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Megan Kurashige

The Twelfth Enchantment

The Twelfth EnchantmentThe Regency England that I know—the one familiar from film, public television, the novels of Jane Austen, and very little actual historical knowledge (a lack that is entirely mine and not the authors’)—is a setting particularly suited to the addition of magic. The rituals and manners of the place are both fascinating and so foreign to contemporary life that they almost seem like magic themselves. Exaggerate a little, squint one eye, and magic slips right in, looking like it’s been there all along.

 

In The Twelfth Enchantment, David Liss makes excellent use of this affinity. His Regency England is on the brink of a secret war whose conflict fills the spaces between parlor conversations and grand dances, transforming social niceties into the clever moves of an ominous and thrilling game. The forces of newly mechanized industry have begun to encroach on ancient tradition, and the very ordinary, very prospect-less Lucy Derrick is caught between the two of them.

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The Unexpected Fantastic: An Interview with Harry Bolles

The MagiciansMy favorite line in The Magicians by Lev Grossman is: "Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed." This is followed, a few paragraphs later, by: "It was a very small trick, a basic one-handed sleight with a nickel. He did it in his coat pocket where nobody could see. He did it again, then he did it backward." It is such an utterly perfect and beautiful introduction to a character, and one that predisposed me to liking him because, if there's one thing that I have always loved, it's watching magic tricks.

A bit less than a year ago, I went out to dinner to celebrate the birthday of a very dear friend. It was an excellent dinner, in one of those dimly lit, but extravagantly delicious San Francisco restaurants, and while we sat at our large, basement table, one of our mutual friends reached into his pockets and produced some playing cards and a tiny pouch of coins. He did some magic tricks, beautifully astonishing things with coins and cards. With competence and speed, Harry made the coins vanish and the cards switch places, and it was a quietly perfect extravagance in the midst of cocktail detritus and rumpled napkins.

When I asked Harry whether he would answer a few questions about magic for Fantasy Matters, he kindly sent these wonderful answers.

The Unexpected Fantastic: A Follow-Up

Three weeks ago, Megan Kurashige posted a challenge in her column "The Unexpected Fantastic" for readers to record themselves doing something normal and then watching it in slow motion.  She followed through on her own challenge, and wrote about it on her own blog, Immobile Explorations.  Her thoughts are reposted here, as is her video of her experiment.


Recently, I started writing a column for Fantasy Matters, a website devoted to the idea that fantasy literature matters. For the longest time, I couldn't decide what to write about. I like fantasy in stories, but I couldn't imagine what I might have to say about it on a regular basis. Fortunately, I have friends who are smarter than I am. Two of them suggested that I write about the magical things you don't expect to see. You're already obsessed with the peculiar and the specific, they said, so why don't you just write about that?

A review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of CuriositiesAs an enthusiast of the odd and specific, I have always been charmed by the curiosity cabinet (both in idea and actual incarnation). A collection of items strange and wonderful, trailing murky histories like smoke, it incites dreamy examination and the desire to fabricate. Origins, uses, murderous acquisitions, and romantic mysteries all seem to wait somewhere inside each object or specimen, begging to be released.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, a new anthology of “exhibits, oddities, images, and stories from top authors and artists” edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, attempts to capture the spirit of the cabinet in book form. Drawing on a spectacular list of contributors, it reads like a collection of extremely well-written explanatory placards from the most magical, inexplicable, and often gruesome museum you could hope to stumble across. As the introduction explains, Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead died in 2003 at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, leaving behind a cabinet of curiosities full of artifacts that prompted stories and anecdotes from the people who knew him. That these people happen to be some of the most well-respected authors and artists working in the genre of the fantastic today is a coincidence brilliantly engineered by the VanderMeers.

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The Unexpected Fantastic: Slow Motion

The Darjeeling LimitedI am going to talk about a movie. Again.

 

In the opening minutes of The Darjeeling Limited, Adrien Brody runs after a train in slow motion. His long limbs devour the platform, but they do so with leisure and grace. He is an impossible creature, encased in a perfect grey suit, and he clambers through the air as if he has received a temporary reprieve from the normal obligations of gravity. His fingers unfurl from the handle of his suitcase, one by one, and each release is a moment of solemn and breathless delight.

 

Every time I watch it, I feel like I am witnessing a magic trick.

 

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