Monday, November 4, 2019

The Great Mandini and the Dead Man's Hand, by Kevin Wabaunsee

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[Strange Horizons]

(Horror) An aspiring young stage magician meets an older magician over coffee to try to convince him to share some of his tricks. And to show him a few of his own. (5,817 words; Time: 19m)

"," by (edited by Vanessa Rose Phin), appeared in issue 10/14/19, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.592 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The “Dead Man’s Hand” is a pair of aces and a pair of eights from different suits, both black. Supposedly these were the cards Wild Bill Hickok had showing at the moment he was murdered in 1876.

Through the long conversation with Mandini, it’s clear that the nameless narrator wants something besides advice on being a successful magician. When the narrator shows tricks that appear physically impossible, it gets Mandini’s attention, but only because he wants to know how the tricks are done. When the narrator says he learned real magic, Mandini dismisses that as part of the story that accompanies the trick.

And he gets his revenge, albeit in an odd sort of way. He’s sure Mandini will follow the trail of real magic to his doom—just as the narrator has—so by giving the man what he wants, he gets his revenge too.

Con: I found Mandini’s responses to the narrator impossible to believe. The narrator essentially says, “You ruined my father’s life and destroyed my family. I’ve hunted you for years, and now I’ve finally found you.”

And Mandini’s response amounts to, “Huh. So tell me more about that card trick you just did.”

I could see a response like, “So are you going to kill me?” or “You’ve got the wrong man” or even “Grow up, kid.” But just ignoring it seemed unreal. That sucked the energy out of the last part of the story.

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Kevin Wabaunsee Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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