MIND MELD: Our Favorite Magical Items from Fantasy

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Sure, we’d all like to own a Quidditch broom or a crystal ball, but what magical item would you want the most? That was our esteemed panel’s challenge this week. Next week we ask a new set of panelists about their favorite SF devices.

Q: What magical item, artifact, weapon, etc., from the world of fantasy fiction would you most like to own? Why? What would you do with it?

Beth Cato
Beth Cato’s debut steampunk novel The Clockwork Dagger will be released by HarperCollins Voyager in September 2014. She’s originally from Hanford, California, but now resides in Arizona with her husband and son. Her short fiction, poetry, and tasty cookie recipes can be found at http://www.bethcato.com.

When I think on the most iconic fantasy items for me, personally, my mind wanders back to age 11 and to the video game that was my gateway drug to all fantasy: Final Fantasy II, now best known by its proper Japanese designation of Final Fantasy IV. The game changed my life, pure and simple.

One of the most distinct symbols of the game is right on the title screen: the crystal sword. Starting in 6th grade and on through college, you’d find that sword sketched throughout my school notes; I even used it as my signature when I sculpted figurines.

I never wanted to actually own or use the sword, though. I wanted to be near it. See, I had a Mary Sue fixation on Rosa from the game. My grandpa died of terminal illness a few months before Final Fantasy II came out. The idea of healing magic resonated very strongly with me. I wanted to be like her and save the world, ready to heal my comrades and aid in their defense with an Artemis bow and Artemis arrows (her best weapons, found on the moon near the end of the game). This interest in strong healer characters carries directly into my new novel, The Clockwork Dagger, where my heroine is akin to a white wizard.

Much to my chagrin, as a teenager I never had a portal open up and drop an Artemis bow at my feet. The interest in archery hasn’t faded, though. I took a class in it at college and in recent years I sighed wistfully over the bows at Cabela’s. I’m not sighing anymore–I have my own red wood long bow, just as I always pictured the Artemis bow. Two Christmases ago my husband told me that morning, “You’ve wanted a long bow for years. Go order the one you want today, or I’ll choose it for you.” He’s a good guy like that, but heck, we met over fifteen years ago because of our mutual love of Final Fantasy and the rock band Journey.

My long bow may not be magic, but if hate-filled Lunarians attack Earth, I’ll do my part to act in our defense…even if my healing arts consist of Tylenol and an EMT textbook.

Jim C. Hines
Jim C. Hines (www.jimchines.com) is the author of the Magic ex Libris series, about a Michigan librarian who actually does reach into books to pull out everything from shrinking potions to light sabers. His tenth novel, Unbound, will be out in January of next year. He’s written 50 published short stories, and is a Hugo award-winning blogger. (He also really misses hot fudge sundaes…)

I think I’d have to go with the sword Woundhealer from Saberhagen’s Book of Swords. I’m getting to the age where it would be nice to have a quick magical fix for various pains, and more seriously, I’ve had far too many people getting sick or injured lately. Heck, if only for the opportunity to visit a few friends and stab their tumors into oblivion. Not to mention curing my own diabetes with a quick stab to the pancreas.

Ooh, and I just realized I could also cure my dog’s spinal trouble, which would probably help her stop having accidents in the house.

Yep. Definitely the magical healing sword!

Tina Connolly
Tina Connolly lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. Her stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her first fantasy novel, Ironskin (Tor 2012), was nominated for a Nebula, and the sequel Copperhead is now out, with Silverblind due in October. She narrates for Podcastle and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake, and her website is tinaconnolly.com.

My most coveted superhero power is always flying, or teleportation, or something to do with getting places quicker and with fewer TSA agents. So, pondering choices for my favorite magical object:

The castle of Howl’s Moving Castle. I mean, really just the four doors of Howl’s mishmashed house–the doors that open into different cities. I’d put one here in Portland, another in Lawrence, Kansas near my family, and one on a remote lake or river somewhere. The fourth one I’d want to rotate, but if I couldn’t, I’d take Seattle– it’s only three hours away but it’s so full of my friends that a dedicated door there would be totally worth it.

From Harry Potter, debating between portkeys and Floo powder. The whole “grab onto this manky old boot” aspect of portkeys is awfully delightful, but apparently they cause some motion sickness. So I guess I’d probably have to stick with Floo powder, despite the risk of ending up in the wrong fireplace.

I’d love to have the Nome King’s magic belt, which can take you from one spot to another instantaneously. However, it apparently does not work in a civilized country like Kansas. (Not certain about Portland.) Major dealbreaker.

The bed from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. On the one hand, this is going to be fairly awkward, arriving at World Fantasy in a flying bed. On the other, flying bed. Hm, maybe I could affix the bedknob to a twin bed; that would take up less space. No: a Murphy bed that folds up into any wall. Oh, this is perfect. Travel anywhere, fold your vehicle into the wall during the day, and sleep on your own bed at night. Done.

Deborah Walker
Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: http://deborahwalkersbibliography.blogspot.com/ Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18. She’s currently working on a space opera novel set in the online RPG world of the Dark Expanse.

My magic object is rather large. I’d like to be owner of the magical fancy dress shop visited by Mr Benn. Created by David McKee, Mr Benn’s first adventure was in the 1967 book Mr Benn – Red Knight. Mr Benn went on to be featured in a series of books, and in the oft repeated and fondly remembered children’s cartoon show.

Mr Benn is a bowler-hatted business man of the type you sadly never see anymore. He lives a pleasant suburban life at Number 52 Festive Road. But it only takes a quick visit to the fancy dress shop for Mr Benn to have a Walter Mitty style adventure. In the fancy dress shop, ‘as if by magic’ the fez-wearing shopkeeper appears and invites Mr Benn to try on a particular costume: a spaceman, a balloonist, a wizard, a clown, or a cowboy, to name but a few.

Mr Benn’s happy to comply, because he knows that once he’s suited and booted, he’ll be able to step through the magic changing room door into another world.

Mr Benn’s a good soul and always manages to help someone in this new world. Once his adventure’s over, the shopkeeper appears to return Mr Benn to his normal life. But he always gives Mr Benn a souvenir to let him know that his adventure was real.

I’d like to own that fancy dress shop. I’d like to wear that fez. I’d like to send you all on an adventure.

Rhonda Parrish
Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for over five years now (which is like 25 years in internet time) and is the editor of the World Weaver Press anthology, Fae. In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including most recently Kzine and Mythic Delirium. Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com.

This is a very tricky question! Do you do the unselfish thing and choose an item that can be used to better the world? Something that will end poverty? Cure cancer? Or do you pick an item that will increase your personal power so that you can rule the world (and fix or ruin it as you see fit)? After a great deal of thought and some extensive brainstorming with my family, I’ve decided to do neither of those things. Given the opportunity to own a magical item from the world of fantasy fiction, I’d like Hogwart’s please. I know it’s a building and that might be stretching the definition of magical item, artifact or weapon a wee bit, but J.K. Rowling says Hogwarts castle is supported by magic (and so it’s a building we mere muggles could build) so…I’m going to say it counts :)

I’m not greedy. I don’t even need all the magical items contained within Hogwarts, and if you really insist I could give up the grounds around it as well (though I’d rather not). However, I’m not completely selfish and if I were to miraculously become the owner of Hogwarts in addition to living there I promise I’d open it up as a destination for writing retreats. C’mon! Imagine the stories you could write if you were surrounded by the awesomeness that is Hogwarts while you were writing! See? Now you’re wishing I could own it. Me too. Me too…

Cat Rambo
Cat Rambo lives, writes, and edits in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in such places as Asimov’sWeird Tales, and Strange Horizons. She was the fiction editor of award-winning Fantasy Magazine (http://www.fantasy-magazine.com). Her latest book is a collection of her stories, Near and Far.

Since I’m traveling for the rest of the year, top of my list would be the Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, an enigmatic, animate piece of sapient pearwood that patiently trundles after its master and, among other things, always has a change of clothing in it. What intrepid traveler wouldn’t want such a thing?

If not that, though, surely the magic mirror from John Bellairs’ wonderful adult fantasy The Face in the Frost, which “wallowed in the trash of future centuries” and always had some smart alec comment to make.

Iulian Ionescu
Iulian was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, where he earned his Bachelor’s in Finance. He moved to the US in 2001, and became a CPA (oh, the excitement!). Despite his career choice, Iulian’s creative side kept him awake at night. He is an aspiring sci/fi and fantasy writer. He published several short stories and is currently working on two novels. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and son and he blogs at www.fantasyscroll.com and www.iulianionescu.com. He is also the editor of http://fantasyscrollmag.com.

First of, I would stay away from any artifact that has to do with flying, so a broomstick is out of the question. The One Ring and anything like that is too much responsibility. No thanks. If I have to choose it must be a magic wand. That’s like a gift that keeps on giving. By learning new spells, and learning how to adapt the object’s usage, you only make it stronger over time. It’s extremely versatile, and it can be used for good and evil. I would probably like to pair it with an invisibility cloak. That just comes in handy in a lot of situations. I know what you’re thinking: invisibility plus magic wand–a perfect stalker’s kit. No, not for me. I have a degree in economics. I would use the power of these two objects to play the market. After all, magical artifacts are great, but when you find a way to convert their power into money, you’ve become a true winner.

James Beamon
James Beamon is a self-professed master of carefully concocted lies of alliterative appeal. Anyone other than James professing this would probably not use the term “master” and would definitely shorten the rest of that down to “storyteller.” His fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, AE The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Penumbra, and the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies among others. James lives in Virginia but has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan as a defense contractor, not as a storyteller. He blogs at: fictigristle

I’d like to own the briefcase from Pulp Fiction.  I still don’t know what’s in it, and while I like the idea I heard that it was Marsellus Wallace’s soul, I’m not convinced.  I mean, how did the English dude robbing the diner recognize a soul enough to ask Sam Jackson, “Is that what I think it is?”

After all these years, I’m still dying to see it for myself.  I figure it’d be useful…like I could show up to a job interview and say “gentlemen, my resume’s in the briefcase.” At which point they’d open it, their faces would glow golden in the residual joy of whatever the heck’s in it, they’d ask, “Is that what we think it is?” and I’d say yes and how do you not hire someone who can get whatever this thing is? You know that’s a person who gets things done!

Melissa Mead
Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY with her imaginary friends. You can find many of her stories at Daily Science Fiction, and you can find her on Facebook or here: http://carpelibris.wordpress.com/

Originally I was going to say Lucy Pevensie’s healing cordial, until I realized that someday it would run out, and I’d have to watch the person I’d hoped to heal suffer and die. So, since a TARDIS isn’t really a Fantasy thing,  I’ll go with Dorothy Gale’s Silver Shoes, because there are a lot of places I’d love to visit that are inaccessible to me, but the shoes would get me there in three steps.

5 thoughts on “MIND MELD: Our Favorite Magical Items from Fantasy”

  1. A Roger Zelazny Amber Trump deck. Gimmie my trump deck (as long as I have a trump in it of home)

  2. lol, this was awesome! I think I’d pick a TARDIS and sonic screwdriver, preferably with the Doctor to instruct me in how to work with them! :D

  3. Okay, I am now torn between Hogwarts and Howl’s Moving Castle. Wow, fabulous answers, everyone! This is the best MindMeld EVER and I hope it becomes a classic that gets repeated!

  4. The Doors in Howl’s Moving Castle! that is genius! and since I’m always saying that I need the hourglass time turner thing that Hermione gets in Harry Potter, that.

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