The Compleat Werewolf, Anthony Boucher

Anthony Boucher is best-known in the SF world as one of the founding editors of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. As a writer he’s better-known for his mysteries and reviews, but this is a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories.

The balance is mostly toward contemporary fantasy, but with a bit of a science fictional flair. The fantastic elements are presented as mechanistic and analyzable, and the story often resolves with the characters coming to a “logical” new understanding of whatever magic they’ve encountered. And the science fiction stories have an element of the fantastic, as the technology is so advanced, at least relative to the time of writing, as to achieve Clarkian magic.

Many of the stories are pessimistic, usually involving protagonists’ wishes being fulfilled, but not delivering the hoped-for satisfaction. In “We print the truth” a newspaper editor wishes that his paper will only print the truth, but doesn’t reckon on the truth only extending to the limits of his circulation. In “Snulbug” a captive demon’s ability to travel to the future doesn’t grant the summoner the expected power to benefit from predictive knowledge.

Most of the stories are clearly dated, with the formal but terse diction of the 1940’s, and the purely anglo American male cast of characters, with women appearing mostly as scenery and objects to be won as prizes. Only Molly of “We print the truth” really breaks this mold, though even she can be pigeonholed as the tomboy type, ignored by the hero to his great embarrassment when he realizes her feelings for him.

One exceptional story, that would stand up well today, is “They Bite”, a dark fantasy in which dangerous desert dwellers turn out not to be the legends the protagonist believes them to be. And even the other stories, though they show their age, clearly rank with the best SF (broad sense) of their era.


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