Isaac Asimov’s Magical World of Fantasy – Wizards, edited by Isaac Asimov (1983) – Legend has it that Mr. Asimov never had an agent so he was forever publishing anthologies with his name on them that he’d never seen or had sold to two different publishers. For this anthology, I really didn’t care if he had a hand in collecting them or not because they’re so good. As usual with anthologies, I’ll discuss each story, but I may run out of superlatives fast.
Mazirian the Magician by Jack Vance – A greedy wizard enslaves his competitors but falls under the spell of the beautiful woman who steals into his magical garden. You know there’s something nefarious going on but don’t discover what it is until Mazirian gets his just desserts.
Please Stand By by Ron Goulart – It will be hard to beat this lively story. An occult detective is asked to help his friend discover why he’s suddenly turning into an elephant on national holidays. When they track down the amateur magician who hexed him, he says he did it because the guy’s girlfriend is in deadly danger and can only be saved an elephant! Described as a writer of “wonderful, zany tales bursting with social satire,” I have to agree.
What Good Is A Glass Dagger? by Larry Niven – Exciting yarn about wizards, werewolves, and magic running out, but I’m not sure we really needed the thirty year time span.
The Eye of Tandyla by L. Sprague de Camp – If anyone could write a rousing story about a wizard’s misadventures, it would be LSDC, but who knew he could write a funny story? His bumbling wizard and bright but loyal bodyguard find themselves between a rock and a hard place – repeatedly.
The White Horse Child by Greg Bear – Did Daddy Asimov pick up the phone and contact his inner circle for this collection? This Bear story is a little different. There’s no wizard, just a boy with an imagination telling stories to his dangerous friends and avoiding his Billy Graham pamphlet slinging auntie.
Smeley’s Necklace by Ursula K. LeGuin – Another not-wizardy story and the only one in the anthology written by a woman. This science fiction story about a princess who lets pride overcome sense and lives her life in a single day is sad and clever.
And the Monsters Walk by John Jakes – Yes, the Bicentennial guy. I felt I was reading a forgotten Bram Stoker story as a poor sailor gets recruited to fighting demons in England. Atmospheric and compelling.
The Seeker in the Fortress by Manly Wade Wellman – I’m not a big fan of the wandering hero who happens to show up in a sticky situation, defeats the evil wizard, and rides off into the sunset with the princess. It helps that the princess is a spoiled shrew, and the hero sneaks off into the sunset without her.
The Wall Around The World by Theodore Cogswell – Another of my least favorite tropes. Lately all the YA books made into movies have been about kids in social experiments. In this one, a wall surrounds a commune where science and machines are outlawed. A rebellious teen builds an illegal glider to get over the wall. Predictable ending.
The People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard – I was expecting Conan versus a wizard story and here it is. Conan rescues a buxom princess from a reptilian wizard with his trusty sword and some magic items from a dead wizard. Sound familiar?