The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In Vice Versa: Or, A Lesson to Fathers, a magical stone allows schoolboy Dick Bultitude to exchange bodies with his father, Paul, a businessman fond of making pompous speeches about ones school days being the happiest of ones life. The parent trapped in the childs role learns the folly of this judgment, while the boy fails to find much enjoyment in adult life and responsibility. In the end, they are glad to switch back, suitably chastened and enlightened by their experience.

In The Tinted Venus, hairdresser Leander Tweddle places an engagement ring on the finger of a statue of Aphrodite to demonstrate the slimness of his fiancées finger. This tribute reanimates the goddess incarnate in the statue, who does not realize how much the world has changed since her last manifestation. Her directness in matters of sex contrasts sharply with Victorian prudishness. This embarrassment is compounded by her threats to destroy any and all rivals for Tweddle’s affection. He is pursued by the thieves who had stolen the statue and by the police but finally contrives to set matters straight.

In A Fallen Idol, painter Ronald Campion acquires a Jain idol infused with the malevolent spirit of Chalanka, a fake holy man mistakenly promoted to a kind of godhood. The idols magical powers are limited, but their exercise casts a gradual blight upon Campion’s personal and professional life until a Norwegian Theosophist identifies the source of his troubles and comes to his aid.

In The Brass Bottle, aspiring architect Horace Ventimore buys the eponymous object at an auction and discovers sealed within it the jinn Fakrash, imprisoned long ago with the rest of his kind by Suleyman. The jinn expresses his gratitude by heaping rewards on his savior in an absurdly flamboyant manner that causes the hapless young man excruciating embarrassment. Fakrashs gratitude soon begins to wear thin, and the jinns attitude is further transformed as he realizes the extent to which the world has changed since the time of his imprisonment. As in the famous story from The Arabian Nights Entertainments of the fifteenth century, from which the central motif is borrowed, Ventimore must engage in a duel of wits with Fakrash in order to return the jinn to his bottle before serious damage is done.