A rundown of the issue's nonfiction is as follows:
In the adult books column, Gahan Wilson covers Tales of Zothique from Necronomicon Press, which collects a number of short fiction tales from Clark Ashton Smith, The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert, The X-Files: Whirlwind by Charles Grant, California Gothic by Dennis Etchison, and Jeanne Cavelos reviews Storm Rising: Books Two of the Mage Storms by Mercedes Lackey; in the Movie/TV column, Eric Niderfrost covers the silver screen flick, The Prophecy; in the Folkroots column, Terri Windling discusses the magical lore of Italy; in the Artist Gallery, Robert D. San Souci covers the art of Stephen Johnson; and in the gaming column, Mark Sumner reviews the board game, The Hobbit Adventure Board Game, Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans, and I.M. Meen for the PC.
On to the fiction ...
As is usual in these early days of Realms of Fantasy, this issue had some more firsts. I've yet to actually break everything down, but I would guess the average issue of Realms of Fantasy contains six stories. The first issue actually had 7 stories, but this was the first issue to have as few as five stories. No surprise though. "A Matter of Honor" by Chris Bunch is a very long tale (and the second story in this issue as opposed to the first), taking up a lot of pages. Not that I'm complaining. This story was rollicking good fun, filled with exotic milieus and clever solutions on the part of the protagonist who is attempting to be reunited with his wife. It also marked the first time we ran a piece in the sub-genre of sword & sorcery.
Another first for this issue came in the lead story of this issue, "Tuli, Prince of the Monguls" by William F. Wu (and the first story in this issue). Art is provided by Mary O'Keefe Young, which marks her fourth illustration in the magazine. Anyway, the previous issue featured our first story with an Asian protagonist when we ran "The Ruby" by Beverly Suarez-Beard. But that story was set during modern times (not a knock at all, since that was my favorite story of the issue). This was the first story we ran that featured a story set in the ancient Far East. In this story, Tuli, prince of the Mongols, and a sad scholar both seek death, but which of them truly has nothing to live for?
Yet another first in this issue was our running a fantasy story that deals with sports, something you see from time to time. This particular tale, "Magic Carpets" by Leslie What, was a magic realism tale in which baseball factored heavily into the story (the sport that seems to be the most popular one when it comes to fantasy). The story wasn't really about baseball, more about two sisters seeking a better life while living with an abusive father, but baseball factors into this story heavily enough that the sports aspect is worth a mention in this retrospective. On the outside this probably sounds like an odd mix to put into one story, but it works if you read it. Art to this one was provided by Paul Salmon, which marks his third illustration in the magazine.
Following this was an unclassifiable tale by L. Timmel Duchamp called "Promises to Keep," a story about a family that has been taking care of a primordial creature that's been living in its basement for many generations. It had a bit of a New Age flavor to it, something I haven't seen in Realms before. Come to think of it, I don't think I've read any New Age fantasy before this one, at least none that I can recall. I read this one today, so I'm still digesting it and thinking it over. Definitely worth a read. Art to this one was provided by Broeck Steadman, which marks his second appearance in the magazine.
The last story in this issue was a short tale by Geoffrey A. Landis called "Tale of the Fish Who Loved a Bird." Art to this one is provided by Janet Ausilio Dannheiser, which marks her second illustration in the magazine. It's also worth noting that this is the first issue of Realms where the cover and interior illustrations are all by artists whose work has already appeared in the magazine in these capacities. Anyway, this story marks the first true fable we ran in the magazine. Going by the title, this sounds like a preposterous idea, but it's also intriguing enough that you want to find out just what the author is up to with this. It turned out to be a very beautiful tale, and come the end you absolutely believe it. Just goes to show if your imagination is fertile enough and the writer is skillful enough, any idea can be made to work.
So that wraps up this issue. And my favorite story this issue? I have to give the nod to "Tale of the Fish Who Loved a Bird" by Geoffrey A. Landis. And my favorite artwork? Broeck Steadman's illustration to "Promises to Keep" by L. Timmel Duchamp.
Next up will be the December 1995 issue, and in the meanwhile I'll continue trying to hunt down those last few issues of Realms of Fantasy, so all future retrospectives can continue in chronological order. Until then ...