Do you remember the first time you read a story that meant something to you? A story that whisked you away to another place, another time, another reality. Not just a place full of everyday things and happy endings—though they were there, of course, and important. But an unsettling place of strangeness and peril and wonder, like a river you couldn’t see across or a forest spreading away into shadows.
We craft and tell stories because we’ve stood on the uncertain edge between the waking world and our imagination, between enchantment and fear. And we remember other stories that help us build our own stories, scraps of lumber and fragments of narrative we gather together to make stories for ourselves.
Unsettling Wonder is about going back to that place, that troubling, entrancing glimpse into story. Childhood affords us the first glimpse, but it is by no means the last. And the oldest stories—the fairy tales we met in childhood, the folklore and folk traditions that gave rise to them—can still be woven together for telling today. We want embrace and celebrate, re-imagine and re-invent, our folk traditions, the wild and variegated scrapheap of story and theme and motif that lies open to the magpie gaze of the writer.
Woods and princes, elves and fools, voyages and rolling cheeses, tricksters and righteous sages, kings dressed as beggars, stories told by thieves. We want to tell these tales, not as deconstruction or subversion, not as nostalgia or sentiment, but in the same way these stories have always been told—spun out and re-imagined by the tale-teller in the moment of telling, for the ones who hear it, to reclaim the magic of story.
There is, after all, no real past in literature, just as there is no real future. Any literary work lives, unalterably, in an eternal now—the moment the writer or the reader sees or hears the words on the page, and follows them to whatever unknown regions lie beyond.