I didn’t always love short fiction. For a long time, short stories seemed like distracting interludes from the main course – novels. But before I fell in love with audiobooks, I discovered Escape Pod – a science fiction podcast, and fell in with short fiction. Escape Pod delivers short science fiction stories on a weekly basis, most of them perfectly suited for a commute to work. Thanks to Escape Pod, I discovered tons of authors I’d never heard of before that wrote incredible short stories Tim Pratt, Greg van Eekhout, Mur Lafferty, Genevieve Valentine, N.K. Jemisin, Samantha Henderson, Eugie Foster, and David D. Levine. These folks are incredible storytellers, but sadly – their short story collections (if they have one) are limited to print or eBooks. Nowadays, I co-edit PodCastle, their sister fantasy podcast where we’ve featured both Levine’s short fiction and used his talents as a narrator. So when Levine told me he had a collection of his short stories coming out in audio and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing, I jumped at the chance.
Space Magic is bookended by far flung, epic futures – which seems to be where Levine is at his most imaginative and comfortable. “Wind from a Dying Star” is a far flung futuristic tale set in the wilderness of space, when earth is a heaping ruins, and our sun is dying. The stars are roamed by humanity, humanity’s heirs, and their enemies. “The Tale of the Golden Eagle” is a futuristic mythology about artificially intelligent space ships, stripped from their vessels, and inserted into humanoid hosts. Both these stories call to mind work by Asimov and Clarke along with a certain sense of optimism and romance, and were very easy to get absorbed in.
“Zauberscrhift” is a technical writer’s look at wizarding and spells, where a former wizard’s apprentice must return to his village in order to right a spell that’s gone awry. “Brotherhood” looks at the horrors and atrocities that early unions in the United States faced, and the hardships of the workers.
The centerpiece of the collection is “Tk’Tk’Tk,” the 2006 Hugo Award-winning story about an aging human businessman trying to navigate an alien culture as he attempts to sell it some software while having something of a midlife crisis. It’s probably my favorite story of the bunch due to the humorous sense of isolation, amusingly poor alien translations, and attempts to make some kind of connection with individuals utterly alien. It’s a story for anyone who has ever felt lost or unsure about their place in the world.
In the afterward, Levine discusses how much he enjoys reading stories live at convention, and it shows in his delivery here. He knows the tone of the stories and how they should sound, and is able to pull off the different characters and tales. I do wish there had been author notes on each story – I’m a sucker for author notes, even when a story bounces off me. But that’s a very minor complaint.
All in all, Space Magic is an imaginative collection of science fiction and fantasy that’s sure to please genre fans.
Table of Contents:
Wind from a Dying Star
I Hold my Father’s Paws
Fear of Widths
Circle of Compassion
Charlie the Purple Giraffe
Falling off the Unicorn
The Ecology of Faerie
At the Twenty Fifth Annual Meeting of Uncle Teco’s Homebrew Gravitics Club
Love in the Balance
The Tale of the Golden Eagle