“1-2-1” by David Cleden
“Ocean-Eyed Boy” by Timothy Mudie
“Darned Socks” by Brendon Taylor
“The Red Walls of Ishri” by Patrick Hurley
Reviewed by C.D. Lewis
Deep Magic’s Winter 2020 issue contains four new works. In keeping with its founder’s stated goal of providing clean fantasy, the stories don’t rely on strong language or erotic content for their effect but are intended to represent good clean fiction.
David Cleden’s “1-2-1” is an alien invasion comedy SF short. To set the tone, the aliens’ invasion warning is botched by autocorrect. Cleden displays delightful disregard for alien invasion tropes, and provides a story-ending twist suited to his stubborn protagonist.
Timothy Mudie delivers the urban fantasy short “The Ocean-Eyed Boy” in present tense, which lends a feeling of immediacy and creates anticipation for impending action—it makes more gripping a work that speaks much more to feelings and decisions than to action. Prolonged pressure on the protagonist erodes his grip on his principles until he too displays the frailty others had the whole story long. It’s unclear whether his remorse redeems him, but the world isn’t the same after. One might find sadness in the loneliness of a single parent adrift in an indifferent world, or victory in cleaving to love for one’s child, or redemption in the togetherness of a parent and child, but any lesson drawn from the ambiguous ending probably represents a Rorschach test response from the reader rather than a fact spelled out in the story itself.
Brendon Taylor’s secondary-world fantasy short “Darned Socks” presents an entertaining world whose inhabitants don’t seem to understand they live in a fantasy world. Restoring their faith in miracles seems the protagonist’s burden—and as in most good tales, the magic has a cost. “Darned Socks” depicts the power of sacrifice and its cost. Interestingly, “Darned Socks” addresses not just the cost to produce miracles but the feelings of those who receive generous but costly gifts.
Patrick Hurley’s dark fantasy short “The Red Walls of Ishri” follows a thief with an urgent problem. From a minding-her-own business open the tale accelerates into a high-stakes just-desserts story about a city ruled by an immortal tyrant. Uninvited misfortune masquerades as good luck. The protagonist’s use of brainpower to resolve sorcerous problems evokes a long literary tradition of clever thieves prevailing over dark powers. Recommended.
C.D. Lewis lives and writes in Faerie.