Short Stories 366:346 — “Stardust and Snow,” by Paul Magrs

Okay, so as opening stories to anthologies go, “Stardust and Snow” from Paul Magr’s Christmassy Tales might be a new standout favourite, and I mean, how can you go wrong with a tale told about Jareth the Goblin King himself, David Bowie, or a little boy who at the time is called “shy” and “withdrawn” but today would be understood to be not neurotypical? Well, I suppose someone else could go wrong with that, but Paul Magrs doesn’t, in this tale about a young boy who wins a chance to meet the muppets and David Bowie after a special screening of Labyrinth. More, it’s told as a kind of tale-told-to-the-author-by-the-boy-years-later setting, so it does this lovely little sinking through the layers toward the story, before pulling itself back out again thereafter, and left me deciding on a whim that this fiction wasn’t, and adding it to my head-canon for David Bowie and the magic in the world.

The set-up is basically what I mentioned above: boy wins a screening and meet-and-greet, but he ends up having to go with his less-than-warm Grandmother, rather than his understanding Grandfather thanks to an ill-timed illness, but they do manage to arrive (only slightly late) and the event itself is magical. Throughout, we get the boy’s point-of-view (as told to the author), and he describes the magic of this evening so well I could imagine it easily. And then, when it seems like the crush and the noise after the movie will mean a sad ending, there’s an opportunity to actually meet David Bowie himself in a quiet and calm one-on-one (or, I guess, a one-on-two, since Grandmother is still there), and the real magic happens.

It’s a lovely story, and it’s also gentle, even when you wanted to reach in and smack the grandmother (which I did want, often). The final reveal of the how-and-why of the meeting warms the heart, and the whole discussion and meeting between the boy and his idol is just so beautifully done. The idea of masks, of magic being everywhere, and of this brilliant moment between two people—one of which is David Bowie, so I’m already in a believing mode—is done with deft little touches, and like I said, I left this story just deciding to believe. Which I think was also the idea behind the story: sometimes, believing is a decision.

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