tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Majyk By Accident

Majyk By Accident by Esther M. Friesner
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review of
Esther Friesner's Majyk By Accident
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 24, 2016

As I typically do, I alternate between reading a serious bk & at least one that's more for fun so that I can take a break from the labor-intensiveness that goes into the serious review writing. The serious bk read at the same time as this one was Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I consider the serious reviews to be the important ones but I might very well enjoy things like this more. Make of that what you will.

I don't generally read fantasy, wch is what I reckon this is, given that I prefer science fiction's more prophetic &, yes, scientific nature. Still, this had a good sense of humor & sometimes that's all I ask for. It starts off w/ this:

""SO THERE YOU ARE, YOU WORTHLESS RATWHACKER!" Velma Chiefcook's heavy hand fell on my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The great hall of Thengor's Academy of High Wizardry echoed with her harsh voice, the huge chandelier overhead swaying, the timid fire-sprites inside their separate glass cells flickering with fear. Even the tall brass-bound doors guarding the mighty Master Thengpr's apartments shuddered on their hinges." - p 1

I reckon this children-at-the-school-of-magic trope is a well-worn path but this was published in 1993 & that's 4 yrs before the extremely popular Harry Potter series so maybe Esther Friesner's sitting around wondering why SHE isn't rich instead of J. K. Rowling.

As those of you who've been around know, the word "magic" is usually used to mean stage magic & the word "magick" is usually used to mean ceremonial magick. Long ago, I proposed to abbreviate the latter to just "magik". (see my letter under the heeading "Sound Thinking" on p 14 of "Kaos" issue #10 (London, 1987 or 1988)). In this bk another variation appears:

""Majyk," Tolly breathed. He stared at the golden cloud above Master Thengor's bed, and his beady blue eyes began to shine with greed. "It's the stuff that puts the spunk in our spells, the energy in our enchantments, the charge in our charms, the can-do in our cantrips. Without it, we wizards are nothing. We could wag our wands until the unicorns come home, but if we didn't have a little Majyk, we wouldn't be able to turn snakes into snacks or cats into catsup!"" - p 11

2 of the main characters are a cat who's come thru into a student wizard's alternate universe & the student. Cat's are a mythical creature in the student's world. The cat speaks in 20th century American slang:

""I don't want to learn how to use it," I said. "I just want to get it all back together, get it off my back, and get on with my life."

""Okay, don't have a cow," the cat said. "So we get the rest of the Majyk together for you, if that's what floats your boat."

""I don't have a cow," I told him. "Or a boat."

""No? You look like the kinda guy who's always been a little dinghy["]" - p 52

Or maybe he's just 2 tents?

Orbix, the student wizard's world, is based on fairy tales:

"Silly question; everyone knows what happens to wolves. They're worse than lemmings, some ways. The poor dumb animals are always getting themselves killed falling down the chimneys of brick houses, into big pots full of boiling water. If not that, they sneak into old ladies' homes, dress up in the grannies' flannel nightgowns and crawl into the bed until someone finds them, panics, and calls a woodchopper to come in and take care of the beast. It's an awful mess. Bloodstain-resistant sheets, pillow-cases, and flannel nightgowns are the most popular Grandma's Day gifts on Orbix, followed by Wolf-B-Gon chimney filters." - p 61

In other words, between the fun Friesner has w/ slang & its possible misunderstandings & fairy tales & their translation into 'reality' there's plenty of fun to be had. All in all, Friesner's use of the interplay between Earth & Orbix is absolutely fructiferous!:

""You guys think the wizards on this world got power? Ha! They're small potatoes next to my old human. Now there was a wizard. A computer wizard. I remember one Columbus Day when he was just hacking around and he fixed it so one of those big electric news banners on Times Square kept on scrolling 'You mean it;s NOT flat?' —signed 'Ronald Reagan.'"" - p 92

Hacked electronic road signs DO exist regardless of whether the world is round or Frame of Reference shaped & there's plenty online about it. My friend Lizard & I even discussed doing it 30 yrs or so ago & never did so I tip my head to all those who've pulled it off:

"ROGUE PANDA ON RAMPAGE

"TRAPPED IN SIGN FACTORY

"FREE KITTENS IN LEFT LANE

"Entering bat country

"OMG THE BRITISH R COMING

"SORRY MARIO THE PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE

"THE CAKE IS A LIE

"COPS EVERY WHERE

"NAZI ZOMBIES! RUN ! ! !

"RIGHT LANE CLOSED EXPECT RAINBOWS

"FREE CANDY AHEAD 3/29 - 4/2

"POOPY FINGERS

"THIS SIGN HAS BEEN HACKED

"THUG LIFE

"I AM BECOME DEATH

"EAT MY SHORTS

"FLYING MONKEYS AHEAD

"KLAATU BARADA NIKTO

"YOU'LL NEVER GET TO WORK ON TIME HAHA! !

"NOBODY HAS EVER LOVED YOU

"RAPTURE AHEAD

"HONK IF YOU ARE WEARING A THONG

"SMOOTH OPERATOR" - www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/blog/galle...

&, of course, there're even websites that tell you how to do it. As an advocate of Criminally Sane behavior (w/ a sense of humor) I just-can't-stop-myself-from-reproducing-this:

"How many times have you driven by an electronic road sign like one of these?

"This is the ADDCO portable sign. Today, you see what is on the inside, and how they are programmed to display important information.

"*** WARNING YOU SHOULD NEVER TAMPER WITH THESE SIGNS ***

"The access panel on the sign is generally protected by a small lock, but often are left unprotected. Upon opening the access panel you can see the display electronics.

"The black control pad is attached by a curly cord, with a keyboard on the face.

"Programming is as simple as scrolling down the menu selection to "Instant Text". Type whatever you want to display, Hit Enter to submit. You can now either throw it up on the sign by selecting "Run w/out save" or you can add more pages to it by selecting "Add page"

"** HACKER TIPS ** Should it will ask you for a password. Try "DOTS", the default password.

"In all likelihood, the crew will not have changed it. However if they did, never fear. Hold "Control" and "Shift" and while holding, enter "DIPY". This will reset the sign and reset the password to "DOTS" in the process. You're in!" - http://jalopnik.com/5141430/how-to-ha...

&, yeah, strictly speaking, I wdn't want anyone to commit such an act thoughtlessly in a way that might endanger public safety but if the sign's not currently in use to provide needed traffic info I certainly wd get a laugh if I saw a road sign that sd something like "GOD MADE ME NOT DO IT" or whatever.

& &, of course of course, there're probably multiple Flat Earth Societies. Here's a link to an example: www.theflatearthsociety.org/cms/ . Personally, I think the Earth's hollow but it's been turned inside out & the former outside is now filled w/ well-'nigh impenetrable garbage.. Or maybe that's the future.

""The only problem with the holes was whenever a wind blew over them—even a breeze—you heard music. It wasn't great music, but the way it wandered up and down the Ichthyonic Scale was kind of hypnotic. Entire civilizations fell under the music's spell. Healthy men and women would just sit around in white rooms staring at shiny crystals and telling everybody how they were really Master Pasmoddle the Great from the Age of Large Pointy Animals so they didn't need to go out and get a job."

"Scandal scowled at Grym. "And I bet your tribe decided they were the giant horned hamsters, huh?" The barbarian tried to look Who, me?

"I picked up the cube. "This is what Orbix looked like in the Age of Teen Death Ballads, the one that came just before the age we're in now. It didn't last too long—we never know when the next shape shift's going to come—but we got a lot of good music out of it."" - p 95

Scandal, the cat, is having none of it. Perhaps an honorary membership in the I.S.C.D.S. (International Stop Continental Drift Society) is in order?:

""I changed my mind," Scandal replied, keeping his eyes on the path. "I'm happier not knowing. I'm saner not knowing. I'm telling myself it was the Plate Tectonics Fairy who did it."

""Who?"

""Yeah, she got together with Tinkerbell and Glinda for a wild party one Saturday night, downed a few too many tequila-and-pixie-dust shooters, then went home and zapped Orbix so every few aeons it gets the geological hiccups."

""Gee, that's amazing!" I was really impressed. "Except for the names, you got it right!"" - p 96

"She tossed a pinch of blue dust over the churning gunk in the pot, then spit into it. Immediately a gigantic bubble formed itself on the surface, then broke free and bobbed across the room.

"A perfect double of Scandal floated inside." - p 141

Scandal's spitting image, so to speak. Yeah, yeah, you got it without my having to spell it out for ya. Friesner does, however, spell it out for ya w/ this interesting distinction:

""I am a witch, not a wizard. Wizardry's the art of making something out of nothing; witchery's the art of making do with what you've got. I can make a pine cone sprout into a lovely set of pinewood furniture. I can capture the image of a cat in the reflective surface of a soap bubble, I can make a rock into a rocking chair, but I can not make a mop out of thin air."" - p 142

& then, of course, there's always reading entrails. Is that what surgeons do?

""Entrails?" My stomach lurched. All good wizards are taught how to read entrails: You take a poor innocent animal, give it a tidbit, pat it on the head, then split it open, spread its insides out on a board and read the future in the twists, curves, colors, and markings of your victim's guts. Given a choice, I'd rather just wait for the future to get here. I always cut Introductory Entrails." - p 151

Kendar, the student wizard, has a family.. Ah.. families..

""Where can I find Dad, Mom?" I asked.

""Hmmm. It's not meal time. Killing something."" - p 178

""Your brother Basehart killed his first deer when he was six years old." Dad's moustache bristled with pride. "Just a fawn, it was, but he strangled it with his bare hands and I said to all my friends, 'Now there's a child of destiny!'"" - p 179

A parody of romance novels fits right in:

""But just as you are about to drown, her faithless but adored name on your lips, she dives in and rescues you, almost dying herself in the attempt. You take her into your arms and gaze into her eyes. The fires of unbridled love—long smoldering beneath the thin surface of a polite marriage of convenience—surface suddenly, in an overwhelming surge of torrid tenderness that takes you by surprise and sweeps you both away on the crest of wave after thundering wave of—!" She stopped cold.

""Go on, go on!" Mysti begged.

"Lucy shook her head. "No, no, that won't work. It's got to be the man who rescues the woman."

""Why?" Mysti was peeved.

""Because it's always the man who rescues the woman." Milkum put in. "And if that's what the public's been buying up until now, we mustn't upset them, must we?"" - p 202

After all, romance novels are fantasies read mostly by women into wch they must inject themselves if they're to work & such passive consumers aren't likely to be able to identify w/ active heros now are they?

Friesner builds her world of Otbix bit by bit, character by character, eventually reaching the capitol of Kendar's territory:

""Grashgoboum was founded shortly after the War of the Two Cousins Once Removed and Their Aunt Pooki," I said. "The last king in the direct line died accidentally during a friendly game of knoblop when his chicken escaped the scoop-net and flew up into his horse's face, causing the beast to stumble, step into one of the goal-buckets, and throw his rider. Because it was third hork of an exhibition game, he had just taken off his helmet so he could balance the mince pie on his head for extra points. Unfortunately, mince pies don't help much when you hit a stone wall headfirst. It was very tragic. That game was being held in honor of the king's engagement to Princess Sluice of Wend."" - p 218

Friesner 'breaks the rules' of some fantasy writing by not sticking to an immutable world. She lets her imagination loose & lets contemporary Earth intermingle w/ Orbix in a way that milks the joke value of both:

"["]Why I ought to—!" With that weird strength you sometimes get in hopeless situations, I raised Graverobber over my head and swung the sword wildly around and around.

"And around and around it continued to go. The blade glowed with Majyk's golden light and gave off an unearthly chud-chud-chud-chud noise. The carpet slowed its fall, then stopped and hovered peacefully in midair beneath the whirling blade." - p 221

""Tchah!" The king waved off her objections. "I'll see about that." He immediately summoned a messenger. "I shall send him on ahead to Uxwudge Manor with a letter marked with the king's own seal. This says Lord Lucius Parkland Gangle is not to begin the witch's trial until I get there," King Steffan said, showing us the document. Then he passed it to the keeper of the king's own seal who in turn held it so that the king's own seal could mark it with his needle-sharp teeth.

""Good boy," said the keeper, tossing the beast a fish.

""Ark, ark!" the king's own seal replied, clapping its flippers together before it waddled out.

"(Anyone can carve a seal out of soft stone and use it to stamp hot wax with the king's device, making a paper legal. But no one can forge the unique pattern one special animal's teeth make, which is why the monarchs of Grashgoboum will always live in palaces that smell like herring.)" - p 231

Friesner even uses neologisms:

"Imaginesia," Mother Toadbreath wispered.

""Don't you mean amnesia, toots?" Scandal asked.

""I said imaginesia. What's wrong with the king. First you forget everything you ever knew, then you remember things you didn't ever know. I read about it a time or two in my books, but I never thought to see an actual case. My this has been an educational day!" She looked pleased." - p 252

Great word! Imaginesia must be what propaganda aims for.

"Zoltan wiggled his fingers and said, "Verticillium japonica" to undue his summoning of a demon. Since I recognized that as a Latin name for something Japanese I looked it up & found that Verticillium Wilt is a disease of Tilia japonica, Japanese Linden. That might not mean much to you but it's the 2nd time that Lindens have popped up in my life in the recent past under unusual circumstances.

Anyway, yeah, another writer I like, read her works, they're not as 'important' to me as Marco Deseriis's Improper Names but this was enough fun to keep me distracted & amused. If there were a range of 1 to 10 stars on GoodReads I might even give it a 7 but instead it gets a 3.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
April 12, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 26, 2016 – Shelved
April 26, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
September 10, 2016 – Shelved as: humor

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