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Magazine Review: Realms of Fantasy August 2009

# Format: Magazine
# Publisher: Tir Na Nog Press
# ASIN: B00006KUMO

Realms of Fantasy, now under new management from Tir Na Nog Press, has released its first issue in the month of August. I received a copy for review from Tir Na Nog as part of a promotion effort, and what follows is my take on the magazine under its new management.

First off, there is not enough fiction; there are only four stories, one of which is two pages, of which only one is text. I understand the need to provide ad space, but I buy magazines of this type for the fiction. And no offence to the excellent reviewers Matt Staggs, Paul Witcover, Jeff Vandermeer, and Michael Jones, but do we need 9 pages of reviews? It seems a bit much.

There is a nice interview with Michael Hague and one on music called “Mystic Rhythms” which is interesting if a bit long. But ultimately, I would have liked to see much more fiction, especially since the contributions in this issue were unimpressive and fairly dull.

The first fiction contribution was from Tanith Lee, a well known ad respected author. But even respected authors can write bad fiction, as “Our Lady of Scarlet” makes painfully clear. The story told from the perspective of a young doctoral student of alchemy who must fight a spirit born in a plague stricken city. Andelm must use his alchemical knowledge to defend himself from a demon that is an amalgam of Saint Mary and Lucifer. This might have been an interesting premise if Lee hadn’t made it difficult to get into the story (it took me four tries to get past the first three paragraphs), hadn’t chosen to attempt to make the story sound older by constructing the grammar in a way usually associated with Austen or Bronte, and hadn’t used a deus ex machine to get the hero out of trouble at the last minute. Ultimately, though the author has earned respect in the filed of fantasy, the story contributed here is a disappointment in quality and entertainment.

“Healing Benjamin” by Dennis Danvers does bring the fiction quality up a notch with a story about a man who finds himself with an amazing ability to heal when under duress and especially desiring it. However, Danvers does not take the story in a direction the way you expect, and the “hero” is in fact a superhero who never uses his superpowers. As a result this hero tale becomes instead a tragedy more in line with Hamlet than Henry V. It is a good story, it a bit sad, and it has its cute moments (there is a cat) and though it ends sadly it also ends satisfactorily.

Ian Creasey’s “Digging for Paradise” is a fantasy that takes place at the end (beginning?) of the world. Its protagonist is a relic hunter who is tricked into a job which leaves him far away in time from his love. But the power his team of relic hunters seeks may give him just want he wants anyway. The story here has lots of elements that seem unconnected. For one, why is there any discussion at all of the protagonist’s troubles with a government dead and gone? It adds little to the tale. Also the story ends too abruptly as the moment that the entire story was leading to is only eight paragraphs, whereas the rest of the tale consists of long discussions about trust which are unrelated to the way the story ends. Ultimately, this story has good ideas but elements that are unrelated the way the story concludes. If the conclusion was its goal, the story should have been differently constructed to work towards that rather than what it ended up being.

“Well and Truly Broken” is that one page (two-column) story previously mentioned. Bruce Holland Rogers gives us less of a story and more of a vignette of the life of some little girls who encounter a fairy in the forest. The story seems to be born of Rogers own experiences being rejected by girls, and the story seems to be unsure whether it is painting a word picture or is some kind of morality or cautionary tale. It was too short and unremarkable.

If this August edition of Realms of Fantasy is an example of things to come, I suggest you do not subscribe. There has already been some controversy over the choice of cover, but I have seen little commentary on the works actual content that really dived into its quality. Fiction editor Shawna McCarthy needs to find better works to include. Works that will make people “ooh” and “aah” over them. To be fair, she has commitments she must keep to writers who had been promised publication by the previous owners, but perhaps when that is no longer a factor, readers will see some quality work being printed. If the new Realms of Fantasy can survive that long.