New Magics: An Anthology of Today's Fantasyby Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Whether it's a tale of a wizard developing his powers or a breakneck chase through New York City in search of the Grail, the best fantasy is all about coming face-to-face with reality -- with boundaries -- and saying, What if? It's about stepping across the threshold of what is and what must be into a world of maybes and why-nots. Most of all, it's a great deal of fun.
It's for today's generation of young readers that Patrick Nielsen Hayden -- winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology -- has selected these stories from the thousands published by contemporary fantasy writers over the past two decades, for those readers who keep asking questions but are never completely satisfied with the answers -- only the journey.
Here is National Book Award winner Ursula K. Le Guin with a tale of wizardry from the world of her Earthsea books. Here is Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game, with the original story of Prentice Alvin in alternate, magical nineteenth-century America. Here is Sandman author Neil Gaiman with a story of chivalry, with a distinctly modern twist. Here are werewolves and princesses, battles and enchantments, and great stories from Jane Yolen, Harry Turtledove, Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, and others. Whimsical or harrowing, irreverent or sublime, each of these stories is an adventure in imagination. Journey from the here and now to New Magics.
- Tom Doherty Associates
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.78(w) x 8.54(h) x 1.06(d)
- Age Range:
- 13 - 17 Years
Read an Excerpt
An Anthology of Today's Fantasy
By Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2004 Patrick Nielsen Hayden
All rights reserved.
Mrs. Whitaker found the Holy Grail; it was under a fur coat. Every Thursday afternoon Mrs. Whitaker walked down to the post office to collect her pension, even though her legs were no longer what they were, and on the way back home she would stop in at the Oxfam Shop and buy herself a little something.
The Oxfam Shop sold old clothes, knickknacks, oddments, bits and bobs, and large quantities of old paperbacks, all of them donations: secondhand flotsam, often the house clearances of the dead. All the profits went to charity.
The shop was staffed by volunteers. The volunteer on duty this afternoon was Marie, seventeen, slightly overweight, and dressed in a baggy mauve jumper that looked like she had bought it from the shop.
Marie sat by the till with a copy of Modern Woman magazine, filling out a "Reveal Your Hidden Personality" questionnaire. Every now and then, she'd flip to the back of the magazine and check the relative points assigned to an A), B), or C) answer before making up her mind how she'd respond to the question.
Mrs. Whitaker puttered around the shop.
They still hadn't sold the stuffed cobra, she noted. It had been there for six months now, gathering dust, glass eyes gazing balefully at the clothes racks and the cabinet filled with chipped porcelain and chewed toys.
Mrs. Whitaker patted its head as she went past.
She picked out a couple of Mills & Boon novels from a bookshelf — Her Thundering Soul and Her Turbulent Heart, a shilling each — and gave careful consideration to the empty bottle of Mateus Rosé with a decorative lampshade on it before deciding she really didn't have anywhere to put it.
She moved a rather threadbare fur coat, which smelled badly of mothballs. Underneath it was a walking stick and a water-stained copy of Romance and Legend of Chivalry by A. R. Hope Moncrieff, priced at five pence. Next to the book, on its side, was the Holy Grail. It had a little round paper sticker on the base, and written on it, in felt pen, was the price: 30p.
Mrs. Whitaker picked up the dusty silver goblet and appraised it through her thick spectacles.
"This is nice," she called to Marie.
"It'd look nice on the mantelpiece."
Marie shrugged again.
Mrs. Whitaker gave fifty pence to Marie, who gave her ten pence change and a brown paper bag to put the books and the Holy Grail in. Then she went next door to the butcher's and bought herself a nice piece of liver. Then she went home.
The inside of the goblet was thickly coated with a brownish-red dust. Mrs. Whitaker washed it out with great care, then left it to soak for an hour in warm water with a dash of vinegar added.
Then she polished it with metal polish until it gleamed, and she put it on the mantelpiece in her parlor, where it sat between a small soulful china basset hound and a photograph of her late husband, Henry, on the beach at Frinton in 1953.
She had been right: It did look nice.
For dinner that evening she had the liver fried in bread-crumbs with onions. It was very nice.
The next morning was Friday; on alternate Fridays Mrs. Whitaker and Mrs. Greenberg would visit each other. Today it was Mrs. Greenberg's turn to visit Mrs. Whitaker. They sat in the parlor and ate macaroons and drank tea. Mrs. Whitaker took one sugar in her tea, but Mrs. Greenberg took sweetener, which she always carried in her handbag in a small plastic container.
"That's nice," said Mrs. Greenberg, pointing to the Grail. "What is it?"
"It's the Holy Grail," said Mrs. Whitaker. "It's the cup that Jesus drunk out of at the Last Supper. Later, at the Crucifixion, it caught His precious blood when the centurion's spear pierced His side."
Mrs. Greenberg sniffed. She was small and Jewish and didn't hold with unsanitary things. "I wouldn't know about that," she said, "but it's very nice. Our Myron got one just like that when he won the swimming tournament, only it's got his name on the side."
"Is he still with that nice girl? The hairdresser?"
"Bernice? Oh yes. They're thinking of getting engaged," said Mrs. Greenberg.
"That's nice," said Mrs. Whitaker. She took another macaroon.
Mrs. Greenberg baked her own macaroons and brought them over every alternate Friday: small sweet light brown biscuits with almonds on top.
They talked about Myron and Bernice, and Mrs. Whitaker's nephew Ronald (she had had no children), and about their friend Mrs. Perkins who was in hospital with her hip, poor dear.
At midday Mrs. Greenberg went home, and Mrs. Whitaker made herself cheese on toast for lunch, and after lunch Mrs. Whitaker took her pills; the white and the red and two little orange ones.
The doorbell rang.
Mrs. Whitaker answered the door. It was a young man with shoulder-length hair so fair it was almost white, wearing gleaming silver armor, with a white surcoat.
"Hello," he said.
"Hello," said Mrs. Whitaker.
"I'm on a quest," he said.
"That's nice," said Mrs. Whitaker, noncommittally.
"Can I come in?" he asked.
Mrs. Whitaker shook her head. "I'm sorry, I don't think so," she said.
"I'm on a quest for the Holy Grail," the young man said. "Is it here?"
"Have you got any identification?" Mrs. Whitaker asked. She knew that it was unwise to let unidentified strangers into your home when you were elderly and living on your own. Handbags get emptied, and worse than that.
The young man went back down the garden path. His horse, a huge gray charger, big as a shire-horse, its head high and its eyes intelligent, was tethered to Mrs. Whitaker's garden gate. The knight fumbled in the saddlebag and returned with a scroll.
It was signed by Arthur, King of All Britons, and charged all persons of whatever rank or station to know that here was Galaad, Knight of the Table Round, and that he was on a Right High and Noble Quest. There was a drawing of the young man below that. It wasn't a bad likeness.
Mrs. Whitaker nodded. She had been expecting a little card with a photograph on it, but this was far more impressive.
"I suppose you had better come in," she said.
They went into her kitchen. She made Galaad a cup of tea, then she took him into the parlor.
Galaad saw the Grail on her mantelpiece, and dropped to one knee. He put down the teacup carefully on the russet carpet. A shaft of light came through the net curtains and painted his awed face with golden sunlight and turned his hair into a silver halo.
"It is truly the Sangrail," he said, very quietly. He blinked his pale blue eyes three times, very fast, as if he were blinking back tears.
He lowered his head as if in silent prayer.
Galaad stood up again and turned to Mrs. Whitaker. "Gracious lady, keeper of the Holy of Holies, let me now depart this place with the Blessed Chalice, that my journeyings may be ended and my geas fulfilled."
"Sorry?" said Mrs. Whitaker.
Galaad walked over to her and took her old hands in his. "My quest is over," he told her. "The Sangrail is finally within my reach."
Mrs. Whitaker pursed her lips. "Can you pick your teacup and saucer up, please?" she said.
Galaad picked up his teacup apologetically.
"No. I don't think so," said Mrs. Whitaker. "I rather like it there. It's just right, between the dog and the photograph of my Henry."
"Is it gold you need? Is that it? Lady, I can bring you gold ..."
"No," said Mrs. Whitaker. "I don't want any gold thank you. I'm simply not interested."
She ushered Galaad to the front door. "Nice to meet you," she said.
His horse was leaning its head over her garden fence, nibbling her gladioli. Several of the neighborhood children were standing on the pavement, watching it.
Galaad took some sugar lumps from the saddlebag and showed the braver of the children how to feed the horse, their hands held flat. The children giggled. One of the older girls stroked the horse's nose.
Galaad swung himself up onto the horse in one fluid movement. Then the horse and the knight trotted off down Hawthorne Crescent.
Mrs. Whitaker watched them until they were out of sight, then sighed and went back inside.
The weekend was quiet.
On Saturday Mrs. Whitaker took the bus into Maresfield to visit her nephew Ronald, his wife Euphonia, and their daughters, Clarissa and Dillian. She took them a currant cake she had baked herself.
On Sunday morning Mrs. Whitaker went to church. Her local church was St. James the Less, which was a little more "Don't think of this as a church, think of it as a place where like-minded friends hang out and are joyful" than Mrs. Whitaker felt entirely comfortable with, but she liked the vicar, the Reverend Bartholomew, when he wasn't actually playing the guitar.
After the service, she thought about mentioning to him that she had the Holy Grail in her front parlor, but decided against it.
On Monday morning Mrs. Whitaker was working in the back garden. She had a small herb garden she was extremely proud of: dill, vervain, mint, rosemary, thyme, and a wild expanse of parsley. She was down on her knees, wearing thick green gardening gloves, weeding, and picking out slugs and putting them in a plastic bag.
Mrs. Whitaker was very tenderhearted when it came to slugs. She would take them down to the back of her garden, which bordered on the railway line, and throw them over the fence.
She cut some parsley for the salad. There was a cough behind her. Galaad stood there, tall and beautiful, his armor glinting in the morning sun. In his arms he held a long package, wrapped in oiled leather.
"I'm back," he said.
"Hello," said Mrs. Whitaker. She stood up, rather slowly, and took off her gardening gloves. "Well," she said, "now you're here, you might as well make yourself useful."
She gave him the plastic bag full of slugs and told him to tip the slugs out over the back of the fence.
Then they went into the kitchen.
"Tea? Or lemonade?" she asked.
"Whatever you're having," Galaad said.
Mrs. Whitaker took a jug of her homemade lemonade from the fridge and sent Galaad outside to pick a sprig of mint. She selected two tall glasses. She washed the mint carefully and put a few leaves in each glass, then poured the lemonade.
"Is your horse outside?" she asked.
"Oh yes. His name is Grizzel."
"And you've come a long way, I suppose."
"A very long way."
"I see," said Mrs. Whitaker. She took a blue plastic basin from under the sink and half-filled it with water. Galaad took it out to Grizzel. He waited while the horse drank and brought the empty basin back to Mrs. Whitaker.
"Now," she said, "I suppose you're still after the Grail."
"Aye, still do I seek the Sangrail," he said. He picked up the leather package from the floor, put it down on her tablecloth and unwrapped it. "For it, I offer you this."
It was a sword, its blade almost four feet long. There were words and symbols traced elegantly along the length of the blade. The hilt was worked in silver and gold, and a large jewel was set in the pommel.
"It's very nice," said Mrs. Whitaker, doubtfully.
"This," said Galaad, "is the sword Balmung, forged by Wayland Smith in the dawn times. Its twin is Flamberge. Who wears it is unconquerable in war, and invincible in battle. Who wears it is incapable of a cowardly act or an ignoble one. Set in its pommel is the sardonyx Bircone, which protects its possessor from poison slipped into wine or ale, and from the treachery of friends."
Mrs. Whitaker peered at the sword. "It must be very sharp," she said, after a while.
"It can slice a falling hair in twain. Nay, it could slice a sunbeam," said Galaad proudly.
"Well, then, maybe you ought to put it away," said Mrs. Whitaker.
"Don't you want it?" Galaad seemed disappointed.
"No, thank you," said Mrs. Whitaker. It occurred to her that her late husband, Henry, would have quite liked it. He would have hung it on the wall in his study next to the stuffed carp he had caught in Scotland, and pointed it out to visitors.
Galaad rewrapped the oiled leather around the sword Balmung and tied it up with white cord.
He sat there, disconsolate.
Mrs. Whitaker made him some cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches for the journey back and wrapped them in greaseproof paper. She gave him an apple for Grizzel. He seemed very pleased with both gifts.
She waved them both good-bye.
That afternoon she took the bus down to the hospital to see Mrs. Perkins, who was still in with her hip, poor love. Mrs. Whitaker took her some homemade fruitcake, although she had left out the walnuts from the recipe, because Mrs. Perkins's teeth weren't what they used to be.
She watched a little television that evening, and had an early night.
On Tuesday the postman called. Mrs. Whitaker was up in the boxroom at the top of the house, doing a spot of tidying, and, taking each step slowly and carefully, she didn't make it downstairs in time. The postman had left her a message which said that he'd tried to deliver a packet, but no one was home.
Mrs. Whitaker sighed.
She put the message into her handbag and went down to the post office.
The package was from her niece Shirelle in Sydney, Australia. It contained photographs of her husband, Wallace, and her two daughters, Dixie and Violet, and a conch shell packed in cotton wool.
Mrs. Whitaker had a number of ornamental shells in her bedroom. Her favorite had a view of the Bahamas done on it in enamel. It had been a gift from her sister, Ethel, who had died in 1983.
She put the shell and the photographs in her shopping bag. Then, seeing that she was in the area, she stopped in at the Oxfam Shop on her way home.
"Hullo, Mrs. W.," said Marie.
Mrs. Whitaker stared at her. Marie was wearing lipstick (possibly not the best shade for her, nor particularly expertly applied, but, thought Mrs. Whitaker, that would come with time) and a rather smart skirt. It was a great improvement.
"Oh. Hello, dear," said Mrs. Whitaker.
"There was a man in here last week, asking about that thing you bought. The little metal cup thing. I told him where to find you. You don't mind, do you?"
"No, dear," said Mrs. Whitaker. "He found me."
"He was really dreamy. Really, really dreamy," sighed Marie wistfully. "I could of gone for him.
"And he had a big white horse and all," Marie concluded. She was standing up straighter as well, Mrs. Whitaker noted approvingly.
On the bookshelf Mrs. Whitaker found a new Mills & Boon novel — Her Majestic Passion — although she hadn't yet finished the two she had bought on her last visit.
She picked up the copy of Romance and Legend of Chivalry and opened it. It smelled musty. EX LIBRIS FISHER was neatly handwritten at the top of the first page in red ink.
She put it down where she had found it.
When she got home, Galaad was waiting for her. He was giving the neighborhood children rides on Grizzel's back, up and down the street.
"I'm glad you're here," she said, "I've got some cases that need moving."
She showed him up to the boxroom in the top of the house. He moved all the old suitcases for her, so she could get to the cupboard at the back.
It was very dusty up there.
She kept him up there most of the afternoon, moving things around while she dusted.
Galaad had a cut on his cheek, and he held one arm a little stiffly.
They talked a little while she dusted and tidied. Mrs. Whitaker told him about her late husband, Henry; and how the life insurance had paid the house off; and how she had all these things, but no one really to leave them to, no one but Ronald really and his wife only liked modern things. She told him how she had met Henry during the war, when he was in the ARP and she hadn't closed the kitchen blackout curtains all the way; and about the sixpenny dances they went to in the town; and how they'd gone to London when the war had ended, and she'd had her first drink of wine.
Galaad told Mrs. Whitaker about his mother Elaine, who was flighty and no better than she should have been and something of a witch to boot; and his grandfather, King Pelles, who was well-meaning although at best a little vague; and of his youth in the Castle of Bliant on the Joyous Isle; and his father, whom he knew as "Le Chevalier Mal Fet," who was more or less completely mad, and was in reality Lancelot du Lac, greatest of knights, in disguise and bereft of his wits; and of Galaad's days as a young squire in Camelot.
At five o'clock Mrs. Whitaker surveyed the boxroom and decided that it met with her approval; then she opened the window so the room could air, and they went downstairs to the kitchen, where she put on the kettle.
Galaad sat down at the kitchen table.
He opened the leather purse at his waist and took out a round white stone. It was about the size of a cricket ball.
"My lady," he said. "This is for you, an you give me the Sangrail."
Excerpted from New Magics by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2004 Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Patrick Nielsen Hayden is Senior Editor, Manager of Science Fiction, at Tor Books. He has worked in the science fiction field as an editor, reviewer, publisher, and in other capacities, since the mid-1970s. The Washington Post has called him "one of the most literate and historically aware editors in science fiction."
His original anthology series Starlight has won the World Fantasy Award, while individual stories from it have won the Hugo, Nebula, and other awards. His other anthologies include the YA reprint collections New Skies and New Magics and Up. A frequent speaker at science fiction conventions and writing workshops, he also plays guitar with a variety of ensembles and maintains a popular weblog about politics and culture. He lives with his wife and collaborator, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, in Brooklyn, New York.
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