Spellbound, A Fantasy Magazine for Children, Winter 2001

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"Cindy's Fairy Godmother" by Emily Martha Clark
"The Magic Chamsah" by Leonore Wilson
"How Djinns Deal With Thieves" by Linda J. Dunn
"Untitled" by Jennifer Wood
"What Would You Do If Your Wishes Could Come True?" by Dancing Bear
"The Enforcer of Southport" by Gerhard Gehrke

Spellbound is 46 pages and features, in addition to the fiction, a great deal of poetry, an article on genies, a crossword, and even some recipes. The stories are intended for children and are very short, only a couple pages each. The theme of this issue is ‘Genies and other Wish Granters.'

Stories about wishes are always a little tricky. If the main character simply wishes for something and gets it, that's not usually much of a story. So most stories about wishing seem to involve wishes going wrong or turning against the wisher, often in an unexpectedly clever way. Maybe that's why so many jokes involve three wishes.

"Cindy's Fairy Godmother" by Emily Martha Clark is about what happens to young Cindy, daughter of Cinderella, when the fairy Godmother returns and offers her a choice, between one permanent wish or three temporary ones. Cindy goes for the three, and has fun becoming invisible, and then being able to breathe underwater. For her final wish, she travels back in time and provides some moral support for mom, back when Cinderella was still beholden to the wicked stepsisters. The choice between three temporary wishes or one permanent one is an interesting idea, and the descriptions of the various wishes are fun, but even young readers may find the ending of the story to be overly sentimental.

In "The Magic Chamsah" by Leonore Wilson, a poor girl named Noa is given a magic chamsah, which offers her unlimited wishes, along with a magic rooster to help protect it. One of her wishes brings her a husband named Yaviv, who steals the chamsah. The conflict in this story is light. The rooster quickly retrieves the chamsah, and Noa wishes her problems away. The story is interesting mostly in the way it uses elements of Jewish folklore in a fairy-tale setting.

"How Djinns Deal With Thieves" by Linda J. Dunn is one of those aforementioned wish-gone-wrong stories. Nura is a genie who is periodically summoned from her lamp to answer the wishes of mortals. This time, her lamp has been found by a group of greedy thieves. They wish first for riches, then for women. For their final wish, they ask to have their worst enemies instantaneously decapitated. You can probably guess what happens next. It's a fun, clever story.

"Untitled" by 16-year-old contest-winner Jennifer Wood tells the story of a girl named Alisha who receives a magic lantern in the mail. A genie appears and grants her four wishes. Alisha wishes for clothes, a convertible, a boyfriend, and for her parents to get back together. She gets the clothes, the car (later totaled), and the boyfriend. But the last line is heartbreakingly blunt: "My mom and dad will never get back together. I guess some things are impossible to make happen, even for genies."

"What Would You Do If Your Wishes Came True?" by Dancing Bear re-tells some classic wishing stories. In ‘The Wishing Chair', an Irish tale, three sisters–Mella the skinny one, Gobnait the fat one, and Roisin the pretty one (she is also good and clever)–search the woods to find the wishing chair. Mella wastes her wishes. Gobnait fares no better–she wastes one wish on food, then wishes for a body like Roisin's. But "her feet remained the same. They looked so enormous compared to her thin body that she wished her old figure back." (Why didn't she just wish for proportional feet?) Roisin wishes for a handsome husband and a faraway home and is given both. I might have had more sympathy for Roisin if she had had to struggle a bit more. ‘The Transformation of Issunboshi', from Japan, tells the story of a young man who is only an inch tall. He sets off for adventure, armed with a needle for a sword, and manages to defeat an evil spirit–an oni–by leaping down its throat and poking it from the inside. A princess rewards him by granting his wish–to be as big as other people. (Though isn't the moral supposed to be that size doesn't matter?). The best of these, ‘The Fisherman and the Jinni', from the 1,001 Arabian Nights, tells of a fisherman who frees a genie from its bottle. The genie is furious at having to wait so long to be rescued, and intends to take its wrath out on the fisherman. The fisherman outwits the genie, by questioning whether it could really have fit inside such a small bottle, at which point the genie demonstrates, and the fisherman traps it again.

"The Enforcerer of Southport" by Gerhard Gehrke is about a nice guy named Toggs who can only find work as a mob enforcer, shaking down local merchants for protection money. His reign of intimidation is brought to an end though, when he spots an armored knight sitting in a local restaurant. Toggs and his boss Sulla try to bribe the knight, but are frightened off by the man's steely silence. Toggs eventually finds another job, and learns an interesting surprise about the knight. It's a light, fun story. For those keeping score, there are no actual genies in this one.

It's great to see people putting out fantasy magazines for children. Spellbound has a good variety of stories for younger readers. Anyone under the age of 16 can enter Spellbound's art and fiction contest. The rules are at: www.eggplant-productions.com/spellbound/contest.asp.

Dave Kirtley's fiction appears in Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, On Spec, Gothic.net, Cicada, READ, and in anthologies such as New Faces of Science Fiction, Empire of Dreams and Miracles, and Dead But Dreaming. http://www.sff.net/people/davekirtley/