Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Two Short Stories about Witches by Theodora Goss "You Might Be a Witch" and "The Witch" and an Essay "Why I Write Fantasy" by Theodora Goss - from her collection The Collected Enchanments" - 2023

 Two Short Stories about Witches by Theodora Goss "You Might Be a Witch" and "The Witch" and an Essay "Why I Write Fantasy" by Theodora Goss - from her collection The Collected Enchanments" - 2023

This is my first encounter with the work of Theodora Goss. I consider any day I add a new to me author to my Read All I Can List a lucky Reading Life Day so this is a good day. For sure I will be featuring much more of her work.

Why I Write Fantasy is a very deep account of why she writes works in the Fantasy genre. She tells us of her experiences growing up in the USA. Goss and her mother immigrated to New York City from Hungary when she was five. She spoke Hungarian and French. In elementary school when the other girls played sports she only wanted to read.

"That was me in elementary school. What was I reading? Probably one of the Narnia books, or The Hobbit, or something by E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, Astrid Lindgren—The Brothers Lionheart was my favorite. Later I would graduate to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth novels, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels. Some of the books I read were of higher quality than others, but I was not concerned" 

I always hated mandatory sports games so I totally was drawn into Goss's account of her early reading. (Thanks to Goss I have added two other new to me writers to my reading list, Tanith Lee and Patricia Mckillip)

A popular delusion is that Fantasy works are just escapism designed to make you feel better. Anyone who has read any Grimm's tales knows that is stupid.  

What Elizabeth Hume taught me, around the time I started writing fantasy professionally myself, was that fantasy is neither separate from the larger world of fiction, nor fundamentally different from it. Both fantasy and realism are approaches to the world we inhabit. Indeed, once enough time has passed, all realism becomes fantastical. To us, living in the twenty-first century, the characters in Jane Austen’s novels are as unreal as Tolkien’s elves, as bound by strange customs, as obsessed with rings" 

Quick note, I searched references to cats in the collection, there are well over a 100 references. I love cats. I am also very drawn to stories about Witches though i will pass on explanation as to why for now.

There are six stories with "Witch" in the title in The Collected Enchanments. Today I will feature two.

"You Might Be a Witch (2 pages) lives up to the collection title, it Enchanted me. Told in a series of epigraphical lines about how a woman knows if she is a witch:

"Because when you throw the crusts of your sandwich to sparrows in the public park, they hop close and closer, until they perch on your finger and look at you sideways.....Because a lot of people talk to cats but for you they answer....Because even the brownstones of this ancient city look at you with concern: they want to make sure you’re well. You belong to them as much as they to you. Because witches know what they are and if I asked, do you remember? You would have to confess that yes, you do."

"The Witch" (4 pages) is a third person account of a young Witch living in the Woods, Her mother has passed.. In her youth girls would come to the door asking for love spells and such then make cruel comments:

"Once, village girls had come to visit her mother for charms to attract the schoolmaster’s attention, make their rivals’ hair fall out, abortions. Afterward, they would say, Did you see her? Standing by the door? In her ragged dress, with her tangled hair, I tell you, she creeps me out. But they stopped coming after the old witch disappeared and her daughter was left alone." 

We learn of the left alone daughter's life:

"She makes no magic. Although the stories won’t tell you, witches are magic. They do not need the props of a magician, the costumes or the cards, the scarves, the rabbits. They came down from the moon originally, and it still calls to them, so they go out at night, when the moon is shining, and make no magic, but magic happens around them. Sometimes at night she would look up at the moon and call Mother? Mother? but never got an answer I.want you to imagine: her ragged dress, her hair like cobwebs, her luminescent eyes, mad as all witches are, stirring the pond like a cauldron (witches need no cauldrons, whatever the stories tell you) while above her the clouds are roiling and a storm is about to gather."

 I am a writer of novels, short stories, essays, and poems. You can read more about me on my Press page. The Novels, Stories, Essays, and Poems pages list my publications, including some that are available to read online. The Purchase page tells you where you can buy my books. The Free page links to writing of mine that is available online for free. This page is about what’s happening now. Look below to see what I have coming out, where I will be appearing this year, and where you can find more information about me. This page also tells you how to contact me.

My Blog is updated periodically, so if you would like to know what I’m working on or thinking about, you can always check there. 

Short Biography

Theodora Goss was born in Hungary and spent her childhood in various European countries before her family moved to the United States, where she completed a PhD in English literature. She is the World Fantasy, Locus, and Mythopoeic Award-winning author of the short story and poetry collections In the Forest of Forgetting (2006), Songs for Ophelia (2014), and Snow White Learns Witchcraft (2019), as well as novella The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), and sequels European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (2018) and The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (2019). She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and Shirley Jackson Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages. She teaches literature and writing at Boston University. Visit her at

Biographical Information

I was born in Budapest, Hungary. My family left the country when I was five, and I lived for two years in Milan, Italy and Brussels, Belgium. My family immigrated to the United States when I was seven. I grew up in Maryland and Virginia, around the Washington D.C. area. I now live and work in Boston, where I moved for graduate school.

I have a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Virginia, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. I am also a graduate of the Odyssey and Clarion writing workshops. I sold my first published story, “The Rose in Twelve Petals,” while a student at Clarion, and have been publishing steadily since.

I currently teach writing and literature in the Boston University College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program. - from the author's website

A mark of a generous and confident author is the inclusion on their website of links to works you can read for free online. Goss has been very generous 

Later as I read more of her works I will advance some thoughts on witches in fantasy literature. Or maybe I won't.

I have added all of her works available as a Kindle to my amazon wish list.

Mel Ulm

No comments: