The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

While rummaging through his wife’s belongings one day, Norman Saylor, a professor of sociology at Hempnell College, discovers a cache of occult paraphernalia suggesting that Tansy practices witchcraft. When confronted, Tansy astounds Norman by admitting that all women are witches and that she and the wives of other Hempnell faculty are engaged in a covert war of spell and counterspell against one another to further their husbands’ careers. Although Norman prides himself as being one of the more liberal thinkers on campus, he is mortified that Tansy subscribes to superstitious beliefs that he has spent his entire career as an ethnologist studying and debunking. Fearing for her sanity, he persuades her to destroy all of her protective charms.

Almost immediately, Norman’s luck takes a turn for the worse. He is threatened with bodily harm by an expelled student and accused of having made sexual advances by another student. A conservative trustee begins questioning Norman’s moral integrity at the same time that a colleague finds damning parallels between Norman’s book Parallelisms in Superstition and Neurosis and an unpublished doctoral thesis written one year before it. Norman’s head begins filling with suicidal thoughts and the unshakable belief that he is being stalked by an animated decorative stone dragon from a building near his office. His increasingly erratic behavior contributes to his losing the department chairmanship...

(The entire section is 409 words.)