Fairy tales have been around for centuries — and will be around for centuries because their core stories are adaptable to changing times and circumstances. If you doubt this, take a gander at Cinder, author Marissa Meyer’s new take on the Cinderella story. What changes does she make and what do they mean for the story of the girl with the slipper? Meyer explains how moving Cinderella out of the past and into the future has given the story new life in the present.
My Big Idea for Cinder might just be the smallest idea in the book.
“Cinderella… as a cyborg.”
Four little words that still epitomize the novel, describing its general concept just as succinctly as they did three years ago, when I first heard them. They came as I was falling asleep, floating in that delirious state between waking and dreaming, when practically anything can seem like a novel-worthy idea. Cinderella… as a cyborg.
It clicked, immediately. The character filled up my head as I lay there in the dark—a girl oppressed by society and her step-family. A girl slaving away on robots and hovercars, using her built-in skills to earn her keep. A girl with one mechanical hand and one mechanical foot, her identity forever trapped between human and machine.
Her story began unfolding so fast I had to get out of bed and jot it down before I lost it, and though I found my notes mostly jumbled and nonsensical the next morning, the Big Idea lingered. And grew.
Though that night may have knocked the dominoes over, I’d been setting them up for months, since the first Slightly Smaller Idea had come to me: I’m going to write a series of futuristic fairy tales. I’d been brainstorming since, making lists of my favorite fairy tales and beloved space-opera tropes. Things like evil regimes and high-tech weaponry, androids equipped artificial intelligence, and sexy spaceship captain. I kind of have a thing for spaceship captains. I’d been toying with visions of Rapunzel trapped in a satellite rather than a tower, or Snow White in a suspended animation tank instead of a glass coffin.
Little ideas—little dominoes in a neat little line—until Cinder came stomping through and kicked them all over.
It seemed almost inevitable at the time.
Cinderella, as a cyborg. Obviously.
But those four easy words that dropped into my brain that night, in such a tidy little package, don’t begin to touch on all the ideas that shoved their way into the story afterwards.
They make no mention of the deadly plague sweeping my futuristic Earth, creeping ever closer toward the major cities. Or the cyborg draft that’s been instated to find an antidote—whatever the cost.
They say nothing about a beloved sister or a spunky android or a wise doctor who’s slowly losing his mind.
They do not even hint at an entire race of evolved humans with mysterious powers of mind-control, residing on the moon and waiting for the right moment to strike.
It’s impossible to look at those words and see how they’ve been transformed into a story that’s taken up so much space in my head, it required not one book to write it, but four. Each inspired by a different classic fairy tale and introducing new heroes and heroines to a cast that includes misfits and royalty, soldiers and thieves, computer hackers and genetically-modified mutants.
And, always, a cyborg Cinderella.
It is a Big Idea. One that’s easy to pitch and fun to say and translates well to a cover with a mechanical foot inside a glass slipper. But it pales in comparison to all those other ideas that have fused together to make up Cinder, a novel that has refused to stay confined within four simple words.
Thankfully, my publisher has given me four whole books to do the story justice. Challenge accepted. Let the Lunar Chronicles begin.