williams’ obvious relief. He leaned into Williams’ ear and said, “all of them.” The boy’s face fell, but Christian winked hugely at him, and he smiled limply.
Barely an hour had passed before the boys got agitated and worried that they would receive tellings off, so Christian allowed them to finish their work before they got ready to come to the ball with him.
“It will be a sport, I shall introduce you as a troop of artistes.”
“But sir, what will we wear? These clothes are not fit for a ball, sir.” began Caleb.
“Caleb, my dear boy, I have a wardrobe full to bursting with fine clothes. You are not that much smaller then me. Let’s go and try them on.” the Prince looped his arm into Caleb’s and dragged him to the wardrobe. He flung the doors wide and heard the boys gasp at the variety of colours and fabrics inside, “Help yourselves, lads, and you may keep whatever you choose, Mother always buys too many garments.” at a look of shock on their faces, he continued, “As a thank you, for this afternoon, I have enjoyed your company and wish you all well. Come, let’s make haste so we may enjoy the ball tonight.”
The boys fairly attacked the pretty silks and velvets, each new tunic or shirt made them coo in awe. After much frantic scrabbling, the boys all had their outfits ready. Jack in a pale green suit, Caleb in a wine coloured robe and breeches, Dan in the most royal blue garb they could find, Owen had chosen plush orange attire with a red cape and boots, William stood quietly with his black suit over his shoulder. Christian smiled at them and hurried them out of the rooms back to get ready for the coming festivities.

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