Douglas Cohen (douglascohen) wrote,
Douglas Cohen
douglascohen

Realms of Fantasy: April 1995 (Issue 4)

Part five in my ongoing retrospective as I read the back issues to Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts on the fiction, all the way up to the present issue.  As has been the case until now, I continue to skip around a bit, because I don't have the complete set of back issues yet (I'm working on it!)

Now, issue 4.

The cover to this one is a reprint of Broeck Steadman's work.  It features a man stumbling upon a maiden and a unicorn, and was originally the cover to Song of Seashell Archives.   

I'll mention here that in addition to everything else, each issue I've been reading the editorials and the letter pages.  So in this issue it's worth mentioning how it was the first "Guest Editorial," i.e. someone writing the Editorial other than Shawna McCarthy.  And of all possible people, it was written by Jeanne Cavelos.  Jeanne is the director of the Odyssey Fantasy & Science Fiction Writing Workshop.  I attended the Odyssey Workshop back in 2000, and am forever grateful to Jeanne for the countless lessons she imparted to me concerning writing & editing speculative literature.  The  first year of Odyssey  was in the summer of '96, so when Jeanne wrote this editorial I'd imagine she'd already conceived Odyssey and was deep into the planning phases for its inaugural year.

A rundown of this issue's nonfiction is as follows:

Book reviews are handled by Gahan Wilson and Dan Silver. Gahan covers A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Tepper and Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly and Dan Silver reviews Exiles: Volume I--The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn and Ships of Merior by Janny Wurts.  In the Movie/TV column, Dan Persons has been replaced by Michael Cassutt, who offers an examnination of science fiction vs. fantasy tv programming, any how fantasy has played second fiddle for some time.  Folkroots is again handled by Terri Windling, who examines the diverse ancient folk traditions of North America.  Janny Wurts handles this issue's Artist Gallery, covering artist, Don Maitz (IIRC, these two are married).  And in the Games column, M.C Sumner covers a pair of PC games with an adaptation of Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman's Deathgate Cycle, along with Magic Carpet, which offers an Arabian flavor.  And for RPGs, he covers Masque of the Red Death, which is a supplement to TSR's Ravenloft campaign.

On to the fiction ...   

Let's start by noting that this is the first issue of Realms of Fantasy with all original fiction.  The first piece is called "Excerpts From the Diary of Samuel Pepys" by John Moore.  Art is by Janet Aulisio Dannheiser.  I've got to say, this one felt more like science fiction than fantasy to me.  So after I finished it I spent a few minutes thinking about why Shawna considered this piece as fantasy.  The best answer I have comes back to her Editorial in the very first issue of  Realms, wherein she offered her definitions of fantasy and science fiction.  To sum up, fantasy=chaos.  Science fiction=order.  This piece certainly leaned much more toward the chaos side of the equation,  so in this respect I could see why Shawna considered it fantasy.  And there could be other reasons as well.  And clearly the author had his own reasons for considering this fantasy.  And while I'm certainly entitled to my opinion, at the end of the day it really only matters how John & Shawna saw this piece.

Next up was "His True and Only Wife" a very dark piece by Louise Cooper, with art by Tom Canty.   What I liked about this piece was the way it completely messed with my expectations.   It started off leaving me sympathizing with the protagonist, but with each successive scene the author kept taking me in a rather horrifying direction that seemed so at odds with the opening (but really made perfect sense).  If nothing else, I had to keep reading to see how this one would end.

Following this was "The Hour of Their Need" by Amy Wolf.  Art is by Gary Freeman. This one is a piece of Arthuriana that deals with Knights of the Round Table coming back to aid Britain during WWII.  It's worth noting that Amy is the first author to have a second story appear within our pages. 

After this was "Random Noise" by Carol Ives Gilman.  Art is by Web Bryant, which marks his second appearance in the magazine.  This was another piece that felt a lot more like sf than fantasy (to me), until the last few paragraphs when I suddenly decided it was in fact magic realism in a story about a woman trying to decipher the hidden language of trees. 

Then we have "Breeding Lilacs" by Daniel Marcus, with art by Alfred Kamajian.  This one is piece of magic realism with an absolutely unexpected, shocking, and haunting ending.  I won't soon forget it, as it explores how love for one's family can become utterly twisted around when a woman is given a second chance to spend time with her dead father. 

Finally we have "Hold Me Fast and Fear Not" by Margaret Ball.  Art is by David Beck, which marks his third appearance in the magazine.  I see stories about selkies in the slush pile all the time (and I've actually grown rather tired of them), but this marks the first time a selkie tale was in the magazine's pages.  The trend-setter, if you will, as we see a woman risking all to rescue her child from the selkies.

So that wraps up this issue.  And my favorite story to this issue?  "Breeding Lilacs" by Daniel Marcus.  And my favorite artwork?  David Beck's artwork to "Hold Me Fast and Fear Not."  Next time around I will discuss issue 6, and then, amazingly enough, issue 7.  Until then ...
Tags: rof retrospectives
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