Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

H G Wells's "The Magic Shop" (in Twelve Stories and a Dream coll 1903) established and gave its name to the useful Plot Device of a mysterious shop selling real Magic; Honoré de Balzac had already used the device in La Peau de chagrin (1831). Often the wares are Things Bought at Too High a Cost: a circus performer in "The Second Awakening of a Magician" (1930) by S L Dennis exchanges his Soul for great strength, and accidentally crushes a loved woman with a hug. Often the shop has vanished when one tries to return to it, though the second visit is the whole point of John Collier's "The Chaser". Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic (1986) suggests that wandering shops or "tabernae vagrantes" are under Curses for giving bad service to Wizards. Further examples are numerous, including Lord Dunsany's "The Bureau d'Echange de Maux" (in Tales of Wonder coll 1916), whose vanishing shop allows you to swap one affliction for another that seems lesser. Others are in Theodore Sturgeon's "Shottle Bop" (1941), Fritz Leiber's "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (1963), whose shop sells rubbish disguised by Illusion, Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs (1974), Harlan Ellison's "Shoppe Keeper" (1977), Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse (1983) – where magic shops are routine in an Alternate World – and Peter Dickinson's A Box of Nothing (1985), whose Nothing Shop sells precisely that. Still more unreliable, though perhaps less magical, are purchases at Carnival stalls. On a larger scale, department stores house strange goings-on in John Collier's "Evening Primrose", where a Wainscot society emerges by night, and Thorne Smith's Rain in the Doorway (1933), whose drunkenly anarchic Otherworld store is an actualization of Escapism during the US Depression. [DRL]

see also: Answered Prayers; Mannequin (1987); Slick Fantasy.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.