Monday, November 9, 2020

Fantastic Schools, Volume 1, edited by Christopher Nuttall and L Jagi Lamplighter

A great good afternoon to all my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land! And to family members who dropped by, NO! This isn't horror, I don't READ horror!

Here's the cover art, followed by an Amazon Associates link. If you click the link, and then buy something, I get a tiny amount of money.  

I THINK I remember when the request for stories went out for this volume. I was rather intrigued, since I had been Dean of Admissions at a tiny, private,  non-magical school for a bit over three years, and I wondered if there was any way I could make a story out of my experiences that would fit in with the theme. I couldn't see it happening. But, who knows? There IS a story here about getting admitted; there is another story about the problems of budgets. 

For now, though, it is ENOUGH to read, and enjoy, which is what I did. I actually said to myself, "these stories are quite charming!" but I refuse to repeat that, because magic, charms, you know.

DO NOT!!!! skip the intro by Christopher Nuttall. He says some things that HAVE to be said, and it's just lovely to detach from some of the spider webs associated with literature that parallels this work. And along those lines, the title of my Amazon review (they posted it almost INSTANTLY!) is "If you mention H*** P*** or J K R***, I might slap you." There IS a tie in with his intro.

Here's my thinking about the stories, and what follows is contained in my Amazon review, and my Goodreads review.

“A Note From The Editor,” Christopher G. Nuttall. Oh, hurrah, hurrah! Some things truly needed to be pointed out explicitly, particularly for those who think everything worthy was invented this morning around half-past ten. Discover these for yourself, but I must cheer the point that there is an extreme pathology of boarding schools that has NOTHING to do with magic. 

“Little Witches” by Mel Lee Newmin. Anyone who has ever been affiliated with an educational institution knows the EXTREME importance of The Budget, and schools which are not supported by the state often must close their doors. Institutions of magic are not excepted. Loved it (but romance doesn't happen that fast).

“Path of the Phoenix” by Emily Martha Sorensen. I have heard that in some matters, if you aren’t cheating, you don’t deserve to win. I can’t testify to the truth of that statement, and whether or not Rulisa, our protagonist, deserves to win is up for discussion. However, she DID know what she was doing when she accepted enrollment in a school consequences are...intense.

“A Firm Hand” by Aaron Van Treeck. Some schools welcome you with a reception, including food and handshakes. Not THIS school. Clearly, their school is modeled on basic training/boot camp for a uniformed service. As a graduate of D-7-2 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I can say that the only significant inaccuracy is that harsh treatment at this magic school actually has a training goal in mind.

“Asymptote at Three O’Clock” by Steven G. Johnson. For anyone who has EVER watched the clock, longing for release, this story will take that experience, and add another dimension. You see, time really does go slower, but not for the reason you think.

“Practical Exercise” by George Phillies.  I have found that education is a great leveler of differences. Well, that’s the way it appears, at least; those who maintain a fiction that their differences matter more, somehow manage to linger on for quite some time. A punch in the snoot would have done them some good, in their earlier years.

“The Ascendant Cup” by Thomas K. Carpenter. High-stakes testing is something that seems to bother adults and educators more than it bothers students, at least initially. Perhaps that is because they don’t recognize just how high the stakes are. This test: it can kill you. Our protagonist knows this, but sometimes the win IS worth the risk.

“Doom Garden” by Benjamin Wheeler. Warren G. Harding was a wizard. The gardener has a shotgun that never runs out of ammo. And both of those things are needed, because all gardens are not alike. I loved this one, particularly the fact that the point of view character is a......Methodist? No, that's not right...

“Crucible” by Frank B. Luke.  This is an intriguing world, in which those who work magic come in three flavors: Good, Neutral, and Evil. It’s not QUITE an accurate set of descriptors, though.  The subtle differences matter, because this test can be lethal.

“The Last Academy” by G. Scott Huggins. In the world of the mundanes, there is a huge drop-off between the number of people who enroll in the fall, and the number who eventually graduate. Why shouldn’t this be true with schools of magic as well? But, where would the drop-outs go? And what CONCEIVABLE use could they be?

“Finals” by Bernadette Durbin. The only people who like finals are those who have over-prepared, and a few instructors who are looking for a break from classes. Even those don’t want the routine to be disturbed. But sometimes, outside events trump academics.

“Metamorphosis” by Roger D. Strahan. Listen: just because your parents are monsters, and school is awful, that doesn’t mean that you get to go another way. That NEVER happens! Well, hardly ever. It would take a miracle.

“How To Get Into Magic School” by Erin N.H. Furby.  I spent 7+ years working in college admissions. I only was threatened a few times. But then, magic wasn’t a factor. This lad is a recruiter for a scholarship program. I think he needs to seek additional reimbursement.

“Deep School Tuition” by Denton Salle. Private school tuition is outrageously high, but there ARE those who can afford it. Even so, defaulting on loans is a really bad idea. So: make SURE you understand the terms of the contract before you sign it. And if they want you to sign it in blood? Should be a clue.

“Gennady’s Tale” by Christopher G. Nuttall. It’s rather an old tale: the fresh-faced idealist who toddles of to college, and returns as an obnoxious know-it-all. The rules at college are just DIFFERENT than the rules at home; everybody changes, one way or another.

I did not ENJOY reading all the stories at the same level, but that's because a couple of them dealt with subject matter that was uncomfortable, particularly the last one. That is NOT a reflection on the quality of the stories, which I found to be excellent. It's just a matter of taste. I recommend them all to you, and, with the exception of "Gennady's Tale," I would be pleased to have 14 year old Alicia Ann and almost 16 year old Kenneth read these, unsupervised. With "Gennady's Tale," I'd want us all to read it together, and then discuss it. I DO hope you understand that minor caveat.

Peace be on your household.

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