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Space Magic by David D. Levine
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Space Magic (original 2008; edition 2008)

by David D. Levine, Bruce Holland Rogers (Introduction)

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4821242,697 (4)15
Member:MathieuPerona
Title:Space Magic
Authors:David D. Levine
Other authors:Bruce Holland Rogers (Introduction)
Info:Wheatland Press (2008), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:eBooks, Your library
Rating:****
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Space Magic by David D. Levine (2008)

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Originally posted at FanLit: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/space-magic/

Before picking up this story collection, I was only familiar with David D. Levine from a couple of his stories that I??ve read in anthologies. Space Magic sparked my interest because it contains a Hugo Award winning story (ƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ??ƒ?) and because it has recently been released in audio format, read by the author himself.

It rarely happens that I enjoy every story in a collection, but thatƒ??s what happened here. All of these tales are entertaining, I was pleased with the diversity of themes and styles, and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the audio production. Here are the stories youƒ??ll find in Space Magic.
ƒ??Wind From a Dying Starƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Bones of the World, 2001) A tribe of post-humans who travel the universe in freeform bodies decides to visit the galaxy that spawned the human race. The Earth is dead, Sol is fizzling out, and the solar winds are dangerous. They need to find an energy source so they can recharge and get away. This sad story is a celebration of ƒ??the headstone of humanity,ƒ? a warning about how we are using our planet and energy resources, and a speculation about the future evolution of the human race.

ƒ??Nucleonƒ? ƒ?? (first published in Interzone, 2001) Looking for inspiration, a concept artist discovers a huge junk yard owned by an old man who seems to be able to find anything his customers need. The two men strike up a years-long friendship and marvel together about the source of the strange junk yardƒ??s power. I loved this sweet story about art, friendship, and wonder. It left me smiling. This was probably my favorite story in Space Magic.

ƒ??I Hold My Fatherƒ??s Pawsƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the magazine Albedo One, 2005)This heart-wrenching story is about a father and son whoƒ??ve been estranged for 20 years but meet again when the father decides to undergo an operation that will turn him into a dog (only in California!). As the two get reacquainted, we learn why the father has made this drastic decision. I cried at the end of this story.

ƒ??Zauberschriftƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Apprentice Fantastic, 2002) A former magicianƒ??s apprentice is called home to help the villagers deal with a curse thatƒ??s affecting their weather. After a bit of deduction, he realizes that he needs to debug an ancient magic spell.

ƒ??Rewind ƒ?ƒ?? (first published in L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future, Volume 18, 2002) An elite soldier whoƒ??s been designed to be able to rewind time by a few seconds is trying to escape from the U.S. government unit he belongs to. He gets help from a ƒ??terroristƒ? group of citizens. I liked the concept of this exciting story and when it ended I wished there was more. It would make a great novel.

ƒ??Fear of Widthsƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Land/Space, 2003) In this very short story a man returns to the Midwestern town he grew up in so he can attend his parentsƒ?? funeral. He becomes disturbed that he can see the horizon, something he never notices in Portland, where heƒ??s been living for years. Turns out that heƒ??s right to be nervousƒ??.

ƒ??Brotherhoodƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Haunted Highways, 2004) Gus and his brother are working in a steel manufacturing plant during the Great Depression and are being paid extra by management to spy on workers who want to unionize. When, due to managementƒ??s negligence, Gus dies on the job his ghost returns to urge his brother to do the right thing. But what is the
right thing?

ƒ??Circle of Compassionƒ? ƒ?? (first published in the anthology Gateways, 2005) In this Oriental-inspired fantasy, a priestess lends her special skills and a piece of magical jewelry to help her besieged village by spying on the enemy and getting civilians and soldiers to safety.

ƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ??Tkƒ? ƒ??(first published in Asimovƒ??s, 2005) An interplanetary travelling salesman is so far out of his comfort zone and has such a hard time making a deal with the aliens heƒ??s visiting that he takes a serious look at his profession and the American lifestyle. I love how David Levine made his aliens feel so alien while at the same time the real focus of the story is on rather mundane but essential human concerns. This is the story that won a Hugo Award.

ƒ??Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangelyƒ? ƒ?? (first published in Realms of Fantasy, 2004) This cute story is about a comic book character who realizes that heƒ??s being watched and laughed at by readers. The premise of this story is funny, but what I liked best were the vivid little details that made me actually visualize a comic book while I was reading it. I smiled all the way through. This was another favorite.

ƒ??Falling off the Unicornƒ? ƒ?? (original to this collection) Misty is a teenage girl who shows unicorns and sheƒ??s competing in the Nationals. This story cleverly blends and twists two unrelated clich??s: unicorn-virginity myths and pageant moms. I totally believed it.

ƒ??The Ecology of Faerieƒ? ƒ?? (first published in Realms of Fantasy, 2005) A 16 year old girl whose mother is dying of leukemia discovers that faeries exist, and theyƒ??re not very nice! Because she doesnƒ??t have any support from her parents, she must do her own research to figure out how to get rid of them. This story is disturbing both because of the scary faeries and the leukemia.

ƒ??At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Tecoƒ??s Homebrew Gravitics Clubƒ? ƒ?? (first published in OryCon 25 Souvenir Book, 2003) Old friends from a gravity hacking club reunite at their annual convention and reminisce about the good times and the bad times. This story has a nostalgic feel and lots of cool props.

ƒ??Love in the Balanceƒ? ƒ?? (first published in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, 2004) Zeppelins and Zombies! This strange steampunk-style story has tons of atmosphere, reminding me a little of the Girl Genius comics and, because of the sentient airships, a little of Isaac Asimovƒ??s I, Robot. Itƒ??s another one that would make an interesting setting for a novel or two. I want to read that.

ƒ??The Tale of the Golden Eagleƒ? ƒ?? (first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2003) This fascinating story is a legend about an eagle whose brain is used to guide a spaceship by changing the shape of space. When the spaceship is retired, the eagleƒ??s brain powers an android whose body is made of jewels. ƒ??The Tale of the Golden Eagleƒ? is beautifully written and has lots of cool ideas. It was nominated for a Hugo Award.

The diversity of the stories in Space Magic shows David D. Levineƒ??s broad range of subject matter and his aptitude with many styles and themes. As Levine explains in the afterword, the title ƒ??Space Magicƒ? is intended to convey the point that the collection contains both science fiction and fantasy stories. This title seems too soft, dreamy and nebulous to me. For me it evokes swirly sparkles and rainbows. It doesnƒ??t get across the reality that these stories are vivid, detailed, and sometimes dark and hard-hitting.

I was a bit wary of trying Space Magic on audio because in my experience authors are not usually the best narrators for their own material ƒ?? or anybody elseƒ??s for that matter. There are a few exceptions, with Neil Gaiman being the most obvious. However, I neednƒ??t have worried. In fact, I was surprised at how well Levineƒ??s audiobook turned out. He used a range of pleasant and realistic voices and his cadence was nice. (Youƒ??d think this would be easy for the author to get right, but apparently itƒ??s not). Space Magic is a professional quality audiobook and one I have no trouble recommending both for the stories and the audio production. Iƒ??m looking forward to reading more of David D. Levineƒ??s stories. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Good varied collection of stories, mostly about Sci-Fi but with a bit of Fantasy thrown in. ( )
  Guide2 | Feb 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's rare that you come across a short story collection where every single story is a finely cut gem, but Levine has produced such a work. Each story feels like a treatment for a full series of books and manage to pull off exactly what the form requires: introduce a new universe, play there, and then rip your heart out with a a style, panache and the lightest of touches. My only problem was that each story left me wanting more.

Up there with Clarke, Ellison, and Bradbury. ( )
  djryan | Jul 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Collections are a way for authors to pound their reputation into your head.

I’ve been reading David Levine on and off for almost nine years. He even did one of my favorite stories in this year’s Armored anthology. But it wasn’t until I read this set of science fiction, absurdist, and fantasy tales that I finally have a permanent set of brain cells with favorable associations to his name.

Levine is an author of many different styles. One gets the sense that he’s doing riffs on some classic themes. But it’s not a sense of parody or homage or pastiche or Levine checking off some to-do list of fantastical subgenres. There ‘s too much emotion and playfulness in these stories to feel he’s just doing variations on old masterworks.

“Wind From a Dying Star” is a far future story that has a primitive feel to it akin to the millennia we spent as hunter-gatherers crossed with an elegy for a soon-to-be-dead Earth crossed with transhumanism. Its characters are a nomadic band that inhabit – without any artificial aids – interstellar space. Old John, perhaps the oldest “human” in existence, has heard Earth’s star is dying and wants to visit the “headstone of Humanity” one last time before he dies. The rest of the tribe has to decide whether they will accompany him on this dangerous journey. Surprises await.

“Nucleon” is about a magical junkyard that supplies the heart’s desire – even for a nuclear-powered car.

“I Hold My Father’s Paw” is an emotional story produced in the Levine MixMaster. Here the old human-animal hybrid story is combined with something roughly akin in feel to transexualism. The protagonist gets a message from the father who abandoned his family decades earlier. His father wants to speak to his son one last time before he completes the “transpecies” surgical process which will turn him, mentally and physically, into a dog. Sure, the details of the alternate transpecies lifestyle are interesting, but it is the son dealing with his abandonment, past and future, that is the heart of the story.

I don’t know if Levine invented the magical system of “Zauberschrift”, which places prime importance on the manuscript that records a magic spell, but I found it novel. The plot has a wealthy man being asked by a village to help them after their mage, a man the hero studied under before abandoning magic, has died.

“Rewind” is a clever story of time travel and a tyrannical America. (It seems, in tone, a response to United States’ security measures post-9/11, but a careful reading of the story and the date of its first publication suggests otherwise.) Its hero is a member of an elite military unit who can “rewind”, go back in time a few seconds while preserving their memory of a future that never existed, to win tactical engagements. For personal reasons, he has run afoul of his commander. A price on his head, he finds himself having to throw in with the dissidents he once hunted.

“Fear of Widths” is a light fantasy piece on the anxiety produced in its hero by the wide open skies of Milwaukee!

“Brotherhood” brings a novel setting to a ghost story: 1937 Pittsburgh. Its steel-working hero must decide what to do about the warnings from his dead brother who was killed in a mill accident. Specifically, he must decide whether to continue working as a spy for management against his fellow workers. It was one of my favorite stories here.

“Circle of Compassion” is a Chinese fantasy about battling warlords and a priestess who aids one with the help of a magical bracelet – and her clever solution to a problem at story’s end.

Another story that ends with a protagonist in a potentially deadly trap is “At the Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco’s Homebrew Gravitics Club”. It has a science fiction convention vibe to it except this group are hobbyists who design their own spaceships and power them with gravitics – a technology that regular commercial spaceflight seems to have passed by. Awkward reunions, old animosities, and new romances are played out.

I don’t try to figure out what makes one story an award winner over another. “Tk’Tk’Tk” won a Hugo award, but, while I enjoyed it, it was not my favorite story here. The plot has a human salesman on an alien world he doesn’t understand and detests, his money running out. And then, one day, he actually finds some place where he can be somewhat comfortable.

“Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely” was another of my favorites. Charlie inhabits a comic strip and trys to warn his fellow characters on the true nature of their world.

“Falling Off the Unicorn”, co-written with Sara A. Mueller, is set in a world like ours except for unicorns. And, of course, where you have unicorns in a story, the matter of sex, virginity specifically, usually crops up. Here the heroine has a pushy stage mom who can, at last, taste victory in their unicorn show competitions. But will the heroine’s new attraction for the unicorn trainer endanger everything?

“The Ecology of Faerie” had a nice undercurrent of menace in the diminishment of frogs croaking its teenage girl protagonist notices around her home. It also favorably reminded me, with its rural setting and its heroine having to deal with a frequently hospitalized mother, of the movie My Neighbor Totoro.

“Love in the Balance” certainly had plenty of action – to say nothing of lots of zombies and zeppelins, but I don’t think I felt the intended emotion at the end of this story. Its hero must decide whether to break political rules and conventions and start a war with a royal house growing in power – and also possibly destroy a zeppelin that hosts an artificial sentience he was once friends with.

“The Tale of the Golden Eagle” was the only story here I had read before, but it’s one of the best. It reminds one, in its tone and the odyssey of golden eagle’s brain used as part of a starship’s cybernetic control system, of a fairy tale and Ann McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang.

There’s not a bad story here, several good ones, and enough variety suit almost any palate. ( )
  RandyStafford | Mar 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was previously unfamiliar with David Levine's work, and was deeply impressed. This collection of stories was imaginative and moving, unsettling at times, uplifting at others. The stories' emotional depth and occasional rawness make even the stories with surreal premises ("I Hold My Father's Paws") well worth reading. I'll be looking for more by this new-to-me writer - a pleasure to have discovered him.
  michael.fessler | Feb 27, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David D. Levineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rogers, Bruce HollandIntroductionmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradley, DarinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smeds, DaveCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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`but first and fundamentally, this my first published book is dedicated to Kate Yule - my love, my flying partner, and my best friend forever.
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Gunai seethed with sorrow and rage as she helped to prepare Kula's corpse for its final journey.
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This Endeavour Award-winning collection pulls together 15 critically acclaimed science fiction and fantasy stories that take readers from a technicolor cartoon realm to an ancient China that never was, and from an America gone wrong to the very ends of the universe.… (more)

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