My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Read as part of the Retro-Hugos Voter Packet.
Review based on only the short story, ‘The Mathematics of Magic.’
I know I’ve read stuff by L. Sprague de Camp in the past and been amused – so either I just wasn’t in the right mood, or this isn’t one of his better humorous offerings.
The story features a couple of modern-day psychologists, one older, one younger, who figure out a way to transport themselves into alternate, fantasy-like universes. Soon, they find themselves on a rambling adventure through a land which is a combination of Faerie and the Age of Chivalry. The humor rests heavily on poking fun at fantasy tropes that are quite a bit outdated and are seen far more rarely in the literature now than they were when the story was written. I felt that it was a bit too long and unfocused for what it was.
‘The Roaring Trumpet’ was also nominated, but it’s another story featuring the same two protagonists, so I think I’m going to skip it, since I didn’t particularly get into this one.