November 18th, 2010

Summary: Realms of Fantasy, 2010

Summary: Realms of Fantasy, 2010

Last year in this space I wrote about Realms of Fantasy dying and being reborn. Guess what! This year I can write the same thing. Warren Lapine's Tir-Na-Nog Publishing, which had save the magazine in 2009, had decided to shut the doors with the last issue of 2010 (with that issue only a free download). At the last moment -- after the last moment, even! -- Damnation Press agreed to buy it. The December 2010 issue will have a print incarnation, and beginning in 2011 ROF will continue, under the same editorial guidance (Shawna McCarthy along with assistant Douglas Cohen) as a Damnation Books publication. I confess I had some concern at first, as the new outfit seems a horror oriented publisher, but if Shawna is still in charge I assume the magazine will remain largely unchanged. And indeed the magazine has as consistent an editorial personality as any in our field, it seems to me -- McCarthy, rather quietly, as established the magazine as completely hers in a way that seems almost Campbellian. (OK, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration!)

Overall they published some 170,000 words of fiction in 2010. (Though I still caution that word counting is difficult with Realms of Fantasy, given their proclivity to change font sizes, use lots of different borders and interior story quotes, and irregular illustrations.) There were 28 stories in all, 12 novelettes, 16 short stories.

Three novelettes stood out for me. Ian Donald Keeling's "Super. Family" (August) is about a superhero who has been neglecting his family, until a supervillain threatens his daughter, leading to a surprising revelation. Nicely executed, if admittedly nothing much new. In February, Ann Leckie's "The Unknown God" tells of the god Aworo, in human form, returning to the city where he tragically misused his power, condemning a woman he loved to death. Leckie is, as ever, inventive and logical and grounded about the power and responsibility of godhood. April featured a strong M. K. Hobson story, "The Hag Queen’s Curse", in which a Warlock and a magical "hide-pirate" from an alternate 18th Century America are cursed by the Hag Queen and end up in 20th Century Portland, to encounter different sorts of hags and queens: an amusing story, with particularly nicely drawn contemporary characters. I also enjoyed stories by Christopher Kastensmidt, Daniel Hood, and Hannah Strom-Martin.

Two of the best short stories came from the June issue. Shweta Narayan’s "Sultan Lena’s Gift" tells of a Sultana who chooses a husband for love, with ambiguous results. Meredith Simmons's in "The Well of Forgetting", posits a girl who somehow absorbs the most depraved memories of people around her. The story moves nicely to a well-honed point. Also, in August I liked T. D. Edge’s "[Dragon]", about a princess who must encounter a dragon to take on the mantle of queenship -- an encounter that will have costs, but also rewards. There were also nice pieces from Harlan Ellison, Sara Genge, and Rachel Swirsky and Ann Leckie.

And as to statistics: Realms of Fantasy featured 12 out of 28 stories by women, about 43%, consistent with recent years, indeed a bit higher. All the stories qualify as Fantasy.