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September 4th, 2009

Realms of Fantasy: April 2006 (Issue 70)

  • Sep. 4th, 2009 at 9:01 PM

Part seventy in my ongoing retrospective as I read the fiction to the back issues of Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts, right up to the present.  This time around I'll be serving up the April 2006 issue.

The cover to this one is by Kinuko Craft, which marks her third illustration in the magazine.  It features a woman, who, judging by her arm, is starting to shape-change into a wolf or canine of some sort.

In the last retrospective, I mentioned that this issue holds some special meaning for me.  One reason why is the masthead, as it finally lists me as Assistant Editor.  We'll get to the other reason once I get to the fiction.

But first a rundown of the nonfiction:

In the movie/TV column, Resa Nelson covers the video game adapted to the big screen, Silent Hill; in the Folkroots column, Kristen McDermott discussed the connection between fairies and English-speaking dramatic theater; in the adult books column, Gahan Wilson reviews Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, Platinum Pohl: The Collected Best Stories of Frederick Pohl, and The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (illustrated by Mark Shultz) & The Conquering Sword of Conan (illustrated by Gregory Manchess), both of which collect Robert E. Howard's original tales; and Paul Witcover reviews A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin, The Narrows by Alex Irvine, and Bear Daughter by Judith Berman; in the artist gallery, Karen Haber covers the art of Tom Kidd, and in the games column, Eric T. Baker reviews The Movies for the PC, Quake 4 for the PC and Xbox 360, Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth for the Xbox, Soul Calibur III for the PS2, Lord of the Rings: Tactics for the PSP, and the Whitewolf rpg, The Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps.  I should also mention that the YA books column appears to have made its first appearance this issue.  I'm assuming Michael Jones--the current YA book columnist--wrote this column, but for some strange reason the columnist isn't listed.  Either way, the books reviewed were The Inheritance Trilogy Book 2: Eldest by Christopher Paolini, The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives and The Sister Grimm: The Unusual Suspects, both by Michael Buckley, The Lucy Chronicles: High School Bites by Liza Conrad, Rebel Angels by Libba Bray, and Wizards at War by Diane Duane. 

On to the fiction ...

The lead story is "Lady of Ashuelot" by Karen L. Abrahamson.  This is the other reason this is a special issue for me, as this story marks my first slush survivor to appear in the magazine.  I also take pride in the fact that it's the first piece of slush I ever pulled out from the submissions pile.  I suppose it's only fitting that the first issue in which my name appears in the masthead is also the first issue in which one of my slush survivors appeared.  As to the story itself, this is a piece of Arthuriana that takes place in modern-day New Hampshire.  Guinevere (or Gwen, as she's called in this version) is making a living for herself as a blacksmith, and taking care of the Lady of the Lake, who still has Excalibur.  Enter Lancelot, who walks off the Greyhound bus, seeking Excalibur so that Arthur can be awakened from his mystical sleep so that the once and future king can walk again and return Britain to its glory.  It sounds good in theory, but Lancelot is only thinking about himself and the love triangle (in this case between Gwen, Lance, and the Lady) complicates things further.  This story has something of a feminist take on the mythos, and one of the things that grabbed my attention when reading was far from dainty Gwen was.  Giving her a talent for black-smithing goes so against expectations of the iconic princess, just as T.H. White went against expectations in The Once and Future King when he had the guts to make Lancelot ugly.  When you can flip everything on its head in this sub-genre, you're doing something interesting.  Art to this one was provided by Michael Kerr, which marks his ninth illustration in the magazine.

Next up we have "Moon Viewing at Shijo Bridge" by Richard Parks, which marks his 19th appearance in the magazine.  If memory serves me correctly, this piece was already in inventory when I joined the magazine.  This is the second of Richard's Lord Yamada stories to appear in the magazine, and possibly the one to receive the most attention, as it received a number of positive reviews and was reprinted in Fantasy: Best of the Year 2007, edited by Rich Horton.  It was also podcasted over on the PodCastle website, under the 9/2/08 entry.  In this one, Lord Yamada is drawn back to his days at the Imperial Court in feudal Japan when the princess he used to know there sends for him.  She is seeking his help as he son's claim to become the future emperor is in jeopardy.  What follows is a labyrinthine story of twists and turns as Yamada and his companion seek the truth while providing aid, in what is probably the most politically dominated plot to ever appear in the magazine.  At the same time, everything throughout remains completely character-driven, so there's some real nice balance here.  Art to this one was provided by Paul Lee, which marks his thirteenth illustration in the magazine.

Then we have "Anywhere There's a Game" by Greg Van Eekhout, which marks his second appearance in the magazine, and his first solo appearance.  This one was bought after I joined the magazine.  Usually a sports story in fantasy turns out to be about baseball, but this one is a rare basketball fantasy.  In this story, a former professional basketball player relates to a reporter various supernatural encounters he's had during the course of his career.  The story is really broken down into five shorter pieces, with each one focusing around his encounter with a different position player, i.e. one supernatural story each for the center, power forward, small forward, shooting guard, and point guard.  This one was podcasted on the PodCastle website under its 9/16/08 entry.  Art in the magazine was provided by Web Bryant, which marks his twenty second illustration in the magazine.

Following this we have "Ducks in a Row" by Devon Monk, which marks her seventh appearance in the magazine.  Again, if memory serves me correctly, this one was accepted by the magazine before I joined up.  This is a short piece about a boy at a carnival who has a somewhat supernatural connection to inanimate objects.  And while this does factor into the story, it is not the point of this story.  What is the point?  Well, there is an underlying secret that's hinted at throughout the story, a dark one.  It's easy to miss if you don't pay attention, and pushes the story to an entirely new level once you realize what it is.  No, I won't tell you.  That would defeat the purpose.  You must read it and decipher it for yourself.  Art to this one was provided by Yuko Shimizu.

After this we have "Jane.  A Story of Manners, Magic, and Romance" by Sarah Prineas, which marks her third appearance in the magazine.  It was submitted after I joined RoF.  This one is a romantic fantasy piece with a heavy helping of Victorian flavor.  In this one, scientists are warlocks dabbling with magic in this world, which is called "the element."  And the main character, one Jane, is extraordinarily irresistible to warlocks once they're around her.  And just about all warlocks are men.  All of this comes to a head when a group of warlocks endeavor to discover why her uncle's home seems to attract so many random storms containing "the element."  As the title says, this is a story of manners, magic, and romance.  Art to this one was provided by J.K. Potter, which marks his tenth illustration in the magazine.

Finally we have "Heart of Ice" by Jena Snyder.  This one was submitted while I was with the magazine.  With a few touches, this one could easily be high fantasy.  As it is, it is dark fantasy piece that takes place at an undetermined time in what I'm deducing to be somewhere in Quebec, Canada.  In this piece the author draws on the mythology of the wendigo (or wittigo, as she calls it here), as we meet a woman who long ago was reduced to cannibalism and in a feverish state, she fed her dying child to her husband to save his life during a terrible winter.  Only her husband killed himself when he learned what she had done, and she went mad, and has survived in misery for countless years since then while maintaining her youthful beautiful appearance.  Enter the requisite young man who is attracted to her.  Only it sounds like you're being set up for the classic foolish man/Femme Fatale story.  But this isn't the case.  The author takes everything in some rather refreshing directions that make reading this more than worthwhile.  Art to this one was provided by Craig Elliott, which marks his second illustration in the magazine.

So that wraps up this issue.  And my favorite story?  Well, from here on out it gets trickier to judge everything fairly whenever there's a slush survivor of mine in one of the issues., but I think I'm up to the task.  So my pick this time around is "Anywhere There's a Game" by Greg Van Eekhout.  And my favorite artwork?  Web Bryant's illustration to "Anywhere There's a Game."  Next time around I'll discuss the June 2006 issue.  Until then ...           


Douglas Cohen

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