Introduction to The Third Wish

By Jed Hartman

In the past, it's been our practice to run reprinted stories without editorial comment. But we're trying something new this year: we're going to run several reprints, each chosen and introduced by a guest curator.

But we're kicking off the year's reprints with a non-guest curator. Ever since we published our Author Focus issue on Joan Aiken back in 2001, I've wanted to reprint my favorite Aiken story, and this year seemed like a good opportunity to do so.

In that Author Focus issue, I wrote a review of some of Aiken's short fiction, in which I talked some about my history with her work. As I wrote at the time:

The first Aiken story that I ever encountered, probably in Children's Digest or Child Life sometime in the late '70s, was [. . .] a lovely fairy tale titled "The Third Wish." It appears in [Aiken's collection] Not What You Expected; it wasn't until I saw it in this book a few years ago that I realized that the story (which had stuck in my memory all those years) was by Aiken.

Reading "The Third Wish" now, with a more experienced feminist eye, I'm not entirely thrilled with one aspect of the story's gender politics. But I think that's partly because it was written in the 1950s. And despite any flaws, it remains my favorite three-wishes story ever.

And so I'm delighted to be able to present to you Joan Aiken's "The Third Wish."

Jed Hartman is a fiction editor for Strange Horizons.  His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Clean Sheets, Wet, Strange Horizons, Flytrap, Fishnet, and All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories.  For more about him (or to read his blog), see his website.