Short Stories 366:237 — “Spell, Book and Candle,” by Catherine Lundoff

coverOut of this World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories continues to deliver a wonderful range of stories with “Spell, Book and Candle.” It’s another example of Lundoff’s “just enough, and just when you need it” worldbuilding skills, in that we meet a woman running a (somewhat run-down and inherited) magic shop, learn we mean magic-magic, and learn she’s an actual witch and this is not uncommon in the world we’re visiting for the duration of the story. She’s also a lesbian who had a significant on-again, off-again lover back in college that she regrets having so many “offs” with, who has just walked through the door looking amazing and wants to place an order for an old-fashioned “notice me” love spell.

Our witchy heroine isn’t really loving the idea of helping her ex find someone else—hello, she’s standing right here and why isn’t her ex even noticing that?—so as soon as she hands over the stuff and collects her pay (I mean, business needs first, right?) she delves into the back, grabs some of the more sketchy and perhaps less-than-moral books on love magic, and decides she’s going to win back her ex with magic. And, of course, things go very, very wrong.

Honestly, this was the witchy magic lesbian relationship disaster caper I never knew I needed, and I think all of that comes from the main character’s deeply enjoyable characterization as someone with a very sliding scale for “right and wrong.” In one breath she’s condemning her ex for using magic on a woman that might not just be disinterested but also maybe straight, and then roughly thirty seconds later she’s using books from body-snatching ancestors to ensnare her for herself. Add in a cat familiar, the hijinks of magic-gone-wrong, and you’re left with a smirk as it all falls apart.

I asked Lundoff where this one came from, and I love the answer:

You can never have too many stories about lesbian dating drama and love spells gone awry, in my humble opinion.

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