Deep Magic, April 2006 Issue #47

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

“The Tower of Turmoil” by Matthew Dunn
"Thief of Children" by Scott Clements
"The Bigelow" by Mark Reeder
"The Bearer" by Erin Hoffman

The Deep Magic e-zine is a sharp looking production, with fine bits of art and well-written selections of non-fiction. To that degree, it was a major disappointment that the fiction did not meet my expectations.

Issue 47 starts with a quick short by Matthew Dunn titled “The Tower of Turmoil.” The piece, an apparent winner of a monthly writing challenge hosted by Amberlin, the publisher of Deep Magic, follows the follies of two men seeking to meet a fair maiden in a tower. The piece attempts to be a quirky character study of relationships that comes across as an unwieldy work that brings nothing interesting or new to the reader.

“Thief of Children,” a novella by Scott Clements is the centerpiece of the issue. Clements manages to create a wonderful fantasy world with an interesting mix of Christian mythology and standard fantasy tropes. Though I found the writer’s style and voice to be bland, therefore dulling an otherwise enjoyable story, others might find the style appropriate. The plot revolves around a man named Niall who has allowed the minions of evil to steal his infant child practically from under his nose. Niall sets out on a quest to save his daughter from the Devil (the Christian Devil). Overall, this was a decent read and shows that Clements has potential as a nice fantasy writer.

“The Bigelow” is the only science fiction story offered in this issue. Unfortunately, this story suffers from a severe case of schizophrenia. It can’t make up its mind what it wants to do. Does the author, Mark Reeder, want to give us a sharp morality play, showing us the heights of depravity humankind will go through to enforce population control (where’s Charlton Heston when you need him)? Or is he simply offering up his vision of the future through a series of vignettes? If so, I certainly don’t want to live in Reeder’s future, as things are bleak and disturbing.

Reeder opens with a fascinating sequence where a man called “Bigelow” is on the run from a predatory hunter. In this world, people safe from the hunt watch from their apartment windows, taunting the prey and making wagers on various aspects of the hunt. The reader is drawn into the action and the setting. A nice start, yet the rest of “The Bigelow” fails the powerful opening sequence.

Inexplicably, the title character of our story disappears from the plot and we’re introduced to two new characters (who are much less interesting) and we are given a short adventure with them and an untrustworthy taxi driver.

If Reeder had lopped off this second section, then I would have been content with the opening sequence as being a standalone story and given him kudos. As such, the second section does not mesh with the narrative flow established before the story tangent and has the effect of killing the reader’s interest.

The saving grace of issue 47 appears in the form of Erin Hoffman and her fantasy piece “The Bearer.” Hoffman writes fantasy prose in an almost poetic style, and has created a wonderful story that should appeal to all the under-appreciated caregivers of the world.

Bellona is a "bearer," one who uses magic to heal and accept wounds (and the pains associated with them) into her body. Then in a secret process known only to her and other "bearers," she transfers these maladies into mysterious river rocks. Over time, she begins to resent the ambivalence her village displays toward her, and does some deliciously malevolent things to rid herself of the burden of "bearer." I enjoyed how Hoffman doesn’t show her hand, allowing the reader to decide for themselves whether Bellona is losing her mind (partially due to all the pain she accepts) or she’s being coerced by other forces.

While this particular issue of Deep Magic didn’t provide the quality of fiction I was hoping to receive, I would like to say that Erin Hoffman and Scott Clements are two writers that I look forward to reading again.