Anne with an Edge: New anthology will 'rock some people's world'

Anne of Green Gables is famous for her red hair and straw hat, as seen here portrayed by Amybeth McNulty in the CBC/Netflix series Anne with an E. (CBC - image credit)

Anne of Green Gables is well-known for her red braids, straw hat and endearing personality.

But imagine if she were a cyborg? Or a vampire with fangs? How about a gay boy? Matthew and Marilla originally wanted to adopt a boy, after all.

Judith Graves admits some Anne purists had a hard time wrapping their heads around it.

"I totally understood that. So I had to just encourage them that, you know, we're not dishonouring L.M. Montgomery's work. We're honouring it by taking a beloved character in a new direction and being more reflective, I think, of kids today."

The result is The Annethology: A Collection of Kindred Spirits published by Acorn Press. The official book launch is Sunday at 7 p.m. at The Guild in Charlottetown.

Graves is a self-described "fangirl" of Montgomery and her famous character. She once wrote a short story with the main character being Anne as a cyborg. She loved the shock value, and it gave her the idea for the anthology.

"I pitched the idea of what if it wasn't just my little Anne story? What if we got a whole bunch of authors writing and taking Anne on these wild new adventures?"

She invited authors to participate. The only guidelines: the main character had to be named Anne with an E and was adopted by an older couple.

P.E.I. author Deirdre Kessler had mixed feelings. She was glad to be included, but "didn't want to really mess with Montgomery's Anne."

"So I just thought, well … I'll name the main character Anne and have a few little references here and there that someone who'd read the Montgomery books would pick up, but otherwise it's a short story."

Kessler leaned into the assignment. Readers will recognize her nod to Montgomery's love of poetry and landscapes.

But Kessler's Anne doesn't speak — far different from Montgomery's vociferous Anne.

"Words will swarm and come up to her lips and dance around but not be spoken," Kessler said. "Anne does in her head — and perhaps aloud when she's alone — talk with Emily Dickinson. She has a book of Dickinson's poetry, which she loves, and it travels with her and her dialogue with Emily is her only real friendship."

Graves said it was exciting to see the submissions come in from Kessler and authors such as Paul Coccia, Hope Dalvay, Matthew Dawkins, Natasha Deen, Shari Green, Mere Joyce, Susie Moloney and Susan White.

"Very much this anthology will rock some people's world, I think. But I think the underlying theme of everything, all the stories … was a nod to L.M. Montgomery's work and a hearkening back to those themes of finding yourself, belonging, being quirky but that's OK — being your own person and finding your people who may not be related to you."