Sunday, August 31, 2008

Portable Childhoods: "Basement Magic"

The first story in Ellen Klages's World Fantasy Award nominated collection Portable Childhoods is the 2005 Nebula Award winning novelette "Basement Magic".

"Basement Magic" focuses on a six year old girl, Mary Louise Whittaker and her broken relationship with her step-mother, Kitty. For whatever reason, Kitty dislikes Mary Louise and barely tolerates her, if even that. So, "Basement Magic" is something of a "wicked step-mother" story. The only friend Mary Louise has is the family's maid, a woman named Ruby. Ruby knows some earth magic, which she teaches to Mary Louise in order to protect Mary Louise from Kitty. Things do not go as Ruby and Mary Louise and Ruby plan, as one might expect.

The storytelling in "Basement Magic" simple and easy. This is not to say that "Basement Magic" is a simple story, because Ellen Klages has put a good deal of thought into how to tell this story and any simplicity is deceptive. It is a powerful story, a beautiful story.

This will likely be said several times as I work my way through this collection and Klages says this in the Afterword, but though the stories are about childhood and children, they are not "children's" stories. "Basement Magic" is no different. It is about a 6 year old child and the family's maid, is told in a simple style appropriate to the perspective of a 6 year old, but "Basement Magic" is not a children's story (though, I imagine a child could find plenty of enjoyment and appreciation of the story).

It is, however, a good story.

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