Douglas Cohen (douglascohen) wrote,
Douglas Cohen
douglascohen

Realms of Fantasy: August 1995 (Issue 6)

Part six in my ongoing series as I read the back issues to Realms of Fantasy and offer my thoughts on the fiction, all the way through the present issue.

This issue kicks off with some reprinted cover art that I recognize as an old cover to A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist, the finale to his bestselling Riftwar Saga.   It's been ages since I've  read  this (like over 15 years), but if memory serves correctly I believe it's a picture of Tomas driving his sword into the Lifestone.  The actual art to this one is by Don Maitz, which marks the second time his work has graced RoF.

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

In adult books, Gahan Wilson reviews The Unnatural by David Prill, Moondog by Henry Garfield, and Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson.  Jeanne Cavelos makes her first appearance in book reviews this issue, with a review of The Magnifiecent Wilf by Gordon R. Dickson, and Dan Silver reviews Adventures in the Twilight Zone, edited by Carol Serling.  In the Movie/TV column, Eric Niderfrost reviews fantasy movies, Pocahontas and The Indian in the Cupboard.  Folkroots is handled by Terri Windling, and she writes about the transformational power of fairy tales as they pertain to the hero's quest.  Terri also handles the artist gallery this issue, and she covers the art of Thomas Canty.  Mark Sumner handles the Games Column, covering Terry Pratchett's Discworld on CD-ROM, and the card game, Shadowfist, from Daedalus Games.

On to the fiction ...

There are a ton of firsts in this issue.  The lead story was "Transfusion" by Deborah Wheeler.  Art is by David Beck, which marks his third appearance in the magazine.  By having fiction appear in this issue, Deborah becomes the first author to have stories in successive issues (her story in the last issue was "Mother Moves In").  This was also the first time a piece of vampire fiction appeared in the magazine's pages, and the first time we ran a piece of post-apocalyptic literature. The premise was a fascinating one, as a man and a vampire end up sharing a deep physical, emotional, and spiritual link after a blood transfusion.  Besides all these firsts, there is one other noting.  Two issues earlier, we reprinted a story by Lisa Goldstein called "Bread Crumbs & Stones."  The protagonist in this one was Jewish, which actually made it the first story run in Realms that featured a minority as the protagonist.  In "Transfusion," there are two protagonists, one being the vampire, the other being the man he shared the transfusion with, in this case a Jewish man.  So "Transfusion" marks the first original story to Realms to feature a Jewish protagonist.

And speaking of minority protagonists, we see another one in the very next story, this by Beverly Suarez-Beard.  The name of the story is "The Ruby," and it marks the first tale to appear in Realms featuring a protagonist of Far Eastern descent (Chinese-American).  This story also contains the very first dragon to make an appearance in the fiction pages.  The story delves into Chinese mythology, and it was a fascinating blend of characterization and tension.  I don't want to ruin the premise behind this one, but suffice it to say that the dragon is hardly the stock interpretation that comes to mind at the mention of this mythic creature.  I think it's cool that our first tale about the great wyrm went in a somewhat different direction.  Art to this one was provided by Web Bryant, which marks his fourth appearance in the magazine.

Next up was a piece of magic realism by Carrie Richerson called "Geckos."  Art to this one is provided by Alan M. Clark, and seems to be a reprint of his cover to Geckos by Carrie Richerson, from Roadkill Press.  This is a very unusual piece, but in a good way.  The protagonist undergoes a rather radical transformation, and while not everything is explained down to the final letter, I didn't much care.  The writing is really solid, and I think what ultimately sold me on this one was how many risks the author was willing to take with the story.

After this comes another reprint, "The Frog Prince" by our very own book reviewer, Gahan Wilson.  Art is provided by Michael Dubisch.  As you might guess, this was a reinterpretation of the classic fairy tale.  And as with much of the fiction that Shawna reprinted early on, it came from the same Datlow/Windling anthology, Snow White, Blood Red.  Shawna must really love this anthology, because at this rate Realms will end up reprinting the whole book! 

Next up is "Radiomancer and Bubblegum" by S.N. Dyer, a quirky tale that examines the clash of pop culture and the spirit of old-school America.  Art is provided by Mike Wright, which marks his second appearance in the magazine.  At this point S.N. Dyer had published one previous story with us.  This is worth noting because this means this would be the first issue with stories by two previous fiction contributors, the other being the aforementioned Deborah Wheeler.  So by issue six, Shawna was already creating a cast of returning contributors to the magazine.

The last story was "The Evil That Men Do" by Brian Stableford.  Art is provided by Jon Foster.  This was a high fantasy tale with a lush milieu, but it's true appeal were the moral and ethical dilemmas that the author presented to both his protagonist and his readers, and the atrocious ironies that riddle the ending.  I wasn't quite sure how to feel after having read this one, but I was glad that I did.

So that wraps up this issue.  And my favorite story?  Lots of good stuff to choose from, but I have to give the nod "The Ruby" by Beverly Suarez-Beard.  I am most definitely a sucker for dragons.  And my favorite artwork?  The nod goes to Jon Foster's illustration for "The Evil That Men Do."

Next time around I'll discuss the October 1995 issue.  Until then ...     
Tags: rof retrospectives
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