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1943 - Year in SF&F: February

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Henry Kuttner
"Wet Magic"

© Unknown Worlds, Feb 1943
--/ third place fantasy novella
--/ wonder award
--/ adventure award
--/ style award
--/ humour award
--/ emotion award
--/ rare find

This novella proves once more that Henry Kuttner could write top-notch fantasy better than most acclaimed writers in the past, present and foreseeable future. Most of you know about his magnum fantasy opus "The Dark World", but here the narrative tone is lighter, humor is ever-present, and the suitably convoluted, inventive plot is crowned with an epic ending - which may arguably show this whimsical, playful piece to be the best Arthurian fantasy ever written.

I could add here "dear reader, read it and judge for yourself" - but unless someone puts this novella online, there is little chance you'll get your hands on it. Other than its original publication in a rare pulp, it's only been reprinted once, in an obscure anthology (so perhaps it's all a conspiracy to hide the embarrassing fact of how well a "high fantasy" adventure can be written? - so that massive brain-dead volumes of modern "epic" fantasy could continue to flood bookstores, to be bought by readers who simply don't know any better)

Truly, misadventures of a WWII pilot who stumbles into a Magical Kingdom (hidden inside a humble English country lake), then proceeds to mess up with Morgan Le Fay and gets his hands on the Excalibur, are amusing enough - but as the ending approaches, a reader would want this hilarious romp to continue and not turn the last page; as is often the case with Henry Kuttner's all-too-short short fiction.


Fredric Brown
"The Angelic Angleworm"
© Unknown worlds, Feb 1943
Angels and Spaceships, 1954
--/ cool f story
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award: glitch in the "matrix"
--/ humour award

There are certainly some glitches in the world's fabric. There are also... spelling errors! Fredric Brown has written a hilarious tale of the world unraveling slowly, thread-by-thread - sort of like an experience from the "Truman Show" - because somebody in charge messed up the world's script, or admitted some spelling errors into the everyday run of things. I especially enjoyed the novella's first chapters where our poor hapless hero encounters things like an inexplicable (and highly confused) duck (as in "duck, the bird") inside a locked museum glass case, or worms that float up into the sky without going to all that trouble of turning into butterflies first. Fredric Brown's work in the weird pulps during the 1940s is highly recommended, with stories like "Come and Go Mad" or "The Geezenstacks" - and these were heavily anthologized, so will not be hard find.
(review by Avi Abrams)


Henry Kuttner
"Mimsy Were the Borogoves"
(as by Lewis Padgett)
© Astounding, Feb 1943
The Best of Kuttner 2, 1966
--short fiction : 1971 Astounding All-Time Poll /21
--novelette : 1999 Locus All-Time Poll /28

--/ third place sf story
--/ idea award
--/ style award

Children can deal with unknown phenomena better than adults, mostly because the world around them is still unknown and represents a mystery that they discover as they grow up. Parents should not mess with their kids imagination (trying to subvert it to something more manageable) even if for the reason that the imagined might turn out to be true. In fact, parents should NEVER barge unexpectedly into a child's bedroom...

Teddy bears with ugly demeanors and bad-tempered plushy toys may suddenly get revived for no particular reason. In case of this story the mysterious objects are quite benevolent and non-threatening, other than totally re-wiring the kid's minds. These children start to see the world like Picasso saw it, or worse. Calvin might've better described it to his Hobbes, but Kuttner does a pretty good job, keeping our interest in "what is it they are REALLY seeing?" Of course the movie shows everything "loud and clear", which is only another argument to go and read the original story first.

Hopefully the general public recognizes that behind pretty average production values of "The Last Mimzy" movie lies a brilliant, most fascinating storyline by the incomparable Henry Kuttner. And Kuttner's inspiration were of course the "Alice" books by Lewis Carroll.
(review by Avi Abrams)

(artwork copyright Rodney Matthews)


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"Then world behind and home ahead..."

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"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

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