Fiction in 2019 #4 – A Parcel a Day

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Let’s hit pause here. If we’re being honest, most people don’t know what a parcel is. Oh, they might hear it on the news. Some anchor might say ‘stock prices fell today as the government rejected BT’s bid for three hundred parcels’. But you don’t know what that means. Don’t sweat about it. Neither does the anchor. The words pass through one vessel of incomprehension to another. Most news is like this if we’re honest: war, politics, science. Magical trading is no different. You don’t care how magic is really divvied up. You don’t bid each year, taking your slice of the government’s contracts with a dozen faerie realms. You don’t hire Lichfield & Moore to negotiate deals, to fight for your position. That’s just not how the world works for you. Instead, you queue at the Office of Magical Allocation and wait for some grad straight out of university to stamp your application form. What you might be allowed wouldn’t even be one tenth of a parcel. Still, it lets you grow vegetables in amusing shapes, or curse your son’s sandwiches so they scream embarrassing stories out of his bag until he eats them.

So, what’s a parcel then? All around the world, countries have agreements with faerie realms. The British government works with seventeen fae courts. That’s a lot of magic, but not as much as one hundred years ago when every otherworldly prince and duke wanted to do business with us. So, the government needs to ration it. They package it into parcels. There’s meant to be some sort of symbolism here. We, Brits, love our postal service. We make cartoons about it; we have a mythology of the postman. Every child once wanted to be one. When a parcel lands on your door, it could be anything. It could be a case of gold, or a horse’s head. Like magic, the parcel is limitless. It’s probably a book, though. The French government refers to parcels as tranches instead. I like that word better.

As an aside, the Spanish market deals in huevos. That’s Spanish for eggs. I’ll never eat an omelette in Madrid again.

***

When we want to describe stories, we tend to rely on other stories to do the heavy lifting of the description. That’s why Marlon James’s Black Leopard Red Wolf was described as an “African Game of Thrones”. It’s a shortcut. A way to avoid having to condense down the dense world that James created. This way of describing things often goes astray. After all, Black Leopard Red Wolf isn’t really anything like A Game of Thrones. So, I always try to avoid such easy explanations of my work.

Despite all this, ‘A Parcel a Day’ in Issue 76 of Andromeda Spaceways is basically The Big Short but with magic. The tone, the setting, all of it was inspired by The Big Short, a great film about the 07 financial crisis. The only difference, and it is a big one, is that these stockbrokers are dealing with magic, not money.

I could say more than this, but honestly, sometimes the easiest way to describe a story is the best way. So, if you want to read about a team closing out a once-in-a-lifetime magical deal, then check out ‘A Parcel a Day’ here:

ASM #76

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