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A Dangerous Magic
edited by Denise Little
DAW Books, 312 pages

Art: Luis Royo
A Dangerous Magic
Denise Little
Denise Little has edited several anthologies, including Alien Pets, A Dangerous Magic, and the forthcoming Twice Upon a Time.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

Without a doubt, A Dangerous Magic just screamed out "don't read me, don't read me!" Tales of romantic fantasy, eh? Hmmmmm... I was sort of in the mood for a good ripping space opera, or maybe some gutsy military SF (I've been fulfilling my Haldeman fetish of late).

I didn't know that I would enjoy stories with a mostly romantic interest. I'm a little too, well, hairy-chested for that stuff.

So I cracked open the cover (which had a beach scene complete with gorgeous angel and guy with trench coat) and started to read "A Little Death" by Susan Sizemore, which absolutely smacked me in the nose. Angels of death, cops, and the power of love to turn back the tides of time. I was joyfully immersed in a dark, believable world, that yeah, had a romantic pollen running through it, but the writing was smooth and right on track. Nothing sissified so far.

So I went on. 

"Old Delicious Burdens," by Peter Crowther, began deliciously, every word hammering into the back of my skull:

At first, the words sound alien, intrinsically strange and nonsensical, a mere utterance and nothing more, the sound of exhaled breath through throat and lips and teeth, caught in a certain, never-to-be-repeated coalition of form and relationship. All around him is dark and warm, still and silent, the whispered single word an intrusion."
And on for three incredible pages, describing the love lost between a husband and wife of 34 years, and the fear of a probable break-in during the night. In just one paragraph, Crowther captures that moment, when, in your bed, suddenly awake, you strain to listen for the sound a cat burglar makes:
"Somewhere beyond his heart he can hear the sounds of the house, floorboards settling, radiators clicking, a myriad insects padding almost -- but not quite -- noiselessly about their business beneath the floors and behind the walls. Outside, it is raining."
The rest of this astounding story is about coming to grips with the incarnated memories of that lifetime together, and deciding how the rest of their lives should play out.

In other words, not exactly what I thought when someone mentions the word "romance."

"The Enchanted Garden," by Deb Stover, is a marvelous little tale set in faerie land, whose protagonist is the new faerie king awaited by 20 virgin brides... except that he is sidetracked by a human gardener, and things get, well, interesting.

In "Teel Rules," Mark Kreighbaum's protagonist, Dave, a 32-year-old virgin,  is in love with Teel Mackenzie, except that Teel Mackenzie has multiple manifestations, each of which captures her essence at a different point in time -- in love with so and so, depressed about such and such, working at this or that company. Which one is the real Teel? Can any of the Teels love back?

Other stories by Tim Waggoner, Andre Norton, Michelle West, and Laura Hayden will totally change your opinion of "romance." Definitely add this anthology to your collection -- you'll be glad you did.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer who works for Cisco Systems, Inc. When he was eight, he wished he had a lifetime Wookie companion, but all he had was a ferret named Bruce.

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