Strange Horizons, 29 November 2004

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"Into Something Rich and Strange" by Barth Anderson

Barth Anderson weaves a tale of witchcraft, lust, punk rock and beauty with "Into Something Rich and Strange".  For a story with a septuagenarian protagonist, it has remarkable vibrancy and youthfulness.  I want to root for Bringweather one minute and scream at the old man the next. 

Bringweather falls for Devin, a.k.a. the muffin and the revenant.  The young man is a mohawk-toting musician submerged in the depths of overhauling a punk opera based on the story of King Arthur.  Bringweather offers to help as he is an expert in all things Arthurian.  He is also a witch.  Devin senses the old man's secret and becomes Bringweather's student, learning how to "Keep the Holy Fire".  The old man's power is derived from a pile of compost he keeps hidden near his apartment.  When he first brings his student to the heap, Devin revels in the concentrated yet subtle heat of the mound of rot.  "He was sensing the exhaust from Cosmic Animus that all witches sense, the power released from yeasts budding, bread rising, beer brewing, opposites attracting, neighbors screaming on corners, urban culture gelling."

The story has many levels, each appealing to a different piece of my heart.  The love between the old man and his punk prodigy is tender one moment and violent the next.  Their witchly power is ancient yet newborn.  The punk opera is funky but classic.  The neighborhood is decaying elegantly one minute, then rejuvenated to soullessness the next. This story puffs forth a breath of fresh air.