The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump  
Cover artist Stephen Hickman
Language English
Genre(s) Alternate History, Fantasy
Publisher Baen
Publication date 1993
Followed by Thessalonica

The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump (Baen, 1993) is a novel by Harry Turtledove. The first four chapters can be read on Baen's website. It has certain alternate history elements, but is primarily a fantasy work depicting a world where magic works and the various deities of the world's religions are real.

While some people may worship a particular deity, the overwhelming attitude toward them is pragmatic, as deities are a concrete and real part of the environment, whether or not they are worshiped. Each region has its own deities, and urban planning which does not take the local deities into consideration could end with disaster, just like planning which ignores other major ecological factors. (Exactly that very nearly happens at the book's climax.)

Unlike the majority of fictional worlds where magic works, where the setting tends to be Archaic or Medieval, this one is set in a recognizable present-day United States analog, the Confederated Provinces, (specifically Angels City aka Los Angeles), with many present-day technologies and institutions having a magical equivalent (for example, the CIA is staffed by actual, literal spooks). The book also employs many of the conventions of the hard-boiled detective novel, transposed to this setting.

The Toxic Spell Dump of the title, which plays a key role in the plot, refers to magic spells having toxic side-effects, like industrial processes in OTL, and needing to have a special dump where these effects would not harm the environment.

The protagonist, EPA (Environmental Perfection Agency) Inspector David Fisher, starts on what seems a simple case but which soon becomes complicated and highly dangerous. Following clues to the toxic spell dump of the title, he discovers that the city is threatened by the imminent resurgence of a malevolent Mesoamerican god. The situation is saved due to the surprise appearance of the Lithuanian god Perkunas, who heeds the prayer of a Lithuanian-American devotee and lends his assistance to defeat the bloodthirsty local god.

Connections to other works[]

The 2018 rerelease.

Turtledove's Thessalonica is set in the same universe, according to Steven Silver who maintains Turtledove's official website. Turtledove himself has never stated this.

Turtledove's later works "Birdwitching" and The House of Daniel are set in magical versions of the U.S.A., but these stories do not involve gods. The nature of magic varies greatly between the three universes.

The Two Georges shares many elements with Spell Dump, the most obvious one being that an analog of the United States is a constitutional monarchy, divided into Provinces rather than States. Georges is not fantasy, but rather steampunk alternate history.

Spell Dump seems to be inspired by the novel Operation: Chaos by Poul Anderson, one of Turtledove's literary influences.