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cover art by Paul Swenson


Mixing straight-forward science fiction ideas, such as search for habitable planets, the terra-forming of Venus, and a time-traveling substitute teacher, along with fantasy concepts, such as saving the Earth from nuclear destruction through supernatural sacrifice, a teen werewolf agonizing over attending prom on the night of the full moon, or a young boy who denies his polio by listening to a radio magician, to tales of horror where a pair of fathers have both lost sons, or an inn so vast that a man may never find his wife, The Radio Magician and Other Stories showcases James Van Pelt's wide-ranging talent as a tale spinner of the fantastic.

Regina Schroeder

As Carrie Vaughan’s introduction promises, Van Pelt’s stories are populated by well-realized characters, haunting and spot-on, ranging in age and situation from middle-school kids to centuries-old scientists on adoomed exploratory mission, and not all human. “One Day in the Middle of the Night” unfolds a tale of space colonization by means of line-by-line reference to a classic middle-school rhyme. The collection concluding“How Music Begins” has a high-school band being abducted by aliens and forced to be brilliant. In “The Last Age Should Know Your Heart,” two ancient maintenance bots finally meet at the edge of their territories and share their last moments of power. In “Lashwanda at the End,” scientists exploring a new planet find a kind of life they never could have imagined. “The Radio Magician” is a visit to a world ravaged by epidemic polio, rife with desperate solutions, and occasionally motivated by the power of belief. In extraordinary and ordinary worlds, in the past and the future, these stories present many facets of the human condition in amazing contexts.

Faren Miller, Locus:

James Van Pelt is an acclaimed and prolific writer of stories that could be categorized in many genre modes, yet everything he writes bears his own stamp: an attention to detail that gives even the outlandish a sense of the everyday (or the nightmare we take for normality when we sleep) and protagonists more troubled than heroic, whether or not they're human...Whether he's describing events in a household, a planet or a galaxy, Van Pelt can give it that air of nightmarish normality I tend to find oppressive in anything shorter than a novel, as though the confines of a shorter work make it claustrophobic. But "Tiny Voices" won me over, as it mingles the dark mundane (a hospitalized dying woman) with genuinely science-fictional imagination in a microchipped near-future where everything from coffee pots to pens has a mind, and voice of its own. From that point I kept an eye out for similar combination of humanity with imaginative leaps and found it most of all toward the end of the collection, in particular "The Saturn Ring Blues," where a spaceman about to race the Rings in his "buglighter" contemplates old blues, musicians, a beautiful woman, and the special exhilirations that music, desire, and spaceflight can all arouse, in language as terse and potent as poetry.

 Fred Cleaver, The Denver Post:

"The title story is a beautiful combination of nostalgia and hope. Other stories range from horror in 19th-century Century City to a lot of far-future science fiction. Relationships interrupted by long periods of deep sleep is a repeated theme. These stories first appeared in a wide range of magazines. Science-fiction magazines are suffering for a lack of readers but Van Pelt is proof they are publishing a lot of wonderful stories."

Midwest Book Review:

"There is much in the stars to captivate the imagination, as there is much on Earth to captivate the imagination. The Radio Magician and Other Stories is a collection of short stories from James Van Pelt, tackling a wide array of fiction and offering it to readers as a melody of science fiction, fantasy, and more general fiction about the contemporary world. Sure to entertain for hours, The Radio Magician and Other Stories is a read that is sure to entertain as it stimulates the imagination."

Gustavo Bondoni,

An eclectic collection which spans the range from urban fantasy to core science fiction.  The Radio Magician is a bit of a rare bird – a collection of short stories that don’t share a genre or a common theme, and yet clearly belong together. Each story tells a vastly different tale, with concepts that range from the terraforming of Venus to the loss of a child, but Van Pelt ties them all together by creating a strong bond between the reader and the character. No matter how large the stage, each situation puts his audience inside the protagonist’s head, making emotions motivations and desires crystal clear.  ... This is a reprint collection, and the stories, for the most part, appeared in major publications. It is quite possible that people who read widely in the genre will have encountered many of them before. In conclusion, I believe there is something here for everyone who enjoys science fiction or urban fantasy, and who appreciates emotional depth as well as thought-provoking concepts.

Luke Reviews:
A few years back, I read James Van Pelt’s novel Summer of the Apocalypse, and found it to be an incredible reworking of the tropes of post-apocalyptic fiction. Since then, I have been meaning to pick up one of his collections of short stories, and just never had, until I received a copy of his newest collection, The Radio Magician & Other Stories. I had high expectations as I began the book, and read past Carrie Vaughn’s introduction. James Van Pelt's newest collection is full of wonderful pieces of fiction.  Almost every one was packed with believable characters that you care for, ache for, and rejoice for, settings that feel impeccably real, and plots that are tight, fast, and worked down to the finest point.  There are no duds in this collection.  James Van Pelt is one to keep an eye on.
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All content © Fairwood Press & Patrick Swenson, unless otherwise noted